Monthly Archives: September 2020

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 30, 2020

2017 Desire Lines Wine Co., Syrah, Griffin’s Lair Vineyard, Petaluma Gap AVA, Sonoma County.
The ripe flavored and smooth flowing 2017 Desire Lines Wines Co Griffin’s Lair Syrah highlights the vintage with some precision and flourish, it proves to be a very different presentation than the prior release even though it was crafted in the very same manner. It is less meaty and gripping and more lavish in rich fruit density with more supple tannin making it hard not to smile, it is a wine of comfort and with considerable flair. As mentioned in my reviews, Desire Lines Wines, made by Bedrock Wine Co.’s Assistant Winemaker Cody Rasmussen, is one of the best new labels in California and his touch with Syrah is proof, especially his Shake Ridge Vineyard and this beautiful dark purple and ruby edged Griffin’s Lair version. Expressive, lightly floral and forward this Syrah carries its California fruit with poise and style showing a layered mouth feel, it delivers black raspberry, dark plum, fig paste, creme de cassis and blueberry plus a very faint gamey note, allspice, cedar and burnt embers on the full bodied, but well structured palate. Everything is polished and integrated, easy to enjoy, but best to decant at this point and have it with hearty cuisine, this Griffin’s Lair Syrah is very much still evolving and looks set for a long life with great potential, I look forward to re-visiting this lovely Syrah again in about 3 to 5 years.

Rasmussen says he uses a mix of old world and California learned methods in the cellar and he notes that the 2017 was fermented using indigenous years or un-inoculated as he puts it, with, same as last year, close to 50% whole cluster. Cody employed a submerged cap through the first half of fermentation, before this Griffin’s Lair was pressed off just short of dryness, and put down to neutral large format French oak barrels, known as Puncheons, for 15 months before bottling. The much loved Griffin’s Lair Vineyard, near Lakeville and at the southern edge of Sonoma Mountain sits over the Petaluma Formation, which consists of heavy loams, mudstones and sandstones deposited as alluvial sediment between four and eight million years ago into an estuary at the western edge of the North American continent. The site is mostly gravels with the pebbles being a rich mix of Sonoma volcanics, Franciscan Complex schists, and Great Valley Sequence sandstones, as Rasmussen explains, that were carried here from near and far by various faults. The climate here is cooled by the wind gap (a constant blast of Pacific Ocean air from Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay) and the San Pablo Bay giving a long growing season that makes for deep complexity, lively acidity and usually heightened aromatics, all of which shine through in wines such as this. Desire Lines Wine Co. is about to send out their new releases and I’m excited about the 2018s, this is a perfect time to get on their list and discover these limited hand crafted offerings.
($42 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 29, 2020

2019 Chateau Pradeaux, Cotes de Provence Rosé, Provence, France.
One of the Rosés of the year so far, the alternative version from Bandol’s famous Chateau Pradeaux that’s labeled as Cotes de Provence Rosé, is made from 45% Cinsault and 40% Mourvedre along with small doses Grenache and Carignan making for a full flavored, but wonderfully dry example of what this region, set on the Mediterranean, is most known for, high quality pink wines to enjoy all day and all year. Over the last 10 years I’ve become a huge follower of this winery and of winemaker Etienne Portalis, who now among the best and highest regarded for his Bandol wines at his family’s historic estate, when I last tasted with him I was blown away with his extended aged Bandol Rouge, which much like a Gran Reserva Rioja saw 10 years of cellar time, with at least 4 of those years in cask, before release, as well as his regular bottlings, including his Rosé(s). Château Pradeaux, founded by Etienne’s ancestors in 1752, is located close to the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, a small village that sits directly on the Mediterranean Ocean between the bigger town of Toulon and the ancient port city of Marseilles. The main Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is composed of entirely of Cinsault and Mourvèdre and well known as one of the finest and most complex in Provence, joining the likes of Domaine Tempier, Clos Cibonne, Domaine Ott and Bastide Blanche in the must have top shelf elite producers. This terroir driven version is one of the best kept secrets, labeled differently and in fact, uses organic vines that were classified as Bandol AOC as recently as 2012, set on the well-drained, highly calcareous Jurassic or even Triassic age, red and white limestone soils.

The 2019 Chateau Pradeaux Cotes de Provence Rosé is bright, mineral driven and layered on the palate with classic Bandol character and substance in a slightly fresher and lower alcohol style with crisp detailing showing crushed raspberries, tart cherry, strawberry, Summer melon and zesty citrus along with hints of earth and spice. This wine gains intensity and body with air as well as adding crushed wet stone, floral rosewater and saline or sea shore elements, this Pradeaux, led by the high percentage of Cinsault really seduces the senses and is exceptionally refreshing with an inner energy and brightness that keeps all the flavors in balance. While the main Bandol Rosé is awesome and a touch more serious, this Chateau Pradeaux Cotes de Provence Rosé is an outrageous value and lacks for nothing in terms of taste and depth, I highly recommend snapping this vintage up, it looks to have another year or two of drinking pleasure ahead of it too, though I wouldn’t likely have that kind of patience! All of Pradeaux’s reds are stellar, with about 95% Mourvedre they are monumental structured wines and are mostly all 100% whole cluster, they usually are held back a bit longer than their competitors as patience here is much more needed, these monster Bandol Rouge(s), that see extended élevage in large oak foudres are wines that will likely outlast many First Growth Bordeaux! After a short maceration on the skins, the Rosé, in order to extract a vivid color, the juice is fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks, according to the winery, to retain freshness, fruit and bouquet. This dry pink was aged about 6 months in cement cuves on the lees, then usually wine is bottled in the Spring of the year following harvest. This is a fabulous Rosé to experience with Fall sunsets and close friends, don’t miss it!
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 28, 2020

2018 Odonata, Sparkling Rosè of Sangiovese, Santa Clara Valley.
Odonata’s lovely Sangiovese Rosé sparkler, which comes from the Machado Creek Vineyard in the Santa Clara Valley region in the shadow of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is lightly fruity and crisply detailed, gaining some nice yeasty notes and texture with air, making for a real treat either on its own or especially with a meal. As I’ve been saying too, Odonata’s winemaker Denis Hoey thinks 2018 will go down as a great vintage in California, noted that, the perfect weather, from a long cooler growing season, allowed the grapes to mature at a steady pace, which delivered wines with finesse and balance, with all the Odonata releases I’ve tried this is especially true, in particular their Pinot, their new Carmel Valley Cabernet, which shouldn’t be missed, and this fun Rosé fizz. The delicate pale pink hue and creamy beading of the mousse make the latest Rosé of Sangiovese an inviting sparkling wine before it even reaches the palate, where it continues to be absolutely delicious with hints of racy citrus, strawberry, apple skin and crushed berries leading the way, before the leesy brioche kicks in adding a touch of luxuriousness to this easily quaffable bubbly. Faint dough and peach flesh come through here on Hoey’s Italian inspired methode ancestrale style wine or classy version of Pétillant Naturel, this is super enjoyable stuff again from this winery based on River Road in the Santa Lucia Highlands.

The Odonata Sparkling Rosè of Sangiovese is very pleasing and provides a little celebration in stressful times, like this year is giving us all, regardless of where you are, and I highly recommend getting a few bottles to brighten your day. Hoey, who was influenced by old world traditions and old Californian wines started making wines at the ripe age of 21 and has become a humble talent with his Odonata label where he crafts a unique collection of wines that come from a range of sites from the SLH to Paso Robles as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. For this Sparkler, Hoey explains, that the early picked Sangiovese juice spent a couple of hours on the skins to provide him with the color we needed, then the grapes were then gently whole cluster pressed and the juice was racked to a settling tank for 24 hours. Once the primary fermentation was completed, about 14 days, he transferred the wine to a stainless tank and two barrels for a short period. After four months of aging, Denis and team “en tirage” bottled the wine with added yeast and sugar that start another fermentation in the bottle. This process, methode ancestrale, naturally creates the fizz in Odonata’s sparkling wines. Hoey makes a point of adding, the fizzy wine wasn’t touched or moved for two addition years, while it aged in bottle and it was disgorged (when the yeast plug is removed from the bottle for clarity) on March 20th of 2020. Also he added 5.0 grams per liter dosage (sugar) to balance out the acid profile, which makes this dry Sparkling Rosé a more rounded! This wine was a huge hit when tasted with a group of wine industry friends, I can’t wait to try it again, it brings lots of welcome smiles!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 27, 2020

2019 Mount Edward, Gamay, Central Otago, New Zealand.
This was my first experience with Kiwi Gamay, though I’ve really enjoyed some Aussie versions over the years, and I was please as can be with this supple and smooth textured Mount Edward Central Otago Gamay that looks to have been made in a more delicate and Pinot like style with a touch of earthy complexity as well as a lingering soft fruity finish. This is not going to fool you that it is a Cru Beaujolais, but it is an easy wine to love and enjoy, especially with a slight chill and simple foods, its array of cherry, strawberry and plum red fruit flavors present themselves transparently with a bit of raw nakedness on the light to medium bodied palate. With air this New Zealand Gamay adds a pretty dark floral notes along with rustic spices, refined acidity and some very cool toned mineral. Grown on ancient glacial deposits in this remote and picturesque part of the country’s south island, this Gamay is one of many interesting and fine efforts from this small winery, maybe best known for their value priced hand crafted TED Pinot Noir.

As mentioned in my first review of their 2016 TED Pinot Noir, Mount Edward is a small winery located in the heart of the Gibbston grape growing district, 25 km from Queenstown, in Central Otago which was started in 1997 as a small personal project. Now, fully organic, Mount Edward has moved on from Pinot Noir and Riesling producer to a winery doing all kinds of cool other wines hat has vineyards in some the best sub zones of the Central Otago region. The avant-garde Mount Edward Winery with their cool labels, like this one, is a collection eclectic personalities and talents led by John Buchanan and his winemaking team, including Duncan Forsyth a long time Central Otago figure. The currant lineup includes Pinot Noir of course, Chardonnay, Riesling as well as this Gamay, along with Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and more, plus a fine Rosé. The Gamay, which should be drunk up as fast as you can get it, comes from the Muirkirk Vineyard, at Felton Road, in Bannockburn, it was all from carefully sorted and de-stemmed ripe grapes, fermented traditionally and aged in neutral cask as not to over shadow the bright fruitiness in this fun wine.
($25-35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 26, 2020

2019 Eden Rift Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Eden – A – Vent, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
One of the most easy and enjoyable Nouveau style Pinots of year is Eden Rift’s Eden – A – Vent 2019, it is everything you’d want in a fruit forward quaffer and has the substance and depth to be taken seriously in the mold of a fine Cru Beaujolais, hence the name which is a play on Moulin – a -Vent and its pure carbonic character is as smooth as silk. The vintage is proving the equal if not better than the much heralded 2018 here on the central coast with slightly smaller yields and just that bit more concentration and complexity showing in the wines, making the year one of best I’ve ever seen in this part of the world, influenced by the cold watered Monterey Bay, its going to be exciting to see more of this vintage in the coming months. The Eden – A -Vent shows an array of bright flavors, its very ripe and juicy with a medium palate of sweet tree picked cherry, black plum, strawberry and some tropical guava fruits along with supple tannin, racy acidity and that satiny mouth feel adding zest spicy details as this Pinot opens up. While the Eden Rift’s upper echelon offerings are wonderfully crafted and studied efforts, I really just love this vividly ruby hued wine that is best served slightly chilled and simple cuisine, its absolutely delightful with its opulent fruitiness and in the background there is notes of cinnamon, light oak and exotic florals.

The 2019 Eden Rift “Eden – A -Vent” Pinot Noir, made by winemaker Cory Waller and team, is limited small-lot wine that is crafted employing 100% carbonic maceration, as the winery notes, is an anaerobic, oxygen deprived, fermentation that is sort of an inside out process in a sealed stainless tank which contributes to this wine’s distinct soft fruitiness and shows faint banana and Jolly Rancher (candied watermelon and pomegranate), which is balanced by some savory elements. Waller, who’s brother Mike is the head winemaker at their (Eden Rift) neighbor, the famous Calera, is a local to the region and has an impressive resume in his own right, making wines at some star properties in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as well as doing some vintages in New Zealand. The Eden Rift estate is a historic homestead that was originally planted to grape vines back in 1849, which makes it one of the oldest in California and has some old vines, mostly Zinfandel, that date back to 1910, called their Dickinson Block. There are some incredible terraces on the property, which are now planted with some heritage clones of Pinot Noir, including Calera clone as well as Mount Eden clone, which forms the top wines made here. The soils here, which are limestone and mineral charged dolomite, and the proximity to the Pacific Ocean that helps retain freshness in the grapes in this unique terroir. I have been really impressed by the lineup here and recommend checking them out, especially the Terraces Chardonnay and Pinot, along with the mentioned old vine Dickinson Block Zinfandel, plus this Eden – A – Vent Pinot.
($36 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 25, 2020

2018 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The long cool growing season of 2018, great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands, allowed for one of the best vintages in decades across the board with a vast array of great wines being made in the region, but Syrah did exceptionally well too, especially in the hands of the talented Jeff Pisoni, who’s gorgeously inky and perfumed Soberanes Syrah is one of the best wines of the vintage so with amazing complexity, purity of fruit and depth. The latest Syrah release from the Soberanes Vineyard, a joint venture between the Pisoni and Franscioni families, that is located higher up on the Santa Lucia Highlands Bench adjacent to the famous Garys’ Vineyard with rocky/loamy soils and the cool climate that the AVA is known for, highlights the quality of this site that is planted to 33 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. The profound Soberannes Syrah was hand crafted from carefully farmed lots with the grapes being mostly Alban clone, also known as a true Cote-Rotie selection, which thrives here and makes for a wine of tremendous character, style and sex appeal, in particular this 2018 with its striking dark opaque purple/black/garnet hue and its intriguing meaty note that this youthful wine delivers before a classic bounty of Syrah elements come alive in the glass with beautiful violets, peppercorns, blue and black fruit and a subtle smoky sweet oak accent. The full bodied palate is dense with blackberriy, boysenberry, currant jelly, plum and kirsch as well as black licorice, a hint of camphor or graphite, sage, lavender and faint bacon fat and this wine is perfectly dimensioned and its muscular power is masterfully graceful with acidity and polish tannins. This wine, like a growing number of top producers including Pax, Drew, Arnot-Roberts, Halcon and new comers Cody Rasmussen of Desire Lines Wine Co. and Samuel Louis Smith to name a few prove that Syrah in California can complete with, and in wines like this, surpass many elite Northern Rhone offerings are are some of California’s most compelling wines.

Jeff Pisoni has raised the bar with this vintage, and I hear the 2019s are going to be truly mind blowing as well, which confirms what I have been tasting so far, and his Northern Rhone inspired Soberannes Syrah, along with the soon to be released Lucia Garys’ Pinot, which I also got a chance to taste, are as close to perfection as it gets. It’s well know, that the Pisoni family, led by Jeff’s dad Gary Pisoni, are committed to quality, these are people with a deep and passionate love of wine and the region, they’ve really turned the Santa Lucia Highlands (the SLH) into one of world’s great wine-growing zones with their prized Estate Vineyard, the Garys’ Vineyard and this Soberanes being Grand Cru like sites, and insiders believe that Soberanes is just getting started and might turn out to be the place with the best potential going forward, and wines like this makes a strong case. For this 2018 Soberanes Syrah the younger Pisoni used 100% whole cluster and indigenous (native) yeast fermentation and just 20% new oak, all carefully picked French barrels that enhance the grapes true nature, while also adding a smooth mouth feel. This wine is outrageously delicious, with ripe fruit and savory tones, already, though I am certain it will only get better in the bottle and I think cellaring it for 5 to 10 years will bring a much more rewarding experience, to me, this will rival top Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, like Chapoutier’s Ermitage, Guigal’s Chateau d’Ampuis, Chave Hermitage and Jaboulet’s La Chapelle! I have been saying over the years that in some vintages, Syrah is actually the best wine in the SLH, in fact my own conversion in thinking when tasting through the Lucia, Roar and Novy (Siduri’s other label at the time) from the 2004 vintage, which all were made by Adam Lee, who consulted for Roar and Pisoni at the time, and since then they (Syrah) have only got better. This Lucia Soberanes Syrah is outstanding stuff, it may not get as much love as the Pinots, but it is wine that should not be missed, it is also a great wine to celebrate Pisoni’s twentieth anniversary vintage.
($60 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 24, 2020

2018 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Roxheimer Höllenpfad, Nahe Germany.
These 2018 Donnhoff’s are gorgeous wines, they offer a high level of pleasure as well as having taut structures with precise detailing, especially this fabulous Höllenpfad Trocken which shows its terroir distinction to near perfection with a mineral driven palate and expressive Riesling fruit character with an array of citrus, peppery spices, zest ginger, clove, stone fruit and a subtle tropical element. At first, you’d be forgiven if you were reminded of Chablis with the steely starts and expansive lemon/lime, before the Riesling energy takes over and it reveals apricot, kumquat, chamomile, verbena and orange blossoms. This Höllenpfad is chiseled from stone and is crisply focused, but allows for textural density without sweetness or heaviness, it shows remarkable clarity of form and transparency, this Riesling is so good, it could easily be mistaken for a GG! The Roxheimer Höllenpfad was acquired in 2010 and has quietly risen in fame within Donnhoff’s mighty selection of top sites, all of which are individually distinct in flavors, with this site being noted for its charming, less severe profile, but don’t get the wrong idea, this is a serious site and while easy to love this is profound Riesling. The Nahe region is coming on strong with a string of great years and majestic wines, with this dry Riesling highlighting the incredible talents of the winegrower and the quality of this particular vineyard in a south-facing side valley just off the river.

The “Höllenpfad” (“Path to Hell”) name is an old one, according to Terry Theise, the long time importer and Riesling guru, and likely was a reference to both the vineyard‘s steep slope as well as the unique color of the red sandstone in this Cru. Theise adds that, the surrounding landscape is bathed daily in the rich, warm light of the sun, like a crimson glow, especially in the evenings, as it reflects off the hillside‘s with its distinctive red soil. Jokingly Terry says, after walking this vineyard, It‘s also not hard to imagine that the word “Hell“ might have been uttered by many anyone working these vines on these steep slopes. The Roxheimer Höllenpfad is uniquely set on a mix of limestone along with mineral and iron rich veins of red sandstone, it is a prestigious VDP Erste Lage Cru (Premier Cru) with 10-40 year old vines. Hand crafted by Cornelius Donnhoff, one of Germany’s most outstanding winemakers, the Höllenpfad Riesling trocken saw a combination of stainless and used large oak Fuder for fermentation, that is spontaneous, and aging to express freshness and complexity, making for a wine that drinks great upon release, yet has the substance and depth to age decades. At the price, this is one of the best values in Donnhoff’s awesome collection and I highly recommend grabbing a few bottles, it will certainly be a rewarding venture. Donnhoff, which is notably one of the greatest wineries in the world, is a must have in this vintage (2018) and from what I have tasted so far again in 2019, which looks set to a legendary year.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 23, 2020

NV Jansz “Premium Rosé” Brut Sparkling Wine,Tasmania, Australia.
An absolutely delicious Brut Rosé from Jansz, a winery focused on Champagne style sparkling wines on the Australian island of Tasmania, one of the world’s southern most growing regions with a cool climate that favors Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with plenty of zest acidity that gives this wine its verve and elegance. In what Jansz calls sparkling wine made using Méthode Tasmanoise, this Premium Rosé Brut is crafted using multi vintages and blend from 68% Pinot Noir and 6% Pinot Meunier along with 26% Chardonnay, which adds to the richness and length, it also sees close to two years on the lees, with secondary fermentation in bottle. There’s a lot to love about this Tassie Bubbles and I loved the fine mousse and electric feel of the tiny beading along with the impressive dry palate of racy citrus, strawberry, tart cherry fruits and its mineral tones adding lovely white flowers, brioche and a hint of hazelnuts, making for a complex and food friendly bottle. While decedent and polished, this sparkling Rosé with also thrill those that enjoy the grower producer Champagne style, and it is wonderfully easy to enjoy on its own, though as mentioned it has the structure and intensity to go with many cuisines and dishes, including caviar and or briny fresh oysters.

The name Jansz, as the winery notes, pays homage to Tasmania’s namesake, the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman who first sighted the island in 1642. In fact, the estate, when it was established in 1975, the Jansz vineyard was originally named after Tasman’s ship, the Heemskerk. In 1986, esteemed Champagne house – Louis Roederer partnered with the owners of Heemskerk Wines to produce Tasmania’s first premium vintage sparkling wine. Since 1997 the winery has been in family hands and owned by the Hill-Smith’s, who have raised the game here, as well as the profile of Tasmanian sparklers, making Jansz one of the highest regarded Champagne style sparkling wine houses in the world and an Australian treasure. The Jansz Tasmania vineyard, under the guidance of two talented women, cellar master Teresa Heuzenroeder who overseas the winemaking and Jennifer Doyle viticulturist who cares for and farms the vines, sits to the northeast of the island state within the Pipers River region of the Tamar Valley with the vines set on pure, red, free-draining basalt soils and in close proximity to Bass Strait, which gives cool sea breezes and keeps the temps moderate enough to allow the vines to survive the cold winters here. This Brut Rosé is quality stuff and a great value, this one to try and well worth searching out!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 22, 2020

2017 Biggio Hamina Cellars, Pinot Noir “Biha” Van Duzer Corridor AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The brilliant ruby hued Biha Van Duzer Pinot, made by Todd Hamina, at Biggio Hamina Cellars is a beautiful and racy Pinot Noir with layers of bright cherry, strawberry, pomegranate and tangy plum fruits bursting from glass along with delicate rose petal, cinnamon, orange tea and dried herbs. I hadn’t had the Biggio Hamina Cellars wines before this bottle and now I know I have been missing out, this is intriguing stuff and it just got better and better as the evening went on and impressively it was the next day that things really got going, especially aromatically and texture wise without losing its exciting drive and vibrance. Hamina comes with tons of Willamette experience including time at some famous places, his CV includes stints at Archery Summit, Beaux Freres, Chateau Benoit, Elk Cove, Maysara and Patton Valley! That should get your attention and his Biha should be on your radar for value, plus he makes the wine for Claygate, Noel, Schönetal Cellars, Gypsy Dancer, Primavera and a couple blends for Longplay, all of which I plan to check out. He style seems a mature approach to natural or minimalist winemaking with the use of indigenous yeasts, or as he puts it, spontaneous fermentation without imputes or additions, employing neutral French barriques and bottling without cold stabilization or filtering to allow the grapes and vineyards to show their distinctive character.

The Biha line is Hamina’s and partner Caroline Biggio’s single AVA collection, plus one general Willamette Valley offering of value Pinots with his 2017s being from Chehalem Mountains, Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton as well as this Van Duzer Corridor, which I highly recommend, it has whetted my appetite for the rest of Biggio Hamina wines. This Van Duzer Pinot joins a elite set of quality bargains from Oregon along with Hundred Son’s Old Eight Cut Pinot, Love & Squalor, Bow & Arrow’s Rhinestones (a Gamay and Pinot Noir blend), Purple Hands’ basic Willamette Valley Pinot and Johan’s Farmlands Pinot to name a few, all of which are very different, but offer big bang for the buck. Hamina, like many of this newer generation is committed to more restrained use of new barrels, saying in a perfect world he’d use tons of whole cluster and no new oak and here you can taste the merits of that formula with the whole bunch and stem inclusion crunchiness and purity of fruit, which I admit I am a huge fan of. The Biggio Hamina Biha Van Duzer 2017 has loads of exciting flavors, savory zing and a polished or satiny mouth feel with no overt French oak needed, making a Pinot that goes great with an array of cuisine, I enjoyed it with smoked salmon. As new discoveries go, this one is was incredibly pleasing and I plan to explore more of these small production hand crafted Biggio Hamina wines!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2020

2017 Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce “Rio Madre” Graciano, Rioja, Spain.
A super value priced Spanish red, made from 100% Graciano and crafted by winemaker, Ana Escudero at Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce from vines in the Rioja region, this Rio Madre showing rich/ripe fruit along with delicate floral notes and snappy spiciness, it is without question a savvy buy and well made wine to enjoy anytime and without guilt. Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce is a unique winery for Rioja, mainly making wines that have little or no Tempranillo and has gained a reputation as a Graciano champion and specialist, with this version a collaborative effort with the famed US importer Jorge Ordóñez, exclusive to the United States. This vintage is opulent, highlighting the warm of the Spanish sunshine, which was especially warm in 2017, with lush raspberry, plum and strawberry fruits leading the way on the smooth full palate along with a lingering soft creamy dimension of kirsch and hints of cedar and baking spices. Graciano, usually a background component in Rioja wines along with Garnacha, does make for very intriguing single varietal wines and this Rio Madre is a fun and easy way to start off with when discovering this grape which is also known as Tintilla and found as far away as the Canary Islands and in California where Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines makes a stunning version.

The Rio Madre Graciano is sourced from vines that are up to 90 years old set on soils that are characterized by stony alluvial deposits of the Ebro River and are up at close to 500 meters above sea level in Rioja Baja mountain range. To keep fresh details and balance, Ana Escudero uses a combination of stainless, concrete and used French oak to ferment and raise this tasty Rioja wine, with all the grapes coming from sustainable farming practices without irrigation or the use of pesticides. To keep the focus on the pure fruit all the grapes were careful sorted and de-stemmed with a well judged maceration to extract color and depth of flavor, again, as noted, using some stainless steel fermenters and cement vats keeping temperatures cool, the aging with some in the neutral barrels adds to the supple layering in this exceptional for the price offering. Jorge Ordóñez has over the last twenty years has been a great ambassador for Spanish wines and has introduced America to many lesser known Spanish grapes from Monastrell (Mourvèdre) to Verdejo and was big player in getting Albariño to the US market, as well as promoting some of the classics from well known regions like Rioja, along with Toro and the Ribera del Duero. The Rio Madre Rioja is a great party wine and crowd pleaser, making for a juicy clean red that goes great with a range of cuisine, drinks nicely on its own and certainly more exotic than most wines in its price class!
($12 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive