Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 30, 2020

2016 Fedellos do Couto, Loma dos Ares, Red Wine, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain -photo grapelive

2016 Fedellos do Couto, Loma dos Ares, Red Wine, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain.
The Fedellos do Couto, founded in 2011 by Luis Taboada, and based in his family home, is a small and intriguing winery headed up by winemakers Curro Barreño and Jesús Olivares who are focused on crafting wines from the local terroir and local varietals, like Mencia and Godello. The Loma dos Ares is made mostly from parcels in the Bibei zone using old vine Mencia, about 40%, and with small amounts of Muraton, Bastardo, Caiño Tinto, Negreda, Aramón, Gran Nero and Garnacha Tintorea making up the rest of the blend, sourced from vines set mainly on granite, sand and schist based soils. According to their importer, Eric Solomon – European Cellars, Lomba dos Ares, is Curro & Jesus’ village wine coming from their oldest and steepest vineyards on the west bank of the Bibei River, that separates Ribeira Sacra from Valdeorras, with these vines averaging about 70 years old. This dark ruby and magenta hued 2016 is bright and fresh, but still with the old vine concentration showing vivid red fruits leading the way delivering loads of whole cluster crunch and tangy flavors that remind of some Jura red wines with a crisp and mineral vibrancy. There are layers of earthy/spicy raspberry, tart plum, cherry and lingonberry fruits, along with snappy herbs, light floral tones, a touch of saltiness, racy cool climate acidity and dusty tannins, making this a wine that refreshes on the medium weight palate making it perfect for Spring and Summer drinking and goes well with many cuisine options.

The Ribeira Sacra, which is a very historic wine growing area in Spain’s green Galicia region just northeast of the Portuguese border near the Mina and Sil Rivers that was prized by the Romans who cherished the wines from this steep and remote region. This area has seen a huge amount of excitement in recent years with wines of outstanding quality making quite a slash with wine critics and wine lovers, these new generation of Ribeira Sacra wines are led by the likes of Pedro Rodriguez of Guimaro, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, Envinate and this Fedellos do Couto label. There is a respect for the land and the hard work that goes into making these wines, it is not easy here with few roads and ultra steep, mostly terraced vineyards that doesn’t allow much but back breaking labor and hand work, so you see mostly now organic and natural style wines, including this Loma dos Ares. The wine, a co-ferment of all the varietals in cement vats, using hand harvested grapes, with 100% whole cluster and natural yeast fermentation employing a long, gentle maceration with pigeage lasting between 40 to 60 days. After primary the wine was racked over to a combination of neutral 300-500L French oak barrels for an elevage of about 10 months before being bottled. This 2016 vintage is pretty and well structured, it should develop nicely for many years to come, even though it is super easy to love now, especially with its restrained natural alcohol, which at 12.5% adds to the wines cool and vivid character, this is fabulous stuff.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 29, 2020

2018 Dard et Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “C’est le Printemps” Northern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2018 Dard et Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “C’est le Printemps” Northern Rhone, France.
René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who produce some of the most sought after natural Syrahs, are famously media shy and hermit like vignerons from Mercurol, north of Valence, founded their tiny Northern Rhone estate in 1984 with a small cellar and micro parcels of vines and a focus on non intervention wines. Jamie Goode, the English wine critic and natural wine expert, says that René-Jean Dard and François Ribo accidentally became known as natural winemakers, as they commonly don’t use any sulphites (added sulfur) at all, although, he notes, they are not religious about it and really were just trying to make wines they themselves were interested in drinking. Their fame has more to do with their attention to detail and very hard vineyard work and the exceptional quality of their grapes, especially the ones that go into their Crozes-Hermitage bottlings, that are still outstanding values and are more commonly available, like this wonderfully expressive C’est le Printemps. Dard and Ribo have close to ten hectares of vines, with half of that in Crozes-Hermitage, as well as some in Saint Joseph, and a small plot on the hill of Hermitage, which goes into their unicorn version of this legendary site. Their production is about 65% Syrah, which they are most known for, but they also do close to 35% white wine, which a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne parcels, again mainly in Crozes.

I recently got a few bottles of the classic black label Crozes, from the 2017 vintage, plus one of this lovely fresh 2018 “C’est le Printemps” which I had never seen in person prior to this vintage, it is Dard and Ribo’s quaffer or Glou-Glou version almost like their idea of a Nouveau, made for early release and early drinking and it fits the bill perfectly with loads of pure fruit, light spiciness and soft tannins. The Crozes-Hermitage vines are from organic plots, farmed without chemicals, mostly hillside, set on iron rich red clay soils with gravel and alluvial stones scattered throughout the vines, which give these wines true terroir character and even this version shows the classic detailing, a pretty crushed violet bouquet and flavors with layers of blueberry, damson plum, currant and black raspberry fruits, along with snappy licorice, saline and iodine, mineral tones plus cinnamon and peppery spices. This wine shows a nice juiciness, a ripe personality and a tank raised like vibrancy of form, adding a hint of earthiness, mission figs, lingering kirsch and lavender. This medium bodied, low sulfur, drink now, Syrah, which reminds me of Maxime Graillot’s Domaine des Lise Equinoxe in style, but maybe slightly more complex and expressive, I really should have bought more of this from SommSelect! Happily, I have found these Dard and Ribo to live up to my expectations and I hope to explore more of the limited stuff in the future, they are delicious.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 28, 2020

2018 Inspiration Vineyards, Viognier, Canihan Vineyard, Sonoma Valley -photo grapelive

2018 Inspiration Vineyards, Viognier, Canihan Vineyard, Sonoma Valley.
Jon Phillips’ new labels and new releases have transformed this winery and I am thrilled with the results so far, in particular I really like the 2018 Canihan Viognier with its beautiful honeysuckle bouquet and fleshy apricot that bursts from the glass. While not classic Condrieu by any means, it is a lovely California version of this grape with a richer mouth feel and denser impact on the full bodied palate, but is well balanced and not overly fruity or heavy with a nice cut of acidity and less obvious oak shadings and it is joyous with food, especially spicy shrimp and calamari. Phillips, who is the Chairman of the Board for Family Winemakers of California, started Inspiration Vineyards in 2002 after studying through one of the UC Davis extension programs and making some vintages of home wines. Jon moved to the Russian River area and set up shop originally on Olivet Lane, but now makes his wines in an urban winery in Santa Rosa and has a few acres of estate vines with a focus on Zinfandel and like his peers does Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from classic Russian River sites, plus some intriguing Rhones, like Grenache, Syrah and this Viognier. This white will appeal to those that have enjoyed Joseph Swan, Kunde, Alban and Cold Heaven expressions of this varietal and for those that are looking for an expressive alternative to buttery Chardonnays or grassy Sauvignon Blancs.

The 2018 Viognier shows a bright golden color and starts fresh, dry and tangy, getting more lush and rounded with air and matching cuisine delivering layers of the mentioned apricot, tangerine, melon, apple butter, marmalade and golden fig fruits along with a touch of brioche (lees), herbs, wet stones and an echo of the florals. This highly aromatic Viognier is pleasantly ripe and mouth filling and offers a solid value for fans of this grape and the regional wines. I can’t wait to try some of the other new wines sporting the new art labels with the Ceja Farms Grenache, especially after trying the Sheldon Wines version, and as noted before Dylan Sheldon joined Jon here at Inspiration in 2016 and his influence and synergy here has brought a lot to the newer wines in the collection. The use of new oak is limited and the wines have gained vitality and natural fresh details, but still full of flavor with a lighter touch in the cellar. There are a bunch of wines in the lineup to discover, in addition to the Viognier and Grenache, look for their 2018 Branley Pinot Noir, the 2018 Palindrome Vineyard Syrah from Dry Creek Valley, a low alcohol Ray’s Zin 2018 from the Russian River Valley, a luxurious full throttle 2018 Zinfandel from the Gallaway Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley and the 2017 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspiration sells almost exclusively direct and all of the bottlings are very limited, like this one and the wines are terrific values, so check them out on their newly updated website.
($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 27, 2020

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

2018 Desire Lines Wine Co, Evangelho Red, Contra Costa County.
Cordy and Emily Rasmussen’s Desire Lines Wine Co label is one of the most exciting new wineries I’ve tried in the last couple of vintages and while their Shake Ridge and Griffin’s Lair Syrahs are absolutely outstanding wines, both as good as it gets in California Syrah, I really love their Carignan based Evangelho Red, especially this 2018, which delivers purity of fruit, complex savory/meaty elements from the addition of a bit of Mourvedre and vividly fresh details. There is a joyous cascade of black and red fruits on the full bodied palate plus delicate crushed flowers, truffle/earthiness, peppery spices, crunchy herbal notes, mineral tones and light cedary wood shadings with a mouthful of blackberry, wild cherry, plum and boysenberry fruits. It is exciting that the low percentage of Mourvedre gets its place on the stage with hints of leather, kirsch and firm tannins really supports the deep and concentrated Carignan flavors perfectly and the partial full bunches fermentation makes this wine even more thrilling, this is drinking outrageously good right now and it will age too. This brilliantly dark Evangelho with its seductive purple/garnet color grabs your attention in the glass and with air it gains presence and poise, refining in texture and adding hints of cassis (black currant), tangy blueberry and herbs de Provence and anise. This unique red wine was inspired by old world wines and exploits its California old vines to near perfection, there’s a lot to enjoy here and while I highly recommend Desire Lines Syrah, this wine should not be missed if you see it and I suggest following this winery and joining their mailing list as soon as possible, there is no question Rasmussen’s offering are becoming highly sought after, these small lot bottlings are exceptional.

Winemaker, Cody Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under Morgan Twain-Peterson, says his 2018 Evangelho Red Wine is a blend of roughly 90% Carignan and 10% Mourvèdre, that similarly to the 2017, was fermented with 30% whole cluster to make this wine pop and excite the senses and with there hope to create a wine that is fresh and intense, drinkable in the same way a top Cote de Brouilly or Morgon does. Rasmussen adds that he then aged the 2018 Evangelho Red for ten months in neutral French 400L barrels. Cody loves the bigger 400L barrel size for his Carignan, noting that it retains freshness and builds tension in the wine, like all large format barrels, but with a less reduction than the bigger puncheons that he prefers for Syrah and the solo Mourvèdre. Last but not least, because the grape quality is everything when crafting a great wine, its source vineyard matters greatly, in particular when it comes from a historic site like Evangehlo, this awesome heritage site in Costa Contra that is set on deep sand. The vines at the Evangelho Vineyard, now owned by Morgan Twain-Peterson, is over 120 years old, it was planted originally back in late 1890s with mostly Zinfandel and Mourvedre, but with some other things too, like this parcel of Carignan. Rasmussen state that the Evangelho Vineyard near Antioch, is upstream from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and not far from the water’s edge, making it effectively a coastal vineyard in sand dunes with some weathered granitic washed down from of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range over millennia. This vintage is epic and this wine takes full advantage, enjoy it with friends and fun, it goes great with BBQ and or burgers!
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 26, 2020

2019 Pax Wines, Mission, Somer’s Vineyard, Mokelumne River, Lodi -photo grapelive

2019 Pax Wines, Mission, Somer’s Vineyard, Mokelumne River, Lodi.
The Pax 100% Mission is a vibrant and light red wine that feel the need for a chill and enjoyed in its racy youth with a fun sort of Beaujolais like playful juicy cherry led personality, but with a unique blast of dry savory notes and a zippy array of spices from cinnamon to red pepper flakes along with a zesty acidity and fine dusty tannins. Pax, known for their world class Syrah, does a delightful collection of natural style Glou-Glou wines, some of which were started under Pax Mahle’s Wind Gap label that has now been folded into the Pax lineup, these included his Trousseau Gris, his highly sought after Gamay Noir, plus a Petit Manseng, a little known French white grape that is grown primarily in Gascony, and more famously in the Jurançon and Pacherenc in the southwest, plus this slightly wild Mission grape, that is also known as Listan Prieto, found in the Canary Islands and Pais, which is its name in Chile. In California, Mission arrived with the Missions, hence the name, since the original Spanish vines by that time had no had a remembered name, some of the oldest living Mission vines are still at the Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles that to have been planted in 1771, while the Somer’s Vineyard in Lodi looks like it was planted in the early 1900s. The Mission grape in the central valley of California was mostly used in the production of Brandy rather than still wine and occasionally Mission was used in late harvest wines, known as Angelica, this was the first version that I tried from a 200 year old vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Pax employed a 100% while cluster and native fermentation allowing for a semi carbonic style of character with the wine getting a short aging spell with a four month elevage in neutral French barrels, plus a month in concrete tank before bottling with everything done to preserve freshness. These grapes, sourced from these old organic vines, came from the Mokelumne River zone on ancient river bed on deep sandy loam soils, which has led to roots that have dug way down to get moisture, since they are all dry farmed and they have huge trunks that according to the winery look like trees being about six feet high. The 2019 Pax Mission (aka Listan Prieto) which was just released reminds me of some of the more interesting Canary Islands wines like Envinate’s Benje and Fronton de Oro’s Tinto as well as a few Pipeno’s (Louis Antoine Luyt) from Chile made from Pais that date back to the first Missionaries in the 1500s. The flavors are slightly earthy and raw with layers of strawberry/rhubarb, umami, dried herbs and rose petals along with the tangy cherry, cinnamon and peppery notes along with grilled orange and wild fennel. The Mission grape is showing it deserves a second chance in California, after almost disappearing in the mid 1900s when it was much maligned and replaced by more noble varietals, mostly from France, maybe not as serious wine, but as an easy drinking quaffer and non pretentious counter culture wine! Enjoy Pax’s light ruby-pale garnet, almost Rosé like, hued Mission, which is just 12.5% natural alcohol and now with lots of laughter, friends and simple cuisine.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 25, 2020

2018 Eden Rift, Zinfandel, Dickinson Block, Cienega Valley, San Benito County -photo grapelive

2018 Eden Rift, Zinfandel, Dickinson Block, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
For those that love Turley, Ridge, Bedrock, Bucklin and or Saucelito Canyon who all use historic old vine vineyards for their Zinfandels should really check out the last Eden Rift Dickinson Block Zinfandel that comes from a small parcel of vines that were planted in 1906, way over a hundred years old and making for a stunning wine of depth and concentration. I have been lucky enough to try the 2017 and this 2018 versions and I can tell you this is a beautifully aromatic and polished expression of Zinfandel with classic black raspberry and plum fruit, a lovely dark purple/garnet color and a delicate array of spices, chalky mineral notes, subtle oak shadings along with pretty floral notes and fresh herbs de Provence. This 2018 is wonderfully textured, vivid in detail and is perfectly ripe, it is a stellar vintage for depth, clarity and it delivers everything with the impression of fine balance and pleasing richness, and this wine does it exceptionally well, hats off to winemaker Cory Waller, who really nailed it here. Walking through this special plot of old Zinfandel vines, which are head trained you might see a couple of odd ball black varietals and maybe some Carignan inter planted, but you can really taste that Zin personality from start to finish. This 2018 gets better and better with air and adds tangy blueberry, kirsch, anise and a touch of coco and the mouth feel impresses with supple/sweet tannin and thrilling full bodied palate, it goes great with rustic cuisine, especially hearty meat dishes and or tomato based pastas, and yes Pizza.

The Eden Rift label, which is the new name for this site, was created in 2016, has brought this old property back to the wine worlds attention which is well deserved with the attention to detail in the vineyards, that were originally started back in 1849, making it one of the oldest wine growing homesteads in California. This wine, the Dickinson Block Zinfandel is one of the most limited in the Eden Rift collection, which is focused on Pinot Noir, which makes sense when you realize that Eden Rift’s neighbored by the famous Calera Estate and Mount Harlan, and where Waller, who has made wine in Oregon and New Zealand, was also an assistant winemaker alongside his brother Mike, the head winemaker at Calera. The Eden Rift wines are all hand crafted and made with indigenous yeasts where possible and aged exclusively in French oak barrels and the grapes which all sustainably grown are hand harvested with serve yields and sorting for quality. The soils at Eden Rift are a mix of limestone and are dolomite-rich that gives these wines their terroir driven flavors, helped along the way by the cool evenings and coastal influence that flows a wind gap into the Cienega Valley. A visit to the estate is an incredible experience, especially seeing the gorgeous terraced Pinot Noir plots with their heritage clone selections like Calera and Mount Eden clones growing on steep eastern facing hillsides. There lots of exciting these happening at Eden Rift and I must also note, their Chardonnay is not a wine to overlook here, like this one it delivers a great performance, I, as you might have guessed, highly recommend checking out the new releases.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 24, 2020

2016 Ampeleia, Kepos, Costa Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy -photo grapelive

2016 Ampeleia, Kepos, Costa Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy.
Ampeleia, one of Tuscany’s most intriguing wineries, based near Maremma was founded in 2002 as collaboration between like minded friends, including one of Italy’s greatest winemakers Elisabetta Foradori, who’s famous Alto Adige estate is one of the most prized in the Dolomites, Thomas Widmann, and Giovanni Podini. The together created an organic farm with a focus around making biodynamic wines using natural and traditional methods. The Kepos red is a unique Tuscany coast wine made from Mediterranean grape varieties including 60% Alicante Nero (aka Grenache), 25% Mourvedre and 15% Carignano all from estate grown biodynamic wines. ‘Kepos’ is Greek and is synonymous with ‘garden,’ or any place where trees and herbs are grown. These grapes are sourced from vineyards closest to the Ocean, but at about 300 meters above sea level with cool breezes in the Ampeleia di Sotto parcel, its a place where the Mediterranean scrub dominates the landscape and, according to the winery, permeates the air with its lavender/sage like fragrance. While Elisabetta Foradori’s Altro Adige offerings, made with her signature Teroldego grapes, are firm and powerful and are strikingly unique, these Ampeleia wines seem more casual, playful and sultry in style, making for a unique contrast in approach.

Foradori crafted this Kepos using all de-stemmed grapes, and co-fermented all of Grenache, Mourvedre and the Carignano together with indigenous yeasts and gentle maceration and daily punch downs. The Ampeleia Kepos, like many traditional Rhones, like some from Gigondas was aged about a year in cement tank, then that was followed by 7 months of resting in its bottle before leaving the cellar. The 2016 is beautifully aromatic and the palate is warm and textured highlighting the fabulous vintage in Italy and especially in Tuscany with this Kepos showing ripe and smooth tannins and a medium full palate of fresh and spicy raspberry, dusty plum, strawberry as well as kirsch, dried flowers, peppery herbs, wild fennel and delicate mineral tones. Like all the Ampeleia wines I’ve tried so far, this wine delivers a straight forward, smooth and authentic performance in the glass, these are not blockbuster or showy wines, but oh man they are delicious and delight the senses and without a doubt captures the essence of this place. I adore the slightly raw and earthy personality in the Ampeleia lineup, but there is exceptional fruit and quality here too, I could easily drink these almost everyday, they are also super food friendly with refined acidity and without oaky elements, look for them.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 23, 2020

2018 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Coastview Vineyard, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2018 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Coastview Vineyard, Monterey County.
Scott Sisemore has made some really awesome wines in the recent few vintages and has raised the game here at his Waxwing Wine Cellars, especially with his latest set of Pinot Noirs and his Syrah bottlings, like this 2018 Coastview Vineyard Syrah that comes from John Allen’s exceptional site in the Gablan Mountain Range. Scott says he enjoys visiting the Coastview Vineyard most all of all with its remote location and spectacular vistas from the elevation, which is about 2, 200 feet up and overlooks the cool Pacific Ocean set on a unique combination of decomposed granite and limestone soils. While Coastview has many varieties planted and does well with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is the Rhones that interest Sisemore, who really is laser focused on the Syrah here, which provides deep flavors and incredibly pure fruit with wonderful density and length while retaining fresh acidity and pretty aromatics. The 2018 version is a full bodied expression of syrah with loads of texture, ripe tannins and delicate spices with layers of boysenberry, blackberry, cherry, plum and blueberry fruit as well as dark flowers, a touch of smoky oak, creme de cassis, minty melted black licorice and cayenne. Only 5 barrels were produced and this limited Syrah by Waxwing will certainly go fast with its bold profile and rich opulence of flavors when it is officially released this month, so be sure to email Scott directly on his website to reserve yours.

There is a lot to love about this wine and the collection of new releases from Sisemore with this one being one of prizes, but also check out his Lester Vineyard Pinot and Syrah from Corralitos, in the south west side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Deerheart Vineyard Pinot, a wine I discovered last year from a unique site also in the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as his Sonoma Coast Pinot and Syrah offerings, plus a couple of intriguing Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez wines, along with the Tondre Grapefield dry Riesling. The Waxwing line is all small lot hand crafted wines with a respect of each terroir and regional character with very individual personalities with this Coastview Syrah being very expressive of place, it reminds me of some of the Big Basin wines that also originate here. Sisemore used 100% whole cluster and the Coastview Syrah was foot treaded and saw a long cold soak in open top fermentors and the fermentation went for months in Scott’s cold cellar. The must saw two to three punch-downs a day and was racked into once used French barrels where it was aged for about 14 months. This inky purple Syrah sings in the glass with a powerful presence in the mouth and it needs some seriously robust cuisine, like a rack of lamb, try-tip steak, wild mushroom dishes and or BBQ fare. This wine is less northern Rhone than the other Syrah bottlings in the lineup and is more in line with some of the delicious stuff coming out of the Santa Barbara County and or the westside of Paso Robles, making it a head turner!
($40-50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 22, 2020

2017 Martellotto Winery, Malbec “My Way” Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara -photo grapelive

2017 Martellotto Winery, Malbec “My Way” Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez.
The My Way Mablec by Greg Martellotto comes from the warmest area of the Santa Ynez Valley in the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA that has become a hot bed for Bordeaux varietals and this 2017 vintage shows an intense inky dark color and has some big tannin on the full bodied palate as well as a deep sense of black fruits. Martellotto credits his family’s long history in making rustic southern Italian wines as his guide to his own modern wines, which he says are made to show a raw soulful essence that he feels was inspired by the old world way of (wine) life and he focuses on small batch terroir driven offerings coming from sustainable vineyards with many sites being all organic. Each of his wines demands an individual approach and he tries to allow the grapes speak for themselves, and this Malbec certainly shows its own personality, not as rustic and fiery as Cahors, the spiritual home of the Malbec grape and not as graceful or polished as the best from Argentina it leans toward the bold California style with layers of blueberry compote, smoky oak notes, plum, blackberry and creme de cassis along with a light spiciness, floral notes and a minty herbal element. Air is this wines best friend and close behind is rich food dishes with both allowing this wine to find a polished form and gives this Malbec a stage to show the lush opulence that is underneath the firm structure, much in the same way air and cuisine helps young Bordeaux and or raw southern Italian wines.

Martellotto, who stated his label in 2005, with winemaking experience in Mexico, Italy, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, and now in Santa Barbara County, says he’s trying to combine creative fermentation techniques along with an artistic blending prior to bottling to produce wines that are distinctive, he also tries to do many indigenous yeast ferments depending on the varietal and while still under the radar he has proven very good at spotting high quality vines to chose from including some very incredible sites like the Spear Vineyard in the cool Sta. Rita Hills, where he gets some Pinot Noir. Greg’s current set of wines, all small lot bottlings that are individually numbered, that includes red and white blends in Bordeaux and Rhone styles, a Viognier, a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Petite Sirah, a Syrah and the mentioned Pinot Noir to name a few, plus a unique Rosé. Greg, who also holds a degree in biology from Stanford, named his Malbec after Frank Sinatra and the famous version of My Way and seemingly the wine was blended to honor the man’s boldness and personality. The final blend was 80% Malbec and 20% Petit Verdot and was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 10 months with about 10% new oak, giving that sweet toasty vanilla. It must be noted that Martellotto is offering a big discount on his wines during this shelter in place period, with the fear of the spread of Covid-19, and this one comes down to under $30 and it will please a wide range of wine lovers, especially those that like bolder expressions and wines that go well with hearty dishes.
($40 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 21, 2020

2018 Martha Stoumen, Zinfandel, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2018 Martha Stoumen, Zinfandel, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen, who was celebrating her birthday yesterday March 20, is one of the new generation of California small batch producers that is working in a natural way to craft her wines with old world techniques that she learned during her time in Europe doing winemaking internships. Best known for her time at Giusto Occhipinti’s COS Winery in the Vittoria region of Sicily and her love of the Nero d’Avola grape, as well as her commitment to organic farming, both with vines she works herself and her partnerships with multi-generational family grape growers, like this Venturi Vineyard in Mendocino County located just north of Ukiah, in the Calpella Valley, on a combination of sandstone, shale, quartz and gravelly loam soils. Stoumen crafts her small lot offerings at Pax’s facility in Sebastopol and makes an exciting lineup of wines with bottlings of unique varietals, like her signature Nero d’Avola and (French) Colombard plus California classics like Petite Sirah, Carignan and this young vine, organic and dry famed Zinfandel, to name a few, as well as her Post Flirtation line of blended wines, red, white and a Rosé. I have eagerly been waiting to dig into Martha’s latest releases, especially these 2018 vintage reds and this Venturi Zin is an absolutely delicious and fresh wine with a pleasing old school rustic charm and a bright low alcohol personality. This is the first year Stoumen made a Venturi Vineyard Zinfandel from a parcel of younger vines set on rock strewn part of the vineyard in an area that was formed from ancient alluvial flows and this deep and well drained sites makes for expressive and concentrated fruit which shows in this wine with its layers of earthy and spicy flavors on the medium bodied palate that shows fresh crushed raspberries, tart cherries and plum fruits along with Asian spices, orange tea, truffle, wild fennel and pepper jelly. This exciting low sulfur and almost crisp red deepens with air and an amazing perfume of dark flowers comes alive in the glass, it is a joyous crimson and unfiltered ruby colored wine that goes brilliantly with robust cuisine and or hard cheeses and charcuterie. Italy has played a big part in Stoumen’s education and during her undergraduate studies she immersed herself on a Tuscan farm learning the inter connected balance of natural farming and traditional agricultural systems working with an olive orchard, farm animals, bees, and vegetables along with grape vines going valuable insights into organic synergies.

The Venturi Zinfandel, which is vegan safe, was fermented using 100% whole cluster, with Stoumen starting with a small portion of the bunches being foot treaded and placed in the bottom of the tank, then un-treaded clusters are put on top. Then, according to Martha, they slowly foot-tread or perform (body) punch-downs for about a week until things are soft enough to gently do pump-overs. She adds, that because grapes are broken up slowly over time, sugars are also released more slowly rather than all at once, resulting in a slower fermentation, maybe adding to the lower alcohol here, which is 12.7%, but with a ripe and textural feel. The primary and secondary fermentation is all native or indigenous and saw a 28-day maceration before pressing with Stoumen’s minimalistic approach and a gentle racking before the wine rested in all well seasoned used barrels for 12 months on its lees. The final bottled wine shows good intensity of form, lively acidity and mild dusty tannins that gives this Zinfandel a transparent and raw character, but the nose especially develops with sensuality and adds an elegance to this lighter style wine with lilacs and lavender emerging. You can see why these wines are gaining a fan base and not only with the natural wine crowd, as these wines deliver a fine performance and you can clearly see Martha’s personal style shinning through, in particular I love her Carignan, the Nero d’Avola and this Zinfandel. Stoumen, who got her start initial exposure to grape farming and winemaking in Tuscany, got a Master’s at UC Davis, and has before starting her own label spent stints at some of the world’s best wine estates, she worked under the renown Reinhard Löwenstein at Heymann-Löwenstein, in the Mosel, as well as working under stars like Jordan Fiorentini (Epoch), when she was at Chalk Hill, Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars, Clive Dougall at Seresin, in Marlborough New Zealand, Didier Barral at Domaine Léon Barral of Faugères fame in France’s Languedoc, and the mentioned Giusto Occhipinti. These experiences have shaped Stoumen and led her to take her own path to create terroir driven California wines from unique grapes and sites, and they are well worth checking out.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive