Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 31, 2019

2018 Chesebro, Vermentino, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2018 Chesebro, Vermentino, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Brilliantly vivid and electric in the glass the Chesebro Vermentino is an awesome crisp Summer white wine with clean and vibrant citrus and white peach fruit along with fresh mouth watering acidity and mineral tones. Mark Chesebro, the ex Bernardus winemaker, who started his own label back in about 2005 around his estate Cedar Lane Vineyard was one of the first to champion this varietal in California. He is now joined by a diverse group of influential winemakers that love this grape from the iconoclastic Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, who absolute believes this Mediterranean grape is the future of California white wines, to Megan and Ryan Glaab of Rome Cellars and the Rhone vine specialist Tablas Creek, who’s excellent clones and dedication have moved the needle on Vermentino without question. In the old world, Vermentino, one of the famous Chateauneuf du Pape grapes, also known in France as Rolle, makes for some amazing wines, especially along the coast of Provence, Liguria and Tuscany, as well as on Sardinia in Italy, and in particular on the Island of Corsica where the natives call it Vermentinu. Be sure to check out the great ones (from Corsica) imported by Kermit Lynch, like Yves Leccia, Clos Canarelli and Comte Abbatucci. This high acid grape can make a wildly entertaining range of styles from zingy offerings, like this version from Mark Chesebro to exotically ripe and lush bottlings, to some unique skin contact examples, like one of the two from Ryme Cellars. Mark Chesebro and his sons run this small family winery, based in Carmel Valley, they very much believe that wine is made in the vineyard and spend most of their efforts exclusively working the vines and try to make authentic wines without any flash or showmanship in the cellar.

The zesty dry 2018 Chesebro Cedar Lane Vermentino is formed from a great vintage in the region and its Arroyo Seco terroir which is set on ancient marine sediments, sand and river stones with warm days and cool nights giving the vines refreshing kick. For 2018 Chesebro let the vintage shine through with vivid flavors, no oak and dynamic energy of form in this 100% Vermentino that was fermented and aged in stainless steel with minimum lees and no malos. This is a white of remarkable purity and brisk detail with a lighter frame and weightless body that shows brisk layers of lemon/lime, white peach, quince, orange marmalade and subtle tropical fruits along with a crystalline minerallity, salty essences, wet stones, light herbs and delicate floral tones. This low alcohol and crunchy Vermentino is dynamite with oysters, mussels in white wine broth, sushi, sardines and linguine and clams or just for warm evening aperitif sipping and or picnics. Nothing extraordinary or trick winemaking needed here, this is just devious and brightly focused wine by a no nonsense winemaker looking to make a quality product at a fair price that reflects his ethics and the vineyard’s sense of place. Chesebro does quite a series of straight forward offerings with a Rhone focus including Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, but also with Albarino, Pinot Noir, Musque clone Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, all coming from mostly estate grown fruit from his and partners Mission Ranch Vineyard, the home vines at the CM Ranch in Carmel Valley and Cedar Lane, where this wine came from. This latest Vermentino, which I tasted at their tasting room in the Carmel Valley Village, 12 miles from downtown Carmel by the Sea is my favorite of the whites, but I also love their estate grown organic Cider made in the dry Spanish style from tangy apples, drink them over the next couple of years.
($21 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 30, 2019

2016 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Syrah “Roasted Slope” Santa Barbara County -photo grapelive

2016 Andrew Murray Vineyards, Syrah “Roasted Slope” Santa Barbara County.
The awesome 2016 Roasted Slope, named in honor and respect for Cote-Rotie, is made from selection of co-fermented Syrah and Viognier, coming from all from three vineyard blocks along Alisos Canyon Road being as well, as I understand is, a barrel selection taken from Watch Hill and Alisos. This deep and spectacular stuff is showing fantastic right now and it, the Roasted Slope, hails a great return to Murray’s lineup, since he hasn’t made it since 2005. Andrew, when he started, was a fresh faced kid that returned to California from internships in both France and Australia with a dream to do an epic Viognier, in fact that was his whole focus in the early days, but in a freak accident he was suddenly the owner of a vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley that was mistakenly planted to Syrah instead of Viognier! After a few years of waiting for his young vines to mature enough to crop, he was taken by surprise when his grapes started to go through veraison, at first he though maybe it was just a few plants, but fate had other ideas and most of the parcel ended up Syrah, so he made the wine that the vineyard gave him and the rest is history as this wine, which he called Roasted Slope went on to be a cult legend and one of the most prized Syrah based wines in America, right up there with John Alban, Ojai, SQN and Qupe at the time. 25 plus years later this wine again is up there with the new world’s best and it thrills on the palate with impressive and ultra dark fruits, beautiful spicy notes, hints of smoke and embers and a glorious floral perfume and lingering kirsch finish. This is a wine that is packed with flavor and sublime density, but still light on it’s feet and stylish with boysenberry, black plum, creme de cassis, peppercorns, minty anise, violets, sweet cedar and toasted vanilla all showing in an ever changing series of joys with enough savory tones to keep things interesting from start to finish.

In recent years, I have rediscovered my love for Murray’s wines, from his Cinsault Rose, his Tous Les Jours or basic Syrah, the Cotes du Rhone style Esperance, to his exceptional single vineyard, Stolpman Vineyard Syrah and Watch Hill Vineyard Syrah, that has become his signature achievement, but I am so happy the Roasted Slope is back, as it was always a favorite of mine, and it joins a growing list of must have Syrah(s) each year, including Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi, Pax, Drew and Halcon’s Alturas. Andrew Murray, who has a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis, has evolved as a winemaker and has refined his techniques over the more than two decades he’s been making wine in the Santa Ynez Valley and these last few vintages have really hit the sweet spot, these are nuanced and textured wines with lovely freshness and vitality even though they are warmly ripe and full of California hedonistic density, he is also committed to the principles of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyard farming which is evident in his wines. Murray’s winery is a blend of the old and new, a blend of the classic and the modern, with as he puts it, beautiful French oak barrels and glimmering stainless steel tanks, he uses mostly traditional Burgundian shaped bottles and reliable screwtop closures for his wines, like Randal Grahm at Bonny Doon. As to the wine that first got him excited, his Viognier, well he makes a pretty tasty version still, and while sometimes overlooked these days, his whites are lovely, especially his Grenache Blanc and Rousanne led Esperance Blanc, and of which are great values too. This 2016 Roasted Slope is now sold out at the winery sadly, but still around a few retail shelves, be sure to keep an eye out for it, it’s worth the chase!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 29, 2019

2016 Le Domaine d’Henri – Michel Laroche & Ses Enfants, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, White Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2016 Le Domaine d’Henri – Michel Laroche & Ses Enfants, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, White Burgundy, France.
A new project by famed Chablis master Michel Laroche with his kids the Le Domaine d’Henri is really worth checking out, especially for the quality to price ratio to be found on their Premier Cru offerings, like this stylish Fourchaume 2016 bottling. The Le Domaine d’Henri estate is a historic property in Chablis with the ancestors of the Laroche family having owned vines in the region as long ago as 1695, and today, with Michel Laroche as patriarch, a winemaker with great experience who Decanter Magazine has compared to Michel Chapoutier, saying to the effect that what Chapoutier is to the Rhone, Laroche is to Chablis, and also suggesting that Laroche has a presence in the area as Olivier Humbrecht has in Alsace. The wines at this Domaine are produced by the family team including Margaux, Romain, Cecile and of course Michel himself, with Cecile, the eldest daughter, taking on the major responsibility of running the vineyards and the estate, she also oversees the cellar team here and directs the winemaking operation. This 2016 delivers classic cooly/steely crisp layers of lemon/lime, green apple, fleshy pear and spicy flinty wet rock, a touch of hazelnut and white flowers. This is racy Chardonnay, but gains more and more texture in the glass, making it great with food, especially sea food, though also great with Burgundian soft cheeses.

The Le Domaine d’Henri wines are handcrafted using, as they put it, minimum intervention, with their Premier Cru grapes being harvested by hand only and are then carefully sorted on a vibrating table in order to ensure that only the best quality fruit goes into the gentle pneumatic press, with the wine being fermented using “pied de cuve”, a process where a small selection of grapes are harvested early and fermented in the vineyard before the main pick, to ensure there is a strong starter natural yeast. The d’Henri wines are never done with added sugar in the must, and the wines get between 10 to 35% of barrel aging, with almost no new oak being used in any given year, blending the oak-aged wines with those that have been aged in stainless steel tanks to achieve a balance, which this wine shows. The domaine believes that minerality is the signature of Chablis and the winemaking here is managed accordingly to showcase that, but there is also no doubt that with Premier Cru concentration these wines show richness and palate impact. Michel notes, that when Henri, his dad, opened a bottle of his cherished Fourchaume, like this one, he often used to say, that’s the purest expression of Chardonnay. And who would argue that, certainly not me, these are are still under the radar wines that are really worth searching out, especially this beautiful stony Fourchaume.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 28, 2019

2018 Sheldon Wines, Carignan, Trimble Vineyard, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Carignan, Trimble Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The husband and wife team, Tobe and Dylan Sheldon, at Sheldon Wines have been crafting small lots wines under this label since 2003 and were ahead of their time searching for delicacy and lower natural alcohols and were Grenachistas from the start. Over the following years they built an eclectic lineup of wines that now includes some wild and beautiful things, like their sparkling and carbonic Tempranillo(s), Sangiovese, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache Blanc and Vinolocity Blends, usually Grenache focused along with this new Carignan a wine that Tobe has been thinking about for years and finally got done. The 2018 brought the Sheldon’s their best opportunity for old vine Carignan when they discovered the Trimble Vineyard and they just knew they had found something remarkable and it has fulfilled Tobe’s dream to do this grape and do it right, this near perfect vintage gave them excellent material to express the varietal’s best nature with an intense purple/magenta and deep crimson hue and crunchy black and dusty blue fruits. Tobe and Dylan playfully describe this as a dark brooding wine with rustic charms and spicy mischief, all of which is wonderful true, as they employed a semi carbonic approach with this vibrant Carignan, going whole cluster and native yeasts with a cool temperature fermentation to capture the exotic aromatics and keep its lifted vitality, bottling early to hold on to the fresh detail and mineral notes, and as always the aging was in neutral, well used French Barrels. This lovely medium bodied wine is quite zesty and vigorous at first, but quickly softens and lingers on the finish with a touch of lilac and turns almost creamy with air and food, but never loses its natural acidity and translucent quality.

This Sheldon Carignan, comes of vines that were planted in the mid seventies on gravelly loams, which promotes the ripe fruit and supple tannins and are classically dry farmed and all organic, which thankfully is pretty common place for Mendocino. Everything comes together well here and the Sheldon’s allowed the vineyard to shine with the wine certainly showing the concentration and inner energy from the Trimble Vineyard site with layers of blackberry, currant, plum, really tangy huckleberry/cranberry and black cherry fruits along with snappy/minty herb, crushed stones, cinnamon, lavender/sage, pepper and anise. This is really cool stuff, that shows no oak, that reminds me of the wines of Corbieres, like Maxime Magnon and Jean-Marie Rimbert’s in Saint-Chinian, both of which are Carignan based Languedoc wines, as well as offering the purity and California ripe tannins that you find in Pax, Martha Stoumen and Broc’s versions. Carignan, one of Chateauneuf du Pape grapes, found in the Rhone as well as the mentioned Languedoc, is also common on Sardinia and it parts of Spain, as well as Chile, and has been in California probably has long as Zinfandel if not longer and was primary used in historic field blends. The limited release 2018 Sheldon Trimble Carignan, only 36 cases made, is an exciting and expressive effort with a lot of personality and is an easy fruit driven red, ready to quaff bottle with subtle complexity and a touch of savory edginess that is hard to resist, especially good with a slight chill, enjoy as a companion to BBQ and or robust cuisine, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 27, 2019

2018 Samuel Louis Smith, Chardonnay, Spear Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills -photo grapelive

2018 Samuel Louis Smith, Chardonnay, Spear Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The absolutely gorgeous Spear Vineyard Chardonnay from Sam Smith, an upcoming release under his Samuel Louis Smith label, is one of the best Chardonnay wines in California, up there with the very best and it’s a steal for the price, this is a vintage for the ages in the Central Coast and this wine certainly looks like a legend in the making! This is an epic wine from a vineyard that is fast becoming a California Grand Cru, Spear is an amazing site on the north end of the Sta. Rita Hills getting plenty of effects from cool sea breezes and Pacific Ocean influenced climate that allows perfect ripening and retention of natural acidity that leads to complexity and concentration, as this fantastic wine clearly shows. The Spear Vineyard is a family owned, sustainable and certified organic vineyard, farmed by Ofer Shepher, who as he notes, is solely focused on the Santa Rita Hills appellation and is an inspirational figure in the region and admired for his passion and commitment in making wine and growing grapes that taste of the place where made and grown. Spear is set on clay based soils and is planted to a blend of clones including clone 4, clone 96 and the heritage old Wente clone, which Sam put just 4 and 96 in his 2018 version, which shows in the fruit vitality, mineral tones and thrilling energy. Sam Smith has been getting a lot of media attention for his wines, both from his own label and for his sublime work as head winemaker for Dan Lee at Monterey’s Morgan Winery, where he has really raised the game and the latest Double L Estate stuff is outstanding, especially he is showing an exceptional gift with Chardonnay, though his Pinots are all stellar efforts too.

When asked about his approach, Sam Smith says he really wanted to show this vineyard lots of love and allow the terroir to be its main character, and his without question, nailed it! He went with a whole cluster pressing and native yeast barrel fermentation with 50% allowed to finish malo-lactic with 20% new French oak. Smith, who wanted to preserve the fresh detail, but still wanted palate impact aged this beauty for 9 months before bottling. Still dynamic and youthful, this wildly expressive Chardonnay shows a unique personality, and like the prior vintage has an incredible almost Hermitage meets Condrieu element at its heart with honeysuckle/white flowers, powerful, almost oily mouthfeel with hints of wild apricot fleshiness to along with classic Chardonnay apple and pear fruits. Those that love the exotic orange chiffon and marmalade of Kongsgaard Chards with love this latest Samuel Louis Smith Spear Vineyard Chardonnay which adds wet stone, subtle tropical essences, bright meyer lemon, a touch of clarified cream, clove spice, quince and delicate leesy notes and well judged toasty oak. When given some time in the glass this golden/green tinted pale Chardonnay really thrills the palate with a sexy textural feel and it lingers on and on, it is also blessed with a zippy acidity and an underlying saline briskness, it will fill out over time and it will be stunning with lobster, sweet crab and grilled salmon or swordfish dishes. This is another new and emerging talent to to follow and I highly recommend getting on his email list and not miss this stunning wine.
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 26, 2019

2016 Desire Lines Wine Co. Syrah, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County -photo grapelive

2016 Desire Lines Wine Co. Syrah, Shake Ridge Ranch, Amador County.
The most powerful and exotic wine in the exceptional lineup of Desire Lines Wine Co. is Cody Rasmussen’s exotic and dense Shake Ridge Ranch Syrah with its gloriously full bodied palate and incredible length on the finish, this is outstanding stuff, maybe the best Amador wine I’ve ever had! This big and serious Syrah took a while to grow on me and for me to fully understand and appreciate as it comes at you with a riot of deep fruit and an array of sweet and tangy spices. I’ll be honest, I loved Rasmussen’s Griffin’s Lair much better at first, and still absolutely adore it, but after reflection this wine maybe left a bigger impression on me, while Griffin’s Lair had the comforting and compelling Northern Rhone character, this Shake Ridge Ranch was more like Penfolds Grange or Chapoutier’s Cote-Rotie, with the flamboyant richness and staggering, but velvety grip, not far off the hedonistic style of Andy Erickson’s Favia “Quarzo” (also from this region) or a Guigal La La! This inky dark Syrah is a big mouth full of wine with packed layers of thick fruit that somehow retains a tight focus and thrills completely with boysenberry, black plum, blueberry coulis and creme de cassis leading the way with hints of smoke, flinty graphite, sweet flowers, roast herbs de provence, mineral and vanilla laced wood notes. This 2016 Shake Ridge Syrah is opulent though has mouth coating tannins that leads me to believe it will be age worthy wine that should take on some even more interesting characteristics, even though I doubt many will be that patient. Desire Lines is one of the best new labels out there this year and as mentioned in prior reviews, this is a another must join list, especially for this and their Griffin’s Lair Syrah(s), but also the Carignan based red and the Cole Ranch Dry Riesling are super tasty wines as well.

Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under Morgan Twain-Peterson, started the Desire Line Wine Co. label with his wife Emily with the 2015 vintage, which was made with grapes coming from the mentioned Griffin’s Lair Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap and from a one row block that magically came available. Originally the couple, who were childhood sweethearts, came west to pursue wine from the midwest with Cody doing harvests at Balletto and Patz and Hall before getting his dream job at Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Co., and its access to some of the most historic fruit in the state. Cody notes that his 2016 Shake Ridge Syrah was fermented with 50% whole cluster and aged for 14 months in neutral French 500L cask, and he adds that he gets the fruit for this wine from two different blocks on the the ranch, which were the first vines planted at Shake Ridge back in 2003, with both blocks running from the crown of a ridge down into a much cooler swale, giving him a range of flavors and providing a natural balance in the wine. The Shake Ridge Ranch, as the winery notes, lies just uphill of the Melones Fault, almost directly in the center of the richest portion of the California Mother Lode, known as Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills with a vast array of rich intense soils. With mostly granite and schist along with Mariposa slate, greenstone, and marble, plus Rasmussen notes that there is also, in the vineyard rows at Shake Ridge, chunks of quartz. This geology makes for a special sauce that along with the warm days and cool nights delivers a unique terroir expression in the regions wines, which is absolutely present in this outstanding Syrah, think Saint-Joseph meets Barossa! Look for Desire Lines Wine Co., and these amazing wines, drink this one over the next 5 to 10 years.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 25, 2019

2018 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Blanc, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Coastal Range, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2018 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Blanc, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Coastal Range, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of the most exciting and brilliant white wines in Oregon, the 2018 Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc is again a class act, following up on the awesome 2017 version with gorgeous detailing and texture that rivals top Chablis or many white Burgundies! The Freedom Hill Vineyard, planted in 1982 is set on marine sedimentary soils in the Coastal Range area of the Willamette Valley with a glorious southeast exposure that soaks up the sun and produces wines of ripe and complex flavors, and while known for Pinot Noir mainly, the Pinot Blanc is is amazing as this beautiful wine shows. Fox’s Freedom Hill Pinot Blanc comes from a small, under 2 acre parcel of vines and she has shown a majestic touch with this site and grape. The neutral Burgundy barrel-fermented Freedom Hill Pinot Blanc is bright and full of energy with a medium full body showing a touch of phenolics and mineral crunchiness, finishing with lingering toast and brisk mouth watering acidity.

Kelley is understandably proud as can be with her Pinot Blanc, she notes that, this is true, 100% Pinot Blanc, as there is no Auxerrois (which is often found in Oregon versions) in this bottling, and she made it much the same way as she does her Chardonnay(s), this wine was whole cluster-pressed after picking, It was then settled/cleared in tank for a couple of days before racking to neutral Burgundy oak barrels to go through primary and then malo. It was raised for 6 to 7 months before bottling in the mentioned used French oak, with this elevage adding to the complexity and mouth feel, giving a slight leesy richness, while retaining its purity of form, energy and mineral tones. The 2018 vintage is crisp and stony with layers of lemony citrus fruits along with a hint of golden apple and apricot along with wet rock, a touch of mountain herbs, peach tart with buttered crust, subtle white flowers and a bite of orange/grapefruit rind tanginess. This pale white gains presence and mouth feel in the glass as it warms and opens, very impressive stuff!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 24, 2019

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah “Alturas” Estate, Yorkville Highlands -photo grapelive

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah “Alturas” Estate, Yorkville Highlands.
The main estate bottling from Paul Gordon’s high elevation vineyard above the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County is his Alturas Syrah, which is one of the greatest wine values in California, especially this outstanding 2017 with it’s incredible depth of flavors and Northern Rhone style and low alcohol. The Halcón Syrah, which gets a long hang time in this ultra cool climate, was picked October 4th and co-fermented with about 3% Viognier. This dark purple/black opaque Alturas Syrah came from various parcels of the Halcón vineyard, which sits at close to 2, 500ft on schist and shale soils, and from predominately the Chave (Hermitage Clone) selections. Gordon, along with winemaking consultant Scott Shapely, a Monterey native, my hometown and head winemaker at Roar, went with a native yeast and partial whole-cluster fermentation, using close 50% with stems, matching 2016, and they, as Gordon notes, utilized (just) 10% new oak, again in the form of a single 500L French oak puncheon. Paul also adds, this was as mature Syrah fruit he’s ever had at just 22-22.5brix, and finished at 12.7% natural alcohol, making for an exciting and fresh wine of deep fruit complexity and spice. The Halcon Vineyard is one of the most unique and thrilling sites in California, planted mostly to Syrah, but with small area with Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier and Marsanne as well.

This 2017 Alturas is vivid and full of stemmy intensity (Which makes the aromatics pop, heightens tension and gives fleshy textures) with blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry compote, black plum and kirsch fruits along with white pepper, black olives, anise and smoky embers all packed into a grippy medium full palate that has some firm, but smooth edged tannin and fine acidity. While the 2015 and 2016 had a touch more concentration and immediate richness, this one looks set to be even better. Paul Gordon tracks the daytime temperatures from his Halcon Vineyard to see how it compares to Ampuis, the town closest to the famed Cote-Rotie in France’s Northern Rhone and has found it to be cooler on his Mendocino County mountain top site and with a similar chart of highs and lows, which adds to the recognizable old world character in the Alturas. In fact those that covet Domaine Jamet, Rostaing, Louis Barruol’s negotiant bottlings and Bernard Levet Cote-Rotie(s) would likely be very impressed by what Gordon’s wines display in the glass, I myself have put them to the test in blind tastings over the last few vintages with amazing results for these reasonably priced Halcon wines. In California, to find wines in this league, you would have to say you’d put Halcon in the same league as Pax, Drew, Sashi Moorman (Piedrasassi), Lagier Meredith, Arnot-Roberts and Peay to name a few of my favorites, for style, uniqueness and quality. As I’ve mentioned in my past reviews, this is a list you should be on.
($32) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 23, 2019

2015 Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Cuvée Réservée, Rhone Valley, France -photo grapelive

2015 Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Cuvée Réservée, Rhone Valley, France.
Domaine du Pegau is one of the go to estates in Chateauneuf du Pape, run by Paul Feraud and his daughter winemaker Laurence, and these hand crafted traditional wines are some of the most authentic and sought after in the region. The Férauds have been growing vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape since 1670, with titles to their earliest vineyards dating back to at least 1733, but older generation of the Férauds sold most of their production in bulk to top négociants, that have included the likes of Jaboulet-Aine, David & Foillard and even Guigal. That changed in 1964, when Paul decided to sell 5,000 bottles under his own label, which brought in a new era of estate bottlings, but it was until Laurence came on the scene that the true greatest of the estate became clear, when in 1987 they started the Domaine du Pegau. Pegau now has over 50 acres of prime vineyards with a lot being old vine parcels and Laurence is making some awesome stuff, including this incredible 2015 Cuvée Réservée, which was made from 60 year old plus vines set on limestone and clay soils with scattered stones and some sand. These Cuvée Réservée Rouge by Domaine du Pegau are intense wines with transparent layers of fascinating pure flavors that can only be from this terroir, they are dense, luxurious and almost chocolatey, but with studied finesse and with a noticeable lower natural alcohol than some other top wines.

The 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée Rouge, was made up of about 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, and 10% of many other authorized varietals, but including Counoise, Cinsault, and Vaccarèse, and the Grenache stands out in this warm vintage with loads of creme de cassis, pomegranate, plum and red berry fruit along with hints of tar, earth, spice and roasted herbs leading the way on the full bodied palate. The tannins are firm, but sweet and ripe allowing this concentrated Châteauneuf-du-Pape to deliver its full array of flavors and complex depths, this is absolutely Chateauneuf at its best! The aftertaste is amazing in detail and length and even in this warm year it remains fresh with this deep red wine adding boysenberry, fig paste, camphor, a touch of peppercorns, cedar and black licorice along with a subtle floral essence, including a hint of lilac and lavender. Laurence fermented this vintage using classic techniques with whole cluster and indigenous yeasts in cement vats, she says maceration and primary lasted about two weeks before the juice was racked into a big casks, she uses well seasoned 5,000 liter oak foudres, and the elevage lasted for close to 18 months, then bottled unfined and unfiltered. This brilliant, dark purple/garnet, powerfully rich Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the stuff of legends, enjoy over the next decade and a half. This is stellar Rhone goodness, and I also loved their Clairette based Blanc too, along with the set of Cotes du Rhone(s), Pegau is rock star solid top to bottom.
($100 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 22, 2019

2018 Cameron Winery, Pinot Gris “Ramato” Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2018 Cameron Winery, Pinot Gris “Ramato” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of the new world’s best “Orange” wines, the Friuli inspired Cameron Winery Ramato is a skin contact coppery, hence the name, Pinot Gris is a dry, slightly savory and textured wine that thrills the senses. John Paul, the famed Pinot Noir winemaker at Cameron Winery and Oregon legend is also a huge Italian wine fan, loving the wines of Piedmonte, but also being influenced by the wines of Radikon and Gravner, among others in the north-eastern Italy, near the border with Slovenia where these traditional wines are made. Orange wines are in fashion, but are a tiny niche, and while some dismiss them as a passing fade it should be noted they have been around hundreds if not thousands of years and are not going away anytime soon and we are blessed by their presence, especially when there as good and pleasing as this one is. Made by allowing the wine to spend time on the skins and then being fermented with malo-lactic conversion the amber hued Cameron Ramato, sourced from their estate Abbey Ridge Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA, has an intriguing tension between a delicacy of fruit and the soft grip of tannins that provide a structural mouth feel in a dry and brisk wine.

As eluded to, Ramato means copper colored in Italian, which Paul’s certainly shows in the glass and this 2018 version is absolutely brilliant, after many years of experience he nailed this vintage, which his calls one of his best yet and referring to it as a lovely copper-colored libation. He also makes a full on Rouge de Gris version, which is more of a red wine version with full pigment extraction, but this one is pretty and and almost luxurious on the palate, while offering a heightened degree of complexity. This one hits its marks with layers of wild peach, strawberry, red citrus fresh/fruit and rind along with orange tea notes, crushed flowers, dusty cinnamony spices, persimmon and a melon sensation. This wine gains weight as it opens, but never takes on a heavy or flabby personality, staying fresh and lively even as it leaves a serious impression, providing lots of entertaining quality. Sometimes these Orange style wines can be earthy/funky and downright unappealing, but not this almost opulent/creamy Cameron, it is clean and wonderfully lingering, if you are orange curious, this is one to look for! It goes without saying, you’ll want to grab Cameron’s awesome Pinot Noir(s) first and foremost, along with his old world Burgundy style Chardonnay, but be sure not to overlook their Italian inspired whites and especially their Nebbiolo.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive