Monthly Archives: September 2020

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 20, 2020

2018 Oakridge “Over the Shoulder” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria Australia.
The Over the Shoulder line Pinot from Oakridge is a value bottling from this Yarra Valley family winery that was first established back in 1978 and this 2018 is very polished and drinks very nicely with layers of bright red fruits, light smoky wood and earthy elements along with touches of spice and mineral tones. Oakridge’s wines are made under the direction of one of Australia’s most notable winemakers, David Bicknell and while I was unaware of this myself, I had seen he praises being noted by famous Oz wine writer James Halliday, who I admire and follow, whenever I can. The Yarra, in Victoria is a top growing area with a range of distinct climates and soils, but is known as a cooler region where Pinot Noir thrives and the track record is very impressive for this fabled Burgundy grape. Oakridge’s vineyards are in the heart of the Yarra Valley, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Australia’s second city (after Sidney) and the Oakridge restaurant and cellar door enjoy many visitors and has received many prestigious awards. I am ever curious about wine and regions, and recently have a re-found love for Aussie wines so I’ve been buying a bunch of different bottles to explore the different regions of this huge country, but with a focus on the cooler zones, like Adelaide Hills, Mornington, here in the Yarra Valley and even Tasmania!

The 2018 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Pinot, which comes from a variety of sites from Coldstream to Woori Yallock with a range of soils that mainly are red volcanic based soils, though there is also a bit of grey alluvial loams as well, all which adds to the character and taste profile, which reminds me a little of some Dundee Hills wines. This vintage shows good ripe fruit development from a long dry summer and harvest with black cherry, wild strawberry, plum and bramble berry leading the way on the medium bodied palate, and while not intended to be overly serious, it delivers more than enough complexity and freshness to be compelling with touches of cinnamon, rose petal and subtle oak to engage the enthusiast. The dark crimson/ruby hued Over the Shoulder Pinot Noir crafted with handpicked grapes and was gently de-stemmed for whole berry fermentation, which lasted for about 3 weeks in open top fermenters prior to being gently pressing into French oak barrels for aging. I had the Timo Mayer whole cluster Yarra Valley Pinot not long ago, which absolutely blew my mind, so I knew this value priced wine might be a let down in comparison, but I actually really enjoyed this silky textured Oakridge Over the Shoulder Pinot, it performed beyond my expectations, especially for the price I paid, which was way below the list price, making it a steal.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 19, 2020

2014 La Source du Ruault, Saumur Champigny “Clos de la Cote” Loire Valley, France.
This beautiful and stylish 100% Cabernet Franc Clos de la Cote, from Jean Noel Millon at La Source du Ruault in his 300 year old cellars carved from the limestone at his family’s estate in the Loire Valley’s Saumur Champigny AOC, is drinking wonderfully with the few extra years of age on it having softened the texture and the pure Cab Franc character is on full display. This dark garnet Saumur Champigny comes from all organic estate vines that are set on the classic tuffeau (chalky limestone) and hardened clay soils that Millon hand tends and harvests to make the Clos de la Cote, a special cuvee he’s made since the 2009 vintage, it is a wine of place that in Millon’s own words, tells a story of the year and nakedly gives every detail, with this 2014 being a wine of classic flavors and should age with exceptional grace. Fans of old school and rustic Cabernet Franc will find joy in this vintage, while those discovering Loire Franc with enjoy the smooth and transparent palate that is rich with blackberry, plum, current and kirsch as well as delicate black olive, crushed stone, anise and dried violets, it proves to be an excellent example of terroir driven and varietal correct Cabernet Franc with soft tannins and does not have distracting flaws, like Brettanomyces “Brett” or off putting aggressive raw green bell pepper, this only hints at it and flows nicely and finishes with weightless length.

Jean Noël Millon, a seventh generation vigneron, was completely unknown to me until I got this wine, who’s aim is to craft authentic wines that show the nature of his region and his family’s land, which this 2014 Clos de la Cote does to near perfection. This cuvee which is the top version of Cabernet Franc is naturally fermented and raised primarily in vat as well as neutral cask to express the grapes in their purist form. Millon took over his family’s Domaine in 1998 and has worked his way into the spotlight through intense hard work, he has 12 hectares of vines that he cares for, 10 being Cabernet Franc, with an only 1 hectare old vine parcel used for this Clos de la Cote, and 2 hectares of Chenin Blanc, from which he make two bottlings, that I will be searching out! The 2014 really opens up with air, it gains depth and richness in the glass with the addition of savory notes, light smokiness as well as cigar wrapper, cedar and framboise notes. This wine from La Source du Ruault is a delicious and vinous Cabernet Franc that looks to provide fine drinking pleasure for another ten to fifteen years, even though its lovely silken character makes it easy to love now. This domaine was a really an unexpected find and I look forward to more wines from Jean Noel Millon, this wine is not loud, but sings in a fine voice, I recommend grabbing it while you can.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 18, 2020

2018 Drew, The Field Blend, GSM Red Wine, Mendocino Ridge.
This I think is the first significant blended wine I’ve had from Drew that has concentrated on most single varietal wines, focusing especially Pinot Noir and Syrah, which are some of the absolute best in California, so it was interesting to see what this Rhone GSM style wine would be like and I found it very much in the Drew character and wonderfully delicious with a decidedly cool climate influence with low alcohol, crisp details and a high tone profile. Jason Drew calls this wine his field blend and a GSM wine, but notes it leans a bit more on Syrah and adds that all the grapes here were picked together and co-fermented in traditional (field blend) style with the Grenache, Mourvedre and the Syrah mainly coming from a small parcel at a 1 acre block on the Valenti Ranch with a touch of Syrah coming from Drew’s block at Perli Vineyard and even a few bunches of Viognier to add aromatic lift. This is a medium bodied red with zesty edges and lots of brambly spices that shows a complex palate of tangy blackberry, plum, strawberry, blueberry, tart pomegranate and cranberry fruits along with fresh cracked pepper, meaty notes, olive tapenade and a hint of Thai basil, adding pretty floral notes once open in the glass. As a side note, on day two of being open, this Field Blend does get a bit richer without losing any of its freshness, it delivers exactly what the vintage gave and hints at its potential.

This 2018 Drew GSM is not as monumental or profound as Jason’s Pinot and Syrah bottlings, but I really enjoyed the bright intensity and easy drinking style here and I am very excited to have this one in Drew’s lineup, hoping it will be a part of their ongoing collection. That said, I bet this wine fills out and gets better in the coming two to three years, without a doubt it will gain textural grace with more time in bottle and with food it showed even better, making it even more compelling. The color is invitingly deep purple/garnet and the nose, subtle at first comes alive with wild herbs, briar and violets, again echoing the classic Syrah markers more so that the Grenache and Mourvedre which a slightly mute at this stage. Drew explains the fermentation was 100% native yeast with about 50 % whole clusters from the mostly Chave selection clone as well as a small amount of heritage McDowell clone Syrah along with the Mourvedre and Grenache. It look like Drew went with used French (oak) casks for the aging here and there is a only a light wood accent showing allowing the wine to be as transparent as possible. Again this cool climate Rhone style blend is vibrant and at just 13.4% natural alcohol, highlighting this unique terroir that is just about six miles from from the Pacific Ocean and the Mendocino coast. Drew recently made Wine & Spirits Top 100 wineries list, I would even argue that they deserve a Top 10 place and I highly recommend getting on their list.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 17, 2020

2017 Domaine Giraud, Cotes du Rhone “Les Sables d’Arène” Rhone Valley, France.
The old vine Grenache, Domaine Giraud Les Sables d’Arène Cotes du Rhone, from vines planted in the Lirac zone back in 1950 is a delicious and thoroughly entertaining Rhone red that shows off its warm vintage concentration and depth of dark flavors. Domaine Giraud, famous for outstanding Chateauneuf du Pape, farms their plots to organic methods and the vines which are grown on limestone and clay overlaid by a thick layer of sand and this Cotes du Rhone takes on the more serious nature of top wines, but at a great price. The 2017 delivers loads of ripe fruits with a full bodied palate of black raspberry, strawberry, plum and creme de cassis bursting from glass along with hints of earth, peppery spices, crushed stone, anise and dried lavender. Because of the Lirac AOC rules, which don’t allow single varietal wines to be included, this pure Grenache has to be label humbly as a Cotes du Rhone, though from 2018 on Giraud now includes Mourvedre and Syrah to get the more prestigious Lirac AOC on the label, so I’m glad I got some of this vintage to try first, especially at the price I found it. Domaine Giraud is a fairly young estate by regional standards, it was established in 1974 by Pierre and Mireille Giraud, though Pierre, who founded the Domaine comes from a long line of vignerons, and is a sixth-generation winegrower in Chateauneuf who has grown the holdings to include some amazing parcels in this distinct terroir. The Cotes du Rhone certainly looks the part with its purple/garnet color and opulent Grenache character, I am more than happy with my purchase here, this is exciting stuff.

There’s a lot to like about this Cotes du Rhone and it definitely got even better with food and air time with a longer finish emerging with lingering floral tones and kirsch notes filling out this little Rhone, it was perfect with a rustic Pizza with red onions and wild mushrooms. Domaine Giraud made their Les Sables d’Arène using 100% hand harvested grapes, all of which in 2017 were the Vieilles Vignes (old vine) Grenache as mentioned, and for this cuvee, all the grapes were de-stemmed with primary fermentation in concrete tanks. After that, two thirds of the Cotes du Rhone was aged for 6 months in cement vats, with one third being raised in neutral French oak demi-muids, which adds some roundness to the texture. Imported by Eric Solomon and European Cellars, this special cuvee Les Sables d’Arène is well crafted by Marie (the family’s winemaker) & François Giraud, who have the legendary Philippe Cambie as a consultant, and it is a teaser wine, giving you a glimpse of what their awesome Chateauneuf(s) have in store for you, putting in a nice and studied performance at a reasonable price. With market conditions and being near the end of vintage, there are even bigger discounts to had on this 2017 version, so search them out, it makes this quality bottling an even better deal! For a step up, but still reasonable, I also high recommend searching out the Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition, also mostly all Grenache, coming from fabulous selected vineyard plots.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 16, 2020

2017 Parsonage Village Vineyard, BDL Red Wine, Central Coast, California.
I’ve been a fan and a follower of Parsonage for close to twenty years now and have tasted most everything they’ve done and the current set of wines are just as appealing and delicious as ever with opulent density and deep flavors offering luxurious drinking pleasures, especially their latest Aussie and this BDL Red Wine, made from classic Bordeaux varietals. This Bordeaux-style blend nicknamed The BDL is mostly from purchased fruit with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot playing the biggest roles. The new label features the quilt “French Laundry” by owner Bill Parson’s hugely talented wife Mary Ellen Parsons, who’s artwork is displayed at their Carmel Valley Village tasting room. The wines are crafted by Frank Melicia, Bill’s son in law and the winemaker at Silvestri, who perfectly captures the house style with ripe fruit and bold expressive wines like this one with its layers of black fruits, creme de cassis and sweet toasty oak accents. Melicia’s BDL shows a polished tannic structure and displays a Cabernet dominant personality with blackberry, black currant, plum and cherry fruits along with a Bordeaux like smoky element and pencil lead as well as anise, delicate floral notes, cedary spices and creamy vanilla from the use of a moderate amount of new French oak. With the devastating local fires ruining with terrible smoke taint the 2020 red grape harvest in Carmel Valley it is a great time to support these family wineries like Joullian, Galante, Boete, Georis, Joyce, Massa and Pasonage to name a few, we are all in this together.

This dark and bold forward wine excels with robust and protein rich cuisine and was great pairing with a marinated Tri-Tip or flank steak, a cut that brings out the complexity and length in this none too shy BDL Red Wine, though I can see this going great with earthy flavors like those in wild mushroom dishes and or juicy short ribs. After a set of difficult vintages between 2013 to 2016, the 2017 is a warmly full bodied year that suits these Parsonage wines and I’m really excited for the 2018 and 2019 releases, which look to push this small family winery to the next level in terms of quality, depth and balance. Pasonage is a tiny estate, it is a realization of a dream for Bill Parsons, a Vietnam vet and recently an acclaimed author who just published his first novel based loosely on his war time experiences, he planted the seven-acre Parsonage Village Vineyard back in June 1998, releasing his first wine from the 2000 vintage. The south-facing hillside vineyard is 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean and a half mile east of the Village on Carmel Valley Road, it sits on steep slopes and is a natural sun basket making for intense, fully ripe and dark grapes, from vines that are exceptional small yielding. The vineyard is planted to 3.5 acres of Syrah, 2.0 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.0 acre of Merlot and 0.5 acre of Petit Verdot, and it should be noted that Parsons was the first to plant Syrah in Carmel Valley and it remains a wine very close to Bill’s heart. The BDL sadly sold out really fast, before I got a chance to even review it, but the Estate bottlings are now being released and are even more interesting!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 15, 2020

2017 Avennia, Syrah “Arnaut” Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington State.
I was really excited to try Avennia’s wines, I had heard great these about these wines and Chris Peterson, Winemaker, and I was not disappointed, this 2017 Avennia Arnaut Boushey Vineyard Syrah is a beautiful and deep wine with lovely detailing and exceptional purity of flavors. Most people agree Dick Boushey’s vines are some of the best in Washington and a Cru site in the Yakima region near the town of Grandview on the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. The vineyards, farmed by Boushey, who is one of the top viticulturists in the United States, started planting back in 1980 with a number of distinct parcels that are generally south-facing slopes that rise from 700 to 1200 ft. The Syrah came later, Boushey came to realize that his site was cooler than Red Mountain and that Syrah would do well, so he added Syrah in 1993 to great effect, becoming one of the most coveted growers in the state. Peterson’s 2017 Boushey Syrah is wonderfully balanced for a full bodied wine with smooth layers of classic Syrah markers with crushed blackberries, dark plum, blueberry and morello cherry fruits along with a touch of bacon, graphite, creme de cassis, cedar, fig paste, mocha, anise and peppery spices, adding pretty floral notes with air and all wrapped up in a style that isn’t too different from Guigal’s polished and lush Cote-Rotie.

The Avennia Arnaut, named for the Provencal Troubadour Arnaut Daniel, who invented the Sestina poem form, which has a special meaning to Peterson, has ripe tannins and has retained some juicy acidity that gives this wine a sense lithe charm that allows the dense concentration to not feel heavy on the palate, it really makes this complex wine come across elegantly and with a pleasing energy. Still youthful, this 100% Syrah looks to have an excellent future ahead of it, though as good as it is already, I cannot see many people being too patient and especially as its fruit is so attractive and entertaining now. Chris Peterson really did his best to let the vineyard speak here, noting that he made this wine with minimal manipulation, using native yeasts, employing about 15% whole cluster in the fermentation, raising it with just 15% new French oak for 16 months in barrel, bottling it unfined and unfiltered, as he adds, to allow the “place” to shine through. This wine has a stellar reputation and track record with the critics, so it was great to see its performance in the glass for myself, and I will also say its day two being open brought out even more expressiveness, both in fruit and savory elements, and completeness, while drinking with an almost Pinot like grace, impressive stuff. Coming in at 14.7% natural alcohol, I was a bit worried it would be a touch hot, but I was happily surprised that was not the case and it went great with even lighter food choices, I look forward to trying more Avennia soon.
($60 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 14, 2020

2014 Turley Wine Cellars, Zinfandel, Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi.
Larry Turley’s iconic Turley Wine Cellars has maintained exceptional quality in a pioneering style for more than three decades with some amazing and awe inspiring wines made from mainly historic California old vine vineyard sites, like this sublimely crafted Kirschenmann Vineyard Zinfandel in Lodi. Turley, along with Ridge Vineyards, Bedrock Wine Co., Carlisle, Martinelli and Biale are keepers of the faith in the modern Zinfandel, highlighting individual vineyard sites and making wines with bold full bodied character, with many of these from vines that were planted in the late 1800s. These producers, especially Turley, are making Zinfandels that are mouth filling, lush and dense with impressive palate impact, giving loads of hedonistic pleasure in their youth, but are serious wine that can age easily 10 to 15 years and in some cases much, much longer, as I believe this 2014 Turley Kirschenmann has the potential to go quite a long way with its depth and structure, it maybe my absolute favorite ever Lodi wine, just surpassing some tasty Cinsault from the Bechthold Vineyard, which also, like Kirschenmann, is in the Mokelumne River zone. The Kirschenmann, as Turley notes, is particularly close to their heart as head winemaker, Tegan Passalacqua, owns and farms this renowned vineyard. The un-grafted old vines here at Kirschenmann were originally planted in 1915 and are set on the silica-rich sandy soils of the east side of the Mokelumne River AVA. Passalacqua takes full advantage of he river’s cool waters and the delta breezes that keeps this arid and warm terroir in balance, allowing these head-trained, dry-farmed vines some protection from the Summer heat.

This 2014, which looks like to very similar in style to the 2018 and 2019 vintages with a cooler demeanor and freshness, though richly layered and complex from a longer growing season that delivered some spectacular grapes to Turley, like those from Passalacqua’s Kirschenmann Vineyard that have produced this gorgeously textured Zin. It’s very notable that Turley Wine Cellars makes forty-seven wines from over fifty vineyards, and as they add, the vast majority of which are single vineyard designate Zinfandel(s) and Petite Syrah(s) coming from all organic sites, most of which are certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers. Also, Passalacqua uses 100% natural or indigenous yeast fermentation to make the distinctive Turley wines. Tegan has lots of experience and is one of the most informed and likable personalities in California wine, after working harvests with the legendary figures like Alain Graillot in the northern Rhône Valley as well as Eben Sadie in Swartland, South Africa, along with a stint working along side Doug Wisor at Craggy Range in New Zealand, plus his time here at Turley under Ehren Jordan, their former winemaker. The 2014 Turley Kirschenmann Zinfandel excels in the glass with a lovely dark garnet/purple color and luxurious mouth feel, it unfolds with black raspberry, plum, morello cherry and Mission fig fruits leading the way along with delicate floral and snappy herb notes, adding an array of spices and a touch of cedary wood. This Kirschenmann is wonderfully rounded, polished and pure with a surprising degree of crisp detailing for a bigger wine that clocks in at around 15% alcohol, in fact this is a remarkably elegant Zinfandel, I highly recommend searching out this vintage as well as grabbing the just released 2018s.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 13, 2020

2016 Weingut Kunstler, Spatburgunder Trocken, Tradition, Rheingau Germany.
I usually rave about Gunter Kunstler’s Rieslings, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that he also produces some fantastic Pinot Noir, especially his Grand Cru offerings, like his fabulous Hollenberg Assmannshausen GG, as well as this wonderfully detailed cuvee Tradition, which is also a great value with layered red fruits, delicate spices, mineral tones and smooth textural charm. The Kunstler estate, one of Germany’s finest wineries, was established when Gunter’s father Franz Künstler in 1965 re-established the Weingut Künstler in Hochheim, which is in the Rheingau between the Main and Rhein Rivers, after his family was relocated out of South Moravian region in modern day Czech Republic. In 1992 Gunter took over the estate and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the VDP, marking that the estate had started on a path to greatness and was beginning its run of crafting a series of stunning dry Rieslings, putting Gunter’s wines in a select group of elite winegrowers. Generally in this zone of the Rheingau, it is warm and slightly humid with soils made up mostly of loess, clay, sand, loam, marl and limestone, more like the Pfalz and or Burgundy, and while Riesling is regal and elegant there is also success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The greatest sites in Hochheim, as noted by Riesling guru Terry Theise, are Domdechaney, Kirchenstück and my favorite Hölle, which can make Rieslings seem like Batard-Montrachet!

The Kunstler 2016 Tradition Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) from a cool damp vintage that saw a brilliant vintage saving burst of sunshine in September that allowed this wine to become a lovely and polished effort with a subtle perfume, gentle smokiness and a well balanced medium bodied palate showing opulent array of black cherry, bright plum, raspberry, cranberry and strawberry red fruits along with a hint of cedar, orange marmalade, light tea notes, baking spices and a cool crisp mineral element. This wine, made to enjoy in its first 3 to 5 years after release is Kunstler’s teaser wine, offering a glimpse of what to expect from his top Cru wines, but being more fresh and open in style. Germany is fast becoming a place to get great Pinot Noir, with some these wines rivaling the world’s best examples, in particular for me are the wines of Meyer-Nakel, Becker, Diel and Kunstler of which are distinctive terroir driven wines of exceptional quality. The dry Spatburgunder is blend of different vineyard lots and made in 1,000-liter oak casks, with Kunstler using mainly the de-classified lots from his single Crus. This a nice way to dig into Germany Pinots and it is wonderfully food friendly and can be enjoyed with a bit of chill too for warm evening meals or picnics. The texture gets more lush with time in the glass and over all you feeling of completeness from this lovely ruby/garnet colored wine. All of Kunstler’s latest releases are worth collecting and the last three vintages from 2016 through 2018 are very compelling and I hear 2019 is a year that raises the bar even higher, I can’t wait to try Gunter’s versions in the year ahead.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 12, 2020

2019 Domaine La Bastide Blanche, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The Domaine La Bastide Blanche, located in St. Anne de Castellet, founded back in the early 1970s is one of the great producers in Bandol, along with Domaine Tempier and Pradeaux, with a terroir of that is rich in limestone. This Domaine is well known for their intense reds and this full bodied Rosé, having a high proportion of Mourvèdre. This 2019 is, like Tempier is a ripe and expressive example of Bandol, delivering mouth filling layers of fresh squeezed raspberry, sour cherry, plum water, strawberry and blood orange along with dry extract. An array of spices, wet stone and some leesy density. This version, is as always, mostly the powerful Mourvèdre with about equal parts Cinsault and Grenache, which gives some generous fruit and fresh zestiness from all hand-harvested grapes on those clay-limestone and cailloux (stony) soils. I can imagine enjoying this with a paella, seafood stews and especially with steamed mussels in spicy broth, but this Bandol Rosé can handle a variety of dishes.

This Bandol Rosé is grippingy stuff, certainly not a whimpy or dull wine, making good use of its impressive structural quality, it’s a wine that performs best with more robust cuisine. The La Bastide Blanche Rosé was crafted with the saignee process using fully ripe and flavorful grapes. While lush and with a natural alcohol above 14%, this vintage has plenty of lift and crisp minerallity that adds some classic charm. Owners of three estates, Michel and Louis Bronzo have a very tidy collection of Bandol vines, and here at La Bastide Blanc they are farming with organic methods, utilizing small yields to add to the impact and concentration they achieve in their wines. The 2019 Domaine La Bastide Bandol Rosé was a blend of about 71% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache, 12% Cinsault and 3% Clairette, a white grape that is co-fermented into main lot, and it should be noted that this cuvée is assembled by Peter Weygandt, the American importer, of Weygandt-Metzler at the domaine with the talented help of Stéphane Bourret, the winemaker and the Bronzo family themselves, with each year being slightly different. This is delicious and very rewarding dry pink wine and selling at almost half the price of Tempier’s Bandol Rosé, it is a real bargain!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 11, 2020

2018 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rüdesheimer Klosterlay, Rheingau Germany.
The 2018 Leitz Klosterlay Kabinett is bright and focused, drinking with a snappy dry tanginess and feels very well balanced with just enough fruity off dry sweetness to go refreshingly well with Asian cuisine, like my mom’s cherished birthday traditional Tommy’s Wok (of Carmel) Chinese meal, which included orange chicken and Singapore curry noodles and BBQ pork, all of which was easily handled by this delightful Riesling. Rudesheim is one of my absolute favorite wine towns to visit and I am a long time fan of Johannes Leitz an d his wines, especially his cru bottlings from the famous Rudesheimer Berg sites, including the VDP GG’s from Schlossberg, Kaisrersteinfels and Roseneck as well as his Prädikat offerings, like this Klosterlay Kabinett. “Lay” is a very old word meaning slate (stone) and “Kloster” is the German translation of Abbey, and the Klosterlay vineyard sits beneath the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, above the eastern edge of the village of Rudesheim in part of the Johannisberg zone, almost all these sites here were church owned vines in the past and walking here you see many religious icons and symbols scattered around. Here, as Leitz notes, the Rüdesheimer Berg begins to gently undulate as it levels out toward the village of Geisenheim and turns from intense slate soils to more heavy loam, loess and clay. Johannes believes this site is best suited for a fruity style with some residual sugar and therefore he choses to makes Kabinett from this terroir. Over the years, I have become quite addicted to opening a Leitz wine on special occasions, they always bring an inner happiness and celebration of life, and this one didn’t fail to add to the joy of having my family around and forgetting the stress of this horrendous year.

The Klosterlay 2018 starts with crisp apple, white peach and lime fruits with zesty acidity cutting the density and sweetness along with a fresh saline element and spicy ginger and clove on the light feeling palate, everything is clear and precise, making for pure Riesling refreshment with a comforting old school charm. The Klosterlay site faces south and gets wonderful ripe flavors and it is mostly loess and loam with some sand and slate, plus veins of quartzite that adds complexity, there’s a beautiful mineral tone that runs the length of this Riesling and while I had it with full flavored Chinese food, it also goes great with more subtle dishes as well. I love Kabinett level wines in the Summer and Fall, the low alcohol, in this case about 9.5%, and light phenolic bitter notes lessen the impact of the underlying sugar, again, especially with Leitz’s example, Kabinett can drink in a drier sense. This vintage is jazzy and refined, opening up with white flowers, crushed flint, tangerine and quince, very poised, as you’d expect from this famous producer, but still playful and without pretense, easy to quaff and it is a wine that generates lots of smiles. The Klosterlay is farmed using sustainable Fair ‘N Green practices, as are all of Leitz’s top sites and Johannes is committed to making sure Rudesheim’s history is preserved and has started a movement to restore many of the original terraces and cares deeply about the health of the region. The basic offerings, with screw caps, at Leitz, are bottling that see stainless steel fermentation and aging with the idea they will be enjoyed in their youth, like this Klosterlay, which was intended to be drunk with its zippy details within its first 3 to 5 years. I can’t wait to return to the Rheingau and in particular Rudesheim with its amazing vineyards and views of the Rhein, this wine absolutely transports me there.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive