Monthly Archives: June 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 30, 2021

2020 Martha Stoumen, Mendocino Benchlands Red, Mendocino County.
The fresh and spicy 2020 Stoumen Benchlands feels juicy, vibrant and dry with crushed raspberry and peonies leading the way on this attractive and lighter framed 40% Petite Sirah, 37% Zinfandel and 23% Nero d’Avola blend that is perfect medium bodied wine for pasta, pizza and especially outdoor dinning with smooth dusty tannins and zesty natural acidity. An easy to love quaffer, the latest Benchlands includes a high dose of carbonic Petite Sirah which Martha handled with her more delicate touch, as well as the usual Zinfandel, which gives this wine its California sunny personality and her signature Nero d’Avola, the Sicilian grape that adds complexity and a dark earthy charm, with all the grapes coming from three sustainable/organic Mendocino sites set on stony benchland, hence the name on this wine, valley floor uplifted soils with mainly gravelly/sandy loams. Stoumen says this wine was inspired by the Italian farming tradition where grapes were planted on the poorer soils and you can feel it here on this latest release with its fruit forward nature and slightly rustic character, it is an honest and good drinking wine with a simple array of red fruits, a touch of iron, a light crunch of herbs, blood orange, pretty florals and a lingering tanginess. Think of this wine as a no pretense, fun companion, one to be poured with happy friends around a campfire or sitting by a lake, it is a superb Summer red, like an Italian country wine and or a Carignan based Corbieres, from France’s wild Languedoc.

The Mendocino Benchlands, a red blend, that Martha resurrected in 2019, her original vintage was in 2015, it was brought back as a result of a new vineyard she started leasing and farming in Mendocino County called the Chiarito-Ling Vineyard, where Stoumen gets her Zinfandel and some of her Petite Sirah. This vintage deviates from the 2015 and 2019 vintages, as Martha says, a smidge, because in 2020 she also added some carbonic maceration Petite Sirah to bring some blue fruit to the blend, which shows up after the wine has been open a white and with food, adding a some delicious blueberry and plum. The other two vineyards, the Benson Ranch vineyard, in Ukiah, provides a little extra Petite Sirah, while the Nero d’Avola comes from 33 year old vines at the Fox Hill Vineyard, located on the Talmage Bench in Mendocino County, which is most likely the oldest Nero d’Avola vines in California. The ripe and lively Benchlands Red comes in at just 12.5% natural alcohol and never gets dull in the glass which has an inviting garnet/ruby/strawberry hue, it is also very low in total SO2 and Stoumen notes it is, like all of her wines, vegan safe. The grapes were fermented separately in small batches, with whole cluster employed for the Zin and Petite, though all de-stemmed for the Nero. All of lots were pressed prior to dryness and then barrel aged in all neutral French oak for 6 months off lees and then bottled unfined and unfiltered. Martha suggests, and I agree, to enjoy this Benchlands young and chilled, drink over the next two or three years. There’s a lot to like in Martha’s latest set of releases, especially her new Vermentino, her Rosato of Nero d’Avola and this one, be sure to check them out.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 29, 2021

2017 Aeris, Bianco, Centennial Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma County.
From the proprietor of Rhys, Kevin Harvey, the famous Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs producer, comes this new project Aeris, with Italian and Sicilian grapes as the core mission behind the new label that will based in Sonoma, but with some of their wines being sourced in Sicily as they get started. This was the first Aeris I got to try, it is 100% Carricante, a Sicilian varietal found mostly on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, where it makes one of the most compelling white wines you could ever want, with this 2017 showing pure Carricante charm and grace, making for an exotic California version, maybe the only one. The is brilliant clarity of form and a nice rounded balance here in the Aeris Bianco with a striking mix of citrus and stone fruits, light spices, refined floral detail and a stony element too, all coming together very well, it really isn’t too far off some of the Etna classics, like Terre Nere. This is an early enjoyment style wine that should be enjoyed in its expressive youthful form, especially as this 2017 is a slightly lower acid vintage, though I hear the 2018 and 2019s are big steps up with more mineral intensity and more natural acidity benefiting this wine in perfect conditions for exceptional quality, not that this one isn’t exciting and its opulence is very attractive. The medium bodied and done dry palate reveals orange blossoms, tangerine, white peach, a touch of dried pineapple, crystallized ginger and honeydew melon along with a touch of earthy loam, saline infused rock and hint of lychee, making it compelling with Mediterranean and or Moroccan cuisines, from grilled octopus to lemon chicken and couscous.

The philosophy, behind Aeris, is rooted, literally, on expressing the unique character of their native Italian varieties grown in a completely new viticultural area, Centennial Mountain, which has some ancient volcanic influence itself, and Italian traditions. The site is not far from Lake Sonoma, just outside of the Dry Creek Valley AVA, on iron rich rocky soils with long warm sun-kissed Summer days and hillside vines. The core ideas, Harvey and his winemaker Jeff Brinkman, include organic farming, old world natural winemaking utilizing indigenous yeasts, without the use of nutrients or other additives, and the aging, which is done with the extensive use of large neutral oak casks to promote purity and transparency. The primary fermentation for the Aeris Bianco, according to the winery, was done in temperature controlled stainless steel tank to capture and preserve the delicate aromatics, after which the wine was raised in a combination of the large casks and a few stainless hogshead size barrels for about 12 months. Carricante, especially in the hands of Rhys’ talented winemakers, looks to have bright future here in California, and I’m excited to see what they do also with their new red grape Nerello Mascalese, another Sicilian and Mount Etna varietal, as well as their Nebbiolo. As I have mentioned in recent reviews, the Cal Itals, wines made from Italian grapes, have really come of age in the last ten years, especially Ryme Cellar’s Aglianico, Fiano and Vermentino, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro, the Giornata Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo and Barbera, Arnot-Roberts’ Falanghina and the Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla, to name just a few. It is a great time to discover these dynamic wines, and I am looking forward to seeing how these Aeris offerings develop, there is a lot to love in this well crafted Carricante already.
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2021

2019 Ovum Wines, Old Love, White Wine, Oregon.
The Ovum Old Love dry white wine is a blend of grapes that sing in the glass with a range of heady and perfumed scents along with a brisk salty palate that will remind people of the beautiful and textural mixed varietal Alsatian wines of Marcel Deiss, Marc Tempe and Albert Boxler’s Edelzwicker Réserve, which is a different blend every year, like Ovum’s Old Love. The Old Love is about 45% Riesling, 35% Gewürztraminer, 10% Pinot Blanc and 10% (Dry) Muscat, though maybe 1% is other varietals depending on the year and what is co-planted in the vineyards, which are located throughout Oregon on a unique combination of soils, it is certainly one of the most eccentric of the state’s white wines and the better for it. The 2019 Old Love is fresh and lively with green apple, white peach, tangerine and dried apricot fruits on the lithe and crystalline palate, which is racy, saline and mineral laced with a bracing kick of acidity and showing hints of wet stone, ginger, rosewater and wild herbs. This white gives quite a rush to the senses and has a feeling of grip to it with crisp extract lingering well on in the aftertaste, very impressive and a great wine with food, in particular white fish, poultry, light pork dishes and even fresh briny oysters. The straw and light golden Old Love white keeps you guess throughout the glass, but drinks impeccably well balanced and rewarding without any obvious varietal domination taking charge, it truly is a wine that is better because of the sum of all parts, consider me intrigued! I am looking foward to exploring the rest of the Ovum lineup and the new vintages that have just now been released.

Ovum Wines, which was founded in 2011 by Ksenija Kostic House, the winemaker and her husband John House, is a label dedicated to showcasing vineyard sites and vintage through white wines, like this Old Love white wine. Ovum is solely committed to the production of these white wines, which mainly consist of aromatic varietals, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat that are fermented with native yeasts and aged in a combination of Amphora, neutral barrels of acacia wood and French oak, as well as partially in cement egg and some larger format Austrian casks. The Big Salt white, a different Ovum bottling, sees some extra skin contact and is fermented in separate lots, while this Old Love looks to be a co-ferment with minimum skin contact, while the Ovum Big Salt sees those separate ferments with extra skin contact. The Old Love is from vineyard sites, at least 10 different organic and sustainable vineyards that are all over 30 years old and set on a range of volcanic ash, basalt, marine sediment, alluvial, serpentine soils, with altitudes between 250 ft to over a 1,000 ft and with a collection of AVA’s from the Rogue to the Columbia Gorge, as well as the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley. Ksenija, I believe, for this Old Love white, co-fermented the different grapes, which saw a cold direct press into stainless steel for a natural yeast fermentation, or Inox, before seeing a 60 day elevage with 40% staying in tank, with 60% moving into Amphora, Austrian (oak) ovals, neutral French oak and Cement Egg for an extended 6 months before bottling. I’d been hearing the buzz about these Ovum wines and I’m thrilled to have finally opened one and I will without question get many more, especially at the prices, which seem insanely low for the quality!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2021

2017 Domaine Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie, Amethyste, Northern Rhone, France.
The warm year really shows here and the 2017 Bernard Levet Cote-Rotie cuvée Amethyste, 100% Syrah, is very opulent and luxuriously textured, it is surprisingly open knit in a departure in style from most of the Levet wines I’ve tried, which are usually much more lean and tightly wound when young, this lush version with be a crowd pleaser with those that open this one in this time frame with supple tannins and concentrated fruit density. This cuvee Amethyste is new to me, and it has only been imported since 2015, I usually enjoy the Levet La Chavaroche and the Les Journaries, which is always from the old vine plot at the La Landonne lieu-dit, one of Cote-Rotie’s premier sites, and my first impression is positive and my initial thoughts also reflect what importer Rosenthal says of the Amethyste, that it is a wine that is less severe and savage in nature and more open. This vintage was a hot year too, adding to the sense of ripeness on the smooth full bodied palate, delivering rich chocolaty dark fruits with blackberry, damson plum, sweet cherry and blueberry compote, all accented by delicate florals, a light smokiness, dried herbs, spices and creme de cassis, as well as anise, a hint of meatiness, mocha and lingering boysenberry and toffee notes. Fermented with about 60% whole bunches, with no Viognier, the dark purple/garnet Amethyste is an elegant and seamless Cote-Rotie, maybe missing a little of the excitement of their top bottlings, but a wonderful value.

The Levet Cote-Rotie(s) are uniquely fermented and aged with most vintages seeing a traditional partial whole cluster and with selected yeasts being employed during an almost month long maceration with gentle hand punch downs. The winery explains that they do their primary Syrah fermentation in epoxy lined cuves with the cuvaison lasting at least three weeks while malolactic fermentation normally finishes by the end of the year. They then rack the wine into large oak barrels where it spends a few months, after which, at the beginning of the second year, the wines are moved into demi-muids, a medium sized oak cask with about 15% of which are new. Then for the third year, the Cote-Rotie(s) are racked again and left to complete their barrel aging in a mixture of demi-muids and smaller barrels, with them seeing a totally elevage of 36 months before bottling with a light fining, but without filtration. The Domaine Bernard Levet has of 3.5 hectares of vineyards, all of which are located within the boundaries of the town of Ampuis, in the Cote Rotie appellation, all in prime zones, making for a tidy collection in this historic terroir with their vines consisting of six separate parcels, including their signature “Chavaroche” in Cote Brune with a southwest exposure and an average age 40 years, plus Landonne old vines, Font Jean, Les Craies, Mollard and the Moulin, one of the most famous parcels that is situated just below Guigal’s La Turque. Levet, founded under this label with the 1983 vintage is run by Nicole and Bernard Levet with their vigneron daughter Agnes now doing most of the heavy lifting here and continues the excellence that has made this winery one of the savviest of the region to collect.
($55 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2021

2018 Domaine Jean Foillard, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The fresh and lively 2018 Fleurie from Jean Foillard is a very pretty and delicate wine of great class and character, but less fruit forward than the 2015, which was the last vintage I reviewed, and 2009, which really were mind-blowing wines, though this one will sneak up on you, with air it really comes alive with vivid layers, smooth textures and beautiful floral details. The fruit is bright and tangy, highlighting the vintage and the Gamay’s inner nature, pushed up by the wine’s natural acidity and mineral tones with tart plum, strawberry, currant and red peach all revolving on the medium bodied palate along with crunchy herbs, anise, a bit of lilac and rose petal, as well as a touch of dark walnut. The color is a warm ruby and garnet at its core, very alluring in the glass and the bouquet is a bit more expressive that the Morgon bottling, for which Foillard is much more famous for, but this wine always seems a tad more elegant, where as those Morgon’s are more dense and have more of a gripping presence. Jean Foillard, who took over his father’s domaine in 1980, is a legendary Cru Beaujolais producer and, as mentioned, famous for his stylish wines from his vineyards in Morgon’s famous Côte du Py, the prestigious slope outside the town of Villié-Morgon, but he also has this tiny parcel in Fleurie that makes for maybe his most exotic and perfumed bottling, as this one is beginning to show, and it should evolve nicely over the next 3 to 5 years and last at least another decade.

The Foillard Fleurie is made exclusively from a single hectare and sourced from two lieux-dits, Grille-Midi and Champagne (where top Dutraive’s, the king of Fleurie has his best parcels), of organic 20 to 70 years old vines set on the mentioned pink granite and sandstone that give this Cru its unique personality and heightened perfumed character. Made using whole cluster and native yeasts, the Fleurie macerates and ferments for about a month before being pressed to used Burgundy barrels for close to 9 months. Foillard also choses to hold back his Fleurie in the cellar, in bottle for an extra year, so when his Cote du Py, his signature wine comes out the very limited production Fleurie is on the previous vintage, making it always a touch more polished and elegant on release. As I have mentioned in prior reviews and noted by Kermit Lynch, the famous importer that brought great Cru Beaujolais to America’s attention, Foillard was greatly inspired by natural wine guru Jules Chauvet, a traditionalist who defied everything that the more commercial brands were touting in the region and wanted to go back to pre-industrial organic farming and not use chemical additives in the cellar. Jean and three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton, soon joined in on the movement, this became the Gang of Four, who along with Dutraive, brought fame to this region that at the time had lost its reputation and was known more for generic wines at the time. These days, there is a generational change happening with great potential already on display by Jean’s son Alex, as well as Matthieu Lapierre, Charly Thevenet and Justin Dutraive all being impressive talents in their own right.
($50 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2021

2020 Filomena Wine Company, Cabernet Pfeffer Rosé, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley, San Benito County.
Rosé in California has officially reached the next level with many absolutely delicious and outstanding versions out there with the 2018s, 2019s and these new 2020s providing perfect conditions for some amazing dry pink wines, with some unique and rare varietals coming into play, like this fabulous Filomena Rosé made from a California rarity, Cabernet Pfeffer grown in the wilds of San Benito County at the Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln Valley AVA. The 2020 Filomena Cabernet Pfeffer Rosé, handcrafted by Luke Nio, who is a winemaker at Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Company, is bright and minerally crisp with excellent acidity and zesty fruit layers showing tart plum water, cherry, currant, pink citrus and salty wet stone, along with a touch of dried lavender, Asian spice and extremely delicate floral notes. Cabernet Pfeffer, also known as Mourtou, is a distinct varietal that was a late 19th-century crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and an unknown vitis vinifera vine and was often confused with Gros Verdot, though it is now known to be an unrelated grape and Pfeffer is almost entirely found on the central coast, though a few vines are in some heritage vineyards in the Sonoma and Napa valleys. In the past I’ve had a few examples of Cabernet Pfeffer, like Nicole Walsh’s (winemaker at Bonny Doon) Ser and Ryan Kobza’s (assistant winemaker at I. Brand & Family Winery) Kobza Wines, who does it as both a Rosé and as a red wine, but Nio’s effort really is an eye opener.

Filomena Wine Company is a new and exciting label with a tiny production with a focus on Syrah, along with one of my new favorite wines made from the rare Austrian varietal Saint Laurent, which I have reviewed here at and this Rosé, which is an all new wine for Nio. Sourced from the Enz Vineyard, most famous for old vine Mourvedre that was planted back in the early 1900s, the Filomena Cabernet Pfeffer comes from this historic site that sits about a 1,000 ft above sea level, it is an all organic and dry farmed vineyard in the Gabilan Range that is set on limestone. Rio brought these grapes in nice and cool from a night time pick and he did a gentle foot-trod, allowing for skin contact to last overnight. Then the Cabernet Pfeffer was whole cluster pressed to stainless steel where is saw an indigenous yeast fermentation and a short lees aging. The results are as impressive and they are refreshingly tasty, putting this Cabernet Pfeffer dry Rosé into the same league as some of my must have examples, right up there with Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rosé and the Bedrock Ode to Lulu, the Mourvedre based pink that is a Bandol style Rosé and tribute to the matriarch of Domaine Tempier. As mentioned California is doing some thrilling Rosé wines, as good as anything from anywhere, from Tablas Creek’s fine examples made from Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and other Rhone varietals, Angela Osborne’s Tribute to Grace Grenache Rosé to Martha Stoumen’s Italian inspired versions that include an extended lees aged Negroamaro and her vivid Rosé of Nero d’Avola, to name a couple. This latest set from Filomena are star quality offerings and I highly recommend getting on Nio’s mailing list and grab these wines, his Griffin’s Lair Syrah is top notch northern Rhone style wine too, do not miss these.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2021

2018 Intent, Pinot Noir, Home Block, Anderson Valley.
The 2018 Intent Pinot Noir, 100% Pommard clone and all biodynamic was sourced from Filigreen Farm, which is situated on the valley floor of Anderson Valley on sedimentary soils. The biodynamic gardens and vineyards at Filigreen Farm are devoted to the valley’s specialty, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes, and the Intent Pinot comes off their Home Block, as winemaker Patrick Callagy notes, a parcel with some of the oldest vines on the property. This unique estate is Demeter certified biodynamic, no mean feat and this wine shows the quality and life from these carefully farmed vines. This latest Pinot from Intent, a new label for me, saw a gentle non intervention native yeast fermentation and about 15 months in neutral oak, with just 61 cases produced, all unfined/unfiltered. Coming in at just 13.3% alcohol, this Intent Pinot shows off the vintage with exceptional fresh detail, even ripeness and vibrancy giving an array of cherry, crushed spiced raspberry, plum and earthy/tart cranberry fruits along with black tea, sassafras, baking spices, blood orange and light herb notes. The mouth feel is very alluring here, with air and time in the glass and this ruby/garnet Pinot just gets more complex with each sip, adding a rose petal, floral dimension too, impressive and certainly worth searching out Pinot lovers that want to explore an up and coming producer and are cool climate enthusiasts.

Patrick Callagy, a California Culinary Academy trained chef and turned winemaker, has launched his personal project Intent Wines with a solid set of initial offerings including a Pinot Gris, a Syrah and this lovely Home Block Pommard Clone Pinot Noir. Patrick met winemaker Eric Sussman in 2002, post graduation, when Sussman started his now famous Radio Coteau winery, helping out with that harvest and after a few years of extremely long hours, Callagy’s curiosity/persistence paid off when he became Radio Coteau’s first employee, gaining loads of wine growing and winemaking experience. Fast forward a few years, Patrick started the Intent brand with the 2017 vintage, bravely starting his own label in 2020, considering the difficulty of getting stuff done in the middle of the COVID pandemic, which Callagy says, it’s been challenging year to say the least, but one he survived and we are rewarded with these cool new wines. The focus here is to source from, organically grown, or as Patrick explains, correctly farmed sites, which is where his Intent name comes from. I’m excited to see how this naturally styled wine develops, as it gets so good with air and pleases the senses with silken texture and lingering red fruits and I am looking forward to popping the cork on Patrick’s Pinot Gris, especially as I find the Anderson Valley provides an Alsatian quality to the grapes here that is very compelling.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 23, 2021

2000 Chateau Pipeau, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Red Bordeaux, France.
Pretty, but fading, this Chateau Pipeau 2000 shows a lovely array of dried flowers, red fruits and light cedary notes and a delicate velvety mouth feel, best to drink these bottles up if you have them as I am comfortably certain it is at the edge of the mountain top looking into the abyss and ready for the long good night. The color is still bright garnet at first, though after twenty minutes you see a slight brown tone emerge and a sous bois and earthy truffle presence takes over and the fruit dies away in stages. Before that happens things are serene and joyous on the palate with dusty plum, red berries, cherry and strawberry fruits unfolding with sandalwood, bay leaf, chanterelle, porporri and loam in a pure and silken fashion. I have been unconvinced by 2000s, feeling they have never lived up to the hype, especially the top wines of the Medoc, though that said I have found the right bank wines to be much more pleasing with Saint Emilion my favorite in this vintage. I have long said I prefer 2001s overall when it was a choice between Bordeaux 2000 and 2001, and while this wine is very nice, I am staying with my views and holding tight on my own opinion and have started to put my money where my mouth is, buying up a few less fanciful 2001s to enjoy now, this one being an exception and one I was happy with, even with the short drinking window once the cork was pulled.

The Grand Cru Saint Emilion estate, Chateau Pipeau, is a large, 25 hectare, Right Bank vineyard and is planted to about 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon with many different parcels within the region. The terroir here is a mix of sand, gravel and clay soils which is pretty classic here in Saint Emilion appellation, which also has areas of limestone that provides more structure and quality, while the deeper clay gives a deep sense of fruit and concentration. Pipeau does their fermentations in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using selected yeasts with the the wine seeing both primary and malo-lactic fermentation in the stainless vats before barrel aging in about 70% new oak for an elevage of close to 14 months, depending on the vintage. In some years, especially ripe years, a portion of the Cabernet Sauvignon will be aged in just stainless to add freshness and raw tannin to create more balance, which could be the case in a year like 2000, and most certainly in years like 2003, 2005 and 2009. Since 2000, Chateau Pipeau has become a popular address for quality and fair priced wines, savvy buyers have stocked up on Pipeau, they have gained a reputation for soft and elegant, fruit forward wines for mid term aging, and you can see why when you drink these attractive Saint Emilions, just be mindful not to hold them too long, my feeling is they are best between 5 to 15 years old.
($55 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2021

2019 Ryme Wine Cellars, Rosé of Aglianico, Heringer Vineyard, Clarksburg AVA, California.
One of my favorite wineries in recent years is Ryme Wine Cellars, with winemakers Megan and Ryan Glaab, who are crafting an awesome collection of fun offerings with an accent on Vermentino, Cabernet Franc and Aglianico, like in this savvy Rosé, as well as a quaffable Sangiovese and Friulano blend, plus a couple of speciality sparklers that are deliciously unique. Ryme is a collaboration of this husband and wife team that are blessed with old world sensibilities, using traditional and mostly natural methods as well as having an admiration for California’s terroir, history and, as they put it, its sunny disposition. Their portfolio of wines has grown gradually and organically since their founding back in 2007, which actually began with a single ton of Aglianico grapes. This bone dry 2019 Rosé of Aglianico is bright, vividly fresh and steely toned with loads of acidity and zesty crisp fruit, this is precise and wonderfully judged wine that is perfectly matched for these warm summer days with sour tart cherry, strawberry, grapefruit/citrus, briery spiced raspberry water, bitter herbs and a hint of rosewater. At first this seems lithe and vibrantly light, but it has some grip and intensity and gains presence with air making it easy to sip, but also brilliant with food, especially seafoods, picnic fare and or a cheese plate. Let Summer begin, and I highly recommend getting these Ryme Aglianico(s) from this Rosé to their deep and tannic red versions, along with their Pet-Nat style crackling Aglianico bubbly!

Ryme has searched out many different vineyard sites for their set of Aglianico red wines, mostly from warm areas to get this powerful grape ripe, but they needed a cooler site to do this exceptional Rosé and after a bit of searching they found the spot. The Heringer Vineyard, which is located in the Clarksburg AVA, known for old California Chenin Blanc and that has a climate well suited to provide natural acidity. With its stony, rich alluvial soil, modestly warm days, as Ryme puts it, and the cool breezes winding through the nearby Delta, the Heringer Vineyard site has the perfect conditions to do this lovely dry pink wine. The Glaab’s note that the Aglianico struggles here to accumulate much sugar and rather than dark and brooding, as it usually is, especially in Campania, Italy where the grape is mostly at home, the fruit retains more delicacy and brightness. At just 20 brix and very high acidity, Ryme brought these grapes into the winery where they were immediately cool whole cluster pressed to minimize its color extraction and it was fermented all naturally without additions in stainless steel and aged a short time neutral wood. As noted in my reviews, I have been highly impressed with Ryme’s efforts with this grape, known as the Barolo of the south in its home country, because of its Nebbiolo like character and this delicately pale Aglianico Rosé is now firmly in my must have wines and I am putting my order in for the latest release right now!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2021

2018 Halcón Vineyards, Esquisto, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The Esquisto Rhone blend from Halcon is Grenache based and made with about 40% of whole cluster and is wonderfully deep and spicy with good does of Mourvedre and Syrah, what this tiny high altitude estate is most famously known for. For the 2018 Esquisto, the final blend ended up 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah, and it was fermented using indigenous yeasts and a cool maceration period with hand punch-downs before being pressed to used French oak barrels for close to a year. Paul and Jackie Gordon own and farm the renown Halcon Vineyard with great care and holstically, modeling their wines after the great wines of the northern Rhone with a focus on Syrah, though they added some parcels of Mourvedre, Grenache, Roussanne and Marsanne to fill out lineup, with this excellent and unique Esquisto being their only blended red offering. The British ex-pat couple split their time in the vineyard with their day jobs, with Paul working in high tech, whilst Jackie works part time in real estate that allows her more flexibility to be a hands on winemaker for Halcon’s many wines. In the last half a dozen vintages Halcon has become one of the most exciting labels in California with wines that are thrilling examples of northern Rhone inspired beauties that will remind many of the greats from Cornas, Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. This 2018 Esquisto is alluringly dark purple in the glass with edgy spiciness that grabs your attention with an array of grilled herbs, blue fruit and lilacs on the nose that leads to a a ripe, but chiseled palate with brambly black raspberry, ollalieberry, plum, pomegranate and kirsch fruits, rosemary like wild sage, pepper, mineral and meaty notes, a touch of cedar, anise and lingering creme de cassis. This is wine with depth and richness, boding well for midterm aging, it also highlights the season’s long cool growing season with balancing juicy acidity and some robust tannins that need some air and food to fold in and be best enjoyed, impressive and unique stuff that went awesomely with herb crusted roast chicken. While Grenache based, this Esquisto is not a softy, it reminds me somewhat of the brilliant efforts of Domaine Gramenon, who’s stylish Cotes du Rhone offerings, even Grenache led, are often more Syrah like, especially in profile.

This amazing small estate is located in the Mendocino County’s higher elevation appellation of the Yorkville Highlands, once thought to be better for Pinot Noir, Halcón Vineyards overlooks the Anderson Valley and the Pacific to the west. This vineyard is remotely high up sitting at 2500ft and it is one of the highest vineyard sites in California, which has certainly contributed to the iconic nature of these wines. The northerly location, north of Sonoma, the cool Pacific Ocean influences and altitude combine to produce a climate remarkably similar to the Northern Rhône region of France, as Gordon points out often, and with some glee, in fact a climate map typically shows his vineyard is slightly cooler than the famous village of Ampuis, near Cote-Rotie. Yorkville Highlands is located on the central belt of the Franciscan Complex, as these soils are known, which is comprised of heavily metamorphosed sandstone, which Paul adds is about a hundred million years old, and the Halcón Vineyard itself sits atop a geologic band known as (the) Yorkville Complex, for those that geek out on geology, a rare soil type based on fractured shale, mica-schist and quartz-rich rock, which is non too different than what you’d find in the upper part of the Rhone. Syrah is obviously the main varietal at Halcón and it is the Gordon’s obsession and passion, which they farm with total commitment that shows in the quality of their wines. The Gordon’s have some, of what they call, heritage clone selections of Syrah here that are originally from both of the most classic areas for this grape, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. They feel that they have some of the best genetic material available, some of which are rumored to be legendary Chave Hermitage clones. On a warmer and more protected south facing slope, there is a small planting of Grenache and Mourvedre that the Gordon’s have been experimenting with to good effect in this Esquisto. Halcon follows a rigorous organic regime in the vineyard, spraying only fundamental sulphur (a natural element) without copper additions and the fertilization is done from organic compost only. As for pests, the rodent control, Gordon says, is courtesy of the resident owls, hawks and bobcats. I am a huge fan of these wines and they are outrageously well priced for the thrill they provide and the quality in the bottle, don’t miss them!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive