Monthly Archives: April 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 13, 2021

Latest Review

2018 Envinate, Migan Tinto, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
The raw and spicy 2018 Migan Tinto is a beautifully complex and lighter style medium bodied red from one of the most remote and unique wine terroir in the world, it is sourced from two very old parcels of cordon trenzado (braided vines) Listan Negro (also known as a Mission grape and or Pais) on the volcanic soils of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, notably off the west coast of Africa. Most all of the Envintate wines are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, the notable exception being the Alicante Bouschet based Albahra, that I recently reviewed here, that has the Mediterranean Sea nearby, and this Migan reveals a salty crisp element to go with that volcanic mineral rich character. This vintage is nicely ripe in nature, but there is a sultry earthiness that is compelling in this medium bodied effort with intriguing layers of pure Listan Negro, with its vibrant acidity, it is about the same weight as a Pinot Noir, and with fine grained tannins, this includes strawberry, briar laced raspberry, pomegranate and tart cherry/cranberry fruits along with pronounced red spices with cayenne and pepper flakes, iron, a hint of a gamey element (a faint bit of Bret) common in old world wines that is not unwelcome here as well as dried floral notes, snappy herbs and crushed rock. This distinctive wine is for wine geeks and benefits from savvy pairings, it is not going to be a mainstream crowd pleaser, but certainly hugely rewarding to those that either know this producer or their wines.

Enivante, winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez, makes some of the most exciting wines in Spain and they make their wine in a very authentic and natural style, To achieve the goals of the winery, no chemicals are used in any of the Envínate vineyards, from the Canary Islands to the Ribeira Sacra, all grown with organic methods, all their grapes are hand harvested, the grapes are foot-trodden, and the wines are fermented exclusively with wild yeasts, with either partial or 100% whole bunches with stem inclusion. The raising of the wines is done in old well seasoned wood and or concrete vats, and sulfur is only added at bottling, if it is absolutely needed, usually just a small dose, all to allow the wines to speak directly from the vineyard sites. As noted, this Migan saw its two parcel blocks macerated and fermented separately with both the plots hand-harvested, foot-trodden with the La Habanera, the highest up on the volcano with sandy soils, seeing 100% whole clusters, while the San Antonio, the older set of vines that average between 90 to 120 years old, only getting about 15% whole cluster, both saw their primary ferments in large concrete vats, then the wine was pressed and racked into a mix of small 228L barrels and larger 600L neutral French oak casks for malolactic conversion and aging for close to 11 months. As I mention, this delicately ruby colored wine has a saline and smoky/stony personality, coming from its volcanic mountain underpinning, it gains a lot from air and food, I especially recommend spicy sea food dishes, like grilled octopus or calamari and or Middle Eastern cuisine.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 12, 2021

2018 Chiara Boschis – E. Pira & Figli, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
The youthfully fruit forward and fresh Langhe Nebbiolo from Chiara Boschis’ famous E. Pira & Figli Barolo estate is made from all organic vines at her Monforte d’Alba property and is truly a “Baby Barolo” with pure Nebbiolo character in an easy to enjoy (now) medium bodied style with pretty dark fruits, delicate earthiness, a bright acidity, subtly perfumed and with polished tannins. Coming from Chiara’s younger vines this 2018 shows plenty of ripe flavors and terroir nuance, making it quite an exceptional little wine and one you don’t feel guilty about opening on a Sunday night in April without any meal planned or the need for hours of decanting. This vintage is bursting with energy and vigor, but has a supple and elegant mouth feel with layers of brambly raspberry, damson plum, earthy mulberry, wild lingonberry and reduced cherry fruits along with minty mountain herbs, a hint of cedar, anise, irony mineral spice and dried violets. There is just enough rustic edges to remind you that this pure Nebbiolo, but over all there is a lovely balance and a sense of grace here, it brought lots of joy and smiles with its inviting aromas, complexity, fruit density and alluring deep garnet/ruby hue easily seducing this Nebbiolo lovers eyes, nose and taste buds.

I am a huge fan of Chiara Boschis, the first female winemaker in the Langhe, and her legendary Barolo offerings, especially her otherworldly Mosconi and Cannubi cru Baroli, when I get a chance to try them, plus I adore her incredible Dolcetto and Barbera wines and her Via Nuova Barolo, one of the great values in the region. This wine, made to be drunk in its youth, is also certainly worth searching out, it was traditionally fermented and then aged in small barrels to help soften the wine in a more quick fashion, but doesn’t take away from the quality of this excellent Nebbiolo. Once the brash (kick ass) youth who broke through the chauvinistic glass ceiling to hang out as equals with the Barolo Boys, Chiara now is one of the thought leaders in the Piedmonte region and has inspired countless women winemakers here in Italy and around the world, she endured a lot of bigotry to achieve her success, but now her wines are some of the most coveted in the world. It is also worth noting, Chiara Boschis was the first estate in Cannubi to convert to all organic farming, and her own efforts has led to a historic change in Barolo, in fact she has, in the last few years to convince the rest of the growers in this famous district to become organic as well, quite an achievement and one we will all benefit from. If this basic Langhe Nebbiolo excites as it does, I can only imagine how good the Barolo(s) will be!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 11, 2021

2018 Alfaro Family Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Alfaro Family Estate Vineyard, Corralitos, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The beautifully deep 2018 Alfaro Family Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, with its dark garnet and bright ruby color, is seductive and very pleasing on the silky medium/full bodied palate, showcasing the quality of Richard Alfaro’s vineyard and this part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which gives lovely opulent fruit density and nice natural acidity all with complex ripe layering and refined alcohol levels, especially in vintages such as this that finished with 13.5%. This bottling is absolutely one of the tastiest to date and I admired the ease with the wine combined with food and also just how good it was all by itself, I couldn’t help but have an extra glass of this delicious stuff. The 2018 vintage with its long cool growing season has a lively energy to go along with fabulous fruit development and looks to be a classic in these parts, and I hear the 2019s are looking just as good, if not even better, so this is great time to stock up and or discover the Alfaro wines, especially the Pinots, like this one and the exceptional Chards, plus Alfaro’s unique and crisply mineral driven Gruner Veltliner. This Estate Pinot delivers a wonderful performance with layers of black cherry, raspberry, plum and Moro orange fruits along with sweet toast, mocha, baking spices, sassafras and rose petal tea notes. The smooth and elegant form is pure California Pinot from start to finish, and this Alfaro Estate Pinot is full of charm and personality. The estate wines at Alfaro have long been some of my favorites, with this one always being one I gravitate to, though I also love the non estate bottlings too, like their Garys’ and Lester Pinots, I mean there is a lot to enjoy in the Alfaro lineup!

At just over 14 acres, the main Alfaro Estate vineyard, was planted back in 1999 in the Corralitos zone of the most southwest corner of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA with its cool Pacific Ocean influence providing fantastic growing conditions to make world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Richard Alfaro’s impeccably farmed Estate blocks of Pinot Noir vines here, contain nine distinct parcels, each, as Alfaro notes, one is graced with a different combination of clones and rootstock, including a collection 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and 828 clones. The vine density here is really high at 1361 vines per acre, which gives lots of concentration and intensity, highlighted in vintages as good as this 2018, one of the best I can remember. This vineyard is on a south facing hillside between 500 and 650 feet in elevation on sandy gravels over loam and sandstones. The 2018 Alfaro Family Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir was traditionally fermented using de-stemmed ripe fruit, mostly in stainless steel with some small bin lots as well with cool maceration and then was aged 10 months in 40% new French oak, with just 317 cases produced. Richard Alfaro has gained a well earned reputation for his wines and his top notch farming in the last decade and now he has the talents of his son Ryan in the winery, after he has done stints in New Zealand and with Adam Tolmach, Ojai Vineyards legendary winemaker. Ryan has now also started his own label Farm Cottage wines, releasing a debut Pinot Noir recently and is someone to keep an eye on. The Alfaro’s also farm the old vines at Trout Gulch, where he sells grapes to Arnot-Roberts and Jamie Kutch, and their efforts here are thrilling, in particular the exciting also Chablis like Chards, these are not to be missed either.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 10, 2021

2001 Chateau La Confession, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Red Bordeaux, France.
One of my all time favorite affordable vintages of Bordeaux, and a year that produced some awesome under the radar wines that are still drinking incredibly youthfully, as this very good La Confession is doing right now with a deep purple color, classic right bank aromatics, a beautiful sense of fruit density and a fresh vitality. This wine drinks like a three year old and takes a surprising amount of time to open up, but when it does it provides lots of pleasure, especially those looking for a more classic style without much flash or the more modern Saint-Emilion ripeness and or lavish oak. I can’t wait to dig back into this 2001 Chateau La Confesssion on day two as it really hits its stride and its maturity begins to show, I am impressed with how taut and structured this Bordeaux still gives, it certainly is way better when enjoyed with food and dishes like prime rib and duck breast, with meaty cuisine bringing out the depth of fruit and subduing the earthy elements that are in evidence in the background. The flavor profile includes blackberry, mulberry, plum and dark cherry fruits on the full bodied palate along with an array of accents that include a loamy earthiness, dried flowers, the only thing I can find that hints at this wine’s age, tobacco, cedar, a touch of green spice, black tarry licorice, pencil lead, leafy notes and a lingering creme de cassis aftertaste. The tannins are fine grained and still pretty robust, but not aggressive or harsh and there is a sense of lift from the natural acidity, all of which holds everything together, almost freezing the La Confession in time. I see a lot of people really talking up the 2004s right now, and by all accounts they are over performing and I have admired many from that vintage as well, though I still think these 2001s are fabulous wines and remarkable values.

The Château La Confession, run by Jean-Philippe Janoueix domaines, is vinified using most traditional methods, but includes, the partial use of small “cigar” shaped barrels in the aging of this Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Red Bordeaux to add a bit more opulent textural quality with everything done with careful hands to produce an elegant wine. The grapes are double sorted, de-stemmed, but not crushed and filled into small open top oak vats for an extended maceration and primary fermentation that lasts close to 30 days with hand punch downs and pump overs. The La Confession is a blend of about 70% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc and includes a tiny amount of Cabernet Sauvignon that is grown on the hardened clay and limestone soils of this region and it aged usually in 50% new wood though I would be hard pressed to see that in this wine, which is less overt and wonderfully balanced. Interestingly the winery says the wine is raised for just 6 months on the lees, in the oak, then moved to tank and blended from the small lots. The 2001 is notably less ripe than the latest vintages with 13.5% natural alcohol, while most later wines clock in between 14.5% and 15% and look to be more fruity, especially from 2005 on. There is about three thousand cases produced annually here at Chateau La Confession, which is a good amount, but still making it a bit exclusive, though very reasonable in pricing for the solid performance in the glass. Interestingly, a bit of research found that the 2001 was the debut vintage for Chateau La Confession and winemaker Jean-Philippe Janoueix, who bought this small vineyard and created the Chateau and that adds to the special nature of experiencing this wine, and while original reviews were mixed and the winery didn’t get much attention until their 2005 was released, I found this to be a solid and quality effort, especially at the price. I recommend checking this Bordeaux out, with many vintages available, including the highly rated 2016 and 2018 ones to focus on.
($45 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 9, 2021

2019 Bucklin, Mixed Whites, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch Mixed Whites Sonoma Valley white wine is a totally unique blend of grapes and includes many varietals that were once much more popular in California than they are now, many that have almost been lost over the years and many that are in revival in the state and made with the same intention to make a field blend as with Bucklin’s classic Zinfandel blends that include close to nineteen different black grapes. This 2019 includes both aromatic and textural grapes, both fighting for your attention on the palate with lots of exotic floral notes and a lush mouth feel, but with fine balance and very moderate alcohol, at 13.2%, it is an intriguing white with fresh details and layers of peach, green apple, an array of citrus, lychee, delicate spices and liquid flowers. As this Mixed Whites opens the bouquet and body really synch up and everything comes together making for a very pleasing wine that can be enjoyed with many dishes including sea foods, Mediterranean cuisine, soft cheeses and Moroccan lemon chicken and couscous. The Muscat and Gewurz lead on the Mixed Whites bouquet with the jasmine, wild peppery spices and seeped roses, while the taste is nicely dry and with a touch of cleared cream and mineral in the background, gaining impact and roundness with air, this is delicious stuff from Will Bucklin.

The Bucklin Old Hill Ranch “Mixed White” block was established on the estate back in 2011, and it was, as Bucklin notes, planted as an ode to the unheralded white grape varieties found in many of Sonoma’s heritage sites and in the region’s historic field blends. The parcel (and the wine) include Muscat, French Colombard, Chasselas, and Clairette Blanc, that are from cuttings that came from the original vines at Old Hill Ranch, with the Gewürztraminer, Trousseau Gris and Riesling coming from the Compagni-Portis Vineyard, the rare Muscadelle was sourced from Casa Santinamaria, the Malvasia and Grenache Blanc were clipped from the Rossi Ranch and the Chenin Blanc came from Mike Officer at Carlisle. Bucklin adds that all the grapes were whole-cluster pressed, then the juice was fermented cool in stainless steel, to preserve the heady perfume and vibrancy in this lovely white wine. After primary fermentation is complete the wine is gentle moved to French oak, all neutral barrels, where it went through malo-lactic conversion and aged sur lie (on the lees) for 6 months before bottling. The results are impressive, and it is like stepping back in time and chance to taste California’s past, especially in this vintage, which highlights the full range of flavors and finer elements in this white blend. It is also a wonderful value too, considering that just three barrels were made, and a wine I recommend highly.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 8, 2021

2019 Desire Lines Wine Co., Winds of Change Red Wine, California.
The new Winds of Change California Red Wine by Cody Rasmussen at Desire Lines Wine Co. is a pure and delicious offering that delivers a full bodied array of ripe dark fruits that feel smoothly rich in the mouth and is distinctly accented by snappy herbs and spices as well as hints of savory elements, mineral tones and delicate florals. The Winds of Change Red is sourced from mostly cool climate sites within the state and shows off its California profile of flavors with a flourish, with the main Syrah component being at this wine’s core and is the most obvious influence with deep blackberry, blueberry, wild plum and currant fruits along with touches of camphor, black licorice, peppercorns and iron notes. Rasmussen, who is an assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under Morgan Twain-Peterson, has really hit the ground running with his and his wife Emily’s Desire Lines Wine Co. small winery and is certainly one of California’s breakout stars with this latest set of wines being an exceptional set of fine efforts, especially his pure Syrah bottlings from Griffin’s Lair in the Petaluma Gap and Shake Ridge Vineyard, the amazing Amador County site farmed by Ann Kraemer, one of the best growers in the region, as well as Cody’s fantastic Cole Ranch Dry Riesling and the Carignan based Evangelho Vineyard Red, that like this one shows his Bedrock inspiration and shows off his talent for making pleasure filled fruit forward wines, but with a sense of balance, well judged use of oak, and nice contrasted with plenty of crunch and umami elements.

These Desire Lines wines has really left an impression on me since first tasting with Cody Rasmussen and they have just got even more complex and intriguing with the 2018 and 2019 vintages, they are impeccably hand crafted and authentic wines that should not be missed, all of which are impressively noteworthy, especially as mentioned the terroir driven Syrahs, but I highly recommend them all and this new Winds of Change Red is a fabulous value for the quality in the bottle. The final blend here in the 2019 Desire Lines Wine Co. Winds of Change Red ended up being 73% Syrah, plus 10% Mourvèdre, 8% Carignan, 6% Grenache and 3% Petite Sirah which saw a good percentage of whole cluster and was fermented with native yeasts. Rasmussen employs a minimal approach in the cellar, though very precise and clean, he focuses on beautiful fruit density, a supple textural quality, aromatics and allowing the vineyard sites to shine through, all of which is achieved in these new releases. This wine, as with all the reds here, saw its aging in neutral French oak barrels including small larger format puncheons, a vessel that works fantastically well with Syrah. The Rasmussen’s started their label with the 2014 vintage with a small batch of Griffin’s Lair Syrah and five vintages of sublime wines have followed, again I suggest getting some of these as soon as possible and join their mailing list to get future releases, because they will sell out fast. The fresh and dark garnet Winds of Change Red Wine opens up with air and gets better with every sip, it goes extremely well with simple and or rustic cuisine, but easily can be enjoyed with almost anything.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 7, 2021

2018 Chateau de Pierreux, Bouilly, Monopole Reserve de Chateau, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The historic and regal Chateau de Pierreux estate, which sits below Mont Bouilly is now owned by the famous Boisset family, from Burgundy, and has 190 acres of Gamay within their Cru Beaujolais property with this wine being the best lot selection from their Monopole Brouilly parcel and is a solid, well made traditional, Burgundy style offering that drinks nicely with pure varietal and terroir character. This 2018 Reserve de Chateau Brouilly has a pretty floral bouquet and mineral toned red berry fruits that flow smoothly on the polished medium bodied palate showing black raspberry, plum, strawberry and vibrant cherry fruits, a light sense of spice, anise, cedar and chalky stones. As a big fan of Beaujolais and Gamay wines, it is very cool to see wines like this on wine menus by the glass, especially in unexpected places that normally have very generic offerings, so while this wine may not be as exciting as some of my favorite producers, it was a happy experience and fun, and it got better with food and air, bringing plenty of smiles, even hanging in their with grilled artichokes and an endive salad.

The Chateau de Pierreux, which dates back to the 13th century, is organically farmed using mainly biodynamic methods and treatments and makes two main Gamay bottlings, their regular Brouilly Château de Pierreux and this Réserve du Château de Pierreux, which is the signature wine of the domaine and imported to the states and widely available. The Pierreux vineyards, according to the winery, cover some varied terrain within the Brouilly appellation set on a combination of granite based soils, with a mix of sand, volcanic porphyry, some shale and even a little flint, all of which give these wines their complexity and depth of terroir influenced flavors. This wine, made by the very experienced Patrice Monternier, which was all de-stemed and saw about a two week Burgundian style fermentation, rather than the whole cluster approach, then was allowed a long cool maceration period, then was raised and matured for 6 months in large large oak barrels with a small percentage of new French oak, that is barely noticeable in the form of a kiss of sweet toastiness and the satiny textural quality. This Chateau de Pierreux Reserve de Chateau Bouilly is a great way to to start exploring Beaujolais and is especially appealing for the Gamay novice or newbie, plus it is well priced for the quality on offer.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 6, 2021

2019 Envinate, Alicante Bouschet “Albahra” Chingao Vineyards, Vino de Mesa, Almansa, Spain.
The special edition of Envinate’s Albahra 100% Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet, a red-juiced grape) is from a small organic and head trained Mediterranean influenced vineyard set on the Almansa region’s clay and calcareous soils, making for a deeply opaquely purple and seductively fruit forward and spicy red wine that is a pure joy to drink in its fresh youthful form. I love this vintage and this version of Albahra with its whole bunches vitality and crunchy black fruits, mineral tones, as well as its range of spice and subtle earthy elements with layers of boysenberry, currant, plum, pomegranate and tangy huckleberry fruits that are nicely accented by anise, peony floral notes, a touch of cayenne, cinnamon and chalky stones. This wine has lots of raw character and charm, it goes sublime with many food options from pasta to BBQ and or grilled meats. Interestingly, the Alicante Bouschet or Garnacha Tintorera grape is found throughout Spain, though almost never is made into a single varietal wine, which seems incredible, when the results, especially in this Envinate example, are so delicious! The grape has made a home for itself in parts of Italy and notably in California, where it is usually found in old heritage sites and used in field blends, though again rarely is the main component in any of the wines. It has played a background role in some of Ridge’s most tasty Zinfandels, plus it is found in parts of coastal Tuscany, as well as being a minor player in Mencia based wines in the Galicia region too. I certainly hope this grape gets more opportunity to shine as a solo effort, as it can be truly stunning, as it is here. There’s so much to discover and explore in the latest releases by Envinate, with each of their wines showing distinct terroir personalities from the volcanic hillsides of Tenerife to the slate and schist of the Ribeira Sacra, as well as the limestone of this warm Mediterranean spot in southern Spain. Rhone enthusiasts and or old vine California fans will love this wine.

Envinate’s winemaking is very low intervention and natural, relying mostly on vineyard work to produce their fabulous collection of unique wines, and while the world mainly knows about their stunning set of Canary Islands and Ribeira Sacra wines, which are both marked by their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, this Chingao Vineyards Albahra bottling is one of my favorites and it is one of the greatest values in their portfolio. The Albahra Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera) is all foot-trodden in vat with lots of whole cluster and sees a natural spontaneous (indigenous) yeast primary fermentation, with about 6-10 days of skin and some stems maceration, to extract all the sexy color and complex array of flavors, then wine goes through malos and is raised on fine lees in concrete tank for around 8 months. This wine, bottled unfined and unfiltered, is ultra low in sulfites (or SO2) and is always wonderfully vivid and pure with dark fruit, dusty, but fine tannins and a juicy vibrant appeal that makes it great with hard cheeses, rustic cuisine and a relaxed meal. I have been a long time fan of Envinante and especially their Listan based wines from Tenerife, one of the remote Canary Islands, the Spanish volcanic group of atolls off the coast of Africa that were originally planted to vines during the conquest of the new world and the missionary era between the 1500s and the early 1800s. Envínate, which translates to “wine yourself” is a trust of talented winemakers led by Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and Jose Martínez, who are four friends that met while at college, where they all studied enology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante and even though they were from vastly different areas in Spain, they wanted to make wine together, which they have done with great success. I highly recommend locating this particular version of Albahra by Envinate, along with the normal yellow label bottling that is 70% Alicante Bouschet and 30% Moravia Agria, a high acid and extremely rare local grape, these are both exciting and unique reds.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 5, 2021

2017 Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet, Fixin, Red Burgundy, France.
The beautiful 2017 Fixin by Amélie Berthaut at Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet is an outstanding red Burgundy with exceptional depth, a gorgeous satiny textural quality and ripe fruit pleasure, this wine certainly showcases the talent and or the skill of the winemaker from the vines to bottle guidance, this is an outstanding Pinot Noir. The palate is richly packed with pure Pinot fruit(s), plus a lingering delicate rose petal perfume that stays throughout and subtle complexities including baking spices, mineral tones, a touch of umami, fresh acidity and just the perfect amount of sweet smoky/toast. The mouth feel is top notch here and everything feels supple and opulent, it fills out wonderfully with air and has full medium bodied impact, revealing revolving layers of black cherry, raspberry, strawberry and plum fruits with a regal presence, exactly what you’d want from a Burgundy, highlighting the best qualities of this grape. If you are searching for your Burgundy Ah Ha moment in a value priced wine, then you should search out this Berthaut-Gerbet Fixin, I could defiantly get used to drinking this stuff. This dark garnet and ruby hued wine gets better and better with every sip and was impeccable with my Easter meal and drank with a flourish all on its own as well, every detail is clear and appealing in this vintage and I highly recommend keeping an eye out for this wine and or stocking up greedily on it. This basic cuvee was sourced from four parcels in small Lieu-Dits around the village of Fixin, these sites: Au Près, La Vionne, Clos du Villages, and Clos André are set on the region’s classic clay and limestone soils and have good exposures to allow even ripening and gives this wine its fruit density and lush profile. Amélie studied agro-oenology engineering in Bordeaux, then she did stints with Agnes Henry at Domaine de la Tour du Bon in Bandol and interestingly with the Dunn’s (the legendary Cabernet producer on Howell Mountain) in Napa Valley, all before moving home to Burgundy to run her own estate.

Amélie Berthaut, who started her own domaine in recent years, took over an impressive array of her family’s vineyards, these included some prestigious sites in Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, and Vosne-Romanée, as well as some fabulous parcels here in Fixin, which have become her signature wines. The vineyards that came from both her mother and father, were parts of different domaines Domaine Denis Berthaut and François Gerbet, and now they form the holdings of the newly-formed Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet. Fixin, in the Cote de Nuits, is one of the most lesser known villages, but with Amélie efforts getting such awesome attention that is likely to change and in a hurry, especially after tasting this 2017 version of her basic wine, which is absolutely delicious and thrilling example of what this obscure village can produce. The youthful Berthaut, has gone from strength to strength and is looking to improve further, and she has hired her fiancé Nicolas Faure, a talent in his own right, who has worked for the famed Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Prieuré-Roch and intriguingly under the famous Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, to be her vineyard manager while she focuses on the winemaking side, as well as running the business, which obviously makes sense. This is a winery to follow closely and with huge potential, but for now, it would be advisable to grab these wines before the price skyrockets. Berthaut focuses on Pinot, but does a tiny amount of Chardonnay, which is grown using mostly organic practices and lets the place and vintage dictate what she does in the cellar, she always uses native yeasts, with her primary fermentation in cement vats, but uses her best judgement on use of whole-cluster, from 0% to 100%, and how much new wood, though she limits that to 50% max, with this particular Fixin seeing between 12 and 18 months in 20% new oak. This wine way exceeds expectations and I can only imagine how good the Cru bottlings are, I’m excited to see and taste the next couple of vintages!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 4, 2021

2020 Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Feints, Fox Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The new Feints Cal Ital blend from Ruth Lewandowski Wines is, even as they put it, a totally unexpected wine made from mostly Piedmontese varieties, though with a small dose of Montepulciano as well, but what makes it so unique is that it has 30% Arneis, the white grape, in the mix with 33% Dolcetto, 15% Barbera, 14% Nebbiolo and the mentioned 8% of the Montepulciano, which makes for a serious fun fresh Spring time quaffer. This lighter styled natural wine starts with a bright vibrant cherry, crushed raspberry and strawberry fruit core along with a hint of grilled citrus, wild herbs, a sense of red peach flesh and floral aromas that all adds up to a red wine that deserves to be enjoyed with a chill and lots of laughter. There’s always something underlying in the Lewandowski wines that makes you forget about the worries of the day and you can tell that this wines, while simply pleasing are also serious efforts that are made with a commitment to quality, I am a fan of the Boaz most of all, it is a blend of old vine Carignan, old vine Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is one of the most powerful and intriguing of the natty wines in California. This friendly Feints has a lovely magenta hue in the glass and displays a clean and crisp personality, it drinks somewhat more like an Italian Rosato, but with enough complex dimension to go with a full meal, but especially good with picnics.

Winemaker Evan Lewandowski, who named his label after The Book of Ruth from the old testament and believes that (this) story of the circle of life and redemption, which includes the line “Death is, indeed, the engine of life…” encapsulates his own philosophies of farming (which are holistic) and winemaking (all natural), is one maybe the king of the modern American natural wine movement and has been an inspiration to a whole generation of young winemakers searching to explore their own paths in the wine world. His wines show a clean intensity and purity of form, these are not hippie, dirty or any flaw allowed wines, and there is no mouse or brett to be found here, in my own experience. For the 2020 Feints, Evan went full carbonic maceration, which gives this wine its juicy roundness and as Lewandowski adds, its punchiness, it was spontaneous co-fermented without any additions and a minimalist approach with only a few months of lees aging before being bottled up quickly to preserve its refreshing vitality. Lewandowski used all of the Piedmontese varieties found at the Fox Hill Vineyard, including as noted, Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Arneis and a hair of Montepulciano all of which are set on sandstone based soils, which Evan notes is very rocky and pebbly, with a large amount of quartz, all of which helps this site produce exceptional grapes with a mineral tone and ripe flavors, which shows here in an easy and enjoyable way. If you want to explore natty California or Glou Glou wines these Lewandowski bottlings are some of the best on offer.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive