Monthly Archives: April 2020

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 30, 2020

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Mourvèdre, Halcon Estate Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The unbelievable and thrilling dark and spicy Halcon 100% Mourvèdre , which Paul Gordon crafted from his own tiny parcel at the Halcon Estate at 2,500 feet up above Mendocino’s Yorkville Highlands, one of California’s most dramatic terroirs, makes for an exceptional and extreme example of this grape. These conditions with the elevation and cool long growing season make for a big challenge for Gordon, known for his fantastic Syrah, who says – at times it feels like he and wife Jackie have to spend more time nurturing the one acre of Mourvèdre than the rest of our 15 acres combined! Mourvèdre ripens very late, but seems to thrive on the meager topsoil over the broken shales and schist allowing transparent flavors, slightly lower natural alcohol with this vintage coming in at just 12.5%, plus it shows delicate floral notes and mineral tones. This 2017, a warm year, gave Gordon some fabulous fruit and he made the most of that gift from nature with this limited bottling of Mourvèdre that shows loads of black fruit, whole bunch crunch, peppercorns, violets and a light gamy note led by blackberry, black cherry, mulberry and plum preserves along with tangy herbal essences, sandalwood and grilled fennel. This medium to full bodied and with fresh acidity along with fairly firm, but fine grained tannins, it is a wine very much in the house style, so those like me that love their Syrah will be wonderfully excited by this northern Rhone style (unique for Mourvèdre) wine, which is more Cornas in style, rather than Bandol, maybe the greatest region for this grape.

The Mourvèdre vines here are maybe some of the rarest, in this location, being what could be the coldest area with this varietal in the world, with Halcon’s temperatures, as Paul notes, closely matching what Ampuis or Côte Rôtie historically sees in average, meaning that these vines are on the very edge of ripeness for Mourvèdre, which means lots of tender love and care or hard work! In order to ensure fruit maturity the Gordon’s prune their Mourvèdre rows back to 3-4 spurs per plant, which leads to just eight or so clusters per individual vine. That said, in 2017, yields were such that Halcon was able to do a single varietal bottling, and it turned out fantastic. Usually all the Mourvèdre goes into their GSM Esquisto, which has a ratio of close to 20% Mourvèdre in the blend. The 100% Mourvèdre, came in at 22.1 brix and was picked in mid October, early for Halcon, which can see November pick dates. Gordon used a healthy 50% whole-cluster fermentation with good extraction and what was a high level of stem inclusion for Mourvèdre, which shows in the wine’s dynamic and vivacious personality, texture and an earthy/leathery edginess or tension on the intriguing palate. The Halcon Mourvèdre was aged over a year in neutral French 500L puncheons and, like all of Paul’s wines, it was fermented with native yeasts and saw a gentle regime of hand pilage. Just 70 cases were produced, so it will sell out fast, though the 2018 should be available soon, it should be easily as good or better considering the high quality of the vintage, and as I say every time I review one of these wines, it is highly recommended that wine enthusiasts join this mailing list.
($35 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 29, 2020

2018 Inspiration, Zinfandel “Ray Zin” Russian River Valley.
The lean and tangy Ray’ Zin from Jon Phillips at Inspiration Vineyards comes from some head trained vines in a slightly cooler zone of the Russian River Valley region in Sonoma County, it is what he calls a claret style Zinfandel with low alcohol and crisp acidity. This reminds me of old school Chianti or maybe more of a lighter Rioja Crianza with its kiss of American oak and zesty raspberry and cherry fruits along with its medium bodied palate and slightly raw personality, which makes it great with pasta, pizza and hard cheeses. There is a tart cranberry, roasted herbs and a smattering of brown spices and peppery note along with a touch of cedar, coconut and toasty vanilla, gaining some floral bouquet with air and lingering red currant. There is some potential gains in texture and tannin roundness with time in bottle in this very limited bottling, with only 25 cases made and at 12.7% natural alcohol it offers a more easy drinking personality than the more powerful and full bodied versions of Zinfandel, like Phillip’s Dry Creek Valley Gallaway bottling, which is a full throttle style.

This 2018 Ray Zin, helped by the cool long growing season is pearly and dust with a vivid ruby color was produced to be more like some wines made in the past like the 1970s Zins of Joseph Swan or the like that rarely saw alcohol above 12% and aged well, but were a bit rough and chewy, needing time and air along with food to show their best. This Zinfandel has a bitter green edgy side that surely benefits matching it with savory foods and especially protein, it is nicer with BBQ and a slight chill that transforms it into a more friendly quaffer. Inspiration has turned up the quality and variety in their offerings and the new artist labels are striking as well, making a winery that was under the radar and somewhat unnoticed a more colorful presence, there is also a more authentic and natural feel to the wines. I recommend trying the new stuff, in particular I would lead you to their new Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet, along with the latest Pinot Noir, all of which impress for value and expressive details.
($25 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 28, 2020

2017 Envínate, Migan Tinto, Listan Negro, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
The Envínate wines come from mostly Atlantic influenced sites from the Canary Islands to Galicia plus a couple of remote sites within Spain including Almansa, all crafted by winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez, who all met while at college and vowed they would someday work together and pay tribute to their home regions. The wines are some of the most exciting in Spain, especially their Tenerife grown offerings like this stunning Migan cuvee that is sourced from two very old parcels, with between 90 and 120 years of age, of “cordon trenzado” or braided vines on high elevation sites on volcanic soils. The vines follow the slope of the ancient volcano, braided to keep them close to the ground to keep them from being battered by wind and helping them retain and collect moisture in this unique terroir on these islands of the western coast of Africa. I have been following Roberto Santana’s wines for a long time and his efforts have almost impressed me, I love these wines, especially his Listan Negro based bottlings, a grape that is part of set of what we call the Mission grape(s) and mostly found here in the Canary Islands where it was planted by those making the journey to the new world sometime between the 1500s and 1700s at a time when Spain was colonizing the west coast of the Americas with Catholic missionaries needing European vines to make sacrament wines. The Listan Negro grape is wonderfully dry and spicy with the ability to really transmit terroir with transparent purity, as this Envinate Migan does showing the volcanic mineral essence throughout, its a varietal that has a lighter sense of being and can be as elegant as Pinot Noir, again this Migan has this exceptional quality and complexity.

The 2017 Migan is beautifully smooth, but racy with vivid acidity and with delicate earthiness along with its exotic array of spices that thrill the palate which is just medium bodied and restrained in natural alcohol, it is layered with tangy red fruits including dusty plum, strawberry, tart cherry and blood orange that are contrasted by red pepper flakes, leather, anise and faint cedar notes. Everything here is silken and textural gaining sweet floral tones, hints of iron, delicate earthiness and lingering dried rose petals, grilled herbs and red currants making for a stylish and natural feeling wine. According to Envinate and Santana, the Migan, made from 100% Listan Negro, as noted is sourced from two plots, 60% comes from the La Habanera plot on dark volcanic sand at the highest elevation n the area, and the other 40% coming from their older San Antonio plot, that is much lower on the slope with more clay based soils. All the grapes, which are all organic, were hand-harvested, using traditional fermentation and using very low SO2, each lot was foot-troddened and fermented separately with the La Habanera getting 100% whole cluster, while the San Antonio saw just 15% whole cluster. Envinate employs in large concrete vats for primary fermentation and maceration, then when finished the Migan was racked and gently pressed off into 228 & 600L old French barrels for malolactic and aging, that lasted for 11 months, and then bottled is without fining or filtration. This is a wine that has the class and depth of a Nuits-St.-Georges (Burgundy) with a ruby/garnet hue and elements that resembles Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais) and or Etna Rosso (Nerello Mascalese), the Migan cuvee with 12% alcohol makes for a lovely food wine and as is crisply refreshing, best with a bit of chill, this is a fabulous vintage, one of my favorites to date!
($49 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 27, 2020

2018 Domaine Morey-Coffinet, Puligny-Montrachet, Le Trézin, White Burgundy, France.
The Domaine Morey-Coffinet, founded by Michel Morey in the 1970s is now run in the by Thibault Morey, Michel’s son, who joined the family business in the late 1990s, and that generational shift has brought more attention to the wines here. It’s noted that Domaine Morey-Coffinet wines have since reached new heights in recent years and while I’ve only known Thibault’s wine, I too have been highly impressed with what I’ve tried and this 2018 Puligny Trézin is a gorgeous and full bodied example of white Burgundy, it is a wine with a serious palate impact and dense layering, in line within vintage, which tend to be on the richer side. According to the winery, almost every week, father and son taste each cuvée together, following all of their wines in cask in their ancient cellar, exchanging opinions and sharing experiences. Importer Martine’s Wines say the shy, soft-spoken Thibault continues to push the quality of his domaine to a whole different level as he grows in confidence and experience crafting expressive, powerful, wonderfully hedonistic wines, all of which certainly shows in this one. The Le Trézin parcel, named after a stream and or spring, is in the famed Puligny-Montrachet, one of the greatest Chardonnay sites in the Côte de Beaune set on clay and limestone with warm and ripe exposure facing southeast.

The surprisingly round and creamy 2018 Maison (non estate vines) Morey-Coffinet, Puligny-Montrachet, from the premium lieu-dix Le Trézin, drinks more like a serious Premier Cru or Grand Cru, such is the depth and impressive mount feel with thick layers of apple, pear, peach and lemon curd fruits along with hints of smoke, brioche, hazelnut, clarified cream and even a bit of creme brûlée along with an underlying wet stone, clove spice and subtle mineral tones. This is a regal Chardonnay with a luxurious presence that makes it stunning with decedent cuisine, I would suggest things like lobster and or crab cakes, plus swordfish as well as soft double or triple cream cheeses. This Morey-Coffinet reminds me of some the first times I was able to sample Meursault, Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet from mid to late nineties, which were fatter style versions, like from Bouchard, Drouhin and Leflaive. This wine was fermented and aged 12 months in French oak using about 30% new barrels, with what I think some lees stirring or batonage, considering the texture and leesy character and was bottled unfixed and unfiltered. Now most of the to wines are much more racy and sleek, so while I enjoyed this Puligny very much it is not in the modern lean style, it is absolutely voluptuous, and should be celebrated for its personality, drink now for the next 3 to 5 years.
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 26, 2020

2017 Cruse Wine Company, Valdiguie, Rancho Chimiles Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The Cruse Valdiguie is always a tasty treat and the 2017 has a ripe and fruit forward style along with a light to medium body and juicy acidity that make it great Summer porch pounder and fun for any occasions, especially backyard BBQ’s. Cruse does two Valdiguies, one Pet-Nat version and this red version which displays a low alcohol quaffing personality with bright Gamay like dark fruits, a touch of spice, herbs and a delicate floral presence. This 2017, while just 12% natural alcohol, is ripe and smoothly textured at this point at a good spot with black cherry, blueberry, vine picked tangy berry, plum and sugar beet fruits along with distilled violets, light cedar notes and sage/fennel with a touch of grilled orange. Michael Cruse’s Petaluma based winery is a great label to explore making some thrilling values in red wines, but really standing out for his collection of sparkling wines that include an awesome set of Pet-Nats with some exotic grapes, like the mentioned Valdiguie and St. Laurent, a rare for California, Austrian red grape, but also a couple of luxurious Champagne method cuvees, one being his geeky cool grower fizz style Ultramarine Brut which is already a cult classic. Cruse has an intriguing lineup out right now, besides the Valdiguie and bubbly, Michael has a Tannat, a dry Muscat, an interesting Sierra Foothills Chard and his seriously delicious Monkey Jacket red field blend, made from Valdiguie, Syrah and Carignan, it’s not a wine to pass up, trust me!

The 2017 Cruse Wine Company red Valdiguie from Rancho Chimiles is done in a modern natural fashion with whole cluster, and in neutral oak with this vintage being mostly aged in large puncheons, 6 being used, plus a single barrique. Rancho Chimiles, first planted in 1972 by Virginia and Terry Wilson on 10 acres in this area east of Napa to Napa Gamay, a grape later to be known as Valdiguie. One of the oldest ranches in Napa County, Rancho Chimiles is still owned and operated by the Wilson family, it straddles the ridge between Wooden Valley and northern Gordon Valley, and includes bench land in both valleys. This ranch, where these vines are, interestingly is a historical site, with the original land grant being awarded by Governor Pio Pico, the last Governor of Mexican California.The deeply colored red Valdiguie glows with a vivid ruby at the core and drinks so easy it makes for fun evening companion with loads charm, it should be enjoyed slightly chilled, similar to your favorite Cru Beaujolais and with smiles and simple foods. Definitely look the Cruse bubbles, but don’t miss his set of reds either, especially if you like wines by Bric Cellars, Dirty and Rowdy, Martha Stoumen, Sheldon Wines and or Jolie-Laide, as these wines are in that same vein, but not clones. I love Valdiguie and Michael Cruse’s is one of the best, I can’t wait to drink his Sparkling version that he just released as well as his 2018!
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 25, 2020

2018 Diatom, Chardonnay, Bar -M Vineyard, Los Alamos Valley, Santa Barbara County.
The crisp light/pale gold no oak Diatom Bar-M Chardonnay by Greg Brewer is beautifully detailed and is a totally unique expression with fresh and vivid white peach and mixed citrus fruits leading the way along with delicate spring blossoms, clove spice, quince paste, wet chalk and sea shore elements. Brewer continues his obsession in Chardonnay purity with his Diatom label, a very singular journey or vision quest, more like a Jules Verne novel and Captain Nemo rather than Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab! There is a zen like quiet to these wines, as all the outside world is hushed, again like being on the Nautilus where all the madness of the world and noise are silenced and the wine reveals itself in the grapes truest form and nature. Brewer, founding winemaker at the legendary Brewer-Clifton and known for Burgundy style Pinot Noir and Chardonnays from cru sites in the Sta. Rita Hills, is one of Santa Barbara’s most respected and influential winemakers, he also crafted the acclaimed wines at Melville and over the years has produced some fabulous stuff. These Diatom wines are no compromise and ultra precise Chardonnays, they are intellectually challenging that try to dig down to the core essence of the varietal and the individual vineyard site, but they are also wines of quality and a pleasure to experience, in particular with raw foods and highly focused ingredients, like hyper fresh sushi and masterfully executed, they deserve that perfection to show themselves at their best. People want to compare these wines to terroir particular wines like Chablis, which I can understand, but you can’t explain them that way, they wines that unto themselves. Each year brings a new revelation and understanding of terroir and of Chardonnay self with these Diatom wines, they are fun and thrilling examples of what is possible.

The Diatom Bar-M Vineyard Chardonnay is sourced, according to Brewer, from a stunning contiguous block of clone 76 Chardonnay planted over 20 years ago in the Los Alamos region of Santa Barbara County set on ancient seabeds. The Los Alamos area is a magnificent and relatively unknown region, where you can find Rhone grapes, like Grenache and Syrah as well as Burgundy grapes in cooler zones, where the sandy loam soil, as Greg adds, lends itself to fruit with a bit more flesh and weight – perfectly suited to the Diatom model. The Innox style fermentation done with his special yeast cultures at very low temperature in small stainless-steel tanks, with inhibited malo-lactic or no malo to promote absolute transparency and freshness. Brewer leaves nothing to chance, using a short hose transit ensure precision and focus in these wines. Diatom is motivated by what Greg calls the pursuit of subtraction and refinement, in his mission to remove the mentioned outside noise or accents other than the grape and place. He likens It to the polishing of a grain of rice until one has reached its ultimate inner core. The Sta. Rita Hills and joining areas continue to inspire him and this marine landscape, in his words, is stark and so are the wines of its provenance. These Diatoms are fascinating efforts with as little disturbance, distraction or interference as possible. I love the 2018 vintage with its amazing mineral and energy driven character, they are weightless, but rich and textual, it is one of my favorite years for the Diatom line and this Bar-M, with its stony qualities and tangy edge is stunning stuff, enjoy it with creamy Toro or fatty/briny Spanish mackerel and have your mind blown! This Bar-M is delicious and is utterly compelling with a nice play between racy acidity and ripe flavors, don’t mis this, the Santos Road and Spear Vineyard, they all are outstanding. Also, check out Greg Brewer’s new Ex Post Facto Syrah too, which is super good, all are now available through Brewer-Clifton.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 24, 2020

2016 Waits – Mast Family Cellars, Pinot Noir, Mariah Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Waits – Mast Family Cellars was founded by Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits back in 2005 with this couple making their first barrel of their own Pinot in 2007 with a passion for marine influenced wines like Littorai, Cobb, Drew, Hirsch and Peay Vineyards. According to Brian, before they started making wine we were passionate wine consumers taking many weekend getaways were spent exploring wineries across California, plus a few special trips to France, Switzerland and even New Zealand. All of this cruising around made them hyper focused on the Anderson Valley and I became a big fan after first trying their Londer Vineyard 2010 and later the fantastic Deer Meadows Vineyard, which is farmed by Richard Savoy, of Savoy Vineyard fame, and a high elevation organic site above Boonville. Now Waits – Mast have a talented Shalini Sekhar, Winemaker, who studied Enology and Viticulture at Fresno State University, and applied her skills at Williams-Selyem Winery, Copain Custom Crush (now Punchdown Cellars), and Bluxome Street winery, and now besides Waits – Mast she crafts the Neely Wines (of Varner fame) from the Santa Cruz Mountains, specializing on Pinot Noir from these cool coastal mountain sites. The 2016 Mariah has lush layering with refined tannin and nice silky elegance on the palate with black cherry, raspberry, plum and tart currant/cranberry fruits along with subtle smoky/sweet oak toast, cinnamon, rose petal, mineral and a hint of mocha. This wine flows and opens smooth with a rich sense of detail and finesse, but still has plenty of energy and vitality.

The beautiful and expressive 2016 Mariah Pinot comes from a Pinot Noir block that Brian and Jennifer source comes from two different clones, Dijon 667 and Pommard, planted to older root-stock from vines that were originally put in the ground in the 1970s set on a combination of Hugo and Josephine loams over a well drained sandstone and fractured shales. This region and in particular this area has produced some of California’s best Pinot Noirs in recent years and there is great expectations on these wines, which this wine lives up to. As noted in my reviews of Drew, who is not far from Mariah, this part of the Anderson Valley is on the very western side within 10 miles of the ocean and up above 1200 feet, making for a cool, breezy and fog influenced long growing season that makes for stunning Pinot Noirs. The wines from Waits – Mast are handcrafted in San Francisco in very small lots and offer exceptional value, especially these 2016 vintage offerings, which was an absolutely awesome year in the Anderson Valley, with this Mariah and their Nash Mill Vineyard bottlings being stand outs! This Mariah saw lots of whole cluster and saw a cool maceration, hand punch downs and pump overs to enhance the aromatics, vibrancy of flavors, structure and allow texture to form before a slow gentle pressing to just four French oak barrels for another year of elevage. With only 94 cases of this unfixed and unfiltered Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir, that finished at a graceful, but ripe 13.5% natural alcohol, it would be best to get on it pretty quickly and also I recommend capturing their 2012s and in particular the 2014s if you see them, as well as joining the Waits – Mast mailing list.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 23, 2020

2018 Bow & Arrow, Rhinestones, Pinot Noir/Gamay Noir, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Rhinestones by Potland Oregon’s Bow & Arrow winery is one of my favorites, it’s a unique cuvee blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Gamay Noir coming from the Willamette Valley’s biodynamic/organic Johan Vineyard and done in a Loire Valley natural wine style with juicy fruit, fresh acidity, earthy rawness and a spicy/stemmy kick. Interesting this blend is like Passetoutgrain, which is made in Burgundy from the same blend of Pinot and Gamay, winemaker Scott Frank says he’s more influenced by wines made in the Loire’s Touraine region, where they also have Pinot Noir and Gamay and that they also get blended together in a lighter and zippier fashion. One of the most intriguing examples from the Loire is Domaine Philippe Tessier’s Cheverny Rouge, crafted with Pinot and Gamay, it more closely resembles this Rhinestones. Sometimes those Touraine reds also have Pineau d’ Aunis and or Grolleau, but those grapes haven’t quite made it to the new world yet, so Frank is left with Pinot and Gamay, both of which are grown in quantity and quality in Oregon. Loire Valley grape varieties like Melon, Chenin Blanc, and true Gamay Noir were planted in the Willamette Valley decades before Frank moved here from New York in 2001, but instead of going along with most winemakers that make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, inspired by the Cote d’Or, he followed the less prestigious and more quaffable style of the Loire, even he has helped make wine at John Paul’s Cameron Winery, one of the most legendary and iconic producers in the state, famous for his Pinot and Chards. Bow & Arrow continues to prove counter culture, sort of a workers party style wines have a place among Oregon’s new generation of wines and have brought Gamay to to people, along with other cool things to explore.

This 2018 Rhinestones is ripe in flavors, but shows a more earthy tone that the last two vintages with fresh layers of black cherry, plum and red currants along with a red peach flesh textural taste along with hints of dark florals, leather and an array of spices with cinnamon and pepper notes. There’s a serious side here, but it can be enjoyed for its vivacious lighthearted personality and it goes down with a cool crisp detail begging for smiles, simple meals and companionship. According to Frank the Rhinestones blend is determined by nature and vintage, with the 2018 getting more Pinot than the past few most recent versions as the Johan Vineyard delivered this combination and ratio for this wine. Bow & Arrow, which Scott and his wife Dana started in 2010, is a full fledged, subterranean urban micro winery located in Northeast Portland and is now a cult winery, making natural style “wine for the people” with a fanatic wine savvy fan base. The Rhinestones usually gets a whole cluster and native fermentation with exceptionally low SO2 being used and it is aged in a mixture of concrete and old barriques. This wine, as Frank notes, is the flagship of the Bow & Arrow operation and communicates what they are all about as much as anything they make. The winery tries to craft wines that are effortlessly drinkable but rewarding in their unique and complex gifts in the glass. The latest releases from Bow & Arrow are outstanding values and delivers populist drinking pleasures, especially interesting are the newer Sauvignon Blancs, the Melon de Bourgogne, the very cool Air Guitar red made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc in an Anjou style, the 100% Gamay bottlings, and the Hughes Vineyard Pinot Noir, all of which are, like this one, mineral driven, slightly funky, transparent and focused wines, keep an eye out for them or join their list.
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 22, 2020

2016 Bibi Graetz, Grilli, Toscana IGT Rosso, Italy.
The juicy almost carbonic fruity Bibi Graetz Grilli is a super Tuscan red blend from vineyards around Greve in Chianti Classico, close to Siena and in the 2016 vintage it consisted of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah. The area, mostly known for Sangiovese also has lots of international varietals growing along side the native grapes and are set on Galestro and clay soils that brings out a dense richness of fruit and ripe dark flavors. Bibi Graetz, who is a famous Italian/Norwegian artist and Tuscan vigneron, has created one of the regions most prized Italian wineries in the last 15 years and has produced some iconic wines, especially his Testamata, his flagship wine, a 100% Sangiovese wine from old vines. The winery started at Castello di Vincigliata, which was acquired by Bibi’s parents over 60 years ago, and is the base where Graetz crafts his wines, is located on a hillside overlooking the picturesque city of Florence. Graetz’s Testamata legend began here with this small 5-acre vineyard in Fiesole. In Viola (Florence) dialect to have “Grilli” (which translates to crickets in Italian) means to be a dreamer, which fits well with Graetz’s personality. This wine, that was 100% fermented and aged in steel vats to preserve the freshness, was born from the partnership with Mondavi, through the import arm, reflects, as the winery puts it, the creative style and the dynamism of Bibi Graetz, who also is known for a sly sense of humor and playfulness. It should also be noted too, Grilli is different from the norm for Bibi, who broke his own rule and made a wine without indigenous Tuscan grapes, using mostly Bordeaux grapes, mostly Cabernet and Merlot, adding too that bit of Syrah, all which have found a home in Chianti and the Tuscan Coast.

Recently a friend of mine brought this wine in to try as he had found it at a Grocery Outlet for under $10 a bottle, and knowing the brand and having had these Graetz wines since the beginning I knew he had found an insane deal, but I hadn’t had this Grilli before, so it took me by surprise with its soft roundness and easy fruitiness and the fact that Graetz is almost fanatical about using indigenous and historic regional grapes in his wines. So after a bit of confusion, I settled in to just enjoy this tank raised Tuscan red, which offers loads of basic drinking pleasures with a pure sense flavors and medium bodied comfort with an array of black, blue and red fruits and a creamy mouth feel, with just enough tannin and acidity to make it easy with cuisine. There is simple layering of blackberry, candied cherry, tangy currant and fresh picked plum fruits, a touch of pipe tobacco, sprigs of garden herbs and a hint of mocha. This no oak wine, imported now by Michael Mondavi’s Folio Fine Wine Partners, made for the US market is another value offering from Graetz and is very much in the international and clean style, but certainly a contrast to some of the other bottlings in the lineup. I like this wine, hence the Wine of the Day review, but I really love Graetz’s more true native stuff, like his awesome Soffocone di Vincigliata, that is 100% Sangiovese and the stylish Colore Rosso that is special barrel selection made of Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo, as well as the mentioned Testamata. Tasty and smooth, this Grilli is a solid bistro wine that will satisfy most wine drinkers and will go nicely with picnics, pasta and burgers. Graetz has remained a cult producer, an under the radar label, but now with Folio, you should be able to find them more easy, and their Casamata line and this Grilli are a good way to get started.
($28 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2020

2017 Marjan Simčič, Ribolla (Gialla), Opoka, Medana Jama Cru, Brda, Slovenia.
The golden straw/yellow Ribolla from Marjan Simčič, a winegrower in the Goriška Brda wine region in Slovenia, is absolutely stunning, being both mineral driven and steely crisp, but also having depth and sublime textural beauty. The vineyards straddle the Slovenian/Italian border, with half of them on each side and this estate defies country classification, though for this wine we will call it from Slovenia. Josef Simcic started to make wine here in 1860. Five generations later, Marjan Simcic carries on the tradition, making some fabulous wines including his Pinot Noir that I reviewed most recently, plus a must try Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot and this thrilling Ribolla (Gialla). The Ribolla comes from old vines in the best sites with a minimum of 65 years of age at about 250 meters above sea level with a cooler north and western exposures on stony marl (opoka), limestone soil as well as ancient organic matter. Marjan employs natural spontaneous fermentation, with skin contact with berries in the maceration for about 16 days in large 1,000 Liter concrete eggs, for the Ribolla, before being gently (pneumatic) pressed off to a combination of cement and oak. This Opoka cru white saw 10 months in the concrete eggs and then an additional 12 months in 500L oak barrels locally known as tono. These Marjan Simčič Cru Selection wines have a very rich hue in the glass, in this case a glowing yellowish gold, with Marjan adding that they typically have an extraordinary beautiful body, as well as the classic characteristic mineral note. The low, vine covered, hills of Brda open towards the Italian Friulan lowland that supplies warm sea air. Goriška Brda district is only, it should be noted 20-odd kilometres away from the Adriatic not too far away from Trieste. On the north side there are the Julian Alps and the Trnovska Plateau which protects them, in a rain shadow, from the influence of the colder and more severe mountain climate and shorter seasons. This area has a dark war torn history, from both World Wars, and its remoteness makes it a path less traveled, but it intrigues me and I hope to someday visit this special place.

The 2017 Ribolla leads with white flowers, delicate tropical essences, lemon/lime and peach, it gains more and more complexity with air taking on brioche, phenolic savory notes, wet stones, orange, saline, verbena and clarified cream in a wine that feels medium bodied, but somehow weightless and vivid throughout. The fresh acidity is subtle in this wine and everything stays taut, while allowing an impressive layering to unfold in a generous and caressing fashion, this is sublime stuff. Marijan took over the management of the farm in 1988 and in 1997, in the village of Ceglo near Medana, he built a new and modern wine cellar was built, which Simčič believes created the perfect conditions for producing high quality wines, and he was proved right over the next two decades with his wines all being critically acclaimed, especially in recent years by the famous Gambero Rosso Slow wine guide, at which point I became where of them. These wines from picturesque hills that roll between Slovenian Brda region and on the Italian side that is in the Collio region. The Marjan Simčič winery has four wines labeled as “Opoka” (Ribolla, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot) which are his pride and joy, they represent, as he puts it, a completely new dimension of quality in the regions wines. Marjan’s vineyard sites are farmed with mostly organic and natural methods in this historic place with a long growing tradition made up of thick layers of marl and sandstone, these soils of Brda/Collio are ideal for growing vines, which were first planted here as early as Roman times and have long been regarded as Grand Cru quality, and this wine and Simčič’s Pinot very much prove this terroir’s greatness. For Ribolla, this one and the Damijan Podversic Ribolla Gialla from Friuli are my two favorites, though in the new world this grapes gaining popularity with Dan Petroski’s Massicin in Napa making a brilliant example. This vintage is supposed to be available soon, keep an eye out! Marjan Simčič is now directly imported by Wine Warehouse, so be sure to ask your favorite wine merchants about these gorgeous wines.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive