Monthly Archives: April 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2021

2018 Cullen Wines, Dancing in the Sun, White Wine, Margaret River, Western Australia.
The light and fresh Dancing in the Sun white wine by the famed Cullen Wines in the Margaret River is an all organic and unique blend of of 54% Semillon, 43% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Verdelho, it is an Aussie white Bordeaux like hybrid that is a delightful Summer quaffer. This is the first time tasting this blend, while I’ve loved their Sem/Sauv’s in the past, this Dancing in the Sun shows loads of bright lemony flavors and vibrant acidity with layers of citrus, tangy white peach, gooseberry and wild herbs along with wet stones, a touch of waxy apple and lingering lemon curd. The 2018 Cullen Wines Dancing in the Sun is vivid still and light to medium bodied with a nice balance of tart fruit and subtle textural creaminess that is starting to develop, it is more serious than the first impression and a wine that goes great with a range of cuisine, especially with lighter sea food dishes and goat cheese, as well as roast chicken breast. Vanya Cullen, who has been winemaking at her family’s Wilyabrup estate since 1983, and was appointed to Chief Winemaker in 1989, after which the world discovered just how good these Cullen Wines are. As Managing Director, which she rose to back in 1999, Vanya is a Bordeaux style specialist, crafting awesome Cabernet based wines as well as her white blends and if you haven’t tried these wines you really should.

One of the first premium estates of Margaret River area of Western Australia, Cullen Wines was established when the Cullen’s, Kevin and Diana, first planted vines in 1971 in the unique Wilyabrup area with its red ochre soils and up river Ocean influence. All of Cullen’s vines are certified biodynamic and were pioneers in this region with holistic farming and are even carbon negative, they are ultra sustainable and great stewards of their environment, all of which shows in their beautiful wines, especially the Bordeaux style reds and this lovely white. Wilybrup is a very noteworthy region in its own right, as evidenced in the Cullen efforts, all terroir driven with distinct flavors and its own climate, this place has been recognized as a world class zone, and notably when in 1999 Cullen Wines and Moss Wood, other fantastic estate here, held a sub region tasting event to celebrate the long history here and with a look to the future of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grown here, which predicted the greatnesses of the wines that have emerged since then. This Dancing in the Sun white wine with its Semillon, Sauvignon and Verdelho is a fun offering with beautiful crisp details, delicate florals and coastal saline, it delivers everything you’d want want in a white wine of this price, making it a wonderful value and shows off a region that is little known in the States.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2021

2019 I. Brand & Family Winery, Melon de Bourgogne, Graff Family Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
The unique quince, bitter melon, saline and stony, mineral laced Melon de Bourgogne by Ian Brand is an austere and low alcohol white wine that pays homage to the Atlantic influenced wines of Muscadet in the western Loire, but with a modern twist and flourish, in a wine that transforms into a real beauty with food, especially briny dishes, perking up the aromatics, the fruit and softening the racy acidity. As a Muscadet fan, especially the wines of Frederic Niger at Domaine de L’Ecu, which are tasty with classic oysters and soft cheeses, they are salty fresh and leesy, so it was interesting to see how Ian would approach this wine, clearly he did his magic here and this is delicious stuff. Brand, who was one of the first to realize that what we once thought was Pinot Blanc here at Chalone was actually Melon de Bourgogne, the grape of Muscadet fame, and while some chose to continue to label it as Pinot Blanc, others chose to embrace the true identity and take wine winemaking steps to exploit the grape’s natural character, with a few nicknaming it Melon de Chalone, which I think is most fitting as these vines (and wines from here) are certainly distinctly their own and terroir driven. As this crisply detailed white gets air through it it stubbornly gains its leesy, skin contact texture and reveals tart peach, lemony citrus, wet stone and chalk from the classic limestone soils, as well as a touch of sour herbs, almond oil and verbena. This is non overt wine, serious with a purpose and a wine that will gain a select following with the wine geek crowd and it is going to be more compelling for the anti-Chardonnayers. When asked about his Melon de Bourgogne, Ian, with his dry humor says “ I think it worked out…” That it did and now I might have get a few more bottles for oyster slurping!

Known for his exceptional work with Grenache and Mourvedre, Ian Brand is a noted vineyard whisperer, finding and rejuvenating some lesser known or forgotten gems on the Central Coast, preferring out of the way and remote places to source his grapes, making a fabulous collection of no nonsense wines that offer tremendous value and rarity, with his Enz Vineyard Mourvedre being a huge standout. Ian is mostly thought of as a red wine wine guy, but I have always liked a few of his whites, in particular his versions of Albarino, which his sells under his La Marea label, which under he does his Spanish influenced wines, including two Albarinos (one with partial skin contact) and his Sierra de Gredos inspired Garnacha like Central Coast Grenache. Recently Ian added a classy Escolle Chardonnay and this Graff Family Vineyard Melon de Bourgogne to his top lineup of I. Brand & Family wines, both very worthy of your attention. The Graff Family Vineyards label wines were in later years were made by Ian, but now have been folded into Ian’s signature collection with a 100% Syrah, and Rhone Red Blend and this Melon all finding a good home here in the latest lineup. The Graff Family Vineyard, run by Phil Woodward, who was a partner in the famous Chalone winery along with the late Richard Graff, one of California’s historic figures and was set up to provide a trust to Graff’s children with proceeds still going to the family. I collect Ian’s Grenache and Mourvedre, but I must say I am falling for his Loire inspired Melon, which its 11.2% natural alcohol zestiness and his Chinon like Bayly Ranch Cabernet Franc, with its earthy intense palate, don’t miss these! There is a lot to like in Brand’s wines from the playful Le P’tit Paysan line, with the Rosé and Chateaneuf blend delivering bang for the buck to his Bordeaux like Bates Ranch Cab Franc and Montebello Road Cabernet Sauvignon leading his top offers, it is a good time check out these tasty efforts.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 18, 2021

2016 Domaine Chambeyron, Cote-Rotie “La Chavarine” Northern Rhone, France.
The beautifully inky and elegantly textured La Chavarine by Chambeyron is a regal and luxurious Cote-Rotie with stunning Syrah purity, this is an outstanding wine that drinks amazing for being so youthful with supple tannins and remarkable depth of flavor. The Ampuis based Domaine Chambeyron, a solid performer in the appellation, really put everything together in their 2016s and this one really stands out with exceptional fruit density, mouth feel and a super long aftertaste with layers of blackberry, blueberry compote, damson plum, kirsch and creme de cassis which is nicely supported by subtle floral dimension, light peppercorn, fig paste and anise along with a touch of tapenade, cedar and a mineral/graphite note.

Offering some great value this Domaine does a tight collection of small production wines from Cote-Rotie as well as a Condrieu, plus a couple of entry level Cotes du Rhone bottlings, which I’m excited to try in the future, especially after tasting this gorgeous La Chavarine. The Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine is a special cuvee coming off estate parcels in two of the best sites, it is sourced from the decomposed granite soils of the two famous vineyards of La Chavaroche in the Côte Brune and Lancement in the Côte Blonde, both with a combined average age of 50 years. The La Chavarine is whole cluster pressed and fermented in cement vats with indigenous yeasts in Chambeyron’s gravity fed cellars where it was handled with extreme care, with a small basket press and was then raised in large 400L casks. This is deep purple/black, heady and lush Cote-Rotie that is a stunning value too, drink this gem over the next decade!
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 17, 2021

2019 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “The Second Cousin” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The entry set of wines at the famed Beaux Freres in the Willamette Valley’s Ribbon Ridge AVA are their Les Cousins Pinot Noir sourced from a wide selection of vineyards throughout the Valley and this unique The Second Cousin bottling that was produced solely from barrels (of Les Cousins) that showed a touch of Brettanomyces, a very curious and brave experiment from such a revered property, considering how evil “Brett” can be perceived, and as someone that is non to fond of it and flaws, I was surprised by how pure and enjoyable this elegant Pinot Noir is! Beaux Freres, like their awesome neighbor, Brick House, focus on biodynamics and were inspired by the wines of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Domaine Leflaive and Domaine Leroy in Burgundy and usually produce some of the greatest Pinots in Oregon, so it was interesting to see a winery like Beaux Freres take this kind of risk, but the results were exactly (with some luck for sure) what they had hoped, with the tiny amount of Brett adding some complexity and character without the aggressive almost roadkill like animal or overt barnyard flavors. This 2019 is silky smooth and vibrantly fresh with pretty floral notes, a kiss of sweet smoky toast, racy and youthful layers of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits that are nicely accented by tea spices, blood orange, cinnamon, mocha, wild herbs and a lingering, underbrush and earthy mulberry note. This lighter framed and delicately perfumed Beaux Freres The Second Cousin is drinking well and round in its youth, maybe hiding the potential Brett nuances at this stage, but I am happy as it is more subtle and the expressive fruit is deeply pleasing as is the wines beautiful dark ruby color, which invites you into the glass.

With Beaux Freres founder Mike Etzel now concentrating on his own label and vineyard, Sequitur, the Beaux Freres winemaking team is now led by the second-generation here with Mikey Etzel and assistant winemaker Aaron Kendall, who have continued the tradition of hand crafting stunning wines, recognized, as they put it, a unique detail marking six of the barrels in the Les Cousins selections, which turned out to be, upon close inspection, a hint of Brettanomyces, or “Brett” as us wine geeks call it, peeking through the aromatics and the thought experiment started. As a yeast strain, Etzel adds, often considered a fault in wines, Brett can be a controversial topic, adding that, on one hand, in large quantities it can be quite unpleasant and distract from other features such as fruitiness, but when present in tiny amounts, as is the case here in 2019 The Second Cousin Pinot, Brett can add a fascinating element (their words, not mine usually, though I can agree in some cases) — a beauty mark of sorts, like on Marylin Monroe (my thought), they hope — that makes a wine distinct. For this reason, wine aficionados, sommeliers, and those who enjoy wines of unique character are often quite intrigued (or frustrated) by wines that show a bit of Brett. So Etzel and Kendall separated the lightly affected “Brett” barrels and bottled it, labeling it as The Second Cousin and released recently with the idea that you might be best served to enjoy it as soon as possible, rather than cellar it as you’d do with most of the other wines from this winery. I actually didn’t know about the Brett when I ordered this one, and being somewhat skeptical, I was very happy with the results and really like this Second Cousin a lot, it got better and better as it opened up and it was lovely with food. Now, if you wanted to really see Brett get funky, you might buy a couple bottles and save one for 3 to 5 years and then try it, as Brett usually grows or flourishes in the bottle, though I would be hard pressed to do that myself.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 16, 2021

2018 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
The basic Kabinett from Caroline Diel at Schlossgut Diel is one of the best buys you can find, this opulent off dry Riesling is a beautiful and wonderfully drinking wine, full of personality, brightness and mineral detail, making it so easy to love. With ever more charm and style, the Kabinett renaissance over the last decade has brought this category back into the limelight, and Diel’s exceptional version is one of the leaders with their examples being refreshing wines, but with depth and complexity usually reserved for the more elite wines in the collection with this 2018 being a sublime vintage. The ’18 Diel Kabinett, coming in at about 8.5% natural alcohol, feels generous on the palate, which hints at its residual sugar, though with its nice acidity and stony nature it drinks more dry overall and is layered with a range of fleshy stone fruit and crisp citrus, it has a mixed bouquet as well with pretty floral and crushed rock notes that leads to the light to medium bodied palate that is racy and clean at first. As you sip on this fine Riesling you gain a sense of the years density and depth of flavors that include green apple, tangerine, tree picked apricot and bitter melon fruits along with a steely element, light flinty smokiness, lemon zest, rosewater, wet stone, saline and a touch of tropical essences and spice. The lingering slight sweet finish is perfectly delightful and pleasing with any cloying effect and clears the palate with a wave of refreshment, making this Riesling great with an array of food choices and or Summer sipping. The Schlossgut Diel wines are crafted with incredible precision in large oak barrels, plus some concrete and in this case mostly in stainless steel tanks, as I have noted in my prior reviews, with a nod to tradition and focus on purity. This wine came from sites that were mostly quartzite and slate and was gently whole cluster pressed, followed by a spontaneous fermentation and extended maturation on the lees in exclusively stainless steel tanks.

Caroline Diel, who was just named Winemaker of the Year, by Falstaff, in Germany is well deserving of this prestigious honor and the wines at Schlossgut Diel are without question some of the most desirable in Europe, with her exceptional skills on full display in these last half dozen or so vintages, especially her majestic set of Rieslings, as well as her fantastic Pinot Noir, which rivals many top Burgundies, along with her now equally famous Sekt (Sparkling Wines) made from long lees aged Riesling, this luxurious bubbly is in a world of its own! Back to her Rieslings, like this entry level Kabinett, coming from vineyards around the famed Nahe estate that her father Armin Diel put on the map with his pioneering severely dry wines during the nineties and now feature some of Germany’s top Grosses Gewachs, like the incredible Goldloch Grand Cru, which compares well with Chablis’ Les Clos. The Nahe is one off Germany’s smallest regions, with a great diversity of soils fro slate to volcanic and gravels plus a warm climate and steep slopes, especially around Schlossgut Diel, making for a dramatic and picturesque setting for grapevines and a quality area for all types of wines, as witnessed by the stellar producers, like Diel, Donnhoff and others that make the Nahe their home. Caroline Diel, who took over the estate in 2012 after joining the cellar team in 2006 also has enjoyed winemaking stints at some famous places including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy and Château Pichon-Lalande in Bordeaux, as well as prestigious German vineyards such as Robert Weil, Toni Jost and Dr. Deinhard/Von Winning, adding experiences that have helped her develop her own style here. She is a graduate of the famous Geisenheim University in the Rheingau and you can tell she took her studies very seriously, her wines are compelling and impeccably crafted, I am a huge fan, and this one is a great way to start exploring her wines. I can’t wait to travel back to Diel, where I last visited at harvest time in 2016, and I highly recommend putting this estate on your bucket list!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 15, 2021

2017 Piedrasassi, Syrah, Patterson & Sebastiano Vineyards, Sta. Rita Hills.
The wildly feral and savory 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Syrah from Sashi Moorman at Piedrasassi is one of California’s best and unique cool climate (Northern Rhone Style) versions with loads of whole cluster and stem inclusion intensity with deep fruit density, it shows dark berry pie filling, plum, creme de cassis and blueberry as well as vivid violets, tar, licorice, minty herbs and peppercorns along with an earthy and meaty shadow throughout on the medium to full bodied palate. This is a wine that will transport you to the legendary wines of Auguste Clape and Thierry Allemand, giving the same rustic thrill those Cornas wine deliver with a California twist of ripe warmth and a different set of soil influences here that inform you that this wine is from here, but still terroir driven and giving a sense of mineral character and with a touch of chalky stone, making for real Syrah enthusiasts treasure. Sashi has become one of the state’s most admired winemakers over the years, especially his work for Stolpman Vineyards and collaboration with Raj Parr at Sandhi and the Domaine de la Cote, as well as, now, the wines at Oregon’s premier Evening Land Vineyards and his own efforts here at Piedrasassi, where he specializes in Syrah, like this one, plus a little Mourvedre and even his own take on Vin Santo. I have been following the Piedrasassi wines for a long time and love the whole bunches and low intervention style here, these wines are some of the finest examples of Central Coast Syrahs available, especially the Rim Rock Rock Vineyard from the Arroyo Grande AVA and Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria, as well as the Santa Barbera County PS (entry level) Syrah, one of the best values around, and this one from the SRH’s Patterson & Sebastiano Vineyards.

The Piedrasassi wines embrace Syrah’s more funky and edgy side with all that entails, these are not crowd pleasing bottlings, unless like me you have lots of geeky friends of course then they are a huge hit with hints of camphor, robust stemmy notes and some raw tannins coming out of the squat (short) bottle, that was inspired by the shape you see in Giusto Occhipinti’s COS winery in Sicily’s Vittoria region. Moorman used tried and true old world techniques in the cellar with the use of indigenous or wild yeats, the heavy use of whole cluster and low sulphur in his fermentations that come naturally or spontaneously. Sashi, who loves cement vats for primary ferments, uses mainly large used French oak barrels raising his own offerings like this one. The grapes that go into his Piedrasassi are from mostly holistic or sustainably grown vines and with ultra careful sorting, both in the vineyard and back in the winery, with this 2017 being a blend of 80% from the Sebastiano Vineyard and 20% from the Patterson Vineyard, which Sashi has been using only for a couple of vintages now, but one that he thinks has great potential, lying on a cool north-facing slope of the Santa Rosa Hills, just above the famous Sine Qua Non’s estate vineyard. The highly regarded Sebastiano site was planted back in 2007 on clay based loam over limestone soils, with these Syrah vines, as Sashi notes, exposed to relentless Pacific winds that give the wines their aggressive nature and good acidity. The 2017 vintage finished with a heat wave and you’d expect it to be more fruit forward, but you’d be wrong here with this Sta. Rita Hills Syrah, which is much more briar laced, spicy, with loads of Umami and crushed rock along with zesty cinnamon and a touch of beef tartar. It would be well advised to decant this vintage and be sure to enjoy it with robust cuisine that allows the prettiness and purity of the fruit to come out, drink this impressive wine over the next decade.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 14, 2021

2020 Ochota Barrels, Grenache “The Green Room” McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Much the same as last year’s version the low alcohol and naturally styled Ochota Barrels Grenache The Green Room delivers lots of drinking pleasures with its pretty and juicy red fruits, led by crushed raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate, plum and morello cherries, along with spicy and herbal notes, with a hint of earth, anise and a touch of whole bunch zestiness, mineral and floral tones. At just 11.2% natural alcohol this 2020 vintage is infinitely quashable and refreshingly bright in personality with supple medium bodied, not exactly what you’d expect from old vines in the historic old vine region of McLaren Vale, but oh so delicious and lovable. Sadly we lost the revolutionary winemaker Taras Ochota last year, after the 2020 harvest, but Amber Ochota, his wife will continue on, inspired by his life band passion, from their home on a tiny and steep sloped patch of land deep in the Basket Range of the beautiful Adelaide Hills wine region, where they have farmed and make some of the most intriguing Australian wines over the last decade. The Ochota wines were inspired by small family domaines that handcraft biodynamic wines in the south of France. like in parts of the Languedoc and the Luberon and the wines are made with native yeasts, with loads of whole cluster and ultra low sulfur to allow the grapes and vineyard sites to express themselves in their most natural and pure form. This vibrant and expressive Grenache, in true Glou Glou fashion is a perfect wine to enjoy with friends and great with simple meals and is tasty with a slight chill, making it great with picnics, BBQ and sunset quaffing.

The vividly ruby hued Ochota Barrels “The Green Room” Grenache Noir comes from classic old bush vines planted back in 1946 on a combination of schist and limestone in the McLaren Vale region of South Australia and was lovingly hand crafted using lessons learned over twenty years and inspired by small biodynamic wines in southern France with native yeasts, whole bunches and ultra low sulfur to allow the grapes to express themselves in their most natural and pure form. The Ochota Barrels story began, as legend has it and noted in my earlier reviews, on a surf trip, in late 2000 when the world traveling couple, Taras and Amber, were trekking along the west coast of Mexico in a Volkswagen fried-out Kombi (camper van), yes, like The Men at Work song. As they enjoyed the waves, sunsets and the remote nature of the peninsula, they thought about what was going to be their next big adventure and hatched a plan to make what they hoped would be a generation of beautiful holistic wines back home in South Australia. After, what Taras called, a misspent youth playing a Rickenbacker bass in various punk bands, he found wine, and he got an oenology degree from Adelaide University, one of the most prestigious wine schools in the world and made wine in France, Sicily and here in California, notably working for Kunin, Bonnacorsi, Arcadian, Schrader, Outpost and Hitching Post. The whole wine world is still morning the loss of Taras Ochota, who passed too young, at age 49 back in October of 2020, and we are all rooting for Amber, who just finished, with the help of friends and family her first crush without Taras, and I look forward to her future releases.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 13, 2021

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