Monthly Archives: September 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 30, 2021

2016 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Tina Marie Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
Opened for a small family night celebration, the 2016 Anthill Farms Tina Marie Pinot Noir, was a perfect choice with the beginnings of maturity and supple fruit, made for an exceptional evening and reminded me of just how good these wines are, especially with a touch of age on them. Three winemaking friends, Webster “Web” Marquez, Anthony Filiberti and David Low started Anthill Farms in 2004, and quickly became a cult hit, producing beautiful Pinot Noirs from cool climate Sonoma and Mendocino fruit. Now they do about eight single vineyard wines and a couple of regional offerings with a little Chardonnay and Syrah thrown in, all are top notch stuff, with the regional Anderson Valley Pinot being one of the state’s best values as well, if you can find it! This Tina Marie, which sadly hasn’t been in the lineup in recent years, is a fabulous and pure Pinot Noir with a pretty floral bouquet and deep ruby color in the glass that leads to a medium bodied palate of black cherry, tree picked plum, crushed raspberry and strawberry fruits that are perfectly accented by hints of orange/herb tea, cinnamon, mocha, cedar, a stony saline note and wilted roses. The mouth feel is opulent and silky, while there is an underlying energy and smooth natural acidity that keeps everything in focus, this wine confidently expressing itself right now with a ripe luxuriousness, but with a brilliant low alcohol, it is just 13.2%, that allows full enjoyment without guilt worries when the bottle emptied a little too quickly.

The Tina Marie Vineyard, a tightly spaced site farmed by Ron Black and Stephen Bessone, sits within the Green Valley zone of the Russian River Valley AVA and has lots of cooling influences and sets on a complex set of Wilson Grove soils, made up of shallow, ancient ocean floor sediments, sandstone, gravel and river stones. The Tina Marie is one of the top crus in the stellar collection from the guys at Anthill Farms, which are all small lot offerings that are hand crafted to express each of their single vineyards using native yeasts and partial whole cluster, depending on vintage, with the wines seeing a restrained use of new oak to promote the fruit quality and transparency, which this gorgeous 2016 is delivering rich now. I’ve been luck to have tasted with Anthony Filiberti on a few occasions and I’ve always been a fan of these wines, but I still was blown away with how this 2016, a vintage that had a mixed reaction early on, is performing, this wine has a ton of personality and wow factor. With the single vineyard wines, Filiberti and the team at Anthill Farms typically do close to 30-40% whole bunches and do lengthy macerations with three weeks of daily punchdowns before racking to barrels where they employ about 25% new French oak and age them about 15 months. When this Tina Marie fully opened it revealed hints of earth and spice with the fruit settling down enough to allow the wine to unfold in all of its glorious complexity and it lingered on and on. If this 2016 is anything to go by, the 2018 and 2019s are going to be legendary in a few years!
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 29, 2021

2015 Weingut Georg Breuer, Riesling, Rauentaller Nonnenberg “Monopol” Rheingau Germany.
The gorgeous and textural 2015 Nonnenberg Trocken is lush and ripe with great tension and energy, it has turned out to be one of the highlights of the vintage as it has aged and has the potential to go for another decade or more with its dense stuffing of classic Riesling fruit and lively acidity. Theresa Breuer, the director of Weingut Georg Breuer, has taken a more natural approach to her wines and has gone holistic in her farming of her estate vines looking for physiological and aroma ripeness, which she feels are more important than must weight numbers and the grapes are only picked when Theresa and her team feel the fruit is perfect, giving the wines a sense of delicacy, earthy transparency and elegance, rather than power or overtness. This Nonnenberg Monopole, a unique geological area is a South facing site, with deep Phyllite soils with a covering of gravel deposits, always has a lovely perfume of white flowers and a parade of citrus and stone fruits that leans on the yellow spectrum of flavors with wild and pithy peach, apricot and bright kumquat leading the way, as it does in this 2015, adding green apple, brisk mineral and crushed stones. The Nonnenberg definitely has a subtle concentration and palate impact with pleasing and mouth filling weightiness, without being heavy and while having a touch of rawness it is clear and precise throughout, gaining a mature presence in the glass. There is a lot going on here and it keeps your attention peaked with every sip, I really have enjoyed this wine at every stage and admire its saline and stony side that keeps the Nonnenberg’s fruit in focus.

The Weingut Georg Breuer, now run by Theresa Breuer, was one of the key members of Charta, an organization founded before the VDP started their Dry classifications, formed to promote a drier style of Rheingau wine and were proponents and leaders of this style of wine to great effect in the region. Theresa’s late father, Bernard, believed that the Rheingau was perfectly suited to producing very fine, elegant and flavorful dry Rieslings, and he has been proven right, especially in recent years and by his talented daughter. He was also a strong advocate for a vineyard classification system based on geology, historical precedent, and the quality of wines, he is credited with discovering the potential of the Rauenthal, which has become one of the top crus in the Rheingau and in particular Breuer’s incredible Nonnenberg Monopole site, where this amazing dry Riesling comes from. This Rauenthaller Nonnenberg, sourced from Breuer’s all organic vineyard, was fermented with native yeasts and traditionally aged in old wood, is one of the winery’s top dry bottlings along with their slate driven Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, and is really a wine that is in league with top Grosses Gewachs. Breuer has a very good collection of parcels from the steep Grand Cru vineyards overlooking the Rhein to the rolling hills of the Rauenthal farther inland as well as in the western edges of the Rheingau in Lorch, all which produce distinct terroir influenced wines. Along with these exceptional Rieslings, Breuer does some easy drinking wines including a Rosé, a light Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris. I have visited Breuer’s tasting room in Rudesheim a couple of times now and I look forward to visiting them again in future, where I hope to check in on the latest Nonnenberg!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 28, 2021

2018 Grochau Cellars, Pinot Noir, Commuter Cuvée, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
I’ve loved this bottling of John Grochau’s Commuter Cuvée Pinot since I first tasted it back in 2012 and this 2018 is an outstanding and pure wine with pretty floral notes, dark cherry fruit, delicate spices, earth and a supple texture, making for an excellent easy drinking wine that is lovely with or without food. The color is brilliant ruby and garnet, invitingly dark and deep, the 2018 Grochau Cellars Commuter Cuvée is impressive in the glass and gets better and better as it opens, adding mineral tones and the mouth feel highlights the quality here, this wine is an exceptional value. This wine was, as the winery notes, from grapes that were hand sorted and mostly de-stemmed with just about 5% to 10% whole cluster fermentation usually from a combination of vineyards and a range of soils from marine sediments to volcanic that are sustainably farmed. The Commuter Cuvée was aged 8 months on lees with about 30% in stainless steel and about 68% in French oak, mostly used, and with a touch, close to 2% in concrete tank, all to promote freshness. This wine and Grochau’s single-vineyard Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard from the Eola-Amity AVA are well worth searching out, these are sublime.

Grochau Cellars was founded in 2002, after John Grochau had worked at the legendary Erath Winery and notably at Brick House Vineyards, where working alongside winemaker Doug Tunnel he gained experience and insight that has influenced or guided his winemaking style. Grochau, who fell in love with wine while riding bikes professionally in France, especially while cycling through the picturesque Loire Valley and when he retired and came home to Oregon. John quickly immersed himself in the local wine and food culture, it was at this point he knew it was his calling and after almost a decade in the restaurant business was winemaking, and that’s where his talents have been highly successful in producing in beautiful Pinot Noirs. Grochau says he was inspired by the diversity of the Willamette Valley’s soils and micro-climates, which he promotes by crafting terroir driven wines, these are transparent and elegant efforts. There are not many better Pinots for the price than this one and it should drink nicely for another 3 to 5 years, it is a wine to stock up on, regardless of vintage, but this one is absolutely delicious. In the last year I have tasted more releases from Grochau and have really enjoyed them, especially this one, as well as the Gamay and the Etheric Wine Workshop Pinot Noir.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 27, 2021

2016 Lucia by Pisoni Family, Syrah, Susan’s Hill – Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Coming from the famous Pisoni Vineyard the Susan’s Hill Syrah is a deeply color and powerful northern Rhone style wine with dense black and blue fruit, meaty earthiness, smoke and floral elements all vying for attention on the chewy full bodied palate, it is a striking effort that is just starting to unwind with age. Classic layers of boysenberry, damson plum, creme de cassis and blueberry unfold accented by anise, cracked pepper, camphor, sage and violets. The Pisoni family says the Syrah is a reflection of the terroir, with the vines set on east-facing, high elevation slopes of estate, where rugged, granite based soils, with sand and loam, are influenced by cool coastal breezes to create a wine of precision and concentration. The Susan’s Hill site, named for Gary’s sister Susan, is a special block within Pisoni Vineyards that was planted in 2001 and it is perched on a rocky outcropping that crowns one of the vineyard’s highest ridges. Its peak is exposed to the elements and buffeted by heavy winds. The coarse, rocky soils ensure that the vines are extremely stressed and low yielding, resulting in wines that are inky and very intense, as this wine shows. While known for the Pinot(s), Pisoni Syrahs are in many vintages as good if not better!

The Susan’s Hill Syrah is all from older parcels of hand-picked and sorted grapes that are fermented with native yeast and aged in carefully selected French oak barrels, in this case large casks, all at winemaker Jeff Pisoni’s state-of-the-art winemaking facility near Santa Rosa, which uses gravity flow as part of a custom design, that Pisoni conceived to merge the estate vineyards and winery. This as Jeff adds, affords him the complete control of the farming, which is handled by his brother Mark along with his dad, the infamous Gary Pisoni and winemaking process to produce small production hand crafted wines of outstanding quality, as this Syrah shows. The Syrah, which typically sees close to 80% whole cluster, depending on the vintage, and 100% native yeast fermentation with an extended maceration then gets gently pressed to all new French oak foudres where it ages close to 22 months before bottling. This 2016 is tannic and crunchy, but as mentioned is starting to open up and reveal its true ripeness and complexity, gaining a harmonious texture and more pretty in detail, it especially turns on the charm with robust cuisine and protein rich dishes. This vintage has plenty of stuffing and should keep getting better over the next 3 to 5 years, and it is far better than was originally thought for the region, especially the Syrah wines.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 26, 2021

2019 Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Naomi, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch, Mendocino County.
The Naomi is 100% Grenache Gris, with grapes coming from the ancient vines at Gibson Ranch, is a skin contact white that has the appearance of a blush or Rosé wine, but with more earthy tones and aromas and with a supple, concentrated palate and textural mouth feel, making for an intriguing dry wine that gets better and better with each sip. With some brambly spice and fleshy stone fruit the Naomi Grenache Gris is freshly with tangerine, muskmelon, white plum and a hint of ruby grapefruit. Grenache Gris, similar to Pinot Gris and Clairette Rose with darker pigment, though usually made as a white wine, is the pink-skinned cousin of Grenache Blanc and a Rhone varietal. Most people say that Grenache Gris is an ancient pinkish-grey grape with small to medium sized clusters that was originally a mutation of the red Grenache grape and is quite rare, grown to a limited extent in the south of France, though has been found here in California, like here in the wilds of Mendocino. Interesting too, Grenache Gris is also called Garnacha Roja in Spain and may have first mutated there or in the Mediterranean border zone between Spain and France this Spanish clone is still found in the Côtes Catalanes and the Roussillon Sometimes Grenache Gris is just co-fermented with the Grenache Noir in the reds, which is how I have mostly had it, as I recently did with a sample of Randall Grahm’s estate Grenache from his Popelouchum Vineyard.

The Gibson Ranch Vineyard, farmed by Scot Bilbro, who is the owner/ winemaker at the famous Marietta Cellars, is located in an upland valley just east of of the town of Hopland in a remote section of Mendocino County and Lewandowski’s Grenache Gris comes from old vines that were likely planted around 1900, making them the oldest examples of this rare “Grey” Grenache in California. The winery notes that these historic vines, that are now being farmed completely organic, are set on well drained sedimentary soils, adding that they are both colluvial and alluvial gravelly loams, which help give fruit density and intense minerallity. Evan Lewandowski, known as one of America’s top natural winemakers, calls his label Ruth Lewandowski, not after a real person, but it comes from one small but very significant text in the Old Testament of the Bible, The Book of Ruth, which has the line “Death is, indeed, the engine of life.” which has has a special meaning to Evan. As it relates to wine and the cycle of life, from the seasons to the soils, each vintage is a new birth that begins after the death of the previous year and all the organisms that live and die to keep this process going. The Lewandowski wines are all hand crafted using native yeasts, no additions and see neutral barrels for aging with this one seeing some skin contact with adds structure and that pretty pinkish hue. Lewandowski ’s Naomi Grenache Gris, while rosy in color, drinks much more like a white wine and is great with soft cheeses, it has some rustic savory elements, but is overall it is very pleasing.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 25, 2021

2017 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
The brilliant ruby and orange tinted 2017 Barbaresco DOCG from the Produttori del Barbaresco is already drinking fabulously with classic Nebbiolo character and though it has a ripe sensation on the full bodied palate from the warm vintage it still has a chalky mineral note and some rustic tannin to balance things out, this is a remarkably poised and alluring effort. The stylish and high quality co-op continues to impress, and while I loved the 2013s and especially the 2016s here, this 2017 is just about equal and I was captivated with my first impressions here and the lovely aromatics with wilted roses, anise and earthy tones adding to the brandied cherries and damson plum fruits, the palate is complex playing the heightened fruit against a nice savory edginess, it adds a deeper sense of currant and a nice cedary spice to the mix as it opens up. Food brings greater depth and pleasure to the experience and brings out the softer and more pretty side of this Nebbiolo, while hints of iron/meat and truffle come through in the background. This vintage should drink well mid term and no penalty for early drinking is obvious, while the powerful 2016s still should get another 3 to 5 years in the cellar, for best results. Coming from various parcels and exposures, set on limestone and clay soils, rich in calcium with sandy veins, the 2017 was stainless steel vat fermented and then aged 24 months in traditional large oak casks. The winery suggests natural pairings of fresh pasta, meat dishes, game birds, such as quail, duck or the guinea hen, and particularly lamb to go with this Barbaresco, which I agree with, plus more mild cheeses.

Modern Barbaresco came into being, or saw a significant re-awakening In 1958, when the priest of the village of Barbaresco, recognizing that the only way the small properties could survive was by joining forces, and he gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. The first three vintages were made in the church basement, then in the winery built across the square where the Produttori is still located. The Produttori as of today has 54 members and controls more than 100 hectares (250 acres) of premium Nebbiolo vineyards in Barbaresco. Before that, back in 1894, Domizio Cavazza, the headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba and a proud Barbaresco resident who realized that the area had a distinct terroir and was an equal to the bigger and more famous Barolo, created the first cooperative, the Cantine Sociali to compete with Barolo, he gathered together nine Barbaresco vineyard owners to make wine in the local castle that he owned, and this was how Barbaresco came into being. Sadly the fascist government put the original co-op out of business, but after the war and Italy’s re-birth, things started looking up and Produttori del Barbaresco has taken up the challenge and produces maybe the greatest co-op wine in the world, especially their Cru bottlings, like their Asili, Montefico, Montestefano, Muncagota, Ovello, Pajè, Pora, Rabajà and Rio Sordo Riservas, but this basic Barbaresco is a fantastic wine and a great value, as this 2017 demonstrates. It is quite amazing that this wine, with 22,000 cases made, can be this good, this unique and this consistent, it is a tribute to each and everyone of the collection of individual farmers that go about their work with such pride and passion.
($49 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 24, 2021

2020 Morgan Winery, Dry Riesling, Double L Estate Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Both the organic estate grown Double L Vineyard Rieslings are tasty local treats from the Santa Lucia Highlands with the off-dry Kabinett style going fabulously with Asian foods and or spicy dishes, while this very small batch Dry Riesling goes with the more saline and briny specialties, it is vividly vibrant, truly dry and refreshing with a super clean mineral driven palate. A huge fan of what Dan Lee and winemaker Sam Smith are doing with the lineup here, it seems that every wine in the collection has stepped it up a notch, and while the focus and stars are their 2018 and 2019 Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, there are some thoughtful gems throughout the range with their latest Double L Syrah and the Rieslings being favorites, these are expressive and outstanding offerings. This 2020 shows a softer and slightly denser feel on the medium bodied palate with an extra degree of texture dialed in, without losing the energy and brisk nature that gives this wine its intensity and focus. The mouth and aromatics are precise with lime blossoms, wet rock, apricot and racy citrus leading the way along with a hint of verbena, herb/mint tea, classic green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. There is a bone dry extract that is compelling and gives an impression of structural tannin or phenolic ripeness that is tangy with just the right amount of bitter detail, an element that quality Rieslings share, whether the are from Alsace or Germany and aligned with the juicy acidity invites more sips. California Dry Riesling has taken off and the quality has never been better, look for Tatomer, Stirm, Cobb, Desire Lines Wine Co, and Joyce as well as classics from Stony Hill and Casa Nuestra, along with Morgan’s pair, to name a few.

The Morgan Double L Dry Riesling saw a gentle foot stomping and left on the skins for 18 hours, then the grapes were whole-cluster pressed, and for freshness and bright fruit character was preserved by a cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Smith, has now done a few limited batches of this drier Riesling or Trocken, where the fermentation was allowed to finish, achieving this more crisp dry style and it has proved to be a huge success. The Double L Ranch is the only certified organic vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands and is located in a cool breezy zone on sandy loams at the northern end of region, which suits the low yielding Riesling vines. For this 2020 he gave it a bit more time in the used wood, with a full 8 months of aging in neutral French oak, which has given the Double L Estate Dry Riesling a bit more refinement, as I noted above it has a slightly smoother texture and lush mouth feel, which should appeal to a wider array of palates, while not losing the acid freaks and Riesling enthusiasts, like me, this wine sits somewhere between the Rheinhessen and the Pfalz profile wise, not too far off the entry level Wittmann estate Trocken. Impressive for a Monterey Riesling, and a wine to grab with the local cuisine, especially seasonal crab and or more exotic dishes like Uni. With time in the glass this ultra pale, almost greenish hued Dry Riesling adds a touch more substance and fleshiness, though keeps its natural tension and steely personality, again this is much to be admired. There is a lot to explore in the latest releases from Morgan and all offer quality drinking pleasures, and some of the rarities are really worth chasing down, like their Tempranillo, Albrarino and these Rieslings, which are exceptionally well priced for what you get in the bottle.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 23, 2021

2017 Turley Wine Cellars, Cinsault, Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi, California.
This is one of my favorite wines in Turley’s incredible portfolio of old vine offerings, it is always gloriously drinkable and fresh, but with serious concentration and complexity, a bit less fruit dense and more zesty than the Zins and or the Petite Sirah that require either a well planned meal and or some cellaring, this is more often than not easy to pop cork on. I drank a few of my 2018s before this vintage, which seems to have been a good choice as the 2017 is really in a great spot and hasn’t lost any energy or intensity, while maybe softer just the right amount with a beautiful array of dusty red berry and plum fruits along with light earthy notes, a combination of dried herbs and spices, as well as a subtle cedary wood frame, florals, candied orange rind and lingering kirsch. The dark ruby hued, medium/full bodied Bechthold Cinsault has a welcoming lift and brightness while still being opulent and its supple tannins are ripe and smooth, making for a real pleasing red to be enjoyed with roast chicken, pasta dishes and simple cuisine options, I myself found it wonderful with left over pizza. I have really enjoyed my latest experiences with the Turley wines and their winemaker Tegan Passalacqua’s own label Sandlands, these are some of the most interesting and authentic California wines out there, all from important vineyard sites that are usually historic and or ancient vine offerings. To preserve vibrancy and show purity, this Turley Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault was done in a semi carbonic and natural yeast fermentation, then was aged exclusively in 100% used French oak.

As has been noted, and as I have mentioned in prior reviews, the Turley Bechthold Cinsault comes from one of the Lodi region,’s oldest vineyards with Bechthold being planted in 1886, making this Cinsault vineyard maybe the oldest of its kind in the world, as Tegan Passalacqua suggests. The vines at Bechthold are gnarly, head-trained and planted on their own roots in the deep, sandy soils and are Lodi’s oldest continuously farmed vineyard site, one of California’s most unique and cherished sites. Cinsault, one of the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes, found in the Rhone, Provence and in the Languedoc regions of France mainly has found a happy home here in California, especially in warmer climate areas of California, as it retains natural acidity and holds up in the relentless heat, as witnessed here in Lodi. Cinsault has become the secret sauce in many blended wines and adds life and vitality in the classic Rosé wines of Bandol, on its own it can even provide a lighter and more Gamay like style, like it does here, and can be enjoyed with a slight chill too. Turley has quite a few alternative offerings, beyond their famous Zinfandels and I have tried my best to get as many as possible, including their Grenache and their white Rhone blend, but this Cinsault is fast becoming one of my favorites. Turley, led by Larry and his daughter Christina, along with Tablas Creek, Bedrock, Ridge and a few others, have in their own ways done amazing work to elevate California wines, either by introducing quality new cuttings and varietals, as Tablas has done, to preserving and celebrating California’s most historic vineyards, usually dry farmed, head trained and organic, as Turley and Bedrock have done, throughout the state, all of which we owe a great thanks for.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 22, 2021

2019 Vincent Gaudry, Sancerre Blanc, Le Tournebride, Loire Valley, France.
The 2019 Le Tournebride Sancerre from Vincent Gaudry is bright and beautifully pure with impressive concentration and lively natural acidity showing crystalline detailing to make it standout in a crowd, this is absolutely delicious terroir driven Sauvignon Blanc, not to be overlooked. The freshness and impressive mouth feel highlight the fact that this wine is made in the vines, not in the cellar, Gaudry is highly praised for his farming and this Sancerre is proof with expressive layers of lemon/lime, white flowers, gooseberry, white peach and chalky melon notes leading the way along with a cool toned steely core, a touch of herb, wet stone and pithy tang. The crisp and aromatic cuvée “Le Tournebride” comes from all three parcels in Sancerre, with different soils, including terres blanches (Kimmeridgian marl), caillottes (weathered limestone) and flinty silex, all playing parts. The grapes, all organic, were hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel, then aged close to ten months in the tank and is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

With old vine grapes grown mainly on flinty Silex soils Gaudry was the first Biodynamic producer in Sancerre, and some of this wines are crafted in the same way as the classic Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume’s are, these intense Loire Valley mineral driven Sauvignon Blancs that are naturally imbued with density and volume on the palate. Gaudry has blocks that are massale selections with 90 year vines, proving him with exceptional fruit to make incredible Sancerre, like this basic stainless steel tank version that is right up there with Vacheron and Hippolyte Reverdy, along with the Scorpion cuvee that is barrel fermented and aged, like Dagueneau, as mentioned and the likes of Cotat and Boulay, as well as plus an exceptional whole cluster Sancerre Rouge (Pinot Noir) that is mind-blowing. These are all worth chasing down and enjoying over the next few years, with this Le Tournebride being outstanding with all sorts of cuisine choices. I love the way this wine plays with your palate, it has just the right amount of brisk tension and textural pleasure vying for your attention, this is exactly what I look for in a Sancerre.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2021

2019 Pax Wines, Pineau d’Aunis, Bearg Ranch, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
One of the rarest red wines in California, this carbonic and spicy lighter red wine is Pax’s super geeky and limited Pineau d’Aunis, a light skinned red grape found in the Loire Valley, mostly around Touraine and Anjou, which is mainly used in blends and in the region’s Rosés. Those that love the Jura and Beaujolais will go crazy for this juicy medium bodied wine that shows a crunch of whole cluster, racy red berries, a touch of wild flowers and peppery spices with brambly raspberry, tangy plum, strawberry and a pop of orange/peach as well as cinnamon, basil, anise and a delicate earthiness that adds a nice bit of umami. Best to enjoy this one with a nice chill and friends, it is a fun, low alcohol and no pretense wine that should provide smiles and pleasure for a year or so. Pax also recently released a wine called Dazed & Carbonic, that is a crazy blend of co-fermented Syrah, Viognier 70% and 30% whole cluster, carbonic Trousseau Gris, as well as a 100% Trousseau Noir and a new dry Rosé called Roggae Rosé that is a blend of whole cluster Gamay and Pinot Noir, all of which are small lot whole cluster/carbonic fermented in tank with natural methods, being a short elevage in vat or neutral French oak.

Pax, known for incredible Syrah bottlings, in recent years has developed a fun lineup of rarities and natural style wines including Gamay, as well as old California favorites made from Mission and Charbono, along with the Jura and Savoie, Alpine inspired wines like Trousseau and Mondeuse. This new Pineau d’Aunis joins this geeky group and it is a quaffable addition that unique set, though it will not be easy to find as so little was made, but it is worth the search. Pax’s collection of unique quaffers are offered first to their wine club and I recommend joining, because these wines are so fun and very affordable. Pineau d’Aunis, which is also known as Chenin Noir, is an ancient Loire Valley grape that was much more widely planted and celebrate in the past, in fact it was hugely popular as far back as 1246, when it became a favorite of King Henry the Third of England, though it has become a rare varietal in modern times and is more of a curiosity these days. Pineau d’Aunis, as mentioned gets called Chenin Noir, however in DNA testing it has been confirmed that Pineau d’Aunis is not in fact related at all with Chenin Blanc, nor is it related to Pinot Noir, which it sometimes gets confused with. This bright ruby colored Pax Pineau d’Aunis is likely the only version of this grape in California and is set on the volcanic gravelly soils of the Bearg Ranch near Healdsburg, where Pax has his tiny plots of Gamay, Trousseau and Mondeuse.
($38 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive