Monthly Archives: April 2021

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

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 3, 2021

2018 Waxwing Wines, Dry Riesling, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The latest set of wines by Scott Sisemore at Waxwing Wines is his best yet with his focus on mainly the Santa Cruz Mountains for his Pinots has paid off, especially his Lester and Deerheart offerings that are really good, but I also love his crisply focused Tondre Grapefield Riesling, the 2018 in particular, which is his driest and most interesting version to date and it really feels almost like a blend between an Australian and Austrian styles. This vintage, long and cool, allowed for more complex flavors and texture to develop, while retaining intense acidity and the Waxwing Tondre Riesling sets the saliva glands alight with mouth watering tanginess with a first impression of ripe (fruit density) giving way to the wine’s brisk zestiness with plenty of lime, green apple, bitter melon and canned peach before opening up with paraffin, almond oil, wild herbs, wet stones and verbena notes all coming out here, it all makes for a tasting white wine to enjoy with cured meats, claims and smoked trout. There’s some nice floral aromatics as well as some cool toned minerallity that shines through on this medium bodied Riesling that has just started to evolve with some secondary characteristics beginning to unfold here with a subtle oily creaminess, a touch of fleshy apricot and gun flint that bodes well for many more years of rewarding drinking pleasures.

Sisemore’s winemaking with his Riesling is very traditional with the grapes being whole cluster pressed and getting a full twenty-four hours for the juice to settle, to drop out the more aggressive phenolic extract or green bitterness before the Tondre Riesling is fermented in small upright stainless steel tanks. Scott care monitored the progress until the sugar and acidity were in balance, then he stopped the fermentation, the results speak to the quality in the bottle with just enough residual sugar to add charm without overt sweetness and this vintage’s acidity is well judged. The finished wine only saw about 5 months on the lees before bottling and it easily met the international requirements to be classified as dry with finished natural alcohol of 12.9%, much in line with German trockens. The Tondre Grapefield set on sandy loams, owned by Joe Alarid, added Riesling in 2006, while sadly large parcels of old vine Riesling in the Santa Lucia Highlands were being ripped out, including some beautiful vines at Sleepy Hollow, to make way for more Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In recent years some very tasty wines have been made from SLH Riesling with Russell Joyce, who gets some grapes from Tondre as well, and Morgan Winery, who have their own plots at their organic Double L Ranch Estate, doing excellent examples, so it was no surprise that this Waxwing is such an exciting wine, it should drink nicely for another 3 to 5 years with ease.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 2, 2021

2018 Birichino “Scylla” Old Vine Red Blend, California.
The 2018 Scylla California Red Blend is crafted from old vine sites within the state and made from mostly Carignane and Grenache, plus a dash of Mourvèdre, the wine, named after a sea monster from ancient stories, is wonderfully delicious and pure with loads of bright and spicy red fruit along with hints of herbs de Provence, dried sage, pretty floral notes and a with touches of earth and mineral elements. I mostly know Birichino for their exceptional versions of Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, Enz Vineyard Pinot Noir and Mourvedre and especially their awesome Besson Grenache, from own rooted vines planted in 1910, but they also do some more fun and exotic stuff as well, including a Sparkling Chenin Blanc Pet-Nat and a rare 100% St. George bottling. This garnet/ruby hued vintage, the second edition of this Scylla Red, ended up being 50% Carignan and 48% Grenache along with 2% Mourvedre in the final blend, it shows ripe and smooth layers of boysenberry, sweet plums, pomegranate and cherry fruits that are accented by subtle cayenne, baking spices, mint, anise, crushed peony and loamy underbrush. This is an outstanding bargain and it drinks with a flourish and is quality stuff, it reminds me a lot of Maxime Magnon’s Corbières “Rozeta”, one of my favorite Languedoc wines, but with a distinctive California profile. Birichino has just released a few new wines that also have caught my attention, in particular a very limited Rosé Pet-Nat (Pétulant Naturel) of Cinsault and their Old Vine Montague Vineyard Carignane, from a parcel planted in the late 1920s.

Birichino was founded by Alex Krause and John Locke in Santa Cruz back n 2008 after years in the wine business and with decades, as they put it, of winemaking experience in California, France, Italy, and beyond. Like many small new generation wineries in the state, they are focused on putting out hand crafted limited production and affordable wines from organic or sustainable vineyard sites. The wines here are balanced with a studied natural feel about them, which they add, and have a mix of fruit concentration, savory contrast and are offerings of perfume, poise, and puckishness with refined alcohol, like this wine with its 13% natural alcohol. Birichino sources from a fabulous collection of carefully farmed, family-owned, own-rooted 19th and early 20th century vineyards, plus a couple, as the winery jokes, from the late disco era! Mainly these vineyards are in more moderate, marine-influenced climates of the Central Coast, looking for a vibrance of their raw materials and unique terroir influences. The Scylla Red Blend comes from Carignane grapes from Matt and John Shinn in Lodi’s Mokelumne River, Grenache from the historic Besson Vineyard in the Hecker Pass, between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara, and Mourvedre from the Enz Vineyard in the Lyme Kiln Valley, part of San Benito County. Birichino’s winemaking relies on minimal intervention, as Locke and Krause most often employing native fermentation, with stainless or neutral barrels used for aging with gentle macerations, few racking and light fining, avoiding filtration altogether when possible. Birichino’s mission is to deliver wines that give pleasure and have a place at the dinner table and or at gatherings of friends, with this Scylla Red perfectly performing in this quest.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 1, 2021

2016 Monsecco, Nebbiolo “Pratogrande” Colline Novaresi DOC, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
The Monsecco Pratogrande Nebbiolo 2016 is an elegant vintage and a beautiful wine, its classic Nebbiolo personality and profile unfolding on the medium/full palate is impressive and makes for an exceptional value with pretty floral notes, layers of dark berry fruits, earthy elements, dusty tannins and lifting natural acidity. The hills of the Colline Novaresi are set on ancient glacial moraine with mineral rich veins, from volcanic influence and gravelly stones that give these wines a sense of spice, liquid rock and salinity, which this wine shows, along with Nebbiolo’s late ripening depth of flavor and high elevation freshness. There’s a lot to love in this 2016 edition, it is a vintage to stock up on, it has the complexity and seductive charm of some of the finest Piedmonte years, but without intensely powerful tannins, which are still here, though more subtle and refined, allowing this vintage to be enjoyed in its youth and still having potential to age. Monesecco’s Pratogrande starts with herbs, savory (gamey) elements, raspberry and wilted rose petals before leading to a mouthful of damson plum, mulberry, red currant, kirsch and anise, along with cedar, mint, underbrush and a hint of orange rind. With air the fruit comes alive and sweetens, it gains tremendously as it opens and especially with protein rich foods. This Nebbiolo is an absolutely delicious wine and a killer bargain at under twenty five bucks, fans of the more famous parts of the Langhe, will certainly need to check out these Monsecco offerings, which are very savvy buys.

These Nebbiolo wines of this region, which also go by the local name Spanna in the Alto Piemonte, are characterized by their fresh detail and mineral notes with lovely aromatics that comes from the old vines and the high altitudes. The Colline Novaresi DOC is set on the left bank of the river Sesia, just across the river from the Coste della Sesia Spanna area, home to more prestigious Ghemme DOCG zone, a long time home to fabulous Nebbiolo based wines, that are usually field blends containing some Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda, two rare local varietals, and not too far away from Gattinara, Boca, Bramaterra, Carema, Fara and Lessona. The Monsecco Pratogrande is exclusively made from 100% Nebbiolo that was hand harvested from vineyards close to, but just outside of the Gattinara and Ghemme zones, all from steep slopes of hillside parcels and was aged two years in large Botte (Slovenian oak casks) and then another year in bottle before release. This wine sees a lighter maceration than the top Gattinara and Ghemme versions in search of purity and grace, that this 2016 delivers to near perfection, it gives plenty of fruit density as well as energy and supple textural opulence. The Zanetta family, the proprietors, here at Monsecco are committed to quality and hand craft wonderfully transparent wines that give a true sense of place, these are all estate and organic (grown) efforts that deserve your attention and are worth searching out, in particular this one, along with their other single varietal wines, including the Vespolina, Croatina and Bonarda (Uva Rara) bottlings, plus as mentioned the top Ghemme and Gattinara(s).
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive