Monthly Archives: December 2020

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 31, 2020

2018 Sandlands Vineyards, Zinfandel, Lodi Wine, California.
The latest set of wines from Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua at Sandlands Vineyards from the 2018 vintage are true reflections of time and place with the long cooler growing season giving fabulous depth and balance and out of the set of outstanding wines, one of my favorites is the Lodi Zinfandel with its spot on black raspberry led Zin flavors, spicy tones and textural excellence. Tegan farms and artisan crafts this Lodi Zin from a selection of grapes from his own Kirschenmann Vineyard, a historic site on the East Side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA that was originally planted back in 1915 on silica rich, white sandy soils. It has become one of the most prized vineyards in the Lodi region and produces expressive and pure Zinfandel grapes that go into some big time delicious wines, like Turley’s version, which Tegan also makes alongside his own Sandlands, of which he made just seven barrels of in 2018. In recent years Lodi has seen a move away from ultra jammy and oaked up wines with a new focus on individual old vineyards and more transparency with some fantastic, maybe lighter styled wines coming from this Central Valley region, with Sandlands leading the way with their juicy fresh Lodi Zin and the delicately quaffable 100% Cinsault being excellent examples. The Lodi Zinfandel starts with bramble berry, crushed lilacs and a spicy briar note with refined and smooth tannins along with nice push of natural acidity as well as a lingering pepper, anise and framboise. The palate is dense or lush and at 14.4% it not thin by any means, but it certainly does feel hot or overly heavy, again this is as pure Zinfandel as it gets and its beautifully layered with very subtle oak, which seems like well seasoned used barrels.

Tegan Passalacqua started his own label to focus on unique old California vineyard sites and what he calls outliers or forgotten grapes, he makes a fine range of mostly red wines, though he does do a Napa Chardonnay and a few different Chenin Blancs, all his wines are hand crafted and made to show off the terroirs, which this one does with wonderful clarity. His collection of small lot wines include the ones mentioned above, plus a Contra Costa Carignane and Matrao (Mourvedre) as well as an old school Mission (Listan or Pais), a 100 year old vine Grenache and a gorgeous Cote-Rotie style Syrah from the Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard. I first got hooked on Tegan’s wines when I tasted his awesome Carignane close to ten years ago and his new releases keep me a big fan and I love the exciting set that I was able to get, being on his mailing list is a must for California wine enthusiasts and Passalacqua’s efforts are incredibly reasonable price wise, but sadly they sell out almost as soon as the offers go out. The winemaking for these Sandlands Vineyards is gentle and my own perception leads me to think a lot of attention is paid to textural quality with each of the red wines displaying a sensation of pleasure that is impossible to resist. This purple/ruby hued Zin has plenty of fruit, but is superbly offset by the spicy and savory elements that add complexity and makes it very tasty with an array of cuisine choices. Tegan, who as noted many times, is the head winemaker and vineyard manager for the famous Turley Wine Cellars, is one of the most knowledgeable wine minds in California and loves these classic heavily sandy decomposed granite soils that give his wines their distinct personalities. There are so many thrilling California wines coming out from 2018 and 2019 vintages and these Sandlands, in particular, are well worth searching out!
($39+ Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 30, 2020

2018 BiNaume (Clarie Naudin/Jean-Yves Bizot) Le Gamay de l’Allie, Vin de France.
The BiNaume label is a small project started by Claire Naudin, of Burgundy’s Domaine Naudin-Ferrand and her husband Jean-Yves Bizot, of Domaine Bizot a highly regarded producer famous for exceptionally limited bottlings of Vosne-Romannee, and was formed after the terrible 2016 frosts in the region destroyed a huge percentage off Naudin’s crop. The Gamay came from the Allier area, when, thanks to her sales agent in Paris, who introduced Naudin to Florent Barichard from Les Terres d’Ocre, a domain located in Saint-Pourçain, part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region near the upper Loire Valley, who was kind enough to share some of his grapes. This collaboration has allowed three vintages now and I was intrigued by the story, which reminded me of the Jura’s Jean-Francois Ganevat’s own difficult harvests that led to him adding grape sources throughout France to make up for the loss of his production, and I acquired a bottle of this 2018 Le Gamay de l’Allie to try, a good decision as it turns out. The BiNaume 2018 Gamay is beautifully pure and stylish with loads of fresh detail making for a wine that will please those that love Cru Beaujolais with dark berry fruit, spice, mineral tones and delicate florals. The palate is crisp and finely structured showing black cherry, strawberry, plum and pomegranate fruits along with a touch of earth, sweet herbs, flinty crushed stones, walnut and a lingering sense of liquid violets on the light to medium bodied palate. I monitored this bottle over two days and it never lost its thrill, it is fun and delightful, gaining a richer texture and graceful length when allowed to full open.

Claire Naudin, located in à Magny lès Villers, who is known for her traditional leanings and more natural approach in the cellar hand-harvests some of Barichard’s Gamay which is set on granite based soils and employs a gentle regiment with some whole bunches and lees aging in neutral cuves beton (cement vats) to promote a soft mouth feel and to retain the Gamay’s brisk acidity. To make this wine more easy and quaffable, Naudin uses almost no additions of SO2 or sulphites during the winemaking process which gives this Gamay is expressive personality. After tasting this lovely Gamay, I am going to explore more of the BiNaume offerings as well as searching out Claire’s Domaine Naudin-Ferrand Burgundies. Interestingly Clair does a collection of wines from Chile under her Rouge Gorge label, giving her an off season bit of work in the Colchagua Valley. It should be noted that Naudin has experience with Gamay at home in the Cote d’Or, which goes into her Omayga Rouge Passetoutgrain, that is a classic blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. This dark garnet and ruby Gamay went great with more holiday leftovers and is at its best with food, even better with a slight chill that brings out its vividly bright fruit, I thoroughly enjoyed this zesty Gamay and am planing on scoring a few more. Gamay, a once described as evil and maligned for generations, is really gaining traction in the States with an explosion of tasty versions both in California and Oregon, as well as getting some deserved attention in the old world and in New Zealand’s Central Otago, plus Australia, with some outstanding wines coming out of the Yarra Valley.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 29, 2020

2019 Drew, Pinot Noir, Mid-Elevation, Mendocino Ridge.
The just released 2019 Mid-Elevation Pinot Noir by Jason Drew is a beautiful and youthful wine of great detail and purity, wonderfully bright, a bit juicy and serious on the palate with ripe Pinot fruit, spice, mineral tones and racy herb notes that showcase the vintage and highlights the edgy partial whole bunch fermentation, making for a wine that delivers depth and exceptional value. I love the dark electric ruby/garnet color and the aromatics as the wine goes into the glass and the fresh vivid flavors on the medium bodied palate with layers of black cherry, tart currant, tree picked plum, brambly raspberry and strawberry fruits, a hint of pepper, rose petals, a fine saline note, cinnamon, cola bean and dried celery root as well as a subtle faint oak accent. This wine has much more to offer and will certainly gain dramatically over the following few years in bottle, but that said it is still easy to love now and those that love primary and vibrant wines will not be penalized by popping the cork on this lovely wine, even though it will reward the more patient. It is an important preview to the vintage, which looks outstanding with complex fruit density and good acidity that makes for exceptional structure, especially for Pinot Noir, similar to the previous 2018s and in some ways I wouldn’t rule out them actually being better. As the Drew Mid-Elevation Pinot opens in glass it constantly changes like most great wines do giving every sip another revelation and sensation, adding more clarity, range with richer fruit intensity and earthy/savory (crunchy) elements emerging and more of a heightened floral bouquet over an hour or so. The Fall and Winter releases at Drew are a must for enthusiast wine lovers, these transparent Pinots are simply fantastic with a real sense of place, they will make believers of the Burgundy only fans and the Valenti and Perli Syrahs here are classic Northern Rhone style efforts and some of my favorites and have been for a long time.

The Drew Mid-Elevation Pinot Noir is the winery’s Mendocino Ridge appellation Pinot Noir, sourced from two sites in 2019, both set on the area’s oceanic sedimentary and sandy loam soils and its cool climate. Drew says the mission with this bottling is to showcase distinct character and profile that these coastal ridges of Mendocino Ridge give his wines, adding he wants to express these qualities in an elegant and mineral driven Pinot Noir, which this wine achieves, making it a gateway wine to both the region and to Drew’s stunning collection of offerings. The two vineyards used for the Mid-Elevation Pinot, the estate Faite De Mer Farm and the Valenti Ranch Vineyard in this blend, are planted to a variety of clones including 115, 667, 828, 943 and the Mt. Eden heritage clone, as the winery notes, makes for some undeniable synergy. All of vines lie between 1200-1450 feet above sea level in the mid elevation of the parcels on these breezy hillsides, hence the name, and both are within six miles to the Pacific Ocean, close to the fog line, adding length to the growing season and with its moderate maritime conditions retaining a crisp acidity and allowing for lower natural alcohols. Drew employs all organic farming methods these days and a gentle touch in the cellar with 100% native yeast fermentations with this wine and vintage seeing close to 35% whole cluster and stem inclusion with just two gravity flow rackings (to clarify this wine that ages on its fine lees) with close to a year in mostly used French oak, this year got just 6% new wood. I jumped ahead a little when I opened this one, as I am still just beginning to explore Drew’s cru 2018 bottlings, which are as mentioned, some of the greatest wines available in California, like their Morning Dew Ranch Pinot that I recently reviewed, if you’ve not got a chance yet to try Drew, this is a great time to get started, be sure not to miss these Pinots and the Syrahs. The delicious 2019 Mid-Elevation Pinot, if opened near term, excels with either gamey dishes like duck breast with berry reduction and rosemary lamb as well as wild mushroom risotto and or seared pepper crusted Ahi.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 28, 2020

2016 Le Miccine, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
This antic podere (ancient estate) in the hills of Gaiole in the famous Chianti Classico region of Tuscany has been on a roll since being taken over by the youthful talents of Paula Papini Cook, the Canadian winemaker who after studying in France and Spain came to her family’s sleepy Le Miccine and has made it a world class label. Bringing her energy and attention to detail, she quickly brought a new level of quality to the wines here and started an organic and holistic conversion to the vineyards that has really given her latest releases a boost, especially her gorgeous 2016 Le Miccine Chianti Classico Riserva, which I just received from the winery along with Paula’s Chianti Classico (white label) 2018, which people are saying is looking like another exceptional vintage like 2016 was in Tuscany as well as her single vineyard Merlot, a wine that, like Castello di Ama down the road, should not be overlooked, the super limited Gran Selezione, her ultra luxurious and flashy special edition offering that I will give a bit more time before reviewing, plus her Bianco and Rosato. The 2016 Reserva shows exceptional purity and ripe density, it drinks very much in the same class as a Brunello and or a Vino Nobile, with structured layers of dark fruit, sweet tannins and well judged savory elements showing black raspberry, plum, cherry and bright currant fruits, zingy spices, a touch of orange rind, tangy herbs, tobacco leaf, grilled fennel, subtle floral tones, mineral and a light cedary shading. This wine is dark garnet in the glass and an absolutely joyous on the rich palate, it drinks so nicely now you’d not want to wait, but patience should pay rewards as well here, and as with all of Paula’s wines, it really goes best with food. Le Miccine is a winery that deserves to be mentioned in the company of the stars in the region, like Felsina, Montevertine, Carpasa and the mentioned Ama, to name a few, the wines here are more soulful, rather than flamboyant, much to their credit and are deliciously natural, which I find more alluring.

The 2016 Le Miccine Riserva, made from certified organic grapes, a top selection of the best of the vintage, is almost all Sangiovese (95%) and with maybe just a tiny amount of Malvasia Nera (5%) as well, depending on vintage, coming from the highest south facing parcels above Gaiole that soak up the sun and get refreshed by the cool night time temps at this elevation that adds depth, balance and complexity. The Le Miccine property has long been a farm and an important stop on the Chianti trail, it was a way station or rest area for travelers, traders and their donkeys, which were very common for hauling goods and produce, like olive oil and lava beans, as well as wine of course, in fact the name Le Miccine is translated from the local dialect meaning a small female donkey. The vineyards here were initially planted in the sixties, alongside the old olive trees and that is when the estate began to produce their own wines, which were rustic and traditional in style, but it wasn’t until the Quebec born Paula Papini Cook came here in 2008 that the true quality of the terroir was unlocked and the vines started to realize their full potential. The traditionally crafted Riserva saw, as per the DOCG rules, 24 Months in oak, which smoothed out the raw edges without overt wood showing at all letting the natural character of the Sangiovese sing in its best voice virtually solo and with an expressive and elegant style. The estate has at least six unique clones of Sangiovese in the vines here along with other native grape red varieties such as Malvasia Nera and Colorino, as well as the plot of Merlot, which is now only in the solo effort and not added to the normale Chianti Classico or Riserva bottlings. I have been a fan since I first tried the early Papini Cook made Le Miccine efforts and while I loved her awesome 2013 version, this 2016 is on another level, I highly recommend chasing her wines down, in particular this fantastic stuff. This wine, with its sense of place, got me dreaming of getting back to Tuscany, a great escape of my mind from the darkness of the year, I can’t wait to visit these picturesque ancient hilltop villages and historic vineyards.
($35 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 27, 2020

1996 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France.
What a treat to find a perfectly cellared bottle of Gigondas, especially Domaine Santa Duc, one of old world classics, an estate that was originally founded back in 1874, and still considered a vocal point of great southern Rhone wine, with this 1996 still full of life and freshness, remarkably so in fact, but with beautiful maturity and perfectly aged complexity. The fruit is vibrant and pure with macerated or balsamic dipped strawberry, raspberry preserves, plum and a touch of brandied cherry along with a faint sous bois and leathery note as well as earth and spices popping on the graceful medium bodied palate that has the poise of a Burgundy at this stage, what an exceptional bottle this is, except for the slightly crumbly cork that highlighted my mistake to not have an Ah So (pronged cork puller) handy. Once the cork and bits were dispatched the wine slowly opened up its aromatics with a hint of game and dried flowers which again reminded me of an aged Nuits-Saint-Georges before the Rhone warmth comes through with touches of lavender oil, anise and the echo of baked dusty red fruits. The color here is showing the decay of time with an almost Nebbiolo like hue with some bricky edges while through the middle there is still a nice crimson/garnet core, this 1996 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas vastly over performed my expectations and was holding strong and true throughout the Boxing Day eve and was delicious on its own and with a variety of leftovers. The Gigondas from Domaine Santa Duc is sourced from a selection of older parcels that are distinctly diverse with some in cooler zones and on hillsides with many complex soils including calcareous, stony red clay and alluvial soils that allows for good natural acidity and mineral tones to shine through even in hotter years.

The famous Domaine Santa Duc, located at the foot of the legendary Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range that is the spine of the region in the Gigondas zone with the sixth generation of winegrowers, Benjamin Gras, now carrying on the family’s history and tradition here. The wines here at Domaine Santa Duc are old school efforts coming from special massale selections of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault, farmed by hand and with biodynamic and true holistic methods. In the cellar the Gras team uses 100% whole cluster vinification with the Gigondas seeing fermentation with wild yeasts, minimum interventions, but with meticulous attention to detail and careful sorting at harvest ensuring only the best grapes make it into their offerings. The non-filtered wines show their sense of place and are proudly robust and transparently pure, somewhat gritty and raw when released they gain tremendous charm and character with mid term aging, and in this case after a quarter of a century in bottle, proving their quality. Domaine Santa Duc have two fabulous terroirs of the southern Rhone Valley from which to chose from – Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with both appellations being equally desirable, but I am more seriously drawn to the Gigondas and this one really excelled, fantastic stuff that captures the essence of this land, this wine made a huge impression on me and now I’m super excited to get some 2016 and later releases to enjoy and maybe patiently age a few! This bottling, like later versions comes from vines in eight different Lieux-Dits and was about 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre and 2% Cinsault that was aged 18 months in a combination of 18 months in foudres and terracotta jars. The whole bunch and stems are totally integrated in this wine, being of a certain age, where as the younger wines are rather more aggressive and punchy best enjoyed with hearty cuisine.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 26, 2020

n.v. R.H. Coutier, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France.
The Champagne house of R.H. Coutier has a long history with the Coutier family having been a fixture in the famous village of Ambonnay since 1619, with fifth generation vigneron Antoine Coutier, who is working under his father Rene, now leading this artisan estate and making wonderfully distinctive bubblies. The Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut is a lively, but richly flavored grower fizz with racy citrus and pure apple fruits driving the profile here along with subtle leesy brioche and hazelnut notes adding a sense of luxurious feel to go with the creamy mousse. There is an impression of power and electric energy, which almost gives you reason to think this is an Extra Brut or a non dosage, though when it opens it gets denser and more complex, it fills out to what you’d expect from a top notch Grand Cru 100% Chardonnay Champagne and is sublime with food. This Blanc de Blancs Brut was mostly based the 2016 vintage at close to 60%, a very nice year and with about 40% reserve wines, seeing a low dosage, at just 6.5 grams of sugar per liter and it was disgorged this last February of 2020. I was highly entertained and impressed by this edition of Coutier’s Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs and it was delicious with the Christmas meal and graceful on its own by the fire.

The Coutier team hand farms nine hectares, all in Grand Cru vineyards, all sustainably with mostly organic methods, but keep their own production very small, in fact they sell close to 80% of their fruit to the local cooperative, while only selecting the very best grape bunches to craft a maximum of 2,000 cases for their own label. R.H. Coutier is a real grower Champagne house that focuses on freshness of character with almost all of the wines here fermented and aged in stainless with edgy acidity playing a key role with only about half of the Coutier juice going through malolactic fermentation, depending on the vintage and as mentioned a low dosage is used to keep all the vitality in the bottle. While this is beautiful terroir driven Chardonnay, interesting as Coutier was the first to plant it in the village, has a spectacular set of Pinot Noir vines, for which Ambonnay is most famous for, as well and their basic cuvee tradition, 70% Pinot and 30% is a firmly structured and wonderfully complex wine that should not be missed either. The more clay based limestone soils and warm exposure give these Champagnes an appealing ripe nature and depth, which comes through here, this is a great value and its very expressive, I highly recommend this elegant stuff for any celebration and what’s left of the holiday meals.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 25, 2020

2017 Domaine de Ferrand, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The beautifullly pure and palate pleasing Domaine de Ferrand 2017 Chateaneuf-du-Pape by vigneron Philippe Bravay comes from some of the oldest Grenache vines in the appellation, with some plots planted in their best lieu-dits date back to 1904, which gives wonderful concentration as well as remarkable elegance even in warm vintages such as this one. The classic Chateauneuf from Ferrand is made from 90% Grenache and 10% coming from a field blend of the AOC’s allowed varietals that can include red and white grapes which more than likely have small amounts of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault mainly, though Ferrand also have Vaccarèse and Csarignan too. The average age of Ferrand’s Chateauneuf vines is close to 75 years old and set on the region’s noted limestone (Marl) and sandy clay, with the famous Galets Roules (round stones) scattered throughout, with Bravay using all organic practices in the farming of these majestic old vines. The 2017 feels ripe and warm on the full bodied palate with a lovely array of deep berry fruits, a touch of earthiness, spice and pretty floral notes all delivered with soulful subtlety and raw detail with boysenberry, plum, pomegranate and kirsch leading the way along with cinnamon, anise, pepper and a faint leathery element. As the wine opens it fills out in the mouth and gains an opulence that is smile inducing and welcome without heaviness or overt flavors gaining a touch of creme de cassis, though also showing a fine sense of mineral and it keeps its savory/umami contrast. This is absolute addictive stuff and I’m so glad I got more than one bottle as I will certainly be craving more of this Domaine de Ferrand in the coming weeks and or months!

The Ferrand Chateauneuf parcels are all located in the slightly cooler zone at the north edge of the appellation that seems to give the wines a bit more delicacy and balance and certainly the Ferrand style is more old school and traditional without a boozy feel, even though this 2017 comes in with close to 15% natural alcohol, nor does it display a cloying thickness, making it wonderful with a range of cuisine options. Bravay is passionate about presenting purity, so the Domaine de Ferrand saw no oak, with fermentation and aging done exclusively in stainless and concrete vats with vintage dependent partial whole cluster. Bravay says he doesn’t use barriques to allow the vines to truly speak of place and during the aging, the wine is neither racked nor blended, with Philippe adds is done only just before bottling and no addition of preservatives is ever done. Grenache and Rhone fans will really want to discover the latest releases from Domaine de Ferrand, especially the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Chateauneufs, all of which are hand crafted wines of sublime quality. I’m so glad I opened this 2017 last night for our Christmas Eve dinner and an evening by a warm fire celebrating the peaceful moment and feeling grateful for small joys in a year that has brought so much darkness and uncertainty, this wine really added to that sense of thankful contentment in life’s simple gifts of family and friendship. To everyone, I wish you these moments of peace, happiness and grace, Merry Christmas 2020 and I hope we can look forward to a better new year.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 24, 2020

2015 Weingut Muller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haardt Herrenletten Erste Lage, Pfalz Germany.
Another one of my longtime favorite wineries and wines that I always enjoy during the Holidays, Muller-Catoir, provides and has provided quality drinking pleasures, especially the drier Rieslings from the top Pfalz crus, like this Premier Cru (Erste Lage) Herrenletten Trocken 2015 that is starting to gather its secondary maturity and is welcomingly brightly golden in the glass. Not as plush and dense as I would have expected, but delightfully mineral driven with brisk detailing and spicy in style at this stage, though it did gain a further range of flavors with air and opens up aromatically too, getting to an impressive place after about half an hour. The palate is slightly earthy and austere with a subtle fruit profile including tangerine, white peach, Granny Smith apple, which stays throughout, gooseberry and honeydew melon as well as dried ginger, clove, spearmint and wet river stones. There is a lip smacking saline note that adds to the impression of a crisp dry character which adds to the feeling of lightness on the medium bodied palate in this Riesling, that just falls short of expectations, maybe it wasn’t the best bottle, even though it clearly drank plenty well on the night and was particularly poised with an array of Chinese food that I traditionally enjoy before the Holiday meals. I am a tough nut when it comes to Riesling and I think I’m a bit prone to high expectations, and again I absolutely enjoyed this 2015 Herrenletten, I just wanted a bit more, which could have been more my restless mind with the uncertainty of our world weighing on my thoughts, than any disappointment.

Muller-Catoir, which has been family owned since 1774 with nine generations having tending the vines here in the Pfalz, now run by Philipp David Catoir, the winery is one of the best in the country with many exceptional vineyard sites, especially their holdings in the famous Haardt cru that is set on sandstone solis, gravel and primary rock. Martin Franzen is Philipp David’s cellar master and his wines continue to showcase the great terroirs and purity of place that started under Muller-Catoir’s legendary ex-winemaker Hans-Gunter Schwartz, who brought these wines to international fame throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Muller-Catoir went fully organic in 2009 and has really adopted an intense farming regiment including severe green harvesting and ultra small yields with a manic passion for quality. While mostly highly regarded for their dry Rieslings, especially the lineup of GG’s, like their flagship Muller-Catoir Bürgergarten ‘In Breumel’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs monopole, one of the world’s greatest white wines, they also produce a few rarities that should not be overlooked, these include their fabulous dry Muskateller (Muscat) and their stunning Herzog Rieslaner (not Riesling) Auslese sweet wine. There is really something for everyone here at Muller-Catoir, I in fact always try to have a few bottles tucked away for special occasions and for my Riesling geeky friends, I also love the Muller-Catoir Scheurebe Trocken, a unique wine that while very brisk and dusty dry is very expressive and slightly exotic with tropical essences. This 2015 is in a good spot, but I might recommend the 2017, 2018 and 2019s a bit more enthusiastically. This Holiday season, of this dark 2020 year, is a mixed bag of emotions, it can’t help but effect you, I hope everyone finds some moments of grace and gratitude.
($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 23, 2020

2016 Rovellotti, Nebbiolo “Valplazza” Colline Novaresi DOC, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
Rovellotti is a wonderful small producer based in Ghemme in the Alto Piedmonte region of Northwestern Italy that specializes in Nebbiolo, or Spanna as it is also known as in this area with their top notch Chioso dei Pomi Ghemme DOCG being their signature bottling, but I also love this awesome value priced Valplazza Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo, especially in this outstanding 2016 vintage. Beautifully pure and mixing ripe red fruits and earthy/savory elements in classic Nebbiolo fashion on par with top Langhe Nebbiolo and even many normal Barolo bottlings with macerated cherry, damson plum and briar laced raspberry fruits, a touch of bacon, underbrush, lavender, anise and a hint of cedar. The bouquet is still youthfully subtle, but gains a pretty floral elegance with swirling in the glass and the ruby/brick red hue invites repeated sips and the wine keeps you interested from start to finish, it’s a joy to the senses, especially delicious with air and partnering wild mushrooms or meaty dishes. This Nebbiolo has a vintage and terroir character that performs way beyond its price and it opens up nicely with refined tannins and provides a joyous depth of flavors and mineral notes that will impress this grapes true enthusiasts and is great for these chilly winter nights.

The Colline Novaresi is a small area in the Alto Piedmonte that includes 26 tiny villages and municipalities not far from Milan and Lake Maggiiore with a collection of local varietals including Nebbiolo (aka Spanna), Uva Rara (aka Bonarda), Barbera, Vespolina, Croatina red grapes and Erbaluce, the ancient native white grape. The Colline Novaresi appellation was founded when a group of growers brandied together to form a DOC in 1994 with top Crus like Ghemme, Sizzano, Boca and Fara getting full DOCGs. The Rovellotti family has a long history in the Ghemme region going back to the 15th century and continues with Paolo and Antonello Rovellotti now running this small estate. They have been growing their grapes with sustainable and mostly organic methods since the 1980s and their Baraggiola Valplazza vineyard is planted almost exclusively to Nebbiolo and used exclusively in this Colline Novarese bottling. The Rovellotti Colline Novaresi saw a fermentation in stainless steel cuves and its aging in used large format Slavonian oak casks with the focus being on preserving transparency and clarity in this delightful 100% Nebbiolo. Drink this fabulous bargain over the next 3 to 5 years and be sure to keep an eye out for all of the Rovellotti wines, these are well worth the search.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 22, 2020

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Spatlese, Winkeler Jesuitengarten, Rheingau Germany.
The gorgeous and lush 2018 Spreitzer “Jesuitengarten” is an absolutely killer wine for this time of year with a fabulous balance between its sweet fruit and natural acidity with a lovely textured mouth feel and heightened aromatics it perfectly matches richer winter and or holiday cuisine, as well as being awesome with spicy Asian dishes, like chili crab. The Jesuitengarten Vineyard, a classic in the Spreitzer collection of Grand Crus in the village of Oestrich, in view of the winery itself is set on a combination of loam, loess, shell-limestone, gravelly and sandy soils about 100 meters above the widest point of the Rhein River that gives this area a warm and an almost lake effect climate that allows deep flavors to develop and sugars to concentrate while still retaining complexity and energy in the wines, as this stellar vintage shows. The calcerous underpinnings here also help make for elegant wines with stony/mineral elements adding to the classic density of this Jesuitengarten Spatlese and helps define its terroir driven flavor profile that unfolds with fresh picked apricot, nectarine and lemon curd, crystalized ginger, tropical notes, with hints of pineapple and rainforest flowers, saline infused wet rock, faint honeycomb and verbena. This fleshy and round lightly golden wine gets more creamy with air, but stays refined and taut to not feel cloying or heavy while being regal and luxurious, this is what Spatlese should be, it is not a for sweet tooth and sweet treats, it is for a hearty meal and either the mentioned spicy or savory foods.

It’s widely known now, the Spreitzer’s winery, which was originally founded back in 1641, is likely the oldest private family owned estate in the Rheingau, with a long history of winemaking in the region. Now brothers Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer run this award winning property, they have brought international fame to this old winery since taking over from their father Josef Spreitzer when he retired in 1997 and have really upped their game in recent years with 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018s that seemed to get better with each release and intriguingly I hear their 2019s are the best yet. I was there at Spreitzer in 2016 and saw first hand their majestic collection of Grand Cru (Grossen Lagen) sites around the Oestrich-Winkel area as well as visited their historic cellars and was impressed by the attention to detail and care Andreas and Bernd put into each wine and the diversity of soils, micro-climates and elevations that play(s) such a big part in their offerings character and depth. In the cellar, everything is done with a nod to tradition, but with exceptional precision and clarity of focus with a mix of ancient German oak stuckfass and stainless steel tanks with the Spreitzer Kabinett and Spatlese, like this Jesuitengarten seeing only the stainless steel for fermentation and aging to preserve freshness, transparency and purity. In modern times they have put out more dry wines, as most of Germany has also done, but still do an outstanding selection of fruity Rieslings with this Spatlese being one of my favorites, and it looks set to age well too, don’t be afraid of residual sugar, embrace these wines and match them up with the right pairings for hedonistic rewards!
($35 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive