Monthly Archives: December 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 31, 2019

2015 Corison Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sunbasket Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2015 Corison Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sunbasket Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley.
When reflecting on on of the great wines I’ve been lucky enough to try and review I have to end this year on someone that continues to impress and shows no sign of slowing down with a great set of current releases, this of course is Cathy Corison and this wine, a new offering, is a perfect way to show have exciting her wines are and to end a great vintage here at Corison is most known for her Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from vineyards she always worked with and her estate Kronos bottling, but she has been using Sunbasket for some time and has done a single vineyard Cab Franc from here under her Helios second label, and know she has added a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to her main lineup, and it is a stunner! Corison Winery has sourced Sunbasket Vineyard, which was originally planted on the alluvial and gravelly soils in St.Helena in the early 1950’s by the legendary winemaker, André Tchelistcheff, for over 25 years, sharing it with Shafer Vineyards, as Corison notes, for many years until they became an exclusively estate winery just over 10 years ago. Corison has taken all the Sunbasket fruit after Shafer stopped using it and has been converting it to more sustainable (farming) methods, making it much more organic and allowing the vines natural energies to shine through, which shows it this ripe and dynamic 2015 Sunbasket Cab. Cathy has long valued the Sunbasket Vineyard’s grapes and adds that she admires the fruit here for its bright red and blue fruit and pretty aromatics, that is clearly part of the joy of this first release with its lovely violet/acacia perfume and deep sense of fruit on the full bodied palate. The Sunbasket is in my opinion, just a touch more lush than Corison’s Kronos, but no less serious, this is fabulous stuff, it blows away many Napa wines at twice the price and those that like Ridge’s famous Monte Bello will be very interested in this wine, or should be.

Cathy Corison, one of California’s greatest winemakers, a living legend and long respected for her pure and elegant Cabernet wines that rival any produced here and those in Bordeaux, I find her wines both majestic and densely powerful, these are wines that capture the best that Napa Valley has to offer, but are never over the top and Corison works incredibly hard in the vineyard to maximize natural acidity and keep alcohol moderate, while still expressing deep flavor profiles, which this gorgeous Sunbasket delivers to perfection. Corison, humbly suggests that it’s all about the vineyard and the quality of the fruit and that she just guides it all to bottle, but there is no questioning her talents and the result of her passion and commitment to her craft. As she says, great grapes make great wine, with Cathy’s winemaking being largely non-interventionist though traditional with full macerations and when her primary ferments are completed the wine is aged in small French oak barrels for at least 20 months, that she’s adds, letting the magical alchemy happen when the wine aging. The Sunbasket 2015 is openly rich and opulent from the first moment your senses come close and the nose is full of the floral bouquet along with blackberries and spices before a cascade of pure Cabernet Sauvignon fruits fills the mouth with black current, plum, boysenberry and blueberry along with hints of coco, tobacco leaf, cinnamon, sage/anise, sandalwood as well as a touch of smoky oak notes and vanilla. Everything flows nicely together and the sweet tannin holds it all in fine balance, while a bigger framed Cab, it is graceful and lively with a sensual textural and fantastic length with heaviness. This brilliant effort is going to thrill Corison fans and it drink incredible for decades to come, it is a perfect sister wine to Cathy’s signature Kronos! What a wine, and what a year, bravo Cathy for your hall of frame career and this great new wine to celebrate with.
($165 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 30, 2019

2012 Weingut Georg Breuer, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2012 Weingut Georg Breuer, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Rheingau Germany.
I’ve always loved the Breuer wines, they are always authentic and all have their own personalities, especially their Monopol Nonnenberg, Rauenthal and Rudesheimer Berg Crus, like their awesome Schlossberg and this lovely and slightly earthy Roseneck Trocken, which is basically a non VDP Grosses Gewachs and a wine of delicacy and presence. I have visited the small cellars in old town Rudesheim twice now and recently tasted a selection of library of Theresa Breuer’s Rieslings in San Francisco, which I found remarkable, and it reminded me of this beautiful Roseneck that I had notes of, but had not put online. Breuer like Diel, were two of the first to promote drier styles of Riesling and have embraced organic farming and a more natural style of winemaking, which is not an easy path, but one they have done well and the current set of Theresa’s Rieslings are some of the best yet from this historic small family winery that originally was founded back in 1880, though named Georg Breuer after WWI, and I again was impressed with the progress of these older Rieslings, including the 2006 Noonenberg and the 2013 Beg Roseneck, which has been re-released by the winery through Skurnik Wines and Terry Theise. Theresa and cellar master Markus Lunden have formed a strong bond and vision for this winery and I highly recommend exploring the latest releases, especially everything from 2015 through 2018, which is looking pretty awesome, and of course that older wines if you find them, just know these are not flashy wines, they are wines that require attention and have a certain raw sex appeal and earthy charm.

The 2012, a solid vintage, is a prize for those that was subtly and lightness in their Rieslings, this dry wine enjoys careful study in the glass with its pale golden hue and stony and flinty core, it is not overly fruit forward, in fact it takes some deep concentration to see into this Roseneck’s layers that slowly reveal themselves with crispness of form and you get green apple, lime, nectarine, peach pit and verbena along with a hint of mineral oil, wet (smoky) shale and a seashore element with mouth watering saline and a lingering rosewater note. Time and air fill this wine out further and it becomes much less serve and less austere, but no less dry and taught, this is serious stuff and is best enjoyed with matching cuisine, I recommend Toro and or fresh Sashimi which will also enjoy the secondary characteristics that are just now starting to come out in this fine Berg Roseneck Trocken. The Breuer’s also have a great restaurant in Rudesheim not far from their tasting room and the iconic Rosengarten vineyard which sits right downtown below the Roseneck Grand Cru, and I have had some great food and wine there, with their well stocked cellar, that includes some very old bottles at reasonable prices. Theresa, who runs Weingut Georg Breuer, uses careful selection, almost exclusively without botrytis and employs indigenous fermentation(s), natural or started with pied de cuve from the vineyard with her fermentation and elevage being completed in large used barrels for the top wines like this one, she focuses primarily in the vineyards and she is very basic in the cellar, allowing the individual sites and terroir to express itself, as this 2012 Berg Roseneck does with distinction.
$48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 29, 2019

2017 Desire Lines Wine Co., Syrah, Shake Ridge Vineyard, Amador County -photo grapelive

2017 Desire Lines Wine Co., Syrah, Shake Ridge Vineyard, Amador County, Sierra Foothills.
The Desire Lines Wine Co. has to be one of the best discoveries of the year for me and the two set of releases I’m followed have been utterly compelling and beautifully crafted wines that offer serious substance and incredible value, especially their Griffin’s Lair and (this) Shake Ridge Syrah(s), they are right up there with the best in California. Both Syrah bottlings are outrageously good, hard to chose a favorite between them, but the thrilling density and structure of the Shake Ridge is impossible to resist and this 2017, from a warmer vintage, is more powerful and deeper than the 2016, but interestingly it is less fruit forward, it is more gripping, savory and has more intensity or presence in the glass, intriguingly Cody Rasmussen credits the co-fermenting of just 2% Viognier with some of the resulting change, though I suspect the more whole cluster and what I’ve seen of the ’17’s (Syrah) is a more tight and firm expression, they seem to be taking their time to show off the fruit and bouquet, tending to unwind slowing, but WOW they are looking like awesome young wines with huge potential, as I feel will come here as well. The impressive nature in this Shake Ridge emerges with glorious detail after a layer of meaty and savory elements revealing black damson plum, boysenberry, black fig, kirsch, currant and blueberry compote fruit that when in full focus feels gorgeous and riveting with touches of exotic and really framed by the earth, spice and herbal edges with anise, cedar and lavender oil adding to the thrills as well as a hint of liquid violets. Even with the ripe tannins and fruit density there is a sense of elegance and vitality in this Shake Ridge Vineyard Syrah that really makes a statement about the terroir, management of the vines and the stylish (minimalistic) winemaking that Rasmussen employed, allowing it to showcase the vintage and it makes a clear statement of greatness through this wine. This wine is marked by a sense of place and its cool stony iron/mineral influenced fruit core and its dark purple inky color has a raw sex appeal, and the lingering pepper, licorice, subtle toasty oak and creme de cassis just re-enforces this wines charisma and its wow factor.

Cody Rasmussen, assistant winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Company, is a breakout talent and these wines deserve lots of attention, especially this one, he notes that he fermented this Shake Ridge Syrah with 60% whole cluster and aged it for about 14 months in large-format 500L barrels, including a single new light-toast Taransaud barrel, which I have noticed really works well in Syrah and allows aromatic nuances to really shine through as well as giving a warm comforting vinous quality to the wine, which certainly shows up here, regardless of my own opinion on the wood. Cody adds that this vintage highlights Syrah’s more gamey/funky side and that it delivers it perfectly here, I think that is spot on, I find the granite, schist, Mariposa slate, greenstone, and marble as well as the chunks of quartz, that Rasmussen adds litter the rows at Shake Ridge, give this spot its Hermitage like pedigree and mineral rich character. The Shake Ridge vineyard is farmed by Ann Kraemer, a the cult like figure that has one of the best reputations in California for the quality the grapes here, along with her methods and understanding of the site, this is truly one of the state’s treasures. Kraemer, who has worked for many years as a vineyard manager and been a top consulting viticulturalist for the likes of Domaine Chandon, Swanson, Cain, Calera, Hobbs, and Shafer, and with this seriously awesome CV, you understand why there is a line at her door in this remote location in Amador for these Shake Ridge grapes, and Rasmussen does them justice here, even if patience needs to be shown. Desire Lines Wine Co. is a label to search out, and a list to join, like Halcon Vineyards in the Yorkville Highlands, this winery is making some fantastic stuff and the price for the quality is too good to miss. I can imagine this 2017 Shake Ridge, will its stuffing, aging really well, if you get this bottle, decanter it and have robust cuisine to enjoy its full array of pleasures, it is insanely good!
($36 Est.) 95-97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 28, 2019

2008 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Sekt Brut Nature, Goldloch, Sparkling Wine, Nahe Germany -photo grapelive

2008 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Sekt Brut Nature, Goldloch, Sparkling Wine, Nahe Germany.
One of the world’s absolute best single vineyard sparkling wines in the world, the Schlossgut Diel’s Goldloch Brut Nature, rivals Krug’s top vintage Champagne(s) including the 1988 Clos Le Mesnil, which was previously one of my best ever bubblies, made from 100% Riesling the Diel Sekt was extended lees aged and is a non dosage beauty. The historic Schlossgut Diel, one of the first estates in Germany to promote a drier style Riesling around the world and makers of some of the greatest Grosses Gewachs from their vines in the lower Nahe. The winery, based in the Burg Layen castle near Dorsheim, was purchased by Diel family in 1802 after Napoleon’s troops were vanquished from the region, but it really gained attention under current owner Armin Diel and now with his daughter Caroline Diel making the wines, it never has been better. Caroline, who has even done a winemaking stint at the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, is one of the world’s best vignerons and her Rieslings and her Pinot Noir are outstanding wines. A lot has deservingly been written about Schlossgut Diel’s wines and Caroline’s talent in the vineyards and in the cellar, but these sparkling wines should not be overlooked, especially the amazing single vineyard Goldloch Brut Nature, I visited the estate in 2016 and fell in love with them and these latest offerings are fantastic.

Coming from the steep Grand Cru (VDP Grosse Lage) Goldloch, set on gravel soils faces the east and is one of the most difficult parcels to farm in the Nahe, but the hard work pays off, in particular when Caroline gets her hands on these grapes. This Brut Nature is unbelievably deep with incredible depth of flavors, vitality and length with layer upon layer of flavors and the texture is opulent without being flabby, this is nearly a perfect Champagne style sparkler. There is classic brioche, leesy/yeasty notes, dried apricots, lemon curd, golden fig, brilliant mineral tones and a caressing energy from the small bubbles, this Brut Nature Sekt gains and changes with every exciting sip, it’s a luxurious bubbly that you need to experience. Caroline does a, as she notes, a gentle whole berry pressing that is followed by spontaneous “Sponti” indigenous yeast fermentation and with the mentioned extended lees aging in stainless steel tanks. The winery adds that after filtration and tirage, a secondary fermentation begins inside the bottle, then the wine is then left on the lees for an additional 50 months to develop that greater complexity and its characteristic elegant bubbles or refined and sophisticated mouse. This exotic and lightly perfumed Riesling Goldloch Brut Nature drinks heavenly, it is serious as a wine and can and should be celebrated, not just poured at one, it is a sparkling that revels in food pairings, it goes fabulously with crab dishes and even more robust cuisine, it is a stunning bottle, not to be missed!
($90 Est.) 98 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 27, 2019

2017 Hundred Suns, Pinot Noir, Sequitur Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Hundred Suns, Pinot Noir, Sequitur Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Renée Saint-Amour and Grant Coulter’s Carlton based Hundred Suns Wines is one of the best under the radar labels in Oregon and their wines are totally unique and of fantastic quality, from their Eight-Cut entry level Willamette Valley Pinot to this outrageously good Sequitur Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot, as well as their Gamay and Grenache bottlings. Grant Coulter, the ex-Beaux Freres winemaker, is from the Monterey Peninsula and joins the likes of Eric Hamacher and Ken Wright as being from down here and moving to Oregon to make wine and a name for themselves. Grant is part of the new generation in America’s wine world and redefining what modern wines should be like, working with organic and sustainable vineyards and using less new oak and employing a hands off approach in the cellar. His wines are exotic and incredibly flavorful, his use of carbonic maceration, whole cluster and amphora in the Hundred Suns Pinots is a huge break with the norms, and I am thrilled by this wines, especially this amazing Sequitur Vineyard Pinot, which is amazingly like taking a Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py and blending it with a top Chambolle-Musigny! Coulter and Saint-Amour crafted this Sequitur Pinot from two separate lots, equaling 4 barrels in this cuvee with native yeasts, one batch fermented traditionally using 35% whole cluster along the other that was fermented100% carbonic, 100% whole cluster in terra-cotta amphora, the resulting wine was then racked to used French oak for 10 months of elevage, then it was gravity bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The beautifully perfumed and racy 2017 Hundred Suns Sequitur Vineyard, comes from a Cru site in the Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge AVA and owned by, Grant’s old boss at Beaux Freres, the famed Mike Etzel and farmed Biodynamic using clone Chalone, 943 and Pommard at about 400 feet of elevation on classic marine sedimentary soils. The 2017 shows wonderful ripe details and lush texture, but is very lively too and at 13.4% natural alcohol it is remarkably well balanced and vivid in style with a deep (classic to Ribbon Ridge) garnet/ruby hue in the glass that gives the impression of density of substance. This Pinot bursts from the glass in youthful fresh vigor with loads of (carbonic) fruits, including satiny layers of sweet plum, juicy cherry, blackberry, currant, pomegranate and strawberry along with snappy herbs, subtle backing spices, walnut and dark flowers with a touch of violet and rose oil. There is without question a Cru Beaujolais impression here, and with air you’d be forgiven for not thinking this was a Dutraive Fleurie, though I’m sure the Pinot core will come through with bottle age, and while thrilling now, there is huge potential for greatness in 5 to 10 years, in particular the underlying savory tones, mineral and earth make this darkly complex and intriguing wine. This is wild and sexy Pinot Noir, seemly inspired by the mentioned Foillard, Dutraive and maybe even Lapierre, and it really takes its own path, almost unlike any other Oregon Pinot Noir, far from un-nerving it is absolutely gorgeous and deserves your attention, as does all of Hundred Suns offerings, this is a list to be on!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 26, 2019

2018 Drench Wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Zabala Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2018 Drench Wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Zabala Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Emily Hunt’s Drench Wines is a micro-winery label and a her personal project with some unique offerings and packaging with her beautiful and tangy fresh Zabala Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc coming in a 500ml bottle, making for a nice aperitif or first course size. Hunt does her Sangiovese/Petite Sirah Napa Valley Red and her Rosé in the 500ml’s too, and interestingly her Sangiovese is done in Magnum(s) shaped like Riesling bottles, they certainly stand out and the wine is very good too. Hunt’s day job has been as a consulting winemaker and assistant winemaker for a few Monterey labels, but has now started to concentrate on her wines more exclusively and has settled in the Bay Area to get a toe in to the market, and also be closer to her Napa Valley vineyard source, that being the Fazekas Vineyard, off of Silverado trail. This new Sauvignon Blanc is vivid and zesty with classic Sancerre gooseberry intensity and juicy citrus with a hint of wet stones and a streak of minerallity, very quaffable, adding bright detail and depth with time in the glass, it certainly shows the brilliance of the vintage. Hunt, who’s start in the wine business was a chance offer to do harvest in the high Dolomites of Italy with an invitation to harvest Lagrein grapes, during a summer and fall in Bozano, an experience that proved life changing, setting her on a course to be a winemaker.

Emily, a bit of a gypsy at heart, is well traveled and has, as she puts it, soaked up (Drenched herself in) wine culture & craftsmanship from Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, and most recently France, all of which has influenced her wine and fueled her passion. I have enjoyed the Drench wines over the last few vintages and this brand new release of Sauvignon Blanc made a great impression on me with it’s sense of purity and zingy flavors, it re-enforces what Ian Brand, former SF Chronicle Winemaker of the Year and owner of I. Brand & Family Winery, told me recently, he is now becoming a Sauvignon Blanc fan and he says Zabala is producing some fabulous grapes, he notes that it takes Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc to a very respected place, he also crafts a version from this site which is out now as well. The 2018 Drench Zabala S.B. starts with a touch of white flowers, grapefruit and peach flesh as well as racy lemon/lime, minty herb, faint chalkiness and bitter stone fruit (pit) that cuts the forward peachiness and this dry Sauvignon Blanc makes for a sublime companion to Chevre, Loire goat cheese and or oysters. This is a fun white that should be enjoyed now and with enthusiasm, drink over the next year and take advantage of its vibrant and steely form, though you might want an extra bottle as it goes fast.
($20 Est. 500ml) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 25, 2019

2017 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Riesling Auslese, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2017 Joh. Jos. Prüm, Riesling Auslese, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel Germany.
The J. J. Prum wines are exceptional examples of tradition and terroir, they always showcase the place in the purest terms and have kept to their mostly Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese lineup believing their vines are best expressed with residual sugars, these are wines of class, elegance and pleasure without compromise and crafted with exact precision. Dr. Manfred and his daughter Dr. Katharina Prum, who has taken on a bigger role in the vineyards and leading the cellar, run this famous Mosel estate based in Wehlen near the fabled Cru sites of Graacher, Zeltinger, Bernkasteler and the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, when this beautiful crystalline Riesling Auslese came from. This 2017 Gold Cap Wehlener Sonnenuhr from Katharina Prum drinks mush more balanced and dry than one would expect and it is true table wine that is easily enjoyed with a variety of food choices, especially with savory dishes with its subtle density and sweetness not being cloying at all and the surprising burst of natural acidity really refreshes the palate. Racy yellow fruits, apricot/peach and white flowers lead the way here without the tale tell botrytis of some Auslese(s) and a range of citrus (lime/tangerine) and orchard fruits cascade across the vinous palate with a hint of tropical fruit and flinty/smoky mineral tones as well as a nice saline/stony freshness. With its cool cellars, the Prüm estate ferments its Riesling almost exclusively with indigenous yeast and focuses on authentic style wines, Joh. Jos. Prum was interesting a founding member of the VDP, though being a more old school and sweet(er) wine producer, as the VDP has championed the dry style mostly, including the top Grosses Gewachs.

The Prum estate was founded in the middle 1100s, but became Joh. Jos. Prum in a family split in 1911, with Sebastian Prum, who took over from his father in 1920, bringing accolades to this winery leading up to the war, and J.J. Prum’s reputation has continued to the present, and as someone who has followed this estate, I think it has got even better in the last decade and these 2017’s show amazing restraint and delicacy, as this Wehlener Sonnenuhr clearly displays. The Mosel is riding high with lots of awesome wines of late and it’s a great time to re-discover this historic slate driven region with its incredible steep vineyards and magically vistas of the river, look for the latest offerings from Selbach-Oster, Carl Loewen, Dr. Loosen, Monchhof, Knebel and of course Joh. Jos. Prum, to name a few that have really turned it on lately. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr, which is set on pure, weathered/broken, devon slate, and this parcel under the famous Sundial, which was put up here originally by Prime’s ancestors, is a difficult and stony set of vines that produces Rieslings of fantastic grace and substance. Time in the glass brings a deeper sense to this beauty, and the 2017 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese begins to reveal its power and potential with rounding out of its textural presence and length, this is a wonderful wine that stays fascinating right to the end. This stylish Auslese, which should get even better with long term aging, is seriously delicious in its youth too and can be, especially in the half bottle, like I got, is sublime as an aperitif and with first courses.
($30 Est. 375ml-Half Bottle, Gold Capsule.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 24, 2019

2017 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands -photo grapelive

2017 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This beautiful and textured Pinot Noir from Jeff Pisoni at his family’s Lucia Vineyards comes from the Garys’ Vineyard, one of the top sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands, named for grape-growing partners and close friends, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, who have planted and maintained some of Monterey’s greatest vineyards and lead the two iconic labels, Pisoni (Lucia Vineyards) and Roar. Located in the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands on sandy loamy soils, the Garys’ is an elite Cru fifty-acre vineyard that is planted mostly to Pinot Noir with a mix of clones, including a selection of Dijon and the original Pisoni clone, making for a rich and complex wine, like this 2017, that Pisoni has crafted, as he notes, with carefully sorted, hand-picked and de-stemmed grapes. Then the Garys’ Pinot Noir was fermented with native yeast and aged in carefully selected French oak barrels with a good portion being new. Youthful and deep in color, the warm vintage Garys’ is much more nuanced and poised than one would expect and it has wonderful balance and silky flowing layers of classic black cherry, plum, a touch of blackberry and strawberry fruits as well as rose petals, baking spices, orange tea and smoky vanilla. The farming, by Jeff’s brother Mark Pisoni and team, really shows through in this difficult year and the underlying energy and juicy natural acidity is remarkable, considering those record heat days that hit the region in the late summer.

One of the Grand Cru wines of Monterey, the Lucia Garys’ Pinot Noir is always a force of nature and a thrill on the palate with this 2017 giving a remarkable performance with density/concentration and lingering beauty, it sits almost equal to the famous Pisoni Estate in the local legends status. Jeff Pisoni has become one of California’s top winemakers and his facility in the Santa Rosa area is state of the art and uses mostly gravity flows and his uses many techniques learned over the years and at places like Peter Michael, where he worked with talents like Vanessa Wong and Mark Aubert. These days he is pushed forward by his incredibly gifted wife, Bibiana Gonzalez-Rave who makes a gorgeous set of wines under her own Cattleya label as well as teaming up with her husband to make Shared Notes, one of the state’s most intriguing Sauvignon Blanc. Both Jeff and Bibiana are Pinot specialists, having hands in top wines from Fort Ross to the Wayfarer Vineyard by Pahlmeyer, but be sure not to miss out on their Syrah wines, especially where they go head to head with individual versions from the Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard crafted from Alban clone (Cote-Rotie) vines, both are outrageously good! This 2017 Lucia Vineyards Garys’ is, of course, limited and hard to find, but wow, it is worth the search, enjoy it over the next 5 to 10 years.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 23, 2019

2017 Domaine Rene-Jean Dard et Francois Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Rene-Jean Dard et Francois Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Cult heros of France’s natural wine movement, most famous for their Crozes-Hermitage Syrah(s), René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who met while at wine college in Beaune, founded their label and estate from a tiny Card family parcel back in 1984, and used a rented cellar in a out of the way back street of Tain-l’Hermitage, from where they crafted their quaffable and lighter style wines. Now after some under ground success they are making the wines in part of a large farm building in the hamlet of Blanche-Laine in Mercurol, barely a stones throw from the partners birthplaces in Tournon in the Ardèche and Tain-l’Hermitage in the Drôme, they are traditionalists at heart and without any pretense, they make wines that are meant to be drunk young and enjoyed without any thought to cellaring, even though Rene-Jean’s and Francois’ wines are now fabulously hard to get and find. The fresh 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge is an elegant version of unextracted Syrah, as they put it, it’s a wine for immediate enjoyment, coming from from plots located mainly in Larnage, on red clay with gravel and alluvial stones, making a more fruit forward expression. This 2017 Crozes met all my expectations and delivered an impressive performance throughout the night getting more and more beautiful with air and time. Dard and Ribo do some single lieu-dit bottlings as well as Saint-Joseph, some whites and a super rare Hermitage Rouge, but it is this humble Crozes that seems to get the biggest buzz!

Though they have a fanatic following, Dard and Ribo, as well regarded and respected natural wine writer Jamie Goode, who is also a big fan of these guys, notes, they are known for keeping a low profile, and rarely accept visits and while strict in the vineyards with organic farming and a minimalistic approach in the cellar, they are not driven by dogma alone, allowing the use of some sulfur if needed, though no other additions are employed. I have always tried to keep up on Dard & Ribo and have enjoyed a few bottles over the years, but can’t say I have all of their stuff as again it is difficult to get their wines, and this 2017, sourced through SommSelect, was a lucky find. This vintage is remarkable for its exceptional purity and surprising concentration, it shows gorgeous fruit and translucent detail with a perfumed nose of crushed violets and black fruits with hints of herb, black olive tapenade and spices which leads to a vivid palate that echos the bouquet and adds damson plum, boysenberry, blueberry and kirsch along with no presence of oak or funk, just clear and vibrant fruit from start to finish. This wine, definitely, shows why these guys have the following they do, it is absolutely irresistible in the glass with its deep purple/garnet and magenta hue and satiny tannins, and while lighter in style, this Syrah impresses for its completeness and finesse, like Maxime Graillot’s Equinoxe and Domaine des Lises Equis wines, though maybe a touch denser in feel. I’m glad I grabbed a few bottles of this delicious Syrah that I will, as so many, covet, opening them for special occasions and or special meals.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 22, 2019

2018 Halcon Vineyards, Roussanne, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2018 Halcon Vineyards, Roussanne, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The very first estate white from Halcon, the golden hued Roussanne is an exotic and low alcohol white that defies that by being lovely in texture, it reminds me of some of Yves Cuilleron’s Saint-Joesph and Crozes-Hermitage Blancs with a layered palate and an oily mouth feel. Paul Gordon, vigneron at Halcon, budded over a quarter acre block of his Syrah to Roussanne in 2017 and last year harvested just a tiny amount of grapes to make this wine, which shows some potential. Gordon notes that 2018 was a deceptively cool vintage at his Halcón estate and was marked by consistently cold nights, (and) as a result the grapes hang-time was extremely long, he picked the Roussanne nearly in November! The Halcon Roussanne shows the varietal is pure and classic form with a slight hint of oxidation, a rich body and phenolic bite with a touch of white flowers, cinnamon, anise and wet rocks on the nose before opening to apple butter, pear and fig along with a touch of lemon zest and steely mineral as well as lingering bitter almonds. Halcon makes some of the best wines for the money in California, I’ve really been thrilled with them and over the last few years they have even got better, it is one of the best mailing lists to join for great Syrah, the 2017’s are awesome, especially the Alturas (Cote-Rotie like) Syrah.

This wine was aged in a single neutral barrel, which helped add glycerin in this only 11.5% natural alcohol wine, plus a little extra which was fermented and aged in steel to add life and fresh detail. Fermented with native yeast. Gordon, a huge Northern Rhone fan, could not have been more pleased with his newest wine, loving the the classic nutty, butterscotch and waxy aromas that come through in this Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc like offering. Gordon, who’s Syrah and Petite Sirah bottlings are some of the best in California and two of my favorite wines also added this Roussanne and a new Mourvedre to his tidy lineup of quality stuff, these limited production and hand crafted wines are exceptional values. This youthfully crisp and energetic example of Roussanne, gathers itself with air and adds that mentioned round oiliness. This unfined and unfiltered wine should develop nicely in bottle over the next 3 to 5 years. Gordon calls it a hypothetical cross between Beaucastel Blanc and Chablis, which might explain its presence in the mouth a little better, if not exactly in taste, this would be great with crab and or lobster dishes, will only 25 or so cases made it is a rarity. This organically farmed site with schist soils is one of the most unique and high elevation estates, with its great exposures and Pacific Ocean influences it is a stunning place from which amazing wines are born, don’t miss them.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive