Monthly Archives: November 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 30, 2019

2016 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rüdesheimer Klosterlay, Rheingau Germany. -photo grapelive

2016 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rüdesheimer Klosterlay, Rheingau Germany.
The Klosterlay Kabinett is one of the mainstays of Leitz’s outstanding collection of Rieslings and a true classic with it’s mix of slate, loess and loam soils giving this beauty its defining character. Johannes Leitz loves this site, believing Klosterlay is perfect for touch of residual sugar or a semi dry fruity wine that still has the mineral intensity from the slate, “Lay” which is a very old word meaning slate and “Kloster” is German for Abbey, the vines sits beneath the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, hence the name. This vineyard sits above the eastern edge of Rudesheim, it is the spot where the Rüdesheimer Berg begins to gently undulate or flatten out as it goes toward the village of Geisenheim where the Rhein starts to widen out, making it a singular micro climate. This vintage has a special place in my heart as I was here in Rudesheim at harvest time and was able to watch the grapes come into Leitz’s winery, including this Klosterlay, it is also a vineyard that I made a point of walking through on my fist visit to the Rheingau in 2009!

The 2016 vintage, which the locals here consider a miracle year that looked like a disaster until September brought an amazing run of sunny days to ripen the grapes after a dismal cool and wet early Summer and the sunshine and warm of September shows through here with Leitz’s Klosterlay Kabinett showing brilliantly in the glass. In all honesty, this is one of the wines that turned me on the German wines in a big way for pure drinking pleasure, it can be enjoyed with any food or any occasion and its hint at sweetness really refreshes the palate. Bright apple, apricot, peach and racy tangerine fruits lead the way on this light to medium bodied wine with touches of smoky shale, rosewater, lime blossom, mineral spice, saline and chamomile. This vintage with a few years of age is drinking awesome and is fabulous with spicy foods, especially Thai and curries, and it still has plenty to offer for a bit of time yet. You can see it starting to evolve and giving its potential complexity and is losing some of the youthful sweetness, drink this charmer over the next 5 to 7 years.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 29, 2019

2017 Weingut Emmerich Knoll, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Federspiel, Wachau Austria -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Emmerich Knoll, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Federspiel, Wachau Austria.
The lighter Federspiel GruVee from Emmerich Knoll is full of life and flavor with bright mineral and acid intensity showing a pale greenish gold hue in the glass. Emmerich Knoll, a third generation vigneron, located in Austria’s Wachau region, in Unterloiben, west of Vienna and on the mighty Danube is one of the greatest producers in the world and one of the most iconic for crafting Austria’s signature Gruner Veltliner as well as dry Riesling. What really stands out is the purity and terroir that shine through Knoll’s wines, it is extraordinary that even his delicate Federspiel can be so complex and layered. Set on gravelly soils with orthogneiss and loess as well as river sand and alluvial deposits, Knoll’s vineyards are all located on the far eastern end of the Wachau gorge, this area is the warmest part of region, though still considered a cool climate, all of which contributes to the wines sense of place.

The crisp and salty dry Knoll Loibner Gruner Veltliner Federspiel takes a minute to open in the glass and reveals itself with subtle aromatics and filling out to a medium body on the racy palate showing lemon/lime, green melon, unripe white peach and zesty grapefruit fruits along with citrus blossom, wet stones, steely mineral, snappy herbs, white pepper and almond oil. The Weingut Knoll is very traditional in winemaking and uses exclusively old oak foudres for fermentation and aging with fine lees aging, their wines are surprising long lived and coveted by white wine lovers, though I enjoy them fresh and youthful as well, I find them crystalline and energetic going great with a variety of cuisines, I especially find them a gorgeous pairing with sushi. This 2017 is ripe and textured, but delightfully vibrant and refreshing with its lower alcohol profile and remarkable balance, though hard to find, this is one to look for.
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 28, 2019 – Happy Thanksgiving!

2019 Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Beaujolais Nouveau, France -photo grapelive

2019 Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Beaujolais Nouveau, France.
The fresh and creamy Beaujolais Nouveau by Drouhin is dark fruit driven with a lovely soft and silky mouth feel and makes for a simple and tasty Thanksgiving wine. This carbonic Gamay is dark ruby in the glass with loads of strawberry and banana (fruits) on the medium bodied palate along with juicy plum and cherry notes, highlighting the potential of the vintage in the Beaujolais and Burgundy regions. Sweet fruitiness will please most everyone around the Holiday table, even if this fun little quaffer will not impress your more wine serious friends and family, so best to bring out a few other bottles, choice is always welcome. Keeping tradition alive won’t be painful with this Drouhin and it goes well with all the dishes laid out at American Thanksgiving tables, which include roast turkey, candied yams, sweet potato pie, savory stuffing, maybe veggies, buttered mashed spuds and of pumpkin pie. And while I will have like three or four wines, not including Nouveau, I wouldn’t turn my nose up on this version by Drouhin, which is widely available. There are a lot of intriguing Nouveau wines to explore these days, but if you are last minute grabbing a few bottles, this Drouhin will certainly do the job and it will give some smiles and giggles, it is a nice way to celebrate to just finished harvest and a step up from the more generic offerings. Wishing all my friends and wine family a Happy Thanksgiving, Cheers!
($16 Est.) 85 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 27, 2019

2018 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling Spatlese, Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling Spatlese, Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel Germany.
One of the greatest wines in the world and a traditional Riesling of sublime nobility the Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese, especially this 2018 vintage, is a gorgeous wine with wonderful fruit and crystalline mineral charms, it’s a Mosel classic. With the complexity and extract, as well as the natural acidity, this semi-sweet Riesling has the flexibility to go with almost any cuisine, it is great with Holiday meals, Asian spicy dishes along with briny sea foods and or savory meat dishes, not fear the Spatlese, certainly never turn down a chance to try Willi Schaefer, no matter what sugar level, these are masterpieces and in particular this Graacher Himmelreich, which is one of the most sought after wines in the world. This micro winery in Germany’s Mosel region in the village of Graach has roots in wine growing that date back to the 1121, though it’s modern history started in the 1590’s! But the greatest success began when Willi joined the family business in 1971, and in recent times the reputation of Shaefer, who makes only about 3,000 cases each year, has grown to cult wine status, helped when Terry Theise, the Riesling guru and famous importer starting bringing these amazing wines to America, made in such tiny amounts, these Rieslings are unbelievably coveted and age worthy. Schaefer pays great attention to their plots and farm sustainable in practice and spend an incredible amount of time hand tending these vines with the Spatlese seeing all hand picking and is done in two passes to achieve it’s depth of flavors and complexity with one pass catching the bright acidity and the next pass to get the concentration, then Schaefer ferments with long cool ferments and the Riesling rests on its lees for a lengthy period before a late bottling. Christoph notes, the fermentation takes place with natural yeasts from the vineyard mainly in old 1,000-liter Fuder German oak casks. Also adding that In the cellar, they try to intervene as little as possible, tasting often, but allowing the vineyard to shine though in each wine.

Willi, who since 2002 has had his children, Christoph his son and Andrea his daughter, who both graduated from the prestigious Geisenheim University, helping him in the cellar is still crafting the magically Rieslings from this estate vines set on the pure Devonian slate soils and impossibly steep slopes of the Graacher Himmelreich, Domprobst and the Wehlener sites. This vintage is beautiful clear and translucent with smoky minerals, exotic fruits, lush texture and fine salinity making for a delicately balanced expression of Spatlese, where the residual sugar is well integrated and shows more as creaminess than sweetness, Shaefer like Katrina Prum (J.J. Prum) and Johannes Selbach (Selbach-Oster) make sweet wines that are seriously impressive in form and life easily hiding concentration and sugar in wines that delight the senses and unfold with grace and length, these are some of the most seductive wines you can ever have. According to Theise, who named Willi Schaefer the winery of the vintage, the Graacher Himmelreich is (more) buoyant, more floral, lighter in texture and is open from day one, which I found especially true here in the ’18 version, it shows lush details with candied lime, apricot, white peach and green apple fruits, a sense of flinty spice, wet shale/rock, a touch of dried ginger, spearmint and hints of tropical elements with touches of pineapple and plumeria flower as well as sea breezes, saltiness and lingering tea spices and rosewater. If you love Riesling, you need to get your hands on these 2018 Schaefer offerings, especially these Spatlese wines, with the Graacher Domprobst #10 and this Graacher Himmelreich, which are just coming out now, but don’t hesitate as the collectors are already grabbing them up, plus be sure not to pass up the Schaefer Kabinett(s) either, and if you see the Auslese, which are ultra rare, fight for it, and put it away for 10 to 20 years! These 2018’s look set to be legendary with loads of cellar potential, though they can be enjoyed now too.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 26, 2019

2019 Poe Wines, Pinot Nouveau, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2019 Poe Wines, Pinot Nouveau, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County.
Made from 100% Pinot Noir from the Van der Kamp Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain is winemaker Samantha Sheehan’s ode to Beaujolais Nouveau and a celebration of the harvest with the first wine of the year. This is a wine I’ve been enjoying for the last few vintages and while it has changed a bit, it continues to be an intriguing and slightly funky version with earthy tones that make this Pinot Nouveau much less fruity than expected with a savory edge. The Van der Kamp family handpicks the grapes at night, and Poe gets the whole bunches to the winery just before sunrise from this old Pinot Noir site, one of the oldest in California, planted at about 1,400 feet up back in the early 1950s, above the historic Glenn Ellen village. Pinot Noir and Meunier from here are very expressive, coming from a patchwork of soils that includes some loam along with volcanic material and decomposed river bed, all of which adds to the complexity and give Sheehan’s wines a unique terroir influence, even in her Nouveau.

Sheehan employed whole clusters, that she put into a portable fermentor and sealed the lid for six weeks, noting that in absence of oxygen, the grapes undergo carbonic fermentation and malolactic at the same time, which she says results in a wine is delicate and fruity, with aromas of rose petals and strawberry. There is that and more and it shows a soft texture and roundness, it takes a length of time for the initial funk to blow off, but once it gets open it gains class and complexity with spice, juicy plum, candied cherry and mineral notes coming out. Poe Wines is really finding it’s voice these days with the last few vintages really turning on the charm, especially the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier based sparkling wines, these are lovely sparklers made in the grower fizz style, but Sheehan’s single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are also seriously good, in particular I suggest getting some of Samantha’s Manchester Ridge and Van der Kamp bottlings, they are truly special offerings. Those looking for California Nouveau should consider Poe’s along with those from Birichino, Cruse and Martha Stoumen to name just a few, and these 2019’s look very good, highlighting the potential of vintage.
($28 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 25, 2019

2018 Desire Lines Wines Co., Evangelho Vineyard Red Wine, Contra Costa County -photo grapelive

2018 Desire Lines Wines Co., Evangelho Vineyard Red Wine, Contra Costa County.
Cody and Emily Rasmussen’s newer label and winery Desire Lines Wine Co. is one of California’s most exciting recent discoveries and I’ve been highly impressed with their latest releases, especially their awesome Syrah(s) from Griffin’s Lair and Shake Ridge Vineyards as well as this fun Carignan based red from the historic Evangelho Vineyard. I really enjoyed the 2017 vintage, but this 2018 is equally impressive, maybe even better with an extra burst of everything, it just seems more vivid and brighter, making for a pure and crunchy red wine that drinks with exuberant dark fruits. The old vines at Evangelho are own-rooted and were first planted back in the 1890s, during the boom years after the gold rush in the state, it is located near the confluence of California’s two great rivers – the Sacramento and the San Joaquin – set on deep sandy soils, This granitic deposit, eroded from the Sierra Nevada has created a unique terroir in Costa Contra County where, as Cody notes, the vines are buffeted by the winds that blow through the Carquinez Strait and across the Delta causing a stress factor that effects the vines in dramatic fashion allowing for ripe flavor density, but with surprisingly low PH and vibrant acidity, which has proven great for Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Carignan, like this wine shows. This 2018 Evangelho Red is juicy and tangy with blackberry, sugar plums, cherry and pomegranate fruits, light cedar notes along with a dusting of spices, herbs, earthy tones, mineral and anise elements that add complexity and contrast in a medium to full bodied wine. Delicate florals emerge with time in the glass and the palate fills out smoothly with ripe tannins that allows easy enjoyment even this youthful, this is joyously quaffable.

Made from Carignane primarily the Evangelho Red is 90% Carignane and 10% Mourvedre all from this famous site located in Antioch on these Delhi sand knolls was fermented, as Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bed Rock Wine Co., notes with 30% whole cluster under a submerged cap and aged for ten months in neutral 400L barrels. Cody adds, he loves the 400L barrel size for Carignan, saying that it retains freshness and builds tension like all large format barrels, but with a less reductive funk, allowing for clarity of form and an authentic expression of place and grapes. The winemaking is gentle, minimalistic and with a restrained precision, in which, again as Cody offers, that the inclusion of whole bunches and stems adds spice to the nose, while the small portion of carbonic maceration along with the small portion of Mourvèdre adds fleshy roundness to the palate. Rasmussen notes that the Evangelho Red was inspired by Cru Beaujolais, like Lapierre’s Morgon and Thivin’s Cote de Brouilly, but with a California old vine twist, which he succeeded in expressing here, I love this stuff and it is perfect for Thanksgiving and the Holiday meals of the coming season as well as BBQ and Asian meat dishes. This is a winemaker and winery to get where of, and quick, these are fabulous wines offering great value with tons of character and vigorous personalities, I highly recommend getting on this mailing list. Were are living in such amazing times for exciting wines in California and Desire Lines Wine Co. is one of these new generation of producers taking our state to new heights!
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 24, 2019

2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir “Massale” Clos Electrique, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir “Massale” Clos Electrique, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The reduction and barnyard nose is strong here, much like the classic Domaine Maume Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru and Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru bottlings of the 1990s, but the palate opens up beautifully with beautiful textural layering and deep flavors in a wine that will cause a mild controversy! This limited release Cuvee Massale from Cameron Winery will thrill old school Burg fans and, of course, winemaker John Paul’s loyal followers, this 2015 has loads of personality and character, though those that prefer modern ultra clean and fruit forward Pinots will be taken aback by the stinky bouquet, that said, the palate and overall depth is exceptional and with rewarding patience this is certainly going to be something amazing in 5 to 10 years. There’s a dark color in the glass and a black fruit profile in this 2015 Massale with blackberry, blueberry, black cherry and plum fruits along with hints of smoke, mineral, cedar, graphite, earth and dusty red spices. This vintage shows a dense concentration and vinous beauty, the mouth feel is nearly perfect and silken, while there is also a serious structure (grip) here that again reminds of me of Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Vaucrains. This wine really is much improved with air and especially with robust cuisine that will take your mind of the barnyard funk. The contrast between the gorgeous fruit and complexity and the nose at this stage is striking, so I highly recommend resisting temptation and hide this bottle away for another few years if not a decade. Sadly I didn’t follow that and I can only hope to re-visit a bottle someday and see what comes.

The most rare and exclusive bottling in Cameron’s amazing lineup of Pinot Noir(s) is John Paul’s special “Massale” selection from his famed Clos Electrique Estate Vineyard in the Red Hills of Dundee. This bottling is from the mosaic of clones that were brought to California by Paul Masson, in the later part of the 19th century, a Burgundian, who sourced special cuttings and planted them on the hillside above Saratoga where he had his vineyard and winery until he sold it to Martin Ray in 1940. Ray himself had to sell the mountain winery to Seagrams in 1943 after running into financial trouble, but before Seagram’s took over him managed to take a collection of the treasured old clone and plant them higher up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in a spot that is now Mount Eden, which saved these historic Pinot Noir clones, maybe some of the most important in the new world from extinction! About 30 something years ago, John Paul, realizing what this cuttings meant planted a plot of his Clos Electrique to them, from which, we are blessed, he makes this incredible and limited wine. In a great vintage like 2015, Cameron’s Massale is one of the rarest gets in the Oregon wine world and I am grateful beyond words to have been able to try this one, as I was only able to source just this one bottle, numbered 0066, and review it. Grown on red Jory soils from non-irrigated vines and treated like traditional Burgundy with a long elevation in French oak this Massale Pinot is Cameron’s secret reserve offering and has unique label and packaging with a wax capsule. Cameron’s latest set of wines, especially the 2017 vintage Pinots are incredible with the regional (Village) wines from Ribbon Ridge and Dundee Hills are fantastic values, so in case you can’t find this cuvee these are worthy of your attention.
($100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 23, 2019

2015 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir “Three Corner” Russian River Valley, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2015 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir “Three Corner” Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.
One of the rarest estate Pinots at Rochioli is their Three Corner, with this bottling coming from a small triangle shaped vineyard on the southern end of their property that was planted back in 1974 and that has what call West Block clonal selection(s) or Rochioli clone on a slope between Westside Road and the Russian River itself. This amazing parcel only yields about 1.5 tons per acre and the wine shows the concentration, making it one of Rochioli’s Grand Cru bottlings. The 2015 is just starting to full express itself and I was impressed with the lovely mineral and cool palate personality with black cherry, plum, cranberry and blueberry fruits, light spices, loam, sassafras/cola bean and toasty sweet oak shadings. This is a rich style Pinot Noir no question, but I wouldn’t say it is overt or over the top and I loved the vitality and lingering floral notes and hints of saline that make it great with an array of cuisine.

The River brings fog and a cool sea breeze up here and gives a big day to night swing in real temperature allowing for classic regional ripeness and balancing acidity that makes for a seriously age worth Pinot Noir. The old vine Three Corner Pinot is usually aged about 15 to 18 months in 50% new French oak and is luxurious, toasty and medium to full bodied with the 2015 showing wonderful length and intensity, it makes quite an impression on the palate in a way a stellar vintage Burgundy does and it handles its 14.5% natural alcohol very well indeed, it really comes together with air and tannins are remarkably fine and silken. I bought a few bottles of this off the Rochioli mailing list and this was the first one I opened, and I’ve thrilled by the class and depth here, it should age exceptionally gracefully for another 5 to 10 years with ease.
($149+ Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 22, 2019

2018 Big Basin Vineyards, Rosé, California -photo grapelive

2018 Big Basin Vineyards, Rosé, California.
The Big Basin Rosé is a treat, made from Carignane from 90 year old vines, plus a touch of Grenache, Mourvedre and maybe a little Syrah, with the main portion of the (Carignane) grapes coming from Wirz Vineyard in Cienega Valley, which is different than from some of the Rosés that Bradley Brown of Big Basin has done in the past that were more GSM based, making for an interesting and slightly fresher style version. Brown says that the two last vintages with Carignane, as the centerpiece of his Rosé has been remarkably success and that his fans have given him their thumbs up on it, and I can add mine too, this is delightful and refreshing stuff that has old vine concentration, lively acidity, mineral focus and is dusty bone dry. This modern California Rhone inspired Rosé joins an ever increasing list of small production groovy dry Pink wines in the state like Arnot-Roberts, L’Aventure and Epoch to name a few and is a nice addition to Brown’s stellar lineup of wines that includes his iconic Rattlesnake Rock Estate Syrah, along with his whole-cluster set of Pinot Noir(s) and other fine offerings.

The 2018 was a great vintage on the Central Coast and Big Basin’s Rosé shows this in complexity, bright detail and perfect ripeness v. acidity with distilled raspberry, strawberry, tart/tangy cherry, melon and pink ruby grapefruit fruits along with a melon fleshiness, dried herbs, rosewater, wild spices and wet stones. This is wonderfully transparent and has a nice steely edge too, and even sort at the end of Rosé season it delivers a depth of flavors and vibrancy that makes it irresistible and great with food, especially picnic fare, mussels in broth with country bread and with BBQ. This vintage shows a pale pinkish salmon color in the glass and it develops a nice delicate floral bouquet with air, Brown allowed it a short soak on the skins before its all native fermentation. This unfined and unfiltered Big Basin Rosé, with only 250 cases made is a rarity, but well worth searching out even at this point, it will drink well until the next vintage is released next Summer. I also want to note, Big Basin’s latest Coastview Chardonnay is fabulous and if you want a sleeper wine, it will really impress white Burgundy fans!
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 21, 2019

2017 Brovia, Roero Arneis DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 Brovia, Roero Arneis DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Brovia’s 2017 Arneis is as good as it gets for this Piedmonte white grape and is a world class offering with lovely mineral tones, crisp detail and lightly exotic notes, this is absolutely delicious stuff and that is very interesting and pleasing in the glass. Arneis that since the nineties has been on a roll, coming back from near extinction to being one of the most exciting white wine grapes in Italy, and this Brovia version is a gorgeously pure expression from its most distinctive terroir in the Roero zone. According to records and family history, Brovia was originally founded in 1863 near the village of Castiglione Falletto, in the heart of the Barolo district. The Brovia family has been continually growing of grapes in this famous region and now the fourth and fifth generations are continuing the tradition and now have some top plots in Cru sites, making some glorious Nebbiolo wines from Barolo with top bottlings coming from Rocche, Villero and Garblét Sue. The Roero Arneis, as importer Rosenthal notes, the sole white wine of the estate is made from vines in the Roero district from a tiny parcel in Vezza d’Alba, where the soil is sandy over marl and sits pretty high up in altitude on south-facing slopes, a slightly cooler zone and with good sun. The vineyard was planted in 1980 and it gives good concentration and complexity of flavors, which this 2017 shows in wonderful transparent grace and with vibrant lift.

Brovia employs gentle winemaking practices and strive to showcase a sense of place in all of their wines and the Arneis grapes are briefly macerated with a touch of skin contact and the fermentation occurs at cool temperatures for two to three weeks, with the wine being fermented and aged only in stainless steel with about 8 to 9 months in tank and with some light lees, which allows for the refined textural feel. Luck for the United States, about three fourths of the total production comes here to be enjoyed by Italian wine enthusiasts and most of them get sold through restaurants, highlighting the fact that Arneis is a great companion to cuisine, especially fish and delicate pasta dishes, though it is flexible and be used as an aperitif wine and or enjoyed with soft artisan cheeses. This vintage is dry and vivid with ripe fruits which is including a mix of citrus and stone fruit, like white peach, key lime, nectarine flesh along with hints of wet rock, chalkiness, anise and faint white floral notes in a brisk and lively white wine. I love the Brovia collection, especially the basic Barolo normale, which is a stunning value in most years and their Dolcetto, as well as this fine Roero Arneis, it is a fun alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, drink it up!
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive