Reviews 2018

New Reviews

2015 Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
A deep and rich Chianti Classico by Isole e Olena that delivers a smooth and ripe palate showing layers of black and red fruits, a sense of vintage warm, fine tannins and an almost chocolate/lush textural mouth feel, this wine impresses for it’s impact and substance. Paolo De Marchi’s all estate grown Chianti Classico is flashy style giving the vintage a luxurious expression and a modern clean elegance. This is Chianti usually a blend of about 80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Syrah and shows a pure Tuscan focus in character in it’s profile, even though it is really dark in color and exotic in the glass with a crimson/garnet color. The Sangiovese drives the wine with blackberries, cherry, plum and anise as well as hints of sweet tobacco, minty herb, cedar and vanilla, it feels and flows seamlessly and has excellent length adding spice, dried flowers and mocha notes. This Isole e Olena drinks bigger and broader than expected, it even comes across like a more expensive wine, maybe a Super Tuscan, it certainly doesn’t shy away from it’s opulence, but it does offer a surprising degree of balance, and while subtle, the acidity gives a sense of energy that helps provide a platform for the complexity to shine through and keeps the full body from being overt or flabby. This wine with it’s power deserves a robust meal to compliment it’s distinct presence, it should provide wonderful drinking pleasure for many years to come, drink from 2018 to 2025.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Blanc, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Coast Range, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This impressive white, 100% Pinot Blanc, from Kelley Fox reveals elegant white Burgundy character and finesse, it comes from one of Oregon’s most prized vineyards, Freedom Hill, a site revered for Pinot Noir with many famous wines being made from this site’s grapes, but in recent vintages the Pinot Blanc from here has really shined, especially this one! Planted back in 1982, Freedom Hill is one of the top vineyards in the Willamette Valley set into the coastal range, which is cooler, but with great exposures making for wonderfully complex Pinot Noir(s) like those of Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent and Ken Wright, but it also has some of America’s best Pinot Blanc vines too and Kelley Fox just released her exciting version. In the past few years, I think Pinot Blanc has taken over as Oregon’s best single varietal white wine, with the wines of the mentioned Ken Wright and John Paul’s at Cameron Winery convincing me of such, so I was thrilled to get a few bottles of Fox’s 2017 to taste, and I was not disappointed, this is a glorious example, full of personality, energy and depth of flavors. Kelley Fox’s Pinot Blanc from Freedom Hill Vineyard in Dallas (bordering the Eola-Hills A.V.A.) was planted, owned and is farmed by the legendary growers, the Dusschee family. The soil here is Bellpine, a marine sedimentary silt, clay and loam that is very well-drained which helps with concentration and depth. This is (a) true, as mentioned, 100% Pinot Blanc, with absolutely no Auxerrois in this bottling, and it was produced much the same way as one would produce a fine white Burgundy style Chardonnay, as it was whole cluster-pressed after picking, then It was settled in tank for a couple of days before racking to neutral (no new) Burgundy oak barrels (of 228L size). The Fox Pinot Blanc fermented completely in these barrels un-inoculated, meaning it was allowed to finish with full malos and to full dryness for a medium/full bodied wine with textural pleasure and rich detail, while still preserving enough natural acidity to be vibrant and mineral driven with a crisp focus. Beautifully detailed and textural throughout the palate unfolds with layers of apple, peach and lemon fruits along with hints of fig, vanilla, a hint of dried herbs, white citrus blossoms, honeycomb and wet stones, making for an opulent wine that excels with air in the glass, it’s light golden/yellow hue adding a visual highlight and all the while staying focused, classy stuff this. I have been tasting through the latest set of Kelley Fox’s offerings and these are truly great wines, this Pinot Blanc is one of her best, but don’t miss out on her thrilling whole cluster Ahurani Pinot Noir 2016 either, both gorgeously expressive and outstanding values, absolutely world class.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Domaine Serol, Gamay, Cote Roannaise “Eclat de Granite” Loire Valley, France.
Stephane Serol is making some compelling wines from his upper Loire Cote Roannaise estate from Saint Romain clone Gamay, these are wines that defy regional landscapes and should be almost considered a iconic individual appellation or maybe considered a lost Cru Beaujolais on par with Morgon or Cote de Brouilly! Especially this 2017 Eclat de Granite which is plush and expressive much in the same way Dutraive, Lapierre, Sunier, Thivin, Chanrion and Thevenet are with plenty of intense Cote Roannaise mountain tannin and structure. Minerally detailed, this beautifully clear Serol Gamay has a deep sense of varietal, place and remote wildness, Stephane has captured his place in the bottle to near perfection. Vivid purple, magenta and ruby/garnet in the glass the Eclat de Granite is bursting with vibrancy and dark flavors showing flinty spices, herbs, violets and walnut complexities to go along with a core of blackberry, blue plum and bing cherry fruit, adding a touch of grenadine, straw and tart blood orange as well as a faint trace of stony/earthiness in an absolutely balanced wine that really delivers exceptional quality. One of the best vintages from Serol, it combines a lovely and graceful medium bodied palate and a flowing almost seamless stream of Gamay flavors, textural pleasure and a vivacious personality, easy to love from start to finish. Serol, who’s Domaine sits at high elevation not too far from the Loire’s source at the Massif Central, has some 80 year old vines and is the fifth generation to farm and make wine up here, he and his wife Carine have made this wild almost forgotten land a serious place to search out. Stephane employed partial whole cluster and traditional fermentation with his 2017 Eclat de Granite and raised it in a combination of neutral cask and tank, again to add live, grip and sense of place and while non carbonic it has a pop of juicy fruit and some nervy coil from the limited use of stems, this is almost impossible for Gamay lovers to resist and Burgundy fans will also grudging and maybe secretly adore this stuff as they do with producers like Foillard! Serol works all organic and is almost finished converting to full biodynamic practices in the vineyards and in the cellar and uses ultra low sulfur, rather than niche him as a natural winemaker, I’d say he is committed to his land and passionate in everything he does, drink his 2017 Eclat de Granite over the next 3 to 5 years, if not longer.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Font Sarade, Vacqueyras, Les Hauts de la Ponche, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Font Sarade wines are crafted by the father and daughter team of Bernard and Claire Burle and they have done a masterful job of their Les Hauts de la Ponche Vacqueyras 2016, a stunning wine from a stunning vintage, made from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvedre. I’ve been wanting to try the wines from this small Domaine for a few years, so I’m glad I got my hands on some of this stuff, especially as 2016 is looking like a rockstar vintage, making this particularly good timing. The Burle’s are traditional in their winemaking and are looking to translate individual Lieu-Dits and showcase their unique terroirs, they make a few Cotes-du-Rhone(s), Ventoux, a Rose, Cru Gigondas and Vacqueyras from family owned and farmed vines. The 2016 Font Sarade Vacqueyras is 100% de-stemmed and is fermented and aged in cement vats for absolute purity and allows for the clay and limestone soils to shine through, and with such a vintage as 2016 you get a massively appealing wine, rich in flavor, detail and life, coming in at a full 14.5% natural alcohol this has as much impact as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, but at a tiny fraction of the price, making it a steal! This 2016 is grapey fresh at first, with air it gains a deeper almost chocolatey density with an appealing dark purple and garnet hue in the glass, it’s un-endowed by anything except fruit purity and terroir influences with layers of crushed violets, minty herbs, lavender and black currant, boysenberry and radiant kirsch, adding pepper, dusty plum, anise and tart strawberry with air, in an impressive, youthful and compact wine. The freshness combined with perfect ripeness makes this an outrageously good Vacqueyras that while tight expands on the medium/full palate, while the natural tannin keeps everything focused and well structured, this will be an intriguing wine to follow over the next 5 to 10 years, and while I usually like a bit of stem complexity, this wine seems to lack for nothing. It’s hard to imagine not to get a case or two, but harder to imagine not drinking as fast as you can either, this is everything you ever want from this region and more, I say get as much as you can, while you can!
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC “Tre Vigne” Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the most reliable and delicious red wines on earth, the Vietti Barbera d’Asti Tre Vigne never disappoints with a energy filled palate and a rush of dark fruits it’s one of the best values around. 2016 is turning out to be a thrilling year in Piedmonte for reds especially with sublime Dolcetto(s) and Barbera(s) like this Vietti, it’s deep and ripe in flavor and fresh with exciting acidity. Luca Currado makes some of the best wines in Italy, known for his fantastic Cru Barolo(s), he also, along with Giorgio Rivetti and Giuseppe Vajra does exceptional Barbera as well, these are wines that have raised the Barbera game in recent years. Vietti is a storied winery that dates back to the early years of the 20th Century when it was founded by Mario Vietti, who started bottling wines for himself and focused the family business on the grapes of the region. The biggest rise at Vietti was after World War II when Alfredo Currado, who married into the Vietti family by way of Luciana Vietti, in 1952 starting making wines from single vineyard sources, this was a new idea in Piedmonte’s Barolo zone, he was one of the first to vinify from Cru plots in famous sites such as as Brunate, Rocche and Villero, and he “cru-designated” the wines, also he helped save the local Roero white grape Arneis from extinction, and was later known as the “Father of Arneis”! The Vietti wines come mostly from the Castiglione Falletto vineyards, in the heart of the Barolo zone, these are soulful and remarkable wines that show their terroir and character of sandy-calcareous soil that highlight this area and that gives them unique tannic spine, but with beauty in the nose and lovely elegant details. That said this Vietti comes from the Asti zone with a bit more granite and marl that heightens the perfume and sense of lightness that gives a feline and feminine sensation to the wine with the grapes coming from vineyards in Agliano Terme and several other villages in the hills around Barbaresco.The Tre Vigne Barbera d’Asti is crafted with a cold maceration in stainless steel tank, then Luca fermented the musts for approximately 2 weeks, with gentile daily pumping overs, after which he leaves the wine for an extra week of maceration, then it is racked over to oak for malolactic conversation and raised in a combination of large cask, barriques and stainless barrels for a full 18 months. This makes for a rich and opulent mouth feel and this 2016 while lively, is warm and smooth on the medium/full palate with satiny layers of black cherry, blackberry, juicy plum and spicy/sweet currants in a darkly purple and ruby edged red. Building density as it gets air, this wine is certainly impression in form and delivers a stylish charm that you don’t often see in a wine in this price class adding a vibrant array of secondary elements that includes light wood notes, a mix of florals, mineral tones, a touch of earth and a hint of sweet and sour herbs. I could drink this stuff every day and it’s brilliant with robust cuisine and makes simple dishes shine, it’s a flexible wine that also is absolutely perfect with Fall flavors and Holiday fare, drink often.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Von Schubert-Maximin Grünhauser, Riesling Kabinett, Abtsberg, Mosel, Germany.
The beautiful Kabinett Abtsberg 2016 is a crystal clean and mineral driven Riesling that while off dry and generous has a dry feel and complexity of flavors that make it far more serious than you’d expect. Brilliant layers of classic green apple, lime and peach fruits along with hints of earth, wet slate and a touch of tropical essences all come through on the vivid light/medium palate, this wine really impresses for it’s detail and quality in the glass. The Maximin Grünhaus estate lies at the foot of a long steep south-facing slope on the left bank of the Ruwer river, about two kilometres before it joins the Mosel. The history of this place shines through in the wines and I am always intrigued to hear about it’s past, the estate belongs to the Von Schubert family and is divided into three separate but contiguous vineyards: the Abtsberg, the Herrenberg, and the Bruderberg. According to the winery, each of these vineyards has its own distinct micro-climate, gradient and soil composition, differences in terroir which explain the unique character of the wines made at Grünhaus. The Abtsberg wines harvested from this vineyard were originally destined for the table of the Abbot (or Abt) of the Abbey of St Maximin. The site covers 14 hectares, parts of which have been planted with vines for over a thousand years, set on blue Devonian slate and the hillside runs south-east to south-west, achieving a gradient (slope angel) of nearly 70%. These Abtsberg wines, again according to the estate, are characterized by a finely structured subtle minerality, a racy acidity, generous fruit and great delicacy, of which I totally agree, especially with this Kabinett by Maximin Grünhaus, and they are also amongst the longest lived Rieslings of the region. Stefan Kraml took charge of viticulture and viniculture at Grünhaus. Since that time, the wines of the estate have benefited from his uncompromisingly high standards, the Grünhaus cuverie is sited conveniently close to the vineyards so that harvested grapes can be delivered to the press within a matter of minutes. Grünhaus employs a natural clarifying overnight via sedimentation, then the musts are brought to an optimal fermentation temperature, and fermented with naturally occurring wild yeasts (Sponti) in classic large oak casks (Fuder casks) or in some cases using small stainless steel tanks. These techniques promote optimal development of mineral intensity and fruit purity from the Abtsberg slate soils and ensures the longevity of their Rieslings. Neither the must nor the finished wine are fined and uniquely in the last two years most all the the oak for the barrels has come from the estate’s own forests, and the barrels are crafted by a local cooper, everything done here is to highlight their terroir. I love these wines, they are not flashy or overt, but oh so pleasing and stylish, they are like drinking in history, enjoy the Abtsberg Kabinett over the next 5 to 10 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Luc’s Vineyard, Sonoma County.
It’s tradition for me to dig out a bottle of Sheldon Grenache to celebrate #grenacheday, and today, well September 21st, 2018, I had to change it up as I have drunk all of my old vintages of it, can you hear the tears? So, I opened a new release sample from Dylan and Tobe Sheldon, owners of this small “micro” winery based in Santa Rosa, it being the upcoming 2017 Luc’s Vineyard Grenache from a tiny hillside vineyard in the new Fountaingrove AVA, just south of the Russian River Valley region, with cool Pacific influences and a interesting mix of soils and exposures. Dylan is an evangelist for Grenache and has been since the late nineties and has crafted small versions of his own since about 2003, in fact he made wine at Chateau de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas on his honeymoon, with his wife Tobe, under the famed Louis Barruol! This 2017 was whole cluster, that was very gently bladder pressed on a part Champagne style cycle, a fraction schedule with only two barrels made. The maceration was classic with a lots of hand working and there is some youthful gripping extract, while the texture is round and medium bodied with fine acidity and remarkably delicate in detail and flavor. The aromatics are incredible and you can whiff this stuff from miles away, with a heady mix of deep floral tones, spice and anise coming from the glass before leading to a vivid and vibrant palate of mouth watering layers of tangy red currant, garden strawberry, plum and peppered raspberry that is much more subtle than you expected from the nose in this glimmering garnet/ruby colored 100% Grenache. Crushed lilacs, dried lavender, minty herb and melted black licorice all make fleeting appearances in the back ground along with a touch of iron, dusty pomegranate and briar/savory elements that make this a racy wine, it’s not a wine that isn’t overtly ripe or fruity, but one that should gain from another few years in bottle, it will add a more generous nature over time. Grenache in California tends to be it’s best with either longer elevage and or extra time in the cellar, and this one clearly only hints at it’s potential, as nice as it is now, there’s much more to come.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 Ameztoi “Stimatum” Getariako Txakolina Tinto, Spain.
The Basque Beaujolais! The Ameztoi Stimatum (Esteemed) is 100% Hondarribi Beltza from vines grown on limestone in the Getaria region of northwestern Spain with a vine age from 10 to 100 years old and is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Grown on an exposed peninsula north of Bilbao this red was done with native yeasts and bottled with that touch of spritz like the whites usually have, making for a dry, but fruity fresh, easy to quaff wine with low natural alcohol and soft in tannin. This maybe one of the most pleasing, intriguing and fun picnic wines in the world, it’s deep purple/garnet color contrasts with it’s bright lightness of body. Ameztoi is one of the top producers of Getariako Txakolina with Ignacio Ameztoi being the seventh generation of his family, carrying on their tradition of winemaking Txakolina in Getaria. The winery owns 20 hectares of vineyards in the best sites which are from vines that can almost be seen from St. Sebastian, crafting wines that have terroir and the influence of the cool Atlantic Ocean. This 2017 Ameztoi Stimatum, with it’s skin contact for 20 days is beautifully dark in the glass and has a spicy and floral bouquet opening to it’s light/medium palate with crushed violets, white pepper, fresh picked wild berries, black cherry and racy currant fruits along with a zippy acidity, a touch of cinnamon, basil/herb and a hint of almost carbonic creaminess. Those that like Gamay, Dolcetto or Trousseau wines will love this red, it is so drinkable and friendly with a wide range of cuisines, it just makes for huge smiles, drink this stuff up fresh.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2017 Pax, Trousseau Gris, Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard, Sonoma County.
Trousseau Gris, a natural mutation from the red Trousseau grape, most commonly found in the Jura region of France, though more interesting is that it is was once called “Gray Riesling” and was once widely planted in California, but sadly that declined sharply in the 1980s until it was almost completely wiped out by the 1990s. Trousseau Gris can still be found inter-planted in a few old vine Zinfandel vineyards, and Pax’s Trousseau Gris comes from the only standing block in California, the ten acre parcel of the Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. These days Trousseau Gris is mostly found in the Jura, Alsace, Lorraine and sometimes in the Champagne wine region, as well as tiny plantings in eastern Europe like Hungary, it makes for a bright and slightly phenolic white, Pax’s looks like it has a touch of skin contact or was gently whole cluster pressed? With a golden hue and pink/orange edges that gives a nice balancing bite to this wonderful fresh wine. Pax Mahle tends to ferment his Trousseau Gris in cement vat with helps with textural feel and he raises it in well seasoned French cask for a period of about 4 months to settle it, making for a dry and focused wine that delivers layers of citrus, spring blossoms, savory notes and shows lemon/lime, kumquat, a touch of orange peel, bitter herbs, wet stone and lingering unripe peach and green melon. Refreshing, briskly crisp, mineral infused and vibrant at under 12% natural alcohol, Pax’s Trousseau Gris has a nice tension and plays well with lighter cuisine, especially good with shell fish, I can imagine clams, mussels and oysters with this fun and unique wine, drink now. Pax, known for his world class Syrah and Rhone style wines, also makes a great set of alternative wines, some that were once under his Wind Gap label, like this Trousseau Gris, but be sure to check out his awesome Chenin Blanc, Carignane, Gamay Noir, Trousseau Noir and his Valdiguie as well!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, The Ornbaun, Mendocino Ridge.
The new vintage of Drew “The Ornbaun” Syrah, a beautiful wine with an intense spicy nature, is a blend of two vineyards, both on silty clay and loam(y) marine sedimentary soils, on the western side of Anderson Valley. With the vineyard sites being on the extreme side of cool climate, one Valenti Ranch at 1,350 feet up, planted to McDowell and Cote-Rotie Clones is just 6 miles from the Ocean and the other Perli Vineyard, which sits at 2,400 feet, that is planted to Chave Selections (Hermitage Clones) with a few vines that are also inter-planted with Grenache and Mourvedre. Drew is now one of the hottest wineries in California with Jason Drew making some of the state’s best wines, the label was founded as a tiny operation, with Jason and Molly Drew starting Drew eighteen years ago with a clear goal in mind, which was to: to craft small lot coastal wines that express site specificity and traditional varietal character. While the beginnings of Drew began in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in 2000, with a set of Pinots and Syrah, they transplanted their small operation to the Mendocino Coast in 2005 to establish their estate ranch and winery, where they craft mostly ultra cool climate and high elevation Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Drew’s continue their long standing partnerships with several local vineyard growers who share their passion for sustainable and meticulous mostly organic farming practices, including Morning Dew Ranch, Valenti Ranch and Perli Vineyard. These vineyard sources are chosen for their climate, clonal selection and complexity of soil types, while Drew’s cellar approach is restrained and his winemaking practices remain focused on traditional methods, that includes a high percentage of whole cluster and native yeast fermentations, with gentile hand punch-downs and in most instances, without any no fining or filtering, as well as using a low number of new barrels per vintage. The 2016’s, and especially this “The Ornbaun” is wonderfully delicate in fruit and deep in spice and lift, taking some serious time to open up in the glass, it has loads of iron, red and black pepper as well as sticky lavender, high toned red currant, cherry and plum, later adding a darker sense of blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry along with hints of violets, chalky stones and wood notes. At this stage it seems a little shy, when compared with 2013, 2014 and 2015, so allow more development in bottle to give rich flavors, even though it is medium bodied and fresh now, perfectly going with food, it should get better, fuller and lengthier over the next 3 to 5 years, patience looks to be rewarded here. I absolutely love the earthy tones, energy and vibrant details of this Drew  “The Ornbaun”, it’s one of the best values in their gorgeous lineup, there isn’t a wine in Jason’s latest set that disappoints and as mentioned in the last two vintages this winery is making some of the best wines in California bar none! The Pinot and Syrah here are just exceptional and if you haven’t joined their list you are missing out.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2017 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Gris, Maresh Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The racy and unique skin contact (almost like a Rosé or Vin Gris) Maresh Pinot Gris from Kelley Fox, one of Oregon’s stars, is brilliant in detail and is a serious complex wine that almost defies it’s category, as John Paul of Cameron’s Rouge de Gris does, and Fox’s version is interesting for it’s texture and more powerful presence in the glass, while the Loire model tends to be a more pale, austere and minerally crisp in style as Denis Jamain’s Domaine de Reuilly is, by comparison. Fox explains her Pinot Gris with her winemaker experience as follows, it was produced from self-rooted vines planted in 1991 at the historic Maresh Vineyard, the 2017 Pinot gris was 100% destemmed and fermented in two 1.5 ton “macrobin” fermentors. One pigeage (foot-treading) by her, personally, this happened each day with about close to a 14-16 days skin contact prior to the wine being pressed at dryness. The elevage was in an old world if not ancient style uterine-shaped concrete amphora vat. The Maresh Pinot Gris is dry white wine that has the pink/reddish hue of skin contact and has enough acid to feel more Rosé like than a red wine, but with a touch of tannin and savory notes. There’s an almost smokiness on the palate as well as nice generous bright fruits which includes strawberry, apple skins, sour cherry and a peach element as well as mineral tones, dusty stones and snappy spices. This wine is more intriguing than pretty in the taste, but there is an appealing rustic charm that keeps you coming back and it’s much more lovable with food, drink it up!
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud, Crozes-Hermitage, Miss en Bouche, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the Northern Rhone’s best kept secrets and producer of some of finest values in the region, Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud crafts some excellent Syrah(s) from his tiny set of parcels in the Crozes-Hermitage area, he started his domaine in 2001 with just postage stamp (size block) of vines but worked his way up to a more serious set of vineyards, all in southern side of Crozes-Hermitage set on the zone’s Glacial alluviums of mostly smooth pebbles. His painstaking work in the vineyard yields amazing results and how he can sell this beautiful and authentic wine at under $20 is one of the great and most pleasurable mysteries in the world of Syrah! The 2016 is utterly delicious with an earthy intensity that starts with porcini/truffle and gamey Crozes purity before opening to beautiful violets and blueberry notes. Darnaud’s Crozes Mise en Bouche is a fine example of time and place, yummy from start to finish adding bright peppery spice, a touch of anise, dried herbs and damson plum as well as mineral notes and a touch of kirsch. Lighter in frame than some, there’s no whimpiness, but rustic layers of classic Northern Rhone Syrah at it’s best. Fermented in concrete vats and rested in small barrels, this 100% Syrah, 100% de-stemmed cuvee you’d never guess it had one third new oak such is the refinement and quality of fruit found here. This is a vintage to buy as much as you can, it drink lovely now, and should easily go for a decade too! Search this one out, it’s a winner, and a no brainer for the price!
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Navarro Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Méthode A L’Ancienne, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County.
One of California’s best value Pinots, the Navarro Anderson Valley is a classic wine with very ripe opulence and satiny texture, especially with this 2015 version, which is beautifully full, expressive and full of rich details. This wine is a no brainer when you see it on a restaurant wine list, it’s a low quilt and quality treat with lush textures, warm and generous fruit and delicate spice as well as well judged wood notes. Not far from the Mendocino coast and set in the middle of the Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards is a long time local legend and place you must stop at when in the area, they have a vast array of wines to sample with their off-dry Gewürztraminer and this Méthode A L’Ancienne Pinot Noir being two of my favorites to pick up at their tasting room on Hwy 128 in Philo, not too far away Boonville. The family, including Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett run Navarro and are always smiling faces at the winery, which also produce old vine Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet, A Brut Sparkler, Rosé, their Alsace style Edelzwicker, a top end reserve style Pinot Noir called Deep End Blend as well as a crisp and dry version of Riesling just to name a few! Navarro discovered early on that Pinot Noir wine tastes and smells less manipulated if the fermenting must is punched down by hand rather than using modern pumps, so hence the name and style on the Methode A L’Anicienne, they are looking to capture the purest essence of the vintage and keep a sense of place and while the 2015 is forward in style it has a lovely balance and seamless layers with 40% new French oak, which is way up from normal as the crop was smaller and more concentrated and soaked up the wood well. The Navarro 2015 comes in at under 14%, but feels luxurious on the palate, almost thick with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits cascading in the mouth with a lush impact along with hints of cedar, tea spices, rose petals, cola bean and smoky vanilla. Not overly complex, but easy to love and rewarding this Navarro Pinot should be enjoyed sooner v. later, over the next 2 or 3 years.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Pagliarese, Chianti Classico DOCG, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany, Italy.
Fèlsina’s new release is a wine from an old property near by, and it’s a classy Chianti Classico that offers a lot of value and authenticity.  Pagliarese is a historic Chianti Classico estate located in Castelnuovo Berardenga, nestled between Fèlsina and Castell’in Villa. In the 1960’s and 70’s, Pagliarese was, in fact, one of the most highly regarded estates in Chianti Classico. However, by the 1980’s, the property was in need of some investment, particularly in the vineyards. In 1995, the Poggiali family, owners of Fèlsina, bought the estate and set out to replant 28 of the 32 hectares using a massale selection from the oldest vines at the property. Since that time, some of the grapes from Pagliarese have gone into the Fèlsina’s Chianti Classico, though a majority of the grapes and wine from the estate has been sold off, but now Felsina is now ready to show this estate in all it’s glory. Starting with this 2015 vintage, the Poggiali’s decided to make their inaugural release from the estate made from, and unlike the Sangiovese only Felsina, the wines at Paglierese are, of course, Sangiovese-based, they are also blended with small amounts of Canaiolo and Mammolo, but without the use of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon that has been the norm in recent times. The soil at Paglierese is a bit more sandy than that at Fèlsina. According to the winery the terroir is unique at Paglierese, as It combines sand, rock and clay with some tufo (a type of volcanic rock), whereas in Felsina’s Chianti Classico vineyards it is more dominated by stoney albarese soil. Given the differences in two terroirs, as well as the fact that the wines are blended (particularly with the Cannaiolo), means that the Pagliarese wines tend to be a bit more elegant and soft. The graceful style is accentuated by a classical wine-making regimen that promotes elegance over extraction including a gentle maceration regime as well as extended aging in mostly in neutral 50HL Slavonian oak botti. The resulting wines are beautifully refined, pure examples of Chianti Classico. This re-birth of Pagliarese in Castelnuovo Berardenga, in the southern zone of Chianti Classico represents a true renaissance of one of Tuscany’s forgotten treasures! This 2015 is ripe and lush on the palate showing the region’s success in this vintage along with the finesse and elegance you normally find in Felsina’s own wines with layers of smooth red berry, plum, currant and strawberry fruits along with classic dried tobacco, minty/menthol, anise and light cedary wood notes. This Chianti Classico has muted tannins and subtle acidity, but the structure is there, though hidden slightly by it’s seamless unfolding and opulent mouth feel, this is certainly an easy wine to enjoy young, and especially with simple country cuisine and or hard cheeses like Pecorino.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Poe Wines, Pinot Noir, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
The Pinot Noir vines in the Van Der Kamp Vineyard are sixty years-old, and Samantha Sheehan, one California’s rising (or risen) talents, at Poe Wines crafted a brilliant wine from this unique site set on a mix of soils that includes Speckles loam, sedimentary and volcanic influences. Sheehan, inspired by old world wines employs a gentile touch in the cellar, she allowed the fermentation to begin with native yeast, and with a light dance of foot treading to the fermentation two to three times per day. Sheehan used just 30% of the grapes whole cluster, which really gives this wine a lot of lift and spice, with the wine aging on it’s lees for 12 months in 30% new French oak and with the rest raised in neutral French oak before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Van der Kamp Vineyard lies at the very top of Sonoma Mountain, at a 1,400 foot elevation looking down on the town of Glen Ellen to the east and Bennett Valley to the northwest, not far from the famous Hanzell Vineyards. It is quite possibly the oldest planting of Pinot Noir in the state, planted in the early 1950s. The 2015 vintage, according to Sheehan, was unseasonably cold in the early spring, too cold for normal flowering.The end result was that the vines were only able to set a tiny crop – yields were down by 75% at the vineyard, but the fruit they got was exceptional, with the tiny clusters were concentrated and flavorful with plenty of acidity and thick skins. All this allowed for a powerful mountain Pinot Noir with a deep sense of terroir and incredible length, Sheehan managed to achieve everything you could ask for in a serious wine, complexity, stylish flourishes and seamless layers all with her exceptional refinement and grace that make this one of her best efforts to date. Fresh detail highlights the spicy Van der Kamp Pinot, it flows across the palate with black cherry, raspberry, cranberry, strawberry and dark plum fruits along with a range of zesty pepper, Asian spice, dried herb, vanilla and very pretty rose floral tones, hints of mineral charm and a snappy bramble pop. This youthful and lively Pinot picks up quite an impact with time in the glass and is a wine to be reckoned with, gaining excitement with every sip and minute, I wish I had bought more of this stuff, because sadly it’s looking like it will be hard to find now, so be sure to get on Poe’s list asap and hope the 2016 isn’t too far behind! Drink this Poe Van der Camp 2015 over the next 5 to 7 years, I can only believe it will just get better in bottle, bravo to Samantha on this one. Also be sure to check out Poe’s Pinot Meunier, the Chardonnay(s) and the Sparklers as well, these are all wonderful wines.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Sheldon Wines, Vinolocity Red, California.
To say that Dylan Sheldon, and his wife Tobe, owners of the micro-winery Sheldon Wines in Santa Rosa, think outside the box, is as an outrageous of an understatement as you could think of in the world of wine, especially in California, they continue to push and explore the envelope of norms, and this is fascinatingly true here in their new Vinolocity, a red blend of Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. Only produced in the best or unique vintages Dylan’s Vinolocity has up until now been more a Rhone inspired cuvee crafted from selected vineyard sites, with the White version usually Grenache Blanc based, while the Red normally formed around a core of Grenache Noir, but this one has gone a completely new and mind blowing direction with it’s two barrel blend of old vine Napa Valley Petite Sirah and full carbonic maceration Tempranillo! One barrel of Napa Valley, Collier Vineyard, Old Vine Petite made with traditional methods and raised in well seasoned French oak was blended with full carbonic and stainless fermented Sonoma County Tempranillo, it makes for a super tasty California rarity! Sheldon Wines is in a group of exciting winemakers in California that includes Arnot-Roberts, Windgap/Pax, Martha Stoumen, Broc Cellars, Ryme and Onward, just to name a few, that are going their own way and following new paths, exploring varietals and styles. Dylan Sheldon has been a champion of Graciano, the little known Rioja grape as well as his loved Grenache Noir, but he also does a wonderful set of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah bottlings vintage to vintage, all on the lighter and more delicate side. This 2017 Vinolocity is at first juicy and expressive with the carbonic influence taking the palate by storm with an almost Gamay like dark and tangy fruitiness before the dark and deep structural quality of the old vine Petite Sirah makes it’s presence known and felt on the intriguing medium weight body with a bust of fine tannin that puts the brakes on the fruity character adding a tight focus. The tension is intoxicating and the black, red and blue fruits feel bright and wonderfully lifted up by a touch of mineral and subtle earthy notes with layers of Tempranillo led black cherry, plum and racy currant as well as blueberry, cranberry and briar laced blackberry from the Petite, from my experience and then you get secondary notes of sweet and sour herbs, minty licorice, unsweetened coco powder, mixed spices and a touch of cedar. With air a floral array lifts from the glass and there is true sense of harmony, surprising texture and youthful freshness that makes this wine oh so easy to quaff and it’s lovely purple/garnet color invites repeated sips, this Vinolocity is wonderfully addictive and amazingly flexible with cuisine options from small bite Tapas to full on BBQ, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years. Sheldon’s Vinolocity 2017 joins an up coming set of releases that also includes their Grenache and a single vineyard Graciano, but don’t wait, these are very limited and will go fast!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah, Elevación, Halcon Estate, Yorkville Highlands.
The fantastic new Halcon Elevacion cuvee is an inaugural release, it’s a 100% Syrah that comes from their estate vines high up in the Yorkville Highlands. It is a single block of Chave clone, done with 100% whole-cluster in a very ultra traditional and classic Northern Rhone style. This is one of the best Syrah’s of the year so far, with it’s sweet perfume of crushed violets and lilacs mixed with nervy stems adding energy and tension to an open textured wine of complex detail and exotic highlights of flavors that range from boysenberry, plum, blackberry to cherry and currant fruits along with minty herb, peppercorns, liquid mineral, cassis, cedar and anise. Owner Paul Gordon, along with winemaker Scott Shapely, also of Roar, wanted to explore the individual blocks starting with Gordon’s favorite clone. This parcel was planted back in 2005 along with main vineyard. Paul personally likes, as do I, the extra complexity and elegance the 100% stems bring, I love as well the nervy energy, and there is a little carbonic pop to the fruit (which comes from the whole berries fermenting in the absence (scarcity?) of oxygen). With Gordon adding “(This is) Our first vintage of this special cuvee. Made using Halcón estate fruit, this wine is 100% Chave selection Syrah fermented with 100% whole-cluster and aged in a single neutral French oak puncheon. This wine highlights the meaty, savory characteristics of the Chave selection combined with the floral, spicy elements from the stems. No adjustments to alcohol nor acids and native yeasts.” Just 50 cases, two barrels were made, it was unfined and unfiltered, coming in at very Cornas like at 13.2% natural alcohol. There’s so much to admire here, from the expression of place, vineyard and style to the lingering intensity of the aftertaste, this deep garnet hued wine is a gorgeous example of what Syrah can be in California, it joins Drew, Piedrasassi, Pax, Peay, Lucia (Pisoni), Big Basin, Stolpman and Alban to name a few of the elite players in great Syrah in the golden state. Refined tannins and ripe texture allow this Halcon Elevacion to be enjoyed young, but it should get even better with another few years of age, this awesome stuff has a huge drinking window from now until 2027 at least. If you like Northern Rhone wines and geek out on stems, whole cluster wines then you’ll love this Syrah and will not want to miss this limited offering from Halcon, this is a list you need to be on.
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2007 Jos. Christoffel Jr., Riesling Auslese, Erdener Pralat (Three Star), Mosel Germany.
Kajo (Karl Josef) Christoffel’s Jos. Christoffel 2007 Erdener Pralat Three Star Auslese is a lovely wine, not overly honey-sweet or flabby botrytis infused, it’s generous and refined, almost Spatlese like in weight and form, but deep in flavor, it comes from one of tiniest Crus in the Mosel and one of the warmest. What a treat, especially now that Kajo is as of now in retirement from his Jos. Christoffel Jr. estate, an old school legend that also focused on sweeter styles, but ones that have interesting complexity that hides overt sugar! I don’t have as much as experience with the Jos. Christoffel Jr. wines, though their reputation has preceded them and I was thrilled to get my hands on his 2014 as well as this 2007 version of which I planned to cellar for another decade, but couldn’t resist opening. The Christoffel family in Ürzig, with top vineyard sites in Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat, Erdener Treppchen and Wehlener Sonnenuhr is an traditional winery and interestingly they also related by marriage to the famous Prüm family in Wehlen, forming a Riesling dynasty in the region. The estate has been run by Karl Josef Christoffel (Kajo) for a generation of greatness and has saved an extensive library of well-aged wines that are regularly released. All of Kajo’s wines are fermented in the traditional 1000 Liter casks with the natural yeast, they are uniquely and somewhat oxidative, or so I’ve found, though they have been proven agers. According to Dr. Loosen, Erdener Pralat is a small slice of perfection, the four-acre Erdener Prälat vineyard produces maybe some of the greatest wines in the Mosel River valley. Its 100 percent south-facing, with steep slopes, red slate soils and it is an extraordinarily warm microclimate that yield wines of unequaled power and nobility. The vineyard’s exposure, combined with the warming effect of the river reflection and the massive, heat-retaining cliffs that surround it, ensures it’s exceptional ripeness in almost every vintage. So who would I be not to agree with that? And yes, this stuff is extremely seductive with yellow peaches, honeycomb, wilted roses, marzipan and caramel notes coming through along with hints of lemon curd, dried pineapple, a hint of almond/hazelnut and baked apricots. With air this wine settles into it’s groove with a vibrant tone showing up, it loses it’s oxidative side and pumps out a more fresh note adding a spicy element, saline and wet stone with a lingering pleasure of sweetness. The sugar density, obviously substantial, never feels intrusive and it is more about richness, a textural quality rather than sweetness, impressive in such a Riesling, and this wine grew on me with every sip, this 2007 is more more complex and thrilling than the 2014, which was dull by comparison. This is a wine that just gets better when paired with cuisine, spicy Asian especially, but not exclusively in fact cheeses, smoked meats and lightly sweet deserts also make this wine shine, drink over the next decade.
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Stephane Ogier, Condrieu “La Combe de Malleval” Northern Rhone White, France.
The basic Condrieu from the legendary Stephane Ogier, known for his famous Cote-Rotie, is his La Combe de Malleval, a bottling of 100% Viognier from the steep granite (soil) slopes of this tiny region, it comes from a selection of sites with an average age of more than 25 years, and this 2016 is a textural beauty with wonderful vintage expression. This has been a terrific week for the Northern Rhone, the wines from here are just amazing in the last couple of vintages, especially these 2015 and 2016’s which show impressive density, but with great detail and fresh acidity, and Ogier has taken nature’s gift and released some amazing stuff, in particular this Condrieu, which for the price is an exceptional value. The opulent La Combe de Malleval reveals itself in the nose, there is no way this could be anything else, but Condrieu, with pretty honeysuckle, citrus blossom and crushed stones along with fleshy stone fruits leads the way adding a core of fresh picked apricot on the medium bodied leesy palate as well as hints of lemon curd, brioche, flinty spices, liquid mineral, saline, sweet and snappy herbs, delicate wood notes and beeswax. Classic flavors and gorgeous mouth feel highlight the quality, Ogier used these high density vines to near perfection, carefully sorting individual grapes and employing a gentile direct pressing with barrel fermentation in large 500L foudres (oak casks) then raised sur lie for 10 months before bottling. While ripe, the natural alcohol is about 13% or so, making for a graceful and pure wine, it gains impact with air showing some exotic and tropical elements while holding itself in fine focus throughout. Ogier made about 830 cases of this stuff, so it is not impossible to find as so many fine Condrieu(s) seem to be, imported by Domaine Select, so be sure to keep an eye out for this one, and drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($49 Est.) 93 points, grapelive

2015 Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Rouge “Cavanos” Vieilles Vignes, Northern Rhone, France.
Cave Yves Cuilleron’s exception Cavanos old vine Saint-Joseph Rouge is a 100% Syrah gem, coming off the terroir’s the granite and alluvial soils and with all hand tended care, it thrills on the palate with purity and perfume along with the vintage’s ripe dense opulence, it’s a stunner that will reward patience, though none will be required as it already offers complexity, depth and generous detailing. I must say both the 2015’s and the few 2016’s I’ve tried from Cuilleron have been just outstanding with expressive fruit, focus and harmonious textural hedonistic pleasures! If you hadn’t heard of this bottling before, there is a reason, Cuilleron added it for the 2015, as he will no longer produce his well-loved “L’Amarybelle.” now his oldest Syrah vineyards with instead be used for this cuvee, the “Cavanos”—from the ancient local name for the village of Chavanay, where the domaine/winery is located, it’s crafted exclusively from this densely planted Syrah vines that are well over 40 years old. The unique site adds a more smoky and fuller profile, Cuilleron de-stems and careful sorts this cuvee’s grapes then gives it a long three week cuvaison in open top vats, then when primary fermentation is finished the “Cavanos” wine is moved into barriques for the malos and then rested and raised for 18 months before bottling, giving an elegant result, more like a modern Cote-Rotie and not like the nervy/stemmy whole cluster style that are such the rage, and while I tend to love the stems, this wine is wonderful. This wine rushes at you and attacks the palate with strong flowing force with a deep violets, a hint of campfire and mouth filling black and blue fruits with layers of black raspberry, boysenberry, briar laced damson plum and cherry fruits as well as pepper, wild lavender, graphite/flinty rock and a touch of wood/cedar, it lingers with touches of earth, cassis and anise. It feels lush and dense, but still has a cut of acidity and youthful tannins to hold firm throughout, best to explore this fantastic Syrah with simple and hearty cuisine. The 2015 Cavanos gets prettier and prettier with each sip adding new flashes of flavors, it is impressive stuff, enjoy over the next 5 to 10 years.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haute Vallee du Gassac Rouge, Vin de Pays de L’Herault, Languedoc, France.
The Guibert family’s Mas de Daumas Gassac Grand Vin Rouge is a unique Bordeaux driven blend made from about 80% Cabernet Sauvignon along with about 20% of other grapes which could include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Tannat, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, with later vintages having some Dolcetto and even some Nebbiolo. Founded in 1971 Mas de Daumas Gassac is set on iron rich red soils in a glacial formed valley in the Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert – Cité d’Aniane area of the L’Herault region of the Languedoc, it’s one of the most iconic estates of the south of France making this unique Red as well as also their equally unique and famous White that is mostly Petit Manseng, Viognier, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The Guibert family now led by Samuel Guilbert, son of legendary Aimé Guibert planted un-cloned Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux’s Medoc in fact the Daumas Gassac wines, according to the winery, owe their very being to Professor Emile Peynaud, a renowned œnologue, who had famously been an advisor to the Chateaux Margaux, Haut Brion, and Mission Haut Brion, who was a believer in the site and who helped Guibert make the wines, even by phone when needed. Peynaud was a leading light in French wine and at the time of the first Daumas Gassac vintage in 1978 he noted “I’ve advised the greatest producers in France, but never before been lucky enough to be present at the birth of a Grand Cru”, as Mas de Daumas Gassac calls itself. Going back in time to the 2000 vintage recently was a perfect way to examine Daumas Gassac Rouge, and dig deep, beyond the hype and ripeness of youthful new vintages and what I re-discovered was a gorgeous and mature wine of old world class and elegance, it has lots of Cabernet Sauvignon character, but also veins of exotic flavors, tamed tannins and beautiful length and inner perfume. It takes a few minutes to wake up, but layers slowly come alive with a medium/full palate revealing dusty and earthy dark fruits, dried flowers, hints of leather, olive, anise and delicate cassis. The fruit at first is muted by age with a touch of hoisin, sous bois and brandied notes, but after more time a sense of purity unfolds with black cherry, plum, currant and berry forming a core along with a faint kiss of violets, loam and baking spices, it really turns on the charm gaining a real outer Medoc like personality and profile that reminds me of Saint-Julien, though with a sunny warm Mediterranean element that brings you back to this wine’s own terroir. This is surprising fresh in the glass, it still has a nice pop of acidity that adds a wonderful focus and there is plenty of life here, this is really drinking well right now and well within it’s peak window. This Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge was treated to a long maceration and 20 days primary ferment in stainless steel with about a year to 15 months in French oak casks, from non certified organic vines that were all lovingly hand tended. I was a treat to taste this wine over a 24 hour period, it is full of personality and complex details that expresses itself differently with each hour, it really impressed me. I have had this wine many times in the past as well as many other vintages, mostly more recently like the 2009, 2010, 2011 and up to the 2015 all of which are intriguing, but re-visiting this 2000 was special, if you have it, it’s about time to pop the cork, it’s a treasure with great rewards on offer!
($55-85 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013 Lapo Berti, Barolo DOCG, La Morra, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Lapo Berti Barolo, from La Morra, is crafted from the two historic Cru parcels, one in Bricco Rocca and the other in Fossati which adds to up to a pure and lovely wine full bodied from the 2013 vintage and endowed with terroir driven class. Made in old school tradition and with a nod to natural winemaking methods, this Lapo Berti was fermented with native yeasts with absolutely no additions, very low sulfur, and treated to a gentile/cool maceration with the wine aged in neutral used barrels in the cellar. Imported/selected by the Oregon Pinot Noir legend John Paul of Cameron Winery of the Willamette Valley, who also makes a selection of Nebbiolo(s) from his own vines and is a well known Italian wine freak! As mentioned on the 2012 vintage, these pedigreed vineyards showcase(s) the best of these terroirs, that are set on the classic marl soils, in prime hillside sites with perfect exposures, with Fossati giving beauty, textural pleasure and ripe tannins, while the Bricco Rocca brings a feeling of elegance, focused detail and minerality. The 2013 is still tightly youthful and takes quite a while to open up, pretty standard for Nebbiolo, but once it gets going it unfolds in primal character with dark flowers, crushed rock, brandied cherries and truffle notes before layers of damson plum, minty herbs, fine grained, but sweet tannins, orange rind, strawberry and a touch of black licorice as well as a hint of forest floor. This vintage should really get better over the next 3 to 5 years and drink well to about 2028, this 2013 Lapo Berti only teases it’s true potential at this stage with a good amount of rustic charm, it’s a bit fuller, darker with a deeper garnet hue in the glass and more brawny than the prior vintage, but more rewarding with cuisine and with cellar time it should be a treasure in the years to come. In a week we mourn the loss of Beppe Rinaldi, the iconic Barolo grower and outspoken natural wine advocate, this Barolo (inspired by Rinaldi style wines and of which was made in the same authentic manner) was a nice tribute, be sure to look for this wonderful and value priced Nebbiolo.
($39 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2017 Joyce Wine Company, Pinot Noir, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The new releases of single vineyard Pinot Noir(s) are a stunning set of wines that will certainly turn a few heads, these are wines that put Russell Joyce into the limelight and firmly put his winery among the elite producers in the region, there’s a lot to admire by these 2017 Joyce wines, it’s a vintage that impresses for purity, delicacy and depth. The winemaking is clean and focused putting a primary goal on expressing each site’s fruit, allowing this beautiful vintage to shine through, Russell and team used only used French oak and a varyingly amount of whole cluster to add vibrancy, complexity and intensity, while the wines still have a ripe and luxurious mouth feel and elegant flavors. Each single vineyard (Pinot Noir) are individually crafted to show their best and their unique personality, each will have their own set of fans, but that said this are all fantastic and beautifully made wines. This Tondre Grapefield 2017 Pinot Noir is from the Santa Lucia Highlands, with vines set on sandy loams and includes Pommard clone, it was partial whole cluster, about 30%, and the wine is full of nervy energy, subtle spices and layered fruit as well as silky and graceful texture, all of which makes for a gorgeous and exciting Pinot Noir that raises the game for this winery and especially for this vineyard. In the past I have been critical of this site, but I now see the realized potential more clearly, I have enjoyed Morgan’s and Sonnet’s versions, though I am in awe of this new 2017 from Joyce with it’s black cherry, plum, raspberry and strawberry fruit which pumps out in a satiny and seamless flow, along with those stem influenced elements of vitality and spice as well as mineral tones, floral notes and lifting fresh acidity. The fruit and texture is sexy and the serious verve and faint savory herbal edginess heightens the whole experience in this medium bodied ruby/garnet hued Pinot Noir, this wine delivers it’s promise from it’s lightly perfumed bouquet of rose petal, red fruits along with pepper and tea spices to it’s lingering brightness of flavors and refined wood treatment, it’s an enthusiast’s wine that should only get more interesting and entertaining over the next 3 to 5 years.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Passopisciaro, Passorosso, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Mount Etna is one of world’s great wine growing regions and one of the hot spots for both white and in particular reds, with Passopisciaro one of the leaders of this wave of fantastic offerings from this volcanic influenced area on Italy’s island of Sicily. Passopisciaro is one of Sicily’s stars, making volcanic reds that are often compared to the finest Crus of Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune, they come from the cooler northern side of Mount Etna with their unique terroir characteristics of high-elevation terraces of highly varied black, lava soils that give these amazing wines their spice and delicacy. Passopisciaro, farms all biodynamic focuses Etna’s Nerello Mascalese grape, from vines that were planted between 1913-1943. The Passorosso Etna Rosso is fermented using specially picked yeast in cold stainless steel vats before finishing malos and aging in French oak, mostly neutral big barrels, for 18 months, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. This 2015 Passopisciaro Passorosso is a marvel of lightness and textural pleasures, it’s gorgeously perfumed with flinty/shale notes and spicy red fruits, with racy plum and raspberry leading the way before opening up and gaining layer after layer including macerated cherries along with subtle black licorice, rose petals, lavender oil, red pepper, along with faint wood notes. This light/medium palate pure Nerello Mascalese has a beautiful and dreamy mouth feel and lingering aftertaste, it’s absolutely stunning from start to finish, is this the result of the talented enologist, at Azienda Passopisciaro, Eduardo Torres Acosta, the Canary Islands native? I can say this 2015 is a significant step up in detail over the prior vintages, which were already exceptional! Drinking ultra well even it’s youth, I can hardly fault anyone wanting to open this bottle today, it has potential to age for another decade, it’s window is open now, don’t miss it.
($35 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

2016 Xavier Gerard, Condrieu “Cote Chatillon” Northern Rhone White, France.
One of the most beautiful Viognier wines I’ve ever tried, it’s unbelievably gorgeous, intensely mineral filled and with a lingering perfume this Xavier Gerard Cote Chatillon (single parcel) Condrieu highlights the vintage and terroir to perfection. The domaine has spectacular vineyard holdings in both Cote-Rotie and here in Condrieu, this granite soiled steep, craggy slopes of the vineyards demand that all work be done by hand, and the youthful Xavier Gerard continues the traditional practices of his family and the region in the cellar, with the use of native/spontaneous fermentation(s) and classic Northern Rhone lengthy elevage, mostly in older barrels of demi-muid size that allows this unique terroir to shine through. The Gerard Condrieu La Cote Chatillon comes from one of the estate’s finest holdings, situated in the middle of the slope overlooking the Rhone with extremely stony/rocky terrain, this cuvee from this famed lieu-dit has long been their flagship Condrieu (wine) of the winery. This amazing Viognier is gloriously expressive and exotic, but with vivid acidity, laser focus and depth of flavors. After primary fermentation is done in cuve, then the wine spends one year in a mix of mostly 500L cask and a smaller amount in 225L barrels giving a heavenly mix of rich texture and vitality of form. The palate is fine and hedonistic with layers of honeysuckle, fresh picked apricot, steely minerals, crushed stones, clarified cream, a hint of vanilla, citron, a touch of snappy spices and peach flesh all flowing in seamless detail, this is a white with the x factor and it should only get better over the next 3 to 5 years and last 10 to 15 years with graceful ease.
($66 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2016 Chateau des Rontets, Bourgogne Blanc “du Sud” White Burgundy, France.
The beautiful Chateau des Rontets “du Sud” Bourgogne Blanc 2016 starts with an exotic combination of perfumed citrus blossom, peach and delicate saline elements before opening up to classic Chardonnay apple and pear fruits and wet stones. Chateau des Rontets, an old slightly run down estate in the Pouilly-Fuisse zone of the Maconnaise, in southern Burgundy, got going again in 1995 when husband and wife Claire Gazeau, who’s family owned the little known estate, and Fabio Montrasi, who met while in school in Milan, started managing the Château des Rontets. This team, after renovating the vineyards and cellar, going to organic farming and using biodynamic practices are now making top notch single parcel Pouilly-Fuissé Chardonnay and a Cru Beaujolais Saint Amour Gamay red with a commitment to their natural practices. The estate is perched above the town of Fuissé with an elevation of 350m, with the estate’s primary vineyard Clos Varambon having a cool exposure that gives it striking minerallity and crisp detail that rivals Meursault. Nearly all the vines are planted from (a) Massale Selection (of clones) with some being ancient pre-phloxera vines and the rest average 45 years old at least, that gives this wines their depth and complexity. This cuvee comes from parcels in the Maconnaise that also provides fruit for Dominique Lafon’s Domaine des Heritiers du Comte Lafon, it’s a certified all biodynamic plot on classic clay and limestone, and like Lafon the Chateau des Rontets du Sud is all native yeast fermented and aged in well used large foudres to maximize the purity of form and this 2016 is an exceptional wine punching well above it’s price class. It has the same pleasure you’d get from elite Burgundy producers, but with much less reductive qualities, making it wonderfully easy to enjoy right out of the bottle and in it’s fresh youth. layers of apple, pear, and touch of hazelnut laser’s your focus on it’s terroir and grape, but it’s fleshy texture and floral tones excites the palate as well as the hints of fig, orange oil, liquid rock and lemon curd. There’s a lot to admire here and Chateau des Rontets has crafted a studied set of wines for the vintage, especially this one which I haven’t had prior, imported by Floraison Selections, this is an estate to follow and be sure to look for this “du Sud” Bourgogne Blanc, it’s impressive and textural with vivid intensity, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Vina Maitia, Pais/Carignan “Aupa” Pipeno, Maule Valley, Chile.
Made from 120 year vines in the Maule Valley, the Aupa Pipeno by Vina Maitia is an old school country wine made from a blend of 80% Pais (Listan) and 20% Carignan with a short and light maceration/ferment that makes it easy and fresh in style. The Pipeno, a term for the way they used to carry the wine in tubes/pipes filled from large casks and sold fresh is an old Chilean tradition and it’s been revived in these new versions and sold for export made from the mission and old vine grapes, the old Chile is now the new Chile and highlight the country’s rich wine history that started back with the Spanish explorer era in the early 1,500’s. Grown on a mix of granite and volcanic soils the Listan Prieto (Mission Grape) gives earthy/spicy character to the Pipeno, while Carignan adds a bit more depth of fruit and generosity. Light fruity and spicy this is a fun and easy quaffer. coming in at under 13% (12.9%) natural alcohol is feels nice and fresh with a light garnet and bricky hue. Pipeno and Pais based wines are a throw back styles and they are really catching on, especially with those that want more authentic Chilean flavors, that transmit the different terroirs, from either granite or volcanic soils, instead of international themed offerings. Tangy red fruits lead the way with poached cherries, strawberry, raspberry and fresh stone fruit on the palate along with minty herb, pepper spice, leather and ground cinnamon. A bit of crisp acidity keeps things lifted and elements of citrus rind, dusty stones and dried flowers come through with air and food, it’s not a casual sipping wine, it truly needs cuisine to show it’s best, but it’s flexible enough to go with most any simple dish from sea food to cheeses and good with a slight chill for outdoor events and BBQ, drink this juicy/savory Pipeno now.
($12 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2015 Fronton de Oro, Tinto “Tradicional” Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain.
One of my favorite wines, this rustic country red from Fronton de Oro is made of 90% Listan Nergo and 10% Tintilla (aka Graciano) and is from the second largest of the Canary Islands, a volcanic set of islands of the northwestern coast of Africa, and one of the world’s most unique terroirs. I’ve been following Fronton de Oro for years becoming a true aficionado of the Listan grapes and mostly Listan Nergo, one of the original Mission Grapes, that was brought to the new world in the 1,500’s by the Spanish explorers and catholic church missionaries that colonized the Americas from Chile to California. The combination of salty sea breezes, rugged mineral rich soils and Listan Negro prove to be an impressive mix that gives these wines a fierce spicy character with an intense peppery and savory flavor profile, wonderfully restrained, almost delicate, tartly vivid fruit and stony elements just add to the charms of this grape. In this case the addition of Tintilla delivers a more complete wine with a touch more floral complexity and maybe a touch more depth of fruit, though that is just my humble opinion. The Canary Islands are now fully on the world’s radar with many outstanding and critically acclaimed wines hitting the stage, including hugely talented winemakers like Roberto Santana, who helped put this exotic and very remote region on the map with his efforts at Suertes del Marquis and his own partnership winery Envinate, which is renown for their astonishing set of single parcel wines from Tenerife. Also on Lanzarote there is Los Bermejos making intriguing whites and world class grower Champagne style sparkling wines, so the Canary’s are red hot right now, and tasting this 2015 Tinto from Fronton de Oro is a timely reminder of why. The vineyards are all high-elevation plots with many above 1,000 meter mark, and in many cases on terraced slopes, they are owned by D. Antonio Ramírez who in 1977 bought a small piece of land in the hills of La Lechuza (the small town on the island of Gran Canaria where the winery is) known locally as “El Frontón” hence the name, with his sons Antonio and Pedro starting the family winery and overseeing the farming and winemaking. The Fronton de Oro Tinto is crafted from estate-grown Listán Negro grapes, with the grapes being de-stemmed and getting a cold-soak for 24 hours before pressing. The primary vinification in stainless steel tanks to keep temps down and preserve freshness, after which the wine are moved to used/seasoned American oak barrels for just about 3 months before bottling, then rested in bottle for short while before shipping. The 2015 Tinto is lively and vibrant on the palate with a lighter shade of garnet in the glass showing layers of robust spicy and tangy fruits including raspberry, sour cherry, wild plum and a red peach note along with that intense pepper, chalk dust, crunchy minerals, and a black licorice herbal/balsam note. This medium weight red is great with sea food in tomato and or wine broth, pasta dishes and rustic cuisine or BBQ’s, it can even take a small chill for picnic fare. If you want a fun, slightly funky and pure volcanic soil influenced wine, you should check this Fronton de Oro Tinto out, I love the stuff, drink as fresh as possible.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2007 Gulfi, Reseca, IGT Rosso, Sicily, Italy.
Gulfi’s Mount Etna Rosso comes from a tiny parcel called Vigna Poggio, in Monte La Guardia, within the commune of Randazzo located on the northern slope of Etna, and it’s crafted from only Nerello Mascalese grown on ancient lava terraces surrounded by a chestnut forrest. The north slopes see a great swing in day time to night time temps and make for very delicate wines with good acidity and charm, it’s one of the reasons Mount Etna wines are often compared to Burgundy, and while Gulfi is better known for their southern zone Nero d’Avola(s) that are more rich and almost full bodied in style, but both are wonderfully graceful and balanced, leaning more on traditional rather than modern. With the decade of age, the 2007 Reseca is remarkable fresh and vibrant in profile with silky tannins and wonderful depth and complex detail showing A range of spicy red fruits and surprising density. The mouthy feel is gorgeous, reminding you why they call Etna Nerello Mascalese the Burgundy of the Volcano with this Gulfi showing amazing touch with this grape, they farm to biodynamic principals and vinify with natural and traditional methods to highlight each wines terroir. Layers of red cherry, plum, raspberry and crisp red currant fruits form the core palate with dusty spices, anise, dried rose petals and a hint of earthy/leather. The wine is clean, lush and with excellent length, it’s flavors burst from the glass and it’s lovely ruby/garnet hue has no hint of age, this is elegant stuff, but with a sense of presence and substance in the bottle, certainly impressive and with plenty of years ahead of it. This Reseca, 100% Nerello Mascalese, got a long maceration on it’s skins and cool ferment in stainless vats then raised for almost a full 2 years in large French barrels (500L) making for a serious version of this varietal, allowing for potential 20 years of life or more here!
($29-39 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Enderle & Moll, Pinot Noir “Liaison” Baden, Germany.
Imported by and for von Boden, the lovely bright and light colored, the all biodynamic Liaison Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir from the Baden region is a vibrant tangy wine. Coming in at 12.5% natural alcohol, this lighter style Pinot impresses for it’s tart crisp character and juicy charms, it’s a fine country style wine that is at it’s best with a slight chill and with food, reminding me of a bit of Brouilly Cru Beaujolais with it’s dynamic acidity and fresh nature. Those that love Jura Trousseau or Poulsard will love this geeky little Pinot, those used to Burgundy or silky lush styles will find these a bit lifted or shocking to the palate with it’s racy red fruits and it’s tart personality. The dominant force here is unripe cherries and wild plum fruits and a bit of herbal strawberry character along with brisk minerality, and absolutely no wood influence present. Sven Enderle and Florian Moll work with very old vines, in fact their vines are among the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Baden, with this Liaison coming from 45 old vines. They go against modern thought and go for a strikingly fresh style and use old wood, interesting they get 5 year old Domaine Dujac barrels. This dynamic Germany Pinot is a fun contrast to the more serious (richer/riper) versions of spatburgunder like those of Frederick Becker in the Pfalz and or Meyer-Nakel in the Ahr which are much more impressive in structure and depth. You can see this wine getting a cult Somm following in the USA if it doesn’t already, already quite famous in Europe, and while I admire it and enjoyed this Enderle and Moll Liaison Pinot Noir as an intellectual experience, I wouldn’t except it to be a real impressive crowd pleaser. This tight and lean profile lends itself to a slight refreshing chill and certainly would be better with food to show it’s best, it’s a wine for the weirdly curious and should be enjoyed young, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($35 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

2016 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The beautiful pale gold and straw colored Rosella’s Chard by Richard Alfaro is a richly flavored and textural white that delivers a classic Santa Lucia Highlands performance and profile, similar in vein to Jeff Pisoni’s Lucia Vineyards, Morgan’s and Roar’s own Rosella’s. Only 200 cases were made of this Alfaro Family Rosella’s Chardonnay coming of the estate of Gary Francsioni in the cooler end of the Highlands from a mix of clones, mostly Dijon set on the sandy loam(s) that gets a cool breeze and marine influence that allows a long growing season and deep flavor development. Richard Alfaro, a winemaker with a great gift with Chardonnay, both as a winemaker and as a grower, raised his Rosella’s for 9 months in French oak barriques of which 40% were new, the barrel tones are perfectly matched to the ripe fruit and vibrant acidity, making for a full bodied Chardonnay, but one with a balanced form and lovely elegance. This Chard can be enjoyed with cuisine, especially with a variety of sea foods, while bold and lush it’s keeps it’s vitality and charm throughout, and it drinks great all it’s own and with popcorn while watching a movie or a sunset at the beach. The palate is filled with complexity, but pleases with a smooth sense of stylish seamlessness, it flows with baked apple, golden fig, a touch of tropical fruit along with lemon curd, vanilla and a hint of butterscotch, adding delicate lime blossom, wet stone, saline and yellow peach notes. This is an under the radar addition to Alfaro’s lineup from a Cru site, and a plush counterpoint to his other offerings, like his mineral driven Trout Gulch and gorgeous Estate Lindsay Paige, as well as his exotic (Kongsgaard Clone) Mary Katherine Chardonnay, all of which are serious wines that are also insanely great values! Richard farms and crafts some of the best California Chardonnay, especially for the price, and if you’ve not tried them, then you are missing out, these are beauties, plus he does a set of Pinots, both from his own estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as like this Rosella’s Chard, from select sites, including Garys’ and Rosella’s. His winery in Corralitos is a must visit when you are in the region, other than the mentioned Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Alfaro also makes Gruner Veltliner, a fun Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Sparkling Brut and a very limited estate Syrah that are certainly worth checking out. The 2016 Rosella’s Chard shows a ready to drink and overt personality that is hard to resist, it should age nicely for 3 to 5 years, but I adore it’s youthful fresh underpinning and would not wait.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 Morgan, Rosé of Grenache, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Morgan Winery, a Monterey classic, best known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offerings also does a studied selection of Rhone wines, these include two wonderful Syrah(s) and a Cotes du Rhone blend, as well as this French style dry Rosé of Grenache. There’s a lot of excitement at Morgan these days and a new vigor in their step, with their Sam Smith, winemaker, crafting some amazing wines from Dan Lee’s Double L Vineyard and other top sites in mostly the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Rosé is made from 100% Grenache, it was direct press and picked to be dry Rosé, making for a vibrant and crisp pink with stony detail and pure Grenache juicy flavors. The hue is lightly pink and pale with a touch of orange on the edges from the short maceration and the palate is vivid and bright with watermelon, wet rock, citrus, rosewater, a touch of raspberry and sour cherry. This brisk Rosé is wildly refreshing and easy to love, great on it’s own as well as a nice companion to Summer fare, it pairs great with seasonal salads and is especially brilliant with sand under your feet watching a warm sunset. These 2017 vintage Morgan’s are looking like a great collection of wines, if you’ve not had this winery in a while it’s a really good time to check them out again.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013 Jonata, Red Blend “Todos” Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley.
The Jonata Todos, made by the very highly regarded Matt Dees, one of California’s great new generation winemakers, is a fascinating red blend from tiny yields on their estate vineyards, set on the Jonata, where the winery gets it’s name, sandy soils. The few years of bottle aging has helped allow this intriguing wine open more fully and expand it’s complexity, the blend is really unique being a mixed of about 56% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Sangiovese, 7% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Viognier! The grapes were farmed to perfection by Ruben Solorzano, the hugely talented vineyard manager, who is the vineyard manager at Stolpman Vineyards, it is amazing how much fruit they dropped to achieve the results in the bottle, from what I understand the yields were just 25% of the normal size, which certainly shows it in the intensity and depth of flavors in this wine. Dees and his team got loads of concentration in this 2013 Jonata Todos with a deep sense of the Syrah leading the way, with a nod to a Cornas, the amount of whole cluster adds to that palate impact and impression with plush blue and black fruits and heightened savory notes and nervy energy. The chewy mouth is filled with layers of boysenberry, black raspberry, plum and dark sweet cherry fruits along with dried lavender, mixed pepper with cracked black and red flakes, anise, light cedar notes, cinnamon and lingering cassis. With air you get even more with earth, stones and leather coming through, with the other varietals having more of a say in this very purple/garnet red, as well as some subtle oak framing, and while a touch rustic this wine is forward and California plush and wonderfully expressive from start to finish, Dees deserves a ton of credit for the quality here, and be sure to check out some his other projects like is amazing Pinot(s) he does under the Mail Road and especially his Hilt from awesome plots in Sta. Rita Hills including Radian and Bentrock! Dees, with a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont, has done vintages at Staglin in Napa and Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, is a believer in holistic vineyard practices and wants to transmit the terroir into the wine, this is a worthy work in progress and the wines are excellent, in particular this Todos, a modern field style blend, it’s a wine that should age well and be rewarding with robust cuisine.
($56 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Liquid Farm, Rosé of Mourvèdre, Vogelzang Vineyard, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara County.
Liquid Farm, known mostly for their amazing Chardonnay program, including their awesome Sta. Rita Hills Golden Slope Chardonnay, also do one of the state’s most prized pink wines, in fact it’s called “Pink Crack” by those in the know, looked to the region of Bandol in Provence for the inspiration behind this Rosé. according to winery notes It is a combination of 95% Mourvédre and 5% Grenache sourced from Happy Canyon (a Santa Barbara AVA). The grapes are pressed as soon as they arrive to the winery, cool and fresh, picked a touch early to keep low sugars and is barrel-fermented in neutral (French) oak, bottled after just 5 months of aging. The Liquid Farm Rosé of Mourvèdre, along with Bedrock’s Ode to Lulu, is often called the Domaine Tempier of California, which is high praise and it usually lives up to the hype, especially in vintages like this 2016, which I tasted from Magnum! The delicate salmon pink hue is subtle and sublime in the glass, with the extra year of age it seems a bit sleepy at first, but gathers itself up and gives a rich and vibrant performance, though I bet the 2017 will be a touch better at the moment, still this is seriously good stuff with a more mature Mourvedre feel and slight earthy intensity that is not unwelcome. The palate is maybe less racy that the newer vintage, but has a crisp sense of detail with tart baked cherry, distilled strawberry, a touch of leather, wild lavender, loam and a hint of watermelon. It has a core of fruit and the usually mineral freshness has become more hidden, best to enjoy these Liquid Farm pinks young, which is unbelievably easy anyway!
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Fashauer Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
One of the fuller and riper Drew Pinots, but not heavy, the Fashauer Vineyards bottling comes from a 16 year old site along the Greenwood Ridge at about 1350 feet of elevation set on Franciscan Series and Oceanic Sedimentary soils, with lots of mineral content. Just within the Anderson Valley AVA, even though with it’s proximity to the Ocean and height it could also qualify as Mendocino Ridge. Drew used all native yeast, on this Fashauer, and went with just 10% whole cluster on the grapes, from clones 115 and 667, which were farmed, according to the winery, mostly to organic practices, and it was raised in about 30% new French oak. With only 2 tons per acre, there is some concentration and depth of flavors in this Fashauer, it comes in at 13.8% natural alcohol, making it one of the more flashy and fleshy wines of the Drew lineup, but it is still remarkably nimble and fresh. This vintage shows lots of vibrancy with wonderful precision and focus, it’s another Pinot that highlights Jason Drew’s exceptional talent, as well as a reminder that Drew is one of the best wineries in California, period. Bright and racy red fruits lead the way, with red currants, plum and cherry fruits jumping from the glass along with a streak of distinct strawberry and youthful acidity that allows this wine to feel lighter than it is, there’s also snappy spices, mineral notes, faint earthy elements and delicate florals, plus a kiss of sweet French oak. Honestly, this is presenting itself as open and forward, but I believe as good as it is now, it will fill out further and develop more exciting complexity in the next 2 to 3 years. This Pinot has a refined quality, it’s lovely ruby/garnet hue inviting and it’s personality leans toward the Cote de Beaune, at the risk of sounding cliche, but there is a beautiful textural presence and the red fruit core is hard to resist, drink from 2019 to 2027. Drew’s lineup is full of greatness, so expectations get really high, especially with his estate grown stuff, I might not be giving this one it’s due, more credit to Jason Drew on making such an amazing set of Syrah and Pinot(s), I can’t wait to revisit this one after some more cellar time.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014 Weingut Von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser, Riesling Sekt Brut, Mosel, Germany.
In recent years German Sekt has become some of the top bubbly you can buy, often rivaling elite Champagne for class, depth and beauty in the glass, and this Maximin Grunhaus Riesling sparkling wine certainly does, it’s an elegant and decedent example that delivers a very fine performance. The Maximin Grünhaus estate lies at the foot of a long steep south-facing slope on the left bank of the Ruwer river, about two kilometers before it joins the Mosel. The estate belongs to the Von Schubert family, who have turned this winery into one of the best in Germany and the wines here are world class, renown around the globe. The blue Devonian slate soils and steep hillsides give these wines their mineral charms, intensity and long-lived structures with the cellar employing modern techniques and ultra clean winemaking to achieve exacting terroir character and purity. The Sparkling Riesling is a dry Brut style with lovely perfume, lively fine mousse and beautiful details with searing green apple, citrus and hints of orchard fruits, hazelnut and steely vitality, this is so good, classy and lengthy. The dedication to quality runs deep here at Maximin Grunhaus, and the winery adds that depending on the requirements of the harvest, the grapes can be macerated or subjected to whole bunch pressing in a modern pneumatic press. After natural clarifying overnight via sedimentation, the musts are brought to an optimal fermentation temperature, and fermented with naturally occurring wild yeasts in classic large oak casks (Fuder casks) or small stainless steel tanks. This according to the Von Schubert’s, promotes the optimal development of mineral flavors from the slate soil and ensures the longevity of the Rieslings. Neither the must nor the finished wine are fined. In the last two years the wood for the barrels has come from the estate’s own forests, and the barrels are crafted by a local cooper. I could drink this stuff all the time, dry Riesling bubbles always seems right, I’m a fan of quite a few German sparklers, including Von Winning’s, Leitz’s, Kruger-Rumpf’s and maybe the best sparkling wine I’ve ever had, Caroline Diel’s Cuvee Mo, eight year yeast (lees) aged Brut, which is so amazing it can go head to head with vintage Krug! These are great sparkling wines, and this Maximin Grunhaus Sekt is very worthy, you should really check it out, along with their dry GG Rieslings of course!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, Cotes de Provence Rosé, Cru Classe, Cuvee Tradition, Provence, France.
One of the great wines of the world, the Clos Cibonne Rosé is crafted to age and made from the rare and ancient Tibouren grape that once was more widely planted in Provence, before Mourvedre and Grenache moved into the area in the late 1,800’s. In fact the Roux family even ripped out Mourvedre to make room for more Tibouren in the 1930’s and gained the rare Cru Classe states for his heroic efforts with this grape and wines. The vinification is ultra traditional and old school, with what I believe is direct pressing and a short soak on the naturally light pigmented skins, with the winery adding that after fermentation the wine is aged on the lees under fleurette for 1 year in 100-year-old foudres (large French oak oval casks) that allows for the wines complex details, stability, textural qualities and age worthiness. The 2016 Cuvee Tradition, from 30 plus year old vines set of rocky schist, is all organic and was made up of 90% Tibouren and 10% Grenache, which adds a touch of color and juicy fruit, grown on the estate’s 15 hectares of vineyards that are located, as the winery notes, a mere 800 meters from the coast and are surrounded by hillsides in the base of a bowl that faces the sea. Explaining the terroir elements, the winery infers, that this topography creates air circulation that allows for perfect maturation of the grapes and helps to reduce any vintage variations, providing healthy ripe and balanced fruit year to year. The other Tibouren by Clos Cibonne the Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes that is sourced only from the estate’s oldest vines, and was reviewed prior is one of my all time favorites, but this is classic stuff too and I love this 2016 vintage, it’s intriguing and pure. I wish I had sampled this one before tasting the Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes, because it is just not quite as thrilling or impressive, even though it’s a great wine on it’s own! The palate is full and round with layers of earth red fruits, citrus and cool mineral charms, adding an intriguing slightly oxidative tone, even though full of life and acidity, it shows poached cherry, strawberry, orange zest and wet stone as well as a hint of dried herb, almond oil, earthy/leaf and a faint hind of rosewater. With a cult like following, Clos Cibonne is never easy to find, but is a steal for the style and class in the bottle, drink these 2016 up over the next 2 to 3 years.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Rivers-Marie, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
Made by one of California’s most celebrated winemakers, Thomas Rivers Brown, who has made Schrader, Maybach Cellars, Outpost, Round Pond, ALOFT, and Kinsella, along with Turley, as well as many other luxury Napa Valley Cabernet(s), past and present, that have graced many covers of Wine Spectator, the Rivers-Marie is his own label. His celebrity status ensures a long waiting list of which makes for a hard get, and since his own wines are wonderfully affordable, especially in comparison to the elite brands he makes, even though they are extremely limited offerings. I got lucky and was able the grab a bottle of his 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from a friend on the mailing list, for which I’m forever grateful! Rivers-Marie, owned by Thomas Rivers Brown & Genevieve Marie Welsh, has a set of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and this one is a regional cuvee from the Anderson Valley, their first from this area, it has zero percent new oak, which, according to Brown, allows all the best attributes of the grape and the vintage to shine through, I tend to agree. Rivers-Marie also released a single vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot from the new hot spot Bearwallow Vineyard as well, it comes off younger vines and is slightly riper, while the Anderson Valley cuvee comes in at Burgundy like 13.8% natural alcohol and has a gripping presence in the glass. The nose here is serious, making one think of Anne Gros Richebourg with hints of bacon fat, dark fruits, mineral and spices that takes some time to open up to prettier tones with florals, the color is a deep garnet, which intrigues and leads to the firm and youthful palate. The Rivers-Marie Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is chewy and deeply flavored and has layers of black cherry, vine picked berries, plum and punchy currants, with an earthy fruit core as well as lifted spices, light oak notes and shows a nice cut of acidity, it’s a medium bodied Pinot that has should have a few more years in the cellar to fully develop, but that potential is clearly on display, adding depth and complexity with every minute of air it gets. A contrast of savory and stony notes expands the width here with flinty notes, wild mushrooms, black tea play opposing roles to the wilted rose, sweet tannin and the underlying opulence, there is a lot to admire here, though a more rewarding wine is certainly on the cards, patience should be the virtue you celebrate on this one, give this a 3 to 5 year rest if you can keep your hands off it, clearly I couldn’t, and I paid the price.
($45 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

2016 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Greg Brewer’s Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir cuvee sees only neutral barrels (well seasoned) of French oak and is a selection of the best lots of each of the estate farmed vineyards. Depending on the vintage, Brewer-Clifton goes all for whole cluster fermentation(s) for expressive and pure Pinot Noir(s), they farm with a focus of having ripe stems as well as evenly ripe grapes, allowing for harmony and balance in this offering. This 2016 really has a lot going for it with beautiful layers of juicy strawberry, racy red cherry, sweet plum and an array of delicate spices, nervy or thrilling stem energy and subtle floral tones. Working with the stems allows for wines that are more structured, it’s earthy underneath, though somewhat hidden by youth, and with a fine tension to match the forward Sta. Rita Hills fruit. When opening, this 2016 BC Pinot starts with an almost Grenache like character, like a lighter Chateauneuf, highlighting the whole cluster and fresh stems, with a fruit and spice burst, before settling into a fine Pinot Noir, it’s also a wine that gets deeper with food. This vintage is made up of the three main Brewer-Clifton estate farmed sites, that includes the 3D, Machado, and Hapgood vineyards. According to Brewer and team, the 3D Vineyard, expresses a primary emphasis on it’s predominantly sandy soils, it’s main focus is Chardonnay planted here, but there is a small block of Pinot Noir here planted to classic Swan and Pommard as well as some 667 and 828 clone(s) that really stands out, then there is their Machedo Vineyard, a 15 acre parcel on the Machado family land that is located adjacent to Clos Pepe and immediately behind the Kessler-Haak site contains a selection of Pommard, Merry Edwards, Mount Eden, and 459 clone(s) on rolling terrain with sand, clay and loam soils, which I suggest adds a sense intensity and power, and lastly, there is the Hapgood Vineyard, which is planted exclusively to the Merry Edwards clone, the mainly clay and loam soils gives a fuller mouth feel, a feeling of density and impact. It’s funny, because, I almost always love this cuvee more than the more acclaimed Brewer-Clifton single cru bottlings, in fact Steve Clifton, ex-founder/partner here and now La Voix (his own label) winemaker, always told me to never miss this bottling, as they (He and Greg) used to pick the most expressive barrels from their single vineyard lots to craft this one, counter to the usual practice of using the downgraded barrels for the basic Pinot or village wine! It was a piece of advice that stuck with me and so far I’ve never been let down, and this one does not disappoint, in fact it’s a sublime vintage and gets better with every sip, over the course of a full day being open it revealed wonderful character and charm, it’s red fruit core seriously reminds me of a ripe year Volnay! I can imagine many years of great drinking ahead, I might suggest putting a few bottles away too, best from 2010 to 2027.
($40 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

2016 Poe Wines, Pinot Meunier, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County.
The hugely talented Samantha Sheehan, who founded her own label Poe Wines in 2009 and known for her beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, also produces traditional Champagne method sparkling wines, a Rosé, as well as the mentioned Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with a groovy nouveau from Pinot Noir, plus this old vine Pinot Meunier. This 2016 Pinot Meunier is from the famed Van der Camp Vineyard, on Sonoma Mountain, which is not far from the legendary Hanzell above the Sonoma Valley. I am a huge fan of Sheehan’s wines, and while she continues to be somewhat under the radar, she has a great following and respect from her peers, with her latest set of wines being everything you’d ever want in a modern California, read: new generation, wine, like her Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir, which is truly awesome! As she notes, she created Poe after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne, she adds that the goal of her wines, is not to replicate Burgundy, but rather create alluring, vineyard specific, age-worthy wines that reveal the beautiful terroir(s) of California. It’s her desire to highlight individual site through minimal intervention, judicious use of sulfur, and never any additives to showcase purity and delicacy of flavors in these unique vineyards and regions. Van der Kamp was planted in 1953, making it the oldest Pinot Noir vines (still producing) in California, with Sheehan’s block of Meunier being planted more recently in the early nineties, Poe’s vivid and lifted version might be one of the best I’ve tried with wonderful lightness, but surprising in depth and complexity. Coming from very top of the eastern side of Sonoma Mountain, at a 1,400 foot elevation looking down on the town of Glen Ellen to the east and Bennett Valley to the northwest, Sheehan’s Meunier has mountain grown intensity. Sonoma Mountain was once part of the Pacific Ocean floor, and has diverse mix of soils, including “Speckles” loam, volcanic tuff and decomposed ancient seabed with crumbles of fossils, all of which gives this wine it’s array of flavors and character. Bright and tangy with pretty black cherry, racy plum and spiced raspberry fruits explode on the youthful palate along with red pepper, anise seed and dried flowers, mineral tones and dusty clove. This Meunier can hold it’s own against some fine Pinot Noirs, but has a fun personality and maybe doesn’t come across as serious as it certainly is, the lingering rose petal, mulberry and kirsch are gorgeous reminders of this wines charms, it gains an earthy element, but everything is lifted much in the same way you would experience a Burgundy or Cru Beaujolais with no obvious oak presence to be found. This is an impressive effort for this varietal and it should age well, it’s acidity and mountain fruit structure looks to have some age worthiness, drink over the next few years.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Kobza, Rosé of Mourtaou (Cabernet Pfeffer) 100 Year Old Vines, Wirz Vineyard, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
Coming off the heritage vineyard site Wirz Vineyard in the Cienega Valley, the Kobza Mourtaou Rosé is one of California’s most rare and unique wines, vaguely similar to the Clos Cibonne Tibouren, that legendary Cotes de Provence Rosé that is known for it’s cellaring potential. Ryan Kobza is one of handful of people working with this long forgotten Bordeaux grape from the Gironde, known as Cabernet Pfeffer in California. Mourtaou has been found in some old sites including Ridge Lytton Springs, where it was inter-planted with many rare black grapes, a clone from this site was recently added by Ridge’s David Gates to the historic collection at Russell Ranch Foundation Vineyard, as well as Pat Wirz’s San Benito old bush vine vineyard that was originally planted back in 1903, where it looks like Mourtauo was part of first own rooted plantings. This makes the average vine age for Kobza’s Rosé of Mourtauo at approximately 100 years old, pretty unique for a pink, and he treats this wine in an old school way, in a nod to tradition, he foot tread (stomped) the grapes (pigeage) and he let sit overnight before pressing and cold settling for 24 hours, then juice is all natively fermented (with no yeast additions) in neutral (well seasoned) used French puncheons with a touch of malo, but not allowed to finish to keep freshness. The wine is racked once and get a small dose of sulfur, then gets bottled quickly with bottle aging to allow it’s complexity to show upon release, which this 2016 vintage does! The ruby/pink and orange tinted color invites comparisons to a Spanish rosado, it’s a fair bit darker than most Provence inspired or Provence versions of Rosé, but the palate is vivid and dry with lovely round layers that deliver complexity, spice, earth and tangy fruit. Rosé in California is reaching new heights, and this Kobza joins some intriguing efforts in recent years, including Arnot-Roberts Touriga Rosé, Matthiasson, Martha Stoumen’s Rosato of Nero d’Avola, Randall Grahm’s Reserve Cigare Gris (extended aging in glass), Joyce Vineyards Gamay/Grenache Rosé, L’Aventure, Satyre and Theopolis Rosé of Petite Sirah to name a few that buck convention. Kobza’s Moutauo Rosé is still juicy fresh, but has developed a creamy mouth feel and richness of flavor with wild strawberry, candied orange rind, cherry and a touch of plum water along with subtle spices, earth and wet rock with a refined sense of acidity, this is a food wine and a bit rustic by nature, best to enjoy with outdoor meals when this chilled Rosé can refresh and thrill the palate in it’s element, it also has a decent shelf life and it doesn’t seems as mature as you’d expect, enjoy over the next year.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2017 Joyce Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Submarine Canyon, Monterey County.
This new vintage of Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir from Russell Joyce at Monterey’s Joyce Vineyards is a truly stunning wine, it will absolutely thrill everyone who that tastes it, seriously it is gorgeous Pinot Noir that takes the beautiful clean California fruit and marries it with a sense of delicacy, elegance, mineral tone and subtle complexity that seems inspired by Burgundy. I hailed Joyce’s 2016 wines as next level wines, and certainly there are, but after tasting through a few samples of these upcoming 2017’s, I am sure we are going to be having this conversation again, as they are wonderfully brilliant and pure wines, especially his new Carmel Valley, Massa Estate Chenin Blanc and this ridiculously good Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir, which honestly might be the best value in California I’ve tasted in recent years. Right away you’ll notice the great new packaging and label design for these Joyce 2017’s with the Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir getting the vivid red label, and the wine also gets a more vivid look with a bright ruby/garnet shine in the glass and an exceptional cool climate perfume lifts out of the bowl with an array of pretty rose florals, red fruits and light flinty/stones, which leads to a palate influenced by it’s maritime teroirs and sites that have a mix a ancient glacial soils consisting of sand, broken shales, loam and veins of granite as well as chalky rock that all combine to create an intriguing set of flavors and sublime structural form. layers of strawberry, briar laced raspberry, tangy red currant, wild plum and a core of dusty black cherry fruits that unfold with a luxurious silken texture, everything is heightened in the mouth with balanced acidity and a touch of saline, the flavors are seamless and seemingly endless adding lavender sprigs, red peach, tea spices, a touch of cinnamon and amazingly faint sensation of neutral French barrique. What’s in the bottle here could easily sell for twice the price, and no one would blink, this wine is that impressive, Russell has found his groove and this is an exciting Pinot Noir crafted with clarity, presence and refinement, he used only used barrels to highlight the vintage’s near perfect expression of purity, fermenting the separate lots with native yeasts and gentile macerations and with a minority getting a small amount of whole cluster in this cuvee. Joyce, who is a student of his craft, has been getting better with each vintage and the wines show his growth as a winemaker and his passion, he says he has been inspired by many talents, including Greg Brewer, formally of Melville, who crafts the iconic Brewer-Clifton wines, who also uses only used wood, and you can see that clearly in this wine, but Joyce’s own style is present as well. Monterey is a hot bed of excitement right now as this new group of young winemaker emerge from the generational shadows that had been holding this region back, with some incredible wines breaking through here by guys like Russell Joyce, along with talents like Samuel Smith (Morgan Winery) and Ian Brand (La Marea & I. Brand & Family), to name just a few, who are redefining what Monterey can do. The 2017 Joyce Vineyards Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir is medium bodied, gracefully satiny, vividly focused and shows fine detail, kudos to Joyce’s team for putting out such a quality product at this price, it’s a steal, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 Domaine Serol, Gamay Rosé, Cote Roannaise “Cabochard” Loire Valley, France.
The pretty bright Serol Rosé comes from the remote Cote Roannaise, which oddly enough is part of the Loire Valley region, though it is sometimes considered the lost Cru of Beaujolais with the reds here made from a unique clone of Gamay, known locally as the Saint Romain. Stephane Serol is the 5th generation winemaker and vigneron for Domaine Serol and has done much to bring attention to the region and works totally organic, and is in full biodynamic conversion, employing those ideals and methods, looking towards full Demeter certification soon, with old vine parcels, some about 80 years old, set on weathered granite soils. With his dry Gamay St. Romain Rosé Serol goes for zippy fresh detailing, it’s direct pressed and cold fermented with subtle maceration with a light tint of pink in the finished wine. Vividly energetic with a steely core, the 2017 shows vibrant acidity and nice mineral tones with tangy cherry, watermelon and racy citrus fruit along with a touch of wet stone and a dusting of herbs and spice. This is a real Summer treat and a stylish example of juicy Gamay Rosé that going get with anything you throw at it, cuisine flexible and get as a refreshing sipper it is a clean and clear quaffer. Light bodied, but with good extract and structure it can please most palates and drink well for another year or two.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland “Hinterhaus” Grosses Gewächs, Rheingau Germany.
Some wines are special and have a deep personal meaning and this one is one of those. I was in Rüdesheim at Harvest 2016 visiting Johannes Leitz and was there for the pick at Hinterhaus, a unique block in the Grand Cru of Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland, it is literally behind the houses above Rüdesheim, hence the name, it was a magical time with the vines and some of my favorite people. I had got up early, and Leitz’s vineyard manager, Markus Roll, took me for a spin around selected sites, one of those places shinning under a fall sunny morning was Hinterhaus, the grapes gleamed bright and as Markus made sure his crew was ready I blissfully wandered this block and snapped gorgeous photos of golden grape clusters and the village Rudesheim behind, it a moment in time I will not forget, and now it it saved in the bottle with the release of the Hinterhaus GG! Johannes Leitz’s estate vineyards are mostly all in the west part of the Rheingau, set on the Rüdesheimer Berg, arguably the greatest Riesling site on the Rhein, it’s a steep, south-facing hillside, made up of extremely old slate and quartzite, it holds the Grand Crus of Schlossberg, Rottland, Kaisersteinfels and Roseneck, all of which Leitz has distinct parcels, like this Hinterhaus at Rottland. In the cellar, the Cru wines get a gentile/clear pressing and extended lees aging in stuckfass, large German oak casks, to allow depth and complexity to develop in these wines. Leitz, starting in the 2011 vintage, began to designate the pre-1971 parcel names on select bottlings, and as the winery puts it, reviving the individual voices of “Hinterhaus” (Rottland), “Ehrenfels” (Schlossberg), and “Katerloch” (Roseneck) also he has also resurrected the once neglected site of Kaisersteinfels, leading in rebuilding the ancient terraces, it’s a singular expression of intense Riesling which has become one of the most sought-after wines of the Rheingau. Hinterhaus is more juicy and generous, but not less serious, it has Rottlands iron rich character and the slate driven mineral, though it shows rich texture and body, making it a joy to drink young as well as aged with this 2016 being wonderfully open knit with loads of dense fruit. The nose has white flowers, grilled citrus, rosewater and light stoniness that leads to a full palate of smooth layers of peaches, white cherry, tangerine and exotic fruits along with a delicate steely frame to hold this flamboyant Riesling in check as well as an array of tea spice, a hint of basil, tropical essences, verbena and lime zest. This golden dry Riesling is opulent, much more lush than the vividly severe Schlossberg and Kaisersteinfels, it’s a wine that has many facets and will certainly age with rewarding grace, mid term cellaring will likely see a firming up and it’s long term potential should bring treasures in detail and length, best from 2020-2030.
($47 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine des Lises, Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France.
Alain Graillot’s son Maxime Graillot, who’s taking the reins at the family Domaine also has his own project Domaine des Lises doing an estate wine, this one, and some neogociant bottings under his Equis and Equinoxe labels, making some wonderful Syrah value wines, these are wines not to be missed. Especially true, when you try the Domaine des Lises, this is a classic Crozes with fine detail and old world, cool climate and terroir character and charm, he manages to guide his Syrah into a beautiful layered and textured wine with pretty elements lifted in a precise focus on the purity of form. Maxime has risen to the next level in recent vintages, in particular with his 2015 and even more so with this new 2016 release, which is wonderfully complex and with all the lovely savory tones you’d expect from a crores, but also with gorgeous refinement, elegance and perfume, it has a bit more vitality than the ripe 2015, though still has a rich and powerful structure. While still refining his style and not married to 100% whole cluster, as his father’s wines, he farms all organic, with this wine coming from the lieu dit ‘Les Picheres’ in the famed Beaumont Monteux commune of Crozes-Hermitage set on deep gravelly soils over clay, which sometimes presents a more fruit think wine, in this case Graillot achieves an ultra fine balance, he ages the Crozes in used Burgundy barrels, which adds to the finesse. The 2016 starts with exotic spices, violet floral tones and liquid rock opening up on the lush and youthful high-toned palate with loads of vivid black and blue fruits including blackberry, sharp currant, damson plum, boysenberry and blueberry which are bright to life with contrasting graphite, anise, black olive, truffle/game and cracked peppercorns. The body is mouth filling and full, but not heavy and everything flows seamlessly, this is an impressive wine all the way around and even more surprising is that it is drinking so amazing right now, wow, this is going to be a classic and vintage to stock up on, to enjoy anytime with much guilt, though I can easily say it will be even more rewarding in 5 to 10 years too, so you might want to hide a few bottles away. I a week of exploring Syrah this one stands out, not because it is a blockbuster, but because it is everything you’d expect and more from this winemaker and from this place, it delivers a studied performance that is highly rewarding, it’s a gift of nature!
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Syrah “Cuvée Splendide” California.
Wild and almost feral, the 2014 Cuvee Splendide is a savory and gamey Syrah that opens to reveal a serious stemmy side and lingers with exotic spices, floral tones and snappy herbs, all the while leaning on poached cherry, plum and vine picked berries. Randall Grahm has an amazing set of Syrah offerings right now, they should not be overlooked, especially his Bien Nacido X-Block and this blended site Cuvee Splendide, which was sold exclusively through his wine club and the Area 51, I mean his tasting room in Davenport, just north of Santa Cruz. One of California’s original Rhone Rangers, even gracing the cover of Wine Spectator in a full Lone Ranger costume, including Trigger the horse, Randall is an icon and is making the wines of his career, a visit to the tasting room is a must, besides tasting his gorgeous Le Cigare Volant lineup, do not miss the Cigare whites, which is mandatory, there are a number of tiny production bottlings that are beauties, these include Randall’s crispy cool Picpoul, his stunning, mentioned above, X-Block Syrah, The Clos de Gilroy Grenache, one of the best values in California, and wines like this Cuvee Splendide. The 2014 Cuvee Splendide Syrah sits somewhere between Bonny Doon’s Le Pousseur and the dark and violet laced X-Block and shows an earthy/spicy character with rustic charms and more of a deep red fruit profile with a full body and a lingering garrigue/lavender note as well as a bit of leather that feels similar to Southern Rhone Syrah meets Crozes-Hermitage, such is this wonderful wine’s nod to the old world, while still open knit and textured in pure California fashion. Air brings out the stems, peppery and herbal notes as well as dried roses, kirsch and anise which adds complexity and style here in this truly splendid (sorry) and impressively packed Syrah!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Greg Brewer Wines “Ex Post Facto” Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
The Ex Post Facto by Greg Brewer, is a pure Syrah from one of state’s best artist/philosopher winemakers, his wines, especially this new project, are thinking man’s wines, but with a bit of whimsy and magic! Ex Post Facto (which means in Latin: with retroactive effect or force.” is Greg Brewer’s most recent wine (Syrah), he is more famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with his Brewer-Clifton wines being post modern icons, but he has made some fantastic Syrah in his past, from his time at Melville, including his versions of Donna’s there, they were awesome wines often rivaling the best from Alban, Ojai and Sine Qua Non, which were some of the greats of the region at the time! And his search of zen purity and sense of place is legendary in the Santa Barbara region. These are not wines to miss out on! It’s funny to say or think, but I love Greg’s Syrah(s), always have, I feel they show a freedom that sometimes is lacking in his other wines, the come across more wild and natural, maybe it is just my personal interpretation or projection, it’s just the way they hit me and I love the racy and nervous intensity that have, the stemmy vigor and force that drives them intrigues me from head to toe! This 2016 Ex Post Facto, sold through Brewer-Clifton, where you can also get his Diatom Wines too, is beautifully detailed with exceptional layers of gripping flavors, it’s richly full on the palate, but full of vitality, class and cool climate character with a cascade of violets, briar spice, boysenberry, damson plum and opulent kirsch adding peppercorns, blueberry, cassis, minty/anise, mineral tones, tapenade, cedar and shaved vanilla. Everything vibrant and of course youthful at this stage, gaining density with air, at 14.5% it’s not a shy wine, but complex, balanced and with gorgeous dimension, it will appeal to fans of Cornas and Cote-Rotie as well as those that like Pax, Drew, Piedrasassi, Halcon and Stolpman, and even better yet, it is a great value, highlighting the fact that some of California’s best red wines can be under $50 and made from Syrah! I have been dying to get my hands on this new wine from Greg for months, ever since he told me he was doing this Ex Post Facto Syrah project, and it has met and surpassed my sky high expectations! Look for this is be a must have wine, it should reward mid term cellaring too, I plan to hide a few bottles from my greedy self to re-discover in 5 to 10 years time, it has some serious potential. As, I suspected, Greg used 100% whole cluster from an ultra cold site with 3 months in the fermenter, an unheard of length of time, which certainly shows in the depth here and he employed the eldest barrels he could find in the cellar in classic Northern Rhone traditional winemaking, and yes, I’m a stems freak and this is my holy grail.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Kobza, Old Vine Field Blend Red, Mourvedre/Zinfandel, Wirz Vineyard, San Benito County.
Ryan Kobza’s 110 year old vine field blend from Pat Wirz’s historic vines in the Cienega Valley is wonderfully fresh and easy in the glass, completely different than what I had been expecting from this blend of mostly Mourvedre (close to 60%) and Zinfandel (about 40%) along with small percentages of Rose of Peru, Mourtaou (Cabernet Pfeffer), and the occasional cluster of Palomino, it’s a light to medium bodied wine that reminds me of an old world country wine. Kobza, who works production for I. Brand & Family Winery and does custom crush work for a wide variety of clients, has a tiny personal label focusing on this heritage vineyard site in San Benito County that was originally planted back in 1903 and bought by the Wirz family in the 1940’s, with Pat Wirz still working this old vine gem. Ryan is enthralled with this place, he adds that, the entire vineyard is dry-farmed, head trained, and own rooted, just as it was done 120 years ago. The Riesling, a 50 year block that he also uses to make a dry example, is planted in a single contiguous block along a small creek, while the reds here are an inter-planted, bush vine field blend of Zinfandel, Mourtaou (known also as Cabernet Pfeffer), Mourvedre, and Carignan with the super rare Rose of Peru and Palomino (the Sherry white grape) occasionally interspersed within. Inspired by underlined varietals in Italy as well as the new generation of winemakers that are exploring old style wines in Sicily, like Gulfi, Occhipinti and others. Ryan mentions he wants to make wines that have rustic charm and compliment simple meals, he cites his love of bright Barbera from Piedmonte as a guiding light wine with it’s juicy nature and vibrant acidity that allows easy drinking and with enough structure to age, and with this reference in mind it really helps to understand his wines in the bottle, especially this one. Kobza adds “I also just have a penchant for the odd, under-appreciated and forgotten grapes, (like) Schiopettino, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, etc. There an endless number of grapes from which to make wine and so many have unique and intriguing characteristics worthy of exploration.” I really enjoy this fun wine with it’s joyous energy and delicacy, it almost reminds me of a Beaujolais meets Frappato! Kobza’s old vine red starts with a burst of concord grape, earth, spice and briar notes with subtle floral and game leading to a palate that includes black raspberry, strawberry, macerated cherry and wild plum fruits along with crushed stones, leather, minty herb/anise, cinnamon and peppery notes. Tangy and natural in style, Kobza used about 15% whole cluster, it was all co-fermented and aged in well seasoned French barriques, this wine joins a growing list of intriguing lighter style California reds that are gaining a following from adventurous young wine drinkers, like Martha Stoumen’s latest offerings, and it will appeal to those that like Trousseau, Gamay and Negrette. Ryan Kobza is a great addition to the Monterey wine scene, he, Miguel Lepe (Lepe Cellars, ex-Figge and Bold Wines) and Ryan Stirm (Stirm Wines) are the new faces to watch, and his micro winery is one to follow, I also have to mention his fabulous Rosé of Mourtaou, made from 100 year old vines and with partial malo, it is ultra cool and will thrill those that like Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé, it’s exciting times in this region and Kobza Wines is label to discover. Drink this Old Vine Field Blend over the next 3 to 5 years, it, by the way gains depth and personality with extended air, I liked it as it changed in the glass over an hour and it was even more interesting and gripping the next day, impressive stuff, give it a chance/time to show it’s best and have it with robust cuisine.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013 Domaine de L’Ecu, Melon de Bourgogne “Carpe Diem” Vin de France, Sans Soufre, Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s most exclusive white from his world renown Domaine de L’Ecu is his Carpe Diem, it’s basically a special version of his estate grown Muscadet, being 100% Melon de Bourgogne, but raised for 15 months in amphora, plus with an extra year of aging in bottle before release with no sulfur added. It’s a leesy and rich wine with incredible textural presence in the glass and while opulent in mouth feel it remains true to terroir and varietal with loads of saline and oyster shell notes and crisp apple fruit on the multi layered palate. Everything starts with a mix of aromas that includes white flowers, grilled citrus, chalk dust and a hint of natural funkiness before opening up to quince, that mentioned apple, kumquat and melon fruits as well as a touch roof tiles, dried herbs and almond oil in a glycerin pack expression of Melon. This is a wine for the geeky wine enthusiast, it will thrill the natural wine crowd and those that typically love Jura stuff, as it reminds me a bit of an aged Savagnin. Fred’s basic or classique Muscadet is one of the world’s great value whites and his soil separated versions are like Premier Cru wines, this is a must try estate in the Loire Valley, he’s also killing it with these unique clay pot raised wines, especially his Cabernet Franc(s) and the gorgeous whole cluster Ange Pinot Noir, which is one of my favorite wines! While maybe not to everyone’s taste this Carpe Diem by Domaine de L’Ecu, imported by Floraison Selections, is a rare and intellectual wine that is wonderfully weird that leaves me in utter fascination.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014 Thibaud Boudignon, Anjou Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
With a cult like following, the wines of Thibaud Boudignon are almost impossible to find on wine shop shelves, so it was a thrill to get a chance to try this release of his Anjou Blanc, a wonderfully dry expression of Chenin Blanc from the Loire’s Anjou region. In the past I have admire Boudignon’s crisply brisk Rosé of Cabernet Franc and his severe/svelte Savennieres, which is a completely different animal to this lovely, almost generous and sexy Anjou Blanc, which is wonderfully textured and with amazing detail and length. The charismatic and talent Thibaud Boudignon is all biodynamic and uses only native (indigenous) yeasts for his whites and no malo, but with this one he does use about 30% new oak with 350L and 700L barrels, all crafted from 100% Chenin Blanc from 35 year old vines set on shallow soils comprised of grey schist and rhyolite (volcanic) that give these wines they unique character and profile which is very different from areas like Vouvray and Montlouis. The 2014 Anjou Blanc is at first lush, textural and direct, rather forward, surprisingly frankly, but with air this wine’s true core and depth is revealed with complex layers emerging and with a more spicy and mineral toned element taking a bigger role, while pretty peach, pear and white fig plays lead on the palate along with unsweetened honey, citrus blossoms and earthy gooseberry take a lesser part. The glycerin level is significant and hedonistic, especially given the vintage, this is a joyously full expression of Chenin that makes a serious impact, in many ways like a Premier Cru white Burgundy, such is the feel and class found here, you can certainly understand why it is so hard to get!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012 Rochioli, Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
One of California’s most famous classic Pinot Noir producers, Rochioli is a Russian River legend and still one of America’s finest estates with their Pinots being some of the world’s most sought after wines. Joe Rochioli Sr, with his small family, from a small village just outside of Lucca, migrated to America in 1911, seeking a better life. The Rochioli’s were one of many Italian families that arrived in New York, that made their way across the country, and settled in Northern California, and with hard work and some luck ended up on a 125-acre ranch in the Russian River Valley nearby Healdsburg, it was called Fenton Acres. Fenton Acres, is the same location where Rochioli Vineyards is today, though back in 1934 it had just a tiny vineyard, now grapes make up most of the estate and the winery is on site, next to the family home now run by Tom Rochioli, who’s dad in 1959 planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc mostly. It was early in the 1970’s that the Rochioli’s put in Pinot Noir and sold it to some great winemakers, like Davis Bynum and Bert Williams of Williams Selyem, it wasn’t until 1983 that changed the name from Fenton Acres to Rochioli Vineyards and started to make their own wines with 1987 being their first estate release. The rest is history as they say, now there is a long waiting list to get their prized Pinots, sometimes customers must wait a decade to get an offer letter. The 2012 Russian River Pinot is a bold and luxurious wine with graceful textures and classic details with black cherry, raspberry and plum fruits, baking spices, cola bean and wilted rose petals, it’s a wine entering it’s prime and with subtle maturity.
It was great to go back and check in on these older vintage Rochioli bottles, I have been holding on to, this 2012 Estate Grown Pinot Noir is drinking glorious right now, the color is fresh and the depth of complexity truly remarkable, it has fully resolved it’s oak and has gained in all dimensions, it’s a pretty and satiny Pinot that certainly thrills in the glass, drink now.
($68 Est.) 93 Points*, grapelive

*above wine is a re-visit and new review from a bottle that was in my own cellar that was bought on release

 

n.v. Christophe Mignon, Brut Nature Champagne, France.
One of Champagne’s many new generation of natural/biodynamic winegrowers, Christophe Mignon is one of my favorite grower producers and his latest Brut Nature is a gorgeous sparkler, it comes from a blend of 2013 and 2014 vintages with no dosage. Christophe Mignon is an absolute Pinot Meunier specialist, he comes from a long line of family farmers in the Le-Mesnil-le-Huttier area, just 13 miles west of Epernay, he owns and farms 6.3 hectares of vines that were planted by his great-grandparents and are spread among thirty tiny organic parcels set on deep clay and chalky Tuffeaux soils, between the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny (where his cellar is) in the Vallee de la Marne. These terroir suits the Meunier and allows for complex ripe flavors, which makes it easier for him to use almost non dosage on all of his dry offerings, and these are beautiful and detailed Champagnes with finesse, elegance and yeasty brioche notes that are not severe in style, they are wonderfully pleasing examples and shows Pinot Meunier at it’s finest. Mignon is guided by holistic farming and follows the lunar cycle in working the vines and in the cellar, he ferments in temperature controlled epoxy lined vats, each terroir parcel is vilified separately at each’s sites perfect ripeness in a fermentation that lasts up to 30 days with this Brut Nature being aged 24 months in bottle, raised with lees, and as mentioned with no dosage. This bottling was disgorged on April 18, 2017, 100% Pinot Meunier and is drinking great right now with lovely white flowers, subtle red berry aromas and toasty notes along with layers of lemon, golden figs, hazelnut and white cherry elements all lifted by vital acidity and a luxurious, but vigorous mousse that delivers a divine textural or vinous mouth feel and lingering finish. This is brilliant grower fizz with a perfectly balanced sense of density/body and vibrancy, it finishes with a grip of dry extract making this an enthusiast all Meunier bubbly that is sublime with cuisine, but also opulent and easy to love on it’s own, very impressive again from Christophe Mignon.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Bold Wines, Rosé of Grenache, Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo, Central Coast.
The Bold wines label is part of a new Monterey project founded in 2014 under the Touchstone winery , established by Christopher Miller MS, the ex Spago somm, who originally had the late Peter Figge overseeing the wines before turning to Miguel Lepe to handle the cellar. They are getting ready to release a new set of wines and get their tasting room going, that will be in the Carmel Valley Village in the old Figge location across from Roux, and I had a chance to chat with Miguel and taste their upcoming Rosé, which was sourced mainly from Paso Robles as they work on securing long term local vineyard options. They are doing three tiers of wines with Touchstone being wines that will focus on Bordeaux varietals, Seabold being single vineyard Burgundy style wines and with Bold being regional or village style wines with a set that includes a dry Riesling, a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and this richly flavored and crowd pleasing Grenache Rosé. Interestingly, the Rosé is made with 82% Grenache Noir, 12% Roussanne and about 6% of other grapes to add complexity and vibrancy, again it’s enough from Paso Robles to be labeled as such, but a tiny amount also came from San Luis Obispo, it was picked to be Rosé and was direct pressed with 4 hours of skin contact to release it’s beautiful vivid pink hue, fermented in stainless and raised in a combo of stainless steel tank and with a portion in neutral French barrels. The mouth feel and fullness is surprising, it’s a lush style, but at 13.4% it’s not overtly sweet or heavy, it shows a forward jolly ranger that makes a first impact on the palate, though it then settles into a much more subtle wine with hints of sour cherry, watermelon, racy peach and adds a a touch of wet stones, snappy spices and distilled floral tones. This is a beach wine and one that will refresh any robust meal, it was noted by a fellow taster it would be great with fried chicken, certainly it will appeal to most dry Rosé fans that like upfront fruit, it is more Tavel than Provence in style, in fact it is more like a Rosado from Rioja, it’s similar to Muga’s version, drink up! The Bold wines should be available very soon, keep your eyes out for them, plus check out Miguel’s own Lepe Cellars wines, these are exciting new additions to the Monterey wine scene and fun stuff.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2012 Big Basin Vineyards, Grizzly, Syrah/Grenache, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s Big Basin Vineyards is one of the Santa Cruz Mountains best producers of Rhone style wines and his latest set of wines show why, there make up an awesome lineup of wines, which now also include a top notch selection of Pinot Noirs nd Chardonnays from sourced fruit. Brown’s Rattlesnake Rock Syrah is his top bottling and his signature wine, it is as great as ever, but I was happily surprised by two other bottlings that might otherwise go missed, the Coast View Vineyard Chardonnay, with it’s glorious Puligny-Montrachet like character and class, truly a great Chard and the estate grown Grizzy red, in this case the 2012, made from primarily Grenache, though in this vineyard it had a big dose of Syrah, it’s a stylish effort that I couldn’t help, but be mesmerized by! I have tasted this wine on what I believe now are three occasions, this last time in a blind Rhone tasting, where it really stood out and showed really well, earning high praise from almost all of us industry tasters on a night when some heroic stuff was unleashed. The deeply colored, from the Syrah, Grizzy 2012 is a California wine first and foremost, but still with enough earthy/savory elements as to give the impression of the old world in the glass, especially in a lineup of ripe Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, it’s a wonderful and impressive wine that is reaching a good drinking window, and while not a cheap wine, it offers some solid bang for the buck. Brown’s home estate is all certified organic and he uses mostly traditional minimalist winemaking methods in the cellar, employing native yeasts and using partial whole cluster with the wines seeing longer macerations and longer elevage in French oak casks with some barrique and a few large barrels, all done the highlight the site and showcase the purity of these wines. The 2012 Grizzy, made from 65% Alban clone field selection and 35% Syrah Alban clone field selection, grown on a mix of clay loams, ancient mudstone and with a core of sandstone underpinning is at about 1,300 feet of elevation and faces almost directly south, mostly from Big Basin’s Homestead Block a parcel that sits just below the Rattlesnake Rock Vineyard and was planted in 2007. The Grenache focused Grizzly is lifted and more aromatic with the Syrah added and lovely violets and dark floral tones enhance the bouquet while the juicy fruit driven Grenache fills the palate with loads of rich and flavorful fruit giving a sense of density while staying remarkably detailed and focused, it shows a depth of form that is joyous to behold. There is a ray of earth and spice and a hint of nervy stems that adds vigor and intensity to the layers of dark fruit that unfold with blackberry, boysenberry, plum, strawberry and cassis that fill the mouth in a textured attack. Hints of framboise, cedar, minty anise and fresh cracked pepper come through in the background along with a subtle oak note and a faint whiff of truffle/game that keeps things intriguing from start to finish, this s a class act to be admired, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
The deep garnet and purple Crozes 2015 from Graillot is a brilliant wine, punching way above it’s price class, it’s ripe per the vintage, but with exceptional purity of place, balance and intensity. This whole cluster Syrah is already drinking fantastically well, even in it’s fresh youthful form and looks set to be a classic year for Graillot, in fact both the Alain Graillot, over seen now by his son Maxime, as well as Maxime’s own Domaine des Lises both are wonderful examples, with the Graillot being a bit more dense, serious and a bit Cornas like in presence, while the Domaine des Lises is just a touch lighter and more perfumed, this was a striking difference when tasted blind recently. Graillot, who began his Domaine in 1985, owns 50 acres of 30-year-old Crozes-Hermitage vines, which are worked all organically, they are set upon a mostly flat alluvial plain between the Rhône and Isère rivers, in well-draining soils consisting of sand, gravel, and broken rocks. The wine is crafted using hand harvested clusters that are carefully sorted for the quality of the grapes and stems, fermented, as mentioned all whole cluster and raised in used Burgundy barriques, normally 1 to 3 year old barrels to provide just the right amount of refinement, he ferments with native yeasts and in concrete, everything is done with precise focus and the wines always show this region in it’s best light, this is absolutely true in this 2015 version, which is as awesome as it gets. A big thank you to Sam Smith, winemaker at Morgan Winery in Monterey, as well as making his own line of wines, who has been to Graillot and has been inspired by them, which slows in his fine Syrah offerings (check out his Samuel Louis Smith Sunstone Terraces Syrah and his Morgan Double L Syrah) as well, for sharing this bottle from his personal cellar, as part of blind Rhone Valley tasting, it was one of the best of the night, certainly the overall winner in Syrah. The palate is packed with layers of violets, graphite/flint stone, minty herb, earth and peppercorns with a core of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruit adding a touch of cassis, game and nervy stems with time in the glass, this is righteous stuff Ferris, and a soulful wine that seduces and charms from start to finish. It would be hard to resist drinking this Crozes up as fast as I can, but look for some extra rewards with patient cellaring, another 5 to 10 years easy!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
Lulu’s pink wine is one of the world great treats and become to some, me included, the right of passage into Summer, the Domaine Tempier has a reputation for being the absolute best Rosé, and it certainly is one of the most sought after and fought over. Lulu Peyraud is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, she is legendary and her estate’s red wines can easily age with the elite Bordeaux that litter the top cellars of the rich and famous, it was her husband, Lucien, who help push through the AOC status for this unique terroir back in the late thirties and early forties and championed Mourvèdre here, making it the main grape. Lulu herself was a renown chef and sought to bring Provencal cuisine to the world, she has entertained the likes of Alice Waters and Julia Child, inspiring everyone she met. While these days I might go for the Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cotes de Provence Rosé Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes,  it’s hard not to love the much hyped, again by me as well, Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé with it’s inviting color and mouth filling palate that skirts the fine line between hedonistic density of form and lively refreshment to perfection with gorgeous texture and sharp detail, this 2017 is everything you’d expect from this famous estate. Farmed all biodynamic and from this spectacularly picturesque sea side region it France’s Provence, the Domaine Tempier Rosé is made from mostly Mourvèdre of course and grown on clay and limestone soils overlooking the blue Mediterranean, the vines and cellar are over seen by the talented Daniel Ravier, as well as Lulu’s sons taking over, with Jean-Marie sharing in the management of the domaine as well as helping in the winemaking, and with François working in the vineyards. The Rosé is crafted from 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache Noir and 20% Cinsault, pretty much the recipe these days here, it is from mainly 20 year old vines, and made by using 50% saignée and 50% done direct press (with early picks), it is all malolactic fermentation, which adds that sensation of a full body and opulence, while being raised 50% in stainless steel vats and 50% in concrete tanks for about 7 months allowing for more complexity and refinement upon release. There is great precision and attention to detail in the production of Tempier’s Rosé, it is a luxurious and vivid pink showing bright watermelon, strawberry, tart cherry and vibrant grapefruit layers, it has a fine mineral tone and hints at savory, with faint herbs and briar spice, while the nose is beautiful with rosewater and wet stones leading the way, this is as promised something ultra special, especially true this vintage. No one ever should pass up a chance to have this wine, it is without doubt Summer in the glass, drink up.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012 Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
This old school Chateauneuf by Chateau de la Gardine was the almost unrivaled star of a Rhone blind tasting that featured more than a few stars from the region, even in a mediocre vintage, it was strutting it’s stuff with the best, a gorgeous wine and a stellar performance for a winery and wine that gets often overlooked. The estate, in the hands of Gaston Brunel, a famous négociant, who acquired the Château de la Gardine in Châteauneuf du Pape in 1945 brought the property to it’s current fame now is run by his two sons, Patrick and Maxime with the help of their wives Eve and Maryse and their children Marie-Odile and Philippe, that later getting more and more involved and seemingly bringing an era of heightened quality and expectations, while the mentioned Eve Brunel directs the winemaking itself. The Château de la Gardine estate spreads over some 52 ha of vineyards 90% red grapes and a tiny amount of white and is uniquely set within a forested area. The terroir here is varied with some bits having the classic galets, the large river stones, along with limestone, sand and clay structures helping make these wines complex, well built and with a finessed elegance, with vines, farmed using organic methods, that average between 40 to 60 years of age. The winemaking is simple and traditional and in this red 65% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 5% Muscardin was used, all de-stemmed and from all hand harvested fruit that was sorted with extreme care, the Syrah got several picks to balance the wine and add to the aromatics, it was fermented in stainless steel and raised 60% in vat and 40% in 1 to 6 year old barrique for up to 14 months. The 2012 is surprisingly perfumed with a lovely dark flowers, violet led floral attack along with hints of dusty spices and cherry confit leading to a full bodied, but graceful palate of boysenberry, plum, strawberry and dense kirsch with added touches of salted licorice, wild mint, pepper, earthy stones, graphite, cedar and incense. The texture, fine ripe tannins and lift really play amazing roles here giving this Chateauneuf it’s charm and old world character, it paired well with homemade spicy lamb meatballs and was sublime on it’s own, it might just be peaking right now, it is hard to see why you’d wait longer, but it should live nicely for another 5 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Gulfi, Rossojbleo, Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
The all organic Gulfi Rossojbleo is a solid effort and great introduction to Gulfi’s Nero d’Avola wines, it’s a lighter and fresher expression of terroir and grape, showing vibrant acidity from limestone-rich soils of the south eastern side of Sicily removed from the volcanic influences. Gulfi has many vine parcels, both near Vittoria as well as on Mount Etna as well all of which are Biodynamic and vinified with minimal intervention to highlight purity and a sense of place, with this basic 100% Nero d’Avola cuvee that is all stainless steel fermentation and aging from non-irrigated southwest facing vineyard located 450 metres above sea level. This Rossojbleo Nero d’Avola comes a cru is grown at close to 450 meters up in the Hyblaean mountains in southeast Sicily. The nearby forests help to maintain a cooler climate and prolong the maturation period. The vineyard produces tiny yields, according to the winery, it’s less than 1kg (about 2 pounds) of fruit per vine with a planting density of 8,900 vines per hectare. The soil is rich in clay with limestone sediments, perfect for making fruit forward and elegant wines, and this Gulfi Rossojbleo is just that with a silky texture, medium body and layers of cherry rich retails with light spices, mineral tones and hints of dried herbs it flows smoothly across the generous palate with a sense of place and restraint. Sicily is one of the world’s most exciting places and while Etna, where Gulfi has some great stuff as well, gets the headlines, everywhere it seems on the island is making thrilling and unique wines, without question it is the golden age of wine from Sicily. This Nero d’Avola is a killer value and easy to love with it’s pretty delicate floral notes, earthy charm and it’s unfolding red fruits, including wild raspberry, strawberry, plum and the mentioned core of cherry make it a great budget choice for something interesting and entertaining, especially with simple and rustic cuisine. Look for Gulfi, they have a great variety to choice from, with a range that has an array of local grapes from Frappato to Nerello Mascalese.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2017 Martha Stoumen, Post Flirtation Red, California.
Martha’s Post Flirtation Red is made up of early picked and juicy Zinfandel 55% Grown in pure sand using sustainable and ecologically sound practices. Planted in the 60’s, these head-trained, dry farmed vines are the youngest in the historic Del Barba Vineyard in Contra Costa County and Carignan 45% grown in the cool section of the Redwood Valley, near Ukiah using certified sustainable and ecologically sound practices. Planted 1948. Head-trained, dry-farmed vines lovingly tended to by the Ricetti family, it was whole cluster, with old school foot-tread ferments and was raised on it’s own in well seasoned casks for about half a year. This Carignan, according to Martha has inky color, bright acid, and brings all of the tannin to the blend, while the Zin was all destemmed & aged in neutral small barrels for the six months before getting blended in to preserve freshness and fruitiness. Martha Stoumen, already with an impressive resume, apprenticing under many greats of the wine world already including Reinhard Löwenstein (Heymann-Löwenstein, Mosel), Jordan Fiorentini (Chalk Hill, California) Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars, California), Clive Dougall (Seresin, Marlborough), Didier Barral (Léon Barral, Faugères, France), and Giusto Occhipinti (COS, Sicily), she is one of a new generation of California winemakers that is looking to drop pretense and craft easy to love and fun wines that are exploring a new side of our state and bringing an old world sensibility to their wines. Her stated desire (is) to recapture a farming and winemaking culture that has all but faded away in the modern world, she’s minimalist and close to a naturalist in her winemaking approach, she describe it as, letting the natural yeast and bacteria present on the grape skins perform native fermentations, and allowing longer macerations and elevage/aging in some cases to give the wines stability, rather than using additives such as tannin, acid, or stabilizing agents (enzymes) striving always to craft wines that are delicious, joyful, and truly representative of California, herself and the growers. The 2017 Post Flirtation is fun, funky and fruit driven, but at only 12.7% it’s vibrantly fresh, spicy and much lighter in style than you’d expect from a dark Zin and Carignan blend, in fact it should be enjoyed with a slight chill even and is refreshing even on warm days with black raspberry, sugar beat, strawberry, sweet cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits as well as a herbal note (stems?) as well as an array of saddle leather, anise, pepper, cinnamon, a faint hint animal and earth. This is a simple and raw country wine much in the same vein as a Corbieres or the likes with that no excuse slightly funky edge, best enjoyed with meals and with good humor as well as close friends, drink up!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2017 Diatom, Chardonnay “Katherine’s” Santa Maria Valley.
Another exploration into purity and place from Greg Brewer at Diatom Wines, it’s an old vine Chardonnay, no oak, no malo from a unique site in Santa Maria Valley! The 2017 Diatom Katherine’s defies expectations and delivers a wonderful experience and unbelievably is a finely textural driven Chardonnay. Not for everyone, for sure, but I am thrilled it exists and admire this courageous example of California Chardonnay! The Katherine’s, sourced from forty-eight-year-old, self-rooted vines in the north-west corner of Cambria’s Santa Maria Estate that allows for generous fruit and complex depth of flavors. The 2017 Katherine’s, according to Brewer, is from a parcel that is set on gravelly loam soils heavily influenced by the pronounced maritime influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean making it perfect for his Diatom label. Fermentation is done at very low temperatures in small stainless-steel tanks, with inhibited malo-lactic, he uses ultra short hose transit to ensure precision and focus, all in pursuit of creating a vibrant form that looks towards honing down to the very essence of the grape and terroir. Explaining Diatom can sometimes wander off into zen writings and poetry, it’s not an easy wine to understand for the novice, but it’s without a doubt a serious palate journey and this Katherine’s is brilliant in it’s severe detail, best to take this trip with simple and raw foods, especially things like saline fresh sashimi. The core of this Chardonnay is it’s fruit with it’s intense layers of crisp apple, a mix of tangy citrus with kefir lime, lemon zest and touch of grapefruit along with quinces, kumquat and a vein of tart peach, adding mineral tones, wet stones and a bosc pear butter sensation, which is more of a texture thing, rather than an overt flavor. This is a wine that will challenge you, not a wine that seeks to comfort you, but that said and as mentioned there is a surprising amount of mouth feel and the fruit is ripe and rewarding, it’s an intriguing and well crafted effort, best with a sense of purpose, meaning a meal and friends.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

More reviews of Diatom

2016 Guimaro, Camino Real, Ribeira Sacra DO, Galicia Spain.
Pedro Rodriguez’s Guimaro Camino Real from the Ribeiro Sacra D.O. is an old world, old school, old vine based red grown on the steep slopes above the Sil River in Spain’s historic and ancient Galicia wine region that has been around since Roman times. The Guímaro Camino Real is made From 6 hectare in Amandi planted primarily to 40 to 60 years old vine Mencía, along with other native Galician varieties. All of the grapes, according to the winery, were hand-harvested together and spontaneously fermented with 100% whole clusters in open-top oak vats with a 40 day maceration. Set on granite and sandy soils, the Camino plot is mostly bush vines in terraces at about 500 meters on these dramatic slate based hillsides. Half of this Mencia was raised in large foudre with the other half in used 225 & 500L French barrels for just about one year, and bottled without fining or filtration. Pedro Rodriguez, Guimaro’s owner, wine grower and winemaker is now one of the “Sacred Slopes” Ribeiro Sacra’s leading lights, he was mentored by the famed Raul Perez, and has an exceptional gift with Mencia, and I am left amazed that not more attention has been paid to them, as these are some of the most thrilling red wines in Spain. The 2016 Camino Real, a bottling that I have not had a chance to try yet, is a beautiful and soulful wine with subtle earthy tones and a racy/nervy edge, it reminds me of Lapierre Morgon (Cru Beaujolais) meets Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, it has a juicy/natural feel and a hint of Northern Rhone character with vibrant fresh detail and peppery spices, it shows delicate floral notes and dark fruits with a mineral streak all in a medium bodied wine that came in at just 13% natural alcohol. There’s lots of intensity from start to finish on this one and it gains complexity and texture with air, in fact I loved it even more on day two when it picked up layers of wild plum, blueberry, cherry and briar laced black raspberry fruits, along with flinty stones, a hit of saline, game, minty herb, anise and dark walnut elements, all lifted by bright acidity. The air really allows pure terroir and an expressive personality to shine, Pedro is really getting everything right at Guimaro and this is a wine that excels in this vintage, also look for the Finca Meixemán (70 year old vines) and the Finca Capeliños (95+ year old vines) bottlings too, along with Guimaro’s basic Tinto, which is one of my favorite go to wines! Look for this Camino Real to get more interesting with bottle age, I’m glad I got a few to put away for 3 to 5 years, best from 2019 to 2026.
($38-45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Satyre Wines, Pinot Noir “Aristaeus” Russian River Valley.
Satyre Wines, Nicole Kosta and her partner winemaker Ted Weisser, sourced their richly flavored Aristaeus Pinot Noir from two vineyards from the Dutton Ranch in the western part of the Russian River Valley. These cool vineyard sites allow Satyre to retain natural vitality in the wine, while the sandy Goldridge loam soils drain really well, making the vines struggle which intensifies the bold red fruit flavors. This is an all American Pinot Noir, showing lots of up front fruit, smoky sweet French oak and a curvy body, but there’s more here than meets the eye here, and the complexity fights through the big cherry cola and black raspberry first impact adding layers of dried Provencal herbs, rose petals and a surprising lift from acidity that keeps things in check along with hints of anise and Asian spices. I think, like young Rochioli Pinots, there is a lot more to come in the future here, be patient if you are looking for subtly and I believe there is a rewarding future ahead for Satyre’s impressive and wonderfully generous Aristaeus Pinot Noir, best between 2020 and 2028, though that said there’s a lot to like now, especially with matching cuisine. This is a label to follow, as reviewed before their Rosé, uniquely barrel fermented and aged is really good, check them out!
($54 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Agathe Bursin, Sylvaner “Lutzeltal” Alsace, France.
A beautiful and crystalline wine from Agathe Bursin, the 2016 Lutzeltal Sylvaner delivers a thrilling and complete performance that rivals any white made from this varietal and proves the talents of this Alsace producer, putting Bursin in the regions elite vignerons. In the past I’ve loved the Sylvaner wines of Domaine Weinbach, and they continue to be a standard barer for this grape in Alsace, but this Bursin is absolutely gorgeous and is one of the best I’ve tried, highlighting the quality of the vintage and of place. Bursin’s estate is in the town of Westhalten, near the famous Alsace wine center Colmar, set below the three hills of of the area which are a calcareous formation, these are Zinnkoepflé, Strangenberg and Bollenberg, that form a crown around the village. This is a serious terroir with a very warm climate and littered with fossilized anemones and oyster shells with sandstone soils that gives these wines there unique bold expressions. Agathe Bursin, the youthful viticultrice, is also experimenting with co-planted varietals, and looks to be about to explore the path that Marcel Deiss has gone down and her style is generous, but with refined elegance and a traditional feel, and this Sylvaner is very along those lines with it’s medium body and opulent fruit backed up by brisk focus and sharp detailing. The beautiful and lightly floral nose is vivid with intriguing white flowers, saline, mineral tones and orchard fruits that leads to a richly flavored palate that is both dry and decedent with a mix of citrus, peach, quinces and tangy mango fruits along with a chalky/stony element, a hint of lees and an array of minerals, spice and a touch of Summer herbs. This Sylvaner really impresses texturally and with it’s lovely charms, and it’s a grape that needs to be re-examined, especially when you find one as good as this! With it’s extract and subtle acidity, I’d expect this Bursin Lutzeltal Sylvaner to last a decade or more, but not drinking it now would be very hard indeed, this is pure pleasure and class in the glass and a great Summery white.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Chateau Jas de Bressy, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, France.
Tasted in a blind tasting and was immediately impressed with the substance and richness of this Chateauneuf Blanc from Vignobles Mousset-Barrot under their Chateau Jas de Bressy label, it’s a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Roussanne that was sur lie raised, with the grapes coming off 80 year old vines. This tiny parcel of white grapes makes for an opulent experience and is luxuriously full bodied in the glass with a hint of oiliness from the Roussanne. Catherine and Robert Barrot’s white Chateauneuf, made by their son in law Fred, comes from vines that sit in the last southern terrace of the appellation that is protected from the mistral and is one of the earliest ripening zones, they use direct pressing and the wine is fermented mostly in barrel, once and twice used barriques, with a bit done in concrete, raised on the lees with batonage for 9 months.The nose is leesy and honeyed with a bouquet of white flowers and stone fruits with a mouth filling and creamy palate of apricot, tangerine sorbet, clarified cream and butterscotch notes, adding hints of almond, white anise and lemon curd. While a big and round wine, it shows an almost tannic backbone that allows this wine to not seem too flat or flabby, finishing long and gloriously hedonistic. This would be a stunning white Chateauneuf du Pape to explore with lobster or langostino with butter or broth! Wow, I was thrilled with this Chateau Jas de Bressy’s performance in the glass, it’s a savvy and heady wine that is ready to deliver the goods, enjoy it in the short term especially.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2009 Sea Smoke, Pinot Noir “Southing” Sta. Rita Hills.
One of the modern masters in California Pinot, Sea Smoke is a cult label that has a rabid following and a long waiting list to get on the list to get their wines. Sea Smoke was one of the biggest hits in the early years of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA along with Brewer-Clifton and Melville and were one of the wines that inspired the screenplay that ended up being the feature film Sideways. Southing refers to the south-facing hillside bluffs found on Sea Smoke’s estate vineyard, and allows the perfect ripening conditions in this cool growing region. Sea Smoke is now all biodynamic and continues to be a leading star in the Sta. Rita Hills and this vintage 2009 was highly acclaimed when released, garnering many outstanding scores, now almost a decade old it continues to please and has reached a glorious place in time. 2009 was a heady year and flashy in it’s youth, now it’s refined and richly smooth adding grace and complexity to an already great wine, it’s a hedonistic Pinot Noir that will thrill the novice and enthusiast both. Surprisingly youthful and well balanced for a warm vintage this 2009 is in a good place and drinking great with layers of black cherry, plum and sweet vine picked raspberry fruits, warm toasty French oak, but not too much, with spice, snappy anise and tea notes, gaining a hint of subtle maturity with air and a touch of earthiness that adds a nice contrast to the wines forward nature. I was one of the first to join their mailing list and had every vintage of Sea Smoke until 2012 with this 2009 Southing being the last of my stash, it is an impressive last hurrah with silky elegance, a medium/full body and ultra rich density, but with a nice cut of acidity even still, and reminds me why I loved Kris Curren’s wines, drink if you have it, it’s in it’s prime.
($65-125 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Morgan, Chardonnay, Double L Vineyard, Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
I think this latest Double L Chardonnay from Dan Lee and winemaker Sam Smith just might be the best white Morgan wine I’ve ever tried, it’s a gorgeous Chardonnay of remarkable class and complexity. Showing bright intensity and subtle richness, this 2016 Morgan Double L gains layers and depth with every sip and is very white Burgundy like in balance and poise, while still being true to sense of place with hints of tropical fruit and mouth filling texture. The Double L Vineyard was fully certified organic in 2002, although it has always been farmed using these methods since it’s original planting back in 1997, it sits near the northern tip of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA with east facing terraces to get the best sun exposure, while still getting all that cooling influences as the vines receive brisk afternoon breezes from nearby Monterey Bay and acid retaining cold night time temps, perfect for Chardonnay. This vintage seems more refined and intriguing that prior releases in my experience and I think the approach here shows this vineyard it’s best potential, the 2016 was crafted with great care and precision with less new oak being employed, the ripe grapes were gently pressed whole cluster, which according to the Morgan team yields the highest quality juice. It was then barrel fermented in French oak, of which 15% was in new toasty barriques, while the rest in a combination of one & two year old casks with about 90% going through full malo-lactic fermentation and raised sur lie, which means there was lees stirring to promote glycerin and creamy smoothness. There’s a lot to love about the current lineup at Morgan, and I hear some of the 2017 stuff looks even better, so be sure to check in on Morgan soon, I have tasted with winemaker Sam Smith on more than a few occasions and have been thrilled by what he is doing there, and this wine looks like just the beginning of a new era of greatness. I recently sampled this Double L Chardonnay along with Morgan’s stylish 2017 Rose of Grenache and generous Double L Riesling, and while known for their Pinot Noir, this Double L Chardonnay was by far the star on the night and I couldn’t help myself going back for seconds and thirds of this beautiful wine. Starting with white flowers, citrus, mineral spice and orchard fruits the 2016 Morgan Double L adds rich detail and an array of apple, pear and white peach fruit along with lemony tones, hazelnut/brioche, a touch of wet stones, saline, delicate pineapple and just the right amount of vanilla, clarified cream and toast notes. This wine is nicely decedent, but still lifted and lively, it should drink wonderfully for another 3 to 5 years with ease, going great with many cuisine options from soft cheeses to lobster, and especially fresh caught fish in butter sauces.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Jerome Chezeaux, Bourgogne Rouge, France.
One Burgundy’s under the radar stars, Jérome Chézeaux follows historic guidelines using ultra traditional methods in the cellar, he’s a genuine and studied “non-interventionist” employing natural indigenous yeasts after a cold maceration his fermentations last 2 to 3 weeks with about a 30% new oak regime. What sets Chezeaux apart is the purity and delicacy in his wines from vines in and around Nuits-Saint-George mainly, though he also has holdings in Vougeot and Vosne-Romanee as well. The basic cuvee, the Bourgogne Rouge is from parcels near the estate in Prémeaux-Prissey just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges, as well as Nuits-Saint-Georges itself, only Cote de Nuits fruit is used and the wine reflects the local terroir of these sites and of the clay, sand, gravels and limestone soils. This wine usually is fresh in detail, bright and with a slightly restrained character along with having a earthy/savory edge, but with the 2015 vintage there seems to be a deeper sense of fruit to be found with classic Burgundy charm and elegance. This is a killer value, starting with a touch of reduction that quickly fades into bing cherry, plum and briar laced raspberry fruits with a hint of loamy earth, minty herb, orange rind and soft floral tones, adding a bit of body with air, it got even better the next day picking up a slightly dark character, this ruby/garnet Pinot is seriously classy for the price.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine de Sulauze, Les Amis, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rouge, France.
Karina and Guillaume Lefere’s Domaine de Sulauze is an all organic estate focusing on natural styled wines from near Aix en Provence and their Les Amis is 100% Sereine (clone of Syrah) red that is all carbonic maceration wine. This Syrah was fermented in tank and shows a vigorous vitality and is low in natural alcohol at 12.5%. The Seleine clone Les Amis, is unique in Provence, it’s found also in Crozes-Hermitage and other parts of the Northern Rhone, (it) was raised in large foudres and aged for 9 months, made with care and attention to simplicity, the Lefevre’s wanted a fresh and pure wine to share with friends, hence the name. Bottled both in 750 and Magnums, the Domaine de Sulauze Les Amis Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Syrah is wonderfully expressive with none of the flaws or funkiness you sometimes find in natural wines. The 2015 Les Amis, tasted from Magnum, is vivid, bright and tangy juicy with an almost Morgon Cru Beaujolais start, but with Syrah tannin structure and a deep purple/garnet hue in the glass, highlighting it’s carbonic profile, it is best with a slight chill and free flowing, it’s a delicious and an easy wine to enjoy. Starting with a touch of dark jolly rancher candied fruit, light floral tones, crushed stones, leather and nervy herbal notes things get a bit more serious with air, helping fill out the medium bodied palate adding plum, blueberry, tart cherry and racy currant layers. A delicate violet and anise also come through as well as earth and wild lavender oil, but the pure and vibrant fruit stays in charge throughout, best with simple, though robust country cuisine, this Les Amis makes for an excellent companion at a BBQ and or a picnic. Domaine de Sulauze is best known for their Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, “Galinette Blanc” a savvy blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 20% Uni Blanc, 20% Clairette and 20% Vermentino (Rolle), as well as their stylish Côteaux d’Aix en Provence, “Pomponette” Rosé crafted from 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10%Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Vermentino (Rolle) that is one of my regional favorites. As their importer, Nadia Dmytriw of Floraison Selections notes, Guillaume and Karina Lefebvre came to the domaine in 2004 and immediately went to all organic methods and a few years later converted to biodynamic farming as well, adding a few interesting twists today the domaine is a winery, brewery and mixed use farm, even growing all natural grains for their beers. I’ve been a fan for a few vintages now, but I think the latest set of wines have been a step up and I’m really impressed with these 2015 and 2016 wines, especially this exciting and fun Les Amis Syrah, this is a Domaine and Vignerons to keep an eye on!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Joyce Vineyards, Chenin Blanc, Massa Estate, Carmel Valley.
The brilliant and delicious old vine Massa Estate Chenin coming off the old Durney Ranch vineyard, also previously Heller Estate, from own rooted organic vines in Cachagua is a wonderfully crafted wine that maybe one of the best white wines ever from Carmel Valley! This vineyard site is locally historic and the 70’s Durney Cabernets are legendary, and while the Chenin has always been a favorite, Russell Joyce has taken it to the next level, showing the Massa’s potential for this varietal, in fact we should see some other talented winemakers versions in the coming years, so keep your eyes on the look out, but seriously if you are a Chenin lover you want this Joyce, both to drink young and fresh and also to age another 3 to 5 years, it is a rewarding wine which should get even more complex in bottle. Fermented using selected yeasts and raised in neutral French barrels this Chenin has a Loire Valley feel, but more in the Chinon Blanc or Saumur vein, not Vouvray as it has more texture rather than fruitiness, mainly from the elevation at over 1,000 feet, deep roots, well drained sandy loam and lower natural sugar in the must. Pretty floral details, subtle peachy fruit, wet stones and with a rich mouth feel stand out in this Joyce Chenin adding/gaining complexity with willing in the glass, and after tasting a cask sample and three separate fresh of the bottling line bottles, more layers seem to emerge with lemon zest, a touch of unsweetened honey, dried ginger, brioche and steely/mineral notes all coming through. If you are looking for geeky Chenin, this Joyce joins an elite California set that includes Sandlands, Lieu-Dit, Pax and Littorai, to name just a few, and it reminds in a good way of Bernard Baudry’s Chinon Blanc “La Croix Boissée” which is slightly more oak driven. Russell Joyce’s 2017’s are going to surprise a lot of people, they are all looking to be next level wines, of the pre release samples I’ve tried I was left really impressed, especially his upcoming Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir, his all new Escolle Vineyard Chardonnay and this very limited and gorgeous Massa Estate Chenin Blanc, look for them to be released closer to the end of Summer or early Fall.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot is a blend of the Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge Vineyards, two that make up the best of John Paul’s main sites in the AVA (Dundee Hills) that is on the Jory (volcanic) soils and making for a full and expressive wine, as in this ripe 2016 vintage. The Abbey Ridge Vineyard site is located high up in the Dundee Hills, at about 600 plus feet. These vines were first planted here in 1976, and are some of the oldest in Oregon, they help produce some of Cameron’s finest wines, while Clos Electrique, planted by Cameron’s winemaker John Paul, is a tiny estate vineyard that consists of approximately 3 acres of Pinot Noir with each block of vines planted to multiple clones, a technique increases the complexity of flavors in the wines. Both sites are farmed without irrigation and this dry farming practice concentrates the these wines and you’ll notice the deep color and exotic mouth feel in them, especially in a warm vintage such as 2016. The 2016 Cameron Dundee Hills is an impressively rich and opulent Pinot Noir with a backbone of velvety tannin and dark fruit, it starts with a touch of reduction and feral (earthy/animal) notes before the fruit explodes on the almost full bodied palate with layers of sweet cherry, blackberry, plum and wild currants, but nicely this powerful array of fruit is contrasted with a mix of spices, flinty stones and well judged French oak that has hints of cedar, dried vanilla and faint coco power. The mouth is lovely and silky, but this is still a youthful and brash Pinot Noir that will gain with more bottle age, it was crafted using traditional Burgundian methods, including native ferments and over a year in barrel, without any additions or filtering. Cameron is making some amazing wines, and not just these fine Pinots, as John Paul, who’s been making wine here in Oregon since 1984, is also talented with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and even Nebbiolo! If you’ve not discovered Cameron yet, now is a great time, and this Dundee Hills Pinot is a great way to start!
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013 G.D. Vajra, Barolo, Bricco delle Viole, Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the modern world’s great wines, Giuseppe Vajra’s signature Bricco delle Viole has taken the world by storm, I first discovered this wine, along with most Americans and the wine press, in the 2008 vintage and have been lucky enough to have tasted with Vajra on three occasions in recent years in San Francisco, and this last time I got to try his latest 2013 version, which is a truly stunning Barolo. The beautiful 2013 Bricco delle Viole is a deep and textured wine, highlighting both vintage markers and terroir crafted in Vajra’s clear and transparent style, there’s just layer after layer of purity and natural complexity with a medium/full palate and gorgeous length, it starts with floral tones and delicate spices before revealing it’s fruit density and textural roundness. With faint tarry intensity that hints at an underlying power, this 2013 Bricco delle Viole Barolo turns on it’s charm with air showing refined, but structured tannins that frame everything to near perfection, it gives black cherry, damson plum, strawberry reduction and tangy currant fruits along with a touch of earth, cedar, anise and an array of spice, incense and wild herbs. This is some serious Nebbiolo, no question, but it drinks amazingly well in it’s youth, maybe less concentrated than the 2010 it is not far off in overall quality and I think it will provide long term aging rewards as well. There’s an inner brightness and the acidity adds an extra pop that some riper vintages lack, this might be explained by Bricco delle Viole being a high-altitude site, set in Vergne in Barolo, standing at between 400-500 meters above see level, with some vines being in the 60 year old range, it is also one of the highest in the region with hardened clay/marl soils allowing for satiny balanced wines, as this one is. Vajra employs mostly traditional winemaking methods, though some new techniques, such as temperature controlled fermentation are used to showcase elegant and perfumed wines. In most vintages the Bricco is fermented in stainless with lengthy cool ferments which last about 3 weeks with gentile pump overs before resting in large Slovenian oak barrels for up to 42 months. This 2013 is impressive in complete detail and focus, Giuseppe Vajra is an amazing talent and this wine is absolutely a must for the Barolo enthusiasts, like a Grand Cru Burgundy it delivers a sense of place and is a magical seduction of the senses, I must say this vintage might be a sleeper, don’t be fooled by it’s ripe silkiness, there’s real substance here, it’s one of my favorite wines of the year, drink from 2022 to 2032.
($90 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Albarino “The Suitcase” Valenti Ranch, Mendocino Ridge.
The Drew “The Suitcase” Albarino is one of the rarest wines in their lineup, it is the Morgadio clone, a Rias Baixas suitcase field selection cutting, making for a wonderful Summer white that shows crisp acidity and leesy textures. Grown on the Valenti Ranch, that Jason (Drew) grafted in a small block at Valenti (Ranch) back in 2006, and with this site’s ultra cool marine climate and high elevation it might just be the most unique expression of Albarino in the new world. Sitting between 1,300 to 1,400 feet, and within 6 miles of the Pacific and set on oceanic sedimentary and gravelly loam soils, Valenti is a place where this Galician varietal can thrive and show it’s intensity with an impressive mineral character. Drew used an all native yeast fermentation, with 100% malolactic for his Albarino while employing 75% stainless and 25% neutral French oak for it’s raising, all of which gives this wine it’s Cru class personality and charm. The fruit is refined and subtle with a more stony edge showing pretty white flowers, snappy apple, dense green melon, citrus and tangy white peach along with wet rock, almond oil, creamy citron, saline and hints of spice. While steely and brisk there is a soothing sensation of mouth filling textural pleasure as well, making it a great white with an array of sea foods, especially briny dishes and or fatty fish, it reminds me of a lovely Cassis Blanc in style, and it will be a beautiful wine to have around beach picnics this Summer.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Saint-Damien, Gigondas “Les Souteyrades” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
One of the Southern Rhone’s most trusted traditional producers, Joel Saurel’s Domaine Saint-Damien is a top estate in Gigondas offering amazing old vine wines classical crafted by Joel’s son, Romain who now is becoming more and more involved in the winemaking at this famous winery. Saint-Damien, named after an early Christian saint (martyred in the year 287 A.D.), considered the patron saint of doctors, who’s memorial chapel is not far from the vineyards of Gigondas, has many old vine cuvees as well as a lovely Cotes du Rhone bottinng as well as a Gigondas Rosé that is high demand. The Vieilles Vignes Gigondas lieu-dit “Souteyrades” which sits on a small hill is a blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre from a plot of 67 year old Grenache Noir vines planted in 1948 and 38 year old Mourvèdre on an outcropping of pure grey clay soil with a few stones scattered over, it makes for deep fruit intensity and concentration, I believe this is their most powerful cuvee and this is extremely apparent in this 2015, a rich and ripe vintage. The “Les Souteyrades” vinification is old school with maceration lasting for 6 to 8 weeks in concrete vats before moving to large oak foudres for about a year all from organic grapes that are carefully hand picked and sorted. This earthy and extremely dark Gigondas starts with melted black licorice, leather and deep berries, it’s seriously dense and concentrated with lots of heady weight and texture, gaining a ripe tone with extended air, and wonderful length showing layers of black raspberry, boysenberry, plum and grenadine on the full bodied palate along with that anise, floral incense, baked cherry, chalky stones and pepper spices. This Gigondas has a more of an old school Chateauneuf du Pape like presence in the glass, it’s still way too young to be rewarding yet, but decanting and swirling really helps, it will really unfold in the coming years, be patient, a few bottles hiding for a decade will be wonderful treasures, best from 2022 to 2030.
($36 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2015 Markus Molitor, Riesling Kabinett, Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel Germany.
One of the Mosel legends, Markus Molitor is one of Germany’s elite and classic wineries along with the likes Willi Schaefer, Fritz Haag, Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster, Robert Eymael’s Monchhof and J. J. Prum, it’s a standard barer traditional Riesling house and a wine you should never pass up a chance on drinking. The Molitor family has been producing wine in the Mosel for more than 8 generations with Markus Molitor, who took over in 1984, is the proprietor and winemaker, he has a wonderful set of parcels, with 22 hectares of vineyard sites, some of the best in the region, including holdings in the famed areas of Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Ürziger Würzgarten, Graacher Himmelreich and Bernkasteler Badstube. His substantial holding in Zeltinger Sonnenuhr is Markus’ prize plot and known as his prime time spot, much the same as Johannes Selbach. Though all the wines are terrific, I have a soft spot for the unique and sexy Ürziger Würzgarten bottlings, especially Molitor’s Spatlese and this amazing Kabinett from the “Spice Garden” and it’s intriguing red iron rich volcanic soils with an under pinning of broken slates that are strikingly different from the more pure weathered slate sites that make up on bulk of the wineries vineyards. The slope here is dramaticly red and insanely steep, the Ürziger Würzgarten is remarkably picturesque and set in an amphitheater formed by a tight bend in the Mosel river at Ürzig. The wines from here are yellow fruited, tropical and utterly exotic, spicy aromas and with complex earthiness, with Molitor’s studied 2015 being one of the best examples, a great vintage expressing a astonishing sense of place. The Molitor Kabinett Ürziger Würzgarten 2015 is almost startling dry in feel with an austere nose with hints of orchid fruits and quince coming through in a cool and crisp personality before opening on the palate with an array of spice, stones and vibrant tropical fruit. The steely mineral core makes this wine seem tightly coiled and classic Riesling elements come through in time with air, this is really serious stuff, not as generous as one might expect, this is a wine that has a decade or more to go before everything is more easy to understand. Layers of green apple, white peach, citron, chamomile tea, dried pineapple, white pepper and flinty wet rock all add to the complexity in this fine and reserved Riesling, it’s a wine that will benefit from a willing patience as it has entered a shy stage at this point, I would give an opinion that it needs 2 to 3 years before it fully expresses itself and that it has a rewarding future.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

N.V. Domaine de L’Écu,”La Divina” Brut, Sparkling Wine, Loire Valley, France.
Domaine de L’Ecu’s lovely sparkling wine La Divina is a favorite bubbly of mine from the Loire’s Muscadet region, it shows a fine mousse and has a decedent mouth feel with nice brioche richness, but lifted detailing. Fred Niger’s La Divina is done using traditional or Champagne method, with no dosage that gives this Brut it’s studied dryness, though with a generous personality and class. This bottling is all from the 2012 vintage, is crafted using a majority of Chardonnay along with some Folle Blanche, a rare white grape that is more commonly found in fine Armagnac(s) making for an intriguing sparkling wine. The Chardonnay focus gives this La Divina a presence in the glass and has a heady density of form without being heavy and it makes an impact that is quite grower producer Champagne like, showing a real inner brightness and beauty with layers of apple, pear and peach, along with hazelnut, bread dough and toasty/yeasty notes. This all biodynamic sparkler has a hint of floralness with white flowers, wet stones, fig and citrus notes adding to the subtle complexity and overall completeness found here in Domaine de L’Ecu’s well crafted Loire fizz. It matched perfectly some ultra fresh sashimi, Spanish mackerel “saba” and tuna roll sushi as well as a thin sliced marinated octopus and cucumber salad at my favorite Carmel Japanese restaurant Akaoni, a no nonsense place that is a quiet temple of non endowed freshness and purity of flavors. This was a wonderful experience, and Fred Niger’s wines at Domaine de L’Ecu are some of the Loire’s great wines, and this one continues to be a unique and graceful sparkling wine that way over delivers for the price.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch Vineyard, Paicines AVA, San Benito County.
Ian Brand’s gorgeous and freshly focused 2016 Bayly Ranch Cab Franc is heavenly in the glass with easy tannins and fine delicacy and detail, it’s a more Loire style version with minimal oak presence and mineral charms. Brand and team sourced these grapes from a south facing sloped parcel in the Paicines zone near the Tres Pinos Creek and the San Andreas Fault. The soils here consist of a stony mix including ancient alluvial deposits with an array of geologic structures in this the fault area. Ian picks this site at moderate sugar levels to allow freshness and balance, and he vinified whole berry, with selected yeasts in this vintage, with a cool 18 day maceration, then this Cabernet Franc was raised for just under a year neutral (well seasoned) French oak. While the 2015 was denser and earthier with a intense Chinon like presence, this 2016 is a tough lighter in weight, but more expressively pretty in the glass with stunning varietal purity and lovely length and a vivid red fruited personality, it’s lacy and refined, while still full of purpose and depth of flavor. The Paicines AVA is located in San Benito County, It is part of the larger San Benito AVA, and is located near the central part of the county, it’s warm region, but with cool nights, perfect for Cabernet Franc, and made that much more interesting because of the unique subsoils and rocky terroir here, it’s been been well known for years as a secret spot for high quality grapes, with Williams Selyem sourcing their central coast Pinot from the Vista Verde Vineyard, as well as having spots with Arneis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah as well as Bayly Ranch’s Cabernet Franc. Ian, being the vineyard whisperer he is has found a gem here, and his 2016 revels in layers of blackberry, plum and cherry fruits along with minty herb, subtle red bell pepper, dusty spices and tangy dark currants all in a graceful form that is dynamic and vibrant. Filling out with air and adding a hint of leather, cedar, warm chalk and floral tones this single vineyard Brand Family Franc is an absolute joyous old world inspired red that delivers on it’s promise, it great juice, especially for the Loire style enthusiast, I am excited to see where this beauty goes, I have high expectations for a rewarding cellar sweet spot for this one, I think it’s potential is awesome, I look forward to a 5 to 10 year sweet spot. I put away some of both 2015 and 2016 to see which impresses most over time, but this 2016 is drinking so well it will be hard to keep my hands off it! Ian Brand’s signature set of wines are outstanding, don’t miss this new one, as well as his wonderfully mineral driven 2016 Escolle Vineyard Chard, which are just released, but don’t forget his Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello Road, the Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc and Ian’s Enz Vineyard Mourvèdre!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Satyre Wines, Amalthea Rosé, Russian River Valley.
The face of Satyre Wines, Nicole Kosta, a fiercely proud Aussie, was an organic chemistry graduate of the University of Adelaide before coming to the US to pursue a science career, before being bit by the wine bug and going down the Sommelier route. She being mentored by by the first US female Master Sommelier, Madeline Triffon, later becoming the wine director of the esteemed Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco, where I first became where of her, she was well known figure and talent in the Somm and wine tasting scene in the City. Along, with her partner in wine, winemaker Ted Weisser, an Alabama native that followed his wine dreams to California in 2011, she started their own label Satyre Wines. It was after leaving the Mandarin and looking for the less stressful wine country lifestyle she joined Dan Goldfield and Steve Dutton at Dutton-Goldfield Winery using her skills in wine education, hospitality, direct to consumer sales and business development. Satyre, pron. {suh – tîr}, is all about small lot wines, the name Satyre, as explained by Nicole, comes from the mythical woodland creature the Satyr, half human & half goat, who indulged in the great vice’s of the world, namely and mostly in wine, as well as dancing and music, they were also companions to Dionysis, the God of Wine. They first did a Pinot Noir, and while that remains a focus of Satyre, especially being where they are, they added a Los Carneros Vermentino, a Chardonnay, and more recently a Mourvedre from Yolo County, but maybe most interesting is this Rosé, which is a unique wine, and one that sets this young label apart. The Satyre 2016 Amalthea Rosé is crafted from mostly Pinot Noir, Rolle (The French term for Vermentino) and a dash of Mourvedre, it’s an intriguing Rosé varietally, but also because it’s barrel fermented and barrel aged for 22 months sur lie in cask, with 10% new French oak. Satyre was going for some added complexity and mouthfeel, which they very much succeeded in. While in the cellar it was treated more like a Chardonnay with lees stirring twice a month that adds to this Rosé’s glycerin and gives rich texture, which somehow retains a fresh intensity and life in the glass. Helped out by ex-Merry Edwards hand, Jeff Restel, their consultant, who is now winemaker at Dutton-Goldfield, looks to have had a good influence on the lineup, especially the Pinot, these are wines to check out, their Russian River Valley Pinot is as you’d want and expect from the region with loads of deep fruit, it was sourced from two vineyards from the Dutton Ranch in the western part of the Russian River Valley. The cool vineyard sites retain Pinot’s beautiful natural brightness (acid) while the sandy Goldridge soils make the vines stress and go deep for water, concentrating and intensifying the beautiful almost candied cherry and red fruit flavors. This is an all American Pinot Noir showing lots of up front fruit, smoky sweet French oak and a curvy body, but there’s more to meet the eye here and the complexity fights through the cola and black raspberry adding layers of dried Provencal herbs, rose petals and a surprising lift of acidity that keeps things in check with hints of anise and Asian spices. Getting back to the Amalthea Rosé, it reminds me somewhat of the lees aged Provence wines and it flows with a distinct set of flavors that includes a juicy cantaloupe or muskmelon, some strawberry, light kirsch and creamy orange/tangerine citrus with hints of vanilla, yeasty notes and a touch of guava. Dry and crisp at first this Amalthea Rosé gains some weight and density with air, making it great with more robust food choices and an array of cuisines, it is surprisingly quaffable and refreshing, showing some talent and thoughtfulness and making for a singularly California expression. Both this extraordinary pink wine, and the Aristaeus Pinot Noir, stand out in Satyre’s set of current releases, and they are welcome additions to the new generation of Sonoma boutique wineries.
($28 Est.) 92 Points,
grapelive

2013 Socre, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2013 Socre Barbaresco is a pure and ripe Nebbiolo with striking profile and rich character, it fermented in tank and is raised for 18 months in used 225-liter French oak barrels, then It continues its aging in concrete vats and it is bottled after another six months at least, making for an expressive textual wine that wonderfully fruit driven on the palate. Socre’s Barbaresco comes from estate vines, in the sub zone of Roncaglie, that form the heart and soul of the winery, the soils are formed by 50 million year old deposits of alluvial material, with a composition that is a majority clay, with a limestone base derived from the ancient seabed. I’ve always admired what I’ve tasted from Socre and this 2013 does not disappoint with the vintage’s open knit palate and sweet tannin, it’s a great value to for such pleasing Barbaresco, this winery near the tiny hamlet Tre Stelle, which is a the village of Barbaresco, not far from the historic town of Alba, is a label to discover if you’ve not done so. Heady on the nose and richly opulent in the mouth this Barbaresco leads with classic earth, flowers, cedar and minty herbs along with it’s deep cherry, damson plum and distilled strawberry fruits adding a touch of tar, anise and mineral with air, and while 14% natural alcohol, it remains lively and sharply detailed delivering everything in seductive layers and with plenty of charm and vigor. The Socre 2013 is an impressive wine and a real winner for the price, it can be enjoyed now and certainly will be rewarding Nebbiolo for another 5 to 10 years easy.
($36 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2016 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.
I have been a fan of Waxwing Wine Cellars for quite a few vintages, Scot Sisemore’s tiny micro winery is making some great wines from top sites in Sonoma and the Central Coast, Sisemore, who has a B.S. in microbiology from Oregon State University and an M.S. in viticulture and enology from UC-Davis, has crafted some wonderful small batch wines from his facility South of San Francisco in Belmont California. The Dierberg Syrah is a new wine for Scott, he was offered a great block of fruit that he couldn’t refuse, from that cool site in the Santa Maria Valley, he did a midnight run in a refrigerated van to get these beautiful grapes as cool as possible, he did this full on Cornas style, 100% whole cluster with 15 days on the skins and stems, ending up at 13.9% natural alcohol and aged the Syrah in once used French oak for 15 months and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Creamy silken tannins give this away as Californian, but the profile and character is pure northern Rhone with layers of violets and black plum along with peppercorns, minty herbs, cedar and griddle bacon. The stems add a nervy green bite that keeps things thrilling from start to finish, that makes you think of Cornas, Scott did a wonderful job with this Syrah, it’s one of his best wines to date and well worth searching out! Waxwing’s Scott Sisemore has over 23 years of experience in the Northern California wine industry, having worked at Ravenswood Winery, Rosenblum Cellars and was the assistant winemaker at Pelligrini Family Vineyards before starting his indie label (Waxwing Wine Cellars) based in Belmont, just South of San Francisco. Sisemore’s new Syrah is really beguiling and offers a lot of quality and substance for the money, this and Scott’s Tondre Grapefield dry Riesling are wines to stock up on while they last. This 2016 Dierberg Syrah just gets better with air and time in the glass, it’s deep purple/black and garnet hue and wonderful perfume heavenly, this is right up there with some of California’s most sought after names in Rhone style wines, drink this one over the next 5 to 10 years.
($32 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Dorsheimer Goldloch, VDP Grosse Lage, Nahe Germany.
Drier and more complex than a Kabinett should be, not that I’m complaining at all, this 2015 Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch is simply amazing with wonderful purity and a steely mineral driven form, Caroline Diel has done a masterful job of controlling the vintage’s ripeness with this one! Coming from the Grand Cru, VDP Grosse Lage site with it’s gravelly soils and steep eastern facing slopes this stuff is pedigreed Riesling at it’s best showing a more restrained fleshiness than it did in my earlier tasting notes it has developed a fine detail and vitality that is wonderfully energetic, the acidity which had once seemed muted has a brisk character that is giving fantastic class and freshness right now, hiding the sugar and extract to perfection, making this wine feel more like a Trocken or a modern Feinherb, but with food things swing back a bit and you get the generous fruitiness to match up to spicer cuisine. This wine was magic just sipping on a warm evening, and got even better with the Thai noodle take away, showing the marvelous flexibility of Diel’s Kabinett, which like Donnhoff are pure genius and spectacular values. I had the chance to most of Diel’s 2015 in pre-release samples and again at the winery itself in the fall of 2016, and I remember clearly being impressed by every example, but now here today in bottle, in 2018 they are exceptional, and in particular this Goldloch Kabinett, which is really showing the class of Diel’s winemaking and expressing the class of it’s terroir. The nose is mineral charged with lots of stony charm, subtle orchard fruit and flinty spice that leads to a light/medium bodied palate of lime, green apple, apricot and tangy mango fruits plus a touch of minty herb, creamy melon (sugar’s influence is more textural than sweet) along with kiss of dried pineapple and citron. Everything is woven together in a precise fashion and with a sense of grace, I am a huge fan and this wine is easy to love, it also has at least a decade of great drinking ahead if not more.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 L’Aventure, Estate Rosé, Stephan Vineyards, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
Crafted by the Saint-Emilion native Stephan Asseo, the L’Aventure Estate Rosé is to California what Domaine Tempier is to Bandol, it is one of the state’s finest dry Rosé wines and a cult pink if there ever was one! This vintage the blend is made up of 37% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 26% Mourvèdre and intriguingly with 7% Petit Verdot as well, it is completely and crisply dry and powerful in intensity and mouth feel, but with sharp detail and mineral charms, it really put a focus on the talented winemaking and growing to produce such an amazing pink! Asseo, who began making wine in 1982, following his education at L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France, created a small Bordeaux, Domaine de Courteillac he he made the wines, but then his family took over the famed Chateau Fleur Cardinal in Saint-Emilion and he was put on the team there, though he longed for adventure and a place where he explore his craft outside the very rigid structure and expectations in Bordeaux. After searching for over a year among the world’s great regions, including some exotic and far away locations, from South Africa to Lebanon, and Argentina to Napa, Stephan found and fell in love with Paso Robles, at this in the nineties a remote and wild region with unbelievable and undiscovered potential. He first did a Zinfandel from purchased fruit to tide him over until he could get his virgin estate up and running with a mix of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals of which he makes some of California great wines, including this awesome Rosé. Being a maverick, he left his preconceived ideas behind in France and has embraced California fruit and the freedom to express it the way he wants without AOC rules getting in the way, he could never made a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot at home on the right bank, but here he can and does with distinction and verve. The Estate Rosé is a delicate shimmering pale wine with a touch of orange in it’s pinkish hue and the nose has a chalky tone and light floral note before leading to a rather bold and full palate of exciting layers of tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and candied citrus along with touches of sage, lavender, rosewater, mineral and a hint of savory spice. At 13% this vintage of L’Aventure Estate Rosé is not overly ripe or too hot, this is serious stuff that thrills from start to finish and is especially good with robust food choices and simple cuisine, though I can imagine experimenting with spicy sea foods and think it would be great with mixed shellfish, like mussels and clams in tomato and wine broth. Stephan Asseo’s Estate Rosé easily makes into the top ten of California Rosé with the likes of Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon, Arnot-Roberts, Ian Brand, Tribute to Grace and Skylark to name a few, this is a must have for the pink enthusiast.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Trocken “Bömer” Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
This Bömer Trocken is amazingly perfumed, really highly aromatic at this stage, much more so than when I tried the cask sample (a year ago), it is full of jasmine, rose oil and citrus blossom with a mineral tone and peachy, but the wine is wonderfully lively, fresh and tangy with loads of dry extract and a light body at this stage, the delicacy is simply dreamy. Johannes Selbach’s 2016’s are remarkable wines, and I’m a huge fan of the Zeltinger Schlossberg site, it is magic and this single block “Bömer” is stunning in detail and unbelievably sexy on the palate with layers of apricot, white peach, passionfruit and tangerine/lime fruits, with a crystalline beauty, as well as flinty shale, verbena, minty tea, candied dried mango and saline notes in a refined Riesling that way over delivers, it’s a class act all the way. Zeltinger Schlossberg is a steep vineyard set on pure blue Devonian slate with the Bömer block being a parcel that sits directly behind the village of Zeltingen, it faces south east and gets reflected light from the Mosel and heat from the town’s rooftops which helps with ripening and the opulent flavors. I wonder if Selbach should join the VDP for his dry Riesling offerings, as this certainly would make for a Grand Cru in my opinion, but then again the price is outstanding the way it is without that GG on the bottle, still it’s an interesting question. That said, Selbach-Oster’s strength is the balance achieved with generous sugar levels and their fruity Spatlese and Auslese wines are some of the best in Germany. The “Bömer” is a gorgeous Riesling that should not be missed, it offers exceptional quality and stylistic charm with a heightened impact on the senses, it’s a brilliant dry wine, this one and Selbach’s Ur-Alte Reben Feinherb are my two absolute favorites in the lineup of greatness this Mosel winery has out right now, both will drink beautifully for years to come.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The 2017 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is a powerful wine and one that demands your attention, this amazing effort really gives Domaine Tempier something to think about! At almost $18 less a bottle than Tempier, this Cinsault and Mourvedre based Pradeaux Rosé is a a savvy choice for enthusiasts. Château Pradeaux, a historic estate and provence legend, is located near the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer that is right on the beautiful azure Mediterranean between Toulon and Marseilles, it has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution, now run by Cyrille Portalis and with his sons Etienne and Edouard. I met with Etienne recently, he’s the new face behind these wines and his wines are all showing great, especially this 2017 Rosé, it’s surprisingly dense and full, but with crisp intensity, it’s a pink with a huge palate impact. Pradeaux uses Cinsault (50%) and Mourvèdre (50%) in their cement vat fermented Rosé, it is vinified via direct pressing for 24 hours, and is a non malo wine, with the wine aging about 6 months before bottling. The 2017 has a bright pink and orange hue in the glass and delvers a hedonistic mouth feel, it’s a bold wine, and at 14% it’s heady too, best to enjoy it with a full meal, it’s not a light and fruity style at all, this is mouth filling stuff, even though it’s chilled coolness is refreshing and it has a brisk presence in the glass with a nice balance between opulent (ripeness) and savory tones with a nice mineral and stony steak. There are layers of tart cherry, watermelon, strawberry and a cut of tangy/zesty citrus, wet chalk and rosewater as well as a snappy lavender note. The reds here are traditional Bandol with gripping tannins and leathery notes, but I love the layers and depth, and as I have mentioned in my prior reviews this is a label that offers exceptional wines, and while imported by Rosenthal, Pradeaux remains slightly under the radar, so the prices are more than reasonable for the quality, and a great way to explore them is to start with this wildly good dry Rosé, it will almost make your whole summer!
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Xavier Gerard, Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France.
A wonderfully expressive and exciting Côte-Rôtie from new to me Xavier Gerard, who I met earlier this spring and tasted through his beautiful lineup of Viognier (Condrieu) and Syrah (Côte-Rôtie) wines, he is a young winemaker that is making an impression in this classic Northern Rhone region, he uses traditional methods and makes wines that sing with perfume and delicacy. Xavier, who recently took over the family business, has a quiet, but passionate personality and the estate accesses impressive holdings in Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, a majority of which are under estate ownership that allows a greater control of the vines and results are thrilling. He told me that their steep, craggy slopes, set on almost pure granite, demand that all the vineyard work be done manually, even tougher for the 6 foot 4 ish Gerard, it must be almost backbreaking, and he continues the old school practices in the cellar, with spontaneous (native yeast) fermentations and classic Northern Rhone elevage, mostly in used barrels, mainly demi-muids. His Condrieu, I tried both 2014 and 2015, plus the special 2015 and 2016 lieu-dit “Châtillon” versions all of which were absolutely gorgeous, these were not to miss whites for Viognier lovers, though I must say I couldn’t take my mind of his Côte-Rôtie, with the robust 2013, the lighter 2014 and this 2015, that shows the vintage’s concentration to perfection, again Northern Rhone Syrah fans had better check this guy out before the word gets around and the price goes up, they are sensational wines. The 2015 Côte-Rôtie, sourced mostly from the Mollard lieu-dit about 65% with the remaining balance coming off parcels in the Crus of Font-Jean, Viallière, and the world famous La Landonne! Gerard also does a single Cru La Landonne, though sadly I didn’t get to try it, though that being the case, I was not disappointed at all as the regular Côte-Rôtie is magnificent, not as rustic as Levet, it reminds me a bit of Rostaing if not even better. Gerard uses partial whole cluster, probably more than usual in this richer 2015, it shows a heroic sense of purity and has a heady violet laced perfume with subtle hints of wood, earth, spice and black fruits. The palate is still firmly tannic, but very drinkable even still, and with air this medium/full bodied Syrah fills out and the mouth feel is excellent with layers of boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry compote, black currants and sweet kirsch notes along with graphite, peppercorns, anise, powdered floral incense, flinty stones, earth and a whiff of cedar. This is spot on, watch out Jamet, there’s a new sherif in town, drink Xavier’s 2014 now, but be sure to get this 2015 to put away, it looks to have serious cellar potential, this and his Côte Châtillon Condrieu are mind-blowing Rhones, imported by Rosenthal, this is a guy to watch.
($69 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2013 Domaine de L’Ecu, Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Taurus” Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s Taurus is his tank and barrel raised estate 100% Melon de Bourgogne lees aged Muscadet Sevre et Maine and it is one of the most interesting whites I’ve tried this year,  with it’s amazing vitality and glorious textural quality. Domaine de L’Ecu makes some of the best regional wines in Muscadet and this one was aged 24 months, 12 months in stainless steel tank and then transferred to used Burgundy barrels for another year, it gives the wine a fuller presence and mouth feel, it is somewhere between a topped up extended aged Savagnin from the Jura and a pretty Saint-Aubin white Burgundy to give a reference point idea of what this lovely bright yellowish/golden white is like. The layers are satiny, but with fine definition and a nice cut of acidity showing apple, quince and lemony fruit tones along with classic saline, oyster shells and wet stones. It gains delicate complexity with air and even with the wonderful feel it stays brisk and cooly minerally crisp. Hints of briny seashore, verbena, sunflower seed oil, snappy herbs and white pepper add to the contrast from it’s leesy glycerin (creaminess) that is similar in flavor to a grower producer Champagne, without the mousse (bubbles) of course making for a stunning alternative white wine that has sublime class. This is a wine that love old world wines, it is for those that buy Cru Sancerre or Puilly-Fume, this is a wine that shows an oak subtly and very dry extract.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Bedrock Wine Co., Old Vine Zinfandel, California.
Bedrock’s Old Vine Zinfandel is one of the best deals in red wine in California and this latest vintage rocks. The man behind Bedrock, Morgan Twain-Peterson MW, son of Joel Peterson, a legend in his own right, making all those Ravenswood zins, yes, not only is he one of California’s best winemakers, he’s one of the world’s most authoritative wine experts having got his Master of Wine badge of honor last year, an amazing achievement, and his Old Vine Zin is a perfect wine to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s an all American red with it’s stylish bold bravado. Bedrock Wine Co. has also just opened their new tasting room in downtown Sonoma, the place where the California rebellion began and we raised the Bear Republic flag for the first time. This new tasting room is at the General “Fighting Joe” Joseph Hooker House, he was commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, Hooker is sadly best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 where he lost his command, he tried to redeem himself and was given a chance later, and he achieved an important victory at the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Chattanooga Campaign. Though he is also rumored to have brought women into the bases so his men could enjoy their company, it is thought that’s where we got the slang term “Hookers” from and his headquarters were known for parties and gambling, however, the term “Hooker” was used in print as early as 1845, years before Hooker was a public figure. Later in life he re-settled back in his beloved Sonoma, known for his efforts in farming and land developments. Apart from that trivia, Bedrock makes some of the state’s most compelling wines, they mostly focus on old vine field blends (mostly Zinfandel) from heritage sites that were interplanted with many black grapes and some whites, this includes their own historic Bedrock Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley that wasp planted back in the late 1800’s with many vines well over over a hundred years old. The Old Vine Zin is made up of Sonoma, Contra Costa and Lodi fruit mostly, all coming from vines over 80 years old and this 2016 version is a lovely effort with deep fruit, wonderful texture and complexity with a ripe dark berry profile to go with it’s purple/garnet color. Morgan embraces, as he puts it, uninoculated fermentations, native malolactic, the use of whole clusters in fermentation, and minimal handling with no additions or endowing of his wines, he goes for simplistic approach and for purity of form, and it all shows in his wines, which thrill the senses and comfort the palate with pleasure and easy to love opulence. He also says he hopes (his wines) are straddle the divide between intellectualism and deliciousness, I can attest to that, they do, no question. The 2016 Old Vin Zinfandel is sumptuous and full in the mouth with an almost youthful creaminess, it has hedonistic layers of black raspberry, briar laced boysenberry, macerated plum, tangy currant and juicy cherry fruits, all very open knit transparent and satisfying, but there’s more with hints of wild herbs, spice, a hint of cedar/sandalwood, light floral tones and anise as well. While decedent and fruit forward there is a impression of grace and life that make this wine super on it’s own, but even better with food, especially joyful with BBQ and friends, as mentioned, it’s a great wine for the Fourth of July and for any time you want to taste some California history in a bottle, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2009 Pelissero, Barbera d”Alba DOC “Tulin” Piedmonte, Italy.
I have a huge soft spot for top Barbera and this glorious Pelissero Barbera d’Alba Tulin really sings to me with a siren song, it’s a fantastic wine right now, big and expressive, but with sublime structure and complexity of detail, it’s a Barbera with a Barolo attitude! The Tulin (a local dialect word for tin cup or metalsmith) is a vineyard is plot of land of close to 12 hectares planted to Nebbiolo (in the sub zone denominated San Stefanetto), as well as Barbera and a small part with Dolcetto. The vineyard is a almost an entire hill of its own, with elevation from 250 to 400 meters above sea level and it appears like a natural amphitheater with near perfect south/south-east exposures. And while in the Langhe hills of Alba, set on of sandstone and blue marlstone, it is really close to Barbaresco, and while rich and powerful it has the elegance and refinement of that terroir, and for Barbera it has stylish depth and complexity with cast of flavors that includes pretty blackberry, lingonberry, sweet cherries, plum and blueberry fruits with hints of leather, savory spice, mineral tones, minty wild herbs, cedar and black licorice. Classically crafted with stainless and large casks, the 2009 Tulin Barbera is a beauty and delivers a world class experience and delights in the glass, it shows no signs of age as of yet and should continue to gain with age, though I wouldn’t be able to resist drinking up near term!
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Estate Field Selections, Mendocino Ridge.
Jason Drew’s cool climate Pinot masterpieces continues with his 2016 Estate Field Selections, it’s the third release from the Drew Estate Ranch, sitting on the far western coastal edge of the Mendocino Ridge on oceanic sedimentary deposits and gravelly loam soils, up at 1250 ft and just 3.3 miles from the Pacific, this vineyard is the coolest single vineyard in Drew’s collection. Blessed with a long growing season and heightened intensity, the estate wines are some of the most brilliant Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted, and as I have been saying for more than a few years now, Jason’s wines are some of the very best in California, I they without question offer some of the great value in Pinot Noir and Syrah period! This Estate Field Selections Pinot Noir, organically farmed, which is no easy task this close to the ocean, was crafted using traditional minimalist winemaking techniques, Drew employed about 40% whole cluster this vintage here with all native/natural yeast and it was unfined and unfiltered with just about 20% new French oak used, with the wine coming in at a very Burgundy like 13% natural alcohol, and even more impressive given the wines palate impact and depth, this is absolutely amazing stuff (again) from Jason Drew. Drew’s field selection estate vines include a series of clones, but this wine saw primarily Pommard, 667 and Mt. Eden clones which add to the wines complexity and charm, this site’s rocky underpinning has created the condition, along with the over ground influences has made for a special terroir which makes this wine sing. First, if you are lucky enough to get this or have it, give it another 3 to 5 years, it’s still way too young, if you feel the need to pop the cork, gently decanter it and give it at least an hour, best to try the second day honestly as it is so primal at this stage, but please note it is absolutely awesome and will be even more so in time! The palate is Grand Cru quality complex and with an array of Cote du Nuits like flavors, this is serious stuff here. It’s color is dark garnet and the nose, while shy opens to reveal earthy tones, floral highlights and wild berries before a medium bodied and brooding palate of black cherry, plum and currant fruits along with hints of dusty pebbles, tea spices, cinnamon, briar and a subtle tarry essence that reminds me a bit of young and tight Piedmontese Nebbiolo, but not in flavor, it’s more of personality impression and there is a thrilling sense of structure to this 2016 Drew Estate Field Selections Pinot that sets it apart, be patient with it, it’s a diamond in the rough at the moment, it’s like 2013 in power, but more similar to the 2014 vintage in raw underlying beauty. You cannot help but be awe struck by Drew’s wines these days, I kept this wine open for three days and the last sip was haunting, and showed a glimpse of the glorious future!
($60 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2009 Paolo Scavino, Barolo DOCG “Carobric” Piedmonte, Italy.
The Carobric is a three Cru blend, coming from mainly Rocche di Castiglione vineyard in Falletto) as well as smaller percentages of Cannubi (in Barolo) and the Fiasco vineyard also in Castiglione Falletto, it is a wonderfully complex expression of Barolo, making for a studied and deep Nebbiolo that has everything you’d want and more. This 2009 is now reaching a wonderful drinking window, though it has decades to go, and it gave a stellar performance in a recent blind tasting, the opulent vintage making a serious impact and with extraordinary textural pleasure. Scavino is almost certain to deliver the goods when it comes to drinking great Piedmonte wines, but this was a thrilling success in the glass that was to Giacosa level, which is saying a lot! With Scavino, each Cru and or Lieu-Dit is vinified separately in stainless steel using native yeasts, all temperature controled during primary fermentation(s), with about a12 day maceration, then maybe 20 to 30 days of finishing, using their selections of the best performing plots during the first year of aging before then get blended or separated for the single vineyards. All the Barolo(s) get an aging program of 10 months in neutral French oak barrels, then 12 months in large casks, before settling for another 10 months in stainless steel before bottling, additionally the wines get rested for 10 months in bottle before sales. The richly dense palate provided an endless array of layers and purity with classic black cherry, damson plum and mission figs, as well as picking up tar, anise along with hoisin notes, truffle, cedar and dried roses. Surprisingly dark, bright and youthful with lifting acidity, ripe tannins and tangy herbs, this seems to get fresher with air, classy and with exciting tension Scavino killed with this 2009, drink between 2018 and 2028.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, Cotes de Provence Rosé, Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes, Cru Classe, Provence, France.
The intriguingly pale Clos Cibonne, Cotes de Provence Rosé, Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes is made from the winery’s oldest vines, which are 100 plus years, these blocks are mostly consisting of Provence’s ancient red varietal Tibouren, that makes up 90% of this Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes with about 10% Grenache also in the blend. Clos Cibonne is a historic estate that was granted the right to labeled Cru Classe for it’s long heritage in making traditional wines in the region, Clos Cibonne, which draws its name from Jean-Baptiste de Cibon, a captain of Louis XVI’s French Royal navy and first owner of the vineyard buying Château Cibonne. After his death in 1797, the property was sold to the Roux family’s ancestors with André Roux (who passed away in 1989) committing to Tibouren in the 1930’s. The vineyard and winery is located on the Mediterranean Sea, in Provence, which is between Marseille and Nice, not from from Aix in Provence and Cassis. The Roux’s latest generation, the fifth, now Brigitte, and her husband Claude, who took over the vineyard in 2003 continue on in producing some of Provence’s most interesting wines, especially their Tibouren Rosé which has extended lees aging in cask, usually released after an extra year. This 2016 is less concentrated than 2013 or 2015, allowing Tibouren to really show off it’s full charm and pretty character, though still with the exotic mouth feel that it is known for, I am more than happy with it’s vibrancy and delicacy with it’s tart cherry, distilled plum, strawberry and light watermelon fruits as well as it’s dried orange/citrus rind, a touch of kumquat, clove, earthy crisp detail and leesy depth, it’s an absolutely perfect vintage for Clos Cibonne and the old vines do the trick, making for an exceptional Cotes de Provence Rosé that will drink great on it’s own or will be especially compelling with Mediterranean cuisine, it gains power and complexity in each occasion matching it’s environment with grace and poise adding a seductive element to each setting and or food option, this is brilliant stuff, do not miss a chance to enjoy this… Ever.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014 Passopisciaro, Passorosso, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Passopisciaro is one of Sicily’s stars, making volcanic reds that are often compared to the finest Premier Crus of Burgundy, but none of that seemed possible back in 2000, when Passopisciaro founder, Andrea Franchetti first visited Sicily. He searched out an estate and finall, after being successful in Tuscany with his Tenuta di Trinoro, picked out abandoned vineyards on the northern side of Mount Etna with the unique characteristics of high-elevation terraces of highly varied black, lava soils that give these amazing wines their terroir character. In recent years Franchetti’s Passopisciaro, all biodynamic, has been one of world’s most talked about estates, making a wine of real impact from Etna’s Nerello Mascalese grape, crafting a fuller bodied version with a touch more extract and a darker hue than some of his neighbors, while still being true to traditional norms and using grapes from Cru sites known locally as Contradas. Passopisciaro does five single-vineyard bottlings from each contrada that Franchetti get fruit rom, these include Rampante, Sciaranuova, Guardiola, Porcaria, and Chiappemacine, as well as doing this multi site Etna Rosso cuvee Passorosso, which is now a DOC. This 2014 Passopisciaro Passorosso is 100% Nerello Mascalese from vines that were planted between 1913-1943, it was fermented using specially picked yeast in cold stainless steel vats before finishing malos and aging n French casks, mostly neutral big barrels, for 18 months, finishing at a serious 15% natural alcohol, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The 2014 Passorosso is richly textured, with classic smoky notes and spicy red fruits before opening up and gaining layer after layer including macerated cherries, strawberry, plum and raspberry fruits along with licorice, lavender oil, red pepper and flinty mineral tones. This medium/full pure Nerello Mascalese has a beautiful and textural glycerin and wonderful length, it’s palate is luxurious and satiny, while still having serious impact and vitality, this is a winery to discover if you haven’t yet! And now, one of my other favs on Etna, Eduardo Torres Acosta, a Canary Islands native, who worked with Arianna Occhipnti, is now winemaking at Passopisciaro, again, a winery that is one of the pioneers of a new group of super star Etna producers on Sicily.
($39 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2009 Arcadian, Pinot Noir “Francesca” Central Coast, California.
The impressive and attractive Arcadian Francesca Pinot Noir is Joe Davis’ best limited cuvee, it’s his ultra reserve and this current release is a three barrel cellar selection of three of his favorite sites, the 2009 is a blend mainly from Sierra Madre Vineyard, first planted in 1971, it is at the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County) and is one of the state’s coldest vineyard sites, set of sandy soils, plus I believe Davis used some Sleepy Hollow and Fiddlestix Vineyard(s) here too, it’s a multi-regional wine that celebrates the best of each terroir and the year itself. Davis is one of the most influential winemakers in Monterey, he is one of the legends, having helped put the Santa Lucia Highlands on the map during his years at Dan Lee’s Morgan Winery and he was one of the first to focus on low alcohol and balanced wines, it was also during his years at Morgan, 1986-1994, that he discovered the famous Pisoni Vineyard, using Gary’s grapes in his reserve bottlings. He was also the general manager at Bernardus Winery, as well as starting his own label and focusing on Burgundy styled Pinots and Chards, where he pursued his passions, which led him to move down to Lompoc and join the boom in the Sta. Rita Hills in the late nineties and early two thousands. The Acadian wines, first released in 1996, were a huge hit and received wide praise and I was lucky enough to have been around during these early years, and have been a fan of Joe Davis for a long time, though I have missed out in recent vintages, making it great to hear from Joe and be able to get his latest two wines to sample. Davis has been a fan of the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard even before Talbott bought it and made their main focus and he was able to get selected blocks of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah throughout that period, prior to Gallo buying Talbott and taking control of Sleepy Hollow. The Francesca 2009 is wonderfully mature and textured, Davis loves to hold back his releases, sometimes for a decade, and this allows them to show their full personality and elegance, the mouth feel is absolutely gorgeous and the length amazing, this luxurious stuff. Davis goes for traditional methods with his Pinot, employing early picking, whole cluster and keeping the grapes cool and using a long cold soak prior to fermentation which occurs in small open-topped wooden vats, with the grapes being pigeaged (foot treaded) 3 to 5 times daily to further extract color, tannin and richness. The color is remarkably fresh with a deep garnet hue, making you think it is a much younger wine, while the bouquet is full of perfume, spice and beautifully infused with red berries and kirsch notes that leads to a silky medium bodied palate with layers of sweet cherry, poached plum, strawberry coulis and reduced raspberry fruits as well as subtle oak (vanilla), mineral tones, hints of saline, chalky elements along with faint earl grey tea, sandalwood, anise and rose petals. Being able to buy an almost decade old cellar aged Pinot Noir is pretty awesome, especially a wine from pedigreed vineyards, it has ages of life in it, great vibrancy and structure gives this Arcadian Francesca a brilliant lift and even in an opulent year like 2009, making for a serious, vivid and elegant Pinot Noir. Arcadian is, still to some, an under the radar winery, it was a thrill to taste this wine and their 2008 Sleepy Hollow Syrah, which is also a beauty, so I highly recommend check them out!
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Claire Ouzoulias, Chateau Franc-Pourret, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Red Bordeaux, France.
The top wine from Claire Ouzoulias is her Chateau Franc-Pourret Grand Cru Saint-Emilion, and her 2015 vintage is still very young and un-evolved showing lush fruit and sweet tannins with a kiss of creamy/smoky oak, best to let this impressive wine have many years to unwind as patience will be rewarding here. Going her own route and using all (certified) organic grapes and leaning toward a more natural style, Claire Ouzoulias has caused a stir in this very homogeneous region, she, like Chateau Le Puy, is giving Bordeaux some wonderful made natural options, though there is a very luxurious feel and highly polished clear focus on her wines. Just married to Domaine de l’Ecu winemaker Fred Niger, Muscadet’s leading light in natural wines, Claire’s Chateau Franc-Pourret is a showcase of purity and highlight’s it’s hardened clay and limestone soils, it’s a full bodied and serious wine, though still a baby as of yet, it does get going after half an hour, enjoying lots of air, revealing a dark sense and a depth of flavors. The rich mouth feel and showy oak presence hide the complexity somewhat, but there is layers of blackberry, plum and dark currant fruits that unfold along with a touch of spice, cedar, vanilla as well as kirsch, chalk and sweet tobacco/cigar box. The Chateau Franc-Ouzoulias is made up of, hand picked and vineyard sorted grapes, 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, they have been certified organic since 1989, it’s fermented using native/natural yeasts and raised in barrel for about 18 months. This opulent and ultra smooth Bordeaux is one to watch and follow, it should be given a mid-term rest for the best results, try from 2022 to 2035.
($41 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

2016 Frank Cornelissen, Contadino, Etna Rosso DOC, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
The entry-level red wine of the organic and natural winemaker Frank Cornelissen, is the Contadino it is basically a field-blend of mainly Nerello Mascalese (about 85%) though the rest is made up of other local varietals from his old vine parcels, which includes Nerello Capuccio, Allicante Boushet, Minella and Uva Francesa. Belgian-born Frank Cornelissen was a wine merchant in his previous life before he located to the island and started making his own wines on the volcanic soil slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Corneilssen uses grapes from Picciolo, Malpasso, Campo Re, Crasà, Piano Daini, Feudo di Mezzo all in the cooler northern facing zone of Mount Etna, and of which all now qualify for Etna Rosso DOC and all these vineyard’s vine are on average 50 years old or more, this cuvee is all de-stemmed and aged only in epoxy lined tanks with no wood and no fining to showcase the purity of the region. The 2016 Contadino is bright, spicy and lightly smoky with pure volcanic flair showing it’s Nerello Mascalese core profile with racy and refined, Pinot Noir like red fruits, flinty notes and a mix of herbs, anise and subtle florals. Layers of cherry, strawberry, wild plum, cranberry, tart blood orange and almost peachy fruits, everything flowing across it’s light frame on the fresh medium bodied palate, there’s good lifting acidity and silky tannins making for a refreshing red that is at it’s best with a slight chill on it and with Summer cuisine. The only real knock here would be it’s price, to be honest, I know Etna Nerello Mascalese is Sicily’s Burgundy, but this is a bit too costly for what you get, even though I really enjoyed every sip and will without question drink a few more of Cornelissen’s wines after trying this one, drink this Contadino over the next year or so.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Pedro Parra y Familia, Pencopolitano, Central Valley D.O. Chile.
It’s almost impossible not to love Pedro Parra’s wines and admire the man behind them, known as Doctor Dirt, Parra consults for some of Europe’s most famous wineries to get them to understand the true nature of their soils, he has a PhD in terroir, as well as making very natural style wines not far from his hometown of Concepción, using old vines in the Itata region of Chile’s Central Valley DO. The Pencopolitano, which I think might be Parra’s signature bottling, is a field blend including some old vine Pais (Mission Grape) also known as Listan Prieto, it’s made up of Malbec, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, and the mentioned Pais, Carmenere, grown on the 200 million-year-old batholith red granite and quartzite soils, these dry farmed bush vines are cooled by coastal winds and clouds that make for a long growing season that helps add complexity and full ripeness, while allowing good acidity and mineral intensity to shine through. He also does a single varietal Cinsault, that he calls Imaginador, as well as this one, I love them both, though in this 2016 vintage I might have to favor this Pencopolitano, which means “citizen of Concepcion”, Parra’s city, the Capital of the Itata Valley and of the terroir he is most passionate about, with it’s full body and lovely balance, it has a bit more depth and complexity to it revealing a darker core of fruit while still being so transparent and delicately textual on the palate. With 14.5% natural alcohol, you’d have expected a thicker mouth feel, but the mineral intensity and finesse here gives a much lighter impression. Ageing is in cement and stainless steel for a year, the grapes coming from 6 different vineyards, all of them old vines and organic, between 60 to 110 year old, from Cauquenes and Itata, it was all native yeast, traditional fermented, and with gentile extraction, with no carbonic employed. It’s crazy trying to relate this wine to anything else, the best I can do would be to say it has similarities to the following, like if you were to certain elements of: Raul Perez Bierzo Mencia, Maxime Magnon Corbieres, Roberto Santana’s Listan Negro (Envinate) and Adi Badenhorst’s red blend from South Africa! But, that said, Parra’s wines are singular and unique, this one shows a core of round red and black fruits that includes racy plum, strawberry, briar/spiced raspberry and tangy red currant along with wild sage, herbs de Provence, light floral tones, earth, peppery notes and salty stones. There’s a play in between raw nakedness and structured grace that seduces completely, it’s an intriguing wine to explore, it sits between a Pinot and a Rhone blend and goes great with rustic cuisine, it’s fun, but a thinkers wine too, drink now.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Chateau Valcombe, Rosé “Epicure” Cotes du Ventoux, Rhone Valley, France.
Not far from the famous Mount Ventoux, which is one of the toughest climbs in the Tour de France, it can be seen from across the Rhone’s Luberon standing tall and shimmering white from the chalky soils that make up this regions Marl underpinnings along with hardened clay, sand and ancient river stones this part of the Southern Rhone is mostly known for their Grenache based reds, but one of their secret pleasures is their dry Rosé wines, with Chateau Valcombe being founded and crafted by long-time vigneron in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Paul Jeune, formerly of Domaine Monpertuis, who has recently retired with new owners Luc and Cendrine Guénard, who worked under him for years now at the helm. They certified to 100% Organic and continue the tradition of making outstanding wines. The Valcombe Rosé is vinified via direct press, whole cluster from a blend of Grenache Noir (60%), Cinsault (20%), Carignan (10%) and a touch of Clairette (10%). Interestingly, the vines for the Rosé are of an average age of 40 years, so there is a ton of soul and character found in this is a completely bone dry Rosé. With a bright and vivid pink/salmon hue in the glass this 2017 Valcombe Rosé is explosive in flavor and fresh deal with a cooly crisp personality showing tangy strawberry, watermelon, earthy sour cherry and vigorous citrus notes along with steely mineral, delicate floral tones and zippy spices. Not easy to find, this Chateau Valcombe Epicure Rosé is an exceptional value and a very pleasing Summer wine, imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, it is well worth searching out, by the case, and don’t miss their other Ventoux grown offerings either, especially their reds.
($14 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Boeckel, Riesling, Alsace, France.
Frédéric Boeckel became a wine trader in 1853, after his family were generations of butchers in the Alsace region of France, and it was his son Emile that turned the Boeckels into winegrowers, it was then their history was cemented, they are world renown for their classic wines. The Boeckels, Emile and his much younger brother Andre, in 1950 they bought the parcels in the area known as “Wiebelsberg” in the commune of Andlau, and it is from theses vines that Boeckel produces their masterpiece Grand Cru Riesling Wiebelsberg, a wine of great finesse. Today Boeckel is led by the brothers, Jean-Daniel and Thomas Boeckel – the 5th generation of winemakers in the family, they have seen the modernization of the cellars and the conversation to all organic farming, crafting wines that are both rich in texture and full of vibrant energy. The Boeckel Riesling AOC Vin d’Alsace is fermented in temp controlled vats and aged in large ancient oak foudres allowing for a smooth feeling richly flavored terroir driven wine, coming off the pure and classic calcareous soils of the Mittelbergheim area. 2016 was a top year for Alsace and it’s a vintage to search out for it’s texture, density and dry focus, it can stand up to a wide variety of cuisine from savory meat dishes to semi spicy Indian fare including curries. 2016 was a very good and pure vintage in Alsace, and this Boeckel shows it’s ripe and expressive flavors, but in a delicate fashion with a clear and easy personality giving bright citrus, stone fruit and mineral notes with layers of apricot, lime and white peach along with soft acidity and a light almost weightless texture. It is a very refined and stylish dry Riesling with a vibrantly fresh core as well as faint spice, wet rocks and subtle tropical perfume. Boeckel’s base cuvee is crisply focused which makes for nice expression of the region and it’s very lovely throughout, if not overly exciting, it’s a wine that shines more with food than it does on it’s own, it’s more reserved form hides it’s friendly drinkability and classic profile. This Boeckel offers a solid performance and is a good value, in league with entry level offerings by Kuentz Bas, Trimbach, Hugel and Pfister, drink this smooth Riesling over the next 3 to 5 years, best with Bistro cuisine or with fruit, cured ham and cheeses at a lazy picnic.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Guimaro, Mencia, Vino Tinto, Ribeira Sacra D.O., Galicia, Spain.
Pedro Rodriguez’s Guimaro basic Mencia is an un-oaked Tinto in the “Joven” mode, grown on the steep slopes within the Amandi area, Ribeira Sacra’s most prime subzone with south facing vineyards planted on slate (along with granite and sand) just above the river Sil, it comes from multiple plots of Mencia vines, along with a small amount of other co-planted native varieties, with an average age of 40 years old. This ancient region is a re-discovered and glorious wine area, the Ribeira Sacra, which means “Sacred Banks” in Gallego, the local Galician dialect is home to the most difficult to farm vines in the world, it is more like the Mosel than Rioja, it’s cool climate zone that produces wines of fine mineral charm and bright rustic flavors. I love the Adega Guimaro’s wines, especially this lovely fresh Tinto, it’s one of the best red wines for the money I’ve ever had in a lighter style, it reminds me of Fleurie (Gamay) meets Crozes-Hermitage (Syrah) with a touch of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir added, it’s dry, juicy and full of personality. Pedro Rodriguez and his family come from a long line of colleteiros, vignerons and farmers, working in the Amandi area, Ribeira Sacra’s most prime subzone with south facing vines, planted on remarkable angles and with Roman influenced terraces, and his parents Manolo and Carmen still work the vineyards daily alongside him, he started the Guimaro (which means Rebel in local dialect) 1991, but it has really become a standard barer producer in the last 10 years with the help of Pedro’s mentor Raul Perez, the Godfather of Mencia, who makes his own legendary wines in Bierzo. It’s known that this area has a long history in winemaking, it just got lost to the outside world because of the remoteness and the hard conditions to work this place, originally the Romans came to this green, northwest corner of Iberia some 2,000 years ago, they were the first to terrace, grow vines and make wine in Ribeira Sacra, but now people are taking notice again and it’s one of Spain’s hotspots. In recent years, Guimaro and Laura Lozenzo’s Daterra Viticultores have taken the wine world by storm, with both red, with Mencia based wines and whites using the Godello grape making a big impact. This Tinto by Guimaro is made with mostly de-stemmed Mencia, it is fermented with native yeasts in stainless with lees aging for about 6 months allowing a real pure essence of terroir and grape to shine through, with this 2016 being a bit less extracted than the 2015 and incredibly vibrant and lively in the glass. With it’s bright ruby/garnet hue and acidity this Guimaro Tinto shows layers of tangy marionberry, plum, tart red cherries and racy and earthy currant fruits as well as flinty mineral spice, a hint of orange rind, tar, anise and subtle violet florals, all wrapped in a light-medium bodied wine that is so easy to quaff, it’s natural 13% alcohol allowing sublime balance. Like a fun Gamay, this Guimaro will be a handy Summer red, as it can be enjoyed with a slight chill for warm days and outdoor drinking, it’s a great choice for BBQ’s and picnics, it’s playful, but can also be a lovely companion with even more refined cuisine, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2017 Rochioli, Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley.
It’s Summer and perfect timing to get your hands on Rochioli’s beautiful Rose of Pinot Noir, it’s a wine for the season, full of flavor as it’s style and vividly hued, it’s a rare offering to be sure, but one to get on to the winery about, like yesterday! The 2017 is Rochioli’s maybe best or fine tuned version in many years, it’s color is wonderfully sexy and bright in the glass, a touch paler than the last two years and while mouth filling and extravagant it is cooly crisp in the glass with a subtle mineral focus and balanced. Layered with pure Pinot fruits the 2017 Rochioli Rose of Pinot Noir excites the palate with a vibrant array of pleasing fruit and well judged acidity and texture showing tart cherry, strawberry, a touch of citrus juiciness along with red peach, tangy cranberry and watermelon as well as wild sage, rosewater and snappy herbs. A hint of wet stones and saline get your mouth watering, it’s glowing pink/magenta shimmers in the light all making this a seriously delightful and expressive Rose that is impossible to resist, a true guilty pleasure. With air this Rochioli pink does pick up a sense of density adding some weight as well, it still maintains it’s energy and force, but it’s not as let’s say Reeve’s ultra brisk and lean version, both are favorites of mine, and this Rochioli, while refreshing enough for the beach on a hot day, can and does stand up to a full meal. With a world of great Rose offerings, this one still stands out, Rochioli is one of California’s classic wineries and it’s always a thrill to taste their wines.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Weingut Bründlmayer, Riesling “Kamptaler Terrassen” Kamptal, Wachau, Austria.
Based in Langenlois, Weingut Bründlmayeris now led by Vincent, who’s vision is a continuation of the long held beliefs of his famous dad Willi is now making some of the most intriguing and as Terry Theise (importer) says “nobel” wines of the region. Willi converted a lot his vineyards to the Lyre training system, which he helped develop, it allow better development of the grapes in the cooler sites, with the vines trained low to the ground, to benefit from the warmth of the primary rock soils, with the canes trained at an angle going upward and perpendicular to the row, which doubles the sunlit and aired foliage surface and improves grape ripeness. Bründlmayer is focused on the drier styles with grapes grown on the primary rock with mica slate soils, with a mix of calcareous loam, gneiss, desert sandstone and with volcanic particles. Bründlmayer uses only organic fertilizers in their vineyards, and cover crops are planted between rows. During harvest, multiple selections through the vineyard are made, botrytis is never accepted in the winery, they go for purity and brisk detail, especially in their Rieslings. This wine comes from steep slopes in only terraced plots making for a special terroir focused example of intense dry Riesling that goes exceptionally well with sea food, soft cheeses and in particular oysters! The 2015 Terrassen Riesling is crystal clear, brightly fresh and with lovely definition, it thrills the palate with zesty citrus, leaning on lime purity with hints of white peach, verbena, mineral tones, almond oil, lemongrass and wet gravel and in a focused steely frame that is crisp, sleek and wonderfully lifted by a delicate white flower perfume, natural acidity and mouth filling extract. Bründlmayer is without question one of the best in Austria and Vincent’s influence has helped it reach the next level, not just with his Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, which are absolutely gorgeous, especially in the 2013 and 2015 vintages, but you’ll not want to miss their sparkling wines, which are as good as almost anything coming from grower producers in Champagne, as well as Bründlmayer’s stylish Pinot Noir and even their rare Cabernet Franc! Drink this dry Riesling over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s class act, crafted by a rising talent.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Claire Ouzoulias, Clos Chante l’Alouette, Saint-Emilion Red Bordeaux, France.
Claire Ouzoulias’ Clos Chante l’Alouette Saint-Emilion Bordeaux is an all organic blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc grown mainly on sandy soils with a high iron content and it shows it the fresh mineral focus and sanguine nature of this lovely old world wine. Making rich and pure wines, Claire is the 6th generation of vignerons in the Ouzoulias family, and to own and farm three small estates in the right bank’s Saint-Emilion region starting back in 1889, and she is leaning towards natural winemaking, taking a different route to her contemporaries that are almost all making new oak driven modern wines, while she prefers hands on approach in the vineyard, hands off in the cellar, with native yeast ferments and less flashy oak treatments with more used wood. This estate wine is from a tiny parcel, about 3.5 hectares in size, again all of which is certified organic allowing for a more fresh style and more lifted with an elegance and subtlety that is hard to find in Saint-Emilion, with this 2015 vintage showing ripe fruit and Merlot driven character with dark berry fruit and a light earthy seduction, it’s a true classic old school beauty with firm, but with supple tannins, a medium full body and density that allows for early drinking pleasures. This Clos Chante l‘Alouette starts with loaminess on the nose with delicate florals, mulberry and cedar (elegant wood) before giving way to a packed palate of black cherry, plum and forest berries along with a touch of Cabernet Franc pepper and wild herb as well as anise and a faint creme de cassis note. This impressive classically styled “Right Bank” wine is just the right amount (a) touch rustic, but wonderfully lengthy and round in texture, it’s especially good with robust cuisine, it would be absolutely brilliant with game birds, duck in reduction sauce and or wild mushroom dishes. There’s plenty of stuffing and fruit here last 10 to 15 years if not much longer, I adore this fine Bordeaux in it’s youth and see no great reason to wait too to enjoy it, though it should gain more complexity over time and will reward some short term patience, best to give it 3 to 5 years more in bottle. Imported by Floraison Selections, Claire Ouzoulias also has a Grand Cru Saint-Emilion, it’s under the Château Franc Pourret label which looks to be a deeper expression as this estate sits on the highly acclaimed limestone and clay soils, and with this one being this good, I am really looking forward to trying it as well!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Yves Cuilleron, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Laya” Northern Rhone, France.
One of the Northern Rhone most gifted winemakers, who has gained international fame for his Syrah and Viognier offerings from his Domaine based in the village of Verlieu in Chavanay, he farms a variety of small plots in top Crus including Condrieu and Cote-Rotie, as well as spectacular old vine parcels in Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph that make for wold class wines that shine with a true sense of terroir. The “Laya” Crozes-Hermitage Rouge comes from a single Lieu-dit vineyard south of the Tain L’Hermitage set on granite influenced soils, the grapes 100% Syrah are partially destemmed, with just the right amount of whole cluster and stems, then placed in open vats for a three week cuvaison with malolactic fermentation in small mostly neutral (used) French oak barrels where the wine is left to age for 16 months before bottling. Deeply colored, beautiful purple/black with bright edges the Laya Crozes is vivid and wonderfully earthy in style with layers of dark fruits, graphite/stones, leather, pretty underlying violets and minty herbs. Youthful and fresh it unfolds with a medium body and firm fruit density with boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and currant all coming through with touches of black olive, leather, cedar, peppercorns and kirsch. Gains mouth feel and width with air, but never losing it’s sharp focus, Yves Cuilleron is, as mentioned in prior reviews, making some of the best wines of his career and his Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage, both his white and red versions, are some of the greatest Rhone values out there bar none! Drink this classic Crozes (Syrah) over the next 5 to 10 years, and don’t miss any and all chances to try these 2015 and 2016 Cuilleron wines.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2015 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany.
One of Germany’s best wineries and elite winemaker, Gunter Künstler, comes from the famous village of Hochheim am Main, in the eastern most portion of the Rheingau. In 17th century Britain the term ‘Hock’ was used to describe all Rhinegau wines, because of the quality of the wine coming from this area. At that time, wines from Hochheim were much more famous than the Mosel wines and were more expensive than some of the finest Bordeaux, in fact Thomas Jefferson toured the region in 1788 and described Rheingau Riesling as some of the finest white wines in the world writing about what he found as “small and delicate Rhysslin which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim”. He was so impressed with the Rieslings that he found here, he took 100 cuttings of Rheingau Riesling back to Monticello. Weingut Künstler in Hochheim Main/Rheingau is more recent to the region and is for Germany a really young winery, it was started back in 1965 by Franz Kunstler, who had been in the former German part of the Czech Republic for generations, and it was only back In 1992 his son Gunter took over the estate, and turned it into one of the finest producers in the country, and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the prodigious VDP. The estate has plots in many parts of the Rheingau from the slate of the famed Rudesheimer Berg to the loess, clay, sand, loam, marl and limestone soils of Hochheimer’s great Crus of Domdechaney, Kirchenstück and Hölle. Kunstler is moving toward all organic, it’s a tough process in this humid area of the Rheingau near the Main River, but he is committed, In the future he will move step by step to 100% organic, plus he ferments with cultured yeast, because it’s often still warm when grapes are being picked and to work sponti (native) would mean a greater risk of volatile acidity. Gunter does most (wines) in Stuckfass, large old German oak, though some is done in stainless as well, he does everything to promote intensity and purity of flavors, he has become a leading light in dry styles and his Rieslings are full of energy and finesse. This Riesling comes from multiple Rheingau sites and is an entry into Kunstler’s lineup of amazing Rieslings, it is a perfect sushi and or picnic wine with zesty acidity, lighter body and a crunchy mineral tone. White peaches, pure steely coolness and roses lead the way on Kunstler’s Trocken along with vibrant lime and tangerine, wet river rocks, lively herbs, kumquat and dry salinity. Not as concentrated as the Holle cru, but this base dry Riesling is beautifully balanced, fresh and an absolute study in place and varietal, this stuff is fantastic for the price, it’s going to be a pleasing white for many years to come, but best in the near term with it’s crisp detail and vivid mouth watering charm.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 M. & C. Lapierre, Morgon Roche du Py “Cuvee Camille” Cru Beaujolais, France.
Even without their famous father around to guide them, Mathieu and Camille continue to make some of the finest Gamay wines in the world and are some of the natural wine world’s most influential. Marcel Lapierre, who sadly past away a few years ago in 2010, took over the family domaine from his father in 1973, even then he was on the road to becoming a legend, not just in Morgon, one of Beaujolais top Cru villages, but in the greater world of wine, he was guided by Jules Chauvet, who was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a “viticultural prophet” according to Kermit Lynch, the famed importer, and it was Chauvet that first spoke about natural wine and organic practices in the vineyard as well as shying away for modern techniques and chemical additives, of which Marcel perfected and his methods are a model on which top winemakers are using now, including neighbors like Jean Foillard as well as his son Mathieu, who’s wines are maybe now even better. The Lapierre cuvee Camille, grown on a tiny higher elevation plot, like all their wines is 100% whole cluster with native yeast fermentation and aged in used Burgundy barrel with this 2015 showing off the ripe vintage with forward fruit expressiveness and depth of flavors with lovely perfume and round density, it a wine of richness and substance, but not as quite as exotic or flashy as the famed 2009, though wonderfully close in style and what looks like a classic year. Beautiful sweet raspberry, plum and violets lead the way with sexy deep garnet/ruby hue in the glass adding candied cherry, walnut oil, racy spices and with a light anise note as well as a hint of stems and lingering tart currant. It’s a juicy Gamay no question, being easy to love, but it has subtle earth, thrilling intensity/enegy and a serious side too, with fine tannins and lifting acidity that should see this Morgon Cru Beaujolais, grown on almost pure granite, age well for a decade at least, this is glorious wine.
($44 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

nv Andre Clouet, Silver, Grand Cru Brut Nature Champagne, A Bouzy, France.
I bought this Clouet on sale and wow, what a steal, this is some sensationally great bubbly! Jean-François Clouet, who was born and raised in Bouzy, still lives in the 18th century village house built by his ancestors, he takes his lineage serious and respects his family’s traditions and that of the region, and is renown grower producer in A Bouzy. Clouet makes a full range of intense and stylish Champagnes, all of which comes family plots mostly comprised of 100% Pinot Noir from Clouet’s lieux-dits in the Bouzy zone. The André Clouet “Silver” Grand Cru Brut Nature is a non vintage zero dosage Champagne of exceptional class and delicacy, it’s a severe and high toned bubbly, 100% Pinot from mid slopes around the village of Bouzy set on the chalky limestone and clay, it went through full malos and was aged on it’s lees in neutral French oak barrel, adding to the surprising of it’s crisp detail, considering it’s malo/wood winemaking fashion, though like a great Burgundy it changes and gains with time in the glass adding richness to the tight form it initially shows. If ever there was a Champagne that fits all my wants and desires, then this Clouet, imported by Sacred Thirst, fits the bill as I adore Extra Bruts and Non Dosage styles absolutely best of all and this Andre Clouet silver kills it for the price, especially what I paid! Lemony briskness leads the way with hints of hazelnut, brioche and wet river stones adding a touch of white cherry, unripe apple and cool green melon, all lifted by the pure tight beading of it’s electric mousse. The Pinot Noir gives a bite of extract which makes this a fantastic food Champagne, it is perfect for oysters, sushi and mussels in spicy broth, it’s not for everyone, but damn it’s good, it’s without question a thinkers sparkler not a crowd pleaser, which just makes it that much more special.
($29 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014 Clos Saint Jean, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France.
Vincent Maurel’s beautiful and lush 2014 Chateauneuf du Pape old vines is cuvee blend of mostly Grenache, but with does of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Vaccarèse and Muscardin as well, made grapes grown on the classic terroir, set on clay and limestone, with galets (the round stones that litter the vines, from plots in and around the famous Le Crau cru. The Grenache for this Chateauneuf is aged in only concrete vats for 12 months, while the remainder is aged in used demi-muids of French oak, from vines that are between 50 and 100 years old, hence the impressive mouth feel and concentration of this fantastic Clos Saint Jean. I absolute love this bottling for it’s purity and hedonism, it can only be Chateauneuf du Pape and it continues to be one of the best values for elite and stylish Chateauneuf, it’s a sexy and ultra reliable choice for the cellar! This dark and loaded Chateauneuf Rouge Vieilles Vignes unfolds in deep layers with a full bodied palate of boysenberry, plum and spicy cherry fruits along with violette/creme de cassis, minty licorice, lavender, liquid stones, fig paste and pepper notes, it’s an opulent wine, but has lovely detailing, a firmness of structure and the vintage’s lift allowing for a lighter impression that makes it a joy with food and like 1999 Chateauneufs, especially Vieux Telegraphe, also from La Crau, it should be a surprising ager as well, I wish I had more damn of it, best from now until 2028.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Drew Family Cellars “The Suitcase” Rosé, California.
Drew’s dry pink wine is 90% Syrah, 5% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre, picked between 21.5 and 22 brix, from a field blend of their Syrah along with the small amounts of Grenache and Mourvèdre that is inter planted in (the Syrah, which is Chave clone) vineyard. It’s made using direct whole cluster pressing with native yeast fermentation using 50%-50% stainless tanks and neutral French oak barrels, making for a vibrant and textured Rosé. Don’t over look this dry pink from Jason Drew, it has a serious edgy intensity and a dense form, and as I am with all of his wines, greatly impressed, his wine it gains dramatically in the glass both in terms of complexity as well as textually, and while I usually don’t like Syrah as much in Rosé guise, this stuff I absolutely love! Brilliant clear acidity, plenty of raw extract make for a mouth watering experience with a flow of bright flavors with a layered medium weight palate of cranberry, blueberry and wild strawberry fruits in that distilled essences sort way come through with a kiss of citrus, watermelon (without the overtly fruity element) and chunky mineral tones, wild herbs and florals along with a tart, high-toned and tangy cherry note that lingers. This is a Rosé that has a authentic rustic character and charm that seduces the palate and like Drew’s red wine offerings seems to really gain with air, but always has a wonderful inner bright/energy and crisp (powerful) vigor, and while it would not disappoint for easy warm pool side sipping it certainly with be much more appreciated with substance cuisine-wise, the more robust the better. This Rosé by Drew, along with the sister Albarino under “The Suitcase” label are rarities going out mainly to their mailing list, like you needed another reason to get on there list! (You definitely NEED to be on it) Drink this one over the next year, not that you need to be told that of course, because there’s no way to resist it, it’s an intriguing dry Rosé to enjoy now. If you haven’t tried Drew, it’s way past time, these are are some of California’s best wines, especially their Syrah and Pinot Noir jottings from mid elevation sites close to the ocean, on marine sedimentary soils, in the western side of the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino Ridge, these are amazing wines and exciting times for this region.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012 Caprili, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The 2012 Caprili Brunello is a full bodied and densely pack wine with complex layers and ripe tannins, it’s just hitting it’s stride and should go another decade or two no problem, impressive for it’s palate impact and near perfect expression of terroir and varietal character, it is as pure as it gets. Caprili, run by Giacomo Bartolommei, and farmed organically, is an under the radar Brunello estate in the southwestern sector of the Montalcino zone, close to Tavernelle. It’s in a prime spot of Montalcino, established in 1965 when they split off from the famous Pieve Santa Restituta estate, it sits next to Pieve Santa Restituta and adjacent to Soldera, so you known they are in top notch company. Caprili has perfect exposure, south-southeast at between 225-340 meters in elevation, with soils that is a touch more sandy than in other parts of Montalcino, and influenced by the cooling breezes from the sea to their west, all of which shows in the wines elegance and aromatic charms, especially in this beautiful 2012 Brunello that displays a heightened sensation of fruit and a sensual mouth feel. Caprili works traditionally and naturally in the cellar, with a minimalist approach to winemaking, the Brunello sees fermentation in stainless steel using native yeasts, that takes about 7 to 8 days, that is followed by a lengthy maceration, then aged large neutral casks for 3 years before bottling, released 5 years from harvest. Layered and dense this 2012, 100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello Clone) delivers a full force of flavors with dried cherry, raspberry, tangy currant and racy plum fruits along with savory earth, tobacco leaf, cedar, a hint of tar, balsamic/strawberry and incense/floral tones, adding mineral and anise as you swirl this dark garnet hued Brunello in the glass, it’s a pure velvety Sangiovese wine that has a core of Tuscan warmth, with a rich texture and subtle rustic charms, with everything in harmony, with everything as it should be. It’s surprisingly great even now, but should prove a rewarding wine for the longer term as well, best from 2020 to 2030. As a side note, if this 2012 is this good, I can’t wait for the much more heralded 2013!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Scheurebe Trocken, Haardter Mandelring, VDP Erste Lage, Pfalz Germany.
Mueller-Catoir, run by the ninth generation vintner Philipp David Catoir is one of Germany’s finest estates in the Pfalz and has a world wide following for their stylish and intriguing wines, especially their Riesling, but they also do one of the best dry Muscats (Muskateller) you’ll ever want to taste, Rieslaner (no not related to Riesling!) and this amazing dry, but exotic Scheurebe from their Premier Cru Haardter Mandelring parcel. Known for the precision and clarity of focus in their wines, the estate, under the talented hands of Martin Franzen, a Mosel native that made name for himself while at the famous Schlossgut Diel before Caroline Diel took the reins there, (he) implements a very gentle crush, with a long skin contact, employing a slow gentle pressing, and then ferments and ages mostly in stainless steel. The wine is racked only once and very late, adding to the soul and character to these crystalline and transparent wines of outstanding class and density (dry extract) highlighting the mainly sandstone soils of the all organically farmed Haardt vineyard. Scheurebe, also know as Samling 88 or just Samling was created in 1916 by German viticulturalist Dr. Georg Scheu, when he was trying to make a better version of Silvaner, it was long thought it was a cross between Riesling and Silvaner, but DNA testing has made it clear Silvaner was not it’s parent grape, so it is believed to be a cross of Riesling and Bukettraube (Bouquet Blanc) and was finally released to general cultivation after Scheu’s death in the year 1956, in his honor it was officially called Scheu(rebe) (Rebe means Vine in German) and Samling 88 (serial number used by Scheu lab for the plant created) dropped in Germany, though still used in Austria. The wines are highly aromatic, and the variety is often used for sweet wines, although dry Scheurebe wines have become much more common in Germany with two of my favorites being Kruger-Rumpf’s expressive and wonderfully lush and tropical version from the Nahe and this Mueller-Catoir, which is typically a leaner crisper example, though as famous importer Terry Theise says of Scheurebe, it is “…kinky but just not blatant.” Think of Scheurebe as Riesling meets Viognier (as in minerally Condrieu) in some ways, it’s less severe than Riesling, but less fleshy than Viognier, but with the heightened perfume of white flowers, it blows away about 90% of Sauvignon Blancs out there, serving same purpose and fills the gap between Riesling and Chardonnay, though still a curious rarity in the white wine world! The 2016 Mueller-Catoir Scheurebe Trocken Mandelring is a zero botrytis vintage, which adds to the fresh detail and dry finesse, this is hyper focused stuff from Franzen and team, it’s stunningly expressive on the nose with jasmine, orange blossoms and honeysuckle giving a springtime of aromatic heaven before leading to a lithe and fresh, almost tangy brisk middle weighted palate of white peach, kumquat, key lime, tart mango and a flow of zesty citrus fruits along with lemon grass, minty/fennel bitters, candied pineapple and apricot pit. There’s a chalky wet stone element and plenty of mineral to explore here along with a touch spicy crystalized ginger that lingers in this well judged and executed Scheurebe, it’s a lovely companion for Asian cuisine
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Chateau Peyrassol, Rosé, Cuvee La Commanderie de Peyrassol, Cotes de Provence, France.
Commanderie de Peyrassol, founded by the Knights Templar who were dedicated to protecting the Crusaders on way to and back from the wars, with their first recorded harvest taking place back in 1256, and the winemaking has continued uninterrupted throughout that history to now. The Winery has been owned by an array of historical figures as well as the Knights of Malta and then the state after the French Revolution with the Rigord family buying the estate in 1870 and making it a successful winery, but it’s current reputation for quality took off when Philippe Austruy bought Commanderie and put his nephew in charge, rebranding the property as Chateau Peyrassol. Chateau Peyrassol is located in the hills of the “arriére pays” (back country) near Var, just north of St. Tropez and Hyères, in between the villages of Le Luc and Flassans-sur-Issole in the heart of Provence set on the classic rocky terroir with clay and limestone soils. The property makes some big and powerful reds with Syrah and Cabernet grapes, but it’s their Mediterranean kissed Rosé that always appeals and is their most popular wine made from mostly Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, though they can have a touch of Tibouren, the ancient Provencale native grape. This beautiful and crisply dry Rosé by Peyrassol was crafted with the direct press method, allowing for the delicate light color, then the grapes undergo a cold maceration before being pressed off, this fermentation takes place in stainless steel with cooling jackets (temperature controlled) and it is exceptionally long, resulting in a Rosé that is both fresh and persistent. Bright and vigorous the 2017 version is medium bodied and lengthy while still being delicately detailed and wonderfully focused with tangy cherry, strawberry and watermelon layers on the palate along with lively acidity, citrus, mineral notes and rosewater. This is a perfect Rosé for any occasion, fun, but serious with lots of Provence character and class, and at almost half the price of Tempier these days, it offers some value for it’s quality, drink up.
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu “La Petite Cote” Northern Rhone, France.
The 2016 whites from Yves Cuilleron are just spectacular with his lieu-dit Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage blancs really impressing me, but you can’t miss his Condrieu La Petite Cote 2016, this is just as good as it gets for Viognier and a wine of such inner and out beauty it’s almost ridiculous how good it is at this stage! To say this wine has perfume is silly (as an understatement), but it’s the complexity and textural pleasure that stands out even more with a exceptional mineral core that keeps your attention peaked and focused throughout. Beautiful detailing and fine balance grace this gorgeous Condrieu and remind you why this place is Viognier’s holy grail, there’s nothing close to a flaw to be found here, it’s really close to perfection with a heavenly weightless quality, which is lovely for a ripe 14% wine, while still showing opulent substance, it’s a beguiling white of amazing class and terroir character. The layers of the 2016 La Petite Cote come in a stylish cascade of layers with a rush of honeysuckle, liquid mineral, crushed stones, apricot and white licorice/fennel leading the way on the smooth refined palate that is almost like clarified cream without being heavy, it possesses graceful leesy mouth feel and glycerin, but has energy and vigor as well with steely crisp integrity throughout. A subtle tropical note along with a touch of flinty spice and saline elements add to the whole as well as vitality, through some fine citrus notes add lift. This is as pure as it gets, I was completely seduced by this beauty, words do not begin to due it justice, it’s a wine you need to experience yourself, make it happen, it will certainly reward you. Cuilleron is making some of the greatest wines of his career, both red and white, especially in these last two vintages, and this Condrieu is one of his most exotic to date, the vineyards for this Viognier are planted on terraces with a warm south-southeast exposure , near Chavanay, on muscovite-rich granite soils, Yves barrel-fermented and barrel aged the La Petite Cote with indigenous yeasts and sur lie elevage for nine months with regular batonnage (lees stirring) which adds to the lush decadence and presence in the glass.
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Oh, wow, this very dark 2016 Cameron Ribbon Ridge Pinot is really something else, it has a crazy first impression that goes between a Joguet Chinon (Loire Cab Franc) and an old Beaucastel Chateauneuf! That quickly ducks away and a pure Nuits-Saint-Georges like Pinot Noir comes through, it is somewhere between Domaine(s) Maume and Chevillon for a reference point, in other words it’s an intense Oregon Pinot from John Paul at Cameron Winery with loads of dark blooding fruits, mineral tones and a leathery/earthy charm. A hint of brett? A touch of animal just adds to the old world seduction in this way over delivering wine that comes off Alan Foster’s Ribbon Ridge vineyard site, plus Armstrong Vineyard, with it’s vineyard that was recently converted to dry-farmed grapes, these are set on the AVA’s unique Willakenzie soils, formed by ancient marine sediments as well as some gravelly loams. Both this Ribbon Ridge AVA and the Dundee Hills AVA are both native yeast ferments with the wines aged for nearly 2 years (between 18-24 months as per normal here at Cameron) in a mixture of French oak barrels varying from new to completely neutral and bottled without filtration or finning, pretty classic Burgundy style winemaking as is John Paul’s way of things. Layers of black cherry, racy currants, plum and dusty blackberry fruits dominate the palate along with rose petals, dried acacia flowers, meaty notes, exotically earthy dried porcini, minty anise, cedar and a hint of balsamic as well as bright acidity and a firm frame as you’d expect in a young Cameron Pinot. With more time and air you find wild strawberry, lavender and kirsch, but to get your kicks and the best rewards you’ll want to have plenty of food with this one, duck confit or breast, or game hen would be excellent choices, otherwise robust cuisine options would be preferable. This is another killer value from a top Willamette producer, drink over the next 5 to 10 years, even in this ripe vintage this wine shows focus and at 13.5% natural alcohol it does not lack for balance or complexity, I love it.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2017 Weingut Friedrich Becker, Petit Rose, Pfalz Germany.
One of Germany’s best known Pinot Noir producers, Weingut Friedrich Becker, in the Pfalz crafts some beautiful and detailed wines in this unique terroir, these are wines that, especially their Pinots that have Burgundy like class and character. The winery is run by the Becker family, Friedrich Becker Senior and Junior, and have Gerard Paul, an Alsatian as their general manager as well as Sandrine Eichenlaub in vineyard and cellar along with Daniel Scheib, it’s tight team and the wines speak for themselves, and as someones that has tasted these wines on many occasions, as well as their collaboration projects, like they have with Johannes Leitz, you can’t help but be impressed. So it was with great enthusiasm I got to try their new dry Rose, which is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Portugieser, the later being an old varietal that did not come from Portugal, but the Danube valley, as in Austria where it is known as Blauer Portugieser and used mostly in blends, and commonly found and used in light fruity red wines in Southern Germany, especially in the Pfalz. While nicely dry, the latest Becker Petit Rose is uniquely fruity and refreshing with bing cherry, strawberry, red citrus and pomegranate notes along with a light texture and soft acidity as well as a hint of peach flesh and a mineral element. Best served really chilled to get the best out of this fun little pink, while not overly complex or serious it offers lots of pleasure and will be great on warm Summer days.
($20 Est.) 87-89 Points, grapelive

2017 Diatom, Chardonnay “Santos Road” 3-D Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The Greg Brewer made, single clone Diatom, Chardonnay “Santos Road” known as the Hyde clone, is sourced from a tiny unique sandy parcel within Brewer-Clifton’s 3D Vineyard along Santos Road. Brewer is a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir specialist, known for his work at Brewer-Clifton (with Steve Clifton, who has since left BC and gone on to make some wonderful wines with his own  La Voix label) and Melville, and when the history of California Chardonnay is written Greg Brewer is going to be on the first page among the greats including Hanzell, Swan, Chalone, Kistler, Littorai and Aubert to name a few, anyone who had his mind-blowing early years Brewer-Clifton’s like their 2000 Mt. Carmel Vineyard or their later Sweeney Canyon(s) with understand! As with all of Brewer’s Diatom Chards, the fermentation done at very low temperatures using only small stainless steel tanks, with special yeasts and no malo-lactic, with exceptionally short hose travel to ensure precision and focus, they are Inox wines, made without any oak at all. When you taste Diatom, in my opinion, you get a tour of the zen like focus of Brewer’s mind, these are laser precision wines that channel the inner purity of Chardonnay down to it’s core essences, they are unlike any other Chardonnays you are likely to find and have a cult like following. The hyper clear transparency and crisp detail of this new Diatom Santos Road Chardonnay is amazing, it starts with white blossoms, almost tropically floral, and it’s almost Sauvignon Blanc like with lively citrus notes, delivering an electric shock of lemon/lime, grapefruit and tangerine, before slowly revealing Asian pear, kiwi and green apple flavors on the tangy medium bodied palate, along with Chablis like chalky stones, mineral steeliness, saline and refined acidity. As it warms in the glass things unfold and surprising texture emerges, adding a melon fleshiness with subtle ripe notes, but it’s 14.5% alcohol not showing in any obvious way, and it always stays vividly lifted and bright. I chose to pop the cork on this Santos Road first of these five new releases from Diatom and In can’t wait to try the rest of the set, especially with fresh sushi, these are fascinating wines that always impress, don’t let these get away.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2016 Jean Foillard, Gamay, Beaujolais-Villages, France.
Foillard is one of the great wineries of France, famed for their Morgon Cru Beaujolais along with a single parcel Fleurie, these are absolutely amazing wines that transcends their varietal, in the this case Gamay of course, and shows pure terroir. Jean Foillard’s wines are widely treasured and admired for their beauty and complexity, all show graceful texture and perfume along with a heightened sense of mineralite, all of his wines are from organic grapes and with no added SO2 during their vinification. The new addition to his imported lineup is his basic Beaujolais-Villages, he had done a Nouveau, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but this 2016 is a bit more serious and is a quality entry offering from this elite domaine, it was crafted with old school traditional methods with Foillard fermenting whole cluster in cement, with this 2016 lasting about 15 days and then it was raised in concrete tank for 7 months, bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Beaujolais-Villages comes from parcels located in Villié-Morgon, Lancié, Saint-Amour, and St-Etienne-La-Varenne with a vine age between 20-55 years old set on granite with severe hand selection of the grapes to assure the clearest and best flavors, and this 2016 shows that attention to detail, while still having a slightly rustic charm to go along with the bright fruit. Sweet floral and contrasting savory/earthy tones lead the way with a medium palate awaiting you showing pure Gamay dark berries, plum, kirsch, currant and tangy strawberry fruits as well as a hint of crushed stones, anise, tart peach/apple skin and light herb/spice notes. This wine is vibrant and fresh, it’s Foillard’s quaffer, but with air it proves more complex than expected adding a deeper impression to this garnet/ruby hued wine, it’s a great teaser to Foillard’s Cru wines.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay, South River, Russian River Valley.
Another full bodied single vineyard offering from Rochioli, the 14.5% natural alcohol South River is a lush and powerful wine that surprises for it’s force and depth, especially coming from the cooler 2011 vintage, it’s a stunner with a Roussanne (reminding me a lot of Hermitage Blanc) like intensity and oily mouth feel that is highly entertaining and impressive. The palate impact is huge with lavish textural pleasure showing golden apple, bruised pear, lemon curd, apricot and fig fruits along with a touch of vanilla, butter creme and smoke, but after a few swirls it takes on a stony mineral tone that cuts through the sweet density in this massively appealing Chardonnay. The J. Rochioli Single Vineyard Chardonnays are rich and long living wines, a bit of a throw-back in style, they are flashy and fleshy like Gucci, but these are wines you can’t help but admire and the pure hedonism they deliver in texture and depth, they are not shy on the oak, though everything flows seamlessly in these big wines that are best served with things like lobster or decedent creamy cheeses.
($70 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

n.v. Guy Larmandier, Brut Zero Premier Cru Champagne, Cotes des Blancs, A Vertus, France.
I absolute love the latest version of Guy Larmandier’s Brut Zero Cotes des Blancs Champagne, it’s so dynamic and mineral it stuns in the glass showing bright intensity, loaded with energy and zingy citrusy lemon, green apple and light tropical fruits, while somehow still being poise, elegant and expansive. Maison Champagne Guy Larmandier’s cellars, now run by Guy’s kids Francois and Marie-Helene, is located in the village of Vertus at the southern base of the Cote des Blancs, with the estate owning nine hectares of vineyards, which are all located within the Cote des Blancs, scattered among the Grand Cru villages of Chouilly and Cramant with their Jurassic limestone soils, as well as in the Premier Cru vineyards of Vertus and Cuis. Larmandier’s Champagnes are all aged a minimum of 36 months on the lees and receive a minimal dosage or none, so to showcase the purity, vitality and finesse of these special terroirs. The non vintage Vertus Brut Zero, a recent edition to the lineup, is a cuvee of about 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir from Larmandier’s Premier Cru home village site, which sits on tuffs of chalky soils with old vines, they average about 40 years, the fermentation and aging is all in stainless steel tanks with full malos. Larmandier’s Champagnes all show extreme freshness and are crisply sober and nervy in style with less brioche and more lean, but still generous and lengthy, with this one expressing a beautiful floral nose and sharply focused detail, it’s a gorgeous and serious food wine that can make a palate impact, it’s especially great with briny dishes and can hold up to heat and or soft cheeses. Wet stone, saline and melon notes add to the mix and it’s vivid and refined mousse feels just about perfect with beads of tiny bubbles that heightens the vibrancy and the pleasure in this great bubbly.
($50 Est.)
93 Points, grapelive

2016 Spear Vineyards, Chardonnay, Gnesa Vineyard, Estate, Sta. Rita Hills.
An absolutely gorgeous Chardonnay from Ofer Shepher’s Spear, who has the famed Greg Brewer as a consultant, with the main winemaker duties done by the talented new comer Kathleen Gaffney, and if this wine seems beautifully familiar it’s because Brewer made a few wines from this vineyard for the renowned Brewer-Clifton lineup in years past, the vines are certified organic and really give wonderful detail and depth. I’ve had Gnesa Vineyard in Brewer’s past efforts at Brewer-Clifton, as mentioned, and have always been impressed by this site’s Chardonnay, and this Spear Estate version is a beauty with lovely texture, tension and length, originally planted back in 1997 by the Gnesa family, this self-rooted parcel is entirely clone 5 Chardonnay planted on a north facing slope of pure Sta. Rita Hills sand. The smooth and open Spear Gnesa Chardonnay unfolds with layers of white flowers, honeysuckle, wet stone and hazelnut along with a core of orchard fruits with apple, peach and bosc pear leading the way as well as being lifted by a citrus note that gives this pretty Chardonnay some zing on the medium full palate. With a few swirls this alluring Chard adds tropical elements with kiwi, pineapple and passion fruit, plus a touch of baking spice and perky meyer lemon. The 13.5% natural alcohol shows the wines balance in a ripe year, and while there’s a sense of density and opulence, there is a feeling of energy and focus throughout, this is really entertaining stuff, I highly recommend discovering this winery, I really enjoyed the Syrah and Pinot as well, plus they just added a Gruner Veltliner, that I look forward to trying too.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014 Jerome Chezeaux, Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Vaucrains” Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
I’ve been following Jerome Chezeaux for a few years now and have been impressed with the beauty and quality of these wines, The domaine, which is based in Prémeaux-Prissey just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges, owns approximately 12 hectares of vineyards with Jerome, taking the reins back in 1993 after the death of his father Bernard, making wines that are wonderfully textured, detailed and elegant. Chezeaux’s main thrust is from top small parcels in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vougeot and Vosne Romanée, including some exceptional lieu-dits and Cru sites, he goes for extreme purity in his winemaking with cold macerations with 3 to 4 days, and the entire cuvaison extends for approximately three weeks with gentile punchdowns and native yeast ferments, his wines see about 30% new oak and are aged between 18 to 24 months in barrel, all of which is pretty traditional and classic for the region. Chezeaux’s Les Vaucrains, one of NSG’s best Crus, is one of their top wines from 25 year old vines, Chezeaux domaine owns a bit more than a quarter-hectare here, which is composed of a mix of heavy clay and limestone soils with an eastern exposure and on a slope, at an angle of about 15%. The 2014 version is dream like with remarkable delicacy, it’s a light to medium bodied Pinot Noir that is wonderfully transparent with a light ruby color in the glass and a beautiful rose petal bouquet which leads to a silky palate of black cherry, plum and strawberry fruits, sweet tannin, soft acidity along with faint oak notes, baking spices, stones, anise, and a bit of earthy/savory/saline notes as well as mineral tones. Look for this wine to build over time in the bottle, patience will be rewarded, best from 2020 to 2030, but it’s striking now for it’s refined charm and grace, for a young Burgundy from a pedigreed Premier Cru site in the Powerful Nuits-Saint-Georges it’s stunningly contrary to most from Vaucrains, it’s a gorgeous wine with divine class and length.
($69 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Avaler, Grenache/Syrah/Viognier “R Own Cuvee” Sonoma County.
The Avaler label, a collaboration between two friends, Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines and Jon Phillips of Inspiration Vineyards, to make limited lot wines at a great price from Sonoma sites, continues to impress for the quality and the adventurous spirit, especially with their latest “R Own Cuvee” a red Rhone blend with 20% Viognier! This Avaler R Own Cuvee, mostly Syrah and Grenache, was fermented separately, in open top, then pressed to French oak, for about 16 months, using up to just 20% new wood, with the Viognier not co-fermented, but done in stainless and blended in later. It’s dark garnet/purple and juicy with loads of fruit. spice and lift, with exceptional detail, ripe/sweet tannins and a lighter medium body, it reminds me of an easy drinking Zinfandel, but with more Rhone character in the profile, just a little heavier, at 14.2%, than a Pinot Noir and more open/forward, it’s a glorious quaffer. Bursting with red berry/raspberry, a bit of spring flowers, peppercorns and light mineral tones, it is like a Corbieres or a charming Cotes du Rhone Villages, but with a clear California personality, with air the wine picks up a deeper tone with blueberries and black currants along with a strong and heady sense of lavender as well as plum and pomegranate. This is a wine to take to the beach or picnics and BBQ’s it’s a wine that will please a crowd and play nicely with cuisine, it can also be served slightly chilled for warm afternoons and evenings outdoors, drink over the next couple of years.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 Stirm Wine Co., Zinfandel, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
Coming from an old vine vineyard, the Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln AVA, with head training and dry farmed without chemicals on granitic sand and dark clay loam from weathered limestone the Stirm Wine Co.  Ryan Stirm, who has gained fame in recent years with his dry Riesling, I am really digging this *Cienega Valley old vine Zin a lot, with it’s ripe fruit and rustic charm it all works, it’s not far off his juicy old vine Enz Vineyard Mataro (Mourvedre), another of his wines I admire. The Cienega Valley Zin starts with balsamic dipped strawberry and vine picked raspberry along with dusty/chalky plum and light mineral notes adding earthy spice, guava nectar and a bit of Italian herbs all of which fill out on the medium bodied palate that feels a bit old school and with a touch of grainy detail and tanginess. Stirm’s Zin is 100% whole cluster, then aged 18 months old barriques, with air this dark garnet wine deepens and expresses itself with poise and impresses with it’s clear definition, you can enjoy this with BBQ and casseroles, or spicy pizzas, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Please note, I had to correct this review, the grapes in this wine came from the Enz Vineyard, not the Wirz Vineyard. Sorry about any confusion.

2005 Marchesato Degli Aleramici, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, Tuscany, Italy.
Super old school Riserva, pure Sangiovese Grosso, this wine screams Brunello from another time, it’s earthy, slightly oxidative and rustic, but still excites the palate with classic acidity and raw tannins showing dusty plum, macerated cherry and red berry fruits along with grainy tobacco leaf, wild mushroom, minty herb, dried flowers, aged cedar and licorice. Imported by Siena Imports, Marchesato Degli Aleramici is a virtual unknown Brunello producer, located in Camigliano in the Bogatta natural park, in the west of Montalcino where the terroir is more marine influenced and the wines tend to pick up a saline element, underbrush and have a heightened herbal and hoisin (balsamic) character, which comes through with air on this 2005 Riserva. The wines tend to get better ratings in Decanter than the American wine press due to their earthy profiles, though this is a very fine mature example. This took a bit of coaxing to reveal it’s depth and fullness, but turned surprisingly good and layered after 10 minutes taking on a sweeter/riper character and eased it’s tannic attack gaining refinement and length, it almost felt as if it was reborn, very much in keeping with old school Brunello. This Marchesato degli Aleramici Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is as advertised was traditionally made within the strict legal requirements of Brunello, 100% Sangiovese Grosso, long macerations, with a minimum of aging, being in oak for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release, with Riservas getting an extra year added on, in most cases coming to market 6 years after harvest, with that oak being large Slavonian oak casks in this case, and coming in at a vintage norm of 14% natural alcohol. Much much better after aeration, this wine is seemingly peaked, it would be a good time to pop them corks, and best to decant and have with a hearty meal with lots of proteins, it’s color is a nice garnet with a touch of brown on the edges and it has an aged stewy/pruny quality, but it get’s it groove on and turns in a good performance, drink sooner v. later.
($60-90 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Bow & Arrow, Air Guitar Red, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This Bow & Arrow Air Guitar is an unique Loire Valley, think Anjou, inspired red blend bursts from the glass with carbonic/whole cluster juiciness and bright intensity, made with natural wine stylings it’s a cuvee of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc, and while it seems at first to playful and fruity like a Cru Beaujolais, it takes on a more serious cord with air gaining the Cabernet’s tannic grip and the spicy stems while filling out in the glass. This ruby/garnet Air Guitar is from organic sites, with the Cabernet Sauvignon from Borgo Pass Vineyard and the Cabernet Franc from the biodynamic Johan Vineyard, it highlights the vintage with ripe flavors and expressive charm, and all though I think Scott Frank’s other red blend, the Gamay and Pinot Noir Rhinestones is revolutionary and a next level wine for Oregon, this one too grabs my attention and the effort is to be admired with layers of fresh picked blackberry, racy cherry, plum and tangy currant fruit along with a hint of jolly rancher, cinnamon, black olive. light mineral, with a herbal stemmy nervy groove and a faint cask note from the used French oak punchon it was aged in. While the winery says the rocking good Air Guitar is a self deprecating poke at attempting French style wines in America, it is certainly not a failed attempt and I’m continually impressed by their wines, especially their Gamay and Pinot Noir offerings along with their Sauvignon Blanc(s) and their sensational Melon de Bourgogne, which is briny saline and muscadet like, this is a winery to follow, and as a bonus the prices are stupidly reasonable. This is fun stuff from Bow & Arrow, drink now or hold for up to 5 years, these 2015-2016 reds and 2016-2017 whites plus the Rose are the best yet from these guys, don’t miss them.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2014 Corison, Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa Valley.
Cathy Corison’s historic run continues with her 2014 Cabernets, and while the 2012 and 2013 versions were absolutely amazing wines, I must admit this 2014 St. Helena Napa Valley might be my all time favorite, it is a stunning wine without a single flaw I can detect. Winegrower Cathy Corison, the first woman winemaker/winery owner in Napa Valley, produces an artisan crafted, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon that is terroir driven in the same way you’d think of the top Pauillac Bordeaux(s), sourcing great benchland vineyards between Rutherford and St. Helena, as well as growing her estate grapes for her Kronos and Sunbasket with organic practices, these are wines of depth and energy that have very few rivals. It’s been a top producer since 1987, with the Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon being sourced continuously from three benchland vineyards near the winery set on classic Bale gravelly loam with plenty of Rutherford dust, gravel and cobbles that allows for good drainage and aiding in ripening of grapes, Cathy works hard to achieve full ripeness without high sugars to promote lower natural alcohols and more life in these deeply flavored wines. Cathy’s winemaking is largely non-interventionist in style, she has always leaned toward the natural and her wines always show each vintage individually, she handles the grapes with extreme care and this Napa Cabernet saw a full 20 months of barrique aging, impressive for it’s purity and freshness this 2014 is just awakening in the bottle, but is remarkably balanced and joyful in it’s youth, though don’t be fooled this is a wine for the ages and is built to go 25 years at least with deep powerful fruit, solid tannins and vibrant acidity that explodes every detail on the palate. Layers of blackberry, marionberry, cassis/currant, plum and kirsch fruit core elements on the full bodied palate along with a surprising mineral note, sweet tobacco leaf, acacia/violet floral tones, a touch of smoky vanilla, sage, cedar and minty anise. Certainly less opulent and juicy than the 2013, I think this 2014 (which is like 1992 meets 2001) is even more captivating, complex and serious, it’s a thrilling Cabernet Sauvignon, this a wine that expresses the true greatness of Napa Valley, it’s honest and delivers a world class performance, it’s one of my top five Cabs of the vintage, maybe even in the top two so far with Ridge’s Monte Bello! This gorgeous black/purple and garnet stuff feels built and dense with an underlying grace, drink between 2021 to 2030, though it will be so hard to keep from opening it sooner, if you do, be sure to decant and have with robust simple cuisine.
($100 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

2017 Lioco, Rosé of Carignan “Indica” Mendocino County.
One of California’s new generation of wineries, Lioco, owned by the Licklider family, the husband/wife duo Matt and Sara Licklider, they focus on natural style wines from cool climate sites, mostly extreme coastal ones in western Sonoma (Coast), Mendocino and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Matt has built up Lioco, especially in recent vintages, to a level that reminds me of Arnot-Roberts and Ceritas, his latest set of wines are very impressive with his Chardonnay, La Marisma, Santa Cruz Mountains being a huge stand out, it’s one of the best Chards I’ve tasted this year, but you’ll want to check out Lioco’s Pinot Noir, Saveria Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, their Carignan “Sativa” Mendocino County and especially this intriguing Rosé. Lioco’s Indica Rosé of Carignan is a true natural Rosé, pick at about 19 brix and direct pressed with broken berries but still whole cluster in stainless steel tanks with a long cold ferment and extended malos, making for an intensely bone dry and refreshing pink wine from an old vine vineyard in the Talmage area in Mendocino. This site is rocky with a red clay underpinnings gives a burst of flavor to this wine, Licklider and winemaker Kai Kliegl really did a masterful job on this pink, it’s a mineral fresh dry Rosé, 100% old vine Carignan, from a vineyard that was planted back in the 1950’s, it comes in at only 11.9% and has plenty of driving acidity, but still appeals on the palate with tons of personality and character, it’s delicately pale salmon/pink and impresses for it’s cooly crisp details. Bright citrus, with unripe orange, watermelon, strawberry and tart cherry fruits on the brisk palate along with a steely mineral core as well as minty herb/sage, rosewater, chalky wet stones and apple skin. This flavorful and expressive Rosé is another top notch dry pink wine from California, perfect for our late blooming Summer, and Lioco is a winery to follow, without question these new releases are stunning!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Sonnet, Pinot Noir, Tondre’s Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Anthony Craig’s Sonnet Tondre Pinot may be the best yet from this vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, it’s depth and delicacy is glorious and his long experience with this site and his input on planting has really paid off, this wine is everything you’d want in a classy Pinot Noir. Sonnet’s blocks are mostly Pommard clone set on the sandy loam making for a powerful, earthy and spicy expression and Craig has crafted a beauty from a concentrated vintage, it shows a gifted touch and the wine is very textural and lingering with a wonderful array of red fruits on the palate and sweet ripe tannins along with nice lift, it’s refined acidity giving an inner brightness and expressive tension. Racy black cherry, plum and strawberry fruits lead the way with hints of briar, tea spices, candied orange peel and soft oak notes, there’s so much to admire here it takes awhile to take it all in. It was great to catch up with the Sonnet wines and winemaker Anthony Craig, it was absolutely a thrill to see how good the current set of wines are drinking, especially this 2015 Tondre’s Grapefield with it’s layered fruit, pretty ruby/garnet hue, subtle floral perfume, length and wonderful mouth feel, it’s a special wine that deserves merit and praise, it’s elegant medium bodied form is a joy to behold in the glass, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Reeve, Riesling “The Prism” Mendocino County.
The Reeve Riesling “The Prism” is ultra high acid example that bristles with electric shock like vibrancy and steely verve, this is one of the better versions of this varietal you are likely to find, it reminds me of the Rheinhessen’s Wittmann, which is saying a lot! Reeve, a new label by Noah and Kelly Dorrance, Missouri natives now based in Dry Creek, is a small winery, a follow up to Dorrance’s success with Banshee Wines with a focus on Sangiovese, but also crafting small lot wines like this wonderful Riesling, as well as a lineup of Pinot Noir(s) using the talents of Ross Cobb (Cobb Wines, Hirsch, Flowers, Williams Selyem) and Katy Wilson (LaRue, Kamen, Flowers) in the winemaking. Reeve works with only sustainable, organic or biodynamic vineyards and this vivid Prism Riesling shows the energy and purity that comes from great farming, and care in the cellar with extremely clear and clean layers of flavors, it shows lime, grapefruit, white peach and tangy quince along with a steely core of mineral, wild herb, spice and delicate citrus blossom in a wine of lightness and zest. The heightened acidity is eye popping and is very refreshing, but with time in the glass a more complex side starts to show up with verbena, kiwi, wet river rock, rosewater, faint tropical notes and lemongrass/bitter extract adding to the whole experience in this impressive and intense California Riesling. Enjoy with oysters, cured meats/melon and sushi, especially a creamy Toro or Uni, drink up, and be sure to check out all the Reeve offerings, I highly recommend their Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and their Rose, even though it will be hard to find, and if you get up to Sonoma, you should check out the winery and tasting room.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol Rouge, Provence, France.
Etienne Portalis, the fourteenth generation, winemaker at Pradeaux has made a brilliant and deep Bandol in the 2013 vintage, it is my pick for #Mourvedre day, it is a traditional and old school wine that is made with the blessing of the warm Mediterranean sun and his family’s old vines. The Chateau Pradeaux, founded back in 1752, is a Provence legend and the house style is natural and powerful with Etienne only using whole cluster with stems, these are wines that have firm structures from the raw/authentic skin tannins and wines that can age many decades, that said, this 2013 shows a beautiful freshness of detail and refinement after it’s extended time in large used cask. The 2013 is deep in color with a dark garnet hue around a blackish core with an earthy profile that opens to a full bodied and complex wine, which almost 100% Mourvedre with a tiny amount of other black grapes, it reveals layers of dusty blackberry, kirsch, plum and boysenberry fruits, peppery briar spice, leather, chalky stones, anise, bitter coco and a touch of floral lift with a mix of violet and lavender as well as a cedar/tobacco element. This 2013 is drinking with an impressive palate impact with plenty of dry grip and force, but turns generous with air with a ripe opulence allowing lots of pleasure and textural charm, it’s a serious example that will gain further with short to mid term cellaring. Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Chateau Pradeaux is without question, along with Domaine Tempier, is a standard barer of the region, and this 2013 is a beauty that will be perfect with rustic and simple country cuisine, it’s a big, bold and robust Bandol with a natural sex appeal and inner energy, drink over the next 10 to 15 years.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Martha Stoumen, Nero d’Avola Rosato, Benson Ranch, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen, a new talent, is crafting some delightfully soulful wines that are inspired by some of the world’s greats, after getting her masters at UC Davis she searched out influential producers that had a commitment to tradition and their land, her travels led her to an amazing series of apprenticeships including Reinhard Löwenstein (Heymann-Löwenstein, Mosel), Jordan Fiorentini, who makes Epoch (formerly of Chalk Hill, California), Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars, California), Clive Dougall (Seresin, Marlborough), Didier Barral (Léon Barral, Faugères, France), and Giusto Occhipinti (COS, Sicily)! Stoumen’s dark colored Rosé of Nero d’Avola is a medium/full style dry version with a boat load of flavor, true to Italian Rosato(s) and with lots of energy and it’s pure excitement in the glass, great with food especially. The palate jumps with jolly rancher watermelon, sour cherry, a pink grapefruit tang and wild strawberry, along with a cider note and star anise, it’s a racy pink wine that shines with well judged balance and life. This is more robust and with serious dimension than you’d imagine, adding a striking mineral and wet rock elements to the mix along with a light rosewater and nectarine note. Wow, I gotta say this intriguing Rosé, and while not a delicate wine, it has a sense of purpose and class all it’s own, no doubt Stoumen is a rising star and this is a great gateway into her wines, I can’t wait to get this thrilling Nero d’Avola Rosato to the beach!
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Martha Stoumen, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen is a new vigneron that you should check out, she’s already got an amazing CV and is one of California’s stars in the natural wine movement, though I find her wines well crafted and pragmatic without the usually natty clumsiness, there less dogma and more passion crafted. Stoumen is to California what Bow & Arrow is to Oregon. This ruby/garnet hued Nero d’Avola, inspired by her time at COS, where she worked with Giusto Occhipinti, famous for his natural wines, some of which are aged in amphora like the ancients made them and where his niece Arianna Occhipinti crafts her natural styled offerings too, in Vittoria on the southern side of Sicily where Frappato and Nero d’Avola are grown. Stoumen believes in organic/holistic vineyard management and leases and farms most of her vineyards where she can, otherwise she only buys grapes grown by generational farmers that understand their land and respect their total environment, something Martha admires and respects. Her Nero is bright and tangy with a garnet garnet hue in the glass and it shows a burst of wild cherry, plum and red peach on the palate, reminding me of the mentioned Occhipinti and with it’s light wood note it has almost a Jean Foillard Morgon class to it, this is highly entertaining low alcohol wine, at 12.4%, with a fine structure and a mineral tone adding an array of spices and chalky stones to the vivid/vibrant fruit core. This is a medium bodied, but full flavored wine that impresses from start to finish, it has tons of personality and charm, it captures the true Nero d’Avola varietal essences along with it’s California terroir, it is utterly delicious and thought provoking, it’s a wine to spend an evening with and is best enjoyed with rustic cuisine and romantic company. Layers of bitter coco, anise, cedar, earth, florals and tangy raspberry join the party with air, this Martha Stoumen Mendocino Nero d’Avola is seriously good and complexly layered, while staying fresh and playful throughout, drink now.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Etienne Becheras, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge “Le Prieure d’Arras” Northern Rhone, France.
Etienne Becheras, a fifth generation vigneron, has a small estate domaine with parcels in both Crozes-Hermitage, where the family lives and in Saint-Joseph, which are all farmed organic and where he has spent the better part of his adult life rebuilding the vineyards and rescuing parcels so his domaine more resembles what it was in his grandfather’s era. I had had his beautiful and soulful Saint-Joseph a few times in the past, but earlier this year I got to meet the man himself at one of his importer’s, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, west coast stops and taste through the extended lineup, all which impressed me further, his 2015’s are absolutely gorgeous, especially this Crozes-Hermitage Rouge Le Prieure d’Arras, from his home grown Syrah vines. Becheras, an ex-Rugby player, is a big guy and you can tell he works hard on his steep slopes, he is a man of the earth and there is no pretense nor illusion of fame or wealth, he will just pursue his own passion and make wines that are traditional and pay homage to his ancestors, his life and that of his wines reflect this terroir. The 2015 Le Prieure d’Arras, 100% Syrah is pure Crozes-Hermitage, slightly rustic and authentic, but with alluring aromas of violets and sweet black fruits leading the way to a medium full palate of boysenberry, blueberry, damson plum and tangy currant fruits along with leather, minty licorice, peppercorns, greek olive, a hint of truffle and lingering kirsch. The ripe tannins make their presence known, though it’s youthful freshness keeps things vibrant and the fruit always things covered, with air this Crozes expands and adds flint and loamy earth as well as bitter lavender adding a nice contrast to the flow of blue and black fruit, this is a wine that you can’t seem to let go of, every sip grabs your attention and seduces with it’s depth, dark garnet/purple hue and natural power of attraction, it’s an amazing wine for the price. Etienne Becheras uses old school methods in the cellar, whole cluster, native yeasts and extended elevage in well seasoned used cask, there is nothing fancy employed, but it all works here and I highly recommend all of his wines, they are terroir driven and will reward cellaring in the short and mid term, drink this one over the next 5 to 7 years.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Rheingau Germany.
The Leitz 2011 Trocken Schlossberg is really a (pre Leitz VDP labeling) Grosses Gewachs and it’s pedigree shows, this under the radar bottling is amazingly pure and terroir driven, racy and mineral focused, but with dense extract and leesy class that provides a Puligny like mouthfeel and textural beauty. The Grand Cru (Grosse Lage) Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg is one of the world’s absolute best vineyards and it’s stunningly picturesque, it is one of my favorite places on earth, it’s a site of special serenity and energy rising above the Rhein River with it’s ancient castle “Ehrenfels” that gives it it’s name overlooking a narrows that used to be a place where (boat) tolls were paid to pass, but it’s the vines that are the real historic interest hanging on to the steep slate hillsides. Leitz’s plot and parcels here are arguably the best with direct southern exposure and with the most intense slopes, making for incredible intensity in the wines, and this gorgeous 2011 is really blossoming in the bottle and drinking amazing right now. My two extended visits to the Rheingau have had lengthy hikes up here, it’s almost perfectly between old town Rudesheim and Assmannshausen, and even in the rain it’s a must when visiting the region, and it’s right across the Rhein from where the Nahe meets up giving a view up the western part and vineyards past Bingen. Johannes Leitz, one of Germany’s best wine producers, loves purity of form, he prefers extra clear musts and cold/fresh ferments, and while the top crus get aging in stuckfass, he uses lots of glistening stainless steel vats, his wines are full of energy, charm and try to highlight each vineyard site, this is especially true in the Rudesheimer Berg Crus, each have their own personality and it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite between them, the Roseneck, Kaisersteinfels Terressen and (this) Schlossberg all offer a unique expression, like Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault do. The 2011 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Trocken, which was happily drunk with fresh sushi, really got my attention for it’s depth and richness while being so dynamic and vibrant with perfect pleasure and tension, it flowed across the palate with beautiful texture showing a lovely white flowers and rose petal perfume balanced up with a nice mouth watering salinity and flintiness with lime, green apple, lemon curd, white fig and almond notes along with steely mineral, brioche, peach pit, apricot flesh and river stones. With air the body gains and it rivals an aged Burgundy for impact and grace, without losing it’s Riesling quality and sense of place, it’s as mentioned an under the radar wine and vintage that I wish I had more of! Drink now and for the next 5 to 7 years, it is a white wine that even appeals to red wine drinkers, it’s something you should always keep a eye out for, especially since the newer vintages are labeled GG (Grosses Gewachs) an fetch a much higher price!
($39-55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive (reviewed 5/18/18)

2017 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
I recently tasted three brilliant California dry Summer Rosés that you should get on quickly, Lioco’s Rosé of Carignan, the Reeve Rosé of Pinot Noir, which I reviewed last week and Richard Alfaro’s Alfaro Family Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Rosé of Pinot Noir, always a favorite of mine and an awesome value. The Alfaro dry Rosé is well balanced and does have full Pinot flavors, while still being zippy, vibrant and cooly crisp, it’s just not overtly severe or stingingly acidic, great on it’s own for warm evening sipping pre dinner or beach/sunset quaffing. This 2017 is a pink Pinot with a depth of flavor and texture that is not all that common, the grapes were de-stemmed and placed in temp controlled tanks where the grapes’ own weight did the crushing, then after a very long 20 hours on their skins, the grapes were pressed and the juice was cold-fermented in a large stainless steel tank, which lasted about 4 weeks, with the wine then rested for 4 months in neutral oak, all of which goes a ways in explaining the wine’s completeness and mouth feel. It’s a serious Rosé from start to finish with a brightly vivid salmon/pink hue in the glass and a burst of distilled raspberry, watermelon, strawberry and zesty citrus, wet stones with lovely floral notes on the nose with lingering rosewater, mineral and a hint of spice on it’s steely frame, it comes in at just over 13% natural alcohol, which allows a fullness of expression and giving the impression of density, though still feeling light and refreshing on the palate. Complex and compelling all by itself, this Rosé certainly can match up with a variety of cuisine, from robust and spicy, perfect with BBQ and lighter fare as well including shell fish, poultry dishes and cured ham, stocking up while it lasts is a good idea, drink over the next 5 to 7 months, no need to wait.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2004 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Münsterer Dautenpflänzer, Nahe Germany.
Deep, golden and mature in character, the opulent and beautiful 2004 Münsterer DautenpflänzerSpatlese from Kruger-Rumpf is in a wonderful window, it may just be the peak period for this vintage with layers of apricot, quince jelly, candied pineapple, marmalade notes and vinous textural charm along with nice salinity, mineral, rose led florals and light earthy and petrol fume notes in a classic Nahe Riesling. In recent years I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to re-visit some 2004’s and they have really blossomed, losing the year’s awkward form, going from an almost an ugly duckling into a swan in bottle with age, this is especially true in some late releases by Schlossgut Diel and this Weingut Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Dautenpflänzer Spatlese, both of which can still be found if you look, a well worth it exercise. The VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) Münsterer Dautenpflänzer, a tiny parcel within Kapellenberg, is set on quartzite and loess-clay based soils, which in my humble opinion highlights fruit detail and brings out a yellow fruit profile along with crystal clear mineral intensity with this wine bringing out baked peach core on the palate with hints of honey, fig and liquid stone. Georg Rumpf is moving towards organic in most of the vines with his vineyards being farmed to sustainable  practices with hand harvesting employed to ensure that only optimally ripe grapes are selected, there is intense attention to detail here, I was here at harvest in 2016 and saw the team in action as well as the vines, which are steep and well cared for, Rumpf goes for native (spontaneously with ambient yeast) on the cru trockens (dry) and fruity (off-dry and sweeter) Rieslings and his uses large old stuckfass (oak casks) with extended lees aging, this all adds to the wines purity, extract and concentrated depth. This such a steal, I highly recommend searching for a few bottles, drink now.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine de Gour de Chaule, Gigondas “Cuvee Tradition” Southern Rhone, France.
Vigneron Stéphanie Bonfils, following her mom’s absolute love of Grenache, continues to craft Domaine de Gour de Chaule’s Gigondas with that focus with 85% of the vineyards planted to Grenache, with about 10% dedicated to Syrah and Mourvedre, along with a tiny amount to Cinsault. This historic estate was started in 1900, but was not selling their own wine until the early 1970’s and not a serious domaine until Bonfils the elder got things rolling in the 1980’s, but since then has made a significant impact joining the greats of the region with traditional and authentic wines, joining the classics likes of Saint-Damien, Saint-Cosme, du Cayron, Grapillon d’Or, Montirius, Montmirail, Château du Trignon and La Bouissiere, as well as the new guys on the block L’Ourea and Kermit Lynch’s Les Pallieres. Similar to the more famous Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas is blessed with the sunny Mediterranean climate and clay and limestones soils, but they can be fresher and certainly less costly, with some having higher elevation vines that give a vibrant intensity to these heady full flavored Rhone reds. The average age of the Grenache vines planted within the Domaine de Gour de Chaule plots is 55 years old and Stéphanie uses whole cluster fermentations with cement cuves employed for both primary and malo (secondary) before being racked to used large foudres (oak cask) to rest, for about 18 months prior to bottling unfixed and unfiltered. This 2015 is brilliantly detailed, full bodied and shows the vintage’s depth and concentration perfectly, it delivers a warm rush of Grenache purity and character with sweet strawberry, boysenberry, kirsch and plum along with dusty stones (chalky), light floral notes, peppery spices, classic lavender (garrigue) and anise. This feels rich and textured in the mouth gaining earthy elements and while deeply fruit driven there is a spine of fine ripe tannins that gives a sense of structure that holds the weight in check, it never feels too heavy or dull, it’s a beautiful old school Gigondas that really impresses the palate. Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Domaine de Gour de Chaule Gigondas “Cuvee Tradition” is always a treat and a bell weather for the year and this 2015 an absolute must for Rhone fans, enjoy it for it’s youth now or put a few away for exceptional mid term drinking, as it will reward some patience, best from 2018 to 2026.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2008 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay, River Block, Estate, Russian River Valley.
An aging beauty with load a character and powerful intensity, in classic Rochioli style, this River Block 2008 impresses with a real palate impact, from their old vines and clones, this wine never fails to be massively appealing. A pure pleasure in the glass, reminding me of Chave Hermitage Blanc, the Rochioli River Block is rich and densely packed, this is no wall flower, showing sweet fruit, smoky oak and liquid mineral that explodes on the palate, in a wine which somehow remains fresh, detailed and heightened, revealing caramel apple, apricot, honeyed citrus/lemon curd, grilled pineapple along with butterscotch/creme brulee, it’s full bodied and thickly lush adding a bit of bright citrus tanginess, golden fig and vanilla cream. I can imagine this with lobster and or soft cheeses, it lingers on and on, it’s more Scarlett Johansson than Kate Blanchett in the glass, incredible for almost 10 years old. Deeply golden/yellow hued, though still crystal clear and perfumed, almost like a late harvest, but with a balanced vitality and a complexity flavors that offers a luxurious thrill ride, adding to the total experience and pleasure. Barrel fermented and aged in lots of toasty new oak, this Rochioli River Block is a full throttle style Chardonnay, but one that has aged well that you can’t help admire, and especially in an unheralded vintage like 2008. This Rochioli delivers everything you’d want and more, it’s a showy and flashy example of mature California Chard that rivals the best from Aubert and Peter Michael in this rich style. I love it’s overt nature and personality, if you have some of Rochioli’s single vineyard 2008 bottlings it’s a great time to drink them, in particular this one, it’s peaking right now and showing it’s best form, it’s great stuff, drink up.
($80 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014 Parsonage Village Vineyard, Petit Verdot, Bixby Reserve, Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the region’s most interesting wines and one of Carmel Valley’s best, the cuvee Bixby Reserve is a unique bold Bordeaux style red made mostly from Petit Vedot from Bill Parsons’ steep hillside estate just past the Carmel Valley Village. Bill along with his winemaker and son in law Frank Melicia, who also makes Alan Silvestri’s wines, have always gone for powerful ripe wines and this wine is oozing with black/purple fruit density and mouth coating tannins, highlighting it’s incredible palate impact, it’s an alien here in the valley where most of the wines are lighter and higher in natural acidity with the exception of Joyce’s estate Merlot and Cabernet bottlings, these are much less lean than Galante, Georis and the historic Durney ranch. Bill Parsons planted the seven-acre Parsonage Village Vineyard back in 1998 on a south-facing hillside, it’s is just about14 miles from the Pacific Ocean and about a mile east of the Village on the Carmel Valley Road. His vineyard is planted to 3.5 acres of Syrah, 2.0 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.0 acre of Merlot and 0.5 acre of Petit Verdot (all of which, goes into this wine!), with estate being the first to plant Syrah in Carmel Valley, and they produce tiny amounts of wine. I’ve been a fan and following Parsonage since their first vintage and have always been impressed and admired the level of quality and richness they possess, and while some of the wines get a bit oaky at times and feel more like modern Paso Robles stuff, the region is hugely grateful to the diversity of styles available and Pasonage is certainly a head turning winery, that all said this 2014 is the most refined and balanced version I can remember, it shows a lovely purity and mineral tones, plus it has absolutely integrated it’s new oak to perfection, it takes Parsonage to the next level. Only two barrels were made in 2014, it was crafted with about 75% Petit Verdot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon using 1 new Taransaud and 1 new Seguin Moreau, (less than 50 cases released) and while it has hints of smoky vanilla it has ate up that oak in a polished way, revealing a deep floral perfume and with a full bodied personality with opulent blackberry, sweet creme de cassis, plum and blueberry along with crushed violets, briar spice, cigar wrapper/tobacco, anise, chalky stones and cedar, picking up the Cabernet Sauvignon character in this opaquely dark and lengthy wine. This Bixby Reserve is a thrilling and big shouldered red, coming in at 15% natural alcohol, much in the same vein as L’Aventure’s Estate Cuvee, another wine that has lots of Petit Verdot in it, it has an amazing finish that goes on and on picking up racy currants, kirsch and acacia blossoms. Again, even though this is no wallflower or shy wine, I was surprised at the mineral streak and the focused structure that hides the weight in this sexy wine, though I certainly recommend robust cuisine to cut through the gripping tannin, it should prove a worthy cellar selection as well, drink over the next 5 to 7 years.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014 Hanzell, Chardonnay, Estate, Sonoma Valley.
One of California’s absolute legends, Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, is a historic winery founded back in 1953 by Ambassador James D. Zellerbach on 200 acres near Sonoma Mountain where cool breezes and perfect soils make for exceptional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which has proven out over the 60 years with amazing long lived wines of remarkable class and quality. The greats of California, Chalone, Mount Eden-Martin Ray, Swan and Hanzell made their mark in the wine world in the 1970’s and early 80’s with Chateau Montelena joining the party with their fabled victory over the French in the judgement in Paris tasting, but since then it must be said that only Hanzell has stayed at top of their game and remain a Grand Cru force! This 2014, while still a baby, is amazingly detailed, vivid and mineral driven with hedonistic concentration and depth, I am always thrilled to try these wines and this one is without question a beauty in every regard showing a light perfume of white flowers and flowing across the palate with a lemony vitality before gaining a full width of flavors that includes apple, bosc pear, peach and a hint of smoky vanilla and wet stones. Pure and heighten by natural acidity this powerful Chardonnay is ready to withstand decades of age, wow, this gets more intense by the minute adding hazelnut, and more lemon zest to it’s steely frame, anyone who thinks Burgundy rules the world might wanna try this magnificent Hanzell Chardonnay, it’s outrageously good, and a stunning example of what California Chardonnay be, beyond the buttery/flabby stuff that appeals to cocktail class of Chardonnay drinkers. An estate blend The Hanzell 2014 Chardonnay, is sourced from thirty-two acres of Hanzell’s historic Ambassador’s 1953, Day, de Brye, Ramos and Zellerbach parcels, all set on mostly hillside rocky volcanic and clay-loamy soils, that are planted to Hanzell and Old Wente (heritage clones) mostly, along with Robert Young, Dijon 76, Dijon 95, Hyde and Prosser clones, with an average age of thirty-five years on the vines at between 500 to 830 feet of elevation. Hanzell, to preserve freshness, fermented 75% in stainless steel tank with 25% barrel ferment, they pressed after a two hour cold soak on the skins and after primary (25% lees aged with full malos in barrel, the rest non-malo) the wine was aged in small barrique for 12 months, it’s a winning formula for this estate and the wine is just stunning, brilliantly golden pale with extraordinary precision and lingering tanginess. This bottle, a prize for Arsenal beating Chelsea in the F.A. Cup a couple of years ago, thank you Kim, it’s tasted even better than I’d have imagined! Drink from 2020 to 2028.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Trocken, Osetricher Rosengarten, Grosses Gewächs, Rheingau Germany.
The Spreitzer cru Rosengarten, the unique prime cut ‘filet piece’ of the Lenchen, is a tiny clos parcel (rose garden), on lower elevation between the Rhein River and the Spreitzer’s home, (is) set on mostly loess-loam soils with red, iron-rich stones as well as a very minimal mix of slate and quartzite. This parcel is typically wonderfully expressive and full of ripe orchard fruits and open density (full bodied) with textural charm. Lucky enough I was able to check in on this 2016 while still in the vineyard, just before the harvest crews picked these amazingly beautiful grapes of these old vines, as well as most of Spreitzer’s vineyard blocks, it what was a fantastic evening experience with Andreas and his Land Rover! The Rosengarten site is warm and near the widest part of the Rhein River, creating an almost lake effect making it an early ripening parcel and the wines always show well even in their youth, as does this 2016 GG, it’s got the potential and stuffing to compete with the 2012 and even the 2015, which is still one of Spreitzer’s greatest ever wines, in my opinion, so that is also telling about just how great this vintage is! For the Grand Cru (GG’s) the Spreitzer brothers Andreas and Bernd use sponti (natural yeasts) and old stuckfass (large German oak ovals)in their ancient cellar along with employing a long fermentation, and extended lees aging to protect the juice from oxidation, they whole cluster press and then allow the must to clarify with gravity for about 24 hours, the Rieslings sit on their gross lees to gain a beautiful vinous character and they are filtered gently only once after being raised in the cask. The wines are very hedonistic and layered, expressing their true terroir and upper Rheingau personalities, in contrast to Rudesheimer Berg’s laser sharp and slate intensity, though no less serious are profound, especially in this case. This 2016 Rosengarten GG is amazingly open and wildly seductive with a rich/fruity and floral palate with incredible density and dry extract that rivals a Corton-Charlemagne! Beautiful yellow fruits, spicy liquid rock and a heightened perfume of distilled rose petals lead the way in this gorgeous golden hued and exotic dry Riesling by Spreitzer, this is without question a hyper GG, it’s really wine porn in the glass, that explodes with flavor and textural pleasure adding complexity with every sip with peach, apricot, key lime, golden fig, cool melon and tangy citrus fruits as well as leesy notes plus wet stone, mineral, a hint of honey and verbena/citron. This not shy, sexy and fleshy Riesling reminds me a bit of the von Winning Grand Crus with it’s Burgundy like depth and body, it’s a brilliant effort that is almost as concentrated as the powerhouse 2015’s from Weingut Spreitzer and should prove an exciting drinking experience for decades to come, this is a knockout Grosses Gewachs!
($45 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

nv R.H. Coutier, Tradition, Grand Cru Brut Tradition Champagne, Ambonnay, France.
The brilliant R. H. Coutier Grand Cru Brut Tradition, 70% Pinot Noir and 30 Chardonnay, coming from the Pinot leaning village of Ambonnay is an organic and grower Champagne that impresses for it’s depth and decadence, while being crystalline, pure and full of energy, it’s wonderfully dry on the palate and rich in character. The youthful Antoine Coutier and team are making some amazing all Grand Cru grower fizz these days, and these new release, especially this Brut Tradition, disgorged in July 2017, based on mostly on 2013 vintage, are great values, they rival some far more expensive offerings from this particular village and region, in fact it held up well against a to die for 2002 Bollinger R.D. tasted along side! The nose has plenty of yeasty charm and white flowers with a hint of wet stones and short bread biscuit, which leads to an opulent palate with it’s ultra fine mousse and vinous textural elegance, shows apple, lemon and doughy notes with a hint of chalk and hazelnut. Again the luxurious mouth feel gives a gorgeous pleasing sensation, though it gets a lift from it’s vital acidity and the micro bubbles, there is also a sense of Pinot Noir tension and structure that makes a serious impact and let’s you know you are drinking something remarkable. The unique and individual personality of this R. H. Coutier make it irresistible and it’s price make it a must have Champagne, this is top notch stuff, don’t miss, and be sure to search out their Brut Rose too!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Chateau Valcombe, Ventoux Rouge “Les Hauts de Valcombe” Southern Rhone, France.
Sometimes you just need the warm comfort of a nice Grenache based Southern Rhone, with it’s full flavored and smooth tannin charm washing over your palate and light spicy character holding on the mouth coating finish adding complexity to it’s sweet fruits and earthy seduction, yup, that is what was needed and this Valcombe Ventoux Rouge delivered! The “Les Hauts de Valcombe” is a cuvee cepage/blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah from exclusively north-facing vineyards, allowing for less sun to give an extra burst of freshness, even in a ripe year, and even with that much Syrah this wine feels remarkably graceful and Grenache(y) on the palate with a playful and fruity core. Valcombe, near the town of St. Pierre de Vassols, is all organic and this cuvee is all cement vat fermented and raised, it’s an old school traditional wine that displays a wonderful transparency and is terroir driven with the chalky marl soils showing through. With air some of the Syrah savoriness comes through, but the dense fruit always keeps the pleasure levels high, it’s an easy Rhone to love with racy raspberry, plum, boysenberry, sweet cherry and strawberry fruits along with hints of dusty stones, pepper, anise, leather and wild lavender. Chateau Valcombe’s owners Luc and Cendrine Guénard, who trained under Paul Jeune, former winemaking legend at Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s famed Domaine Monpertuis, who transformed this property, with vineyards on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux, from it’s humble origins into a serious estate have continued in his footsteps, and in fact, in recent vintages even risen the quality here, this is a winery that almost always over delivers in the price to quality ratio, especially this bottling, which I adorn. Drink this dark garnet hued medium/full bodied and textural 2015 “Les Hauts de Valcombe” over the next 3 to 5 years, but there’s no need to wait as it is drinking beautiful and fresh right now, it’s a steal.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Carl Von Schubert, Weingut Maximin Grünhaus, Riesling Trocken, Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany.
Maximin Grünhaus(er) is the gold standard of Mosel, though technically speaking it’s on the Ruwer River, dry Riesling, and it’s long history make it one of the most intriguing wineries in the region if not all of Germany. From the estate’s notes, there is records showing that the area had Roman era cultivation, It appears that the Grünhaus estate was densely settled even in those ancient Roman times, with flat bricks in the foundations of the manor house, pottery remains, and roof and wall tiles suggest that a ‘Villa Rustica’ once stood on the site of the present Schloss (Castle), along with evidence that wine was produced on the estate back in these Roman times, with the discoveries of the remains of pottery, which produced amphorae for storing of the areas wine, along with Roman grape harvester knives as well as other significant artifacts on site, plus the first documentary evidence of Grünhaus, then called ‘Villa ad Valles’, which dates back to 6 February 966, and to the Emperor Otto 1, on heir of Charlemagne, then from the 7th century the Benedictine monastery of Saint Maximin in Trier had control of the estate until the end of the 18th century. In 1882 Carl Ferdinand Freiherr von Stumm-Halberg bought the Grünhaus estate including vineyards, a farm, as well as extensive woodland/forest area. He invested heavily in the property and transformed it into one of the most modern wineries of its time, with a turbine in the Ruwer River that provided electricity to power countless machines, including the hydraulic wine presses in the cuverie. They even had a small train (rail) system that ran on the vineyard routes, as well as a cable car that transported heavy equipment up the steep slopes of the vineyards. The von Stumm’s only son died early, so their daughter Ida received the estate as her dowry on the day of her wedding to Conrad von Schubert, where the Maximin Grunhaus got it’s more well known name and proprietors, now Carl, with the change of name to Von Schubert at the end of the nineteenth century, the label changed too and up until today the unmistakeable art nouveau label gracing the bottles has been used for all Rieslings from the estate. The legend of this property and it’s wines grew and in the 20th century it gained even more fame with it’s noble sweet wines being their most prized offerings. In fact when the legendary 1921 vintage was put up for auction in Trier, the top Grünhaus wine, a Fuder cask (1000 litres) of Herrenberg Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) got the mind-blowing and staggeringly high price of 100,000 Goldmarks, setting a world record that remains unbroken even to this day, it represents what would be 2.5 million Euros in today’s money! But nowadays the Maximin Grunhaus is a place to find distinctive dry (Trocken) Riesling that are intensely mineral driven with a severe vitality and reserved elegance, but with extract and balance to last decades and decades, and this gorgeous 2015 Abtsberg is proof of that! The Maximin Grünhaus Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg GG 2015 starts with a crystalline purity and austere focused details with subtle fruit essences, delicate earthy notes and flinty/stony charms showing layers white peaches, lemony citrus oil, wet shale, mineral steeliness and a faint floral tone. Overall this wine delivers a more subdued personality, in fact in is a very slow seduction in the glass, but after a few long minutes it’s underlying extract and depth shines through, it certainly is a wine of poised presence on the palate that feels lighter than it really is. Not your typical GG, this is a fine and dignified Riesling that impresses for it’s restrained brilliance and it’s sharp spotlight on it’s terroir, drink from 2019 to 2032.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 Reeve, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Vecino Vineyard, Potter Valley.
From a cool climate vineyard site, the Reeve Rosé of Pinot Noir is bursting with energy, it’s a dry cooly crisp pink to look for, in league with some of California’s most sought after Rosés! With Katy Wilson of LaRue and Ross Cobb of Cobb Wines consulting here for Noah Dorrance, Reeve is one of the hottest new labels in California, with a great set of individual wines from top terroirs, from Pinot Noir to Cabernet and Riesling to Sangiovese. I got to try a sampling of Noah’s current lineup and was left impressed, really impressed, with the Reeve Riesling and this Rosé being especially appealing and vivid. The 2017 Reeve Rosé of Pinot Noir from the biodynamic Vecino Vineyard in Potter Valley, one of my favorite dry pinks of the year so far, is full of zippy acid, mineral tones and brisk layers of tangy fresh delicate fruits with racy citrus, sour cherry, watermelon, distilled strawberry and rosewater along with a touch of herb and wet stones. This wine is wonderfully bright and light bodied, but with superb persistence and has brilliant high toned profile and with pure Pinot class in the glass. This will thrill Sancerre Rosé fans and all those that want lip-smacking dry intensity, like me, the quality here is obvious and Summer is calling, don’t miss this one and be sure to start following Reeve!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2017 Morgan Winery, Riesling, Double L Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Morgan’s Dan Lee was an early adopter of organic farming in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and while most of the old Riesling vines on the bench were ripped out, he planted a block at his home ranch at Double L Vineyard and while under the radar, I have always rated his Riesling as one of Morgan’s best white wines. Monterey’s new love affair with dry style Riesling has created a renaissance for this grape in the region with a growing number of small wineries crafting quality offerings led by Joyce Vineyards, Stirm Wines, Leppe Cellars, Kozba Wines, Tudor Wines along with winemaker Sam Smith at Morgan, this younger generation is focused on intensity mineral driven and crisp version mostly, while the older Monterey Rieslings tended to be sweeter off dry or dessert cloying styles which were not nearly as interesting as what we are now seeing here now. The 2017 Morgan Riesling Double L Vineyard, which starts with a hint of sweetness like a German Kabinett level wine, made from all organic grapes, is a wonderfully expressive white with a tropical core of fruit and stylishly crisp and focused with exotic guava, mango, kiwi, passionfruit and a mix of lemony citrus flowing across the vibrant minerally palate along with a subtle textural feel in the mouth and a light floral tone adding a touch of wet stones, green apple and tangy peach flesh/pit which gives a refreshing bit along with the natural acidity. Smith says he used an old school whole cluster pressing over a 24 hour period, including some foot stomp crushing before a cool ferment, all stainless steel, and early bottling to preserve it verve and fresh/brisk intensity. This super pleasing and expressive Riesling will play well with a wide array of dishes, especially seafoods, but will also be a great choice while sitting by the pool, drink now.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
Based in Bué, a few kilometers west of Sancerre, the famed Lucien Crochet estate makes some of the most interesting and authentic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs in the region, the soils here are clay and limestone known locally as Oxfordian and Kimmeridgian era type which give the wines their character. The vineyards are on sloping hillsides of varying degree of severity and mostly face south-east to south to southwest giving the best exposure to the sun, with Lucien Crochet, since 1989 only using only organic supplements in the vineyards, which the Crochet’s believe allow more vitality and energy to show through in their brilliant wines. This 2016 Sancerre, sporting their new label design, is the main white of the winery and showcases all the pure best that this estate can do, with the grapes for this basic cuvée are sourced from the vines in Bué, Vinon and Crézancy, it’s fermented in stainless steel cuves to maximize vibrancy, and as with all the whites at the domaine, this wine is raised on the fine lies for a considerable period of time, usually a full year, to add texture and substance, which this beauty shows perfectly, giving it a lovely mouth feel while still being refreshingly bright and dynamic on the palate. The Sancerre Blanc starts with sour grass, white flowers and tons of mineral tones, chalk and a light stone fruit note before a vivid array of citrus flows in with a mix of lemon/lime, grapefruit, tangerine as well as gooseberry and peachy fruits, along with a steely verve, wet river rock and hints of snappy herbs. The textural side really shows with air and gives this wonderful Sauvignon Blanc it’s regal class in the glass and makes an round leesy impression that lingers on and on, this is a focused and pleasing white that expresses true terroir and old world charm, drink it over the next 2 to 5 years, if you are looking for a great Loire food wine with just that extra bit of class this light/medium bodied wine will fill your needs!
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Wendling Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
This Wendling Vineyard has really come into it’s own, especially when made by the talented Jason Drew at Drew Family Cellars and this 2016 Pinot Noir is an absolute beauty, it’s deeply colored and intensely flavored with an impressive array of black and blue fruits, this again just highlights the unbelievable level of quality that these recent vintages of Drew show, I honestly can’t think of a better set of wines being made in California! Wonderfully fresh and with lively acidity, which heightens the experience, even in it’s early stages of development this Wendling Pinot makes a stunning palate impact and it has an amazing mouth feel and length with big cat like velvet covered muscles ever present, subtlety showing a spring like tension and gives you notice that this is a very serious wine. Wendling sits in the most westerly section of the Anderson Valley at about 450 feet of elevation, it’s well drained soils and Pacific Ocean influenced cool climate allows for a longer growing season and full maturity in the grapes comes late and with lower natural alcohol (just 13.5% in this case), but with a darker profile and with Grand Cru class density and complexity, it’s not an old site at 10 years old, but it is proving to be an elite vineyard. Drew’s version has a mix of suitcase clones, rumored to be some DRC and La Tache, along with modern 667 and 115 Dijon(s) grown on a unique soil make up locally called Ornbaun, Wolfey and Bearwallow types with the Ornbaun series consisting of deep, well drained soils formed in material weathered from sandstone and mudstone as well Ornbaun soils are on hills and mountains that have slopes of 9 to 75 percent, Bearwallow is sandstone and shale and Wolfey is thermic shallow loam, which all allow an amazing of purity in the wine, as is the case here. Drew used no new oak here, going for native ferments with about 30% whole cluster in this vintage, achieving his goals of showcasing the natural form that comes through on the medium full palate that flows with black cherry, plum, huckleberry/blueberry and tart currant fruits, along with framing mineral notes, a mix of forest mushroom, cedar, bright spice including cinnamon, nutmeg and almost a paprika like bite (stems?) as well as a hint of flinty smoke and vanilla. The color is saturated with rich garnet and ruby hues and the nose, which is slow to unfold gains a floral attack as well as berry fruit plus a hint of savory/saline stoniness, this I cannot stress strongly enough is world class stuff with a unique personality and stunningly rich and textural (mouth feel) detail, it’s awe inspiring Pinot, this not a lineup to miss any of from Drew, I must also mention patience will be rewarded here as well, the potential in this Wendling will be worth waiting for, hiding a few of these bottles away for 5 to 10 years seems a good idea! There’s a lot of wow here, Drew is on fire, don’t miss out on his Syrah and Pinots, they are without question some of California’s best.
($60 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2016 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Bourgogne Blanc, France.
The base PYCM white Burgundy for the 2016 vintage is a wine that drinks way above it’s price class or humble labeling with layers of classic Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey vividly brisk fruits, steely minerality and leesy notes, in fact it is not far off his Chassagne village bottling. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, one of Burgundy’s all star Chardonnay masters, is the eldest son of the famous Marc Colin (his dad’s place), where he worked as the winemaker from 1994 to 2005, before establishing his own domaine (with his negociant label in 2001) and recently a brand new winery, from family vineyards he inherited from his family, he has rapidly become a star in the Cote de Beaune and is now considered one of Burgundy’s top producers in league with Jean-Marc Roulot as well as his brother Bruno Colin. He prefers to use larger demi-muid barrels and eschew the use of battonnage, allowing for brighter acid and verve showing through, it makes each one of his bottlings a clear expression of its terroir and a study in mineral-driven white Burgundies. He has outstanding parcels in Saint-Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and even Grand Crus Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, and Corton-Charlemagne, non of which he farms himself, he just decides pick dates, usually earlier than most others and his cellar work is exceptional, clean and precise to craft crystalline of highly sought after wines. This Bourgogne Blanc has surprising decadence and crunchy stoniness for the vintage, which is turning out much better than originally thought with this Chardonnay having lovely detail, focus and pleasing density showing loads of pear, meyer lemon and delicate peach with a hint of apple fruits, but as well defined as they are, they sit behind the veil of high tone acidity and with faint brioche, hazelnut, light wood smoke, wet river rock and spice all rounding out this medium bodied wine. This wine is a steal in the lineup along with his Saint-Aubin(s), it’s a wine to search out no question.
($34 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
In 2016 Richard Alfaro added grapes from the famed Rosella’s Vineyard, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and both wines are absolutely gorgeous, textural and lengthy in the same league as the other elite SLH producers, and it the same style you find in Pisoni’s Lucia Vineyards as well as Rosella’s owner’s, Gary Franscioni’s Roar wines, highlighting the pedigree of this Cru site in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Owners Gary and Rosella Franscioni planted the vineyard in 1996 using the Pisoni clone from La Tâche and the Dijon “777” mostly (now there are 7 different clones of Pinot) with family, Gary, Rosella, along with son’s Adam & Nick Franscioni run this site along with Mark Pisoni and his amazing crew doing the farming on the 50 acres of these wind swept sloping hillsides that are set on the classic Arroyo Seco sandy loam soils of the Santa Lucia Highlands bench. Alfaro went for a very showy and opulent wine, it was aged 10 months in 50% new French oak, and with only 140 cases produced, from de-stemmed grapes, and while still youthful and with dense structure it shows a wonderful regal mouth feel and is already deep and complex with lush dark fruits, sweet/smoky oak, subtle mineral tones and a underlying briar/spice that lifts this full bodied Pinot as well as having Rosella’s fine acidity and ripe tannins. There’s an energy and focus in these 2016 Alfaro’s, both the Rosella’s and the Garys’ (from the sister vineyard) right up with the best vintages ever from Richard’s winery, these two, and in particular this Rosella’s are luxurious wines of remarkable class and with lots of sex appeal, both outrageously good. Starting with bramble, rose petal, shaved vanilla and vine fruits leading to a vinous palate of black cherry, plum and wild blackberry fruits, along with an array of tangy currant, chalky stones, minty anise, cedar, cola bean, mocha and tea spices all in a round seamless Pinot Noir, it’s a big wine at 14.5%, but stays nicely balanced throughout, though not a wallflower it impresses for it’s impact in the glass and clean modern profile, and it should evolve and gain over the next 5 to 10 years in bottle. If you are a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay fan, you’ll want these new releases from Alfaro, and don’t miss their own estate offerings either, plus don’t forget Alfaro’s Gruner Veltliner and the Rose of Pinot Noir, these are awesome values and fun wines that sell out fast, don’t miss out, this under the radar winery is a real crowd pleaser.
($48 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine de la Petite Mairie, Bourgueil Rouge “Butte de Tyron” Loire Valley, France.
A new domaine to me, Domaine de la Petite Mairie, is owned and managed by Corinne and James Petit, an enthusiastic couple who passionately care for their vines in the Bourgueil region of France’s Loire Valley, making studied and elegant versions of Cabernet Franc, like this little beauty. James Petit, who took over for the retiring Jean Gambier, is a traditionalist in the cellar, his fermentations (in stainless on this cuvee) and macerations last for about 15 to 18 days, with the wines raised in a mixture of old oak “foudres” and smaller oak barrels, no new oak used here, just two reds and a rosé are produced at the domaine and all the wine is made exclusively from Cabernet Franc. The wonderfully delicate 2015 Bourgueil is very fine, in fact so elegant it almost made me feel like I was drinking a Burgundy with it’s graceful and ripe tannins, bright flavors and subtle floral perfume, it’s only after the second sip that you get the terroir driven Franc character with light earthiness and faint bell pepper spiciness showing, with a medium bodied palate gaining complexity and depth in the glass. This ruby/garnet hued wine really entertains and while restrained, it makes for a great drinking Franc that can only be from one place on earth, and it’s joyous with simple country cuisine. Layers of vibrant plum, dusty cherry and tangy currant fruits, a touch of chalky stones, cedar, crushed violets, peppery elements and a vein of fennel. This wine is charm from the start and is a great value, imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, this cuvee “Butte de Tyron” is made just the US market, this is a winery to look for, especially this unfined and unfiltered bottling. This wine quietly impresses and should drink well for many years to come, the year’s ripe fruit and structure will certainly reward those that have patience, best from 2018 to 2028.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Künstler, Alvarinho Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
The famous Hochheimer estate of Gunter Kunstler produces some of Germany’s finest Riesling wines, he leans toward the drier styles and is trying to go organic offering many Grand Cru (Grosses Gewachs) from the regions best sites, the estate is in between or close to both the Main and Rhein rivers, it is set on a mix of soils including clay, sand, loam and loess as well as marl (limestone) that makes this place unique. Gunter’s wines are powerful, but extremely elegant, pure and refined, he uses large stuckfass (German oak ovals) for his cru wines, though he also uses stainless as well, he prefers cask as opposed to steel, though each is used, the wood gives the ideal low-tech micro-oxygenation, and he goes for his musts settled by gravity and are pressed clear, the fermentation is done with cultured yeast, because it’s often still warm when grapes are harvested, to work sponti (native) would risk volatile acidity. The Kunstler’s have been making wine and farming grapes since 1648, but only started the Rheingau estate in 1965 with Gunter taking over in 1992, helping it get admitted to the VDP and rising it’s reputation to one of the region’s most prized wineries, his top Rieslings come from the village are Domdechaney (pronounced Dom-Dey-Sha-Nay), Kirchenstück and Hölle, though his also gets grapes from the famed Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, as well as Pinot Noir from Assmannshausen. But the wine I had recently was Kunstler’s rare Albarino, known here as his Alvarinho Trocken from the marl soils of Kostheimer St. Kiliansberg, it’s an awesome white wine that has it’s Galician-Portuguese soul shining through, though with a German style and character, it’s steely and cooly crisp with an expressive nature. This brilliant 2016 Weingut Künstler, Alvarinho Trocken has a fresh vibrancy, but has extract and substance with an underlying stony charm with vivid green apple, white flowers, minty herbs and layers of white peach and citrus intensity, wet chalk rock, saline and melon notes. Wonderfully textured for such an acid driven wine, it shows the varietals similar side to Riesling, but with less severity and restraint, this is lovely and delightful stuff, it can provide wonderful summer quaffing and it should prove magic with sea food, sadly it looks like an almost impossible get in the states, but I did see a few bottles online, if you happen upon this stuff buy it!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Cameron Winery, Giulliano, Friuli Style White Blend, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
An absolutely killer white from John Paul at Cameron, one of the best new world alt-whites of the year so far for me, this Oregon white blend is a gorgeous Friuli inspired wine, made from Friulano, (Pinot) Auxerois, Pinot Bianco (Blanc) and Muscat, it’s a dry and wonderfully textural with subtle perfume, spice and mineral tones. This is a wine that performs way beyond the mix and make up of it’s ingredients, you would not be excited by the listed grapes maybe, but this white blend is a surprising success in the bottle, and you’ll not want to miss this new world Italian style offering. Sourced from Dundee Hills, with it’s Jory soils (volcanic) and grown in a sustainable way these grapes all add to the complexity here, it’s quite lush at 13.6%, but still lively, gripping and balanced, this is ultra impressive and expressive with layers of citrus, stone fruit and subtle tropical elements with just a faint jasmine/white flower bouquet. For those admirers of Dan Petroski’s Massican, Mathiasson, Wind Gap, Arnot-Roberts or Palmina, you shouldn’t miss this wine, John Paul, of Cameron Winery, known for his classic Pinot Noir(s), like Randall Grahm of Boony Doon Vineyard, who’s white wines are some of his best creations, doesn’t get enough attention for his whites, and this wine absolutely rocks for the price, as does John Paul’s Chardonnay, plus don’t miss his deeply colored skin contact Pinot Grigio! The mouth feel is lovely, but like a fine Muscadet it has a saline element that makes it a savvy choice for oysters, the Cameron Giuliano is all stainless steel fermented and aged, showing freshness of detail, leesy roundness, clean and clear flavors with a medium body. Bright orange/tangerine, wild peach, lemon/lime, melon and a kiss of apricot flesh shine on the vinous palate with a hint of honeysuckle, sweet and sour herbs, loamy notes, wet flint/stones and a steely charm that is lifted by the natural acidity in this generously mouth filling white, this is rocking good stuff.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Malat, Gruner Veltliner, Crazy Creatures, Kremstal, Austria.
Michael Malat is a new star in the Wachau and his Gruner is a wine to check out, and I am diving into his playful entry level estate Crazy Creatures series Gruner Veltliner, which have a set of 4 different collector edition labels and come from his vines in the Kremstal DAC near his village of Palt. All of the state owned vines are farmed organic and with ultra sustainable methods to promote environmental health of the vineyard, plus both human and animal life, his Crazy Creatures Gruner is an all stainless steel ferment and aged example with clear persistence and purity, the vines are from two main plots in Part and Furth grown on the regions classic loess and loam as well as primary rock soils with all the grapes hand tended and picked. Malat does Cru (Gruner) versions from some unique sites including some with schist, sand and limestone, some are Erste Lage and very serious, as well as a Pinot Noir, which already has a following, much like Loimer. Malat’s wines are heavily influenced by the Danube and enjoy warm days and cool nights that produce a notable spicy character as well as a brisk intensity, while the Crazy Creatures captures that it is a lighter and refreshing style made to be enjoyed immediately upon release, it is dry, but generous on the tangy palate and looks to be a great bistro white as well as great with lunch and or lighter fare meals including sea foods and is an easy summer quaffer. Gruner Veltliner, a natural cross of non aromatic Traminer and St. Georgen, is Austria’s signature white varietal and it accounts for 30% of the total vineyard area in Austria, it’s most grown in and around Vienna, with the Wachau and Kremstal, Kamptal and the Weinvertel being a few of the main areas to look for on the labels. The 2016 Crazy Creatures Gruner is bright and zesty with classic lemon/lime, almond, pithy peach and white pepper in a crisp light form with a hint of herb, wet stones and faint apple. Nicely dry and brisk it gets a bit more textured with air, it is 12.5%, so there is some substance there under the juicy acidity, making it well balanced and easy to love, this is well made and fun, drink over the next 2 or 3 years.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013 La Spinetta, Barolo, Campe, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s Campe Cru Barolo is from 50 plus year old vines at 280 meters of elevation set on the calcareous or marl soils of the region, he’s been crafting exotically styles Nebbiolo from this site since 2000, and every vintage shows it’s sense of place and makes for an intense version of Barolo. I was luck to meet Giorgio in 2002 and got to try his barrel sample of the inaugural 2000 (vintage) prior to bottling and release, and it was fantastic even then and has since even got better, not bad for a first try, and this 2013 reminds me very much of that experience, it’s unmistakably Barolo, terroir driven, but somehow truly a La Spinetta wine with an inner beauty and luxurious in the same way a Grand Cru Burgundy is, though with a powerful impact, the ripe vintage helps soften the tannic blow, without taking away it’s classic structure and form. Rivetti has kept the modern and sleek formula for this wine, it sees 100% new French barriques and is aged a full 24 months, then bottled unfined and unfiltered with another year of resting before release, it always seems to please and surprise for it’s delicacy, complexity and perfume, you know there’s new wood, but it doesn’t influence it’s over all character, with this 2013 you’ll be able to enjoy it much sooner than the 2010, while it still will age, it potentially will be just as good, as that is saying a lot, this is a gorgeous wine and one I hope to revisit at 5 year intervals for the next 25 years! The Campe shines in the glass with a bright ruby tint and the nose shows a mix of roses and violets, dusty cherry and hints of vanilla and cedar before a medium/full palate of youthful Nebbiolo purity with dark damson plum, more cherry, balsamic dipped strawberry and tart currant fruits, minty herb, a restrained game note, discreet smoky vanilla and anise along with kiss of framboise liqueur. Still an infant, though open and transparent, there’s much more concentration than 2011 or 2012, it is way more a normal classic version and way less tight than 2010 and not as fruity as 2009, in other words, it’s just about damn perfect! It’s always tough to chose between the Starderi Cru Barbaresco and this richly textured Campe, both wines have a deep personal meaning to me, and both are rocking in 2013, but while my heart leans towards Starderi, I think this Campe Barolo might be getting the edge, drink it from 2024-2036, it’s majestic and I think it is on par with top Burgundies like Rousseau’s or Dujac’s Clos de la Roche(s)!
($159 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2007 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol, X, 10 ans d’élevage, Provence, France.
Done as a special project for an anniversary of Chateau Pradeaux being imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, this Bandol X is an amazing red from one of the regions great producers, it’s unique in it was raised in oak cask for a full 10 years, but it’s what shows up in the glass which is really special here, as this Mourvedre based Bandol Rouge is still fresh and vibrant, a wondrous wine of class and length. The Château Pradeaux, founded in 1752, is situated on the outskirts of the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer that lies directly on the Mediterranean Ocean between Toulon and Marseilles, there is almost no other place on earth vines would rather be, the view of the sea must be heavenly. The estate has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution, with Cyrille Portalis is the current head of the family’s winery and with his wife Magali and his sons that are now entrenched in the business and the cellar with both Edouard and Etienne, who was pouring the wines for me at Rosenthal’s trade tasting recently. While their lovely Chateaux Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is 50% Cinsault and 50% Mourvedre, the Rouge bottlings are between 95% and 100% old vine Mourvedre as this special X is, the winemaking is traditional with organic grapes, ferments with native yeasts in concrete tanks using whole cluster, and while the regular bottling gets 48 months in large cask, the X went a full ten years in the big French oak barrels. Grown on the regions southern exposures and slopes of clay and limestone soils, the Pradeaux X Badol Rouge is a magical terroir driven wine that shows a remarkably youthful bright garnet/ruby hue in the glass with a heightened perfume and subtle earthy tone with a hint of animal and dark fruit coming through on the bouquet. The palate is seamless with layer after layer unfolding, this is just stunning stuff right up there with First Growth Bordeaux in substance and style, it’s big tannins showing a refined velvety class, there’s a lot to admire here, the mouth feel is excellent and rewarding with blackberry, black cherry, dusty plums and strawberry fruits, a touch of leather, well resolved stemmy elements, salted black licorice, dried violets, lavender, graphite, minty basil, cedar and lingering kirsch. This outrageously good and transparent Bandol Rouge is a thrilling wine, that has retained vitality with lifting acidity, that remains true to it’s sense of place and history, it’s everything you’d expect and want, and while this is a rarity, don’t miss their regular Bandol Rouge and especially the Pradeaux Bandol Rosé.
($96 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2017 Sheldon Wines, Vermentino, Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros.
Sheldon’s lively and refreshing Las Brisas Vermentino is a beautiful Summer wine, but also one of substance and stylish charm with a wonderful underlying extract and textural lushness with vibrant lemon/lime, peach and crisp apple fruits leading the way in this 69 case hand-crafted white. Dylan & Tobe Sheldon, whole cluster pressed this light/medium bodied wine and fermented it in stainless steel with no malo, the grapes were from a couple of separate picks with varied brix, from 18 to 25, which allows this Vermentino to have it’s dry brisk vividness, while also feeling ripe and with a serious mouth feel. This is really dynamic stuff in the glass and impressive, it reminds me of some of the better Italian examples from the Liguria region as well as Sardinia and the Tuscan coast, but this varietal is doing well in California, with Ryme Cellars also making some amazing versions as well, this is a grape to look for! Flexible and varied in style with less overt perfume, Vermentino has a real place in California, especially this example from Carneros, with the loam, sedimentary and clay soils giving nice (heightened) fruity flavors along with the cool sea breezes and cold nights keeping acidity, there is a lot sexy in this crisp white wine with a mix of citrus and stone fruits, light spice, minty tang, saline and mineral tones. Absolutely brilliant for mixed sea foods and perfect for your picnic basket, as well as quaffing along with a baguette and soft cheeses, with air there is a roundness that comes through, though it keeps an energy and pithy raciness throughout with hints of wet stones, peach pit, zesty herbs and lime adding to the bright complexity.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Jo Landron, La Louvetrie, Muscadet Serve et Maine Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France.
The certified organic Domaine of Jo Landron uses biodynamic practices on his estate, with this cuvee coming from a higher plateau with a mix of soils that includes sandy clay with amphibolite stones of quartz with subsoils mostly of gneiss and treated with amazing care and passion, making for an unbelievable value in top quality white wine, it’s leesy depth and saline remind me more of a fine Premier Chablis than a humble Muscadet! Jo Landron’s Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Cuvee La Louvetrie 2015 is quite dense in textural feel, but lively and vibrant in a magical tension, it’s brilliant in mineral freshness and still ripe and with round glycerin, giving a polished, refined and balanced performance in the glass showing vivid lemon/lime, bitter apple, quince and salty wet stones with a light bouquet of white flowers, crushed sea shells, almond brioche and white peach. This clear Melon de Bourgogne and with a pale green/golden hue, adds a touch of sour herb and a steely core, it saw at least 6 months on the lees, hence the name (Sur Lie) is a refreshing and zingy white, but also with real extract and a serious nature, it will impress anyone for the price, no question and will be a wonderful oyster wine, as well as good for Summer sipping with soft French cheeses and picnics. Imported by Beaune Imports, Jo Landron is a winery to follow and joins Domaine de L’Ecu as one of the regions elite producers pursuing new heights of quality and respecting the land as well as going as natural as possible, making soulful artisan wines, drink this one over the next 2 to 3 years.
($15 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
One of Randall’s secret series (or less known) of Pinot explorations, the 2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir comes from a site not far from Hanzell and Van Der Kamp, both of which made the area famous for powerful Pinot Noir and that were planted back in the 1950’s, and while Sonoma Mountain Vineyard came later it offers that same kind of pedigree and complexity, it’s a wine to search out, exclusively available through the tasting room. Pinot Noir is Randall Grahm’s great white whale, he has been trying to make wine that appeases his high expectations, and even though he has gone on to become one of the world’s most renown vintners and icon in California wine, especially with his Cigare Volant Rhone Ranger wines, he has always wanted to make a great Pinot Noir and has felt it was the one thing that got away. I personally have been thrilled with Grahm’s recent Pinots, especially his Enz Vineyard and this beautifully detailed, deeply layered and subtlety spicy Sonoma Mountain Vineyard, it’s an expressive and satiny wine that shows an opulent and vinous mouth feel, but reaches complex depths with velvety tannins that give an underlying grip and power. The nose is full of fruit and floral charm and the entry is wonderfully forward and lush, almost creamy on the palate, it slowly seduces and opens to a medium/full Pinot gaining extra elements with every sip, it goes from a simple pleasure to a seriously profound wine in stages, it demands your attention while a sly smile, it’s a wine that needs an evening to reveal all that is there with racy red plum, sweet raspberry and a core of black cherry along with mineral tones, dried lavender, rose oil, earl grey, dusty red pepper flakes, cedar, vanilla and minty anise. The acidity is lifting, but ultra smooth, the age has given this Pinot a seamless feel and polished class, it’s without a doubt a quality and refined effort, drink now.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Saint Cosme, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Ancient Syrah clones, steep granite slopes and from historic vines that were first developed by veterans of the Roman armies, Saint-Joseph is home to some of the world’s prettiest wines, included without question is Louis Barruol’s négociant Saint-Joseph Rouge, which is an insane value and gorgeous, made with 100% Sérine clone Syrah. (Sérine, the mentioned ancient and local variety of Syrah that is remarkably different than the more modern clones) Barruol uses a special site called the Malleval lieu-dit for his lovely Saint-Joseph, the microclimate of the vineyard is “very cold” which allows the fruit to maintain a bit more acidity, that intern gives extra lift while being fully ripe and with silky tannins. This wine is made from 70% destemmed grapes with 30% whole clusters, fermented with indigenous yeasts, and aged in 20% new 228-liter barrels.Don’t be fooled though, this is a very serious and meaty wine, especially in this riper year, though the sweet tannin and opulent texture allows for immediate hedonism and early drinking pleasure with layers of lush red and black fruits, subtle spice, floral tones and a sanguine streak. The nose has an array of raw meat, iodine, powered incense, kirsch notes, forest berries, plus hints of pipe tobacco, earth and dark flowers before replaying that theme on the palate adding damson plum, racy black raspberry, briar edginess (stems) and spicy lavender. In some ways this comes across as satiny as a Premier Cru Burgundy and it’s lifted acidity, while subtle in form adds to a more delicate feel, there is a bit more to come here in my opinion, but it’s highly desirable even now, though best with food obviously. Tight and with a touch of reductive funk that mutes the aromatics at this stage, things get much more open with decanting and this Syrah should prove a long lasting sleeper for the cellar as well as being a rewarding wine in the next 3 to 5 years.
($28 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

2015 Le Temps des Copains by Frederic Niger (Domaine de L’Ecu), Syrah “Nobis” Vin de France, Love & Grapes Project, Rhone Red, France.
Made at Frederic Niger’s Domaine de L’Ecu in the Muscadet region of the Loire Valley, the Le Temps des Copains Love & Grapes Project “Nobis” is a 100% Syrah from southern Rhône that is fermented & aged in stainless steel tank and bottled with minimal sulfur, it’s the entry level offering, but it delivers expressive detail and drinks wonderfully with a lovely deep dark garnet hue and a fresh vibrant intensity. Not a big wine, on the lighter side, especially at first it seems zippy/juicy with a tart edge, but as it gets air it fills out to a medium bodied red that turns satiny and more polished with a riper tone, which goes perfectly with the vintage adding boysenberry, raspberry and plum to go with the initial cran/blueberry and tangy cherry along with light spices, loam and mineral elements as well as a hint of violets, currant and framboise, lingering with some saline, chalky stones and fennel. This fresh and pure Syrah is a wine that has a surprising grip and long aftertaste, but drinks easy enough to be a fun quaffer for BBQ’s and goes better with robust and rustic cuisine.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Julian Cecillon, Syrah “Bel Horizon” Collines Rhodaniennes IGP, Northern Rhone, France.
As a fan of Cecillon, especially their Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph, it was fun to grab a few bottles of his entry level offerings, in particular this 2016 Bel Horizon Syrah, it’s a classic lighter version of his wines from grapes outside the main AOC, but within the recognized collection of plots that make up the IGP of Collines Rhodaniennes, which once were historic sites that date back to Roman times. Cave Julien Cecillon is a joint project of winemakers Julien Cécillon and Nancy Kerschen, an American winemaker, with both having combined experiences working for various international wineries including the famed Yves Cuilleron, along with others like Christophe Curtat, Fabrice Gripa, JC Cellars, Clos du Val, Saintsbury, Indevin and Saronsberg, they are a passionate team and their wines show it. The Bel Horizon cuvee is 100% Syrah, grown on granite soils, and comes off several scattered parcels of Syrah bordering on both St Joseph and Crozes Hermitage appellations, with most coming from old vines that are over 80 years old that had been previously classified in AOCs. They report that most of the reds get native ferments and maceration and crushing in open tanks (stainless steel and fiberglass) then getting a lengthy time with punch downs and pumpers before racking over to cask for malos while the elevage was in 90% in used barrels that on average were seasoned between 4 to 5 years, with the wine aged on the fine lees for about 10 months, interesting also they do a Gamay as well, sourced slightly north of their main vineyards. Medium bodied and lightly perfumed, this is seriously good stuff, it has layers of classic boysenberry, blueberry, plum and strawberry fruits, graphite, minty herb, cedar, kirsch and a whiff of bacon as well as subtle pepper and dusty stones. Imported by Balanced Wine Selections/Paris Wine Company, Cecillon is a label to check out, especially the Crozes-Hermitage and this Bel Horizon cuvee.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2017 Bow & Arrow, Rose, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Scott Frank’s Bow & Arrow Dry Willamette Valley Rose is mostly Pinot Noir based with a touch of Gamay similar to what you might find in Touraine in the Loire Valley, where he gets most of his inspiration. That said, the Bow & Arrow Rose is at first a dead ringer for a Txakolina Rose with a faint, but distinct spritzy zesty quality and electric vibrancy, I am totally addicted to this wonderfully light and zippy pink wine! Picked to be Rose and whole cluster, direct press with a tiny amount of self captured CO2 this Willamette Valley Rose deliver a excellent performance and is thrilling from start to finish with it’s remarkably delicate palate of acid and mineral driven character featuring a heightened experience of tart cherry, strawberry, nectarine, lemon/lime and faint mouth watering unripe watermelon. This a vivid and tangy, super dry style pink that is an ultimate poolside quaffer and or picnic/porch pounder, I though will be savoring a few bottles at the beach this summer. Scott Franc, winemaker at Bow & Arrow, the Portland based natural wine producer is crafting some of Oregon’s best values and most interesting wines, sourcing from almost exclusively organic if not biodynamic sites, that includes Johan Vineyards, his wines as mentioned lean towards the Loire Valley for their influence rather than the more common Burgundy theme you find in the Willamette, be sure to check out their Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume styled Sauvignon Blancs, as well as their saline/stony Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet like) for the wines and their Gamay based reds especially, with the Rhinestones in particular a wine not to miss, along with a fresh set of Pinot Noirs this is an awesome winery to discover. The Rose gains with air, adding a hint of snappy herbs and rosewater, it’s refreshing charms run deep and I only wish it was in a magnum, drink as much as you can find!
($16-20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Illahe Vineyards, Rose of Tempranillo, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Illahe is an under the radar producer of wonderful Willamette Valley Pinots, but you should check out all of their offerings, they include this amazingly and shockingly dry Rose of Tempranillo, as well as Lagrein, a grape that makes some the most interesting and dark wines of the Alto Adige, a Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner! Illahe, which means “Earth” or (our) “Place” in the native American Chinook language, is a mostly organic producer with a great sense of sustainable responsibility as well as being part of Oregon’s Deep Roots Coalition, they are based in Dallas, Oregon in the west Salem area of the Willamette Valley set on marine sediments atop ancient siletz rock, with these sedimentary Willakenzie, Bellpine, Wellsdale, Dupee, with patches of volcanic Jory soils giving these wines their soul, life force and character. There are so many intriguing things going on at this winery it could take a novel’s worth of text to relate it all to you, but I digress, I was talking about their pink stuff! The Rose of Tempranillo is whole cluster and direct press from all hand picked small lots and barrel fermented and aged like a white wine, but with just enough skin contact to achieve it’s golden/pink salmon hue and it comes in at a vibrantly fresh 12.5% natural alcohol, with it’s acid intensity it has a riveting personality and old world charm and zesty feel, it’s bursting with energy showing tart melon, wild peach, tart yellow and pink citrus as well as sour cherry fruits along with a racy spiciness, steely mineral, loam and wet flint notes with just enough used barrel influence to give a nice vinous quality. Isn’t she pretty in pink, drink this vivacious Rose of Tempranillo, which has an almost Provence Tibouren feel, over the coming year, it’s tasty brilliant stuff.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Drew, Syrah, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Jason Drew in the last 3 or 4 vintages has arguably been crafting some of California’s absolute best wines, with both his Pinot Noir and Syrah lineup, these are just fantastic reds with amazing purity and intense detailing, it is seriously hard to find anything but near perfection in all of them, but I am always drawn to this Valenti Ranch Syrah, so it was with extreme excitement I got my first taste of this 2016 vintage, and of course it is a mind blowing experience in the glass! Valenti is planted to Chave (Hermitage) and Clone 1 selections and at about 1,300 to 1,400 feet on oceanic sedimentary and gravelly loam soils of the ultra cool climate Mendocino Ridge AVA that allows limits yields and gives classic Northern Rhone character along with deep California fruit and natural low alcohol. Jason co-ferment 5% Viognier, very Cote-Rotie like, with 25% whole cluster using 100% native yeast and guided a gentile fermentation and long maceration before raising the Valenti Syrah in barrels, 75% used French barrique along with 25% Hungarian oak, only gravity flow racked twice to clarify. Drew, since 2013, does all the farming at Valenti, which is now done to organic practices that seems to make this wine explode with energy and terroir personality, in the last couple of vintages it could be my favorite red wine under $50, and this 2016 is not far off if not even better for it’s heighten sensations and delicacy of a lighter vintage, though I do love the density and depth of the 2014 and 2015. If you are on Drew’s list and received this 2016 Valenti, give it another year in bottle at least, but dear God it has amazing potential and it is a sexy, sexy wine with layers of crushed violets, peppercorns, creme de cassis, wild plum, olive tapenade, minty/salty licorice and just the right amount of nervy stem notes. I can’t recommend Drew Family Cellars more highly, or highly enough, this is a must join list, and this 2016 Valenti Ranch Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Syrah is as good as it gets, just give it the time it needs, best from 2020-2028.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013 Domaine Francois Lumpp, Givry Premier Cru “A Vigne Rouge” Red Burgundy, France.
This Domaine is getting a lot of buzz for value, and I was very excited to try this Givry, not to be confused with the more prestigious Gevrey-Chambertin, by Francois Lumpp, this area is in the Cote Chalonnaise, not far from the more famous Mercurey. There are a total of 240 acres of red and just 24 acres of white in the 27 climats within the Givry AOC (appellation) that are classified as Premier Cru vineyards, with wines designated Givry Premier Cru that show a vineyard name, or, as allowed, just Givry Premier Cru, in which case it is possible to blend wine from several Premier Cru vineyard sites within the AOC, with this Lumpp A Vigne Rouge cuvee being the former, it’s a single vineyard Premier Cru Givry. The region is known for both red and white with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay being the main grapes as you’d expect and even though it’s a lesser known place, Burgundy fans have long looked here for purity, character and especially value, and with this Francois Lumpp you can see why. Kermit Lynch now imports Lumpp, who was founded in 1991 and produce just about 4,000 cases annually, every wine François makes is from Givry, and interestedly from vineyards that he himself planted and nurtured–something that is exceedingly rare in Burgundy today, his vines are a massale selection of old bud wood grown on in this case a mix of Oxfordian Nantoux Limestone, Fine Marl, and Clay with A Vigne Rouge coming off 15 year old vines with Southern, Southwestern, and at 850 feet above sea level. Givry’s best premier cru sites, which is the case in most of the Côte d’Or (Burgundy) are situated on the mid to upper level slopes of the rolling hillsides, these form the base of Lumpp’s holdings (all of which are in fact Premier Cru plots, except one white Lieu-Dit). Lumpp uses stainless steel to ferment with gentile punch downs then the wine is raised in barriques, of which surprisingly are about 70% new each vintage, the Premier Crus get one year in barrel as this one did with only one racking to clarify before bottling. This 2013 is astonishingly fresh and deeply flavored with a rich dark garnet/ruby hue and a vivid grapey nose that leads to a textured palate that shines with blackberry, plum, bramble berry and cherry fruits along with a streak of mineral, earth and briar adding sweet woody notes along with hint of tobacco, tangy currant, minty herb and apple skin. The tannins are supple, but firmer than you’d expect of a wine of this vintage and there’s a lot of pop from vital acidity, while being rather lush and dense, certainly this Burgundy has ages to go and it’s a huge bargain, best with robust cuisine, and it must be said it has resolved almost all the oak making for real entertaining and stylish wine, drink almost guilt free, best from 2019 to 2026.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014 Chesebro, Syrah, La Mariposa, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark and Will Chesebro’s single barrel Syrah with a touch of co-ferment Viognier, Cote-Rotie style La Mariposa was just released and was available as of 4/20/18 in their Carmel Valley tasting room, it is a seriously good cool climate Arroyo Seco example that you’ll want to get sooner v. later! Showing a rich body and full flavors, you be surprised by the extremely modest low alcohol, it comes in at just 12.5%, very Northern Rhone like, with air and swirls there’s even more surprises in the glass gaining intense layers of spice, earth, meaty notes and sweet floral tones as well as light kirsch, wild herbs and gripping peppercorns. The main profile leans towards boysenberry, plum and black raspberry fruit which is amplified by Italian green olive and racy spearmint, with a long refined finish that recounts all the mentioned elements. The grippy tannins are well managed by the medium/full density and while easy to enjoy it will show it’s complexity and best form with hearty cuisine, this is an impressive and showy effort from Chesebro, you not want to miss this limited bottling, the 24 cases will go fast, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. One of Monterey’s sleeper wineries, Chesebro offers a quality and value set of wines that offer an authentic well crafted sensibility and restraint, their zippy Vermentino and vivid Grenache Blanc are gems, plus the dusty dry Rose is one of my favorites, if you want to understand and taste Arroyo Seco’s terroir then this is your place to start, these are wines with a true and transparent character of place.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Weingut Mueller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haart Burgergarten “Im Breumel” Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz Germany.
The fabled estate of Mueller-Catoir, a family owned winery since 1774, going back nine generations in it’s long history is now run by Herr Philipp David Catoir, with Mosel native Martin Franzen, with experience as head of operations at the amazing Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe and well regarded Gut Nagelsforst in Baden, looking over winemaking responsibility, he inherited from Mueller-Catoir’s long time cellar master Hans-Günther Schwarz (one of Germany’s greats) in 2001. Grown on pure sandstone, the certified organic Haart Burgergarten VDP Grosse Lage vineyard is perfect site for a GG dry as well as classic Spatlese and Auslese, it gives a ton of power and concentration and that especially shows in the deep 2015 vintage, there is always a sense of liquid rock and a racy steely edge to this site, even in the sweeter wines, which gives them their distinction, though this is in particular true of the Grosses Gewachs. I am somewhat torn, like importer Terry Theise, I adore the sweet/fruity wines from Mueller-Catoir, he is so happy they make Spatlese from this Grand Cru vineyard, and it is a classic, but I am thrilled by the dry GG and can’t seem to get enough of it, when I can get it! As Terry notes, Müller-Catoir was an early adopter of reductive winemaking in Germany, and implements a gentle handling of the grapes, employing a long skin contact, with an exceptionally slow, light touch during pressing, as well as fermentations at warmer than traditional temperatures, though this one had a cold ferment and all in stainless steel vats as well as aging. The wine is only racked once and later than normal to allow purity of form while gaining from the extended lees aging in the Cru wines, there is always such a overwhelming sense of place and house in these wines and this one takes it to another level, this vintage is somewhere in the mystical experience realm with amazing clarity of form, crystalline mineral focus and a wondrous textural feel, this 2015 is more like what you image a Grand Cru Chablis should be. This 2015 Im Breumel GG highlights it’s mottled sandstone with a chalky profile and makes an impact on the palate with a sublime play between it’s dynamic energy and it’s vinous and level of natural glycerin with layers of stone fruit, tangy citrus and subdued tropical elements along with it’s pure Riesling lime, green apple and mango core as well as a hint of hazelnut, hibiscus tea, wet river rock, brine and vivid saline. With air you find a faint floral perfume, steely vitality giving way to an expanded density, complexity and lingering tart white peach, kiwi and verbena/citron. This is an absolute masterpiece of dry Riesling greatness from Mueller-Catoir, it’s a 20 year wine easy, I only wish I had more! I will appease myself by getting a few bottles of sleeper Spatlese from the same vineyard, while fruity it’s far drier in delivery than you’d imagine and at $30ish it’s a steal, though I hope I will be reunited with this GG in the future, and I can’t wait to try the 2016 soon.
($40-50 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

2014 Girolamo Russo, Etna Rosso DOC “Feudo” Sicily, Italy.
The winery, an organic tiny Etna producer, Girolamo Russo is one of Sicily’s newest stars led by Giuseppe Russo, a professionally trained and performing pianist, who since 2005 has been organically farming his family’s old vineyards, some of which are 100 years old, he works 15 hectares of vines on the cooler North side of Etna around the town of Passopisciaro, one of the most famous areas on the volcano. With mostly the Nerello Mascalese grape, the darling of Sicily these days, it’s a varietal that thrives on the volcanic soils, it makes for a fine tannin structured, silky medium bodied wine that leads to comparison with Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with it’s elegance and complexity, though with it’s exotic lava/ash spiciness it has it’s own terroir character that gives a unique appeal and style. All of Giuseppe’s cru wines are crafted the same way, with native/natural yeast, without fining or filtration, or temperature control at fermentation and employing a gentile 10-12 day maceration, with hand punch downs, with each of the small lots kept separate until blending into each of the wines. The Feudo cru is from 60 to 65 year old vines and allows for a 200 case lot, and it’s a field blend of more than 80% Nerello Mascalese with the rest mostly Nerello Cappuccio along with a few other local black grapes aged in oak cask, with this beautiful 2014 is perfectly balanced and satiny in feel, but don’t be fooled by the first impression, it’s supple mouth feel gives way to glorious complexity and depth with air and time in the glass, it’s a long wine that reveals true terroir and passion of place. Giuseppe Russo was keen to learn his craft and go his own route, so was influenced without extreme dogma by a variety of experiences with his neighbors, all great winemakers, including Frank Cornelissen, the intense natural winemaker, Passopisciaro’s Andrea Franchetti, who crafts bigger and more age worthy wines, as well as Marco de Grazia of the modern Tenuta delle Terre Nere, who’s wines were some of the first to gain international fame from Mount Etna, especially in America, his bottling of single vineyard wines and crus was certainly something that Giuseppe found profound and he followed in his own wines. The 2014 Feudo Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso, imported by Oliver McCrum Wines, is richly textured and with layers of red fruits, mineral intensity and vivid spices with a palate of dried flowers, flinty stones, dusty plums, raspberry and with a core of earthy cherry along with subtle red pepper, cedar and anise adding some lavender, chalk, fleshy strawberry/peach and a hint of candied red citrus. Beautifully detailed, clear in form and round this is a wonderful drinker and would easily hold it’s own against some serious wines, and it should age nicely for another 5 to 7 years, it’s a sexy and well made red, impressive for it’s restraint and grace.
($40-55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Le Temps des Copains by Frederic Niger, Astra, Vin de France.
This is a new project of Fred Niger of Domaine de l’Ecu, which is like what Gavenat of Cotes du Jura fame is also doing, Fred had long dreamt of collaborating with like-minded growers and the project was kicked into high gear in 2017, because Fred had a near total loss of estate fruit in two successive vintages (2016 & 2017) due to hail and frost in Muscadet in the Loire region. “Le Temps des Copains” means “time with friends” and the wines are a collaboration between Fred and fellow natural driven winegrowers with Niger making the wines at de L’Cru. With Astra being his joint venture with Gamay from Benoît Landron, who is also in Muscadet, but some how managed to get his fruit through the worst of the weather, it’s fermented in tank, then aged in amphora with no sulfur added. This 2016 Astra is bright and textured natural wine with a deep ruby/garnet hue in the glass making for a very attractive and intriguing wine that impresses on the palate with layers of dark fruit, including plum, black cherry, strawberry and a touch of framboise along with mineral tones, mixed spices, soft floral elements, a touch of earth and dusty stones. There is a lot of youthful energy, but it is rather elegant in form and the acidity is perfectly matched to the smooth mouth feel, while the tannins are satiny ripe, all which highlight the class and focus in this wine, it’s impressive and wonderfully drinkable with it’s lifted fruit.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Delfina’s Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The tropical and expressive Waxwing Rosé by Scott Sisemore is a dry pink wine made from 100% Pinot Noir coming off Jeffrey Blair’s Delfina’s Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County, it’s a unique and refreshing Rosé that will be a great Summer wine. Blair’s site is planted to Pommard clone and sits on a mix of silted earth and an alluvial mix of gravel, rock and sand, it may not produce a world class Pinot, but certainly makes for an interesting Rosé with a wonderful array of juicy bright flavors that include an exotic guava and peach note that reminds me on early Central Otago Kiwi Pinots in some ways along with tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and citrus as well as hints of mineral, spice and light floral notes. Everything stays brisk and tangy with a hint of texture from the three month neutral French barrel aging, it was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel, it comes in at a vibrant 12.9% and never feels dull, even with the lees stirring it always crisp and focused, this is a fun Rosé to quaff this Spring and Summer, it joins a nice new set of Waxwing releases that include a tasty Lester Pinot and a deep Petaluma Gap Syrah, be sure to go direct to this small micro winery and check out these quality efforts!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Via Giusti, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Quarttro Mani, Estate, Russian River Valley.
A under the radar estate in the Russian River Valley, Via Giusti has been around since 1875, and are a historic single vineyard farm producing wine and olive oil with a focus on Pinot Noir, it’s cool location being perfect for stylish expressions, and this Quattro Mani Estate Rosé is a vinous and vibrant example. The Italian heritage farm is run by the latest generation of the Giusti family, Kurt Giusti, who runs the winery and the family business, and he has Dylan Sheldon as a winemaker, who is known for making authentic and balanced wines that allow the place and varietal shine through without frivolous adornments or overly oaked. The Rosé, 100% Estate Pinot Noir was whole cluster and direct pressed with minimal lees aging in neutral French barriques to preserve freshness, but also to have a smooth and luxurious mouth feel, and it shows here with a full dose of glycol and mineral charm and wonderful length, while still being vibrant and crisp, it’s an impressive effort even after more than a year in bottle. The nose is pure Pinot with cherry, plum, cola and rosewater which leads to a similar set of flavors on the palate adding a strawberry/rhubarb infusion along with a touch of wet stone, minty herb, spice and cool melon notes. With air you get a hint caramel and kirsch. Drink this one up over the next half a year or so to catch it at it’s best, again this is a very complete and stylish effort to enjoy, especially with more substantial cuisine to lure out it’s texture and complexity. Be sure to check out the seriously minded estate Pinot Noir and their brightly fresh Vermentino as well, this is a winery to discover.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2014 Via Giusti, Pinot Noir, Giusti Ranch, Estate, Russian River Valley.
The seriously endowed and beautiful estate Via Giusti Pinot Noir flows seamlessly across the palate with a bold dark fruit character and sweet french oak notes that remind you of the better Russian River classics, including Willams Selyem, Martinelli and Rochioli with loads of joyous blackberry, cherry, plum and smoky French oak shadings, it’s brilliant and showy effort. Kurt Giusti, vintner, has deep roots in the Russian River and his family has been a fixture here since 1875, though very under the radar compared to the mentioned wines and a new label to discover, especially this enticing 2014 estate Pinot, a 300 case production wine made from vines on the ranch grown on the Goldridge and Franciscan sandy loam soils, Giusti’s impressive offering comes in at about 14.5% and was made from clones 115, 667 and the dark 777 and was aged 16 months with about 40% new French oak used. Kurt recent brought in winemaker Dylan Sheldon, a veteran who has elegant sensibilities, especially with his own label wines, it’s looking like a perfect match and while he didn’t start this one he helped finish this vintage, and going forward you can expect even further refinement and lift in these wines. A deep hue in the glass is sexy and the length here is extraordinary with lingering kirsch, vanilla and rose petals that add to the seduction found on the full and racy palate that includes black cherry, plum, huckleberry, cola bean, anise, sweet tobacco leaf, a hint of earthy loam, mineral and cinnamon(y) baking spices. There is a copious amount of vinous texture and while overt it has a bright intensity which delivers a focused experience and heightens the enjoyment in this wine that has blossomed in the bottle, it should age gracefully for another 5 to 10 years, even if it is delicious and an opulent Russian River Pinot right now.
($69 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2015 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir “Arley’s Leap” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul is an Oregon legend and his wines just as legendary, especially his Pinots, like this one from A slightly younger vine planting within Abbey Ridge vineyard, that was planted in 1990, and Cameron Winery, part of the Deep Roots Coalition is sustainably farmed, non-irrigated and has been fanatically Burgundy influenced, since Paul started producing wine here in 1984. He uses mainly Dundee Hills fruit, the estate Clos Electrique and Abby Ridge, as well as a newer parcel in Ribbon Ridge, his Clos Electrique and his Abby Ridge bottlings are his top old vine cube’s, but his regular Willamette Valley, Dundee and Reserve offerings are stunning as well, with this Arley’s Leap being new to me, and one I was thrilled to get my hands on! The eponymous hero, on the label, was Bill and Julia Wayne’s old dog Arley, who survived a jump from a second story balcony when startled by a cat. Abbey Ridge is one of the highest vineyards in Dundee and is picked relatively late, it’s farmed pretty much all organic and allows for deep flavors and complexity, it’s significantly cooler and with it’s Jory soils, which are volcanic based there is a lot of natural acidity that helps with balance and gives these wines tremendous aging structure along with a slightly exotic character. 2015 is looking like an outstanding vintage in Oregon and John Paul took advantage of the year to craft an amazing set of wines, and in my opinion, this Arley’s Leap is a sleeper, in particular it’s a earthy dark beauty that is wonderfully expressive and intriguing. This 2015 shows the years ripe personality, at 13.9%, but thrills for it’s brilliant energy, tanginess, a porcini note, forest floor and rustic charm that resembles a fine Nuits-Saint-Georges! This stuff entrances with a heady mix of plum, black cherry, strawberry, dusty red spices, minty herbs, crushed violets and a touch of leather adding to the dense kirsch, currant and wilted rose petals, making for an amazing palate and bouquet, it’s very much sex in a bottle as only a great Pinot can be! Paul employs traditional Burgundian winemaking and subtle well integrated French oak, it’s as good as it gets, drink over the next decade, it will fascinating to see how this ages!
($46 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

2017 Skylark Wine Company, Rosé of Grenache, Pink Belly, Mendocino County.
Skylark’s Pink Belly is always a favorite Rosé of mine, since the 2007 vintage (their first) I have always had it and it just gets better with each vintage, with this 2017 really setting a new standard for quality and thrill, even after such a lovely fresh vintage in 2016. Robert Perkins, winemaker and John Lancaster (wine director at Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco) are the men behind the label and are two of the nicest people, and talented, as you could ever meet, craft small batch wines with a core focus on Rhone/Languedoc style offerings including this Tavel like 100% Grenache Pink Belly Rosé and their Corbieres influenced Red Belly which is a gorgeous Carignane, Grenache and Syrah blend that melds a fruit forward palate with earthy tannins and dusty spices perfectly. The Pink Belly almost jumps out of the glass with it’s delicately pale salmon/pinkish hue and floral tones, it’s vibrantly crisp with tart cherry, watermelon and racy citrus fruits, steely mineral, lavender, rosewater and a little bit of jolly rancher and bubble gum, which is not sweet and is balanced out by a touch of wet stone and brisk acidity, it lingers with strawberry essences. Perkin’s employed a whole cluster pressing here and fermented the Grenche lots separately then blend together after primary are done, the fruit comes from two Mendocino sites, one at Kurt Ashurst’s Grenache vineyard in Hopland, our first pink vineyard, but to meet the demand of this tasty wine, Skylark added fruit from Charlie Sawyer’s stellar Grenache site above Ukiah, where they get their main Grenache Noir grapes for their Red Belly. Everything makes it a great poolside quaffer or porch-pounder, in my case a beach at sunset pounder! This 2017 is more expressive and upfront, but still is very dry and refreshing, it should be great for the long warm days of Summer and still tasty until next winter’s chill, don’t miss this stuff!
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Arnot-Roberts, Rosé of Touriga Nacional, California.
Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, the minds behind California’s Arnot-Roberts winery, craft a bunch of awesome tiny production wines, everything from Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet to Trousseau Noir and this unique Rosé, which is 100% Touriga Nacional, that Portuguese red varietal found in Port, from Lake County mostly with the bulk coming off the Luchsinger Vineyard usually, a site that was planted in 1999 on volcanic cobble over ancient riverbed stones at about 1,400’ in the Clear Lake AVA west of Kelseyville, where they also get some of their Trousseau. This has become a cult, must have, dry Rosé each year, much in the same way most of us in the wine business need Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, it’s a real wine geeks wine! Brilliantly cool on the nose with light red fruits, floral notes, mineral and spice notes leading the way to a delicately crisp palate of tangy cherry, strawberry, dusty red spices, steely/flinty wet rock, citrus brightness along with unripe watermelon and rosewater. This wonderfully dry and vivid Rosé is one of the most complete and pleasing pink wines in California, drink up and get while you can!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Vincent Gaudry, Sancerre, La Constellation de Scorpion, Loire Valley, France.
This Sancerre from Vincent Gaudry was recently renamed to La Constellation de Scorpion, it’s t​he cuvée formerly known as “Esprit de Rudolf” it’s a certified Biodynamic single old vine parcel grown on flinty Silex soils which is barrel fermented & aged in French oak. Gaudry was the first Biodynamic producer in Sancerre, and this wine is crafted in the same way as the classic Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume’s are, it’s an intense Loire Valley mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc with is naturally imbued with density and volume on the palate. Gaudry has blocks that are massale selections with 90 year vines, he also does a basic stainless steel tank version plus an exceptional whole cluster Sancerre Rouge (Pinot Noir) that is mind-blowing, this is a label and winery to discover and follow, and is now imported by Floraison Selections. This Sancerre starts with a certainly austerity and a hint of volatile acidity with a faint polishy note before opening up on the richly textured palate gaining immensely with air, it becomes a highly rewarding wine that is both leesy and steely with round peachy fruit, sizzling lemon/lime and with notes of quince, gooseberry and white melon along with flinty smokiness and garden herbs. As this Gaudry cuvee La Constellation de Scorpion warms it fills out and gets even better, it is an impressive Sauvignon Blanc with it’s own personality, this is a wine that could not be from anywhere else! Given the style and quality, it’s remarkable that it’s not at a higher price point, as it compares well against Bouley and Cottat!
($33 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014 Le P’Tit Paysan, Petite Sirah, Monterey County.
One of Monterey’s sleeper wines and best values, Ian Brand’s Le P’Tit Paysan Petite Sirah is an extremely pleasing full bodied red with lots of unique personality and balanced terroir driven character, which includes an inner energy (lift) and subtle refinement. This brilliantly purple/garnet hued Petite Sirah (Durif) was fermented with partial whole cluster, about 30%, getting a long cold soak for gentile extraction with lees aging in barrel, Brand using mostly neutral, used French barriques, for 11 months, and some bottle resting before release, allowing for a wine of graceful tannins and the utmost purity. This Petite comes off Pierce Ranch Vineyard in the San Antonio Valley, it’s a site that gives warm days and cool nights, perfect for getting even ripeness with lower sugar levels, in fact Brand had his blocks picked at a very lively 22 Brix or below, but still has textural density and lush mouth feel and length with an intriguing low natural alcohol. The area’s limestone, shale and decomposed granite soils add to the wines quality and gives a stony influence, which reminds me somewhat of a Northern Rhone Syrah, similar to the Halcon Vineyards Yorkville Highlands version, it’s one of few other recent examples of Petite Sirah that takes this stylistic path, which I am thrilled about! This Le P’Tit Paysan Petite Sirah, with 2% Counoise, is deeply colored and with a nose of dark floral tones, wild sage, black fruits and mineral charm before leading to it’s full bodied and structured palate of blackberry, racy currants, tree picked plum and sweet kirsch along with a touch of chalk and flint, minty anise, cedar and incense. While full and firm as you’d expect from this grape, this wine is evolving and gains a satiny vinous side, lingering with blueberry and violets, though stays focused and bright throughout, it also is wonderful with robust and rustic cuisines, plus it was beautiful with hard cheeses and cured meats, this is a hard to beat for the price offering from a talented winemaker, drink for the next 3 to 5 years.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine de L’Ecu, Folle Blanche “Marguerite” Vin de France, Loire Valley, France.
A unique estate 100% Folle Blanche, fermented and raised for 9 months in stainless steel tank on the lees with absolutely no sulfur additions, making for an intriguing, fresh and unique Loire Valley white from one of Muscadet’s best wineries, Fred Niger’s Domaine de L’Ecu. Folle Blanche, normally found in the Cognac region and used mostly as a fine brandy grape in both Armagnac, where is is regarded as the best for single varietal bottlings and in the blends of Cognac, with Colombard and Ugni Blanc. Interestingly, Fred uses his Folle Blanche in his (Cremant) Sparkling wine mainly as there is almost nobody that does a varietal Folle Blanche still wine anywhere, though my friend Bradley Gray, a wine PR professional, writer and a long time wine enthusiast, turned me on to some Louis Martini Folle Blanche in the nineties that was made from 100 year old vines and only available by request at the Martini tasting room on special times of the year when they were dumping end of vintage wines, it was a rare treat to taste that, though I fear now that particular vineyard is no more, if memory serves me. L’Ecu’s Folle Blanche Marguerite feels a bit skin contact like with a load of tanginess and a tide pool’s worth of briny seashore leading with it’s saline and oyster shell elements before revealing a light palate of racy green apple, lemon/lime and unripe tart peach, it’s a bright zesty unfiltered pale yellow (cloudy) white that is unique in a happily awkwardly/odd, but intriguing way. This is a very geeky wine that needs food to absorb it’s slightly sour tart profile, it’s severe on it’s own, it would be better with cuisine, I can see it going well with Chèvre and or intensely fresh small oysters and exotic sushi like Uni. This is not a crowd pleasure and will only appeal to the lovers of weirdness, but it’s well made and scratches an itch of a small niche of adventurers.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Florian Roblin Vigneron, Pinot Noir/Gamay, Coteaux du Giennois Rouge “Champ Gibault” Loire Valley, France.
This appellation on the eastern edge of the Loire Valley northeast of Sancerre produces almost equal amounts of light-bodied red and white wines, with a small portion of dry rosé as well. The 2016 Champ Gibault Coteaux du Giennois Rouge is 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Gamay, that is native yeast ferment then aged in neutral wood as well as some raised in stainless steel tank​, making for a very pretty and detailed wine. The Roblin Champ Gibault Coteaux du Giennois Rouge 2016 is pure and Pinot driven, it feels and tastes like a minerally Burgundy with just a hint of bright and Juicy Gamay, it’s delicate and natural with layers of floral and light red berry notes. The round of silky palate shows a textural array of cherry, raspberry and strawberry along with a touch of chalky stones, vibrant acidity in the form of lift and lightness, adding wilted rose petals, faint wood vanillin and snappy spices. This Wine impresses for it’s subtle and satiny personality, it has a lot of class and style, especially for the price, it’s lovely ruby/garnet hue is seductive in the glass and the Pinot structure, flavor profile and elegant form delivers a wonderful and expressive performance worthy of any wine enthusiast’s attention. Drink this graceful beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, it certainly is going to be great warm weather red to enjoy with picnics, Summer meals, but don’t sell this lighter red short, it will provide a wonderful experience even on more serious occasions.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Anne-Sophie Dubois, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais “Clepsydre” Cuvee, France.
One of the newest stars on the Beaujolais seen, Anne-Sophie Dubois makes deeply pure and flavorful expressions with this one from the Cru Fleurie that gives wonderful floral perfume and a vintage, in 2015 that is ripe and concentrated, but with elegant class and texturally beautiful. The Clepsydre, named after an ancient water clock, once used in old Egypt, because Anne-Sophie believes it needs time to fully develop and blossom, is grown on pink granite soils, from a 60+ year old plot of high density vines, which gives a stylish mineral streak and heightened aromatics, she destemmed this 100% Gamay, with native yeast, cold ferments and neutral cask (4-7 old barrels) aging for about 13 months, all unfined and unfiltered. This 2015 is hedonistically dark in color with a black/purple saturation in the glass and a clear bouquet of violets and red rose petals which leads to a full palate of black plum, sweet cherry, strawberry and lingering tangy currant with a hint of walnut, mure and star anise. This is a weightless sensation that hides the density of mouth feel and a burst of energetic natural acidity that brightens the whole wine, everything is gloriously seamless and it’s personality and charm is quite additive, Dubois, imported by Thomas Calder (Pruf Rock) and Sacred Thirst, has a lovely touch with Gamay and this Fleurie is almost to Dutraive quality! This is a winemaker to keep an eye on, and if you are a Gamay fan you’ll want to explore her wines, especially this one, it should go for a decade with ease, I love this stuff!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Rimbert, Saint Chinian Rouge “Le Mas au Schiste” Languedoc, France.
Jean-Marie Rimbert, a “Carignaniste” for being a staunch supporter the Carignan in the Languedoc’s Saint Chinian region is one of the area’s most renown and a benchmark producer, crafting organic wines from the Berlou Cru, a highly regarded site due to its high elevation and it’s mineral intense brown schist soils that mark these terroir driven wines from steeply terraced vines. If there ever was an iconic producer, Rimbert is without a doubt one of them, his AOC bottlings can be profound experiences, plus he has a wonderful humble nature and wit, he also makes playful Vin de France wines that are gut busting funny and good, especially his Cousin Oscar, a 100% partially carbonic Cinsault that is named for a randy woman chasing relative, it’s become a cheap cult classic! Back to the top wines, the two that stand out are Rimbert’s Saint Chinian Rouge “Les Travers de Marceau” which is all tank raised and includes some chewy/dense Mourvedre along with a core of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, plus this neutral wood aged “Le Mas au Schiste” it’s made from old vine Carignan, Syrah along with some Grenache, it showcases the soils and has a bit more textural feel from the 10 months in wood. This 2016 Rimbert Le Mas au Schiste is wonderfully ripe and deeply colored with a pretty purple/garnet hue in the glass with a mix of violets, earth, flinty/mineral and blue fruit leading the way on the nose and entry with layers of blueberry, plum, black cherry and marionberry on the medium full palate along with snappy herbs, chalky stones, pepper, cedar, acacia flowers, anise and a touch of rusticity. There’s so much to love here, and it’s clearly detailed with an inner brightness making it an entertaining and impressive Rhone like red, it is drinking superbly now and should go another 3 to 5 years easy, most likely even longer.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Auguste Clape, Syrah, Le Vin des Amis, Vin de France, Rhone Red, France.
Clape’s enter level red, the Le Vin des Amis, is a baby version of his famed Cornas, lighter and more delicate, but with the house pedigree shinning through, it’s a value option and easier to open than the more pricier bottlings. The Le Vin des Amis comes from just outside the Cornas AOC and on a less slope, it’s got bit of granite, but mostly on galets (round river stones) with a touch of clay which allows a more generous fruit focus and softer tannin profile without being less serious or lovely, it is from 40 year old vines and it gets the same treatment as his Cotes du Rhone, also 100% Syrah, it’s whole cluster, native yeast ferment and raised for 6 months in cement vats. The 2015 was a bigger wine, but this 2016 is somewhat more seductive with an additive bright freshness and inner perfume, which makes up for the less concentrated year, it’s a pretty version no question with violets, blueberry and green spices (stemmy) to start with blackberry, tangy plum and earthy loam following before the medium bodied palate of the Le Vin des Amis gets revved up with classic flavors and an array of peppercorn, anise, mineral and kirsch adding to a whole with a nice dynamic lift of juicy acidity rather than grippy tannins. Usually you’d say this wine was a great value, but there are many amazing efforts that beat this one for quality and price, especially since there are plenty of 2015 Northern Rhones to get, but it’s always a fun wine and a wine to enjoy young, drink up.
($33 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2015 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph Rouge “Les Pierres Seches” Northern Rhone, France.
Founded back in 1920, the Cuilleron family domaine from the tiny hamlet of Verlieu in Chavanay is a Northern Rhone specialist and one of the great names in the region now with Yves Cuilleron making the wines having taking over from his uncle Antoine in 1987. Since which he has built a new facility and built up the vineyard holdings to an impressive 52 hectares that includes great parcels in Condrieu, Cote-Rotie, Saint-Peray as well other unique sites, and of course his specially, prized blocks in Saint-Joseph where he makes some of his best wines like this Les Pierres Seches Rouge. Yves style is refined, elegant and clean letting the terroir and grapes to speak in their own voice and allowing each vintage to show it’s distinct personality, and in 2015, a grand year in the Rhone, it is without question one to buy as much as you can, in particular the Cuilleron reds, again like this one, it’s outstanding and a great value. Tasted twice, once blind, the 100% Syrah, 2015 Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Les Pierres Seches is thrilling and very Cote-Rotie like with gorgeous perfume, loads of glycerin and beautifully defined Syrah purity, it starts with violets, game, blackberry and mineral notes on the nose and layers of boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and cassis on the medium/full palate as well as an array of spices, flinty rock and subtle wood with minty herb, olive tapenade, peppercorns, garrigue, light cedar and a faint meatiness. The tannins are velveteen, but still firm and while the acidity is slightly lower in this vintage, there is plenty of vitality and energy here, it gains an opulent and textural mouth feel with each sip without dulling the excitement one bit, this is fantastic stuff. Cuilleron employs partial whole cluster, just enough to get a bit of tension, and allows lengthy ferments on the Cru (lieu-dit) wines before aging in mostly used French oak for 18 months, the wines see a light fining and all along the way gentile techniques are used to ensure clarity of form and elegance, which really shows in the quality across the range. This is a do not miss wine, and a killer deal, though you’ll also want to check out the old vine 2015 Saint-Joseph Rouge Cavanos ($36) as well as Cuilleron’s 100% Viognier 2016 Condrieu La Petite Cote ($52) and his Roussanne & Marsanne masterpiece, the 2016 Saint-Joseph Blanc Digue ($44) which I reviewed last month. Cuilleron’s lineup from bottom to top is wildly engaging and filled with stars, though this Les Pierres Seches way over delivers in the quality v. price ratio and it should go a decade and then some in bottle.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Scott Sisemore’s Waxwing Wine Cellars is a micro winery in Belmont, just south of San Francisco that produces small batch hand crafted wines from unique vineyards from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Mendocino County with a focus on Sonoma Coast with mostly Pinot Noir and Syrah wines. I’ve been a fan of Scott’s wines for many years now, and especially his Lester Family Vineyard Pinot, which his was nice enough to let me get a preview of, his wines are richly flavored and he uses mostly used French oak to allow a more pure focus to show through, they are forward in style and authentic in character with just a hint of rustic charm. The 2016 Lester Pinot is a surprisingly full and bold wine, it starts with a tight and firm feel, it takes some time to open up giving a very serious impression with a touch of Burgundy like reduction and grip before revealing it’s more vivacious personality and deep fruit core and lovely incense/floral tones. The nose starts with rose petal, graphite, loamy earth, cola and kirsch which leads nicely to it’s medium full palate of Pinot fruits with bing cherry, black plum and framboise layers along with interesting candied citrus, mineral elements, saline and a mix of vanilla/mocha, star anise, tea spices and cranberry. This single clone 115, two barrel Pinot Noir that is grown on the western Corralitos hillsides with a make up of sandy loam soils really turns on the style after about 25 minutes and getting plenty of air adding a dense and round textural mouth feel, it is wine that certainly prefers food to show it’s best, Sisemore helpfully added his own ideas, which include crispy skinned roast chicken, wild mushroom dishes and seared duck breast with cherry/berry reduction! Scott destemmed all the grapes and used Assmannshausen yeast to ferment along with a five day cold soak, all pretty mainstream techniques and used one year used French oak, it proved a ripe vintage coming in at a natural 14.5%, it rested in barrique 15 months, and should be released soon. This is one of the best of Scott’s Pinots and it should drink nicely for 5 to 7 years with ease, best from 2019 to 2026.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Chateau de Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone “Les Deux Albion” Rhone Red, France.
From estate vines on the hillsides near Gigondas, the Les Deux Albion is beautiful Cotes du Rhone and one of the best Rhone reds under $20 you can find, especially in a great vintage like 2015, Louis Barruol crafted an absolutely stunning wine, from Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Clairette all co-fermented whole cluster using some conical wood tank, but mostly concrete vats with a maceration and fermetation that lasted 6 weeks. The results are impressive and thrill for the simplicity of style and the amazing performance in the glass, it’s a deep purple/garnet, very opaque, in the glass with a sexy array of earthy/spicy charms and density of fruit, with the Syrah showing a dominate black and blue fruited lead here, though Grenache at these elevations can be incredibly dark fruited, but always with a strawberry streak, with the Mourvedre adding a touch of gamey/meaty elements along with structure, while Carignan gives a juicy kirsch burst, with the Clairette playing a minor role obviously as a white grape, but like Cote-Rotie it gives acidity and grabs intense pigment. The palate in full bodied, yet there’s elegance and inner energy too with layers of violets, iron/flinty, damson plum, boysenberry, blueberry, tangy lavender, saddle leather, basil leaf and salted black licorice, it has a grip of tannin, but it’s perfectly mated to the expressive fruit and almost every detail folds together in a joyous array of pleasures, seamless and lingering. Saint Cosme is legendary and while their Gigondas AOC and Cru versions are some of the world best wines, this is a sleeper wine that way over performs, it should never be missed or overlooked, it gives a wonderful performance and delivers a terroir driven character highlighting the clay hillsides (ancient alluvium), limestone marl and pebbles of it’s soils. Barruol always tinkers with the selection of varietals and winemaking per what the vintage brings in this Les Deux Albions, while always being true to the southern Rhone and bottled unfined and unfiltered. This vintage rocks, the wine changes from sip to sip adding pastille and cassis notes to the mix as well as delicate pepper and mineral quality in the background, intriguing and seductive, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($19 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Volant Réserve “en bonbonne” Rhone Style Red Blend, Central Coast.
Randall Grahm’s signature red is a blend of 55% Grenache Noir, 25% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsault, it’s most from Monterey County, but with a touch of Contra Costa County for the Mourvedre for this lovely fresh 2013 vintage, it’s a worthy ode to Chateauneuf du Pape. What sets it apart is the glass demijohn (carboy) aging, or élevage en bonbonne, which I find gives the wine a more textural mouth feel without oaky markers interfering with the fruit, Randall uses this technique for this Reserve and his Reserve Blanc as well, he calls it the result of a fever dream and deep contemplation of the mysteries of redox chemistry, with thoughts of micro-oxygenation and the nature of the esoteric élevage “en bonbonne” -bâtonage magnetique! Regardless of inspiration, this Reserve is truly an iconic Rhone Ranger wine and while California by nature it does have an old world charm and energy with layers of deep fruit, spicy lift and subtle earthy tones. A sweet floral tone leads the way with savory elements leading to a full bodied Grenache fruity palate with blackberry, plum, strawberry and currant fruits along with dusty cinnamon, salted licorice, minty and peppery herbs as well as a touch of porcini, lavender, cedar and kirsch. Grahm and team aged this stylish red in glass carboys or en bonbonne, which adds to glycerin and dense minerally mouth feel, which has allowed this powerful wine to smooth out without the use of overt wood, it is a very distinct wine and should age well for another 5 to 7 years. A recent visit to Bonny Doon and a chat with their legendary leader, Randall Grahm, brought a wealth of knowledge, insight and a stunning array of new releases, I even had to come back a week later to fill out my own drinking collection, which included this wine along with a few new Syrah(s) and Pinot Noir(s) plus their perky Picpoul, one of my favorites.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Blanc, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The normal Le Cigare Blanc is a beauty with texture and vitality, a very Chateauneuf du Pape (white) blend of 66% Grenache Blanc, 34% Roussanne that goes through full malos and aged in French oak. Beeswax is an organic vineyard, and Randall has his blocks done to biodynamic practices with the cool marine nights helping develop a natural acidity and inner energy, while allowing for a rich and opulent wine of flavor and intensity of extract and form, everything worked really well in this 2014 making for an impressive and expressive white that fills the palate with lush and creamy layers that makes your mouth water for a decedent buttery dish to match it, Bonny Doon recommends lobster risotto and I would not argue at all, it would match perfectly with vinous glycerol (oily) character of this lovely white Rhone style wine. Bonny Doon’s team has been on fire with their white program, Randall (Grahm) I feel has not gotten enough credit for his whites, these are gorgeous wines that offer a real wonderful drinking experience with a serious impact, especially this one, for the price is a complex and thrilling wine. Brilliant with a pale yellowish/gold hue and a smooth profile and flavors of white peach, pear, lemon oil, almond and hints of honey, pithy/bitter melon, leesy notes, a touch of star anise, wet stones, tangerine and citrus blossom/white flowers that come through a bit on the nose, but have a lasting impression that lingers. This wine comes in at 13.5% alcohol, so while ripe and dense it has plenty of lift as well some saline quality and mineral focus that delivers a balanced feel, even though ripe, this is a lot of wine for the money, it should drink well for another 3 to 5 years too, it’s exceptional for the cost, don’t miss this one.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Yves Cheron, Gigondas “Grand Montmirail” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
Grown on the decomposed limestone of the hillsides of the Dentelles de Montmirail which reach a height of 2,600 feet, the Yves Cheron old vine Gigondas 2015 is a blockbuster Rhone red with amazing depth and concentration, but also a very hedonistic wine that can be drunk now with great pleasure and stylistic charm. Gigondas has been a highly regarded wine region since at least Roman times, but because of the prestige of and grandeur of Chateauneuf du Pape it was held back and lumped into the greater Cotes du Rhone Villages until 1971 when it became it’s own recognized AOC, and it’s higher elevation gives the wines their own soul, they usually shows more vibrancy and intensity of form when done well, they must be between 50% to 100% Grenache with the allowed remainder being Syrah and Mourvedre mostly. Cheron’s Gigondas is a blend of about 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, all destemmed and fermented in temp-controlled stainless steel vats before being raised mainly in cement tank, with some Syrah lots seeing a bit of oak, including some new barriques, making for a big and explosively bold wine that shows a vibrant purity and rich detail. The palate is full and lavish with an array of black raspberry, cassis, plum and dark cherry fruit layers along with juniper berry, peppercorns, new leather, chalk dust and dried violets, and while super ultra dense and full bodied the heft is well controlled with an inner brightness, refined tannins and it’s sweet fruit balanced by savory elements all of which flows seamlessly and with a beautiful textural flair, especially impressive in it’s youth. This wine has so much bang for the buck, it’s impossible not to be seduced by it’s impressive character, it’s deep purple/garnet hue in the glass and the way it lingers on the finish, it also plays well with a range of cuisines, in particular grilled meats, wild mushroom dishes and even burgers. Maybe not as top notch as Chateau de Saint Cosme or Domaine d’Ourea, but pretty close and at the price is a great value, drink over the next few years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Joyce Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Submarine Canyon, Monterey County.
Russell Joyce’s regional Pinot Noir cuvee, the Submarine Canyon, is one of the best deals on Pinot around, especially this 2016 which shows impressive fruit, textural grace and lifting acidity in a pretty aromatic wine that is close to outstanding. A deep ruby/garnet in the glass and with a perfume of rose petals, spice, red fruits and mineral tones that leads to a medium weight, low/moderate alcohol, graceful satiny smooth tannins and lively palate that flows with racy cherry, raspberry, strawberry and tangy plum fruits with a mix of dusty spices including shaved cinnamon, Tahitian vanilla and faint pepper along with hints of chalk, minty herb and sweet tea. Coming from selected sites, with ancient glacial soils consisting of sand and shale loam, the Submarine Canyon delivers a wonderful cool marine influenced performance that reminds me of Melville and Radio Coteau in style and overall impression, though not in exact flavors of course, there is a lot to enjoy here and this is a lot of Pinot Noir for the price. The 2016 wines from Joyce are all stellar, it certainly looks to be on the next level for this Monterey County winery, in particular you’ll want to check out their Tondre Grapefield Syrah and the amazing Gabilan Pinot Noir while they are still available, but don’t over look this tasty little wine. Lingering and silky this is a wine that provides an appealing and pleasing drinking experience right now, but it has enough structure and complexity too age another 3 to 5 years with ease.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Forge Cellars, Dry Riesling Classique, Finger Lakes, New York.
The Finger Lakes outpost of Rhone legend Louis Barruol, famed Gigondas producer, Forge Cellars is a new project focused on dry Riesling from vineyards around mostly Seneca and Cayuga lakes, with a mix of shale, gravely loam and clay with some limestone which gives the Finger Lakes it’s character and terroir influences. Along with his local partners Richard Rainey and Justin Boyette, Barruol’s Forge Cellars crafts limited release Riesling single site offerings as well as this 1,800 case production regional dry Riesling Classique cuvee with 85% from Seneca Lake and 15% from Cayuga Lake, which has only .4% RS and is as trocken as it gets! There is a lot of excitement about Finger Lakes Riesling, not only Barruol is jumping in here, with Paul Hobbs and Johannes Selbach (Selbach-Oster) also joining in here too, along with local hotshots like Ravines, Hermann J. Wiemer, Boundary Breaks and Dr. Konstantin Frank all which make wonderful wines. The Forge Cellars 2015 Dry Riesling Classique starts with an intense youthful expression of mouth waveringly dry and brisk fruit, a light petrol note, white roses and zesty citrus along with delicate layers of green apple, liquid shale, pithy peach pit, lemon oil, almond, marzipan, lime peel and verbena. It has a dusty dry mouth feel and tangy acidity that almost reminds me a bit of some Australian Rieslings like Gosset, Rolf Binder and Pewsey Vale, but with a smoky mineral and austere wet rock core and at 13% it does have a subtle density and gains a textural presence in the glass with air. I can’t wait to try the Cru offerings and will no questions enjoy more bottles of this one, it has a serve impact, but really grows on you and it will be a lovely Summer wine and great with a variety of cuisine, it’s a great value to enjoy now.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2016 Pedro Parra y Familia, Cinsault “Imaginador” Itata, Chile.
Pedro Parra is one of the world’s most sought after terroir specialists, literally he is Doctor Dirt, with a Ph.D on the subject, and with a masters in precision agriculture, he consults all over the globe and is currently working with some of France’s top winemakers as well as crafting his own naturally styled wines from his native Chile. The Concepcion born and raised Parra makes his wines from ancient vines in the Itata region, Chile’s first viticultural area established back in the 1,500’s when the Spanish missionaries arrived here and planted vineyards, mostly Pais (Listan Prieto) aka the Mission Grape, the 200 million-year-old Batholith terroir is home to 200 to 300 year old still producing vines, some of the oldest on the planet, and the granite soils give a striking mineral presence, with the cool costal breezes helping extend the growing season to add complexity and natural acidity. Along with the Mission Grape there is old vine Carignan, Muscat, Palomino and Cinsault, and like South Africa the Cinsault takes on a unique and complete character allowing for impressive solo efforts from this varietal which usually is a blending grape in it’s home regions of Provence and the Rhone where it is considered a bit too simple to go it alone in most cases, while Parra’s version is impressively expressive and deep. I’ve become a huge fan of Parra’s wines and especially enthusiastic about this Cinsault and this 2016 is my favorite to date, with it’s vibrancy and purity it really thrills in the glass, less raw and funky than the prior examples it delivers a wonderful performance with each sip getting better than the last, it shows a bright intensity and stylish charm that is beautiful in bouquet, medium bodied and with ripe fruit on the textured palate. It starts with vivid and lush cherry, dusty floral tones, flinty spices and light cedary notes before gaining a darker sense with plum and forest berry fruits coming through along with wild lavender, minty fennel and candied citrus that adds complexity and live to this lovely garnet/ruby Cinsault. A touch more mineral freshness, fuller fruit and with a bit more width than a southern Rhone version this Parra example manages a deep expression of place and leaves a thoughtful impression, it’s makes for an exceptional hand made wine, especially for the price, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Mullineux, Old Vines White, Swartland, South Africa.
South Africa in recent years has seen an amazing change of generation and a rise in quality few could have guessed at, winemakers like Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhosrt and Andrea Mullineux, just to name a few, are now international super stars and remarkably some of their greatest wines are from white grapes, especially Chenin Blanc, with some wines eclipsing any wines from the Loire! Also too is a trend to make field blends, historic and or old vine vineyards which like early California site were planted to mixed varietals, both Sadie Family and Mullineux excelling in these wines, and while I’ve featured Sadie in recent years, this was my first chance to dig into Andrea’s offerings in a serious way and exploring her terroir/soil series was a thrill with her single varietal Syrah and Chenin on granite really impressing me, and while they are without question some of the most exciting wines from South Africa I’ve ever tried, I loved this old vine field blend white maybe best of all for it’s combination of complexity and value. Crafted from 62% Chenin Blanc, 15% Grenache Blanc, 11% Viognier, 8% Clairette Blanche and 4% Semillon Gris the 2016 Old Vine White from Mullineux (the husband and wife team of Chris and Andrea) starts with a sizzling tension and crisp focus only barley hinting at the rapture to come in the following minutes, it reveals slowly in an austere way it’s layers of tart peach, unripe apple, brisk lemony citrus and waxy unsweetened honey and dusty stones adding a straw note before opening to a medium bodied, textured and excitingly severe palate. With air more appears and this white gathers itself and seduces completely gaining white flowers, mineral/steely verve, clove/spice, wet river rock and melon, kiwi and almond oil. The wine is fermented using native yeasts and aged 11 months in French oak, about 20% of which are new, not that you notice at first, it’s only well into the bottle does the mouth feel turn richer and you pick up the wood and leesy side of things, the grapes, old vine Chenin along with the Mediterranean varieties come from vineyard parcels in different parts of the Swartland area with an amazing geological make up of soils including plots in the stony Shale and Schist of Kasteelberg, decomposed Granite in Paardeberg and the iron-rich hillsides west of Malmesbury, all of which shines through to make an outstanding world class white! This wine is the real deal to drink over the next 3 to 5 years, it is like if you took the best from Francois Chidane’s Montluis and Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc along with a little bit of Laura Lorenzo’s Erea de Vila Ribeira Sacra Godello blend, all awesome wines on their own, such is the nature of Mullineux’s class, don’t miss a chance at this or any of their wines!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Bedrock Wine Co., Heritage Red, Evangelho Vineyard, Contra Costa County.
Beautifully textured and ripely flavored the new Bedrock Evangelho Heritage is a refined Zin based red from own rooted vines that were planted in the 1890’s, it’s a juicy wine that has a sense of vintage influenced restraint and a it has a wonderfully long finish. The Contra Costa’s Evengelho family has been tending these vines since 1936, they are grown on the Delhi Sand (soils) of the San Joaquin River Delta, the sand helps give the vineyard it’s longevity and allows this site to keep producing beautiful and concentrated fruit, as highlighted by Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Heritage Red. This version is close to 60% Zinfandel and 35% Mataro, with the remainder being a touch of Carignane, a little Palomino and maybe a few other varietals and comes in at 14.1%, which delivers an elegant performance on the palate with smooth layers of black raspberry, brambleberry, sweet plum and kirsch along with dark spring flowers, a subtle Mourvedre earthiness, grilled herbs, satiny tannins, anise and incense. There’s a surprising lift that keeps things exciting and provides this deeply purple/garnet hued and full bodied wine a grace and focus that makes it stand out. Twain-Peterson compares this to a southern Rhone red, and I certainly can see that, it reminds me a bit of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in style, but with it’s classic Zinfandel flavor profile, he raised this serious red in large French foudre after co-fermenting this wine by each block, it gains tremendously with air, dropping it’s simple hedonism for a more complex animal and revealing coveted detailing and mineral tones, it’s a wine to enjoy now with robust cuisine or aged another 5 to 10 years, it’s impressive by nature, especially if you give it time to show it’s full self, it’s a sleeper in Bedrock’s stellar lineup.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013 Theresa Eccher, Etna Rosso DOC “ER” Sicily, Italy.
This blend of Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cappuccio (20%) from Theresa Eccher winery, by Daniela Conta (Theresa’s granddaughter) and her hus­band Andrea Panozzo is a classic and easy drinking Mount Etna red that highlights the volcano terroir with lovely spice, dusty earth and mineral charms to go with a medium body of bright red fruits. This wine was traditionally made with fermentation in stainless steel tank, temperature controlled, and raised in mostly in tank as well, though some get a little of used cask using old vines. Uniquely, Theresa Eccher winery, named after a historical figure from Trentino, sources wine from around Italy, with Conta and Panozzo putting together an interesting lineup that ranges from dry to sweet, from vineyards and regions they find intriguing without any ties to the region themselves, as well as a Lambrusco, as far as I can tell they started with Sicily in the 2011 vintage. While I normally try to review small estate wines, I really enjoyed this fairly dark Etna Rosso with a non working dinner and decided to dig into the producer, and while not much info is out there, the quality in the bottle shines and at $42 on a restaurant list it wasn’t an outrageous gouging and well worth the pleasure in the glass, especially with the wonderful seafood spaghetti nero at La Belena in Carmel by the Sea. The 2013 Theresa Eccher Etna Rosso DOC “ER” is silken with pretty mouth feel and delicacy on the palate, liken a fine Pinot Noir, it goes great with a variety of cuisine choices, it starts with flinty spices, dried flowers and tangy plummy notes which leads to a palate that gains with every sip adding cherry, raspberry, red pepper, minty anise and a touch of stony earth. The acidity is lifting, but silky and the sense of floral grace lingers on the finish, making for a friendly Sicilian red that hints at the exotic nature of the place, drink now.
($22-26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Collotte, Marsannay, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
Exploring value priced Burgundy using ends in huge disappointment, but sometimes you find a jewel and the wines of Philippe Collotte are just that, especially his old vine Marsannay, where there are 5 parcels of 50+ year old vines that make up his excellent super-value Marsannay Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, it way over delivers for the price. For the US market, Weygant Metzler has special cuvees, with all ultra sorted de-stemmed fruit, he bottles everything unfiltered per his imports request, it makes for an expressive and mineral driven Pinot Noir of wonderful delicacy, but with solid fruit intensity which forms it’s perception of depth flavors. While starting with classic Burgundy subtly and brightness things gain a darker feel with air allowing layers of black cherry, strawberry and earthy vine picked berries to come through on the medium bodied palate, the mouth feel and length are quite impressive for a wine of this price. Rose petals, chalk dust and cedar notes along with a mixed spice note add to the whole here, there’s no question this will surprise a few people, the vintage with it’s concentrated ripe profile certainly helped and the old vines give a charm that with put a smile on many a face, it did mine! Drink this Marsannay over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s a no guilt Burgundy to get by the case!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2015 Vincent Gaudry Vigneron, Sancerre Rouge “Les Garennes” Loire Valley, France.
The first domaine to be certified biodynamic in Sancerre, back in 2004, the Saury-en-Vaux based Vincent Gaudry has been a unique leader in natural style wines in the area, he also has a 90 year old plot of vines that delivers outstanding terroir quality with expressive depth and character, this is a winemaker to watch, if you haven’t had his wines. Vincent Gaudry’s Sancerre Rouge is a single parcel old vine Pinot Noir, made 100 % whole cluster from a massale selection, from his domaine’s 9 hectares of vineyards grown on the region’s three main soils that includes Terres Blanches, a clay-limestone or marl, and classic Silex, flint and stony (chalky), plus Caillottes, a rubble-like limestone that comes from weathered Kimmeridgian. The 2015 organic whole cluster, low sulfur, Sancerre Rouge is ripe and expressive in a way you rarely find in Pinot Noir’s from the Loire, it’s wine with sexy layers and Premier Cru quality depth and elegance with an amazing sense of live and length, with the stems perfect mated to the fruit intensity, this wine is insanely seductive with hedonistic layers of fruit, spice and mineral focus. It starts with a hint of spritzy lift before exploding on the palate with a mix of rose oil, black cherry, pomegranate, sweet basil leaf, cinnamon, wild plum, racy stemmy notes, flinty spices and delicate wood shadings. Things keep pumping along nicely and air brings a refined nature to things, while not missing a step or taking away from the thrill ride it takes you on, gaining a touch of minty herb, cedar and tangy strawberry and lingering on with a touch of blood orange zest, violet pastel, wet chalk and tart currant. This will be a fascinating wine to follow over the next 5 to 10 years, even though it’s youthful charm and flamboyance is impossible to resist, it is asking a lot not to enjoy now. This producer is all new to me, imported by Floraison Selections, but the secret is out now, don’t wait to find this wine!
($62 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Mid-Elevation, Mendocino Ridge.
For the third vintage in a row, Jason Drew just might be California’s best producer and wines are spectacular in delivery, substance and expressive with an amazing sense of controlled tension, these 2016’s are full of energy, precision and depth of fruit, without question they are some of my favorite wines (Syrah & Pinot), with this lovely value priced Mid Elevation an early star in the lineup. Mid-Elevation is an appellation blend of several sites in the Mendocino Ridge (85%) plus Anderson Valley (15%) that lie between 1,200-1,400 feet in elevation. Drew considers this zone their sweet spot within the coastal ridges for structured Pinot Noir(s) as they are closer to the fog-line which is typically at 900-1,000ft, allowing for opulent layers and brilliant acidity, it really makes the wine pop in the glass as this wine clearly shows. Five vineyards make up this cuvee, 50% Drew Estate, 12% Valenti Ranch, 12% Perli Vineyard, 12% Fashauer Vineyard and 15% Wendling Vineyard with a selection of Dijon and Heritage clones that include 667, 828, 115, Pommard, 943, Swan, and Rochioli, Jason then fermented with partial whole cluster, with 15% in this vintage, using native yeasts, then barrel aged in mostly used French oak (only 15% new) for about 11 months. Brilliant in detail and lift, the Mid-Elevation 2016 Pinot is bursting with flavor and dynamic transparency with a deep garnet/ruby hue in the glass showing a lovely floral tone and muted wood that leads to a medium weight palate of black cherry, tangy summer berries, pomegranate, purple plums, cran-apple and dark currant fruits along with a hint of orange/minty tea spices, pine pitch, mineral, light touches of wild mushrooms, cinnamon and flinty loam. This textured and youthful Pinot only previews the greatest of what we can look forward to in the single vineyard wines to come from Drew, this Mid-Elevation is a stupidly good value, it has complexity, beauty in fine and delicate focus, balanced brisk acidity and satiny tannins that form it’s structure, it shows a ripe and potent personality, but with a Burgundy like natural alcohol coming in at 13.4%, which belies it’s impact and presence in the glass. If you really want to taste California at it’s best, Drew is a must, the level of expression and class is off the charts, these are wines the rise above and are pure seduction, search them out! The 2016’s may not be as concentrated as 2013 or 2015, but they more than make up for that with their overall performance, they have a polish that allows early drinking, especially this one, but I see potential in mid term cellaring, drink between 2019-2026.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2016 M. & C. Lapierre, Morgon, Cuvee S, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The M. & C. Lapierre 2016 Morgon Cru Beaujolais “S” is the lightly sulfured version, made from organic grapes and natural winemaking techniques, it just has a tiny dose of S02 at bottling to preserve it, as opposed to the Cuvee N that is exclusively imported by Kermit Lynch in ultra small qualities, while this one is more readily available and safer for shipping/cellaring, both are glorious expressions of Morgon, in fact after trying both there s little if any real world difference except that the N feels slightly more raw with a more earthy tone and a touch more citrusy note, while the S has a more forward clarity of fruit, though as noted the difference is almost not worth mentioning, it’s just as a long time admirer of Lapierre I was extremely curious as to how both were performing. Lapierre’s dad Marcel was a leader in organic and natural wines and Mathieu and his sister Camille have carried on his legendary example with exceptional care in the vines and in the cellar, these are wines that have always shown what well crafted natural wine can be, they are pure, elegant and clean wines with an authentic and soulful expression of terroir and heritage, while still not taking themselves too seriously, adding a playful art to each wine, these are wines you drink with a sense of awe and with much laughter and a huge smile on your face! This is absolutely Gamay perfection, made whole cluster from 60 years old vines and aged in well used Burgundy barrels, with no adornments, juicy, but wonderful in balance, beautifully perfumed and texture showing fine silky tannins and energy. The 2016 delivers a rich vein of bright cherry, fruity/juicy strawberry and wild black plum notes, a hint of cedar/walnut, sweet star anise, dried basil, mineral tones and violette. With air some savory tones, earth, spice and mineral add to the complex detail come through with delicious subtly, there’s no wonder why these are so sought after, I love it. This is a Gamay wonderland, not as concentrated as 2015, but joyously lively and almost crisply refreshing, drink now.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the my favorite Syrah wines in the world, Guillaume Gilles Cornas, is a powerful and edgy red with wonderful depth and intensity, but with a certain polish and inner elegance that makes it stand out in a crowd of fine northern Rhone offerings. Guillaume Gilles, once a young vigneron resident in Cornas, is now one of the regions top talents, he trained under the famed Robert Michel and was Michel’s most loved protégé, not only did Robert Michel mentor the young Guillaume Gilles, he also leased his prime parcel in the Chaillot vineyard to him and provided his cave (with all its history and secrets!) when he retired in 2006. Gilles, like Thierry Allemand, it an ultra traditionalist in the cellar, he’s never even seen a destemmer! And he uses 100% whole cluster, only native yeasts, ferments in concrete vats and ages in old demi-muids, large used French oak casks, and bottles without fining or filtering. In Cornas, the best wines without question come from the old and best sites and Chaillot is just about the greatest parcel there is and Gilles hand tends his rows on the higher and steepest part, which tends to give the most concentration, tannin and an added dimension to the wines, his plot average 40 years old and while not certified his works in an organic way on the rocky granite, clay and limestone soils. It was great to finally meet Guillaume in person recently, when he was on a sales tour with Rosenthal Wine Merchants in San Francisco, and tasting his current lineup which included this 2014 Cornas, his top wine, as well as his rare Vin de France (100% Syrah) Les Peyrouses from vines just outside the legal Cornas zone on a flat galet (big round river stones) strewn site with sand and clay soils, it can also be labeled Cotes du Rhone, the same way A. Clape does. The 2014 vintage was not the region’s top years, but the Gilles Cornas is remarkably powerful and profound in the glass with an opaque purple/black/garnet hue and a vast array of terroir influences on the nose and palate with your senses getting a thrill of crushed violets, raw meat, peppercorns, mure and tapenade along with edgy black and blue fruits forming a core with firm tannins and a vivid stemmy nature. Gilles gives a long cool cuvaison to this wine, macerating up to 30 days and elevage (aging in cask) lasts 18 months, plus a year in bottle before shipping, he uses only a tiny amount of sulfur and the 2014 shows tremendous purity and vigor with a heightened lift of natural acidity, which adds a feel of energy and lightness to this brilliant wine, it just gets better with every sip adding blueberry, kirsch, lavender and salted black licorice to the layers on display here, wow, this is stellar and gripping stuff. I have been following this winery since the first US release and I am always impressed and intrigued by the wines, and considering the amount made and the quality, the Guillaume Gilles is a must have Syah, it delivers a performance that is world class, and while slightly austere there is a gorgeous subtle beauty that should unfold over time, even though it seems a bit hidden at the moment, amazing in detail and complexity, I can only imagine the greatness and flamboyance that the 2015 promises, but I would not pass up the chance to get this 2014, it’s simply awesome, drink over the next 5 to 15 years!
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Los Chuchaquis by Stirm Wine Co., Old Vine Mataro, San Benito County.
This wine is a part of a joint project lineup by Ryan Stirm, Andrew Paul Nelson and Jehan Hakimian that focuses on natural wines from interesting old vine sites. Chuchaqui is a Quechua word that literally means “without legs” and used colloquially in Ecuador to refer to someone who is “perpetually hungover”. The three initially connected through their joint love of Riesling and California’s historic vineyards, they brought the Chuchaqui dream of making their own idea of natural wine from California’s historic varieties to life in 2016. Inspired by some of the most successful European (think Occhipinti & Lapierre) and California natural wines, without the old hippy absolute dogma that led to dirty and funky wines that weren’t pleasant or stable, there is a clarity and action to detail here, though there has never, nor will there ever be, any commercial (industrial) yeast used at the winery, relying on native strains only and now new oak barrels, no additions or aggressive handling during production. Other than a minimal amount of S02 (sulfur) that was added to their Rosé, the wines are made without any sulfur and exclusively 100% organically grown grapes. To make this style of wine, and not end up with weirdness you need to have extreme cleanliness and top your barrels with a fanatic sense of purpose to make sure you don’t let volatile acidity run rampant and everything I’ve tried from Stirm shows to dedication and pride in hard work, especially in this old vine Mourvedre (Mataro) which shows wonderful purity and fresh form, it is joyous on the medium full palate and refined in texture and has juicy ripeness without harsh tannin and a long dry finish. The 2016 Chuchaqui Old Vine Mataro is vibrant, spicy and has a nice array of spice, mineral and earthy tones that you’d expect from this grape with layers of vivid black raspberry, plum and candied cherry fruit that come across at first as crisply focused, but gains density and firm structure with air which balances the up front expressiveness of this red, and even though it doesn’t quite get the full mouth feel or richness of a Bandol or some of the better and more complex Mourvedre offerings in the state, like Sandlasnds, Alban, Tablas Creek, Ian Brand, who’s Enz Vineyard version is one of my personal favorites as is Randall Grahm’s Old Telegram and or Ridge’s Lytton Springs single varietal bottling, to name a few I’ve loved recently as I really love this grape, while (This Chuchaqui) still being a fun and well made wine, and it really grew on me when it’s full presence come through in the glass. It’s dark garnet/purple color is exciting and when enjoyed with food it is allowed to deliver it’s best qualities which include hints of lavender, dusty stones, a touch of primary red peach and blood orange is the only hint at it’s naturalness as well as minty herb, anise, flinty/pepper and lingering cinnamon, cedar, dried flowers and tangy currant/mulberry. This wine shows lots of promise, it has a lot of admirable character and I’m excited to see where this label goes, I love Ryan’s own label Riesling, which is right up there with Tatomer and Joyce in a dry style, and I also liked their co-ferment nouveau field blend as well. Drink this old vine Mataro by Chuchaqui (Stirm Wine Co.) sooner v. later, it excels for it’s youthful charm and with no added sulfur you’ll need to be extra careful and keep it away from light and heat if you cellar it, best from 2018 to 2021, I think it has more than enough class, potential and style to surprise and hope to drink a few more bottles over the next few years.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2014 Domaine Bertrand et Axelle Machard de Gramont, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Lieu-Dit “Les Terraces de Vallerots” Red Burgundy, France.
Since taking over the family domaine in 2004 Axelle Machard de Gramont has converted to organic farming and gained a great reputation as a minimalist in the cellar making gorgeous and lively wines that seem softer in focus and more elegant, they highlight the delicacy of each terroir and make for wonderful drinking wines that offer classic profiles and are fantastic values, with this Lieu-Dit Vallerots being one of my favorites of her 2014 bottlings that I’ve tried. The vineyard, Axelle’s father Bertrand reterraced and planted in 2002 on a plot that had been abandoned since the late 1800s is now starting to realize it’s potential and this 2014 is a beauty with a complex array of pure Pinot Noir flavors and terroir influence, it’s a brightly lifted Burgundy that leans on pretty red cherry, wild plum and dusty raspberry, earthy beet root along with rose petals on the nose, plus an earthy seduction of mineral, spice and truffle notes before adding a darker element of racy currant and a faint touch leather on the silken palate. There’s plenty of density and richness of fruit in this textural Nuits-Saint-George, but it still remains remarkably light and energetic with nice acidity and almost haunting in length and detail, Axelle’s touch really is telling, especially as this wine opens and evolves with air and time, considering this from such young vines the finesse is even more impressive. Best to enjoy this tasty wine, imported by Paris Wine Company & Balanced Wine Selections, over the near future, maybe between 2019 and 2022.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Eduardo Torres Acosta Viticultore, Versante Nord, Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT, Italy.
Eduardo Torres Acosta, the Spaniard, a native of the Canary Islands who now make Sicily home is one of the young winemakers to watch on the Island, after working with natural wine princess Arianna Occhipinti and currently head winemaker of Etna’s famed Azienda Passopisciaro, has been an instant hit with his Etna sourced red blend, mostly Nerello Mascalese, which he has been doing since the 2014 vintage, now has an amazing Uve Bianche (white Etna wine) made from six different parcel of old vines on the valance’s north side, hence the name Versante Nord, it’s a blend of Minella mainly with the rest including other local varieties Catarratto, Carricante, Coda di Volpe, Grecanico and Inzolia. Complex and brilliant in detail the spiced apply Vesante Nord Bianco was fermented spontaneously in concrete tank, with maceration on the skins for 5 days without temperature control, before resting in well seasoned botti (large oak cask) using organic and hand tended grapes from volcanic soils at high elevation to preserve cool acidities. The 2016 Eduardo Torres Acosta Bianco starts with it’s golden hue with an amber tint and that spiced apple, almost cidery before opening up to a medium bodied palate that includes an array of layered white and yellow fruits showing dried pineapple, quince, pear and zest lemon/lime along with a touch skin tannins, flinty/shate and mixed exotic spices, it picks up a hint of anise/fennel, crystalized ginger and a little oxidative mature element (backed apple and nuttiness) that is common with both nature wines and white on volcanic ash. This is wonderfully expressive and wildly alluring wine that is a touch rustic, but charming and it’s quality readily apparent, especially with air and it should prove a great wine to enjoy on a warm evening with friends, food and intelligent conversation. This white makes an excellent companion to Acosta’s marvelous Nerello based reds, be sure not to over look this producer when looking for Etna wines, and as a side note, the only reason these wines are not labeled Etna Rosso or Etna Bianco, is because Eduardo makes his wines at a facility outside the DOC, even though his grapes are all from classified zones.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Peter Wetzer, Kékfrankos, Soproni, Hungary.
Sopron was once part of a greater region that included what is now Austria’s Burgenland home to fine Blaufrankisch, but part of Hungary since 1921, here the grape is known as Kékfrankos, this wild and remote area has a long Germanic tradition with many Swabian (Bavarian farmers mostly) settlers, who had a great influence in Sopron area. These early settlers were known as “Poncichter” (Bohnenzüchter in German) because they planted beans as cover crops, and for food, using the grape canopy to shade them from the long sunny days, this use of land led them to a more holistic approach to growing grapes and it still has spiritual connection to the small collection of new generation winemakers here, including Peter Wetzer, who is one of the best producers of stylish and natural Kékfrankos, he is a label to look for, I have been thrilled will each vintage I’ve had and this 2016 is just as impressive. Kékfrankos or Blaufrankisch in Austria and Lemberger in Germany is sometimes compared to Pinot Noir, but I find it more like the illicit love child of Cabernet Franc and Gamay who’s stepfather is from Burgundy! My two favorite versions are Georg Prieler’s Austrian example and Peter Wetzer’s from Soproni Hungary, both are excellent examples of varietal and terroir with the Austrian wine feeling denser/meatier and more powerful, while the lovely Wetzel seems more delicate perfumed and lighter in style. I was impressed with the vibrancy and textural grace in Wetzel’s new vintage, comes from the Kohlenberg and Harmler vineyards, where the soils are mixture of clay, red gravel, limestone, and loess, the vines age range is from 25-60 years old, this 2016 exceeds my hopes for such a wine with an inner dark flower bouquet and a light to medium bodied mouth feel that seems to gain dimension with your mood, making for an intriguing red. This natural and authentic Kékfrankos spent 18 months on the lees, it was native fermented in open top bins and barrel aged in used Hungarian oak, it’s all unfined and unfiltered as well to add to it’s terroir clarity. It’s a wine that adds a spicy, earthy tone and complexity on the palate with every sip, best with food, especially duck confit, there is layers of black cherry, red raspberry, a touch of bell pepper and mineral tones to revel in as well as a hint of cedar, licorice root, loam and a touch of leather. The winemaking is deft and clear, nothing overt, but still with an exciting presence in the glass, this is a lovely wine, pretty, fun and unique, to enjoy over the next 2 to 3 years.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, Terre Sicilianne IGT, Vittoria, Sicily Italy.
A lot has been said about Arianna Occhipinti, a leader in natural wines, and her wines, she is an old soul and a super human hard working winegrower in a young body, one thing is certain, Frappato has almost become a household name because of her and her wines, especially her signature bottling the Il Frappato, it a wine of wondrous earthy pleasures, seductive in form and delicate in nature it has the presence of a lighter Nebbiolo with brandied cherry and balsamic notes, but with the easy charm of a fine Cru Beaujolais highlighting Frappato’s strawberry and lingonberry core of fruit. Occhipinti is an old soul and has her heart deep in her region’s terroir and traditions, her soulful expressions are full of pride of place and laced with a rustic charm that is seductive in every sense, her 2015 is maybe her best to date with a serious, almost Burgundy like feel, energy and class while still remaining utterly spellbindingly true to her spot on earth, near Ragusa in the Vittoria zone, with it’s red, sandy soils above limestone. This is a wine that has really come of age, losing the absoluteness of youth and dogma to reach a classic dimension and a studied quality of complexity and completeness that may have just been missing in a few of her earlier examples, she and her uncle Giusto, who makes the famed COS, make great wines, but uniquely different in styles even though both are leaders on the island for that natural approach with COS using ampfora and much less wood in a nod to the ancient methods. Not that the ripe vintage lacks for fruity expression, it just allows a deeper vein of restraint and depth of dry flavors to excel in a wine that in prior years could be dismissed as simple or naive, while there’s no question of Occhipinti’s natural wine leanings, this wine takes beyond that niche pigeon hole into the world where a harsh spotlight looks for any flaw and where survival depends on consistency of clarity, well, now there will be no doubt of her talents, this 2015 is a gorgeous and compelling wine without any excuses to fall back on. Lightly floral and with an array of spice, earth and racy red fruits Arianna’s Il Frappato delivers an exceptional performance from start to finish on par with a Premier Cru Nuits-Saint-Georges or a serious Fleurie, the medium bodied palate is lively and full of verve with the mentioned core of dusty cherry, tangy plum, strawberry and Swedish lingonberry fruits along with chalky stone, saddle leather, dry extract, minty herbs, tarry licorice, red peach, candied citrus zest, lavender florals and dried porcini. The tannins are remarkably refined and the acidity is perfectly lifting without taking away from the beautiful textural mouthfeel, this native ferment and used barrel raised, low sulfur red is an intriguing and flexible wine for cuisine, especially lightly spicy seafood and simple country fare, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, Occhipinti continues to raise her game and you’ll want to rush to get this one, with her cult like following it will always be a hard get!
($39 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 Bow & Arrow, Melon, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This is a wine I’m always drawn to, it’s a brilliant and fresh white that delivers the varietal characteristics of a dusty dry Muscadet Sevre et Maine, but with it’s own unique added dimension, and this 2016 vintage even rises above expectations with heightened energy and mineral depth. Scott Frank is making some America’s best Loire Valley inspired wines, he naturally crafts expressive wines of great definition and distinction using primally all organic grapes and with no additions or employing anything but tiny amounts of sulfur, these are fun and pure wines that are easy to love with a certain old world and rustic charm, but deliver serious details and are exceptional values, especially his Gamay based wines and Cabernet Francs, though you not want to miss this Melon or his Sauvignon Blanc either. These 2016’s by Bow & Arrow have reached a new level of quality, easily exceeding the outstanding 2014 and 2015 wines with this Bow & Arrow Johan Vineyard Melon de Bourgogne, from biodynamic grown grapes, these vines are situated on the southern edge of the Van Duzer corridor, west of Salem, it gets cool sea breezes and wonderful exposure, set on marine sedimentary soils which help give this wine it’s freshness, nervy verve and stony character, this striking white starts with crisp brightness with a touch of straw, oyster shell, citrus flowers leading to a light to medium bodied palate of brisk green apple, mixed citrus and steely morning melon fruits as well as chalky wet rock, a hint of citron/herb, mouth watering saline and quinine tanginess. This wine gains a certain roundness with air, it possesses an intriguing impact, it’s somewhat Chablis like in it’s form and performance, it highlights Oregon’s potential for alternative white wines with Melon really coming of age, the finish here leans on lemony tones, kiwi and a hint of lees along with a white peach element that adds a bit more complexity to this savvy and fine white, it is an alluring wine that will make a lot of people happy, in particular with seafood and or goat cheeses. This is a crunchy vibrant Melon that should be enjoyed young in it’s refreshing brilliance and racy prime, even though it’s structure and acidity should allow graceful aging for at least 3 to 5 years, if you’ve not had Bow & Arrow, you should search out this Portland based winery!
($18-22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Weingut Leitz, Sylvaner Trocken, Alte Reben, Rheingau Germany.
The mineral driven and richly flavored Leitz old vine Sylvaner is a brilliant white wine, coming off the famed Drachenstein (Dragon Stone) Premier Cru (Erste Lage) vineyard, which sits above part of the Grand Cru sites of Rudesheimer Berg in the Johannisberg zone of the Rheingau, and set on a vein of quartzite along with broken slate, it’s a wonderfully dry and textured offering from Johannes Leitz and his team. Fermented and aged in large neutral cask, the Leitz Drachenstein Alte Reben Sylvaner is labeled a Trocken QbA, but feels much more regal and profound in the glass, more like some the modern Feinherb offerings that have medium weight profiles and textural grace without showing much in the way of residual sugar, this is a vibrant and brisk wine that gains with air in the glass, it’s pale golden hue is beautiful and it’s details delicate and rounded, while still showing the vigor and sense of purpose you find in all of Leitz’s wines. Sylvaner (Silvaner, Gruner Silvaner or locally to Rudesheim Johannisberger) looks to have originally come from eastern Austria, it has been DNA revealed that is was a crossing between Traminer and Hunnic (a lesser local varietal of Austrian origins) and while still in parts of Austria it has found a more successful home in Alsace, France, it became very popular in Germany post WWII when it had a total of 30% of all vineyard area, but used for cheap fruity bland wines for mass production Liebfraumilch, though then got almost all ripped out, and now is making a small come back. It needs special vineyards and intense care to make wines of character and class, and here Leitz succeeds in a big way with this Sylvaner, it comes in at 11.0% natural alcohol and has a brisk dry palate with a nice saline quality showing 2016 inner brightness and freshness along with solid ripe flavors which includes green apple, stone fruit, lemon and melon fruits along with a touch of subtle creaminess (leesy?), plus hints of flinty shale, citrus blossom, wet stones, tangy kumquat sorbet, briny notes and with a core of crystalline steeliness. Less intense than Riesling with a less expressive nature and softer aromas, this Sylvaner holds it’s own in Leitz’s great set of 2016 wines, I was wonderful impressed with this Drachenstein Old Vine Sylvaner, it’s a wine that is brand new to me, and it’s a serious steal at the price! I really enjoyed it with lighter Asian cuisine and a mild curry dish, but it is an exceptionally flexible white that can match up well with lots of fare and should be great with seafood, like a fine Albarino is, as well as being a savvy summer sipper, drink now and for another 3 to 5 years.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Pessoa da Vinha, Terroir Blend, Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal.
One of the best values in white wine that I’ve tried this year, this Pessoa Vinho Verde is a savvy blend of Alvarinho, Trajadura and Loureiro grapes, it’s a beautifully crisp and well made wine that way over performs in this price range. Coming off classic terroir in the acclaimed Monção and Melgaço zones, this Pessoa is all stainless steel tank fermented and raised preserving all the freshness and brightness, making this little white a fun and easy vibrant wine that while light and refreshing is not lacking in texture and has an extra degree of depth that you’d expect from a Vinho Verde. The 2016 Pessoa da Vinha Terroir Blend is brilliant and mineral driven, it has an essence of green apple, zippy citrus and round melon on the palate along with steely delicacy, saline and wet river stones along with hints of tropical elements, lemony herbs and a touch of verbena. I was thrilled by all the wines by Pessoa, the two reds are equally good and full of flavor, but with balance and vitality, even though I think this white delivers a beautiful surprise in quality and style. With air things get even better and more elegant with a lush, smooth mouth feel comes through giving a more serious impact overall, while maintaining it’s lively nature, if this was a California wine, you’d be happy to pay $20-25 for it! I know I’ll be drinking this wine when the weather turns warm and the days grow longer, it will be brilliant for outdoor dinning and especially picnics with fruit and cheese, but with enough substance to go with a good array of foods and cuisines, in particular fresh, briny seafood choices, drink now and often.
($10 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine de la Sarazinière, Mâcon-Bussières Blanc “Cuvee Claude Seigneuret” White Burgundy, France.
Philippe Trebignaud along with his son Guilhaume run the Domaine de la Sarazinière, a 6 hectare estate that consists of several single vineyard parcels in Bussières and Serrières, including a block of both Chardonnay and Gamay Noir that was planted in 1926 by the Domaine’s original founder Claude Seigneuret, with this wine (a special old vine cuvee) baring his name in an hommage. While not certified organic, Philippe and Guilhaume work with the conviction that it is the only way to work, with living soils, and holistic practices, similar to biodynamics, the estate is regularly plowed and not ever treated with pesticides and or any herbicides. At 13% natural alcohol this wine feels ripe, but incredibly mineral driven and vibrant with an intense steely and stony core and showing apple, pear and bright lemon fruits along with wet rock, clove and white flowers as well as a bit of peach and chalk. The delicate golden hue and snappy acidity add to the joyous performance and appearance of this poised white Burgundy, it’s a class act and gains depth with air giving a regal mouth feel to this well made and balanced Chardonnay from Domaine de la Saraziniere. Imported by Floraison Selections, this cuvee Claude Seigneuret Macon-Bussieres really delivers for the price, in a blind tasting it gave a good account for itself in a lineup of stars, including a good vintage of Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet! There is a lot to love about this wine and winery, be sure to search it out, this 2016 is beautiful and impressive wine, especially for the price.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2017 Ameztoi, Rosé of Hondarribi Belza/Hondarribi Zuri “Rubentis” Getariako Txakolina DO, Spain.
Grown in the Basque region near Getaria in the Getariako Txakolina zone, Ameztoi’s zesty fresh Rosé is one of Spain’s best and most distinct dry pink wines, made from both white and red grapes, 50% Hondarribi Beltza (old vine red) and 50% Hondarribi Zuri (white) fermented without malolactic in tank preserving intense fresh detail and is bottled with a little residual carbonation to give it a light spritz. The free CO2 adds lift and brisk lightness to this wonderful summer wine, Amztoi also does a Champagne style Rosé sparkling version too that is much more full and yeasty, but this is their classic dry Rosé and it delivers a dynamic palate of sour cherry, watermelon, a hint of bubble gum and eye popping citrus along with a steely mineral force, adding a touch of rosewater, lavender and distilled strawberry essences. It’s almost insane that this 10.5% alcohol wine isn’t just bottled in magnum, it’s so refreshing and vivid, one bottle is never going to be enough! I love all of the Ameztoi wines, especially this Basque Rosé, but don’t miss the white either, it’s a like a lime refresher, both great with light cuisine and warm days of summer.
($19-22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2016 Viticultores Envinate, Tinto “Benje” Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
The Benje Tinto from Envinate is mostly Listan Prieto (Pie Franco) aka The Mission Grape from almost wild untrained vines set on the volcanic soils of Tenerife’s Ycoden Daute Isora region, there is a tiny amount of Tintilla (Graciano) in the blend as well. The Benje Tinto is all destemmed and fermented in concrete vats and well as a few bins from selected parcels that are fermented in separate lots, 100% native yeasts and no sulfur added with only vegetable proteins used to clarify the wine, the wine is racked into small neutral barrels for malos and aging on it’s fine lees, the final blend is about 95% Listan Prieto, 5% Tintilla all of which is organically farmed by hand from old vines, 70-105 years old, that sit at about 1,000-1,200 meters above the Atlantic Ocean, off the west coast of the African mainland. Envinate (Wine Yourself) is a team effort between college friends, lead by Roberto Santana here on Tenerife, but joined by the talents of Laura Ramos, Jose Martinez and Alfonso Torrente, who all have vines around Spain that they collaborate in making small lots from under their group label, and in recent years these young winemakers have been hugely influential in promoting Spain’s new generation of wines, regions and styles, especially highlighting the quality of this historic Listan grape, both Prieto and Negro that was planted from Spain to the new world in the 1,500’s. The Benje Listan Prieto shows a wild plum, tart cherry and dusty raspberry fruit core which is backed up with a saline and savory edginess that is brought into focus with red pepper flakes, dried flowers, flinty/shale mineral infusion and brambly herbs/anise. This 2016 is wonderfully delicate and vital with low alcohol charms, at 12% it feels crisp and vibrant with glorious purity and lightness, much less reduced or earthy that prior vintages, this a lovely wine that gains intensity and perfume with air, while staying firmly brisk in delivery and just the right amount of rustic character, preserving the varietal promise and gripping terroir picking up hints of wild strawberry, sticky lavender and a stony element, absolutely joyous, especially good with a slight chill, drink now.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2016 Alberto Nanclares, Albarino, Rias Baixas DO, Galicia Spain.
The signature wine of the Nanclares y Prieto Viticultores, the Alberto Nanclares Albarino 2016 is brilliant and crystalline with verve and brisk detail, this is an excellent Rias Baixas wine of vitality and class, bravo Silvia Prieto and Alberto Nanclares for such a beautiful white. Absolutely pure Val do Salnés, a sub region of Rias Baixas, Albariño grown at sea level from Pergola trained vines between 30 and 60 years old, all organic, even using natural sea weed as compost, it’s a fresh and saline infused wine that was half raised in stainless and half in a used 2,000L French foudre, without malolactic, then raised on it’s less for about a year with just a tiny amount of sulfur, then bottled unfined and unfiltered making for a complex acid driven Albarino that sizzles with intensity and shows it’s cool Atlantic energy and saltiness with pride of place. The 2016 stuns with heightened lemon/lime, green apple, and tart white peach with stone leading the fruit along with hints of white flowers, sea breezes, grapefruit, tropical notes, bitter melon and sexy citron laced herbs, almond oil and verbena adding a leesy layer and vinous textural delight, while staying light, serious, yet playful on the zesty palate in much the same way as a great Chablis or Trocken Riesling (can) with that steely grip and wet rock character. Wow, this is super impressive, even for a winery I love so much, this is a stellar year for Nanclares and the region! Grown on granite and sand, this wine comes off a few Cru parcels that add refinement, terroir expression and age worthy concentration, Nanclares is one of Spain’s great white wine producers, and this 2016 Alberto Nanclares bottling shows why, this is as good as it gets for varietal and place, awesome, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, especially great now and with sardines, oysters and mussels or just a summer day or warm night.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2017 Casanova della Spinetta, Il Rosé di Casanova, Tuscany, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s dry Tuscan Rosé from La Spinetta’s Casanova della Spinetta is one of Italy’s finest and most delicate pink wines, it’s certainly one of my favorites for it’s fresh and distinct crisp personality, crafted from low alcohol grapes, 50% Sangiovese (Chianti clones?) and 50% Prugnolo Gentile (Brunello clone Sangiovese) grown at 300 meters with southern (ripe) exposures which allows for pretty flavors and plenty of juicy acidity. There isn’t that many Tuscan Rosato wines in this league of class, in fact you’d imagine this as being more French in style with it’s burst of energy and dusty dry performance, sadly this Casanova della Spinetta Il Rosé di Casanova sells out fast, and the 2017 was a tiny crop, making it an almost one chance get this year. This and the Vermentino are beautiful and refreshing summer wines that deliver quality and value, as does the 100% Sangiovese Il Rosso di Casanova, all giving a wonderful depth of flavor and sense of place, easy to love and pure bargains made by one of Italy’s premier wineries. While known for his Barbaresco, Barolo and Barbera wines in Piedmonte, Rivetti’s Tuscan project continues to gain fans and international acclaim with vineyard holdings in and around Chianti. The 2017 is bright, intense and vivid with a pale pinkish hue in the glass and vigorous persistence on the palate with a vibrant tension and light body showing cool brisk layers of red fruits including tart cherry, currant, watermelon and strawberry as well as a hint of spicy tobacco leaf, a array of zesty citrus, wet stones along with rosewater and steely mineral notes. This Rosé is lively and brilliant for outdoor occasions, especial warm days by the pool or picnics, but can partner up with various cuisine options as it takes on a more serious persona with food and matching many levels of flavors, it goes especially well with simple summer time fare. With enough substance to hold for a year or two, there is no rush to drink this, but then again it will be hard to save any bottles when all is said and done, enjoy now and as often as you can!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Lionnet, Cornas “Terre Brûlée” Northern Rhone, France.
One of my favorite wines and producers, Domaine Lionnet makes an incredible and authentic Cornas that never disappoints this Syrah geek, it’s always a nervy stemmy wine, but with gracious fruit and textures to balance everything out, I find these wines to have a raw sex appeal and with a dark earthy seduction, in terms of pure Syrah it rarely gets much better than this! Corinne Lionnet’s family has been here and wine growing since 1575, and countless generations, with her newly transplanted husband Ludovic Izerable, he come from the tiny university town of Grenoble up in the alps, making the wines, the two of them have run this winery now for about fifteen years after she took the estate over in 2003, this is a small label, they only produce two bottlings, mainly this Terre Brûlée Cornas, though they have added a Saint-Joseph Rouge called the Terre Neuve, but have not exported yet to my knowledge. Ludovic’s style is all about nature, with 100% whole cluster, 100% stems and all organic farming, he ferments native and uses long maceration (three weeks) in cement vats before malos in large cask, all well used, never new, with lengthy elevate/aging, there is never any additions or adjustments with just a tiny amount of sulfur. Each parcel for this Cornas is between 40 and 100 years old, they include four great Lieu-Dit sites, Chaillot, Combes, Brugeres and Mazards with each hand picked and fermented individually. Each of these Crus add to the whole and give this wine it’s special personality and chemistry, Domaine Lionnet’s attention to detail really shows in the bottle, these are electric and thrilling wines, which I was reminded of recently at Rosenthal’s Rhone and Bordeaux Tasting in San Francisco, where I got to meet Ludovic and Corinne and taste through a mini vertical of their glorious Cornas from 2012 to 2015, the just released version. Each vintage has it’s own charm and all are fantastic, but as I’ve sampled the 2012 through 2014 previously, I was focused on the 2015 which promises great rewards, though a bit taught at this point, it’s a star in progress. The 2012 is drinking great right now, and the 2013 is just getting itself together, while the 2014 is heavenly beautiful and more delicate than the rest, with this 2015 showing the full force of vintage and youth, it was the densest and exploding with fruit. A touch of air sets this 100% Syrah alive and releasing an inner perfume of violets, while a meaty wave flows underneath before reaching a climax of earth, spice and a core of black and blue fruit on the full bodied palate showing layers of boysenberry, cassis, blueberry, damson plum and kirsch along with vibrant peppercorns, dried basil, salted black licorice, bacon fat and truffle. This deep garnet hued Cornas lingers on and on recalling the violet and edgy stems for minutes in the aftertaste, this is a ridiculously great terroir driven wine with stellar potential in 3 to 5 years, if you love Jamet or Allemand you’ll want this wine, and at almost half their price this wine is a rockstar value.
($70 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2016 Domaine Marc Roy, Gevrey-Chambertin “La Justice” Red Burgundy, France.
Domaine Marc Roy’s La Justice Lieu-Dit Gevrey is an absolute beauty with a graceful easy to drink structure and silky mouth feel highlighting Alexandrine Roy’s gifted touch, and considering the difficulty of the vintage, this is gorgeous Burgundy that isn’t far off what I have tasted from 2015. The basic Gevrey-Chambertin is lush and vibrant with racy red fruits, while this La Justice, from 40 year old vines set on iron influenced clay over limestone, goes into the black fruit realm and is deeper in complexity and length with lingering rose petal and violette. Alexandrine used all de-stemmed grapes here with native yeast, employing a very gentile winemaking style and it’s raised in traditional small barrique, about 30% new in this and most vintages, then bottled unfixed and unfiltered that all showcases her desire for graceful elegance, which is readily apparent in this absolutely beautiful pure Pinot Noir. This set of 2016 Burgundies from Alexandrine Roy at Domaine Marc Roy is a stunning lineup of wonderful terroir driven wines, they are all full of flavor depth and inner brightness with distinct detail and regal class, her stand outs include the Old Vines Gevrey, this sexy La Justice, plus the tiny production Clos Prieur as well as the utterly brilliant and more tannic signature Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvee Alexandrine, which should never be missed. This Domaine Marc Roy La Justice Gevrey-Chambertin starts with an earthy vine picked berries, flinty rock and a lovely floral tone that seduces the senses and leads to a medium bodied palate with divine blackberry, dark plum and a core of delicate sweet cherries along with a subtle array of spices, mineral, saline and a touch of warm smoky/sweet oak, adding a touch of strawberry, dusty stones and earl grey. The underlying satiny tannin and lifting acidity give a serious pop (energy) and while smooth and exceptional in texture this is a wine that should reward mid term aging, this La Justice is a study in quality Bourgogne Rouge, best from 2020-2030.
($90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2016 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Coste & Fossati, Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the truly great Dolcetto(s) the G.D. Vajra Coste & Fossati is a masterpiece in the glass, while still remaining a true country wine with this 2016 being a pure and vibrant expression of terroir and varietal showing a thrilling sense of fruit and freshness. It was great catching up with the hugely talented Giuseppe Vajra and tasting through his amazing set of wines at San Francisco’s Slow Wine 2018 Tasting, he is one of Italy’s most passionate and humble winemakers and I love his wines and admire his grace and kindness, I highly recommend his current releases, especially Vajra’s exceptional Bricco Delle Viole Barolo as well as this wonderful and full flavored old vine Dolcetto! The 2016 Coste & Fossati is brilliant with a dark purple/garnet hue and a mix of dark fruit, spice and pretty floral tones on the nose before unwinding with verve on the youthful palate showing juicy and earthy blackberry, plum and tangy cherry fruits as well as bright minty herbs, cedar and snappy spices along with mineral, forest floor and saline. In some ways it has a mini Barolo feel with the impression of tannin and structure and terroir character gains an element of chalky/loam, anise and leather, while keeping Dolcetto’s simple rustic pleasure and it’s vital refreshing acidity. This is a deeply impressive red from a classic vintage for the minor grapes of the region, in particular Dolcetto and Barbara, this is a lovely and authentic artisan wine from a Cru site and old vines that really delivers a stunning performance. Lingering violets, candied citrus and blueberry just highlights this wine’s lusty appeal and makes you want another glass (or bottle!) as soon as possible, something I personally plan on doing the first chance I get!
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas, Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
This is an old school comfort wine, it’s deep layers of Grenache based goodness caresses the palate along with an array of earth, spice and chalky stones, making it a joyous Rhone red from a historic area, it’s nearly perfect in it’s terroir and charms. Of course it has a touch of animal/funk, or barnyard as we say, which is this Domaine Saint Damien’s richly flavored Gigondas old vine’s only and main flaw, otherwise it’s gorgeously textured, full of life and extremely pretty on the palate. This is classic old world meets a great vintage, this wine has an eternal feel, ancient even, but new and vibrant, it’s a wine with an old soul showing a little bret on the nose, as well as floral tones and savory elements to go with an explosion of boysenberry, wild plum, dusty black cherry and currant/cassis fruit, it picks up black pepper, tangy lavender, backyard strawberry, crushed rock, leather, dried blood/iron, anise and framboise. This really gets interesting with air as it opens, though it never quite loses it’s slightly dirty nature, it’s a blend that is mostly Grenache, 80%, but with surprising 20% Mourvedre, which adds a meatiness and a good dose of structural tannins, it was aged exclusively in old foudres, as traditional as can be. While not as finessed as Saint Cosme or as beautiful as Domaine d’Ourea, that said, this is a top notch dense (full bodied) Gigondas that reminds me of wines from my youth and brilliant with robust country influenced cuisine, it should prove long lived too, even though I would drink it over the next 3 to 5 years with it’s expressive and impressive youthful sweet fruit.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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