Monthly Archives: July 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 31, 2019

2017 Martha Stoumen Wines, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2017 Martha Stoumen Wines, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen has become quite a sensation since joining the California wine scene a few years ago, bringing her experience of making wines in France and Italy along with her and her natural wine style, making her a new favorite within an exciting niche of young talents and lovers of off the beaten track wines. This 2017 Nero d’Avola, a very personal expression for her, given her time in Sicily, is a vibrant and lively red with intriguing earthy character and layers of lighter flavors with tart fresh crushed blackberry, spiced plum, lingonberry, cherry and strawberry fruits along with touches of porcini, mineral, wild herbs, lilac flowers and candied blood orange. In recent times there has been a renewed interest in Italian varietals in Mendocino County with many new things popping up and or rediscovered, from Dolcetto to Nebbiolo and from Sagrantino to Barbera all joining the more well known and used Sangiovese, but Nero d’Avola is still pretty rare. According to Stoumen, the beauty of Nero d’Avola is its Chiaroscuro-like nature, with brightness from its ability to hold onto acidity in warm Mediterranean climates, and her version is quite lovely and almost delicate in form and at 13% natural alcohol it feels fresh, but with nice depth and texture. This vintage is my favorite so far and this wine can go with a wonderful range of foods, from some sea foods to more hearty cuisine and or BBQ fare. Stoumen’s wines are slightly raw, but very stylish too, fans of Broc Cellars, Jolie-Laide, Ryme, Jaimee Motely, Raj Parr and Ian Brand will find similarities and a certain fraternal brother/sisterhood.

The Stoumen Nero d’Avola is maybe her signature wine and reminds us that she has good experience with this Sicilian grape, mostly found on the southern side of the island in the Vittoria region, where it is commonly blended with Frappato, though done solo too, having worked for Guisto Occhtipinti at COS, one of Italy’s most prized wineries. This vintage comes from two sites, with 62% coming off Benson Ranch Vineyard, in Ukiah, Mendocino County, a site that has 14 year old dry farmed (no irrigation) vines that is farmed according to organic principles without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fungicides, while the other 38% being sourced from Fox Hill Vineyard. Fox Hill, which has a full selection of Italian grapes is in the Talmage Bench area of Mendocino County, with the Nero d’Avola that Martha picked was from 33 year old vines, which Stoumen adds, is as far as she knows, the oldest Nero d’Avola in California, and it is farmed sustainably without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and or synthetic fungicides. Stoumen is not showy in the cellar, she uses native yeasts and low sulphur, allowing everything to show through with a purity of place, she usually employs an elevage of 12 to 18 months on her Nero d’Avola with only neutral wood, and this 2017 wonderfully quaffable, and while structured its tannins are ripe and smooth, which allow it to also be served with a slight chill for warm days and evenings of Summer and Fall. Stoumen’s current set of offerings, which is a bit wild and varied are all really fun wines, mostly for early drinking, though this one seems to have enough complexity and stuffing to age 3 to 5 years no problem, check them out.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 30, 2019

2018 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany.
These 2018 German Rieslings are out of this world with amazing purity and vibrancy, especially the wines of Dönnhoff and while most won’t be available for awhile yet, the early release “estate” as well as this fantastic Tonschiefer “Dry Slate” bottlings are available now, and no one should miss them! Exceptional in vivid detail and minerally crisp, the slate influenced and terroir driven Tonschiefer is heavenly light, bone dry and zesty with flinty/steely spice, wet rock and citrus infused with laser like focus, while still being wonderfully generous in form. Tasting Dönnhoff is always a treat, this estate is one of the world’s great and their Rieslings never disappoints, even now with my expectations as high as they are, I am left in a state of awe, even for the less expensive wines like this one, which I can’t ever get enough of! I had this bottle recently with sushi and it provided excellent palate refreshing cleansing as well as a dynamic flavor enhancement to the purity of fish, never outshining the food, it was just perfect and the lighter body here made it easy to quaff along merrily. This vintage shows a fantastic vitality with lime, white peach, spiced apricot and a white currant fruits to go along with the slate stony core as well as chamomile, citron, apple skin and orange blossom, all in a saline and mouth watering Riesling. Importer Terry Theise, one of the world’s most renown Riesling gurus, has often quoted Helmut Dönnhoff , but his “Extraordinary wines are based on extraordinary vineyards.” has always stuck with me, and when I get a chance to try his legacy in the bottle of all the Dönnhoff wines I can truly see his proof in them, they are great wines from great vines!

The Dönnhoff family first came to the Nahe region over 200 years ago, and after establishing a modest farm, it slowly evolved into a full-fledged wine estate, in more modern times it became world renown when in 1971 Helmut Dönnhoff began the making the wine here. Now things are run, and the winemaking, by Helmut’s son Cornelius, and I feel the wines just get better and better here, both the ultra premium dry stuff led by the GG’s and the sweeter versions from Kabinett to Eiswein, which maybe be the greatest wine I ever tasted! I love their Spatlese and Auslese bottlings, these are high residual sugar wines that do not taste sweet in the obvious way and are glorious wines of class and refinement. That said, it is almost impossible to resist the Dönnhoff Trockens, like this one, and especially Cornelius’ drop dead gorgeous Hermannshohle GG, one of the planet’s absolutely best dry white wines! The Nahe, and Dönnhoff , has a wide variety of soils from loess to volcanic as well as gravel, sandstone and a mix of slates, and the Tonschiefer comes from a pure slate set of vines, all between 25 and 40 years old, at the Oberhausen Leistenberg estate vineyard. The grey slate Leistenberg vineyard, a VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru), lies in a small side valley of the Nahe just outside Oberhausen where these warm, decomposed clay slate soils and steep terraced hillsides provide ideal conditions for Riesling, and the cooler afternoon conditions here allow for long hang times and lower natural alcohol, making for sophisticated versions of this grape. Note to self, get more of the tasty Tonschiefer, with its stunning delicacy and pop of acidity, and stock up on the 2018 vintage!
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 29, 2019

2016 Saint Cosme, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France -photo grapelive

2016 Saint Cosme, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The historic Chateau de Saint Cosme, one of the best Gigondas estates, also make an exceptional collection of Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone wines, including this ultra stylish Chateauneuf du Pape, which is an outstanding value from a fantastic vintage. Crafted by Louis Barruol, who’s ancestors (family) bought the noted ancient Gallo-Roman villa site in 1570, which most probably already had its own vineyard, as they found winemaking cellars there, and the estate’s existence as a wine growing property is documented as well in famous letters written by Jean de Chalon, Prince of Orange back in 1416, the modern wines are some of the best in the region. The 2016 version of Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, a blend of about 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah, 7% Cinsault and 3% Clairette (Blanche) the white grape, and it comes from top sites in La Crau, Valori and Christia, and saw a 100% whole cluster fermentation, with aging being done in used oak casks, mostly puncheon with a few small barrels. Barruol, notes that 2015 and 2016 vintages being warm and ripe needed the whole cluster to achieve depth and complexity, adding that “The stem is part of the fruit and helps terroir expression, just like the pips – taking them out, in my opinion, is nonsense and a great loss.” All which I whole agree with, this wine, as well as almost all of his reds are wonderfully expressive and ripe, but stay fresh and sublimely balanced, and while I loved the 2014 in a cooler year and loved the 2015 with its silken texture, this 2016 is even better still with its unbelievable length and vivid fruit core, certainly it is one of the best values in Chateauneuf you will find. There is not many wineries that can match Saint Cosme for quality and price in the Rhone and this wine delivers a performance well above its cost, in fact I’ve tried wine triple the price that were not as seductive as this one.

This 2016 is extremely weighty and rich, feeling hedonistic and opulent on the full bodied palate, it is strikingly different from Saint Cosme’s Gigondas, which feels cooler, darker and more vibrantly spicy, while this Chateauneuf is really all about the fruit and texture with layers of black raspberry, candied plum, cherry and a hint of pomegranate with fig paste, herbs de Provence, dried floral incense, a touch of savoriness along with creme de cassis, sweet Thai basil, salted black licorice and cedar notes. This deep purple/crimson wine has a powerful and youthful presence, but opens easily and flows luxuriously, its tannin structure velvety, making it even a joyous wine even now, though robust cuisine really helps unlock its full personality and seductive charms, best to have with serious proteins! Barruol goes on to say that, Châteauneuf and Gigondas, while generally similar Grenache based blends, are like the yin and the yang, alpha and omega – they are different in virtually every way, and I love the contrast of the two, and while I usually prefer, as does Mr Barruol, the estate grown Gigondas, but that choice in a vintage such as this a lot harder and this wine absolutely rocks. Savvy collectors will be rewarded for putting Saint Cosme’s Chateauneuf(s) away for 5 to 10 years, I honestly doubt I could keep my hands of them that long, especially this 2016, which is drinking very sexy indeed, and with air the dense fruit subsides slightly to allow earth and spice to shine through giving an added dimension to this already excellent wine. Saint Cosme, across the range, has had three amazing vintages in a row with 2015, this 2016 and the upcoming 2017 all proving to be fabulous, so be sure to check them all out, from their 100% Syrah Cotes du Rhone to their single cru and or appellation serious wines, like this Chateauneuf, their Gigondas of course and their set of northern Rhone reds.
($39 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 28, 2019

2017 Waxwing, Pinot Noir, Deerheart Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2017 Waxwing, Pinot Noir, Deerheart Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The super exotically aromatic 2017 Deerheart Vineyard Pinot Noir by Scot Sisemore of Waxwing Wine Cellars is rich in fruit expression and lingering with ripe dark flavors making it a very showy wine that impresses rom the start and gets better and better with each sip. Not all fruit, it has substance and depth, in a surprise for such a new vineyard site and it bodes well for those that get grapes from here, with Waxwing’s gaining sophistication and balance as it opens adding a nice energy and some savory elements. This vineyard is new for Scott and he seems to have nailed its personality to a tee and allowed it to shine through with layers of cherry, plum, boysenberry and cranberry fruits, a light dusting of spices, sweet tea and smoky wood notes with natural acidity holding things together in a silky way. I think it should lose some baby fat and the overt fruit with subside in time, but those that cherish forward wines will love it and should enjoy it in its youth, while those that want more subtlety will be rewarded by cellaring this one for another 2 to 3 years. This crimson/garnet Pinot with bright ruby edges would be an excellent choice with seared ahi and or duck breast with a reduction as it has the mouth feel and presence in the glass to carry the more weighty food choices.

The Deerheart Vineyard, on La Honda Road, in a beautiful secluded valley between the town of La Honda and San Gregorio Beach, only five miles from the Pacific Ocean and is owned by the Larson family, it’s one of the newest sites found by Waxwing Wine Cellars winemaker Scott Sisemore. This cool coastal vineyard is exposed to its share of coastal fog in the morning and is set on well drained soils, perfect for low yielding and intense Pinot Noir, which Sisemore has used to great effect in his 2017 Deerheart Vineyard. The Belmont based Waxwing Wine Cellars is an ultra boutique or micro craft winery that is mostly known for cool climate Pinot Noir and Syrah offerings, though in recent years Sisemore has branched out and added some unique stuff including a top notch Cabernet Sauvignon from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara as well as a nice dry SLH Tondre Grapefield Riesling. The Clones on this Deerheart are as follows: 667, 777, “828,”, 943, 459 and 2A (Wadenswil) on a variety of rootstocks and Scott did his version 100% de-stemmed, then inoculated with Assmanhausen yeast after a 5-day cold soak, after racking the 2017 Deereart Pinot was aged 10 months in once-used French oak barrels, which offered plenty of toast and refinement. Those that like Rhys should check out this Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot and get on their list, these are tiny production and very limited offerings.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 27, 2018

2017 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc “500” Pfalz Germany -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc “500” Pfalz Germany.
Continuing its run as one of the world’s absolute best Sauvignon Blancs, the Von Winning 2017 Sauvignon Blanc 500 is almost in a class of its own and is one the greatest white wines in Europe! While that seems like ultra praise, you can judge for yourself, there are few wines with Sauvignon Blanc in them that compare to this one, it is a match for the likes of Haut-Brion Blanc (Semillon/Sauvignon), Dagueneau and the single cru Sancerre(s) of top producers like Gerard Boulay as well as Italy’s Terlano Quarz, a wine with a cult like following. Von Winning is one of Germany’s most serious estates, mostly known for their incredible dry Rieslings from their organic vines in the Pfalz, which are crafted by Stephan Attmann in a unique Burgundy style using vines that are trained like vines in the Cote d’Or and in super high density, making for small yields and intense flavors and the with the cru bottlings being fermented and aged in special 500L casks. The Sauvignon Blanc 500 (meaning it was also fermented and aged in the same 500 Liter Barrel) sees much the same treatment as Von Winning’s eight or nine tremendous Grosses Gewchs (Grand Cru) giving this wine an incredible density and concentration, this is luxurious and powerful wine with mouth filling layers of citrus and orchard fruits along with hedonistic creme brûlée, smoky sweet wood, mineral tones and chalky/sony detail with a fresh zip pf acidity as well as a touch of exotic tropical fruit. The weight and texture of Von Winning’s 500 Sauvignon Blanc is perfectly judged and goes well with the woody presence in this amazing wine.

The Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc 500 is, as the winery notes, sourced from Deidsheimer Paradiesgarten (with those high density plantings), Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker and Kallstadter Steinacker vineyard sites, all of which are on a combination of löss, loam and the regions classic red sandstone and is a best selection of barrels. As Terry Theise, Von Winning’s importer notes, Attmann, who famously describes his winemaking as “not doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.” treats his wines with a very gentile hand employing a minimalist approach in the cellar and with the highest respect of the estate’s terroir and wanting to highlight purity. He also uses natural and spontaneous fermentation and without any fining agents to create wines with a distinctive personality and very elegant style. In the Von Winning cellar there is no need for pumping the juice or wine as everything is done with gravity flow. The wines made with extreme care are expressive, complex and stunning in detail, especially this one which gains with air and time in the glass revealing lemon curd, a hint of grapefruit, gooseberry, quince and white flowers which added to its sexy brioche/lessy mouth feel and sexy form make this special stuff. This is a no compromise wine and while not cheap, it is pretty damn mind blowing and considering it’s quality, worth every penny and will impress over the next 5 to 10 years, it might be the best wine of the vintage here! Also, it must be noted, Von Winning does two other more basic Sauvignon Blanc(s) the I and II, and while not to this level they are extremely good too, all are together these wines make you think about your choices and put Germany’s versions of this grape, maybe ahead of France and New Zealand!
($95 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 26, 2019

2015 Mount Eden, Chardonnay, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2015 Mount Eden, Chardonnay, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The gorgeous 2015 Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay shows amazing depth, complexity, texture and length, it satisfies all the senses and is one of the great wines of California, and the world! As I have mentioned in a recent review of their brilliant Pinot Noir, Mount Eden is one of the most celebrated and cherished small boutique wineries in California making estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mount Eden’s winery and vines sit about 2,000 feet up above what is now Silicon Valley, it was originally founded as the Martin Ray Estate back in the mid 1940s and over the following 20 plus years became known for exceptional Chards and Pinots. In 1970 Ray lost the property to an investor coup and in 1972 it became Mount Eden, and they hired Pinot guru Richard Graff who had founded Chalone, who crafted the legendary 1972 and 1973 vintages before the owners brought on the little known woman winemaker Merry Edwards, who is now a California icon! In the more modern era of Mount Eden Vineyards Jeffrey Patterson, winemaker has made the estate one of California’s absolute best, he was originally hired as the assistant winemaker back in 1981. Having graduated in biology from UC Berkeley in 1975, Patterson was fortunate to have been in Berkeley in the 1970s when local food and wine in the Bay Area were becoming relevant with the likes of Alice Waters creating a huge buzz. This is when she opened the famed Chez Panisse and Kermit Lynch had just started bringing in some of the great undiscovered wines of France, and the public were getting their first chance to explore French cuisine as well as have it paired with famous old world wines, all of which inspired and helped form Patterson’s future approach to his wines.

Patterson’s 2015 Estate Chardonnay flows across the palate with a full bodied opulence, but with fine detailing and balance in the mode of a fine Puligny or maybe more like bolder vintage of Batard, richly pleasing and with layers of ripe apple, lemon curd, pear and peach tart along with mineral tones, creme brûlée, golden fig, orange blossom, a faint trace of dried pineapple, toast and vanilla. There is some earthy elements, saline and stony flavors in the background and an underlying natural acidity that cuts into the luxurious concentration that makes this regal wine stand out, Mount Eden and Hanzell still make awesome Chardonnay and this vintage of Mount Eden is positively awesome and it should prove to be a classic, I can imagine it aging well for another decade easily with charm, grace and hedonistic style. Patterson notes that these wines, which come from unique Burgundy clonal material that is know known as Mount Eden Clone and he details the winemaking here as follows, with the Estate Chardonnay grapes getting harvested when slightly yellow to yellow-green and are pressed without crushing. Adding that, all of the juice is barrel-fermented in new and one-year-old French Burgundy barrels, where the wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation and elevage on the lees lasted for close to ten months before being lightly filtered prior to bottling. Patterson like to give his wines time to age and fill out, so the Estate Chardonnay is rested in Mount Eden’s cellar for two years before being released for sale. And we all benefit from that dedication to quality with the later release of these wines and this vintage is sublime and darn near perfection in the glass, in fact all the currant estate offerings are fantastic here and should not be missed, all are build to age and have great potential for those that like to put down their wines, but drinking great now.
($60 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 25, 2019

2016 O’Shaughnessy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2016 O’Shaughnessy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
The 2016 Napa Valley vintage is everything it was promised to be, especially when shown through an impression like this beautiful O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon which relies mostly on young-vine Cabernet from the Wools Ranch on Mt. Veeder as well as some coming off their Howell Mountain estate, which provides depth and character. This well made wine is wonderfully complex and lightly spicy with classic firm structure along with the modern dark fruit opulence we’ve come to expect from a Napa Cabernet. O’Shaughnessy’s Estate sits at 1,800 feet on the legendary Howell Mountain, not from the famous Dunn Vineyards, and was founded back in 1996 by Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls And Paul Woolls. The estate has the talented winemaker Sean Capiaux making the wines, in fact he has overseen the planting of the vineyard and even selected numerous clones of Cabernet Sauvignon that was planted in the various vineyard sites, which are mostly mountain vineyard plots. O’Shaughnessy is focused on Cabernet, though they do a nice Chardonnay and a very limited Syrah in some years and intriguingly, according to the winery they have all seven of the historic Bordeaux varietals planted on property, including Cabernet Sauvignon and their blending varietals, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere, St. Macaire and Gros Verdot, the last two being extremely rare and are almost unknown even in Bordeaux itself!

The richly packed O’Shaughnessy 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley had a final blend of about 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 3% St. Macaire, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, that fills out all corners of the senses.This deep purple/inky wine that delivers an exceptional performance with a full bodied, black fruit driven and ripe tannin led palate with layers of blackberry, mocha, creme de cassis, plum and blueberry coulis along with hints of violets, licorice, smoky vanilla, sage and sweet tobacco notes. Sean, who has made wine in the past at Peter Michael, Jordan and Pine Ridge, uses an array of modern equipment, but follows a classic approach to his wines here, which are naturally fermented, get long elevage and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. These techniques, as noted by Capiaux, allows the character of the grapes and terroir of the O’Shaughnessy Estate vineyards to be the stars of the show, which in a vintage such as this proves his point to perfection. I have been a fan of Capiaux, who also does a great lineup of Pinots under his own label, and O’Shaughnessy for close to 15 years, so it was great to catch up with their latest releases with Luke Russ, their Commercial Director and long time Napa pro, these are very impressive wines, as good if not better than ever, in particular this brilliant bottling, that in fact rivals more elite Napa offerings at half the price. Drink this beauty over the next 10 to 15 years.
($80 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 24, 2019

2016 Schlossgut Diel, Spatburgunder Trocken, “C” Cuvee Caroline, Nahe Germany -photo grapelive

2016 Schlossgut Diel, Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Trocken, “C” Cuvee Caroline, Nahe Germany.
Armin and daughter Caroline Diel’s Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe region of German are renown for their amazing Rieslings, especially their Trockens (dry wines) but there are two things you must never miss trying from this famous estate, their ultra luxurious Brut sparkling wines that rival anything that Krug or Vilmart make and Caroline’s exceptional Pinot Noir, that regardless of sounding cliche, rivals some top names in Burgundy. I was lucky enough to be at Schlossgut Diel at harvest time in 2016, when the grapes for this gorgeous Cuvee Caroline or “C” Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) came in to cellar from the vines, so it was with personal fascination and meaning to me to see how things turned out and I mean wow, this is just utterly delicious and serious stuff with pure class showing from start to finish. The Nahe is a treasure trove of great wine estates and the region has a amazing array of terroirs for one of the smallest in Germany, sitting to the west of the Rheinhessen and to the south (and southwest) of the Rheingau it has mostly eastern facing steep slopes that capture lots of sun, making for ripe grapes, and while not a large area is dedicated to Pinot Noir, it can produce special wines as this one proves.

German Pinot Noir has been a thing now for more than a decade with top producers like Friedrich Becker, in the Pfalz and Meyer-Nakel in the Ahr making lots of headlines, along with some vintages from August Kesseler too, from his Assmannshausen Hollenberg cru in the Rheingau, but in more recent vintages I have been really impressed if not absolutely blown away with upper Rheingau grown Gunter Kuntzler’s GG Hochheimer Reichestal and this Diel, which is a stellar Nahe Pinot Noir. Beautifully balanced and stunning in the glass this 2016, with its beautiful dark garnet and ruby edges, gives a top notch performance on the palate reminding me of something like a favorite Chambolle-Musigny or a Clos Saint-Denis even, though still with its own unique personality that comes from the combination of soils that includes gravel, clay, slate and quartz that highlight mineral tones and radiant red fruits found here. Silky and mouth filling this Cuvee Caroline, named obviously after the winemaker and her signature red wine is already drinking fabulously with a layered form with dense cherry, strawberry and wild plum fruits that coming bursting on to the palate before some darker, almost black fruit, comes through with hints of violets, spice and smoky in the background, wrapped around blackberry, tangy currant, cranberry and toasty wood notes.

Caroline, who once did a stint at the fabled Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, is very hands on in the vineyards and meticulous in the cellar with the fruit for this premium Pinot Noir cuvée being carefully selected exclusively from her finest Pinot Noir plots, with all the grapes being rigorously eye balled and hand sorted for the utmost quality. All the clusters of these deeply color grapes, from a multi-pass manual harvest, were de-stemmed by hand and then fed into open wooden fermenting vats. Caroline adds that eight days of maceration followed, after which the wine began its wild ferment with native yeasts. She also notes that during this primary fermentation, the cap is foot-stomped in gentle, (very) controlled punch-downs. Then after a four week settling period, the young wine is gravity-fed into small oak barrels for its secondary or malolactic fermentation, where it is raised for about 20 months in total, using mostly new oak, but also with a small portion of reconditioned barrels that are rotated in each year. 2016 which was an interesting if not frightening vintage with a cool wet mid-summer before an extended Indian summer saved the year providing grapes with lush ripeness, but with lovely freshness too, this is a year to look for in both Diel’s outstanding Rieslings and this Pinot Noir.
($130 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 23, 2019

2017 Domaine Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Blanc, Loire Valley, France -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
One of the best Summer whites, and certainly my favorite Sancerre of the vintage, is the Lucien Crochet 2017 with its purity and mineral focus that highlight the classic terroir of this Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, with the grapes coming for this basic cuvée from the vineyards in Bué, crochet’s home village, as well as Vinon and Crézancy. Crochet who started going organic in 1989 make some lovely wines with soulful expressions of both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from their La Croix du Roy lieu-dit, which in some vintages rival some big names making Premier Cru Burgundy. This 2017 is steely with vivid citrus, white flowers and chalky with layers of grapefruit, lemon/lime, white peach, kiwi and green melon fruits, wet stones, a touch of herb and tangy lemongrass as well as a fine textural quality and exciting acidity. This is perfect as a fresh and vibrant young white, to be drunk over the next year or two.

The Lucien Crochet uses exclusively temperature controlled stainless tanks to ferment this Sancerre cuvée, and like all the whites at the domaine, according to Rosenthal Wine Merchant, their importer, this wine sits in contact with the fine lies for a considerable period of time, between 9 and 12 months overall, with the racking being done late in the spring following harvest. The vineyard sites all are mostly the classic white Kimmerdigian soils, but also with some Oxfordian era limestone, all of which cleanly and transparently show here and shine, this ultra pale Sancerre is gorgeous in its naked form and electric on the light to medium bodied palate with leesy mouth feel adding an elegance and substance to the performance. This wine is wonderfully dry and brisk, refreshing and a great companion to the region’s goat cheeses and Summer cuisine choices, including grilled fish and or lemon chicken and Couscous.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 22, 2019

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Petite Sirah “Tierra” Theopolis Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands -photo grapelive

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Petite Sirah “Tierra” Theopolis Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands.
The thrilling and edgy Halcon Tierra is one of California’s most intriguing Petite Sirah(s) with intense and racy inky dark fruits and spicy notes that excite the senses in a way that few Petite wines can, it has a more northern Rhone presence in the glass that you could ever imagine. This is Paul Gordon’s fifth edition using this unique vineyard site, owned and run Theodora Lee, of Theopolis Vineyard, who also with the help of Ed Kutzman makes a fine version too, is a high elevation and terraced vineyard that is always on the edge of ripening, but provides amazing grapes with fascinating depth and complexity with generally lower natural sugars or brix at harvest, with the Halcon 2017 coming in at a very refined 13.9% alcohol. Gordon, who has his own signature Syrah vineyard much higher up, and one of the best labels for whole cluster driven Syrah and Rhone style wines, really has made a brilliant Petite Sirah that delivers a performance more in line with a great Cornas, think Thierry Allemand, Guillaume Gilles, Domaine Lionnet and or Auguste Clape rather than a more traditional California style. While mostly Syrah like, there is a part of this wine that has an old school Cabernet Sauvignon side with its structure, this is astonishing opaque purple/black and garnet stuff that benefits robust cuisine, and or hard cheeses. I have been nothing but impressed since first trying the Halcon and each vintage gets even more spine tingling, these wines rival anything in their price class no question and are of the same quality as many of the state’s top Rhone producers, and these 2017 have taken it up a notch or two, even as tight and youthful as they are.

Paul Gordon, who through this vintage had Scott Shapley, as his wine consultant and winemaker, known for his work at Roar , helping out with the wines, crafted this Petite Sirah, grown on poor, low vigor and gravelly soils, using 50% whole-cluster in the fermentation with significant stem inclusion, almost unheard of in Petite Sirah, and then aged in neutral French oak puncheons, which allow for exceptional purity of form. This unfined and unfiltered Tierra is bursting with ripe blackberry, currant, plum and blueberry fruits, along with dried violets, incense, cigar box, sandalwood, bitter coco, black licorice, savory peppercorns and Asian spices. This vintage is lively and with a big powerful mouth feel, but lifted with a streak of mineral and acidity and while gripping and firm the tannins are polished enough to allow a full revealing of this wines dynamic and exotic personality, this is an outrageously great wine and one that should age amazingly well. With air this wine takes on a regal confidence while still keeping its riveting tension and thrill gaining a lushness of fruit and incredible length with hints of frankincense, leather, lavender/sage and creme de cassis. I can’t say this enough, get on Halcon’s mailing list and buy these wines, the wine is worth at least double if not triple the asking prices, especially buy their Syrah(s) both the classic Alturas that is co-fermented with Viognier and the monumental Elevación made from 100% Chave Hermitage Selection Syrah clones, along with Gordon’s Grenache/Mourvedre, his Oppenlander Pinot Noir as well as this freakishly good fleshy Petite Sirah. Drink over the next two decades!
($32 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive