Monthly Archives: December 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 21, 2019

2010 Shanxi Grace Vineyard, Sonata Series Red, Wine of China -photo grapelive

2010 Shanxi Grace Vineyard, Sonata Series Red, Wine of China.
When I look back on my year in wine, a few surprises stand out and this interesting red wine from China stands out for its quality and its unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Marselan (A varietal that was made from the crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, not usually found outside of France or Italy, though has found a home in Uruguay as well) and Cabernet Franc. Known in China as Grace Vineyard, the Shanxi Grace Vineyard, is a family-owned vineyard in northwest China, a landlocked provence, is located in Taigu county, 40 km south of Taiyuan, the capital city of Shanxi and is celebrating over 20 years in business and was China’s first boutique winery of note. The ‘Yi Yuan Winery’ [The Chinese name of Grace Vineyard] started in 1997 and was founded by Chen Jinqiang, a local to Taiyuan and who was asked by the Government to find a business that didn’t pollute, since his previous work involved the sale of “coke” the highly toxic form of coal, and settled on a vineyard. Now his daughter Judy Chan runs the winery and she’s found success with the wines, both in terms of quality, like this well made and complex red, and it getting market attention, even getting the wines in select restaurants in Hong Kong, into hotel groups, including the Peninsula and Shangri-La, as well as Cathay Pacific Airways, as the winery notes, which is famous for their strict selection process.

Deep in color and full in body, this 2010 Santa Series red feels a bit more Rhone like on the rich palate than a Bordeaux blend and the oak treatment is is subtle, refined even and the 13.5% natural alcohol is admirable as well, making for a dense wine that is well balanced showing dark berry fruits, black currant, plum and tangy cherry fruits along with a mix of wild herbs, cedar, anise and a hint of Cab Franc bell pepper along with some pretty floral notes and earthy/mineral. The age here has helped silken it out and the texture is very supple without being dull, quite impressive really, and as I had not real background in tasting wines from China, though had not an overly positive expectation, I was pleasantly relieved when I sipped this example. With air and time in the glass it got even better, taking on a mature Cabernet profile. Judy Chan adds that the Grace Vineyard can become truly successful only when people are able to recognize the terroir of Shanxi from its wine, noting due to the harsh winters, where the vines have to be buried to protect them from serve conditions, a hot humid summers put intense pressure on the grapes making it difficult, but not impossible, as this wine shows, to produce quality wines in Shanxi. Chan is convinced she can produce wines with recognizable and with, as she puts it, a likable local identity, meaning terroir driven expressions. I hope I get to try more of Shanxi Grace Vineyard, especially after leaning they also do an Aglianico!
($70 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 20, 2019

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Feinherb, Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg “!896” Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Feinherb, Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg “1896” Mosel Germany.
One of the wine world’s great unicorn wines, the Carl Loewen 1896 Feinherb is from the oldest Riesling vines in Germany and from a Grand Cru steep Mosel vineyard that transmit absolute purity of terroir, there may not be a more authentic and pleasing Riesling than this, especially in a vintage such as 2018 that delivers greatness in the bottle. Since the first time I tried this wine, I knew it was something extraordinary and special, it is brave example of letting a wine make itself, with vigneron Christopher Loewen picking the grapes at perfect ripeness and allowing the fermentation to go as nature demands, which in this case comes in just above (outside) the legal limit to be called a Trocken, though with a higher must weight, it is a dry drinking style, but with the texture and palate presence of a maybe a Spatlese, though not giving up any mineral driven thrills, hence the Feinherb labelling! Explaining this wine can be hard, when you say it is not technically bone dry, some people tend to get judgmental, thinking of semi sweet wines as the devil, though, that said, I am kind of grateful, as that means there’s a chance that some might slip through and I might get a few bottles! The glorious detail and layers in this 2018 Maximin Herrenberg 1896 are mesmerizing with flinty/smoking mineral leading the way on the nose before lime blossom, rose petal and white orchard (stone) fruits lift from the glass. The revelation is on the medium bodied palate with its incredible play between hedonistic pleasures and chiseled and steely precision with layers of vivid citrus, apricot, delicate tropical notes and white cherry fruits as well as spiced/crystalized ginger, wet shale, citron and saline, where all these flavors combine and flow with a graceful crispness and a (light residual sugar) lingering creaminess. This 1896 Feinerb, dressed up in its special label and dark red wax capsule, is a profound example of Riesling and one of the absolute best, one of the top wines I’ve tasted this year.

The Carl Loewen estate, originally founded by the Catholic followers of the Maximin order was privately established during Napoleonic times around 1803 and the Loewen family purchased the famous Maximin Klosterlay in 1805, after which the family continued to pick up steep parcels in the area, with Christopher’s dad collecting some great plots in more recent times, including the second steepest site in Germany, they very smartly picked up historic vineyards that were difficult to farm, but produced awesome grapes. The Loewen the younger, Christopher, has taken over in the cellar and has set the world on fire with his wines since about the 2014 vintage, employing a more natural approach in the cellar and stricter organic practices in the vines, and as he puts it, he presses the grapes whole cluster and the pomace is never moved as to not break up the solids that leads to phenolic (bitter) flavors that can mire delicate wines and he browns the juice pre-ferments, which reduces reduction and he allows the wine to ferment sponti, using no yeast or enzyme additions with his single vineyard wines going directly into large fuder, oak casks. The Maximin Herrenberg 1896 Feinherb, as the name suggests comes from ingrafted vines planted back in 1896 and are on pure red slate closer to the Mosel River where it gets the reflection effect, meaning it has riper fruit and the iron rich broken slate soils influence the Riesling in the grandest way possible, with Loewen very careful picking only grapes that are non botrytis for his drier wines, which takes extreme attention to detail. This is a masterpiece in excellence, and while not easy to get, it is worth almost any price to get your hands on it, though, if you can’t get it, be sure to check out any and all of the Loewen 2018 offerings, they all are classy wines and great values in the more basic range, savvy choices are their Alte Reben (old vine) Trocken, the Premier Cru (Erste Lage) Maximin Klostelay Trocken, the Herrenberg Kabinett and the super tasty Estate Riesling.
($105 Est.) 97+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 19, 2019

2012 Remelluri, Rioja Reserva, La Rioja Alvasa, Spain -photo grapelive

2012 Remelluri, Rioja Reserva, La Rioja Alvasa, Spain.
Telmo Rodriguez is one of the world’s most iconic winemakers and his wines from his family’s historic Remelluri Granja estate in the Rioja are some of Spain’s best, with this 2012 Reserva proving this with aplomb, this is gorgeous wine impresses from start to finish showing deep concentration and complexity on par with a top Bordeaux, think Margaux! The Remelluri property dates back to the fourteenth century, according to local legend, when monks from the Toloño monastery founded a sanctuary and farm at the site and later maintained by hermits that kept up the farm lands to provide for pilgrims that used to come visit and pray here, this included winegrowing, and the Rodriguez family continues to honor this and have worked to restore the original vineyards. The modern winery here was founded in 1967 by Jaime Rodríguez Salis, when he purchased the vineyards at the heart of the former estate and turned Remelluri into one of Rioja region’s stars, but with Telmo’s return in 2008 to family estate things have reached new heights with his talented hands in charge have turned the wines into some of the world’s best, as this Reserva clearly displays. Remelluri’s vineyards, set on rocky soils over clay are located along the slopes of the Sierra de Toloño mountains in the valleys of Valderemelluri, La Granja and Villaescusa, these are the area’s highest elevation vineyards with south-facing slopes, giving these wines ripe purity and natural acidity. The vines, which get snows in some years are protected from the prevailing Atlantic winds and dangerous frosts. Telmo’s unique approach and the micro-climate of this area gives the wines of Remelluri their soul and personality, and while the Reserva is mostly Tempranillo, Rodriguez is coy about the varietal make up of his wines, he has teased me more than once to guess what was in his wines, including his glorious Remelluri Blanc, which was inspired by his time at Jean-Louis Chave (the fabled Hermitage vigneron) that would seem to have some exotic grapes in it, I believe it has a few Rhone white grapes in it, but he didn’t confirm or deny what he had, the same has become true in the reds as he has said he was planting a variety of other things.

The Remelluri Reserva, the main wine of the winery, comes from only estate owned vines and the grapes come from 157 different plots and were hand tended and harvested with careful sorting all from the Labastida zone at between 500 to 700 meters about sea level with mainly parcels that over 20 years old, though some are 90 plus years old. These vines are set on a mix of limestone with calcareous clay and exposed bedrock and gives this Reserva its class and regal feel. The 2012 Reserva is listed at 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha and 5% Graciano, or a classic Rioja make up, which shows in the wines deep color, richness and character with a dark purple/garnet color in the glass and beautiful layers of fruit including black plum, cherry, currant and vine picked berries along with floral incense, anise, tobacco spice, a touch of loam, mineral, cedar, black olive and a hint of coco. This wine is stunning without endowment, its purity and finesse doesn’t need any flashy new wood, and it gains with every sip and lingers with an aftertaste that last minutes and minutes. Telmo used stainless steel for primary fermentation employing 100% indigenous yeasts and raised this Reserva for 20 months in a combination of (large cask) foudres and barrels of various sizes, that feel and tastes like mostly well seasoned. Remelluri is a treasure and Telmo’s latest set are fantastic, especially this 2012 Reserva and I also recommend the non estate Lindes de Remelluri line too, as they come from seriously old vines and are incredible values, plus for something ultra rare, don’t overlook that Remelluri Rioja Bianco, it’s mind blowing! This Reserva makes for wonderful modern expression of Rioja and will seduce even your first growth drinking friends, it will be a sublime wine with any meal and is really an outrageously divine effort, search it out, drink now or age it for another decade, it’s that good!
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 18, 2019

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Feinherb, Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Feinherb, Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg, Rheingau Germany.
These 2018’s by Spreitzer are lovely, dense and stunning Rieslings, especially their GG’s and their savvy set of Feinherbs like this Engelmannsberg, with its lush texture, ripe flavors and underlying mineral core, it is technically off dry, but feels more like a baby GG in the glass and it over delivers for the price. The Spreitzer estate, in the middle Rhein zone in the village of Oestrich, was founded way back in 1641 making it one of the oldest private family wineries in the Rheingau and is now run by Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer who took over the estate from their father Josef, when he retired in 1997. This estate has really turned on the quality in recent years and on my visit to their cellars in 2016 I found a winery that is upholding its family traditions, but also one that is innovating and ever improving with both farming and winemaking, the 2016, 2017 and now these 2018’s are taking Spreitzer to the next level and Riesling fans should really take notice. This Engelmannsberg Feinherb is full of fruit, stony elements and pleasing density, it’s a Riesling that while opulent has class and vitality with inner energy and natural acidity that gives life and structural integrity showing wild peach, green apple, apricot, lime and papaya fruits along with hints of lees, wet rock and verbena as well as saline, chamomile and lingering zesty/tangy tangerine. The nose opens with white blossoms slowly and backwards at this stage, this wine’s light sweetness is polished and adds greatly to the whole, this is a sleeper in the lineup at Spreitzer that should evolve in glorious detail over the next 5 to 10 years.

The Spreitzer family employs long fermentations, and with extended lees aging to protect the juice from oxidation in their historic cellar, also using mostly “Sponti” indigenous yeasts in their fermentation process, which is done in both temperature controlled stainless steel and classic stückfass, large oak casks of German wood. The Spreitzer’s have a great set of terroirs and Crus to chose from and they have a fantastic and differing collection of soils, with the Engelmannsberg in the Hattenheim area being on loess, loam and clay soils with some sand as well, going this wine its rich body and hints of exotic tropical notes. The Engelmannsberg was fermented solely in stainless to preserve absolute purity and vibrancy, while allowing it to have the luxurious mouth feel, which the residual sugar highlights. The vines here, that average 20 years of age, are farmed with sustainable practices, everything is done to ensure quality in this humid zone where the Rhein is at its widest point, giving an almost lake effect here and the less slate makes for very generous wines, like this one. This Riesling goes with so many food dishes, it is remarkably flexible and while I would drink it anytime and with anything myself, it goes fabulously with some spicy heat and or robust cuisine, including Thai curries and Singapore style chilli crab. Speitzer’s basic Kabinett and Estate Trocken are some of Germany’s best values as well, but for the money, you should also check wines like this one and their Alte Reben bottlings!
($29 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 17, 2019

2016 Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer “Cuvee Theo” Vin d’Alsace, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer “Cuvee Theo” Vin d’Alsace, France.
One of my favorite Holiday Season wines is Domaine Weinbach’s beautifully golden and exotically spiced Cuvee Theo Gewürztraminer and this 2016 is as good as it gets with ripe flavors and a polished structure, it pairs well with food and weather, holding up to both with grace, but with a real impact in the glass. Weinbach’s version feels dry with minimal residual sugar and good vibrancy, especially this stunning 2016 edition, it has just enough sweetness to curb the phenolic bitter tendencies that overly dry Gewürztraminer can develop and gives a silken opulence that aids mouth feel and makes it awesome with spicy and or boldly flavored cuisine. Domaine Weinbach, owned by the Faller family is one of the great estates of Alsace, and I love all of these wines, they are among the most sought after along with Domaine Marcel Deiss, Trimbach, Albert Mann and newcomer Agathe Bursin, Weinbach produces richly concentrated, fragrant and nuanced offerings, including gorgeous dry Rieslings, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, like this Cuvee Theo, as well as a few outstanding last harvest bottlings. This estate has a reputation of quality and I’ve never been disappointed with anything in their range and their top Riesling bottlings have to be some of my favorites and most collectable, especially worth checking out is the fabulous Schlossberg Grand Cru, Cuvee Laurence and Grand Cru Cuvee Ste. Catherine.

The elegant off-dry Gewurztraminer from the oldest vines in the estate vineyard Clos des Capuchins, near the majestic Schlossberg (hill) Grand Cru, and is named “Théo” refering to Catherine Faller’s father, Théo Faller, one of the most respected winemakers in Alsace during his life, before his passing and before his daughter, the late and greatly missed Laurence took this domaine to new heights in the late nineties and early 2000s. Since 2016, Catherine, Collette’s (Theo the elder’s wife) daughter has lead the estate winery with her sons, Eddy and Théo, who are growing quickly into the traditions of Weinbach and the region. As of 2005, the entire property is farmed biodynamically, with the monopole Clos des Capucins vineyard, which is as the winery notes, is composed of sandy silt soil on granite pebbles, that allows this terroir ripen much earlier, producing wines with complex aromatics and a powerful density, which this 2016 Theo shows. This wine, which was fermented and aged in large used oak casks, starts with an incredible perfume of liquid roses, honeysuckle, white violets and cloves as well as baked apricots before opening up to a medium full palate of spiced pear, lemon/lime, peach, crystalized ginger, intense lychee, dried pineapple, spearmint and a hint of wet stones and mineral tones. The lush textural 2016 still has some nice zip and is fairly crisp in detail adding orange peel, anise and nutmeg to the crashing wave of flavors.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 16, 2019

2015 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Anie, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Les Jalets” Northern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2015 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Les Jalets” Northern Rhone, France.
One of the most iconic Syrah producers in the world, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, known for their legendary La Chapelle vineyard on Hermitage hill near the famous little chapel which was built on this steep slope above the Rhone River to commemorate the crusading knights, named Hermitage after a hermit that used to live there, and of which is the spiritual home for this grape, makes some of the finest example of this varietal, like their classic Hermitage, as well as bargain versions like this Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage. The 2015 Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage Rouge by Jaboulet is a lovely perfumed and savory spiced Syrah with dark flavors and has a deep purple/garnet hue, made by the talented Caroline Frey, who has shown a remarkable gift with Syrah and who has a great group of people over seeing this property, did an amazing set of wines in this vintage. Under Caroline’s leadership, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, since taking over in 2006 has earned Sustainable Farming status with her vineyards as Jaboulet’s winegrowing is moving toward full conversion to biodynamic certification, and the process and progress here has led to some incredible quality gains in her wines here. Frey has endless energy and she continues to explore her ambitions with projects in Switzerland and Burgundy that look set to intrigue, but these Northern Rhone wines remain close to her heart, and they show her personality and true nature of the terroirs, with this Crozes showing a fine sense of place.

Grown on classic gravel, sand, granite and hardened clay soils, this Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, 100% Syrah, from the warm 2015 vintage gives a pure and lengthy permanence in the glass, and while not up to the level of Frey’s top Crozes -Domaine de Thalabert, it offers a ton of character and pleasure for the price. Smooth tannins and ripe berry fruits lead the way in this medium full bodied Crozes-Hermitage adding violets, minty herbs, smoky camphor/grahite, anise and fills out on the palate with damson plum, currant and black cherry fruits along with cedar wood and an delicate earthy note that is somewhat hidden behind the vintage’s plush details. This 2015 Les Jalets, which is reasonably priced and easy to love is well worth searching out and joins Louis Barruol’s negotiant Northern Rhone series in being a polished and clean example, not the older rustic and gritty style that once defined the region, it shows clarity and a beautiful transparency, while not losing classic mineral, meaty and soulful elements that make Syrah, Syrah. This wine is highly enjoyable and quaffable, it certainly highlights the vintage’s gift in the Rhone and it is wonderful with an array of cuisine choices from pepper crusted seared Ahi to hearty winter inspired meat stews, as well as lamb and roast poultry. I tasted through Frey’s Jaboulet 2015’s and found them wonderfully compelling wines, especially of course the set of Hermitage, including the majestic La Chapelle, which was as stunning in its youth as it just starts to evolve and her lineup of Crozes, like this one that over delivers for the money, these will only get better still and drink for years to come.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 15, 2019

2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Rosé “Dianthus” Adelaida District, Paso Robles -photo grapelive

2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Rosé “Dianthus” Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
The Mourvedre heavy, Tempier style, Dianthus Rosé by Tablas Creek is a full bodied and richer version from this Paso Robles winery, iconic for Rhone themed wines and known for its gift of vine cuttings, originally from the famed Château de Beaucastel estate in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Vividly pink/magenta in glass 2017, this Dianthus, from a warm vintage, is perfect for Fall and Winter cuisine as well as Summer, has loads of flavor and a nice sense of underlying zip and mineral tones, making for a mouth filling and complex example of California Rosé. One of the best Domaine Tempier, Bandol region, inspired wines along with Morgan Twain-Peterson’s “Ode to Lulu” Bedrock Wine Company Rosé, the Tablas Creek Dianthus” is made up of mainly Mourvedre with a good dose of Grenache and some Counoise, which adds the zesty spark here to contrast the structure and density of fruit from the meaty Mourvedre and ripe opulence of the Grenache. Working in biodynamics and with all organic practices, Tablas Creek, based on Paso’s west side with its cooler zone and limestone soils, continues to be one of the most influential and authentic wineries in California, making a great and varied selection of quality Rhone offerings.

The Tablas Creek Vineyard Dianthus 2017, is last years wine, but still vibrant and the maturity hasn’t slowed down this fabulous wine, it is a blend of three estate-grown varietals, and as mentioned, these cuttings were propagated from budwood cuttings from Château de Beaucastel vines and was crafted in the saignee method, a bleeding of the juice from ripe red grapes as the name suggests and seeing a touch of wood in the aging, making it a more textural and vinous wine, it is serious stuff and has a longer shelf life. The 2017 shows plum water, watermelon, tart cherry, strawberry and orange marmalade fruits along with dried flowers, wet chalk, wild herb/lavender, cinnamon and delicate earthiness, adding a touch of rosewater and the finish is crisp, but very lingering. The is a sense of dense impact, but overall the performance is elegant and poised, this Dianthus Rosé is a wonderful food wine, especially good with mussels in spicy broth, outdoor cuisine including BBQ and it has enough substance to hold up to bold dishes, drink now and for the next year, and be sure not to miss the 2018, which should be even better! Tablas gets more interesting every year, be sure to sample the latest releases and don’t over look their whites, which are awesome and their pinks.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 14, 2019

2014 Pierre Peters, Cuvee Millesime L’Esprit, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne, France -photo grapelive

2014 Pierre Peters, Cuvee Millesime L’Esprit, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne, France.
One of the greatest and most beautiful grower producer Champagne houses, Pierre Peters, which was founded back in 1919, is now run by the fourth generation vigneron and cellar master Rodolphe Péters, who took over this prestigious estate in the southern Côte des Blancs in 2008 and has taken these Champagne(s) to new heights. Peters has 18 hectares of vines to work with, all in Grand Cru plots and interestingly he only has Chardonnay in his vineyards, mostly in the legendary Les Mesnil-sur-Oger Grand Cru, maybe the most important Chardonnay vineyard in the world, after Montrachet! Rodolphe also has tiny parcels in Oger, Avize and Cramant and they form part of this gorgeous 2014 100% Chardonnay Cuvee Millesime L’Esprit, which I was lucky enough to taste with him recently in San Francisco while he was on the Skurnik and Terry Theisse Champagne tour. According to Peters, the Le Mesnil-sur-Oger cru has a very special Chardonnay clone which gives a penetrating bouquet even when the actual content in a cuvée is small. This is clearly evident in this L’Esprit, which is amazing in detail and aromatic, making it really stand out. Mesnil’s wines, Peters adds, like those of Salon especially in my opinion, are often shy and acidic when young only to explode in a burst of color and sensational pleasures, which anyone who has had older vintage stuff from this famous terroir can tell you is beyond doubt, but Pierre Peters somehow balances that tendency with more youthful luxuriousness. While the 2008 and 2012 vintage’s get well deserved hype and attention, I found these 2014’s over performing, especially this Cuvee Millsime L’Esprit, which has so much verve and energy, while still being opulent and compelling with texture.

The Cuvee Millsime L’Esprit Blanc de Blancs comes from four special Grand Cru parcels in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Oger and Cramant with Rodolphe using 100% stainless steel for fermentation and aging here with partial malo-lactic (85%) and 48 months of lees aging, resulting in a Brut Champagne that has brisk, racy and a citrus dominated palate with a fine almost electric like tiny bubbled mousse that while zippy adds a creamy rich feel on the finish. There is a lot going on here and this grower fizz has layers of lemon, white peach, crisp apple and golden fig fruits, loads of crunchy mineral, wet stones, brioche/dougy/yeasty notes and a light, but heavenly floral bouquet. This is a sleeper in the Pierre Peters latest collection of disgorgements and one that looks to have great potential to age, I love the more intense style, like this one shows, especially as it does now, but certainly it will gain a more hedonistic character over time and develop more richness and density, which I then will appreciate just as much. This L’Esprit is wonderfully impressive and expressive Champagne and it’s Le Mesnil base shines brightly with it’s regal and unique nature clearly making it’s presence felt, though most of Pierre Peter’s fans will not want to miss the more full bodied and lengthy Les Chétillons, tete cuvee made from only the best Le Mesnil old vine grapes, with the 2012 being available and very much a favorite with Champagne enthusiasts, it is especially delicious with it’s 72 months on the lees, it is going to be a rewarding treasure in cellar for those savvy collectors. I must also says, the basic non-vintage Cuvee de Reserve Brut is an awesome value with it’s ripe 2016 vintage base and selection of 22 older vintages blended in! It’s always mind blowing to taste through the lineup of Pierre Peters Champagne, and I adored each and every one of these new releases, but I kept going back to this 2014 Cuvee Millsime L’Esprit, it clearly made a riveting impression on me, with its majestic purity, I am convinced it’s something to chase down.
($93 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 13, 2019

2016 Domaine Marc Roy, Marsannay Blanc “Les Champs Perdrix” White Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Marc Roy, Marsannay Blanc “Les Champs Perdrix” White Burgundy, France.
I am a huge fan of Alexandrine Roy’s wines, especially her Gevrey-Chambertin reds and even her Oregon wines she oversees for Phelps Creek in the Columbia Gorge, but her Domaine Marc Roy Chardonnay from Marsannay in the Cote Chalonnaise region of Burgundy is a beauty as well with clear trans-act and mineral charms. Alexandrine Roy is a 4th generation vigneron, and the current matriarch of the Roy family, she farms old vine parcels in Gevrey-Chambertin and Marsannay, employing organic practices and ever searching for perfection. This is a tiny domaine, according to her importer Skurnik, that includes just four hectares that are meticulously cared for as if it was Alexandrine’s personal garden. Alexandrine knows her vineyards (many of which are more than 100 years old) are a reflection of her soul and they have roots that are dug deep into the shallow limestone soils and she wants that to show through in her wines like this Marsannay. Roy strives for purity and elegance, her work in the cellar, as noted by Skurnik and relayed to me when I’ve tasted with Alexandrine herself, is done with minimal intervention and extraction, Alexandrine allows her old vines to express themselves with immense depth of flavor and clarity.

The coveted selection of wines from Domaine Marc Roy includes some majestic Pinot Noirs from mostly special Lieu-Dits like La Justice and Clos Prieur, as well as Alexandrine’s Vieilles Vignes (Old Vine), one of my favorites, along with this vibrant Chardonnay, which is on par with many Premier Cru Chablis in class and style. The Marsannay Blanc is from a surprisingly high elevation plot on thin soils over pure limestone, both of which give energy and mineral character to this wine that shows layers of lemon, pear and green apple fruits as well as snappy spice, peach pit, golden fig and clove with a touch of hazelnut and leesy toastiness. Alexandrine uses 40 plus year old organic Chardonnay vines for her pretty and vivid Marsannay Blanc that was fermented in stainless steel tank with 100% indigenous yeasts and then raised in French oak, about which was close to 20% new. This 2016 Les Champs Perdrix Marsannay Blanc is ripe and perfectly balanced with a medium bodied palate and a lingering richness and depth, after a slight smoky reductive note it opens nicely with hints of white flowers and gains in textural pleasure with time in the glass, while still briskly vigorous with natural acidity, making it lovely with soft cheeses and white fleshy fish dishes.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 12, 2019

2016 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy -photo grapelive

2016 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
The spicy Mediterranean red from Mount Etna is a sublime value and a fine and textured wine to start exploring this wonderful and ancient region on Sicily’s volcano. Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, one of the main standard barer producers on Etna and this entry level Etna Rosso DOC is a sleek and mineral/terroir driven red made from mostly Nerello Mascalese, which makes up about 95% and Nerello Cappuccio making up the rest, all coming from the cooler northern side of Etna on volcanic soils and includes vines from multiple plots that are between 5 and 50 years old. Nerello Mascalese is one of the hottest grapes on earth right now and these Mount Etna reds are considered some of Italy’s greatest wines, being likened to Burgundy in graceful class and transparency. Terre Nere has a great selection of single site parcels, these Crus known locally as “Contrade(s)” and make individual wines from them, much in the same way you see in Burgundy, similar to places like Nuits-Saint-Nuits, all based on historic boundaries and quality, and this wine is a region blend mostly from around the township of Castiglione di Sicilia at high elevation and on sloping hillsides formed by the ever present volcano.

The light to medium bodied 2016 vintage of Terre Nere Etna Rosso DOC is delicately perfumed, flinty and has a gentle ruby hue in the glass with satiny and ripe layers of brandied cherries, racy plum, raspberry and cranberry fruits, crushed shale, lavender, anise, blood orange and iron rich mineral tones, lingering on with red pepper, chalky stones and rose petals. Tenuta Della Terre Nere crushes and macerates the grapes together and primary is done in vats before aging for about 12 months in barrel, mostly used to preserve the wines fresh details, making for a savory and authentic red that gives a true and pure sense of place. This wine, brilliant with an array of cuisine, especially the local dishes of Sicily, goes great with California’s flavors, including seafood and wild mushroom dishes. With air this basic Etna gains classic Nerello Mascalese form and complexity, taking on a Pinot like character and mouth feel, this is a pretty and tasty wine to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years. This wine is joyous for it’s polish and clarity, while there is more serious stuff from Etna, such as Passopisciaro, Salvo Foti, Benanti, Gulfi and Tornatore to name a few, as well as Terre Nere’s cru offerings, this basic wine delivers everything you’d want from a wine of this price.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive