Grapelive Wine Reviews 2014
2013 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
What more is there to say, Occhipinti is on a roll, and Arianna’s wines are of great interest all over the world from New York, California and other wine spots in the USA to many cities in Europe and even in Asia, in fact on my last trip to Sweden I found Arianna Occhipinti’s wines in remote small villages there, quite remarkable for such a small winery in Sicily. She is a star, not just with the Natural Wine crowd, as mentioned in prior reviews of her wines, she fan base is wide and covers many generations, her wines have mass appeal and her charm and charisma has inspired many a young winemaker, she has send her ideas and concepts far beyond what you’d think was possible. And regardless of the hype and mystic surrounding Arianna, her wines are honest and show an earthy flair with intriguing qualities and character, especially her latest set of wines, and her SP68 Bianco (white) stands out as stylish, perfumed and seductive. The SP68 Bianco is a Zibibbo based cuvee, it is wonderful dry and has a great play between it’s floral intensity and savory elements, Zibibbo is a native varietal that is also known as Muscat of Alexandria which in turn is related closely to Muscat or Muskateller, it is a very aromatic grape that is also enjoyed as a table grape, it does particularly well in hot climates and while it is best known for sweeter styles of wine it does when farmed right produce a fine drier style of wine, and Arianna’s is delightful, soulful and detailed. The nose is a wonderland of jasmine, white rose, geranium, rosemary and salty bin with a chalky essence and crisp medium weighted palate, this is exotic and addictive in the glass, and this 2013 is the best yet in my opinion, with deep complexity and less funky/resiny, in the past the pine needle notes could be oppressive, but in this vintage a marvelous balance is evident and juicy citrus and tropical fruits lead the way, lemon/lime, tangerine and light mango notes along with that liquid flowers, mineral spice and earthy herbs. This soft golden/yellow hued white is pure Sicily in the glass and would be fabulous with their local cuisine, and is a perfect summer and or spicy seafood wine, drink now, from 2014 to 2018.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Bourgogne Blanc Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole, White Burgundy, France.
As a huge fan and admirer of Meo-Camuzet, one of Burgundy’s great producers, especially their reds, it was great to re-taste their rare domaine owned vineyard white, the Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, which it turns out is very stylish and lovely Chardonnay. The Clos Saint-Philibert is from an exclusive site planted in the early nineties on a mix of soils with clay, limestone and gravel, it is extremely rare and an exceptional value in today’s sky high Burgundy reality. Meo-Camuzet were long guided by great hands including Henri Jayer, who even mentored the current head of the estate/domaine Jean-Nicolas Meo, who himself has run and made the wines since the late eighties. The white from Meo is focused and sharp, clear and persistent with classic aromas and layers, starting with white flowers, citrus and honeyed nuts leading to a fine and medium weight palate of apple, pear, lemon and white peach along with steely mineral, wet river stone, clove, fig and subtle wood notes with an almost green melon feel and bright acidity. This graceful and vivid, greenish-golden hued Chardonnay is impressive now, highlighting the generous nature of the 2011 vintage, but has the structure and detail to age well for another 5 to 7 years at least, drink from 2014 to 2021, this is beautiful wine.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
N.V. Nicolas Maillart, Rose Brut, Grand Cru Champagne, Ecueil, France.
The gorgeous Maillart Grand Cru Rose is an opulent cuvee of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 100% Grand Cru fruit with minimal dosage giving a rich sparkling wine with loads of vigor, energy and dry feel, this is glorious, dreamy and elegantly crafted. This beautiful and rare handcrafted Champagne was very first experience with this exciting producer and artisan winemaker Nicolas Maillart, and I’m thrilled by his bubbly and can’t wait to try more, this was a great showing and a remarkable find, be sure to check this Champagne house out when you get the chance, especially this majestic Brut Rose. The nose is toasty/yeasty with hints of cherry and strawberry along with crisp citrus and mineral notes leading to a perfectly defined and focused palate of fine beading creamy mouse, hazelnut, steely/stones, truffle, kirsch, pink citrus, fig and clove spice. Everything is alive, vivid and lifting both electric and like floating on a cloud, with an inner peace, grace and harmony, along with a crispness and lingering finish making for an intriguing and seductive non vintage Champagne of worthy Grand Cru implications, this is sublime stuff, drink now and often!
($62 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Red, France.
I’ve always loved the Yann Chave Crozes, it was one of my first crushes in the northern Rhone, and the wine has evolved along with my tastes perfectly over the years, and it was fantastic to taste the latest release from Yann Chave. The 2012 Crozes-Hermitage is forward and grappy at first, but opens to reveal added depth and complexity, this is very stylish Syrah and while it drinks great right now even, it should be a solid performer over the next 10 years. The nose is pure and layered with violets, black fruit, minty herbs and a hint of bacon, char and pepper leading to a full and vibrant palate of plum, boysenberry, blueberry and currant fruits along with fresh meat, melted black licorice, lavender oil and kirsch plus subtle camphor, truffle, slate/stones and cedar notes. This is very pleasing Syrah and an exciting young wine, I highly recommend searching this one out, it is always a tough find retail wise, but worth it as the price is super for what you get in the glass and in the bottle, again this is a sublime and brilliant effort from Yann Chave, drink from 2014 to 2024.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato DOC, Sicilia, Italy.
The new Occhipinti’s are fabulous wines, some of the best yet from the captivating Arianna Occhipinti, the face of the natural wine movement and one of the most interesting characters in the wine world. The 2012 Il Frappato is super fresh, bright and full of the fruity quality Arianna’s fans adore, this is delicious stuff. Pure and juicy with a light ruby color and a mix of fruit flavors including wild strawberry, lingonberry, mulberry and framboise along with hints of lavender, basil, wet gravel and a touch of candied orange rind. This clear and transparent wine shows the loving touch and playfulness of Occhipinti’s style, but the lingering finish appeals to even hardcore Burgundy fans, it is wonderfully balanced with silky tannins and lifting acidity all in a stylish medium weight wine, drink from 2014 to 2018. Look for added layers, and some earthy evolution and density to develop over the next year or so in bottle, be sure to cellar carefully to elicit the best rewards from this delicate wine, Frappato is a gentle and charming grape and Arianna Occhipinti is one of it’s great champions, don’t miss her latest release.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68 Rosso, IGT, Sicilia, Italy.
The latest SP68 Rosso is fuller than in past vintages and is showing a intense meaty/earthy note to go with bright red fruit character making this new Occhipinti very compelling. This blend of Nero d’ Avola and Frappato shows pretty floral elements, spicy red fruits and savory notes and it shows a more potent nature with hints of truffle, cured meats and cheesy touches to go with a core of cherry, plum and wild berry fruits, finishing with mint, licorice and strawberry. This is nervy and focused wine that is young/tight still, but very enjoyable and provocative, look for this new SP68 to really come together over the next year or so and drink for another 3 to 5 years. Arianna Occhipinti continues to be a winemaker to watch and her wines are very alluring bringing together a wide and very diverse group of friends from the hippie natural wine lovers to the classic wine geek snobs, which is brilliant and she is one of the wine world’s super stars no question.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Silvestri, Syrah “Red Ranger” Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the best reds from Carmel Valley is Alan Silvestri’s estate Syrah, and this reserve or barrel selection called the Red Ranger, especially good in this vintage and noticeably more distinct than the normal estate bottling. Silvestri is and was inspired by the wines of the northern Rhone Valley of France and I know personally he studied extensively many a Cote-Rotie, Hermitage and Cornas! When he planted his tiny Carmel Valley estate vineyard there were not many that went to way of Syrah, but he has put out some very good wines and I really love what he has done with both these Syrah and the new planting of Barbera. The 2012 Silvestri Red Ranger Syrah is rich and dense, but still with nice acidity and reliable tannins showing plenty of vigor and structure, there is a hint of floral and pepper notes on the nose leading to damson plum, meat and kirsch along with blueberry, boysenberry and earth on the palate while there are hints of anise, cedar, bacon and tangy currants. There is a good opening and evolution in the glass with air, this wine is still wound up and young, and when mature it will reveal more cassis, mocha and earthy tones, with a slightly chalky/mineral note in the background, this is solid impressive stuff, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Peter Lauer, Riesling “Barrel X” Ayl, Saar (Mosel) Germany.
The family Lauer own a hotel and restaurant in Ayl on the Saar River and run a small winery next door, the Weingut Peter Lauer makes mostly dry style wines and almost everything is from the famous Ayler Kupp mountain home to distinct parcels and terroirs that have wonderful south-eastern exposures and good slopes, this is the perfect home for mineral intense Riesling, and Peter’s two sons Peter (3rd) and Florian run the estate with most winemaking in the capable hands of Florian who calls his wines “Rieslings for advanced learners”. I had not had any Lauer Riesling prior to today and I was quite impressed with their basic offering made for their US importer Vom Boden Imports, the Barrel X which is bright, tangy and full of sizzle. The Saar intrigues me, though my experience is limited with only a few top producers, so it was cool to be introduced to something new, many thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape, an urban hip wine store in Oakland, for stocking it and for the nice wine rep that shared it with us, this is a great new place to explore wine, be sure to check it out. The 2013 Weingut Peter Lauer Barrel X starts with citrus pulp, granny smith apples and green apple skin, sea salt and steely mineral essences along with hints of lime, mint and citron, all delivered in a light high-toned style that is very dry feeling, though there is some RS to give balance. This wine does pack loads of acidity and is lip smacking making it a fine summer sipper, it is super refreshing and at 10.4% it won’t weigh you down, and it finishes crisp with a touch of dry extract, more apple and a wet stone chalkiness, drink now.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Holman Ranch, Pinot Noir, Heather’s Hill Estate, Carmel Valley.
Every so often I visit my hometown, Carmel Valley near Carmel on the Monterey Peninsula and check out the local wine scene and I try to spotlight new or special developments in the region, and this summer I looked into some new wineries, including the Holman Ranch Vineyards. Local vineyard guru Greg Vita, winemaker and consultant to many Carmel Valley wineries including Galante Vineyards, showed me (his) Holman Ranch wines recently and he enthused about the potential of this estate just east of the Village in Carmel Valley. These young vines with excellent exposure and soils are beginning to show real promise, I was very impressed with many of the Pinot Noir offerings from the Holman Ranch, especially this Heather’s Hill bottling from 2011 which Vita says comes from mostly Calera clone and some 115 clone, these are slightly austere wines, but I can see why he is excited and I look forward to seeing the 2013 and 2014 wines, as the vine age hits a more mature level. Vita says the 2013 will be a turning point, a break through vintage for Carmel Valley Pinot Noir. Many have tried Pinot here with very mixed results and awkward wines, though some promise has been shown, with Figge and a few others making some fine efforts in recent years. The Holman Ranch has an interesting mix of clones and it’s own unique so called micro-climate, and Vita explained in great detail that the chemistry is really good, the grapes are not showing some of the areas deficiencies that make for unattractive wines, being a native to Carmel Valley I couldn’t help getting excited, I’ve been wondering if ever there was going to be a great Pinot made here for decades, and I finally see there might be in the coming years. The 2011 Holman Ranch Heather’s Hill is earthy with chalky texture, it hits the palate with a spicy intensity, but opens to dark fruit with air and fills out nicely on the palate, it is still serve in many ways and has a few gaps, though I must say it is very enjoyable. The 2012 wine is lighter and comes across quite a bit thinner, this true of the alcohol with 2011 being about 14% and the 2012 coming in at just over 12.5%, so the the 2011 is more generous and deep, I also tried the first releases from 2010 and they were juicy and likable as well, but the 2011’s were more complete and complex. The cool vintage comes through with nice acidity and brisk profile with a core of plum, red berry and cherry fruits with hints of red spice, basil, mushroom and cedar forming a wine that might get better with another year or so in bottle, though drinks well now. I think there is some real potential for the up coming vintages and while it is a nice start it is that glimpse into the future that is what is most intriguing here, Carmel Valley has some complex issues to solve in it’s search for identity and especially in finding a signature wine and grape, maybe it will turn out to be Pinot Noir, for now it is very uncertain, but who knows, and this wine might change the discussion down the road.
($37 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Andreas Schmitges, Riesling, Kabinett “From Red Slate” Mosel Germany.
This gorgeous and bright Riesling is from the middle Mosel and is grown on unique red slate soils, this site used by Schmitges gives a lovely intense fruitiness and spicy character, and while the 2012 Red Slate is Kabinett it has plenty of acidity, savory elements and mineral underpinnings making it feel almost trocken and well balanced with just a bit of juicy sweetness. I am highly impressed with Schmitges and all of their fine offerings, but I’m thrilled by the quality and value in this beautiful Red Slate Kabinett, it should be a must have Riesling for this great vintage and it should age well too. The 2012 Schmitges Riesling Kabinett from Red Slate is vibrant, poised and wonderfully detailed with tangy fresh yellow peach, rose oil, white tea, apricot, spiced pear, apple and lime layers, slightly creamy on the palate with some vivid tangerine and tropical essences along with a flinty spice and loads of steely wet stones. There is a lingering taste of brine, sea salt and honey, but finishes crisp and refined. This is super stuff, a great food wine especially with asian fare, very cool and dynamic with class and style, Schmitges is a winery to check out no question, the Mosel is full of great wines with Selbach-Oster, Knebel, Prum, Thanisch, von Hovel and many more, but you should not overlook Weingut Andreas Schmitges, these are terrific wines and this one surely is one of the best values out there, drink from 2014 to 2025, imported by Dee Vine Wines.
($22 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2000 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak has been making great Oregon Pinot since the late Eighties with his St. Innocent Winery, based in Salem in the Willamette Valley, remarkably he and his wines still fly under the radar and they are some of the best values in Pinot Noir in the world, bar none. Recently, a winemaker friend pulled a bottle from his own cellar and handed it off to me, and which I shared with my mum, this bottle was absolutely brilliant, glorious and mind-blowing with texture, grace and depth, it is hard to imagine a wine being better or more pleasing at nearly 14 years old and from a vintage no one really rated highly, this is special stuff, no question. St. Innocent makes up to 6 different vineyard select wines each vintage, I’m always a fan of Shea and Temperance Hill, but all are superb wines with Zenith, Momtazi, Freedom Hill and Justice Vineyard being the other current Cru wines here. Sadly, after the take over by Evening Land, Mark was not able to get Seven Springs Vineyard one of Oregon’s true Grand Cru sites, making these older Seven Springs wines that much more exotic and rare. This vineyard is set in Eola-Amity Hills on a perfect palate of soils and with just the right exposure, with a volcanic mix known as Jory and old vines mostly own rooted Pommard clone it provided Mark in 2000 glorious fruit and the wine is showing fantastic now in 2014. The 2000 St. Innocent Seven Springs is still youthful in the glass with a dark ruby hue, no signs of age in the color and a fresh grapey dynamic on the palate with a cascade of red and black fruits including plum, currant, black cherry and brambly mountain berry along with notes of chanterelle, oyster shell, flinty mineral and anise with hints of cedar, saline and faint char that is like a ghost of oak shading. The tannin is silky having melded in perfectly over the years and the acidity is lifting still and provides a juicy framework, this is beautiful and elegant Pinot Noir that is majestic from start to finish, drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years, it is sublime. Note to self, get some St. Innocent 2012 to put away!
($45-60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Silvestri, Barbera, Carmel Valley.
Alan Silvestri, famous award winning composer who has scored many movies and recently was nominated for another Emmy for his music in Cosmos, owns this small estate deep in Carmel Valley. I remember when he started out there and it was great to catch up on his wines, which are all estate offerings now, with Syrah his main love, but I discovered the Silvestri Barbera this time around, it is the first release for this varietal, and it is absolutely delicious. The 2012 Estate Barbera is lush, vibrant and succulent with a dark ruby, blue hue in the glass leading to a stylish and fruity palate, and while not very similar to it’s Piedmont cuisine, it shows very nice open fruit with black raspberry, loganberry, raspberry and plum along with zesty acidity and sweet herbs and chalky stones. There is very subtle wood/cedar notes and a hint of licorice and a lingering strawberry essence on the finish, this is a fine inaugural effort with this Italian grape, drink over the new few years, best from 2014 to 2017, this was fun stuff, available at the Silvestri tasting room in Carmel by the Sea.
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2007 Weingut von Hovel, Riesling, Spatlese “Scharzhofberg” Saar (Mosel) Germany.
From the Saar area near the Mosel, von Hovel is one of Germany’s most acclaimed estates, owned by Eberhard von Kunow a sixth generation winegrower, located in Oberemmeler, Konz. The reins of winemaking is now in the hands of Maximilian von Kunow and he has a great palate of historic vines to craft his wines, this estate has been around since Monks constructed the cellar in the 12th century on the Saar River near the confluence of the Mosel. The famed Scharzhofberg is a site that produces denser and fuller flavored Riesling making a top site for Kabinett and especially good for Spatlese with heavy soils of weathered slate on a stony hillside. The 2007 von Hovel is rich and deep highlighting the richness of this near perfect vintage in the Saar and Mosel region, but as always the von Hovel shows finesse and balance, all ready showing fine detail and serious concentration, this wine has ages of life ahead. Starting with honeyed peach, candied pineapple, quince, apple and apricot the 2007 Scharzhofberg by von Hovel has a forceful palate and lavish feel, plus there is loads of mineral and stony notes with hints of earth, golden figs, brine, key lime and kiwi. A lingering white tea and tropical essence add to the pleasures delivered in this stunning, golden hued Riesling, this is an impressive showing and I would have a very hard time to keep my hands of this gorgeous Riesling that shows a deft focus and class, hiding the overt sweetness, while being a lavish and hedonistic. Drink this wine over the next 10 to 12 years, and be sure to check out young and old vintages of von Hovel, these are lovely examples of pure terroir driven Rieslings.
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Von Holt, Pinot Noir, Platt Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
San Francisco’s Von Holt, owned by ex secret service agent Chris Von Holt, is a label that has been raising it’s game and sourcing from top vineyards, and these 2012 wines are a major step up for them and winemaker John Fonnes, a serious talent here in the City. The new Platt Pinot is sublime, elegant and shows a wonderful delicacy with fine details and a silky palate, as you’d expect from this site in the cool Sonoma Coast, a site that Littorai and other great wineries favor. Fonnes tapped into the inner core of purity with this beautiful Pinot Noir, there is dream like quality to this wine that really appeals, this is very seductive juice and it is remarkably refined and has nice lift and cut with vibrant, yet smooth acidity and no noticeable alcohol heat, everything is gloriously seamless. The Platt starts with rose petals/water, tea spice, wild strawberry, fresh picked plum and a core of cherry fruit along with a hint of smoke, fennel, light cedar and salted gravel, finishing with framboise and a faint trace of vanilla, showing a deft touch with the wood. This wine is medium weight, classy and focused, while it may not be a blockbuster or a wine to age a decade, it is really good now and should prove a worthy find over the next 3 to 5 years, drink 2014 to 2018.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Mansfield-Dunne, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This new label from the Santa Lucia Highlands, Mansfield-Dunne, is making some very good Pinot, crafted by Ed Kurtzman the former Roar winemaker and partner in August-West, and this new 2012 is a fine effort. Ed has lots of experience with the Highlands fruit and it shows in this rich and compelling wine, this is one of the best of many new wineries to release from this region, it shows good density, balance and terroir character. While many 2012 wines either show almost over ripe fruit or high tannins, this does not, Kurtzman got the focus and drive to make a super Pinot, but with plenty of lavish dark fruit you’d expect from this area and is very close in style to the Roar wines he made in the past and it is drinking very well right now. The 2012 Mansfield-Dunne shows red raspberry, cherry, loganberry, plum and sugar beet along with loam, spice, briar, dusty stones, saline and licorice. The texture is lush and silky and feels polished and creamy, and the toasty, smoky oak folds well into the wine with a subtle vanilla note. There is a lot to admire here and I look forward to seeing where this wine goes over the next couple of years and I will keep an eye on future releases, drink this from 2015 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner, La Playita Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s latest Gruner is a electric/zingy and super crisp white that will appeal to acid freaks, it is a fantastic example of varietal and it shows bright flavors and is very refreshing. The La Playita Gruner is all from certified organic vines on the Alfaro estate and it gives a clear view into the grape’s potential, and in fact Richard Alfaro is so pleased with the results he has grafted over another plot of Gruner Veltliner, plus this success has given him the push to plant more white varietals, he will have a small crop of Grenache Blanc and Albarino very soon. The Gruner is very exciting with lots of character, it blitzes the palate with zesty lemon/lime, white peach, green apple skin, loamy saline, white pepper, verbena and almond oil. This pale/greenish hued dry white, 12% alcohol, is light to medium in body with great life, vigor and intensity, making a good case for this Austrian grape in the state, especially here in the cool Santa Cruz Mountains, very near the Pacific Ocean, drink this interesting expression over the next year or so, and be sure to search out these cool new offerings from Alfaro Family Vineyards.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Egon Muller, Riesling, Scharzhof, Mosel Germany.
Undoubtably Egon Muller makes great wines and his are wines that collectors flock to, especially in a vintage such as 2012, but that said they are wildly expensive for what you find in the glass, even this delightful QbA seems a bit pricy. This is not a knock to Egon Muller as much as it is that my expectations were really high and that there are so many fantastic German Rieslings available now, and this wine did not live up to my hopes at this stage, even though it is really nice and was a super wine on the evening giving good refreshing relief to a hot day and warm night. With a slightly sweet palate and crisp acidity, a good match for some spicy Chinese food, this is a fine effort showing lots of mineral, white peach and juicy citrus, the Scharzhof is very pleasing and pure. I may be a little tough on this at this point, as it should develop nicely over the next decade as the vintage is one of the best in a generation. Classy details emerge with air and subtle earth, tropical essence, lime and briny notes add interest with a finishing touch of lemon, melon, stones and basil. A lingering honeyed mouth feel and tangerine make you want to pour another glass, drink over the coming 5 to 10 years, maybe best between 2016 and 2024, as I imagine there is much more to come here, in other words WAIT and be patient.
($36 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Windy Oaks, Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvee, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Schultze family have opened a new tasting room in downtown Carmel by the Sea and it was a good rest stop offering a quiet space to enjoy their quality set of wines. While I really like visiting their vineyard site much better, this new tasting room is cozy and hopefully will attract a wine seeking crowd once they get established in town. It is amazing to see Carmel embracing so many tasting rooms, which have suddenly popped up like t-shirt shops did in the 90’s. It will certainly take teamwork to get the Carmel network of tasting rooms running smoothly, but the addition of Windy Oaks is a huge plus, and I hope people get in to taste their Pinot Noirs especially, as they are very lovely wines. I tasted through the 2012 Pinots and all offer distinction and take full advantage of near perfect vintage with ripe fruit and smooth tannins and juicy acidity, these are a quite a bit more rich than 2011, but still have cool climate character and you can still feel the closeness of the sea. The 2012 Estate Cuvee shows tangy raspberry, cherry, rose water and strawberry in lush layer with underlying zest, spice and earth tones along with soft cedar, vanilla, mineral and saline, like salted cranberry adds zing to this silky Pinot. Drink over the next few years, and be sure to visit the new Windy Oaks Estate tasting room on Dolores near 6th in Carmel.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro makes a great lineup of estate and single vineyard wines, his Pinot Noir lineup includes his estate, the Lindsay Paige Vineyard, Lester Family Deer Park, the Garys’ Vineyard from the famed vineyard cur in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Schultze Family Vineyard from Windy Oaks Estate just down the way from the Alfaro estate, and this gorgeous Trout Gulch Vineyard Pinot, a vineyard Alfaro started working with a few years back and a site that is getting a lot of attention with it’s old vine Pommard and Martini clone Pinot Noir on a mostly south facing slope above Aptos in the south Santa Cruz Mountains. Only 500 cases were made of this opulent and richly favored wine, it saw 12 months in French oak barrels, of which 20% were new and it comes in at 13.8% alcohol by volume, it is well crafted with wonderful overall harmony, focus, vigor and deft balance with juicy acidity and firm, but polish tannins. The new Trout Gulch release reminds me of Penner-Ash or Beaux Freres in some ways, it has an Oregon way about it, though it certainly shows it’s own sense of place and site, this is unique stuff. The mouth feel is lush and there is a ray of black, blue and red fruits, earthy tones, spice and nice sweet toasty wood notes. The 2012 Alfaro Trout Gulch Pinot starts with a mix of floral and smoky elements with dense black raspberry, blueberry, liqueur dipped cherry, wild strawberry and plum fruits with a Burgundy like earthy, leafy/tea, and loamy background along with saline, cedar and anise. A lingering finish with violets, cola/mocha and cherry aftertaste, look for a good drinking window on this delicious Pinot, but best from 2014 to 2018, all these Alfaro Pinots are stunning in the 2012 vintage, look for them!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling, Nahesteiner Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Schlossgut Diel makes some of the finest examples of dry Riesling in the world and have been a long time leader in promoting their Trocken in the USA, and now with Caroline Diel leading this Nahe estate there is a lot to enjoy now, and there is a great future head, her winemaking is all about subtle elegance, grace and restraint. Diel makes a fine Pinot Noir, a super Rose and even though their dry wines are perfection, you should not overlook their beautiful Kabinett and Spatlese Rieslings, everything Caroline makes is gorgeous and timeless. I adore these wines and the 2013 vintage is looking wonderful for this world class estate, especially the superb and delicious 2013 Nahesteiner Trocken, due to be released in the US this fall. It was a great pleasure to see and taste with Caroline Diel in San Francisco at the Terry Theise trade tasting, I hadn’t seen her in many years, she’s been very busy with three young kids and an estate to run, her wines are pure class and unique, highlighting her talents, deft touch and the terroir of each site. Her wines are shy and austere when young, they are graceful and age beautifully, I am certain the 2013 Nahesteiner will only get better over the next 3 to 5 years, and it is lovely now, trust me. This dry Riesling starts with earth, spice and citrusy notes with white flowers, mint tea, sea brine and chalky stony essence leading to a brisk and energy filled palate with green apple, grapefruit and loads of lime fruits with hints of flint, hay, wild herbs, tangy apricot and mango. This is vivid, clear and zest Riesling that while zingy has good depth and density underneath. This would be a very interesting wine to cellar, though I really love it now, drink from 2015-2020.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
n.v. Suenen, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Extra Brut Champagne, A Cremant, France.
The very young Aurelien Suenen is a rising star in Champagne, he is really crafting some magnificent estate sparkling wines, his small family house in A Cremant is all in Grand Cru sites with vines in chalky limestone and all the plots are farmed with great care and organic, I understand he practices biodynamic methods. Like some of the modern stars of estate grown Champagne he believes the Champagne is made in the vineyard and he wants to showcase it’s unique character and make terroir Champagne, he has been helped along the way by amazing people, inspired by Anselme Selosse, since his father died in 2009, and he was left as the heir to his family’s legacy and history. His latest releases are beautifully made and very detailed, I am very taken with these Suenen Champagnes, these are very impressive, especially this glorious, yeasty, super dry and vidid Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs which is vigorous and has lovely flavors, density and verve. Suenen uses native yeasts in some lots, small yields in the vineyards and this bubbly spends 36 months on it’s lees, and he does use some wood and enameled tuns, instead of all stainless to allow more layers and texture. The Extra Brut is really energy filled Champagne with lemon, apple and chalky mineral/stony elements, brioche, hazelnuts, earth, brine, tropical exotic notes and orange blossom. This is gorgeous hand crafted artisan stuff and a winery to watch, drink this beauty over the next 5 to 7 years.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Lindsay Paige, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards are the home of some fantastic Chardonnay vines and these grapes are in hot demand, both in his own wines and that of others, including Arnot-Roberts and a few more that I can’t mention as of yet. The Lindsay Paige Chardonnay is always one of my favorite wines, and the 2013 is gorgeous and richly flavored along with nice balancing acidity and soft mineral tones. Richard uses only about 15% new French barrels in this wine and it comes from a selection of old Wente clones and a little of a special clone that is the same as Kongsgaard’s Judge, and in most years the Lindsay Paige is fermented with native yeast and has a bit of time on the lees, this adds dense texture and lavish mouth feel. This vintage shows white flowers, hints of sea shore, wet river stones, apple and pear fruit along with a vivid lemon and what Richard calls a Grand Marnier note, and I sense a hint of mango/tropical essence, clove and golden fig, plus a subtle cream and vanilla. The 2013 Lindsay Paige, at 13.5% alcohol, is really superb, this is one of the best yet from Alfaro. There is a lot of excitement here, with a lot of great new releases, including his single vineyard 2012 Pinots and his super cool organic Gruner Veltliner, plus his latest project at Trout Gulch where Alfaro is farming old vine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All these wines are remarkably priced and offer incredible quality, a big thanks to Richard Alfaro for taking the time to show me around, especially with harvest fast approaching, I highly recommend the Lindsay Paige 2013 Chard which should drink great for a decade, but best from 2015 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Philippe Chavy, Meursault “Narvaux” Old Vines, White Burgundy, France.
The latest Chavy Narvaux is amazingly concentrated and gorgeous, sadly there is such little available, I hear only between 5 to 10 cases are going to be booked in California, so there will be just a tiny amount out there. The vintage is looking fantastic, it was a disaster for growers with a near wipe out by hail in the Cote De Beaune there was a crop that was at best 30% total of normal, with an average loss of 60-70%, then there was extra thinning to maximize quality, ending with ultra small yields. This adds up to sky high prices, top quality and will result in a frenzy to get the best wines, both red and whites, while I am not happy about the big jump in cost, I can understand the supply and demand forces at work, and that many producers need to re-coop some of the loss they have endured with three vintages of serve hail damage in the region, this is the new reality with Burgundy. The 2012 Philippe Chavy Meursault Narvaux is all for Vieilles Vignes, very old vines, and shows deep layers of flavors, sublime mineral grace and a wonderful lengthy finish with loads of terroir, purity and elegance with lemon, white flowers, apple, white peach and wet stones along with golden fig, clove and honey. There is a rich mouth feel, but great acidity, drive and focus. Look for a long drinking window, best from 2016 to 2020 for the glorious old vine Chardonnay, this is fantastic white Burgundy, just released, so keep your eyes open, it will go fast!
($89 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
n.v. Henri Giraud, Esprit, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne, Ay, France.
Hand crafted Champagne, made by Claude Giraud, a small artisan producer making bubbly in the style of Vilmart of Krug with long lees contact and native wood aging. This Lot, disgorged in 2012, is magnificent and gloriously hedonistic with a rich palate, perfect mousse and stylish flair. I was completely seduced by this fantastic non-vintage Champagne, it is very much like Krug’s Grande Cuvee and more open knit than Vilmart’s non-vintage, but in their great company, and best of all the non-vintage Esprit quite a lot less money than wines of it’s class, I highly recommend finding some of this classy and lavish Champagne, it is a real pleasure and lovely wine. This all Chardonnay cuvee is aged on it’s lees about 3 years on average and was fermented in wood, the Oak used is all Champagne native and from hand picked sites and trees! This is intense perfection and total terroir effort, amazing detail and care go into each Champagne, and it shows and the experience is one of complexity and joy, Henri Giraud bubbly is a must try! The Blanc de Blancs Esprit is alive and dense in the mouth with a yellow/gold hue and superb beading in the glass and the mouth feel is lavish with toast, brioche, mineral and decedent in motion with baked apple, pear, white peach, lots of lemon, wet stones and baking spices along with hazelnut and a hint of tropical essence. This is utterly delicious Champers, a beautiful and gorgeous example of passion in the bottle, drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($75 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Maume-Marchand-Tawse, Gevrey-Chambertin, Red Burgundy, France.
The new Domaine Maume by Marchand-Tawse is a complete revolution, this old time traditional property has been transformed, out with the barnyard and rough edges, in with biodynamic farming and gentle winemaking, this is a label and an estate to watch, Pascal Marchand has done it again, he saved Comte Armand and now he has taken over a tired and almost dead winery and raised it from the ashes and created a brilliant new and shiny set of wines. With the help of perfectionist Mark Fincham, Marchand has made this Gevrey a world class Burgundy house. Even though Maume has and has had a huge loyal following, and Kermit Lynch had no trouble selling the wines on his good name, the reality is that Maume made mediocre and tepid wine at best, and the vineyards never saw the care they are getting now, this is an extraordinary change and now after tasting the first all Marchand Maume, I am convinced greatness lies ahead for Domaine Maume. The Maume Marchand-Tawse wines are going to be imported and sold in the USA by Aline Wines, Elixirs du Monde in San Diego, they also handle the Marchand-Tawse Burgundies. The estate vines are in some of the best sites in Gevrey-Chambertin and within Chambertin, with Mazis being their big prize. The 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin is gorgeous with loads of black and blue fruit, a bottle sample of the final wine, awaiting a new label design (see below) and what should be a Fall release in the USA, is showing superb potential with wonderful texture and density, this is beautiful Pinot Noir, with great detail and clean precise focus. This is a wine of terroir and vintage, with tiny yields bring dark color, and concentration with black cherry, violets, plum and currant notes leading along with mineral, stones, refined tannins and a long silky finish. The oak is very subtle as you’d expect from a gift team of talents and sublime mouth feel, complexity and harmony make this a special effort, soft touches of acidity and herb tea add life, this is a Gevrey of charm and delicacy, I can’t wait to taste it after a bit more time in bottle, and I am eager to see the Premier and Grand Crus, this is just a teaser for some magical stuff down the road, drink from 2015 to 2024.
($75 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Tre Monti, Sangiovese de Romagna “Campo di Mezzo” Sangiovese di Romagna D.O.C. Superiore, Italy.
Here is a clear, focused and well made Sangiovese from Romagna, nicely balanced and open with succulent fruit, showing red raspberry, tangy cherry, hints of black plum, plus sweet violets, tobacco leaf and strawberry this great little Sangiovese is a lot of wine for the money. The Tre Monti winery in Romagna is one of the most respected estates in the region. This 2012 Campo di Mezzo is beautifully dark and vivid, a wonderful bistro and food red, easy with refined tannins, but with good vigor and fresh acidity. This is super tasty 100% Sangiovese di Romagna with loads of charm and character, it was crafted from old vines and was fermented in stainless, seeing no oak at all, finishing with bright fruit and licorice on the aftertaste, pure and clean throughout, great with pizza, pasta and charcuterie, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Casale del Giglio, Mater Matuta, IGT Rosso, Lazio, Italy.
If Casale del Giglio were in Tuscany or better still in Bolgheri itself, these wines would demand twice the price, so while not cheap, their wines offer a tremendous value for the depth and quality you will find in the bottle from this Lazio estate located not far from Rome. The winery Casale del Giglio was founded in 1967 by Dino Santarelli in virgin territory, after falling for the Agro Pontino valley in Lazio’s south called Latina near the ancient city of Satricum, finding a perfect place for viticultural exploration and Casale del Giglio has never looked back, making some of the most interesting wines from a vast selection of native and non-native varietals. Casale del Giglio makes an eclectic array of whites and reds all of which are worth checking out, but their Mater Matuta red is their super flagship wine, it is a unique cuvee of Syrah and Petit Verdot making for a hedonistic, deeply flavored and opulent red. Like of cross of Bordeaux, Rhone and Barossa, but with Italian charm and character in it’s veins the Mater Matuta is almost black with garnet edges and comes to life in the glass with blueberry, blackberry, creme de cassis, mineral spice, truffle, dried roses, wild flowers, tar/licorice, lavender oil, minty Thai basil and peppercorn finishing with cedar, vanilla and plum sauce.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
n.v. Bodegas Cesar Florido, Fino, Dry Sherry, Chipiona, Jerez DO, Spain.
This delicate crisp Sherry from Cesar Florido is well worth seeking out, it is a refreshing and complex Fino with plenty of class and character. Bodegas Cesar Florido started in back in 1887 and has mainly been a source of excellent Moscatel medium and sweet sherries, as Chipiona is pretty much all Moscatel, but they do source grapes from the albariza soils of Pago Miraflores, plus Balbaina to make the estate grown dry wines. The Bodega is very close to the sea and has unique ocean influences as well as having a year round Flor, the Fino is from Palomino vines that are close to 20 years old and it has an average Solera of 3 years. The latest Fino from Cesar Florido is bright and subtle with lively citrus, briny sea shore and chalky elements showing dusty dry flavors and plenty of zest, there is just the perfect amount of oxidative nutty notes to go with the fruit, orange, lemon, white peach and pecan lead the way and this is a wonderful sipping sherry, but is delicious with seafood, tapas and cured meats. All of Florido’s sherries are seamless and beautifully crafted rare estate grown and bottled, be sure to look for them.
($14 Est. 375ml-Half Bottle) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Field Recordings, Tempranillo, Dead End Ranch, Paso Robles.
Andrew Jones’ Field Recordings label is a great value selection of wonderfully unique wines from special vineyards in the Paso Robles and Central Coast region, his winemaking is light handed and with the greatest respect for the vines. Jones is a nursery fieldman by trade, he has planted many thousands of acres throughout California and is something of a Vineyard Whisperer and these connections to unknown or little known vineyard site has been translated into his wines. He has build some great relationships with people and places, which now are recorded in the bottles. His labels are beautiful artistic expressions of the vineyard’s main nemesis Starlings, in flight, the amazing patterns as they dance in the sky show natures grace and everyone is it’s own piece of art, never to be repeated. The 2012 Tempranillo comes off a small parcel of Dead End Ranch as is one of the best California Tempranillo blends I’ve tried from this Spanish grape, which doesn’t regularly turn out with much success in our state, but Jones has found the magic with this one. It is a blend of 82% Tempranillo, 6% Petite Sirah, 6% Graciano and 6% Monastrall (Mourvedre) and comes in at 13.1% alcohol making for a ripe, rich and complex wine but with life and restraint, not over done or flabby in anyway, this is a pretty and engaging red. The Field Recordings latest hit shows red cherry, blackberry, plum and tangy raspberry fruits with hints of tobacco/cigar wrapper, anise, creamy oak notes, vanilla, baking spice, coco along with cedar and dusty mineral finishing with lingering framboise, mint and fine tannins. Drink now through 2018.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Casa Nuestra, Tinto St. Helena, Estate, Napa Valley.
For me, a quick trip to Napa Valley is not complete without wandering off the usual path, finding something down to earth or out of the way, so I often find my way to Casa Nuestra in St. Helena, on the Silverado Trail, this is a tranquil place and some very fun and unique wines. I admit, I most often grab a few bottles of their dry Chenin Blanc, this is one of the wine geek’s holy grail wines from Napa Valley, their are a few stumps around the estate of 100 year old Chenin vines and they make for a real treat, plus they make a very cool Riesling as well, but on this day in July 2014, I found their 2011 Tinto St. Helena, a wonderful and whack red blend, it was way too weird to pass up and it is delicious as well. I had known about Casa Nuestra’s superb Cabernet Franc since the late nineties, but the Tinto might now be my favorite of their red wines, it is a cuvee of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Carignan, Rofosco, Alicante Bouche, Napa Gamay (Valdigue), Negrette and in fact Gray Riesling (which is not in fact Riesling as we know it) blended together artfully making for a rich and earthy wine that is deeply colored and full of character, it doesn’t taste like anything else you might have tried, especially in Napa Valley, but that is part of the charm. This Red, or Tinto, the Spanish term for red wine, is full and decedent in the mouth, but not too fruity with about 14.4% alcohol, it is well balanced, the palate shows red cherry, plum, fig paste, brown sugar dipped strawberry, truffle, earthy/dusty spices, peppercorns, soy and cedar notes. The 2011 has firm tannin, a bit of fresh acidity and a bit of bitter chocolate essence given you reason to think there is a good deal of time to enjoy this wine, though I might be hard pressed not to drink it up young, best now through 2018.
($38 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Tenuta La Pergola, Il Goccetto, Vino Rosso Cisterna d’ Asti, Selected by Kermit Lynch. (L12014)
This unpretentious bistro style red is more interesting than 99% of the wines in this price range, it is a unique blend of Brachetto and Croatina varietals, making for a light to medium bodied red that is perfumed and spicy with bright acidity. The latest release is not labelled with the vintage, so you’ll need to check the back label for the lot number, which is L12014, but every vintage so far has been great for this tasty little Vino Rosso. The Il Goccetto, a special cuvee done exclusively for Kermit Lynch, is Dolcetto like, but with a more aromatic floral bouquet and a groovy lavender oil and peppercorn spiciness. The nose starts with liquid roses and mixed dried flowers and sweet basil along with red berries leading to a fresh palate of cherry, plum and strawberry fruits with hints of mint, earth and candied orange rind. This fruity red is tangy dry and zippy with nice acidity perfectly suited for picnics and can be served slightly chilled.
($12 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Clos Canarelli, Corse Figari Rouge, Corsican Red, France.
Yves Canarelli’s winery on Corsica is located near the small inland hamlet of Tarabuetta above the Gulf of Figari, with vines on a high windswept plateau. Yves is a local legend being a firm believer in the historic native varietals and the local terroir, going so far as ripping out acres of international grapes and he has adopted all organic and biodynamic practices to make the truest wine he can. These are rare and beautiful wines, with the whites being made of single varietal Vermentinu, the Corsican clone of Rolle/Vermentino and the exceptionally rare Biancu Gentile, plus an array of red field blends like this glorious 2012 Corse Figari Rouge which is comprised of 80% Niellucciu, 15% Syrah and 5% Sciaccarellu grown on loam and granite soils. This combination makes for a rich and opulent wine that is like a blend of Brunello di Montalcino and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with Niellucciu being a clone of Sangiovese, and Sciaccarellu a clone of Mammolo a rare Tuscan grape found in Rosso di Montalcino, with the Syrah adding color and plumy Rhone like character. The 2012 Clos Canarelli Corse Figari red starts with mineral, pepper, rose petals, dried herbs and plenty of red fruits that jump from the glass, plum, raspberry, mulberry and strawberry along with anise, tobacco leaf, minty lavender, chalky stones and earthy/truffle notes. This is stunning and has glorious length and detail with smooth tannins, a full body and graceful balance throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($40-45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
nv Solter Sekthaus, Riesling Brut, Rheingau Germany.
I will always remember visiting Solter and tasting in the old cellars with the late Helmut Solter in Rudesheim, it was sad to hear of his death recently, but it was it was with good memories of the man and his wine when I got to taste the latest sparkling Riesling again. In 2009 I showed up in Rudesheim, walked across town and found the ancient cellar where Solter is and I waited, and I waited, it turned out I caught Helmut on a day where he had some stressful appointments with bankers and he was an hour and half late to meet me, but finally after I almost gave up he returned and graciously gave me an exclusive tour, in the process of drinking almost 2 and a half bottles of his own bubbly, and he told many tales of exploding bottles that ripped apart half the bottling line and when he got suckered into buying very expensive Germany oak barriques that turned out useless and horrid, and of which he stacked out front of the tasting room as a monument to a failed experiment! It was a great time, and it all still makes me smile, but the Sekt was beautiful and it still is today. The family and tradition continues, and the Solter wines are as good as ever, especially the Brut Riesling Sekt which tastes like pure Riesling with a fine Champagne like mousse and complexity. It starts with a hint of rose petal, hazelnut, lime and earth leading to an energy filled palate of flinty spice, citrus, apple and brioche/dough with a striking light catching gold hue. This dry bubbly is Rudesheim in a flute, this is great terroir driven stuff with class and a touch of humor. Thanks and cheers to the late Helmut Solter, you are missed, but your Sekt lives on.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Ridge, Geyserville, Proprietary Red, Sonoma County.
An American classic, no question and one of the better vintages for Geyserville in the last decade, do not miss this Ridge beauty. Geyersville is a Zinfandel cuvee featuring 71% Zin, 19% Carignane, 7% Petite Sirah, 2% Mataro (an old timers name for Mourvedre) and 1% Alicante Bouschet aged in American air dried white oak barrels and with 14.4% alcohol. This year’s Geyserville is a big wine, it is dense, deep with an explosion of flavors with a hedonistic mouth feel, very lavish and yet still well balanced with good focus and vigor, very unlike the last three or so vintages which had weather issues that were tough on Zinfandel with uneven ripeness making for some ups and downs, while this 2012 is a reflection of the near perfect growing conditions for the grapes. This wine is sweet and savory, structured, gorgeous and pleasing from start to finish with refined tannins, good soft acidity and deep fruit layers really show here with full bodied density and a long finish making this Ridge Geyserville a huge success. Starting with subtle floral element, cassis and cedar notes this red opens to raspberry, cherry, plum and loganberry fruits with a light char, fig paste, briar, vanilla, licorice and peppery spice. Ridge is a fantastic winery and this new Geyserville is amazing stuff, drink over the next decade, though I can imagine it holding up for 15 to 20 years no problem.
($40 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2010 Kivelstadt, Syrah, The Inheritance, Kivelstadt Vineyard, Sonoma Valley.
Jordan Kivelstadt has made wine all over the world, including Margret River Australia and Mendoza Argentina as well as being a big part of Kenneth Juhasz (Donum Estate and Auteur) winemaking team, and has started his own family label Kivelstadt Cellars in recent vintages. The 2010 Syrah is 100% organically grown estate Syrah with about 30% whole cluster, fermented with all native yeast and aged 18 months in all French oak of which 30% was new, it is nice and stemmy with loads of spice, black olive notes and is northern Rhone in style, similar to St. Joseph with pretty details, meaty character and violet floral highlights. 2010 was a year that was tight and shy to begin with, but as of now things are more flamboyant and very charming with this Kivelstadt really showing great with blackberry, blueberry compote, currant/cassis, bacon, fennel/anise, smoke/camphor, olive tapenade, cracked peppercorn and kirsch. Everything is folding together nicely and the grippy tannins are getting smoother with each taste, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Dr. Heyden, Silvaner Trocken, Alte Reben, Rheinhessen.
Here is a steal, an Old Vine Silvaner from the Rheinhessen for under $15, this is intense and interesting stuff with good character and depth. Dr. Heyden is a fairly new winery, started by Herr Doctor Karl Heyden in 1999 and is located in Oppenheim, in the Nierstein region, an area known for quality. The Estate is run by Karl’s son Frank, who also makes the wines, they produce a big selection of offerings from Pinot Noir to sparkling, of course mostly Riesling, but I found this Silvaner Alte Reben the most interesting. The 2011 is ripe, being from a warm vintage and is well crafted, they used stainless steel in the fermentation process then aged it in large oak cask, giving the wine a rich detail and a golden hue with nice vigor, cut and length. The Dr. Heyden Silvaner flows with key lime, peach, nectarine and kumquat with an almost Riesling feel showing a firm acid profile and mineral essence along with flinty spice and savory elements, this is crisp, taught and dry Silvaner at it’s value priced best! This is certainly a wine to enjoy now, but can age another few years easy, also this is a wine that is often found while traveling in Germany, at around six Euros and on wine lists at local restaurants in the Rhine region, this is nice juice and a fun wine.
($13 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
It has been amazing to see the rise in the Vajra wines since 2007, this is one of the best wineries in the region and their Barolo wines are absolutely gorgeous, but there is also a grand array of other wines in Vajra’s portfolio, including some great Barbera, Riesling and Freisa, plus and especially this wonderful Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. Giuseppe Vajra, third generation winemaker, is crafting some of the most delectable wines in Piedmonte and certainly if you haven’t yet tried his wines, you are missing out and really need to experience them, and soon. The Vajra wines are traditional, but are amazingly clear and detailed with a deft touch and careful patience, these wines are reflections of their vineyards and show glorious transparency and terroir. The 2011 Nebbiolo is from the Vajra Barolo holdings and is a rich mouthful of pure Nebbiolo with a silky tannin profile and charming character, this is a made to be enjoyed young wine and there’s depth and ripe fruit to please anyone. Maybe this is not a tuesday night wine, but a good value non the less, a perfect weekend wine and a nice baby Barolo to enjoy with friends and or family, there is lots to love here, this is a sexy and stylish red, be sure to search this out. The 2011 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo starts with a subtle bouquet of dried roses, mineral, iodine, kirsch and fennel notes leading to a generous palate of damson plum, soy, raspberry and cherry along with black licorice, mint tea, lavender, there is a nice rush of acidity and vigor with a hint of citrus rind, red peach flesh adding freshness and a cheesy/meaty element. Look for a similar to Barolo secondary layer of flavors to develop over the next few years in bottle, though I would be hard pressed to have extra bottles left in the cellar it is so delicious all ready, but it should age nicely over the coming 3 to five years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Groundwork, Mourvedre, Paso Robles by Sans Liege.
Curt Schalchlin is an army of one and he is making some delicious wines, under both his flagship label Sans Liege and his value label Groundworks, with most of his wines coming from vineyards in Santa Barbara and westside Paso Robles. The latest Groundwork red is this 2012 Mourvedre from Paso Robles, this is a rich and decadent wine with ripe and dense layers of dark fruit, pepper, leather and liqueur. This is a lot of wine for the money showing blackberry, blueberry, plum sauce, mint jelly, cherry and creme de cassis along with hints of earth, lavender, fig paste and sandalwood. Don’t miss this mouth filling Mourvedre, it pleases completely and lingers on the aftertaste, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 I Favati, Cretarossa, Aglianico, Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC, Campania, Italy.
From a tiny 5 acre plot near Avellino in the Venticano San Mango the Cretarossa vineyard provides glorious Aglianico for I Favati’s Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC in Italy’s Campania region. This 100% Aglianico, often called the “Barolo of the South”, is bold, robust and earthy with dusty cherry, balsamic/soy, iron, strawberry, plum, game (animale), tarry elements and wild herbs unfolding on the earthy palate. Grown on clay and volcanic soils this red shows firm tannins and vigor, but with plenty of poise and a graceful finish, I Favati has done a masterful job of crafting this eye opening Aglianico, certainly an Italian wine to look for. 2010’s perfect conditions helped and while Aglianico is known to age, this is especially well balance and should go a good long time, though I really enjoy it’s freshness and would be hard pressed to leave it too long in the cellar, drink now through 2020.
($26 Est) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Von Winning, Riesling, Ungeheuer, Grosses Gewachs, Pfalz, Germany.
I think Stefan Attmann might be the greatest winemaker you’ve never heard of and his von Winning wines are some of the best in the world, period, that’s it, especially his Grosses Gewachs Rieslings, which on are on par with the top Grand Cru Burgundy producers, like Laflaive, Lafon, William Fevre or California producers like Marcassin, Aubert and Kistler. Recently I tasted through von Winning’s cask samples of 2013 wines with Andreas Hutwohl, who was lengthy and patient with me in explaining the vineyards and techniques used by the estate to make such amazing and mind-blowing wines. The 2013 wines were thrilling expressions of dry, intense Riesling and while the Grand Cru Pechstein may end up being 100 Point perfection, certainly the 2011 and 2012 were close, I adored the Ungeheuer best at this stage and maybe that is because, like Terry Theise suggested, it might be feeling a tad riper in style, but regardless this wine is pure sex in a bottle and ultra classy from start to finish. I have mentioned before, von Winning is inspired by the Burgundians and there is long lees contact and the Grosses Gewachs spend time in French barrique, but they remain as German as German can be, think of the German world cup soccer team, power, poise, control, playing the world game and winning it all, that is how you can relate to this majestic wine. The 2013 Ungeheuer Grosses Gewachs starts with stony mineral, brioche, citrus flower and tropical notes leading to a layered and lush palate of lemon, minty lime, apricot, peach and almost a cherry taste along with clove, salted caramel, grapefruit, green banana and mango all wrapped in cedary wood, brisk acidity and Chablis like steely mouth feel. This is totally gorgeous rich Riesling Trocken, seductive, exotic and haunting, again this wine is as good as any Puligny or Corton-Charlemagne, and I must point out that the price reflects that, while not cheap, it is a top value in this class of wine, the quality level is insane, von Winning is a winery to be on your bucket list, and you can’t go wrong with this 2013 Ungeheuer Grand Cru which should be available this coming winter. Without question, this glorious Riesling will be better on release than this cask sample, and it will continue to gain over the coming years, drink anytime, but you should know it will age fantastic with a 15 to 20 year drinking window!
($65 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
N.V. Viticoltori De Conciliis, Selim, Vino Spumante Brut, Campania, Italy.
The sexy and beautiful Brut Vino Spumante da Tavola by De Conciliis is made from 55% Aglianico, 35% Fiano, 10% Barbera in a classic Blanc de Noirs style, and is named Selim after the Miles Davis song, where Miles is spelled backwards. I can’t think of another sparkling wine that is made from Aglianico, this has to be pretty damn rare stuff, and De Conciliis deserves some high praise too, as this vibrant bubbly is remarkable, elegant and an interesting alternative to the mostly bland Cavas, Proseccos and Spumantes out there, and while not a Champagne beater, it certainly is worth checking out. The Selim is vivid, mineral driven and has great dynamic energy with brisk, dry acidity and a refined mousse. The are layers of lemon/citrus, white licorice, tropical notes, plus very faint hints of brioche, hazelnut/almond and figs. This is really is good for a Charmet method bubbles, having aged 100 days on the lees, perfect as an Aperitivo or with seafood, finishing with a salty/steely edge along with a lingering pear and citrus note. Drink young and often!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Cantina Cinque Terre, Cinque Terre Bianco DOC, Italy.
The fresh Cinque Terre white is made from the native varietals Bosco 60%, Albarola 25%, Vermentino 15%, from grapes grown on the steep terraces over-looking the five historic villages and the beautiful Italian riviera. This lovely white has the taste of the sea with hints of salty brine adding character to the honeyed pear, lemon/lime and tropical fruits flow over the rich and full palate, along with citrus flower, wild herb, almond, dried apricot and lingering peach notes. Liguria has long been a fine wine region, nestled between Genoa and La Spezia, just south of Portofino, and Cantina Cinque Terre has made wines for over a hundred years. This wine sings with seafood and is a wonderful and interesting summer white, drink now and over the next few years.
($25 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2013 Cantine Marisa Cuomo, Ravello Bianco, Costa d’ Amalfi DOC, Furore, Italy.
One of Italy’s best kept secrets, Marisa Cuomo, makes a fantastic set of Amalfi Coast wines from tiny terraced plots above the shinning Mediterranean Sea. These vines are grown out of almost pure rock and trained in pergolas, this allows some shade and helps with the ocean humidity while still granting exposure and reflected light from the sea of Furore, on the gulf of Salerno. The Ravello Bianco is made up of 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella grown high up on the rocky cliffs with dolomitic limestone soils, this is a lovely mineral rich expression with plenty of warm sunny flavors and ocean influences. There is layers of citrus, crystalline stone, honeyed peach, saline and melon along with a creamy texture, but with fresh acidity, this is a great expression of place, drink over the next year or so, terrific stuff.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2007 Casina Cucco, Barolo DOCG, Cerrati “Vigna Cucco” Riserva, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2007 Casina Cucco Riserva is fantastically pure Barolo, this is as classic as classic gets, though maybe not as perfect or as exciting as Giacosa, Clerico, Vajra or Conterno, this is beautiful and worthy Nebbiolo that has sublime varietal detail and terroir nuance. The palate is a cascade of pleasure with layers of black cherry, damson plum, balsamic dipped strawberry, mint, tar, truffle, cedar, soy and melted black licorice along with wilted roses, stony chalk and dried lavender notes. This wine speaks of historic, place and vigor with elegance, poise and a hint of wild nature in the background, this is Barolo through and through with good structural tannins and a smart dose of acidity. The seductive 2007 Barolo Vigna Cucco from the Cerrati Cru in Serralunga is drinking fabulous right now, but still has a decade of enjoyment ahead, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Uccelliera, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
Azienda Agricola Uccelliera run by Andrea Cortonesi is one of Tuscany’s great estates and a producer of fine Brunello di Montalcino since the late Eighties. The vineyards sit on the estate in Castelnuovo dell’ Abate in the heart of the Brunello zone with rolling hills and a mix of soils, framed by ancient olive trees, and of course planted to Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello clone. The Brunello’s are the shinning stars here, but I would not pass up the Rosso di Montalcino DOC from Uccelliera “The Bird House” as it is a terrific wine in it’s own right, year after year and a suburb value. The 2011 vintage was warm and the wines are very generous and full of character, charm and richness, so if you want a great red with real Brunello quality on the cheap, the 2011 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino would be an excellent choice, and of course be sure and make note that the 2011 Brunello itself, still another 2 years away should be a blockbuster. The Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino 2011 starts with earthy red fruits, dried flowers, sweet herbs and cedar notes leading to a dense and plummy palate of black raspberry, wild plum, cherry and strawberry fruits with a mix of soy, mint, mocha and tobacco leaf adding complexity, this is very sexy Sangiovese that has refined tannins, just enough acidity and subtle mineral and eathy/game elements to let you know it is a serious and focused wine that deserves your full attention. This is a ruby red hued beauty, don’t miss out on this vivacious and intriguing Tuscan, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Radio-Coteau, Pinot Noir, La Neblina, Sonoma Coast.
Eric Sussman’s Radio-Coteau is one of California’s top quality labels for Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay with all cool climate sites in the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley, and his 2012 wines are looking top bet from the vintage. His second label County Line is also a great lineup of wines, especially his County Line 2013 Rose, so be sure to check them out as well, but his latest Pinot, the La Neblina is something special and I highly recommend finding this beautiful, floral and detailed wine. The 2012 Radio-Coteau, Pinot Noir, La Neblina from the western Sonoma Coast is a pure and rich, almost forward expression of Pinot Noir with a gorgeous array of flavors, this wine is seamless and decedent with wild strawberry, plum and sweet cherry fruits along with cola bean, rose petal, cinnamon, pomegranate, jolly rancher candy, a hint of red apple, sweet smoky toast, vanilla and cedary notes. There is an underlying element of earth, spice, fennel and mineral, though the fruit is certainly leading the way here, and a fine silky tannin plus a boost of fresh acidity that keeps everything together. Made from a mix of clones and all organic grapes the La Neblina, with about 15% whole cluster and about a third new French oak, is a well crafted wine of grace, focus and style, though flamboyant now, look for this tasty wine to age well into the nest decade, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
1998 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Dorsheimer Burgberg, Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
I recently tasted through the up coming releases from Georg Rumpf, the 2013 vintage of which I will be writing more about shortly and of which you should look for when they are available this Fall of 2014, so it was interesting to get a chance to taste back a few years and wow, this 1998 is drinking wonderfully. The Kruger-Rumpf Dorsheimer Burgberg Spatlese is mature, richly flavored and full of vigor with loads of sex appeal and mineral complexity, it’s a white wine that gives the same thought provoking pleasures as a fine Red Burgundy does, this is suburb Riesling and it doesn’t feel at this point as sweet as Spatlese, decedent yes, but sublimely balanced. No wonder Terry Theise picked up this winery all those years ago, this wine is pure class and gives insight on how Kruger-Rumpf wines will age, for sure it would be a great idea to grab some of their 2011, 2012 and 2013 and chuck them in the cellar, that would be a very sound investment. The 1998 starts with orange rind, dried apricot and waxy rose petals leading to a palate of verbena, lemon oil, peach and lime sorbet along with river stones, flinty dust, a hint of mint tea, petrol fumes and saline notes. With air you find a more tropical side and while there is an expansion in the mouth and density, there still is vibrancy and brightness throughout, this is seductive stuff and ever-changing in the glass from minute to minute with finally a honeycomb, paraffin, bitter almond, golden apple and fig emerging subtly on the glorious finish. When I last checked the importer still had this beauty available, but in case you don’t find any, get some of the new vintages they are lovely too, drink the 1998 from 2014 to 2021.
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Maison Marchand-Tawse, Chassagne-Montrachet, Abbaye de Morgeot, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Absolutely gorgeous the Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Abbaye de Morgeot is crystal clear, pure and decadent, Pascal Marchand has the magic touch, especially with this beautiful white. Tiny lots from the best terrors is what this domaine is all about, usually only 2 or three barrels of each Cru are produced, crafted from mostly all organic and biodynamic old vines, great care and gentile winemaking all add up to near perfection and detail, these are amazing wines. The 2011 vintage Chassagne-Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot is a mineral intense Chardonnay with a rich leesy feel and wonderful definition showing white flowers, smoke, brioche and golden fig on the nose leading to a rapturous palate of steely lemon, white peach, apple and pear fruits with wet stones, baking spice, hazelnuts and a hint of bitter almond. With air the wine expands, but still feels structured with lifting acidity, a hint of creme fraise and a lengthy finish. Everything is vibrant and elegantly presented, making for a very memorable Burgundy experience, this a stunning expression of Chassagne at it’s best, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2011 Maison Marchand-Tawse, Meursault AC, White Burgundy, France.
The glorious Meursault 2011 is a classic, brooding with hazelnut, lemon and crushed stones, majestic in style, hand crafted by Canadian born Pascal Marchand, former winemaker at the famous Comte Armand Pommard domaine. The 2010 was terrific, but like all of his 2011 wines, Pascal Marchand surpassed all expectations, and these are just as exceptional in some cases better and certainly they are more generous in style and graceful wines, especially this 2011 Meursault. Starting with citrus blossom, steely mineral notes a hint of tropical essence, you can almost get lost here, leading to a firm palate of lemon curd, clarified butter, brioche, toast, smoke and the mentioned hazelnut along with tangy white peach, apple and fig nuances. This wine is lean and tightly wound with a core of energy and vivid acidity, don’t miss this fine white Burgundy, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($65 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Burg Ravensburg, Riesling, Trocken, Baden Kraichgau Germany.
Baden, know for it’s Spas, healing waters and tranquility is also an ancient and renown wine area with old vine Riesling, Pinot Noir and Silvaner being some of the main grapes here. Weingut Burg Ravensburg has been making quality wines since 1251 and in recent years upped their game, especially in the dry wines like this Riesling Trocken. The 2013 vintage was short on crop size, but the wines are quite lovely and pure and this Burg Ravensburg Riesling Trocken has crisp green apple, white peach, lime and tangerine fruits, loamy earth, spices and crystal/mineral essences with hints of salt, gravel, verbena and tropical notes. This is a tight and pleasing example of region and varietal, perfect for summer, drink over the next year or so, though it can easy age 3 to 5 years, enjoy!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Ameztia, Irouleguy, Basque Pyrenees, France.
Made by Jean-Louis Costera, a shepherd/farmer/winemaker, this stylish Basque red blend of 90% Tannat and 10% Cabernet Franc comes from the calcareous and clay soils on the northern slopes side of the French Pyrenees mountains from the Irouleguy region. This remote and wild area of France produces hearty and robust reds, these are quintessential county wines with rustic charms and great with the native cuisine. Domaine Ameztia is one of the finest and precise hand crafted Iroulguy wines and the lovely pure 2011 highlights the producers gentile touch, the cooler than normal vintage and the finesse the Cabernet Franc adds to the fiery tannic Tannat making for an interesting and dark expression of terroir and tradition in the glass. The 2011 Ameztia, fermented in stainless and aged in neutral wood shows wild game, mint, violets and porcini/truffle earthy notes leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, damson plum, cherry and dusty raspberry fruits with iron, lavender, bell pepper and cedary spices. There are some good grippy tannins that make there presence felt, but they do not seems harsh, but would be best to enjoy this red with some proteins (lamb, steak or sheep cheeses) no question, though for Irouleguy, this is refined and polished, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($28 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2012 Bucklin, Zinfandel,The Ancient Upper 5th Vineyard, Somona Valley.
Will Bucklin’s wonderful new Ancient release from a vineyard across Highway 12 from his family’s Old Hill Ranch is a heritage Zinfandel field blend that shows the old vine character and charm you’d expect from vines planted in the late 1800’s. This tiny site delivers hillside intensity and complexity and is on par with the likes of Bedrock, Pagani, Lytton and his own Old Hill, but is seriously limited with only about 60 cases being released, so if you want a true historic California treasure you’d better get cracking, as this beauty won’t be around long. The 2012 Bucklin The Upper 5th Vineyard Ancient Zinfandel Field Blend shows floral and spice tones and has a deep garnet hue with Zin fruit leading the way, mountain raspberry, cherry and loganberry along with spiced plum, minty/fennel, chalky stones, earth, cedar and hint of framboise. This wine doesn’t feels heavy or hot, though it reaches about 14.7%, it is poised, vivid and balanced, remarkably smooth tannins and a juicy bit of acidity keeps things fresh and dynamic on the palate, the mix of other black grapes for which these heritage wines are famous for really adds to the overall pleasure and depth, this is a very intriguing and compelling Zinfandel, I think it’s a steal for the price, drink over the next decade.
($29 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner, Freiheit, Kremstal, Austria,
Wildly intense and sharply focused with vivid and piercing acidity, mineral and a tangy citrus edge. Nigl really made a searing fresh version for 2013 and it hits a high tone and is vibrantly crisp with lemon/lime, melon and white plum fruit, bitter almond and chalk/dusty. This is very zesty zippy Gruner that will appeal to the hardcore lovers of this varietal and to those that adore acidity and bracing wines, this Freiheit is as good as it gets for this style and this vintage looks to be great across the board for the region and Austria in general. The brightly flavored Nigl makes for an excellent food wine and is super refreshing and pure, it really makes an impression and is a great example of this grape. I’ve always been a big fan of this winery on the Danube, west of Vienna, and 2013 looks like a top year for this Kremstal estate, this is exciting Gruner and I highly recommend searching it out along with Nigl’s Riesling and sparkling wines as well, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($24 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut von Winning, Pinot Noir II, Diedesheim, Pfalz Germany.
Von Winning is making some great wines and it was amazing tasting through their lineup, especially the Grosses Gewachs Rieslings, which are like no other I’ve ever encountered, these are more similar to Batard-Montrachet than what you’d think of as classic Riesling, these are remarkable, exotic and wildly expensive wines that if you try (it) will instantly understand why. Andreas Hutwohl was a patient and gracious host, providing insight and detail behind the von Winning wines at the recent Terry Theise tasting in San Francisco, and it was the first time I got to sample their elusive Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) and wow, they are spot on with this varietal too. The gorgeous 2012 von Winning Pinot Noir II is their entry level Pinot, and while at over $50 on the shelf when it is released later this fall, it is with out question worth every penny when you compare to California or Burgundy Pinot Noir in this price class, in fact it is a near perfect marriage of new world with old world in style with big and lush fruit and elegant balance coming through in the tannins and acidity. The von Winning Pinot was aged in large French cask, not all new barrique as the allow more subtlety and grace to shine and while lavish and rich on the palate, this is a wine of finesse and has amazing length. The nose starts with a heady perfume of violets, roses and mocha notes along with loads of red fruits, toffee and spice leading to a palate that has plum, red raspberry, black cherry and cola bean notes plus racy cassis, red spice and a smoky/toasty creamy texture. Hints of mineral and saline also play roles in this young and juicy Pinot, I’d say you’d want to short term cellar this, drink from 2016-2022, this is very impressive stuff, be sure to keep an eye out for this, it should be available in very limited supply starting in the fall of 2014.
($52 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Schlossgut Diel, Rose de Diel, Nahe Germany.
Caroline Diel’s wines are stunning and amazing examples of commitment and poise in the bottle, you always know when tasting Schlossgut Diel wines that you are experiencing something special. I was very fortunately able to catch up with her (Ms Diel) at Terry Theise’s San Francisco tasting recently and take note of her latest releases, her 2013 Rieslings all are of exceptional quality and show brilliance and refined elegance, but I adore this Rose of Pinot Noir and had to mention it here, it is both fun and serious, it ranks up there with the best of vintage with even the top Provence pinks, maybe even better. It is worth mentioning that Pinot Noir is rather rare in the Nahe, more famous for Riesling of course and Diel also does one of the most sought after and prized Spatburgunder in the region, so it is always a pleasure to taste the Rose, as it does give insight as to what the grape can do here in any given vintage, and while I liked the 2011 and 2013 versions of this pink wine, I think the 2013 surprisingly might even be even better overall with lots of vibrancy, tasty fruit and layers of earth, mineral and spice. The nose hints at rosewater, violets, pepper, steely/stony notes and citrus leading to a vivid and tangy palate of red citrus, peach, strawberry, watermelon and tart cherry along with flinty/smoky slate, minty herb, river rock and apple skin. This crisp and cool pink finishes with a nice cut of acidity, but leaves a seductive aftertaste, drink all year long from now until the end of 2015.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Bodega Javier Sanz, Villa Narcisa, Verdejo, Rueda DO, Spain.
A stunning and lovely white from Spain’s Rueda region, the Villa Narcisa from Javier Sanz is a steal, and an amazingly good summer wine. I have had three vintages in a row of this wine, each one intrigues me more and more, the complexity and drive of this Verdejo is spectacular, especially in this price class, this is a wine you need to grab a few cases of, it’s that good. The Villa Narcisa is the flagship line of wines being crafted by Javier Sanz at his Bodega in La Seca in the Rueda zone, using old vines at higher elevations. Sanz’s value brand Rey Santo is also a wonderful wine as well, but for the price the Villa Narcisa is out of this world. Sanz is the fourth generation family winemaker here and his wines are foul of pride of place, soul and are gloriously hand crafted. The 2013 Verdejo Villa Narcisa is all stainless steel, fermented and aged, lengthy cool fermentations help retain the vibrancy and freshness leaving a crisp, but flavorful example of varietal and terroir. The latest Villa Narcisa shows bright tropical essences, minty/grass, mineral tones and tangy acidity with quince, grapefruit, mango and lemon/lime citrus layers and steely notes plus a touch of white flowers on the nose. This is a remarkable and pretty white that can easily replace many a Sancerre or white Bordeaux, lots of people ask me for value options, and this is one of the best I can recommend, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($15 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Wisselbrunnen Grosses Gewachs, Rheingau, Germany.
It was a pleasure to taste through the up coming releases with Andreas Spreitzer and get a feel for the vintage and his unique Rheingau terroir, and especially the rare opportunity to sample his dry Grand Cru wines. The 2013 Grosses Gewachs were cask samples of the final blend, though they won’t be bottled for a bit more time as they are still on their lees, gaining richness and detail, but these incredible dry white wines are some of the finest of the region. The Spreitzer estate is vastly different to other areas with a totally proprietary mix of exposures and soils, this is why the two Grand Crus, the Wisselbrunnen and Rosengarten, as so contrasting with the Rosengarten being the more overt and fruity/flirty and the Wisselbrunnen the more reserved, austere and complex in style, both fabulous in their own ways, though I was really taken by the 2013 Wisselbrunnen. Andreas and his brother run the place and are becoming leading lights in their region, this is a winery to discover and collect, the value and range is exceptional with three great vintages under their belt this have moved to a new level and the wines are showing a deft touch and finesse. The 2013 Speitzer Wisselbrunnen Grand Cru dry Riesling is earthy, enchanting and mysterious with it’s loam and loess soils showing through with subtle fruit, spice and lengthy finish, there’s persimmon, kumquat, green apple, white tea, chalky stones and a core of lime and white peach. The leesy richness is matched by firm acidity and dynamic character, this is fantastic Riesling and with out question a great value in the this league of wines, look for lots more to come here, it should be hitting it’s stride in 3 to 5 years and drink well into the next decade, be sure to chase after this stunning Grosses Gewachs, and don’t miss the 2011 and 2012’s if you find them out there, Spreitzer is on a roll!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau de Pampelonne, Rose, Cotes de Provence, France.
This was a perfect companion to a warm summer, Fourth of July, on my best friend’s sun deck after watching some World Cup quarter finals, in which sadly this wine’s homeland was defeated, but of which we used as an excuse to pop this pretty Rose. The Chateau de Pompelonne is a classic dry French Provence Rose with bright refreshing flavors, mineral tones and is very stylish and remarkably easy to love, best to have more than one bottle around. The 2013 Rose is made of 40% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah and 10% Tibouren grapes from vines not far from the famed French Rivera town of Saint Tropez and is hand crafted by the talented Marie Pascaud, she also flies out the made wine in the southern hemisphere in the off season at well known estates from Chile to New Zealand. This Rose from granite and gneiss soils shows tart cherry, rose water, tangy plum, strawberry and watermelon fruit along with zesty citrus/acidity, steely notes and a hint of spice and lavender. Everything is delivered in vivid and clear fashion, this is a joyous French pink that, unfortunately will not be for celebrating Les Bleus, but should be great fun for Bastille Day and the rest of summer and fall to come.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Hermann J. Wiemer, Riesling, Dry, Estate, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York.
American Riesling is alive and well, with new and old faces making some terrific wines, like Tatomer in Santa Barbara, Stony Hill, Casa Nuestra and Tudor as well in California, there are some great wines coming out of the Pacific Northwest with Oregon and Washington making some real treats, but if you want to best and the most interesting American Riesling, there is just one place and that is Wiemer in the Finger Lakes region of New York that stands above the rest. The Weimer’s family came from Germany and the vines are Mosel clones from Bernkastel, but the talented Fred Merwarth has brought international frame to this estate since he took over the vineyard in 2007, in fact his wines convoked Johannes Selbach to team up with Paul Hobbs to start an American Riesling winery in the Finger Lakes. The 2013 Weimer Dry Riesling is vibrant and old world style white with an American touch, it shows lovely floral and savory elements, tension/vivid acidity and delicate fruitiness with white peach, grapefruit, lime and green apple notes along with soil (Shale) driven layers of mineral, flinty spice and chalky stones, it finishes crisp and lean, but with a lengthy aftertaste. It is a pure Riesling that takes it’s cues from Germany, but has interesting elements that highlight it’s own terroir, it is unlike Alsace (France), Clare Valley (Australia) or the Wachau (Austria), but has little touches that makes you think of all those places. The last few vintages have been majestic for Weimer, but I adore this 2013 and think it is the best yet, a great American wine story in a glass, perfect for the 4th of July and watching the World Cup!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling “Norheimer Dellchen” Auslese Goldkapsel, Nahe Germany. (7.5% Alc.)
In a world obsessed by dry wine, it is hard to put into poetic words just how fantastic this sweet Auslese really is, and how amazingly divine, it is not just a sweet wine, this is one of the most complex and layered wines on earth with the added bonus that is drinkable as a table wine. The balance and detail on Donnhoff’s Norheimer Dellchin is mind blowing and could change everything again, this wine defies classification. While I admit to following the dry/trocken trend and love the Grosses Gewachs, especially Donnhoff’s from this same vineyard, their latest Spatlese and Auslese have been magical, plus I adore Selbach-Oster’s Mosel Auslese weight single block wines like his “Schmitt” Zeltinger Schlossberg, these modern sweet/weighted Rieslings are just as important to follow and are probably some of the most age-worthy and collectable wines being made in Germany if not the whole world. The 2013 Donnhoff Norheimer Dellchin Auslese bursts from the glass with energy and vigor with sea salt, mineral spice, white roses and tropical essences leading to a full and lush palate of honeyed pear, lime sorbet, golden apples, kumquat, pineapple and mango along with lemon zest and orange notes while in the background hints of flint, peach pit and wild mint hover round. The sweetness is refreshing and doesn’t feel heavy at this stage, this is a very young wine, this baby can cellar for another decade easy before giving anything like full potential, so be patient and put a lock and key on this ultra gorgeous Riesling, though that said this wine would be stunning young with Asian cuisine and or smoked/cured pork. This is great stuff, absolutely one of the best wines of the vintage, I’m certain, drink from 2018-2028.
($87 Est. 750ml) 97 Points, grapelive
2012 Penner-Ash, Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Lynne Penner-Ash’s 2012 vintage wines look to be gorgeous and generous example of year and place with opulent fruit, depth and length, especially the Yanhill-Carlton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. Penner-Ash crafts a multitude of fine wine in small lots, and a visit of her winery is a must if you get to the Willamette Valley in Oregon’s premier wine country, set against an amazing backdrop with beautiful vines and vistas this is a special place. The 2012 Penner-Ash Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton Estate Vineyard is lavish and lush with a very full palate and is framed by smoky rich toasty oak, this wine is still not complete and will need some short term cellaring to fulfill it’s massive potential, but is still has youthful and hedonistic charms now with black raspberry, framboise, tangy currant and candied cherry fruit, vanilla bean, cola and mocha along with subtle violets, rose and tea spice. Those that like Beaux Freres or Domaine Serene with love this flamboyant Pinot Noir, and will like it now, but those that dig lean and grippy styles might want to either stay away or allow some time to polish this seductive and forward wine, I suggest a few years in the cellar, allowing it’s more elegant elements to evolve and let the oak to fade more into the background. This wine is ripe, silky and deeply flavored, it gives loads of pleasure and is in keeping with the winery’s passion, drink 2016 to 2022.
($49 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Selbach-Oster, Pinot Blanc, Trocken (Dry) Mosel, Germany.
This was a huge and pleasant surprise, a beautiful and vibrant dry Pinot Blanc by Johannes Selbach, this wine really stands out for quality and value, I was highly impressed. Almost every year without fail, I attend the Terry Theise Imports Winter and Summer pre sale tastings in San Francisco, I’ve been coming since 2001 or there abouts and I always learn new things and experience some of the greatest joys of being part of the world of wine community, and it is always a great pleasure to taste with Johannes Selbach, he is a serious and generous winemaker that has a wealth of knowledge and talent to share, I am always grateful of his time and his patience, even when the German national side is playing in the World Cup and his is pouring wine and answering questions! This year, he showed his new Pinot Blanc, along with his fantastic lineup of 2012 and soon to be released 2013 Mosel Rieslings, and the Pinot Blanc is a smash hit, this is an excellent wine and great example of the varietal with vivid flavors, Mosel character and nice intensity, not usually found in this grape. The nose has honeyed lemon and green apple with a steely and stony edge leading to a medium palate of white peach, lemon/lime, tart apple and a hint of tropical fruit along with fresh acidity, bitter herbs and mineral tones adding vigor and lift. This crisp and well structured Pinot Blanc almost has the feel of Riesling, though it does have more roundness and is very generous, finishing brisk and lingering with a long spiced grapefruit and apple-skin aftertaste, drink from 2014 to 2018. This charming German Pinot Blanc comes off three plots in three Cru sites, and is well worth searching out, it should be arriving late summer or fall of 2014.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Maby, Tavel, La Forcadiere, Rhone Rose, France.
This Tavel has an amazing hue of violent pink and is intensely flavored with zesty citrus, juicy watermelon, raspberry and tart cherry along with hints of pepper, stony mineral, red peach, strawberry/rose water and a bust of grapefruit/citrus acidity. Domaine Maby does a 24 hour cold soak, ferments in stainless doesn’t allow malo to make this joyous Tavel Rhone Rose. This pink wine gains depth and has loads of vivacious charm, a perfect summer sipper and a total package wine that can do all your breakfast, luck and dinner duties! Tavel is made up of mostly Grenache, but has Cinsault, Mourvedre plus Clairette and Grenache Blanc to add complexity and the Domaine Maby is a pure and vivid example and is absolutely suburb and delicious with subtle floral notes and is very refreshing with a taught crisp finish, but with a lengthy aftertaste. Drink up! This would be especially good while watching Les Bleus, the French national soccer team in this years World Cup!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Dupuy de Lome, Bandol Rouge, Provence, France.
I might go as far to say Domaine Dupuy de Lome has the most beautiful winery and setting in the world! Set in a forest near the sea in a castle, this Provence estate oozes charm, romance and must be the greatest place to work imaginable, without question you should look this place up.This Mourvedre based Bandol with a little Cinsault from Domaine Dupuy de Lome is drinking wonderfully and highlights the ripe tannins of the vintage and juicy acidity making for a serious Bandol that can and should be enjoyed in it’s youth. This is still classically style and true to it’s old world roots and character with plenty of earth, spice and vigor along with joyous fruit and generous texture. It is hard not to love this wonderful expression of terroir and Provencal warmth with copious black and red fruits, mineral and game showing through out with black cherry, tangy currant, damson plum, basaltic dipped strawberry, anise and lavender oil. This entertaining and firm red has density and glorious mouthfeel, but never feels over the top with impressive drive, energy and lift, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, and do not be afraid to pop the cork on this refined and poised Bandol anytime the mood hits you.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine A et P de Villaine, Bourgogne Rouge Cote Chalonnaise, Les Clous, Burgundy, France.
One of the deals of the vintage so far, Aubert de Villaine’s newest cuvee Les Clous Bourgogne Cote Chalonnaise Rouge 2012 is richly flavored with intense Pinot fruit, earthy spices, mineral and savory elements with tangy red berry, cherry and wild plum layers along with pepper, hints of game, bacon plus cedary wood notes. This old world Burgundy has much to enjoy and will certainly entertain over the coming decade of life. This wine has plenty of stuffing, drive and vigor with good acidity and silky tannins making for another winner for the de Villaine estate. 2012 is going to be an interesting vintage, there was difficult conditions and hail, along with a wonderful harvest, but of a tiny crop, so there will be very little wine, up to 60% less on the market in most cases and that with an extra burst of demand, all these things are going to lead to a rush on Burgundy and an unwanted jump in prices. That all said, places like Cote Chalonnaise still offer great values, even from the guy that is the managing director of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Union Wine Company, Underwood, Pinot Noir, Oregon.
The Underwood Pinot is from grapes from many different locations across Oregon, this is fresh and deliciously juicy with pleasingly simple layers of bright fruit, making for an easy going honest wine. The Union Wine Company made in Oregon label has been making waves offering exceptional values in many different wines, with most coming from Willamette Valley sites. The basic Underwood is also available in cans! And it is delightful and very joyous in both vessels, though I do prefer the regular 750ml bottle, but it is very Oregon to offer this no pretense option. The 2013 shows light floral and spice notes with tangy raspberry, cherry, plum and cola bean with no oak enhancement, hard to beat this wine at the price, drink over the next year or so. Be sure to check this wine out, and also look for there other offerings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris under Alchemist and Kings Ridge. While the cans might be too hipster for me, I’ll certainly enjoy a few bottles of this straight forward Pinot Noir, hard to pass up a sweet deal deal like this!
($12 Est, 750ml bottle-Also Avail in 4pk 375ml Cans) 87-90 Points, grapelive
2005 Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
What a pleasure to taste this wine, I must say a big thank you to the winery for having this beautiful and stunning library release open for tasting at their wine garden, they are doing their tastings mostly outside until the winery gets it’s massive remodel finish. I highly recommend a Napa trip and an appointment at the Phelps winery during this time, it is an awesome setting and experience, even if you miss out on a cellar tour, you get a chance to taste a bigger selection of fantastic wines, outdoors in the heart of the Napa Valley, not a bad deal. I was up in Napa for a quick trip, but was pulled to Joseph Phelps and I am grateful I gave them a call and was able to taste through the offerings, their lineup included the 2011 Cabernet, some of their Freestone wines, which were super, more on later, and two vintages of their flagship Insignia, the 2006 and the gorgeous 2005. While the 2006 was certainly good, it has began to mature quickly, best to drink early, but the 2005 is flat out awesome with a youthful look and feel still and incredible length and detail showing now in the glass. This 2005 is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a few percentage doses of Petit Verdot and a splash of Merlot, this is a powerful and full bodied wine with some firm tannins, but it feels ultra decedent and lavish on the palate, it is smoky and has a subtle floral tone on the nose, but it makes it’s biggest impact in the mouth with an explosive array of black and red fruits and a rich mocha note with blackberry, plum, creme de cassis and cherry along with cigar wrapper, licorice and graphite. This is what you’d expect from a great wine and a Napa classic, I am terribly impressed with the 2005, a vintage that was pretty tannin filled and awkward on release, this wine has really come together and gives plenty of pleasure and style, drink from 2014 to 2025, fantastic stuff from a California legend.
($145-185 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2011 Cave Conrad Caloz, Humagne Rouge “La Mourziére” Les Coteaux de Sierre Valais AOC, Switzerland.
The Humagne Rouge grape is rare and wildly exotic with high levels of tannic structure, it was thought to have been native to Valle D’Aoste in Alpine Italy, but where it is almost extinct, it is almost exclusive to Valais SWitzerland and there is less than 350 acres of it in total production. This varietal is also known as Cornalin, and or Cornalin d’ Aoste, but it is almost certain to be historically native to Switzerland, though it is sometimes confused with and even called Petit Rouge. Cave Caloz’s stunning expression of Humagne Rouge is one of the greatest alpine wines I’ve even tasted and is a remarkable wine of complexity, depth and with a hauntingly long aftertaste with rich almost a northern Rhone Syrah feel, but with racy red fruits instead of black/blue, this is gorgeous wine, pretty, detailed and with a velvet covered tannin grip. This poised red with thrill mountain wine fans, and for those that geek out on Jura and Savoie reds, it is time to get into Switzerland, and while the whites have impressed lately, as well as a few Gamay and Pinot Noir wines, this Swiss red with blow your mind. The sexy and seductive La Mourziere 2011 by Conrad Caloz, the King of the Mountain, starts with red currants, plum and wild berry fruits with morello cherry, candied cranberry and brambleberry as well, along with savory spice, earthy truffle, sage/herb, chalky stones and briar notes finishing with black olive, anise, strawberry liqueur and pepper notes. This is stylish medium bodied artisan wine from a talented winemaker and unique terroir, it offers a lot of detail, density and natural elements, I highly recommend finding this scarce gem, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, wonderful!
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Adele Rouze, Quincy, Loire Valley, France.
This lovely and excellent Sauvignon Blanc has nice lift, tang and zest with pure terroir and varietal character, a perfect refreshing white for summer. Domaine Adele Rouze of Quincy, the first AC in the Loire Valley, has been a new star on the scene for quality Sauvignon Blanc since Charles Neal starting importing the wines a few vintages back, and I highly recommend looking for it when you are looking for a white wine, especially as a counterpoint to Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume. At around 30 Years Old, Ms Rouze is a star, she farms organic and uses estate parcels of old vines, some date back to the 1920’s, she was trained in Bordeaux and made wine there until coming home to make this cuvee from her father Jacques’ vines. Adele uses native yeast, ages on the lees and uses stainless tank, her total production is about 8,000 bottles, she is without question a small artisan producer, making an exciting wine. The 2013 version is bright with lemon/lime, white peach, melon and grapefruit leading the way with mineral and stones, faint cut grass, cat pee and saline. Everything is zippy and edgy, this wine picks up depth in the glass and remains bursting with energy throughout, making for a charming and refined expression of Sauvignon Blanc and the region.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2008 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanee, Red Burgundy, France.
This was a nice surprise, I had opened a bottle from my own collection of this wine last year and it was not anywhere near as good as this bottle, that a friend had opened the night before and saved some for me to taste, Burgundy can be that way, I only hope I have a few more tucked away. The 2008 vintage was iffy and while there were some top wines made, it will be a lottery as to when to drink and what you’ll get, but the Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee is proving to be a success at this point, this bottling comes from estate owned vines and it shows in the concentration and intensity. Being open almost 24 hours I’m sure helped, but there is still lots of vigor, extract and acidity, so I might suggest another few years in the cellar if you have this wine, though impressive as it is now. The 2008 Domaine Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee AC has classic markers and character with crushed violets, game, bacon and cassis notes along with pretty black cherry, spiced plum and blue/black berry notes plus hints of graphite, smoky/sweet toast, cedar, mineral and savory meat, saline and wild herb tones. This wine feels grippy with a certain firmness, tension and balanced weight, like I said, this is impressive Burgundy and a rare treat as not much of this beautiful wine gets on the shelves, imported by Kermit Lynch and found in select wine merchants, best to search online, 2008 and 2009 might still see a few bottles, but 2010 and even 2011 look to be long gone, though Meo is well worth the effort in finding.
($100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Wm. Harrison, Cabernet Franc, Rutherford Estate, Napa Valley.
This is a brilliant effort, and a totally vivid expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, this is neither Loire or Bordeaux in style, Wm. Harrison’s Rutherford Cabernet Franc is pure California in the glass, glorious. This vibrant and darkly hued red gleams a blue/black with garnet edges with a nose that lifts wild flowers, minty spice and sweet cedary wood notes along with a palate that shows black currants, plum, cherry and loganberry fruits with a hint of allspice, pepperiness, a touch of pencil lead, vanilla and anise plus a whiff of cigar wrapper and a lengthy finish that has a creme de cassis aftertaste. This 2010 Wm. Harrison Cabernet Franc is medium/full and has rich texture, but never feels fat or heavy, it is wonderfully balanced and is generous and pleasing wine with smooth tannins, a bit of juicy acidity and well judged French oak subtlety. While all the 2010’s were lovely at Wm. Harrison, it really is this Cabernet Franc that stands out, especially at the price, when compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon and certainly this remarkable wine would be a super companion to lamb, duck or any of your steak choices. Drink from 2014 to 2022 easy, it was great revisiting this nice little winery on Silverado Trail, and I suggest you drop in as well when you get that way.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Tempier,Rose, Bandol, France.
Without question Domaine Tempier Rose is over hyped and expensive, but it still is fantastic, and while I can buy cases of it, I can’t imagine a summer without a few bottles and the new 2013 is delicious and one of the best vintages to date. The famed Lulu Peyraud, the long time matriarch of Domaine Tempier, runs this Provence estate near the glistening Mediterranean sea, the estate has been in the family since 1834, in fact their fame began with a gold medal in 1885. Over the years the amount of Mourvedre has varied, and this year it is only 50% total with 28% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and even a splash of Carignan, but when you think of Bandol, it is Mourvedre that makes it and while the other varietals make complexity and fruity openness, the Mourvedre gives power, intensity and vigor, and the 2013 Rose which is mostly all organically farmed, no chemicals used in the vines, shows great verve and length. This Provencal joy shines bright in the glass with it’s trademark salmon/pink hue and golden edges, this vintage is very fresh with zesty tart red grapefruit leading the way with apricot flesh, watermelon, pepper, orange and wild strawberry finishing with a hint of sour cherry and leaving a steely mineral note. This Domaine Tempier, a French classic, is a vibrant dry Rose of undeniable quality and sex appeal, it is definitely a must have summer wine, it is goes great with all cuisine and will make you root for Les Bleus (French national soccer team) in the World Cup, Viva la France! Plus, it is the perfect way to celebrate the first day of Summer!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Sans Liege, Call to Arms, White, Alta Colina Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Curt Schalchlin’s Sans Liege wines are all ripe, full of flavor and artisan hand crafted, they are not shy or do they lean or bend to fashion, and they are lovely and unique in every way. Many will follow the blind obsession of not looking past the high alcohol, and at 15.6% The Call to Arms White, Curt’s latest offering is a good example that sometimes you just have to say “screw it I’m going to enjoy this no matter what anyone else thinks” as this 70% Grenache Blanc-30% Roussanne is damn good and feels just fine on the palate. While certainly heady and hedonistic, it doesn’t feel ponderous or sweet, if fact it is more balanced that most Chardonnays out there from the 2012 vintage, so best not look at alcohol alone and judge each wine in the mouth, and no question, the 2012 Sans Liege Call to Arms Alta Colina White is a blockbuster with power, depth and massive appeal to white Rhone fans, especially those that love Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, and while I do admire lots of wines with lower alcohol, I must admit this is really seductive and a quietly pleasure, and I openly confess to a huge smile and joyous reaction to this forceful and lavish wine. The nose shows the intensity of the Roussanne with stone fruit, white flowers, mineral and almond oil leading to a palate with tons of texture and character showing apple, apricot, peach and citrus along with yellow peach/nectarine, hints of mango, melon, clove, anise, white lavender honey and clarified cream. Only 10 barrels were made of the Call to Arms and while some critics will reject it on Alcohol, that will not stop this wonderful expression from being a success, don’t let prejudices blind you, you should definitely keep an open mind, this is a great example of why, drink over the next 2 to 3 years, this is fabulous!
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Gerovassiliou, White, Epanomi, Greece.
One of the most beautiful and detailed wines I’ve tasted from Greece, the Domaine Gerovassiliou estate white is gorgeous, vivid and vibrant, this is groovy juice. A blend of native varietals, Malagousia and Assyrtiko and from mostly organic vines on a single estate vineyard in the Epamoni region of northern Greece. Malagousia a rare aromatic native grape that was almost extinct, except for the efforts of Gerovassiou and a very few others like Domaine Carras to bring it back from the nearly dead, it makes up a good portion of this dynamic wine, along with the very fashionable Assyrtiko, a Greek grape more common to Santorini and now making up a good number of fine fines from the Isles. The Gerovassiliou is slightly perfumed and mineral toned with bright citrus notes and a deeper feel than most Greek whites without being plush/sweet or heavy, this is a well judged and well crafted white wine. The palate is brisk, but not too thin with peach, lemon/lime, melon and stone fruit/apricot along with spice, wet stones and a hint of tropical essence. This intriguing White is really lovely and alluring and finishes with a nice soft bitter note and lingering citrus aftertaste, making for a refreshing white and a very pleasing wine, great with seafood and or summer sipping, drink over the next year or so.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Fabien Jouves, Vin de France, Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees, Cahors, France.
Fabien Jouves is a rising talent in the ancient Cahors region of France, he makes the award winning Mas Del Perie wines and now is also trying his hand at unique offerings like this fresh and delightful Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees red, it is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Malbec, all from Cahors, fermented with some natural canonic maceration and his artisan touch, the result is a fruit forward fun 12% Alcohol, unfined/unfiltered wine that because it defies regional norms must be called Vin de France rather than Cahors and the vintage is left off the label. This fresh and vibrant red is very Gamay like with juicy red berries, plum and strawberry notes up front with spice, mineral and framboise notes too in this darkly hued, but friendly wine. While not terribly serious and with soft tannins this wine does impress and is just too damn good not to want to drink as much as possible, this lighthearted and playful wine with be a real hit at parties, picnics and perfect for summer afternoons, especially with a slight chill on it. Fabien’s wines are all impeccably hand crafted and clear, you should definitely check out his latest Mas Del Perie Cahors 100% Malbec, an absolute stunner and a super value at under $20, and for something for pure easy drinking this Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees is a great choice, perfect for cheering France on in the World Cup, Viva la Vin de France!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2008 Andrew Murray, Syrah, Tous Les Jours, Central Coast.
After the dramatic USA victory over Ghana in the FIFA 2014 World Cup match in Brazil, I looked for a fun wine to celebrate with and found this Andrew Murray Vineyards Syrah with a few years on it, and it drank well and easy. I have always been a fan of Andrew’s wines and this wine is always a great value, coming from mostly Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez fruit, but with a bit of Paso too. The 2008 Tous les Jours still shows a dark purple/ruby hue and has good definition and lively character with boysenberry, plum, cherry and tangy currant fruits along with olive paste, lavender, fig notes and hints of spice/pepper elements plus a touch of cedar, warm stones and earth tones. This wine was delightful, vibrant and has subtle tannins holding things in shape and fresh acidity lifting the fruit and it has a lingering dark fruit aftertaste. This is drinking very nicely, it is not a blockbuster or a huge surprise, but it certainly does a good job and it is a very happy wine, it was without question a perfect match for celebrating and it kept a big smile on my face all night. The 2012 version is more dynamic and easy to find, I think since this 2008 was so delicious I might put a few 2012’s away too, they should be even more impressive with a 3 or 4 years on them, The 2008 is ready to drink now, but should last another 2 or 3 years from now, very classy, ripe and tasty stuff.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Galante Vineyards, Viognier, Estate, Carmel Valley.
A visit home to Carmel Valley usually includes checking in on the local wineries and seeing what the natives are up to, and this trip is no different with a bunch of choices to follow up on, including two new white wines from Carmel Valley’s own Jack Galante. I had received the Galante Wine Gang newsletter informing me as to the latest addition of a white called the Wagon Wheel White, a cuvee of 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Viognier, a wine that sees some barrel raising and what feels like mall fermentation, this pretty and exotic wine is fresh, perfumed, vibrant and is lush and creamy in the mouth feel, very pleasing and exciting, plus Galante also has a straight Viognier, which is more subtle and austere with some power, but has more subtleness and is more edgy with good acidity and bitter elements that balance well with the sweet sensation you usually find in California Viognier. This looks to be an interesting project and as the vines get older and experience sets in, I think the potential looks great. The 2013 Galante Estate Viognier has a restrained nose at this point, and I think it is shy, not overly floral or showing trademark honeysuckle in a big way yet, but there is nice hints, along with almond oil, mineral, peach, oyster shell and vanilla before a medium weight palate, that I’m sure with fill out in the next 6 months, with lemon, melon, white peach and tangy apricot fruits bursting through along with butterscotch, bitter green almond and dust earthy notes. This Viognier has some old world rustic elements and grip, I think it might be from young vines, but overall it is a solid effort and is impressive with food, I like where Galante is going with this new lineup of whites and there is some exciting times ahead for the Ranch, drink the Viognier young while the wine is still bright and youthful, now through 2015.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Meyer-Nakel, Spatburgunder, AHR, Germany.
The Red Baron’s latest Estate Pinot Noir is quite stunning and fresh with sublime vibrancy and life, Werner Nakel also used restraint here with no obvious new oak influence. With projects in South Africa and Portugal, Nakel is a busy modern winemaker, but it is his great wines and passion lies in his estate in the AHR where he crafts some of the world’s greatest Pinot Noir wines from slate soils and a cool climate in Germany’s historic and famed Spatburgunder region. While Spatburgunder is grown with success and renown in the Pfalz with Becker making fine offerings, and even in the Rheingau where Hollenberg Assmannhausen is a great site as well, but it is the remote AHR that might be the finest spot for Pinot Noir, and Meyer-Nakel certainly is the top. Meyer-Nakel’s Grand Crus and special cuvees like “S” and “Blue Slate” are highly prized and spendy of course, but the Estate bottling is always a steal and the 2012 is exceptional with vivid flavors, delicacy and gorgeous textural mouth feel with good acidity, mineral tones and nice length. The 2012 Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder stats with blueberry, flinty spice and kirsch leading to a deep palate of spiced plum, blackberry and a core of black cherry along with red pepper, crushed stones, a hint of smoke and lifting acidity that brightens things up and adds zip in this young wine. This wine feels dreamy and light, but it fills out and gains density with air leaving a heavenly aftertaste. Drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, even though it should age a decade, this is elegant and classy stuff, I think the appeal is the well judged touch and less oak character than the upper level wines.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Tete a Tete, Proprietary Red Blend, Sierra Foothills.
Bill Easton, one of the original Rhone Rangers up in the Sierra Foothills, makes Domaine de la Terre Rouge from Rhone varietals and for the Tete a Tete he uses Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. This classic Cotes du Rhone Village blend is rich, lively and easy to love with a dark purple/black hue with garnet edges that leads to boysenberry, blueberry, creme de cassis, red berries and cherry fruits along with pepper, liqueur notes, dusty earth, mint and smoky vanilla. Easton uses small mostly neutral Burgundy barrels for raising this wine, which is a cask selection of varietal then blend to form this cuvee, and the fruit holds up well hiding most of the French oak Francois Freres barrique flavors well, just leaving that smoky kiss of wood and vanilla note, it really works nicely for this vintage especially, it certainly tastes like a much more expensive wine, and is a great value. I like the density and smooth texture, while admiring the restraint and life the wine shows, this is a polished example of Sierra Foothills wine and shows Easton’s touch and experience, this is a great BBQ red and goes with many cuisine choices, drink now through 2018.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2006 Schloss Schonborn, Riesling, Kabinett, Estate, Rheingau Germany.
The 2004 and 2006 vintages in Germany often get overlooked, but they have turned out very nicely and there are many fine wines from these years still available, and at great prices, like this lovely 2006 Schonborn which is all from their Hattenheimer Cru in the Rheingau. Schloss Schomborn is one of the most famous estates along the Rhein and Hattenheimer is an ancient and prized site, these are wines of classic grace, depth and vibrancy, and this mostly dry, semi sweet Kabinett offers mature character and elegant balance with pretty flavors and joyful mouth feel. The 2006 Schloss Schonborn Estate Riesling Kabinett starts with spice, mineral, dried white roses and apple butter, leading to a supple palate of poached peach, tangerine, apple pie, clove, fig and salty wet stones along with hints of honey and marmalade as well as juicy soft acidity. This enjoyable and pure Riesling has lots of life left, but it is really at a good point right now and at this stage it has everything you’d want and is a very admirable wine. Imported by Rudi Wiest, the Schloss Schonborn wines are available in limited markets, but a little search will be rewarded.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
El Maestro Sierra, Fino Sherry, Jerez de la Fonterra, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Spain.
This bright and dry Fino Sherry is pretty, vibrant and crisp, perfect for tapas and summer sipping. El Maestro Sierra, established in 1830, is one of the top Bodegas in Jerez de la Fonterra, with an amazing array of young and old Sherries on offer, along with some old vines, this is a must try Sherry house and while their Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo Cortado are some of the must divine in the region, their Fino should not be over looked. The Fino made from Palomino is aged under Flor (a yeast film that protects the wine from early oxidation) in old American oak casks and bottled right off it’s lees, this gives this fresh and brisk Sherry it’s complexity and added weight on the palate. There is lots of salty brine and doughy notes on the nose and in the mouth with citrusy tang, tangerine, lemon and almond lead the way with a hint of pecan, peach and chalk. The history lives on at El Maestro Sierra, with many old stocks and commitment to tradition and heritage, and I hope to spend many warm summer evenings with this chilled Fino to reflect on, this is classy, elegant and pure that shows terroir and house style beautifully.
($17 Est. 375ml) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine du Coulet, Cornas “Brise Cailloux” Northern Rhone, France.
This beautiful and layered 100% Syrah from Cornas is really coming together nicely and looks set for a long gorgeous life ahead, I just recently discovered Domaine du Coulet and from what I tasted, I think this is a great find. Matthieu Barret makes the wines here, taking over from his father, who himself took the helm from his dad (Mattheiu’s Grandpa) who started this domaine after WWII, and their family vines had been suppling some of the top estates with grapes. Barret’s Brise Cailloux is his enter level wine, a pure Cornas from decomposed granite and silty clay soils, made up of multi parcels and aged in a combination of big neutral cask and ovoid concrete tank, this is wonderful and deep Syrah that is meant to be enjoyed early and it certainly delivers on it’s promise. The 2010 Cornas Brise Cailloux by Domaine du Coulet starts with a brilliant dark purple/garnet hue that is almost opaque and with a sweet and savory bouquet that is highlighted by violets, salted melted licorice, gamey notes, graphite/camphur and creme de cassis, leading to a palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruits along with black olives, peppercorns, mineral, dusty stones, porcini and anise, plus espresso bean, bacon fat and hint of steamy bitterness. This is classy stuff and while it does have firm tannins and acidic lift, everything feels rich and dense without being heavy or aggressive, this is impressive stuff from Mattheiu Barret and his upper echelon single parcel wines are even more impressive and vigorous, but need more time to develop, so I would suggest trying this gem out first, and it is priced right for the quality, this is a domaine to follow and a talented winemaker on the rise!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
n.v. Priorat Natur, Vermut, Priorat, Catalonia. (Spanish Vermouth)
I don’t write about wine based Cocktails or Aperitifs very often and almost never mention Vermouth, but I couldn’t pass on the chance to comment on this sexy and compelling Priorat Natur, all organic Vermouth from Catalonia made with native herbs and aromatics infused into a wine base using a combination of Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Grenache Blanc grapes that are fermented on the skins and then aged at least two years. Xavier Buil and his wife Anna Cuadrat hand craft this delicate and intriguing Vermouth using natural and ancient methods with hundreds of local botanicals and a touch of sugar in this amber hued elixir, they add young Vermut to a barrel of old Vermut to create the richly flavored complexity, much like a solera you’d find in Jerez. Recently I’ve had the chance to examine many Vermouths from Spain and these are superb Aperitif, and with the Negroni craze out of control these days, you can find some amazing offerings using these distinct Spanish Vermouths, plus you can do some very racy Manhattans and other stylish cocktails with them, though I prefer to enjoy them sans booze, just chilled, especially this Priorat Natur Vermut, this is gloriously refined and joyous on it’s own. I was sipping this wonderful Vermouth with Tapas the other evening after it was recommended at the bar (Duende Tapas in Oakland, Calif.) and it went down beautifully, it is truly an artisan product with not too much sweetness, it shows bright dried fruits, tangy herbs and perfumed florals that all add up to a light and restrained example with citrus, clove, thai basil, a hint of wild honey, fig and almond.
($22-30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
n.v. Destillerias Manuel Acha 1831, Basque Vino Vermouth Blanco, Amurrio (Alava)Spain.
Wow, this is dusty dry and crisp vino Blanco Vermouth that begs to be in your ultimate Martini, and or as a fine sipping aperitif, this is great stuff made from all natural ingredients and using ultra traditional methods. The Manuel Acha family distillers in the Basque region of Amurrio makes a fine artisan Vermouth and is now run by the talented Gabriel Acha, continuing the long line of Acha’s to craft unique Basque Vino Vermouth. The Blanco is savvy and brisk with loads of citrus oil, tangy white peach and lime with crushed jamming, orange blossom and bitter herbs. On the rocks or straight up with a lemon twist this makes for a great palate awakener and again, if you want a stylish and racy Martini, this is your stuff, no question, I was left very impressed by both the white dry and the semi sweet and delicate red by Acha, I would for sure make these my bar staples. The Acha (Atxa) Vermouth is complex and layered, and stunningly good, even for someone like me that rarely indulges in mixed drinks or cocktails, I’m going to make sure I have both these around, this is quality stuff, exotic and charming, especially this dry Blanco, bravo!
($20 Est. 750ml) 93 Points, grapelive
n.v. Destillerias Manuel Acha 1831, Basque Vino Vermouth Rojo, Amurrio (Alava) Spain.
Acha’s, or Atxa in Basque, sweet red Vermouth is super tasty and maybe one of the world’s great Manhattan ingredients and makes for a super Negroni too, but frankly this stuff is so delicious you can serve straight chilled, and I secretly think a great sangria would enhanced using a touch of this wonderful stuff. Gabriel is a long line of Achas that have been making artisan Vermouth since 1831, he crafts all natural Basque vino Vermouth using local organic grapes and herbs. The pay of bitter and sweetness is near perfect and very exciting, much less cloying than the Italian offerings with little of the overwhelming vanilla, this is more delicate and subtle with complexity and flair, very Basque indeed. This aperitif makes for great sipping and even better cocktails with floral extracts, lavender, fennel, sweet sugar beet and classic red berry wine character along with liqueur dipped plum and candied citrus rind. Richly detailed on the palate and easy to love, if you are looking for excitement in your Vermouth and want something truly unique and special you really need to find this great product made myth passion and tradition.
($20 Est. 750ml) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Don Ventura, Ribeira Sacra DO, Vina do Burato, Spain.
From the Ribeira Sacra “sacred slopes” this pure Mencia is a vibrant and impressive wine, crafted by the Losada family in the old zone of Amandi. For those looking for flavorful low alcohol reds, you should definitely check out Mencia from Ribeira, and wineries like Don Ventura and Domino de Bibei in the DO of Ribeira Sacra, where you find 12% alcohols and organic and biodynamic practices and still have deep and beautiful wines. Ramon Losada’s entry level Vina do Burato is a steal and shows Mencia in it’s purest form and is unadorned by flashy extras, it simply is lovely and easy to love with bright fruits, spice, hints of game, earth and has plenty of texture and style. The nose is slightly perfumed with traces of dark flowers, green spice and pepper notes like Loire Cab Franc, mineral and tangy currants leading to a medium weight palate of black cherry, plum, mixed berries and wild herbs, stones and dried porcini. The finish is crisp and fresh with youthful acidity and a lingering strawberry note, this is a very nice wine that shows the varietal and region in a solid performance, drink now through 2018.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Château du Rouet, Rose, Esterelle, Cotes de Provence, France.
A warm summer day, an outside bistro table and a nice book, and a few hours to enjoy a fresh meal, people watch and dream of being in the south of France, along with of course, a chilled crisp pink wine, yes that is a perfect lazy Sunday. That was the set up for this little classic Provencal Rose, and this Chateau du Rouet was just what the doctor and the hot weather ordered, it is zappy and tangy, but with enough body to keep things interesting and while not the best Rose of the season, it is a very pleasing wine. The 2013 Chateau du Rouet Esterelle Rose is made up of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache and 20% Syrah, the Carignan is fermented with carbonic maceration to give fruitiness, while the Grenache and Syrah are traditionally fermented in concrete vats and the wine is raised in a combination of concrete tank and old neutral casks, the resulting wine is round and has a fair amount of body. The nose is bright with hints of citrus, leading to a soft palate of strawberry, tart cherry, plum and rose water with watermelon and toffee notes. This pink is refreshing and easy, even if it lacks the thrill and minerality of the top pink wines of the region, though it is a solid entry level Rose that has it’s own charm and very enjoyable, plus the price is right, drink now!
($14 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive
n.v. Alexander Jules, Fino Sherry “22|85” Bottled May 2013, Bodegas Sanchez Romate, Jerez de la Frontera, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Spain.
Alex (Jules) Russan is a Sherry fiend and absolute believer in all things Sherry, so created his own label and hand picks casks to bottle, each of his offerings is a limited, rare barrel select that makes up a one time release. He sources many small and big Bodeags to find that unique profile and intriguing character, and I really admire what he’s done with his Alexander Jules lineup and his focus on dry styles, that he hopes people with take to the table with meals, and I adore this wonderful and vibrant Fino “22|85” that I just recently sampled at Duende Tapas Bar in Oakland, California. The “22|85” Fino is a select Sherry that would have been known in the past as a Fino Amontillado, it was hand picked from 22 of the 85 Celestino Solera barrels at Sanchez Romate Hnos. in Sherry’s Jerez de la Frontera, is is from the oldest lots of Fino, an average age of 8 years, this adds weight, complexity and mature details, while remaining dynamic and fresh from start to finish. The May 2013 bottling is current and only 1,100 Bottles were made, only in 750ml and interestingly it is only offered in the USA, and it comes in at 15% Alc. If you are looking for a richer style, you should also check out the fantastic Amontillado from Alexander Jules, it is also sublime. This vivid Fino starts with hints of white flowers, iodine, brine and pecan butter and dives into a fresh, tangy palate that shows citrus, peach, dried apricot, tangerine rind, cheesy notes, wild herbs, baking spice and bitter almonds along with a faint trace of mineral and zesty acidity with a lingering nuttiness, this is crisp and lovely Sherry that needs food, delivering precise focus and is pleasingly well rounded, bravo.
($32-40 Est. 750ml) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Hilberg-Pasquero, Vareij, Vino Rosso, Piedmonte, Italy.
I know I just reviewed the 2011, but it sold out lightening fast, and the 2012 Vareij is here and it is just as lovely, coming from Hilberg-Pasquero’s organic, biodynamic estate vines. The Vino Rosso Vareij is a savvy blend of dry Bracchetto and Barbera, this unique and daring cuvee from Hilberg shows perfume, zest and spicy character with plush Barbara fleshiness. The 2012 is vibrant, racy and detailed with blackberry, cherry and plum fruit, but with exotic heady scents and tastes of rose oil, dried violets and botanical extracts lifted by juicy acidity and savory elements and peppercorns along with earth, cranberry, red peach, sweet basil and lavender. This medium bodied red is dry and crisp and can be enjoyed slightly chilled making it a lovely summer wine and it will go with many cuisines. While it certainly will entertain, it won’t be for anyone especially those that are put off by floral wines because it is similar to Ruche and can be like drinking liquid flowers, though I really love it and will be savoring a few bottles this summer, drink now through 2018, this is exciting and fun stuff.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
n.v. Equipo Navazos, Sherry, La Bota de Amontillado no. 37, Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín “Navazos” Sanlucar de Barrameda, Jerez-Xérès DO, Spain.
This unbelievable Sherry is drop dead gorgeous and complex, only 3,000 bottles of this rare Amontillado were made from unique casks, this No. 37 is drawn lots of Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín, hand selected by Equipo Navazos which is fast becoming the exciting Sherry shipper in the world and is putting the passion into these stylish expressions. The La Bota de Amontillado P. Marin 37 Navazos is a rare solera that has selected and refreshed with pure Manzanilla (unfortified) to add dynamic character and verve, which also heightens the aromatics and gives life to this deeply flavored and complex Sherry, without question this is one of the most interesting and pleasing Sherry wines I’ve tasted. The nose is tangy/nutty, briny and vibrant with citrus, pear, sea breeze and has green almond notes leading to a vivid palate of lemon, peach and tangerine with pecan oil, wild herbs, unsweetened salted caramel/toffee and burnt orange rind. This fine dry and dusty Amontillado gains richness with air, but is wonderfully fresh and crisp, and it is not overly oxidized, leaving a lip smacking sensation and is hauntingly long and lingering. Wow, wow and more wow, if you want to taste what great dry Sherry is all about, find this one, this is fantastic, a big thank you to Duende Tapas Bar in Oakland for pouring this one by the glass, bravo! Ole, Ole, Ole!
($60-70 Est. 750ml, 18.5% alc.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Patz & Hall, Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
James Hall’s latest release from the team at Patz & Hall (celebrating their 25th year) is a blockbuster Pinot from Gap’s Crown, this is a stunning and Grand Cru class wine that is going to blow a few minds. This 2012 Pinot from the Petaluma Gap region of Sonoma is plush and still shedding baby fat in the glass, but given some air and time really turns on the charm and delivers a complex and densely packed array of flavors, along with good verve and energy to match. There is lavish texture and smoky wood notes that standout at this stage but should fold nicely into the wine over the next year or so, still there is harmony and depth even now, this is really fantastic stuff. The nose starts with red fruits, floral tones, smoky toast, mocha and leads to a full palate of raspberry, black cherry, plum and tangy red currants along with touches of cedar, minty licorice, toffee, earth and briar. The drive is there too and at 14.2% this is not over done, a fine lift of acidity with savory and salty elements also rise up and add balance, this is one of the best Gap’s Crown Pinots I’ve had, with glorious detail and presence and it should drink great for many years to come, and while the price might be a shock, it really is a wonderful effort that should certainly be taken very seriously.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Stolpman, Angeli, Syrah, Ballard Canyon.
The Angeli is Stolpman’s ultimate Syrah, it is their best of the best coming from their best barrel selections and from most own rooted Syrah in the their estate vineyard, in now what is Ballard Canyon, one of California’s newest AVA in the Santa Ynez Valley Region near Santa Barabara. The Stolpman wines are made by Sashi Moorman, who always works with Raj Parr at Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote as well as doing a few side projects plus consulting for Evening Land, he has a very gifted touch and has crafted some magic Syrah wines , especially this Angeli. The 2012 might be the greatest wine produced by Stolpman, and that is saying something, Sashi used close to 75% whole cluster, and was able to ferment in new concrete open top vats, then raised/aged in 30% new French cask, this wine was done in artisan and Northern Rhone fashion and it shows, but still gives generous California texture and mouth feel. This is absolutely gorgeous Syrah, bursting with fruit, earth, spice and it oozes class and showcases the quality of the vines and terroir at Stolpman Vineyards, this is a masterpiece. The nose excites with heady perfume of violets, cassis and peppercorns, it is a cross between the heightened sense of Cote-Rotie and the powerful intensity of Hermitage with loads of black and blue fruits and hedonistic density. The layers unfold with blueberry, black olives, lavender, licorice, camphor and truffle along with a core of boysenberry compote. There are peppery, briar spice notes throughout along with hints of cedar and wild herbs that lift the rich fruit and even at 14.5% alcohol it doesn’t feel overly ponderous of too weighed down, there is plenty of life and vibrancy that add to the joy here, and the finish is stunningly long and lingering, this is sublime Syrah, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($68 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Perriere, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy is a Burgundy producer to watch and certainly the 2010’s are remarkable, especially the Gevrey La Perriere Premier Cru. I’ve had many samples of Harmand-Geoffroy, imported by Rosenthal, this traditional Domaine is now raising it’s game, it has found that extra bit of magic that has taken it to the next level, not that I didn’t enjoy the classic and rustic style of earlier wines, it is just clear as day a big step up has taken place and these 2010’s are the result of vintage yes, but there is more depth, drive and character than I had found before, there seems to be more energy and that tangible something extra that sparks emotion that the wines now have. Regardless, these are beautiful, pure and vigorous Burgundies from Harmand-Geoffroy, and this 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin La Perriere Premier Cru shows it all, crushed roses, violets, black cherry, cedar, mineral essence, plum, licorice, saline, truffle and damp earth. This focused and vivid expression opens slowly in the glass to reveal it’s glorious details, the soft ruby hue is brilliant and inviting and the lingering finish is dreamy indeed, this is elegant stuff. Best to give it some time to fill out and develop, and while the Grand Cru was fabulous it was this La Perriere that really stood out and offers a much great value, it has lovely balance and tangy acidity, ever changing and complex on the palate, drink from 2016-2021.
($100 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Ameztoi, Getariako Txakolina, Rubentis, Basque Rose, Spain.
The zesty Ameztoi Rose is one of the best in Spain, found at almost every pinto bar and is one of the most celebrated seasonal wines of the Basque regions. Ignacio Ameztoi is the 7th generation of this grower/producer and is ensuring tradition and continuing the line of benchmark wines, he makes a white, a red and this lovely and lively rose from his estate near the Bay of Biscay in Northwest Spain. The latest release, the dry, brilliantly pink hued 2013 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis is bright, tangy and has almost a spritz with loads of energy, charm and delicate flavors showing pink citrus, watermelon, tart cherry, sea shore, wet stones, unripe plum and strawberry essence. There is mineral tones and zippy acidity making this wine wonderfully refreshing and crisp, it has that lip smacking zest and saltiness that begs you for another sip and is mouth wateringly good. This makes for a great start to an evening, great for picnics and of course it is great with brunch too, it is all around a fun and smile inducing wine that has everything you’d want from a summer wine being both serious and light hearted, playful yet thoughtful, this is pure joy, drink now and often!
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Jean Foillard, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
One of the most sought after, rare and exotic wines of the world, and yes we are talking about a Beaujolais! The wines crafted by Jean Foillard are sometimes beyond words and defy expectations, his artisan made Gamay is simply on another level, it is cliche to compare these wines with top Premier Cru and Grand Cru Cote de Nuits, but you might need to do so, it is without question they have provided goals and influenced Foillard’s wines, though we are talking about Gamay and it has it’s own character and soul, and it shows through in near perfection in Foillard’s wines. Foillard is most known for his Morgon offerings with the Cote de Py bottling being his most well known, but he does a few special selections as well including his cult like Cuvee 3.14, the Cuvee Corcelette and this black label Fleurie from a tiny parcel in the Cru, it s his most rare and unique effort, always held back an extra two years and it is his most delicate and transparent version of Gamay. I cannot praise Foillard enough for blessing us with his wine, especially this heaven sent Fleurie, it is pure joy in the glass from nose to lingering finish and sadly, as mentioned, words do not do it justice, but it is a stunningly beautiful medium weight, wine that elicits an emotional response. The 2010 Jean Foillard Fleurie is graceful and poised with subtle perfume, seamless layers and impressive length, this is remarkable and classy stuff with black cherry, walnut oil, dark plum, wild strawberry, mineral notes and saline elements with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, candied citrus and spiced flowers, finishing with a touch of framboise, truffle, blackberry and earthy herbs. This is special and lovely Gamay, one of the finest expressions of this varietal I’ve encountered and my personal favorite, even in the off years Foillard impresses and his wine age well too, drink this one from 2014 to 2022. Don’t even think about the price, don’t even think about missing this wine, this is one of the best wines in Kermit Lynch’s grand import portfolio, and certainly don’t wait as it will be gone quick.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Luberri-Familia Monje Amestoy, Orlegi, Rioja Joven, Spain.
Florentino Monje’s Luberri Orlegi is a vibrant and fresh style red, it is more like a Cotes du Rhone than a classic Rioja, with no wood and bright spicy fruit that is wonderfully flavorful and pleasing. This hard to beat value is a red made from mostly Tempranillo but surely has some Garnacha and maybe some Graciano in the mix, but is so vibrant and joyous you needed bother with the techniques or make up, it is just a fun and easy to love wine that would be perfect for parties, picnics or Tuesday pizza night. The 2013 Orlegi Joven is filled with crushed berry, grapey plum and fresh picked cherry along with cracked pepper, chalky stones and hints of red peach and strawberry, it is controlled by soft tannins and tangy acidity. There is lots to love here, in fact it should be bottled in a bigger bottle it is good and easy, you’ll want more, I’d suggest serving slightly chilled and in pitchers at the table with friends, it is a happy wine that will bring laughter, smiles and dancing. This simple red from Spain’s famous Rioja region is a great drink now choice and is perfect for summer, and would be great as a base for top drawer Sangria, Ole Ole!
($13 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 La Spinetta, Il Rose di Casanova Della Spinetta, Tuscany, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta is one of Italty’s great wineries, his Cru Barbaresci are magical, and his Tuscan project is now reaching new heights as well, and for the last few vintages he has made one of the regions finest roses too. The Il Rose di Casanova Della Spinetta is a wonderfully crafted pink wine, made from local varietals though mostly Sangiovese, with dry austere character and shows vibrant freshness and delicacy with lots of spice, herb and mineral to go with citrus and melon fruits on the palate. This brisk and cool rose has hints of rose petal, basil, sour cherry, strawberry, steely minerals, grapefruit, peach and strawberry lifted by tangy acidity and is just perfect for a lunch outdoor lunch or pre dinner sipper. This golden orange/pinkish Tuscan rose from La Spinetta is a joyous and vivid wine with lots of restraint and class, each year it gets more and more stylish and refined, it certainly feels lively and has a more French tone than most roses from Italy which can be much bolder and heavy, but the Il Rose di Casanova Della Spinetta is in a class of it’s own, drink through the fall of 2014.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Fabienne Cottagnoud Cave des Tilleuls, Pinot Noir de Vetroz, Valais AOC, Switzerland.
This is truly a stunning Swiss wine, I almost tried to ignore it, but I was instantly drawn to it’s charms during a recent Burgundy tasting where someone slipped this Pinot Noir in the lineup, and honestly it was better than a lot of fine Premier Cru Burgs. I had tasted this wine prior and liked it, though in context, the second bottle was tremendous and thoroughly enjoyable, if you want to blow a few minds you should search this beautiful Pinot Noir out, it is imported by Rosenthal and it is worth the effort, no question. This unique mountain Pinot Noir coming from the Valais region of Switzerland is hand crafted by Fabienne and her husband Marc-Henri who tends the organic vineyards, these are wines that showcase terroir with dramatic mineralite from the combination of schist, gneiss and granite soils. The 2011 Cave des Tilleuls Pinot Noir de Vetroz is sexy, vibrant, richly flavored, textural and transparent with a brilliant ruby hue, soft floral perfume and delicate, but expressive layers of black cherry, attractive red currants, framboise, strawberry and wild plum along with red spices, crushed stones, flint, smoke and saline notes with hints of cured meat, savory elements, subtle wood and crushed roses. The fruit gathers intensity in the mouth and lingers on the sublime finish, and the cool racy acidity keeps everything precise and focused, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, very impressive!
($36-45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau de Trinquevedel, Tavel Rose, Rhone Valley, France.
Having thought I knew a thing or two, I was surprised to learn that Tavel can only be made up of a maximum of 60% Grenache! I had always believed it was much higher if not 100% Grenache, when then now I know better, and that Tavel is one of the great areas for rose is the only regional AC to be 100% pink. Chateau de Trinquedel, founded in 1936, is one of the top estates here, very close to the famed city of Nimes, and their cepage mix in this Tavel is 56% Grenache Noir, 20% Cinsault, 10% Clairette, 4% Syrah, 4% Bourbelenc, 3% Mourvèdre, 3% Grenache Blanc grown on a terroir that includes loam, clay, limestone, sand, marl and quartz soils. The 2013 Trinquevedel is vivid and brilliant with a gorgeous full pink/orange hue, a rich palate and tangy acidity with mineral tones and a spicy kick to go with pretty watermelon, grapefruit, sour cherry and strawberry fruits. There is hints of steely elements, chalk, cracked pepper and garrigue leaving a whiff of almost a lavender essence and finishes bright, fresh and crisp, but lingers with a long pleasing aftertaste, this is glorious and refreshing summer wine, drink over the next 6 to 8 months.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Pierre Guiiemot, Savigny Aux Serpentieres, Premier Cru Red Burgundy.
Domaine Pierre Guillemot makes flavorful, fresh and slightly rustic Burgundy with old world character and charm, and while finely made and easy they are not wines that have pretensions or are they in the need of many uncertain years in the cellar. The Guillemot wines are true Cote de Beaune expressions and show the nature of the place very well with red fruits, spice and earthy tones, and their 2012’s are no different, these are solid and focused efforts with slightly better energy, density and length than the last three or four vintages. The 2012 wines will be much rarer, as yields were down by as much as 60% in the region, but admirably Domaine Pierre Guillemot has kept pricing much the same, so if you are a fan of this producer this will be a good year to stock up earthy. Guillemot is one of many traditional producers in Kermit Lynch’s import portfolio, and has been rising up the ranks recently with cleaner winemaking and much better consistency across the lineup which includes a white Savigny and three main red core wines, along with a Corton Grand Cru, but of the main wines I always gravitate to their Savigny-Les-Beaune Rouge offering the Sauvigny Aux Serpentieres Premier Cru, and this latest is no exception, it is my favorite by a mile. The 2012 Guillmot Savigny Aux Serpentieres is richly layered, brilliantly detailed and very entertaining with bing cherry, plum and tangy raspberry with hints of cracked peppercorn, briar, cinnamon and crushed flowers. The medium ruby hue leads the way into the glass and this Burgundy flows with transparency, lively acidity gives plenty of life and vigor along with hints of earth, wild herbs, anise, mineral/chalky tones and pleasing saline. This is a wine that should gain with short term cellaring, but can without question be enjoyed young, I would advise drinking between 2014 and 2020, this might be Guillemot’s best to date and is hard to beat value-wise!
($45 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Roland Lavantureaux, Chablis “Fourchaume” Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Wow, I am thrilled by the Lavantureaux 2012’s, I have always admired the quality of this Chablis house, especially their Petite Chablis, but these 2012 wines are spectacular and utterly delicious with verve and depth. Kermit Lynch has been the long time importer of Domaine Roland Lavantureaux and they have been a steady performer for decades making a solid and correct lineup of Chardonnay with pure regional character, but this 2012 Fourchaume Premier Cru is something far beyond the normal fare, this is on another level entirely, this is a sleeper and I highly recommend rushing down to your local wine merchant and getting yours reserved as soon as possible, it should be in stock now or very shortly. The 2012 Domaine Roland Lavantureaux Chablis Fourchaume Premier Cru starts with a hue of green/yellow and a nose of wet stones, citrus blossoms and lime leading to a surprisingly full palate of citrus/lime essence, green apple, white peach and has a steely core with chalky mineral, clove spice, hazelnut and lemon oil. This wine is balanced, harmonious and vibrant with wonderful intensity/tension throughout, this is a stunning Chablis, by far the best wine from Lavantureaux I’ve had, if you are looking for a top Chablis at a super fair price this is it, no question, drink from 2015 to 2020, absolutely gorgeous.
($37 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sheldon, Grenache Blanc, Sonoma Coast.
The last white from Sheldon Wines is their bright and tangy Grenache Blanc, this vintage is 100% Grenache Blanc, no Roussanne this time, and it is a stylish summer sipper all ready, though look for this white to age well and gain complexity over the next 2 to 3 years. This is exciting juice with unique white Rhone character and underlying elements, with vibrant flavors and plenty of crisp acidity. I tasted from barrel and now from finished bottle and really love this edition, it just feels complete, and it seems to be the wine they were always striving to make, it is lifting and elegant with plenty of panache. The 2013 Sheldon Grenache Blanc is pale with hints of gold and green hues, a touch of white flowers and briny notes along with citrus leading to a palate of fresh peach, honeydew, lemon and nectarine fruit with apricot flesh and stone/pit, almond oil and crunchy apple skin. The is mouth watering acidity, saline and savory notes along with a touch of river stones and this wine is tangy/brisk finishing with a slight bitter edge in it’s youth, making it super refreshing and vivid now, though it should gain with bottle age, it looks to need some time to fill out, and I think it should find a real happy place in another year or so that might show a improved roundness, and creamy texture that it only hints at now, even though I enjoy it as is and certainly admire it’s austere and zesty nature now, again it is a super wine and would go great with warm days and add benefits to summer cuisine, this is lovely hand crafted stuff.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau de Lascaux, Rose, Languedoc, France.
This fresh and bright rose from near Pic St. Loup is delightfully tangy and mineral edged with zesty red citrus, watermelon, succulent sour cherry and earthy strawberry fruits along with crushed stones, saline and a steely element. This is shaping up to be a summer time favorite and should be a staple for long hot days, perfect for brunch, picnics and warm evening sipping, this a great example of southern French dry rose. A hint of chalkiness and mouth watering acidity add to it’s stylish charms, for sure Chateau de Lascaux has their rose figured out and 2013 is one of their best effects to date, importer Kermit Lynch will not have a problem selling this pert pink wine out, so best not to wait and stock up while you can. This years cepage (mix of grapes) is made up of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, drink over the next 12 to 18 months.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Denis Jamain Domaine de Reuilly, Reuilly, Pinot Gris, Loire Valley, France.
This slightly pink Gris is sizzling with fresh intensity and loaded with mineral essence, making a dynamic semi white semi rose wine that is perfect for summer. This seriously charged wine from Denis Jamain’s Domaine de Reuilly has just a few short hours of skin contact and takes it’s cues from the unique soils and terroir from this cool and ocean influenced region of the Loire. All of Jamain’s wines are full of driving acidity, mineral and are remarkably poised in presentation, and are especially good with seafood, with oysters and summer fare, these are vibrant, vivid and delicately flavored wines that are refreshing and pleasing in every way. The 2013 Domaine de Reuilly Pinot Gris, as mentioned has a slight pinkish tint with salmon hued edges leading to a palate of red citrus, grapefruit, green apple and faint hints of wild peach, melon and has a steely core, along with a bit of saline, spice and an impression of cherry/strawberry. This stony off white is strikingly dry, crisp and bracing, but not severe or harsh, it just begs for another sip and is mouth wateringly good and joyous.
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Château Belles-Graves, Lalande de Pomerol, Red Bordeaux, France.
Belles-Graves dates back to the 16th century, this pre French Revolution has changed hands a few times in it’s lifetime, but now remains in the heirs of Hermine Theallet since 1938 with Xavier Piton, a relative of the famed under sea explorer Jacques Cousteau, in charge today. This secluded and idyllic Chateau is surrounded by mostly Merlot vines, though there is a good plot of Cabernet Franc that adds complexity to this classic Lalande de Pomerol with the Grand Vin made up of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. With a great vintage, like 2010, it is hard to wrong and certainly Chateau Belles-Graves got it right, making a stylish and full bodied Claret that is not only lush and delicious now, it can age gracefully for another 5 to 10 years easy. The nose is full of acacia and dark floral tones along with creme de cassis and with a hint of mineral/pencil lead, leading to a plush mouth filling palate of blackberry coulis, red currants, cherry and framboise plus hints of vanilla, graphite, char, briar and cedar. Good drive and polished tannins keep the vigor in this Bordeaux along with a lift of gentle acidity and the long fruit filled aftertaste. This is one of jewels in Kermit Lynch’s Bordeaux portfolio, if you are looking for a super drinking Bordeaux and don’t want to break the bank this would be an excellent choice!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Remelluri, Rioja, Reserva, Spain.
Telmo Rodriguez returned to his family estate in 2010, but had plenty of time in the cellar to separate lots and refine the blend in this sublime Rioja that for the first time in modern history was all estate grown, with the purchased old vine fruit going into the Lindes de Remelluri bottling. Telmo has great plans for this glorious estate wine, and his estate white, the Remelluri Blanco is already seeing his vision come into focus, he plans to model the red along the same lines, he will add more varietals each year until he has up to 9 or 10 different grapes to the classic mix of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano, his idea is craft a unique field blend that is proprietary to Remelluri a more complex and exotic wine. I can see why, as his Blanco proves he’s on to something special here, the terroir is ideal for this too with slopes and high elevation Remelluri has it’s own sense of place, quite different to other properties in Rioja, Remelluri is literally on the edge with a mix of soils and it’s own micro-climate in Rioja Alavesa. 2009 was a warm and generous vintage, and the Remelluri is full of richness and texture with ripe tannins and wonderful length, Telmo’s masterful touch in blending gave this wine a graceful almost Burgundy like feel, it is rich without being heavy, no mean feat in this vintage. Pretty red fruits, earth, spice and subtle wood notes all play important roles here with raspberry, cherry and dark plum. There is texture and layers here, with hints of game, exotic spice, truffles, anise, cedar and warm stones, this is an interesting wine and it sets the senses alight, drink now and through 2019. Be sure to keep an eye out for future releases of Remelluri, and don’t miss the Blanco, the 2011 is stunning!
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Agricola Cirelli La Collina Biologica, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC, Italy.
Francesco Cirelli has an organic farm in this hills of the Astri Abruzzi zone, his estate produces a fine selection of organic products from olive oil to ice cream, but it is his wine that are really grabbing the headlines, with red (Montepulciano), white (Trebbiano) and rose (Cerasuolo) on offer. These sandy and chalky hillsides, sandwiched by the Adriatic and beautiful National Parks are the perfect home for the native Montepulciano, a very dark skinned varietal (believed to be a long lost family member of Sangovese, though now considered very much it’s own grape) that is rich in color and can be age-worthy. Cirelli’s latest offering is a special Amphora raised version of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo that has almost nine months on the skins, this adds up to a exotic example and a very unique expression of this varietal and terroir, making for a rich and flavorful red. The nose is grapey and there is some spice, crushed flowers and loads of mineral essence leading to a grippy palate of wild plum, blackberry, cherry and dark currants along with anise, touches of earth, blueberry skin and saline/savory notes. This purple/ruby hued red is very intriguing and compelling with a rich character, but with brightness and fine grained tannins, it finishes with class and pleasing length, drink from 2014 to 2016.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Teliani Valley, Mukuzani Red, Kakheti, Republic of Georgia.
This 100% Saperavi, the native red varietal of the region and maybe the best known in Georgia, is a firm and robust grape and comes from the vineyards of Mukuzani district where the wines are highly regarded and are aged in oak cask. The Teliani Valley Mukuzani is from the Kakheti zone, this is in my maybe the best area and it seems to have the most promise from what I’ve tasted and from my limited experience with Georgian wines. Kakheti is situated in the east of the country and neighbors Russian and Azerbaijan, but regardless of geopolitical tensions in this part of the world this mountainous site provides a good home for Saperavi and the wines are rich and full bodied. Teliani’s 2010 Mukuzani is a deeply colored and flavorful wine with blackberry, raspberry and cherry fruits that feel lush on the palate and hold of to the spicy and savory elements found here, there is cedar, licorice, wild herbs, hints of camphor, baking spices and wood shadings. This is a polished and tasty example and is a very enjoyable wine, this a part of the world that has some amazing ancient history and has been home to thousands of years of wine trading culture, it makes for exotic exploration and discoveries.
($16) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Chereau, Comte Leloup du Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Cuvee des Ceps Centenaires, Loire Valley White, France.
Bernard Chereau’s 100 year old Melon de Bourgogne vines are the core of this lovely dry white which shows remarkable purity and finesse, in fact this is very special and wonderfully balanced serious Muscadet. The Comte Leloup du Chateau de Chasseloir shows beautiful transparency with lemon/lime, white peach and green apple notes with hints of salted hazelnuts, quince and steely mineral tones. This Melon was aged on it’s lees and the depth is impressive, while the acidity still shines through and holds things together perfectly, making for harmonious and succulent rare example of this varietal and terroir, don’t miss this age worthy old vine Loire classic. The full range of Chereau Mascadets are worth searching out and are outstanding values, even though this bottling really does stand out for quality and price, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($20 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian “Les Travers de Marceau” Languedoc Red, France.
This area of the Languedoc-Roussillon has been producing wines since pre Roman times and was a real serious wine region since the middle ages when Benedictine monks preserved many areas under vine and wine was produced at abbeys and monasteries. Saint-Chinian was in high demand until the end of the 17th century, but the industrial revolution, war and the rise of other wine region left it mostly forgotten in to modern times, but is starting to revive it’s luster and fortunes and it is a great place to look for bargains, and this Domaine Rimbert is one of those. The 2012 Les Travers de Marceau is full bodied Chateauneuf du Pape like red that is made up of a cepage of red grapes that include mostly Mourvedre with Syrah, Grenache and Carignan raised in cement vats and large wood cask. The nose starts with floral tones along with whiffs of meat, wild herbs and sweet red fruits leading to a rich palate of dark plums, black cherry, mountain berry with lots of earth and spice including peppercorns, warm stones, anise and framboise. This Rimbert is sweet and savory with a long finish, very pleasing and easy to love with refined tannins and lush mouth feel.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Manoir du Capucins, Pouilly-Fuisse “Aux Morlays” White Burgundy, France.
Chloe Bayon, proprietor and winemaker at Manoir du Capucin is one of the region’s stars and she is in fact President of the Pouilly-Fuisse union of growers/producers. She makes a range of wine from Macon to single Cru Pouilly-Fuisse, all of which show her gift with Chardonnay, this is a talented winemaker and a label to follow, I would compare her offerings to those of Domaine Robert-Denogent in terms of style and quality, this are fantastic white Burgundies. Chloe’s 2010, 2011 and 2012 wines are amazing, especially this 2010 Aux Morlays cuvee, which is one of the best Maconnaise of the vintage in my opinion and it compares well with some Cote de Beaune releases from this tremendous year. The 2010 Manoir du Capucins Pouilly-Fuisse Aux Morlays shows ripe pear, crisp apple, lemon and stone fruits with steely/mineral, clove, fig and honey along with brisk acidity giving a vigor and driving force to this divine Chardonnay, as well as wet river stones, hazelnut and fresh cut peach. This is serious and impressive wine, be absolutely sure you don’t miss this one, drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Monthelie Rouge, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, France.
Another stunning value from Etienne de Montille and his Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, the 2010 Monthelie Rouge is a pure and delicious Burgundy that punches above it’s weight offering full flavors and classic terroir character in a charming and stylish wine. The transition from consultant and winemaker to owner winemaker has been good to this lineup and shows the passion and commitment Etienne has for this domaine, look for even more exciting artisan wine to come as he develops this project in the coming years. The 2010 Monthelie AC is succulent and pleasing with red currants, cherry and wild plum fruits, hints of floral notes, sweet herbs, mineral and spice all flow smoothly across the palate lifted by gentle acidity and refined tannins. This wine shows some earth, smoke and chalky stones and fills out nicely in the glass, but remains poised throughout and at 12.5% it is graceful and on the lighter side.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Monthelie “Les Duresses” Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Etienne de Montille’s Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Monthelie Les Duresses Premier Cru is a glorious white Burgundy with sublime quality and distinction, this really tastes like a fine Chassange or even a Meursault, it is that good! The 2011 Les Duresses Premier Cru starts with white flowers, citrus and liquid mineral leading to a polished palate of lemon oil, white peach, apple, crushed stones, hazelnuts, toast/brioche and fig notes. Lovely mouth feel, vivid acidity and wonderfully balanced highlight Etienne’s gifted touch and without question this is a very special effort. All of Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montachet 2011 wines show remarkable purity, grace and generosity, this has turned out to be a success release for this estate, both the whites, like and especially this one, and the reds all are delectable and well made, these are entertaining and impressive wines.
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Lionnet, Cornas “Terre Brulee” Rhone Red, France.
The cellars are run by Ludovic Izerable and Corrine Lionnet, the husband and wife team that are Domaine Lionnet, since the retirement of Pierre Lionnet, Corinne’s father, with Ludovic making the wine here since 2003. The approach is a simple one, they are as natural and minimalistic as they can be with biodynamic practices in the vines and gentle in the cave, Ludovic uses only native yeast, a basket press and everything is whole cluster fermented, he employes the use of cement vats and neutral old wood casks for aging, this makes for the purest expression of Cornas and of Syrah, and they are successful in making beautiful and personality filled wine. The 100% Syrah, Cornas Terre Brulee by Domaine Lionnet continues to impress, I reviewed this wine last Sept (9/23/13) as part of a Northern Rhone Highlights post, and just re-tasted it (5/18/14) recently to find it even more engaging and it is filling out, living up to it’s potential no question. The 2010 is showing blueberry, violets, subtle meat, earth and fennel up front, leading to a refined and spicy palate of damson plum, boysenberry, black currant, white pepper, truffle, lavender, bacon and salted black licorice. Everything is in focus, harmonious and just a touch rustic, this is classic Cornas, it has hints of mineral and stony earth through out, but pretty fruit layers always stay top billing and the acidity and tannins add the perfect lift and structure, this is everything you’d want from a Syrah and more, it is hard to resist now, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
1995 Fratelli Brovia, Barolo “Villero” DOCG, Falletto, Piedmonte, Italy.
A glorious treat, the chance to taste a fine mature Barolo, and Brovia especially was a much appreciated experience, I adore old Nebbiolo. The Villero sits in the mddle of the Barolo zone in Castiglione Falletto and is a historic Cru, it seems to be a place where there is high natural acidity, but heavenly textural richness in it’s Nebbiolo grapes, and certainly this 1995 Brovia Villero is silky lush and still full of life making it a wonderful example with all the classic markers and terroir. The 1995 vintage was a good solid year, but not to the level of greatness found in top wines of 1996 or 1997, though it has aged well and these are Barolo that should be drunk in the near term in my opinion, they offer lots of character, surprising depth and elegance, very Burgundy like in mouth feel and complexity. This was the case with the Brovia Villero, it started with faded roses and fallen leaves, spiced tea, truffle and a bit of stewed plum, but perked up in the glass with vivid cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit, refined tannins giving firm control on the palate, along with layers of black licorice, porcini, lavender, loam and stones. The tar and minty notes fold into the red currant fruit in harmony and the medium body feels smooth and there is stylish length, finishing with a flurry of elements on the aftertaste with a play of savory notes, cedar, mineral tones and fruit, plus a hint of wild herbs. (Tasted on May 18, 2014, it should be noted too that the bottle I sampled had almost of full day of air and might have lost a bit of nose and or vigor.) This is near it’s best and I would think there is another 3 to 5 years of pleasure to be had, maybe a little longer if cellared well, drink 2014-2018.
($89-185 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Brown Estate “Chaos Theory” Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
As a huge fan of Brown Zin from their first release, I have a soft spot for this estate and the latest Chaos Theory is one of the best wines I’ve had from Dave Brown and family. The proprietary red blend, Chaos Theory is a mix of Zinfandel 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 35% and Petite Sirah 5% aged in 25% new French and American Oak Barrels coming in at 14.5% alcohol, and while somewhat unique Brown joins the likes of Orin Swift, Bedrock, Banshee, L’Aventure, Epoch and a host of others making modern impressions of California field blends with great success. The 2012 version is distinct and richly flavored taking full advantage of the great vintage with the Cabernet especially showing gorgeous in this cuvee with blackberry, creme de cassis and sweet tannins. The whole wine is a celebration of vintage with a beautiful array of flavors and spiciness with a firm, but lavish texture. The Zin notes come screaming to life mid palate with raspberry, bramble and lavender while a small dollop of Petite adds color, chocolate notes and grip to this full bodied effort that finishes with panache and a hint of char, vanilla and cigar wrapper, totally engaging wine from start to finish.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Friedrich Becker Family, Pinot Noir, Pfalz Germany.
Located in Germany’s Pfalz region near Sweigen, close to Alsace, Weingut Friedrich Becker is one of the top producers of Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) and farms many Cru sites. I was first introduced to Becker’s fine Pinot Noir back in 2008, and because of it’s fame and rarity, I haven’t seen many bottles since, these are hugely coveted wines and are amazing examples of this varietal and region. The 2011 Becker Pinot Noir, what they call “Estate” in the US importers book, is a dry and classy version and is very similar to a Nuits-Saint-Georges village Burgundy in style, while Becker makes Grand Cru (Grosses Gewachs) which are much richer, fuller and see new French oak, this base entry level wine is light, tangy and intriguing just the way it is. With sandstone, loam and clay soils these Pinots are very different from the slate soils in the Rhein or Ahr, plus the Pfalz is rolling hills instead of steep terraces, this maybe why the Pfalz Pinots seem more similar to the French wines, but that said these are pure Spatburgunder, German to the core, and Becker certainly has a very gifted touch. The 2011 Becker Family Pinot starts with wild herbs, dried flowers, truffle and earthy red fruits along with a bacon note, it takes a little time to unwind and then opens to blueberry, cherry, balsamic strawberry and spiced plum along with cranberry, anise, chalk, saline, savory elements and just the slightest hint of smoky oak on the refined and tartly dry palate. At 13.5% this is not flamboyant or a big style wine, though it does show the vintage ripeness and character, it is very pleasing and well judged, this offering is meant to be enjoyed young and I advise you to do so as well, drink now through 2018. Becker is never easy to find and collectors should search out his Cru bottlings no question, be sure to keep your eyes open for them.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Johan, Blaufrankisch, Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Johan Vineyards near Eola is making some interesting and biodynamic wines, these include two fine Pinot Noirs, a Gruner Veltliner, a Chardonnay, a couple of Pinot Gris, one with extended skin contact “Orange” style and this young vine Blaufrankisch. The Blaufrankisch is still a work in progress, but I found it so interesting and enjoyable I wanted to be sure it got on the radar, it comes from a tiny acre plot on Johan’s home estate from cuttings of Lemberger clone vines in Washington State. Blaufrankisch is Austria’s most noble red grape, though it is also found in Hungary, Italy and Germany where it is known as Lemberger, and it has been in Washington for sometime, and has been made for more than a decade. The Blaufrankisch is a dark wine, but feels more like Pinot Noir on the palate, though more people compare it to Cabernet Franc or even Mencia in Spain, I find it like those too, though I am reminded of Dolcetto as well, it is a medium weight red with spice and floral tones, it usually shows nice acidity and is silky with soft tannins. The Johan shows all the correct varietal character and it is well crafted, it has blackberry, blueberry, cherry and plum fruits with hints of pepper, allspice, beet root, loamy earth notes and a touch of bell pepper. Overall this is a very complete and pleasing wine, but I think it will get more intriguing as the vines getting mature and Johan gains experience with the grape, drink this vintage over the next 2 to 3 years, it is a worthy bottle for exploration no question. Be sure to find the 2011 and the upcoming 2012 Pinots too, especially the under $30 Willamette Valley, it is a very Marsannay like wine that is a super value.
($36 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2012 Sheldon, Grenache, Ceja Farms, Sonoma Coast.
Sheldon crafts delicate and distinctive wines, these are unique and pure examples of varietal and place, especially their Grenache, a favorite passion of the winery. Dylan Sheldon is a Grenache fiend and has long explored it’s charms, he researched from Chateau Rayas and Chateau Saint-Cosme in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas to Turkey Flats in Australia, he even spent time making a vintage with Louis Barrol at Saint-Cosme before setting out to make his own personal statement. At first he made his from Santa Ynez, but after many years finally got his own little piece of Grenache heaven to work with in partnership with Ceja Farms, and now the Sheldon Grenache is truly his minds eye ideal. This is an evolving vision and the vines are starting to show personality and sense of place, this is a cool site for Grenache and it is interesting to see low alcohol (about 13%) on a grape that is notorious for very ripe levels, but somehow it all works and fits Dylan and his wife Tobe to a tee, this is a beautiful and refined red that is full of flavor, but is poised, easy to love and transparent in presentation. Sheldon employes a soft touch and mostly natural techniques with slow fermentations, a gentle basket press and with the Grenache does a bit of whole cluster, plus his wines only see very seasoned neutral French oak. Everything is about finesse and balance, and the new vintage of Grenache from 2012 is another gem, bright, fresh and wonderful from start to finish. This unfiltered red is a light ruby/garnet hue in the glass, it is medium bodied and beautifully detailed on the palate with raspberry, boysenberry, cherry and plum leading the way with a succulent dose of pomegranate and strawberry as well with pepper, lavender, saline and wet chalk adding tangy and savory counter balance, plus there is a constantly changing background of earth, kirsch and mineral notes and a long finish that feels sweet fruited but lifted by nice acidity. Drink this over the next 3-5 years and maybe with just a touch of a chill, this is a interesting and fun wine, not too heavy, making it a super summer red. Don’t forget the Sheldon Grenache Blanc, it is divine too!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
n.v. El Maestro Sierra, Medium Amoroso, Semi-Sweet Sherry, Jerez, Spain.
The famed El Maestro Sierra bodega was founded in the early 1800’s by a master woodworker named Jose Antonio Sierra and quickly became one of the regions most treasured Sherry houses and even today some of those early glories remain, it still has many old and rare stocks, making it the destination for visits to Jerez, and one of the most sought after wineries in the world. I was lucky to taste through an amazing array of fine Sherry and El Maestro Sierra is on another level with some of the oldest Sherry wines available and many gorgeous offering throughout their latest offerings, including a majestic Palo Cortado, a deftly crafted dry Fino and sweet and balanced Pedro Ximenez, but I think my favorite was this spectacular Medium Vino Amoroso. The El Maestro Sierra version of “Cream” Sherry is a world class semi-sweet dark Sherry aged in American oak cask and gets additional years of age in a solera, it is made from a base of 15 year Oloroso (Palomino) about 90% and 15 year Pedro Ximenez 10% (this is where the rich sweetness comes from) and trust me this is not Harvey’s Bristol Cream, this is magnificent and decedent fortified wine that has almost tawny port elements but not as sweet. The Amoroso is filled with Walnut, pecan and oily almond layers along with maple, honey and toffee notes with a core of dried peach, orange rind and tropical fruit. This is rich, mouth filling and long on the finish it is marvelous with smoked ham, cheeses, nuts and can be sipped on it’s own, this is a stunner and a great entry into the world of Sherry.
($18 Est. 375-Half Bottle) 94 Points, grapelive
n.v. Bodegas Cesar Florido, Moscatel Pasas, Sweet Sherry, Chipiona, Jerez DO, Spain.
This Bodega was originally founded in 1887 and is still in family hands today, run by Cesar Florido in the Jerez sub-zone of Chipiona, an area of sandy soils that is home to mostly Moscatel vines very near the ocean. While they also make some fine dry sherry, it is their semi and sweet styles that really grab the limelight and the Moscatel Pasas is center stage, this is glorious sweet sherry that is unique and gorgeous with delicate and seductive perfume, medium sweetness and with a salty/savory nutty element adding balance and complexity. the nose stators with jasmine, dried yellow roses, verbena and honeysuckle before giving way to candied pineapple, dried apricots, orange rind, caramelized apple and poached spicy pear along with pecan and hazelnuts, plus briny sea breeze and toffee. What is remarkable in the whole and the fact that it is not cloying with life and tanginess making for a complete and detailed wine (Sherry) which can be enjoyed with many foods and not solely for desserts, it certainly would be wonderful with cheese as well. This is a very excellent example of a somewhat rare style and of this varietal from a region that deserves much grander attention, do not be afraid to explore the world of Sherry it is a wonderful adventure.
($14 Est. 375ML-Half Bottle) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Sheldon, Pinot Noir, Roma’s Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Dylan and Tobe Sheldon have been at the forefront of the movement to make delicate, low alcohol, and balanced wines and join the likes of Littorai, Copain, Drew, Cobb, Wind Gap, Hirsch and others in giving this style of Pinot Noir a serious presence in the market place. While the Sheldon’s have moved more to their own beat than fashion or trend, their wines have always been lighter and minimalist in style, especially their Pinot Noir, like this 2012 Sheldon Roma’s Vineyard from Anderson Valley, a vineyard that sits high on a ridge top, planted in 1992 to Pommard clone on loamy goldridge soils. In recent years the Sheldon’s had to fight with bears to get fruit from this vineyard, it seems bears are into cool climate Pinot these days too. The 2012 Roma’s starts with youthful freshness and shows tart cherry, plum and raspberry along with dried figs, hay, tea spice and sweet herbs. This wine opens in the glass, be sure to swirl gently, and admire it’s pale ruby hue while it unwinds and fills out, in fact it tasted even better the second day with lots of strawberry and truffle coming through. There is a savory and saline note too, and that strawberry influence mixes with a touch of rhubarb, anise and cranberry on the finish, plus hints of baking spice, dusty stones and soft wood shadings. 2012 is a generous vintage and at 13.5% this is not a lean/green or thin wine, but it is a tad shy at present, best to give another 6 months to a year to see it fully awake, with time I think this might rival their best efforts with this grape, for those that want subtlety and purity this might be the wine for you, the 2012 Roma’s is suburb.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Joan d’Anguera, Bugader, Montsant D.O. Spain.
The latest set of wines from Joan d’Anguera in Darmos, the 2012’s, are really quite extraordinary and beautifully detailed, this is a big evolution from the past where things seemed almost a bit over the top, and the contrast between the prior vintages to 2012 is vast difference. Where before it was all about big, extracted and port-like the new wines show grace, life and harmony, I think almost everywhere this kind of re-think is going on, but is is at it’s most stark in Spain and in California, though it looks as if Australia might be doing some of same too, it is move to a more natural style, some people use the term balanced, and there is more of a focus on regional, historic and artisan winemaking, along with highlighting terroir, or place over grape or new oak. Not that this change is always perfect or welcome in some cases, and there has been some awkward wines, but not so here, Joan d’Anguera has nailed it, these wines especially the Altaroses 2012 and this magnificent El Bugader (100% Syrah) 2012 are stunning examples and are now all biodynamic as well. While the Grenache based Altaroses remains one of Spain’s great value wines at about $18, the El Bugader is some a bit more dear and it certainly is a special wine, full of delicate detail and exquisite quality, drinking like a fine Cote-Rotie. The 2012 Joan d’Anguera El Bugader Montsant shows perfume, a medium body and suburb length with violets, crushed roses, white pepper, wild herbs, blueberry, boysenberry and kirsch, along with subtle plum, a touch of mineral and gravel, almost flinty and faint traces of game and anise. This wine is pure, thought provoking and excellent, it should be available this fall of 2014, and will drink great over the coming decade, be sure to follow this winery and look for these fantastic 2012 vintage releases. (Pre release sample bottle tasted May, 2014 in SF, CA.)
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Clos Cibonne, Rose Tradition, Cuvee Speciale Tibouren, Cotes de Provence Cru Classe, France.
Claude and Olivier Deforge produce one of the most historic and unique Rose wines in the world from their estate in Toulon, a mere half mile from the gleaming blue Mediterranean in beautiful Provence. Clos Cibonne is one of the original 18 Crus and uses the almost extinct rare varietal Tibouren as the main grape in their cuvees, it is a pale and spicy flavored grape that yields only a tiny amount of clusters, and while they do make a red, it is their Rose that is the main focus and with good reason, these are absolutely gorgeous and hearty wines. The intriguing Tibouren gives these rose’s character and the winemaking based around their qualities is different from the normal modern style, these wines see an extra long time on their lees and time in cask, this is an ancient way that suits this varietal and adds an extra layer of interest in these wines. The new release is the 2012, which has a touch of Grenache in the blend, it is fresh, vigorous, textured and lengthy with sour cherry, hints of damson plum, watermelon, red peach and has a touch of saline, a bit of tangerine/citrus along with mineral, game, lavender, dried rose petal and strawberry notes. There is a rich feel in the mouth, but still plenty of lively acidity to brighten the whole, making for a complete wine that can match up with almost any cuisine. This is an example of a rose that can age and be enjoyed over a period of a few years, having had a few aged vintages I can attest to their ability to develop and gain in detail over time, even though I do prefer them in their youth.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Remelluri, Rioja Blanco, Labastida de Alava, Spain.
Since Telmo Rodriguez’s return to his family estate Remelluri, a new direction and drive have found their way into the wines, the latest set of Remelluri are some of the winery’s best to date, especially this amazing 2011 Blanco, it looks set to be a classic, and maybe one of the finest whites in Spain. Telmo always plays coy with his processes from winemaking to varietals, he stresses it is about place and history rather than type of grape or techniques, in our last two meetings now he neither confirms nor denies my guesses as to how and what goes in and on, but regardless this is a fantastic wine, it certainly possesses qualities that lead to comparisons to Meursault, Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and wines from Roulot, Coche, Chapoutier, Chave and Beaucastel, and if you wanted to reference California maybe even the likes of Aubert, Peter Michael and Kongsgaard. The Remelluri Blanco 2011 is full and generous, but with refinement and purity, it starts with white flowers, citrus and wet stones leading to a deep palate of sublime texture with apple, peach, honeysuckle, clarified cream, clove, fig, a steely note and lemon curd. There are flashes of tangerine, chalk, butterscotch and apricot along with savory and saline elects, plus a bit of stone fruit pit and a lift of acidity to keep this rich wine in check. This wine is absolutely world class in every detail, I know it has a mix of about 9 varietals including Chardonnay, Roussanne and a few Spanish grapes and was fermented using natural yeasts, some of the wine used cement, some big cask and some stainless, it is a Remelluri original field blend, in fact Telmo tells me that it will be the model he will use on the estate red, going forward he will increase the number of red grapes in the vineyards, he believes it will allow a better canvas to create the best picture of place, I certainly will enjoy watching as the full image emerges, as for now, the Blanco is a masterpiece, near perfection, drink from 2014-2020.
($84 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau L Oiseliniere de la Ramee, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France.
The Chereau family’s small estate in Muscadet sevre et Maine includes some 100 year old Melon vines and they produce three cuvees, this basic from younger vines, one from those 100 year old vines and a special long lees aged cuvee that spends a minimum of 3 years on the lees and and released after almost 10 years in total from harvest, don’t let anyone tell you Muscadet and Melon wines aren’t serious, they are extremely interesting and age-worthy. Muscadet is a place of the sea, and it’s grape is Melon de Bourgogne, this varietal makes for a dry, salty and briny wine, sometimes called musky and in it’s basic style is a fresh lively wine that is known to be a perfect oysters wine and is great with cheeses and picnic fare. The 2012 Chateau L Oiseliniere de la Ramee by Bernard Chereau is vibrant and mineral driven with green sour apple, white peach, lemon/lime and melon fruits with a good dose of vivid acidity and a soft texture along with sea salt, seashore notes and wet chalky stones. This basic Melon is delicious and delightful, I know I will be sipping this durning the summer to come and without question will be sucking down some oysters with this lovely white. I look forward to sampling the aged cuvee, a 2005 vintage due out soon and the 100 year old vines bottling, these should be great if this basic cuvee is anything to go by, drink now and over the next year or two.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Joseph Voillot, Pommard, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
It was a great pleasure to meet and taste through the Voillot wines, all of this domaines offering from 2011 and 2012 are worth seeking out and deserve lots of attention, these are fabulous wines, especially the up coming release of the old vine Pommard. The Vieilles Vignes 2012 Pommard by Voillot is exceptional, by far the best young Pommard I’ve ever tasted with heady perfume, rich fruit and graceful length, all the while refined vigor and tension hold firm in the background. This wine has energy, grip and density, but everything is remarkably poised and harmonious. Yes, it is young, yes it is tightly would, but oh my is it delicious and though it may shut down and close up in a year, it is fabulous with a mix of red fruits, mineral and stony elements with a nice melange of sweet and savory notes. The nose is wondrous with violets, roses and spring flowers leading along with hints of bacon fat, truffle, framboise and aromatic herbs setting the stage for a palate of lush cherry, tangy plum, strawberry and huckleberry with hints of red peach, candied blood orange rind, tea spice, chalk, gravel, saline and a lingering red currant note. Look for a long detailed life and while there is vivid acidity and structural tannins I wouldn’t advise against opening this glorious Burgundy in it’s youth. Even though I am hopeless in French, it was an honor to meet the man behind these Voillot wines and an unforgettable experience to taste through his amazing efforts, look for this bottling and his Volnays, both 2011 and the soon to be released 2012 vintages.
($65 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Marcel Deiss, Rouge, Alsace, France.
This winery has committed itself to terroir and of expression of place over that of single varietals, over the past 10 years Domaine Marc Deiss has come to re-define Cru and village sites in Alsace and has brought the art of field blends back to this historic region, it is interesting to see this, and relate it back to California where some exciting wineries are doing the same thing, like Bedrock, Bucklin and of course Ridge with their Zins and black grape cuvees. Domaine Marcel Deiss and young Mathieu Deiss seem like mavericks with their multi-varietal wines, but the results are fascinating and the wines are soulful and intriguing, especially the Grand Cru whites, but even this Alsace Rouge, which is mostly Pinot Noir, really is a stylish and interesting wine. While, I’ve had a few vintages of the red, it is always a bit different each vintage and certainly the 2011 feels the freshest to date with bright and spicy flavors and a light to medium body, it is much less funky and earthy than in the past, not that they were bad before, it just seems Mathieu’s style is evolving and more expressive. The 2011 Rouge starts with peppered raspberry, dried roses and sweet herbs leading to a core of cherry and plum fruit along with a lift of acidity, a mineral tone and hints of earth, saline and wet stones. Everything is poised, silky and gathers richness in the mouth leaving a long sweet and sour aftertaste. Drink over the the next 2-5 years, and be sure to give the wines of Domaine Marcel Deiss a go, these are lovely and unique examples of France’s Alsatian terroir.
($30-40 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Meo-Camuzet, Bourgogne Rouge, Red Burgundy, France.
Meo-Camuzet Burgundy is rich, clean and polished wine, these are the essence of quality modern Burgundy, and I adore them, these are generous and pure wines that all the while show terroir, they are fruit driven wines that feel textural and lush without losing the detail and poise you’d expect of a fine Burgundy. The 2011 Bourgogne, their entry level wine, is a lovely Pinot Noir with dark fruits, vibrant life and silky ripe tannins as well as a nice mineral element, and while simple and direct it shows class and satisfying density and length. The basic red Burgundy from Meo-Camuzet is sourced from sites around Flagey and Vosne-Romanee mainly, but can include some grapes from Morey, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Fixin and Marsannay, and like their Premier Cru and Grand Cru offerings and village wines this cuvee is fermented in temperature controlled concrete vats and aged in Francois Freres oak, though in recent years there has been some Hungarian wood used in the mix. I’ve had Meo-Camuzet since the nineties and no matter the vintage, they always shine, and are one of my favorite wines, and the regular Bourgogne in 2011 really impresses, in fact I may like it better than the 2008, 2009 and 2010 wines, which were pretty darn good, it seems this was a better than reported vintage, especially coming after such a stellar year in 2010. This makes the 2011 wines that much more nice to discover and they are a wee bit easier to find and might be a touch less hurtful to the wallet, but still Meo is a hard find. Kermit Lynch is their long standing importer and has done a masterful job of educating our market on the joys and pleasures of these wines. The 2011 Meo-Camuzet Bourgogne starts with dried roses, hints of violets, blackberry and a touch of toast, leading to a forward palate of cherry, plum and raspberry fruit with mineral, spice, vanilla, damp earth, anise and saline notes. There is surprising length, detail and depth here, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($36-44 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Manoir du Capucin, Macon Solutre-Pouilly “Delice” White Burgundy, France.
The wines of Chloe Bayon are a must try, these Macon and Pouilly area wines are shinning examples of what great terroir and talent hides in this remote part of Burgundy, her estate Manoir du Capucin label is one to really search out, and her 2012 wines are majestic. Fresh out of oenology school, Ms Bayon took over her family Manor and vineyards in 2002 and in the following ten vintages has cemented her name in the “who’s got talent” list in Burgundy, and having tried a few vintages now, I find her wines compelling and gorgeous, this is serious stuff, she has revived this estate and Clos, that was originally purchased by her direct relatives in the 12th century, and her Chardonnays have made her a star, she in fact is now the president of the Pouilly-Fuisse union of winegrowers and winemakers. Chole’s 2011 got my attention, they are stunning, but from what I tasted recently, her 2012’s are her best yet and I highly recommend grabbing them up, especially charm are her Pouilly-Fuisse a world class white that rivals many a fine Chassagne or Puligny, and this super value priced Macon Solutre-Pouilly that is irresistible and dynamic which has the mineral and brisk drive of a Premier Cru Chablis and the exotic nature and ultra fine detail of a Cote de Beaune, though given to give a better impression, these mental images are not to take away from the unique quality and character found in the Macon, this is a very old and distinct terroir that is rediscovering it’s history and sense of place, and Bayon’s wines show this rebirth of greatness to perfection. The 2012 Manoir du Capucin Macon Solutre-Pouilly shows white flowers, wet river stones, orange blossoms, lime and yellow peach notes to start, leading to a steely palate of energy filled apple, pear, lemon and clove along with a hint of tropical essences, hazelnuts, chalky/stones, anise and fresh fig. These is super classy texture and balance, this wine is light to medium weight in feel, but offers wonderful layers and details that truly leave you wondering how you can have all this in a $20 bottle of Chardonnay, and if you think this is good you need to check out her next level wines too!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2006 Weingut Ansgar Clusserath, Riesling “Trittenheimer Apotheke” Kabinett, Mosel Germany.
The Trittenheimer Apotheke Cru is across the middle Mosel from Trittenheim near Bernkastel and has severe slopes up to about 70% making it very steep, it sits on weathered slate and clay, which holds water to help hydration over the long growing season. This is a very unique site with about 30-60 year old vines mostly, there is also great exposure here and it is unbelievably beautiful in pictures, as I’m sure it is in person. The Weingut Ansgar Clusserath is a small family concern, with name sake Ansgar and daughter Eva, though Herr Clusserath has handed the reins to young Frau Clusserath, who is embracing both the past and future, making more natural style wines, as a few contemporaries are doing like Matthias Knebel and Eva Fricke, Eva prefers all native fermentations, using 50 year old casks and employs a low sulphur regiment. Eva Clusserath-Wittmann (she is married to Philipp Wittmann, another new generation winemaker of some fame, at his family’s Weingut Wittmann in the Rheinhessen.) is a star in the making and her wines are rich in flavor, detail and oozing terroir, this is certainly a label to follow in coming years. So, it was interesting to taste the 2006 vintage, giving insight on both her evolving style and see how her wines progress with a bit of age, well, there is no doubt she has found her niche, this is gorgeous Riesling with fruit, mineral, earth and texture, this compelling white shows apricot, apple and peach fruits with hints of fig, tangerine, clove and tropical essence along with wet stones, flinty spice, salty brine and a touch of honey. The core of acidity and the hint of sweetness really drive this wine, it is starting to develop secondary character and depth and should gain still with another few years in bottle, drink now through 2022. This is a lovely almost mature Riesling that deserves attention, be sure to check out this winery and especially this Trittenheimer Apotheke, it speaks of place and passion, very classy stuff indeed.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Muller-Catoir “M-C” Riesling, Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
The M-C Trocken is a tangy Riesling with lots of zesty acidity and is wonderfully refreshing, a perfect summer wine from Muller-Catoir, one of the great estates in Germany, located in the Pfalz. I love everything from this winery, from dry Muscat “Muskateller” to sweet Scheurebe, but of course it’s their Riesling that really get the juices flowing and their dry styles are some of the best there is. The Pfalz provides a unique terroir, it’s rolling hills and limestone make it very different than the Mosel, Rhein or Nahe river wines that are all on mostly slate soils and quartzite, this highlights the Pfalz fruit and texture, it is more like Burgundy in many ways, though with a German feel. The latest M-C Riesling from Muller-Catoir the 2012 is a zippy light bodied dry wine with chalky minerals, high toned citrus and stone fruits that has fine cut and tons of energy starting with bright intensity, it shows grapefruit, white peach, lime, tangerine and green apple layers along with, wet stones, a cool steely streak, white tea, tropical notes and salty/briny elements. This is a driving and lip smacking Riesling that screams for oysters! At least that is what I was hearing, but also is a mouth watering treat on a hot day, this is seriously dry and leaves a big pucker, it is for Riesling fans and acid freaks, enjoy!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet, Puligy-Montrachet “Folatieres” Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
A masterclass in style, grace and expression, this is pure Puligny at it’s finest, made by Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille and the owner winemaker at his Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet. Tasted with Etienne, just prior to San Francisco’s 2014 La Paulee Burgundy fest, the Folatieres is a marvelous Puligny with loads of mineral, wet stones, smoke and hazelnut rising from the glass leading to lemon tart, apple and pear fruits with clarified cream, steely elements and good density. Wonderful focus and harmony throughout, almost without flaw, this is fantastic Chardonnay from a Domaine that is punching way above it’s price class, Etienne since taking over Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet is making some of his best wines ever here, and he explained to me that 2011 might just be better than 2010 for whites and feels they are real steals in the market place, and after tasting through his wines might just agree, I’m finding these 2011’s generous and beautifully detailed, and while I am loving the 2010 reds more at this stage, even the 2011 reds are showing well, much better than early reports, but again these 2011 whites are suburb and I highly recommend them. This is a Domaine to start collecting if you are a Burgundy drinker! Don’t miss this glorious Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres, drink 2015-2020.
($109 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard AC, Red Burgundy, France. The 2010 and 2011 wines by Etienne de Montille and his Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet estate are fantastic and remarkable values in the face of rising prices from Burgundy, and his 2010 reds are exceptional, especially this provocative and alluring Pommard. Etienne and his sister Alix, sine taking over from their famous father Hubert de Montille have both made quite a name for themselves and are both regarded as fine and gifted winemakers with Alix making the Domaine’s whites and Etienne making the family’s reds, but at Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Etienne makes all the wines and has done for ages, though since taking over the Domaine du Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet there has been talk that Alix will now join the team there as well. I was thrilled to taste through the Chateau de Puligny lineup with Etienne just prior to the La Paulee 2014 San Francisco, and I’ve always been a fan of this label. The 2010 Pommard is vigorously exciting, elegantly crafted and lengthy with intriguing depth, flavor and focus, this is wonderful Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir that shows real class and terroir. The nose is lively with spiced red fruits, herbs and dried flowers leading to a medium palate of delicate red raspberry, plum, tangy currant and morello cherry fruits with mineral, chalky stones, briar, earthy elements, cured meat, peppery spice, lavender/anise, saline and cinnamon/vanilla notes. There is refined, but firm tannins, brisk acidity and with air the wine gains density and richness, there is a dynamic force driving this wine, though it does fill out and deliver soft lush texture with time in the glass, this is a wine that might need another 3-5 years to really show it’s potential, but it is lovely now too, drink from 2016-2022. ($56 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
2013 Broc, Valdigue, Solano County-Green Valley.
Chris Brockway and his Broc Cellars, a micro urban winery, continue to amaze with vibrant and colorful offerings, like this delightful 2013 Valdigue, a light to medium bodied red that delivers bright flavors and energy, made from a rare French varietal that was once thought to be Gamay in California. Still this wines tastes like a Fleurie or other Cru Beaujolais a bit, so you can see why people thought this was Gamay, Valdique was for many years a blending grape, lost in obscurity for a long time, then called “Napa” Gamay, until DNA testing sorted it out and it was confirmed as Valdigue, a grape native to the wilds of southwest France. There is a few acres of Valdigue planted, mostly in Monterey County by J. Lohr, a winery that has long championed it, and a few plots in the Russian River, where Rochioli makes one of best I’ve tasted, and some in Napa itself, but they might be only on handful or a dozen bottling if that, it is pretty rare. Broc’s version is fresh and silky with good acidity and charming character showing tangy cherry, wild strawberry, sour plum and spicy raspberry fruits, hints of rose petals, mountain herbs, a touch of earth, mineral and candied orange rind. Brockway is crafting some really fun wines and this Valdigue is a great summer red, and certainly would shine at picnics and BBQ with a slight chill, drink now and over the next 2-3 years.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Pascal Marchand-Tawse, Echezeaux, Grand Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The Canadian Pascal Marchand continues to rise in Burgundy, he is credited with bringing Comte Armand back into the limelight and now under his own label his wines are garnering much attention and accolades, this seems very much deserved after tasting the last three vintages. Mr Marchand and Mr Tawse have now completed their takeover of the Domaine Maume estate and it will be interesting to see what Maison Marchand-Tawse does with those historic plots and I can’t wait to taste the finished wines, the first will be from the 2012 vintage, but until then we can enjoy the 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines, which are stunning, especially so is this 2010 Echezeaux Grand Cru. sitting outside the tiny village of Flagey in the Cote de Nuits, the glorious vines of Echezeaux are one of the area’s main attractions, this is Pinot Noir country and this Grand Cru remains one of the great values in Red Burgundy, while not cheap, the wines of Echezeaux are most often half the price of the other Grand Crus and in fact many Premier Cru wines fetch more these days, so if you want a great Burgundy and still want a deal, look to Echezeaux, and Marchand’s 2010 is a great place to start, it is rich, intense and wonderfully detailed. The 2010 Echezeaux starts with rose petals, wild mushrooms, red currants and elegant wood notes leading to a lush and silky palate of dense fruit, this medium weight Burgundy delivers layers of textural pleasure with raspberry, black cherry and plum along with hints of vanilla, cured meat, dried violets, tea spice and shaved fennel. There is a stony mineral essence and lush mouth feel with a long aftertaste, plus a good core of acidity bringing flavors a perfect pitch, this is super Pinot Noir, still full of vigor and youth, drink from 2016-2022.
($125-150 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Old Wine Company, Riesling, Wirz Vineyard, Old Vine, Cienega Valley.
Old Vine Company is the second label of Alfaro Family Vineyards in Corralitos, in the Santa Cruz Mountains and are from non-Estate vineyards in the greater area, mostly from old vine plots in the Cienega Valley in the Gabilan Range close to Hollister, San Benito County which borders Monterey County and not too far from the south Santa Cruz Mountains. The old vine dry Riesling 2012 from Richard Alfaro is a unique and tangy Riesling from vines planted in the early 60’s on it’s own roots, this vineyard is completely dry farmed and sits at about 1,000 feet up with granite and sandstone soils. Richard uses a bit of skin contact here, and ferments seriously dry (13% Alcohol) leaving a rich hue of yellow/gold and adds a real savory element to this lip smacking crisp white, this is bone dry and mouth watering Riesling that shows exotic character and zesty acidity along with an almost creamy/oily feel. The nose starts with dried white roses and citrus flowers along with salted grapefruit and earthy notes leading to a tropical infused palate of verbena, lemon oil, lime, peach pit, sour tarts and kiwi with bright pineapple, mango and nectarine plus hits of sage, dusty stones and wild mint. This is fun stuff that is zippy, spicy and vigorous that finishes with a hint of peach and apple butter, drink now and over the next 6 to 8 months.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Samsara, Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
The Larner Vineyard is in the new Ballard Canyon AVA, in Santa Barbara County in the Santa Ynez area and home to a fine Grenache and Syrah site, which Chad Melville uses to great effect in his Samsara label, and the 2010 vintage is a stunner. I really love what Melville is doing with all his Samsara wines, and anyone heading to the Santa Barbara wine country can find the new Samsara Tasting room in downtown Los Olivos, I can’t wait to visit, it is a must stop destination on the way to SB, be sure to check it out soon. The Samsara Pinots are fabulous too, and it is worth noted the basic Sta. Rita Hills 2012 is a steal and still readily available. While the 2010 Samsara Grenache might be a hard find, it is certainly worth searching out, there must be a few cases out there left, but not for long I’m sure, this is super sexy and tasty stuff with delicious Grenache charm and detailed layers. This juicy red mixes sweet and savory notes and spicy elements perfectly with tangy pomegranate, strawberry, boysenberry, plum and framboise along with pepper, licorice and chalky mineral notes. This is a stylish Grenache with flavors the remind you of Gigondas but still is all Californian in feel, if you want to surprise your Rhone geek friends beside to find some of this intriguing wine, it will impress no question, I did and I’m happy with the results, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. Samsara and Sheldon make some of my favorite California Grenache, look them both up, they are good stuff and worth your attention.
($35 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2003 Chateau Leoville-Las Cases, Grand Vin de Leoville du Marquis de Las Cases, Saint-Julien, Red Bordeaux, France.
Leoville Cases is a top Second Growth, one of 15 estates to make the 1855 Classification and was a much larger and renown property until the French Revolution when it was spit leaving a much smaller Chateau and gave birth to Chateaux Leoville-Poyferre (my personal favorite Saint-Julien) and Leoville-Barton in the Haut Medoc area of Saint-Julien. The Leoville’s are in prime Cabernet territory even if there is a bit more clay than in Pauillac or Margaux and while there is a good dose of Merlot in each, they all show classic Cabernet Sauvignon character, especially Leoville-Las Cases. The 2003 vintage was blisteringly hot in France and not many people thought the wines of year would give much in the way of balance or complexity, but surprisingly there are some amazing wines, and this impressive and expressive 2003 Leoville Las Cases is showing fantastic right now and should age marvelously well for another decade, maybe it was that clay soil that allowed the vines a bit extra hydration and added to their complexity, it is my idea anyway, but regardless of the reason, this is a stunning Bordeaux and while certainly not cheap, it is a great drinking Bordeaux offering top notch drinking pleasure and detail for what must be considered an off year price, making it a score to anyone that has it. The rich and voluptuous Leoville Las Cases Grand Vin starts with acacia and wild flowers, camphor and toasty wood notes along with dark fruits leading to a full bodied palate that feels lavish with exceptional mouth feel showing blackberry, curranty creme de cassis, mint and cherry plus stony minerals and graphite/pencil lead notes. Everything is held with firm ripe tannins giving some grip to this plumy and powerful wine. Remarkably there is no porty notes or is it flabby, it is starting to fill out, but still remains fresh and vigorous with vivid and vibrant detail, finishing with earthy loam, anise, vanilla/cinnamon, cedar, mulberry and gravel, and while I don’t give much time or thought to Bordeaux these days, this wine got my attention and reminded me of how good some of these wines truly are, this a joyous wine that has plenty of time left and can be enjoyed now, lucky those that have it in their cellar, no question.
($168-200 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Pax, Syrah, Griffin’s Lair, Sonoma Coast.
Pax is back, the famed cult Rhone style wine label Pax is back and being made by it’s founder Pax Mahle, who after some strange days and style changes has brought back his impressive lineup of wines from top sites that showcase his amazing talents with Syrah and the other Rhone varietals. The 2010 vintage marks his come back after almost 5 years without his Pax wines, though he was never without interesting offerings and his Wind Gap wines remain in force and show his gifted touch with lighter style wines and allow delicious experimentation in fermentations and varietals. For awhile, Pax rivaled Alban for top Syrah, these wines were full bore and amazing rich, but Pax like Wells Guthrie at Copain had a change of heart about how he wanted his wines to taste and age, so dialed back and is now going after finessed wines, more high toned and fresh with lower natural alcohols. Instead of dry port like wines with 15 or 16% on average his new Syrah wines clock in at about 13% to 14%, but still retain loads of character and flavor, this are not weak or meek in anyway, in fact they seem much more impressive and complex than in the past. The 2010 Gfiffin’s Lair Syrah by Pax weighs in at 13.5% and feels rich and vigorous on the palate with a dense core of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and damson plum fruit along with Northern Rhone like elements including camphor, white pepper, bacon grease, tarry licorice and flinty pebbles. The wine opens to reveal added layers that show cassis, violets and porcini notes with a lovely play of sweet and savory, this is a very entertaining and pretty Syrah, drink now through 2021, welcome home Mr Mahle, we celebrate the return of Pax.
($64 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Papapietro Perry, Pinot Noir, Elsbree Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
Wow, the 2010 Papapietro Perry Elsbree has really blossomed and is now fabulous and one of the best 2010’s I’ve had from the region, it shows beautiful detail and richness, but still has a good life force of freshness, this is what we all had hoped in 2010 wines, and here it is. This is a good Omen as to what the vintage has to offer, a cool year, and slowly developing in bottle, it looks like they can gain depth, poise and certainly character and aromatics as found in this bottling of Papapietro Perry. The Elsbree is one of those old school Russian River site that has part of the vineyard planted to old Zinfandel vines and other parts with Pinot Noir and for a freak of nature, for some reason, it works, very unique for sure. The 2010 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Elsbree starts with intense floral tones, including dark violets, wild flowers and rose petal, earthy spice and loam, and sweet kirsch plus a hint of game (almost like Bacon or cured meat) leading to a full, but vibrant palate of black cherry, blueberry and plum fruits with a dose of raspberry and cola bean mid palate along with smoky wood, anise, vanilla and tea spices. There is great vigor and supple tannins holding things together, though everything flows smoothly and the finish is long and glorious, this is pure Russian River Pinot that delivers everything you’d expect, it is in league with Rochioli and Williams Selyem and of that style, and while slightly out of fashion these days (being so deep and full) it is a great wine to enjoy now.
($67 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Joan d’Anguera, Altaroses, Granatxa Fina de Darmos, Montsant D.O. Spain.
A few years back Joan d’Anguera converted to 100% biodynamic farming, changed the winemaking to bring out terroir and restraint and focused on the details in a truly artisan way, and it has paid off with huge rewards, the wines are charming, full of flavor and have a sense of place, these are wonderful wines that show Montsant perfectly in the glass. The Joan d’Anguera wines are some of the finest values in hand crafted Spanish wine, no question and they are just getting better and better, especially their lovely Altaroses Granatxa, a seriously delicious red from old vines. This adorable and stylish Grenache cuvee flows with silky grace across the palate with vivid layers of black and red fruits, spice, mineral and texture, this is pleasure filled experience from start to finish. The nose shows floral essences with hints of wild flowers, dried roses and lavender along with garrigue, minty sage, cracked pepper and raspberry leading to a full mouth of blackberry, plum, lush cherry and wild strawberry while in the background you find a mix of sweet and savory herbs and allspice, chalk, dusty earth, hints of game and licorice. The wine deepens in the glass, but remains lively and focused leaving a long fruit filled aftertaste, drink now and between 2014-2020, it is stupidly good right now, no need to wait.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Fort Ross, Pinot Noir, Sea Slopes, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast.
Made by Jeff Pisoni, former winemaker at Peter Michael and of course the Pisoni and Lucia wines from his family’s great estate vineyards, the Fort Ross Sea Slopes is great value in Sonoma Coast Pinot with luxurious flavors and textures with deep color and harmony. The 2012 is fresh and delightful now, though has stuffing to age up to 7 years or so, it shows rich raspberry, cherry and juicy plum fruits, mocha, spice, anise and vanilla add complexity. This win eery is on a roll and the wines are just getting better and better, I would think with the quality and talent on hand there is potential for Fort Ross to rival the likes of Peay, Littorai, Hirsch and the rest out here on the wild Sonoma Coast, though they are pretty close now, especially with these 2012 wines. Look for this 2012 Sea Slopes to gain complexity, density and terroir character over the next year or two in bottle, best to wait a bit, even though it is showing well now and the impact on the palate is pretty impressive, there is more to come, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Grochau Cellars, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Commuter, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
A brand new label for me, the Grochau Cellars is a fine and very worthy discovery and the Cuvee Commuter 2012 Pinot a fun and delicious wine. As I’ve mentioned, the vintage 2012 is going to be a huge deal in Oregon, it is looking to be one of the best ever and these are some super wines. Grochau’s talents and gifted touch are on display in this ready to quaff Pinot, and while this is not his most serious offering it certainly makes a great impression and has a lovely impact on the palate with rich and fresh flavors, bright acidity and silky tannins. Layers of juicy black cherry, plum, raspberry, cranberry, blueberry and strawberry fruits, hints of herbs, tea, mineral and warm earth all play roles in this easy wine. Look for it to mellow nicely over the next three years, but enjoy it young, I think it is ready to go as we speak. Be sure to look for the Grochau Cellars wines, they are going to be a very savvy and rewarding find, now and in the future.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Castalia, Pinot Noir “Rochioli Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
Rochioli’s cellar master Terry Bering makes a small handcrafted Pinot under his own Castalia label with fruit coming off Rochioli Vineyard, it is a selection of West Block clone, one of the old vine heritage clones found on the estate, and this wine is super limited. 2012 is looking like one of the best vintages to date and this beauty will sell out fast, especially with Rochioli’s single vineyard wines going for twice to three times the price. This year’s wine shows pure Rochioli richness and depth with dark fruit density and lavish texture, it has high PH and a bit lower acidity, making for a drink now kind of pleasure and it is an easy to love wine. Dark cherry, cola, plum and red raspberry lead the way with tea spice, vanilla cream and sassafras notes. I starting tasting Castalia back in 1996 or 1997 and it has been one of my secret favorites ever since, I confess it was a great joy to get this wine back then, because I was still waiting to get on the main list at Rochioli, and even though I’m on the list, I still get the Castalia too, this is great Pinot hand crafted, hedonistic, rich Pinot Noir that is hard not to love, but don’t wait it goes fast. Drink now and over the following 3 to 5 years, it is a wonderful quietly pleasure!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Le Miccine, Carduus, Rosso di Toscana IGT, Italy.
Le Miccine looks set to be a star in Chianti Classico for the longterm with the young and talented Paula Papini Cook leading the way, she has scored a Tre Bicchere and has received lots of critical acclaim and this is coming for only her first two vintages in charge, so the future looks amazing for this Gaiole estate, definitely a winery to watch in the coming years. Paula’s wines are full of life and character with terroir and passion oozing from the glass, the Chianti Classicos are marvelous examples and this Carduus is delectable and glorious, this is some serious stuff. The 2010 Le Miccine Carduus is a special 100% Merlot cuvee aged in French “hogsheads” 330L barrels and comes off the estate vines and calcareous soils, this is really classy stuff, Paula’s gifted touch shows in this wonderful wine, maybe it is her experience in Bordeaux, where she worked in Fronsac, that has paid off here? I think the merlot grape does great in Italy, and especially in Tuscany, in fact I believe some of the great Merlot to be found comes from Italy, anyone who’s had Castello di Ama’s from down the road in Chianti, the famed Masseto from Ornellaia or Messario from Le Macchiole would certainly agree, Italy’s fine Merlot rivals even the famed Pomerol wines of Bordeaux the home to Petrus and the other fabled Merlot wines. This regardless of varietal, is a super and pure red that is full of unique charm and distinction with dark fruits, loamy earth, mineral and supple tannins, the Carduus by Le Miccine flows on the palate with ripe plum, red currant, black cherry and mulberry fruit along with tobacco leaf, wild mushrooms, minty herbs and cedary spice. I had this sample bottle over the course of three days with gas, just the cork, and it was fresh and sturdy each night, this is well crafted wine, it in fact got better with each day and hour. This is rich and deep focused Merlot with a long lingering finish that has an echo of the fruit, subtle wood notes and leaves a smile on your face, drink from 2014 to 2021. I really hope the Le Miccine wines find an importer soon, I find these wines a great value and with huge potential, thanks again to Paula Papini Cook for her kindness and the samples, they are highly impressive wines, no question.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Marc Tempe, Riesling, Zellenberg, Alsace, France.
Marc Tempe is a small family estate in Zellenberg, and is one of Alsace’s top guns, his wines are exceptional and soulful, especially his Rieslings like this beautiful 2010 Zellenberg. The Tempe wines all come from biodynamic vines and he employes natural winemaking techniques and long elevate, this rich and mineral driven Riesling was aged on it’s lees between 18 and 24 months in mostly neutral foudres. There is depth and length that will surprise you here, even though this is the village level wine and I highly recommend trying the 2010 Tempe wines, this one and his Pinot Blanc, these are unbelievably good wines for the money. The 2010 Zellenberg Riesling starts with a nice leesy, floral and steely nose with dried roses, crushed stones, lime flower and clove notes leading to a zesty, but full palate of citrus, apple and stone fruits with white peach, apricot, lime and granny smith along with river rock, tropical notes, saline and earthy tones. The lingering grapefruit, mango, white cherry and chalk stay on the aftertaste a long time, this is wonderful and stylish crisp and dry wine, drink over the next 3-5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Occhipinti, Siccagno, Nero d’ Avola IGT Rosso, Sicilia, Italy.
Arianna Occhipinti’s latest release is out, the new Siccagno Nero d’ Avola, and I’m sure her legions of fans will be racing to grab this new red up as soon as humanly possible, her last two offerings sold out extremely quickly and this looks to follow suit. Arianna is the queen of the new generation and of the natural wine movement, she has become one of the biggest stars in the wine world and her passion, hard work and charm drive her cult of personality, it is truly amazing to witness, she has brought a huge new following to the world of wine and excitement for wines and new terroirs. The results are something that we all should cherish and celebrate, I think it is well deserved and I’ve seen pure child like excitement from new wine drinkers not just here in California or New York, I have seen it while visiting a small town in Sweden, as I marveled the fact that Occhipinti was on the list at a remote little bar in Vaxjo, young hipster Swedes were enjoying Arianna’s SP68 Rosso. And now the 2011 Arianna Occhipinti Siccagno is out, it is everything her fans love, it is unique, a little funky, full of character and flavor, it is deliciously seductive. The Siccagno is all Nero d’ Avola, all organic, Arianna ferments with wild yeast and it spends a long time on the skins, almost 90 days, before aging in large neural Slovenian oak cask for about 16 months, then bottled unfined and unfiltered, with another 6 months of resting before release. This hand crafted, artisan wine is a Sicilian treasure, it shows a perfect play of sweet fruit and savory elements with pouched plum, loganberry, blueberry and spiced cherry fruits with balsamic and earthy notes, truffle, game and chalky minerals. The Siccagno is deep, but feels light on it’s feet, the tannins are super fine and many flavors come and go while in the glass with hints of anise, wild herbs, lavender and pepper, nutmeg along with cured meat, saline and toffee, but Arianna’s wines are all about fruit and pleasure and this one does not disappoint, drink now and for the next 3-5 years.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
1996 Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo DOCG, Brunate-La Coste, Piedmonte, Italy.
A chance to taste a rare mature Barolo should not be missed, especially as they don’t come around too often, so I seized the moment and opportunity to sample this beautiful Rinaldi, of which I have almost record of trying in the past. While not all that keen on the Coravin system for personal use, I am grateful for it’s use in this case and have maybe decided they are useful tools, if not a must have for wine professionals. So in went the magic needle and out came this delicious 1996 Rinaldi Nebbiolo into a glass for me. Thanks to a lucky collector that scored this bottle recently, in perfect as new condition, and thanks to the Coravin device now knows it is not corked and in it’s prime. The 1996 vintage was a classic year in Piedmonte with firm tannins and plenty of acidity, both of which are still on display here in this lovely Barolo, it shows some stewy flavors at first, but soon opens to reveal dried roses, wild mint, anise and tar with a detailed palate of red currants, cherry and damson plum along with decaying autumn leaves, sandalwood, a hint of orange rind and mineral notes. After a few minutes the tannins perk up and things firm up with black licorice, game and truffle starting to show up as well, there is a complexity and pure character that are enchanting, this small taste left me wanting more and an evening to ponder the joys in the glass, this Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-La Coste Barolo is a seductive wine, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years, I certainly wouldn’t be waiting!
($220-400 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Equipo Navazos “OVNI”, Vino Blanco Seco (dry) Pedro Ximénez, Montilla-Moriles, Andalucia, Spain.
This is a totally engaging crisp white from just outside the Sherry region in Montilla-Moriles is made from all Pedro Ximenez fermented in concrete amphora and stainless to give both freshness and roundness. This non Sherry, but Fino like wine though not as oxidized or is it fortified, it comes in at about 11.5% alcohol, making for a light to medium wine with lots of zest and character, perfect with seafood, picnics and of course savory tapas. Equipo Navazos is a new project that is exploring small lots of varied Sherry styles of wine, and the results are fascinating and leading the way for more people to become entranced with these exotic and largely undiscovered wines and this mysterious region in the southern most part of Spain. This delightfully expressive white shows lime, green apple, hints of white peach, chalk and mineral along with lemon oil and rind, tangerine, grapefruit and just the right amount of cashew nuttiness to remind you it is inspired by the region and style. The OVNI Vino Blanco Seco Pedro Ximenez is a fun and interesting white that really is a great palate refresher and starter wine at the Tapas Bar, I highly recommend checking what is going on with Sherry, there is some really exciting things coming out and it is a totally new world to enter for most wine lovers. I was wowed by this little gem, thanks to Duende Restaurant and Bar on Telegraph in Oakland for the introduction, this is a cool spot with some amazing food too.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
NV Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, Sherry, Palo Cortado “Wellington” 20 Years V.O.S. Jerez-Xérès, Andalucia, Spain.
The dry Palo Cortado Wellington 20 Sherry from Hidalgo is magnificent and beautiful with lots of savory character and a long fantastic finish, this is sublime stuff from the Jerez region of Spain, and perfect with a range of tapas. Sherry is a mysterious and complex world that can really intrigue and excite, from dry to sweet it is magic and a world to explore, I am grateful to Duende Restaurant in Oakland for offering this fine and distinct Sherry on their eclectic by the glass wine list, it went great with all their delicious small plates, this Spanish-World cuisine bistro downtown Oakland is a must visit spot for fun, food and interesting Sherry, the food is terrific and the place has a cool easy charm that makes it comfortable and exciting. We started with a fresh Fino made with Pedro Ximenez that was a super clean refreshing palate cleanser before finding this gorgeous Palo Cortado which was lovely amber in the glass and dry on the palate with a rich oily quality, but not over the top and it still has some acidity, plus lots of classic nuttiness with pecan, cashews and hazelnuts along with hints of orange rind, lemon and peach fruits plus sea salt, brine and caramel. Palo Cortado is a rare type of Sherry, it is a unique style that doesn’t often happen, it is started as a Fino, under Flor, but somehow starts to oxidize so they fortify it, only about 2% of Sherry grapes go through this and become Palo Cortado, it is also a crisp wine, but gains richer flavors, it is divine and glorious stuff and the age adds complexity, this is a Sherry lovers dream. Great with tapas, cheeses or sipping, it proved a wonderful companion and I will be re-visiting it and Duende again soon!
($38 Est. 500ml) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Le Miccine, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Le Miccine estate is located in the heart of Chianti Classic between Radda and Gaiole, in fact it is closer and part of Gaiole and it sits in a unique micro-climate in the hills, it is at about 400 Metres and has a slight valley effect which makes it a near perfect terroir with warm days and cooler nights allowing a long ripening season. The estate is now owned and run by the beautiful and dynamic Paula Papini Cook, who took it over in 2010 at the young age of 24, she is experienced in winemaking already with past work at Le Nozzole and in Bordeaux, she holds both French and Italian doctorates in winemaking and has converted Le Miccine to organic practices and has put out some compelling wines, including this wonderful Chianti Classico that is mostly of course Sangiovese, but with a bit of Malvasia Nera and Colorino in the blend, it was gently fermented in stainless then after malo it is then aged between 12-16 months in large French cask, Paula will employ differing techniques depending on vintage demands to capture the essence of her terroir, so far so good, and I can’t wait to see how this new project develops, it has incredible potential and the talented Papini Cook looks to be living the dream. The 2011 Le Miccini is a forward lush Chianti with rich flavors, pretty detailing and outstanding depth with good structure and balance, I was highly impressed, it starts with floral notes, sweet and savory elements from dried flowers, wild herbs and dark fruits with a touch of game and spice leading to a round generous palate of blackberry, red cherry, plum and strawberry reduction along with tobacco leaf, minty anise, crushed lavender, a hint of meat, mineral tones and a touch balsamic. The finish is fruity and the acidity is well integrated leaving a long aftertaste, but with nice freshness for a 14+ percent red. I tasted the sample bottle over the course of three days and it just got better and better with each sip, these are entreating wines. Drink this lovely wine over the next 3-5 years, I am hoping Le Miccine will be more available in the USA soon, now it is hard to find, and I’m grateful to Paula Papini Cook for sending the samples, so I could try her wines, so if any importers are listening, you should check out Le Miccine! www.lemiccine.com
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Epoch, Estate Blend, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
Epoch (Pronounced “Epic”) Wines is a recently established star in the California wine scene and these unique cuvees are some of the most compelling and alluring all California wines out there, made by one of the best young winemaking teams headed by Jordan Fiorentini and consultant Justin Smith of Saxum fame, you must give credit to owners Bill and Liz Armstrong, they’ve spared no expense and put total faith and belief in their terroir, vision and style and it has paid off. The 2011 Estate Blend is made of 37% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 19% Mourvédre,10% Tempranillo and 6% Counoise coming from Epoch historic Paderewski Vineyard and their newest site Catapult Vineyard, it was raised in concrete, stainless and bins, aged about a year and a half in French oak, half new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered, without question this has to be considered one of the 2011’s vintage most successful wines, especially in its price class. The Estate Blend is an energy filled expression of westside Paso, it has wonderful full flavors, elegantly refined tannins and structure and focus with lush fruit, spice, texture and depth all unfolding with style and charm, it has elements that remind me of Linne Calodo, Saxum, Torrin, Law Estates and Booker some of the heroic wines of the region, and Tablas Creek one of the pioneers of Westside Paso Robles which is seeing some of the most innovative wines in the state. If you were going in search of a great 2011 wine, Epoch would have to be at the top of your list, it is truly epic and terrific, it arts with black fruits, pepper, violets and spring flowers, almost like a Chateauneuf du Pape, it has a lavish palate of boysenberry, baked cherry, blueberry compote, raspberry and plum fruits with vanilla spice, white pepper, lavender oil, black licorice, soy/balsamic notes, crushed stones, chalk dust, game and saline, making for a incredible pleasing experience and a darkly rich wine that is full and loaded with glorious texture and life. The new Epoch Estate Blend is an over achiever and one very sexy red, drink now and for the next 5 to 7 years.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
One of the vintage’s best secrets and surprises the Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Monte Bello Vineyard is a truly glorious and elegant wine, made from a classic Bordeaux blend, 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and weighs in at 13% alcohol. This new release from Ridge is from what can be considered a difficult if not bad year for most of California, but as per normal here at Ridge it made one of the best wines of the vintage in this trying growing period, there is just something special about Monte Bello and against all odds and common sense, we end up with a remarkable wine to cherish. The 2011 has a Pauillac meets Margaux feel, there is the firmness and black fruit that almost remind you of Pontet-Canet and the lush polish of Margaux, but cliches are not completely honest in this pure California red, it shows density, finesse and rich detail plus open fruit drinkability that Bordeaux doesn’t usually give and that California is famous for. The nose is complex with dark fruit, crushed stone, violet/acacia flowers and loamy earth with hints of toast/smoky char and graphite leading to a medium bodied palate of blackberry, dark currants, cherry and plum fruits with touches of licorice, sage, vanilla and savory elements along with cigar wrapper and bitter chocolate and a lingering finish of creme de cassis. This Cabernet certainly stands out in it’s price class and for the vintage, it has everything you’d expect from Ridge and is finely crafted and shows freshness throughout with soft tannins and juicy acidity, the Merlot adds some plump, while the other grapes add interest, look for this suburb Cabernet to fill out a bit more in bottle over the next year or so, but drink young, best from 2015 to 2020. I can’t wait to see how good the legendary Monte Bello is, especially as this is so good, I love just about everything coming out of Ridge these days and 2012 looks to be a blockbuster year, the future is looking great for one of California’s most prized wineries, bravo.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Arnot-Roberts, Rose, Luchsinger Vineyard, Clear Lake.
It’s Spring, it’s warm and it is full on Rose season with many exciting choices out there from Sheldon’s Rose of Graciano to Rochioli’s rare Rose of Pinot Noir and Matthiasson’s Napa Valley Rose all tasting great right now, but for something even more unique you might want to hurry and get some of this fantastic Pink from Arnot-Roberts. The 2013 Arnot-Roberts Rose is made from Touriga Nacional, the Portuguese grape common in Port wines, it is grown on the volcanic soils of Lake County, at Luchsinger Vineyard, north of Napa Valley and makes for a terrific and interesting Rose with lively acidity, spice and loads of flavor. Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts started Arnot-Roberts back in 2001, it seems like yesterday, and have since become one of the must have wines and Duncan’s winemaking is on fire, the latest wines are fantastic, I’m a huge fan of his Syrah, Chardonnay and the Trousseau, but I can tell you I’ll be sipping on the Rose as much as possible, this is dynamite stuff. The 2013 Rose of Touriga Nacional is bright with a nose of flinty red spices, tangy cherry, subtle floral and light plum notes leading to a palate of strawberry, raspberry, watermelon and red citrus along with mineral and pepper. Everything is framed by lively fresh acidity and it is zesty from start to finish with the perfect amount of crispy character and mouth watering saline, though there is plenty of lingering fruit aftertaste and this Rose is very fulfilling, drink now.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Maison L’Envoye, Pinot Noir, Two Messengers, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Maison L’Envoye wines are made by the next generation of Etzel, Mike Etzel Jr, his dad Mike Etzel senior is of course the man behind the iconic Beaux Freres, he is helped along by famed Burgundy winemaker Louis-Michel Liger-Belair giving this project excitement and pedigree. These wines by Maison L’Envoye are lush, richly flavored and complex with mineral, spice, loam and truffle notes, and this Two Messengers is wonderfully balance, and even though it is the entry level wine for this project, it is a lovely effort, maybe the upper end “Attache” ($39.95) might give a bit more and will be certainly worth looking at, I just am highly impressed with this one. The nose is deep with blackberry, violets, dried rose petals, blueberry and red spices leading to a palate of raspberry, plum and black cherry fruit, flinty stones, mocha and anise with hints of wild mushrooms, strawberry and tea spices. This is beautiful wine, easy to love and showcases the vintage, this is a super new wine to search for and start collecting, drink now through 2018.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Fernand Engel, Riesling “Cuvee Engel” Alsace, France.
With Spring fully singing now, my thoughts return to one of favorite grapes, Riesling and it’s zest freshness that makes everything feel refreshed and alive after the cool winter months. This terrific value priced Riesling from France’s Alsace region really turns on the charm and gives lots of expressive flavors with tropical and earthy layers, spice and mineral riding on a light to medium palate of crisp and tangy tension and subtle intensity. The Fernand Engel estate is farmed organic and uses biodynamic practices in the vineyards, it shows a love of their land and the wines certainly show refinement and terroir, especially this Riesling Cuvee Engel, plus this wine sees good time on it’s lees, this adds depth and richness.There’s floral notes, bright apple, lime and apricot to go with zesty citrus and peachy layers along with pepper, clove, dried rose petals and briny notes. This is classic and groovy Alsace Riesling, subtle lifting acidity drives the engine and detailed mineral, loam and wet stones add complexity beyond the mentioned fruit, finishing with hints of tropical essences, I am in Spring mood with this one, this is a very happy wine, it’s a winner in my book!
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Rully “Les Cailloux” White Burgundy, France.
The small lot wines of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey are hot ticket items and the demand is fierce, this guy is on fire and Burgundy lovers are scrambling to get his latest releases. I managed to score his Rully Les Cailloux to sample and I can attest to the talents Colin-Morey and to the quality of the 2012 vintage, which will be extremely scarce, with as much as 60% of the production in the Cote de Beaune lost to a small crop that was weather damaged by hail. What came in the end was a tiny crop of sublime fruit and everyone is trying desperately to get their hands on these wines. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey’s Rully Les Cailloux 2012 is from the Cote Chalonnaise and near the Chagny commune, and is is elegant, classic and charming, this is a pure Chardonnay that delivers all that is expected of it with layers of lemon, baked apple, pear and white peach, along with hazelnuts, sea salt and plenty of juicy acidity plus steely mineral notes and lots of wet stones. With air complexity and depth come into play in this compelling 12% alcohol white, with palm dates, golden fig, clove and lime flower all playing roles, this is lovely and vibrant stuff, I can only imagine how wonderful his Cru wines are, if you see these wines I suggest you grab them.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Faury, Condrieu, Rhone White, France.
Philippe and his son Lionel make exquisite wines, hand crafted in the Northern Rhone, they specialize in small lot Syrah from Cote-Rotie and St.-Joseph, but they really do a masterful job with their whites, especially the 100% Viognier from Condrieu. The 2012 may just be their finest wine to date, I think so anyway, and I’ve been a fan of these wines for some 4 or 5 years now, it is remarkably poised yet powerful with intense fruit, mineral and wonderful texture. The Domaine’s vines are on steep slopes, produce tiny yields and are gently fermented, using stainless and neutral wood, with only about 10% new barrels used to provide richness without losing the freshness and detail of this gorgeous wine. These vines are on granite soils and gives wonderful terroir expression and varietal purity, the juice is on it’s lees for 11 months adding complexity and lavish depth while allowing vibrancy and bright acidity to heighten the experience, this is classy and hedonistic Viognier no question. The nose is all honeysuckle, jasmine, steely minerals and crushed gravel with tree picked peaches and apricots on the full palate with hints of green apple and tangy citrus notes while touches of earth and spice add to the stylish array of flavors. Look for this wine to drink well for 3 to 5 years, I honestly enjoy Viognier more young and vivid, and this wine is a stunner! Condrieu in a vintage like this can rival any white, I highly recommend grabbing some while they are available and this Faury, imported by Kermit Lynch, would be a great way to start.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Wilde Farm, Pinot Noir “Trois Fils” Anderson Valley.
This wonderfully vibrant and vivid hand crafted Pinot Noir is a remarkable new discovery, made by the very talented Pax Mahle, of Wind Gap and Pax, and is a stunning value. The Trois Fils by Wilde Farm Wines is a low alcohol charmer, at 12.4%, and shows real Burgundian class and mineral tones with full flavors and lifting acidity. This terrific wine shows the perfect combo of ripe and pure Pinot generousness and dynamic freshness of being able to pick developed grapes that are not green or harsh while retaining good acid levels and making for a wine that shows true balance, it could almost only happen in a vintage like 2012. This Trois Fils lacks for nothing and is rich and engaging with compelling fruits and floral tones, it was made with neutral wood and natural yeasts, unfined and unfiltered, this old school Pinot is just plain delicious. The nose is minerally with hints of violets, roses, gravel and herbs leading to a palate that has dark fruits including black raspberry, bing cherry and plum along with touches of cranberry and strawberry adding some zesty tangy. There is wet stones, a bit of loam and whiffs of cinnamon and tea spices too, plus some fig and briny saline, this has a mouth watering effect and a medium weight feel in the mouth. I can only say, more please, and highly recommend getting on their limited mailing list, drink now and over the next 3 to 5 years, this is well made entry level Pinot from promising new label and a great vintage.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Hilberg-Pesquero, Vareij, Vino Rosso, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Hilberg wines are something of a revelation, these gorgeous wines are from biodynamic/organic farming and highlight the risk rewards involved in this region, with tiny yields and gentle care these wines really do stand out. The Vareij is a unique blend of Barbera and Brachetto, each year the percentage changes from 60% Brachetto to 20%, with Barbera being the core. The Brachetto grape is used primarily is sweet and sparkling production and is only rarely used in still dry table wines, though with the right kind of farming it can really add perfume and exotic dimension to the wine and that is certainly the case with this 2011 Vareij from Hilberg-Pasquero. The nose jumps from the glass with a massive bouquet array of fresh and dried roses, violets and lavender oil along with grilled herbs, tobacco leaf and asian spices leading to a refined palate of blackberry, cherry and strawberry fruits with hints of basil, iodine and poached plum. This medium weight red shows fine tannins and crisp acidity, it is a wine that really benefits from being served slightly chilled, similar to a Beaujolais, though this wine is much more wild and nervy, drink from 2014 to 2017. This is another fun and passionate wine from Hilberg, these are super artisan wines that are lovingly handcrafted, and it shows with every sip.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Owen Roe, Pinot Noir “Kilmore” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
A knock out Pinot from David O’Reilly, in what looks set to be one of the great vintages ever in Oregon come this fantastic Pinot from Owen Roe, made from a selection of clones including Wadenswil, Pommard and modern Dijons coming off top sites in Yamhill-Carlton. This area is ancient seabed and has lots of dark fruit character and the 2012 Kilmore gives copious amounts of blackberry, cherry and pomegranate with a lush, lavish mouth feel and a long rich aftertaste. This is a dense wine, medium bodied, that has plenty of charm and is elegantly balanced with subtle lifting acidity and silky tannins. This deep Pinot expands in the glass with vivid flavors, smooth oak shadings, loamy earth, tangy spice, minty anise and dried flowers. Wonderfully complete and round, this wine has texture, complexity, balance and length, drink now and with abandon this is sexy, sexy, sexy stuff. Oregon 2012 Pinots are blockbusters, don’t miss these beautiful wines.
($44 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Peay, Pinot Noir, Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Vanessa Wong’s latest Savoy is flat out stunning and totally gorgeous, one of the best yet from the vintage which promises so much. The new Peay comes off the Cru site farmed by Richard Savoy in Anderson Valley, it is set in the middle of the valley on rolling hills and planted to a selection of heritage and dijon clones, though Peavy seems to like the Calera clone a lot here. Savoy has many a talent enjoying the fruits of his labor, with top producers like Littorai, Radio-Coteau, Breggo, Auteur and Kutch all making great wines from this special place. The 2012 Peay is beautiful from start to finish, full and expressive with lush layers along with acidic framing and life making for a divine experience. The nose is perfumed with floral tones and light earthiness, mineral and exotic spices leading to a lavish palate of red currants, morello cherry, mountain raspberry, crushed violets, lavender, wild mushrooms, anise and tea spices, plus a touch of mouth watering briny saline, gravel stones and then hints of mocha and vanilla. The finish is long and leaves a lightly fruity aftertaste with strawberry echoing along with fresh plums, fantastic, drink 2014 to 2022.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 G.D. Vajra, Riesling, Langhe Bianco, Piedmonte, Italy.
The G.D. Vajra Riesling is an exotic expression of this varietal and has been a huge hit in the region, with many more top producers either planting Riesling or planing to in the near future, it looks as if Riesling has found a welcoming home in the Langhe. The G.D. Vajra Riesling is mostly from select Alsatian clones some provided by Marcel Deiss and a bit of a Nahe German clone, so they have pedigreed vines and it shows in the wine and the quality that is in the glass. The latest release from this Barolo house is full of rich detail and and loaded with unique character, this wine is neither French Alsatian or German in feel or style, this wine brings something new and distinct to the Riesling world and while the 2010 and 2011 might have been a bit more intriguing, this 2012 is a lovely and graceful wine. Even though the price seems a bit high, which knocks a few points off the top here, this is a worthy search and a very savvy choice, the 2012 is dry, fresh and filling with entertaining flavor and class. The bouquet is a touch floral and bright with citrus blossoms and delicate rose petals which leads to a full mouth, this wine has texture and expands gracefully on the palate with white peach, tropical notes, lime and green melon along with sea salt, oyster shells and tea spices. There is just of hint of sour cherry and petrol, but with air there is fuller stone fruits, apple and chalky mineral, this nicely complex Riesling subtly shows it’s nervy acidity, this wine isn’t as electric as it’s German cousins or as dense as some of it’s French Alsatian brothers, but it certainly deserves some attention. Look for this Langhe to develop further over the next 3 to 5 years, though I might suggest to drink this vintage in it’s first 2-4 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux, Meursault, White Burgundy, France.
Jean-Michel Gaunoux is legendary, and it was a thrill to meet him and taste through his line up of Meursault, plus his reds, everything was precise and beautifully crafted with the bonus of being gorgeous already, these 2011 wines are open and generous even now. Gaunoux is famed for his glorious Chardonnay and like Roulot and Jobard are coveted by Meursault fans around the world, these wines are on another level than most, sadly until now I’d only had a very few chances to taste the Gaunoux wines, so after hearing about them for more than a decade, this was a special moment and it surpassed expectations. While his top crus are magnificent and unforgettable, I maybe was most impressed by his AC regular bottling of Meursault, this is fantastic stuff and quality from start to finish and while 2011 doesn’t get the hype and press love that 2010 gets, it is a stunning vintage for Burgundy drinkers, not the speculators, more the pleasure for us, and Gaunoux’s wines are truly delicious. The 2011 Meursault starts with fine perfume of white flowers, wet stones and touches of earth, spice and sea leading to a round and textured palate of white peach, lemon and apple fruits with hints of spiced pear, hazelnut and steely notes, this is classy and vibrant Chardonnay with good depth, a rich character and taught acidity. This beauty drinks sublimely now, but has plenty of potential to age another decade, it certainly will not disappoint now or later, drink from 2015-2020.
($70 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Sheldon, Graciano Rose, Ripkin Vineyard, Lodi.
Almost certainly, the Sheldon Rose of Graciano must be unique in the wine world, it may just be the only single varietal labeled Graciano Rose in existence, if not the only then one of a very few, and it is very tasty indeed. Graciano is one of the reds grapes of Rioja, it is tricky to grow and is rarely used as a mono-varietal wine, though it does well in the Canary Islands where it is known as Tintilla, the Sheldon’s get theirs from a small plot found in Lodi, grown on limestone soils, they also make a limited edition red from here too. Tobe Sheldon along with Dylan Sheldon her husband are a new generation of winemakers in California looking to explore away from the mainstream and take some risks, they are making wonderful pure expressions and more elegant styles of wine, including this rose of Graciano, but also delicate Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Pinot Noir, a claret like Cabernet Sauvignon and an old vine field blend from a wild backyard vineyard in Calistoga. All of the latest set are lovely and poised wines, with low natural alcohol and good acidity, they are bright, fresh and flavorful. The new 2013 Rose is dry, juicy and exotic, it sings like song birds on a warm summer morning and shows red berry, watermelon, tart cherry and strawberry fruits along with pink citrus, mineral and a mix of spices and a hint of tropical essence. This might be the best version yet for this vibrant wine and it’s vivid hue and personality are sure to charm even the most jaded of wine drinkers, not much of this fine pink is made, get it quick and enjoy over the next 6 to 8 months.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Rolf Binder, Riesling “Highness” Eden Valley, Australia.
The Eden Valley in South Australia not far from Adelaide is an old region with a long history of great Riesling, with vineyards dating back to 1847. Eden is near Barossa Valley and is similar in size, it is a cool climate area with Syrah (Shiraz) and Riesling being it’s main grapes, plus there is High Eden which has close to 1200 feet of elevation giving cooler air and complex soils, making it ideal for bright and intense Riesling. Rolf Binder, a small family winery in Barossa, is one of the area’s top producers and this Highness Riesling is a dynamite example of what the region can do with this noble varietal, along with other great Aussie Riesling producers, Grosset, Tim Smith, Pewsey Vale, Pikes and Henschke. The 2011 Rolf Binder Riesling is sizzling with power, crisp dryness and is elegantly styled being floral and lengthy, done in a classic Aussie fashion with loads of character. This fresh white shows citrus blossoms, mint leaves, lemon peel and a flavorful palate of lime, gooseberry, kiwi and tangerine along with petrol fumes, crunchy stones, paraffin and briny notes. Binder’s Riesling keeps it’s cut and drive throughout, this is a tangy and brisk wine that begs for a summer day and lots of oysters on the half shell, drink now and often, though it should age well for another 5 to 7 years, this is fun and impressive Riesling from Oz!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Weingut Wittmann, Riesling, Morstein, Grosses Gewachs, Rheinhessen, Germany.
For a few years now I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about Wittmann and have been trying to get my hands on some of their wines, as they are known as one of the best estates in the Rheinhessen, and finally I got myself a bottle. While they the wine didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had built up, it was and is a fine and distinct Riesling and one I’ll buy again. The Weingut Wittmann Grand Cru dry Riesling from the Morstein starts out with very deep and mature notes, it has a golden hue and the wine is full of texture showing dried rose petals, baked apple, pear tart and apricot along with vigorous acidity. The mineral tone is low key here and the wine turns creamy giving a mouth coating feel, this is a white wine for red wine drinkers! There is exotic sour cherry, kumquat, sweet basil and persimmon notes that linger on and on, while savory elements, earth, chalk and ocean come into play as well, this wine is lavishly and thoughtfully enjoyable it just doesn’t merit it’s price when compared to some of it’s peers, though I admit 2010 wasn’t the best vintage, so I’m going to keep an open mind and try a few more years. This Grosses Gewachs is certainly serious and well made dry cru Riesling, again I’ll be drinking Wittmann wines in the future, but I’m not sure I am overly thrilled with the price and I think there are a lot of better wines in the that price range, even if this is classy stuff, drink now.
($100 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2011 Tatomer, Riesling, Vandenberg, Santa Barbara County.
Graham Tatomer’s wines are some of of the most thoughtful and well crafted examples of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner to be found in California, these are wines that YOU should look for and try, no question. Tatomer is well immersed into the Santa Barbara wine scene and has become a sensation across the state with these dry whites, his talents were born out of his time in Austria working with Weingut Knoll and the famed Emmerich Knoll in the Wachau region on the Danube west of Vienna, the home of Austria’s best whites, especially Gruner and of course Riesling. Graham has found some good and interesting vineyards, some with old vines going back as far as 1972, and his Vandenberg, named after the Air Force Base, is from sites near by with multiple pickings to get a range of flavors and driving acidity, he uses some Botrytis affected grapes in the blend that gives extra dimension, but this is stony dry Riesling through and through. The 2010 was lovely stuff, but I really love this 2011, it certainly captures vartietal purity and essence perfectly and has intense character, this was a super vintage for dynamic whites and this wine is spot on. The 2011 Vandenberg starts with white flowers, grapefruit, honeyed pear and petrol fumes leading to a crispy palate of chalk, mineral spice, river stones and wax with a vivid sense of green apple, melon, tangerine, lime and white peaches filling out the mouth and lingering on and on with a hint of mint tea and marmalade. This Riesling flows and expands with intriguing texture, but still excites and has a backbone of zest and tang making it perfect for seafood, and it is very lifting and refreshing. This wine is showing maturity and complexity already, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years, be sure you check out Tatomer, this label should be on your radar.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau Coupe Roses, La Bastide, Minervois, France.
This beautiful and delicate Minervois has heightened aromatics a fresh palate and an exotic lingering finish, it feels richly flavored, but it is light/medium bodied wine, perfect for many cuisines and summertime. Chateau Coupe Roses is an organic estate close to Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) in the village area of La Caunette in the higher Minervois and the vines are on sloping limestone hillsides, along with olive trees, roses and garrigue. The 2012 La Bastide is made up of mostly Grenache and Syrah with some mourvedre and Cinsault, it is tank and vat raised with the Grenache and Syrah getting most of the focus, then aged in neutral cask for about 6 months. The wine is juicy, delightfully alive and shows heady perfume with a bouquet of wild flowers, garrigue and lavender leading to a array of red fruits, mineral and red spices with raspberry, plum and blueberry along with grenadine, strawberry and dried flower tea. There is touches of cracked pepper, chalky stones and anise that add to the whole, this is a fine effort and a bargain for the price, drink now and for the next few years.
($16 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2012 Stolpman, La Cuadrilla, Red Wine, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez.
The Stolpman wines are ever improving and becoming more interesting with each new vintage, the Syrah wines reign supreme and there is an entertaining set of whites too from which to choose, personally it is a tough choice between the Sauvignon Blanc and the seductively rich Roussanne. That all said, it is the new La Cuadrilla that really impressed, it is a proprietary red blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah, this richly flavored hybrid is lovely, spicy and loaded with energy, and as with all the fine Stolpman offerings it was crafted by the gifted hands of Sashi Moorman of Evening Land, Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi to name a few. The 2012 La Cuadrilla is expressive, starting with violets, rose petals, grilled fennel and cracked pepper, I think the whole cluster Syrah adds the intensity and much of the primary character, but the Sangiovese does come through with time in the glass, while the Grenache and Petite Sirah add a bit of color, body and give the wine a heady touch, this is beautifully balanced, detailed and flows with lavish texture. The palate is round and full with blueberry, boysenberry and creme de cassis along with sweet tobacco, strawberry, kirsch and porcini notes. The mouth feel is lush, but there is vibrancy and the wine never dulls plus it has a nice lengthy finish with a mix of red pepper/chocolate, licorice and espresso leaving a long plummy aftertaste. Drink now and over the course of the next 3 to 5 years, the La Cuadrilla is a seriously fun wine and a nice value too.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2008 Luigi Baudana, Cerretta Barolo DOCG, Serralunga D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2008 Baudana Barolo Cerretta is a stunning and strikingly beautiful wine with power, presence and length all wrapped in silky elegance and refinement, this is glorious stuff made by the talented hands of Giuseppe Vajra, known for his exceptional G.D. Vajra wines as well. The Cerretta is from the Serralunga d’ Alba Barolo zone, this area provides density and gravity from the fossiled Marl, limestone and sandstone, this plot is not far from the historic Falletto and Lazzarito crus and produces wines of distinction, grace and longevity. The 2008 Cerretta shows red fruits, spice, herbs and a firm wall of tannin along with bright acidity and fullness of body starting with dried rose petals, hints of violets and tea spice before a mouth coating of raspberry, damson plum, cherry and strawberry fruits. There is plenty of classic earth, truffle, tar, mineral tones, chalky stones and black melted licorice to remind you of the terroir and Nebbiolo character, this is deep and complex Barolo and it should only get better with another 3 to 5 years in bottle, even though it is surprisingly supple with air and artfully done, drinking lovely now, it deserves a touch more time to reveal everything it has. This gorgeous Barolo has loads of potential and is sublimely crafted by one of the latest generations rising talents and artisans, be sure to keep your eyes on this and the G.D. Vajra labels, these are the real deal.
($90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Brancaia, Tre, IGT Rosso Toscana, Italy.
Casa Brancaia has three main estates, Brancaia in Castellina in Chianti Classico, Poppi in Radda in Chianti Classico and the Brancaia in Maremma, Grosseto, on the Tuscan Coast, they produce some of the region’s most desirable wines. Brancaia’s baby rosso comes from all three estates and is called Tre, it contains three varietals, mostly Sangiovese and parts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Brancaia Tre IGT Rosso is 80% Sangiovese with 20% being a select mix of Merlot and the Cabernet, it was aged 12 months in French oak, with about 50% new barrels and while you’d think it would defined by it’s use the oak melts away into this red without seeming overt, in fact the wine tastes and feels fresh and juicy with bright pure Sangiovese character and is deliciously clear and smooth. The Brancaia Tre is lovely, focused and succulent on the palate with dark berry, plum, strawberry, black currant and cherry fruits, minty herbs, anise, cranberry, dried roses and subtle vanilla hints. With air there comes a touch of smoke, cigar box and mineral adding a bit more complexity, but honestly you don’t find depth or density here, this is more an easy go to for simple pleases and laid back cuisine, it is perfect for pasta, hamburgers, picnics and or cold cuts. Best not to over think this one, Brancaia has made fun and well made red that offers much for a fair price, drink now and for the coming 3 to 5 years.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Lovamor, Albillo Vino de la Tierra Blanco, Castilla Y Leon, White, Spain.
This rare old vine white from near Ribera del Duero is made from the scarce and native Albillo grape, this wine comes from 100-120 year old vines grown on clay-limestone at about 800m to 1100m in elevation in a wild and arid stretch of hills. Alfredo Maestro Tejero crafts this natural wine with great care and delicacy using 6 days of skin contact and is fermented and aged in small steel vats, nothing is ever added or are then any adjustments to this intriguing wine. With only around 400 bottles produced, this is exceptional rare juice and will be a hunt to find, a needle in the haystack, but certainly a rewarding endeavor. All of the Bodegas Maestro Tejero wines are worth checking out, these are some of the most innovative and seriously delicious offerings coming out of region. The 2012 Albillo, known as the Lovamor, starts with lime blossom, chalk and savory elements and is a golden yellow with an orange tint from the extended skin maceration and has a raw vigor that is very entertaining and unique. There is lemon/lime, tangerine and peach fruits, melon rind, a hint of tannin, herbs and spice along with a grainy stone essence. I’d really love this wine with savory tapas, smoked fish, cured meats and middle eastern lemon chicken. The 2011 was slightly more nutty and already mature, while the 2012 seems fresher and more lively finishing with lots of zest and tangy elements, both very cool, drink 2014 to 2018.
($34 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Paradigm, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Estate, Napa Valley.
Don’t miss this truly exceptional 2010 Cabernet, made by Heidi Barrett since day one, Paradigm is one of the great small estates in the Napa Valley within the Oakville AVA, with her experience, including of course Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Hartwell and Vineyard 29 to name just a few, Barrett knows a thing or two about putting a Cabernet together. The 2010 is a fabulous deeply flavored Cabernet with a purple hue and cascade of dark layers and rich full bodied mouth feel. Sexy smoke, thick creme de cassis, blackberry, currant jelly and minty anise seed, sage and sandlewood lead the way in this opulent wine. This wine is balanced, generous and has ripe sweet tannins holding it all together, and the finish is lengthy with wild flowers, plum and cedar notes adding to the mix of complexities, it should drink well into the decade ahead. This is sensational Cabernet and certainly out shines many $200 plus wines, so while not a cheap wine, this is a savvy choice in Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, drink 2015-2025.
($75 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Cashburn, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand.
The Cashburn label brings famous Sonoma Coast winemaker of Littorai, Ted Lemon and New Zealand’s Burgundy like region of Central Otago together, and this has produced a fabulous and racy Pinot Noir! What were you expecting, Hobbits, Wizards and Trolls? Lemon’s gifted touch and fine terroir influences make for a stylish and unique expression and one worth searching out no question, this is serious Pinot Noir made by a guy that knows something about the varietal from his long and storied career. The 2011 Cashburn Central Otago flows with decedent red fruits, spice and heightened intensity and is driven by vibrant acidity and lovely earthy notes that fold nicely into this medium bodied Pinot from Kiwi-land. The nose has an interesting array of sparks to your senses with dried flowers, flinty mineral spice, wild game and mushroom along with kirsch notes leading to a lively and firm palate of red currants, damson plum, mountain berry and a succulent core of morello cherry fruit along with truffle, bacon fat and guava. This briar and bramble laced Pinot Noir expands on the palate and the tannins melt into a silky rich wine that certainly with gain with another few years in bottle, though I like that is is not too polished yet and has many intriguing angles to explore now and changes all the time in the glass, this is sexy and exotic Pinot Noir, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The latest Beaux Freres Pinot is well endowed with lushness, elegance and balance, it is less serve and not as delicate as the 2011, making for a bit more flamboyance and head turning attraction. Mike Etzel and his team always turn out a great wine, their talents and skills are legendary, Beaux Freres is one of the finest estates in America, not just Oregon and the wines are truly world class. The 2012 vintage is going to be a special year for Oregon Pinot Noir, if there was ever a time to stock to the gills in Willamette Valley Pinot, this is the vintage, look for lots of magical wines and some very rewarding longterm investments, and without a doubt some of the most successful with come from Beaux Freres. I was lucky enough to taste 20 year old Beaux Freres Pinot at a tasting held by Santa Cruz Mountains vintner and Pinot enthusiast Richard Alfaro of Alfaro Family Vineyards, he is an avid collector of Beaux Freres and he showed a mini vertical of 1993, 1994 and 1995 Beaux Freres, and they were all sound and glorious, especially the famed 1994 and the 1995, so wines can age and do so gracefully. The 2012’s look set for a long pleasing life too, though it will be hard not to drink these beauties as fast as you can, they are drinking fantastic already. The 2012 Willamette Valley cuvee from Beaux Freres is beautifully detailed and striking with heady perfume, rich texture and heavenly layers of flavor. The Willamette features fruit souced from prime vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley and is made up of about 14% of Beaux Freres Estate and Upper Terrace fruit and from Cru sites that include Savoya, Zena Crown, Hyland and others. The wine sees less new oak than the all estate bottling, though it is seriously lavish and complex, this wine oozes hedonistic charm and is the sexiest young Beaux Freres to date, you don’t want to miss this alluring and heady wine. The nose is filled with violets and red rose petals, earth, spice and smoke leading to a round generous palate of blackberry, blueberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with lifting acidity, silky tannins and mineral notes, plus touches of mocha, wild strawberry, flinty pepper, asian tea, vanilla and dried currants. This wine is just hitting the market and will sell out fast, so don’t wait it will be very sad to miss this vintage, I can’t wait to try the estate wines, drink from 2015 to 2026.
($60 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
2012 Shared Notes, Sauvignon Blanc, Les Pierres Qui Decident, Russian River Valley.
The Les Pierres Qui Decident is a homage to the great wines of the Loire Valley, this is pure Sauvignon Blanc with a nod to the late great Didier Dagueneau. This is a vibrant and intense minerally Sauvignon Blanc that is wonderfully textured and elegant. Shared Notes is the husband and wife winemaking team of the emerging talents Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (Cattleya), a former Cote-Rotie winemaker at Domaine Ogier as well as having Haut-Brion, Peay Vineyards, and Lynmar on her CV, and Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni Estate) who also makes Fort Ross and was an assistant at Peter Michael. These two rising stars have always wanted to make wine and are now two very highly regarded winemakers and consultants. The Shared Notes label marks their beginning in making wine together with 2012 being their first vintage to collaborate, and wow, they have made two spectacular wines, this glorious Sauvignon Blanc and another Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend that is striking and stylish in a great white Bordeaux style, both are stunning examples of what can be done with the varietal(s) and showcase their passion and skills, these are not to miss wines. The Les Pierres Qui Decident is full of racy intensity and vibrant flavors with lemon/lime, green melon, gooseberry, quince and hint of grapefruit lead the way with a touch of kiwi and tropical essence, vivid mineral tones and bracing acidity which while a force in this wine never gets top billing, this wine has added depth and density with a lot of character, hints of white flowers, tangerine and wet river rocks. Everything folds together perfectly, this is seriously delicious wine, it has the class and quality that really takes this Sauvignon Blanc to a higher level and is one of the finest in California. This wine certainly is is the top 5 Sauvignon Blancs I’ve had from California along with the Rochioli Old Vine, Peter Michael, Morlet Family and Greystack, it reminds me how exciting this grape can be. I can’t wait to see what Jeff and Bibiana do next! Drink from 2014 to 2020, though it might be a good idea to leave a few bottles for 7 to 10 years to see what happens, I have a feeling it will be rewarding.
($74 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Maison Marchand-Tawse, Pommard, Red Burgundy, France.
Pascal Marchand, the former Comte Armand winemaker, knows Pommard and how to get the best of it and this 2011 shows his skill and touch, this is a wonderful expression of finesse and terroir, this wine is a gift to cherish. While the vintage is not going to get lots of praise or press, these wines from Marchand are almost as delectable as his 2009 and 2010 wines, I think they are solid choices for true Burgundy lovers and non investment buyers, these wines are highly enjoyable and should age well with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years easy, though they are generous and drink well even now. The 2011 Marchand wines are a savvy choice and will not disappoint, especially this lovely Pommard with it’s racy red fruits, spice and chalky mineral tones. The 2011 Pommard starts with a bouquet of dried roses, minty herbs, warm stones and a touch of earth and iodine leading to a palate of refined silky tannins, bright acidity and giving lush fruits that include a core of cherry, plum and raspberry while a long lingering wild strawberry stays throughout and haunts long after the glass is empty. There is dusty stones, anise, tea spice and truffle notes as well making for an entertaining and seductive wine. This is really well crafted, radiant and engaging Pinot Noir, and again a wine for wine lovers, drink from 2015 to 2022. Tasted a finished bottle sample durning La Paulee SF Burgundy Week, it will be arriving in May of 2014.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, River Block, Russian River Valley.
The 2010 River Block is a glorious Pinot Noir, it is shedding it’s baby fat and lavish French oak leaving a full flavored wine with beautiful detail and lush texture. While not easy to find, and rather pricy, the Rochioli Pinots are luxury items and some of the most delectable in the state. I was lucky, after a seven year wait I was able to get on their mailing list and I now get a small offer each year, of which I try to get a few Pinots from the estate, along with the Chardonnay. I open them them for friends or special occasions, so after a short cellar period I decided to open this bottle, as it happened it was my birthday wine, that put grand expectations on this vintage and I can happily report this River Block easily met all my expectations and exceeded my desires on the night, with a great performance, this is wonderful stuff, even though it will be even better with another 3 to 5 years. The 2010 Rochioli River Block starts with a rich bouquet of floral notes, mocha, smoke, red berries and spicy vanilla leading to a full mouth of plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with ripe silky tannins, subtle acidity, licorice and dried cranberry. This is a showy wine, but still has balance and depth, this is a total pleasure to drink and will only reward those that wait a bit longer, I’d say as good as it is now, it should merit a higher rating in 3 to 5 years, everything is there to be a classic legendary wine from this world class winery.
($120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Brunier, Piedlong, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
The Piedlong Leux-Dits Piedlong et Pignan from Domaine du Telegraphe’s Daniel Brunier is a beautiful Chateauneuf du Pape expression, it replaces the Domaine la Roquete in the Vignobles Brunier lineup, and comes from the Piedlong plateau, high up and is formed from estate Grenache 90%, 70 year old vines, and 10% Mourvedre, 50 year old vines, these stony plots gives exceptional depth and richness. The 2011 shows gorgeous cassis, cassis and strawberry up front with silky tannins, cracked pepper, chalky mineral, lavender oil, grenadine and savory earthy notes. This looks set to serve as a perfect foil to the main Vieux Telegraphe, it is made well and reflects it’s terroir, and it is much more a pure Grenache in nature vs the more boding VT, the Piedlong is much more flamboyant, fruit driven and hedonistic, this is such a pleasure trip, I highly recommend this deeply flavored wine. The bouquet is heady and lively too with wild flowers, truffle, kirsch and raspberry adding to the enjoyment, for those that go nuts for Barroche or Pegau will really dig this sexy new Brunier wine, it has that kind of profile and it should drink well into the next decade, drink from 2015-2022.
($65-87 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley.
Ken Wright’s legendary Pinot Noirs are some of the Oregon standard bearers, and while his single vineyard wines are his top tier offerings, it is his Willamette Valley cuvee that can be the best value and early drinking wine, and this 2012 version is a great example. The vintage is looking like a classic year for Oregon Pinot, and I was certainly impressed by Ken Wright’s single vineyard samples I tried earlier, but the real steal and show stopping is this lovely entry level cuvee, while his single vineyard wines need a few years to show their best, this wine is tasting great now. I say, don’t miss this value priced Pinot from the maestro, it gives the pleasure of his upper level wines and is more user friendly with soft tannins, open fruit and a suburb lengthy finish, this is lovely and well crafted wine, especially for the price. The bouquet is more heady and pretty than the tight and closed single vineyard wines, it shows wilted roses, hints of dark flowers, red spices and mineral tones along with red currant, earth and sweet herbs leading to a medium weight palate with bright acidity lifting the red fruits including flavors of plum, raspberry and strawberry to go with a tangy cherry core element. The background shows cedar, pepper, lavender, forest floor, wet stones, smoke and porcini. Drink from 2014 to 2019.
($27-32 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, Golden Slope, Sta. Rita Hills.
This beautifully crafted Chardonnay is another success for the young and talented team at Liquid Farm, a rising star on the Sta. Rita Hills wine scene and beyond. The 2012 releases elevates Liquid Farm into the top echelon of fine artisan producers of Chardonnay in the greater Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara area, these wines show the passion and energy of the very best from their region, moving them up along side Brewer-Clifton, Sandhi and Tyler, all of which are highly recommended. Of the latest set of 2012 the Golden Slope really stands out, this is interesting and vigorous Chardonnay that has a Burgundy like austerity, but unique charms and lots of personality with fresh dynamic acidity and underlying richness, this not a harsh lean wine, nor is it a flabby cream pie, this is well made and pure Chardonnay that will intrigue you and keep a smile on your face from first sip until to the faint memory is all that’s left in the bottle. Liquid Farm’s first release was a mere 4 barrels in 2009, their mission was to connect the wine with the place, soils and growers, they wanted to transmit terroir and make vibrant expressions of Chardonnay, with the help of Brandon Sparks-Gillis of Dragonette Cellars the husband and wife team of Jeff and Nikki Nelson have done so in spades. The new Golden slope starts with white flowers, vivid citrus and mineral tones leading to a zesty palate of vivacious fruits, spice and herb notes that feels almost Chablis like steely, but with a bit more California sun infused. The Golden Slope was all native yeast fermented with 85% neutral wood and 15% new French oak, which adds a bit of style, baking spices and a sumptuous volume to this fine Chardonnay. This mid palate expands with lemon, peach, clove and yellow apples along with hints of sea salt, vanilla and tropical notes. This wine should prove entertaining over the next 3 to 5 years and may just reward even longer cellaring, this is very savvy and alluring juice.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Philippe Pacalet, Puligny-Montrachet, White Burgundy, France.
The gorgeous and rich 2011 Philippe Pacalet Puligny is a textured and fresh Chardonnay of wonderful class and detail. Pacalet sources small yielding organic grapes from select plots, employs gentle natural native yeast fermentation and ages on the lees in neutral cask making a stylish and generous wine that showcases terroir, vivid transparency and heightened flavors. Pacalet’s natural winemaking might work best in his glorious white wines, while he gets most attention for his reds, these whites are stunning wines, both his Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet shine brightly and standout for their lovely texture, vivacious character and class, these are strikingly beautiful wines. The latest Puligny-Montrachet, the 2011 is pure joy in the glass with vibrancy and charm, it shows white flowers, apple, white peach, lemon oil and spiced pear along with steely mineral, hazelnut and wet stones from a cold river. This is lovely Puligny, it feels decadent and noble without being heavy and while young it delivers lots of pleasure and finesse, drink over the next 5 to 8 years. While the 2010 was a tad more gripping and austere, the 2011 is more open and expressive, this is golden nectar through and through, both graceful and lively.
($100+ Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling, Reserve Personnelle, Alsace, France.
Weinbach is one of my favorite producers, and Laurence Faller crafts beautiful and flavorful wines, especially her Riesling wines, like her entry level Reserve Personnelle that comes from Clos des Capucins. The Domaine’s Clos is farmed all biodynamic and is set on alluvium, sand and granite gravelly soils first planted by the Capucins monks, it was first mentioned as far back as 890, this is an ancient place with a long history. The wines show vivid flavors, rich layered fruit and wonderful finesse and grace, Faller has a gifted touch and the Reserve Personnelle 2012 is great introduction to the Weinbach wines and the Domaine’s style. The nose is lifted with citrus flowers, orange and spice clove and fig leading to a medium light feeling palate of lime, green apple, passion fruit, peach and tangerine as well as earthy loam, mineral notes and tropical essences. All this and that great balance, elegance and focus brought together with succulent acidity, plus a lengthy finish with a burst of zesty citrus and a touch of apricot and wilted roses. This is gorgeous dry Riesling that has much to offer and joy to bring, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, it will be great with an array of cuisine choices from Asian to cured meats, poultry and a spring picnic spread, delicious stuff this.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Miura, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The 2010 Miura Garys’ is more restrained, intense and brooding than the flamboyant Pisoni at this stage, but I wouldn’t bet against this one from turning the tables on it’s bother in a few years, everything is there to blossom and develop into a stunner itself. The more generous Pisoni might have it’s day now, but there is a lot to love here too, this Miura Garys’ Pinot shows darker fruit, more acidity and a slightly less ripeness, though it does open up in the glass and fills out magnificently on the palate with rich fruit and clear detail, while the nose is shy it still has plenty to offer as well with hints of rose petal, violets and tea spices along with toasty oak and mocha. The raspberry, cherry and plum fruits are lifted by acidity and silky tannins, though there is a lush and dense mouth feel that shines through and this is rich wine from start to finish. Background notes of wild strawberry, licorice, forest mushrooms and a hint of game add complexity, give another couple of years to unfold for the best rewards, I’m sure this will continue to improve and intrigue over the next 3 to 5 years, and clearly this Pinot Noir has seductive charms not to be missed now and in the future.
($63 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Roar, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
From select blocks of Rosella’s, Garys’ and Sierra Mar comes the pretty and easy to fall in love with Roar SLH cuvee, which is a fantastic wine and has be considered one of the best values in the region. The blend of vineyards is a plus, and of course coming from some of the most prized sites in California, let alone in the Santa Lucia Highlands, this is no ordinary entry level wine! In the past this wine has even included some Pisoni fruit and it still might, but even without it, this is great stuff. This is one of the last Roar releases that was fashioned by Ed Kurtzman, he led Roar, after Adam Lee of Siduri, from 2007 to 2012 and will be missed, though the transition to new winemaker Scott Shapley looks to have gone very smoothly and all parties are moving happily ahead. The 2012 is more plush than 2011 or 2010, but the style is very consistent with the past with beautiful silky texture, unfiltered transparency and round full flavors. The nose is graced with red fruits, mocha and spicy elements leading to a palate of raspberry, cherry and plum fruits with hints of vanilla, peppercorns, briar and anise with hints of smoke, mineral and earth. This wine is vivacious and will drink nicely for next 4 or so years.
($40 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Lucia, Chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Pisoni smiles when asked about where the old Wente Clone cuttings came from, I suggest his connections and his past experience at Peter Michael might be involved, but he winks and says nothing more, what is certain is that he has made a darling of a Chardonnay in 2012 from the youngest of the Pisoni Crus, Soberanes and that this is a Chardonnay to search out. Each vintage brings new challenges and solutions, but it also puts experience and knowledge in the bank, and with each year Jeff Pisoni brings more and more to the table, this is a talented winemaker and his wines reflect that, and he has well and truly come out from his dad’s huge shadow and is becoming a legend in his own right, his dad is unbelievably proud these days. The 2012 Soberanes Chardonnay is focused, well crafted and judged, giving depth and richness along with drive and finesse, it shows peach, white flowers, honeyed pear and zest lemon layers with a clarified cream like texture plus hints of brioche, vanilla, saline, mineral and golden fig. Only a slight tropical note and baked apple linger and the vivid acidity holds everything in check. This is a lavish and pleasing Chardonnay, best from 2014 to 2018.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Roar, Chardonnay, Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This vintage is showy and expressive with loads of pear and pineapple to go along with lemon curd and yellow apple fruits. Roar’s Sierra Mar like Soberanes is a work in progress just starting to mature into a Cru site. While not as classy and refined as Rosella’s can be, the latest Sierra Mar looks set to be a winner and is certainly one of the best wines so far from the vintage. Roar also does a tiny amount of Viognier that is well worth checking out, this is suburb operation fun by Gary Franscioni, with his son Adam and while Ed Kurtzman has left as winemaker there is a real excitement for the future with the young and talented Scott Shapely, who will put his mark on the wines beginning with the 2013 vintage, he worked with Adam Lee of Siduri, and Wells Gutherie (of Copain) while at Roessler. Roar’s first winemaker was Adam Lee, so there is a full circle of talents and subtle transitions happening here, which I think is a good thing and I am looking forward to seeing the up coming releases. The lush and plush 2012 Chardonnay has plenty to like and should gain over the next few years in bottle, look for butterscotch and a creamy texture to develop, but most people will drink this over the next 12 months.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Nacina, Riesling, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands. (By Tudor)
While most know and acclaimed for his Pinot Noir, Dan Tudor is now staking out a claim to be the regions best Riesling maker, and I must say the new Tondre Riesling is a stunner, it was a huge surprise and for me, by far and away the best wine ever from the Tondre site! While I’ve had some green meanie issues from Tondre Pinots, I’ll have to admit this Riesling is pretty damn good. I tasted this wine following an extensive tasting of some of the finest Rieslings from Germany, Austria and the Finger Lakes in New York State, so with a huge palate of experience and a slight prejudice I had to eat crow, I honestly found this Nacina Riesling amazingly competent and enjoyed the bracing acidity and crisp dryness. This brisk white delivers zesty citrus, loamy earth, mineral and sour green apple up front and has a layer of lime, grapefruit and melon with hints of tropical essences and verbena. One of the best California Rieslings out there, bravo, drink now.
($20 Est.) 92 points, grapelive
2008 Antiqv2s, Syrah, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This intensely dark Syrah still has vibrant freshness and force, but has started to really come into it’s own, with a few years of bottle age allowing it to reveal glorious detail and class. Emmanuel Kemiji’s Antiqv2s label has been an underground secret for many years, while most Pisoni fans know his Miura wines, these tend to wrongly get overlooked, these Syrah wines, one from Garys’ Vineyard and one from Pisoni, crafted by Byron Kosuge, Kemiji’s longtime winemaker, are stylish and sumptuous Syrahs that are hedonistically full, but with terroir and refinement showing throughout. Sadly it looks like 2010 will be the last vintage of the Antiqv2s, and Kemiji will focus on his Miura label domestically, while he’ll continue making his Spanish wines. Emmanuel Kemiji, master sommelier, is a busy man, a perfectionist and all around great guy and if you get a chance or can find them, I highly recommend these Antiqv2s wines, and especially now that he has dropped the original $60 price recently to about $35 retail for them, that makes for a real great value. The 2008 Pisoni Vineyard Syrah is deeply purple, flowing with lush black fruits, earthy briar, black olives, mineral and white pepper spice while there is classic boysenberry and blueberry compote as the core. This wine is deep and has nice French oak shadings which are subtle to the taste, while camphor and char add to the background notes of cassis, cedar and truffle. This Syrah is delicious and ready to rock and roll, drink now and for next couple of years.
($35-60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Wrath, Syrah, KW Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Wrath is a young label and is just starting to gain momentum, though they have been singled out by non other than Robert Parker as a winery to watch and he has graced them with some more than notable ratings, which have helped them massively I am sure. I have myself been much more skeptical and I wasn’t a huge fan at first, and I do have issues with their prices, so it was a pleasant surprise to find this Syrah, which offers top notch quality and relative value. Wrath wines are crafted by the hardworking and I must now say talented Sabrine Rodems, sorry I was late in my praise, she looks to be doing a wonderful job here. Wrath also has Byron Kosuge on their books to consult and give advice, which doesn’t hurt either. The 2011 KW Ranch Vineyard Syrah is a lovely and tasty wine, this vineyard is formerly the Fairview Ranch, a site that Big Basin used to make great Syrah in the past and it is very close to Garys’ Vineyard. The nose is perfumed with violets and dried floral notes, earthy spice, hints of meat and juicy red fruits lead the way, this pretty wine shrugs off the difficult vintage with ease, kudos to the farming and gentle winemaking here, this smooth medium weight Syrah has more than a few similarities to it’s French cousins with hints of camphor, pepper and hints of salad olives. Overall this wine oozes charm and it brightly focused, again it was a nice and welcome surprise, drink now and until 2016.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Lucia, Pinot Noir, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The newest vineyard in the Cru class is the Santa Lucia Highlands is the Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard, this site has massive potential and could even eclipse the more established sites, this is going to be exciting to follow over the next few years. The latest wines from Jeff Pisoni, the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah all look impressive, the 2012 vintage is set to match 2007 or 2009 in quality. The Soberanes is planted to the best clones and has all the history and excellence learned and proven over the last two decades, again this is a special place and the vines are already giving a peek into their future here with a great set of wines, even from these young vines, especially this Pisoni Clone Pinot Noir from Lucia. The 2012 shows more depth, density and finesse than the prior wines from this site, I think the proof is in the pudding, the Soberanes Pinot is beautiful and wonderfully detailed, refined and lush. The nose has classic Santa Lucia Highlands dark fruits, briar and floral array, leading to a palate of well defined cherry, plum and blackberry fruits with hints of mineral, gravelly stones, wild herbs, cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of smoky wood. This is really good and lavish Pinot Noir with smooth texture, a touch of vibrant acidity and underlying spiciness, there is also a hint of saline, licorice and lingering strawberry, drink over the next 4 to 6 years.
($53 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Pierre Gonon, Les Iles Feray, Vin de Pays de L’ Ardeche, Rhone Red, France.
Pierre Gonon’s lovely Les Iles Feray is 100% Syrah from vines in Saint-Joseph, he does a higher level Saint-Joseph as well, so maybe as not to confuse the issue he calls this one Les Iles Feray and labels it simply Vin de Pays de L’ Ardeche, but let me assure you this is not a cast of rejects or entry level plonk, this is seriously delicious Syrah from a winemaking maestro. Pierre Gonon, a vigneron from a Mauves, is making some amazing wines and is certainly a bright star on the northern Rhone wine scene, he makes a couple of incredible whites too, a deeply flavored Saint-Joseph Blanc with Marsanne and a touch of Roussanne as well as a crisp and suave Chassalass, a grape more common in the Savoie or Switzerland. I must say, having not had his wines before, Pierre Gonon is a very impressive winegrower and a talent to watch, most of his vines are on dramatic and steep slopes, in fact they have to tether their horse in a harness as to keep the poor thing from falling to it’s demise, but these tough conditions look to have paid off in quality terms, as all his wines are gorgeous. I understand that all the vines are tended to in biodynamic fashion and all the wines are produced old school with some whole cluster and native yeast fermentations and no new oak, and what I tasted in the glass this has allowed the terroir and varietal to shine through. The 2011 Les Iles Feray starts with amazing perfume of violets, rose petals and a background of bacon fat, wild truffles and cracked peppercorns with subtle cassis leading to a seductive and lively palate of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and plum fruits with mineral spice, pepper, cinnamon stick, fig paste and cherry liqueur, plus a whiff of gamey notes along with a saline and lingering anise. This is just beautiful and savvy Syrah, with a medium weight feel, great balance and heightened detail, this wine has energy and major league sex appeal, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Muhr-Van der Niepoort, Carnuntum, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria.
The noble varietal of Blaufrankisch, known in Germany and places in the new world as Lemberger is also known in Hungary as Kekfrankos, is a very worthy grape and one that can produce stunning wines, though mostly in Austria where is really shines, like this fabulous example from from Burgenland’s Carnuntum. This beautiful tank raised Blaufrankisch was crafted by Dirk Niepoort the famous head of the Niepoort Oporto in Portugal where he is considered one of the top Port houses and is highly regarded for his wonderfully made still wines as well. Recently in a highly viewed online rant by Robert Parker the world’s greatest wine critic where he was defending himself and pushing back against a wave of new trends in the wine world he mentioned offhandedly that he thought Blaufrankisch was a hipster fad and that the grape was insipid and over hyped, well, I can tell you this is idiotic at best and one of the very few times Mr Parker is blatantly wrong! Blaufrankisch is a historic varietal and makes for incredibly interesting wines, it is labeled the Pinot of the East, because of it’s class and distinction and has many times been critically acclaimed by well regarded wine journalists and masters of wines, as well as sommeliers in most influential markets. I think it is a graceful, flavorful and intriguing grape and have wines of merit from Hungary, Germany, Washington, Oregon, California and it’s spiritual home of Austria and I highly recommend checking it out, especially this beauty, the 2011 Carnuntum from Niepoort. The nose is perfumed with fresh and dried flowers, blackberry and mineral leading to a medium weight palate of fresh raspberry, spiced plum, licorice, strawberry/rhubarb, loam, truffle and earthy gravel notes. This is a bright and fresh, unoaked version and should be enjoyed in it’s first 3 to 5 years, don’t miss it, this is glorious stuff.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Lavaux Saint Jacques Premier Cru, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Lauvaux Saint Jacques 1er Cru is gorgeous and full of life and intensity, this is beautiful and exciting Pinot Noir, this is light handed, gentle winemaking at it’s finest. Pacalet, known for his natural wines techniques, his low sulfur and organic grape sourcing should really just be known for his quality product period. Pacalet’s wines are generous, spicy, brightly flavored and wonderfully clear and transparent, these have become stars in there own right, leaving behind the tagline best of the “Natural” wine in Burgundy, these wines are now among the new wave of elite without prejudice. Philippe Pacalet has been making Burgundy under his own label now since 2001, and with ten years on record, his wines have moved from novelties to proven delectables. The 2011 Lavaux Saint Jacques is a classy, elegant wine, Pacalet as always used 100% whole cluster and native yeast, with seasoned oak, ending up with a low natural alcohol at about 13% wine that shows balance, structure and alluring presence and depth. The nose is brightly fresh with earth, flowers and tangy fruits, there is mineral and zesty spices too, the layers of fruit is impressive with peppered raspberry, strawberry and plum adding to the core of morello cherry along with truffle, mint tea, dried roses in this ruby hued wine. While Pacalet is proud of the 2010 vintage, maybe his favorite, I am thinking these 2011 wines are not far off and I feel they are showing fantastic and make for great early drinking wines, though with enough stuffing and acidity to last another decade easy. If Pacalet is not on your radar and you are a serious Burgundy lover, you need to check these wines out, they will not disappoint!
($125 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 De Forville, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
This delicious Nebbiolo is crafted from young vines in the Barbaresco Crus of Rabaja and Loreto from great terroirs, this is a steal and delightful youthful wine that delivers top quality and style for a nice price. There is a way to go here before saying you are getting a full fledged Cru Barbaresco for $24, but it certainly is an appealing Nebbiolo that goes a bit further than most Langhe Nebbioli in this price class, and all of De Forville’s wines offer a great honest value from their refined Langhe Chardonnay to their to Barbaresco Cru selections. I have always adored their basic Barbaresco, but this 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo really does impress, especially being so young and from a difficult vintage, it gives plenty of fruit upfront and intriguing classic characteristics to keep you thinking, and begs to be enjoyed now. With blackberry, spiced damson plum and raspberry flavors to go with a core of cherry fruit the 2012 De Forville Langhe Nebbiolo shows well in the glass, along with salted licorice, soy, briar and wilted rose petals, as well as some earthy tones and hints of leather, truffle and dusty chalk. This bright and fresh style Nebbiolo should entertain for a number of years, best between 2014 and 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Hirsch, Chardonnay, Hirsch Vineyard Estate, Sonoma Coast.
Beautifully pure and detailed, the new Hirsch Chardonnay is a wonderful and vibrant wine, done in a sleek, crystalline and lean style. Ross Cobb, winemaker and Jasmine Hirsch have teamed up to producer another winner to go along with the latest Pinots, everything I’ve tasted from Hirsch lately has been a huge success and each wine has been remarkable, I was impressed with the depth they managed to achieve in 2011 with their San Andreas Pinot, and this lovely Chardonnay, coming in at about 13.3% alcohol, is really worth checking out as well. The 2012 Hirsch Chard starts with vivid lemon, apple and white peach with a sense on mineral, fig, river stones, plus hints of white flowers, hazelnuts and bosc pear. The soul of this wine is it’s vigor and acidity, but there is depth, richness and length too, much like a fine Chassagne-Montrachet, and I would expect some nice bottle development to come as well. There latest from Hirsch points to a great future for this Cru vineyard in the wilds of the Sonoma Coast and while people will gravitate to their Pinot Noir, with good reason, don’t overlook their Chardonnay, like Peay, it is a very classy and stylish wine, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2006 Rovellotti, Ghemme DOCG “Chioso del Pomi” Piedmonte, Italy.
Rovellotti is a new and exciting find for me, I’m very geeky about Nebbiolo, I just love the stuff when it is good and well crafted, so discovering this unique and interesting version was especially gratifying. From the wilds of northern Piedmonte, this Nebbiolo (known as Spanna locally) with a tiny amount of Vespolina added is a lovely and complex wine that shows rich Barolo like character and detailed beauty like this wonderful varietal can, and certainly the Rovellotti is a well crafted wine. It is nice to taste a new release of Nebbiolo from 2006, with this amount of time on it, it is really showing all the typical and classic notes that one hopes for, if this was a real Barolo or Barbaresco no one would blink an eye if it was over $100, this Ghemme is a stunning effort with deep layers, transparent flavors, firm tannins and bright acidity along with mineral and earthy touches, this is lengthy and focused Nebbiolo at the top of it’s game. In case you hadn’t heard of the Ghemme DOCG, it granted DOC in 1969 and finally it’s DOCG in 1997, this tiny area of Piedmonte, in Colli Novaresi, I thought it was in Lambardy, but checking the internet corrected my error! The DOCG requires the wine stay in cask (wood) for 20 months and held in bottle at least 9 months, but needs to be aged 3 full years, like Brunello in Tuscany, before release, and some producers wait even longer. The 2006 Rovellotti Ghemme is classic in hue with orange edges showing around a garnet core in the glass, pretty perfume of tried flowers and herbs rises from the nose leading to a full and vigorous palate of spiced damson plum, balsamic dipped strawberries and black cherry with a touch of raspberry and lots of mineral as well as truffle, soy/iodyne, tar and black salted licorice. There is flashes of mint tea and hints of game as well, but the savory notes never take away from the beautiful fruit, this is elegant and alluring Nebbiolo, drink now and for the coming decade.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Selbach, “Saar” Kabinett, Saar Germany.
The Selbach Saar Kabinett is the first of it’s kind, previously there were only Spatlese under this label, in 2013 there was an opportunity to pick twice from this section, one to make this Kabinett and again later for the Spatlese, and while quantities are tiny it is a great addition to the lineup. Johannes would have liked a normal vintage for obvious business reasons, he just shakes his head thinking about the lack of grapes in 2013, but he cannot be unhappy with the quality that is for sure. Even this little Kabinett from the Saar land is sumptuous and delicious with loads of fruit, purity and vivid character. Even though I am eagerly waiting on his more classic Mosel wines from places like Graacher and Zeltinger, this little gem is enough to tell you Selbach is going to have a nice collection of Riesling to search out in 2013, though you’ll have to fight to get them, especially if there as scare as Johannes hints at… The 2013 Saar Kabinett starts with pretty citrus blossoms, chalky stones, steely mineral and green apple with sweet pineapple, spiced peach and candied lemon rind along with tangy elements and fresh acidity. There is plenty of extract and this wine is really well defined with much more detail and focus than might be the case in an average vintage, there is plenty to love here, drink from 2014 to 2017.
($20-24 Est.) 90-92 Points, grapelive
2013 Leitz “Dragonstone” Riesling, Rudesheim, Rheingau Germany.
The Drachenstein Rudesheim Riesling 2013 is perfumed and vibrantly peachy, it looks set to be another success, I almost like it as much as the currant 2012, which is high praise, I adore the “Dragonstone” this is massively appealing wine, there is always richness and finessed detail to be found in this Riesling, the must weight is usually quite high, this is not a wimpy afterthought, this is serious and deep wine from Riesling grown high up on quarzite soils. I believe this wine is way under priced for the quality. This is terroir and craftsmanship on show, making for a mostly dry feel, but with a hint of sweetness and a full and juicy mouth feel. This 2013 shows exceptional floral character, maybe unique to this small yielding vintage, it is richly flavored with yellow peaches, pineapple, basil notes, flinty mineral and tangy citrus. This entertaining Riesling has star quality at a more than fair price and I love the extract, acidity and creamy length, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($19-22 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive
2013 Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer “Klosterlay” Kabinett, Rheingau Germany.
Another great value from Johannes Leitz is the flavorful and elegant Klosterlay Kabinett which would be a great dessert island wine, you could survive on this no problem, if there was only one choice, especially as it is well suited to be enjoyed with warm weather, tropical cuisine and seafood! I am impressed to see the 2013 showing so well, it really is right up there with the dynamic and gorgeous 2012’s produced by Rheingau favorite Johannes Leitz. Rudesheim’s terroir and exposure is historic, this is a perfect winegrowing area and it’s little wonder it is Meursault’s sister city, this is wine country at it’s best and these wines are as good as any made anywhere. The Klosterlay is honeyed pear, lime, tangerine and peach driven with a hint of sweetness, spice and stony, everything is beautifully detailed and weighted artistically. This fine expression should drink well over the next 3 to 5 years, but there is enough stuffing to last a decade, this is nice juice, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer “Magdalenenkreuz” Spätlese, Rheingau Germany.
Coming from one of the top sites in Rudesheim the “Maggie” 2013 is a stunning young Spatlese, be sure to keep an eye out for this one, it is a sleeper. This pristine and crystalline Riesling is full of flavor, charm and elegance with layers of detail and a rich sweet core of fruit, balanced by loamy earth, spice and kicking acidity, this is terrific wine start to finish. The talents of Johannes Leitz and mother nature came up with something rather special here and the 2013 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenakreuz is a joyous Riesling of class and extravagant underpinning, I think Johanne’s Maggie is one hot ticket! The nose offers up rose petal, tropical notes and fruity character leading to a vigorous palate of sweet apple, peach, fleshy apricot and pink citrus while white plums, fresh herbs, mineral tones and saline add complex edges. There is a lot going on here, but overall everything flows smoothly and harmoniously from start to finish with a lingering sweet note, though more is certainly coming to the mix, I suspect more intrigue over the next few years, further examination will be required and happily I might add, I am really excited by these 2013 samples, I can’t wait to taste the finished product in bottle, just be sure you chase some down as they look set to be rarities even before release, drink this one from 2016-2022.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Always a treat and cooly dry the Estate Trocken by Donnhoff is one of the great values in wine, remarkable clarity, mineral driven Riesling of outstanding quality. It will be hard for the 2013 to compare to the 2012 which is still getting better in the bottle as I speak, but it certainly will be a fun companion and it is impeccably well made. I almost compare this bottling to Premier Cru Chablis, but honesty I might rather drink this given the choice 8 out of 10 times, this is just sizzlingly good and vibrant to the core. I’d say buy as much 2012 as you can, but don’t miss out on the 2013 it will be a worthy purchase, and I do adore the heightened aromatics of this vintage. The nose is fresh with lime, white flowers and chalk dust leading to a tangy palate of brisk dryness that includes grapefruit, lime again, unripe green apple and sour tarts. There is vivid steeliness and wet stones along with earthy sea salts, melon and white tea spices adding complexity, look for the extract to expand and roundness in the future when released late spring/summer of 2014, drink from 2014-2018.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling, Estate, Nahe Germany.
The semi dry Estate bottling is going to be a winner too, I found it juicy off dry with hints of sweet and sour, it is well defined, balanced and flexible. Again it is hard to match the 2012, but it is pretty darned close, and there will be far less available anyway, so as mentioned it would be wise to stock up on 2012, though I will certainly be getting a few of these myself, the touch of sweetness really makes this a grand summer sipper. The 2013 starts with a tropical note, floral charm and orange leading to a peach and sour apple infused palate with hints of lime, more stone fruit and kiwi, plus hints of mango, mint and river stones. This is pure and easy, super with Asian cuisine and is priced well, especially for the quality. I look forward to seeing what evolves in the bottle, drink 2014 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling “Norheimer Kirschheck” Spätlese, Nahe Germany.
This 2013 Norheimer Kirschheck is serious stuff, already a heady and well defined Riesling, incredible really considering this is a tank sample, Donnhoff has crafted a beauty here. This lovely and caressing white has creamy sweetness, plenty of firm extract and deep layers of flavor and there is much more to come given time. This super impressive 2013 Spatlese looks set to have a long and pleasure filled life, I have put it on my own personal wish list, no doubt it will provide amazing drinking enjoyment over the coming decade. I can’t wait to try more of Cornelius Donnhoff’s 2013, hopefully this summer I’ll get that chance, and for sure I am planning to visit the winery in the Nahe when I get an opportunity, maybe later in the year or next year, if plans come together. The 2013 Norheimer Kirschheck Spatlese leads with rocky mineral, white flowers, tropical essences and layered textures with tangerine, apricot, white peach and passionfruit all playing roles as well as green apple and more mixed citrus. There is a touch of density starting to come through, but the fresh acidity holds things in balanced harmony, this pretty Spatlese feels juicy and vibrant even though there is delightful sweetness and fleshiness throughout. Mineral notes and exotic flavors are there in the background, everything is looking good here, I believe this to be a brilliant and excellent Riesling that will continue to impress for a decade or more, drink from 2016 to 2028.
($44 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Cobb, Pinot Noir, Jack Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ross Cobb’s wines are now some of the state’s leading lights, his wines certainly are some of the finest examples of a new wave of winemaking, this is the movement to focus on balance and delicacy with his cool climate Sonoma Coast wines being some of the cream of the crop. Cobb has been on a roll, making great wines for Hirsch Vineyards and a new project with Banshee has seen some hugely successful wines, as well as his own label set of top notch Pinots, like this new 2010 Jack Hill. I’ve been a fan and have followed the evolution of the Cobb Pinots since the first vintages, these are excellent and highly prized wines. The new Jack Hill Vineyard release is a beautiful and exciting wine full of flavor and refinement, Cobb has crafted a gem here. I think these 2010 wines are starting to awaken and show their true potential and gorgeous nature, these wines look set to surpass 2009, maybe they be even better than 2007 too, this Jack Hill is really impressive. The nose starts it off with dried roses, candied orange peel, kirsch and red fruit leading to a vibrant array of flavors on the palate including cherry, damson plum, red peach flesh, saline, hints of spice, savory elements and fennel. A touch of tangy acidity, silky tannins add just the right amount of firmness and gives life and structure to this deep and classy wine. The finish is still youthful, but leaves a pleasing lingering wild strawberry note as well as a whiff of truffle, overall this is a generous and stylish Pinot Noir, while remaining lifting and with modest alcohol at 13.8%, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis, Montee de Tonnerre, Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre is my favorite Chablis, though I must say if I could afford Les Clos it might be a little higher in my favorite list, but honestly I adore Montee de Tonnerre and love it’s vigor, intensity and unique charms. I consider myself very lucky indeed to have experience with Raveneau’s Montee de Tonnerre, going back more than a few vintages and for me this wine is everything you could ask or want from a great Chablis it shows vibrancy, terroir and complexity with exotic notes and lots of steely minerality. As a part of a La Paulee San Francisco tasting I had a chance to pour and show this marvelous wine, and while it is not for everyone, it is truly one of the world’s most exciting white wines, I decanted two bottles and showed one without decanting, the difference was amazing, note to self, decant, decant, decant! The 2011 vintage is showing much better in bottle than some critical voices have suggested and after an hour of decanting the Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre was explosively stunning and hitting on all cylinders, this is fantastic Chardonnay with lively flavors and beautiful details. The nose is still shy with hints of citrus flower, white tea, briny/seaweed, chalk and grapefruit, but the palate is vocal with a choir of layers music including green apple, lime, kiwi and vivid lemon along with marmalade notes, wet river stones, saline, tangy citrus pip and soft leesy tones. With air and a slight warming in the glass the texture turns creamy and a hint of vanilla comes forth, but you never lose the acidity and focus, this is wondrous and classic Chablis and a pure heavenly joy to behold, Drink from 2016 to 2023, worth every penny on the right occasion.
($160 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Soliste, Pinot Noir “Narcisse” Sonoma Coast.
This joyous Pinot Noir, made in a restrained old world style, can’t hide it’s generous nature and in fact shows perfectly what nature itself gave it, this is beautiful wine of pure pleasure in the glass. Soliste is just starting to breakout and I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen, especially the Narcisse 2012, this is certainly a winner. Soliste has the talents of Ryan Zapaltas known for his own wines and for his time at famed Pinot house Siduri where he worked with Adam Lee. The owners of Soliste, Claude Koeberle and Don Plumley were inspired by Burgundy, and Claude even hails from the Cote d’Or, these two wanted to make wines that clearly transmitted terroir and elegance, and with Soliste they have made that wine. They looked for a new path, but took notes from Henri Jayer who produced some of Burgundies finest ever wines, and while the Soliste wines are not quite to that level, they are lovely and worth searching out, they look to be easier to find now too, I myself had trouble getting a bottle in the past, but it was worth the wait. Soliste is set to join Cobb, Hirsch, Failla and Peay in class and style, these are some of the new wave of refined Pinot Noir producers looking to craft more delicate wine, they are part of a group In Pursuit of Balance, which seems to be catching on, regardless these are delicious Pinots that deserve attention. The 2012 Narcisse is bright and vivid with rose petals, tangy currants, morello cherry and earthy spices leading the way along with wild strawberry, loganberry, black tea, mineral essence and a hint of French oak. Soft tannin, vibrant acidity and sumptuous fruit make for a complete and balanced wine, Soliste in this vintage have nailed it, this is wonderful stuff, drink now through 2021.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Pascal Marchand, Morey-Saint-Denis, Rue de Vergy, Red Burgundy, France.
The Marchand-Tawse label of Pascal Marchand is a winery to watch and start collecting if you are a rabid Burgundy lover, these are stylish, richly favored and intriguing wines that deeply show a sense of place as well as being well crafted and balanced. Marchand’s 2011 offerings are highly successful and dynamic, these are wonderful drinkers, especially his marvelous Morey-Saint-Denis selections, of which I am partial to. The 2011 Rue de Vergy is beautiful, textured and seamless with hints of violets, earthy loam, spice and an array of red and blue fruit, and while the 2009 and 2010 wines were stunning, this 2011 is showing remarkably well and looks set to be right on par. The nose starts with floral and wild herb notes along with mineral and touches of game and cassis leading to a palate of cherry, plum and black raspberry fruit, cool stones, rose petal tea, truffle and anise. This is suburb and focused Pinot Noir that has good vivid flavors, character and juicy acidity, it shows silky tannins and leaves a nice long finish with lingering strawberry, violets and very subtle wood. Drink from 2014 to 2020, this is a Burgundy lovers discovery for short to mid term enjoyment, no need to hide these beauties away for ages.
($65 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Monchhof, Riesling Urzig Wurzgarten, Spatlese, Mosel Germany.
The “Monks House” estate, Monchhof, dates back to about 1177 and the underground cellars go back to around 1509, but the modern winery owned by the Eymael family started in 1804 only 210 years as time goes! That is a long and storied history, but it is the current generation and one Robert Eymael that has elevated this estate to new heights of quality and style, much the same way he has done at his sister estate J.J. Christoffel, both being some of the finest wines made in the Mosel, along with Selbach-Oster and Schaefer. The 2011 Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese made by Herr Eymael is a lovely and sumptuous Riesling that delivers loads of generous fruit, juicy acidity and crystalline mineralite. Impressively balanced and accessible even it’s youth this first class Riesling with certainly entertain and intrigue for many many years to come, and it is a stunning value in it’s price class. The Monchhof 2011 Spatlese starts with tropical essences, citrus flowers, wet river stones and honeyed peach leading to a welcoming palate of pineapple, candied lime, apricot and forceful citrus fruits along with ocean/brine, steely notes and a great play between succulent sweetness and zesty acidity and added elements of basil, ripe melon and spiced apple. The finish is crisp, finely detailed and mildly sweet making this a wonderful choice with spicy asian cuisine, or smoked meats, pork especially, but also I can see it being a great summer white. This is looking like a perfect wine to cellar for a few years too, but hard not to indulge in now, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Weinbach, Pinot Blanc, Reserve, Alsace, France.
The wines of Laurence Faller are lovely and deeply flavored, I have long been an admirer of Domaine Weinbach, a truly grand estate in Alsace with a wonderful selection of intriguing offerings from Sylvaner to Vendanges Tardives Gewurztraminer. I adore their Rieslings, especially the Schlossberg, but I also really am smitten with this Reserve Pinot Blanc, this is delicious white wine, and easy to love. Domaine Weinbach is all biodynamic, they’ve been organic for a long while and everything made here is delightfully fresh, balanced and of the highest quality in each level. The 2012 Pinot Blanc Reserve starts with tangy citrus, hints of honey, wild herbs and yellow peach with a palate of good density along with good high-toned acidity. There are notes of apple, pear and a touch of tropical fruit as well that come through in the glass, light mineral and clove too, this is classy and elegant wine that gives plenty for the money. Look for this pretty Pinot Blanc to drink good for 2-5 years and enjoy now, and while winemaker Laurence Faller makes some of my favorite Rieslings, she should not be overlooked for this outstanding Pinot Blanc, and or any of her fantastic wines.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine de Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Nuits-St.-Georges Clos des Grandes Vignes, Vielles Vignes, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The Premier Cru Clos des Grandes Vignes in Burgundy’s famed Nuits-St.-Georges is all biodynamic and is a pure monopole site, these Clos vineyards seem to be historic 19th century creations, these walled areas make up some of the best Pinot Noir in the region with some of the oldest vines in Burgundy it’s self, some well over a hundred years old. Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet under Etienne de Montille since 2002 has made Premier Cru from Clos des Grandes Vignes from 2006 to 2012 and has since sold the vineyard in a restructuring of their holdings, which sadly became necessary when Etienne needed financing to purchase the Domaine. His efforts here at Clos des Grandes Vignes are brilliant, and his fantastic 2010 is sublime and one of the best values in top Burgundy I’ve seen from the hailed 2010 vintage with wonderful density, vigor and length, this truly is provocative and stylish Pinot Noir. This old vine cuvee was completely whole cluster and shows lively steamy spices, heightened aromatics and a majestic play of ripe flavors and earthy savory counterpoints, firm tannins, tangy acidity and a silky texture that coats the palate leaving a detailed and long finish. The nose starts with briar, bramble and red currants, a touch of smoke, truffle and pepper leading to a racy mouth of cherry, black raspberry and plum fruits along with minty herbs, anise and pomegranate while mineral, loam, saline and baking spices add complexity. After tasting the latest lineup of Domaine Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet with Etienne, I have no doubt the future is looking bright for this label, I’ve always enjoyed these wines, but this set are a major step up, especially his 2011 whites with a stunning purity and excitement, the St. Aubin and Pulignys really shined, but I could not resist this lovely Nuits-St.-Georges Clos des Grandes Vignes it is simply gorgeous Burgundy and filled with magic, emotion and charm, drink from 2016-2025.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 August West, Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Ed Kurtzman’s latest August West Rosella’s follows in his tradition of fruit forward, unfiltered wines and reminds of his brilliant efforts in the past with Roar, and since he is no longer making Roar, this label is getting more quality attention. His 2011 scored 92 in Parker’s Wine Advocate and certainly this vintage is considerably better in all areas with rich density and deeper complexity. This is pure Rosella’s with dark fruits, spice, mineral and lush texture showing this Cru vineyard in it’s best light with black cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits, hints of savory herbs, game and sweet smoky wood. This vintage of Rosella’s is full and polished with good grip, silky ripe tannins and juicy freshness, this is a delicious effort.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Byron Kosuge, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
Byron Kosuge, who also makes the wines for Miura, has really brought his own label into the limelight and his 2012’s a stunning in quality, style and class, they have reached another level and look set to be stars, especially this wonderful Sonoma Coast Pinot that is mostly Hirsch Vineyard fruit. The 2012 vintage gave everything you’d want, color, density, good acidity and complete ripeness, these are going to be cherished wines, generous and balanced, they should also gain with bottle age, so be sure to put a few bottles away. This pretty and balanced wine is a remarkable value and offers up delicate detail and length with stylish red currants, plum, cherry and strawberry fruits, hints of black tea, anise, saline and stony mineral. This classy Pinot is entertaining, balanced and well made, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($34 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2010 Reichsrat von Buhl, Riesling, Reiterpfad Grosses Gewachs, Pfalz Germany.
One of the top and all organic estates in the Pfalz, and in Germany, von Buhl makes some amazing and finely crafted wines, especially their terroir driven Grosses Gewachs Reiterpfad Ruppersberg, this biodynamic beauty is one of the great wines of the region. This intense Riesling showcases the difficult vintage with grace and transparency, while stiff and austere it still manages to fulfill it’s potential with complexity and should even get better in another 3 to 5 years. The estate in Deidesheim in the Pfalz has been making wine since 1849, and is now owned by a couple of Japanese businessmen, unique in Germany and their winemaking team are all young and new generational thinking led by the dynamic Stefan Weber the estate manager. von buhl is in league with Muller-Catoir and von Winning here in the Pfalz and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked in this grand company of artisans. The 2010 von Buhl GG Reiterspfad starts with blistering acidity and dense extract, but while a bit shocking at first, with air everything comes together and the pure quality shines through, the nose is lifted by citrus blossoms, lemon zest and white tea leading to a palate of lime, apple skin, green melon and peach fruits along with steely minerals, chalk, truffle and a whiff of petrol/diesel. This wine quickly turns refined and elegant even, though the vintage is heighten and highlighted throughout and the force of the wine and acidity make this wine much less generous than the 2009, 2011 or 2012 versions I’m sure, though I must admit to be highly impressed by this 2010 and if you want high acid and density then this baby is right for you. Added layers come through in the glass, with flinty notes and exotic tropical fruit unfold as well as wet stones, briny sea shore, grapefruit seed, sour apple and tangerine. This is a wonderful dry Riesling with severe character and personality, though it’s charming nature does prove a winner in the end, drink now through 2024.
($52 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Waits-Mast, Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Starting in 2007 Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits have quickly become rising stars in the Anderson Valley wine scene and their hand-crafted Pinot is highly sought after. This small micro production winery has finally released their last 2010 Pinot, this late release is the gorgeous Londer Vineyard which is extremely limited and one of the best Anderson Valley Pinots tried this year with great character, cool climate intensity and deep flavors. This generous and artisan made wine has spectacular fruit, balance and structure this is fantastic Pinot Noir. The nose has wild herbs, shaved fennel and kirsch notes along with floral tines and dark fruit leading to a rich and lively palate of plum, cherry and raspberry fruits with hints of cedar, truffle and savory spice. It opens and expands in the mouth revealing strawberry, cranberry and mineral notes and the silky texture turns creamy, but still very precise and focused. This is the best yet from Waits-Mast, don’t miss this well crafted wine, I’m sure it will go fast! Be sure to watch this label, I really was impressed by what I’ve tasted even their 2011 wines are highly successful, and I’m certain the 2012’s will be fantastic too.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Rose, Spatburgunder, Ahr Germany.
I’m a long time and huge fan of Werner Nakel’s wines, Meyer-Nakel is one of my absolute favorite producers and his Pinot Noirs are some of the greatest wines I’ve ever had, so it was fun to try his Rose, which I’ve never seen or had before. Meyer-Nakel hail from the Ahr River region of Germany, famous for Pinot or Spatburgunder and he makes about 6 different Cuvees with two Grand Cru or Grosses Gewachs that are as prized as any top Burgundy, these are seriously desirable wines. His pretty and pale Rose is from all Pinot Noir and is wonderfully delicious with freshness and vibrancy, but also complex and intriguing with mineral spice and Pinot character. The nose is flinty and hints of floral essences along with dried currants leading to a palate of strawberry, watermelon, red peach, tangy citrus and chalky stones. Bright and vivid throughout there is a long finish of cherry and unripe plum with a steely crisp texture. This is fun and delightful Rose, unique and focused, enjoy over the next 12 months, perfect for the long warm days of summer to come, I can’t wait until it arrives. Tasted from a pre-release sample bottle, but in fully finished form, look for this wine to be even better with the extra few months of age in bottle.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive (Coming May 2014)
2012 Poe, Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The newest from Samantha Sheehan is a stunner, her Poe Mendocino 2012 Manchester Ridge Vineyard is absolutely rocking good with generous fruit, perfect pitched detail and a suburb long finish, this is beautifully crafted artisan Pinot Noir. I was an immediate fan of Poe, the Chardonnay was excellent and the Pinots were stylish and graceful, but the 2012’s are on a whole new exciting level, I highly recommend what Poe has to offer in this vintage. The 2012 Manchester Ridge starts with hints of red flowers, including wild roses and spicy elements along with subtle mineral and wood play before giving way to a lively and round palate of black cherry, tangy plum and raspberry fruits with touches of black tea, dry stones and licorice. There is a clear acidity driving the flavors, heightening the focus and very silky mouth filling texture, with air things flow and change adding life and complexity with hints of cedar, cinnamon and truffle notes, plus the glorious finish with strawberry and crisp cranberry, look for a long drinking window on this well put together Pinot too, Drink from 2014-2022.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 von Winning, Riesling, Kalkofen Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz Germany.
The von Winning star has risen and these 2012 wines are masterpieces, without question they are wildly exotic and flamboyant, but they are stunningly gorgeous, they remind of great Burgundy, especially the Grand Cru or Grosses Gewachs. The seriously hedonistic Kalkofen has intense wood and tropical presence, it is a powerful example of rich and dry Riesling that is stylistically unique among it’s peers, and it’s a very non traditional form, it takes a bit of getting used to, though one taste will be mind altering, and transformative, this is amazing wine. Stephan Attmann is a genius and his total focus and soul go into his wines, you can be sure of that and these wines are no compromise efforts that set new standards for Riesling. The sample I tasted in January of 2014 was a barrel selection of the GG Kalkofen, this Grand Cru Riesling from near Deidesheim in the Pfalz is a wonder to behold with a nose of leesy, smoky and perfumed elements, it shows orange, vanilla and lemon curd leading to a palate of dense fruit, juicy acidity and lavish texture and glorious length with banana, papaya, kiwi and apple fruits leading the way along with steely mineral, river stones, savory/sea shore notes, white tea and chalky extract. The wine really is sexy, vivid and packed with complexity, and with air the mouth feel getting even more impressive and full, while the driving core of excitement never fades, this wine is lush and generous, but remains lively and Riesling expressive. There is so much happening it is truly hard to get it all down, so I will just finish by saying the von Winning Kalkofen Grosses Gewachs is one of the great wines of the vintage and while not an easy option on the wallet, it surly is a terrific value for the quality and class you get in the bottle. The von Winning wines are mostly unfined and unfiltered, raised in cask and fermented using all native/natural yeasts in the Grand Cru selections, these are labors of love and shine a new glow on this noble grape, these are not to miss wines. The Kalkofen GG will be legendary and it will certainly have a long cellar life, drink this from 2016-2030.
($85 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Lenchen “Rosengarten” Grosses Gewächs, Rheingau Germany.
Spreitzer’s Grand Cru dry Rosengarten Riesling is simply beautiful, this crystalline and dreamscape inducing wine is remarkably detailed and elegant with purity and finesse. I adore the Rosengarten in 2012, and while all the Spreitzer wines rate high in this vintage, this Grosses Gewachs from Lenchen in the Rheingau is showing stunning form in it’s youth, Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer deserve high praise indeed for their fantastic efforts and craftsmanship in the cellar as well as nature in the vines, this really is special and heavenly Riesling. For sure the 2012 wines will go down as classic and they will age, and how, these wines have a long happy life ahead, especially this Rosengarten, it shows amazing delicacy and grace, but everything is there for glorious rewards to be found in a decade or so, if you have the patience of course, I certainly wish I could wait, but it would be difficult as this gorgeous wine just rocks even now. The 2012 Rosengarten Grand Cru from Spreitzer starts with a bouquet of citrus blossom, white rose petal, steely mineral and a touch of flint, this leads to a wondrous and refined palate of tangerine, kiwi, lime and green apple fruits with bright tang, wet stones, hints of brine and loamy earth notes. Look for gaining evolution from this dry beauty over the next few years in bottle with tropical essences and more stone fruit to come out, as they were just beginning to come forward with air, this wine changes and expands in the glass, this stuff is addictive and seductive from start to finish. This wine coming from Loam and Loess soils in distinct and very different from the wines of Rudesheim down river and has maybe a bit less ruggedness, spice or vigor, but even so it is full of vivid flavors, fruit and intensity, and of the two Grand cur (Grosses Gewachs) this is the more feminine and strikingly pretty, this wine certainly deserves lots of attention, I highly recommend grabbing some of the Spreitzer 2012 vintage wines, and without question this Rosengarten GG it is lovely and awesome, drink from 2016-2028.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2010 Miura, Pinot Noir, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Miura’s Emmanuel Kemiji was one of the first high profile Master Sommelier to turn vintner, now you have your Rajat Parr MS at Sandhi and Evening Land and Sarah Floyd MS with Luli, and a few others. Kemiji’s wines have always a great mix of talent and terroir, especially his Miura Pisoni and Garys’ Pinots, but he also makes a sublime set of Spanish wines and I have always loved his Syrah wines that are made under his Antiqv2s label, these also have fruit sourced from Pisoni and Garys’ Vineyards. Emmanuel Kemiji’s membership to the Court of Master Sommeliers has made him shy on wanting full flavored and rich wines, all the wines he produces are lavish and showy wines, but they are certainly balanced and in my own experience age well, I recently uncovered a few Miura and Antiqv2s wines from 2001 and 2002 in my cellar and found them extremely beautiful and vibrantly fresh. I’ve been lucky to have had Miura, and Kemiji’s other wines since he first started, and he has always had the talents of Byron Kosuge as his consulting winemaker, this consistency and the access to great fruit has always been a major plus, these are wonderful wines. Emmanuel and Siduri’s Adam Lee where two of the first clients of the famed Pisoni Vineyard and were among an elite set of vintners to get these grapes, they also helped convince Gary Pisoni to make his own wines. The Miura 2010 Pinots are both terrific and classic wines from these two Cru sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Pisoni might have the edge early, but the Garys’ is also a stunner. The Miura Pisoni starts with a heady nose of fruit, flowers, earth and mineral with violets, cassis and bramble leading to a glorious palate of blackberry, plum, raspberry and a dense core of black cherry fruit along with smoky oak notes, briar, cinnamon stick, wild herbs, anise and loamy truffle notes. This wine is deep and packed with layers of detail and flavor, still vivid, tight and lively with vitality and vigor, good acidity, silky tannins and a long hedonistic finish all make for a perfectly delicious Pinot Noir of class and distinction, in a pure Pisoni charmer, flamboyant, but without question a gorgeous wine. Drink this rewarding Pinot over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2022.
($63 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
N.V. Vilmart e Cie. Cuvee Rubis Brut Rose Premier Cru Champagne, a Rilly la Montagne, France.
The latest release of Vilmart’s Cuvee Rubis is terrific, Laurent Champs is making some of the finest and most sought after wines in Champagne. Since 1989 Laurent has been been the head of this wonderful Champagne house, he is the fifth generation to run the family business and has certainly left a historic mark. Vilmart is basically totally organic, and while not certified biodynamic, he practices sustainable viticulture and is a member of Ampelos, he has never used harmful herbicides or chemicals in the vineyards, his holdings include 11 hectares with 60% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir and some Pinot Meunier, he only makes estate based wines, and only makes around 8,000 cases. He magic is the use of fantastic small yielding fruit and ultra fine craftsmanship in the cave, his style is similar to Krug, with the use of wood, every cuvee sees at least 10 months in cask and on the lees. This makes for depth, richness and texture as well as exotic flavors and aging potential, Champs considers himself a vintner first and foremost, each wine is lovingly created, he is a master of the blend and his wines are both powerful expressions and unbelievably detailed, elegant throughout. The Cuvee Rubis is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay and included a few recent vintages and lots of wine, this new release was disgorged in July of 2013 and is still very young and tight, but without question a glorious wine, I still believe this is the best and most interesting Champagne under a $100, in fact it is better than most up to $200 and beyond. The Vilmart Rubis Rose is rich, entertaining and has a super long finish, the nose is staggeringly beautiful with perfume, toast, yeasty notes and mineral tones, this Champagne has a dynamic Pinot Noir character, in fact as mentioned before you can almost smell Cru Burgundy in the glass, I have more than once closed my eyes and imagined Musigny was filling my senses in this wine, while the palate is pure Champagne at it’s best with precision and lazar like focus with hints of strawberry, lemon, leesy notes, bioche, vanilla and rich currants, along with a touch of fig, spice and chalky stones with a seriously joyous mousse, the Champagne is vivid, vibrant, racy, sexy and polished. You can’t get much better than this, drink over the next decade or more, overtime I taste Vilmart I’m even more impressed with what I find.
($95 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2010 Francois Tardy, Les Champs Fourne, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France.
This super tasty Syrah from Francois Tardy is a lovely wine and even better value, giving pure terroir and Northern Rhone character in a generous style with panache. Tardy’s Les Champs Fourne, which means warm field, is a tongue in cheek name playing off the more famous Cote-Rotie, the roasted slope, but while the humor brings a smile, the wine brings an even greater joy and is very rewarding with good depth and alluring details. The bouquet comes to life in the glass where you experience violets, black currants, pepper and gamey earth notes before a vibrant almost meaty palate of blueberry, cassis, boysenberry and tangy damson plum fruits entice, then there is the background complexities of black olives, salted licorice, chalky stones, grilled herbs, cracked pepper, leather and wild mushrooms. This vivid Syrah has plenty of stuffing and fine balance with bright acidity and polished tannins, though in Crozes tradition it still has a slight raw edge and is at it’s best with food, drink this well crafted wine over the next 3 to 5 years.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Marc Tempe, Pinot Blanc, Zellenberg, Alsace, France.
The Marc Tempe, all biodynamic, 2010 Zellenberg Pinot Blanc is absolutely gorgeous and just might be the best Pinot Blanc I’ve ever had, and I highly recommend grabbing this beauty up when you see it. Tempe is a very shy individual and has totally dedicated his life to making the finest wines from all organic vineyard sites, he is very much a believer in biodynamics and was inspired by the famed Nicholas Joly who is the father of modern biodynamic winemaking from the Loire Valley and like Joly, Tempe believes nature and terroir make wine. The lineup of 2010 Tempe wines showcases his mastery or most precisely the great terroir and the nature that come out in his wines, the Zellenberg whites are all stunning and glorious in finesse and detail, especially this spellbinding 2010 Zellenberg Pinot Blanc. Marc Tempe’s Pinot Blanc starts with incredible intensity and never stops impressing from nose to finish, it has soul, class and character not usually found to this degree in this varietal with an extra dimension of flavor and structure on par with Grand Cru class wines found in Alsace, it really sings a sirens song. The nose has a mineral laced bouquet of wet stones, crystallized honeycomb, orange and steely leading to a layered palate of green apple, sizzling citrus and white peach along with hints of wild honey, earth, subtle clove, melon and tropical notes. This fine Pinot Blanc shines and opens to reveal depth and texture, but always stays taught, there is no soft/flabbiness to be seen, it is a very controlled effort. Without question this wine has a good life ahead of it, but I certainly think it is fantastic now, it has style and substance that makes for a wonderful experience, this dry, but generous white will provide much pleasure with a wide range of cuisines from picnic fare to pan-asian exotic menus, from ham to chow mien, I imagine myself drinking it with speck, that delectable applewood smoked cured prosciutto, or flammkuchen that savory Alsatian pizza or tart flambée in French. This wine is the real deal, drink now through 2022, bravo to Marc Tempe and to the nature and terroir of Zellenberg!
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Foradori, Manzoni Bianco “Fontanasanta” Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Trentino, Italy.
Another smash hit for Elisabetta Foradori, the new 2012 Fontanasanta is a stunning white that marries ancient style with modern hedonism with savory and mineral elements bursting from the glass along with pure vibrant fruit. Foradori’s amphora raised white that sees extended skin contact is one of the most successful and charming of this style wine available, it is unique for an almost “Orange” wine to be so clear, vivid and fresh in character and shows the deft touch and the obvious talent in the winemaking. Manzoni Bianco is a native Hybrid varietal, it is a cross between Pinot Blanc and Riesling, it was created in the 1930’s by Professor Luigi Manzoni, and of all the developed grapes he created the Manzoni Bianco looks to have been the most celebrated, it is a hardy varietal that resists rot and disease, with the benefit of early ripening which helps in this cool region. Foradori is the best wine made from this unique varietal that I’ve uncovered, and I think most experts tend to agree, this is fantastic wine and all natural, hand crafted with distinct character. The skin contact and aging in Spanish clay pots gives a golden yellow hue, bright intensity and grippy personality, this is serious wine from start to finish with orange blossoms, crushed gravelly stones, chalk, salted lemon, grapefruit, peach and tart apple and skin notes as well as all spice, seaweed and steely mineral. There is a touch of earthy loam, apricot and white flowers too, finishing with hints of tangerine and a dry tannin note, what is remarkable and intriguing is there is no oxidative funkiness or off aromas, this wine is refined and dynamic to the core, while still complex and wild, I’m most definitely hooked, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Alfredo Maestro, La Viñuela, Chinchon, Madrid, Spain.
The rare and exotic La Vinuela Tempranillo by Alfredo Maestro is a supreme effort coming from Madrid area of middle Spain, this tiny micro climate puts huge stresses on the vines and is a very demanding spot for winemakers, but Maestro shows will over nature to craft such a beautiful and elegant wine. This arid region makes it difficult to keep acidity and fresh flavors, making this effort all that much more remarkable and shows the real talent on display, as this red gives nothing but graceful layers, life and balance even in a warm to hot vintage. Alfredo Maestro has risen to challenge here and put forth a terrific wine, the La Vinuela is a refined and alluring wine, it shows a dusty red berry, dried flowers and mineral in the bouquet and has smooth ripe tannins providing a firm but silky texture and structure with layers of flavor and a wonderful lengthy finish. The palate shows blackberry, blueberry, tangy plum and vivid cherry and raspberry fruits along side warm earth, anise seed, sweet and salty notes, new leather, sandalwood, spiced cedar, toffee and lingering liqueur. This medium weight and darkly hued wine pleases all the senses and it easy to get lost in, drink from 2014 to 2020, these latest releases from Maestro his best to date and merit extra attention, I highly recommend searching out his wines they are unique and natural expressions of both his talents and the interesting terrors he finds.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
1980 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Santo Stefano di Neive, Piedmonte, Italy.
Some days are just better than others, and I must say I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers and friends alike, for the other night I braved the rains and trains to surprise visit my my Peter Steiner at Corso in Berkeley, where he is the manager of this fun and delicious Italian bistro. Peter makes for a comforting and sharing host, the staff and patrons are equally gracious and engaging, and tonight that was in the extreme when I was handed a glass of 1980 Giacosa Barbaresco, and as well as a William Fevre Grand Cru Chablis, just because I was in the wine business, I really like this place! As per normal, the food and service at Corso was excellent, the wet evening went on with lots of smiles, but I am still dreaming of that amazing 1980 Giacosa. The 1980 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Sefano di Neive, from a private cellar in Berkeley, it still had original $15 price sticker, was in fine condition with shocking youthful color with only a very slight orange rim to the ruby core and this wine was very much alive and in wonderful shape. The nose was mature with dried roses, mineral and game, but a vivid red fruit essence remained constant, leading to a palate of old school charm in this refined and perfectly aged beauty with cherry, balsamic strawberry, earthy loam, rustic leather and hints of anise and poached plum. The texture was ultra satin/silky and while still vibrant and clear had a nice roundness and creamy feel only an old Nebbiolo can produce. Giacosa is one of the Grand marques of Italy, these wines are sublime and exceptionally rare, I am in awe of them, my past experiences with 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2004 vintages proved life changing, these are on par with the finest Burgundies, so it was absolutely thrilling to taste this 1980 Barbaresco, and I must thank my lucky stars to be at the right place at the right time, and of course that place is Corso in Berkeley and my friend Peter Steiner that makes magic there. On a final note while this wine may have peaked years back, the Giacosa 1980 showed no real decay and could go another few years easy, but I’d say drink now, it is lovely and joyous based on this well cared for bottle.
($15 when released, $100-200 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Envinate, T. Amarela, Parcela Valdemedel Elaborado en Badajox, Extremadura, Spain.
The grape Tinta Amarela is one of the Port grapes and is widely planted in the southern part of Portugal, though it is rarely found in Spain itself, it makes for a rich and complex wine. This wine comes from Badajox in Extremadura Spain, a south-western part of the country, land locked and bordered by Portugal to the west, so it is not terribly surprising to find this grape here, though I can tell you it is very uncommon to find it as a single varietal wine and especially as a Spanish one, this was my first experience tasting it and research proved much more difficult, but I did learn of the grapes heritage and use in some Port wines and that it is a fickle vine that easily rots, so great care must be used to get successful results and that Tinta Amarela, also known as Trincadeira, does well in these dry warm regions, making a wine of deep color and complexity. The Envinate range of wines is interesting, the winery is a brainchild of four friends that met in viniculture school in Alicante, who all make wine in different regions from Northern Spain to the Canary Islands, they are lead by Laura Ramos and include Jose Martinez, Alfonso Torrente and Tenerife native Roberto Santana who’s Canary Island wines at Suertes del Marqués are really turning some heads, and of which I’m a huge fan of personally. The Envinate (meaning “Do Wine Yourself”) wines are very limited to say the least, and this T. Amarela is a beautiful red wine with deep color and flavors done in a wonderfully elegant and very artisanal in style, showing unique terroir driven flavors and lovely transparency. The 2011 Envinate T. Amarela starts with dried roses and wild flowers, juicy plum, sweet mountain herbs, red berries and currants leading to a medium full palate of blackberry, red peach, tangy cherry and star anise along with warm stones, hosin and dusty earth. There is hints of leather, red spice and the texture is caressing helping to lengthen the finish which lingers with blue and black fruits. I must say I’m very intrigued and impressed, I would enjoy tasting all of their offerings and recommend finding their exotic wines, like this very compelling rarity, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Poruzots, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
This is a seriously chiseled Meursault, unbelievably firm and lean with sizzling acidity and powerful, just as Jobard wanted and dreamed of I’m sure. This golden nectar will surly need a decade to unfold all of it’s charm and unleash it’s potential, but that all being said and true, this fine and masterful Chardonnay is glorious with exceptional purity, focus, drive and terroir, this could be only Meursault Poruzots and certainly this vintage is completely on show, with Jobard’s signature style. This mineral laced beauty maybe the Ice Queen at the moment, but the extract, detail and length are all there, I love the energy and force on display even now, it shows wet stones, lemon, pear and subtle fig along with matchstick, hazelnuts and clove spice. Even decanting hardly got this tight and vivid Meursault to open, this is dynamic wine and as much as I begged it, it will require the ultimate in patience, though the rewards will be stunning, no question, everything is there like a treasure just out of reach for now. A few years back, I was able to sample a selection of Jobard wines with 10-12 years of age on them, and they were glorious and still very vibrant and youthful, so be sure to lock these puppies away, and to those that do, well, lucky you, these will be wonderful surprises in time, I can only imagine, and be sure to have a Lobster around! Drink from 2018 to 2024, for those that adore classic white Burgs, this wine would be a great investment in future pleasures.
($120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Lucia, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard, with it’s young vines, is proving a sensation, it just might be the most exciting new vineyard on the central coast, and Jeff Pisoni is taking full advantage of the quality and character found on this amazing site in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vines here are the result of knowledge gained from the now legendary Pisoni estate and from top sites that the Pisoni and Franscioni families have planted and managed, like Garys’ Vineyard, plus the experience Jeff Pisoni has gained working with Peter Michael and other estates in the Sonoma Coast area. Soberanes has huge potential and might become as famous as the original Pisoni estate in the years to come, planted here are vines that include the famous Pisoni clone Pinot Noir, much rumored to be a La Tache/suitcase clone, an Old Wente clone Chardonnay and maybe the most exciting an Alban clone Syrah which gives the Santa Lucia Highlands some better material in what has been one of the great success’ of the region, Syrah. Yes, Pinot Noir from here is still the buzz word and yes it is still fantastic, and of course Chardonnay put the region on the map in the first place, but since 2004, and even before, Syrah has produced some of the regions best reds, I honestly think Roar and Lucia have made Syrah just as good as their Pinot, I remember tasting the 2004 vintage and even rating the Syrah higher, and this Soberanes 2012 is fantastic! Jeff Pisoni has crafted a rich, meaty and complex wine here and shown a bit of the future with this dark and layered Syrah, interesting it makes for a wonderful contrast to his wife’s same vineyard and vintage version under the Cattleya label. While Bibiana’s is more floral and higher pitched, Jeff’s is more blooding and earthy, you could say the Cattleya is like Cote-Rotie and the Lucia is more Hermitage or Cornas in style, but really both are Santa Lucia stars, these are great wines from great talents. The 2012 Lucia Soberanes Syrah starts with wild game, new leather, blackberry, briar patch and wild flowers that fill the nose before the explosion of intensity on the palate with boysenberry, blueberry, black currant and spiced plum fruits along with raw meat, black olives, melted licorice, lavender oil and white pepper. There is a bit of raw tannin and vibrant acidity, this wine is still really young, but with air the wine opens to reveal a polished nature and glorious texture with hints of cassis, cedar and cigar spice with just a faint charcoal note. the finish is vivid and lingering, it re-enforces the black and blue fruits and gives a touch of magic that will certainly make you want to have more, don’t miss this excellent wine, drink from 2014-2022.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Remelluri, Lindes de Remelluri, Rioja, Vinedos de Labastida, Spain.
Telmo Rodriguez, one of Spain’s great winemakers, has turned around his family estate Remelluri in Rioja and he is making some of his finest wines of his prolific career, especially these secondary Remelluri offering from old vine purchased fruit, under the Lindes de Remelluri label. These two vineyard select wines, coming from vineyards that used to go into the Remelluri reserva are now separated into two new single vineyard bottling, and while both are excellent, it is the Labastida that really stands out for me, it comes from a mainly Tempranillo site in Rioja Alavesa where there is higher elevation and unique chalky soils, a very different terroir and character than La Rioja Alta, and it shows in it’s flavors. Telmo, having made wine at Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage and in Bordeaux, has accomplished himself as a champion of place over varietal and employes artisan craftsmanship in the cellar, his wines hardly ever show oak or alcohol, they always show purity and a sense of place, these are magnificent expressions of Rioja, they are completely distinct and soulful wines that are seriously seductive and charming with style and substance in spades. The 2010 vintage Lindes de Remelluri is 90% Tempranillo and the rest a mix of Garnacha and Graciano, it is a field blend from extremely old vines that provide tiny yields of amazing complex and deep fruit, this 2010 Labastida is impressive, intense and tannic with a garnet/black hue along with a heady perfume and richly textured palate, this is dramatic stuff and will be long aging wine. The nose shows violets, dried flowers and sweet herbs with hints of cedar and blackberry leading to a firm and powerful palate of black cherry, damson plum, blueberry and mixed red and black berry fruits with loam and mineral that remind me of left bank Bordeaux, spice and hints of wild strawberry. There is a tangy currant running throughout and lingering liqueur cassis feel in the same vein, and some lavender, licorice and earthiness rounding out the complexity in this dense and layered Rioja. This is captivating and fantastic wine, this is not to be missed and certainly is another feather in Telmo’s cap, drink this gorgeous beauty over the next two decades, no question a great cellar candidate, this is an affordable collectors item, best from 2018 to 2035.
($30-35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Cattleya, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Bibiana Gonzales Rave is a Colombian woman winemaker, you don’t hear that too often, and she is also extremely accomplished and talented in her craft, she has made wine in Cote-Rotie and now plies her trade her in California, making her wines under her own Cattleya label. Bibiana crafts small lot Chardonnay from the Russian River, a Pinot Noir from Carneros, and this glorious Syrah from Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. I should also mention she is the wife of Jeff Pisoni, and that is how she found out about the Soberanes site, and fell in love with it’s terroir and especially it’s Syrah. Her first vintage got a huge buzz in the wine world, and I couldn’t ever seem to get my hands on a bottle, so I was very excited to finally get a chance to taste her wine, and I can tell you it was not a disappointment, her 2012 Soberanes Syrah is fantastic, she certainly gives her husband a run for his money on quality and style, and that is saying a lot, Jeff Pisoni himself is one of California’s best young winemakers. Soberanes is the Pisoni family’s newest site and is located closer to Garys’ Vineyard, but at a slightly higher point in the Santa Lucia Highlands, it offers great exposure and distressed soils, it also has their top clonal selections in the vines, including Wente Chardonnay, Pisoni Clone Pinot Noir and Alban Clone Syrah, this might make Soberanes legendary in a few years when these vines get a bit more age on them, but regardless the potential is there and the quality is already stunning. The 2012 Cattleya Syrah, hand crafted with a long maceration time, and a precision controlled fermentation, cool for the extended soak and warmed when necessary to bring out subtle complexities really shows in this beautiful and aromatic wine, the wine is full of rich density, but delicate, this is a masterful example of the varietal and highlights Bibiana’s talents. The nose starts with violets, loamy earth, hints of wild game, briar and creme de cassis lead, then there is a dark palate of blueberry, boysenberry, loganberry and plum fruits with pepper, black olives, grilled herbs, meat and mineral notes. The layers are supported by pretty smoke and vanilla from the good use of French oak, the smooth and supple tannins melt into the wine and the fruit is lifted by acidity and the wine shows a vitality and vivid nature with a nice lengthy finish that lingers with kirsch, bitter chocolate, black licorice and dusty fruit essence. This wine should gain and develop in bottle, even though it is top notch now, also it will be hard to find as it was a tiny production, hence the price, but it is worth the search and the cost, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Lucy, Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (Pisoni Family)
The Lucy Rose was made to give money to breast cancer research, at least one dollar for every bottle sold, that alone makes you want to get a few bottles, but the Pisoni Family Rose is, regardless of great cause, a super delicious pink wine crafted from estate grown Pinot Noir. This is one of my favorite domestic Rose wines, and this new 2013 vintage, which is soon to be released is one of the best yet, it is bright, fresh and has lots of style and energy. The 2013 Lucy shows a hint of sour cherry, sweet herbs, spice and mineral along with a touch of floral before a blast of citrus, red peach and watermelon. With a bit of air some lovely strawberry comes through and the wine settles down and tastes a bit more like a chilled Pinot Noir along with a subtle richness. This pink is a wine to drink and enjoy young, with it’s vivid flavors, vibrant color and easy to love style the Lucy is a winner all round. Drink over the next 12 months, look for it to be hitting the shelves between Feb 15 and March 2014, and don’t miss it.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Fattoria di Felsina Berardenga, Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva, Castelnuovo Berardenga DOCG, Tuscany Italy.
Felsina’s historic Rancia is an ancient plot that was once a Benedictine monastery site in the limestone/alberese and galestro marl soils of Chianti Classico’s southern most area near Colli Sensi very close to Siena in the Castelnuovo Berardenga region, which has chalky slopes reaching up to 420 metros and perfect south-east exposure. From this beautiful piece of land the Felsina estate produces some of the great wines of Tuscan, certainly some of the greatest Chianti, like this wonderful Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva, the original owner Dominic Poggiali Felsina the name sake of Felsina would be proud of the evolution of this winery, but most of the credit for making Felsina a world class wine must go to Giuseppe Mazzocolin, he is the man that has brought so much acclaim and energy to this fantastic property, and now his son Giovanni Poggiali is moving the estate to even greater heights. I have enjoyed Felsina since the mid nineties and have had to meet Caterina Mazzocolin, the daughter of Giuseppe and a winemaker in her own right at Felsina, and I was impressed with the complete passion and dedication she and her family has to wine and place, these wines reflect that soul and commitment. Felsina never fails to honor it’s terroir and never disappoints, especially Rancia. The 2010 Felsina Rancia is lush, earthy and textured with pure Sangiovese character and subtle charms, Rancia has a feeling about it that reminds you of maybe Margaux or a fine Bordeaux, but remains true to place and varietal, though very unique in it’s qualities and it has rich layers of flavor and terrific length. The 2010 stands out as an elegant example, it shows a nose of dried currants, wild herbs, tobacco leaf and moss covered stones, truffle and kirsch leading to a round and generous palate of dark cherries, plum, a mix of berries and balsamic dipped strawberries along with mineral notes, smoke, cedar, baking spices and licorice. The wood use is exceptional and deft, it really is framing the fruit, acidity and never becomes obvious. This is a graceful and lovely wine, a Tuscan treasure no question, both this glorious Rancia and Felsina’s Fontalloro are stunning in this vintage, I highly recommend chasing these wines down, they will go fast I’m sure. Drink the Rancia over the next decade, even though it is already fantastic it should gain with some time in bottle, best from 2015 to 2022.
($48-54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Munsterer Kapellenberg, Trocken, Nahe Germany.
The dry Kapellenberg Riesling from Rumpf was a fresh experience, I had not had an opportunity to taste and spend time with this wine before in a finished sense and oh my, this is delightful and serious stuff, I had to check the Terry Theise Germany guide to get my head around where this vineyard site was and why it seemed so unique from other Kruger-Rumpf offering and why it was different from most Nahe wines. Of course, sure enough there was something to be learned, thank you Mr Theise, the Kapellenberg is a tiny parcel set in a valley near where the Nahe meets the Rhein, close to the Rheinhessen with different soils, here there is more quartzite with clay loess, this I believes gives the wine a more generous nature, maybe less heightened energy, but this wine certainly feels more round and is easy to enjoy, even in it’s youth, the dry nature doesn’t shock the palate in anyway, everything is lush and graceful. The 2012 Kruger-Rumpf Kapellenberg Trocken is a fine and entertaining Riesling with class and style, it starts with lime, melon and yellow peach along with a core of ripe apple, kiwi and tangy tangerine while mineral notes and tropical essences fill in the background, this wine doesn’t feel super dry or brisk, it has lovely texture and length about it, not that you get a sweet sensation, it is just that it is less aggressive, this is a subtle and balanced dry wine made with a gentle artisan touch. The 2012 vintage is a major success story in Germany and with out question the Kruger-Rumpf wines reflect that, and this Munsterer-Kapellenberg Trocken is a super value and a terrific little wine, drink from 2014 to 2023.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Foradori, Morei, Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Trentino, Italy.
Elisabetta Foradori’s wines are hand-crafted, biodynamic and natural with some of the cuvees raised and aged in amphora, like this magnificent Teroldego Morei that is aged on it’s skins for 8 months in the clay “Tinaja” from Spain. The Morei comes from stony alluvial soils high in the Dolomites, the Italian Alps, in the greater Alto Adige or Sudtirol close to Trentino, this terroir is transmitted in Elisabetta’s wines and the Teroldego grape, the only red varietal she uses. Teroledgeo is a direct relative of the French grape Dureza which is one of the parent grapes of Syrah, but Teroldego is unique and it’s soul belongs to it’s region in the Dolomites, it tastes and symbolizes the place. Foradori’s Teroldego wines are legendary and the 2011 versions are no exception, with this 2011 Morei showing deep fruit, mineral and a gorgeous purple/black hue. These Amphora wines always have a savory essence to them and that long skin contact gives them extraction and complexity, this vintage shows good intensity and ripeness with loads of blueberry, boysenberry and black cherry fruits with spiced damson plum, balsamic notes, sea salted lavender, crushed stones, black licorice and a hint of game along with a tangy core of black currant. There is refined fine tannin, good acidity and the Morei shows terrific poise, balance and flows gracefully on the palate, there is a seductive and alluring floral essence that starts on the nose and folds into the wine and lingers on the finish. This is a stunning wine, all of Elisabetta’s wines are remarkable, but this one really turned my head, I highly recommend finding Foradori’s offerings, her 2009, 2010 and this 2011 are all sublime, along with her whites as well. The 2011 Morei Teroldego should be a good long lived wine as well, enjoy over the coming decade, this is lovely and intriguing wine.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Spätlese, Rheingau Germany.
Johannes Leitz makes some of the finest wines in Germany and his Rheingau Rieslings are world renown, so I would be telling you anything new here when I gush about his latest set of wines from Rudesheim, especially this fantastic 2012 “Rosie” Spatlese. Rudesheim’s Rudesheimer Berg vineyard is one the best walking tours in the wine world, I was there in 2009 and hiked almost every inch of this amazing site above the Rhein River, this is a magical place to visit and seeing eagles, red foxes and castle ruins are just an added bonus to experiencing these vines. The Roseneck sits in a lovely exposure on grey slate soils with quartz veins and some loam facing southwest, the light here is spectacular with the river and beautiful skies, the grapes have a very special spot to live and it certainly shows in the wines. The 2012 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Spatlese is richly flavored and perfectly defined with subtle sweetness and impressive elegance, structure and intensity, plus this beauty will only continue to improve with age making for a wonderful rewarding investment in drinking treasure. The nose is bright and sings with rose petal, lime flower, white tea, sea shore, wild herbs and citrus leading to a medium full palate that flows with green apple, yellow peach, tropical tones, almost cherry sensations, white plum and lime along with spicy flint, wet stones, saline plus iodine, mango and mineral steeliness. The texture is glorious and turns creamy, but never loses it’s drive and vibrancy, this is classic stuff and I can only hope to have this wine in the future after it evolves or the decade to come, it just may bring even more rewards than I can imagine, this is a Spatlese to search out and cellar mid term, drink from 2016 to 2025, without a doubt this is terrific Riesling of pure terroir and classic substance.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut H. Donnhoff, Riesling, Oberhauser Brucke, Eiswein, Nahe Germany. 375ml-Half Bottle.
Cornelius Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke icewine 2012 is absolutely perfect and one of the most pristine examples of sweet wine I’ve had the privilege to try, this monumental and profound Riesling transcends class-action, it is so heavenly and beautifully detailed it is pure art in a glass. The 2012 Brucke Eiswein was crafted from ideal non-botrytis hand-picked berries, which adds to the elegant and precise character in this focused wine, I can honestly say without any hesitation I would rather drink this glorious nectar than Chateau d’ Yquem Sauternes any day, this Donnhoff sweet wine is utterly sublime, it feels dreamy and lighter on the palate with out any cloying toothache quality, there is live, vividness and purity of terroir that shines through, a transparency that defines this stunning Donnhoff. The nose is bright, floral and intoxicating with fresh white roses, citrus flowers and crystalline mineral notes along with hints of tropical and exotic fruits leading to a richly textured palate of delicate sweetness, with apricot, lemon curd, apple butter, mandarin orange, golden peach fruits along with pineapple, vanilla, clove, lychee, kiwi and tangy lime with a steely/flinty note in the background. There is well judged acidity adding structure and highlighting every complexity, this stunning wine almost never finishes, this might be a 100 year wine, I have no doubt this is a wine with amazing potential, point scores do not even matter here, words fail as well, I am feebly trying to say this is stuff of legends, and if you ever want to spurge for something luxurious and rewarding to put in your cellar, you couldn’t do much better than this. This is unbelievably good now, I can only imagine what glories are to come, for the wine drinker this is like seeing a Michelangelo, this is a masterpiece, drink from 2018-2050, though it would be incredibly hard not to open the minute I got my hands on it! Donnhoff’s Oberhauser Brucke Eiswein 2012 seriously is one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tried period. (coming spring of 2014)
($250 Est.) 100 Points, grapelive
2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling “Anrecht” Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel Germany.
Johannes Sellach’s magnificent Anrecht is easily a potential 100 Point perfect wine, this 2012 is set for a glorious future and is a top echelon wine on par with the finest white wines in the world, be they from Hermitage, Batard-Montrachet or anywhere, and without question of the most collectable Rieslings of the vintage, as well as being an amazing value. Germany in 2012 produced wines that are mind blowing, even famed importer Terry Theise can’t hide his enthusiastic thrill from this vintage, he usually maintains that all the vintages are special, but 2012 is certainly more equal than most, it may just be the best year in my lifetime, for sure in my experience tasting wines and it continues to get better as the wines start to develop. Such is the case with great producers, names like Donnhoff, Leitz and Diel made some wines that will be legendary, as will this Anrecht by Selbach-Oster. The 2012 Selbach-Oster “Anrecht” has massive extract, texture and complexity, but it is still very primary and involved at this stage, honestly it will need a few years to truly begin to reveal just the surface of it’s greatness, though like the tip of the iceberg, you can see it is there. The nose is still shy, but when coaxed shows citrus blossoms, a melted ice stream freshness with river stones, a hint of sea salt and brine, honeyed white peach, crisp apple and tropical essences, in the mouth this wine expands with a full range of layers and amazing texture and creaminess. There is exotic passionfruit, lime, white tea, orange marmalade and apricot along with a steely and spicy mineral core, this wine is heavenly rich, though it has wonderful class and detail and lingers for ages on the finish with tangerine, pineapple and white plum. The Anrecht is stunning, it has everything you’d ever want in a Riesling, it has a touch of botryitis that will serve it well long term, as well as a full sweet palate, but there is well integrated acidity and this wine has staggering intensity and vigor. The 2012 Anrecht will be coming out in the Spring of 2014 in the US, be sure you don’t miss it. (Buy all the Selbach 2012’s you can, in fact almost any 2012 German Rieslings!) Johannes Selbach, who recently entered into a partnership with famed American winemaker Paul Hobbs to make wines in New York’s Finger Lakes, has made one of the world’s great wines with this Anrecht, it is gorgeous and will reward some cellar time, drink from 2016-2030.
($42 Est.) 97-100 Points, grapelive
2010 G.D. Vajra, Freisa “Kye” DOC Langhe, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Vajra Freisa is exotic and glorious, by far the most intriguing and complex version of this grape I have sampled so far, the 2008 and 2009 were stunning wines as well, showing Vajra has a magic touch with this native varietal which is gaining a strong following. Freisa is rich and colorful like Barbera, it has a bit more perfume like Ruche (another rare local to Piedmonte grape) and has a intense wild strawberry essence, in some ways I might say it is like a meeting of Nebbiolo and Gamay, but regardless the G.D. Vajra Kye Freisa is a wine that deserves it’s high praise, this is very special stuff. The 2010 is gloriously complete and attractive in every way possible with a bouquet of lilac and roses with hints of lavender, fennel and kirsch along with mineral, red fruits and spice cake leading to a medium/full mouth showing the trademark strawberry, raspberry and juicy plum as well as some darker notes of loganberry, sweet herbs, saline and touch of licorice. This wine is round and lush on the palate with silky tannins, vivid layers lifted by nice acidity and a lengthy finish, this is fantastic Freisa, I highly recommend you search this Italian rarity out, it will not be an easy find, but it will be worth it, this wine offers a great reward, drink from 2014 to 2020, and don’t miss any of Vajra’s wines from their Riesling to their stunning Barolo, this winery is pure quality and flair.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 La Spinetta Vursu, Barolo Vigneto Campe DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s Campe Barolo is always a special treat, in fact all the La Spinetta wines are delicious treats and even through the Cru Barbaresco wines remain his best, this Barolo is pretty close, especially this 2009 Vigneto Campe which shows amazing fruit, depth and elegance. The Campe is a powerful wine with plenty of tannins, acidity and extract, but it feels like velvet and the winemaking was masterful to produce such a wine. The nose is filled with earth, mineral, herbs, roses and basaltic dripped red fruits leading to a firm palate of black cherry, damson plum, raspberry, tar, briar, black licorice, sea shore brine and hints of truffle. With air some pretty strawberry, soy and cedar notes add to the complexity along with flashes of kirsch, cassis, vanilla and wild game. This layered and well rounded Barolo is harmonious and lush, but still has a long rewarding life ahead, and the finish is impressively length and lingering, drink from 2016-2026. I was completely seduced by this hedonistic Nebbiolo, I have been a long time fan of La Spinetta and this wine completely hits all the right spots, it is a fine effort that drinks like and gives the same emotional response as a Grand Cru Burgundy, fantastic.
($135 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Ridge, Chardonnay, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Ridge Vineyards continues to produce fine and wonderful Chardonnay without much fuss or attention, certainly this is because of their success with their Zinfandel blends and of course their Monte Bello Bordeaux like red that without question is one of America’s great wines, but still it is a surprise people haven’t discovered the Chardonnays here. These wines get critical acclaim and high ratings, plus they are much less than the competition in this class for the most part, regardless, I highly recommend getting some of the 2012 and sample it for yourself, this is lush, dynamic and full throttle Chardonnay. The 2012 weighs in at 14.5% and is a riper edition of this Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay that comes from Ridge’s home Monte Bello estate vineyard, it is a full bodied wine and is fairly powerful with a creamy texture, but still with plenty of life giving acidity and is very focused. The 2012 Ridge Estate Chardonnay starts with a blast of citrus blossom, hints of smoke, vanilla and apple pie before entry to a palate of layers that include apple, yellow peach, pineapple and lemon curd along with honeysuckle, hazelnuts, river stones, clarified butter cream, golden figs and spicy cloves. The texture is lavish and hedonistic, this vintage pushes the envelop a touch here, though I admire the deft touch in keeping everything balanced and the winemaking shows a lot of stylish finesse. This vintage might want to be enjoyed younger than the 2010 and 2011 versions, I am on the fence, so I do suggest drinking over the course of 3 to 5 years. I think this is darn good stuff and is highly entertaining.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Manincor, Reserva del Conte, Lagrein-Merlot-Cabernet, Vigneti delle Dolomiti Rosso IGT, Alto Adige, Italy.
This beautiful and expressive red comes from Manincor’s estate and Panholzer sites, both with perfect facing south east exposure, perfect for even ripening and these vatietals in the picturesque surroundings above Lake Kaltern in Italy’s famed Alto Adige region. The Reserve del Conte Rosso is a blend of 35% Lagrein, 40% Merlot and 25% Cabernet, grown of sand, clay and limestone soils, in what are some of the warmest South Tyrol vineyards that allows perfect conditions and certainly give this wine it’s richness, depth and complexity, the grapes are grown organic and all natural yeasts are used in the fermentations, the vineyard sites are picked and crushed separately with small lots being done in a combination of large wood vats, cement and some stainless, long skin contact with daily punch downs give plenty of extraction, color and tannins, but everything is gentle and refined in this elegant and positively stunning wine. In Italy, it is common that you see just Cabernet on the label, this can mean either Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or both, regardless in this wine it doesn’t matter which, this wine is sublime because of the cuvee and and the terroir. The 2011 Manincor Reserve del Conte is a beautifully detailed wine, it starts with wild flowers, hints of violets, mountain berries, sweet herbs, cassis and subtle earthiness, leading to a polished palate of blueberry, cherry, damson plum and black raspberry fruit, along with hints of pepper, cedar, cigar wrapping, crushed stones, truffle and salted black licorice. There is a lingering wild strawberry note and mineral streak that is appealing in this most intriguing wine, I must say, not having this wine before, this stuff is fantastic and I’m hooked, especially at this price, I look forward to enjoying this wine and tasting lots more from this property, I recommend sampling some yourself. Drink over the next 5 to 7 years, this 2011 was wonderful surprise, with supple tannins, good acidity and gorgeous hue, it looks and tastes very sexy indeed, don’t miss this.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Janzen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The Jansen by Bacio Divino Cellars, made by Claus Janzen with his son Kyle along with winemaker Kirk Venge is a label of single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, with this Beckstoffer To Kalon being to flagship. In case you haven’t heard of Beckstoffer or the famous To Kalon, this is one of Napa Valley’s most prized and heritage sites for Cabernet Sauvignon, part of Oakville and just south of Rutherford. Claus Janzen has been a long time client of Andy Beckstoffer and the grapes have always gone into the Bacio Divino blend, a Napa Super Tuscan wine, and Claus has made a single vineyard Cabernet from here since 2004, these are world class grapes, and the wines are simply fantastic. I think the 2010 might be the best yet from this small winery, especially the To Kalon, it reminds me of La Mission Haut Brion, Pontet Canet, Ridge Monte Bello, Shafer Hillside and strangely the 1994 Bryant! This is a wine of incredible class and detail, but still pure Napa Valley with concentration, terroir profile and depth. This beautiful Cabernet is not the over-blown Port like overripe wine that some producers have pursued in style, this wine has more a timeless character, and while cliche, it does show a bit more Bordeaux like restraint and poise, there is a real mineral streak and a certain chalkiness that comes from To Kalon along with deep black fruits, and the subtle French oak is already completely integrated into this glorious wine. The 2010 Janzen Beckstoffer To Kalon starts with hints of lilac, acacia and dusty coco powder along with creme de cassis leading to a dark mouth filling palate of black currant, blackberry and plum fruit with hints of smoke, stones, sweet tobacco leaf, black licorice, briar and spicy cedar. This wine has big structure and firm tannins, but remains remarkably balanced and refined for such a young wine. While a unbelievably drinkable Cabernet even now, this wine has even more potential and rewards to come, this is a sublime effort one of the best 2010 Napa Cabernets I’ve tasted to date, drink 2018-2030.
($165 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 M. Lapierre, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, France.
One of the most sought after wines in the world, and who’d have thought, an old vine Gamay would attract so much attention, the Lapierre Morgon is an exciting red that never disappoints with it’s hedonistic and old world charms. This is the cuvee N, no sulphur, made for Kermit Lynch, and one of Natural Wines greatest success stories, though most agree it does need extra care and good cellaring, meaning no shock or exposure to temp changes to be at it’s best, and while some hardy souls put it away to age, it is best to drink this wine young and at it’s freshest. I have myself hid a few bottles away and found no ill effects, and in fact a couple of years age brought out some finer details and delivered a stunning wine, though this is a wine that is certainly enjoyed in it’s youth. While most people hail the 2009 vintage, a major moment in Beaujolais history, I find I like the more subtle years, even off years in Morgon, like 2007 and especially what I’m seeing of the 2012 wines, with this new Lapierre really making a grand impression on me, this is a wonderful wine of intensity, color and life. The latest Lapierre Morgon, coming in at 12.5%, is delightful and entertaining with classic blackberry, plum, walnut oil and tart cherry layers on the medium weight palate, the dark purple hue is impressive in the glass and the acidity is nicely judged, this year’s Lapierre is much more refined, polished and has ripe tannins, good length and drinks fantastic. The wine opens up to reveal deeper flavors with air and more complexity with hints of candied red citrus, kirsch, mineral, wild herbs and fig, this is pure Gamay at it’s best, the brave might set some in the cellar for a few years, but the impatient will drink this up and quick.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Savary, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes Selection, France.
A racy brisk Chablis with dynamic character, the Savary Old Vine is a terrific and classic wine that offers a stunning value. Olivier Savary is a rising talent in Chablis and his wines are secretly called baby Raveneaus, highlighting the quality and style his wines show. The 2012 Savary Vieilles Vignes is vibrant and fresh with pure Chardonnay varietal charms, lime, lemon and green granny smith apples with hints of steely mineral, loads of chalky limestone and wet river stones. This is a white Burgundy lover’s dream, this is very vivid and elegant wine, do not miss.
I’ve been a fan since the 2007 vintage, and this wine year after year has been consistently one of my favorite Chardonnays, especially for the price, there are not too many wines that compare, drink now through 2020.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2011 Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Bel-Air Premier Cru, Red Burgundy, France.
Philippe Pacalet’s new 2011 wines are a revelation and take his label to the next level, from a difficult vintage they are stylish, richly flavored and possess that Burgundy magic, the undefinable element that becomes the holy grail of all wine critics and wine lovers, it is that unexplainable joy and or emotional response that certain Burgundy (Pinot Noir as well) can give that just makes all the stars align and haunting music play when you experience it. Whatever the X factor is, Pacalet’s wines have it, especially his Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Crus, like this fantastic Bel-Air, which is already drinking with lovely fruit, poise and length. The 2011 Pacalet Gevrey-Chambertin Bel-Air Premier Cru is deeply layered with a nice floral perfume and a complex character, it comes from broken rocks, a touch of clay and a root of limestone soils, it was made from a tiny yield of grapes, which explains the concentration and intensity, all the vines are organic and only native yeasts are used, everything was 100% whole cluster (fermented with stems) and aged on it’s lees for 16 months in cask without racking, this is natural and gentle artisan winemaking, and the results are stunning, with under 13% for those that find that important. The nose starts with rose petals, wild flowers, hints of game, spice, kirsch and a mix of red fruits, leading to a full mouth of black cherry, plum and mountain berries along with pepper, chalky stones, mineral and truffle notes. With air a tangy raspberry, sandalwood and briar side come through, hints of fine tannin coat the palate plus a juicy red peach, guava and lavender oil. This a firm and salty wine still, but very expressive and captivating even at this young stage, bravo to Pacalet, this is great stuff, drink over the coming decade.
($110-125 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2012 Gérard Boulay, Sancerre Monts Damnés, Loire Valley, France.
This is absolutely the best Sancerre I’ve had this last year, maybe ranking all time in fact, without question Gerard Boulay is one of the greatest talents with Sauvignon Blanc currently, and these are wines that are profound. His latest set of Cru wines really are spectacular and filled with glorious harmony and grace. I found the Clos de Beaujeu and this Monts Damnes a slight step up from the rest at this stage, while the La Cote might come along as a better wine with time, but that might be nitpicking on my part as all the Boulay wines were stellar. The Monts Damnes entranced me with steely mineral essences, precise detail and balance, this wine was created by an artist with a deft touch, it has layers of fruit that is both lively and subtle in a most joyous way. The 2012 Gerard Boulay Sancerre Monts Damnes starts with spring blossoms, citrus and crunchy stones showing lemon/lime, grapefruit, white peach, gooseberry and quince, then there is chalky wet stones, hints of grass, herbs and melon. There is an intense core of acidity, but you don’t get a shock or is it nervy, it just is there freeing the wine, lifting and keeping it in a heightened state of pleasure, this is grand Sauvignon Blanc, drink 2014 to 2020.
($45 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Von den Terassen, Trocken, Mosel Germany.
Matthias Knebel’s 2012 wines are a fantastic collection of pure Mosel Rieslings, he used stainless steel for fermentation and aging, preserving the dynamic freshness and showcasing the vintage in it’s truest form, these Mosel wines are a huge success for a new generation winemaker. The single Cru wines are each unique and wonderful examples of varied terroir, but I found absolute joy and pleasure in the 2012 Von Den Terrassen, this dry “Trocken” style Mosel offers intensity and extract, though is perfectly balance with beautiful fruit and was perfectly crafted. Knebel’s 2011 vintage was a breakthrough achievement no question, but these 2012 wines are even better, these wines confirm Matthias Knebel as a star in the making, I highly recommend trying his 2012 Rieslings, particularly his regular Trocken, his Hamm single cur and this gorgeous Von den Terassen, made from only terraced, steep slopes, where more vigorous flavors seem to ooze from these historic vines above the Mosel River. The Von den Terassen starts with bright citrus, white roses, saline, white tea and spice before leading to a refined and intensely dynamic palate with lime, melon, pineapple, white plum and peach fruits along with steely mineral, wet stones, briny notes, hints of chalk, minty sweet basil, flint and tangy acidity. There is a sense of lightness, but turns almost creamy with every sip, though there is plenty of vibrancy and zest here, this is a suburb effort and finely detailed wine of classic form. Knebel’s Von den Terassen will drink nicely for a decade if not more, drink from 2014 to 2026.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, North Coast.
This is another lovely and intriguing wine for the talented duo at Arnot-Roberts, these guys are crafting some amazing wines, and this 2012 Syrah North Coast is a stunner. While it is hard to pick from their wonderful selection of unique wines, everything from Chardonnay to Gamay, Cabernet to Trousseau Noir these guys are hitting it out of the park, especially with their Syrah wines, this 2012 North Coast in particular being a fantastic example, this wine shows beauty and detail, I can’t recommend strongly enough, you need to check these wines out, this is one of the best newer wineries in California and deserve lots of attention. The 2012 North Coast Syrah tastes like it was mostly whole cluster fermented with loads of fruit, spice and vibrancy with an amazing red/purple hue and a black opaque core in the glass. The nose is violets, dried roses, cinnamon stick, white pepper and game, along with stony notes and loads of black fruits, while the palate is fresh, blueberry, boysenberry, creme de cassis and damson plum, plus raw meat, sweet roasted herbs, black olives, warm earth, briar and brine. Lingering cedar, kirsch and compote of mixed berries hold on the finish. There is good firm youthful acidity and tannins that are sweet and ripe, everything in nice balance, making for a super interesting and savvy Syrah, drink over the coming decade, though it would be hard not to drink sooner vs later, best from 2014-2021. Though rare, it will be rewarding to search out, be sure to do so, this is great Northern Rhone style juice.
($36 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Colleoni, Selvarella Orcia Rosso DOC, Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy. (San Maria)
The latest releases from Coelleoni are sensational, especially this vibrant and exciting pure Sangiovese Grosso, a whole cluster fermented and tank raised beauty that shows rich and bright flavors with intensity and depth, remarkable for a young wine. While Colleoni Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino grab all the attention, well deserved no question, you should not miss this Orcia Rosso, this wine is exotic and vivid with a burst of red fruits that dance on the palate and a lush texture plus a surprisingly long finish, truly lovely Tuscan red. This fresh 2012 shows damson plum, black cherry, loganberry and cranberry fruits along with sweet herbs, spice and hints of mineral, truffle and pomegranate. With no oak and fresh acidity this wine still shows fine tannins and polish, this is a winery to discover if you’ve not had the chance, imported by Kermit Lynch and available in very small lots, this wine especially is worth searching out. The finish is lingering with touches of strawberry, kirsch and licorice, look for stylish development over the next 2 to 3 years, but best to enjoy young, drink 2014 to 2019.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Francois Chidaine, Touraine, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
Chidaine, known for fantastic Montlouis and Vouvray Chenin Blanc and biodynamic vineyard practices also makes a lovely and value priced Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine, with 2012 again proving to be an intelligent and savvy buy. This Touraine from the Val de Loire is my go to Sauvignon Blanc for something easy and fresh, it always has plenty of flavor and character with nice mineral and fresh acidity. The 2012 is a juicy wine with a steely core showing lemon/lime, melon, grapefruit, hints of quince, gooseberry and wet stones, this is a light and citrusy wine that just does everything you’d expect, it is spot on and fun. Chidaine is a long time favorite of mine and while his more famous Chenin wines are built to age and are much more serious, this Sauvignon Blanc is meant to be drunk up young, best to enjoy over the next year, drink from 2014 to 2016. This Touraine is a perfect picnic wine and or super with cheeses or light seafood dishes.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Piero Benevelli, Barolo “Ravera” DOCG, Monforte d’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Kermit Lynch has raided Italy again, sticking to Piedmonte, to find another wonderful small hand crafted producer, Massimo Benevelli a winemaker at his family’s winery in Monforte d’ Alba. Massimo makes classic Dolcetto and Barolo that is now imported to the US by Kermit Lynch, with the first two offerings being the 2012 Dolcetto and this glorious 2009 Ravera Barolo, both wines are worth searching out, these are well judged and true reds that reflect traditional artisan winemaking and showcase fine terrors. The 2009 Benevelli Barolo Ravera highlights the vintage’s character with ripe fruit, silky tannins and density, this was an open year in Piedmonte giving generous wines, there is good depth and complexity in the Ravera and a sexy long finish. The wine starts with a mix of earthy herbs and spices and floral tones with hints of mineral and kirsch, this is pure Nebbiolo with dark cherry, damson plum and soy dipped strawberry along with juicy raspberry, candied citrus rind, black licorice, tar, briar and game. The acidity and tannin play a key role, though not intrusive, everything flows nicely on the palate and there is subtle saline and savory elements that add counterweight to the lush fruit, and there is no sense of oak, just a kiss of cedar spice, this is lovely stuff that leaves a well earned smile on your face and a lingering memory, drink 2014 to 2021.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht, Riesling, Kallstadter Saumagen, Spatlese Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
This wine is wickedly sexy and wondrous with lovely texture, vivid flavors and vibrancy, Koehler-Ruprecht crafts some seriously delicious Riesling, especially this Spatlese Trocken from Kallstadter Saumagen in Germany’s Pfalz region. This 2011 version flows with a rich, decadent palate that feels almost creamy, while being lifted by perfectly judged acidity, there is a weight here that gives an impression of sweetness, but is not intrusive or cloying, it is really well balanced with the tangy and zesty side of this wine, the nose is full of citrus, white flowers, crushed stones and briny elements leading to a palate of lime, green apple, peach and kumquat along with savory white tea, wet river rocks, saline, apricot and tropical notes. The play of sweet and sour is near perfect throughout and flinty spices, mineral tones and honey dipped tangerine lingers on the finish. This is really interesting and well fashioned Riesling that has a lot to offer, great now, but should age wonderfully for another decade or more, drink from 2014 to 2026.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Weingut Hexamer, Riesling, Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg, Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
Harald Hexamer’s Nahe estate is a gem and his wines are wonderful expressions of this glorious region of Germany, these wines are even much more intriguing with a few years of age, like this magical 2009 Kabinett Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg which I sampled at the famed Slanted Door in San Francisco. The 2009 Haxamer Kabinett Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg is drinking fantastic right with mature notes and full of complexity, it was ultra delicious with the Slanted Door’s fresh crab and noodles with just a touch of sweetness and Nahe class, it is amazingly enough it was a by the glass option of which I could not refuse. The Riesling starts with dried roses, tropical essences, petrol fumes, crushed stones and flinty spices before a palate of pineapple, white peach, mango and persimmon fruits with mineral, savory elements, sea shore brine and a honeyed tone. There is a great play of sweet and sour notes, lifting acidity and exotic quality from start to finish, this is a fine and well crafted effort that is near perfect now, though should be good for another 3 to 5 years easy, there is a lot going on in the glass here and this is a wine of compelling charm and character.
($24-28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Arbe Garbe, White, Russian River Valley.
Letizia and Enrico Maria Bertoz are producing some of the Russian River’s most interesting new white wines, inspired by their roots in Italian’s Friuli region, northern Eastern Italy, but still reflect the new world and California. The grapes are sourced from Saralee’s Vineyard a long time source for off the beaten path varietals, Joseph Swan in particular has made many a fine wine from this wealth of goodies, and now the Bertoz’s are doing the same. The Arbe Garbe, which means “Bad Weed” in Friulian dialect, is a reference to the native cover crops that are used to replenish the soils between rows of vines, and the name of the Bertoz’s label, the make two wines, a straight Malvasia and this lovely blend of 45% Pinot Grigio, 40% Malvasia Bianco, and 15% Gewürtztraminer. This new vintage, the 2012 Arbe Garbe White, is the best yet for this young winery and it reminds me of both the Alsace and Alto Adige regions, it is totally unique and is utterly delightful and delicious, this years release starts with vibrant citrus, white flowers, hints of rose petal, spice and tropical essences leading to a light to medium palate of fresh apple, pear, lemon, passion fruit and white peach fruits with a tangy tangerine and apricot side that comes through as it opens up. The nice and graceful lift of acidity, mineral and slight bitter tones help keeps things interesting and dry, along with touches of clove, pepper, wild herbs and raw ginger add to the intrigue and exotic nature of this well crafted wine, drink now through 2018.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Blanc, France.
Domaine Tempier’s wines are legendary, with glorious richly textured reds and the world famous Rose, sometimes it is easy to overlook the white, but make no mistake about it this Bandol Blanc is the real deal and an exotic rarity that is simply delicious from start to finish. I must admit, I adore the Mourvedre based cuvees from Tempier, the La Tourtine and La Cabassau are world class meaty reds, plus the classique Bandol AC Rouge which is no slouch either, especially the sublime 2011 vintage, but I’ll tell you, the white is a stunner and should not be missed. The 2012 Blanc from Tempier is mostly Clairette with small amounts of Ugni Blanc, Bourblanc and a touch of Marsanne, making for a refreshing and textural wine of vigor and detail with bright fruit and creamy mouth feel. The nose is citrus and stones with a palate of lemon/lime, melon, tangerine, clarified butter cream and sweet herbs. Hints of sea salt, spice and peach come though with air and as the wine opens there is a touch of almond oil and bitter stone fruit pit which gives the wine a nice balancing tanginess, drink this lovely wine with seafood, from shellfish to fish stew, and well, with anything you want, it is a suburb and compelling white. This Southern French white reminds me a bit of Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf white, though still very much it’s own unique wine and better still it is less than half the price of Beaucastel’s Roussanne based cuvee, Tempier is riding high, the last few vintages are stellar efforts and seriously appealing. Drink the Blanc over the next 2 to 3 years, from 2014-2017 for best rewards.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Broc Cellars, Zinfandel “Vine Starr” Sonoma County.
Chris Brockway’s Broc Cellars is a micro/urban winery based in Berkeley California and his natural low intrusion low sulphur wines are a huge hit, especially with the low alcohol and restaurant crowd, but these are wines that should appeal to everyone. While still under the radar and sort of hipster, these Broc wines have a certain mordern/old school style about them and without question Brockway is a gifted winemaker with a lot of passion for his craft and a vision of what he wants in his wines, this is especially true and shows in his latest Vine Starr Zin, which I highly recommend sampling for yourself it is like no other Zinfandel of our age with bright flavors, under 14% and has a pretty spicy character. The 2012 Broc Vine Starr Zinfandel (fermented whole cluster with native/natural yeasts) which is very Cotes du Rhone like with tangy peppery notes, briar and vibrant fruit, it delivers raspberry in a classic Zin way, true to it’s varietal heart, and kirsch, bramble berry, lavender, fennel/licorice and wild herbs along with hint of mineral and cedar notes. Everything flows well here, it is all in harmony and graceful with soft tannins, a bit of acidity giving a lightness to this medium bodied red and the finish is good with lingering compote and cinnamon. This is a very fun and fashionable Zinfandel that plays well with many cuisines and is easy on the palate, drink now through 2018.
($27 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Auguste Clape, Cotes du Rhone Red, France.
Don’t be fooled by the Cotes du Rhone label, this is a pure Syrah that tastes like a baby Cornas and comes from vines between 30-50 years old on granite soils, this might be one of the great deals in the Rhone, certainly this 2012 edition is massively appealing and delicious. The Clape Cotes du Rhone is raised in cement vats (cuves) and large (seasoned oak) foudres, about 6 months in each, this cuvee is hand picked and whole cluster fermented with native yeast in the cement, then as in all the Clape reds, it goes through malo in the large foudres. This vintage shows violets, meat, garrigue and tangy black currant to start and feels more tense and detailed than the last few years, this wine is an exceptional young old world Syrah which shows plenty of Northern Rhone character and charm with a palate of plum, cherry, boysenberry and black mountain berry fruits with mineral, soy, pepper, camphor, lavender oil and salted licorice notes, plus hints of fig paste, game and earth. This is stunning wine from the historic and humble Clape family, drink this beauty now through 2020.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Aubert, Chardonnay “CIX” Sonoma Coast.
Sometimes, even though you don’t want to like something ( a wine or producer), because it gets a lot of hype or a certain critic loves it or every body wants, but you still end up loving it, Aubert Chardonnay is the wine, regardless of personal feelings, this is great wine. Better still, from a difficult vintage and up against heavy expectations, this 2011 CIX from Aubert was especially stunning, tasted from a magnum at a holiday party (Jan. 2014) this was terrific stuff and beautifully rich and detailed, smooth lush and vibrant from start to finish. Marc Aubert, after stints at Peter Michael and Colgin, is one of California’s big stars and his wines are scarce and highly prized, while gifted at Pinot Noir and Cabernet, it is his Chardonnay wines that make him a super star and are his calling card. The 2011 vintage can winemakers nightmares and while there were many fine efforts it was certainly not a great year, though Aubert succeeded in crafting some amazing Chards, and I really enjoyed this CIX, which I had never had prior, this Sonoma Coast offering shows wonderful depth and creaminess, but also life, intensity and vivid fruit with nice acidity and mineral notes to go with pear, lemon and apple fruits, plus pineapple, fig, clove, wet stones, brioche, salted butter and vanilla. A nice mouth filling Chardonnay from a gifted winemaker, no question, the 2011 CIX is drinking great now, best from 2014 to 2018.
($75-139 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Mamete Prevostini, Botonero, IGT Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio, Mese, Lombardy, Italy.
This Lombardy Nebbiolo is a young and interesting red from Italy’s northern region, and it is a respectable value in terms of price vs quality and style. This wine comes from the small Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio area near the hamlet of Mese, it is a lively and flavorful Nebbiolo to enjoy young and fresh, though it certainly has plenty of stuffing and is robust in character. The Prevostini Botonero 2011 shows dried roses, raw meat, tar and briar in the nose with a palate of cherry, raspberry, plum and currant fruits along with truffle, orange rind, basil, soy, fennel, balsamic strawberry and lavender oil, finishing with some lingering poached red berry, fig and mineral essences. There is a vibrant streak of acidity and noticeable tannins, and while firm are very welcome and hold things together nicely, best to enjoy with hearty cuisine and drink over the next 3 to 5 years. This is a fun and enjoyable Italian red that offers up a load of flavor and varietal charm for a reasonable price, check it out when you are looking for a solid and cheap Nebbiolo.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Coche-Dury, Bourgogne Rouge, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, France.
Coche is one of the best producers in Burgundy, their white wines are legendary, the Corton-Charlemagne especially, it is a classic and is sought after in the same way as the Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is, but not too manta people know they also craft a lovely Pinot Noir as well, and it is worth digging around for. Coche makes a selection of Pinots from the Cote de Beaune, a Auxey-Duresses, a Meursault Rouge, a Monthelie Rouge and Volnay Premier Cru, along with this Bourgogne Rouge, these are pretty rare wines, though the Bourgogne shouldn’t be impossible to find, they are imported by Kermit Lynch. The 2009 Bourgogne shows loads of classic terroir, finesse and a balance of sweet and savory flavors, it is from 30 to 40 year old vines in the Cote de Beaune, grown on clay and sandy soils, it has a grippy palate and a chalky texture, though it gives plenty of fruit. The nose is tangy with dried roses, sweet herbs and licorice, along with bright red fruits and spice, leading to a mouth filled with cherry, plum and briar laced red berry fruit, hints of wet earth, fennel and stony mineral add complexity to this medium bodied Pinot, there is a good sense of freshness still with just enough acidity to lift the fruit and let you know things are balanced while the tannins are present enough to make an impression, this wine is begging to drunk young, but with cuisine, food really really bring out it’s best, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($75-125 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Saint-Joseph, Estate, Rhone Red, France.
The Saint-Joseph Estate is a wild and entertaining Syrah with much more finesse than one would imagine from a warm vintage such as 2009, in fact it has a delicacy and brightness that I certainly did not expect to find at this stage, though I will note there was a bit of bottle variation in the four that were opened with one bottle showing a bitter note and much more closed down, in was neither corked or flawed, it was just not as correct as the other three, I think the wine is still evolving and should be laid down another 3 to 5 years to be honest. That all said, this is a beautiful wine with classic Saint-Joseph signatures and details with hints of game, truffle and baked earth adding to the dark ripe black fruits in this terroir driven Syrah. The nose is confusing still, just a little violets, charcoal and a hint of green spice then turning to raspberry and liqueur, the palate shows blueberry, boysenberry, black currant and kirsch, along with mineral notes, gravelly tannins, cranberry skin and tarry licorice. The earthy elements fade quickly in the glass and the play of fruit and texture comes to the fore, this is at it’s best with food and with the acidity cutting some of the vintages flab it feels lighter than it might in another few years time. While this wine lacks the super wow factor of 2010 and 2007 even, it is really good and should get more exciting in the future, if you have this one, be a patient person, drink 2016 to 2021.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 Alban Vineyards, Syrah “Reva” Estate, Edna Valley.
John Alban’s wines are a reflection of his dedication, attention to detail and a devote faith in his mission, showing his passion and style in near perfection, there is no doubt of his respect and the influence he got from his visit to the northern Rhone, a quest that must have been his holy grail moment. His top Syrah wines are very much like Guigal’s famed “La La” Cote Rotie threesome, the La Landone, La Torque and La Mouline, these are all wines of density, richness and intensity, and his latest 2009 Reva Syrah is very much in keeping with this style. While there is a revived search for a lighter and delicate wine in the market place these days, this is certainly not that, and while some would say that critical acclaim for big wines is waning, you cannot deny the pure hedonistic joy wines like this Reva delivers, it is a massive and impressive Syrah tamed by almost 36 months in mostly new French oak and a very Port like feel on the palate, but this wine is not sickly cloying or a simple over the top wine, there is complexity and harmony to be found, plus this wine is a mere baby in evolutional terms with much more to come in the future. The Reva 2009 is packed with flavor and layers from the nose to finish and should last a few decades, the start is filled with that sense of dry Port, with violets, blueberry compote, blackberry and boysenberry fruits with fig pudding, creme de cassis, dark chocolate, baked plum with hints of iodine, melted licorice, prune cake, camphor and cedar notes. This wine is extremely opaque and dark, it is thickly textured and unbelievably mouth filling, there is a faint whiff of spice and lingering sensation of oak sweetness at present, though it is interesting to think how this Syrah will develop, I would suggest a 3 to 5 year wait at this point, though I very much doubt Alban fans would wait too long. I can understand that there would be some skeptical and it is sometimes hard to recommend wines that sell for over a Hundred Dollars, but honestly the truth is wines in this league are not going to be cheap and there are plenty that can afford them and desire them, Alban never has trouble selling out, and in this extraction and pleasure level, there are much higher priced wines, like the Hundred Acre Cabs that go for $300-450 a bottle, Grange from Penfold’s the same and Guigal’s La La’s and Hermitage which trade for close to $500 a bottle, so while the Reva is expensive, for some it is a value… Price is what it is, the demand is there, no point in fretting about it, though it does sting to think this wine not too long ago sold for $45 and was a real steal, but that is life. This is a quality wine made but a great and inspiring talent and someone that put California Syrah in the big league, of that there is no question.
($109-150 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau de Lascaux “Carra” Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge, France.
Jean-Benoît Cavalier’s Chateau de Lascaux is a wonderful domaine in the heart of the Midi, tucked in the foothills of the Cevennes mountain range in the Languedoc, where remarkable wines are made, including this beautiful cuvee Carra made from 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, grown on limestone soils within the Pic Saint Loup area. Lauscaux’s whites are terrific as well, these are all exotic and flavor filled wines of quality, character and distinction, with this year’s Carra being one of my favorites, it shows ripe fruit, mineral intensity and a savory tone along with textural charm and density, finishing with vivid clarity. The added details of garrigue, licorice and pepper add style and the core boysenberry, blueberry, pomegranate and raspberry fruits hit all the right notes, as well as background notes of warm earth, chalk and kirsch that highlight the terroir and complexity in this pleasure driven red. The Syrah really adds power and substance in this vintage, while the Grenache adds a heady hedonism that is seductive, this is a positively a drink now wine that oozes sex appeal, enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Vignoble Reveille “Climax” Roussillon, France.
This cuvee of old vine Carignane 75% and Grenache 25% is raised and aged in concrete vats/tanks using native yeast in a totally natural fermentation, all organic grapes, which were ripened to perfection under the Mediterranean sun near the border with Spain. This wine, the Climax, was crafted by France Crispeels a woman winemaker, a Belgian by birth, with vines near Cassagnes in the Cotes Catalanes/Roussillon region in a beautiful a rugged valley (Vallée de l’Agly) on unique Schist and Gneiss soils. The vines are reported to be from the late 1800’s, well over a hundred years old and Crispeels, a devotee of Nicholas Joly, uses only biodynamic grapes and is a new star in the Natural wine scene, after some years crafting wines in Bandol and Provence. The 2011 Climax is exceptional wine with terroir and earthy character along with heady ripe fruit, spice and mineral tones, this is wonderful and pure stuff showing floral perfume, wild game, garrigue and licorice on the nose, leading to a vigorous palate of dried currants, black cherry, boysenberry, cranberry and strawberry fruits, lavender oil, cassis, pepper, chalk and gravel. This dark purple/black hued wine is flavorful, joyous, real and playful, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years. (Also look for her Franc Tireur Carignane, mentioned in an earlier post)
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Guadalupe Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Of Ken Wright’s fantastic 2012 releases the Guadalupe Vineyard is the most open and expressive at this stage, though still needs a year or so to fill out, this wine has potential and real class. Again, this is one of the finest vintages for Oregon Pinot I’ve tasted so far, for raw material, everything looks set to be sublime, these Ken Wright’s taste like young Grand Cru Burgundies, I can’t wait to see them in their full glory, maybe within 4 to 5 years time, the results and rewards should be truly special. The 2012 Ken Wright Guadalupe Pinot starts with a graphite, violets, game and plum nose leading to a vigorous palate of blackberry, cherry and strawberry fruits with a mineral streak, forest floor earthiness, tea and pepper spices along with some sweet and subtle oak notes. There is a juicy acidic core and some fine tannins which keep the wine from showing it’s full complexity yet and while it does open with air, it really should be cellared short term at least, drink 2017-2022.
($48 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2009 Rochioli, Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
After finding this bottle under some packing boxes, and after it being dragged from Rochioli to Carmel Valley, back to Sonoma County, to San Francisco and finally to Walnut Creek, I thought it best to open sooner vs later. I had really enjoyed it on release, but since it was ripe and seemingly low acid I was not entirely sure how well it would hold up, not that I was planning to keep much in the cellar, it is starting to mature in color and has really evolved, but it still has a good core of freshness and remarkable charm. The 2009 Rochioli Estate Grown Chardonnay is lively and shows a citrus groove with lemon chiffon, plus baked apple, pear and fleshy stone fruit with hints of fig, clove and butter cream all flowing across the palate in this now yellow/golden wine. This wine still can go another few years, but I’d say drink now for best results, the 2010 and 2011 wines might age better with their higher acidity and vigor. Still, it is a pleasure to drink this pure Californian Chardonnay, it was one of my last joys of 2013 and made for a complete and memorable evening, Rochioli will always be a favorite, regardless of my evolving tastes, trends and whims, this is a great California estate that never disappoints. Cheers to a great year of discoveries in 2014 and to uncovering past treasures.
($46-79 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive