Wine Reviews 2013

Grapelive Wine Reviews

December 2013

2010HarmandGeoffroyGCVV2010 Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
A simply delicious Pinot Noir of majestic purity and grace, this wine has ages to go to be fully complete, but the potential is all there and it should give a decade of sublime pleasure. Harmand-Geoffroy is an under the radar producer, and seriously hard to find, but one to search out for quality and style, these wines are traditional and elegantly crafted, though need a bit of time to unfold and blossom. The 2007’s were nothing short of brilliant and came from a dull vintage, well imagine what can happen in a grand year, and yes that is exactly what transpired in 2010, Harmand-Geoffroy completely and utterly hit a grand slam, especially glorious is their old vine Gevrey-Chambertin, this is stunning Burgundy from an artisan Producer, it shows vigor, poise, delicacy and passion in equal measures. The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes is still primary and tight, but there enough going on to give an excellent impression, it shows forest floor, wilted roses, mint and baking spices as it gets air it expands with plum, currants and a core of cherry fruits, plum wild strawberry, briar and hints of game. Everything is balanced and well judged, but things are firm and tannic, along with plenty of acidity that gives life, though the real depth and soul remain hidden. There is a silky texture waiting to emerge and much more intrigue and complexity ready to come into detail with time, even though the finish is lengthy and heavenly, best to put this beauty away for 5 to 7 years, the rewards with surely be worth it, this is a winner.
($78 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

HureFreresExtraBrutN.V. Hure Freres, Extra Brut Reserve Champagne, a Ludes, France.
This hand-crafted Champagne is a serve and lean Extra Brut with stunning definition and lift, with wonderful sense of style and character driven by the high percentage of Pinot Meunier, about 45% along with Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay to fill the wine out and give density. The Here Freres Extra Brut Reserve starts with bright citrus, energy filled mousse that feels alive, but refined and opens up with hints of brioche, hazelnuts, lemon and unripe apples along with hints of mineral, melon, fig and yeasty essence. This clear and vivid bubbly is a beautifully judged sparkler, but being so austere and dry with make it more for the enthusiast, the wine geek and the ultra dedicated Champagne drink rather than the more mainstream crowd, though it did win some fans at a recent tasting that might not have otherwise even bothered to even buy Champagne even on special occasions. This wine would be great with oysters and meals, it is a food wine and less a celebration bottle, though that said I would like it anytime and I’m the serious Champagne nuts would too. This lively champers has unique qualities, plenty of complexity and with air fills out and becomes most pleasing and compelling, I will certainly be adding a few bottles to my personal stash.
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

BillyRoseN.V. Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rose, Champagne, France.
This latest edition of Billy Rose is delicate, lean and oh so delightful, this is one of the finest lots of this classic bubbly in my memory, it shows deft blending, remarkable clarity and detail with a refined mousse. There are better wines out there, some that might be cheaper, but it is hard not to fall head over heels for this joyous and elegant Champagne, this edition of their fabled Rose really hits the spot with a dreamy pale hue, tight bubbles, lifting acidity, mineral tones, slight yeasty brioche and heavenly hints of strawberry, red berry and tangerine essences along with lemon, apple skin and bread dough. This crisp and focus sparkler really keeps your interest from first sip to the painful moment when you have to toss the bottle into the recycling bin, Billecart-Salmon has raised their game here and the whole lineup of Champagne from this historic house reflect a renewed commitment and puts talent on display at each level, if you see any of their 2002 vintage cuvee(s) buy them, forget the price, they are masterpieces, but in the meantime the Brut Rose non-vintage will not disappoint, and it seems in good supply both at the restaurant and retail level, even though it is a rare item, so if you are looking for that perfect romantic wine this new years, this wouldn’t be a bad choice at all, it is a subtle and graceful Champers, no question.
($85-94 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012WhetstonePN2012 Whetstone, Pinot Noir, Jon Boat, Sonoma Coast.
Jamey Whetstone is making some great wines, and the 2012 looks to be a breakthrough vintage for his own label, with a glorious lineup of fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, I really liked every wine and it was tough to pick the top, but I finally decided to highlight his Jon Boat Pinot from the Sonoma Coast, it was complete, focused and delicious. From start to finish this 2012 excites and entertains with silky flowing fruit and good defining acidity and drive with good density and subtle wood. The nose has raspberry, roses, mineral and toasty notes leading to a palate of sweet bing cherry, plum and mixed berry fruits along with a touch of wet stones, mineral and tea spices. The body is lush and round, though it is not flabby, but certainly there is more stuffing than was found in most 2011 wines and there is more textural feel and pleasure, this is a super vintage. Don’t overlook Whetstone’s Chardonnay either they were right on as well, if you’ve not had the ex-Turley man’s wines yet, this 2012 is a place to start. The 2012 Jon Boat Pinot Noir is a pure wine that is starting to unfold nicely, it could be enjoyed young and it can age another 5 to 7 years easy, this is one of the best to date from Whetstone and it should develop and gain complexity over the next 2 years in bottle.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012ScarboloPG2012 Scarbolo, Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy.
This unique and light Pinot Grigio is beautifully golden in color, thanks to an extra bit of skin contact, making for a cool and crisp white that has a sunny hue and vibrant character with good acidity and a hint of savory spice. This wine was totally new to me, and while not an “orange” wine, it is a fun example of this varietal and shows the Italian’s are not afraid to explore and go their own way, in fact Italy is a hot bed of intriguing new avenues in winemaking, some from the ancient past and some ultra modern. This wine though is pretty easy and simple with fresh green apple, lemon/lime and pear fruits, a hint of mineral with juicy flavors that are crisp zesty, there is nothing remarkable or mind-blowing here, but this is fun and charming bistro/picnic style wine that does everything it should, this is a fine and sold effort with a bit of playfulness and sunshine. This Scarbolo 2012 should be drunk over the next year or so, it is a great alternative to the mass produced generic Pint Grigios and the color is pretty cool.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2012BastideCDRV2012 La Bastide Saint Dominique, Cotes du Rhone Villages, France.
For the last three vintages this Cotes du Rhone Village red has been a steal, it is a quality Rhone that offers Chateauneuf like flavors at a great price, and this 2012 is drinking great with plenty of fruit and character, making for a compelling wine. The latest La Bastide Cotes du Rhone Villages starts with tangy fruit, wild truffles and peppery spices, showing lavender, garrigue, game and kirsch in the background while the core palate offers up plum, boysenberry and strawberry essences. This 2012 is fresh, vibrant and medium weight, this is certainly a vintage to drink young, as it gives lots of immediate pleasure, best to enjoy this one in the near future. This cuvee is made up of mostly Grenache with good doses of Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignane making for a red that delivers savory elements along with a hint of baked stones to go with the sweet fruits, this is delightful stuff, drink now through 2016.
($20 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

2008LaSpinettaGarretti2008 La Spinetta, Barolo, Vigneto Garretti, DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The baby Campe from Giorgio Rivetti, the Vigneto Garretti is a real steal in the quality Barolo league, and the 2008 is really starting to come around, this is a great example of La Spinetta style and Nebbiolo. The 2008 is showing dark garnet color, rich details and robust density with beautifully refined tannins, good acidity and a long lavish finish. The nose opens with wilted roses, dark chocolate, tar and minty black licorice with a core of plum, raspberry, black cherry fruits. The background shows some nice vanilla scents, lavender and porcini notes as well as cedar and sweet tobacco all adding to the complexity and pleasures found it the Garretti. As a big fan of Rivetti’s wines, I really enjoyed this wine and highly recommend this rich and forward wine, it comes from Campe, a great vineyard and terroir which is proving a super foil to La Spinetta’s famed Barbaresco Crus, this is a Grand Cru site. This is going to be my Christmas 2013 wine! Drink 2014-2022, while still young and tight it really delivers hedonistic flavors even now.
($70 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2010TerreRouge2010 Terre Rouge, Syrah “Les Cotes de L’ Ouest” California.
Easton’s Terre Rouge label, a long time Rhone Ranger, still is a value priced quality wine that shows refined character and good distinction, especially the 2010 Les Cotes de L’ Ouest which is delightful and charming at under $20 bucks. Mostly from hillside plots in the Sierra Foothills the latest Terre Rouge shows blueberry, spice, mint and wild herbs leading to a medium weight palate of black cherry, boysenberry and plum fruits along with mineral, meat and pepper, with ripe tannins and a bit of fresh acidity. This wine turns soft and supple in the mouth and is an easy drinking in style Syrah, a good bistro wine, though 14.5% alcohol it feels much lighter on it’s feet and more like a Pinot Noir, it is not a flabby wine or is it very serious, it may not be all that memorable, but it is a nice and solid performer that would be a safe bet to be a crowd pleaser and it certainly would be great with lots of different cuisine from middle eastern to BBQ. Drink now, and over the next year or so, it should develop a bit more given time, but it is not going anywhere beyond where it is now overall, just pop the corks and enjoy.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2011Ragot2011 Domaine Ragot, Givry 1er “Clos Jus” Red Burgundy, France.
This pretty and well crafted Pinot Noir from Domaine Ragot shows good ripe flavors, balancing acidity, earth, spice and mineral tones, making for a poised Burgundy that will excite the purists and interest the novice. A small artisan estate, Domaine Ragot is a new discovery from Charles Neal Imports and is worth giving a look for if you want a well crafted wine at a fair price. The 2011 Givry Premier Cru Clos Jus starts with chalky mineral, dried currants, plum and cranberry, but opens to reveal a solid cherry cherry core of fruit, a hint of smoke, wild strawberry, wet earth, black tea and a herbal/floral tanginess. This bright and austere Burgundy is still firm and focused, and should be given a bit more time to fully fill out, drink 2014 to 2018. I’ve had this wine on four occasions and even poured it for huge crowd of people, it was much more a hit than I would have imagined, proving I can be a bit too critical at times, this is a fine and enjoyable effort that shows that subtle poise can be rewarding, this wine also perks up with food, salmon and or duck would be great pairing choices, this wine would be a savvy choice on the wine list no question.
($36 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012MonasterioCorias2012 Monasterio de Corias “Seis Octavos” Tinto Joven, Cangas, Spain.
One of my favorite wines, I have been drinking this wine since the 2008 vintage and every year I find more interesting details, and while the 2012 might not be as exceptional as the 2011 or 2010 wines, it is a lovely and intriguing effort. Made from a cepage cuvee of red grapes grown within the Monastery the main varietals include Albarin Negro and Mencia, though in most vintages it is mostly Albarin Negro which is native to the Asturias region of northwest Spain, and is also known sometimes as Verdejo Negro, is is a dark skinned grape that has medium weight, good acidity and can sometimes remind of Syrah with floral, earth and meaty tones along with blue and black fruit character. The Monasterio de Corias 2012 Tinto Joven Seis Octavos is slightly reduced and funky on the nose and needs a minute or two in the glass to come to life, of course this was a early sample bottle and I’m sure it was a bit of bottle shock and travel bruising, so maybe by the time it finds the racks it will have cleared up and perked up, as it did in the last few vintages, but once alive in the glass this red shows personality and charm, it is certainly a bit lighter and juicier than the last two years, but it is delightful just the same with black cherry, plum, blueberry and currant fruits, wild herbs, mint and cured meat along with loamy earth, spice and mineral notes. A touch of tannin, mild mushroom and cranberry come into play mid palate, but the fruit takes charge on the finish though zesty acidity gives a sense of crispness and lift too. Not quite all together yet, but certainly unique and enjoyable, I would stock up on 2011 while you can, and give the 2012 a look see in the Spring of 2014, I think it should make for a nice drinker by then.
($18 Est.) 90-91 Points, grapelive

2011TresP2011 Francois Chidaine, Tres P’s, Tempranillo y Monastrell, Bullas, Spain.
This sexy little red from famed Loire Valley producer Francois Chidaine is a great find, it is all organic from the Chidaine family estate in Spain near Murcia in the Bullas D.O. wine region, and while Chidaine is much more famous for their biodynamic Chenin Blanc wines from Montlouis and Vouvray, this cuvee of Monastrell and Tempranillo is an exciting red that in heavily influenced by the terroir and shows a garrigue character much like a Rhone Valley wine with a lavender and wild fennel streak running throughout, plus a nice bit of earth and spice to go with a rich fruit filled palate. The Tempranillo gives a dark color, ripe raspberry and smooth tannins while the Monastrell (Mourvedre) gives density, power and a baked cherry note making for an interesting meld of personality and flavors. The Tres P’s is a wonderful value priced red that shows pride in place, vibrancy and depth, be sure to check this wine out if you see it, it is imported by Beaune Imports (California) and while not easy to find, certainly is worth a look. The 2011 is the first vintage to reach me (though it was made in 2010 as well), but I’m sure there will be many more to follow and I plan to enjoy a few more bottles myself, it shows fresh herbs, pepper, violets and dried flowers, cassis and wild mushrooms along with raspberry, cherry cola, boysenberry, soy, plum and fig notes finishing with good length and has a lingering, as mentioned, essence of lavender and fennel plus a bit of blueberry skin, drink now through 2018.
($16-18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012Marcillac2012 Domaine des Costes Rouges, Marcillac Red, France.
This country wine from France’s southwest is slightly rustic and earthy, but it has plenty of bright fruit to show and almost feels like a robust Gamay, though it is made with the native grape Mansois, along with tiny amounts of Cabernet. I’ve tried the last two or so vintages and have found myself drawn to this interesting and uniquely flavored wine, it shows raspberry, blueberry and plum fruits upfront along with cranberry and dust cherry notes, plus there is pepper spice, candied red citrus, loamy earth, game and pipe tobacco. While simple and fresh now, there is some tannins and meatiness underlying here, it should drink well and change over the next 2 to 3 years in bottle, I maybe like it best now with it’s vibrancy of youth, it is medium weight and should be great with hearty cuisine and or lamb, sausage or sheep cheeses. Another off the beaten path find from Charles Neal Imports, San Francisco, I am grateful to taste the latest release as always, and this 2012 is consistent with the last three vintages.
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011Ilarria2011 Domaine Ilarria, Irouleguy AC Basque Red, France.
This intriguing Basque red comes from the foot of the French Pyrenees and is made from the classic Irouleguy blend of Tannat with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This makes for a chewy and tannic dry red, but Domaine Ilarria has crafted a balanced elegant vintage in 2011 with good fruit density and smooth ripe tannins that are not as harsh as can be the case in these rustic country wines, in fact this year’s Ilarria is a rival for many more famous Claret wines found in parts of Bordeaux and certainly makes for a wonderful alternative to those fairly generic wines, I’ll not name names, but let’s just say this distinct Basque red is a wine worth searching out, for short to mid term drinking pleasure as these wines do age pretty well and are very interesting in their first decade in bottle, though they can dry out after 15 to 20 years, I suggest to drink in the window of 5 to 7 years for the best results, and at around $20 a bottle this wine would be a great wine to grab a case of, it goes especially well with hearty cuisine. The 2011 Domaine Ilarria shows an almost Loire red like nose and mineral tones with roses and wild flowers, minty, red spices, game and red currants leading the way along with a palate of raspberry, black cherry, loganberry and plum fruits unfolding with air as well as briar notes, a hint of bell pepper, earthy loam, cedar and truffle. This wine feels juicy now and the ripe tannins don’t cut into the pleasure of this unique red, showing a deft talent in the winemaking and the finish is detailed and lingering, this is a fine and lovely Tannat driven effort deserving attention and praise, imported by Charles Neal Imports, look for it.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2003QuintarelliAmarone2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy.
The legendary Quintarelli wine, from the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, was a special moment, I’ve never had many opportunities to try his wonderful wines, and certainly not his mythical Amarone, and with such powerful expectations it would be easy to be let down, but this was not the case and everything I’d heard and read about turned out to be true, this was one of wine’s holy grail masterpieces. The 2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico is a beautiful and emotional experience, it is gloriously elegant, richly textured and flowing with layers of complex flavors, I will say my biggest surprise was the subtlety and graceful nature of this heavenly wine, there is not the kind of ripeness that you’d think, everything builds slowly in the glass and the full force of this Amarone really comes in the aftertaste, this wine is almost dreamy, not to say it is light or delicate, for it is mouth filling and lavish without question, it is just not bombastic or jammy. The nose reveals a staggering array of details, dried roses, porcini, bitter chocolate, game, red currants and cigar spice leading to an equally detailed palate of plum, golden raisins, raspberry and fig pudding along with a surge of cherry and cedar notes. This wine is surprising and intriguing throughout with a ton of character and a lively amount of freshness, this is well judged and masterfully crafted wine, this is a classic that lives up to the legend and the hype, words start to fail and pure pleasure takes over, it is hard not to get lost in this beautiful and wondrous Amarone. This wine is unspeakably expensive and rare, but it is without question a bucket list wine, and I do hope I get a few more chances to try Quintartelli Amarone, but I am more than happy from my fleeting experience with this must try wine, drink 2013 through 2031, wow this was terrific stuff, the finish is almost endless. A huge thank you to Kermit Lynch Imports for sharing!
($329 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2010Ornellaia2010 Tenuta Dell’ Ornellaia, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
the 2010 Ornellaia is in a special bottle, this is the 25th Anniversary Edition with a label celebrating 25 vintages in bottle from 1985 to 2010, and even a difficult year didn’t stop Ornellaia from making an monumental wine from this famed estate near the Tuscan coast. Ornellaia is the second most famous Super Tuscan after Sassicaia, which was the first, and while similar in reputation this giants of Italian wine are very different creatures, the Sassicaia is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Cab Franc, with Ornellaia being a more rounded blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this makes Ornellaia more lush, lavish and a tad more accessible when young, even though this is a powerful and tannic wine, it is less austere than the Sassicaia in most vintages, but both wines are as fine and as good as First Growth Bordeaux, with Sassicaia being Chateau Latour like and Ornellaia comparing well to Chateau Margaux. The Merlot grown in Bolgheri is powerful stuff and it gives Ornellaia it’s weight, the 2010 shows impressive depth, density and length, with the good dose of Petit Verdot adding inky color to it’s strikingly dark opaque hue, while the Cabernets add power, character and spice to the whole of this wonderful Ornellaia. The nose is slightly shy at this young stage, but there is soft floral tones, creme de cassis, espresso bean and graphite before entry to a thickly rich mouth of dark currants, black cherries, blackberry and wild plum fruits, mocha, truffle and smoky char as well as cedar, cinnamon, vanilla and cigar box. This wine is robust and firm from start to finish, but it is not aggressive or porgy, this is refined and stylish wine, though it should be given some time to develop, I’d say 5 to 7 years would be enough to allow things to heighten and fill out and it should be a grand vin for up to two decades, drink from 2020 to 2030. It was a super opportunity to try this wine, it is always a massive treat to taste Ornellaia, it almost never disappoints and is one of the world’s top wines, no question.
($200 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2010GDVarjaDolcetto2010 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto D’ Alba, Piemonte, Italy.
The Vajra wines are a must try lineup of fantastic quality and style, from this tasty Dolcetto to their Barolo, these are stunning well crafted wines that have class and character. Vajra even does a dynamite Riesling too, in case you are like me and freaky for that kind of thing, but this Dolcetto is a great little wine and perfect for the easy family meal, it is highly entertaining and goes with an array of cuisine. It is hard to believe Dolcetto can be this good and all around complete, but Vajra’s Dolcetto D’ Alba is a gem and recently I took it to dinner and shared it with friends and before you could blink an eye the bottle was dry! Everyone was smiling and refilling with the pasta and pizza, and it was just a gloriously perfect wine for the occasion. The 2010 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto D’ Alba is fresh and vibrant with a dark unfiltered hue, a purple/garnet color, brisk acidity, blackberry, currant and tangy plum fruits, hints of mineral, kirsch and cranberry add zest to this joyous little wine. No sense of oak or sweetness here, just lively flavors that really take off with food, serve slightly chilled or cellar temp for more zip to the wine, drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years, get it while you can this is nice and pure Dolcetto from a talented producer.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011LabetTrousseau2011 Julian Labet, Trousseau “En Chalasse” Cotes du Jura, France.
I waited a long time to get my hands on this Trousseau, and sadly by the time I did, there was nothing left to buy, as Labet made only a tiny amount and didn’t end up with much to import to the USA, though a few of his other wines did make it and are a tad easier to find, and importer Charles Neal is trying to get more. So, with great bittersweet expectations I give you my long awaited thoughts of the natural, artisan crafted Trousseau by Julian Labet, well, it is a solid effort, though it does fall short of his prior wines, and I would recommend getting his Metis cuvee, the blend of Pinot, Poulsard and Troussseau, as it is a more complex and complete wine, both 2011 and 2012 vintages, and they will be more available, but that all said I really did like the 2011 En Chalasse Cotes du Jura Trousseau and if by chance you do come across this rare wine you should get it, it is pretty and exotic with a wild herbal and red peach core along with delicate color and flavors, it is a pale and light red that shows faint earthy tones and layers of soft red fruits. There is a strawberry, fennel, celery seed and mineral spice that comes through in the glass and the finish is crisp, like a pinot noir with nice acidity and good length. As with most natural wines, best to drink young, as in within the first year or so, or if you want to give these time to mature, you’ll need a perfect cellar, as temp changes can really affect these wines, best to drink from 2013 to 2016. I am very impressed with Julian Labet’s wines and enjoy them, but they certainly with not be for everyone, and Jura wines in general are not mainstream wines, though they are very interesting and intriguing offering a unique style, sense of place and wildness that appeals to the adventurous.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010Pressac2010 Chateau de Pressac, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion, Red Bordeaux, France.
This glorious Claret is made of 72% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere, 1% Pressac (Malbec) fermented in concrete vats and then aged in mostly new French oak barrel by Hubert de Bouard & Alain Raynaud. Pressac is a savvy Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion that is a breath of fresh air from the mainly Michel Rolland style wines made in the regions, it seems a bit more character filled and less finely polished, in a good way, even though oval the quality of Saint-Emilion wines has seen a huge step up in quality under this Rolland era, they tend to taste way too similar and maybe a touch too modern, though again this seems a petty gripe when you find such joyous wines, especially in vintages like 2009 and 2010. So, the uniquely styled Chateau de Pressac is right up my alley and it has a intriguing cepage make up with the addition of 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, a little Malbec (known as Pressac in this case) and the Carmenere all playing roles and adding to the exotic nature of this fine Bordeaux. I tasted this wine in a room with 50 or so other Grand Cru Classe wines and it really did stand out, very impressive indeed, and I would recommend this richly textured red to anyone looking for a great example of this right bank Bordeaux, it has plenty of fruit, drive and structure to hold up to any scrutiny and the complex array of flavors and balance will certainly give reason the celebrate, this is an exceptional Saint-Emilion, even if it isn’t in the same league as Angelus, Clos Fortet or Cheval Blanc it does offer a lot more bang for the buck. The nose is full of floral and earthy tones, mineral and graphite with a cassis and kirsch liqueur note leading to a forceful palate of red currants, raspberry, blackberry and sweet plum fruits with hints of dark chocolate, pepper, tobacco/cigar, cedar and cinnamon spice finishing with a mouth coating mix of ripe tannins, vanilla scented wood and lingering fruit essences. Everything is in place to make this Bordeaux shine in about 3 to 5 years time, but it is starting to really drink nicely even now, this is highly entertaining stuff, best from 2016 to 2028, should be available in Feb. 2014 in the USA, be sure to look for it.
($45-60 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012SergioMotturaGrechetto2012 Sergio Mottura, Poggio Della Costa, Grechetto, Civitella D’ Agliano, Umbria, Italy.
The Poggio Della Costa Grechetto from Sergio Mottura is a light and crisp white with nice character and Umbrian charm, in fact for years now Sergio Mottura has been making some of the best wines of the region and they are far better values than some of the boring bulk/generic Pinot Grigio that sells for twice the price, so be sure to locate some of these fine and interesting wines. The 2012 Poggio Della Costa Grechetto is fresh and tasty with lemon, apple and lime essence leading the way with bitter almond and a touch of steely mineral adding complexity to this easy and simple white. This wine is perfect with cheese, seafood, chicken or ham, it goes down smooth with a tangy/nutty quality and highlights the varietal flavors perfectly, this is very fine and detailed Grechetto from a talented producer. Drink this over the course of the coming year, look for the Porcupine label, this again is quality stuff at a great price.
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010DeForvilleBarbaresco2010 De Forville, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Wow, this is pure Barbaresco and lovely, and it is priced right, a classic pretty Nebbiolo that delivers impressive layers and intensity at a great price, I highly recommend the whole line of De Forville wines, especially this one. The last 2 or 3 vintage have shown De Forville to be consistent and flavorful, but this latest set of wines including their Chardonnay and Nebbiolo(s) are major steps up with wines bursting with energy and depth, this Piedmonte winery is now hitting on all cylinders. The 2010 De Forville Barbaresco is vivid and bright with a subtle floral perfume, violets and dried roses lead the way along with mountain herbs, licorice and mineral spice before expanding on the medium weight palate to include black cherry, strawberry, balsamic notes, plum and iodine. There is just a hint of earth, truffle and tar in the background, but the zesty flavors show a fruit driven core and the tannins are silky, though firm, this Nebbiolo certainly with age a decade, though it is refined enough to enjoy now and I would do so, drink 2014 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012KWNysa2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Nysa Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Ken Wright’s premier Dundee Hills Pinot, the Nysa, is a majestic wine of class, texture and sense of place, this is one of the best yet from this vineyard, and is just one of Ken’s fantastic set of 2012 Pinot Noirs. I honestly can’t remember a better lineup of young Oregon wines than what I saw in tasting the latest releases from Ken Wright, and the vintage is looking epic for the Willamette Valley, I have also sampled the 2012 Sineann Resonance which was a blockbuster, so I’m saying it is a safe bet to collect these 2012 Oregon wines. That said, it will be best, and most rewarding to allow them some time in the cellar, especially with Ken Wright’s wines, these are going to need time to show their massive potential, I think 3-5 years minimum to allow their greatness to really show through, they are very much like Premier Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy that way, and they are tight and firm right now. The 2012 Nysa is full of terroir, with the red soils of the Dundee Hills showing through with iron, red pepper and blueberry notes along with spiced plum, black cherry and red peach flesh on the palate with brisk acidity, ripe tannins and earthy charms. This wine is full of character and energy, it is gripping and looks set for delivering pleasure for up to a decade or more once it evolves and opens up. There is an underlying purity, and floral essence that is still too shy at this moment, I am excited to see what the future holds here, this is the stuff of legends, drink from 2018 to 2026, be patient!
($48 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

2012ArnotChard2012 Arnot-Roberts, Chardonnay, Watson Ranch, Napa Valley.
The team of Nathan Roberts and Duncan (Arnot) Meyers continue to craft amazing California wine that respect terroir and vintage, these hand made are some of the most pure expressions of varietal and place found in the state. These guys make fantastic stuff, but while I love all their wines from Syrah to Cabernet, along with Trousseau and other unique selections, it is their Chardonnay that might be their best offerings, especially this 2012 Watson Ranch a small lot wine from the southern part of Napa Valley, close to the bay, it is a remarkable and pleasing Chardonnay of style, finesse and vibrancy. The nose starts with white flowers, bright citrus, honeyed pear and clove spice leading to a vivid and zesty palate of lemon, green apple and white peach along with a steely mineral tone, hints of brioche, fig, creme and hazelnut. While brisk and clear, it does round out with air and gain depth and richness without being heavy or losing it’s sharp focus, this is superb Chardonnay of class and distinction. Not all that surprising considering Duncan spent some time with John Kongsgaard, and that this wine is made with whole clusters and fermented with natural occurring native yeasts, then aged in neutral French oak. I highly recommend sampling the whole line of Arnot-Roberts, but without question you should find some of the Chardonnay, these are rare and delicious wines that merit praise and attention.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

 

2010MarchandMSDRdV2010 Pascal Marchand, Morey-Saint-Denis, Rue de Vergy, Red Burgundy, France.
Marchand’s 2010 vintage Morey-Saint-Denis Rue de Vergy is beautifully crafted, entertaining and polished Burgundy, this fine and stylish effort offers great pleasure, elegance and richness. I highly recommend searching out Pascal Marchand’s wines these are wonderful examples of vivid, clear and pretty red Burgundy, especially the Rue de Vergy Morey-Saint-Denis which shows a dark hue in the glass, has a lifted perfume of violets, roses and wild truffle that leads to a round, silky palate of red berry, black cherry and plum along with crisp minerals, soft earthiness and herb tea notes. There is a hint of licorice, cranberry and dried currants that comes through in the glass, along with a trace of subtle wood, with everything folding together with exceptional grace and still lively and dynamic, this is a wonderful Pinot Noir and a super value. Look for this wine to gain a bit more more of everything over the next 3 to 5 years and drink great for another decade, this again is balanced and classy wine from Marchand, a talent to watch, no question.
($62 ESt.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009MeoVougeot2009 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Clos de Vougeot “Pres le Cellier” Grand Cru Red Burgundy, France.
This is an absolute stunner, as you’d expect from a Grand Cru, but it always isn’t the case to have a Burgundy meet your expectations and show this good, even though I’m a die-hard fan of Meo-Camuzet, so it was amazing to have this wine perform on such a level, I was seriously impressed, this is a beautiful wine. It is hard to present an almost $300 bottle, and insist that it is worthy of awe and that it honestly offers a value, but with what great Burgundy wines go for this Clos de Vougeot is not insanely priced for the heavenly quality that it possesses, and while I’m not trying to sell you on it, I want to be clear that this wine is extraordinary and even if I myself had a bucket of cash I’d be hard pressed to part with it to get this wine, I’d certainly be tempted, most definitely I’d think about it. The 2009 vintage Meo-Camuzet Clos de Vougeot starts with a trance inducing perfume of violets and crushed stone with soft red currant and wild strawberry notes leading to a dreamy palate of black cherry, damson plum and a touch of blueberry along with tangy cranberry, tea spice, cinnamon and rose petals. This wine is terribly young and should be cellared another 5-7 years, but it is positively sublime and graceful with vivid flavors, clean and clear distinction, subtly rich and vibrant, it shows depth and complexity, but is still medium weighted and elegant on it’s feet, this is pure seduction and fantasy in the glass, drink 2018-2026.
($279 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012LuytCarignan2012 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan, Trequilemu, Chile.
This all natural and stylish Carignan from Chile is a tasty little wine from an up and coming young winemaker, be sure to check it out if you haven’t already it is a fruit forward fresh red that has lots of character. Louis-Antoine Luyt’s Carignan is a lively wine with blueberry, plum and raspberry fruit, peppery spices, hints of truffle, fig and wild herbs, this is unique wine, the terroir and winemaking make it very original. I really enjoyed Luyt’s whole lineup, these are some of the most enjoyable and distinct wines I’ve ever had from Chile, especially this Carignan which seems a long way away from the historic home of this grape in the south of France, and the old vine cousins in Dry Creek Valley closer to home. This intriguing dark red grows on you and I know I’ll be grabbing a few more bottles before long, drink now and over the next few years, this is a wildly fun and very different wine from an emerging talent.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2004Dom2004 Dom Perignon, Brut Vintage Champagne by Moet et Chandon, France.
The world’s most glamorous symbol, the iconic Dom Perignon luxury Champagne is still a magic force in wine and the 2004 vintage is a smash hit, in fact in the depressed UK market this years allocation of Dom Perignon 2004 sold out in hours! The US market is slowly seeing the roll out now, but considering how limited and serious this vintage is, it may sell out before the end of the year. Make no mistake, while this bubbly tends to be a status symbol, a once a year treat or a gift to someone you want to impress, it is a great Champagne, even though it should sit in a cold cellar for a decade or more, especially this beautiful 2004, it is way to young to even begin showing all the glorious character is surely has. The 2004 is not exotic or fatty rich like the freakish 2003 vintage, in fact it is much more austere, lean and withdrawn in comparison, but that said it has vigor, intensity and an inner core of soulful grace that should it remarkable rewards for those that put some away in the cellar. The latest Dom shows a heightened toasty note, yeast, birch and nutty side now with very slowly emerging fruit, hints of lemon, peach and apple faintly come through on the palate along with tension filled acidity, mineral and fine mousse. This dynamic Champagne is filled with energy and class, I only hope that I get a chance to taste it in it’s full maturity, in about, let’s say 15 to 20 years! Tasting Dom still is a treat, it is a standard in the industry, and while it is much hyped and while there is many a fine sparkling wine that rival it, it is a lovely wine and certainly this latest vintage is a class act.
($180 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011KesnerAlderChard2011 Kesner, Chardonnay, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
One of the best 2011 California Chardonnay wines, period, is Jason Kesner’s 2011 Alder Springs, this is pure genius in the glass and a wonderfully crafted wine. I have my favorite Chards, Brewer-Clifton, Kongsgaard, Alfaro and Morlet to name my tops, but I might have to give the nod this vintage to this sublime effort, Kesner’s Alder Springs is simply majestic and glorious with layers of fruit, mineral, complexities and is full of life and elegance. The nose starts off with wet stones, white flowers, brioche and citrus fruits leading to a vivid palate that balances lively acidity with creamy richness perfectly with pear, lemon, apple and white peach fruit, along with honeysuckle, steely mineral, clarified cream, hazelnuts, toast, vanilla and fig. This is really classy stuff, Jason Kesner is a great talent, his latest lineup is his best yet, even from a difficult vintage his wines shine, I can’t wait to try his 2012 wines, they should be stuff of legends, I recommend checking out these wines as soon as possible, and specially this 2011 Alder Springs Chardonnay it is awesome.
($60 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012StMichaelPB2012 St. Michael-Eppan, Pinot Bianco “Schulthauser” Alto Adige, Italy.
The latest Kellereigonossenschaft St. Michael Weissburgunder is stunning example of this varietal, this is exceptional Pinot Blanc, and a wonderful white wine to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years with expressive fruit, mineral and elegant drive, not often found in Pinot Blanc. St. Michael-Eppan’s latest set of wines are clearly a huge step up in terms of style, focus and commitment and should not be missed if you like Italian Dolomite wines, their Pinot Grigio and Riesling wines are lovely as well, but this Pinot Blanc really stands out in this vintage and merits a special bit of attention, it is taste of mountain heaven with lovely peach, apple and soft citrus fruits, honeyed elements, subtle roundness and good mineral notes all play key roles here along with fresh integrated acidity that drives the wine with being stark or severe making for a medium body and graceful in total. Hints of tangerine, wet stones and verbena linger in the glass and give added complexity in this wonderful effort, this is again impressive stuff from St. Michael-Eppan, it is great to see such passion and quality again in these wines.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2006CesariAmarone2006 Cesari, Il Bosco, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Veneto, Italy.
Cesari’s Il Bosco has become a go to Amarone, it is rich, lush and lavish as one would expect of fine modern Amarone, but it still feels dry, vibrant and is not heavy or ponderous in anyway, this is classy and balanced wine that deserves attention. I was thrilled to find the 2006 drinking as great as it is, since the hype machine overlooked this vintage and focused more on the 2007, but if you are looking for a suburb Amarone you should check out the Cesari Il Bosco 2006, it has everything you could want. The 2006 starts with heady black cherries, plum pudding, fig, clove and a dusting of coco powder with dried roses, cigar spice and golden raisins. As the wine gathers itself and opens it reveals a fine tannin structure, a bit of juicy acidity and a wonderfully smooth texture where you find a raspberry and sweet herb streak and the lengthy finish which echos with chocolate covered raisins and candied cherries. This would be an awesome wine with lamb, cheese plate and or prime rib, and again this wine feels plenty dry and balanced not porgy or overtly cloying, a masterful display in affordable and pure Amarone, drink now through 2022.
($65-72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010MontesalarioSangio2010 Montesalario, Sangiovese, Montecucco DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
Montecucco is an up and coming area in the Tuscan Maremma coastal region, closely surrounded by Grosseto to the southwest, Sascano to the south and Montalcino to the north and northeast, This adds up to great Sangiovese country, in fact most of the Sangiovese planted here are identical to those found in Montalcino, the famed Sangiovese Grosso. This area is just being explored and discovered and the wines are showing glorious potential, this is a region to watch for high quality and value, one of the better examples to look for is from Montesalario, imported by Siena Imports, San Francisco. The 2010 Montesalario Sangiovese Montecucco DOC is flat out stunning and gorgeous with a dark garnet hue, rich texture, vibrancy and density showing a mix of berry, cherry, plum and strawberry fruits, chocolate, tobacco leaf, lavender, licorice and cedar wood spice. This is Sangiovese at it’s best, fresh, detailed, layered and lengthy, not a wine to age forever, but a real pleasing wine to enjoy over the next 3-5 years.
($27 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012KWShea2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Shea Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This wine has huge potential, though it will need some time to come together, and while I can see there are great times ahead it would be a shame to drink this bottle anytime soon, though I certainly recommend putting some away for about 3 to 5 years, as I am sure it will bring rewards. The nose is slightly reduced and has a bit of gunpowder and toast blocking the graceful fruit and floral tones that only faintly come to life with air. The palate is forceful, vigorous and firm at this stage, again with lots of coaxing and air there is sublime beauty deeply sleeping with violets, rose petals, cherry, red currant and black plum that very slowly reveal themselves in subtle layering along with cinnamon, apple skin, saline and licorice. There is some hints of game, spice, mineral, tea and loamy earth as well, this is going to be a spectacular Pinot Noir when it has some age, it reminds me of a young Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges Perriers. I sincerely hope I get a chance to re-taste this future star in about 6 to 7 years, I have no doubt this Pinot Noir will be legendary. Ken Wright rates this vintage very highly, and I can see why, but for his set of 2012 wines you’ll need to have the patience of the gods.
($48 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

November 2013

BonnardotN.V. Domaine Bonnardot, Cremant de Bourgogne, Brut Rose, Burgundy Sparkling Wine, France.
Wow, what a nice bubbly, a great Brut Pinot Noir rose from Burgundy that offers terrific value in a first rate wine, I hope I get my hands on more myself. Perfect for celebrations, and anytime you feel like a sparkler, this elegant and stylish sparkler will do the job. The Domaine Bonnardot Cremant Rose starts with brioche, toast, yeast and cherry notes leading to a crisp and fresh palate of wild strawberry, apple and citrus while the bread dough, hazelnut and a hint of red currant play softly in the background. This could fool many people into believing that this was a fine Champagne, I know I was very impressed, and it has plenty of class, character and delicate details to marvel at.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011FrancTireur2011 Franc Tireur, Revielle-Roussillon, Cotes Catelanes, France.
This earthy and dense red from the South of France, close to the Spanish frontier is made from ancient 100 Year Old Carignan vines, and it’s a wonderfully pleasing wine from an organic producer/artisan winemaker that I’d never tried before. I certainly will be keeping my eyes out for Franc Tireur after sampling this intriguing old vine Carignan, I’m grateful to importers Return to Terroir for introducing me with a taste of this interesting wine. The 2011 Revielle-Roussillon Cotes Catelanes starts with a mix of earthy loam, spice, wild herbs and leathery notes before revealing a savvy mix or red fruits, mineral and warm brick/rocky essences with red currant, black cherry, boysenberry and plum layers. There is flashes of truffle, cracked pepper, lavender oil and salty anise making for a complex and well made wine that has old world charm and vitality, drink 2013-2018.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012KnebelRiesling2012 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Mosel, Germany. (Trocken)
Recently voted best Thanksgiving Wine by the NYT (New York Times) has certainly brought Knebel to wider attention, and I must say, I did after reading the NYT article buy a bottle for my Thanksgiving celebration, even though I had tried the Knebel 2011 wines, which were excellent as well. Matthias Knebel is a winemaker to follow, he is a rising star, and his wines show great promise, he comes from a new generation, he along with his contemporaries are looking at natural and traditional ways to explore their terrors, his peers like Arianna Occhipinti and fellow German young star Eva Fricke are creating a lot of excitement in the wine world and it seems the future is in good hands, this generation has heart, soul and talent, it shows in their passion and in their wines. The 2012 Knebel QbA Riesling is a dry and beautifully detailed wine with vigorous acidity, great extract and layers of pure Mosel character with mineral essence and vivid flavors, this is clear and focused Riesling of high quality. The nose is tangy fresh with citrus, stone fruit and sea breeze elements leading to a brisk and zesty palate of lime, apricot and white peach fruit, bitter apple, mint, crushed stone, grapefruit pips, saline and a  lingering tangerine note, this is lovely and vibrant wine that has a pale yellow golden hue. I love the intensity, the drive and robust style in this wine, it is very serious stuff and has the potential to be even better over a period of many years, I think I’ll put a few bottles away and check them out in 5 years time, and the price is very fair for what you get, again I highly recommend grabbing a few bottles if not cases while you can. The 2012 vintage is a breakthrough vintage for Knebel and Fricke, a huge success across Germany as a whole and a perfect year to showcase these young talents, be sure to check the Knebel wines out, especially this one, drink 2014 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2011MeyerNakelBlueSlate2011 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Pinot Noir, Blue Slate, Ahr, Germany.
The Blue Slate Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) 2011 is dark, rich and lavish wine with ripe fruit layers, round silky texture and a long finish, this is an extremely hedonistic Pinot Noir from one of Germany’s top Pinot Noir estates. Meyer-Nakel in the Ahr is simply a must find wine from Pinot lovers and while the top end cuvees are even more sought after and pricy than some highly respected Burgundy, the medium level wines can be found, like this wonderful entry level, in the USA, the Blue Slate, which gets it’s name from the soils and of which lends it’s unique mineral spice and flavor. The 2011 is lush with an almost full body and has plenty of density in the mouth, but still shows precision and detail, and it starts with a dark ruby/garnet hue, a seductive bouquet of violets, cherry liqueur, red pepper and vanilla leading to a palate of black cherry, plum, red currant, blueberry and wild raspberry, along with smoky char and flinty spice. There is a warm and sweet essence of oak, but it is not garish or over done, it helps frame and smooth out the impressive fruit while the slate mineral element, the earthy truffle note and acidity add complexity and vibrancy. The finish lingers on and on reflecting on all the pieces mentioned plus a hint of fig paste, saline and bitter chocolate, look for this wine to age gracefully and gain in subtlety over the next 5 to 10 years, though it is really hard to resist now and is super pleasing now, drink from 2014 to 2023. No question, the Meyer-Nakel Pinots are stunning, I’m a huge fan, these wines are absolutely world class.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010SiduriPrattSextonRd2012 Siduri, Pinot Noir “Pratt Vineyard-Sexton Road” Sonoma Coast.
The new Pratt Vineyard-Sexton Road 2012 Pinot is a stylish and rather more delicate wine from Siduri, a softer touch and the rewards for such a deft and artistic approach are glorious and many, this is a beautifully detailed Pinot Noir with grace, length and intrigue. The 2012 Siduri Pratt starts with a mix of floral perfume, earth, mineral and dark berries to go with it’s ruby hue, leading to a tangy palate of black cherry, sweet and sour plum, wild raspberry, briar, smoke, pepper and baking spices and sea salted black licorice. Look for this beautiful and complex Pinot Noir to really change in the glass and in the cellar, there is so much going on now it really is amazing, but it is still a baby and there is even more to come, I’m sure. The finish is long and silky, though full of life and brightness, this wine has plenty of vibrancy, depth and is elegant from start to finish. The wood is subtle here, only a faint kiss of vanilla and framing show through, and a lingering strawberry and red currant note just leave you wanting to explore this wine over and over again, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010SaxumJBV2010 Saxum, James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Justin Smith’s famous proprietary red, the James Berry Vineyard is made up of mostly Grenache, and in 2010 it was 52% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, with 15.8% alcohol, making for a super heady and hedonistic wine. While on paper you’d think it was huge and maybe port-like in style, but in reality this wine is vivid, vibrant and complex, not showing excessive heat or pruney character at all, and the wood is totally melded in without a trance to be found, this wine is surprisingly fresh, and without question young, tight and in need of a decade of cellering. In what was a cool vintage, but not serve like maybe 2011, the Saxum James Berry shows it’s pedigree, this vineyard has to rank up there as one of the top Rhone sites in California, it is in the Templeton Gap, a cooler area in the West side part of Paso Robles, an area that sees medium high daytime temps and a cool breeze from the ocean and much cooler nights, it also has great soils, ancient seabed to thank for the quality, making the vines stress just enough to show their best, this a prime spot for Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, and there is Tempranillo, Counoise, Tannat, Roussanne and even some Petit Verdot doing great things near by, this region is on fire with fantastic wines. The 2010 Saxum is beautifully detailed, super long and exotic, starting with a black/purple hue that is opaque leading to an intense palate of black currants, boysenberry, dark cherry and damson plum fruits with crushed stones, liquid minerals, white pepper, melted licorice, blueberry compote, bitter dark coco and a hint of cedar. I think over time there will be a whole lot more coming to life here, there is the impression, slight now, of game, leather and liqueur, though the power and tannin structure is masking it’s true depth, regardless this is amazing wine and a rival for any top Chateauneuf-du-Pape, though more like Pegau than Rayas. Unfortunately the demand is unbelievably high and the price jumps 3 or 4 times when it finds the street, but again there is a reason, it is a truly awesome bottle, especially for those lucky enough to be on Justin’s mailing list, the pre release price is only $89. Bravo to Justin Smith, his wines are no doubt some of the best Rhone style wines being made in California.
($189-249 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2006RidgeEstate2006 Ridge, Zinfandel, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
Since my day job and life sees me tasting wines from around the world, and there is a seriousness and sometimes pressure, so it’s nice just to kick-back and pop a cork on a bottle I just purchased to enjoy, and during some down time I found this 2006 Ridge Lytton Estate, a extremely pleasurable and hedonistic wine. I had tasted this at the tasting room at Lytton Springs in Dry Creek, and thought it was very fun, so I took a few home and just opened the last one last (November 22, 2013) and at 7 years old it is really coming into it’s own and has become glorious in character with Zinfandel charms, but also with almost a Bordeaux like feel, it is always interesting to see how Zins age when the fruity nature starts to fade and secondary flavors emerge. Ridge is such a wonderful expression of California, and this wine which is 84% Zinfandel and 16% Petite Sirah coming from some of the oldest vines on the Lytton Estate, some of which are over a hundred years old. The 2006 vintage wasn’t a great vintage, but they are showing much better at this stage, in fact I was really surprised, this wine is drinking fantastic, way better than expected, wine is so much a mystery, I happily quaffed this lovely red. The nose has matured with subtle perfume, dried flowers, tea notes and cassis start you off, leading to a full bodied palate of poached plum, black raspberry, currant and boysenberry along with cedarwood, briar spiciness and hints of kirsch, mineral and truffle. This dark and rich Californian classic has touches of loamy earth, subtle wood, pencil lead and refined tannin, which are certainly more of what you’d find in a claret, especially as the main fruits have toned down at this stage, this is pretty and complex Zin that still remains faithful and pure to it’s home, it is joyous now, drink 2013 through 2021.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2009FenocchioBarolo2009 Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo DOCG “Bussia” Piedmonte, Italy.
Here is a young, stylish and old school Barolo that is more an early drinker than a cellar candidate, perfect for purists and those that want a great reasonable introduction to fine Barolo or Nebbiolo. The 2009 Fenocchio “Bussia” Barolo starts with earthy truffle, red tea and dried flowers leading to a supple palate of cherry, plum and raspberry fruits with game, iron/mineral tones, tar and herbal licorice notes. While still young, there is a polished sense about this wine and it not gain weight or complexity over the next decade, but still is a fine and highly enjoyable effort that comes from a great vineyard site. I really liked this wine, from first sip to the medium long finish, it is solid, tasty and well made, and there is a nice combination of strawberry, cedar and balsamic that lingers on the aftertaste. Drink now through 2018.
($48 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012KWBryce2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Bryce Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2012 vintage in Oregon looks set to be a classic, and according to Ken Wright it is one of the top three vintages of his career in the Willamette Valley, and that is saying a lot from a man that has been some spectacular wines over the last quarter of a century up there. I tasted through most of his single vintage releases and can say these are a set of absolutely stunning wines, that showcase their individual terrors, the Willamette Valley and still remind me of classic Burgundy, these wines will certainly need some time to develop, they are still tight, ultra intense and slightly reduced, but they will be fantastic in a few years time, be patient. A new vineyard has made the lineup, the Bryce Vineyard from the Ribbon Ridge area, home to Penner-Ash, Brickhouse and Beaux Freres, is now in Ken Wright’s offerings, and it is a beauty with wonderful character, depth and poise showing dark fruits, mineral tones, earth and tension filled intensity. Of Ken’s 2012’s, the Bryce is right up there with the Carter, Shea and Nysa for the best of the set and should be a huge success if this year is anything to go by, it is dynamic, rich, vigorous and layered with black cherry, tangy plum, blackberry and cranberry fruits, bright acidity, firm, but silky tannins, subtle smoke, graphite and cedar along with hints of wild mushroom, strawberry and fennel. This wine feels brisk and austere at first, though air coaxes out a violets and dried rose petal perfume and glorious feminine charms, a bit of short term cellaring will pay off big time, there are great rewards to be found in this Pinot Noir, drink 2016-2023.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010ChezeauxVR2010 Domaine Jerome Chezeaux, Vosne-Romanee AC, Red Burgundy, France.
Vosne-Romanee, the town that calls home to the great Romanee-Conti, La Tache and Romanee-St.-Vivant as well as other historic sites is one of the spiritual homes for Pinot Noir, and the name always screams Burgundy. Domaine Chezeaux in the last three vintages, 2008, 2009 and 2010, has stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight, the wines have been beautiful, graceful and soulful showing impeccable winemaking, verve and vibrancy, if you’ve been looking for elegance and character filled Burgundy, you should try these wines, especially the simple Vosne-Romanee AC. The 2010 Domaine Jerome Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee is bright, dignified and complex Pinot Noir that shows it’s pedigree and sense of place to near perfection with earthy spices, wilted roses, violets and wild red fruits casting a subtle perfume, leading to a vivid palate of black cherry, mountain berry, plum and currant fruits along with truffle, briar, anise and light tea notes. The wine is lifted by well judged acidity and soft tannins, the texture is firm, but silky in the mouth and the length is impressive considering it’s youthfulness, this is classy and well made Burgundy, drink 2014 to 2026.
($70 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2010ZidarichVitovska2010 Zidarich, Vitovska, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Made from the native Vitovska grape, the Zidarich 2010 shows bright grapefruit, melon and spiced pear, a light yellow hue and savory elements, this comes across austere and seriously dry, but it grows on you with time in the glass. The is an array of flavors that pop up, unexpectedly like cured meat, cheesy notes and there is a zest burst of acidity that adds kick to this white from Italy’s remote Northeast. A classic seafood white that is dusty dry and tangy fresh the Vitovska is a unique expression of grape, region and winemaking. Orange rind, lemon oil, verbena and soy notes come through after time in the glass.
($45 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

2011ZidarichMalvasia2011 Zidarich, Malvasia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
This Malvasia is golden/yellow with intense savory meaty layers, bright acidity, chalky minerals and tension filled dry fruits, dried apricot, pear, yellow canned peach, bacon oil, apple skin and orange rind. This vigorous white has loads of character and interesting elements, but needs time to come together. This Malvasia should potentially prove to be a seductive gem, though it is tight, powerful and somewhat severe at this stage. As an orange wine, the spice and savory side dominate and I’m certain with the right cuisine I’d come around to appreciate this well made white much more. The 2011 was much more interesting than the 2010 version, and Benjamin Zidarich explained 2010 was a tough and frightful vintage, while the 2011 looks set to be a classic in the region, though I noticed his wines seemed to need more time and thought to be as pleasing on the palate as I would like, give some time, I’ll be intrigued to re-visit this vintage in a few years.
($45 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2009ZidarichPrulke2009 Zidarich, Prulke, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
This intriguing white is made up of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Malvasia and 20% Vitovska, Zidarich’s Orange wine cuvee sees a long maceration, fermenting on the skins for at least 14 days, and this is the darkest hued wine in the stable, though not orange in color, but more golden and sunny in appearance. Benjamin Zidarich loves his Sauvignon Blanc vines and uses them to good effect here, but he says he’d never even consider not using it as part of a cuvee, keeping with ancient tradition to blend, and he feels it would take away from the sense of place he feels very proud of, he says a Sauvignon Blanc only wine would be more French that the Carso area. Regardless this wine is gorgeous and complex with lemon/lime, melon, peach, saline/iodyne notes, tangerine and kumquat. This was my favorite Zidarich wine and while generous on the palate it is brisk, spicy and finishes on the dry savory side, with perfect acidity and focus throughout.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010ZidarichTeran2010 Zidarich, Teran, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
The red from Zidarich is lively, vivid and tangy with sour plums, wild cherry, blackberry and peppery spices, Teran or Terrano is a native grape related to Refosco and found in Croatia as well. I was able to taste 3 different Teran wines together, which all showed regional similarities and style, very unlike Refosco from just a few miles closer to Vence or to Teran found in Croatia, this is very much a wine of it’s place. The tangy notes are like sucking on a sour candy, very puckering and mouth watering, but still the fresh fruitiness shines through. The color is opaque and dark, the nose is spicy and the palate is zesty filled with acidity and spice, while a hint of floral incense adds flair to this medium light red. This wine grew on me in the glass and the lingering boysenberry note was compelling, though I had hoped for a touch more depth.
($42 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkVitovska2011 Skerk, Vitavska, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Sandi Skerk’s Vitovska is a lovely and brisk white, even if technically an “Orange” wine, it shows just a hint of pale yellow and flows vibrantly in the glass, I’d certainly enjoy this wine with oysters! The delicate aromas and sizzling acidity keeps this bright, tangy and fresh throughout, though it gains depth and density with air, best not to serve too cold, cellar temp is best and makes a huge difference. As this wine unfolds it really comes alive with savory elements, mineral and richer fruit notes with tangerine, melon and lemon zest. The Vitavska grape is found only here and is a purely unique example of region, terroir and winemaking, the long maceration on the skins doesn’t bring much orange/pink color, but certainly the skins impart character, spice and tannins making for a  gripping wine. Very interesting, though not as pleasing as the Malvasia or the Ograde in the collection from Skerk, both of which are more graceful than the Vitavska alone anyway.
($35 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2010SkerkMalvazija2010 Skerk, Malvazija (Malvasia Istriana) Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Sandi Skerk’s 2010 Malvazija is stunningly fresh and beautiful with impressive depth, elegance and life, for an orange wine it is delicate, vivid and crisp, not what I was expecting, but was gifted with a happy surprise, this really is glorious and complex wine. With such long maceration, up to 40 days on the skins, I thought the color was not much different than a normal chardonnay in the glass and this vibrant and tangy Malvasia shows vigor and intensity without losing any charm or grace. The nose is clear with steely mineral tones, jasmine, citrus oil and orange pulp leading to a zesty palate of lemon/lime, tangerine, peach and marmalade with chalky dry spices, stones and bitter almond. This a profound white wine that showcases a region and style that needs to be taken much more seriously.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkOgrade2011 Skerk, Ograde, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
A proprietary white blend of Vitavska, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia is real Orange wine that shines pink/orange in the glass and tastes fresh and lively, the Skerk hallmark, this is lovely and compelling wine. This cloudy and dense dry wine feels light on it’s feet with bright and zesty aromas and flavors with tangerine, citrus flowers, savory and salty spices, mountain herbs, apple skin, peach and persimmon. I had been expecting a tawny element, but none showed up, this is pure, vivid and fresh wine that makes you re-think your ideas of “Orange” wines, this is an ancient style of winemaking known from Italy to the Republic of Georgia, and the Skerk version is stable, tangy, clean and delicious. The color is from the Pinot Gigio which has pink/grey skins, the long maceration bleeds the orange/pink hue, Sandi Skerk claims between 15 and 40 days on the skins with this wine, though he adds that long skin contact doesn’t always mean more color in the Orange wine, he says some wines with only 10 or 14 days sometimes have a much darker color from the skins. This is totally drinkable and beautifully balanced wine that begs for food, cured meats, cheeses, seafood and almost anything that requires a dry wine would be super with this dynamic wine.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkTeran2011 Skerk, Terlan, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Slightly less dark than the Zidarich Teran I tried alongside and more structured than the Skerk 2010, the future release coming from Skerk the 2011 Teran is a tangy combination of sweet and sour flavors, spice and is a fine example of this grape and regional style with a slightly more elegant frame and more defined fruit. I would happily drink this wine almost anytime and enjoyed the play between the candied and sour mixed berry fruits and plum core. There is a pepper jelly and cracked pepper play too that is interesting as well to go with added elements of meat, mineral and kirsch notes that fold into the blackberry and bramble that comes through mid palate in this fun and vibrant wine. As mentioned the Teran grape is also known as Terrano in Italy and is off-shoot of the more well known Refosco varietal found in near by areas. Skerk, well respected for his “Orange” wines, certainly makes a good red too, drink young and enjoy the zesty freshness of this unique wine from the hills of Carso.
($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011RaveneauButteaux2011 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis “Butteaux” Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
Bernard Raveneau’s wines are simply spectacular and I would say life changing experiences, if you like Chablis, you’d go nuts for Raveneau, these rare and wonderful Chardonnays are extremely difficult to get your hands on, but I recommend doing your best to grab a bottle or two, the 2011 vintage should be hitting the shelves soon. While, certainly not cheap, these are fantastic and unique expressions of terroir and gifted winemaking, these are bucket list wines, no question, especially Raveneau’s Grand Cru offerings, but I love the Premier Cru wines as well, and I was lucky enough to have been able to sample the new 2011 Butteaux Premier Cru recently and found it glorious and surprisingly decedent for a young Raveneau, which usually are a bit tight in their youth. The 2011 Raveneau Butteaux is very high toned and tension filled, but opens to round layers with air, it starts with lime blossoms, chalky wet stones, sea salt and hints of clove spice before revealing lemon and green tangy apple fruit with a chilling sense of steeliness, mineral streak along with more lime and hazelnuts. This classic austere Chablis races with brisk acidity and dances on the palate, exciting, vigorous and vivid throughout, there is fantastic balance and sublime flavors that are pure and vibrant, and while 2010 vintage Raveneau’s will need years and years in the cellar, the 2011 will be ready much earlier to enjoy, best in their first 5 to 10 years of life.
($120+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012BrundlmeyerR2012 Weingut Brundlmeyer, Riesling “Kamptaler Terrassen” Kamptal, Austria.
As a long time fan of Brundlmeyer my expectations run high when tasting their wines and I can honestly say I am almost never let down or disappointed, year after year Brundlmeyer delivers stunning quality wines, from Gruner Veltliners to sparkling brut, from single vineyard Pinot Noirs to this humble Riesling, there is no question Brundlmeyer is a top domaine and makes world class wines from the slopes above the Danube in the Kamptal region of Austria. The 2012 Kamptaler Terrassen is a dry and tangy wine of energy, poise and pleasure showing pure Austrian terroir and character with lime blossoms, lime zip and kumquat notes along with spicy mineral tones plus tropical mango and passion fruits to go with a core of peach and apricot stone fruits. The driving acidity and crisp steeliness make your mouth water and leaves an electric zesty feel on the palate throughout. Hints of wet stones, petrol fumes, ocean brine and mint leaves add complexity to this tension filling Riesling, this is super stuff from Brundlmeyer, drink over the next 5 to 7 years if not longer!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011JoguetChinon2011 Charles Joguet, Chinon “Les Petites Roches” Loire Valley, France.
On a night where Kermit Lynch was signing his books, the 25th anniversary edition of his famous “Adventues on the Wine Route” and rarities like Vieux Telegraphe and Raveneau were being poured, this little Cabernet Franc shined just as bright and was a scene stealing vixen. Charles Joguet’s Chinon wines are not secrets, but sometimes forgotten, and they deserve a bit more attention, this 2011 certainly is a stunner with ultra pure fruit, terroir and striking mineral focus, I have also adored the Les Petites Roches and the 2011 vintage brings all my memories of admiration and enjoyment of Joguet’s wines over the years, and I thank Kermit Lynch for discovering this domaine and sharing them with us, and while I did of course love the Raveneau Chablis and VT Chateauneuf, it is this little Cabernet Franc that made me get a signed copy of Kermit’s book, even though I do own the original still. The 2011 Joguet Les Petites Roches Chinon starts with violets, crushed stones and blackberry to go with it’s dark purple edged garnet hue leading to a palate of classic Franc layers of plum, black cherry, blackberry and huckleberry  fruits with allspice, garden grown peppers, cedar and sandalwood. There is a cool steely edge, this mineral essence runs throughout and brings the terroir into focus, all said and done this wine has vitality, grace, earthiness and balance, the acidity is juicy fresh and gives lots of vibrancy, vigor and life, drink this beauty over the next 5 to 7 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012SelbachZSkabinett2012 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, Mosel, Germany.
A beautiful Riesling, the 2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Kabinett is a showcase of detail, history and class with exotic tropical touches including mango, passionfruit and pineapple along with green apple, lime and vibrant salted citrus. This vintage is really a near perfect year with fantastic fruit clarity and vivid acidity, mineral force and a dreamy texture. The drive and vigor point to impeccable winemaking and high quality terroir, a historic terroir and the structure will allow great cellaring rewards, as well as making for a wine that can be drunk young as this wine proves even now. A subtle sweetness and a delicate floral perfume shines throughout, though there are savory elements, sea (briny) essences and basil, and white tea notes too, the Schlossberg finishes with a wet stones and a creamy peachiness that begs for another sip, this is gorgeous Riesling, drink from 2014 to 2024. Johannes Selbach and his team has crafted a majestic set of wines with the 2012 vintage and they will continue to dazzle on the world stage for many years to come.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010StewartCS2010 Stewart, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Paul Hobbs has made the Stewart wines since the beginning and they are consistently delicious and well made, this new 2010 is in fact even more tasty than per normal, in fact it may just be a rival for best yet from Stewart right up there with the 2007. The Stewart 2010 Napa Cabernet shows all the glorious fruit, silky tannins and velvet texture you’d expect from Hobbs, with dark fruits, vibrancy and a long finish this is classy and deep Cabernet from a maestro, no question at all, and look for a good life spam here as well, I’d say it will drink great for 10 to 15 years. The nose is softly perfumed with acacia flowers, mocha and creme de cassis with a touch of smoke and pencil lead leading to a richly flavored palate of currant, plum, cherry and blackberry fruits with bitter chocolate, licorice, vanilla and cedar notes, and as the air gets into the wine there is subtle sage, tobacco and cinnamon as well, but the black fruits lead the way and linger nicely on the finish. The 2010 Stewart Cabernet Sauvignon is a pure and polished example and highly enjoyable wine, it would be a savvy choice in the luxury arena that Napa Cabernet has become.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012SiduriPisoni2012 Siduri, Pinot Noir “Pisoni Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Adam Lee’s Pisoni Pinot has been a legend since the 1999 vintage, and he has made some great wines over the years from this fabled site, and from these unique Pisoni clone vines. The 2012 is a classic example of the style and terroir that comes out in the Siduri Pisoni, especially in a vintage such as this, there is ripe and intense fruit, which is dynamic and dark with black fruits, spice, game and briar notes which echo the rumored origins of these grapes, this is a Grand Cru like wine, big, robust and layered with blackberry, dark cherry, damson plum and blueberry fruits with touches of wild flowers, violets and stony minerals along with the hints of meat, truffle, bramble, finishing long and silky with pretty French oak shadings that provide a soft frame with a kiss of vanilla. There is unmistakable Pisoni richness and weight here, but this wine certainly flows elegantly with grace and detail, it should even age well for another decade, this is well crafted and distinct Pinot Noir that without question deserves it’s reputation, drink from 2014 to 2023.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010LaTourFigeac2010 Chateau La Tour Figeac, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion, Red Bordeaux, France.
A classic blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc fermented in a combination of stainless steel and wood vats then aged 15 month in French oak, which I imagine was about a third to a half new, and crafted by the talented Stephane Darenoncourt, the Chateau La Tour Figeac 2010 is a wonderful and elegant wine that while still young is very refined, rich and polished. This beautifully fruit driven Saint-Emilion shows great detail, finesse and style in a free flowing lush fashion with sweet bouquet of cassis, violets and smoke leading to a full palate of red currant, plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with minty red pepper jelly, pencil lead, mocha and vanilla. This wine stood out for the structure, liveliness and focus adding to the lavish body and plush mouth feel, look for this wine to drink great early and go great for another 10 to 15 years, while not on the same level as Clos Fortet or Angelus this stunner is easier by far on the wallet and offers plenty of class for the cost and it is super pleasing, it should be hitting the shelves this fall, be should to look for it. Also, the 2009 was very enjoyable (90 Points) as well, just not as vivid or vibrant as the 2010, something that repeated over and over for Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion wines at a recent tasting.
($50-60 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012Chotard2012 Daniel Chotard, Sancerre, Loire Valley, France.
The vintage 2012 for Loire white wines is proving a huge hit, a major success considering all the problems with weather and crops, especially the Sauvignon Blanc, and this Daniel Chotard is one of the best yet I’ve sampled. Chotard, imported by Kermit Lynch, is a top artisan producer making fine Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and he also makes a stunning Pinot Noir too, his 2009 Sancerre Rouge still sticks in my memory, it was as pure and polished as any village Burgundy, in fact it could easily have matched some huge price tag Premier Crus. While I’ve not always had a chance to try his Sancerre whites, they tend to sell out pretty quick most years, when I’ve had the opportunity they have always impressed me, and this 2012 is a stellar effort, there is everything to love and enjoy here, it is vivid, juicy and pure, an old school charmer no question with mineral intensity, zest acidity and chalky dry, appealing to classic and modern palates alike. The nose is bright with white flowers, river stones, hints of earthy essences, a whiff of cat pee and loads of citrus fruit, the crisp and stylish palate has gooseberry, grapefruit and a core of lemon/lime plus tangy white peach fruits, steely mineral, a touch of hay and white tea. Drink this white over the next 3 to 5 years, this is about as good as Sancerre gets and is a lovely detailed wine.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012BedrockEvangelho2012 Bedrock Wine Company, Evangelho Vineyard Heritage, Old Vines, Contra Costa County.
This wine is a true California all-star, a wine that could only be from California and tastes like it, it is a remarkable field blend of Carignane, Mourvedre, Zinfandel as well as Palomino (white), Alicante Bouschet and the Mission grape all coming from a single vineyard of own rooted vines that date back to 1890! These vines have been a source of interesting red wine since California’s big Gold Rush and or just after more than a Hundred years ago, they are living history and Bedrock’s Morgan Twain-Peterson is crafting some amazing wines from them today, especially this 2012 which he co-ferments and ages in both small and large French oak casks. This wine is sexy and juicy young, but I have to believe it will be much more intriguing when about 5 to 10 years old, and it may live past 25 years if cellared well, this is classic stuff from a super vintage. The nose is bright and fruity with crushed red berries, earthy spices, red peach and kirsch leading to a vibrant and vivid palate of mouth filling red and black fruits including raspberry, black cherry, plum and loganberry as well as a hint of minty anise, briar, baked cherry compote, cedar spice, wild game, new leather and a whiff of vanilla. At this early stage it shows a forceful fruit driven charm, but I’m interested to see what a few years brings, this is an extraordinary wine of extreme potential, I imagine it aging like a fine Bandol, regardless it is a totally thrilling California treat, drink now through 2026.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2007MascarelloBarolo2007 Bartolo-Mascarello, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Absolutely sensational and gorgeous, this is near to perfection in every way, hats off to the Mascarello team, especially Maria Teresa Mascarello for making such majestic and spellbinding wines. I never thought I’d get a chance to try this wine, as the winery had to change importers, long-time importer Robert Chadderdon retired and a few vintages were caught in limbo, and now Rare Wine Company are the new importer, though they look set to start with limited amounts of the currant 2008, 2009 and 2010, but lucky for me and US fans, Kermit Lynch was able to get a few cases of the 2007, it was a one time deal from Chaddedon’s warehouse and the wines still have his import labels, it has all be confusing, though now all seems settled and we can look forward to these glorious wines again in America. The 2007 is a remarkable effort and a fantastic Barolo in everyday, the nose is deep, perfumed and complex with dried and fresh floral tones, sweet herbs, spice and delicate framboise notes add to the whole along with hints of iodine, soy, mint and tar leading to a rich palate that shows intensity and charm with red currant, damson plum, black cherry and lots of briar, licorice, mineral and cedar in the background, this is a wine of vivid personality and has a powerful presence, but with a velvety grip and controlled poise, make no mistake this wine is pure class and keeps faith with all that is held dear in the region, this wine is soulful Barolo, drink from 2014 to 2028.
($125-150 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

2012MichelSyrah2012 Johann Michel, Cuvee Grain Noir, Cornas Young Vines, Rhone Valley, France.
This 100% Syrah from 100% Cornas (young vines) is a beautiful cool climate Syrah with no oak at all used or needed, from a new young vigneron that looks set to make a name for himself, especially as his vines get some age on them, still I adore this cuvee and highly recommend it. Syrah lovers will rejoice in the pure essence of the grapes and sense of place found in this bright and vibrant red, Johann Michel has done himself proud, fermenting in stainless, aging in tank and allowing the wine to be a totally fresh expression of the vintage. The nose has earthy richness, plus violets, dark hues show purple and garnet colors in the glass and the palate is vivid with black cherry, plum and a core of blueberry and boysenberry with fresh cracked pepper, sea salty crusted licorice, game, forest floor and sweet and tangy herbs. If you are interested in exploring Syrah, this would be a great starting point, it is as pure and clear as it gets, and it is very tasty indeed, Drink now and for the next 2 years or so, best to enjoy young.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011KongsgaardCH2011 Kongsgaard, Chardonnay, Napa Valley.
John Kongsgaard’s Chardonnays are legendary, and the 2011 will certainly be a huge success, and it will sell out faster than you can read this, so be sure not to blink and keep a good eye out, the latest release should be hitting the stores very soon (Nov-Dec 2013). Also check out his wonderful Albarino it might be easier to find and it is one of the best in California along with Bedrock’s version, it is a delightful white wine. The 2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay is exotic and beautiful from start to finish with vigorous acidity, deep layers and endless finish, this is pure class leading off with white flowers, citrus oil, lemongrass and honeysuckle along with wet stones before opening in the mouth to reveal peach, apple, pear and lemon curd fruits, mineral spice, golden fig, clove and tropical essences. Finishes long and delicate, but leaving a nice sense of richness, while being alive and vibrant throughout. This wine is beautifully detailed and is sublime artisan Chardonnay, an American Grand Cru in the glass, Stunning, Drink 2014-2019.
($75-100 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

2012PandolPN2012 Pandol, Pinot Noir, Carneros.
Jenny Pandol, a tiny artisan producer, formerly of Santa Cruz has taken her winemaking talents south, residing in Ventura and her winery in Camarillo these days and looking to establish herself in the Sta Rita Hills region with next year’s release, as this year (harvest 2013) she secured 7 tons of Rita’s Crown fruit, but for 2012 she got her hands on some prime Carneros grapes and the results are stunning, continuing where she left off with the majestic 2008 Alfaro Family Vineyard Pinot she made, the new release from Carneros is a truly wonderful wine. She makes her Pandol Pinot at her Balmaseda Vineyard (Winery) in small lots, the Carneros 2012 production was only 29 Cases, or about a single barrel, so it is not an easy find and she does have a good following, so be sure to drop her a line, at around $35 her wines offer value and distinction, especially this lush and vivid Pinot. The 2012 Carneros, a dark ruby hued wine, starts with a floral rose petal note with black fruit, spice and soft wood notes, the mouth is lavish with sugar beet, plum, bing cherry and raspberry fruits with minty red licorice, lavender, cola and mocha, while hints of forest floor, cinnamon stick and vanilla play in the background in this focused and refined Pinot. This is still a baby and I look forward to watching it evolve over the next 3 to 5 years, but I am convinced there is plenty to offer even now and highly recommend this beautiful effort. There is lush layers, good grip and bright acidity, all is just where it should be, drink from 2014 to 2018. (Releases soon at www.pandolwines.com)
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012DeForvilleChard2012 De Forville Chardonnay “Ca’ dell Buc” Piedmonte, Italy.
This light to medium bodied elegant Chardonnay is a real class act, De Forville has crafted a real polished and delicious wine, hailing from the Langhe in Italy’s Piedmonte region, close to Asti and the Barbaresco zone. The 2012 Ca’ dell Buc is beautiful effort with a leading nose of white flowers, mineral tones and lemony citrus, before opening up to a palate of delicate pear, apple and citrus fruits with wet stones, golden fig, peach and a whiff of baking spices. This Chardonnay is soft and round in the mouth, but still has vibrancy and a steely edge, everything folds together very well and makes for a pleasing experience, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2009BroviaRocche2009 Fratelli Brovia, Barolo DOCG “Rocche dei Brovia” Piedmonte, Italy.
A beautifully detailed, subtle and textured wine, the 2009 Brovia Rocche is a stunning and elegant Barolo with character, class and structure. While 2004, 2006 and maybe the 2008 have more sheer tannin and grip, the 2009 has grace, intrigue and seductive quality, this is a fine and captivating Barolo, especially in the shorter term, this is not a blockbuster or a wine to be lost in the cellar for a decade, this is a Nebbiolo that might be called, though Cliche, Burgundy like and haunting, and a wine to be enjoyed in it’s first decade of release, though it should prove interesting well into the second decade. Brovia is a wonderful and what I’d call an honest, transparent producer of suburb Langhe wines from Arneis to Barolo, from Dolcetto to Barbera, everything is classy and well worth taking the extra mile to find. The 2009 Brovia Barolo Rocche die Brovia is perfumed with rose petals, lavender, peppery spice and delicate mineral before opening to a palate of glorious and classic flavors with layers of tangy plum, morello cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry red fruits, tar, sweet herbs, iodine, savory salted black licorice, cedar and hints of gamey truffle, clove and fig paste. A true beauty, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($90 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012BedrockOldVines2012 Bedrock, Zinfandel, Old Vine, Sonoma Valley.
Over the last few years Bedrock Wine Company has become one of the hottest wineries in California, with winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson crafting some beautiful artisan wines, using historic old vine sites. Morgan is the son of Ravenswood’s founder Joel Peterson and his a committed believer in field blends and California’s celebrated ancient vines, his wines also reflect an artisan approach in which a light hand and the show of what nature can give when you don’t try to make a factory consistent product, his wines show transparency and every wrinkle, this makes for a unique expression of each wine, vineyard and vintage. The 2012 Old Vines Zin, Sonoma Valley is deep and intriguing wine, showing Zinfandel charms, but with much more complexity through the other black grapes in the natural mix, there is of course Zinfandel (Tribidrag-in Croatia) plus Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir, Petite Sirah, Lenoir and maybe Syrah and Grenache. The 2012 vintage is proving deeper, more dense and certainly more robust than either 2011 or 2010, but it still feels dynamic and focused with black raspberry, crushed wild flowers, morello cherry, plum and blueberry along with mineral tones, cedar, fig paste and cinnamon spice. This is a pure California red that seduces with character and integrity, I look forward to tasting more of Twain-Peterson’s 2012 wines and following their development over the next 5 to 10 years, these are highly entertaining and impressive examples of California’s great old vineyards.
($40 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012SamSaraPNSRH2012 Samsara, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Chad Melville’s Samsara wines are all super examples of artisan winemaking and are just plain super, if you’ve not had any, you should very soon, especially this delicious new 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, which is all ready drinking fantastic. This whole cluster fermented Pinot offers up a floral and exotic bouquet on the perfumed nose and the palate explodes with pomegranate, red cherry, plum, strawberry and wild berry along with red tea, lavender and cinnamon stick giving a almost savory spicy kick here, plus a long lush finish. This wine should settle in and become silky smooth over the next few years, but the drive and youthfulness are appealing now, I love the interesting character and vibrancy this wine has, this is going to be a vintage to stock up on, watch out, Pinot from 2012 are going to be mind-blowing, and this one is a great way to kick off your collection. I adore the Samsara Syrah line too, with Chad’s Melville making a huge impression, but I keep coming back to his Pinots, and this entry level 2012 is a killer deal.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LabetMetis2012 Julien Labet, Metis, Poulsard-Pinot-Trousseau, Jura Red, France.
This pale and delicate red from the Jura is an intriguing blend of Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau, made by Julien Labet in an all natural fashion. I’ve been following Labet’s artisan wines over the last few years and really enjoy them, not all are as polished or successful as this wine, in fact this might be his best red to date under his wines by Julien label. The 2012 Metis starts with dried flowers and wild herbs on the nose along with hints of tea and pepper before leading to a light palate of cherry, strawberry, currant and plum fruits with savory elements, blueberry skin, hints of red apple, minty anise and saline seashore notes. Everyone of Labet’s wines are like an original painting and almost as rare, these unique wines are never the same and do tend to vary a bit bottle to bottle, but they are worth checking out and especially if you are a total wine geek. Julien Labet is imported by Charles Neal Selections, a great small book of handcrafted wines and spirits.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012EvaKiedrich2012 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Kiedrich Trocken, Rheingau, Germany.
Another gem from Eva Fricke is the energy filled Kiedricher Trocken, this was my first experience with this wine or area in the Rheingau, and I loved it, this is super fine Riesling. Eva’s 2012 really do show the quality of the vintage, and of course her own talent, this wines have really stepped up a level, and for me are her best yet. The 2012 Kiedrich dry Riesling shows a refinement and polish that shines in this energy filled and exciting wine, this is a Riesling for all occasions with mineral intensity, good depth of fruit, texture and driving acidity. The nose is shy at first, showing a bit of white tea, saline/sea breeze, citrus flowers before giving way to a palate of green apple, white peach, melon, lime and tangerine along with river stones, a cool steely edge and lingering stone fruit and pit. The lime note runs throughout giving vibrancy, but the texture feels soft and balanced.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010MeoCamuzetMarsannay2010 Meo-Camuzet, Marsannay AC, Red Burgundy, France.
This marvelous Pinot Noir from Marsannay and crafted by Meo-Camuzet Frere & Soeurs is cool and crisp with the best of the vintage character, with a nice full dark ruby color, pure Pinot fruit and soft mineral tones. A huge fan of this wine, I am convinced this might be one of my favorite versions ever, it just touches all the emotional zones and the senses in a way that only a fine Burgundy can, it is not as fruit forward as the flamboyant 2009 and is certainly elegant and trim in body without losing it’s appealing nature. The nose is subtle, you need to wait and coax to have the inner perfume be revealed, then light violet and rose petal notes come forth, there is a mineral streak, black currant and a whiff of tea and fennel before then palate transition to crisp plum, black cherry, currant and raspberry/strawberry layers, along with cinnamon, stones, saline and the faintest hint of wood. This wine is fresh, balanced with good acidity giving good tension and drive throughout with a lean body and wonderful dreamy finish, I’m glad I bought a few more bottles, this is truly my kind of wine, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009GehrsSyrah2009 Daniel Gehrs, Syrah, central Coast.
A stroll down Grand Ave in Los Olivos should include a visit to long time central coast winemaker Daniel Gehrs, he’s been crafting small lot wines from Monterey’s Chalone to Santa Barbara, and doing it well. His Chenin Blanc is one of the best in the state and he does a couple very fine Pinots as well, along with a collection of other wines, including this easy to love Syrah, it’s a no frills, straightforward red that gives plenty of enjoyment and offers a nice value. The nose is ripe and shows a cascade of red fruits, cassis and sweet herbs leading to a full body with plum, boysenberry and candied cherry fruit with hints of dark chocolate, lavender, anise seed and cedary spice. This 2009 is ready to go, no waiting needed, the tannins are silky and the acidity is well folded into the fruit layers, so just pull the cork and enjoy this well made Syrah, again it is not a thinking man’s Syrah, but a fun light hearted red to enjoy on a tuesday night in October, but be sure to check out Daniel Gehrs, he is still crafting some wonderful wines that deserve some attention.
($20 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2011Kalyra2011 Kalyra, Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley.
Walking down State Street in Santa Barbara, I came across a couple of wineries down near the beach and Stearn’s Wharf, and I decided I couldn’t not check them out, and one managed to lure me in with a Syrah, which according to the leaflet was sourced from White Hawk Vineyard, one of the top sites for Syrah, as used by Sine Qua Non, Ojai and others to good, if not great effect, and listed at only $24 bucks, I had to give it a try. Kalyra is an Aussie surf themed winery making small lot wines sold directly through the tasting room and their wine club, lots of Surfboards with Kalyra logos and an endless summer feel about the place, but I was happy I checked it out, because the Syrah was a delightful and interesting wine. From the cool 2011 vintage, this earthy and spicy Syrah hits all the right notes if you like a bit more restraint, which I tend to do these days with Syrah, a touch of Northern Rhone class with violets, fresh turned earth, bacon and blueberry notes along with cracked pepper, boysenberry, kirsch and minty anise. This under 14% Syrah is very tasty and a good surprise find on a lazy afternoon stroll.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010Tatomer2010 Tatomer, Riesling, Vandenberg, Santa Barbara County.
Certainly one of the best dry California Rieslings available, the Tatomer is a lovely and stylish effort with plenty of distinct character and charm oozing from the glass from nose to finish this is impressive wine. Tatomer is label to watch, the wines are pure, driven with acidity and good solid varietal examples, the Gruner Veltliner is also another terrific expression, so be sure to keep an eye out for these wines, especial the Vandenberg Riesling, a wine that made my meal at the famed Santa Barbara restaurant, the Wine Cask. The Tatomer Riesling 2010 Vandenberg starts with hints of orange flowers, tropical notes and chalky minerals with lots of citrus leading to a lively and energy filled palate with apple, lime, peach and white currant along with saline, wet stones, verbena, petrol and lemongrass. There is a forceful burst of acidity and intensity, but everything turns polished with food and air, there is a graceful creaminess that shines through and lingers on the dry, crisp finish. This highly enjoyable white is evolved and maturing nicely, it should drink well for another 3 to 5 years, but no reason to wait really.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011PisoniEstate2011 Pisoni Estate, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This massively appealing Pinot Noir from the Pisoni family is hugely entertaining and pure, but easier to enjoy young than most recent editions, this wine, while structured and deep, is more in this vintage an open and giving wine. Jeff Pisoni, the winemaker here, has captured the Pisoni character in this rich and textured Pinot Noir, even in a most difficult year, in fact it is one of the best 2011 wines I’ve tasted, so kudos to the farming, the place and the talent that went into what is in the bottle. The 2011 Pisoni Estate Pinot shows dark ruby/purple color, bright fruit, floral notes and briar intensity in the nose and upfront before opening smoothly into a full throttle effort with blackberry, morello cherry, tangy currant, plum and loganberry fruits, along with cinnamon stick, mocha and mineral spice, finishing with touches of violets, earth and vanilla. This is classic Pisoni, but with a refined polish and a bit more acidity, less tannins than normal, a welcome and nice surprise, I’d say this is stylish early drinking Pisoni with all the charms you’d expect from this estate, drink from 2014 to 2020 or so, if you can wait, I doubt I could or would!
($85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

October 2013

2012PuzelatPineau2012 Puzelat-Bonhomme, Pineau d’ Aunis “La Tesniere” Loire Valley, France.
Puzelat’s rare and natural Pineau d’ Aunis is wild and unique red from the Loire Valley, Pineau d’ Aunis is a native Loire grape that has been around at sine 1100 AD and was a royal court favorite in Britain as far back as 1247. In many ways similar to Pinot Noir, this pale colored grape can make for an interesting red, though in many cases it is used in sparkling, or regional blends and sometime even a white wine, when it is bleeder off without skin contact. Not as pale as some of Jura varietals, like Poulsard, Puzelat-Bonhomme’s 2012 has a pretty light ruby hue, a spicy herbal nose with hints of flower petals, mineral and truffle earthy essence, leading to a bright palate of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and tangy plum fruit. The is subtle and vibrant wine, silky tannins and zest acidy hold things together, also being a very natural wine it does have a slight raw edge and needs to be kept cool in much the same way you would with Beaujolais, I have no idea how this fun will age, so best to enjoy this lighter style red now. It is full of pleasure and way off the beaten path.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011MaestroCastrillo2011 Alfredo Maestro, Castrillo del Duero, Spain.
This is one of my favorite Ribera del Duero wines, from a producer than doesn’t label it thus, preferring to keep his independence. The latest release is the rich and detailed 2011, a wine that is hard not to love with nose of morello cherry, dried flowers, raspberry liqueur and soft wood notes, leading to a lush palate of blackberry, cherry and loganberry fruit along with hints cranberry, baking spices, mineral and poached plum, all bright and slightly tangy before the finish, which turns creamy with warm toffee essence. The lingering effect is impressive and seductive, Alfredo Maestro is an artisan winemaker that is ever challenging the boundaries and exploring new paths, be sure to taste his wonderful wines when you see them, especially this monovarietal Tempranillo, drink from 2014-2020.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011MontesecondoTIN2011 Montesecondo “TIN” IGT Rosso, Tuscany, Italy.
Having been influenced by Alto Adige’s Foradori, Montesecondo has made a 100% Sangiovese aged in amphora with amazing results, this cuvee from Chianti Classico grown grapes is a stunning wine of distinction and seductive charm. Raising wine in ceramic vessels is an ancient art and craft, and it is coming back in fashion, not just in the making of geeky or orange style wines, in fact Bordeaux has some top Chateaux that are using amphora, including the famed Chateau Pontet-Canet, they even make the vats from the clay rich soils of their Pauillac estate. To me it seems, amphora gives the texture and expansion that wood does without inputting the footprint on the wine, but there are many stylistic reasons as well, it allows for the fruit to show more intensity and terroir purity maybe, but also the skins and lees give added savory details. Regardless of how this wine was made and aged, it is a lovely and glorious Tuscan red with heightened expression and dynamic flavors, the Montesecondo TIN shows dried flowers, sweet herbs and wild strawberries on the nose with mineral notes throughout and a rich palate of medium weight with black cherry, boysenberry and plum fruit, soy/balsamic notes, sweet lavender, spiced tobacco, pepper and framboise elements as well. This beauty is transparent and graceful with a subtle build up of density with air, the balance is suburb and the finish goes on and on. This refined and complex Sangiovese is something rare and special, drink from 2014-2024.
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011LuytPais2011 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Pais de Quenehuao, Chile.
This exciting and unique Chilean wine is made by Louis-Antoine Luyt, a young natural winemaker using the Misson Grape, from 250-300 year old vines, also known as Listan Prieto or Pais de Quenehuao locally, these vines are on original roots and re-started with old school pruning techniques, but have never had to have been re-planted since the Spanish Mission days. This is a wine that brings us a first taste of what wine in the new world first tasted like, and while winemaking, natural and otherwise is far better than it was, this provides an interesting glimpse back into wine history, and a tasty one at that! Luyt is crafting some intriguing wines and is a rising star, he is showcasing varietal and terroir that hasn’t been seen much in imported wine from Chile in my generation, these are wines of unique character and style, crafted in small lots and done with passion and integrity. The Pais de Quenehuao 2011 is bright, tangy and vivid red wine with cherry, plum and blueberry fruit, along with zesty acidity, mineral tones, sweet herbs and exotic spices. Luyt says the clusters were affected by the massive earthquake that hit Chile in 2011, he believes the wine itself is reflecting that big shake and tastes different than other vintages, this is truly a wine that transmits the heart of it’s place. Luyt used whole cluster with a light pressing, this leaves a bit of structure and allows a more upfront fruitiness to show through according to his line of thinking, he also says this vintage is more about early drinking, thinking it should be enjoyed in it’s 2-5 year life ahead, I think it is delicious now and that it should drink with grace for about 5 years. There is a pomegranate, red peach and strawberry aftertaste that I really enjoy here and I think this is a fun and totally cool wild and wacky appealing wine. This wine is a rarity and will be hard to locate, but be sure to ask your merchant to get some, imported by Farm Wines, California. Also be sure the more easily found Luyt Carignan 2012 from Chile as well, this is another gem from this quality producer.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012LiquidFarmsGH2012 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, White Hill, Sta. Rita Hills.
One of the new generation of Chardonnay producers to light up the wine world, Liquid Farm is a label to watch, an artisan producer that puts heart and soul into the bottle, these are wonderful Chardonnay wines from the Sta. Rita Hills region of California. Tiny production hand crafted wines that truly shine, Liquid Farm Chards are unique and stylish wines, be sure to check them out, I am very happy to have had the chance to sample them, these are special wines that deserve attention. I thought every wine has was spectacular, but I must say the youngest and most vibrant wine charmed me the most, it was the 2012 Liquid Farm White Hill Chardonnay which is utterly delicious and fresh, vivid and expressive with savory and spicy character along with racy acidity. This cuvee was partially stainless and mostly neutral aged in seasoned French oak, no new oak was used or needed. The nose is light and lifted with citrus, white tea, sea salt and white flowers leading to a tangy palate of lemon, green apple, spiced pear, tropical notes and chalky mineral, zest citrus rind, saline/earth/spice and peachy aftertaste. Look for this wine to gain over the next year in bottle, I again was super impressed by this winery and certainly will follow their wines, I highly recommend you try them if you see them offered! These are new post modern Chardonnays, old world in style, but new world in clarity, not Chablis, not Rombauer, but a whole new era of Chardonnay, fun and dynamic wines for a new generation.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010JamainPN2010 Denis Jamain, Reuilly Rouge, Les Chenes de Mon Grand Pere, Loire Valley, France.
I poured this wine yesterday to a tough crowd, and it turned a few heads, I must say I thought it was stylish and lovely with great detail and charm, and it was the first time I’d ever sampled a Reuilly red! Denis Jamain, a secret teaser in Kermit Lynch’s import portfolio, makes some stunning wines from his Domaine du Reuilly estate in France’s Loire Valley region, his Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris wines are laser like focused and bursting with intensity, he is a really talented guy that puts his passion in the bottle, no question. This Reuilly Rouge is 100% Pinot Noir and has the same intensity and sharp vivid character as his whites have, making for a clear and vibrant wine with excellent purity, structure and grace, while not being a big or fruity wine there is a sense firmness and muscle to this Pinot, there is tannin and and good extract to be found, but these are well managed and the lively acidity lifts the fruit. The color is rather deep for this region and the wine certain feels textural on the palate with a good sense of depth and a long finish. The nose is mineral spiced with hints of wilted roses, wild herbs, kirsch and earthy red red fruit before entry to the mouth that shows expansion with red currant, dark cherry, tangy plum and apple skin along with black tea, cinnamon stick, ground pepper, chalk, forest floor earthiness, truffle and dried strawberry. This unique Pinot Noir finishes with a dry extract, crisp briskness and leaves a long subtle aftertaste which feels austere and old world, but delightful and refreshing too, this wine will gain with some cellar time, very compelling, drink from 2014 to 2021.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2010SpottswoodeCS2010 Spottswoode, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Saint Helena, Napa Valley.
The new and young winemaking team at Spottswoode have settled in nicely and hats off to them, this 2010 Cabernet is dynamite with layered elegance and keeping the soul of the estate firmly in the frame. Without a doubt this still is one of the great Napa wines, I always find it more graceful, like the cliche, the Chateau Margaux of Napa Valley, well when a moniker works… The 2010 Spottswoode is a gorgeous wine with deep Cabernet flavors, there is a hint of floral, pencil lead and creme de cassis that leads off then the palate kicks in with plenty of dark fruit, mineral, cedar and sweet tobacco, finishing long and lingering well over 60 seconds, this is very impressive wine. Most Cabernet Sauvignon, with a touch of Petit Verdot, the Spottswoode Estate is truly lovely and detailed with a mouthful of blackberry, currant, black cherry and plum fruits that are both dense and rich, but still balanced and lifted, this is a candidate for medium term cellaring, drink 2014-2028.
($145 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012GothicNevermorePN2012 Gothic, Pinot Noir, Nevemore, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
I’d heard about Gothic, and heard good things, so it was great to sample the wines myself, and the rumors were true, these are delicious wines and the clear favorite in my notes was the entry level Willamette Valley Pinot Noir “Nevermore” from the set, it is a wonderful example of flavorful Oregon Pinot, and gives an early indication of the high quality of the 2012 vintage. The Gothis Chardonnay and single vineyard wines were truly well made and interesting, but again I kept coming back to this easy to drink and pleasing wine, the 2012 Gothic Nevermore Pinot Noir is rich, tangy and layered with blackberry, cherry and juicy plum fruit along with a nice mix of spice, mineral and subtle wood. This fun and savvy wine offers quite a bit of quality for the modest price, and it should settle in and develop nicely for the next 3 to 5 years, while vivid, fruity and bouncy at first, there is some classy character to be found in this young Pinot, I was happily impressed and I’ll be following these guys as more of the 2012 wines come out.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

DenisMortetGC2011 Domaine Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin AC, Red Burgundy, France.
Arnaud Mortet has now firmly taken the helm of his late father’s domaine and making his own mark, which clearly shows in the latest wines from 2010 and 2011, coming through the tragedy and becoming a fine winemaker in his own right. The sample of the 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin certainly shows Arnaud has slipped out from the shadow of his legendary father and is ready to stamp his own page in Burgundy, this wine shows elegant charm, class and vigor highlighting the talents now on display. This clean and vibrant wine feels as structured as 2010 and has plenty of dynamic character, I was moved and mightily impressed, as I had many times tasted Denis Mortet in the past, I think the transition has been almost and remarkably seamless, Arnaud’s wines are wanting for nothing, this AC Gevrey is a beautiful and detailed Burgundy with sublime balance. The 2011 Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin shows a a nose of earthy perfume, terroir scents of subtle flowers, red tea spice, mineral and hints of meatiness leading to a tightly focused palate of red cherry, plum and tangy seeded berries, briar notes, cranberry, wild herbs, game and light baking spices. The dreamy feel is silky in texture and the long aftertaste is classic Burgundy, this is lovely Pinot Noir, rather pricy yes, rather rare yes, but I can’t help but want more, bravo.
($110 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012FrickeLorch2012 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Lorcher Trocken, Rheingau, Germany.
Eva Fricke’s 2012’s are turning out to be a fantastic set of wines, these Rieslings are evolving in the bottle into wonderfully balanced and detailed wines, with the Lorcher Trocken really making an impression. Over the last few vintages there has been a honing of focus and harmony that is now defining them and highlighting the true talents of this rising star, Fricke, who has crafted an elegant and noteworthy lineup that in my book represent her best efforts to date. 2012 gave all the right ingredients for Fricke to work with and she made good use of them, I especially love the vitality and transparency she wove into the Lorch dry Riesling that shows a deft touch and restraint, but still gives enough extract and tension to be a very serious wine. The nose on the Lorcher Trocken shows orange blossom, verbena, white tea, hints of seawater and flinty mineral spice leading to a delicate palate of lime, ripe peach, tangerine and green melon along with touches of bright apple, light tropical essence and wet stones. This crisp and beautiful Riesling is bursting with underlying energy and vibrancy, but still manages to be graceful throughout, there is a sublime sense of zen in this wine and it is charming and seductive from start to finish, and there is more to come, patience has it’s rewards here, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2007LaTorre2007 La Torre, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
This beautiful, old school, Brunello is really a wonderful expression of place and tradition, this pure and layered 2007 is well crafted and lengthy with earth, spice and sexy fruit. The La Torre starts a bit austere, but opens quickly revealing red currants, bramble berry, rose petals, incense and grilled herbs before a rich palate of cherry, plum and strawberry fruit with hints of licorice, cedar and lavender, along with a bit of savory elements like hosin, soy and wild mushroom. The finish is back to lush fruit and has a long aftertaste, this wine shows elegant class with just a hint of rustic charm, best to drink from 2014-2020. This Tuscan beauty is pretty rare, so be sure to search it out, it was one of the best 2007’s I tasted and the price is not insane, though not cheap.
($65 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011Foti2011 Salvo Foti, I Vigneri, IGT Rosso, Etna, Sicily.
This old vine Nerello Mascalese is one of the treasures of Sicily, and Salvo Forti is a local legend, his wine is one of the most sought after reds of Italy. This red comes from the slopes of Mount Etna, Sicily’s active volcano and uses Salvo’s ancient and secret crushing and pressing methods, but regardless of history and mystery, Foti’s 2011 I Vigneri is a stunning wine and it captures the soul of the region and delivers a wine that would not be out of place next to the great wines of the world, in fact Enta Rosso has recently been labelled figuratively as Italy’s (Sicily’s) Burgundy, such is the grace, transparency and layered complexity, such is the potential of Nerello Mascalese when crafted like Salvo Foti’s wines are. The elegant and deep 2011 Foti I Vigneri starts with a spicy nose that shows red spices, warm stones, dried roses and framboise leading to a medium weighted palate of raspberry, plum, morello cherry and flinty mineral notes with hints of balsamic, soy and lavender oil, finishing with considerable length and lingering rose petal and strawberry aftertaste. This intriguing and seductive wine should be on your must find list this year, drink 2014-2021.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012CaleraCC2012 Calera, Pinot Noir, Central Coast.
Without question Calera is one of the most important and influential wineries in California, and Josh Jensen one of the top guns in Pinot Noir, it is interesting to see how his wines have come back into the spotlight in recent years and his old world Burgundian ways become new again. Jensen’s entry level Central Coast Pinot has been on a roll in the last four vintages and this 2012 is another winner, this cuvee is made up of many sites from areas as far away as Santa Barbara County to Calera’s home base on mount Harlan in San Benito County, with a bit of Monterey thrown in. This edition is flesh and textural on the palate, but has good acidity and vibrancy as well, this well crafted and judged Pinot remains a benchmark for value priced Pinot Noir and is full of delicious pleasure. I must admit, there was a time when I felt the Calera wines were too steamy and earthy, needing lots of cellar time to unwind their potential, so I must eat crow a bit, but still there has been a improvement in the clarity in these wines, plus Jensen’s vines have gained age, so I must give even more credit now, where credit is due, these wines are some of the finest Pinot Noir wines in California, and this Central Coast bottling is a great place to start if you’ve not tried Calera before. The 2012 Calera Central Coast Pinot starts with a subtly perfumed nose that reveal faint floral tones, earthy spices, hints of herb tea and dark currants leading to a palate of tangy cherry, plum and cranberry fruit with notes of raspberry, strawberry and cola bean along with wild mushroom, aromatic pipe tobacco and peppery cinnamon. A kiss of wood and a good finish leave a nice aftertaste in this fine and vivid wine that has a good kick of acidity keeping things fresh and lively, this is a super food wine and I bet this little Pinot with age ten years easy, look for it to fill out and gain depth in the next year in bottle, bravo.
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2004VTMag2004 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, La Crau, Rhone Red, France. (Magnum 1.5L)
Another surprise blessing, a chance to taste VT from magnum, and from a vintage that doesn’t get much praise, but is drinking lovely, especially this Brunier family classic, yes this is a wonderful expression of Chateauneuf and one if you have, you should pop sooner vs later. While 2004 doesn’t get much respect in the press or collector market there are certainly a few gems out there and they are bargains, so be sure to be savvy shoppers and look for Vieux Telegraphe, you can find this at below current release prices and it is a lovely and interesting wine with good detail, vivid flavors and respectable length and polish, in fact I adore this wine and tasting recently out of magnum (Oct. 2013) was a wonderful and pleasing experience. The 2004 starts with earthy Mourvedre notes leading the way with truffle, warm earth, grilled herbs, lavender and saddle leather with baked cherry, poached plum and red berry notes. The palate is medium weighted and the wine feels bright and fresh, almost crisp at first, then opens up and fills out, expanding in the mouth and persistent on the finish, but never gets big or heavy, there is layers of raspberry, briar, pepper, soy, a dusting of coco powder, meaty essence and more red currant fruit with touches of saline, licorice and fig. All in all this Chateauneuf du Pape shows an elegant side of the region, highlights the vintage and shows it’s pedigree and La Crau terroir in perfect order, drink now through 2020.
($180 Est. Magnum) 94 Points, grapelive

2011LuciaSyrahG2011 Lucia, Syrah “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
It is not so much a secret anymore how good the Syrah is from the Santa Lucia Highlands, and especially when crafted by Jeff Pisoni for his family’s Lucia label, but only a few years ago really people thought of Garys’ and Pisoni vineyards as Pinot Noir only, this though has not been the case, in fact I have thought on a few occasions it was the Syrah that produced the better wine from this region. That being said yes, the great Pisoni Pinot is still the most revered wine of the Santa Lucia Highlands, but the Syrah is not far off, like this Lucia Garys’ 2011 which while still a tad reduced and shutdown is showing wonderful complexity and is filled with interesting layers. The nose needs air to come around, though this should come around with a bit more bottle age and once open it reveals blueberry, bacon, truffle, roasted herbs, mint and hints of violets which lead to a full palate of boysenberry, briar edged currants, a meaty/game, cherry and plum sauce with touches of cedar, anise, dark coco, pepper spice, lavender and a faint whiff of vanilla and cinnamon sticks. This wine might merit a couple point jump up in a few more months, it looks to me as it is just coming out of a primal phase and I think will really come to life in more vivid detail and focus in the next year or so, I look forward to following it’s progress. Drink from 2014 to 2022, this is intriguing stuff from a talented winemaker and great terroir. A side note, I tasted this wine along side the Shafer Relentless and Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah wines and the Lucia more than held it’s own, and while the other two were delicious I would opt for the Lucia myself!
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010PacaletPommard2010 Philippe Pacalet, Pommard AC, Red Burgundy, France.
I may have mentioned Pacalet a few times, may even have reviewed his wines a few times, maybe this wine too, but WOW this beautiful 2010 Pommand is now stunning and has really blossomed into a fantastic Pinot Noir and merits extra attention now. Philippe Pacalet is one of the new darlings of the natural wine movement and certainly a rising star in Burgundy, his careful artisan technique and minimalist winemaking is turning more than a few heads, these wines are clear, bright, fresh and transparent, not in the least bit old school barnyard funky, and while people argue the whole gambit of ideas about so called natural wine, Pacalet is quietly crafting elegant and glorious Burgundy. I tasted some of his first imported efforts and was very impressed, especially with his Chambolle-Musigny, and when recently sampled his whites I was blown away, his Meursault and Puligny wines are off the charts, but a few days ago I got a chance to taste this Pommard and I can tell you it was a magic moment, this is a delicate and gorgeous red Burgundy that seduces and charms in a way that only a Cote d’ Or can, in majestic fashion and spiritually emotional in experience. The nose is perfumed with fresh rose petals, red tea, hints of pepper, violets and raspberry leading to a dreamy palate of silky cherry, plum and currant fruits with a lift of acidity, a gentle spine of refined tannin, mineral and earth adding mystery and a long finish that lingers with hints of red peach, cinnamon stick, kirsch, lavender essence and truffle. This soulful effort is a medium bodied Pinot Noir that reveals everything with a light touch, but has sultry powers that will drive you crazy for more, sometimes a wonderful Burgundy can touch your soul, this is that kind of wine, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($80 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

1991RichterKabinett1991 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Riesling, Graacher Himmelreich, Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany.
This little Mosel Kabinett from Max Ferd. Richter is still drinking delightful at 22 years old and is an easy and affordable way to see how mature Riesling tastes, especially as it is still available through regular channels, as a current stock item in Shiverick’s import catalog, in case you wanted to have your local merchant to order some. I am a Riesling freak I admit, but honestly these wines are wonderful and interesting, again I have to mention that Riesling gives a huge bang for the buck. The 1991 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich is showing a touch of age now with aromas of bees wax, wilted rose petals, dried pineapple, hints of mineral, mint and petrol spice leading to a dry palate of pear, peach and nectarine with hints of honeyed lime, tangerine and verbena along with wet stones, clove, white tea and candied orange rind. While dry there is a creamy quality developing as the acidity looses it’s edge, this a fun and sound old Riesling that still can be had on the cheap!
($18-20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

1996HautBrion1996 Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, Premier Cru Classe des Graves, First Growth, Red Bordeaux, France.
Wow, what a special treat this was, to taste a fantastic mature Haut-Brion, I am thrilled and grateful that a client brought this one in, it is not often I can tell you that this kind of generous act happens, so a big thanks to Mr Fluhmann for shaving this beauty, it felt like Christmas. The 1996 vintage is really coming around, I’ve tasted many examples this year and if you have them then you’ll be happily surprised, especially this fantastic and soulful Chateau Haut-Brion! The nose is full of vitality and earthy with intensity and hints of truffle, game and crushed wild flowers leading to dusty dark fruits and cedar notes, the palate is cense with blackberry, tangy currants, forest floor, sage, cigar tobacco, black cherry, plum and smoky wood shadings, along with some sandalwood, leather and pencil lead. Sadly I couldn’t follow this bottle long enough as it was heading out to a party without me, but in the few minutes I let it air it filled out and gained in every area, this is a classic Bordeaux that while still youthful still drinks perfectly well now. What a pleasure, this is great wine, the aftertaste lingered on and on with a creme de cassis and mineral notes, and the earthy side faded into the pretty fruit core, just fabulous.
($370-500 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010Pithon2010 Pithon-Paille, Bourgueil “Grands Monts” Val de Loire, Cabernet Franc, France.
The Grands Monts by Pithon-Paille is a wonderful expression of terroir and varietal Cabernet Franc with persistent flavors and focused detail and balance. This lovely Bourgueil shows pretty floral and spice perfume with faint hints of earth, dusty red fruit and mineral before a medium bodied palate that has plenty of dark fruits including blackberry, cherry and red currants, along with peppers, clove, violets and chalky stones. Everything folds together nicely with smooth tannins, fresh acidity and a long silky finish that hints at cranberry, bitter coco, sweet herbs and kirsch. Pithon-Paille isn’t well know, but I suggest searching them out, especially this 2010 vintage that is showing really well right now, along with Breton and Baudry this estate is making fine and beautiful Cab Franc at a very fair price.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010BroviaDolcetto2010 Brovia, Dolcetto D’ Alba DOC, Vignavillej, Piedmonte, Italy.
This serious and stylish Dolcetto is a go to red for pleasing a whole table of hungry people, everyone can enjoy it, but it has class enough to interest the snobby crowd as well, Brovia is a top notch producer and this Dolcetto comes from the heart of the Barolo zone in Alba. The Brovia Baroli and even their Barbera are world class reds, but their Arneis (white) and Dolcetto should not be missed, this 2010 Dolcetto is a first rate wine with good detail and focus. The nose starts with crushed flowers, roasted herbs and dark currants, leading to a lively palate of blackberry, plum and cherry fruits with tangy acidity, hints of mineral, fennel and red peach, and a bright and smooth finish. This made for food red pairs great with rustic fare, pizza and almost anything you decide to put on the table, especially cured meats, stews and sausages. While medium bodied and easy, this really is well crafted and classy wine that does not disappoint, and though it is not the cheapest Dolcetto around it might be one of the best year in and year out and it will certainly bring out your inner Italian.
($24 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

PleiadesXXIIIN.V. Sean Thackrey, Pleiades XXIII, Old Vines Red, California.
This lovely and iconic kitchen sink blend from old vine hillside fruit is another gem from Sean Thackrey and his winery in the remote coastal hamlet of Bolinas. There is a mix of black grapes and even a white grape or two blended in this cuvee, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Viogner, who knows? But, this vintage seems to be certainly different from the past 5 or 6 versions, it has much clearer fruit, almost no menthol/herbal notes that have been present for years and the wine feels more Pinot Noir like, silky smooth, creamy almost with loads of rich cherry and hints of mocha, raspberry, plum, lavender and peppery spices. This XXIII is about 13.9 % Alcohol and is pretty dense, this is a rich and lush Pleiades that should prove good and pleasing for 3-5 years easy. I think it should develop a bit more typical funkiness in the bottle over time, but it is seriously enjoyable as is and it will also appeal to a whole new set of fans, as it is not as extremely weird or as wild as is has been. I liked them all, and even though it was a shock at first, I really liked this edition. Also look for the new La Pleiade, this is the Thackrey Pleiades White, it is also really nice!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012DonnhoffKKKabinett2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Kreuznacher Krotenplahl Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
This elegant Kabinett has it all, and while still subtle and classy in character it maybe the finest vintage I’ve ever tasted of this wine, and anyone looking for a German classic need look no further. This clever Riesling shows a clarity that is like looking into the soul of Donnhoff, this pure and spiritual wine is nothing short of stunning with a light hearted sweetness, but with ultra serious character, this graceful Riesling plays with you, toys with your senses and seduces completely with flowery citrus, dried pear, candied apricot and tangy apple teases, zest acidity and dusty stones. The palate expands and includes pineapple, guava, white plum and a core of white peaches plus a savory side that balances the sweetness perfectly, briny sea salt, hints of minty tea and striking mineral tones. Don’t you dare miss this great vintage, it would be unthinkable not to have a few of these in your cellar, if you could be patient, the rewards are going to be heavenly.
($27 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012DielKabinett2012 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
The normal Diel Kabinett certainly deserves mention, it is a slightly sweet style that while feeling plenty dry has a bit more refreshing creaminess that the trockens, and I can honestly say it delivers the goods, this very complete Riesling is a charmer. I find it impossible to really call this, or many Kabinett level wines “sweet” I mean this is a pretty and stylish table wine, this is not a dessert wine or even as sweet as many California chardonnays in perceptual cloyingness. This wine is less severe that a trocken and more caressing on the palate, but still serious and highly pleasurable. This wine is perfect for low alcohol fans, picnics and medium spicy Indian or Asian cuisines. As I have mentioned a few times, the 2011 and 2012 Germany wines do tend to favor some of the dry styles, but do not overlook the great other wines of these vintages, especially Kabinett and Spatlese from the best producers, like this lovely Schlossgut Diel Kabinett that shows tangy peach, tropical essences, apple and fleshy apricot along with creamy lime, kiwi and nectarine. There is also a steely edge here with a driving force of acidity, plus mineral, wet stones and mint leaves that add to the complexity and balance in this finely tuned white. The finish is bright with an aftertaste of sea salted honey, verbena white tea and tangerine tanginess, this is a class act, drink 2014-2020.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012DielDorsheim2012 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Dorsheim Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Diel nailed it in 2012, and one of my favorite wines in their exceptional lineup is the beautiful and vigorous Dorsheim Trocken, this is a vibrant and intense Riesling of pure class, style and persistence. The 2012 vintage is one of the best years to invest in Germany Riesling across the board, but it is especially true of the dry wines, and Diel is one of the masters of this niche, these are wines of good extract, acidity of course, and amazing life and detail. Diel’s Dorsheim Trocken is a great example of this style and a wine that will reward time in the cellar, it gives amazing quality and while still way too young it delivers stunning character all ready with super depth and grace. The nose is shy, there is a lot more to come here, but with coaxing there is some white flowers, dusty stones, essences of the sea, briny elements and steely minerals with hints of basil and stone fruits leading to a palate of white peach, green apple, grapefruit and a juicy core of mouth watering lime. There are notes of green tea, mint and loads of saline as well in this tight and brisk Riesling, but certainly a few years in the cellar will be massive rewards, the results are something to look forward to, no question.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012MullerCatoirMussbachKabinett2012 Muller-Catoir, Riesling Mussbach Kabinett, Pfalz Germany.
This little Kabinett from Catoir is off the charts! The slight hint of sweetness is positively outstanding in this lovely wine, making it really pop and gives the wine tremendous flexibility and refreshment, this is glorious Riesling that will shine with almost any cuisine, especially Asian fusion fare and or pork dishes. The 2012 Muller-Catoir Riesling Mussbach Kabinett is a bright and vibrant white that shows an array of lively flavors and is mostly dry with plenty of sizzling acidity and has loads of charm. The nose is again pretty shy, as young rieslings tend to be, but does show orange blossom, hints of earth and sea, touches of tropical essence and sweet tea leading to a firmly crisp palate of lime, mint leaves, yellow peach, honeycomb, sea salt, brine, pineapple, apricot and a hint of apple flesh. You can notice the slight creaminess the touch of sugar adds, though you’d be had pressed to think of this beautiful wine was anything other than dry. As much as I love the totally searing Trockens, it is impossible not to adore this near perfect example of Kabinett, bravo, drink from 2014 to 2022, utterly gorgeous.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010BrunleyV2010 Domaine Brunely, Vacqueryras “Tour aux Cailles” Rhone Red, France.
This southern Rhone red, a cuvee of Grenache and Syrah, is a real spicy and savory wine with a nice inner core of black and red fruits. Best to give this intense and powerful some cellar time to let it come around and fill out, as it is very tight and firm still. The nose is dusty and spicy with hints of dried flowers, crushed stones and garrique with subtle fruit essences leading to a dry and robust palate. The mouth is full of plum, boysenberry and dried red currants, but what really stands out is a huge salted black licorice streak that runs through out, from start to finish, along with hints of cracked pepper, lavender and blueberry. This is hardcore wine, and very serious, not as open and pleasing as one might normally expect of the region and vintage, there is some firm tannin that needs a bit of time to resolve, this just might be a stage it is going through and I really liked the tension here and see a potential for this intriguing wine. Drink from 2015-2020.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009Alion2009 Bodegas y Vinedos, Alion, Ribera del Duero, Vega Sicilia, Spain.
The Alion by Vega Sicilia is one of Spain’s glorious reds from the famed Ribera del Duero and made from the estate’s 100% Tempranillo grapes. While not as well known as it’s big brothers Unico or Valbuena, Vega’s Alion is a wonderful and classic wine that is still a fair priced jewell. Seductively dark, opaque even with blue/black fruit showing wonderful density and character with blackberry, cassis, kirsch, pencil lead, cola bean and plum layers plus creamy smoky vanilla adding just the right amount of wood framing in this ultra refined, but intense wine. With time in the glass and lovely aromatic side comes through with dried roses and violets, as well as a zesty spicy note of cedar and anise, this is addictive stuff and highlights the polished charm you’d expect from a top Bodega, especially Vega Sicilia.
($100 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012TerlanWinkl2012 CatinaTerlan, Winkl, Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige, Italy.
As a huge fan of this winery in Alto Adige, I am always excited to taste new releases and or library selections, as I have been lucky enough to have had on a few occasions, Terlan has an amazing track record of long lasting whites, about 7 years ago I tasted a Chardonnay of theirs from 1974, and it was fresh and sublime. So, I do have certain expectations, but almost without fail Terlan amazes my palate with something really special, and this 2012 Winkl just knocked my socks off, it is pure Sauvignon Blanc and comes from the Italian Dolomites, and it’s gorgeous. Terlan makes wonderful Gewurztramier, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc wines, but their Sauvignon Blanc is legendary, to me anyway, and this single vineyard wine rocks my world. The 2012 Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc starts with lime blossoms, mineral and mountain herbs on the nose, but the palate explodes with a huge taste of peach flesh, melon, lemon/lime and hints of grapefruit along with chalky wet stones, steely mineral tones and a touch of tropical fruit. This is a juicy white with loads of character, charm and playfulness, I love the fresh intensity and the long citrus infused finish, the aftertaste is zingy and tangy with that wonderful summer peach flavor lingering on and on.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

MarionBosserNVN.V. Marion-Bosser, Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, Premier Cru Champagne, a Hautvillers Marne, France.
This is a beautifully crafted small production artisan Champagne, made by mother and daughter team, Elodie Bosser and her mother Bernadette run this boutique domaine is located in Hautvillers near Montagne de Reims. Elodie, having worked previously in Chablis, is making small batch Champagne worth searching out, even though these cuvees are going to be tough gets, she only makes a few hundred cases of each, and this wonderful Extra Brut is racy and stylish with an elegant/austere edge. This bright and lemony bubbly is zesty on the palate, though with loads of character and creamy mousse showing lemon, green apple and pear fruits, plus hints of toast, nuts and brioche notes. This sparkler is made of 60% Chardonnay from Grand Cru sites and 40% Pinot Noir making for a structured and lively Champagne of real class, drink now through 2020. I look forward to following this label in the years to come, this is a lovely detailed Champagne and a big kudos to the talented mum and daughter!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

 

2012DonnhoffNKspat2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Normeimer Kirscheck Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
The Normeimer Kirscheck Spatlese is the most overt, extrovert and flamboyant of the 2012 Donnhoff wines, it is openly sexy and flaunts it throughout, and I must admit, I’m totally comfortable with that! This inviting Riesling is no tease, it gives you it’s all and then some, it doesn’t require lots of foreplay either, this is easy to love and energizing wine with great vigor and lusty flavors. The nose is slightly floral and tropical with a hint of sultry earth and spice before a full and fleshy mouth that kisses deep with energy, there is raw honey, mineral and tangy stone fruit layers held firm by bright acidity. There’s green apple, yellow peach, passionfruit and lime layers as well as sugared plum, tangerine and kiwi notes. The finish is remarkably long and the aftertaste is of oranges, sweet flowers and liquid minerals with a element of saline and seaweed. Ultra fantastic and glowing wine, proving a noticeable sweet wine can rival the worlds best whites, Donnhoff again has delivered a masterclass of great wines in 2012 and this beauty is a must have for short and long term drinking pleasure, this is a 20 year wine no question.
($43 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012DonnhoffOBSpat2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
The 2012 Brucke Spatlese is reserved and is like a museum piece, it just might be my favorite Spatlese ever, it is just outrageously fabulous, even if it is more understated than it’s cuisine like the Normeimer Kirscheck. This graceful and joyous Riesling flows in a creamy and more austere fashion with subtle perfume, elegantly integrated acidity and sweet tannins, but don’t let that fool you this is a wine for the ages, I wouldn’t doubt a 30 year lifespan with pleasure given until the very end. This classic and statuesque wine is like having the Hermitage museum in your glass, it is a true masterpiece, and certainly words will not begin to due justice here, I just beg you to get a few bottles, especially if you are a real Riesling junkie! The nose is slight still with hints of rose petals, citrus blossoms and sea breezes leading to a crystalline palate of white peach, apricot flesh, wet stones, apple skin and honeyed pear while in the background you find almost cherry notes and briny saline along with steely mineral essences. With air the texture fills out, the cream nature comes through, but everything is held firm with acidity and earthy elements. A classic beauty, the Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese is simply one of the best wines in the world.
($55 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2011KesnerPN2011 Kesner, Pinot Noir “Vadim’s Watch” Sonoma Coast.
The latest set of Kesner wines are all deserve special attention and merit praise for quality and class, especially his rare Vadim’s Watch Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, this along with the Alder Springs Chardonnay from Mendocino were my personal favorites from his 2011 lineup. Jason Kesner is crafting some wonderful wines, be sure to keep yours eyes open for them, these are wines of clarity, balance and texture with rich fruit, depth and length. The 2011 Pinot Noir, Vadim’s Watch, shows off a lovely ruby hue in the glass, with a bouquet of rose petals, violets, mineral spice, tea notes and red berries leading to a round silky palate of black cherry, plum, red currants and pomegranate along with hints of earth, cedar, cinnamon and a whiff of vanilla. The finish is lengthy with a lingering strawberry and herb tea note, this is super wine and impressive given the vintage and the difficulties, there is plenty to admire here, drink 2014-2018.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012MullerCatoirRieslingDry2012 Muller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
Even the basic Riesling Trocken by Muller-Catoir is a stellar wine, and a steal, be sure to look for these 2012’s, they might be rare on the shelves, but certainly worth the search. Not too long ago, it was common wisdom that for dry aromatic Riesling you looked to Alsace France, but that no longer applies in the wine world as we discover the magical dry Riesling of Germany, and especially Muller-Catoir of the Pfalz, if you’ve not had these wines this is a great time to start, though be warned, you will become addicted to them! The Muller-Catoir Pfalz Trocken is a fine riesling with lifted flavors, floral notes and wonderful steely presence with citrus fruit, sone fruit and a dusty chalky finish. The palate includes lime, tangy nectarine, orange and white peach elements, along with wet stones, white tea and sea salt. This wine feels zesty and almost sizzling with energy, it is light and fine in character, but shows good persistence in the middle and cooly crisp on the finish, drink over the next 3-5 years.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012DielDorsheim2012 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Dorsheim Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Diel nailed it in 2012, and one of my favorite wines in their exceptional lineup is the beautiful and vigorous Dorsheim Trocken, this is a vibrant and intense Riesling of pure class, style and persistence. The 2012 vintage is one of the best years to invest in Germany Riesling across the board, but it is especially true of the dry wines, and Diel is one of the masters of this niche, these are wines of good extract, acidity of course, and amazing life and detail. Diel’s Dorsheim Trocken is a great example of this style and a wine that will reward time in the cellar, it gives amazing quality and while still way too young it delivers stunning character all ready with super depth and grace. The nose is shy, there is a lot more to come here, but with coaxing there is some white flowers, dusty stones, essences of the sea, briny elements and steely minerals with hints of basil and stone fruits leading to a palate of white peach, green apple, grapefruit and a juicy core of mouth watering lime. There are notes of green tea, mint and loads of saline as well in this tight and brisk Riesling, but certainly a few years in the cellar will be massive rewards, the results are something to look forward to, no question.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

September 2013

2012MullerCatoirBurgergarten2012 Muller-Catoir, Riesling Burgergarten Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
I believe the first vintage of Muller-Catoir I bought was the 1997, and I’ve been a fan ever since, these Pfalz wines are some of the finest white wines made and the 2012 vintage is a stellar year for this great domaine. While I can’t stop babbling on about Muller-Catoir’s fantastic Muskateller, it is there dry Riesling wines that take center stage in this latest set of releases, especially this magical 2012 Burgergarten Trocken. This is serious wine for serious wine lovers, intense and noble with transparent clarity and real purpose, the Burgergarten is a pure Riesling expression from it’s place, the sandstone soils, exposure and deft winemaking. The 2012 Muller-Catoir Riesling Burgergarten Trocken is vigorously steely and stingingly dry with spritzy vibrancy throughout, there is white flowers, salty brine, tangy peach, pear and green apple with a core of cool lime, plus hints of grapefruit, apricot pit and chalky wet stones. The finish is mouthwateringly dry and zesty, but there is lingering impressions of rosemary, mint and tangerine. This is ultra Riesling, maybe not a Grand Cru, but certainly it has it all if not in name, this wine is looking good to be in my top ten best of the year, bravo, drink 2015-2022.
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010MarchandGC2010 Pascal Marchand, Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Cazetiers” Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
Another beautifully crafted Burgundy from ex-Comte Armand winemaker Pascal Marchand, the Quebecian (French Canadian) has certainly put together a great portfolio of wines since going solo, and this majestic Gevrey-Chambertin is one of his finest efforts to date. The detailed 2010 Les Cazetiers gives unbridled pleasure and charm with glorious transparency and silky richness, this beauty shows dried rose petals, hints of game, violets and raspberry from nose to entry, the mouth is filled with cherry, plum and currant fruits with truffle, liquid mineral and sweet herbs, tea spices plus light wood notes. These layers are deep and compelling from start to finish, the smooth tannins and acidity hold everything in place perfectly, this wine is laser sharp, focused and balanced, highlighting the perfect marriage of vineyard, wine and winemaker, stunning in everyday, drink from 2015-2020.
($85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010HirschPN2010 Hirsch Vineyards, Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault Hirsch Estate, Sonoma Coast.
The new release of Hirsch San Andreas Fault Pinot is strikingly intense, very Nuits-St.-Georges like (think Henri Gouges) with a real meaty and earthy nose that hints of wild truffles, a faint whiff of dried roses and saline, plus balsamic dipped plums before opening up on the beautiful and textured palate that gives way to an array of red fruits, savory spices and soft mineral tones. Jasmine Hirsch and new winemaker Ross Cobb can be proud of this finished effort, this is an intriguing example of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that delivers a richly packed wine with plenty of vigorous tension and vivid transparency. There are layers of morello cherry, dried currants, dusty raspberry, salted licorice, lavender oil, porcini and warm wood notes, which leads to a stunningly long finish with a lingering pure Pinot fruit and violets aftertaste. This Pinot Noir combines power, terroir and graceful balance in a dynamic package, this Pinot is well worth searching out, bravo, drink 2014-2020.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011MadiganCS2011 Madigan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
This lovely and delicious Cabernet is a steal, this very complete red is pure Napa artisan wine made by Chris Danielak, who also makes the flagship White Rock Vineyards wines (Madigan is their second label) for his family. White Rock started in 1977 with the revival of the historic winery that was originally started back in 1870, the Cabernet vines were planted back in 1977 and the current line of wines were started back in 1986 by Chris Danielak’s father, who he took over from in 1999, though Chris has also done winemaking gigs across the pond in Spain and in France. White Rock’s wines have always garnered high praise and their low alcohol, European style, that has really become popular lately, are without question classy efforts. The 2011 Madigan Cabernet Sauvignon is a fresh, but filling wine with a dark garnet hue, vivid berry and cherry fruit, earth and spice, plus subtle oak notes. There is a tangy currant core that comes through on the palate with air, and there are touches of cedar, baking spices, licorice and a nice long aftertaste. This is a solid and well made Cabernet Sauvignon, perfect for easy drinking and especially exciting for bargain hunters.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010Baccanal2010 Martin Estate, Bacchanal, Red Wine, Napa Valley.
The Bacchanal by Martin Estate in Rutherford is terrific Cabernet Sauvignon, rich, powerful and lengthy, winemaker Aaron Pott really knocked it out of the park on this one. Without question, Pott has nailed it here, this big and lush wine competes in the big league with beautifully pure fruit, intensity and polished tannin structure, plus a nice burst of acidity keeps all the flavors feeling fresh and lifted. The color is impressive too, dark purple and ruby looking glorious in the glass, this makes up for the garish label for sure, then the nose has pretty acacia/floral notes, cinnamon stick, smoke and black fruits. The full palate shows blackberry, juicy currants, creme de cassis, plum and dusty black cherry along with coco powder, lavender, sage, blonde tobacco, new leather, sandalwood, cedar and graphite while hints of vanilla, blueberry and black licorice linger on the aftertaste which goes on and on. This is a fantastic effort, and already a star, drink from 2014-2025.
($48 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2010ChestersAnvilHattoriHanzo2010 Chester’s Anvil, Hattori Hanzo, Napa Valley.
This unique cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah mostly, is crafted by the talented team of Aaron and Claire Pott and Steve Lagier and his wife Carol Meredith-Lagier. The Chester’s Anvil lineup has expanded with an impressive array of wines from Gewurztraminer to Malbec, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even a Rhone white blend, all of which merit attention and kudos, but it is this Hattori Hanzo that really grabbed my attention, this is stunningly rich and stylish juice and the quality is sublime. the 2010 Hattori Hanzo oozes blue and black fruit, with blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry and currant fruits leading the attack on the palate with hints of plum sauce, kirsch, pepper, anise and cinnamon. The tannins are firm, but ripe and refined leaving a round sooth texture, and there is enough lively acidity to give life and shine to the deep and lush fruit in this full bodied red. This wine finishes long and lavish with subtle notes of cedar, vanilla and smoke adding to a creme de cassis aftertaste. Drink over the next decade, though I think the next 2-5 years will be the best time to enjoy this beauty.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

LarmandierRoseN.V. Guy Larmandier, Brut Rose, Premier Cru Champagne, a Vertus, France.
The latest disgorgment of Larmandier’s Premier Cru Brut Rose Champagne is a beauty, this is going to leave a lasting and profound craving, yes sir, I really recommend grabbing some of this rare and lovely bubbly while you can, and I’m not kidding, you better get more than one. This addictive sparkler shows pure elegance, life and class from start to finish with a magical array of classic Champagne character and flavors with a bright soft mousse, brioche notes, strawberry and cherry fruit, yeasty and nutty with racy citrus and heavenly mouth feel. There is richness on the palate, but it still is bright, fresh and dreamy, highlighting Guy Larmandier house style and impressive nature of this glorious Rose. I adore this artisan Champagne and it offers loads of unique charm and still comes in at a much better value than the Grand Marques.
($62 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010LionnetCornas2010 Domaine Lionnet, Cornas “Terre Brulee” Rhone Red, France.
I’ve had the Lionnet Cornas over the last 4 or 5 vintages and have admired them, but this 2010 is by far the best yet and is a terrific Syrah of great class and style. This focused and lovely Cornas excise the senses and fulfills most Syrah lovers dreams, it is all about old school transparency and rustic charm with plenty of earth, spice, tannins and acidity, but it has pure and dense fruit that shines in a clean and refined way. The nose is full of violets, bramble, meat, kirsch and dried herbs leading to a robust palate of blueberry, boysenberry, soy soaked plum, wild game, anise, black olives and cracked pepper. With air this wine turns on the charm, it fills out, expanding and becoming rich and almost creamy, certainly this dynamic wine will reward those with patience, some short term cellaring looks to be a strong investment bet, and look for stylish drinking pleasure for at least a decade, drink 2016-2025.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010CuilleronSTJOE2010 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph “L’ Amarybelle” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
This positively stunning and beautiful Syrah from Yves Cuilleron is a real gem, glorious and polished with pretty details throughout, Cuilleron fans will adore this Saint-Joseph that should also bring a whole new legion of followers to this renown talent. Cuilleron’s wines are clear, precise and vivid with pure varietal focus and this lovely medium weight Saint-Joseph is no exception. The 2010 L’ Amarybelle Vieilles Vignes is class in the glass with heightened floral tones that lean on violets, an intriguing palate of bright plum, blueberry, black cherry, juicy boysenberry and subtle dark currant fruits with layers of earth, spice, mineral and sweet herbs. There are touches of fennel, lavender, pepper and cedar that also linger on the long aftertaste, plus there are silky tannins well hidden and fresh acidity driving things underneath, this is sexy wine no question, drink 2014-2020.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010GillesCornas2010 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Rhone Red, France.
I’ve only had a couple of chances to sample Guillaume Gilles wines, but each time has left an impression, these are wines to have, and his latest 2010 Cornas is a full blown rockstar, though still in it’s infancy, just remember to get a few bottles, you’ll want to hold at least one for the future. The 2010 Cornas shows vibrant intensity with a mix of floral and meaty notes on the nose, violets, bacon fat, truffle and scorched earth along with tangy blueberry, before a mouthful of briar, and spices with a rich core of boysenberry, cherry and plum fruits. Firm tannins, chalky minerals and subtle wood notes are also present in this robust Syrah from the northern Rhone. After air and coaxing, this Gilles Cornas really comes alive and certainly turns attractive and more polished, it fills the mouth and lingers beautifully on the finish, hence my thoughts this wine has stunning potential to thrill with some cellar time. This is old world Syrah at it’s charming best and shows complexity and compelling seductiveness, drink 2016-2021.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010LevetChavarocheCR2010 Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie “Les Chavaroche” Rhone Red, France.
A cascade of glorious layers awaits you in this fabulous Cote-Rotie from Bernard Levet, a winery that is very new to me, and one I’ll be sure to follow from now on! The fascinating 2010 Les Chavaroche is an amazingly detailed and pretty Cote-Rotie with exceptional regional integrity and lovely artisan craftsmanship, this is stellar stuff without being overblown. The quality is top notch and the complex layers of flavors offer pleasing hedonism with black fruits, wild game, spice and mineral essences, plus refined tannins, lifting acidity and plush texture. The nose is delightful with violets, wild flowers, dried herbs and rose petals mixed with mineral, pepper and creme de cassis leading to a palate of blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cherry and plum fruits with warm stones, chalk, porcini, lavender and licorice. The bodied is rich, but fresh and medium in weight still, reminding you of it’s youth and there’s plenty of firm tannin and acidity still, making me think there is a nice lengthy future ahead of this lovely wine. Drink from 2018-2025 for peak performance, but I would be hard pressed to wait, this is wonderful Syrah.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010BecherasSTJOE2010 Etienne Becheras, Saint-Joseph, Rhone Red, France.
A delightful and succulent Syrah can be found in Etienne Becheras’ 2010 Saint-Joseph, this is a nice and pure wine that gives plenty of pleasure and very good character. The Becheras shows mostly a light hearted, medium weight style with soft tannins and bright flavors with hints of violets, herbs and mineral with a good core of blueberry, plum and dark cherry, plus there is subtle cassis, pepper and grilled meat. While not too deep or complex, this is still a very classy wine and plenty fun, especially with cuisine like lamb or BBQ. There might be more to come with some cellar time, but I would not gamble on that, I’d just enjoy this fine effort over the next 2 or 3 years.
($32 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive

 

2012DonnhoffEstate2012 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Estate, Nahe Germany.
Certainly, you cannot find many QbA Rieslings as good as this Donnhoff, there is just no question, especially this years edition, as 2012 is proving to be a fantastic vintage. I missed this wine at the pre arrival tasting in June of 2013 in San Francisco, where I got a chance to try most of the significant offerings from the wonderful Terry Theise portfolio, so I was thrilled to be able to taste it this weekend, and it did not disappoint, it is a lovely and mostly dry style with just a touch of sweetness, about normal Kabinett level in feel. This remarkable 2012 Donnhoff Estate Riesling makes for a compelling wine and again a super value, this is quality stuff, with floral and tropical essences, tangy lime and peach fruit, steely minerals and creamy rich finish, but with brisk and vibrant acidity. This charming and pure wine has a touch of apricot, tangerine, basil, sea salt and wet stones as well, plus some juicy green apple. The off dry feel plays well, making for a bit of fleshy texture, this is a very pleasing and refreshing wine. The 2012 Donnhoff Estate Riesling is almost a must wine, if not a must have a case wine, it is that good and it is perfect for Asian food, picnics and well, almost time, and it should drink great for a decade!
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010MartinEstateCS2010 Martin Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley.
This has to be one of the best new wines of the year, this jaw-dropping Cabernet from Aaron Pott and Martin Estate in Rutherford is a profound effort and easily is in the big leagues, this wine is right up there with the cult legends, though name dropping here seems cliche, just know this is the real deal. The 2010 Martin Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley is intensely dark, deep and dense, but still full of vibrancy, life and grace, this is a shockingly great Cabernet from a talented winemaker that has without question hit the big time. The nose brings acacia, wild flowers, creme de cassis, Herbs de Provence, subtle smoke, pencil lead and vanilla scented wood, then there is the packed palate of vivid flavors including blackberry, black currants, plum and blueberry fruits, mineral, sage and cinnamon spiciness, plus hints of espresso bean, tobacco leaf, bitter coco and licorice root. Everything folds together perfectly and firm tannins and lifting acidity hold the rich and lavish texture in check, this is fantastic and dynamic Cabernet Sauvignon that deserves high praise and attention. Be sure to make note of this estate and this wine, this is a new project you want to be on the ground floor with, and one of the most exciting new Napa wines I can remember, this wine has it all, class, power, life and complexity, don’t miss out.
($75 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

2011VonWinningParadies2011 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling “Paradeisgarten” Deidesheim Paradeisgarten, Trocken, Pfalz, Germany.
The Deidesheimer Paradeisgarten from Von Winning is a stunner, the open and riveting 2011 is drinking much better even than it did the last time I tried it, and in fact I recently got a chance to sample it from three separate bottles, each slightly different, but all thrilling experiences. While the 2012’s look like they have more of everything and bigger potential, these 2011’s are wonderful wines, drinking great now even and this Von Winning 2011 Paradeisgarten is a truly unique and charming Riesling with exotic flavors and excitement on par with Premier Cru white Burgundies, if not better, especially if you love dry Riesling! Terry Theise the importer and Riesling evangelical prophet likens the Von Winning wines to Grand Cru Chablis, I never disagree with the master, and Von Winning’s wine director Herr Stefan Attmann is clearly influenced by the great wines of Burgundy, he uses all native “Sponti” yeast fermenting, he employs extended time on the lees, his wines are unfined and his uses various Oak casks, making his wines completely to his own style. I know there are some purists out there that balk at Riesling in French oak or wood in general, but these wines are just too damn good to scoff at. The upper Grand Crus are simply out of this world, but across the board these wines are fantastic, especially this 2011 Paradeisgarten which shows light wood details, wonderful density and extract, lively acidity and sublime length. The nose is lightly perfumed with tropical fruit and flowers, baking spices, lemon curd and brioche leading to a palate of lime, mango, apricot, apple pie and pineapple with hints of ginger snap, wet river stones, salted toffee, mint and briny chalk essence. There is vigor and intensity, but a refined creamy feel mid palate, finishing dry and crisp with a super long aftertaste that leaves a peach and citrus cobbler note. Drink now through 2019, this is thrilling stuff, and the 2012 will be even better!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LeitzDragonstone2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling “Dragonstone” Rheingau, Germany.
The Drachenstein (Leitz Dragonstone) is a lush and seductive wine of suburb quality and intensity with rich layers, but with loads of tangy acidity, this is an exotic wine and a great value. The 2012 edition is striking for it’s weighty feel, but dry crispness, this is a mostly dry style that has plush fruit and creamy texture, the unique Drachenstein site above the major Crus is from quartzite and slate soils, this is what gives the area it’s name Dragonstone, it is this terroir character that separates it from the schist and collared slate that makes up the premier Rudesheimer Berg vineyards. The Dragonstone keeps evolving and getting better and better each vintage, highlighting it’s personality, the Dragonstone has plenty of sweet peach, mineral essences, minty spices, saline (sea salts) honeyed fruits, bitter pit, apricot, apple and tropical fruits, plus there is hint of tart cherry water, tangerine and lots of limeade notes. With air the citrus elements gather strength and drive, but the mouth feel gets denser and coats the palate with a steely/stone dustiness, though everything is smooth and creamy. A hint of sweet and sour in the long aftertaste begs you to keep sipping, this is fantastic and fun Riesling that would go great with crab, smoked ham or Asian cuisines, drink now through 2021.
($18 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012SineannPN2012 Sineann, Pinot Noir “Resonance Vineyard” Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Wow! This is a blockbuster Pinot Noir from Sineann, the swan song from this fantastic vineyard site, it is fitting that the last of Sineann’s Resonance be one of the very best ever, the owners of Resonance sold the vineyard to the Louis Jadot company, the famed Burgundy Negociant and that means no more from Sineann, sadly. Sineann is a top artisan winery and their collection of Oregon offerings are always highly sought after and delicious, especially their Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are legendary, both of which rock in 2012, this is clearly a great vintage for Oregon and I look forward to seeing more wines as they become available this fall and winter. This newest release from Sineann is stunning and full throttle Pinot Noir, it weighs in at 14.8%, even if it doesn’t feel hot, the density is impressive, very Grand Cru like with striking fruit layers and super long finish, this wine gives the Sta Rita Hills and Santa Lucia Highlands in California a run for their money, no question. The 2012 Sineann Resonance Pinot bursts from the glass with powerful fruit and heady aromatics with roses, violets and wild flowers, blackberry compote and sweet fennel notes leading to a full plummy palate of creamy red cherries, plum, loganberry and mocha notes with tea spices, kirsch and lavender essence. This wine expands and coats the mouth, but still has plenty of drive and vibrancy making for a richly textured and hedonistic wine. This beautiful Pinot Noir looks set to be a classic and a collectors item, so be sure to grab it while you can, drink from 2014-2019.
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

 

2011BodrogFurmint2011 Bodrog Bormuhely, dry Tokaji Furmint, Lapis Vineyard, Hungary.
This Hunarian dry white from the famed Tokaji region is a lovely single vineyard wine that is like Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) and an ultra crisp Chablis with mineral essence and sharp clean citrus. The Bodrog Bormuhely Lapis Vineyard Tokaji Furmint is a crisp and lean light bodied white that also reminds me of Basque whites with bright and tart lime, chalky mineral, wet stone and a hint of pear. This direct and brisky refreshing Furmint is tangy and pleasing from start to finish, it has loads of juicy acidity, subtle fruitiness and mouth watering saline, this is a wonderful picnic wine and would be great with oysters. Bodrog Bormuhely is a quality producer, be sure to search them out, especially this Lapis Vineyard Tokaji Furmint, it sure beats all those generic Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand for unique character and interest. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011NobilisHars2011 Tokaj Nobilis, Tokaji Harslevelu “Hars” Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary.
This beautiful and detailed white wine from Hungary’s historic Tokaj-Hegyalja region is a hand crafted artisan wine from a tiny estate and made by Sarolta Bardos. The Harslevelu grape producers a medium bodied dry white that reminds me certainly of quality Marsanne from the Northern Rhone with a lanolin and bees wax texture and subtle mineral essence to go along with apple and white peach notes. Sarolta planted her 6 hectars of vines in 1999 from carefully selected cuttings and planted on ideal soils and her dedication and drive shine through in her wines, I also loved her Furmint as well, but it was this Hars that really got my attention. The 2011 Hars shows hints of white blossoms, spicy mineral oil, honey comb and stone fruits to go along with the core of apple, pear and peach fruit with an underlying citrus cut. Flashes of herbs and cream come through as well in this nicely balanced and made white. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012SzokeGruner2012 Szoke Matyas es Zoltan, Zold Veltelini (Gruner Veltliner) Matra, Hungary.
Szoke’s Gruner Veltliner is a quality example of delightful Hungarian dry white wine, which has really come a long way in recent years and looks to be finally on solid footing these days with many small artisan producers getting their wines into many important markets, where as not too long ago we only saw generic co-op wines or top sweet wines. Gruner Veltliner, known as Zold Veltelini in Hungary seems a bit unique, but you can see it is only natural that this mostly Austrian grape found it’s way to Hungary across it’s neighbors border, and because of the very different terroir it gives it’s own character here. The 2012 Szoke Zold Veltelini Matra is zesty fresh with clarity and focused favors that include lemon/lime, pear and white plum with almond oil, lime flower and under ripe apple plus mineral and crushed stones. Everything pays out in a vibrant array of details and finishes very dry and crisp, this is a nice zippy white. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011SamSaraGrenache2011 Samsara, Grenache “Black Oak Vineyard” Santa Barbara County.
Chad Melville’s Samsara wines are wonderfully crafted artisan offerings that include a handful each of Syrah and Pinot Noir bottlings, plus this Grenache and a Rose, all of which are worth searching out, even if they are pretty rare. The latest Grenache from Black Oak Vineyard is a very unique and stylish wine with lots of character, Melville used whole cluster and total (100%) stem inclusion with the 2011, this can be tricky at times, because the stems can add green flavors an harsh tannin, though when ripe and well judged can really add dimension to the wine, heightened aromatics, better balance and an added layer of flavors. In this wine it certainly works is is rewarded, the 2011 Samsara Black Oak Grenache is simply stunning and flows with intriguing layers from start to finish and should get even more interesting in the following 2 to 3 years. The nose is bright and spicy with dark fruits, sweet herbs, pepper and dried flowers leading to a tangy palate of plum, boysenberry, red cherry and strawberry fruits along with green peppercorn, anise seed, lavender oil, dried currants, shaved cinnamon, salted licorice and cedar notes. The finish is sweet with refined tannins, and the acidity is well matched in this medium bodied red, drink from 2013-2018.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011BarruolDoree2011 Louis Barruol, Cote Rotie “La Doree” Rhone Valley, France.
Louis Barruol makes some of the finest Rhone wines, he’s a gifted soul and we are blessed to enjoy his talents, and the latest set of Syrah based wines he’s released are pretty and exotic, especially his 2011 La Doree Cote Rotie that is somewhat lighter in style than the past few vintages, but is none the less rewarding, in fact in many ways I even enjoy it more. The 2011 Louis Barruol Cote Rotie weighs in at just over 12% alcohol, has a lovely dreamy like palate and a detailed and lingering aftertaste that is heavenly. The bouquet is a heady perfume of wild flowers, violets and savory elements leading to a seductive array of flavors that excite the mouth with tangy plum, cassis, salted black licorice, blueberry compote, blackberry, sweet herbs, cracked pepper, game and chalky minerals. Very vigorous, and with plenty of acidity this beautiful Syrah is artisan winemaking at it’s finest, showing classic terroir and showing true transparency of vintage and place, this may not be a blockbuster like the 2010, but I certainly adore it’s graces and admire it from start to finish.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011BarruolNeve2011 Louis Barruol, Cote Rotie “Neve” Rhone Valley, France.
Barruol’s newest Cote Rotie, the 2011 Neve, is a stunning piece of work and without question is a sensational Syrah with wonderful intensity, vibrant flavors, regional purity and graceful elegance. The Neve shines brightly and fashionably with only about 13% alcohol it has striking inner beauty without losing density or persistence. While not as extroverted as the 2009 or 2010 vintages are, this 2011 still has everything you could want in a wine from this classic terroir, this is a example of why we adore Cote Rotie with it’s dark purple and blue hue, heightened aromatics and refined palate. The nose intrigues with violets, roasted herbs, graphite, bacon fat and creme de cassis leading to a medium weight palate of blueberry, currant, boysenberry and black cherry fruits with mineral, white pepper, hints of grilled meat, smoky plum, fig cake and cinnamon stick. These layers are complex and compelling from start to finish, this is very sexy Syrah that vividly exciting and very focused with a lengthy finish, drink young and often, best from 2015 to 2020.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012ReverdySancerre2012 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre, Loire Valley, France.
One of my favorite whites, year after year, this wine never disappoints, this is fine Sauvignon Blanc and a tasty wine with tangy citrus, chalky minerals, refreshing acidity and easy to love. The 2012 Hippolyte Reverdy is a slightly rustic Sancerre, but I must say it feels just right, it is like those old comfy Uggs, not showy or glamorous in anyway, just a comfortable companion that delivers what you want and expect. This is a focused and vibrant white with a nose of wet stones, white flowers and lemon zest leading to a light/medium palate of lemon/lime, white peach, gooseberry, grapefruit and that faint whiff of cat pee. This bright and classic Loire Sauvignon Blanc with it’s dusty mineral essence, old school charm and work ethic is just want the doctor ordered, drink over the next 3 years. No bells or whistles, no sensational headlines or head turning looks here, just a very good wine that does everything right.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011BurgRavensburgPN2011 Weingut Burg Ravensburg, Spatburgunder Trocken, Burg Ravensburg, Baden, Germany.
I tasted this wine earlier in the year, and it is now available in states, I bought a fresh bottle and re sampled it, it is certainly better with the extra months in bottle, fuller, richer and more lively, this is a real steal for fine Pinot Noir from Germany. Weingut Burg Ravensburg in Baden specializes in Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and was a new producer for me at the recent portfolio tasting of German and Austrian wines, and they are imported by Wine Wise in Oakland, California for you West Coasties out there, and while there are some value wine in this class, this producer is making some pretty classy stuff, really worth checking out. This German Pinot shows focused structure and vivid fruit with poached plum, dark cherry and balsamic/smoky strawberry fruits with spicy minerals, dusty raspberry, salted licorice, finty stones and black tea notes. While no where the near the level of Meyer-Nakel or Becker, this wine delivers some surprisingly good depth and pleasure, but certainly a more interesting wine than most village Burgundy and a great value at around twenty bones. Good acidity, juicy in lushness and a good long finish, and a bit of flair and character in a solid Pinot that comes in at about 13% alcohol with a silky soft tannins feel, I am pretty sure I’m going to get a few more bottles myself, very tasty.
($22 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

2012SheldonPinot2012 Sheldon, Pinot Noir “Roma’s Vineyard” Anderson Valley.
The Sheldon’s made truly awesome Pinot in 2007, and 2009, plus super versions in 2010 and 2011, especially from Roma’s Vineyard, but without much doubt, I think the 2012 edition will turn out to be the best yet, they have been taking such care and put so much heart and soul into this wine, it shines through and they reached a higher level with this one, they deserve much praise for this lovely 2012 Roma’s Pinot Noir from the very cool Anderson Valley. Sheldon’s core wines are the Grenache Blanc and Grenache Noir, as mentioned, and their Cabernet program is really going to turn a few heads, much like the Arnot-Roberts wines are doing, but I must say I have a special soft spot for their Pinot Noir, and this vintage totally rocks. Considering, this sample was from a bottling that happened only a week ago, it is showing unbelievable depth, perfume and stunning all the way from nose to finish. The 2012 Sheldon Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley leaps from the glass with racy violets, crushed roses and fresh picked plums and spicy lavender, heighten by vibrant acidity, the palate comes alive with black cherry, strawberry, anise, cinnamon stick and tangy stone fruit and mineral essence. Low in alcohol and high in character this charming and vivid Pinot Noir is sexy and graceful, don’t even think about missing this rare beauty, and sadly the Sheldon’s weren’t able to source Roma’s for 2013, nor another vineyard for Pinot this harvest, so certainly it will be very scarce when released later this fall.
($48 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012SheldonGrenache2012 Sheldon, Grenache “Ceja Farms” Sonoma Valley.
Without question one of the finest expressions of single varietal Grenache in northern California, the Sheldon Ceja Farms Grenache is a beautiful wine, the 2011 and 2012 versions mark a big shift to only Sonoma grown fruit for their Grenache, and it is a huge success for the talented Sheldon team. Recently tasting the 2011 I was blown away, in such a difficult vintage, it had really filled out and was so polished, but the 2012 is just fantastic, right away, only a week after bottling it is drinking amazingly well. Stylistic wise, the two wines are incredibly similar, though I’m thinking the new 2012 might be a bit more of everything, and certainly has lots of future potential. The 2012 starts with a bouquet of floral and red berry tones with hints of cracked pepper, herbs and framboise which in turn lead to a vibrant palate of raspberry, cassis, pomegranate, loganberry and wild strawberry with chalky mineral essences, warm stones, garrigue and anise. The medium weight, low alcohol (under 14%) and no new wood gives this Grenache a vivid clarity and highlights the charm and artisan craftsmanship, this is a superb effort and lovely wine. Drink 2014-2019, very limited, but just being released this fall, look for it or get up to the Sheldon Wines Sippy Lounge Tasting Room in Santa Rosa.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012SheldonCabernet2012 Sheldon, Cabernet Sauvignon “D’ Alliard Vineyard” Sonoma Valley.
The latest from Sheldon Wines is a glorious single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the western most side of the Sonoma Valley, from a tiny old vine plot at the D’ Alliard Vineyard, this is a fantastic and graceful young Cabernet with awesome potential as it is still a baby at this point, it reminds me of a Ridge Cab, or an old school Napa wine with it’s wonderfully low alcohol, it’s only 12.3%, and it’s refined pure varietal character, this is an elegant wine with loads of personality. Dylan and Tobe Sheldon crafted this wine with the use of any new wood and minimal racking or handling and bottled this wine unfiltered, this handcrafted artisan Cabernet is dark and classic without any overdoing it, it is what good honest Cabernet should be, nothing less and nothing more. The nose has dark cherries, minty herbs, creme de cassis and a touch of pencil lead, leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, plum, raspberry and a subtle kirsch note along with fine tobacco leaf, black olive, wild herbs, cedar and licorice notes. This wine is still firm with ripe tannins and good acidity, giving it balance and structure, but is tasty already with a fresh juicy nature. It should fill out nicely in the bottle over the coming 3 to 5 years, drink from 2016 to 2021, though I no doubt will pop my own bottles a bit sooner, bravo.
($42 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012RochioliSCPinot2012 Rochioli, Pinot Noir “Special Cuvee” Russian River Valley.
This tasting room only cuvee is a happy wine of lovable quality and charm, so be sure to get some while you can, as Rochioli has sold out of all their estate and single vineyard Pinots, this will go fast, and trust me, I bought some of this delicious wine myself. I love visiting the wine country during harvest season, it is an amazing experience to see and smell the grapes coming in and getting a taste of the mood of the region, the scent of fermenting grapes is like heaven to me, and visiting Rochioli is always a pleasure, like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for grownups! The 2012 Rochioli Special Cuvee is tangy fresh and invitingly pure with lively cherry, plum and raspberry fruits leading the way, along with peppercorns, tea spices and a warm hint of creamy vanilla, cola bean and cranberry finishing off this impressive young wine. If this wine is anything to go by, you’d be best served to beg, cheat and steal to get some of Rochioli’s estate and single vineyard wines from the 2012 vintage when they are offered next year, though I must also mention the 2011 wines are really showing well now and make great company until the more cellar worthy 2012’s come of age.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012DonnhoffTonschieferTrocken2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Tonschiefer Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Another fantastic wine from Donnhoff is the Tonschiefer Trocken Riesling, it is a real classy effort that brings intensity and vitality to the table, but in a graceful and purpose filled fashion with an amazing mineral/steely core and perfectly judged acidity. The fruit is tangy fresh with lime, yellow peach, mango, bitter apple and green melon along with chalky stones, briny sea salt and spicy herb notes. There is a subtle bouquet of citrus blossoms, smoky flint and tangerine essence that lead into the palate, and the crisp, dusty dry finish leaves an electric buzz of acidity, but a lingering hint of creaminess. This is sublime Riesling and a mega deal, be sure to look for this wonderful Donnhoff, in the US, again look for Theisse Selections for it, it should be hitting the shelves in Oct or Nov of 2013. With out question this wine is a class act, even now, but patience will be rewarded and you should look to putting a few bottles away, drink 2014-2020. Weingut Donnhoff is serious one of the greatest wineries in the world, if you’ve not tried their wines you are missing out, from top to bottom this wines rock, especially the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 vintages!
($27 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011AFVPNGarys2011 Alfaro Family, Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Richard Alfaro has been getting Garys’ fruit for many years, along with grapes from Lester Family Deer Park and Schultze Family, these wines are now like an artist series in his lineup that compliments his great set of estate wines, though the Garys’ always seems a rare prize. I’m been following this wine since the beginning, and have always coveted it, but this 2011 might be one of the best yet with creamy richness and silky texture this full flavored Pinot is nothing short of excellent, and pure Garys’ with blackberry, plum, black cherry, tea leaf, briar, mocha, pepper and currant layers, in this deep hued beauty. At 14.5% it is neither shy or is it over the top, giving a hedonistic Pinot Noir nirvana with hints of smoky sweet French oak and subtle mineral notes with touch a little earthy essence, look for this wine to develop over the next few years in bottle, it might just get get even better, drink now through 2018, bravo.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012SelbachZeltingerSchlossbergTrockenSpat2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Spatlese Trocken (one star) Mosel, Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s dry Spatlese wines are truly special in this vintage, the Mosel was blessed with an amazing vintage in 2012 for a full range of Rieslings, there is greatness from each level and while there maybe a lack of TBA and Icewine, the quality of the Trocken, QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese is outstanding, and especially the Spatlese Trocken. While, I admit I adore the slightly sweet regular Spatlese from Selbach-Oster, I must say the Zeltinger Schlossberg Trocken is a fine example of the dry style, and even I personally like the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr a bit more, this is an amazing wine of class and nature with lush texture, extract and brisk acidity. The nose is full of mineral tones, spicy slate essences, hints of tropical fruit and white rose leading to a tangy palate of sizzling intensity with tangerine, grapefruit, dried pineapple, mangoes and lime, plus hints of apricot and green apple, briny saline and peach pit. The dusty minerals coat the mouth and a spicy element lingers on the crisp and clear finish, drink from 2014-2017.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012SelbachZeltingerSonnenuhrSpatDry2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese Trocken Mosel, Germany.
This is the real deal, without question this should be a Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) with it’s power, grace and extract this wine is utterly mind-blowing, a dry Riesling for the ages. This wine might be a game changer, with it’s pure Mosel character, focus, drive and depth it goes beyond what I’ve experienced in Mosel Trocken, this is glorious wine and a top cellar choice, if you can find it of course. I freely admit I’m a huge fan of Selbach’s wines and have been for ages, but honestly I can’t remember a better dry style in previous vintages than this 2012. The single block collection wines might be more of everything, weight and potential included, but for the money, it is hard to imagine a better dry Riesling from the Mosel than this. The 2012 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Trocken Spatlese starts with heady bouquet, it is more expressive at this stage than the Schlossberg, with white flowers, tea spices, tropical essences and flinty minerals leading to a lifted palate of lime, papaya, orange and apricot fruits with chalky wet stones, bacon fat, sea salt and grapefruit seeds adding savory notes to the bright freshness of this gripping Riesling. A huge explosion of secondary citrus, green apple and peach flow from the mid palate to the tangy finish that leaves a lime and pineapple aftertaste. This vivid and vibrant wine impresses for the expansion of flavors in the mouth, the vigor of it’s acidity and the density of the extract all coming through in a well judged fashion, this artisan crafted wine is pure, round and exciting throughout and should drink fantastic for the next decade or more, if you are looking for a dry Mosel, this is a wine to search out.
($30 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2009CadeHowell2009 Cade, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley.
The Cade label, born from the Plumpjack stable, is rising to the top echelon of Napa Cabernet fast, and it is hard not to admire these wines, over the last 5 vintages this winery has climbed out of obscurity to be a major force, including a new state of the art winery on Howell Mountain, along with estate vines there as well, this is a potent mix and the results have been remarkable. I must also mention, the hospitality and follow through of it’s staff is nothing short of excellent, as I have sent quite a few friends and clients to visit and taste, all of which were made to feel like they were a VIP and treated with great care and respect, regardless if they were experts or novices, this shows great class and attention to detail, and the wine itself is just as glorious. The 2009 Cade Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark beauty with loads of dense fruit, firm but refined tannins, richly textured and very lengthy on the finish starting with acacia and spicy dried flowers, smoke, graphite, mint and creme de cassis leading to a full bodied palate of blackberry, currant, blueberry, plum and dark cherry fruits with hints of mineral, black licorice, mocha and smoky vanilla along with tobacco leaf and cedar notes. A long finish leaves a lingering black fruit essence and polished smooth oak aftertaste, this classic Cabernet will certainly gain with age, becoming a more graceful wine, but it is amazingly great right now, though it should drink well for two decades.
($79 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012OcchipintiSP68red2012 Occhipinti, SP68 IGT Rosso, Frappato/Nero d’ Avola, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
Arianna Occhipinti’s 2011 and 2012 reds all show more complexity and depth then her previous vintages and this years SP68 Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane is a dense full flavored wine, but still with all of Arianna’s classic character and charm, if you’ve not had her wines, it is time to check them out. The 2012 Occhipinti SP68 red is filled with exotic and classic layers, made from Frappato and Nero d’ Avola, showing sweet herbs, balsamic dipped strawberries, savory sea salt, loganberry, poached plum, zesty reduced orange rind, anise and morello cherry. This is my favorite SP68 to date and the purple opaque hue to beautiful in the glass, along with the silky tannins, this is a wine of detail and focus, but remains slightly rustic with an old soul charm I find seductive and charming, best from 2014-2018.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009OjaiSyrahMelville2009 Ojai, Syrah “Melville Vineyards” Sta. Rita Hills.
This a magical and intense Syrah that is showing pure Hermitage class character and is amazingly stylish with massive dark fruit, spice, mineral and earthy essences. The Ojai Vineyard and Adam Tolmach wines have always been remarkable and unique, he certainly has crafted hundreds of great Syrahs, from Bien Nacido, White Hawk and other top sites, and his Pinots and Chards are equally lovely and dynamic, so picking a favorite is damn near impossible, but I must confess to falling for the spells of this fantastic Melville Syrah. As a huge fan of Ojai and Melville, this wine was a big bonus and it shows wonderful density, complexity and length with a leading bouquet of violets, campfire, wild game and creme de cassis as well as hints of warm stones, lavender and roasted herbs, the palate holds a wealth of richness showing blackberry, blueberry, black licorice, fig paste, boysenberry pie filling, black olive and white pepper along with hints of woodsy truffle, all spice, vanilla and cherry liqueur. This wine is still lively and gripping with firm tannins and nice acidity, making me think it has another decade of great drinking ahead, this is beautiful and forceful Syrah.
($38 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2009JJEgerKekfrankos2009 J & J Eger Wine Co. Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch) Eged-Hegy Dulo, Hungary.
From the rustic hills of Hungary comes this intriguing red, made from Kekfrancos, also known as Blaufrankisch which is the national red grape of Austria, but funnily enough there is more of this varietal grown in Hungary and it certainly has a good home here, and while not a major player these days on the world wine scene, Hungary is on the rise, and wines like this J & J Eger Kekfrankos show why, this is a super wine, I was very impressed with the quality and the complexity on offer.
This well made red shows good depth of character with pleasing fruit, spice and texture with blackberry, cherry and ripe plum as well as a nice olive and pepper tapenade note, dried currants, wild herbs and dusty earth, plus a hint of leather. This focused wine is a long way from the rough Bull’s Blood wines that Hungary was most known for, it is time to check out Hungary’s red wines, not just the whites and sweet wines that have been successful for years and centuries.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012AugustWestSLH2012 August West, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The August West label has a lot of momentum and the 2012 vintage is a beautiful vintage to showcase the premium vineyard sites that going into making of these wines, especially the 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot that is sourced from vines in prime locations, such as Rosella’s along with Sierra Mar and Garys’ Vineyard, all which produced fantastic grapes in 2012. Ed Kurtzman, who also makes the wine for Roar and Freeman, continues to build on his talents, crafts the August Wines and is an owner partner with Gary Franscioni (Garys’, Rosella’s and Sierra Mar) and Harald Graham (Graham Family Vineyard) both vineyard owners with great fruit baring vines. I tasted through most of the current releases, loving the Russian River Chardonnay, and the single vineyard 2011 Sierra Mar and Rosella’s, but the new 2012 wines are just so delicious it is hard not to focus on them, with this Santa Lucia Highlands being my top pick with it’s hedonistic and rich fruit, dark hue and silky texture, it is as good as it gets. The nose has hints of violets, bramble, spices and black fruits with hints of sweet smoky oak leading to a round full palate of black cherry, plum and blackberry fruits, briar notes, strawberry liqueur, truffles, tea spices and vanilla. This unfiltered cuvee has nice tangy acidity under the ripe flavors and while a bigger style Pinot, as you find in the Santa Lucia Highlands, this wine with certainly evolve and show a more elegant profile in the next 3 to 5 years, though I doubt most with wait to long to enjoy this pleasing wine.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011Robert-DenoPF2011Domaine Robert-Denogent, Pouilly-Fuisse, Vieilles Vignes “La Croix” White Burgundy, France.
Ever since the 2004 vintage, I’ve been a huge fan of Robert-Denogent, these wines are some of the best white Burgundy for the money out there, and it is hard to imagine a better set of Pouilly-Fuisse or Saint-Veran Chardonnay than the these from Domaine Robert-Denogent, these are fantastic, pure and intense wines that are completely spellbinding. The latest release from 2011 are a tad forward, but oh my are they good, especially the 2011 La Criox Pouilly-Fuisse old vines, this wine easily compares to Puligny or Chassange’s best, no question. The density, complexity and presence of these Denogent wines is amazing and whilev not cheap by Maconnais standards, these wines offer a great value for what you get in the bottle, it is easy to see why Kermit Lynch imports can’t keep these whines in stock and why they have become an important wine list wine at some of the finest dinning places around the country. The 2011 Domaine Robert-Denogent Pouilly-Fuisse La Croix Vieilles Vignes starts with white flowers, citrus, mineral spice, matchstick and peach, leading to a palate of apple, lemon and pear fruits with hazelnuts, river stones, fig and a hint of butterscotch. There is plenty of layered texture and charm here, and there is a good underlying acidity keeping these taught and fresh throughout, this is a rich wine, but one of good balance and class. Drink this beauty over the next 3-5 years, but it should prove interesting at the 10 year mark as well, it will be a rewarding journey to follow I’m sure.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012AndrewMurrayTous2012 Andrew Murray, Syrah “Tous les Jours” Santa Ynez Valley.
In a world where giant corporations and million case production wines seem to rule the American value segment, it is always great to point out there are great artisan producers making great bargain wines, especially guys like Andrew Murray and his latest Syrah is a true winner in the budget American wine class. Murray’s Tours les Jours 2012 Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley, near Santa Barbara is a wonderful wine, done in a pure and juicy style, great for anytime quaffing with dark hues, fresh black and blue fruits, hints of spice, mineral and bramble all make for a super tasty wine. This medium weight red starts with tangy blueberry, violets, pomegranate, boysenberry and cassis notes with cracked pepper, roasted fennel, anise, lavender and as juicy as the fruit is there is a nice savory, earthy game note and bright acidity too, this is a well made and lovable Syrah, be sure to check it out.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011RochioliSBOV2011 Rochioli, Sauvignon Blanc, Old Vines, Estate, Russian River Valley.
Certainly, almost everyone who’s a wine lover has heard of and knows of Rochioli, one of the great estates in the Russian River, but while people have got to know their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay even, and maybe their Sauvignon Blanc, it it not likely the have come across this rare Old Vines Sauvignon Blanc, as it is very limited and has only been offered to their mailing list clients but a few times. I can tell you, if I’d known how good this wine was I’d have bought a bunch more, this stylish and vivid wine is full of intriguing flavors, density and length packed into a cool, bright and dynamic wine. The 2011 Rochioli Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc starts out with an almost Riesling like mineral and lime nose, leading to an exotic palate of layered fruit and zingy acidity, though expanding and filling the mouth with quava, melon, peach, passionfruit lemon/lime, kiwi, quince and tangy grapefruit, along with a leesy roundness, hints of French oak and a touch of spicy mineral and wet stones. The finish has great length and even though this is a very controlled and crisp Sauvignon Blanc the aftertaste lingers on and on, stunning in detail and pure class. This is glorious stuff from Rochioli and I will be paying more attention, and will surly snap up anymore of the Old Vine SB when I get another chance!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012JacquinMondeuse2012 Domaine Edmond Jacquin & Fils, Mondeuse, Savoie, France.
I had previously had the Edmond Jacquin whites, which were really delicious and wonderful, so it was with excitement that I got to try the latest red, a Mondeuse, from this Domaine in the Savoie region of France, imported by the Bay Area’s own Charles Neal. Neal’s import portfolio includes lots of interesting regional French artisan winemakers from some very out of the way places, like the southwest of France, and lots of mountain wines, including many from the Savoie and even Switzerland, in cluding these lovely wines from Edmond Jacquin in the alpine area of the Savoie. The 2012 Jacquin Mondeuse is spicy and vibrant with peppered red fruits, vivid energy and a medium body starting with tangy raspberry, plum and strawberry fruit, cracked peppercorns, walnut oil, hints of roasted herbs and anise and a crisp red citrus note. This fresh and lively Mondeuse has the usual Gamay meets Syrah feel, but is a touch more elegant and focused than most, this is a delightful and well crafted wine that is true to it’s region, having Terroir character and exceptionally clear and persistent, finishing with good detail and length with a hint of kirsch, earth and saline.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012FrickeQbARheingauTrocken2012 Eva Fricke, Riesling QbA, Rheingau Trocken, Germany.
Fricke’s 2012 dry Rieslings are stunning wines, but very tight, these are a set that will be best enjoyed with some age and cellar time, this patience will be rewarded greatly, though the basic Rheingau Trocken is starting to come out of it’s shell. The 2012 Eva Fricke Rheingau Trocken is a fine and unique Riesling of hand crafted charm and character with mouth watering acidity, tangy fruit and filled with mineral spice and saline. This intense wine starts with lime and mint, citrus blossom and sour peach and wet stones, the palate opens to apple, stone fruit flesh, flint and sea  salt, this is a brisk, firm and vibrant Riesling that has a good long life ahead, best from 2015 to 2020, though being the Riesling freak I am I’ll be drinking it sooner I’m sure. This wine has lots going for it, but it certainly is severe and cooly focused, so if you are looking for a fruity style, best to look elsewhere.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2004QuintarelliMerloRed2004 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Rosso Ca’ del Merlo, IGT Veneto, Italy.
The fabled Quintarelli wines always create quite a stir, and everyone who’s had them seem to smile in the memory, these wines leave a lasting impression, no question. The latest set is just being released in the US by Kermit Lynch, and already most seem to be destined to be sold out before they even hit the shelves, especially this wonderful single vineyard Valpolicella, made from ripasso and partially dried grapes that include Corvina, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. The 2004 Rosso Ca’ del Merlo is a lovely full bodied wine with remarkably open texture and rich detail showing loads of fruit and surprising freshness and vivid layers with dried currants, sweet herbs, flowers, candied citrus and dusty coco powder with a solid core of black cherry, licorice and poached plum, along with tobacco leaf, savory spice, truffle and a hint of chocolate raisins. This complex and polished Valpolicella is totally seductive and sexy, with refined tannins and super long finish, drink now through 2021.
($85 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

QuarticellaWhite2012 Quarticello “Despina” Malvasia Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy.
This unique white “Lambrusco” is made from Malvasia Aromatica di Candia 100%, and is crafted by the talented Roberto Maestri of Quarticello, in  Emilia Romagna, close to Parma, Italy. Once known as a barely drinkable, slightly sparkling, red wine for old men, Lambrusco and Frizzante Natural wines are going through an amazing transformation, a revolution, and now are made in great quality, artisan style by a new generation, and best of all everyone is getting into these unique and fun wines. While Maestri’s Despina is not technically a Lambrusco, since it is white it is produced in the same spirit and it is alluring and seductive with exotic perfume, essences and lovely spritz showing ginger, jasmine and saline notes before a palate of lemon/lime, dried apricots, spiced pear, pineapple and tangerine, plus there is white pepper, brine and clove. A soft hint of honey lingers, but it is the savory freshness that stands out, this is such a cool wine, it is sexy and fun from start to finish, this unfiltered sparkling is a must try wine.
($18 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011QuarticelloNeroMaestri2011Quarticello “Neromaestri” Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy.
Roberto Maestri’s fantastic Meromaestri Lambrusco is a full scale and tannic Lambrusco that is hand crafted from Lambrusco Maestri 50%, Lambrusco Grasparossa 30%, Malbo Gentile 10%, Ancellotta 10%, making for a very serious wine that would pair with hardy cuisine and is strikingly impressive. This Lambrusco is intense, but refined and well mannered, this is a style that would even appeal to sworn Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers and even more intellectual types as well, this is not your grandpappy’s Lambrusco. Dark and fizzy with a chewy palate and firm structure this serious and well made Lambrusco is made for BBQ, smoked or cured ham and or hard cheeses with blackberry, briar spice, cherry and dried currants, hints of juicy plum, christmas spices, mineral notes and salted licorice, finishing fruity but feeling dusty dry. Trust me the trend for well made Lambrusco is here and it’s real, these Quarticello versions are super examples and rare pleasures, be sure to check them out.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011QuarticelloBarbacane2011Quarticello “Barbacane” Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy.
Quatricello’s Frizzante Barbacane is a Lambrusco cuvee of Lambrusco Maestri 40%, Lambrusco Salamino 40%, Malbo Gentile 20%, and it is Roberto Maestri’s most classic in style with a lighter and restrained feel, though not less serious or less in character, this is great drinking Lambrusco, a wonderfully easy and lovable fizzy red from Emilia Romagna. Bright, fruity and with a nice tangy edge the Barbacane shows plum, red cherry, boysenberry, spiced currants, candied orange peel and anise notes. I can imagine sipping on this frizzante all day long, chilled and refreshing with picnic fare, and lots of Parma ham and shaved cheese, sounds heavenly on relaxed day with family or friends. Lambrusco’s revival is on, and it is because of talented and passionate winemakers like Roberto Maesti of Quarticello and wines of delicious character like this one that is driving this train. I can’t wait to grab a few bottles myself and hope to see it poured by the glass at a rustic trattoria in my own neighborhood, like they do at Corso Trattoria in Berkeley, simple honest pleasure.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2012LoosenQBA2012 Dr. L, Riesling QbA, Mosel Germany (Weingut Dr Loosen-Loosen Bros.)
The latest “DR L” by Loosen is a jazzy Riesling of fine detail and clarity with slight fruity sweetness and driving acidity showing class and easy drinking pleasure, especially charming at this price and the fact they make a ton of the stuff. Ernest Loosen and his team at Dr. Loosen make some great wines, and his expression of the Mosel is top notch, and even this simple example shows his touch with grace and style. The 2012 vintage is a sublime year, and even the cheapest wines can bring great rewards, the DR L is lively and mineral laced with green apple, honeyed pear, pineapple and full of citrus fruit along with touches of sugared apricot and flinty mineral spice, hints of sea salt, plus tangerine and orange blossom. This classic simple Riesling hits all the right notes and is again a super value, drink now for sure, and over the next 3-5 years.
($14 Est.) 89-90 Points, grapelive

2012Gandines2012 Domaine des Gandines, Vire-Clesse “Terroir de Classe” White Burgundy, France.
This fresh, young and vibrant white Burgundy from the Maconais is a fun discovery, imported by Charles Neal Selections, this recent addition to his import portfolio is very impressive. Domaine des Gandines makes a lovely expression of Vire-Clesse with vivid fruit, mineral and almost Chablis like character with plenty of juicy acidity and no signs of clumsy oak, everything is bright, tangy and pure in the “Terroir de Clesse” and this is seriously good stuff. The nose is loaded with citrus, chalk and white flower essence, leading to a palate of energy filled lime, green apple, white peaches and lemon zest, along with hints of wet river stones, steely minerals and a touch of fresh picked fig. This light to medium Chardonnay is pleasing and easy to enjoy, best to drink in the next 2 to 4 years.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011StolpmanCuadrilla2011 Stolpman Vineyards, La Cuadrilla de Stolpman Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley.
Stolpman’s Cuadrilla is a select cuvee from certain sites within the vineyard, last year it was a Grenache and Syrah blend, and this vintage 2011 is a mostly Sangiovese based red with small amounts of Syrah and Grenache. While 2011 was a difficult year, even for the Santa Ynez Valley, it also produced some wonderful wines, it was a vintage that certainly showed the quality of the vines, and of the winemakers, both of which highlight the quality at Stolpman. The 2011 La Cuadrilla de Stolpman Vineyard is pleasing and charming from first sip to the good finish, it starts with wilted roses, red currants and tangy/sweet herbs leading to a round silky palate of raspberry, boysenberry, plums and cherry fruits with hints of lavender, pepper, cedar notes, baking spice, clove and a hint of truffle. There is ripe, refined tannins and a enough juicy acidity to give freshness and lift, but this is a wine to enjoy young, drink now through 2017.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011ChasseurPN2011 Chasseur, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley.
The Chassuer wines are some of California’s finest examples of regional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir hand crafted by the talented William Hunter, year after year this label does extraordinary wines of rich detail and character, and this 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir adds greatly to it’s reputation, this is an amazing effort for such a tough vintage, in fact I liked it as much as the 2007 and 2009 wines which also were spectacular. The perfumed nose leads with violets, roses and tea spices along with red berry essence folding into the pure Russian River palate which shows black cherry, plum, raspberry and currant fruits, hints of cinnamon, fig, cola bean and mineral all add to the complexity found in this beautiful and graceful Pinot Noir. There is such glorious texture and soft tannin plus focused lifting acidity giving lift and balance to this well judged and pleasure filled wine, I can only marvel at the sublime touch of the winemaking. Drink now through 2018, this is a great artisan effort, be sure to look for this limited production gem.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012CazarPN2012 Cazar, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
The second label to Chassuer and made by William Hunter, Cazar has certainly carved out a niche and attracted a huge loyal following, this label produces one of the best value selection of handcrafted Pinot Noir and Syrah wines out there, at around $20, these wines are just fantastic, especially the latest 2012 Pinot Noir offering, that is already stunningly delicious and a must have wine of the vintage for those on a budget, like me for sure. I’ve long been a buyer and fan of the Cazar wines, and if you’ve missed them in the past, it is time for you to discover them, you’ll be blown away by the detail and quality you’ll find, these really are some of the best deals around. The 2012 Cazar Sonoma Coast Pinot is a cuvee of selected vineyard sites in and around the Russian River area, it has all the hallmarks of a top small production wine, unique and artisan crafted with great attention to balance and detail, it shows density, pure fruit and subtle minerallity along with bright acidity. Well judged oak notes add to the pleasing character of this Pinot Noir and the length is quite intriguing. The nose is bright with fresh red berry, cut flowers and almost a candied citrus note leading to a palate bursting with energy, black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, mineral spice, pepper, tea and mocha. Drink this vibrant and lush Pinot over the next 3-5 years, this is a super wine at a great price.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010BondonioBarbaresco2010 Olek Bondonio, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Olek Bondonio wines are all pure and transparent with opulent fruit, spice and mineral notes, his Nebbiolo wines mostly come from the Barbaresco Cru of Roncagliette, which is known also  as Gaja’s Sori Tildin, one of the great sites within Barbaresco and Bondonio’s winemaking is considered organic and natural as he allows native yeast fermentations and adds a minimum amount of sulphur. These are wines of elegant grace and  fantastic detail, especially his 2010 Barbaresco, which I absolutely fell head over heals for, this unfined or filtered cuvee is gorgeous and exceptional in everyday, be sure to look this wine up if you are like me a Nebbiolo lover. The 2010 Bondonio Barbresco is sexy and brilliant, it reminds me of a Giacosa, it is a classic example of this region and grape with a nose of violets, dried roses, fennel, tar and cassis, a rich dark hue, lovely refined tannins and a palate of mineral laced fruit, licorice, truffle and soft cedar spice. The plum, raspberry and strawberry notes add to the core of black cherry fruit that flows from start to finish, held together in near perfection by lifting acidity, this is still a baby and very firm yet glorious and stylish already, drink 2014-2022.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2011MontesecondoRosso2011 Montesecondo “Rosso del Rospo” Tuscan Red, Italy.
Silvio Messana’s fantastic Montesecondo estate is all organically farmed and the wines are all distinct and reflect the beauty of place and the passion of the people, the vines are all in the Chianti Classico zone, near the village of Cerbaia, only 10 miles or so south of Florence. Silvio practices all biodynamic for his wines and shows a heartwarming love of his land and the nature in his area, he also uses natural practices in the winemaking, trying to preserve and showcase the true soul of his vineyard in his wines. The set of 2011 reds are all stunning and are remarkable values, especially the Rosso del Rospo the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot that has loads of character and charm in a lively and expressive red from the heart of Tuscany. The 2011 Montesecondo Rosso del Rospo starts with dried flowers, sweet herbs, pepper spice and tangy currants, and cassis leading to a palate of medium weight and good grip, showing black cherry, plum and blackberry fruit, lavender oil, anise and fresh cut cigar tobacco, finishing with dusty raspberry, cedar and refined ripe tannins. This is a steal and should get even better over the next 3 to 5 years, be sure to check out these 2011 Montesecondo reds, these and just lovely wines, bravo.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012BoulaySancerre2012 Gerard Boulay, Sancerre Blanc, Chavignol, France.
The Gerard Boulay wines are exotic and marvelous, especially his beautiful and full Sancerre that always seems to excite and please regardless of vintage. His wines are made with mostly natural and with strict farming practices which highlight pureness and a sense of place and soils, and this Sancerre comes from plots that rest on Silex and Clay giving a very complex array of flavors and mineral essences. Gerard Boulay also ferments and ages in neutral wood, and sees time on the lees, which adds richness, depth and texture, without hiding the wines suburb steely quality or it’s fresh acidity, Gerard is an artisan that has his craft down, these are glorious wines, wonderfully balanced and focused. The 2012 is a Sauvignon Blanc full of energy, life and quality from start to finish with a round palate of lemon/lime, peach, gooseberry and hints of grapefruit along with wet stones, brioche and melon. The mouthfeel is joyous and the brisk liveliness keeps your mouth watering for another sip, the finish is long, but the crisp mineral notes and citrus burst keeps things fresh and taught, this Sancerre is well judged and extremely delightful, drink now through 2017.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

August 2013

2012afvchardlpv2012 Alfaro Family, Chardonnay, Lindsay Paige Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
As a longtime fan of Richard Alfaro’s wines, especially his Chardonnay, it is always with great expectations that I look forward to the newest releases, and this one was no exception, in fact I was already primed for it as Richard had told me repeatedly that 2012 was an awesome vintage, so I was jazzed and thrilled to open this new Lindsay Paige Vineyard Chardonnay from his Santa Cruz Mountains estate near Corralitos not too far from the cool Pacific Ocean. I can certainly tell you beyond any doubt, I was not in anyway disappointed, Alfaro has crafted another profound and moving wine that is pure class and very hedonistic, pleasing from start to finish with gorgeous fruit, body and vivid flavors. The nose starts off with white flowers, steely minerals, peach and citrus leading to a lush palate of creamy lemon, apple, pear and pineapple with hints of smoke, hazelnuts and river stones along with nice french oak notes and a hint of butter and vanilla. This luxurious Chardonnay still has plenty of tangy acidity underpinning everything and is totally glorious, a wonderful artisan wine.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011Austin2011 Saladin Cellars, Notte di Vino, Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec, Napa Valley.
The 24 Year Old Austin Saladin and his father William are going to release their first public offering in September, the 2011 Notte di Vino (Night of Wine) which is a mostly Cabernet Sauvignon cuvee with a touch of Malbec, of which only 3 barrels were made from fruit sourced from Howell Mountain and Rutherford. I tasted a very recently bottled sample of this wine, so it can only get better, and it is an impressive first time effort, showing pure fruit, balance and a velvety texture with refined tannins and smooth underlying acidity. They were helped on their way by two excellent consultants and the end result is a rewarding and rich wine of considerable merit and charm, be sure to check this one out. The color is dark garnet and the nose starts with hints of acacia, mocha, cassis and fresh cherry leading to a full palate of currant, plum and blackberry fruits with pipe tobacco, coco powder, mint and cedar finishing with hints of mineral, vanilla and tangy cherries.
($40 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2009HamacherPN2009 Hamacher, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon.
Eric Hamacher’s 2009 is real headturner, this beautiful and richly textured Pinot Noir from Oregon is drinking sublimely right now and I’m sure will please for another 5 to 10 years as well. Hamacher crafts some fantastic wines, and it would be silly not to mention his delicate and lovely Chardonnay, which is a sleeper, but it is his Willamette Valley Pinot that gets most of my attention, I must admit this was a wine that leaves an impression will supple round fruit, hints of tannin and underlying acidity that lifts this wine up, plus a nice mineral and spice note. This beauty starts with roses and crushed violets, smoke, hints of kirsch and blackberry leading to a dense palate of black cherry, juicy plum, tangy currants and subtle strawberry along with flinty stones, licorice, beet root, cola bean and a touch of vanilla. Everything flows in silky harmony and elegant grace, this wine is both lush and refined, drink now through 2018.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011mullerCatoirHaart2011 Weingut Muller-Catoir, Riesling, Haart Trocken, Pfatz Germany.
Muller-Catoir’s Haart Trocken is slow to open up and it is very tight, bright and chalky, but once open is round giving and even creamy in texture, though you’ll need some real patience if decide to pop open this bottle anytime soon. Best to forget about this dry Riesling for another 2 to 5 years to be rewarded, it took a good 24 hours for my sample bottle to show it self. Brisk and vibrant citrus and chunky minerals lead things off, moving on to white peach, tea spice, dusty stones and hints of tropical fruits before finishing with intense acidity and puckering saline and subtle apricot notes, plus a lingering green apple and apple skin aftertaste. This is not fully developed or as pretty as one might expect of Muller-Catoir and while very nice, it is not on par with the 2012 vintage, it does turn more lush and round with air and should go well with oysters and tapas, drink 2015-2018.
($36 Est.) 91 points, grapelive

2009CastellodiAmaRiserva2009 Castello di Ama, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
One of the top Classico estates, Castello di Ama is a great producer, widely acclaimed and praised, it is there for no surprise, that the latest Riserva is a total knock out, but I can still be throughly impressed and left even more a fan of this stunning wine. Castello di Ama’s 2009 Classico Riserva is a spellbinding effort with amazing precision, texture and unique charm and character with dark fruit, depth and length. The nose leads with wild flowers, herbs, smoke and currants before a refined and elegant palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruit, cedar, blonde tobacco leaf, sweet herbs, anise along with black olive, pepper, strawberry and a faint whiff of vanilla. This Chianti is an estate grown blend of about 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and is without question one of the finest wines of the region and of the vintage made with total passion and detailed craftsmanship, drink now through 2020, this is glorious stuff.
($49 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2007Nusserhof2007 Nusserhof, Lagrein Riserva, Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Heinrich Mayr) Italy.
This beautifully crafted Lagrein from the Dolomites reminds of a fine Cornas with earthy intensity and character showing glorious mature blue and black fruits, spice and loads of texture and charm. This is one of the best Nusserhof’s I have had, and it is a stunning example of this varietal with a opaque dark color, lovely aromatics and long seductive finish, this is a Grand Cru Lagrein if there ever was one. The nose has an array of fresh and dried flowers, mountain herbs, black olives, hints of game and pepper leading to a full and dense palate that presents layers of wild plums, blueberry, cherry and huckleberry fruits, mineral notes, truffle and salted black licorice. There is a sense of lifting acidity and chewy tannins keeping things lively on this interesting Italian red and it should age gracefully for another 5 to 7 years, but I would suggest drinking it sooner, it is too good to wait.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010AMVinaAlmate2011 Alfredo Maestro, Vina Almate, Penefiel, Valladolid, Spain.
This wonderful 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) is smooth luxurious red that shows this varietal in it’s purest form with creamy rich fruit, spices and warm earthy stones, capturing it’s magical natural essence. Alfredo Maestro is a spirited artisan that is exploring his own way and carving out a special niche in the wine world, and lots of people are taking notice, and he is making a long list of exceptional wines, like this pretty and detailed red from his home town of Penefiel. Maestro has to deal with some of Spain’s hardest growing conditions and still manages to craft beautiful and graceful wines. The 2011 Vina Almate is dark with a garnet hue, it has a bouquet of poached plums, hosin sauce and raspberry with a hint of dried flowers. The palate is clear and medium weighted with cherry and red currant fruit, earthy truffle, chalk, lavender, anise and toffee all flow in a round elegant manner with a touch of mineral, pepper and candied orange rind that hints at the nice balancing acidity. This red was aged just 4 months in well used barrels to refine the tannins, but allow the wine to as transparent as possible and retain it’s sense of place.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012RumpfAuslese2012 Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Munsterer Pittersberg Auslese Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s fantastic 2012’s deserve a lot of attention and high praise, especially this amazing Auslese, maybe one of the best I can remember and utterly drop dead gorgeous with sublime balance and detail already. This is a wine for the ages, though very versatile in that it could be enjoyed young and in fact could partner up with certain cuisine choices right now with it’s youthful freshness, but without question there is more magic to come with time and the rewards for cellaring a few of these would pay huge dividends. The 2012 Pittersberg Auslese starts with a lovely almost delicate bouquet of lime blossom, ripe nectarine, candied pineapple and steely liquid minerals leading to a lush palate of peach flesh, apricot, papaya and sweet tangerine with subtle savory notes, sea breeze and verbena. The seductive tropical essences, mandarin oranges and honeyed pear elements only flitter in the background and the bright acidity makes everything feel dream like and surreal, though there is plenty of weight and extract to fill the mouth with luxury and hedonism, this is a profound Riesling of terrific class and character, not to be missed, don’t be afraid of the sweetness this wine is all about grace and pleasure.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012ChignardJulienas2012 Domaine Chignard, Julienas, Cru Beaujolais, France.
This absolutely gorgeous Gamay was a real surprise and by far the best Julienas I’ve ever had, and while Julienas is my least favorite of the Cru Beaujolais, this wine might just have changed my mind, this without question was a game changer for me. Chignard, a top Fleurie producer imported by Kermit Lynch usual makes wines that get close to the famed estates of Foillard, Lapierre, Thevenet and Breton, so it was wasn’t out of the blue that this wine turned out to be so tasty, but the fact it was a Julienas, well that was a shocker for me, but I will happily eat crow, as long as I can wash it down with this lovely wine. The 2012 Chignard Julienas is lively, fresh and full of character with pure Gamay goodness from start to finish, there’s a nose of dried flowers, currants, candied cherry and walnut oil leading to a medium weight palate of wild strawberry, plum and red peach fruits with hints of pepper, cinnamon and iodine. There is a sweet and savory play in the layers of fruit that keeps this Beaujolais balanced and always focused throughout, this is a well crafted wine of style and class, I’ll be drinking a few of these over the next year or so, no doubt, I highly recommend checking this Julienas out.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012DonnhoffTrocken2012 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Nahe Germany.
This 2012 Dry Estate Riesling is clearly and most definitely a baby Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) and shows amazing drive and quality throughout, this is a steal, don’t even think about it, get yourself a case or two! Donnhoff is one of Germany’s great wineries and without question these 2012 vintage Rieslings are going to be highly sought after and prized, and this Estate Trocken is just plain gorgeous and very entertaining. The nose is slow to get open at this stage, but with coaxing it delivers white flowers, hints of rose petals, mint leaves and steely mineral tones along with orange and stone fruit leading to an electrically charged palate of sizzling intensity with bright lime, green apple, peach and tangerine along with subtle tropical notes, wet stones, flinty mineral spice and tangy nectarine. The acidity is fantastic, lighting this wine up while allowing dense extract and fleshiness to show through, and I bet this little Grand Cru will age well, it should develop and gain greatly over the next decade, bravo, this is an impressive gift to us Riesling fiends. The crisp and clear finish is mouth watering with a briny saline note and a round creamy element settles in on the aftertaste, simply stunning, this rivals Premier Cru Chablis for class easy.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2008GiovanniRossoBarolo2008 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo DOCG, Del Comune di Serralunga D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
This Barolo is old school perfection, a wonderful example of Nebbiolo in every respect, with glorious purity, charm and a stunning experience. I had not had this producer’s Barolo before, so got an amazing surprise when I first sampled this fine and detailed wine from the clay and limestone soils of Serralunga in the Barolo zone, and I’ll be sure to explore this labels collection of wines as often as I can. The 2008 Giovanna Rosso Barolo is packed with energy and is wonderfully focused with a classic nose of dried wildflowers and wilted roses, minty tar, balsamic dipped figs and plums leading to a palate of dense fruit, black cherry, raspberry, strawberry and spiced plum along with anise, cedar and earthy truffle and a hint of game. This wine was fermented in cement and aged in big cask which has allowed totally transparency of fruit and terroir, this is a fantastic artisan Barolo, one of my favorite 2008 wines so far, be sure to look for this one if you love Nebbiolo.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012KaenaRose2012 Kaena, Rose of Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley.
Mikael Sigouin’s Grenache Rose is stunning, a complete wine of freshness and vitality with mineral and spice notes rounding out this moth watering gem that starts with red citrus, rose water and chalky stones. The palate is driven by brisk acidity, but opens to round watermelon, strawberry and tangy cherry fruits with hints of pepper and finishes with a nice steely edge and lingering tart raspberry. Kaena’s lineup is very impressive, there are many striking Grenache wines, a GSM, a Syrah and some thrilling whites too mostly Rhone influenced like Grenache Blanc and Viognier, but he also makes a fine Loire like Sauvignon Blanc that offers complex and compelling flavors, this guy is a real talent, and this Rose is a great place to start. Best get on it though, Sigouin’s Kaena wines are only produced in tiny amounts and they go fast, these are super values too, be sure to check them out soon.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2007SaxonBrownCampBlock2007 Saxon Brown, Syrah, Parmelee-Hill Camp Block, Sonoma Valley.
Jeff Gaffner’s wines are all interesting and well crafted, and he is certainly in demand given his success at Black Kite and here at Saxon Brown, making everything from Napa Cab, Sonoma Semillon to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, plus fresh un-oaked Chardonnay, but it was this seemingly late release of the 2007 Saxon Brown Camp Block Syrah that got my attention at the Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco. I must say his latest Saxon Brown Semillon was lovely as well, though I was slightly more impressed with the Syrah which comes from the Parmelee Hill Vineyard, which is a fairly cool climate site. The 2007 Camp Block starts with a nice floral array, liqueur, earthy spices, smoke and camphor leading to a palate of boysenberry, plum and blueberry compote with gamey notes, white pepper and cedar along with touches of grilled fennel, tangy currants and dark fresh ground coffee beans. This 2007 is still very vigorous, vibrant and fresh on the palate and has good firm tannins, drink now through 2018. Be sure to check Saxon Brown out, they make a fine selection of artisan wines that offer plenty of value as well.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010ChesterWhite2010 Chester’s Anvil, Gewurztraminer, Potter Valley, Mendocino County.
This wine is for all the wine weirdos out there that crave something different, something wild or truly unique, an off dry Gewurztraminer from Lagier Meredith & Pott Wines, this is super fun stuff and at a huge trade tasting, it stood out and I had to include it here in my top white picks! Carole Meredith, Steve Lagier and Claire and Arron Pott, neighbors and friends created a joint project to fuel their collective wine geek, that is Chester’s Anvil and they have made a collection of interesting wines together, their latest offerings include a Malbec, a Sauvignon Blanc and this wonderful Gewurztraminer. This tangy, bright and fresh white has a touch of off dry RS, but you don’t really get sweetness on the palate, so fear not, this is a refreshing table wine that offers an amazing array of flavors. The nose has a floral and tropical bouquet leading to a wild palate of lychee, melon and basil with tangy mango, pineapple and lemon, plus pepper and honeycomb notes. Crisp, but with a slight creamy feel mid palate this Gewurztraminer is great alternative white, and would be a dream with Asian cuisine and or most salads, don’t be afraid, this is groovy stuff.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011TablasBlanc2011 Tablas Creek, Esprit Blanc de Tablas, Proprietary White, Paso Robles.
The Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc is a Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc blend, an ode to Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc and Beaucastel’s glorious Roussanne based wines, and I think of it as one of the great white wines of California, it is a lovely and richly textured wine of utmost class and distinction. The 2011 shows a slightly lighter side than most vintages, but it is not a bad thing at all and I love the vibrancy of the fruit and the creaminess of the texture, it just plays well and makes for a balanced whole. This Roussanne led wine shows the intensity of this varietal with it’s hint of oiliness and that clarified butter note to go along with the citrus and stone fruits, while the acidity of Picpoul and complexity of the Grenache Blanc add mineral elements, fill out a peachy note and add to the life here. Tablas Creek maybe better known for their red, but without question this white rivals anything with loads of character, focus and seductive charms, it would be hard to imagine this wine needs anything more. The nose is subtle with hints of melon, pear, butterscotch and spices leading to a palate of white peach, nectarine, lemony citrus cream, a touch of wet stones. Beautiful and lush in the mouth and with a long clear finish this wine is world class, and it has good grip, but everything flows with smooth gracefulness, drink now through 2016.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010RameyPlattChard2010 Ramey, Chardonnay, Platt Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Dave Ramey nailed with this wine, the 2010 Platt is almost dead on perfect, this has to be one of the finest Chards I’ve had this year, and I will find it difficult to put into words just how good this wine is, so you’ll have to trust when I say, just try it yourself! While the Ritchie and Hyde Vineyard wines grab all the attention, it is this Platt that is more impressive, it is seriously fantastic, right up there with a top Puligny or dare I say a Batard, it is that good, it has it all and is a steal when compared to the great white Burgs it rivals, let alone the likes of Aubert, Kongsgaard or Peter Michael Chards. The 2010 Ramey Platt shows what a great vintage and site can do, it has a nose of white flowers, smoke, honeycomb and river rocks with a vivid palate of lemon, apple, pear and a hint of tropical fruit, firm acidity, chalky minerals and hazelnut notes. This Chardonnay is class from nose to finish with plenty of depth, length and laser like focus, without question this is pure class in the bottle, kudos to Ramey and his team, this is compelling juice and a fantastic wine, flirting with total perfection.
($55-60 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

2009LambornCS2009 Lamborn Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Estate, Napa Valley.
There are few small wineries that can say they have Heidi Peterson Barrett as their winemaker and ask this kind of price, it may seem odd, but yes this wine is a bargain, a tiny plot of Cabernet Sauvignon on Howell Mountain made by one of the great names in California wine, yup it is a steal. Better still, the Lamborn’s are great people, I’ve known them for a long time now, and they are true special and kind, I admire them greatly, and I have always been a fan. I used to buy a small production Zinfandel call Rocking Horse during the early nineties and one of their wines was from this Lamborn Vineyard on Howell Mountain, it was so different and interesting I just had to find out more, and then I discovered they made their own wine and I was hooked, and between 2001 and 2009 I didn’t miss a vintage of their Zinfandel which I found gave the same pleasure as a fine Chateau du Pape. As of the 2005 vintage, the Lamborn’s got into the Cabernet Sauvignon business, with Heidi calling the shots and developing the vines, with her experience and talents, of which most people know through her efforts at Screaming Eagle and other top estates, she has created a striking Cabernet for the Lamborn Family, a wine with terroir, personality and pedigree, and the 2009 looks set to considered the best yet. The 2009 Lamborn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonder expression of varietal and place with a nose full of acacia and dark flowers, sweet creme de cassis and spiced cherry leading to a full bodied palate of blackberry, currant and plum fruits with hints of mocha, licorice, lavender, blonde tobacco and smoky vanilla. Richly packed, dense and firm with ripe tannins this a jewell of a wine and the rewards of lots of handwork and commitment, drink from 2015-2022, bravo.
($100 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2009GuilliamsCF2009 Guilliams, Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain Estate, Napa Valley.
Guilliams has long been making quality Cabernet from their estate on Spring Mountain, and while they are known more for their Cabernet Sauvignon, they also craft a fine Cabernet Franc as well, and this 2009 is really lovely and very much worth spotlighting here. Guilliams also poured the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which was well made and extremely good, but I decided to focus on this 2009 Cabernet Franc, well, because I wanted to and that is was very interesting with lots of character. The nose has hints of violets and dried roses with hints of all spice and peppers plus a tease of creme de cassis before a refined medium weight, Bordeaux like palate of mineral driven fruit including dark cherry, plum and brambleberry with smoke, vanilla and wild herbs. There is a earthy element and touches of cigar, dried currants and cedar that really come into view with air, and the finish, which is lengthy and rich. This pretty Franc is drinking super now and should age another 5-7 years easy with it’s balance of fruit, tannins, wood and acidity, this is a classy mountain wine.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010LagierMeredithSyrah2010 Lagier Mededith, Syrah, Mount Veeder Estate, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith have been making wine up on Mount Veeder since the mid nineties and while I had heard of them, I only first sampled their Syrah when I tried the 2004, and I was instantly a fan, and the 2005 was a magical wine, it left a mark on me for sure, they certainly produce wonderful wines. This years Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco was a great chance to revisit their Syrah and the other wines in their lineup as well as get their expert insight into grape origins, with Dr Mededith being one of the world’s foremost researchers in the field, especially in the case of Zinfandel AKA Tribidrag and Syrah. Steve poured his latest samples, a Rose of Syrah with a touch of Mondeuse, the Tribidrag and the 2010 Syrah, but they he also brought out his 2002 Syrah, and wow, this was heaven, it was fresh and youthful with just a few signs of age, great stuff. But it was the new 2010 Lagier Meredith that blew me away, it was maybe my personal favorite of the show, though I must say it took me trying about 50 other really good wines to absolutely know just how remarkable it truly was, sometimes it is like that, putting things into context. The 2010 Syrah shows a deep opaque color, almost black in the middle with garnet edges and a nose of violets, huckleberry, creme de cassis, smoke and espresso bean leading to a full and robust palate of blueberry, boysenberry and mountain wild berry with touches of spiced plum, fig cake and cherry notes with pepper, cinnamon shavings, mint and vanilla. This beautiful and rich wines expands on the palate and the length is remarkable, this is special stuff, and while it drinks great now it should age with lots of style.
($48 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2010LawAudacious2010 Law Estate, Audacious, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
While the westside of Paso is home to some of the greatest Rhone inspired wines in California, there are those that get there clues from more than one region and there are a few that combine many ideas, like this almost Aussie meets Priorat influenced cuvee of 44% Grenache, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Petite Sirah which all comes together in a most California fashion. The 2010 Audacious Red from Law Estate is super dark, brooding and full of explosive power, this is a wine to watch and while I quite like it now, it might be good to give this red some time in the cellar as it looks to be very rewarding, a solid investment in future pleasure. Certainly, as L’ Aventure’s Stephan Asseo has proved with his Estate Cuvee blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, there is great promise in these kinds of blends and they can really show the nature and personality of the region. This wine is massive and forceful on the palate with loads of creme de cassis, blackberry, blueberry and juicy sweet plums along with dried currants, tobacco leaf, licorice and chocolate elements. Ripe tannins and subtle wood frame this wine very nicely, and the is great potential here.
($62 Est.) 93-94+ Points, grapelive

2010LawIntrepid2010 Law Estate, Intrepid, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
The 2010 Law Estate Intrepid is an intense 100% Syrah, the only one in their lineup this year to focus on a single varietal, but this wine lacks for nothing and is a very well crafted expression of this grape and place with lots of character and style. This gripping Syrah has eye popping fruit and almost a dry port feel to it, though I’m sure given time the wine will develop more graceful elements, I noticed air did open it up to reveal more complex details and there is plenty to enjoy here with it’s black and blue fruits, hints of peppery, sage and wild game. This wine leaves an impression, no question and I’m amazed by it’s depth coming from such young vines, this is a wine to take note of, I can’t wait to try not only this wine in a few years, but also to try future releases, this was the dark horse in the lineup, it might be a risk in the cellar, but I think it might be a good gamble. The nose has classic heady notes of sweet liqueur, smoke, salted licorice and meat along with loads of extract on the palate with blueberry, plum, kirsch and boysenberry fruit, plus hints of lavender oil, mocha and cracked pepper. For those that enjoy Alban and Saxum, you should be sure to look these guys up.
($62 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2010LawBeguilingThis Grenache cuvee, with a tiny amount of Syrah (94% Grenache & 6% Syrah) is lavish and lush with pure flavors and silky tannins, this is a delightful and throughly enjoyable wine. There is lots of lively layers to explore here with fresh fruit, floral tones and tangy grenadine on the aftertaste, the main drive though is a red fruit core that never stops pushing with loads of raspberry and baked strawberry leading the way. There is a spicy plum and pepper note that add to this fine effort, plus there is a shinning burst of acidity and hints of chalky mineral as well. This deeply colored red is very rich in the mouth and will satisfy most Grenache fiends addictions, this certainly reminds me of elements of Booker and Alban and pays tribute to the wines of the southern Rhone.
($62 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2010LawSagacious2010 Law Estate Wines, Sagacious (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre) Paso Robles.
I’m always on the trail of new discoveries and future specialties in the vast wine world, and at this year’s Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco, I managed to find an exciting new producer that looks set to compete with Saxum, Booker, Epoch and L’ Aventure for honors in the western hills of Paso Robles, Law Estate. Don and Susie Law have planted a glorious hillside vineyard between 1,600 and 1,900 Feet up on shiny limestone chock soils, mostly to Syrah and Grenache, but with some Cabernet, Mourvedre, Carignan, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in black grapes and a few white grapes that include Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette. The Law’s hired Scott Hawley to be their winemaker and leader, to make the wines and get an ambitious state of the art winery done and up and running, Hawley is known for making some very intriguing wines including his own wines at Torrin, as well as Jada and Alta Colina prior, he is also very much dedicated to sustainable growing practices. This fall Law Estate will releasing their  first four wines, all of which are stunning and all of which will certainly blow a few minds, though I especially liked the 2010 Law Estate Sagacious GSM blend, this was pure pleasure in the glass and I wish I could have gone off with a few bottles right there and then! The nose was young and tight, but it turned magical with air, violets, creme de cassis, white pepper and sticky lavender all flowed from bouquet to palate while blackberry, boysenberry, loganberry and blueberry compote exploded in the mouth and layers behind the scenes included sweet herbs, all spice, mineral and game plus a touch of espresso. This full bodied effort is flamboyant and utterly hedonistic, but not in anyway over the top or out of shape, this is well crafted and focused wine, and it should drink fantastic on release plus age well for another decade, this is deserving stuff, not cheap mind you, but after having the Saxum 2010 ($169) recently, and Booker ($89), plus others, this price point is very fair for the quality on offer here, no question.
($62 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

2011LagierMeredithTribidrag2011 Lagier Meredith, Tribidrag, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
For those that haven’t heard the exciting and geeky news, Tribidrag is the real name of our beloved Zinfandel, it comes after exhaustive DNA testing and historic research into Zinfandel’s Croatian origins. Madame Doctor Carole Meredith was one of those tireless researchers and this is her and her husband, Steve Lagier’s wine from their small estate on Mount Veeder, and in honor of all that history they have called their Zinfandel by it’s true name Tribidrag, and Doctor Meredith told me the Zinfandel AKA Tribidrag grape was the jewell of the Adriatic region as far back as the thirteenth century, making it older that Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was a very noble varietal then and as it is now, as California’s heritage grape. The 2011 Lagier Meredith Tribidrag is a beautiful and suave red with remarkable persistence and personality showing it’s pure mountain fruit, spice and savory essences to perfection. This wine is softly kissed with neutral French oak, these well seasoned Francois Freres barrels add just the right amount of cedar, smoke and creaminess to this exceptional wine allowing it’s natural charms to show through in detailed focus. The nose is full of raspberry, dried flowers, sweet herbs and spices leading to a briar laced palate of fresh raspberry, plum and marionberry with hints of earthy forrest, pepper, cinnamon stick, lavender and mint tea. This medium bodied Zinfandel, oops sorry, Tribidrag, is a wonderful drinking wine and is even more impressive considering how very difficult the vintage was, kudos to Steve Lagier and Doctor Meredith, drink now through 2016.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010Mertairies2010 Clos Marie, Mertairies du Clos, red Pic Saint Loup, Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc, France.
This rare and deeply flavored Grenache and Syrah blend from Clos Marie is a rival for many a Chateauneuf and or Gigondas with wonderful pure fruit, spice and mineral essences to put a smile on any Rhone lovers face. The Mertairies comes from very old vines, all biodynamic, on clay and limestone soils that maximize that impact of the fruit, handcrafted and artisan made this is a spectacular wine of quality and style. The nose has earth, flowers and sweet herbs to start with fresh berries and exotic liqueur notes leading to a dense and dramatic palate of dark fruits, cracked pepper, violets and chalky stones with boysenberry, plum, fig and plum along with hints of cassis, saline, peppercorns, truffle and black licorice. While rich and intense this red has plenty of juicy acidity to keep things fresh and vivid, this is beautiful stuff, keep an eye out for it, I highly recommend it, drink now through 2018.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011OcchipintiFrappato2011 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, IGT, Sicily, Italy.
The latest Frappato from Arianna Occhipinti is the most concentrated and dense version to date with a fuller and richer palate and delivers heightened intensity but with her trademark silky tannins and elegant balance. This wine certainly is a masterful fret and wonderful effort in natural craftsmanship for which we all celebrate Ms Occhipinti for, she is making some of the most exciting wines in Sicily and has a worldwide following, I even spotted her wines in the small Swedish town of Vaxjo at a hipster wine and beer bar last year! Without question Occhipinti is a much loved superstar, and her flagship Il Frappato is one of the must have wines in the world these days, and the 2011 is not going to disappoint and should bring even more new fans to her growing collection. The 2011 Frappato starts with a nose of wild berries, sweet herbs, dried flowers and a hint of meatiness leading to a palate of poached plum, baked figs, spiced cherry and savory notes before revealing more delicate notes of strawberry, loganberry, iodine, thyme, fennel and lavender. This 12.5% alcohol wine has good focus and zest, but it is noticeably thicker in the mouth than past vintages, this is not a bad thing, just a difference, and there is everything to love with pure fruit, earthy charm and lingering length giving lots of joy. This wine changes dramatically with air, bringing more acidity to the front and unfolding like a fine Pinot Noir, especially after a few hours, be sure to keep very cool and give this wine time to open up, I found it much better the second day even, but it really shines with food adding complexity and subtlety to the meal. This wine reflects it’s maker, it is wild, earthy, graceful, exotic and totally groovy, be sure to get some before it disappears!
($40 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

Avail at www.sfwtc.com

 

2011ForadoriNosiola2011 Foradori, Nosiola Fontanasanta, Vignetti Delle Dolomiti IGT, Italy.
Elisabetta Foradori’s white wines are mesmerizing and dramatic with salty intensity and meaningful extract and this rare Nosiola is a dynamic expression of ancient methods and passionate artisan craftsmanship. This wine was fermented on the skins and aged in amphora, making similar to an “orange” wine, though Foradori has created a modern version that is fresher and elegant in style, these are fantastic wines that deserve all the attention they are getting. The unique ancient varietal Nosiola shows bright citrus notes with hints at stone fruit, loads of mineral, spice and distilled pear with a touch of tannin, chalky texture and a real briny/saline tone. This tangy white has plenty of mouthwatering acidity and finishes with good length that leaves a melon and lemon/lime aftertaste plus a zesty orange rind note. This is a superb wine and is sublime with food and gives tons of excitement, I highly recommend trying Elisabetta’s fine efforts, both her reds and whites are simply stunning.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012SelbachSchlossSpat2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Spatlese Mosel, Germany.
Classical styled and remarkably pure the 2012 Zeltinger Schossberg Spatlese is a great candidate for cellar building with wonderful depth and structure and stunning potential for future rewards. While beautiful and charming even now, this wine has much more to come and is really worth investing in with everything in store to give massive drinking pleasure both short term and long term. The nose is still evolving and shy needing a lot of coaxing to reveal much, but there is a hint of spring blossom and smoking mineral tones with a touch of sea salt leading to a very gripping and balanced palate, while a Spatlese it feels more dry than sweet at this stage with plenty of zing and vibrancy. The mouth is an explosion of citrus, tropical fruit and creamy white peaches with a crystalline essence of rich minerality. The is a nice briny earthiness and saline quality to this fine Riesling and the touch of sweet papaya lingers on and on. This appealing and compelling white is a star in the making, best to show patience, drink 2016-2025, if you can of course, even with my best intentions I can’t always resist these Selbach-Oster Rieslings in their youth, and these 2012’s look to be legendary, be sure to get some later this fall when the arrive in the states.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010GalanteRancho2010 Galante Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rancho Galante, Carmel Valley.
The Rancho Galante Cabernet is the estate workhorse for Jack Galante and his gang and it is a fine and pleasing wine that shows firm structure, detailed fruit with lively flavors. Having worked at Galante and having their wines since the mid nineties it was fun to sit down with Jack Galante and hear how things were going and what new ideas they were working on, since I left they added a fun Petite Sirah and Malbec and the Pinot Noir has matured. The Galante barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc is another smash hit for the estate along with their flagship Blackjack Pasture Cabernet, plus there is the top limited edition blended wine called the Grand Champion which would be considered the”Opus One” of Carmel Valley and is a good rival for the reserve wines from Parsonage. In other words, there is a lot to look forward to in Carmel Valley and Galante is looking ahead to the future with lots of excitement. Back to the latest Rancho Galante Cabernet, the 2010 vintage looks set to be one of the best years to date, though Jack did say he thought the 2012 vintage looks to be the best ever, I really liked the 2010 and enjoy the freshness and medium body, it drinks like a savvy claret with good balance and grace. A combo of red and black fruits hit on the palate with black cherry, plum and mixed berries with tangy cigar notes, pepper, saddle leather and hints of mocha. The acidity and tight tannins need to soften, but it does open with air giving a touch of creme de cassis and the finish is solid if dry, best to have with food, especially a nice cut of steak. Drink now through 2018, decant if possible for the next year, but this is a very well made Cabernet that is well rounded and a good value.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010ChidaineML2010 Francois Chidaine, Montlouis Sur Loire, Clos Habert, Loire Valley, France.
This beautiful and detailed Chenin Blanc is really an exceptional wine of quality and style with layered fruit and opulence. Francois Chidaine’s Clos Habert is textured and vivid with fresh peach, lemon/lime, tropical essences and honeycomb as well as hints of saline and nectarine flesh and pit. There is a good sense of place, a nice vibrancy and long finish that add up to a fantastic wine and near perfect example of this region and showcases the passion and artisan touch of the Chidaine team. This is one of my favorite Loire wines, and without question this a wine to search out, and a Chenin Blanc to remember. This balanced and pleasing white has plenty of natural richness, but remains lively and focused, I think there is a good decade ahead for this beauty.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2009MontelenaCS2009 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Calistoga, Napa Valley.
A recent visit to Napa Valley included a visit to the famed and historic Chateau Montelena, one of the first wineries I ever went to in the Napa Valley, and I always enjoy going to the place with it’s beautiful location and lovely facade which never fails to make me smile, plus the wines are very pleasing. The lineup this time included the classic Chardonnay, a nice tangy off dry Riesling from Potter Valley, the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and the famous Estate Cabernet, the 2009 which was a stunner, absolutely gorgeous and full bodied this wine is what Napa Valley Cabernet is all about. This 2009 Calistoga Estate shows a developed nose with floral and fruit tones, hints of cedary oak and a whiff mint leading to a lush and expanding palate of blackberry, plum, creme de cassis and dark cherry fruit, licorice, sage, sweet tobacco and vanilla. Firm ripe tannins frame this Cabernet and give nice structure, but remain supple throughout making for a easy to drink young wine, in fact I may suggest you drink this one sooner versus later. While most Chateau Montelena vintages age decades, this seems to be one you’d rather not wait that long, I’d say drink now through 2020. I loved this Cabernet, it was everything you’d expect and want from this classic winery and I highly recommend a visit next time you get up to the area.
($100 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011ChockRockRiesling2011 Chock Rock, Riesling, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Dan Karlsen’s family label is making some nice artisan estate wines from the far reaches of Carmel Valley, plus getting some grapes from his employer Talbott Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, like this fun and tangy Riesling. The 2011 is crisp and dry with bright citrus, green apple and peach pit notes making for a nice summer white that has plenty of sizzling acidity. Sadly Talbott has pulled all the Riesling out as of 2013, so 2012 will be the last vintage, so if you want taste a savvy light and vibrant Riesling from the Santa Lucia Highlands you’d better get a few bottles soon, it still is a bummer as these were some really nice vines. Chock Rock also makes some nice Pinot Noir and Syrah both of which are very fairly priced, but this Riesling was my favorite. Hints of white flowers, tropical essences and lime add to the mix and there is a tangerine note on the finish.
($24 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2005RidgeGrenache2005 Ridge, Grenache, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
A super racy and full bodied Grenache, this 2005 Ridge Lytton Estate is intense and lavish with dark color and flavor bursting at the seems, I adore the Lytton Estate and love all the wines from this lovely old vines and the 2005 Grenache is super tasty, I’m glad a put a few away, and it is drink great right now. The nose is full of ripeness and there’s tons of boysenberry, strawberry jam, plum and tangy currant fruits, sweet liqueur, black licorice, lavender and fig cake. There is hints of spice, polished sweet tannins and wild sage notes adding detail here. This is a big fruit driven wine, but not a bit overblown and it is highly entertaining and very pleasing. Ridge blended a bit of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel in here and this wine is the better for it, it is funny that even with only about 6% the Zinfandel does show through with a hint of sweet raspberry that even lingers on the finish. This is pure California in the glass, and was a perfect vacation wine, totally perfect for my evening on a foggy Carmel night.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011PasonageCS2011 Parsonage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Carmel Valley.
The latest Cabernet from Parsonage is classic Carmel Valley, a bit restrained and hinting at cool climate Bordeaux like character with a touch of green, but very likable and pretty. The Medoc reference is to give you an idea of style for this vintage only, and while not typical of this winery it is in keeping with the regions history, and I should think this wine will age well and gain in depth and complexity, this wine is full of grace, interest and vibrancy. The nose has notes of acacia, tobacco leaf, pepper and black fruits before leading to a medium weight palate of plum, currant, cherry and blackberry fruits, pencil lead, sage, cedar and whiff of bell pepper not unlike Leoville Poyfrerre and a bit like Cabernet Franc, this is a very nice wine from start to finish. This is a classy, mature minded Claret style Cabernet that is a good reflection of the vintage and place, well done.
($42 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2009PasonageBixby2009 Parsonage, Petit Verdot, Bixby Reserve, Estate, Carmel Valley.
This is a bold and sexy wine that delivers ripe flavors and full bodied richness from start to finish, without question a massively appealing red that coats the mouth and gives real hedonistic pleasure throughout with loads of blueberry, creme de cassis, red pepper and lavender oil. This exotic Petit Verdot is a thrill ride on the palate and the aftertaste stays for over a minute, this unique wine is very impressive and should drink well for another decade. I recently had the pleasure to taste the 2003 and it was still young, vibrant and could easily go another 10 years, and this 2009 is even more polished and focused, Parsonage can be very proud of this one. I’ve followed Parsonage since they started, and I must say they have really progressed well and make some of the best wines in the region, this is a winery to check out if you visit Carmel Valley.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012ChesbroRose2012 Chesbro, Rose, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark Chesbro makes a nice selection of value priced wines from his vines in Arroyo Seco and his unique Rose is a tasty treat. I visited his tasting room in Carmel Valley Village and tasted this and his Vermentino, perfect wines for summer drinking. The Rose is made from Grenache, Albarino and Viognier! A very interesting combination of grapes, flavors and aromas that shows watermelon, citrus, strawberry, tart cherry and wild honeysuckle. This dry Rose is easy to love and very entertaining with mineral, acidity and zesty tanginess, a very solid effort.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011DawnsSB2011 Dawn’s Dream, Sauvignon Blanc, Carmel Valley.
With good mouth feel, fresh acidity and length this Sauvignon Blanc shows intriguing terroir and complexity. The grapes come from Galante’s Ranch, which has a unique clone of Sauvignon Blanc that may have originally come from Chateau D’Yquem by way of Wente! No matter the origins the vines produce very unique fruit and Dawn’s Dream highlights the distinct character to perfection. The nose is slightly floral and the density is impressive while still feeling light and refreshing with lemon/lime, kiwi, passion fruit and grapefruit layers along with notes of spiced pear, peach and gooseberry. A touch of neutral oak helps soften the vivid acidity and allows the wine to feel round and supple on the finish without giving any wood influence, this is a classy white that deserves some attention.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011DawnsPNAlyssa2011 Dawn’s Dream, Pinot Noir, Alyssa, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Dawn Galante wanted to make wine that reflected her own personality and that were more transparent in style, in contrast to her husband’s Galante wines, and she has achieved her dream, sorry for the pun, but hard to resist, and her wine are well crafted and more delicate in style. The 2011 Dawn’s Dream Alyssa Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands is a most worthy effort with good fruit, silky texture and very pleasing showing plum and raspberry along with a solid core of cherry fruit plus nice soft wood notes, mineral and spice. Dawn’s wine offer a rare value in Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot and have been a huge hit with visitors to her well appointed tasting room in the beautiful Carmel Valley Village and she has a very popular wine club that is growing fast, so if you are in the area you should check it out.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2012OVWCPinot2012 Old Vine Wine Co. Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Old Vine Wine Company is the second label of Alfaro Vineyards and is focused on value wine made from great old sites other than the Alfaro estate. Richard Alfaro has now added Trout Gulch to his stable, farming and crafting wines from this vineyard that has great exposure and is influenced by the cool waters of the Monterey Bay that helps the old Chardonnay and Pinot Noir planted here. The 2012 Old Vine Wine Co. Pinot Noir is rich, lush and forward with creamy cherry, raspberry, plum and fig fruit plus baking spices, tea notes and cola bean. There is plenty of juicy acidity, soft tannins and a long silky finish, this is a very nice effort and easy to love that is tasty in it’s youth.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010SilvestriSyrah2010 Silvestri, Syrah, Estate, Carmel Valley.
You may know of Alan Silvestri, he is one of America’s top composers and conductors, and he’s most famous for his movie scores and music, he has been awarded many times both by the Academy & Grammy Awards, but you may not know he is a vintner and has been producing some fine wines from his estate in beautiful Carmel Valley. I remember many years ago, meeting Alan and him telling me he was inspired to grown grapes and make wine by his experience with Northern Rhone Syrah, especially Hermitage, Cote-Rotie and Cornas if I remember correctly, so he planted Syrah in Carmel Valley, and he’s been successful in producing a very good Syrah and now has branched out into Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. After not trying his wines, which have been crafted by Mark Chesbro, a local winemaker, I thought I’d check in on them while visiting my home town of Carmel Valley. I have since learned, Silvestri has hired Parsonage winemaker and vineyard manager Frank Melicia, who is now making some of Carmel Valley’s top wines. The 2010 Silvestri Syrah is a peppery dark wine with good varietal character, density and energy showing blueberry, raspberry, plum and kirsch up front with a hint of violets, lavender and game, plus fresh cracked pepper. This is a solid and enjoyable effort, very fairly priced and easy to like. It may gain a bit with another year or so in the cellar, but I would say drink away now, best from 2014-2018.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010AFVSchultze2010 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This lush and silky Pinot from Richard Alfaro comes from his friend’s fruit, Judy and Jim Schultze’s vines which back up to the redwoods and look down to the sea, they also make their own wine under the Windy Oaks Estate label, Richard’s version is fuller on the palate and a tad riper in profile, more in line with his single vineyard wines. The 2010 Alfaro Schultze Pinot starts with raspberry, wilted roses, mocha and tea spice leading to a round palate of creamy cherry, violets, plum and truffle, it finishes long and juicy with good grace and acidity. At 14.2% alcohol it is not a bruiser, but is does feel lavish and dense in the mouth, making for a very hedonistic experience and a very pleasing wine. I think the best is yet to come here, give it a few more years and it might just merit a higher score, drink 2015-2019.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009SkyZin2009 Sky, Zinfandel, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
This small estate made Zin from the upper reaches of Mount Veeder is a dark and dreamy wine of character and interest, not to be missed by Zin fans, and for those that want a unique and stylish California red. This vintage brings excitement and polished elements that have been missing in recent years to this “Cult” Zin producer and I was very much impressed with the level of refinement and class that is on display here, this is one of of the best yet from this address at the top of the mountain. Big blackberry, boysenberry, raspberry and plum fruit, briar, bramble and cinnamon stick spice plus a hint of dried currants lead the way along with soft cedar and peppercorns adding elements to the whole. Ripe sweet tannins, dried flowers and figs come through as well, and there is enough acidity to push the flavors forward and give live to this wine, drink now and for the next 3-5 years while the fruit is at it’s freshest.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009ForadoriGranato2009 Foradori, Granato, Teroldego, Vignetti Delle Dolomiti IGT, Italy.
Elisabetta Foradori is crafting some amazing wines from her tiny estate near Trentino in the Dolomites, close to the Alto Adige region of Italy, her Teroldego reds especially stand out and her Granato is absolutely spectacular. This full bodied red has density, richness and class with loads of unique character imparted on the wine through artisan passion and pure terroir. This flagship bottling from Foradori is all from biodynamic vineyard sites and aged in neutral oak barrels from about two years. The nose is refined with subtle red fruits, wild flowers and soft spiciness leading to a lush palate of dried red currants, raspberry, cherry and plum fruit, pepper and cedar notes and mountain herbs, plus subtle smoke and vanilla. This wine is balanced and well defined with nothing glaring or out of place, it certainly has intensity and vigor, but everything flows smoothly and the finish goes on forever, this is beautiful wine with a deep soulful expression.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LaSpinettaRose2012 La Spinetta, Il Rose di Casanova, Casanova Della Spinetta Toscano Rosato IGT, Terricciola, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s Tuscan Rose is made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Prugnolo Gentile (also Sangiovese Grosso) and is a wonderful example of dry roast with dynamic freshness, amazing color, fun and class. The Casanova Della Spinetta label keeps getting better and better with more refined wines each vintage, and this Rose is a treat. Bright red cirrus, tart cherries, strawberry and watermelon lead the way along with playful herbs and spices plus a touch of cool mineral. The is a hint of rose petal and orange zest as well is this lovely summer wine, if you are looking for a great Italian rose this year, this is your wine, enjoy!
($24 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

2012DonnhoffHPTrocken2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Hollenpfad Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Donnhoff’s outrageously good Hollenpfad Trocken is a suave and sexy Riesling that delivers everything on promise and on the palate. While not a Cru, Grosses Gewachs, the Hollenpfad could easily be, this is a dry style marvel with great depth, extract, detail and class no question, and with many happy years ahead of it. The 2012 Hollenpfad Trocken lifts off with lime and tropical essences with a tangy mouth of mango, briny sea salt, chalky mineral, multi-citrus and peach fresh with more stone fruit, melon, apple skin, spice and apricot. The acidity is on vibrant display, but everything is remarkably balanced and elegantly focused, especially for such a young wine, this is pure genius and I can’t wait to try it again down the road, look for this in the states in the late fall of 2013, this we be a real treasure in the cellar.
($43 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012RochioliRose2012 Rochioli, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
Summer in the Russian River is not complete without securing a few bottles of Rochioli’s lovely fresh Rose, so I took a bit of a journey and found myself sipping this tasty wine on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and yes I managed to secure a few bottles of this tasting room only selection, though you can call and order some I believe, but best to act fast this and their Valdigue sell out fast. While grabbing a few bottles, I did try the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Estate Chard again, and both are drinking great, if not better than this winter/spring. The 2012 Rose of Pinot is brightly colored, vivid in flavor and brisk with juicy acidity with watermelon, tart cherry, strawberry and red citrus, plus hints of spice, mineral and rose water. Crisp and zesty on the finish, this is a great example of Rose and one of my fags of summer.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012VonWinningPara2012 Von Winning, Riesling, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten, Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
Von Winning’s dry Rieslings are a revelation and are easily some of Germany’s most interesting wines, especially the three Grosses Gewachs (Grand Crus) each of which is dynamic and totally unique, but their med range Trocken (Dry) wines are not to be overlooked, like this Cru Paradiesgarten which is extraordinary in 2012. The upper Crus see more new French oak and rival Grand Cru white Burgundy, while the middle and lower wines are more about pure fruit essences and are subtler expressions, though non the less impressive, these wines are all sublime and offer amazing quality and character. The 2012 Von Winning Paradiesgarten is a forceful and firmly structured wine, but also is classy, elegant and charming with orange zest, white roses, verbena and mango to lead, before revealing intense lime, chalky minerals and grapefruit on the palate with touches of mint, briny saline and peach pit. This vigorous Riesling sizzles with energy and excitement throughout and the mid palate really kicks you with a burst of citrus, though the finish picks up a creamy note and the length is impressive for such a baby wine, for sure patience will be greatly rewarded here, and while not as hedonistic as Von Winning’s upper Crus, this certainly is an entertaining Riesling of fine details, excellent winemaking and a extremely well priced wine that should be a serious cellar contender for anyone looking for value, I know I’ll be picking a few of these up this fall when released.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011RochioliValdigue2011 Rochioli, Valdigue, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
Valdigue, the rare French vatical, formerly thought to be Gamay in California, is a fun and Beaujolais like red wine with pretty color, spice and fruity charms, while not overly serious as wines go, this is a seriously must have for me, I just adore this wine and coming from Rochioli and at this nice price, it is a winner in my book, and voting with my wallet, I took more than a few bottles home in a selfish frenzy. I bought myself quite a few of the previous vintage and managed to stash a couple away to check out later, but this new 2011 vintage is just so delightful, I doubt I’ll save any. This, like the Rose, is a Rochioli tasting room only wine, and the production is tiny, so best get there quick, this is not a wine you want to miss out on. The 2011 Valdigue starts out with dark flowers, peppery spices and hints of walnut oil and crushed berries leading to a vibrant palate of strawberry, loganberry and fresh picked plum with notes of garden herbs, lavender and cinnamon stick. Light to medium bodied, vibrant, soft tannins and a hint of citrus acidity add to the energy and charm.
($20 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

2008Cappellano2008 Cappellano, Barolo DOCG, Otin Fiorin, Pie Rupestris-Nebioli, Piedmonte, Italy.
I have read about Cappellano, I had heard whispers, I had begged to taste, and now after finally sampling I’m even more impressed and stunned by the quality and class found here, this Cappellano Barolo 2008 is a masterpiece, a totally gorgeous Nebbiolo with elegance and depth, this is a Grand Cru class red that deserves it’s cult status! Doing homework and chasing down info on Cappellano was always difficult, and while in the digital age, still not much is available, in English especially, but from all my searching I found that only a tiny amount is produced, less than 800 cases of Barolo, and America is only given a handful of those cases, so I know how very lucky I am to have had a chance to try this majestic wine from the Serralunga district of Barolo, and from it’s most magical site and hill, honestly I could easily have just put 100 Points, it is that good and that rare. Augusto Cappellano carries on his families traditional and natural winemaking style, native yeasts and long cellar times in old-neutral casks, adds to the heritage and mystique found in this profound Barolo, it is truly an art of love and tradition in every sense. The bouquet is haunting with dried roses, sweet herbs and poached red fruits leading to a firm palate of cherry, strawberry and reduced plum sauce with wild game, lavender, minty licorice and earthy truffle notes. The finish goes on and on, it feels like forever, and everything is so pure and perfectly terroir essences, this could be nothing else, one of the best expressions of Barolo, I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic, but it is without doubt one of my top wines period. Cappellano’s Rupestris 2008 is utterly mind blowing.
($95 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2012JamainPG2012 Denis Jamain, Domaine de Reuilly, Reuilly Pinot Gris, Loire Valley.
This steely wine looks like a light rose with a pretty orange/pink tint, but it is really a skin contact white wine from the “Grey” Pinot Gris grape, though really it is as fun and refreshing as any rose out there. Denis Jamain is making some of the most interesting artisan wines in this part of the loire and his whole Domaine de Reuilly line up is stunning for 2012, especially this Reuilly Pinot Gris, which is one of my all time favorite wines made from this varietal. The nose is mineral laced with white flowers and bright citrus leading to a vibrant palate of apple skin, chalk, river stones with cool melon, white peach and zesty lemon/lime. This unique expression is captivating and vigorous wine that is a must try, and while it will be called a rose, it is some much more and very thought provoking, very cool indeed, check it out before it sells out!
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012Felines2012 Domaine Felines Jourdan, Picpoul de Pinet, white Languedoc AC, France.
One of my favorite summer whites, the Picpoul is a great and refreshing wine with good depth and charter showing brisk citrus, stone fruit and tangy notes. The 2012 Felines Jourdan is lovely bright and light bodied, though a nice round creaminess comes through with air, and there is a hint of mineral intensity as well, I just adore this fun Picpoul de Pinet, it is fast becoming a staple in my summer favorites, the last three vintages have all been stellar examples, and this new 2012 is gorgeous and easy to love. This wine opens with lime, white flowers, tangerine and white peach and the pit, plus a cool steely stony essence. This is a delicious little white that goes well with picnics, fish, smoked meats and nutty cheeses. Drink this nice Languedoc white over the next year or so for the best of it’s charms and pleasures, what a nice wine, I’ll be enjoying it myself through the warmth of August no question.
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011BarrocheCHDP2011 Domaine La Barroche, Chateauneuf du Pape, Signature, Rhone Red, France.
La Barrocche’s 2011Signature Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is savory and intense wine with tons of unique character and robust flavors, not your typical Chateauneuf at all. This red comes at you with loads of spice, chalky minerals and a good dose of tannins with subtle, almost hidden fruit which is very backward for a Grenache based wine, in fact this wound up Chateauneuf will need plenty of time to fully reveal itself, but it is still very seductive and intriguing now with a huge mouth filling palate of salted black licorice, briny iodine, kirsch and plum flavors, will some air there is more boysenberry and hints of a strawberry/lavender essence. This wine finishes with gripping tannin and severely dry and dusty. There’s tons of potential here, but patience and forethought will be required to get the best out of this wine, my best guess would be drink from 2018-2022. That said, I really like the savage force found here and I like the overbearing salted tangy black licorice, but I’m weird that way, best to serve young with food, lamb or prime rib sound like good ideas.
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010GamercyThirdMan2010 Gramercy Cellars, The Third Man, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
Master Sommelier and winemaker Greg Harrington’s Gramercy Cellars is making some of the Pacific Nothwest’s most exciting wines, along with Charles Smith and Christophe Baron, making great Syrah, Cabernet and Grenache from the Columbia Valley. The Third Man is a Grenache based red, with a touch of Mourvedre and Syrah, very influenced by Chateauneuf du Pape, with heady ripe fruit and liqueur flavors with a full body, hints of sweet herbs and spices. The alcohol is about 14.7%, so nothing crazy just big, and only 10% new oak, so there is mostly the purity of terroir and fruit showing through, there is a soft mineral essence and a good dose of coco powder, with a trace of meat and lavender as well, adding to the complexity in this hedonistic wine. The main force is boysenberry, creme de cassis, baked cherry and black plum on the round palate with fennel/anise, kirsch, pepper and dusty chalk notes. This a a long dark tunnel of wine, stylish, lush and intriguing throughout, most definitely recommended.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LuliPNSLH2012 Luli, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Luli is made by Sarah Floyd and Jeff Pisoni, and is a great value brand for fresh style Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even a Rose, but for sure it is this Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot noir that steals the show with it’s pedigree and performance. Plus, the 2012 vintage which is looking more and more great as these type of wines come on in bottle, this is going to be a wine lovers year to grab plenty of cases, as the quality to price ratio is in the bargain hunters favor, unlike the last three or four years. The 2012 Luli is bright and and loaded with pure Pinot fruit which is highlighted by raspberry, plum and black cherry on the rich and giving palate along with a nose full of violets and hints of spice and tea notes. There is lots to love here and the class of the winemaking shows through, this is a beautiful and lively Pinot Noir to be enjoyed young and often. This tasty stuff doesn’t last on the shelves long, so now that it is out, best to secure some as soon as you can. The Luli lineup always impresses, but certainly 2012 takes them to the next level.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012OcchipintiWhite2012 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily Italy.
Arianna’s Bianco SP68 is a dry and savory white, made from Zibbibo and Grillo which gives this wine a stylish perfume of jasmine and sweet herbs and a chalky tangy palate. This wine has a light to medium body and zesty mouth feel with lemon/lime, white peach and tangerine fruits, rosemary and garden herbs, hints of wet stones and sea salt. This crisp and delightful wine is very fun and easy to enjoy, and would seem a great food wine for middle eastern cuisine, lemon chicken comes to mind or squid salad. The Occhipinti wines are all unique and intriguing, and if you haven’t tried them, you really should, these wines are make using natural methods and with the greatest care in the artisan spirit of their maker.
($26 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

2010BroviaBabera2010 Brovia, Babera D’ Alba DOC, Sori Del Drago, Piedmonte, Italy.
For many years running the Sori del Drago Barbera from Brovia has been one of my favorite wines, and while I still love and adore La Spinetta’s Gallina, this vintage might just go to the Brovia, yes it is that good. Coming off a single plot in Falletto’s main Barolo zone the 2010 Brovia is suave and intense with otherworldly verve and charms, showing almost Nebbiolo grip and strikingly complex flavors, but with Barbera’s dark color and plummy personality. The nose hints at flowers, herbs and mineral spices with a dose of blackberry leading to a remarkable fine and textured palate of plum, dark berries, cherry notes and profound licorice, menthol and loganberry with traces of mineral, lavender, strawberry and truffle. Very exotic and unique, but then you’d expect nothing less from Brovia, and this Sori del Drago is a dragon in a velvet glove, bravo, a super effort and tasty wine.
($30 Est.) 93+ points, grapelive

July 2013

2011MeyerNakelS2011 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Pinot Noir S, Dernau, AHR Germany.
Werner Nakel, The Red Baron, makes some of the world’s finest and sought after Pinot Noir period, these are gorgeous and generous wines that without question rival the best of Burgundy and beyond. Werner and his family were pioneers in Trocken Spatburgunder and are dedicated artisans farming old vines in the Ahr region of Germany, the northern most site for serious red wines in the whole country. The Ahr was founded as a wine region by the Romans and it is one of the smallest regions in Germany with steep south facing vineyards set on blue, weathered slate and greywacke soils, and while tricky, this microclimate produces majestic Pinot Noir, especially the wines of Meyer-Nakel. Decanter Magazine has awarded Meyer-Nakel “Best Pinot Noir in the World” in exhaustive blind tastings against wines from cur sites in Burgundy, New Zealand, California and Oregon, and I myself have tasted 1,000’s of Pinot Noir wines and can honestly say the Meyer-Nakel wines are that good. I took quite an effort to find Meyer-Nakel, but it was worth it, I even went to Germany to get a few bottles, back in 2009, and this year I managed to rustle up a six pack of the 2011 Meyer-Nakel S Pinot Noir, and I couldn’t help but open one within hours. For me the Meyer-Nakel wines have the same excitement as greats like Beaux Freres, Pisoni Estate, Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche and Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee, they are modern and lush with dark fruit and clean with new French oak influence. There is something very special about Pinot Noir grown on slate, it has an extra dimension of mineral, spice and terroir that really appeals to me and the wines of Meyer-Nakel, August Kesseler and Becker are all fantastic examples of what great German Pinot can achieve. The 2011 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Pinot Noir S, Dernau Ahr, Germany is deeply colored, super lavish in body, texture and flavors with an amazing array in bouquet and palate, there’s roses, cassis, flinty smoke, mocha, violets, black cherry, cola bean, red pepper and mixed berry. This sublime Pinot weighs in at 14%, and is perfectly ripe and full of intensity, character and charm with an exceptional finish, while remaining youthful, fresh and vibrant throughout. A lingering blueberry and plum plus savory mineral essence last forever in the mouth, this is ultra impressive wine that in all honesty should get even better in another 3-5 years, though I cannot imagine my 5 bottles lasting that long, sadly.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010SwitchbackCS2010 Switchback Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate “Peterson Family Vineyard” Napa Valley.
This latest Switchback Ridge is the best yet from this estate in the eastern zone of Napa Valley and crafted by Robert Foley, this is fantastic Cabernet that is full of richness and varietal pureness with robust black fruit, chocolate and smooth ripe tannins. Loads of cassis, blackberry, cherry and plum lead on the mouth filling palate with hints of sage, licorice, pencil lead, cedar and vanilla, plus a super long currant laced finish. This seamless Cabernet weighs in about 14.5% and has the focus and acidity to be extremely classy and not over the top, like I mentioned this is what I feel is the best effort to date for the Peterson Family Vineyard (Switchback Ridge), it is awesome from start to finish. This Cabernet has fantastic depth, density and richness, look for it to drink well into the next decade and maybe beyond, this is super wine.
($85 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

2010SwitchbackMerlot2010 Switchback Ridge, Merlot Estate “Peterson Family Vineyard” Napa Valley.
Like his old Pride Merlot wines, Robert Foley has crafted a big wine in 2010, and this dark, rich and lengthy Switchback Ridge Merlot is a classic. This full bodied wine shows black cherry, mixed berries and plum with sweet wood smoke, baking spices, hints of blueberry, cedar and anise all in a firm tight package. This pleasing and hedonistic Merlot is lush, lavish and stylish with all the right things going on, making it a Cabernet drinker’s Merlot, big and bold, but certainly balanced and true to the vintage character, this is super wine and another really great effort from Switchback Ridge.
($55 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012DielNahesteiner2012 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Nahesteiner Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Diel’s gorgeous dry Nahesteiner Riesling is bright and vigorous with loads of extract, mineral notes and gripping acidity, without question this one of the great steals in Trocken for the vintage. The 2012 Schlossgut Diel Nahesteiner Trocken starts with fresh orange blossom, sea breeze, chalk dust before a palate of lime, yellow peach, dried apricot and grapefruit essence with hints of river rock, apple, iodine, flint and lemon oil. This steely Riesling is intensely lively with a real kick of acidity, but everything folds together nicely, balanced and focused all the way, even a roundness in the mouth comes through, and there’s a good length to the citrusy finish. Diel’s dry wines are all refined, tasty, crisp and full of flavor and class, especially this Nahesteiner, be sure to get your hands on some when it comes out later this year, drink 2014-2020.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010WesMarPN2010 WesMar, Pinot Noir, Hellenthal Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
This absolutely gorgeous Pinot Noir is a stunning wine with brilliant flavors and loads of character, this is far and away the best yet for this artisan winery. Along with Hirsch and Peay, Hellenthal shows the Sonoma Coast terroir in all it’s glory with intensity and gravitas that is hard to beat with dark rich fruit, savory spices, mineral tones and sublime balance with fresh acidity and refined tannins. The nose is beautifully detailed with wilted roses,  violets and vibrant clarity of red fruits, sweet herbs and subtle oak leading to a vivid palate of raspberry, black cherry, fresh plum and spicy currant with hints of pepper, lavender and candied citrus, finishes lengthy with creamy fruitiness and a whiff of vanilla. The layers are lush and pleasing, but still with lively lift and focus making this Pinot Noir truly something special, bravo! Drink from 2014-2020, without question a fantastic hand crafted Pinot Noir that deserves lots of attention.
($45 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2006Pandol2006 Pandol, Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
I found this in my cellar, I had believed I had drunk them all ages ago, so it was fun to go back and try this very handcrafted Pinot by Jenny Pandol, it was her first public release from select sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Jenny has sourced fruit from Windy Oaks, Schultze Family and in 2008 made a glorious Alfaro Family Pinot, and if memory serves me, there were only 2 or 3 barrels of the 2006 made. I remember this being a finicky wine when young, but now with the age it is really coming together nicely, and it drunk super delicious last night with dried currants, tangy cherry and pouched plum leading on the silky palate while fennel, wilted roses, tea spices and truffle/earth notes add complexity. A touch of cedar, vanilla and soft wood toast come through on the finish with some raspberry tart. There’s not likely much of this wine around, sadly, but if you come across it, it is really tasty.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2011Pecchenino2011 Pecchenino, Dolcetto San Luigi Dogliani DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
This brilliant Dolcetto is vivid and purr with fresh berry fruit, acidity and charm, Pecchenino really nailed this vintage and made a very pleasing and interesting wine. Sadly the 2010 sample was corked, but that happens, and while that was a disappointment, this 2011 more than made up for it and I highly recommend that you locate and try this entertaining Dolcetto as soon as possible, this might be the best Dolcetto value of the vintage. This wine leads with a fruit driven attack on the palate with fresh crushed blackberry, plum and black cherry fruits, hints of mint leaves, candied orange rind and sweet herbs. This light/medium red has everything to be serious, but simple enough just to be fun and easy, best with picnic and or classic cuisine, this is highly enjoyable for short term drinking pleasure, drink over the next year or two, this is my new go to pizza/pasta wine no question, a super little wine.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011HermanStory2011 Herman Story, Syrah “Nuts & Bolts” California.
Russell P. From’s Herman Story Wines, named for his grandfather, produces some wonderful small lot wines, from his Paso Robles winery, be sure to look out for this new Syrah release Nuts and Bolts. The 2011 Herman Story Nuts & Bolts Syrah starts out with a smoky nose with blueberry running from opening bouquet to tangy finish with boysenberry, cherry liqueur, plum and black currant fruits, savory pepper, mineral and a touch of cedar plus a hint of wild game and anise. This medium bodied effort is still very lively, fresh and balanced making it a great choice with many foods, especially roast poultry, lamb and BBQ, it doesn’t feel or taste 15%, but it is, drink over the next few years.
($45 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

DemiereNVN.V. Demiere-Ansiot, Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne, a Oger-Marne, France.
A tiny eight acre estate in the Cote de Blanc with 40 year old vines on limestone soils, Demiere-Ansiot is a true grower producer of fine all Chardonnay Grand Cru Champagnes, and this non-vintage is a beautiful and dynamic bubbly, this is a major discovery! This husband and wife team handcrafts each Champagne, with most being more Extra Brut than Brut and with a touch of neutral wood in the process, this makes for vibrant and rich wines that give tremendous pleasure. The latest non-vintage, disgorged in July of 2012, is nothing short of excellent with lovely yeasty, toast, bready notes with good firm acidity, lemon and hazelnut along with hints of pear, apple and fig. The fine mousse and texture are dreamy, this is really classy stuff.
($52 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010BondonioNebbiolo2010 Olek Bondonio, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Roncagliette, Piedmonte, Italy.
From Barbaresco and more importantly from the same Barbaresco vineyard that Gaja calls Sori Tildin! This is the real deal, and another major discovery, thank you DFB Selections and Tanaro River Imports for showing me this great wine. As natural and organic as it gets, Bondonio is crafting some amazing wines, with this Langhe Nebbiolo from Roncagliette being a stunner. This Nebbiolo, fermented with wild/native yeast, with almost no sulphur, aged in big neutral cask and bottled unfined or filtered is ripe, showing fine tannins, balanced and positively beautiful with a floral and herbal bouquet with dried roses, lavender, tarry earth notes, anise and tangy red fruits leading to a medium bodied palate of spiced plum, currant, red cherry, reduced strawberry/rhubarb fruits with savory all spice, chalky minerals, truffle and hosin sauce. Be care to keep this wine stable, store in a cool dark spot and let settle before drinking, I bounced my sample bottle around and it took an hour to come back to life, and it tastes much better with an ever so slight chill on it, natural wines tend to be a bit delicate, but this one is worth the extra care. Bravo to Olek and his team, this is a wonderful wine, be sure to look for it.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Ganzseitiger Faxausdruck2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Rudesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels, Terrassen, Rheingau Germany.
This staggeringly sublime wine is as good as it get in dry Riesling and this unique block high up in the famed Rudesheimer Berg, Kaisersteinfels is one of the great crus in this historic area framed by terrace walls, recently and painstakingly rebuilt. Having hiked up here in 2009, this steep site is extreme and gives amazing complexity with a near perfect mix of slate and quartzite soils that are highlighted in the wines with sheer transparent beauty and riveting details, it is no wonder why you hear “best Rheingau trocken” when you hear comments about this Riesling, both by experts and laymen tasters. Johannes Leitz himself thinks the 2012 is as good as it gets so far from this cur, and he has put lots of investment, not to mention heart and soul into this wine, which does show in remarkable fashion. The nose is intensely seductive with crystalline liquid mineral, smoky flint, tropical floral essences, citrus zest and salty sea breeze leading to a lime and yellow peach filling palate with plenty of sizzle and extract along with apple skin, apricot and tangerine notes, along with tangy mangoes and savory briny elements. This is beautiful and pure, a classic terroir driven wine of stunning presence and persistence, without a doubt this is going to be legendary, and patience with be greatly rewarded, drink 2015-2025, fantastic. (Due to be released Fall of 2013)
($55 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2012SelbachAuslese2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Auslese (0ne Star) Mosel, Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s weightier Rieslings are majestic wines, some of the finest white wines in the world, and I look forward to trying some of the single block rarities like the Andrecht, but while those are extremely limited and more costly, this beautiful 2012 Zeltinger Schlossberg Auslese will be a slightly easier treasure to acquire when released this fall (2013) and it is a stunning Riesling in it’s own right. This one star selection, I tasted recently and while young, shows amazing class and depth all ready, and it is remarkably well balanced and doesn’t feel overly sweet, even though it is an Auslese, and it is full of complexity and focus. The nose is bright and fresh with crystalline mineral, white flowers and stone fruits leading to a full and generous palate of peach, pineapple, tangerine, apricot and key lime, while there is briny sea breeze and saline, tropical essences, candied pear and cool slate stoniness. This wine is powerfully dense, but filled with acidity and vibrant intensity, without question one of the top cellar choices of the vintage, so be sure to make note to look for this fantastic wine, and be rewarded short term and especially long term, drink from 2014-2022. Selbach’s 2012 vintage looks set to join his long line of legends and rivals even the great 2005 wines, but don’t over look 2009 and 2011 either as they also provide glorious drinkability and are worth extended aging as well, that said these 2012’s are very very special.
($38 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012SelbachUr2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr “Ur” Alte Reben Mosel, Germany.
This Riesling from 100 Year Old Mosel vines in Zeltinger Sonnenuhr is a touch off dry technically, but is wonderfully dry feeling and is a marvel of precision and balance. Selbach’s selection of ancient vines and deft touch shows in this finely detailed wine that has both grace and underlying power and intensity with salty minerals, extract and lazar like focus, and amazing potential. The hint of sweetness adds a subtle touch of lush luxury to this classy Riesling and gives a hint of creamy mouth weight while remaining vivid and vibrant throughout. The nose is still a bit closed, though crushed stones, mint leaves, white flowers and grapefruit show, before a lively palate of green apple, peach and lime fruit, sea salt, chalk and tropical essences. A clean and fresh Riesling with glorious character, the 2012 Selbach-Oster “Ur” Alte Reben ultra old vine finishes with tangerine and tangy apricot plus a burst of energy, this is fantastic stuff, don’t miss it when a tiny amount is released this Fall (of 2013) and while it will drink great young, it should age well, Drink 2014-2024.
($32 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012krugerRumpfScheurebe2012 Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe Spatlese Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s brilliant 2012 Scheurebe is one of the most exciting wines of the vintage, and maybe the ultimate example of this grape, it is simply magic in the glass. While a Spatlese, this wine neither feels or tastes cloying in any way, but rather divinely balanced with wonderful vibrancy and class. The nose is the most perfumed expression of Scheurebe I’ve ever encountered with delicate jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom, it is mindblowingly seductive, but still restrained and refined. The palate is medium weighted with extract and hints at density with beautifully lifted and vibrant fruit, lemon, melon, nectarine and honeyed pear all playing parts. Nice light mineral essences and tropical notes shine through as well, and while everything flows smoothly, there is plenty of vigor and life here, and a refreshing salt lick and crispness come through on the finish with the faints of sweetness lingering. This is a fantastic white wine, coming this fall (2013) and should not be missed, drink 2014-2018.
($26 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011AFVLester2011 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyard at Deer Park, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Only three barrels were produced of this pretty handcrafted Pinot by Richard Alfaro, and the rich and round flavors make for a very rewarding wine. I’ve been a big, big fan of this wine since 2005, and I almost think this might be a best vintage yet, especially with the under 13% alcohol that is giving this lush textured wine some refreshing qualities and elegance, while remaining forward and showy. The 2011 Alfaro Deer Park delivers racing big Russian River like flavors, but with Santa Cruz Mountains class, making for a Pinot that feels big in the mouth, silky and still with balance and focus, I just adore this wine, even with my bias, this is great juice, though there isn’t ever much available, a rare bird indeed. The nose is bursting from the glass with warm toasty oak, flowers, spices and red fruits leading to a lavish palate of cheery, plum and wildberry fruits with hints of sweet herbs, anise, mocha, cola bean and tangy cranberry, finishing long and lively with dried currants, dry tannin and vanilla. This wine feels dense and ripe considering the vintage and alcohol, showing a talented touch of winemaking, one new French barrel was used along side two used, so it does show some wood, but very pleasing and hedonistic,  look for it to really tame over the next year in bottle, drink from 2014 to 2018, Sexy stuff no question.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011BaudryGrezeaux2011 Bernard Baudry, red Chinon, Les Grezeaux, Loire Valley, France.
This pure Cabernet Franc is simply irresistible and gorgeous with deep color, life and vivid flavors, Baudry looks to have crafted a magical wine here, no question. Bernard Baudry’s small estate in the heart of the Loire’s famed Chinon area has really come on in the last few vintages rivaling anyone for quality and value in the region, both his Cabernet Franc and his rare Chenin Blanc wines stand out, even his rose is fantastic, but this vintage of Les Grezeaux really is amazing. The nose is still young and grapey and that super dark purple color is super inviting, the palate is remarkably refined and detailed with blackberry, currants, cherry and plum fruits with hints of pepper, a very faint classic bell pepper touch and loads of mineral. This wine is vividly focused and has wonderful floral notes that emerge with air, a streak of violets along with some sweet herbs and cedar in the far background, this is a stunning Cabernet Franc, not to be missed.
($30 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012AlbanViognierCC2012 Alban, Viognier Central Coast.
No introduction needed for John Alban, and his wines, both of which are legendary when it comes to quality and style, being one of first Rhone Rangers Alban has a huge following and a well deserved history of critically acclaimed wines to his resume. The entry level Central Coast Viognier has been a super deal and great example of this varietal for many years, but a slight bump up in quality and complexity can be found in this fantastic 2012 wine and you should grab this while you can if you like this grape. The 2012 Alban Central Coast Viognier starts with a smoky/perfumed bouquet with loads of honeysuckle and intense apricot leading to a round and medium full palate of nectarine, apricot, tropical essences, liquid minerals and fleshy citrus. Rich and generous in the mouth, but with vivid flavors and tangy peach pit along with some vibrant acidity. Drink now and often, while interesting with a few years of age, it is always a wine that seems better suited to enjoying as fresh as possible.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2002Ganevat2002 Jean-Francois Ganevat, Savagnin, Les Vignes de mon Pere, Cotes du Jura, France.
Ganevat’s biodynamic farming and magical alchemy in the cellar has made him one of the most sought after Jura producers, and his tiny production is feverishly fought over, in fact most restaurants and fine wine merchants see only a few bottles of this amazing selection of Ganevat wines. The Jura region is on fire these days with interesting wines, unspoiled landscapes and down to earth vignerons make for a wine geeks dream come true, but some of these styles are a bit way for mainstream costumers that don’t enjoy sherry like oxidation in their whites, though there are lots of wonderful non-oxidative wines, like this fantastic 2002 Savagnin that is as fresh as anything, it is almost unbelievable that this vibrant white spend a decade in a big oak cask! This Ganevat masterpiece is sizzling with vivid acidity and bursting with energy, hints of kumquat, key lime and orange zest go nicely with a core of lemon/lime, white peach and granny smith apple skin flavors with only the faintest hint of hazelnut making this fine white sing like the grandest of Chablis, though it is totally unique in character. This wildly delicious reminds me of some of the long wood aged Loire wines, though I must say this wine has non of the honeycomb or musty edges they tend to show, as it is as clean and clear as it gets. This wine finishes dry and crisp with loads of citrus tangy and a liquid mineral essence, I just can’t praise this interesting effort highly enough, it might be my all time favorite Jura white and I admire every focused detail, bravo. Sadly, this was a single cask with and few bottles will ever come to market, so if you fancy something true special and rare you’ll have your work cut out for you, but the reward will be great. Kermit Lynch Imports is releasing what they imported of this as we speak, so beg your local merchant to grab this one for you. Truly remarkable, and be sure to check out his Trousseau Cotes du Jura red too.
($115 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011GiacosaDolcetto2011 Bruno Giacosa, Dolcetto d’ Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Famed for their amazing Barolo, Giacosa is one of Italy’s great producers and this lovely Dolcetto d’ Alba is a gem, and a serious wine with fine structure and class. After tasting through quite a few Dolcetto’s recenty, a few have stood out, and without question this 2011 Bruno Giacosa tops my list, with a gap to Varja, Sandrone and Castello di Neive then a huge fall off to the rest, which I won’t name here, and while the others above are tasty wines, the Giacosa is sublime. I have a secret love for Dolcetto, and Barbera, as the very first case of wine I ever bought in full was a case of Dolcetto d’ Alba and I’ve adored them ever since, Dolcetto is a great wine for picnics and family meals, it goes with many things and has such fun and charm it is hard not to love it. The 2011 Giacosa goes beyond expectations, this is a beauty, with glorious life, vivid fruit, juicy character and firm tannins, this is stunning Dolcetto. The nose is fresh, the palate tangy, but dense and the finish long, though crisp, everything in it’s place with loads of acidity and vibrancy. There is blackberry, currants, dark cherry, cranberry and a plummy body with hints of mint, fennel, reduced candied orange rind and a touch of earth, spice and brine. Drink now through 2016.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011CoteauxTraversCdR2011 Domaine de Coteaux des Travers, Cotes du Rhone “Cuvee Char a Vin” red, Rhone Valley, France.
This stylish red from the Rhone Valley is highly entertaining and a super value, another gem from importer Charles Neal, so be sure to look for it.  This forward and lush wine gives lots and lots of pleasure with loads of terroir and Grenache richness, it starts with a mixed flower bouquet with dusty rocks and lavender leading to a round palate of boysenberry, plum and wild strawberry fruits, hints of cinnamon stick, cracked pepper and licorice add complexity to this easy to love Rhone wine. This ripe, but fresh Cotes du Rhone could easily pass as a Gigondas or something way above it’s price class, this is a fun and classy effort from Coteaux des Travers, drink over the next year or so, though it should go on being very enjoyable for another 3-5 years.
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011BFVPNWV2011 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Beaux Freres Willamette Valley cuvee is always a savvy wine to get and to enjoy in it’s youth, but I must say with the difficulty of the 2011, I was not expecting such a rich and beautiful wine, this is a phenomenal effort and a real class act. Bravo to Mike Etzel and his team for crafting this wonderful and detailed Pinot Noir that lacks for nothing and highlights the best of it’s terroir and vintage. Tasting along side the famed Beaux Freres Estate, the Willamette Valley held it’s own and is by far the better wine to drink now and even though the Beaux Freres Vineyard is very lovely, I really do, in this year, adore the Willamette cuvee a tad bit more. Beaux Freres is one of the great estates of Oregon, if not all of the United States and I am glad I have had a chance to visit and walk these amazing vineyards. The 2011 Beaux Freres Willamette Valley Pinot Noir leads with a bouquet of wilted roses, iron ore, dried currants and sweet smoke before folding into a palate of dark cherry, plum and tangy blackberry fruits with flinty pepper, mocha, fennel and herb tea. This wine has depth and texture, but has plenty of zip too, though it finishes long and with refined tannins. Drink now through 2018, a fine Oregon Pinot that lives up to it’s reputation for quality and style.
($50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

BroadbentVerdelhoBroadbent, Madeira Verdelho 10 Year, Madeira, Portugal.
Some many times, Madeira, Port, Marsala and Sherry get overlooked, or thought of as an old persons tipple, so it is nice to see some real excitement coming out of these areas, especially in the last few years as a new generation emerges from the shadows both as producers and drinkers of unique styles of wine. Not that there is a huge youth movement in Madeira, but there does seem to be a new vigor and life coming forth, and this new series of 10 year Madeira(s) from Broadbent are hugely invigorating to this seemingly dusty wine segment and come as a welcome addition to the fine lineup of quality and affordable Madeira, and compete well with the Rare Wine Company series of Madeira, giving customers lots of great new choices. There are three new single grape 10 Year Madeira(s) in this Broadbent Selection, Sercial, Boal and Verdelho to go along with the classic 10 Year Malmsey, each showing a different character and level of dryness, and I especially love the excitement, lift and complexity in the beautiful Verdelho edition. The new release of Broadbent Verdelho 10 Year Madeira is vibrant with zesty citrus, poached peach with delicate nuttiness, hints of tropical dried fruit, caramel and burnt orange rind and a reduced nectarine and tangerine aftertaste. This very seductive and balanced Madeira that can go with many cuisine options and with a subtle sweetness and great focus makes for a highly enjoyable experience.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011StolpmanAngeli2011 Stolpman, Syrah Angeli, Santa Ynez.
The top wine from Stoplman made by the talented Sashi Moorman since day one is a extreme, no holds barred Syrah with pure Northern Rhone character. 40% less grapes, and even less wine in 2011 means this is even rarer! Whole cluster with a co-fermented dash of Viognier makes this super quality wine very Cote-Rotie like in style, think Guigal, Rostaing or Chapoutier, but still the very essence of Stolpman’s finest plots. This focused wine shows an array of flavors including blackberry, smoked blueberry, bacon, violets and melted licorice along with cracked pepper that all gather on the full and densely textured palate. This is a lengthy and hedonistic Syrah from a cool climate site that plays up style and terroir to perfection, nothing lost in translation! Credit to the Stolpman family and Moorman,  even in such a difficult vintage they have more than just succeeded, they have found a touch of magic, bravo.
($70+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Ganzseitiger Faxausdruck2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Estate Rudesheimer Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
A bit more serious than his Leitz Out and a touch drier than Dragonstone, the Rudesheimer Trocken is a stunning value in Leitz’s all star lineup for 2012 and is a wine to stock up on for short to midterm drinking. Coming off vines from Bischofsberg, this bright and savory Riesling has plenty of extract and pleasing fruit to do the trick, this is a finely judged wine with a wonderful balance of sweet and sour elements. The nose is still a touch shy, but the palate is electricly charged with vibrant lime, lemon and grapefruit while smoky mineral notes, peach, mango and saline add character. This charming wine has touches of earth, herbs and mint tea and after some air a tangy apricot aftertaste lingers. This is a friendly dry Riesling that is easy to enjoy now, but it should be at it’s best between 2014-2018, though I know I won’t wait to long myself.
($22 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

Ganzseitiger Faxausdruck2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreutz Spatlese, Rheingau Germany.
The “Maggie” Spatlese is always one of my favorite wines year after year, and while I couldn’t get enough of the 2009 and 2011, the 2012 is maybe even better still with plenty of lush extract, sweet fruit and loaded with juicy acidity, this is stunning wine at a stupidly fair price, I mean to say, this wine is a steal! Here is a classic example of why German Riesling is one of the best wine investments you can make, for a drinking cellar, putting a case away of this wine would pay off huge in terms of value and pleasure, especially as this wine has most likely a 15 to 20 year life ahead of it. I certainly will be signing up for some, putting my money where my mouth is, and I recommend getting on board the Riesling love train yourself. The 2012 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spatlese leads with a heady bouquet, that needs coaxing still, of fresh cut roses, orange flowers and tropical essences with a firm streak of flint, spice and yellow fruit leading to a brisk palate of vivid crystalline citrus, mineral and fleshy stone fruit with mango, pineapple adding exotic character while smoky slate and salty essences add classic terroir. While a true sweetie, this Spatlese is pure class and balanced to perfection. Everything is here, everything is controlled and everything is delicious, bravo. The fall 2013 release can’t come soon enough.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Ganzseitiger Faxausdruck2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck “Katerloch” Rheingau Germany.
Trying to pick of favorite of Leitz’s top dry cru wines is damn near impossible, honestly these are all unique and utterly fascinating wines that rival anything from anywhere, these crus just continue to get better and better and 2012 is one of the best vintages to explore these dry Rieslings from the hills above the Rhein River. Okay, that was a long sentence, but I’m sure you get the idea, Leitz Riesling is a bucket list wine and especially intriguing is the lovely and intense 2012 Leitz Riesling Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck “Katerloch” which is a fantastic example of German dry wine. This finely tuned Riesling bursts from the glass with smoky flint, red pepper spices and cool stone fruits, while the nose has white flowers and crushed stones the palate showcases the Roseneck terroir with full flavors of yellow peach, white currant, lime and powerful extract. This wine has total impact, force and firmness, a classic Riesling powerhouse and a wine of sublime character, this is a wine for the ages. Lingering apricot, mango and grapefruit add to the complete lustiness of this marvelous dry wine.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012Spreitzer3032012 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling “303” Oestricher Lenchen, Spatlese, Rheingau Germany.
This is Spreitzer’s signature classic Rheingau, and a thrilling expression of style and terroir with dynamic flavors, density and lush charms, while remaining balanced and focused throughout, this feels as weighty as ever, but in fact tastes drier than the 2009, 2010 or 2011 wines, echoing my my balanced comment. This is a powerhouse wine with a velvet cover, lovely and unique with yellow peach, mango and candied pineapple adding to the core of apple and zesty citrus fruitiness. The extract level feels high and there is a certain creaminess that is impressive too, but there is loads of zing and vibrant acidity along with a savory earthy loam character with hints of brine, sea salt and wild herbs. Wonderful length, especially in a young wine, there is massive aging potential here, fantastic effort, definitely a cellar selection.
($48 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

2012SpreitzerGG2012 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Wisselbrunnen Grosses Gewachs, Rheingau Germany.
The newly elevated Grand Cru Wisselbrunnen is one of the star dry wines of the vintage in the Rheingau and the Spreitzer family can really be proud of the majestic and powerful effort that is this wine, this is what all the buzz is about in modern dry German Riesling and right up there with some of the stars doing top echelon dry wines like Leitz, Donnhoff, Diel and others, this is a class act no question. Both the 2012 Grosses Gewachs I sampled this summer are stunning wines, it was hard to pick a favorite here, but in the end the flamboyant Wisselbrunnen got the nod, it is a massive and impressive wine with tons of dry extract and raw intensity, though some patience will be required here, it is another wine that should see a bit of cellaring. The nose has dried apricot, lime and smoky mineral essence with a full force palate of stinging acidity, earth and stones with loads of tangy fruit. Layers of lime, tangerine, white peach and pear all flow across the palate with a brisk dry sense of salt and spice finishing with length and lift. Drink 2014-2020, be sure to make note of Spreitzer’s Grosses Gewachs (Grand Crus) these are brilliant dry wines of charm and character. (Please note the label will be updated on release, this was a trade sample label)
($36 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2012SpreitzerJesuitengarten2012 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Winkeler Jesuitengarten Kabinett Halbtrocken, Rheingau Germany.
The sleeper in the Spreitzer lineup is the Winkeler Jesuitengarten Kabinett, this easy to enjoy Riesling does everything right and is very lovable right out of the bottle, but is serious in quality, it shows off this loess and loamy soil terroir well. Brightly fruited, entertaining and classy, the 2012 Spreitzer Kabinett is a joy with peaches, apple and tropical fruits leading the way, along worth hints of grapefruit, lime and saline coming through. Look for a bit more aromatics by this fall when it’s released and the touch of sweetness really makes for a pure and refreshing Riesling to be enjoyed over the next three to five years, though I expect it should age well for a decade at least. This playful and interesting Riesling is great first step into understanding the estate and terroir, be sure to check it out, and if you see 2009 or 2011 versions, snap them up too!
($22 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

 

June 2013

2011Lovmor2011 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, white Albillo “Lovamor” (Ribera del Duero) Valladolid, Spain.
Known for his inventive and rebel ways in the Ribera del Duero, Alfredo Maestro has become a leader of the natural wine movement, believing in organic vineyards and using no additives, he has crafted some of the most interesting wines in the region. Over the last few years I have fallen in love with his remarkable Tempranillo wines, but this rare and thoroughly captivating white is one to search out, it is seductive and intriguing with vigor, depth and playfulness. The 2011 Lovamor is from the unique Albillo grape, almost unheard of outside the Ribera del Duero region, and comes from amazing 100-120 Year Old vines planted on Clay and Limestone soils at about 3,000 feet above sea level, all of which add to the special terroir character found in this wine. Maestro varies the skin contact, and it was believed the 2011 saw about 6 full days on the skins on this white, fermenting in small stainless steel to preserve freshness, so it doesn’t go sherry like or funky, while gaining a deeper golden/straw hue and powerful intensity. There is a slight almond/pecan note, but it is very subtle, the wine is zesty with orange, lemon/lime, white peach and apple skin notes coming through, bright acidity gives an electrical charge, but the wine fills out like a white Burgundy on the palate and has a nice saline/savory note as well. Chalky mineral, stones and clove spice add to the whole experience here and given time this wine turns very expressive and turns on the charm leaving a lush nectarine on the lengthy finish, this is pure geeky heaven.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

1999VT1999 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
I’ve always loved this vintage of VT, it was a sleeper, not hyped up like 2000 or the classic 1998, but for me a better more interesting wine, and now it is truly stunning with great detail and life. Tasted in a mini vertical between the 1998 and 2000 vintages, the 1999 shines with firm structure, lift and vivid flavors, it seems darker in profile with more spice and tannin than the other two wines, which I say are still drinking great as well, though I really am seduced by the ’99 and wish I had some in my own cellar. The lively and firm nature of the 1999 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe shows in it’s intensity and for me adds that energy and verve I look for in a fine Chateauneuf du Pape, this wine has it all, fruit, depth, vigor and length. The nose is mineral toned with earth, spice, wild herbs and dark berries leading the way to the palate which shows baked cherry, poached plum, minty herbs, pepper, meat and hints of boysenberry, bramble, kirsch and anise with a stony essence. The tannins haven’t melted away, but over all this fantastic Chateauneuf du Pape is pure hedonism in the glass, and for me it is a wonderful point to drink, pop it if you have it to see, but I love it now, this is pure class and a very underrated vintage.
($N/A) 95 Points, grapelive

1995Montrose1995 Chateau Montrose, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Estephe, Red Bordeaux, France.
This wine was a huge and pleasing surprise, as I wasn’t really expecting much and truth be told, I have never been a big fan of Montrose and Saint-Estephe, but this 1995 Chateau Montrose is a beautiful and classy wine that deserves much attention. Saint-Estephe mostly clay and gravel soils make Montrose and this area of the Medoc deeply tannic wines that can be harsh, especially when young, and sometimes they can show green flavors, though if there is a good vintage and dedicated work in the vineyards and cellar the region can produce wonders, which is what this 1995 looks to be. While I prefer Pauillac and Pessac-Leognan, myself, sometimes the outer Medoc, Saint-Estephe and Saint-Julien can catch my attention and I have become fond of Leoville-Poyferre Saint-Julien, and I will now adjust my mind around how great Montrose can be, I almost hate to admit how lovely this 1995 is showing! The 1995 Montrose starts with crushed berries, hints of dark flowers, graphite and cedar notes leading to palate of refined elegance and depth with black cherry, currant and dusty wild berry fruit, mineral and earth tones and minty anise, pipe tobacco and touch of smoky wood. Deeply colored, full bodied and firm all round the Montrose holds itself in focused detail from start to finish with plenty of vibrancy and lift making for a wine that shows power, but in a very controlled and graceful way, this is a sublime Bordeaux that is starting to really come together, but has plenty of years ahead of it, drink now through 2022. I must also thank a client for opening his cellar to share this fabulous wine, for this and many others I’m grateful beyond words.
($N/A) 94+ Points, grapelive

1995ManzoniBig1995 Rocche dei Manzoni, Barolo DOCG “Vigna Big” Piedmonte, Italy. (1.5L Magnum)
Wow, this 18 Year Old Barolo is still so young and fresh with great color and vivid purity, showing rich and powerful Nebbiolo character and charm to perfection. What a great treat is was to taste this beautiful and majestic wine, especially from a magnum, and I cannot say enough how grateful I am for having friends that are willing to share such fun wines from their cellars, I feel pretty lucky. The 1995 Vigna Big is really starting to hit on all cylinders and show it’s classic form with rich intensity oozing out of the bottle and the glass throughout with loads of energy and tannins that are firm, but turning supple with air, this is gorgeous Barolo that is giving heightened pleasure, but still has at least a another decade of life. This soulful red starts with wild mushrooms, dried currants, lavender oil, wilted roses and hosin/plum sauce leading to a vibrant palate of cherry and strawberry fruit, tangy mineral essence, cedar spice, melted licorice, tar, orange rind and briar notes. This detailed and tightly focused wine still has good acidity which adds to the clarity and lifts everything, this great Nebbiolo still dances and is light on it’s feet, while still giving a wonderfully lavish mouth feel. This is Manzoni at it’s finest, bravo, this is a wine to savor and treasure no question.
($N/A) 96 Points, grapelive

2011FauryCondrieu2011 Domaine Faury, Condrieu, Northern Rhone, France.
This ultra refined and pleasing Viognier is simply gorgeous with fresh layers of fruit, liquid mineral and texture, this is a positively thrilling white from Domaine Faury. The 2011 Faury Condrieu starts with a nose of honeysuckle, tropical essences and crushed stones leading to a mouth filling palate of vibrant apricot, citrus and nectarine fruits with hints of smoke and clarified cream. This is a lavish and classic wine that gives loads of terroir and massive amounts of pure pleasure, this is one of the best vintages I can remember from this domaine and is well worth searching out, this is beautiful stuff that is almost instantly seductive and should drink well young. Condrieu is one of the world’s great wines, and this beauty is a wonderful reminder of this, bravo to Faury and his whole team, drink now through 2018.
($55 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2011HilliardBruceChard2011 Hilliard Bruce, Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills.
Made by John Hilliard, from a vineyard site just west of Clos Pepe, the 2011 Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills is a world class white that shows vintage, terroir and artisan winemaking throughout. This is a rich and textured Chardonnay that retains vibrancy and lift, even though it saw 100% new French oak, and the clarity and focus are stunningly pure. The nose shows white flowers, river stones, vanilla and toast notes that lead to a palate of apple, pear, peach and bright lemon fruits with hints of smoke, cream, golden fig and tropical notes. The wine feels lush and full, but still has plenty of energy and is nicely balanced, like a fine Chassagne, and the finish is lengthy and lingers with citrus and clove spice. This is a thoroughly pleasing Chardonnay and a super result given the difficulties of the vintage, drink now through 2017.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2008Acha2008 Mark Herold “Acha” California Red.
This Tempranillo, Graciano, Grenache, Carignan and Petite Sirah blend is Spanish influenced with a decidedly California soul shinning through, oh yes, it is super delicious and another interesting creation from famed winemaker Mark Herold. Herold is is well known for his powerfully rich Cabernet wines, but his unique personal line of wines like Flux and Acha are just as compelling and it some cases more intriguing, and certainly much less expensive, making them easier to open with a tuesday night pizza or tapas. This wine based on the Rioja/Narrava concept (except for the small dose of Petite Sirah of course) is a dark and deep wine that seems to be coming into it’s own at the moment, it is really focused, charming and wonderfully drinkable with loads of blackberry, plum and creamy cherry fruit, exotic spices, tangy acidity and a long bright finish with hints of mineral, licorice, bitter coco, wild strawberry and dried flowers. The refined nature and smooth tannins show the attention to detail and quality in this fun wine that is seriously enjoyable that would be a perfect pairing for summer BBQ’s and or a lamb dish, drink now through 2020.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012CountyLinePN2012 County Line, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
Eric Sussman’s second label (Radio Coteau his first) County Line is a great label for high quality and value, and his 2012 County Line Pinot Noir is a beautiful example and a truly lovely wine, be sure to get this while you can. This terrific Pinot has loads of flavor, style and length with dark cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, cinnamon stick, mineral, red citrus and lavender spice notes. There is a pretty floral bouquet and element running the length of this vibrant wine as well with hints of roses and violets that add grace and elegance while a nice earthy streak and touch of oak give balance.There are fine tannins and nice acidity keeping everything together and the finish is crisp, though a long aftertaste of strawberry and cherry fruit lingers. Drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, this great stuff and makes me really excited for the whole vintage.
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012AmeztoiRose2012 Ameztoi, Rose Getariako Txakolina, Rubentis, Basque Wine, Spain.
Wild old school Basque rose with a light fizz almost and bracing acidity, the 2012 Ameztoi pink is super fresh and delicious. A bit brisker and more pale than the last three vintages, this edition of the Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis doesn’t lack for excitement and I really enjoyed it’s intensity and vigor with loads of mineral and saline infused flavors that are very zesty and electric on the palate. There is sea salted watermelon, savory chalk and herbs, sour cherry and vibrant citrus with lime and strawberry undertones. This is as dry as it gets in Rose and it is unbelievably clear and sharp, making for total refreshment, this is a great summer sipper with a very light crisp nature. I can’t wait to grab a few of these for myself, and it is always a big hit on warm days and evenings, be sure to look for it if you like a dusty dry style pink.
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011AnamGewurz2011 Anam Cara Cellars, Gewürztraminer Nicholas Estate, Chehalem Mountains Oregon (Late Harvest) Dessert Wine.
This stunning sweet wine was a huge surprise, it has amazing lift and drive with sublime balance, showing remarkable class and depth with exotic layers and loads of varietal character. I was completely blown away, and I can’t remember another dessert wine from Oregon to compete with this wildly pleasing wine from Anam Cellars in the Willamette Valley’s Chehalem Mountains area. This beautiful Gewurztraminer late harvest starts with heady rose petals, honey, spice and tropical fruits on the lush bouquet leading to a vibrant and sweet palate of candied pineapple, lychee, apricot preserves and honeyed pear fruits with hints of gardenia, mineral, clove spice, vanilla and lemon curd plus a nice citrus freshness throughout. The finish is long and honey toned, but never overly cloying or heavy, this is pure hedonistic joy, like Alsace’s fine V.T.’s, a great effort to admire.
($24 Est. 375ml) 94 Points, grapelive

2011MinetPF2011 Regis Minet, Pouilly-Fume Vieilles Vignes, Loire Valley, France.
Don’t miss this Sauvignon Blanc, this is the real deal, and another great discovery from the guys at Kermit Lynch in the Loire Valley. The Minet Pouilly-Fume 2011 is an intense white with striking mineral and chalky notes giving a nice steely edge along with lemon/lime, gooseberry, melon and hints of grapefruit fruits plus a touch of herb. Everything is in sharp focus here and acidity is firmly electric and lifting heightening the experience, this is a super wine and well crafted. This classy Sauvignon Blanc is what summer is begging for and you shouldn’t wait long to grab this detailed and vibrant wine, it will no doubt go fast, drink now through 2018.
($22 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2011Guimaro2011 Guimaro, Ribeira Sacra Mencia Joven, Galicia Spain.
This beautiful and spicy red from Spain’s northwest is made from the Mencia grape which has similar qualities to Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir with dark color, medium weight, lots of spice and delicate flavors. The Guimaro is as pure as it gets for this varietal and is a stunning value for this unique and rare wine from Ribeira Sacra. The 2011 Guimaro Mencia starts with rose petals, wild strawberry and pepper notes with subtle mineral tones, dried currants and sweet herbs while the palate features more of the same along with cherry and plum fruits, cayenne and loamy earth notes. This young and fresh wine is bright and packed with delicious charm, drink over the next few years.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010PerretSJLG2010 Domaine Andre Perret, Saint-Joseph “Les Grisieres” Nothern Rhone, France.
This glorious old school Syrah from Perret is a classic with beautiful detailed fruit, spice, earth, lift and balance. The 2010 Les Grisieres is dark hued with medium weight and flows with layers of blueberry, dark cherry, plum and boysenberry fruits along with  pepper, licorice, truffle, meat, black olives and lavender notes. This mouth filling and dense Syrah gives lots of terroir mineral and earth, but stays focused, bright and clean through out, this wine is pure class and elegance. Even with Kermit Lynch Imports wealth of riches in the Rhone, with Clape and others, they still sought out Andre Perret for their portfolio, so that tells you something about how excellent these latest releases are and the future looks even brighter for this domaine. I was thrilled by this wine and adored the basic Saint-Joseph as well, and I can’t wait to taste the famous Perret Condrieu. I highly recommend finding some of the Andre Perret wines soon, these are not going to be around long, especially this Les Grisieres, which is very limited.
($42 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

TempierRose122012 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rose, Provence, France.
The Tempier Bandol Rose is crafted from Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan grapes and is considered one of the great pink wines of the world and this vintage surely adds to that growing legend with fantastic quality and detail. This 2012 Tempier is vivid and intense with brisk acidity, mineral and raw power with dusty raspberry, strawberry, sour cherry and watermelon leading the way while crushed stones, chalky plum and peach notes fold into place. No doubt this is serious stuff, but still playful and lovely, worth every penny of it’s high street value even if your wallet screams in pain. Drink over the next year or so, though there will be no need to rush as these Roses from Bandol can aged more than a few years easy, it will more about rushing to get some, as these Tempier go fast and it is a sad summer without them around.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2008MdBZibibbo2008 Marco de Bartoli, Zibibbo Integer, IGT, Dry White Wine, Sicily, Italy.
This very exotic white comes from Marsala and is made from the Zibibbo grape, which is related to Muscat, with a sweet jasmine perfume, ultra dry palate, savory and salty in style with cloudy golden yellow color. A blast of unsweetened dried pineapple and tropical essences, citrus crispness and chalky mineral are there on the palate with hints of oxidation now coming through, though not unpleasant and while hints of nuts come through it is not severe. Honestly, not a mainstream wine, only a handful of wine geeks are ever going to love this wine, but it is intriguing and wild. I have had it a few times, and enjoyed being able to re-taste it with a few more years of age, and I found it quite appealing at this stage and the briny elements were fun and the unique style is admirable. The lingering mix of tropical fruits, wet limestone,almond oil and orange rind add to the complexity of this rare wine. Marco de Bartoli’s Marsala’s are some of the great wines of the world, and this wine is one of the base elements for their solera, be sure to check this great winery out.
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012McKinlayPN2012 McKinlay, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Matt Kinne’s McKinlay Vineyards have been around since 1989 and while not well known, are making some of the best value Pinot Noir that I’ve found along with Evesham Wood for the region and this 2012 release is a knock out wine. The 2012 McKinlay, Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon is very Burgundy like in style, though very true Oregon in character with a nose full of earth, spice and floral notes leading the way to a robust palate of forest floor, truffle, cinnamon stick and a core of black cherry fruit with blackberry, strawberry and plum as well. The is a wilted roses note that comes through with air and there is plenty of mineral and acidity to keep things fresh, though young everything comes together nicely for lots of drinking pleasure, so no need to cellar this vibrant little Pinot, just drink up, especially at the price. This wine clearly points out that the vintage looks like a stunning year from Oregon Pinot Noir, so I’ll drink a few of these while waiting for more releases to come out later this fall. I am very impressed by the quality in the bottle here for around $20, this is great stuff with tons of charm.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2011ChavyAligote2011 Philippe Chavy, Bourgogne Aligote AC, White Burgundy, France.
This is flat out the best Aligote I’ve ever had, better that my early experiences with Ramonet and other well known producers by far, Philippe Chavy is a man to watch. His upcoming 2011 releases are striking and pure, these are classic White Burgundy, and this Bougogne Aligote is a stunner. The Chavy Aligote comes from selected Puligny-Montrachet plots, and the celebrated terroir really defines this wine, this white has vigor, vibrancy and substance unheard of in this grape, where most Aligote is dull and lifeless, this marvel is bursting with energy and charms. The nose is bright, fresh and mineral laced with hints of citrus leading to a crisp intense palate of green apple and lemon/lime fruits, spicy chalk and minerals with hints of white peach, clove and wet river stones. This is a super wine and I can’t wait until the US release in September 2013.
($21 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011ChavyMeursault2011 Philippe Chavy, Meursault “Narvaux” AC, White Burgundy, France.
Beautifully detailed and remarkably old school, the 2011 Philippe Chavy Meursault Narvaux reminds me of my early days trying the classics, this is lovely White Burgundy with poise, grace and energy. I tried a few samples from Philippe Chavy, not ever having his wines before, and I must say this guy is the reran deal, and could be the next superstar, each wine was a showstopper from his Aligote to his Puligny-Montrachet, but I must say his 2011 Narvaux Meursault seduced me and is my favorite of the selection I was lucky enough to taste. Sadly these wines won’t hit the US until September of 2013 as I’d love to be drinking these up now, though the wait will be rewarded, and since his is not well known yet these wines are very reasonably priced considering the fine depth and quality. The 2011 Chavy Meursault Narvaux is deep and mineral essences with wonderful body, texture and elegance with electrically charged acidity and subtle creaminess with a nice saline element. The nose brings white flowers, steely mineral and fresh citrus leading to the round and layered palate of apple, pear and fig, river stones, clove and a hint of honeycomb. Everything is graceful and flowing, showing the best of this Chardonnay and the lingering lemon filled finish is sublime, drink from 2014-2020.
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011ChavyPM2011 Philippe Chavy, Puligny-Montrachet “Les Covees Des Vignes” AC, White Burgundy, France.
This Puligny might need a bit of time yet to show it’s true potential, that is not taking away anything from it now, but I think there is much more to come, and I hope to try it again when it is released in the US later this fall, as I have mentioned before Philippe Chavy is a real star in the making and I adore this and his other wines very much. The 2011 philippe Chavy Puligny Les Covees Des Vignes is rich and full force wine with loads of terroir character and detail. The focus and balance are spot on with nice tension and loads of charms with lemon curd, apple and pear fruit, subtle fresh acidity and steely mineral elements throughout. This polished Chardonnay fills out with air and expands giving lush texture without losing it’s way. Look for more complexity and length with some bottle age and drink between 2015-2022, I hope to follow up of this and all of Philippe Chavy’s wines in the near future.
($72 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

TempierRose122012 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rose, Provence, France.
The Tempier Bandol Rose is crafted from Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan grapes and is considered one of the great pink wines of the world and this vintage surely adds to that growing legend with fantastic quality and detail. This 2012 Tempier is vivid and intense with brisk acidity, mineral and raw power with dusty raspberry, strawberry, sour cherry and watermelon leading the way while crushed stones, chalky plum and peach notes fold into place. No doubt this is serious stuff, but still playful and lovely, worth every penny of it’s high street value even if your wallet screams in pain. Drink over the next year or so, though there will be no need to rush as these Roses from Bandol can aged more than a few years easy, it will more about rushing to get some, as these Tempier go fast and it is a sad summer without them around.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010BarruolViailliere2010 Louis Barruol, Cote-Rotie “La Viailliere” Kermit Lynch Blend Cuvee, Northern Rhone, France.
Louis Barruol’s one of the Rhone’s busiest and best winemakers, sharing his talents with Kermit Lynch, making limited cuvees and of course crafting some of the greatest Gigondas wines at his Chateau Saint-Cosme estate. His seemingly unlikely partnership with Kermit has proved a fantastic success in the last few years, especially his masterpieces, these Cote-Rotie, which Kermit helped blend into the final cuvees, like this 2010 La Viailliere, a stunningly pure Cote-Rotie that shows terroir and hedonism throughout. The dark hue has deep garnet, purple and inky blue in it’s core leading to a violet perfumed bouquet, from there you are seduced into a glorious palate of blueberry, creme de cassis, boysenberry and ripe plum fruits, cherry liqueur, cracked pepper, fig cake, savory meat notes,crushed stones, licorice and hints of earth and black olive. This amazing young Syrah is drinking suburb now, but should develop in the bottle for another 5 to 10 years, without question this is great wine through and through, the nose, mouth feel, layers and finish are all top rate and this could be only Cote-Rotie. This beautiful expression has subtle wood shadings and a sleek (modern) clean presence, but it is full of life and old world soul, bravo.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012LiVeliVerdeca2012 Masseria Li Veli, Verdeca, Valle d’Itria IGT, Italian White.
This rare ancient greek varietal, found in Puglia and recently saved from extinction, Verdeca makes for an intriguing white and Li Veli’s gentile and artisan touch showcases the best of this grape. The grapes about 90% Verdeco and 10% Fiano are harvested in small baskets and kept chilled through there handling and fermentation, and they allowed a fairly long skin contact which brings out aroma and extract, but they didn’t allow mall, so the wine stays firmly acidic and mineraly crisp. This extra care and craftsmanship really pays off in this beautifully detailed and vibrant wine from Italy’s south “The Heel of Italy” Salento region. Li Veli is certainly a label to look for and to watch and this glorious Verdeca is a wine to try with it’s dry and dusty layers and sexy bouquet it is a seductive and radiant wine with fresh and vivid flavors, this wine is part of Li Veli’s Askos (Greek for Wine Jar) series of rediscovered native grapes and traditional methods. The nose is floral with hints of jasmine, lime flower and tropical essence, though steely and subtle leading to a brisk palate of peach, pear and citrus with hints of sea salt and chalk. This stainless raise white is exotic and lively and totally unique.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2008CasanovaWhiteLabel2008 Casanova di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG “Etichetta Bianca” (White Label) Tuscany, Italy.
A beautifully crafted Brunello, the 2008 White Label from Casanova di Neri gives everything expected of it and more with dynamic fruit intensity, elegantly framed and wonderfully long this is a classic Casanova di Neri no question. The less than thrilling early reporting on the 2008 vintage Brunello have mostly been proven wrong from all I can tell and taste, especially in the offerings from Casanova di Neri and I have found remarkably poised reds with lush tannins and lively flavors, and the big plus is that these are wines that can be enjoyed on release, no waiting required and I believe they will age well for at least 10 years. The 2008 Casanova di Neri White Label starts with a nose of floral and herbal bouquet with hints of mint and leather to go along with dark fruits and mineral spice before a palate of blackberry, cherry and strawberry fruits with a silky plummy texture that gives a full mouth feel without losing any vibrancy. There are touches of blonde tobacco, red spices, licorice and cedar notes adding to the detailed layers in this fine and polished Brunello. This wine shows live and vigor and has a persistent long finish that hints at savory elements and earthiness, but flows with the fruit in perfect harmony.
($58 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011grosjeanPA2011 Grosjean Freres, Petite Arvine “Vigne Rovettaz” Vallee D’ Aoste, Italy.
Petite Arvine is wonderful and interesting gape that makes fine and elegant whites here in Italy’s smallest growing region, high in the mountains close to both the Swiss and French borders, with the French giving the most influence in this tiny alpine area, though Petite Arvine is found in some of the best Swiss whites as well. This dry and crisp white is bursting with energy and vibrancy from start to finish with an almost like Riesling sizzle and mineral laced palate, but there the likeness ends as Petite Arvine takes on a spiced pear, river stones and grapefruit notes with citrus blossom, anise seed, mountain herbs and apple notes with a touch of melon and orange rind. This clean, pure and vivid white impresses for it’s subtle richness and zesty nature, making for an exciting and elegant wine that would be great with fish, ham or light poultry dishes.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2002Grise2002 Chateau Tour Grise, Brut Saumur Non Dose Sparkling Wine, Loire Valley France.
This graceful and elegant bubbly is a charmer throughout, in fact it is downright fantastic and sublime, a top flight sparkler to search out without question. I was blown away with this Methode Traditionnelle Brut No Dosage vintage sparkling Chenin Blanc from Chateau Tour Grise, from start to finish this is a class act with bright citrus, ginger, white peach, fig and brioche plus hints of bread dough, clove and saline, all playing their parts ion the layers of flavor while firm acidity gives tension and energy in this stylish grower producer champagne like effort. Thanks to importer Return to Terroir for sharing this beauty, it was a joyous discovery that I hope to revisit often, this is a truly lovely and memorable wine.
($N/A) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011TylerCH2011 Tyler, Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Justin Willett is crafting some beautiful wines, and his Tyler label is one to watch, his latest releases from the unheralded 2011 vintage are staggeringly grand efforts and showcase his talents and the fantastic vineyards and terrors his finds for his wines. The stunning and haunting 2011 Chardonnay from Zotovich Vineyard is amazing and Permier Cru Chablis like in detail and style, certainly a wonderfully balanced wine with lovely layers and pure mineral goodness flowing throughout. Willett has worked with Joe Davis, Arcadian and the Burgundy devotee ideas have formed some of his style, but he really has taken his own path and this last two vintages have proven his talents and his star quality. I am utterly impressed and blown away with his Pinots and Chards, especially this Zotovich 2011 with it’s subtle grace and poise from Willet’s artisan touch, it is vibrant, focused and delicious from start to finish. The nose here is citrusy and bright with white flowers and wet stones leading to a vivid and crisply fresh palate of lemon, apple and pear fruits with hints of lime and white peach along with clove, golden fig and loads of chalk, acidity and sublime length. This 13.3% Alcohol Chardonnay is all class and harmony in the glass, drink now through 2018.
($40 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2008CasanovaTenutaNouva2008 Casanova di Neri, Tenuta Nuova, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany, Italy.
This Tenuta Nuova 2008 is a stunner, a blockbuster Brunello of class and quality, so forget the early reports on the 2008 vintage, because in the bottle these wines are showing amazing, even young the wines are beautifully detailed, rich and full of vivid fruit and have lengthy finishes, especially this fantastic Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova that is gorgeous from nose to finish. For those with the means should snap up this Brunello and put a few cases away, compared to Bordeaux, Burgundy and top Rhone wines this wine is a better investment and value, and being honest, it will drink better in short term as well. The nose is deep with complex aromas of dried flowers, herbs, mineral, red spices and earthy black fruits leading to a full palate of blackberry, cherry and plum fruits with hints of strawberry, licorice, sweet herbs, tobacco leaf and flinty mineral/stone with ripe and lush tannins, lifting acidity and very subtle cedary wood notes. This wine gains texture and width with air, though remains completely focused and has vitality throughout, and an earthy sexy side that is perfectly played in the whole of array of flavors. Casanova di Neri is certainly a class act and the winemaking is top notch, bravo, drink 2016-2022, though don’t be afraid to pop a few of these early, I know I would.
($100 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

2010ClefsCdR2010 Clefs des Legats, Cotes du Rhone, Union des Vignerons des Cotes du Rhone, France.
This wine, old vine Grenache primarily, is staggeringly delicious and one of the best values in wine I’ve come across in a few years, come on, it is only $8 at full retail, maybe $6.99 on special, you just can’t beat that. This little beauty also won a gold medal at the Orange Wine Fair (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) and it really does offer plenty of flair and density for a simple Cotes du Rhone. The nose is bright and floral with grenadine, kirsch and cracked pepper leading to a medium full mouth with strawberry, raspberry, boysenberry and plum fruits with hints of anise, garrigue, chalky mineral and stones. This wine has touches of earth, spice, herbs and saline with good soft tannins making it a nicely balance red, drink now and for the next year.
($8 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010Nelles2010 Weinhaus Nelles 1479 N, Ruber Spatburgunder, Ahr Germany.
It is not a secret so much anymore that some of the finest Pinot in Europe is grown near the Ahr River in Germany, as well as certain areas along the Rhein and in the Pfatz, giving Burgundy a run for their money and surpassing in some cases, with producers like Meyer-Nakel that scored a coup when it won Decanter Magazine’s best Pinot Noir in the World Prize twice. So, exploring German Pinot (Spatburgunder) is highly recommended, my own experience has found some amazing wines like Meyer-Nakel, Becker and August Kesseler which can match Grand Cru Burgundy for class and depth, and while the Nelles here is not up there, it is a fine and pretty wine that deserves attention. The 2010 Nelles Ruber Spatburgunder is a detailed and silky Pinot with good fruit density and spicy mineral essences starting with wilted roses, smoky cherry, earth and vanilla pod leading to a lively palate of plum, black cherry and cranberry with flinty/slate minerals, crushed stones, saline, red peach, apple skin and creamy wood notes. This medium weight Pinot fills out in the mouth and lingers on the finish leaving lots of dusty red currant and strawberry. The subtle earthy tones add here but never take center stage and the crisp nature adds zip while the wine remains sooth throughout making for a very pleasing and giving wine, drink now through 2018, this is a very fine effort and a great entry into the world of German Pinot Noir.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

May 2013

2011BretonBougueil2011 Catherine et Pierre Breton, Bourgueil “Nuits d’ Ivresse” Loire Valley, France.
Breton’s 2011 Nuits d’ Ivresse Bourgueil is a stunning and complex Cabernet Franc of the highest order and shows that biodynamic farming in the Loire is without question the best option and highlights the real quality of these terrors.  This brilliant effort is a majestic wine of finesse, elegance and with depth of flavors starting with a nose of violets, red currants, forest floor, black fruits and a subtle varietal kick of green bell pepper leading to a juicy and flowing palate of cherry, blackberry, plum and huckleberry fruits with lively acidity, fine grained tannins and mineral notes, plus spicy elements and earthiness that melds in perfectly and with great harmony. This is a classy artisan wine from the talented Breton family and it drinks great already, with a good 3 to 5 years of sublime enjoyment in it’s future.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010WolfCS2010 Wolf Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon “Phaedrus” St. Helena, Napa Valley.
Karen Culler’s latest Wolf Phaedrus is a gem and even though there are tons of Napa Cabs under $50, not many are as delicious as this release from Wolf Family Vineyards. It is hard not to get bored of generic Napa Cabs, and while there are ultra fantastic wines, sadly they are all in the $75 plus price range, so it is exciting to find a quality one under $50 that shows unique character and density without over the top ripeness. 2010 seems to have helped out, giving fressness and life to many Napa wines in this vintage, with this Wolf Phaedrus showing great life and clarity. The nose is pure with black fruits, acacia, mocha and minty leading to a rich and full palate of currant, blackberry, plum and creme de cassis while hints of spice, cedar, vanilla and black licorice add to the complexity along with sweet tobacco and graphite notes. This wine has power, lift and fullness in the mouth, but the tannins remain refined throughout and the acidity really adds focus and keeps the fruit vivid, this is a fine and quality effort, a well crafted Napa Cab to look for, no question.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012CibonneRose2012 Cibonne, Tentations Rose, Cotes de Provence, France.
Seriously fun Rose from Cibonne, the 2012 Cibonne Tentations Rose Cotes de Provence is briskly dry and mineral laced with loads of chalky notes and vibrant citrus fruit with hints of wild strawberry, watermelon and red peach as well. This wine is full of energy and tangy layers making it a great brunch companion and super picnic wine, it is lovely and vivid throughout with hints of sea breeze and saline making your mouth water and refreshingly crisp. It doesn’t get much better than this, and this lively vintage is near perfect for warm afternoon enjoyment, this is pure pleasure, sunshine in a bottle. Oh to be in the south of France… Don’t miss this great Rose if you see it, it is a very complete wine and delightful, drink over the next 6 months to a year.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

BeleCaselN.V. Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco DOCG Frizzante Colfondo, Italy.
Cel Casel is a small estate produced sparkling wine house in the greater Veneto region and this Natural style Prosecco is one of their prized handcrafted bubbly wines, Colfondo, done in a dry unfiltered way to give lots of mouthwatering saline and mineral character. These amazing sparklers are starting to find their way here and are totally unique and terroir driven wines with brisk freshness, density and total fun nature, making them great anytime and super delicious with cuisine. The latest Bele Casel lineup is fantastic, especially this Colfondo Asolo with it’s lime, chalk and apple layers, great soft mousse and subtle yeasty side. This cork finished bottle is one to look for and offers a lot of value in this style of wine, be sure to search this or the Casa Coste Piane out for a great Prosecco and a dynamic expression of this Venetian classic.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012BouvierRose2012 Regis Bouvier, Marsannay Rose, Burgundy France.
This pretty and fresh rose of Pinot Noir is a nice Burgundy treat from Bouvier’s Marsannay grapes and makes for a lovely summer wine. Kermit Lynch’s value Burgundy house Regis Bouvier, crafts some fine examples of well made and easy to love wines, and while never great, they are very fun and honest wines, I especially like this delightful Marsannay rose with it’s crisp refreshing nature and pure Pinot fruit. The nose is bright with red citrus, watermelon, sour cherry and tart plum notes all coming through on the zesty and round palate. Super easy and pleasing, perfect for picnics, and warm afternoons. Hints of mineral and spice come through on the finish and jet begs you to take another sip. Drink now through the summer, I plan too, very nice.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2010SestiMonteleccio2010 Sesti “Monteleccio” Castello di Argiano, Montalcino Rosso, Tuscany Italy.
This brilliant effort from Sesti is a big step up for this wine and highlights a wonderfully performing vintage for Rosso di Montalcino wines, these baby Brunelli wines are stunning and almost as good as any top Brunello wines to drink now. Being under the radar is giving customers a great chance to load up on some remarkable Sangiovese at really fair prices, especially pleasing is this 2010 Sesti Monteleccio with old world charms, good density and length. This wine is like smoking a fine Cuban cigar while eating chocolate covered cherries, with dried roses and minty herbs on the nose leads to a palate of earthy character with dusty raspberry, strawberry and dark plum fruit, truffle, blonde tobacco, licorice and coco powder all add to the complexity. The richness is lifted by freshness coming from focused acidity and light cedar spiced wood, this is a classy wine that is a stunning value and the best yet I’ve tasted from this lovely estate.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010PacaletMeursault2010 Maison Philippe Pacalet, Meursalt “Charmes” Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
As exotic and unique as Pacalet’s red wines are, I was blown away by his stunning whites even more, especially his all natural Meursault Charmes Premier Cru, which is one of the most pure expressions of Chardonnay I can remember from Meursault in ages. This beauty has energy and vivid layers of flavors with striking mineral essences and amazing focus with wonderful extract density balanced by vigorous acidity in a smooth seamless wine. The nose is still a bit shy, but with coaxing it opens to reveal white flowers, river stones and clove spice leading to a gripping palate of lemon, green apple and white peach with hints of wet rocks, fennel and hazelnuts. The firm structure gives was to round mouth filling texture which feels creamy and hedonistic, without losing poise or life at anytime, this is wonderful Chardonnay and it should really come good with another 2 to 3 years in bottle, watch out, Philippe Pacalet could turn Burgundy on it’s ear, this is a label to follow for many years to come.
($149 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2010AlfaroPN2010 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
From his estate near Corralitos, Richard Alfaro handcrafts a great selection of wines, with his Pinots being some of the best, especially this wonderful bottling from his own vines. The 2010 is rich and expansive similar to Rochioli in styling with silky tannins and a long mouth-coating finish. This lavish Pinot Noir is about 13.5% alcohol, but with full ripeness and intensity making for a very showy wine in it’s young, and about 50% new French oak was used here giving quality additions in flavors with out being to much, everything in balance and folding together nicely. The nose has subtle floral tones with currant and berries along with hints of spice and mocha leading to a palate of candied cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, anise, lavender, pepper and toffee notes. Subtle cool climate acidity brightens the display without being forceful making it easy to enjoy this wine young, look for the fruit and oak to tone down with bottle age, drink now through 2018.
($35 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2010PacaletBelAir2010 Maison Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertin “Bel Air” Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
This wine shows a youthful rush of flavors and has a striking wildness that seems alive and vibrant with electricity of the elements. The nose starts out like a cross between a Domaine de Montille Burgundy and a old vine Gamay, likely the native yeasts and low sulphur in this all natural wine showing through, plus the peppery stemmy spices, all of which highlight bright fruitiness and savory essences on the palate. Pacalet’s 2010 reds are bursting with unique character and charms, these are not traditional wines, these are radical re-thinks of what Burgundy can be, while they are lovely and sexy, they may not live up to everyone’s expectations, especially in this price class, though I am enthralled by them and we watch there evolution in bottle, things at this stage are impossible to predict, so these artisan expressions might be worth every penny. Regardless, these are noteworthy wines and throughly pleasing to the senses, with this 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin Bel-Air being my favorite with driving strawberry, cherry and plum fruits, red and black peppercorns, earthy loam and truffle, plus crunchy stony mineral notes with plenty of acidity, saline and silky tannins. Look for grand aromatics to develop with wilted roses and violets, though muted still at this point, along with cinnamon and soft oak shadings. This unfined or filtered cuvee has a light to medium hue, slightly clouded, but look for it to deepen with a bit of time in bottle, though I must say I really enjoyed this vivid and transparent Pinot from Pacalet and I don’t think it is a crime to pop the corks here young, but again beware it is not your average Burgundy by all means.
($120 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011BrocardVaudeVey2011 Jean Marc Brocard, Chablis Vau de Vey Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
Jean Marc Brocard’s wines are filling with intensity and class, pure expressions of terroir and personality, humble and elegant. It was a great pleasure to meet the man and taste the wines recently, his clear vision and the focus of the Chablis he crafts are near perfection and his wines are a great value for the quality on offer, especially the Premier Cru Vau de Vey, even in the less regarded vintage of 2011 this is a wine of stylish charm and interest with dimension and vigor. While 2011 doesn’t have the spine of the 2010 it still delivers good acidity and fresh detail and the added concentration is never heavy or out of place here in this lovely wine. The Vau de Vey could easily pass for a Chassagne in this year, but still uniquely Chablis like with lime flowers, steely mineral and zesty green apple and lemon fruits leading the way. The palate has refined roundness and expands in the mouth with hints of peach, chalk and saline notes adding to the aforementioned fruits. Finishing crisp with hints of hazelnut, key lime and river stones, this is a classy organic, woodless Chablis for near term enjoyment.
($36 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2009CobbDiane2009 Cobb, Pinot Noir “Diane Cobb: Coastlands Vineyard” Sonoma Coast.
One of the best ever Cobb Pinots to date, the 2009 Cobb Diane Cobb: Coastlands is utterly gorgeous with clear transparency and purity showing every detail in refined beauty and elegance. This remarkable wine is captivating like a top Burgundy with subtle wood and lifting acidity highlighting Ross Cobb’s talents and deft touch when crafting his wines, he is indeed a perfectionist to the core, and this bottling is a special Coastlands cuvee dedicated to his late mom. The nose is full of dried flowers, violets and grilled fennel along with red currants, kirsch and baking spices leading to a silky palate, still young and firm, with raspberry, strawberry and pure black cherry with hints of poached plum, cinnamon and tea spices. A touch of lavender, a flash of vanilla and mineral essence adds to the interest here, this is a wine to ponder, a Pinot Noir that you’ll want to spend an evening with and watch it’s many facets come together and see it’s ever changing moods, truly fantastic wine.
($80 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2009CobbEmmaline2009 Cobb, Pinot Noir “Emmaline Ann vineyard” Sonoma Coast.
This unique Pinot Noir from Ross Cobb is complex and wild with intriguing Nebbiolo like character at this stage, but I must say I rather like it and am sure it will be a wonderful wine to explore over the next 3 or 5 years. With Cobb using natural yeasts and a light touch in the winemaking, there is every chance you’ll discover an amazing array of distinct flavors, especially in the 2009 Emmaline Ann where there is alpine herbs, savory spices and licorice along with firm tannins, bright acidity and cedary wood notes. The nose is minty with menthol, wild fennel, earthy truffle and plum sauce with dried currants, morello cherry and framboise coming through on the palate as well. The are hints of char, cola and wet stones that fold nicely into the character of this wine and there is a pretty harmony that holds true from start to finish in this well crafted Pinot Noir and I think it will drink well for many years to come.
($70 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

CasaCostePianeN.V. Casa Coste Piane, Prosecco Frizzante Naturalmente, Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, Sparkling Wine, Italy.
This unique Italian bubbly is wild and remarkably elegant with Champagne like charm and all natural in character with a cloudy unfiltered look and a striking mineral chalkiness throughout, the Casa Coste Piane is wonderfully Italian from sip to soul. Finished in cork, much like a Moscato the Casa Coste Piane gives you no clue just how beautiful detailed and classy it will be in the glass and certainly in the mouth with expressive vibrant citrus and peach notes with doughy yeast, brioche and hazelnuts coming through in stylish fashion and the tiny tight bubbles are refined and focused leaving a creamy essence and the long finish is highlighted by lemon/lime and stony minerals that are cool and steely, this is a fun and magical sparkler.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012StCosmeCR2012 Saint  Cosme, Cotes du Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Saint Cosme’s Cotes du Rhone has become iconic, a symbol for quality in this class of wine and is highly sought after with an intense almost cult like following, and yes it is worth the hype, this is a great wine. Louis Barruol is making some of the finest wines in the region, especially his Gigondas, but I’ve always been an admirer of his well crafted basic reds and whites as well, and he also does amazing Syrah wines from Cote Rotie too. The 2012 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge is lush and creamy with loads of dark fruit, vibrant purple color and a nice bit of spice to it. This Rhone red is easy going all ready and is meant to be drunk up young, so for it, it is super pleasing now and should go another few years no problem. The nose starts with cassis, anise and peppery spice with hints of animal and stony earth before a round and refined palate of boysenberry, framboise and ripe plum along with touches of black licorise, garrigue and blueberry. This stuff goes fast, and as easy and fun as it is, it is no wonder.
($15 Est.) 90-92 Points, grapelive

2011KRMunsterer2011 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling “Munsterer Pittersberg” Trocken, Nahe, Germany.
This pure expression of place and grape is strikingly focused and beautifully detailed from start to finish, this is an outstanding effort from Georg Rumpf and his team. The 2011 Munsterer Pittersberg is a Riesling of amazing quality and terroir that is almost as exciting as the Grosses Gewachs making this an incredible value in dry Riesling and one I’d certainly search out for personal use. 2011 made for a great canvas for Rumpf and he delivered sublime wines throughout his lineup from top to bottom, especially this impeccable Munsterer Pittersberg Trocken with it’s dynamic energy and glorious Nahe character. While bracing and crisp, this intense wine shows a creamy roundness on the palate and has a lengthly finish along with interesting savory notes. White flowers, tropical essence and stony mineral notes lead the way while the palate reveals tangy peach, apple and bright lime notes with orange and nectarine adding to the zest layers that show plenty of extract, dusty chalk and a smoky flinty element. Drink now and for the next 5 years or more, this is the real deal in dry Riesling and a fine value.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010stmriesling2010 St Michael Eppan, Riesling “Montiggl” Alto Adige DOC, Italy.
This wonderful Sud Trirol Riesling is bursting with flavor, intensity and class and shows just how good these Alto Adige whites can be, especially Riesling in this mountainous alpine region of northern Italy. The 2010 St Michael Eppan is vibrant and vivid with electric energy and focus with dry crispness and tangy fruit at the core of this well crafted wine. Mouth watering acidity, zesty citrus highlight the mineral and spicy elements, but there is complexity and depth here too, making for an age worthy Riesling of merit, it should go 10 to 20 years no problem, gaining interest along the way and rewards for the patient sort that can cellar wines. I doubt I could, because this tasty Riesling is so charming now with lemon, lime and stone fruits, crushed stones and glorious purity in it’s fresh youth with hints of white tea, mint and apricot adding to the mix. This is lovely wine that has it’s of terroir markers and identity that deserves attention.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012RouzeQuincy2012 Domaine Adele Rouze, Quincy AC, Loire Valley France.
This lively and vibrant white from France’s Loire Valley is pure and terroir driven, making for an interesting and suave wine for summertime. The 2012 Adele Rouze Quincy is all Sauvignon Blanc and shows intense and bright flavors with steely mineral notes along with chalky essence, this is another winner from this Domaine, on par with their stunning 2010 offering and kudos to Charles Neal importer for again getting a real small estate wine of top quality at an unbelievably good value. The nose is vivid with white flowers, tangy herb and citrus laced leading to a zesty palate of grapefruit, gooseberry, quince and lemon/lime with hints of river stones, melon and asian herbs. This is impressive Sauvignon Blanc that has it’s own charm and character, but reminds of a fine Sancerre, making it a nice picnic companion on warm spring or summer days.
($17 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

2012AmidoCdRV2012 Domaine Amido, Signargues Cotes du Rhone Village, Rhone Red France.
Without question Domaine Amido makes some of the best bargain wines from the Rhone, and this new release is a wonderful and pure example of just how good a cheap Cotes du Rhone can be, Kudos to Charles Neal, again, for finding Domaine Amido and importing these fine offerings to the States. The 2012 Signargues Cotes du Rhone Villages is deep purple and garnet with a lovely array of floral, fruit and spice layers with classic Grenache headiness and hedonistic pleasure. The nose starts with grenadine, violets, lavender oil and pepper leading to a fresh and vibrant palate of boysenberry, strawberry and plum fruits along with loamy earth, peppery spice, chalky mineral and anise notes. This young red is made to be enjoyed in it’s youth and it can be, and then some, what a steal this little beauty is, track it down and grab a few cases for easy drinking over the next year or so.
($11 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011CharleauxBourgogne2011 Domaine Maurice Charleaux & Fils, Bougogne Rouge AC, Red Burgundy France.
A surprisingly delightful and drinkable Burgundy from a tough year, the Charleaux Bourgogne shows good depth, color and classic Pinot charm, all for a fair price. The nose is subtle with hints of dried roses, earth, spice and red fruits leading to a round medium weight palate with mouth filling cherry, plum and tangy red currants along with fresh acidity, pepper, cranberry and forest floor earthy tones. There is a pure and direct natural in this little Burgundy and there is a cool mineral essence throughout, and while not a wine to cellar, it is very pleasing and should drink nicely for another 2 years easy. I gotta say, this was impressive for the year and the price, this is fun and smile inducing Pinot Noir that I would be thrilled if it was by the glass at the bistro, tasty stuff.
($17 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2011Tajinaste2011 Bodega Tajinaste, Tinto Tradicional Valle de la Orotava DO, Tenerife Canary Islands Spain.
The Canary Islands are the new wine geek hot spot, there are some utterly delicious and stunning wines coming from these remote volcanic islands off the west coast of Morocco where the Western Sahara meets the Atlantic Ocean, it is fascinating how great these wine are, coming from where they come from. The styles range from sparkling wines to savory reds, with Bermejo making Malvasia bubbly that rivals Champage, Fronton de Oro crafts expressive and sexy reds from Tintilla and Listan and Suertes del Maques making reds that rival Crozes-Hermitage from 100 year old vines. Tajinaste’s Tinto Tradicional is a lovely and vibrant red that bursts from the glass with spicy intensity with floral tones, earthy black olives leading to blueberry, dusty plum and red berry fruit feeling medium weighted and lively with red cayenne pepper, chalky mineral and iron filled savory all spice. Hints of lavender, fennel and flint add complexity to this very fine effort and pure Listan Negro wine from the Valle de la Orotava on the Island of Tenerife.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2011LeitzOut2011 Weingut Leitz “Leitz Out” Riesling QbA, Rheingau Germany.
Playing off the fact that English speakers most often mispronounce Leitz (Leetz instead of Lights) Josi (Johannes) Leitz uses “Leitz Out” to help, as well as learning German there is a nice educational Riesling in the bottle as well, in this fun and tasty wine from Germany’s famed Rheingau region. From vines not too far away from Rudesheim and the Rhein River comes this little tangy, dryish Riesling from Leitz, one of my favorite everyday wines and one I am happy to find in some progressive Asian fusion restaurants that I go to, including SF’s Burma Superstar that has this Leitz Out by the glass and carafe! The 2011 is a touch zestier and drier that the last few vintages, which is fine by me as it goes with more things and is zippier, but still with some character and extract. The nose hints at the classic slate and flinty mineral as well as lime flower along with pear, leading to the palate that has persimmon, lemon/lime, mango and peach pit and light apricot fruits with white tea, sea salt, steely mineral rockiness and a whiff of petrol. Mostly brisk and crisp now this lighter Riesling impresses great;y for the price and should drink nicely for another 5 years easy.
($15 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011AFVchardLP2011 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay “Lindsay Paige Vineyard” Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This wine is one of the best kept secrets in Chardonnay in California, and is a fantastic value, truly one of my favorite Chards, year after year. Richard Alfaro grows some wonderful Chardonnay and his estate wines show just how good it can be, in fact other winemakers are now coming to him for fruit, like the talented crew at Arnot-Roberts which did an amazing Santa Cruz Chardonnay from Richard’s vines, which are planted to Wente and Dijon clones on slopes non to far from the Pacific near Corralitos and Aptos. The 2011 vintage was long and difficult with a tiny crop that needed attention 24/7, but in the end there was magic, and this beautiful detailed 13.5% Alcohol white shows vivid Burgundy like flavors and charms with chalky minerals, hints of smoke, brioche and layers of lemon, apple, pear and white peach fruit along with honeysuckle, hazelnuts and subtle oak shadings. This Chardonnay delivers bright acidity and steely coolness, but still fills out on the creamy palate gracefully and shines with a golden hue that is gorgeous.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011DonnhoffTonschiefer2011 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling “Tonschiefer”  Dry Slate (Trocken) Nahe, Germany.
As with every 2011 Donnhoff I’ve tasted, the Tonschiefer is amazing and of the highest quality, again proving the point that Donnhoff is one of the world’s great wineries. The Nahe’s famed Donnhoff has nailed the vintage and have completely blown me away, surpassing my extremely high expectations with each wine and at every level. Donnhoff’s dry wines really shine in 2011 and the beautifully crafted Tonschiefer Dry Slate Trocken is a stunner, and is a sleeper in the latest set of releases with poise, energy and character showing subtle fruity essences, mineral and savory spices. There is a refined acidity that never feels aggressive, but is a driving force no question, highlighting the gifted touch of the winemaking and the quality of the terroir shines through. Steely focus, flinty mineral and chalky saline add to the green apple, white peach and zesty lime fruit along with tangerine, grapefruit and kumquat while a layer of crushed stones, brine and dried tropical fruit linger on the finish.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012SineannPG2012 Sineann, Pinot Gris “Wy’ east Vineyard” Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
The latest release of Sineann’s Pinot Gris is utterly delicious and truly world glass with beautifully detailed fruit, vigorous acidity and poise making for a must have white wine for the summer. As a long time fan of this winery and this Pinot Gris especially, it seemed a long wait to have it live up to my expectations and memory, but this 2012 absolutely blew me away and rekindled my faith, and while most Oregon Pinot Gris has become as boring as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc over the years, this wine brings it back to the highest level of coolness. While I’ve not been into the whole Pinot Grigio (Gris) hype, which is now turning into the Muscato craze, I must say if Pinot Grigio (Gris) tasted as good as this Sineann I’d be drinking it a lot more! The 2012 Wy’ east Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Columbia Gorge lays out melon, green apple, lemon/lime and white peach fruit with hints of orange blossom, mineral essence, zippy grapefruit and a touch of tropical notes on a tangy palate that is vibrant and freshly focused. This vivid white seduces with every sip and while light and elegant has plenty of interest and lingers on the dry crisp finish. Not a wine to miss if you can help it, well worth the time an effort to locate, so don’t wait, drink over the next year or so.
($20 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012AlfaroGV2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner “La Playita Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains.
Only 70 cases were crafted from the 2012 vintage of this rare Gruner Veltliner, a grape more commonly found in Austria’s Wachau region near the Danube, west of Vienna, and the first release of this wine from Alfaro’s estate. The La Playita block of Gruner are young vines, but this premiere release shows massive potential and the 2012 is a fun and exciting white that delivers racy acidity, complex flavors and should sell out very quickly. The green/yellow hue is rather intense for such a vibrant white, but gives a inviting sunny appearance and leads to a zesty palate of lime, peach pit, bitter almond oil and verbena which begs for oysters no question, this white sizzles and is briskly crisp like a fine Muscadet. The GruVe opens with air and gains a mineral chalky element and a tangerine note while still very bright and tangy. I’m sure as this vines gain age there will be more complexity and refinement in the future, but I really dig the energy in this release and will have to get a few more while there are still some left, serve plenty chilled and like I mentioned it should partner Oysters or be a great summer sipper on hot longs days.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2008BovioArborina2008 Gianfranco Bovio, Barolo “Arborina” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Bovio’s traditional and cellar worthy Barolo wines always seem to start hard, tight and solid, but behind these high walls you can glimpse a bright future for those with the time and patience to wait, especially this complex and compelling 2008 Barolo Arborina with it’s inner perfume and classic Nebbiolo intensity. The nose takes a lot of coaxing at the moment, but once open it reveals dried roses, fennel, cinnamon and red fruits leading to a taught firm palate of plum, cherry and strawberry fruits, mineral essence, light animal notes and truffle earthiness. The tannin and acidity holds the fruit back and decanting helps immensely the best results are a few years into the future no question, even a rack of lamb is only going to budge this wine so far, so patience will be of a great reward here. The 2000 vintage Bovio Baroli, which I have sampled recently are drinking lovely, so given that I’d say the potential here is high and if you love classic aged Nebbiolo then grab some of these wines and forget about them until 2018 or 2020! Regardless, this is a very well crafted wine that surly prove outstanding given a chance.
($60 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

2012AlfaroRose2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate Santa Cruz Mountains.
This year’s Alfaro Rose is vibrantly intense in both color and flavors in an explosion of pink with loads of tangy strawberry, plum, watermelon and red peach in a fleshy expression of Pinot Noir Rose. This wine bursts on the palate with vivid flavors and zesty mineral and spice notes, it is lavish and round on the palate filling out with soft cherry and red citrus on the finish. There is good drive in this serious pink wine and it could stand up to BBQ and hardy food fare as well as being a wonderful summer day sipper, and it is really easy to love from start to finish, plus it is totally unique, unlike much of what is out these days with an added layer of dimension and flexibility of use. I’m glad a got a few bottles of this wine and I may need to get a few more, it is fun and sexy Rose no question.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011YvesMarsanne2011 Yves Cuilleron, Marsanne “Les Vignes d’ a Cote” Rhone White, France.
Another very nice effort from Yves Cuilleron and his Les Vignes d’ a Cote line of wines, which are steals, especially his 2011 lineup, like this pretty and interesting Marsanne. Yves make ultra fine wines that show classic terroir and style, from the Northern Rhone where his Syrah and Viognier wines from Condrieu and St. Joseph, plus other sites are stuff of legends, but his entry level wines are fun and of the highest quality, again like this 2011 Marsanne which is a baby white Hermitage or St. Peray. This vintage shows good fresh juicy fruits, but has surprising density and length too with apple butter, pear and stone fruit, mineral spice, butterscotch and tangy citrus with crushed stone and fig notes. This is a wine to drink young, read now and over the next year or so. If you are looking to understand Rhone wines there is no better place to start than Yves Cuilleron’s Les Vignes d’ a Cote wines, and for the third time this little Marsanne is a great choice in white, with lovely balance, texture and ease of use.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010Insignia2010 Joseph Phelps “Insignia” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
Will Phelps, grandson of the famed Napa Pioneer and vintner Joseph Phelps, recently showed off the future release of the fabled Insignia, the first proprietary labeled Bordeaux blend, which debuted in 1974. That first release, made by Walter Schug, is considered a classic as was the 1979, 1985, 1987.. and the list goes on and on. The upcoming release, the 2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia lives up to it’s heritage and should prove a very successful effort with great balance and detail delivered in elegant refined style, a hallmark of these great wines, and even at this baby stage shows remarkable depth and focus. While there is some tannin that needs softening and oak that needs to settle in, there is lots to admire in the 2010, this classic wine is richly textured with loads of blackberry, creme de cassis, plum and cherry layers with smoky vanilla, graphite, sweet tobacco, cedar and creamy chocolate notes. The fresh acidity leaves a slightly crispness and dry bite, but by the September release date this wine should fill out and gain much rounder mouth feel and while it will drink nicely young, it should benefit greatly with a few years in the bottle and cellar, giving even greater rewards in a decade. I hope I get a second and third chance to taste this wine over time, it is a solid effort from elite vineyard sites and deserves it’s high reputation, no question here at all.
($180-225-Pre Release) 94 Points, grapelive

2011BastideCdRV2011 Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, red Cotes du Rhone Villages, Rhone Valley France.
Don’t miss this pure Cotes du Rhone Villages from Bastide, it is a wonderful fresh red with clean red berry fruit, spice and density made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah from vines near Chateauneuf du Pape. This following Rhone wine reveals raspberry, boysenberry, kirsch and creme de cassis with a spicy burst of pepper and garrigue along with decent acidity and refined tannins. No oak, all stainless steel was used, allowing vivid clean layers and clarity of fruit to shine through completely in this well balanced and entertaining red. Hints of strawberry, lavender, anise and dried flowers linger long on the finish, drink now through 2016. This is a wonderful example of a simple wine excelling way past it’s price point and a great expression of place and vintage in it’s most transparent form.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

April 2013

2006Coutet2006 Chateau Coutet, Sauternes-Barsac Premier Cru Classe, Bordeaux France.
I must firstly thank Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet for her patience and kindness in educating me on this classic Barsac and sharing her insights, and tasting me on this wonderful “Gold” wine. Secondly, again thanks to Mademoiselle Baly for introducing me to the pleasures of the oysters and Sauternes pairing, which is now a favorite of mine. So forgive any bias I might have (certainly) for Chateau Coutet! My only prior experience with the famed Barsac Chateau Coutet was from mature vintages, so it was great to taste the young 2006 which showed remarkable class and character with fresh and balanced layers that proved a great companion to Asian fusion cuisine, though truly magic with fresh raw oysters, the play between the briny sea salt kissed notes contrasting beautifully with the sunny golden honey/orange qualities, a match made in heaven. The Premier Cru Classe Sauternes-Barsac starts with white flowers, candied pineapple, kumquat, tangerine and lemon curd with subtle honey and quince notes unfolding on the palate. The blend of mostly Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc and a touch of Muscadelle is mineral laced and vibrant with citrus tangy notes lifting this young sweet wine. There is no question, this will age well and drink for great for decades, best to get a few bottles both for putting in the cellar and drinking young, especially with Hog Island Oysters.
($50 Est. 750ml) 95 Points, grapelive

2008MastroJanni2008 Mastro Janni, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany Italy.
Coming from the southern zone of Montalcino near an ancient volcano, Mastro Janni makes one of the finest and elegant wines of the region that shows plenty of sunny fruit, but with good acidity and spiciness, these are Brunelli of subtle detail, grace and finesse. The soon to be released 2008 is a lovely wine of pure class and character, and looks set to be a winner for this vintage, which was not without some serious difficulties, though Mastrojanni seems to have avoided any flaws or compromises with this deep and complex Brunello. The nose has floral notes, peppery spices, sweet herbs and mocha to go with mixed berry and plum fruit leading to a giving palate of blackberry and cherry fruit with subtle hints of licorice, cigar tobacco leaf, mineral, red spice and mint tea. This wine gains with air revealing touches of strawberry, balsamic and cedar. The balance is graceful with plenty of lift and lingering fruit on the lengthy finish, best to cellar for about 3-5 years, which should allow everything to fill out and come together completely.
($65-75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011PuzelatPinot2011 Puzelat-Bonhomme, Pinot Noir Touraine AC, Loire Valley, France.
Puzelat’s earthy, natural and wild Pinot is fun, lively and unique with dried currants, plum and mixed berry fruits while zesty acidity, tangy herbs and earthy funk add complexity. This Touraine terroir gives an interesting character and twist to Pinot Noir and Puzelat’s light touch allows the sense of place to shine through and there is some intriguing spice and mineral essence as well in this most fruity of wines. The natural winemaking and rustic notes are signature details for Puzelat’s wines and there are devoted followers of his creations and I am fast becoming a fan of these artisan wines from the Loire Valley.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010PuzelatCot2010 Puzelat-Bonhomme, Cot “KO in Cot we Trust” Touraine AC, Loire Valley, France.
This wildly enjoyable Malbec from France’s Loire Valley and the Touraine appellation where it is known as “Cot” is a wonderful red from Puzelat with seductive essence and natural beauty throughout. The nose has violets, mineral and dark currant notes before a mouthful of tangy plum, black cherry and wild raspberry while bright acidity and soft tannins add a certain raciness and zest to this medium weight red. The lightness and detail really make this wine a treat and the sense of place really shines through, this is a great Loire expression of Malbec that has loads of character and style with unique charms with a touch of earthy funk that doesn’t get out of hand and adds to the whole. You would never imagine this wine is from either Argentina or Cahors, the other popular Malbec terrors, but certainly it is a fun example of this grape and I highly recommend trying this rare gem and drink over the next 2-3 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2005HuetMoelleux2005 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Moelleux “Le Mont” Premiere Trie Loire Valley, France.
Huet’s Moelleux Chenin Blanc wines are legendary and the 2005 does not disappoint with loads of honeycomb, candied apple and peach notes flowing on the richly textured palate. Not overly sweet and with touches of saline, mineral and spice the 2005 seems nicely mature with a slight nutty quality showing at this stage and though it should age another 10 years, it seems to be almost at it’s best now. The Vouvray Moelleux style is very underrated and increasingly rare these days, which is a real shame as it is a great wine, especially from a top estate like Domaine Huet, these are lovely and complex wines that cellar well and go with lots of foods, and the sweetness is refreshing not cloying and with that touch of oxidation these wines are unique and very pleasing, and are some of the best Chenin Blanc wines, which can be compared to Auslese (Germany Riesling) though I don’t find the heavy sweetness in Moelleux and while I adore Riesling young and old a tad more, these Moelleux are wonderful expressions and deserve much more consideration and attention. The 2005 Le Mont Moelleux finishes with hints of truffle, hazelnut and fig while the soft acidity still adds life and a citrus lift to the profile, this is a very fine effort and a real treat to sample.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011CapiauxGarys2011 Capiaux, Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Sean Capiaux’s 2011 Garys’ shows remarkable poise, balance and lift in this difficult vintage, yet retains the classic terroir markers for this world class site as well. This impressive wine shows deep color, lush silky layers, bright acidity and refined tannins with fresh cherry, plum, loganberry fruits, mocha, mineral essences, briar and anise notes. The warm French oak shadings fold in nicely on this Pinot Noir never overshadowing the fruit and adding a good frame for the wine, while spicy notes and hints of earth and saline add a mouthwatering edge that drives on to the finish which turns creamy with air and lingers with tangy fruit and a touch of vanilla. The 2011 Garys’ really entertains the palate and and fulfills the mind all very lively, rich and seductive now, and will continue to develop over the next few years, drinking best from 2015-2019, even though I do love it now.
($50 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive

2008MeoMar2008 Meo-Camuzet, Marsannay AC, Red Burgundy, France.
This wine has really, really come good with purity, class and style showing in full glory with subtle elegance that fine Burgundy is all about. The 2008 Meo-Camuzet Marsannay is a beautiful turned out Pinot Noir with black currant, cherry and earthy truffle showing up on the refined palate with hints of dried roses and a whiff of violets, forrest floor and smoke add bouquet and flashes of mineral spice, herbs and light wood shadings all add complexity. The Marsannay is soft and silky throughout and the acidity is not aggressive, but refreshing and lifting in this lovely red. Without question, Meo makes a great wine and this little Marsannay is always a gem, and a favorite of mine year in and year out. The best thing is, the Meo Marsannay is a darn good value on release and it ages well too. I wish I had been able to get a few more, this is really a underrated vintage for this Burgundy and it is drinking really well right now.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012RochioliRRSB2012 Rochioli, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
The latest Rochioli Estate Grown Russian River Valley is one of the finest vintages yet for this very popular wine and is a really delicious white that delivers everything you’d ever want from a domestic Sauvignon Blanc. Rochioli shows it’s class and commitment to quality in this delightful edition of the Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc, it is a super summer wine with vibrant flavors and interesting terroir character. The 2012 shows loads of bright and tangy citrus with lemon-lime, grapefruit and tangerine notes along with hints of verbena, peach and melon that adds complexity of fruit and touches of herb and light grassiness that does come across as too aggressive and shows a sense of place. Not too easy to find, but well worth a little work to get, especially a visit to Rochioli’s tasting room.
($28-45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011TrossetMondeuse2011 Les Fils de Charles Trosset, Arbin Mondeuse Harmonie Cuvee, Vin de Savoie, France.
This rare treat from Trosset is lovingly imported to the States by Charles Neal, in fact we are lucky at all to see this vintage and Mr. Neal was able to talk Trosset to give him 30 cases for all of the USA! So glad he did as this is a wonderful example of Mondeuse in it’s purest form from the alpine French region of Savoie and is ultra cool and delightful. This floral and spicy red from the hills across the valley from Chignan shows terroir and lively acidity with racy red pepper/cayanne along with cherry, strawberry and poached plum layers with flashes of walnut oil, lavender and earth. The 2011 Trosset is light to medium bodied with silky refined tannins and savory elements and mineral notes, but with bright fruitiness and a nice lingering finish. This is a fine and polished effort from a true artisan producer, and while super now, it should develop and fill out a bit over the next few years, drink now through 2018. Rare, stylish and very, dare I say, groovy and chic? This is fun stuff that you should try, search it out now, as it will disappear quick.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011DielK2011 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
The baby Diel Riesling delivers amazing quality and has only got better in the last six months since I last tasted it, I’m thrilled to find much greater depth and vibrancy in this killer little wine. Armin Diel’s estate wines are some of the best in Germany, and with Caroline Diel and Christoph Friedrich at the top of their games these wines seem to get better and better each vintage. While the Diel Dry Gross Gewachs and Sekt Sparkling wines tend to grab the headlines, the regular Kabinett seems to fly under the radar, which is great for wine lovers as it is a superb wine and a great value. This Nahe Kabinett is beautifully crafted with nice acidity and slight sweetness that is lovely and refreshing not in the least bit cloying or overt allowing the mineral and terroir notes to shine through showing the deft touch of the winemaking. The Diel wines have really gained delightful delicacy and grace over the last few vintages and I find myself completely smitten by the 2011 wines from this estate, especially this 2011 Schlossgut Diel Kabinett which has classic Nahe character with nectarine, white peach, pineapple and green apple notes with touches of white pepper, saline, honey and petrol/mineral flinty touches. Tangy citrus, white flowers and light apricot layers also come through on this very fine Riesling that explodes on the palate and lingers on the finish, not a wine to miss if you can help it, drink over the next 10 years.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010StInnocentFree2010 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir “Freedom Hill Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This is the most intense St. Innocent Pinot I can remember tasting with loads of fruit, earth and mineral flowing on the palate very much in a true Nuits-St.-Georges way similar to some fine Henri Gouges! The 2010 Freedom Hill is tightly coiled with iron shavings, blackberry and loamy truffle notes showing upfront before classic cherry fruit comes through with air along with minty herbs, anise and dry tannin and extract, plus a hint of saline. This medium weight Pinot Noir is gripping and forceful, but should really blossom over the next 2 to 3 years and go for a decade, best to short term cellar for more graceful drinking, even though I am mightily impressed by this wine now, considering the vintage, which most had doubts about, though I must admit have found wonderful for Oregon with many outstanding offerings from the Willamette Valley, and the St. Innocent lineup is a stellar group. I suggest grabbing as many 2010 Pinots as you can find as they are going fast.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011SchaeferKabinett2011 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling “Graacher Domprobst” Kabinett #16, Mosel Germany.
This rare and beautifully sexy Riesling from Willi Schaefer dazzles the senses and is totally seducing with lush vibrant fruit, mineral charms and zesty acidity throughout with that refreshing candied pineapple sweetness that you find in fine Mosel Kabinetts. Schaefer is one of Germany’s great wineries and are known for classic Riesling in traditional styles with lots of interest paid to their mind-blowing sweet wines, but I love their Kabinett and Spatlese just as well, and you can’t argue about the quality, these are stunning wines from top to bottom, especially this Graacher Domprobst Kabinett from the 2011 vintage, it is truly world class. The nose starts with salted honey, orange blossom and wet stones leading to a mildly sweet fruited palate of green apple, tropical essences, white peach, apricot and nectarine with a touch of honey and sea breeze/brine. This Riesling is all you could ask for and should age well too, drink over the next ten years, again Schaefer goes beyond expectations, bravo.
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

ShaneRose2012 Shane, Rose Ma Fille, Sonoma County.
Shane’s flavorful and vibrant Ma Fille Rosé is composed primarily from the saignée of Syrah with a little Grenache added as well, with half being fermented in neutral oak and the other half in stainless making for a textural wine, but with good driving acidity and freshness. I think Shane Finley nailed this vintage, this might be the best Syrah based Rose out there, I hope I get a chance to taste this one a few more times, especially on some long warm summer days. The watermelon, sour cherry, strawberry and plum layers are vivid and tangy with hints of citrus and mineral with herb and spice notes that add interest. Drink now and often, this is a very cool and savvy Rose wine from a talented winemaker on the rise.
($17 Est.) 90-91 Points, grapelive

2011ShaneVillian2011 Shane, Syrah “The Villain” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Shane Finley, a former winemaker at Kosta Browne and now at Lynmar, does a fantastic set of wines under his own label Shane and while very limited they still can be found and they are all priced extremely fair considering the quality and the tiny amount made. Shane’s handcrafted wines include a couple of Rhone style wines made from mostly from Syrah, such as this one from the Santa Lucia Highlands The Villain. The 2011 Villain comes from well known sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands that maybe include Garys’ and the like and it is a rich terroir driven wine with great color, intensity and texture showing plenty of black fruits, dark chocolate, gamey notes, mineral, pepper and briery earth.  Blackberry, blueberry and cassis flow across the palate throughout and linger on the finish making for a hedonistic experience, but the good balance, focus and complexity make this beauty one to admire completely with it’s velvety tannins and lifting acidity, drink over the next 5 or so years.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

 

2012Lucy2012 Lucy Rose, Santa Lucia Highlands (by Lucia Vineyards)
Vibrancy and style mark the new Lucy Rose from Lucia and the Pisoni’s, and as per normal it is a big and robust pink wine that always tells a story, in this case we know that 2012 will be another blockbuster year for the Pisoni and Lucia Pinot Noir, plus with the sales of this wine gives a dollar for each bottle sold to breast cancel it also tells of the heart and giving nature of Gary Pisoni and his sons, something I can vouch for as well, as they have always been kind and helpful to me personally. The 2012 Lucy has bright color, good density and lovely flavors, perfect for summer and for Pinot lovers that want something cold on a hot day! Rose petals, sour cherry, watermelon, plum and strawberry lead the way with touches of mineral essence, sweet herbs, spice and tangy red citrus. While not a traditional rose, it surly is classic Pisoni and loads of fun.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2011LuciaChard2011 Lucia, Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Pisoni’s Chardonnay wine are seriously stylish, elegant and richly textured wines, he certainly learned a lot in his time at Peter Michael, but he also brought his own unique touch as well, his wine capture his family’s impressive impact, but they also manage to be remarkably poised and filled with life and soul, these Chardonnay wines have always been the sleepers in the Pisoni collection, and it seems odd they take a backseat to the more famous Pinot Noir when they are just as good, no question. The 2011 Lucia Chardonnay has a core of lemony acidity that is not unlike top Burgundy wines, think Meursault, but remains pure California in every sense with peachy richness and creamy texture. The nose has hints of pineapple and honey with a hint of earth before an ever expanding palate of white peach, pear and lemon curd with subtle smoke, hazelnut, brioche, clarified cream and vanilla. Still zesty and racy, but with full intentions and lengthy dense finish. Drink this beauty over the next 3-5 years.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011LuciaPNSLH2011 Lucia, Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands.
This cuvee of selected plots and clones from different Pisoni sites continues to be the benchmark for quality in this price range for the region, I honestly can’t think of better SLH Pinot for the price and there are more than a dozen wines that sell for lots more that just are not this good, but regardless of value to the wallet this is a brilliant effort and very easy to love from start to finish. This is seriously delicious Pinot Noir with clear focus and character with rose petals, hints of violets, mineral spice, lavender/herb notes and a striking core of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit while warm oak notes, silky tannins and strawberry fill in the background layers. Still young and forceful, but showing the deft touch in the winemaking to make such a pretty and refined Pinot Noir, sadly there won’t be a lot available.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011LuciaSoberanesPN2011 Lucia, Pinot Noir “Soberanes Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
While this is a well made and pleasing wine, it is still very tight, robust and has a touch of drying tannin, which I think comes from the young vines and the fact that 2011 is a very transparent vintage, but still there is plenty of fruit and style to go around in this forceful Pinot Noir, and those familiar with Pisoni with be used to this macho expression and will clearly love it. I’d give it a bit of time to settle myself, but then not wait too long to drink it, I put a window of 2015-2018 on it, though it should prove to be great with food, especially filet or other delicate cuts of meat. Without question Soberanes looks to become a legendary vineyard along with Garys’ and the famed Pisoni sites and this wine definitely serves notice of that with bold flavors, intensity and richness with driving black plum, cherry and loganberry fruits, peppery spices, tea notes, briar and licorice snap. Even my concerns about drying tannins, can’t help the smile this wine put on my face and again those used to Pisoni will really dig this vintage of soberness. Maybe not as polished as I would have liked, this is a very good and well made wine that will certainly have plenty of fans, and considering the pedigree, it will sell out very fast, it is also true to it’s place and year as it could be.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012SheldonVB2012 Sheldon, Vinolocity Blanc, Sonoma Coast.
Watch out, this is going to be a great wine, after seeing the last vintages develop, I’m sure this 2012 will surpass the prior efforts and it is drinking super now, only a week and a half after bottling! So, this is a real sneak peak, because not set release date has been given and Dylan and Tobe Sheldon like to hold their wines until they start showing all the potential in the glass, though with demand being what it is I’m confident it should be available soon. The Vinolocity series, are the flagship wines for the Sheldon’s and the passion shows in these unique and wonderful wines which are inspired by their time winemaking in the southern Rhone, with Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape coming to mind, even though they put their own twist on things and are exploring low alcohol styles and highlighting there Sonoma Coast terroir. The new 2012 Vinolocity Blanc is a vibrant and intense blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier all of which play well together making this artisan white sing with beautiful voice, it starts with a heady perfume of jasmine, orange blossom and honeysuckle before flowing to a zesty youthful palate of mixed citrus, green apple, nectarine, apricot and white peach with white tea, ginger and pepper spiciness. Crisp acidity drive the wine at this stage, but it should give way to a creamy texture of time and a butterscotch note will come in a year or so in bottle. It will be fun to watch this wine grow up and I will put a few bottles away myself, even though I love it now, plus I’ll give a second report on release.
($TBD) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012SheldonRose2012 Sheldon, Weatherly Rose, California.
One of the funnest wines of the spring season so far has to be Sheldon’s Weatherly Rose, made from Graciano (a grape found mostly in Rioja, though has gained attention in the Canary Islands as well) that is both rich and zesty in this pretty and vibrantly colored pink wine. Dry and tangy with sour plum, cherry and briar this is a wildly different Rose that is worth doing a little work to get. Tobe Sheldon directed her talents and attention on select blocks of Graciano to make this wine, of which only about 3 barrels were made, and they will go fast. This bright and floral wine is very refreshing and easy smooth on the palate, but does pick up nice weight in the mouth and lingers on the finish, making for a great brunch/lunch choice for those lazy warm days of summer.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2008HeitzCS2008 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Over the last few years Heitz has really regained lost ground in the quality stakes and while the 2007 wines were very good, the 2008’s look even better, especially the regular Napa Cabernet bottling, which has a higher than normal level of Martha’s fruit, and it shows in the character and density it shows. The 2008 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley is darkly hued with purple and garnet giving a hint of the richness delivered on the full bodied palate that presents blackberry, currant, plum and creme de cassis with minty licorice, sweet herbs, cedar and cigar tobacco leaf. This lush Cab has texture and length with ripe tannins and well integrated oak, making for a well crafted wine that shows it’s pure California nature and style. Honestly, this wine is a bargain, and stands up well against it’s more famous siblings, including the fabled Martha’s Vineyard, and against it’s Valley rivals, at half the price of the Silver Oak Napa, this is a steal.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2008RidgeMazzoni2008 Ridge, Mazzoni Home Ranch, Dry Creek Valley Red.
A hearty field blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and a tiny amount of other black grapes, the Mazzoni Home Ranch gives loads of fruit, earth, spice and vigor, making for a totally enjoyable experience. The Mazzoni shows red raspberry, lavender spice, forest floor earth and briery notes with plum, cherry and loganberry all adding to the cascade of flavors. This medium to full bodied Zin blend has a dark purple hue and subtle floral tones with very nice balance and length with a touch of cedar adding to the mix and enough acidity to keep things fresh, plus mild tannins that melding well into this sturdy red. Very complete now, but should age gracefully over the next 5-7 years, impressive and delicious.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011FauryLArt2011 Domaine Philippe Faury, Syrah “L’ Art Zele” Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhone France.
Wow, what a pretty wine, and a steal, this Domaine Faury Syrah L’ Art Zele is made from young vines in Cote-Rotie and the terroir and class really shine through, making from an early drinking elegant Syrah that is full of beauty and style. No waiting required here, the nose gives plenty of violets, earth, white pepper and blueberry before a medium palate of boysenberry, dried currants, kirsch and creme de cassis while the background is filled with crushed stones, lavender, anise and briar notes. This wine is pretty, sexy and hard to put down with good vigor, acidity and savory making you take another sip, in fact I didn’t want to put it down, it was so delicious. Even though it was made from young vines, the tannins are refined and graceful, and while not as intense as a full blown Cote-Rotie this wine damn impressive and it was made with an artisan passion no question, and I’ll be drinking a few more of these myself.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Alvear27nv Alvear, Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927, Montilla-Moriles, Spain (sweet sherry style wine) 375ml Half Bottle.
Alvear, a sherry style producer just outside the “Sherry Zone” in Montilla-Moriles is one of the oldest wineries in Spain and specializes in fine crafted wines, mostly Pedro Ximenez (grape) with a wealth of great offerings from Fino dry to PX sweet, of which all are excellent, especially the stickies like this fantastic Solera 1927. Alvear only taps the 1927 cask twice a year to make this selection of sweet solera, and it’s age and grace shows through with creamy richness and complexity of flavors. This wine is a rare treat, and one of the best deals in the wine world, no question, I am always amazed by this beauty, and even more amazed people still fear sherry in general, it makes me turn evangelical for these too often overlooked gems! The latest edition of Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 shows the deep dusty coco powder and dark amber hue and the nose leads with chopped walnuts, candied orange rind, honey and dried figs with a creamy lush palate of toffee, honeyed pecans, almond paste, bitter chocolate and golden raisins with a touch of dried stone fruit and a hints of citrus. This pleasure filled PX must be tried on it’s own, but of course for added hedonistic joy enjoy this over organic vanilla bean ice cream, this is naughty sexy stuff that can replace Tawny Port on your after dinner menu and goes great with a variety of desserts.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011FeuilletFumin2011 Chateau Feuillet, Fumin DOC Valle D’ Aosta, Italy.
This dark and intense red has a Gamay meets Syrah feel, in fact they blend about 10% Syrah with the native Fumin grape which adds color and spice, and maybe a little body, though my experience with Fumin makes me believe there is plenty of everything in it by it’s self, but still this wine’s charms and complexities certainly justify the choice of cepage here. I think Fumin will really catch on with a wide audience as it delivers deep flavors, unique personality, great color and still has that fresh acidity the modern wine geek is addicted to these days. The nose has floral notes, earthy loam, blue fruits and spices which lead to a firm taught palate of bramble berry, wild strawberry, plum and cassis with vibrant acidity and supple tannins that refined giving the perfect base for this wine to show it’s vigor and class. This wine is well defined and focused with loads of character showing the deft hand of this Artisan winemaker, Maurizio Fiorano who has made a stunningly crafted wine from the remote Valle D’ Aosta. While being all Italian and soulful, these wines have an almost French style about them, making for an interesting exploration and a few arguments I’m sure, but regardless this is a wine region to search out, it is the ultimate in cool!
($36 Est) 93 Points, grapelive

2011FeuilletTorrette2011 Château Feuillet, Torrette DOC Valle D’ Aosta, Italy.
This spicy Valle D’ Aoste red is made up of mostly the native Petit Rouge and even rarer Maoylet grapes and is another gem from winemaker Maurizio Fiorano at Chateau Feuillet with bright cherry, strawberry and plum fruits plus fleshy red peach and savory spices and wild herb notes. Mineral and chalky essence add character in this medium weighted Alpine wine. While not as deep or dark as the Fumin, this wine shines with balance and raciness making it a suburb wine with lots of food choices from fish to smoked ham and or specialty risotto dishes. Peppery notes and tangy fruit linger on the crisp finish.
($26 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

 

2010DosLagosCS2010 Dos Lagos Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley.
This edition of Dos Lagos is bursting with fruit, sweet tannin and freshness, making it the most serious effort to date with nice savory spice, positive wood notes and a lengthy finish. Pure Atlas Peak volcanic tuft terroir chalkiness and firm structure highlight it’s sense of place and the detailed richness show Robert Foley’s talented influence throughout. The nose has interesting complexities with acacia, black olives, graphite and black fruits all vying for attention along with a deep purple hue, before the warming palate of currants, mocha, mineral and blackberry unfolds with hints of creme de cassis, cedar, melted licorice, savory spices and cherry essence. Background touches of game, sweet tobacco, sage and espresso add interest, air really helps at this young age dramatically so if you pop this baby open early, best results would be has by decanting. This wine is surely a Napa wine, but has a Ornellaia meets Ridge Monte Bello feel to it, and that is a huge compliment in my book and it shows a wild side as well with edginess, this is a uniquely crafted wine of concentration, but also lively, a touch raw and racy to boot. I hope to follow this wine into the future, while that past Cabernets from Dos Lagos were more flamboyant this one has become a more mature style that surly will merit a higher score after some more bottle age, Drink 2015-2019.
($125 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011FtRossSeaSlopesPN2011 Fort Ross, Pinot Noir “Sea Slopes” Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Sea View, Sonoma Coast.
Another stunning success and a top value in extreme cool climate Pinot, a great follow up to the 2010 version, in fact I would say Jeff Pisoni out did that great effort, especially considering the difficult vintage. With talent and a tiny crop comes this 2011 Pinot that shows expressive Burgundy like class and California details with violets, dried roses, kirsch and framboise leading to morello cherry, plum and cranberry berry with wild strawberry, earthy loam, mineral and spice all adding interest while subtle French oak shadings, smoke, truffle and cola linger with raspberry on the finish. There is racy acidity and ultra fine tannins giving structure and this wine should fill out and develop nicely for another 3 to 5 years.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010 Koehler Ruprecht, Riesling Kabinett Trocken Kallstradter, Pfalz Germany.
I was really excited to try the Koehler Ruprecht Pfalz Trocken, and sadly I blew up the first bottle in my freezer, so after scraping Riesling ice from my refrigerator I had to postpone this review until the second bottle was more carefully chilled, and while I felt bad for my Riesling abuse, I am happy to report the Koehler Ruprecht was worth the wait. The 2010 vintage was a vintage of high acidity and rather difficult in Germany, but artisans found a way to craft some intriguing wines and Koehler Ruprecht even made some nice Trockens, in keeping with their house style. The 2010 Kallstradter Kabinett Trocken is shackling dry and brisk to start with severe lime and kumquat notes with loads of tangy acid and lip smacking crispness, though more interesting layers unfold in the glass with a core of mineral and chalk flowing throughout. Cooly steely to the core this refreshing Riesling builds a bit with air showing white peach, extract and grapefruit seeds with hints of white flowers and tangerine. This wine is very unique and very austere, leaving me wonder if that is it’s Kallstradter terroir coming through or if the native yeast gives it this character or what? All in all this is a well made and serious Riesling that while not overly easy to love, time will be needed and or food to bring out it’s more charming side, though Riesling Acid Freeks with really dig this in the short term, I will try a few more bottles in and over time to give my final blessings as it is sort of a beast at the moment I have high hopes.
($20 Est.) 88-92 Points, grapelive

2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, red Veneto Italy.
Wildly expensive, funky and crazy good are what my first draft of notes said of this wonderfully unique wine from the famed house of Quintarelli. The late great Giuseppe Quintarelli was a revolutionary winemaker and thinker, he changed what meant and was to be an Amarone and Valpolicella, crafting amazingly complex wines and defining what top wines could and should be, also his wines can be remarkably long lived. His passing was certainly felt, especially in his beloved region where he schooled many aspiring winemaker, including Romano Dal Forno, but his legacy lives on and these new releases prove the family is continuing his pursuit of excellence and will carry on with his inspiration and passion. The 2003 Valpolicella Classico Superiore is an edgy red, slightly affected by volatile acidity and classic weirdness, but once settled in the glass everything comes together and things get interesting and the texture is amazing in this Corvina based Valpolicella, though it has other local varietals, plus some Cabernet(s) in the mix here as well. Dusty chocolate, golden raisin, poached plum, reduced cherry and minty herbs all combine to seduce the palate along with strawberry, blonde tobacco, fig paste, truffle and cedar. So much is going on your head spins, but if you manage to calm yourself, you’ll just smile with happy pleasure and marvel at this treasure. There is a touch of candied citrus rind and saline that add mouthwatering savory tang reminding you to enjoy this Valpolicella with food, maybe lamb or cheese at least. Be sure to let this wine air out a bit and hold on for the wild ride.
($85 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011 Peay Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Pomarium” Estate, Sonoma Coast.
Doomsayers of the 2011 vintage will have to eat crow, especially after tasting this majestic Pinot Noir from Vanessa Wong and the Peay brothers, Nick and Andy, I was very impressed to say the least with the latest wines from Peay and this Pomarium Pinot is truly wonderful and sublimely crafted. The nose is tangy with cranberry, floral tones and mineral essences with a touch of classy oak toast leading to a vigorous palate of fresh strawberry, cherry and fruit cup with hints of tea and pepper spices, chalky stones and hints of herb, vanilla and briar. This wine fills out in the glass and coats the palate with air with rich detail and nice depth plus length. This is pure class and exciting, and for those that like Burgundy will find much to admire here, while California fans will discover a wine of fantastic pleasure and a wine that shows true terroir, bravo, this is beautiful Pinot Noir in every sense. Look forward to a decade of intriguing drinking from this gem.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive 

2008 G.D. Vajra, Barolo DOCG “Bricco Delle Viole” Piedmonte, Italy.
This wine is utterly spellbinding and mesmerizing with purity and drive that harnesses the absolute best qualities of the Nebbiolo grape and in doing so makes for one of the greatest Barolo experiences I’ve ever had, right up there with the finest such as Giacosa, Gaja, La Spinetta Campe and Vietti. From top to bottom, the last few vintages of G.D. Vajra have been nearly flawless and amazingly detailed, and the pinnacle of their efforts is this Bricco Delle Viole Barolo, a wine from a slightly better than average vintage, this Barolo is a masterpiece in every way imaginable. I was lucky to have been able to sample this one from pre release along side their 2007, no slouch either, and I was completely blown away, in fact a colleague saw my expression and remarked he had the same exact reaction, totally and completely shocked by the remarkable perfection of this wine. The nose is haunting with wilted roses, dried violets, grilled herbs, truffle and liqueur notes with liquified strawberry, black cherry, poached plum and melted black licorice all flowing from bouquet to finish. There is a detailed delicacy to go with the hidden power and verve that sets this Barolo apart and there is a lovely mineral streak and both the acidity and tannin are presented in a elegant fashion, you know they are there, but everything is refined and smooth without losing the life and lift here. Sometimes words fail, fail completely to convey the completeness and pleasure, and this is one of those occasions, I can only say I hope you get a chance to try this truly brilliant Barolo. It is without question one of the years best wines, and it has about a decade to be at it’s best, but I would have a terrible time waiting it out.
($90+ Est.) 97-98+ Points, grapelive

March 2013

2008AllietChinonNoire2008 Philippe Alliet, Chinon “Coteau de Noire” AC, Loire Valley France.
Wow, what an amazing effort and beautiful Cabernet Franc from a less than ideal vintage, making this Alliet Chinon that much more impressive. The deep color and concentration are stunning and this Coteau de Noire coming off stressed hillside wines shows great detail and length with sweet and savory tension and wonderful balance. The nose has mineral galore and hints of dried violets, roses and a touch of classic bell pepper spice leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, cherry and bright currants with hints of warm stones, earthy loam and cedary woodsy notes. This mouth coating Franc has plenty of fine grain tannins and fresh acidity to carry itself and the briery mid palate shows a touch of wildness, otherwise this wine is nothing but class and perfect terroir driven with an elegant nature. This was a brilliant and unexpected surprise, and a totally rewarding wine that should drink nicely for many more years.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010PelerinWhite2010 Pelerin, Les Tournesols, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This Rhone style white cuvee of Viognier and Roussanne is just plain delicious and wonderfully pleasing and filled with energy from start to finish. Chris Weidemann is crafting some world class wines under his own Pelerin and this latest set are stunning examples of artisan Monterey wines with a heavy focus on the Santa Lucia Highlands, where his sources fruit from Gary Francsioni (Rosella’s and the new Sierra Mar Vineyards) and from Paraiso Vineyards which are some of the best sites in the area. His Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are his claim to fame, but don’t over look this beautiful 2010 Les Tournesols White as it really delivers the best of these varietals with heady perfume of jasmine, honeysuckle and citrus and rich oily texture. For this vintage the blend was more Viognier, 58% and with Roussanne at 42% coming off Paraiso Vineyards and the year was very good for these grapes and it shows in the level of ripeness and pureness of character with vibrant acidity and stoney mineral essences. The flavors unfold with vigorous intensity showing apricot, meyer lemon, peach, tangerine and clarified cream plus hints of anise, peppery spice and butterscotch notes. The aging was in neutral French cask for about 6 months, that helped smooth the texture and gives a note of smoke and a kiss of vanilla, but allow the crisp fresh nature to continue to shine through. Look for this white blend to drink great for the next few years, highly recommended.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009CobbRice2009 Cobb, Pinot Noir “Rice-Spivak Vineyard” Sonoma Coast.
Absolutely stunning, beautifully detailed and vibrant Pinot with graceful red fruits, floral tones and mineral essences with refined tannins and balanced acidity. Subtle French oak frames this layered wine and the finish is haunting and lengthly with lingering violets, saline and cola bean to go with a core of raspberry, plum, wild strawberry and morello cherry. Ross Cobb is one of the most talented Pinot guys out there and a harsh perfectionist that holds his wines an extra year or two depending on how he feels it is tasting before release. Cobb is one of a select group of Pinot Noir producers in the Pursuit of Balance group making lower alcohol style wines that can in his case show the most seductive and delicate side of the Pinot Noir grape. The more I think about this wine the more I like it and want it, this is stylish stuff handcrafted with passion and pride, bravo. For those that care this wine comes in at about 13% Alcohol and is unfined and unfiltered and was gently racked once before bottling to showcase purity and preserve it’s natural essence. I’ve been a big fan of the Cobb wines for many vintages now, and I just love this latest set, especially this gorgeous Rice-Spivak.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2011CastaliaPN2011 Castalia, Pinot Noir “Rochioli Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
Rochioli’s long time serving cellar-master, Terry Bering has been making Pinot since 1985 and helps craft all the glorious Rochioli wines, while making a small production of his own wine under the Castalia label, I’ve mentioned his wines many times since first having the 1994 vintage and have been a fan ever since. While never easy to find, Castalia still can be had and the quality is always high and the value pretty fair, and at almost half the price of Rochioli’s single vineyard wines, it is always on my must have list. With Terry’s Castalia you get about half River Block fruit and other select sites on the estate and of course it shows through, even in such a tough year as 2011 this wine shows pedigree and poise with lovely fruit and super long finish. The nose starts fresh and bright with hints at red citrus, smoke and some floral notes before and racy palate of plum, cherry and cranberry to start before giving way to more cherry, strawberry, raspberry and smooth mocha while flashes of mineral, saline, fennel and earth give detail. This is a first class Pinot with nice lift and vibrancy, but with all the rich and silky feel that is a trademark in these wines.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010RochioliRiverBlockCH2010 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay “Riverblock” Estate, Russian River Valley.
This wonderfully rich and detailed Chardonnay is wildly enjoyable and hedonistic, while still showing bright, vivid and focused layers of fruit, mineral and acidity. The vintage really brought out the best in Chardonnay, a long cool season with a few heat spikes and plenty of acid and fully ripe grapes. River Block is one of the great wines of California, and Rochioli has no trouble selling out to their mailing list, so it is a very rare wine, which is rather sad, and while I rather focus on wines that are more readily available, I couldn’t resist sharing my impressions of this American Classic. It is with ultra high expectations that I approach wine like this, especially Rochioli (It took me over 7 years to get on their list, and I am able to get maybe a few bottles a year.) so it was a great surprise that this 2010 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay “River Block” Russian River Valley blew away my high bar and set it higher with a wine that is almost perfect in everyday from bouquet to finish with mouth filling texture and sublime balance. The nose begins the journey with citrus, fig, clove, toast, mineral and clarified cream leading to a palate of lemon, peach, apple and hazelnut along with hints of char, vanilla and orange zest. This wine is pure textural pleasure and density along the lines of a fine Meursault or Corton-Charlemagne while retaining elegance and grace without flabby or overt oaky character.
($110+ Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

1989Coutet1989 Chateau Coutet a Barsac, Barsac “Cuvee Madame” Premier Cru Classe, Sweet Wine, Bordeaux, France.
Thanks to Fred Daniels, one of SF’s biggest Sauternes enthusiast, for sharing this masterpiece with me, this was a treat no question and a welcome surprise. Only having limited experience with vintage Barsac (or Sauternes) is was a glorious learning occasion to sample the 1989 Coutet Cuvee Madame and furthered my advanced education. The nose of the ’89 Coutet starts with orange rind, dried roses, peaches and honey with leads to a remarkably taught palate of sweet fruit, lush texture and lifting acidity with lemon curd, apricot, tangerine, pineapple, candied citrus peel, vanilla and honey. While rich and decadent this beautiful Barsac never feels overly cloying or syrupy and the long finish is dreamy and zesty even. The amber hue hints at age, though the focus, detail and balance suggests another few decades of life, what a joyous wine, totally fantastic from start to finish.
($N/A) 95+ Points, grapelive

2009SamsaraLaVina2009 Samsara, Pinot Noir “Rancho la Vina” Sta. Rita Hills.
Chad Melville’s Samsara wines are really worth searching out, even though he only makes a small amount of each they still seem to be flying under the radar, which might make it a bit easier to locate them, especially exciting are his Pinot Noirs like this 2009 Rancho la Vina from his home turf in the Sta. Rita Hills. With whole cluster fermentation and mostly neutral French oak these wines showcase their individual vineyards and clonal selections and make for energy filled and unique expressions. The 2009 Samsara Pinot Noir Rancho la Vina bursts from the glass with vibrant flavors and pretty floral bouquet with roses, pomegranate and spicy notes before a juicy core of raspberry, black cherry and strawberry come forward on the medium bodied rich palate. There are sweet herbs, anise and very subtle wood notes as well in this fruit driven wine plus a nice savory, mineral and earthy essence adds to the complexity giving a bit of mouth-watering luster. There is some tannin and nicely fresh acidity lifting the layers in this well focused Pinot and the finish is clear, lengthy and pure. Samsara’s 2010 wines are a must have, but these 2009 vintage wines should not be overlooked, and have another good five to ten years of great drinking ahead of them.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Other Samsara Wines Tasted
2010 Samsara, Pinot Noir “Kessler-Haak Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills.*Notes to follow.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010 Samsara, Pinot Noir “Melville Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills. *Notes to follow
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2009SamsaraSyrahMel2009 Samsara, Syrah “Melville Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills.
This is absolutely my kind of Syrah, this stuff hit magic notes with me, and what a value for the quality, a wine full of personality, charm and vigor from the nose to the lengthy finish, I must confess this wine knocked my socks off. Chad Melville and his wife Mary craft the Samsara wines, separate from the Melville estate, but clearly they know where to find some prime grapes. I have always liked the Samsara wines, but this latest set are stunning wines that set Chad apart from his family’s wines made by Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton fame, there seems to be a certain rawness and natural element that shows through here in Samsara that I find appealing. This 2009 Samsara Melville Syrah opens in the glass with a heady perfume of violets, black olives and white pepper which lead to a whole cluster driven palate of blueberry, truffle, tarry licorice, cassis and back plum. Savory elements lift the fruit core with chalky mineral, pepper and smoke adding interest, while acidity and ripe tannins firm things up. Look for this complex and detailed Syrah to drink well for another 5 plus years and maybe another decade.
($38 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010 Ca Sa Padrina, Mantonegro, red Binissalem-Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain.* (Manto Nergo & Callet) *Notes to Follow
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

bermejoN.V. Bodegas Los Bermejo, Brut Natural Sparkling Malvasia, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
You’d never imagine, a beautiful Champagne style wine with great detail and elegance from a volcanic island off the coast of Africa, but that is exactly what this Bermejo Sparkling Malvasia shows! This is mind-blowing Brut that shows Lanzarote has great terroir and that Bodegas Los Bermejo is a winery to take notice of with their traditional brisk whites and fresh rose and reds are intriguing as well, even though it is this lovely fine Brut Nature Malvasia that steals the show. A lime and chalky nose lead to a dry refined palate of mineral laced lemon, peach and light pastry dough with loads of vivid citrus brightness, apple, crushed stones and delicate floral notes. This beauty is exotic and deftly balanced that reminds of some Grower Producer Champagne houses and you can only marvel and this remarkable effort and delight in it’s class and uniqueness. This rare bubbly is another stunning reminder that the Canary Islands are one of the hottest spots to find interesting wines in the world with great diversity, quality and flair.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011Corais2011 Bodegas Monasterio de Corias, Seis Octavos Joven Seleccion, red Vino de Calidad de Cangas, Spain. (Albarín Negro & Carraquín)
One of my new favorites, a beautiful medium weight red that has elements of character that remind me of St.-Joseph meets Nuits-St.-Georges with dark violets, earth and spices with a core of cherry and plum fruits. The floral and loamy nose leads the way to a vivid palate of the dark fruit, peppery spices, sweet herbs, anise and lavender plus a touch of mineral and stone. Everything is nicely framed by soft tannins and juicy acidity in this delicious red from Spain’s Northwest. This wine is made from vines grown inside the Monastery de Corais in Cangas where the exposure helps get the Albarin Negro and Carraquin red grapes ripe in this cool climate area. Only a tiny amount of this wine gets made and considering the conditions and rarity it is also a steal! This is lovely and unique wine that is done organic and as naturally as can be, and after tasting the last four vintages I highly recommend searching it out.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2006Tendal2006 Castro y Mogan, Tendral La Palma DO, Tinto Barrica, Tijarafe, Canary Islands, Spain.
A lovely and silky smooth red from the Canary Islands from the first certified organic winery there the 2006 Castro y Mogan Tendral was barrel aged and then held in bottle for 5 years before release. This pretty and lively blend of Listan Negro and Prieto gives pure and rich flavors with texture and spicy complexity showing strawberry, cherry and baked plum notes with dried flowers, red pepper and chalky mineral essences. From the Isle of La Palma this exotic and rare wine is evolved and graceful, but still has loads of vigor and vibrancy to spare. I continue to be fascinated by this wild wines of the Canary Islands and can’t seem to get enough of them, and this wine in particular has seduced me completely and I hope to find more soon, young or aged, white or red and even sparklers from these Islands are intriguing and full of quality, this region is on my personal short list of a visit. This was my first experience with wine from Castro y Mogan and the first of an extended aged wine from these Islands, and I can tell you for sure it will not be the last, this is classy and exciting stuff with tons of character and charm.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011KnebelVDT2011 Weingut Knebel, Riesling “Von Den Terrassen” Mosel, Germany.
Mattias Knebel is a young German producer in the Mosel and new to me, but I’ll be following his wines from now on, his 2011’s are really fetching wines, especially this brilliant 2011 Von den Terrassen from steep terraced vines looking down on the river. His Kabinett and Trocken QbA wines were very nice too, but this wine stands out for it’s vivid terroir driven flavors, intensity and mineral spice qualities. The nose is subtle with light flint, wet stone and lime flower leading to a vibrant palate of lime, apricot, white peach, tangerine and ginger with slate infused mineral smoke, chalky saline essence and white tea. Good levels of extract and heightened acidity make for a exciting dry Riesling that shows the talent of this promising winemaker and makes for a wine that has strong aging potential, this is a winner.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010CaleraJensen2010 Calera, Pinot Noir “Jensen Vineyard” Mount Harlan.
The Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Vintage of Calera, 2010 editions are all stunning wines and are the perfect celebration of Josh Jensen and his amazing success at his estate in the wilds of San Benito on Mount Harlan, especially this beautiful Jensen Pinot that is simply gorgeous and of star quality. I was lucky to get a sneak preview of this glorious wine, and am now able to give you a heads up, as it will be released April 1, 2013 to the public and this gives you a chance to reserve some of this very special wine before it gets snatched up, because it will, no question. The 2010 Jensen starts with a lovely floral and sweet herb perfume, along with Mount Harlan terroir hallmarks, mineral smoke, briar, light game and green spices before a richly textured palate of black cherry, spiced plum, pomegranate and wild strawberry with sage, anise and chalky minerals. This is a forceful wine with fine details, but there are some gripping tannins and lifting acidity that are full of verve, making this wine an excellent cellar candidate with massive aging potential. This is the real deal, a true Grand Cru class wine from Josh Jensen and his team and one that will reward patience greatly, though as with almost all wines of this quality it can be enjoyed now, best from 2018-2025, if you can wait. The length and layered density are truly mind-blowing and the complexity of fruit, spice, mineral, wood and earth all unite in sublime perfection, it is not a stretch to compare this to the likes of Vosne-Romanee, Echezeaux and or Richebourg, though without a doubt this is testament to it’s own place.
($78 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

 

Feb 2013

2011BroviaArneis2011 Brovia, Roero Arneis, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is an almost perfect example of this varietal, and it is a spectacular white wine that shows amazing detail and gives delightful pleasure in a clean and vibrant way. Arneis is a somewhat rare local grape grown in Italy’s northwest in the famed Piedmonte region and in some cases it can achieve greatness worthy of a nickname like “The White Barolo” and while that might be pushing it somewhat, I certainly think this 2011 Brovia is a stunning wine that deserves lots of attention. The nose is minerally with hints of anise and white flowers plus a burst of citrus that flows on palate with vigorous force along with white peach and melon, but it is the chalky mineral and wet stone that bring your senses to life along with lingering lemon/lime and a hint of verbena cream. Brovia has nailed it, this pure and chablis like wine delivers everything you’d expect and more, and should drink well now through 2015 at least.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-St.-Georges “Les Perrieres” Premier Cru Red Burgundy.
First, Nuits-Saint-Georges is way underrated and the top Premier Cru sites there might be on par with many Grand Cru sites elsewhere in the the Cote d’ Or, Second, This wine is flat out delicious! Even young, even without decanting and without food this fantastic Pinot Noir shines and shows remarkable balance all ready. The 2010 Premier Cru wines from Chevillon are all stunning, but this Les Perrieres is truly magical and special in a way that only pure Burgundy can be with intensity and transparency. This wonderfully flavorful wine shows floral and mineral tones on the nose leading to a palate that unfolds in seamless layers of fruit, spice, mineral and earth that all find a place and that don’t intros on each others charms. There is dried roses, hints of violets, truffle, crushed stones, forest floor notes, licorice and tea spices that play in the background, behind glorious black cherry, plum and briery red berries with touches of currants and apple skin along with a wild strawberry essence. The wood is only present in the round warmth of this masterpiece and frames this young Burgundy to perfection.  Look for amazing evolution over the next 5 to 10 years and lots of pleasure to be sure.
($100-120 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2005 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir “Little Hill” Estate, Russian River Valley.
I will first say that if you have this wine, give it some more cellar time as I found it takes a long time to open up and may just be in a closed phase at this time, but that said the next day when tasted it was much better. The just opened bottle showed toasty oak, truffle oil and smoky gun power that over powered the fruit and it took a while before giving way to the beauty that was hiding underneath. The palate is rich and almost full with firm structure and lots of savory notes. Plenty of black cherry, plum and raspberry flavors come out with time, but the sweet oak with mocha, vanilla and spice are a bit too forceful until the wine is really open, though it melted nicely into the background when tried the day after opening, so I believe the elements will come into balance in another couple of years, but this wine is taking ages to evolve and is a touch disappointing at present, especially after having the 2005 Riverblock, which was almost perfect 2 years ago. The tannins are a sharp and the strawberry rhubarb tangy element keep this wine from ever really be great or pleasing. I hope this softens and it still is very nice, but not where I would have hoped at this stage. I must say, Rochioli has almost never let me down and while this is not my favorite wine, it could be just this bottle, as every other 2005 blew me away.
($100 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2009 Ridge Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This was a spectacular bottle of Ridge Cabernet, from select lots and block on the Monte Bello Estate, this wine really is a great example of California Cabernet, and just might be my pick for wine of the vintage in 2009, even though it’s big bother the famed Monte Bello might be better, especially after a bit longer in the cellar, but as of now it is hard not to love this beautiful and textured Cabernet Sauvignon. With a good dose of estate Merlot, this 2009 Ridge Cab has a lovely round mouth feel and refined tannins while still showing youthful force on the palate and solid structure. The freshness is remarkable and the 13.5% alcohol gives this wine a truly Bordeaux grace and quality, there is sublime balance and wonderful complexity throughout this wine and the finish is near perfect. The nose starts with a grippy essence, dark flowers, mineral and hints of black olives which leads to a black fruited mouth of blackberry, currants and plum along with grilled herbs, licorice, coco powder, cedar spice, sweet tobacco and subtle oak shadings with creme de cassis, vanilla and cherry notes lingering on the finish. The ripe tannins and acidity leave a nice dry, mouth watering element, but don’t overtly show themselves and remains hidden by the energy of the fruit as it should be. I bet this wine ages well and lasts another decade easy, this is glorious California wine at it’s best.
($48 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive (Re-Tasted 2-3-13)

2009 Fattorie Romeo del Castello “Allegracore” Etna Rosso DOC, Nerello Mascalese, Sicily.
Chiara Vigo is a rising star and her wines are stylish and seductive, especially her latest release here, the 2009 Allegracore Etna Rosso DOC which is a marvel of subtle charms and intriguing layers. The nose starts with fresh berries, dried flowers, red spices and lavender oil leading to a mineral laced medium weight palate of silk like texture and elegance that unfolds with cayenne spiced cherries, plum and strawberry with terrific verve and saline/savory elements adding seriousness to this fine and sexy wine. Chiara is fast becoming a master of her volcanic terroir and bringing out the best of the Nerello Mascalese vines on her estate, these are fantastic wines, not to be missed.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011 Yves Cuilleron, Syrah “Les Vignes d’a Cote” Rhone, France.
As a long time fan of Cuilleron’s wines I was excited to taste his latest stuff, and I was thrilled by his efforts in this vintage, especially this gorgeous 2011 Syrah, Les Vignes d’ a Cote. This pure and detailed wine shines with violet and blue fruit perfume with nice savory earth and spices that lead to a refined and bright medium weight palate of boysenberry, creme de cassis, plum and blueberry layers while pepper, truffle, lavender, bacon and rocky mineral essence add complexity and interest. This wine has sweet tannins and good acidity and flows in an elegance and graceful package that screams quality. This Syrah is a no brainer, and I certainly will be drinking this beauty for a few years myself.
($19 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2008 Abiouness, Pinot Noir “Pommard Clone” Stanly Ranch, Carneros.
Nicole Abiouness is a name to write down and or tuck away in your memory, her wines are very intriguing and she looks set to be a star, especially with her Pinot Noir, like this totally seductive 2008 Stanly Ranch Pinot. This wine is delicately detailed and beautiful with vigor, texture and sublime balance showing the very best in Carneros terroir and highlights her talented touch. This Pommard Clone selection gives wonderful spicy red fruit character, rose petal perfume, pretty ruby color and a sexy sweet and savory quality with bing cherry, briery raspberry, poached plum and tangy herb/spice notes. The wood is subtle and frames this lighter medium weighted wine perfectly and there is plenty of soft acidity to keep things driving and alive. The finish is lengthy, but fresh with a hint of saline and truffle adding to the lingering fruit. This Pinot is a serious and impressive effort from a young winemaker on the rise, and with her experience working the cellar for John Kongsgaard behind her, she looks set to produce even better wines in the future, definitely a label to watch.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

 

January 2013 Wines

2010OstertagMuscatFronholz2010 Domaine Ostertag, Muscat “Fronholz” Alsace, France.
Ostertag’s serious and seriously good dry Muscat is perfumed, but overly so and it has plenty of mineral, spice and even a saline/savory element that balances it out well. Funny, this grape along with Riesling doesn’t get the mainstream wine drinkers attention, mainly because they have only had poor examples or heard about them, though these are wonderful grapes, and this Muscat is a beautiful white wine that should have many fans. Sadly, it will be a tough sell at this price point, where it ironically competes with top Riesling wines. Regardless, I highly recommend trying this intriguing wine, it should go with most seafood, some Asian fare and light pork/ham dishes. The nose starts with jasmine, honeysuckle, orange flowers and hints of sea breezes leading to a palate of green apple, lemon/lime and tangerine with chalk, wet stones, white tea and tangy stone fruit pit.
($36 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011 Vino Rosso, Il Goccetto, by Kermit Lynch, Piedmonte, Italy. (50% Croatina, 50% Brachetto)
Kermit newest Italian wine is made by Alessandra Bodda at Tenuta La Pergola, and it is a lovely and fun bistro style red that is playful and interesting, and especially unique is the use of Brachetto in this dry/still wine and the use of the rare native grape Croatina which can be known as Bonarda though not the same as Bonarda Piedmontese or the varietal Bonarda in Argentina. Kermit’s Vino Rosso is bright, fruity and pure with dark cherry, strawberry and black currant fruits to go with sweet herbs, peppery spices and minty anise notes. This is a fresh easy wine with zesty almost citrus like acidity with a tangy sweet finish that makes it a drink now red that will go with picnic foods and light fare.
($10 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011 Jean-Paul Thevenet, Morgon, Vieilles Vignes, Cru Beaujolais, France.
While this new vintage is much different from the last few, without the exotic ripeness of 2009 and earthiness of 2008 and 2010 it seems to be a mix of subtlety and vigor that feels livelier while being lighter in style. Confused yet? Well, that is what this vintage does at this point, it leaves you guessing, and I kept waiting for more and it just couldn’t quite deliver, but there seems to be some promise here and it might be best to get it some time. The nose is classic Morgon with wild strawberry, cassis and black plums with hints of pepper, pecan and a touch of mineral that continues on the palate with raspberry, cherry and lavender flashes. There is some tannin and plenty of acidity, which just might give way to a fuller mouth over the next year or so in bottle. With my past experience with Thevenet, I might risk it and get a few bottles to tuck away, though those that want to drink it now would be best served by looking elsewhere, this wine needs patience.
($32 Est.) 90? Points, grapelive

2009 Chateau La Roque Pic St Loup “Cuvee Mourvedre” Languedoc, France.
This richly textured and deeply colored wine is super lavish and ripely flavored with an explosion of black and red fruits on the palate along with chewy tannins, mineral and wild herbs. The extroverted special Mourvedre cuvee from Chateau La Roque is mouth filling and hedonistic from start to finish and has a real Bandol like feel and even hints at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, making for a most pleasing red that way over delivers for the price. The palate flowers deep with blackberry, cherry liqueur, blueberry and plum fruit, touches of pepper, cassis and a sweet and savory meaty element. The finish is amazingly long and fruit driven to the end, while touches of burnt earth, garrigue and dried flowers add complexity.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2011 Bernard Ott, Gruner Veltliner “Am Berg” Austria.
This easy drinking Gruner has a slight spritz and is fresh with bright citrus, almond essence and zesty mineral. Bernard Ott’s Am Berg is all bio-dynamic and naturally grown, raised in clean stainless it gives light bodied pleasure and not complicated in any way, making for a good simple example of the vatical and should be drunk over the next year. Perfect with oysters, warm days and artichokes, making for a nice quick friendly white.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2008SilverOakCSNapa2008 Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
The new vintage of Silver Oak delivers much more than expected in this non-classic year, in fact the 2008 Silver Oak Napa surpasses the more hyped 2007 easily and while Silver Oak has taken a few kicks over the last few years for being riding on name only, I must say this wine puts that to shame and even if Silver Oak is not to all tastes, this vintage of the Napa classic has all the glory of years past. I am not overly fond of American oak, but with out question it works here and goes perfectly with the choir of fruit here. The nose has creme de cassis, coconut oil, vanilla and hints of smoke which leads to a full bodied palate of blackberry, plum and currant fruits while blonde tobacco, grilled herbs, cedar and cherry add to the mix. The refined tannins are smooth, but hold firm and the finish is very long, so overall the new Silver Oak shows poise, focus and that certain charm that made it famous all those years ago. (Coming out in Feb 2013)
($100 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2009 Coho, Headwaters, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
Gary Lipp’s Coho wines have proven to offer great quality and are a stunning value, usually offering flavors that are more likely to be found in the $100 range or higher for under $50, especially delicious is his Coho Headwaters, a Cabernet based red that shows remarkable depth and pleasure. The latest Headwaters shows class and texture with dark fruits, nice oak shadings and length with blackberry, cedar, sage, cassis, licorice and plum flavors. The nose starts with currant, floral tones, char and mint before the full bodied mouth that focuses on the black fruits. Elegant tannin structure holds things together and there is almost nothing you’d want more to come from this lovely wine. The 2009 Coho Headwaters is pretty much ready to drink now, but should go another 5 years easy, maybe gaining a bit more charm, but I don’t think you need to wait too long.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011PapasAllBlacks2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Papa’s All-Blacks, North Coast Red.
This old style field blend is a Zinfandel based red that is a throw back to classic California wines, much like the way Ridge has been doing since the late sixties with the addition of Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet giving color and added interest in the wine. Bedrock has really turned out some great wines in recent vintages and this All-Backs is a very nice wine. The 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks starts with briar spiciness, blackberry, currant and plum while raspberry, cedar and coco powers add complexity. Hints of earth, mint leaf and linger with touches of pepper as well, but it is the bramble-berry flavors that stick on your taste buds. Light tannins and soft acidity gives life and project the vintage, which was a bit difficult for Zinfandel, not that you’d ever guess with this tasty wine.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010 Montepeloso, A Quo, IGT Tuscan Red, Italy.
This fantastic estate near Maremma on the Tuscan coast makes some amazing wines and some top end stuff that rivals Ornellaia and Sassicaia, but I love this entry level cuvee A Quo and think it is a great value. The A Quo is a unique blend of Sangiovese, Marselan, Montepulciano and Alicante Bouchet making for a lively, rich and dark red that delivers plum, cherry, strawberry and blueberry fruits with savory spice, mint, tobacco and cassis. This wine is pure and is all about the fruit, earth and sense of place, and the texture is silky and very refined and the finish is lengthy with hints of lavender, brine and licorice to go with the berry fruit. While the Sangiovese is the leader here, the Marselan (a hybrid grape cross of Cabernet Sauvignon & Grenache) adds hints of black olive, pepper and currant notes which make this lush wine that much more intriguing. Another great import from Rare Wine Co. in Sonoma.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011 G.B. Burlotto, Langhe Freisa DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Freisa is really becoming a serious red wine, with some big press taking notice as well, it now places between Barbera and Nebbiolo and the 2011 vintage looks set to raise it’s presence even further. Burlotto is making some fantastic wines and this 2011 Freisa is stunning with great depth and vibrant flavors that highlight the grape’s charms to near perfection. The nose is brightly perfumed with spice, herbs and dried flowers along with hints of kirsch and a nice dark fruit component before a rich and racy palate of wild strawberries, plum and brambleberry fruits with truffle, anise seed, christmas cake and morello cherry. This is a super example of this grape and region done in a pure and natural style that allows the fruit to shine, but has lively acidity, earthy elements and pretty details.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2007 Saxon Brown, Syrah “Parmelee-Hill, Camp Block” Sonoma Coast.
This full and vigorous Syrah has loads of fruit, spice and earthy layers that flow in smooth waves across the palate and is very entertaining from nose to finish. The nose has hints of violets and bitter chocolate along with truffle, meat and dark fruits leading to a mouthful of black cherry, plum and boysenberry with flashes of pepper, licorice, dried flowers and exotic cinnamon stick that lingers on the lengthy finish. Refined tannins and forceful flavors highlight this well crafted Syrah from the Sonoma Coast and the Parmelee-Hill Vineyard and made by Jeff Gaffner, known for his wines at Black Kite as well. This is a very pleasing wine and certainly a good buy for quality Syrah, check this wine out if you see it, it is very rewarding and should drink another 3-5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

 

2011 A.J. Adam, Riesling Kabinett Dhron Hofberg, Mosel, Germany.
The A. J. Adam Kabinett is lovely and almost creamy with a host of classic Mosel flavors and elegant style. While for a Kabinett the 2011 Adam Hofberg is a bit pricey, but it is a very fine and well crafted Riesling that shows depth and terroir with lemon/lime, rose petals, mango, mineral and saline/savory notes plus juicy stone fruit sweetness. The apricot and peach are slow to emerge, but come on strong with some air and the texture starts zippy, but gains lushness and turns creamy over time in the glass. The acidity is clear and well cut, but this wine is more charming than intense and while it should age well, it should be enjoyed young. I should also mention, this Riesling plays well with all kinds of foods and it showed strongly with varied array of dishes from raw oysters, a crab salad and a spicy cured salmon pastrami on a soft pretzel roll.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

 

2003 Dom Perignon, Vintage Brut Champagne (Moet et Chandon) France.
It is a great surprise to find the 2003 Dom to be as good as it is, especially from such a hot vintage as 2003 was, in fact the ’03 Dom is lovely and exotic with loads of pure Chardonnay fruit and lush richness. I might suggest drinking this Dom up early, as there is not much reason to lay this year down in the cellar, and I think it is as good as it will get now almost, though a few years shouldn’t pose any serious problems. The nose is creamy and toasty with pineapple, baked apples, pear and peach flavors flowing on the palate with brioche, dough and lemon curd. Maybe not a classic Dom, but charming and rewarding just the same and an amazing effort for the vintage.
($160 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2005 Andre Robert, Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne, France.
2005 was a ripe year, but not as severe as 2003 and look for good early drinking quality bubbly, especially fine Grand Cru Champagnes like this beautiful Andre Robert Le Mesnil that showcases this top vineyard site’s Chardonnay to perfection. Andre Robert’s Champagne is one of the great steals in sparkling wine, these are fantastic Champers that deliver classic quality at very reasonable prices. This 2005 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil may not be Salon or Krug, but it is damn good and at under $50 is simply a must have. This 2005 vintage starts with citrus flowers, mineral spice, hazelnuts and green apples which lead to a palate of white peach, lemon, apple and tropical fruits with brioche, nuts and hints of truffle. Drink this beauty over the next 5 years, and be sure to stock up before it sells out.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010 Monier Perreol, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The second wine from Monier, the 2010 Monier Perreol, Saint-Joseph is a deep and pleasure filling Syrah of the highest order and is a killer deal for a great Northern Rhone gem. This 2010 Monier Perreol shows pure terroir from nose to finish with violets, blueberry, cassis, cherry liqueur and boysenberry layers with white pepper, truffle, earth, game and licorice all adding complexities and interest along the way. Wow, I am really falling for these Syrah wines from 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages, I can’t remember 3 years in a row as fantastic as these for the Northern Rhone areas with Saint-Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes and Cornas, along with Cote-Rotie, all are rocking with fantastic Syrah wines, and many are coming in at great prices too. If it was every time to get your Syrah on, this is it!
($34 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

2009 G.D. Vajra Freisa Langhe “Kye” Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the most stylish and interesting wines I have had all year, and a rare varietal that is showing huge potential after almost going extinct a few decades ago. Freisa shows sweet herbs, strawberry and dried flowers with spicy notes, but Vajra’s Kye Freisa is deep and complex with dark cherry and blueberry notes adding an exotic edge to this very beautiful red. The 2009 Vajra Frieisa Langhe Kye has a Barolo like intensity and feel with good acidity and tannin to go with lush fruit and mineral notes, while an incense and earthy element complete this seductive wine from Italy’s famous Piedmonte region and near charming and historic town of Alba.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

n.v. Agrapart & Fils, 7 Crus, Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne A Avize, France.
Agrapart is one of my favorite Champagne houses, always making tasty bubbly at great prices, and this non vintage Blanc de Blancs 7 Crus is a stunner for the price and was one of my New Year’s Eve wines making for a perfect start to the celebrations with wonderful focus and subtle tension. The Agrapart & Fils 7 Crus Blanc de Blancs from A Avize is a pure Chardonnay sparkler with bright flavors, mineral and light toast with zesty citrus throughout and lots of life and charm. This well crafted Champagne is great with food and or just a good party with green apple, pear and lemon with chalk, wet stones, brioche and a hint of hazelnuts.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

 

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