Wine Reviews 2015

July 2015

2013ValcombeHauts2013 Chateau Valcombe “Les Hauts de Valcombe” Ventoux Rouge, Rhone, France.
The Valcombe vines are about 75 years old and sit low on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, they are farmed organic and are used to produce traditional wines of balance and finesse, they are crafted by Luc and Cendrine Guénard, a couple that want to grow the reputation here and have a great passion for their terroir. They studied under Paul Jeune of Domaine Monpertuis, famous for his gorgeous Chateauneuf du Papes, and they have Rosenthal imports firmly behind them and championing their wines here in the states, their estate in at 1,000 Feet and covers about 28 hectares of mostly old vine Grenache with Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault for reds and as well as a collection of white grapes. The 2013 Les Hauts de Valcombe is a sappy and spicy red with great detail and vitality, it is open, but brilliantly subtle and refined with loads of charm that highlight the chalky mix of soils that include blue clay and galets, the same round stones found in Chateaneuf, and the palate is easy with red spices, dried flowers, earth and light leather notes adding complexity to the black raspberry, plum and pomegranate fruit core along with cracked pepper and red spicy cinnamon. There is a stony and stylish savory side that comes through as well as a lingering blueberry and strawberry on the finish, and the whole is a pleasing and easy to love red from one of the most underrated areas of the Rhone, where you can discover real beautiful wines that offer superb value, like this one, drink the Les Hauts de Valcombe between 2015 and 2018, it’s lovely stuff.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2014SelbachUrAlteReben2014 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling “Ur” alte Reben Feinherb, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Mosel Germany.
The “uratle” or extremely old vine cuvee from Selbach-Oster is crafted traditionally from 80 to 100 year old vines with natural fermentation and cask maturing, it is a throw-back wine, a mostly dry Riesling with old school character and style and this 2014 is astonishingly pure and full of delicacy, complexity and grace. This was a magicians vintage, it was unbelievably difficult and ever changing, but somehow the Mosel ended up with glorious wines, though it tiny amounts, between hail, rot, heat, rain and Asian fruit flies something really special happened and Johannes Selbach’s Ur Alte Reben Feinherb is an exotic beauty of a Riesling. Miracles do happen, and this wine is proof, a gorgeous example of nature and humble craftsmanship in the cellar, this 2014 Ur Alte Reben shows a light color, a slight green/gold tint really in the glass, a perfume of fallen yellow rose petals, Turkish candied gels and flinty mineral and pepper spice and sea shore notes lead to a clear and dryish palate of green apple, lime, kiwi, cool summer melon, peach and honeyed grapefruit along with hints of brine, white tea, dried mango, apricot stone, steely elements, river stones and a mix of forest and tropical notes. There is divine balance and plenty of tangy acidity, salty slate and vigor to make up for the sugar level and only a slight creamy sensation and a pleasure center light up in the mouth makes the RS presence known, this is stunning Riesling for now with lightly spicy cuisine or for the cellar, great stuff from Selbach as per normal, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012AlfaroPN2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
I had put this 2012 away for personal consumption, but pulled it out just to refresh my memory and it is showing fantastic, and while the 2012 might be hard to find on the shelves, don’t worry the 2013 is even better, that said the 2012 continues to impress, it has gained complexity and class in bottle with a year of short term cellaring. The very appealing estate Pinot Noir 2012 saw about 30% new French oak and comes in at a very balanced 13.8% alcohol, making for a rich and lush wine that has vitality and depth, it starts with crushed berries, cola, floral tones and toasty oak leading to a silken palate of raspberry, plum and red cherry fruits along with a touch of earth, tea, anise, saline and vanillin. This is still a young vibrant wine, lifted by underlying acidity and it should get even better with another few years in bottle, there is a fair amount of tannin, but it plays well with the robust fruit and is overall very well focused, this wine would be fantastic with duck breast and it is quite hedonistic with a nice long finish.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012FaurieGoldCapsuleHerm2012 Bernard Faurie, Hermitage Rouge, Gold Capsule, Northern Rhone, France.
The 2012 Bernard Faurie Hemitage is one of the most beautiful Syrah wines I’m had in years, this gorgeous wine comes from two historic plots, Le Meal and Les Bessards on the famed Hermitage hill, and these blocks are over a 100 years old, making it a truly noble effort. The Gold Capsule is always Meal/Bessards, so be sure to look close, as there no markings on the label indicating which Crus it comes from, though all the Faurie Hermitage bottling will be well worth investing in, no question these are prized wines from a tiny artisan producer, imported by Kermit Lynch, and are extremely rare. I was lucky enough to enjoy the Bernard Faurie Saint-Joseph earlier this year, it was sublime, but this Hermitage is clearly on another plane and is heavenly, it is not a big and a blockbuster, it is more like a Grand Cru Burgundy, it has pedigree and delicacy with glorious layers and harmony, it seduces and it is hauntingly addictive with sensual and textural pleasure. Bernard Faurie uses ultra traditional methods, it is a simple formula of handcrafted wine, he carefully hand picks and ferments the grapes from Hermitage’s granite, limestone and quartz hillside soils, foot stomps the grapes whole cluster with stems and puts the unfiltered juice in big neutral casks for 2 or 3 years depending on vintage and bottles unfined, and the results are surprisingly poised and graceful, there is no doubt these wines are pure expressions of class, terroir and are masterpieces of this special place. It is hard to compare Bernard Faurie’s version of Hermitage, but to try and give you an example, it has the purity and regal essence of Chapoutier’s great singe Crus, though with a more raw feel, and it is nowhere near as powerful or as imposing as Chave’s L’Hermitage, and there’s a hidden depth in the Faurie and almost feminine sexiness, in the 2012 especially, it is utterly spellbinding. There 2012 Gold Capsule, Meal/Bessards starts with earthy spice, mint, leather and violets leading to an elegant and restrained palate in this deeply hued, purple and garnet Syrah with blackberry, boysenberry, damson plum, currant and cherry fruits subtly cascading in the mouth along with red and black pepper, black olives, cassis, wild mushroom, bacon fat and light salted black licorice. This is absolutely drop dead stunning Hermitage, it should fill out in bottle over the next 3 to 5 years and drink wonderfully over the next decade and a half, though ridiculously thrilling already, best from 2018 to 2025.
($130 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2013BrunoColinChassEnRemilly2013 Domaine Bruno Colin, Chassagne-Montrachet, En Remilly, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Bruno & Stephanie Colin’s latest set of Chassagne’s are wonderfully intriguing wines and are some of the best and most exciting from this domaine to date, they are right up there with the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, cementing the Colin heritage of great white Burgundy! These serious Chassagne expressions all are worthy of your attention and merit their own note, but for me the En Remilly was the most dynamic and expressive with electric like energy, poise and length, maybe not as elegant as the Morgeot or as old school as Les Chaumes, it delivers stunning vibrancy and mineral intensity, really standing out. Bruno’s latest offering move him closer in style to Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey which makes perfect sense and highlight the great strides these wines have taken, all of them come from small family lots in top sites, with 12 Premier Crus and a bit of Bourgogne and village wine as well making up his 19 bottlings or so from his old cellar in Chassagne, and on a side note, I noticed and admired his use of classy wax capsules on the Premier Crus this vintage, which also add some jazz to his highly impressive efforts. Bruno Colin, imported by Kermit Lynch, deserves acclaim for his lovely wines without family comparison, but that is hard to do, though in this case it highlights the quality on display. The 2013 Chassagne En Remilly bursts from the glass with vivid intensity and seductive charm, it is light greenish gold in hue, and starts with steely mineral, white flowers, saline, crisp citrus and river stones that lead to a gorgeous palate array of flavors including lemon curds, lime, apple and cool pear fruits along with brisk acidity, subtle, but sexy wood notes and great expansion in texture and mouth feel. A tropical essence, a hint of rose, melon and stone fruit come through along with light cedar, spice and hazelnut adding complexity, plus a faint glow of matchstick and honey. This wine lives off vital acidity, but it is refined and thoroughly compelling in every way, this is fantastic stuff that should drink gloriously for a decade or so, the En Remilly from over 50 year old vines is a sexy beast with a sublime balance of all it’s elements, it is pure joy in the glass with vigor and class, drink from 2015 to 2024.
($104 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2013MontesecondoRosso2013 Montesecondo, Sangiovese IGT Rosso, Toscana, Italy.
Montesecondo is a tiny biodynamic farm in the northern part of Chianti Classico not far from Florence and in the Val di Pesa area of Tuscany owned by Silvio and Catalina Messana. Making organic, lighter and earthy style Sangiovese doesn’t always sit well with the Chianti Classico consortium (Consorzio) which is trying to develop a more international style for Chianti, so sometimes the Montesecondo, which is more like Burgundy than Bordeaux doesn’t qualify to be called Chianti Classico with certain cuvees, like this IGT Rosso, a 100% Sangiovese that delivers an elegant version of the varietal with bight flavors, subtle earthiness and medium weight. The 2013 vintage is ruby in color with a lifting palate of cherry, raspberry, tangy currant and strawberry fruits leading the way along with hints of sweet herbs, tobacco leaf, cedar, pepper and anise. This easy and pure Sangiovese is not a serious cellar offering, but it is really pretty and a wonderful drinking wine, best to enjoy this over the next 2 or so years, great with food and a great value. Montesecondo is a wine to be admired and cherished for it’s delicacy and transparency, it’s pure and lighter style doesn’t hide it’s flavorful and charming character, these are lovely wines, drink this one between 2015 and 2018.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014Coulbois2014 Domaine Patrick Coulbois, Pouilly Fume, Les Cocques, Loire Valley White, France.
Fast becoming one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs, the Coulbois Pouilly Fume “Les Cocques” really over delivers in it’s price class, at around twenty bucks I certainly could almost forget most New Zealand and California offerings! Not too far from Dagueneau, Coulbois, imported by Charles Neal, has an interesting mix of soils including some silex and while not as rock star as the 2013 was, the 2014 is still a superb wine that delivers pure flavors and terroir. Lime flower, lemon/lime and tangerine with a hint of peach fruit, slight weedy note, stones and mineral along with mouth watering acids all play well in this serious Sauvignon Blanc that leans toward vivid intensity on the palate. The latest from Patrick Coulbois is a stylish Pouilly Fume, it is light and dancing in the mouth, the 2014 can’t compare to 2013 for extract or flamboyance, but it pleases just the same and this is classy stuff to enjoy over the next 2 or 3 years.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2014RochioliRose2014 Rochioli, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
The latest tasting room only wine is the rare Rochioli Rose of Pinot Noir, and it makes an emergency visit to Westside Road west of Healdsburg a must do, and now, as this beauty sells out fast, though members of their mailing list can order online, those lucky few. The 2014 Rose of Pinot Noir was handcrafted in small lots, it starts life as just the white free run juice, fermented and gets it’s vivid hue from the addition of still finished Pinot Noir, I’m not sure they always made this Pink treasure this way, but in this vintage the results are merited and admired, this is a really lovely example with a bit more subtlety and charm, even though I always love this offering at Rochioli. The is somewhat muted at first with soft rose water and peach notes along with mineral and saline leading to a bright and vibrant palate showing sour cherry, cranberry, strawberry, watermelon and fresh citrus notes with wet stones and a very long finish. Light herb, spice, a touch of steeliness and tangy acidity lift the wine, but the Pinot fruit certainly comes through, this is well balanced and seductive Rose and white brisk and tangy at first, it opens and rounds out with lingering effect, best to enjoy now and often, drink over the next 6 months to a year. Rochioli’s pink is a a rare and tasty treat, one of the joys of summer in the Russian River Valley!
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2014FCrochet2014 Domaine Francois Crochet, Sancerre, Loire Valley White, France.
The latest Francois Crochet Sancerre is a vibrant and brightly flavored Sauvignon Blanc with austere classic varietal markers and tangy citrus fruits and nice mineral tones. The 2014 is not as expressive as 2013 and it has a slight green note, but it certainly is a very good example of place and year, plus it should excite those that like subtle traditional offerings. That said, there’s plenty to like here with zesty lemon/lime, grapefruit, sourgrass/herbs, steely elements, a touch of cat pee and wet river stones. The brisk, vibrant and mineral focused Francois Crochet 2014 is particularly good as a companion to fish and goat cheeses, it picks up added charm with cuisine much more than if you were just sipping it on it’s own, it is an old school terroir wine that deserves studied attention, it without question grew on me and I quite like it, drink over the next 2 or 3 years.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013RidgeLyttonEstate2013 Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Estate, Proprietary Red, Dry Creek Valley.
The 2013 Lytton Estate 40% Grenache, 40% Mataro, 15% Zinfandel and 5% Carignane from Lytton in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County is a hybrid California-Chateauneuf style blend with seriously delicious style, and is available at their tasting rooms and through their wine clubs. A wonderful Sunday afternoon tasting at Lytton Springs brought many new experiences and some familiar classics, I always love these warm days at Lytton and the staff and setting are near perfect. Sitting on the lounge deck overlooking the 100 year old Zinfandel vines it is hard not to carried away by the pace and the wines, this is heaven and of the new offerings I was impressed with this new 2013 Lytton Estate Red in particular stood out. This vintage is just fantastic, these are full bodied, lush and vibrant wines, I think 2013 might be a touch better across the board than 2012 even, and this wine especially with a blend heavy in both Grenache and Mataro (Mourvedre) that shows great detail, charm and sexy fruit, spice and complexity in a fun and open wine. I put my money where my pie hole is, and bought a few of these beauties, it starts with array of dark berries, peppery spice, hints of lavender, new saddle leather and kirsch leading to a palate of boysenberry, damson plum, briar notes, cedar, vanilla and iron shavings. With air the wine fills out and expands, but still feels perky and energetic with sweet chewy tannins, bramble and juiciness, the finish is good and lengthy with lingering red currants, dusty stones, a hint of black licorice, dried flowers and minty herbs. This is a highly entertaining red that gives lots of pleasure, it’s ripe, but not overly so with density and structure subtly holding the fruit together, it should age well too, best from 2015 to 2020.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012ColletMonte2012 Domaine Romain Collet, Chablis, Monte de Tonnerre, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
I just did a tasting of 2012 Cru Chablis by Romain Collet and I can tell you these are stunning wines, and exceptional values for serious Chardonnay, in particular you should look at the Vaillons, Les Clos, which is amazing and cellar worthy, and this glorious Monte de Tonnerre. Monte de Tonnerre sits right next to the Grand Crus and has mostly the same soils and exposures, so it always makes for a savvy choice in Chablis, and it has proven to be one of my all time favorite vineyards and easily one of the best deals in Burgundy, and this Collet doesn’t disappoint, it is full of energy, extract and full of steely and stony character. The Collet’s are well respected and admired, but somehow they haven’t let it go to their heads and the prices of their wines haven’t gone through the roof in recent years, and I was very happily surprised that the 2012 vintage was as affordable as ever, without the huge bump up in price seen elsewhere in this year that produced such a small intense crop, if you are looking to score some fine, elegant Chardonnay, you should search these wines out. The 2012 Monte de Tonnerre starts with a bouquet of white flowers, chalky stone, subtle sweet wood and flint along with a citrus and liquid mineral leading to an intense palate with heightened flavors and vibrancy with super focused detailing and delicacy showing lemon, green apple, wild pear and light peach fruits with plenty of mouth watering acidity, saline and wet river rocks, plus a nice frame of oak, which never gets overt, and there is hazelnut, melon and a touch of fine lees brioche. This wine comes in at 12.5% and feels youthful, vivid and graceful, but there is real texture, depth and concentration wound up inside, the Collet’s crafted a beauty here and this should drink fantastic over the next 6 to 8 years and maybe longer!
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013ClosCanarelli2013 Clos Canarelli, Figari Rouge, Corsica.
The very serious Yves Canarelli 2013 Clos Canarelli Figari Rouge is 80% Niellucciu, 15% Syrah, 5% Sciaccarellu and tastes like a cross between Chateauneuf du Pape and Brunello, but is it’s own wine with beautifully detailed fruit, depth of character, charm and hints of rustic robustness. This wine almost perfectly defines it’s soul and place, this is the essence of terroir, you can almost be transported to the French island when this stuff hits the palate, with closed eyes especially, this impressive Clos Canarelli reveals wild flowers, sea breezes, shale rockiness, pipe tobacco, peppery herbs and lavender before entertaining the mouth with dark fruits, spice and savory complexity. This medium/full red has a solid core of fruit, but also has lots of earthy elements and personality, made mostly from Corsica’s Niellucciu, which is their Sangiovese, there is good acidity and firm tannins, Clos Canarelli has managed to craft a gorgeous wine that captures the rugged idyllic beauty and history of this exotic locale. Also great were Clos Canarelli’s Rose 2014 and their whites, a Vermentino and Blancu Gentile, the last a native varietal, I highly recommend Clos Canarelli, and for an even more rare expression Canarelli has a tiny production of Amphora aged white and red which were amazing, though not cheap. Back to the 2013 Clos Canarelli Rouge, this wine takes on a leather and meat layer with air and delivers boysenberry, strawberry and plum fruit that forms a tight core along with flint stoniness, truffle, iron, dried rose petal, briar spiciness and a hint of frambois. This is very sensual and alluring wine that gives length and pleases completely, drink between 2015 and 2020.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012BrickHouseDijonnaise2012 Brick House, Pinot Noir, Les Dijonnaise, Estate, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
If anyone doubts the quality of the 2012 vintage in Oregon just needs to taste the latest set from Brick House to fully grasp the beauty that has been delivered to the Willamette Valley in this stellar year, especially stunning is the Les Dijonnaise Estate Pinot! The 2012 Brick House Les Dijonnaise is gorgeous with generous mouth feel, wonderful layers of fruit, spice, mineral and floral tones starting with wilted roses, cedar, flint and crushed violets on the bouquet with a mix of red and black fruit floating up from the glass. The palate is silken with satiny earthy cherry, plum, currant and hints of vine picked blackberry along with red spice, soft wood notes, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. With air density and depth come through, but this is not flabby or over weighted at all with deft balance and transparency, in fact this is glorious from the first sip to the last with a haunting and lingering finish, this is Oregon Pinot shinning brilliantly, bravo to the Brick House team for crafting such a beauty. Doug Tunnell started Brick House in 1990 (most vines were planted in 1991) and has made it one of the best and most cherished wines in the Valley, he was one of the first to flow the Burgundy lead in biodynamics and was very early on organic certified, his wines and his neighbor Beaux Freres are some of America’s great wines, this latest set of 2012’s are masterpieces and while I adore this new Les Dijonnaise Pinot, Doug’s estate Chardonnay may in fact be the greatest Oregon white wine I’ve ever tried, and his top cuvee Evelyn’s is one for the cellar, capable of 15 to 20 years of aging, plus the state Gamay is a great wine as well, be sure to find some of these sublime bottlings. The Les Dijonnaise Pinot is Brick House Vineyard’s main offering and it really is worth every penny, drinking well now and a wine that can be laid down for 5 to 10 years, if you go to Oregon, Brick House should be high on the list to visit, these are impressive and highly detailed wines, I’m absolutely smitten.
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012GroissRoterVeltliner2012 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Roter Veltliner Reserve, Niederosterreich, Austrian White Wine.
Roter Veltliner is believed to be an ancient varietal, once thought to be related to Gruner Veltliner, but which since has been proven not to be and sometimes referred to as a Roter Muskateller it is a grey/pinkish (skin) berried grape found in Austria, on the vine it may look like Pinot Gris, and it is usually is made into blended white wines. Ingrid Groiss has made a beauty single varietal, her 2012 Roter Veltliner is the best example I’ve tried, and I bet her 2013 will eclipse this, if vintage quality is anything to go by. This is exciting and vibrant wine that is tangy dry with a pale golden hue, starting with hints of hay and herb, delicate rose petal and citrus leading to brisk mouth watering palate of peach, lemon, verbena, apricot flesh and stone, steeliness and subtle tropical notes along wet stones, it later unfolds with tart white cherry, chalk and mineral tones. While some 2012 Austrian wines have a slight dullness, this Groiss Roter stays vital and focused, this is a wonderful dry white that shows nice savory elements, lively character and drive. Like Sylvaner from Alsace in many ways in has less intensity than Riesling, with notes a bit like Melon (Muscadet) too, and a touch softer than Gruner Gruner Veltliner it still gives complex layers and has balanced extract and vitality, this is lovely stuff, no question Ingrid Groiss is a star! Perfect for summer sipping, great with oysters, seafood or goat cheese, drink this if you can find it over the next 2 to 5 years, Groiss wines are rare in the states, but they are worth the search!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014CuilleronSyrah2014 Yves Cuilleron, Syrah, Les Vignes d’ a Cote, Rhone, France.
This light and fresh Syrah comes from the most northern region of the Rhone, more known for Gamay than Syrah, but it makes for an easy to love wine of pure varietal character. Yves Cuilleron’s single varietal series Les Vignes d’ a Cote offers lots of quality for the money and are very pretty wines, especially the 2014 Viognier and 2014 Syrah bottling and you should keep an eye out for them, imported by Rosenthal, they will be hitting the shelves very soon. The Syrah Les Vignes d’ a Cote starts with light violets, camphor, earth, red berries and bright peppery spices leading to a lighter style palate, about the same weight as a Pinot Noir, with dark cherry, blackberry, boysenberry and plum fruits, cracked peppercorns, soft black olive notes as well as earth, herbs and anise. While not overly complex or deep, it is a pleasing wine and is a perfect afternoon picnic red or bistro wine, drink over the next year or so.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2014LoewenKlostergarten2014 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling, Klostergarten, Kabinett, Mosel Germany.
One of the breakout surprises of year has to be this new set of releases by Carl Loewen, these gorgeous 2014 Rieslings are all worthy of attention, especially the old vine Trockens, but I have to say this 2014 Klostergarten Kabinett is my favorite and a wonderful value as well. It was great getting to taste these impressive Rieslings with Christopher Loewen, he is the next generation here and his enthusiasm and passion for the place really make it clear this is a winery to watch, in particular you should really check out these 2014 wines they all show delicacy, detail and extreme elegance. The 2014 Klostergarten Kabinett shines with mineral, bright flavors, finessed acidity and just enough sugar to add a creamy mouth feel without being overtly sweet and the aromatics are a knockout punch, in fact all the 2014’s from Loewen show pretty perfume and are seductive on the nose, white the fruit is tangy, vibrant and pleasing. The white rose petal, white flowers and tropical essences lead to a palate of lime, kiwi, white peach, green melon, Japanese tea, zesty unripe cherry, a hint of honey and spicy shale stoniness. This is really expressive Riesling of quality, it was fermented with native yeasts and was lovingly crafted with grace and style, it finishes with a whisper of fruitiness, and has nice extract, it will drink nicely for years to come and develop even greater complexity and depth, best from 2016 to 2024, though I do like it’s vivid youthful charms!
($21 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013CibonneTibourenRose2013 Clos Cibonne, Rose Tradition, Tibouren, Cru Classe, Cotes de Provence, France.
The Cibonne Tibouren Rose spends a year in barrel on it’s lees before bottling, it is one of the most serious and interesting Rose wines out there and it is a stunning example of handcrafted joy in the bottle you can find, especially for the price. The 2013 vintage is richly detailed with a mix of mineral, spice, light fruit and creamy/textural pleasure with good acidity elegantly framing the whole, this is complex and sexy Rose done in a old fashioned way that just plain works. Tibouren is an ancient native grape found in Provence, it pre-dates the Mourvedre and Cinsault usually found in these wines and it is very scarce, it is an unusually light pigmented red varietal that has a robust nature, the red wine made from it is rarely darker than the Rose, but it makes for a unique wine, especially in the Clos Cibonne and it a must have, and will so many great Rose choices available, this one certainly stands out and it goes particularly well with rustic cuisine and outdoor food choices. The 2013 Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rose starts with dried flowers, spicy mineral, candied orange rind and tart cherry leading to a family full palate of strawberry, pink citrus, raspberry tea, watermelon and flinty pepper as well as hints of cedar, toffee and wet stones. This is a mouth filling Rose that feels gorgeous and expansive, but still has the energy and vitality to refresh and be vibrant, there is a lot going on here and it should entertain for a year or so more, but this groovy Rose is drinking superb right now, this soft pinkish/orange really is a lovely wine.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014VonWinningWinnings2014 Weingut von Winning, Riesling QbA, Pfalz, Germany.
The new offering Winnings from von Winning is a beautiful and softly fruity Riesling grown on the red sandstone, loam and limestone based soils of the Pfalz near Deidesheim and is a great new addition to the fantastic set of wines produced here. This is a balanced Riesling that happens to have a bit of RS, but drinks easy and mostly dry especially on the finish, this is less severe than the previous base Trocken from von Winning and it feels perfectly weighted, bright and vital on the palate, this is also a steal at this price, coming from mostly top Cru sites. The nose has light rose petals, green tea, white flowers, sea salt and pink grapefruit leading to a palate of lime, green apple, pineapple, white peach flesh and pit, chalky stones, a whiff of smoke, honey, brine and steely mineral elements. These 2014’s are delicate and aromatic, but have hidden dry extract and vibrant acidity, this one excels in finesse and feel with only the slightest hint of sugar adding a creamy note, this is pure class and easy to love Riesling, this will be a great jumping off point into their top Trocken Cru wines and is gorgeous in it’s own right, von Winning’s Winnings will be a huge hit with restaurants and savvy Riesling lovers looking for a top value. Weingut von Winning is easily one of the great estates in Germany and I highly recommend these new 2014 wines that are imported by Terry Theise and will be available late summer early fall of 2015 and later for the Grosses Gewach which were tasted as barrel samples, with less intensity of wood and subtle nature of the vintage these are going to be classics! Be on the look out for the von Winning Winnings Riesling later this year and enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years, also for the super wine geeks out there, von Winning’s Sauvignon Blanc “500” 2013 is one of the best Sauvignon Blanc’s in the Bordeaux Blanc style that I’ve ever tried, honestly it is spectacular in richness and detail, this winery is killing it right now!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013AnthillPeters2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Peter’s Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The 2013’s from Anthill Farms are really impressive as a set, with the Peter’s Vineyard itself in particular an amazingly beautiful and finely detailed wine. The Peter’s Vineyard are mature vines from cool hillsides west of the hamlet of Sebastopol in the Sonoma Coast and there always seems to be an elegant and rich Pinot character that makes this offering stand out, and this 2013 shows depth, finesse and length, in fact in a recent tasting it came out on top against a very pricy and well crafted Burgundy that will remain nameless, Anthony Filiberti and the Anthill Farms team have done themselves proud and it should get even better over the next 3 to 5 years. The 2013 Anthill Farms Peter’s Pinot starts with dark berries, rose and violet floral tones, a hint of earth, smoke and mineral leads to a round palate of silky fruits and soft tannins with a vein of bright acidity giving life and lift with a ruby hue in the glass and layers of black raspberry, plum and tart currant backing up a core of morello cherry fruit. There is a sense of grace and poise in this really entertaining Pinot Noir and the background complexity is superb with nutmeg, cinnamon, cedar, saline, cola bean and wild mushrooms adding a nice contrast to the succulent fruit, this is a glorious example of balance in a ripe and forward vintage, with under 14% and subtle wood this is everything you want in California Pinot, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2014Vaux2014 Vignobles Molozay-Chateau de Vaux, Les Gryphees, Moselle White, France.
From the upper Moselle in France near Luxembourg comes this dynamic and beautifully detailed white, made from Muller-Thurgau, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and a tiny bit of Gewürztraminer that is dry vibrant and stylish. Marie-Genevieve and Norbert Molozay craft each grape on their own and then blend the results into this gorgeous white, all the vines are farmed biodynamic and the wines are fermented on their native yeasts. The Cotes de Moselle is a tiny area and these vines are on terraces of clay and chalky brown soils with good drainage and vigor making the wines intense and flavorful, this is one of the only French Moselle wines I’ve ever tried and I loved it and am grateful to Charles Neal who discovered it and is importing the Chateau de Vaux wines. The 2014 Chateau de Vaux by the Molozay husband and wife team starts with a delicate pale hue almost clear with a hint of gold and green and a mineral and white flower essence on the nose with subtle tropical and spice notes leading to a light to medium palate of green apple, white peach, lemon/lime and melon fruits along with a hint of apricot flesh and pit, some crushed stone, wet river rock/shale and oyster shell elements and hints of wild herbs, it finishes with smooth acidity and lingering exotic spice. This 12% white is crisp but mouth filling with sublime balance and pleasure, it provides joyous summer sipping and plays well with most cuisine, though it should prove divine with seafood, especially mussels or white fish, drink the beauty from Chateau de Vaux over the next 3 to 5 years!
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012ForadoriTeroldego2012 Foradori, Teroldego IGT, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Italy.
Elisabetta Foradori’s main Teroldego, formerly known as Rotiliano, is a wonderful red wine from Italy’s high Dolomiti region above Trentino in the greater Alto Adige area, it is full and full of personality, especially this 2012 vintage. The new Foradori is meaty and mineral driven with a real savory spiciness along with tangy dark fruits that slowly emerge with air, this is pretty serious stuff and it does need a bit of air to fully come out of it’s shell.  This impressive and complex Teroldego has a deep garnet purplish hue, a hint of bacon/grilled meat and wild herbs and dried flowers on the nose which leads to a palate of refined tannin with blackberry, plum, cherry and tart currant fruit layers as well as all spice, pepper, chalk dust and cedar. Everything feels well defined, focused and flowing in the glass, but this wine really gets much more detailed and thrilling with food, without cuisine it feels a little rustic, but it still charms, drink from 2016 to 2021.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

LustauOlorosonv Emilio Lustau, Almacenista Juan Garcia Jarana, Oloroso “Pata de Gallina” Medium Sherry, Jerez de la Frontera, Xerez-Jerez-Sherry, Spain.
This medium dry Oloroso Alamacenista Pato de Gallina by Lustau is luxurious and textural in the mouth with an almost sweet and creamy feel and dense complexity and charm. This is special stuff and really worthy of the search to find it, being extremely rare and exotic, without question one of the best Oloroso styles out there, along with Equipo Navazos’ special Bota series. The Lustau Almacenista Oloroso, made from select old soleras, starts with white peach, quince, nectarine, orange peel a mix of salted nuts, vanilla and cedary spices with an oily/creamy mouth feel. This is a very generous and forward style that again has a lush almost sweet impression that is very sexy and showy, but is balanced and wonderfully detailed, this is seriously decedent and lengthy sherry, perfect for sipping and great with cheeses.
($30 est. 500ml) 94 Points, grapelive

June 2015

2014MarquilianiRose2014 Domaine de Marquiliani-Anne Amalric, Rosé Gris de Marquiliani, Vin de Corse, France.
The new Marquiliani Rosé is delicately pale with just the faintest of orange/pink tints, but is vibrant and flavorful and is one of the top Rosé wines of the season, sadly very little is going to be available, as Kermit Lynch, the importer has had such high demand it is virtually an instant sell out, so race to your local and get some! The 2014 Rosé Gris de Marquiliani is made from 90% Sciaccarellu and 10% Syrah showing succulent tart cherry, wild strawberry, mixed citrus and watermelon along with a hint of flint, pepper and steely mineral tones. There is a vivid core of grapefruit and peach pit that adds to the mouth watering nature with a splash of rose water and light lavender in the back ground in this fabulous summer pink wine from Anne Amalric of Domaine de Marquiliani, this is brilliant stuff, everything is subtle, dreaming and full of vitality, this will engage your senses and leave a huge refreshing smile smile on your face. If there was a thing like a cult Rosé, this would be a contender and it is remarkable how beautiful and detailed this wine always seems to be, very impressive and delightful every vintage, but especially so this year, Corsica is on a roll, all of the 2014’s from the island are worthy, in particular this Marquiliani of course, but also look for the Yves Leccia and Clos Canarelli, both of which are sublime as well. Drink the sexy Rosé Gris de Marquiliani over the next year, though I’ll be it quick run thing, it is so tasty, you’ll be hard pressed to wait.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014CuilleronViognier2014 Yves Cuilleron, Viognier, Les Vignes d’ a Cote, Rhone, France.
This is a real winner, Yves Cuilleron has a gift for great Viognier and his baby version is delightful and stylish. Yves Cuilleron’s single varietal series Les Vignes d’ a Cote offers lots of quality for the money and are very pretty wines, especially this 2014 Viognier and his 2014 Syrah bottling and you should keep an eye out for them, imported by Rosenthal, they will be hitting the shelves very soon. For those that want a study in Viognier and don’t feel like popping for a Condrieu should consider this Les Vignes d’ a Cote it delivers classic and true character with liquid stones, honeysuckle, apricot and tangerine notes throughout and opens to reveal a textural thrill and creamy center with hints of clarified butter and toffee notes with enough acidity to hold things in balance, this looks like the best wine in the 2014 vintage for Cuilleron’s Les Vignes d’ a Cote series, it has more intrigue than the Marsanne and Roussanne this time around and should prove lovely and enjoyable for the next 6 months to a year, drink up, this is yummy stuff. ($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

LaGoyanv Delgado Zuleta “La Goya” Manzanilla DO, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Dry Sherry, Spain.
The La Goya Manzanilla is the premium version of Delgado Zuleta offerings made from older solera Manzanilla Pasada, crafted by this old Bodega, originally founded in 1744 near the Guadalquivir River mouth right on the Atlantic. This bright and tangy dry Sherry has classic Manzanilla vibrancy and sea breeze/salty character and is very fresh and zesty with dried tropical fruits, orange rind, peachy notes, chalk and oily pecan along with a briny core and citrus layers. The older aged Pasada adds to the complexity and nuttiness while remaining light and vibrant, this is very interesting and stylish Manzanilla that will play nicely with or without food, but maybe best with tapas or cheese plates. The Sherry region is mysterious and underrated, especially these dry perky styles from the ancient vines growing out of the coastal sand dunes right near the ocean and Sanlucar de Barrameda in particular, these are wonderful wines and an unique terroir, it is time to rediscover Sherry and the La Goya by Delgado Zuleta is a great place to start. ($17 Est. 375ml) 92 Points, grapelive

2014StolpmanSangio2014 Stolpman Vineyards, Sangiovese, Carbonic, Ballard Canyon.
The Carbonic Sangiovese from Stolpman is a fun and easy wine, a bright and fresh example of ready to go village red that is made by dumping the grapes into a stainless tank whole cluster add a bit of fermenting juice and seal the tank and let it go for 15 days, occasionally venting in CO2, this process is a way to ferment without the extraction of tannins and make a pop and serve wine, no extended aging or oak required. The color here is not overly dark, ruby and garnet and the nose is floral and juicy with lots of cherry and strawberry aromas and main palate flavors along with crushed raspberry, cinnamon stick, pomegranate, sweet and savory herbs, dried currant and pipe tobacco. This is best slightly chilled and with summer outdoor foods and BBQ, as well as traditional pasta, mushroom dishes and mixed meats and cheeses. The Stolpman gang is innovative and are making an awesome array of wines, they have become one of California’s leading wineries with their Syrah offering being some of the best in the new world along with seriously delicious white Rhone style whites and red blends. It all starts with the vines and the grapes, and that is where they excel, these are winegrowers first and foremost and it shows in every wine they produce. This almost Beaujolais style red Carbonic Sangiovese is really nice and pleasing, drink it up over the coming year, best from 2015 to 2017.
($22 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2014SelbachSchmitt2014 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling “Schmitt” Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
The brilliant and exotic Schmitt comes from the steep slate hill above the church, set back from the Mosel, there is great southern exposure here and less affected by noble rot, a big plus in 2014, it allowed these rich and lush wine to remain crystalline and focused, this is one of the great wines of the vintage! Johannes Selbach’s top wines are not Trocken/Grosses Gewachs, there are single block wines from Cru sites, they are also heavy weighted, dense and medium sweet, but it is not about the sugar, it is all about the terroir and overall balance, these are wines of hedonism, power, textural pleasure and vitality, especially the Schmitt in 2014, it explores the boundaries of perfection in a fantastically difficult vintage. The was a savage thinning of the crop and a tiny window to get the grapes in to make this masterpiece from the old vines at Zeltinger Schlossberg, it is truly amazing with all the problems and heartbreak endured here that a wine of this quality and gorgeous detail managed to happen at all, there are some areas that were wiped out by rot, flies and other unfortunate conditions during the growing season in 2014, but somehow this block come through and made one of the most glorious Riesling wines of the year. The 2014 Schmitt by Selbach-Oster starts with a sweet perfume, the 2014 wines across the board are wonderfully aromatic with heady bouquets, this wine shows white roses, dripping jasmine, hints of gardenia and tropical essences that lead to a full bodied, Auslese weight palate with apricot, green apple, lime and mango fruits leading the way along with a mix of spicy mineral and flinty stones, briny sea shore notes, soft honey decadence, creamy verbena and sweet peach flesh. The finish carries over the core of fruit and richness, but there is a burst of dynamic acidity and vibrancy, this is not a flabby wine and you are left with a dreamy/haunting impression with lingering tangerine sorbet, crushed stone and wet steeliness, this is fabulous Riesling and one you’ll want in the cellar, this has 100 Point potential and it will also drink well young, it already has poise and elegance, but should last two or three decades! This sexy Riesling will be released sometime this fall and I highly recommend securing it when it comes, this is special stuff, drink from 2016 to 2028, and don’t be afraid of it’s sugar levels, it drinks like a lavish Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne and is a spectacular wine from Selbach-Oster!
($52 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2011BroviaBarolo2011 Brovia, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The soon to be released Brovia Barolo normale is a generous and sexy Nebbiolo that still has serious stuffing, but can be enjoyed in it’s youth, much more so that the 2010’s, if you are looking for a great Barolo that can age and can be drunk near term this is your wine. Brovia makes a polished old school Barolo with refinement and elegance, from vineyards around Castiglione Falletto, along with G.D. Vajra and Oddero these are some of the most highly regarded and reasonably priced wines in their class, as well as making a fine Dolcetto and Barbara. The latest set of wines I tasted were all wonderfully expressive and total quality, even the 2013 vintage, which was a very difficult year, another highlight was their pretty 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo all from Barolo fruit and a steal at about $34 a bottle. The 2011 Brovia Barolo starts with a heady mix of wilted roses, tar, grilled fennel, red berries and sweet and savory earthy notes leading to a full palate of tangy cherry, damson plum, dried currants and mix berry fruits along with salted black licorice, minty herb, porcini/wild mushroom, red spices, cedar and chalky stones. The tannins are firm, dusty and have some grip, but meld in nicely letting the fruit coat the mouth and the acidity is just enough to keep everything lifted and fresh, this is a vibrant, vivid and seducing Nebbiolo that pumps out the pleasure from start to finish, it is well balanced, complex and shows solid density and length, highly impressive especially at such a young stage. There is a lot to admire in this bread and butter Barolo from Brovia even now, but it certainly will gain with time in the bottle, best from 2017 to 2025, though as mentioned it would not be a crime to open a few early, it is really good stuff, and I can’t wait to try the later release of the 2011 single Cru wines!
($54 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2014DielRose2014 Schlossgut Diel, Rose de Diel, Spatburgunder, Nahe, Germany.
One of the stars of the vintage, the Schlossgut Diel’s Rose of Pinot Noir is lovely with aromatics, mineral spice, vigorous acidity and with layered and lengthy fruit. This classy and vibrant Rose de Diel starts out with it’s pretty salmon and pink color and enticing perfume with rose water, lavender oil and citrus which guides you to a vivid palate of faint strawberry, tart cherry and watermelon along with a core of steely citrus and unripe stone fruit. There is great finesse, lift and detail here making the Diel Spatburgunder Rose a winner and one of Germany’s top pink wines, in the background subtle flint, shale and river stones add complexity and there is a delicate herb, saline and tea spice as well, this is a gorgeous effort and should drink nicely for more than a year, and it is a savvy summer sipper, drink between 2015 and 2017, and don’t forget to score some of the Rieslings from this address, I found the Kabinett level 2014’s to be a huge success and family priced, but the Rose is stunning and a must try version!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012ScherrerZin2012 Scherrer, Zinfandel, Scherrer Vineyard Old & Mature Vines, Alexander Valley.
This was a great discovery, after having Scherrer many times over the years, his new 2012 Zin from his estate vines is a wonderful expression of varietal and place with a throw-back feel with a classic late eighties or early nineties character with dark fruit, spicy elements and pure vibrancy. There is lots to love here, Fred Scherrer has done a masterful job of making an exciting Zinfandel with deep flavors and plenty of fresh life, it has vigor and still is very seductive and pleasing, in someways it reminds me of Bedrock and or Carlisle, but still all Fred with rustic and robust edges. The highlights here include fresh blackberry, raspberry, dried currant, minty herbs, pepper, cinnamon stick, salted black licorice, morello cherry, cedar and briar notes along with smooth, but perky tannins, a crunch of stones, mineral and a lift of acidity that adds a burst of vitality, quite remarkable in such a warm vintage and over all it comes in as joyous and complex as Ridge Geyerville or Lytton Springs with nice density without sky high alcohol or port like flavors. The finish leaves a long boysenberry, sweet tobacco/sage note and a touch of earth and is tangy juicy making it great with robust cuisine. This is the best Scherrer I can remember, he is really on it these days, and his latest Rose is great too, I highly recommend taking some time and looking at the Scherrer offerings. While everything his does is impressive, the Zin is my favorite, especially this Scherrer Vineyard Old & Mature Vines Zinfandel, it certainly is outstanding with artisan craftsmanship, a racy and sexy style, and a little post modern with refined tannins, but a hint of wildness about it, I love the stuff, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2021.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013JBPonsotRully2013 Domaine Jean-Baptiste Ponsot, Rully, Montpalais, 1er Cru White Burgundy, France.
This was an impressive surprise, after two solid vintages and quality offerings comes this stunning Premier Cru effort from 2013, making Jean-Baptiste Ponsot a name to look for, this is a step up from the prior releases I’ve sampled! If you are looking for expressive and interesting white Burgundy at very fair prices I suggest you search out the 2013’s from this Charles Neal Imports producer, they are not that far off some big names in terms of style and quality, these are well made and stylish wines by Jean-Baptiste Ponsot with the 2013 Premier Cru Montpalais Rully being especially intriguing and appealing. Rully, established as an AOC in 1939, is in the northern part of Burgundy in the Cote Chalonnaise and has about 150 acres of Premier Cru vines with 23 Crus, it is more famous for it’s whites, and it is a grand terroir with some big names, like Domaine A et P de Villaine making wines from these vineyards. The 2013 Jean-Baptiste Ponsot Les Montpalais Premier Cru Rully starts with it’s pale hue with just a kiss of gold around the rim and a subtle nose of white flowers, hay, wet stones and citrus leading to a vibrant palate that is a mix of Chablis and Chassagne lets say, with vital acidity and mineral tones along with a full array of green apple, pear, white peach, nectarine flesh and a dynamic core of lemon as well as chalky river stones, saline, hazelnut and light brioche element. This wine is steely Chardonnay and while at first impression you’d think light and cooly crisp there’s more to come, it really unfolds on the palate with air and delivers rich detail, terroir and character in beautiful fashion, this is delightful and expressive stuff, highly entertaining and a stupid good value, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014LaSpinRose2014 La Spinetta, Il Rose di Casanova Della Spinetta, Toscana IGT Rosato, Italy.
The Rhino Rose, as I call it sometimes from La Spinetta’s Tuscan estate Casanova Della Spinetta is made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Prugnolo Gentile (the best clone of Sangiovese famous in Brunello and Montepulciano as in Vino Nobile) done in a dry and vital style, much less fruity than most Tuscan Rosatos with vibrant energy and refreshing character. Every year this wine seems to get better, more interesting and focused, maybe that is down to Giorgio Rivetti’s perfectionist nature or his dedication to natural and holistic farming in recent years, or both! The 2014 Il Rose di Casanova is bright, tangy and pleasing, starting with the pale hue, a golden/orange and pinkish glint comes from the glass, similar to the fine Corsican Roses, which are some made of that island Sangiovese, and the palate is fresh with zesty flavors and crisp acidity with sour cherry, strawberry essence, peach flesh, watermelon, rose oil, blonde tobacco/herbs, mixed citrus and hints of wet stones and savory mineral spice. It takes a bit of time to open up and unfold, but there is lots to enjoy and it has a wonderful sense of delicacy and subtlety with graceful steeliness and overall balance, this is a Rose that can be joyous with or without food, a good cool sipper and still deep enough to handle a range of cuisines, it should fill out some over the next 6 months to a year, but no need to wait. There is a lot of great Rose out there this year, and it will make for some tough choices, but you should get a few of these La Spinetta’s, it is seriously fun and delicious, drink over the next year.
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013LeitzEhrenfels2013 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” VDP Grosse Lage (Grosses Gewachs) Rheingau, Germany.
This absolutely gorgeous dry Riesling comes from steep slopes near the castle above the Rhein in Rudesheim’s Berg Schlossberg Cru one of the top sites in region and one I’m particularly fond of having walked this vineyard in person back in 2009, one of the greatest vineyard hikes ever! This spot gets great exposure with terraced plots and stress slate soils making it a perfect place for intense dry wines and Johannes Leitz has nailed with this 2013, this is a magical offering is damn near perfect with great extract, acidity and detail. The Leitz Grosses Gewachs Ehrenfels Schlossberg starts with lime, white flowers, orchard fruits, saline and flinty spices leading to a vibrant and vivid palate with white peach, apricot, green apple and mixed citrus, but coming back to lime and tangerine as well as mango along with wet shale, briny notes and white tea/herbal elements. This wine is very young, electric and bristling with energy and power with amazing depth, charm and length, and while I’ll always love his Kabinett and Spatlese, Johannes is proving to be as excellent in these top end dry examples too, drink from 2017 to 2028.
($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2014DehlingerRose2014 Dehlinger, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate, Russian River Valley.
Here’s a super fun wine from Dehlinger, a smooth Pinot Noir Rose that has nice dry Pinot fruit and is wonderfully textured. From estate vines in the Russian River the rare Dehlinger pink, with some 2 or 3 barrels made, is a bright and flavorful Rose with tangy/sour cherry, strawberry and watermelon fruits up front along with sweet herbs, rose water, a hint of mixed spices, nutmeg/cinnamon, a late burst of citrus and red peach. There’s not a lot of mineral or brisk intensity that you’d find in more purist examples, but that is certainly not a complaint as this fine Rose is very lush and pleasing on the palate with a lovely silky feel and the fruit is focused and lingering without being too fruity or flabby, this was well crafted and is a super addition to Dehlinger’s already impressive lineup. This highly quaffable pink is a very hard find, but worth the search, as only 15 to 20 cases are going to hit retail locations. This Rose is medium dark with vivid hues and looks terrific in the glass and has enough natural acidity to be seriously refreshing, but with enough rich, almost decadent, to be good with a full menu, this would be perfect with 4th of July parings, drink now and greedily!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010DamijanRibolla2010 Podversic Damijan, Ribolla Gialla, Venezia Giulia IGT Bianco, Gorizia, Italy.
This juicy and savory Ribolla Gialla is close to an orange wine with lots of skin contact and a golden hue in the glass, but not as funky as some making it a great introduction to the style, as it drinks easy and fresh with subtle dried herb and zesty citrus. Fermented on the skins for 60 to 90 days and aged in cigar/cone barrels for almost 2 years on the lees, no batonage, bottled and rested another 6 months before shipping, there is almost no added sulphur and the wine is as natural as it gets. The Podversic Damijan bursts from the glass with lemon/lime, rose oil, tangerine and melon notes leading the way with wet river stones, verbena, minty/spicy herbs, peach pit, apricot flesh and a mix of sour rind, candied dried citrus and chalk dust in the background. This complex white will certainly keep you guessing, it has an edgy serious side, but still offers refreshment and joyous vitality, drink now and for another 3 to 5 years as it is structured to age. This is a very compelling expression of a skin contact white, and while Ribolla Gialla gives more yellow, it is a fine example of an orange wine, best from 2015 to 2021.
($49 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013GuillemotGravains2013 Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Savigny Aux Gravains 1er Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The Pierre Guillemot 2013’s are gorgeous wines, I think they really eclipse their 2010 and 2012 wines and are great values, especially the normal Bourgogne and this beautiful Premier Cru Savigny Aux Gravains, a site and cuvee I’ve never tried from Guillemot’s offering before, what a fantastic new discovery! Domaine Pierre Guillemot, imported by Kermit Lynch, is an old school, traditional bastion of quality and value and are great drinking Burgundies for Burgundy lovers, not necessarily collectors, but people that just love enjoying good wines and want to taste true terroir, they do a couple of whites, but the focus is red and the small plot offering are all worth checking out, but if you can get your hands on the Gravains in particular for the 2013 you’ll be doing yourself a huge service, this is a stunningly detailed and pretty Pinot Noir that stands out. The 2013 Savigny Aux Gravains Premier Cru Rouge starts with hints of violets, rose petal and kirschwasser with sweet herb, forest mushroom and dark berry leading to a palate of black cherry, plum, wild raspberry and tangy currant fruits in this ruby hued Burgundy along with chalky stones, light mineral, saline, anise and tilled earth. This medium bodied effort shows real presence in the glass, poised and elegant, but with solid structure, silky tannins and typical acidity all in a flowing wine with vitality and refinement, this is one of the most complete and pleasing Guillemot Premier Cru wines I’ve ever had, the sublime floral tones and wonderful texture with just the right amount of savory elements and finesse make this a seductive and charming Burgundy, this really is brilliant stuff, drink from 2017 to 2023, though I adore it now!
($46 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013PfeffengenScheurebe2013 Weingut Pfeffingen, Scheurebe, Trocken, Pfalz, Germany.
The chalky sandstone and loamy soils are perfect and along with the Pfalz climate for beautiful and vibrant dry Scheurebe, a grape that, like Riesling can offer many different style choices from dry and tangy to rich, sweet and honeyed. This vivid and bright Pfeffengen has loads of acidity and mineral notes along with brisk citrus along with aromatic quality, this is one of the specialties of the estate, the Fuhrmann-Eymael family has been making wine for over 250 years and their winery in the Plalz is one of the top estates along with Muller-Catoir, von Winning and others. Pfeffengen and winemaker Rainer Gabel makes a great array of wines from dry table wines to powerful Grosses Gewachs along with some red wines as well, plus a top selection of sweet styles, but this dynamic and fresh Scheurebe is a great place to start and it is a wonderful Summer wine. The 2013 vintage in Germany is turning out in the bottle to be much better than anybody had hoped after two exceptional years and I think are real sleeper wines, and this wine is drinking great with pure flavors and nice extract, there is lots of energy and focus here and it is almost as exciting and intense as Riesling. The Weingut Pfeffengen Dry Scheurebe starts with a super pale hue with just a faint glint of gold/green in the glass and white flowers, herbs, verbena and tropical essences float up leading to a zesty palate of lime, grapefruit, unripe pear/apple, kiwi and peach pit with crystal clear mineral, sea salt and lemon grass. Even with air the Scheurebe maintains it’s impressive form and rush of acidity and vigor, this is a light bodied white that doesn’t disappoint and delivers on every promise, it is crisp and easy to enjoy, great with white fish, light picnic fare and wonderful on a hot day or evening just sipping by it’s self. There might be some more to come with age, but I would imagine it will be a better idea just to enjoy it young, over the next year or so. This is a winery to check out and explore, these are intriguing wines, especially this Scheurebe, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011CluselRochCoteRotie2011 Domaine Clusel-Roch, Côte-Rôtie, Rhone Red, France.
Clusel-Roch is a traditional Domaine producing a fine and beautiful example of Côte-Rôtie, they employ certified organic farming with biodynamic style, or holistic principals to ensure life, vigor and health of the vines, they use only native/natural yeast and for the Côte-Rôtie long fermentations with a two year elevage in mostly used Burgundy barrels. The domaine vinifies the Syrah (only about 4% inter planted Viognier goes in) with some whole cluster, but de-stemming is done when necessary to give more elegance and grace, and the 2011 has it all, one of the best I’ve had from the vintage with clear Syrah energy, depth and length, this is a wonderful Côte-Rôtie (Roasted Slope) expression from their tiny parcels in the Côte Brun. The soil is Schist with faded black mica, hence the name, as it now looks brown and the vines are laid out on steep terraces facing mostly south looking down on the Rhône River, this is one of the world’s great terroirs. The 2011 Côte-Rôtie from Clusel-Roch starts with violets, earth, graphite, dark berry and peppercorns leading to a supple palate of creme de cassis, a mix of green and black olives, white pepper, flinty mineral, boysenberry, cherry and damson plum as well as hints of lavender, licorice, cedar and saline. There is great harmony in the layers of flavors, a solid core structure with refined tannin, a lift of acidity and wonderful sense of texture, focus and a gorgeous long finish, in other words there is impeccable balance and detail, and while not a a flamboyant or lavish offering, it is the better for it and it should deliver sensual pleasure for years to come, there is a real charm and radiant beauty here in this stylish Rhône from Clusel-Roch, I highly recommend searching it out, imported by Charles Neal on the west coast, this is old school and natural Côte-Rôtie at it’s best, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014Grosset2014 Grosset, Riesling, Polish Hill, Clare Valley, Australia.
It is great to see Grosset back in the US and while not cheap, it is a stunning wine, and is a bucket list Riesling no question, thanks to Hudson Wine Brokers for bringing this winery back to our market after a few years away. With the world re-discovering Riesling and especially the drier styles, Grosset is a standard barer for the Aussie style, along with Pewsey Vale, Rolf Binder and Henschke, these are top class exceptionally dry wines that rival Grosses Gewachs from Germany, Austria’s dry versions, in fact Grosset reminds me most of Knoll from the Wachau, and the best from Alsace. The Grosset from Clare, really stands above, even if I adore the Eden Valley wines mentioned, and the 2014 version of Polish Hill is truly spectacular with intense lime, minty herb, grapefruit, mineral, peach and mango with great crisp extract, vibrant and juicy acidity it just explodes from the glass and is a vigorous young Riesling, hyper dry and mouth watering with nice salty notes and chalky stoniness. The Polish Hill is not your grandma’s Riesling, it is austere, vivid and light and searing on the palate, though you can sense the inner density and power, this is a special wine. Riesling goes through many stages and while it is now bright and tangy, giving lots of it’s charm, they really need years and even decades to really be mind-blowing and I think this will be one of those greats that we wish we had more of in the cellar. It is a big seductive tease right now with hints of grand moments ahead, though there is nothing wrong with drinking it now or soon. I see much more complexity and pleasure happening here in this fine Grosset, the finish is cool, steely with a whisper of verbena, apricot and some savory elements along with a whiff of mineral/shale, there is no pronounced diesel or petrol notes at this point, though I imagine in a bit of time that and waxy qualities will emerge as so often does. Drink now and often, but be sure to hide a few away too, drink from 2015 to 2029, this is a beauty!
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012StormGMR2012 Storm Wines, Grande Marque Rouge, Santa Ynez Valley.
The Storm brother’s are really making a splash these days, one in South Africa making awesome Pinot Noir in the Western Cape and the other Ernst now emerging as a new star on the central coast with his Storm Wines and especially this Chateauneuf-du-Pape inspired blend Grande Marque Rouge. Ernst, being from South Africa goes for cooler sites, like the Cape, that express deep ripe flavors, but at lower alcohol levels, so unlike Chateauneuf or Paso there is not 15-16% in his wines, they show a bit more delicacy coming in at closer to 13.5%, but with big mouth feel, texture and lush layers, I hope to review his highly acclaimed Pinot Noir offering too, particularly after this gorgeous Rhone blend. The 2012 Storm Wines Grande Marque Rouge, a blend of 43% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 14% Cinsault and 14% Syrah, starts with violets and fig paste and blackberry, hints of smoke, mineral and exotic spices along with a deep garnet/purple hue before a rich palate of black raspberry, plum, sweet red currant, candied cherry and boysenberry fruits, plus cedar, camphor, pepper, lavender oil, minty herb and fennel. There is a blueberry essence that lingers on the finish and a mid palate burst of cassis/huckleberry on the second sip, this wine gathers density and character with every taste, it has vitality, charm and is loaded with pleasure, I highly recommend checking these wines out, they are already in their 6th vintage, I can’t believe I’ve not had them before, this is really tasty and impressive stuff, and I love his brother’s, Hannes’ Storm Vrede Pinot, my favorite southern Hemisphere Pinot Noir to date. The Grande Marque Rouge is drinking wonderfully now, I can see no good reason to wait, though it can last another 5 to 7 years easy, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012AmpeleiaKepos2012 Ampeleia, Kepos di Ampeleia, IGT Rosso, Coata Toscana, Italy.
The new and exciting Maremma project by Elisabetta Foradori, Ampeleia Estate on the Tuscan Coast made in her all natural, biodymanic way using mostly Rhone varietals comes into life as this beautiful and seductive Kepos di Ampeleia 2012 made from a mix of Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan(o) plus small amounts of Alicante Bouschet and Marsellan a grape that has found a great home to this region that was a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. The Ampeleia was been around since the 2010, but not seriously imported until recently, the main wine is the Ampeleia that focuses on Cabernet Franc, similar to Duemani and Le Macchiole, but this Kepos is a gorgeous wine and looks set to be a star in it’s own right. The 2012 Kepos di Ampeleia is ruby/garnet hued with a heady perfume of dried and fresh flowers, Asian spice market and pomegranate lifts from the glass and leads to a palate of red raspberry, tangy currants, wild plum, strawberry and fleshy stone fruit along with pepper, tobacco leaf, mint and warm terra-cotta tiles. There is a light dream quality and charm to this medium weight wine, it certainly whispers I’m Italian, but exotic too, a lovely mysterious stranger, and there’s a hint of savory black licorice, cedar, earth and cinnamon stick that lingers with cherry and blueberry on the finish. Foradori, from the high regions of Alto Adige and near Trentino, and her team have made an easy adjustment to the warm Mediterranean Tuscan region, terroir which features clay, volcanic and schist soils and climate, and her wines are highly desirable and compelling, this Kepos especially and at 13% it is lively, complex and balanced, even in a warm vintage which highlights the care in the vineyards and in the cellar, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($26 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2006GomesRamisco2006 Viuva Jose Gomes da Silva & Filhos, Ramisco Collares, Ribeira de Collares, Portugal.
The Ramisco grape is only found here, and it is getting more rare with each passing year, it comes from the sea side plantings at Collares, near Sintra, northwest of Lisbon, it is a varietal that looks set for extinction with housing developments pushing it’s acreage to an ever shrinking area, this is very sad, as the Ramisco is like the Barolo or Barbaresco of Portugal. The size of the vineyards is getting tiny, I hope they find some other terroir where it can be at home, in fact the bottle size has shrunk too, the winery now sells it in a 500ml bottle, so it can make more single bottles of this wine. The 2006 Viuva Gomes da Silva Ramisco is a lovely red, showing detailed layers of flavor with good acidity, vibrancy and tannins lifting the medium weight red fruits, the color is a light ruby hue, like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo and the character and charm does remind you of Piedmonte and Barolo, though with a bit of the exotic and a touch of sea side influences, as the grape is grown in pure sand in the dunes near the Atlantic coast. There is a tangy dried currant, strawberry, plum and poached cherry core with hints of anise, tar, peach, citrus rind, herbs, saline, guava flesh, cedar and sticky flower petals with mineral, flinty spices and fine chalk dust notes. Everything comes together nicely and elegant with the age, the grip has turned smooth along this beautiful wine to meld together with style and controlled vigor, it should age gorgeously for another 10 years, this is an amazing and unique wine, best from 2015 to 2026.
($38 Est. 500ml) 94 Points, grapelive

2011BenessereSagrantino2011 Benessere Vineyards, Sagrantino, Napa Valley.
From a tiny half acre plot comes Benessere’s Sagrantino, about 4 to 6 Barrel’s worth of this gets produced, and Sagrantino is rare, especially in California, there isn’t much around, I think Benessere is the only Napa label doing it, and maybe 3 or 4 others in the whole state. Sagrantino is the great grape of Umbria in central Italy, made famous by producers like Arnaldo-Caprai and the ironic Paolo Bea, it is a deeply tannic grape, in fact it has the highest levels of polyphenols in the grape world with loads of antioxidant and power, in fact until fairly modern times most growers made only sweet wines from the varietal, it was so difficult to manage the tannic nature. Now, with gentile techniques and controlled fermentations, they’ve tamed this beast, there is almost no sweet Sagrantino now, though they are very good. While it took Umbria a long time to make Sagrantino a world class wine, and it certainly is, Benessere has a steep learning curve, but the 2011 is showing some the grape’s potential and is drinking wonderfully, I must say I am impressed by the quality and complexity found here, especially given the tough vintage, though the longer growing season and lower sugar levels may have been a blessing too, the 2011 drinks with refined grace, firm, but well polished tannins, it doesn’t feel like a monster, and it has a nice medium weight palate with tangy, minty red fruits, spice and subtle earth and herbal elements along the leather and cedary wood notes. The main flow on the palate is morello cherry, briar, strawberry and rhubarb as well as dried, dusty currant, red peach, licorice, lavender and brandied plum. At 14.2% alcohol this no whimpy effort, but it is not a jammy, party wine, it feels just about right and has a solid structure with density as well as a well judged play between savory and fruity, though it does finish dry with lingering sage, tobacco and kirsch. This will be an interesting offering to follow, I think it should be enjoyed sooner v later, best from 2016 to 2021, if you are looking for something rare from Napa this would be a good choice, it will be great companion to rustic cuisine, grilled meats and lamb come to mind, this is nice stuff. Benessere is focused on Italian varietals mostly with solid bottling of Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and now an Aglianico which I’ll be trying soon, as well as top notch Zinfandels, be sure to check them out.
($50 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

2009LaTorre2009 La Torre, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
Even with the justified hype about the 2010 Brunello wines, you shouldn’t overlook some great other vintages and individual efforts, I have found many 2008 and 2009 bottlings especially impressive, one of those is this 2009 La Torre Brunello di Montalcino, imported by Neal Rosenthal, it is expressive, earthy and generous on the palate. The La Torre is a traditional Brunello, not flashy or flamboyant, but in this warm vintage it shines with depth, density and shows ripe tannins, making it a wonderful option for youthful drinking, while you cellar your 2010 collection. On the nose the La Torre starts with a mix of earth, herb, walnut and red berries along with dried flowers, mineral and fig leading to a palate of flavors including a core of black cherry, plum, raspberry, red peach and currant as well as pepper, tobacco leaf/cigar wrapper, wild mushroom, iron ore, cedar and salted licorice. This beauty really opens up with air, filling the mouth with a lingering finish of strawberry, soy sauce and a hint of mint, and while earthy and rustic at first, it reveal layers of sweet fruit and refined tannin with a poised acidity that keeps these in check, this would be a savvy choice for short term aging and near term enjoyment, especially with cuisine to match it’s medium full body and old world Italian charm, drink from 2016 to 2022. This is a wine that made the most of it’s fine terroir and classic winemaking in a hot year, and delivers impressive form, this a sleeper to look for!
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012MannGewurz2012 Domaine Albert Mann, Gewurztraminer, Grand Cru Steingrubler, Alsace, France.
This glorious example of Gewürztraminer is a highlight in the impressive set of new releases from Domaine Albert Mann, having tasted a set of eight or so wines from this claimed producer from Alsace, all of which left me highly impressed, especially the Cru offerings. These artisan and hand crafted bottlings showcase a talent in the cellar and the absolutely remarkable terroirs of the region, there is depth of styles and varietal expression that really captures the soul of Alsace, and I adored the Schlossberg Riesling, V.T. Gewürztraminer and this beautifully detailed and richly textured Steingrubler Gewürztraminer 2012. This is a wine that reminds you that Gewurz is a serious and sensual grape, it shows juicy layers, exotic flavors and is full of perfume, spice and delicate sweetness with intense rose oil, crystalized ginger, white pepper, lychee and yellow peach leading the way along with river stones, mixed citrus, tropical essences and verbena. There is a light honey and off dry feel, but this is a balanced and vibrant wine that is very flexible, it can be enjoyed with a huge range of cuisine and or just sipped in the sun, it goes great with ham or roast bird, it goes exceptionally well with medium spicy Asian fare and can be joyous with fruit and cheese. This is a stunner, and has rekindled my love of Gewürztraminer, this along with Domaine Weinbach, are special versions and they are not only perfect Thanksgiving wines or for holiday dinners, they deserve more attention and use than that, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($38 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012OcchipintiNero2012 Arianna Occhipinti, Siccagno, Nero d’ Avola, Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
Arianna Occhipinti is a world phenomenon, and her wines illicit magical responses, she is the poster child for the natural wine movement, at only 31 years old, she has much more to offer us in the future and we can hardly wait, in the meantime her latest set of wines are intriguing, especially the 2012 Siccagno Nero d’ Avola. The new Occhipinti Nero d’ Avola shows fine detail and vibrancy with an earthy side, it starts with dried violets, blueberry, porcini, hints of chalk dust, leather and a mix of dark cherry and currant leading to a light/medium mouth feel, there is always texture and finesse in Arianna’s wines and this Nero is as expected pleasing, sensual and a bit wild in nature with forest berries, loamy, game, roasted herbs, anise and spicy mineral. It might sounds cliche, but this does have a quality of Nuits-St.-Georges about it, but still lets you know it is pure Occhipinti, organic, natural/native yeast fermented, with very low sulphur and aged in mostly neutral barrel, in the glass. The finish is lingering and seductive with a nice play of strawberry, huckleberry, cedar/walnut and saline/savory elements, and it is dense, but with vital freshness, being only about 13% alcohol, and it is balanced, soulful and honest throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012LoimerPN2012 Loimer, Pinot Noir, Langenlois, Austria.
Fred Loimer styles some pretty wines and his Pinot Noir is an elegant and earthy wine that really shines in good vintages, and 2012 is such a year, though I can’t wait to try the 2013, which looks set to be even better. I have long been a fan of Loimer, having tasted them more than a few times over the last 7 or 8 years, and I was thrilled by his 2004, 2005 and 2006 wines, these were Pinots I bought for myself, and this 2012 is much the same with Burgundy like qualities, though still very much an Austrian wine, some say Austrian Pinot is like German meets Italian (Alto Adige Pinot Nero) but I don’t see that in the flavors, these Austrian wines have their own character, soul and the terroir is very different, there isn’t the slate that makes some of the German Pinots so intriguing and there are not too like the Sud Tirol offerings in my opinion. The 2012 Loimer starts with loamy and leafy earthiness, spiced red fruits, dried flowers, smoke and graphite leading to a plum and cherry fruited palate with some raspberry, mushroom, saddle leather, tea spice and crushed stones along with hints of rose petal and violets. The Loimer Pinot has fine tannins, a streak of soft acidity and feels light and delicate in mouth, but gathers some body with air and has nice length and leaves extract and tangy red currant notes on the finish. This is not a flamboyant offering, but alluring with poise and well crafted quality, I highly recommend giving it a go if you are looking for something with natural graces and different, drink from 2015 to 2020, this is a really lovely wine.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014DupuyRose2014 Domaine Dupuy de Lome, Bandol Rose, Provence, France.
It’s the season, the time of year you throw your paychecks at Rose and live through the hot summer months bathed in a pink glow! Nothing says, F*CK IT, I want to live well, better than Bandol Rose, it is a right of Summer,  and this new Dupuy de Lome is a smart choice, it is almost Tempier quality juice at almost half the price making it a savvy deal and a great little pink friend. The 2014 Domaine Dupuy de Lome comes from old vines and one of the most dramaticly beautiful estates in Southern France, the pictures from here are stunning with the Mediterranean Sea, pine forrest, exposed rocks, vines and ancient castle/chateau all add to the romance and certainly the terroir here is prime contributing to the fine detailed flavors. The cepage for the Dupuy de Lome is mostly, about 80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault, higher in Grenache for 2014 than normal, but it adds a bit of fruit to this austere and charming Pink which is welcome, it shows good cut and mineral notes along with spice and has nice depth and mouth fell. The Bandol Rose starts with a steely sea breeze note, citrus and tangy cherry with a hint of rose water and lavender leading to a palate of tart fruit and stony layers with strawberry, grapefruit, watermelon and fresh red peach along with pepper, saline, flint and gauva tea. There is mouth watering acidity, cleansing and vibrant, making this a zesty dry Rose that has a hint of tannin and a lingering finish, drink over the next year or so, amazingly enough people are developing a taste for short term aging of their Roses and like the mature wax and caramel notes of 2 or 3 year old stuff, especially Bandol, but I enjoy mine extremely brisk and youthful, between now and next Spring! The Tempier will still tempt me into a few bottles, but with this gorgeous effort I’ll be investing even more cash and getting lots more for it!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012BibiSoffocone2012 Bibi Graetz, Soffocone di Vincigliata, IGT Rosso, Toscana, Italy.
The Graetz Soffocone is made up of single vineyard fruit, 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3% Colorino from the Fiesole zone, near Florence, it is fermented in stainless steal and aged in primarily used French barriques, it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and not just for it’s label and name! The label and name, which in Italian means blowjob, somehow has made it through ATF screening, much to many smiles and giggles and it has been called a very naughty wine, but forgetting this selling point, this is a superb Tuscan red that delivers almost as much pleasure as it’s name, sorry couldn’t resist… From what I understand the hills around Florence have been popular with young lovers looking for romance and a certain privacy, and Graetz has a few times discovered this near his vineyard in Fissile, and being the artist he is, he designed the label to honor these lovers. Bibi Graetz’s Fiesole vineyard Vincigliata is over 30 years old now and provides some impressive flavors and terroir, he also now does a traditionally labeled Chianti DOCG from these vines as well, first release is also like this Soffocone, a 2012, it is maybe a slight step up from the Chianti in it’s price range and deserves attention as well, plus Graetz’s top wine the Testamata is one of the top 100% Sangiovese wines available, though it comes from a small site in Grieve, Chianti Classico, plus there is a very special white wine, Bugia from the Isola del Giglio, a small Tuscan island where Graetz found an ancient Ansonica vineyard, it is a lovely, rare and intriguing wine as well. The 2012 Soffocone di Vincigliata IGT Toscana Rosso starts with a hint of sweet smoke, dried flowers, Spring herbs and earthy red fruits leading to a medium/full palate of raspberry, cherry, strawberry, black plum and tangy currant fruits along with tobacco leaf, soy sauce, minty herb, mineral notes, vanilla, anise and porcini. There is a lovely mouth feel, don’t snicker, silky tannins, a lift of acidity, even in this warm vintage everything comes together nicely with good depth of character and charm, this is a very well balanced wine, the fruit is ripe and pleasing, but controlled with good savory and earthy elements which linger on the finish with the red berry. This wine will aged, though I don’t think you want to test it’s limits in the cellar, best from 2015 to 2020
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013MelvilleVernasPN2013 Melville, Pinot Noir, Verna’s Estate, Santa Barbara County.
The latest and maybe the last Melville Verna’s Pinot Noir is a wonderful and juicy wine with pure Pinot fruit and character, another outstanding value from Chad Melville and winemaker Greg Brewer. The Melville wines only get into neutral barrel, they have partial whole cluster and they are vivid and richly flavored, especially good in 2013 is this Verna’s Pinot Noir, though be sure to also keep an eye out for the 2013 Syrah, both the Verna’s and the Estate as they are super efforts as well. Melville, over the last decade, has established it’s self as one of California’s top family wineries and has solidified the career of Greg Brewer and made him one of America’s most influential and admired winemakers, and these 2013 and 2014 wines show there is no let up and that Melville is still a label to follow. The 2013 Verna’s Pinot starts with wild strawberry, pomegranate, chalk dust, rose petal, minty herb and slate/spice leading to a palate of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, plus Asian spice, tea leaf, earth, red peach, a hint of wood, baking spice and sweet fennel. This vintage is medium bodied and well balanced with silky textures, smooth acidity and a good finish, this wine really punches above it’s price, and it should gain with short term aging, best from 2016 to 2021, when it hits it’s sweet spot, this is one of the best under $30 bottles you can find in Pinot, don’t miss it.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012RidgeMataro2012 Ridge Vineyards, Mataro, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
Finally back in the lineup is the fabulous Ridge Mataro (Mourvedre) from their Lytton Springs estate vines, this wonderful and plush red has lots of deep red and black fruits, spice and plenty of grippy ripe tannins, it is a lovely mouthful of wine and great with BBQ and a wide range of meat or mushroom dishes. Think of this as a California Bandol, a big and sexy red that has nice balance and lots of character, with 15% Petite Sirah adding a deep color, bitter coco notes and a hint of dry Port. As much as I adore the Lytton Springs Zin blend, I think this 2012 Mataro is fast becoming one of my favorites, especially in this vintage which shows good depth and sweet fruit, but stays in control with perfect integration of alcohol, at about 14%, oak and fruit, it just does everything you’d want and well, it certainly will age nicely, though you will really enjoy it even now, as I did recently, after sampling it at Ridge’s Lytton Springs tasting room, where I bought a few bottles, of which I now have exhausted! The 2012 Mataro starts with dark berries, dried violets, savory herbs and red pepper leading to a full bodied palate of black cherry, poached plum, blackberry, blueberry and mountain raspberry fruits with briar notes, anise, creme de cassis, cracked peppercorns, chalky tannins, a hint of game, lavender oil, sage, cedar, a touch of smoke and vanilla, finishes with dusty dark chocolate, savory spice and stones along with lingering red currant. There is a great play of dense fruit, that feels rich and sweet, but also a backbone of firm dry elements, as mentioned, a supporting savoriness that keeps this in check and interesting, this wine is simply seductive and slightly wild at heart, drink between 2015 and 2024, I hope I find a few more bottles myself! Ridge continues to make stylish and intriguing California wines with soul, these are wonderful celebrations in the bottle, great people and great wines, it is always a must visit stop when in Dry Creek.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014LeitzRose2014 Weingut Leitz, Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany.
The new Leitz Spatburgunder Rose Trocken is a great summer wine with riveting acidity and mineral intensity, it drinks like a pink Riesling and it is wonderfully fresh and vibrant. This wine joins Meyer-Nakel and Schlossgut Diel in my short list of great German Roses, it is very serious, but uniquely festive and invigorating with subtle fruitiness and austere charm with it’s stony dry character. The 2014 Leitz Rose of Pinot Noir starts with liquid mineral, pepper and delicate rose oil with a bright pink and salmon hue leading to a zesty and zippy palate of eye popping limeade, grapefruit, tangerine, red peach, sour cherry, a hint of watermelon and a whisper of strawberry, but it is the tangy citrus that leads the way along with wet river stones, flinty spices and a steely core essence. This is mouth watering and crispy dry Rose that sings a refreshing and electric song throughout, it is absolutely delicious and vivid in detail, it is the perfect read a book by the pool wine, and or with almost any cuisine as a starter or picnics. There is more mineral and acidity than fruit giving a light and tight expression, and I really like that, though it should gain some benefits from age, I see this as a two or three year Rose, it might just fill out over the next year in bottle, but like I said I dig it just the way it is and will be quaffing plenty of this summer sizzle pink myself, thanks Johannes for making this stuff! Weingut Leitz is now imported by Schatzi Wines and you should check out the latest offerings beyond this outstanding Rose, the 2013 Rieslings are an amazing set of Rheingau wines, especially intriguing are the new G.G. Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Ehrenfels, the Roseneck Spatlese and the Drachenstein QbA, AKA Dragonstone, one of the best off dry Rieslings for the price anywhere!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

May 2015

2013DonnalunaFiano2013 Viticoltori De Conciliis, Donnaluna, Fiano Paestum IGP, Campania, Italy.
The Donnaluna Fiano by De Conciliis is a beautiful and mineral driven white from Italy’s underrated South, it shows wonderful life, vitality and has a nice play of crisp fruit, savory spice and texture. Interestingly, De Conciliis uses whole cluster and stem inclusion for the start of fermentation, temp control allows cool ferments and after reaching about 2-3% the skins and stems are removed after a gentle press, then the wine is allowed to go through full malo and the Fiano stays on the lees 12 months with only a light fining, no filtering with very low sulphur, all is stainless. This is an artful process and preserves fresh detail and gives layers of character, this Fiano is serious stuff and it is certainly an admirable effort from this superb certified organic winery, their Falanghina and Aglianico wines are also brilliant and should be sought after too. The 2013 Fiano starts with exotic notes of floral and mineral, along with hints of flint, sea breeze and chamomile leading to a vibrant palate of pear, lemon/lime, dried apricot, wet stones, peach pit and wild herbs. There is some body as the wine warms and lingering honey, verbena and a savory/chalky note, but chilled nicely there is a pure steely briskness that keeps this wine in firm control, this is a great sea food white, perfect for trout too, drink it over the next 12 to 18 months, though I expect it to age well for 3 to 5 years.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012OstatuCrianza2012 Ostatu, Rioja D.O. Crianza, Rioja Alavesa, Spain.
The new Ostatu Crianza is a stunner! This is a fine and beautiful Rioja with an amazing amount of detail, depth and class for the price, it is shockingly good and a great example of individual house style, terroir and varietal coming together in one wine. Ostatu makes a super lineup of wines from Rose/Rosado and white to Crianza and Reserva(s) all from the upper reaches of Rioja Alavesa where it is slightly cooler and has more interesting soils. I think this Crianza is favorite, I like and admire the finesse, structure and freshness to be found here and it just does everything well, it is a hugely pleasing Tempranillo with grace, vigor and length. The 2012 starts with a haunting and heady perfume of violets and acacia flowers, a hint of smoky wood, deep dark fruits and a mix of cinnamon and anise leading to a round palate of blackberry, plum and creamy black cherry fruits, tangy dried currants, vanilla, a touch of mineral, stones and lingering compote. The fruit is ripe, but with bright pop, silky tannins and very subtle cedar wood and the whole is a complete package, this is a vibrant, rich and balanced red of nice density and medium/full weight, it should drink wonderfully over the next 3 to 5 years, but honestly you should enjoy this Rioja Crianza now and often, you just can’t find this kind of pure and delicious wine at this price, this blows away Bordeaux and Napa options in this price class.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014NVAlbarino2014 Neighborhood Vineyards, Albarino, Silt and Strata, Central Coast.
In the future Neighborhood Vineyards will be making wine in San Francisco from vines at their Alemany Farms Vineyard in the City, they may even get their first crop this harvest, but in the meantime we can enjoy the latest offerings of Central Coast wines they have put out, and especially good is the new Neighborhood Vineyards Albarino! Elly Hartshorn is on a roll, her latest Pinots and this great Albarino Silt & Strata are all outstanding, and I can’t wait to see her San Francisco Wines get started, it is an awesome project that will add a lot of fun to the San Francisco wine community. Her just released Albarino is one of the best made from this Spanish grape from northwest Spain and parts of Portugal and it shows true cool climate varietal character and zesty mineral driven intensity. The 2014 Neighborhood Vineyards Silt & Strata Albarino starts with delicate rose petal and white flower, sea shore essences, wild herbs and nectarine leading to a palate of brisk citrus fruits, unripe green apple, apricot and peach pit, river stones and mouth watering saline. This is a vibrant white wine with loads of eye popping acidity and refreshing zing, a great summer crowd pleaser that finishes with a hint of basil and tangerine, this is a light bodied dry Albarino that really pays tribute to it’s roots. Only a couple of barrels of this bright and lively wine were produced, so you’ll have to look hard, but it will be worth it, drink over the next year or so.
($18 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

2013KnezPN2013 Knez, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
Anthony Filbert makes some beautiful wines and the latest Knez release is a glorious example of Pinot Noir with stunning detail, refinement and class, starting with a clear perfumed bouquet, delicate fruit and subtle layers of earth and mineral all wrapped up in balanced texture, do not miss this 2013 Knez Anderson Valley. Coming off estate vines mostly planted to heritage clones and farmed with great care to the land and fermented using native yeast the 2013 Knez has a gorgeous natural feel and is very compelling in the glass, though I suspect it will really fill out and gain depth with another year or so in bottle, the vintage seems more generous that 2011 or 2012, but I think there is more to come. Filiberti still is part of Anthill Farms, and has made wine at Penner-Ash, Bergstrom and Williams-Selyem, he resume is very impressive, but his wines more than speak for themselves, this is a talented and passionate winemaker that is really hitting on all cylinders and turning out some majestic and exceptional efforts. This 2013 is lovely, and a superb value, showing a ruby red hue, an enticing floral nose and a palate of finessed fruit including dark raspberry, black cherry, plum and wild strawberry along with stone and mineral notes, spice, tea, fennel, rose petal, herbs and tangy died currant, plus saline, red peach, cedar and a hint of loamy/dusty earth. There is lifting acidity and satiny tannins in the medium bodied Pinot, and there is a juicy brightness throughout, this is a young and vibrant wine that turns a tiny bit shy on the mid palate and needs a little time to unfold, A year should bring even better rewards, drink this beauty from 2016 to 2020.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014JamainPG2014 Denis Jamain Domaine de Reuilly, Pinot Gris, Reuilly AC, Loire Valley, France.
This is an electric and intriguing white from Denis Jamain at Domaine de Reuilly in France’s Loire Valley, and it is unique for being Pinot Gris and that with it’s subtle skin contact it is sometimes thought of as a Rose. The 2014 is more golden in color, it is not as pinkish in hue as it can be, but it still will be drunk as if it was a Rose, even though it is not from a red grape, and why not, it is exotic, delicious and vibrantly refreshing. This mineral driven wine is exciting and vivid with steely notes, zesty acidity and is totally dry on the palate, this is a great Summer sipper and goes well with lots of cuisine options, and it is just too cool and fun to miss, so don’t! The latest version of the Jamain Pinot Gris, again starts with the golden color with a faint hint of orange this year, with white flowers, pea gravel, peach and a mix of citrus, sour cherry and tropical fruits along with flinty mineral, saline and melon notes. Rather than fruity or savory, this wine always shows mineral and stones foremost, it is delicate and detailed with a kick of acidity, it is best served very chilled and should be drunk over the coming year, young and vital. This is a wine that is not easy to classify or put into a perfect box, but it has a niche and a solid following, it’s a Pinot Gris gone native, an example of a terroir stamping it’s mark on the varietal and a winemaker guiding it to a special place, I love it for it’s style and racy character, I highly recommend you look out for it and enjoy it on the warm days ahead, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013KnollRiesling2013 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Federspiel, Loibner Wachau, Austria.
Knoll is one of the top performers in Austrian white wine, there is no question year in and year out these are wines to cherish, but 2013 is a remarkable and special vintage, and you should search them out. The basic level Federspiel Loibner Riesling is a very brisk dry wine with vigorous acidity and light extract, but it has plenty of flavor and sex appeal with exotic fruit and stony mineral adding to the classic lemon/lime and white peach core along with dried apricot, hints of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon grass, straw, brine and white tea. This wine is electric, zesty and mouth watering, it shows an austere nature with a steely edge, though very poised, likable and pleasing, especially compelling with food, I was thrilled how well it went spicy lobster and crab meat, and it would be gorgeous with speck, or cured ham as well as many other cuisine choices. With air it looses some of it’s sharper edges and as it warms a few notches in the glass there is a feeling of more density and width, and there is a bit more bouquet with subtle white flowers, and sandy salty seashore notes. This is a year to own any of Knoll’s wines, and this one is a top value and drinks fantastic, best from 2016 to 2024.
($36 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013KesnerChard2013 Kesner, Chardonnay, Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ever since Jason Kesner started making his own wine, after being assistant winemaker at Kistler, his wines have been spectacular, and these 2013’s look to eclipse all prior efforts, especially fascinating is the Heintz single vineyard Chardonnay, this is a wine that rivals the best from Peter Michael, Aubert and Ramey, a while a bit richer, it is in the same league as Ted Lemon’s best at Littorai, plus while not really comparable to white Burgundy, it does remind me a little of the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey wines in texture and drive, high praise indeed! This Kesner 2013 is deep and full flavored with layers of lemon, honeysuckle, tropical fruit, kiwi, quince and clove spice with just a kiss of oak toast, wet river stones and hazelnut. This wine has vigor, zesty intensity and certainly will age 10 years easy, beautifully and artfully crafted showing class, hedonism and focused detail, this is serious stuff, delicious and decedent and almost half the price of the wines of which it competes! Drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, though I like I mentioned I can see this being a fun option to cellar for a decade too, best from 2016 to 2021.
($60 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2013ExileRose2013 Lise et Bertrand Jousset, Exile, Rose Petillant Naturel (Gamay) Vin de France, Loire Valley Sparkling Wine, France.
the Exile, from non estate fruit comes from 50 year old Gamay vines and it a beautiful and fun Rose Sparkler that is set to cheer up your Summer, this Pet-Nat is lively, flavorful, the extra year before bottling really helps give more depth and detail, this is an exciting example. The grapes come fro an organic vineyard in Loire-et-Cher, and Jousset put in the ultra artisan effort to produce a complex and stylish Petillant Naturel, and while it may not be as thrilling as their estate Chenin Blanc version, it certainly will entertain anyone looking for serious bubbly, and it shows a bit more sassy/flamboyant nature with the Gamay really shinning through. The nose has nice lees notes, sour cherry, herbs and a touch of brioche along with a mix of fruit and floral elements leading to a dry, tight moussed palate of subtle citrus, tangy cherry, strawberry, watermelon and the tiniest of hints of blueberry plus a steely mineral core. This is bright, fresh and vivid Rose and it remains zesty and vibrant in the glass, but with a surprisingly decedent mouth feel and wow factor, with Pet-Nat’s all the rage, you’ll want to jump on board the Love them bubbles Train soon, and this one is an exceptionally good place to start these really good Dry Sparklers, these are hand crafted wines that make for great alternatives to pricier Champagne and way better than mass produced Charmat method, these are all natural wines that create their own bubbles and offer superb quality and value along with lots of smiles and joy, if you’ve not caught the Petillant Naturel bug yet, now is a great time to start, it is a real craze, but with serious staying power, and Jousset, imported by Return to Terroir makes some of the finest offerings. Drink the Exile Gamay Rose Pet-Nat over the coming couple of years, it will be a great sipper on warm afternoons and is fabulous pre dinner and with meals, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($21 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012GiovanniRossoNebbiolo2012 Giovanni Rosso, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Here is a serious and charming Nebbiolo from Davide Rosso, who is making a big name for himself in recent vintages, this a label to buy now and keep an eye on, the  latest set are some of his most compelling offerings, especially good is this Langhe Nebbiolo, which is on par with many a costlier Barolo! I tried some of his earlier 2008 wines and loved them immediately for their quality, character and finesse, this guy is making some beauties! There is more joy in this Nebbiolo that one would hope for in a wine in this price class, in fact as mentioned, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were drinking a Barolo, maybe not a top Cru, but you get the idea, this is great stuff. The nose of Davide’s Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo starts with dried roses, hints of incense, tar, kirsch and menthol leading to a complex palate of black cherry, damson plum, balsamico dipped strawberry and dried red currant along with iron tinged mineral, salted black licorice, cedar and olive/herb notes. The weight is medium bodied, with 14% alcohol, good fine tannins and well judged acidity and focus, this shows youthful grip, but is alluring and hard to resist, drink from 2015 to 2021, impressive, classy and pure all the way.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013GiovanniRossoBarbera2013 Giovanni Rosso, Barbera d’ Alba DOC, Donna Margherita, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Giovanni Rosso Barbera Donna Margherita is a pretty and stylish effort with surprising depth and length for this difficult vintage, if you are buying 2013 Barbera, then you will want to check this one out, one of the finest efforts I’ve tasted for the year. Davide Rosso is doing some fabulous work here and his lineup is amazingly strong from Barbera to Barolo, he is a guy to watch, if you’ve not tried his wines, it is time! The latest Donna Margherita Babera d’ Alba is darkly hued, brightly flavored and subtly spicy. The nose features sweet fruity notes, floral elements with hints of mineral and herbs leading to a fresh mouth full of blackberry, plum and tangy currant along with mint, mix spices, cedar and anise, the finish shows fine tannins and lingering fruit essences. Drinking superb right now, best over the next few years, 2015 to 2017.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013RafaelPN2013 Rafael et Fils, Pinot Noir, Lauren’s Cuvee, Donnelly Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Marc Rafael has been inspired by the new generation of young winemakers and the new generation of growers making and farming to produce lower alcohol, European style wines, this especially shows in the new and elegant Rafael Lauren’s Cuvee Pinot from Anderson Valley’s Donnelly Creek Vineyard. This beautifully detailed Pinot comes in at Burgundy like 12.9% Alcohol and shows the soft and brighter side of this varietal with juicy red cherry, plum and strawberry fruits, tea spice, rose oil and dried flowers along with silky tannins, red peach notes, vibrant acidity, cinnamon stick, anise, light toasty wood/cedar and a whiff of vanilla wafer. While known for his esteemed Napa Valley estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Marc deserves a lot of credit for his new and delightful Pinot, it is a worthy and serious effort, a great addition to his lineup of hand crafted wines, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2009Levet2009 Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie, Les Journaries, Northern Rhone, France.
I was first introduced to the Levet wines with the 2005 vintages, and I was instantly smitten with them, the following three vintages even proved better still, and now the 2009 is out and it is hard to not absolutely love it, the Les Journaries is a wonderful Syrah from one of Cote-Rotie(s) best sites, the La Landonne Lieu-Dit in Ampuis. Neal Rosenthal, importer, while giving a seminar on his personal favorite wines, styles and terroirs picked this wine out in particular to show his preference for true authentic wines, and without question you can taste and feel that in this lovely and slightly funky wine. My written tasting note, starts with “Absolutely gorgeous Cote-Rotie” though very much what I felt in the moment I must also note that is not the polished, smoky sweet style that you see mostly these days, this is old world stuff that may even remind you of Hermitage or Cornas with loads of character, earthy/gamey elements and some solid/robust tannins. The Levet Cote-Rotie Les Journaries was fermented in epoxy lined vats, it see almost all stems included and is raised in mixed size wood for three years, the malo takes up to a year in big cask, then the wine is transferred to demi-muids, though some gets into small barrels, only about 10-15% of any oak is new, there is a light fining, but it is not filtered. The result is impressive and deeply flavorful, especially this warm vintage 2009 which really lends itself to Levet’s style and allows early drinking pleasure on a wine that ages sublimely and usually requires some patience. The 2009 Les Journaries starts with a heady mix of dried wild flowers, violets, cigar wrapped, white pepper, bacon fat and fig paste along with black fruits, the palate is full and dense with blackberry, boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry and dried currant fruits as well as graphite, truffle/loamy notes, fresh tilled soil, flinty/iron and lavender oil with a touch of cedar, anise and mixed spice. You can feel the stems, but they add charm and grip, this is not a shy wine, but there is a classic not perfect grace that shines through and it keeps you totally involved and intrigued throughout, this is pleasing and entertaining stuff, drink from 2016 to 2027.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013CalozBernunes2013 Cave Anne-Carole et Conrad Caloz, Cornalin, du Lieu-Dit Les Bernunes, A.O.C. Valais, Switzerland.
The 2013 Cave Caloz Cornalin du Lieu-Dit Les Bernunes is a stunning wine with beautiful color, perfume, soft tannins, elegant acidity and wonderfully layered flavors that are stylish and complex, Caloz is fast becoming one of my favorite wineries, from steep vines in Valais Switzerland where the family Caloz, Anne-Carole, Conrad (King of the Mountain) and Sandrine farm a small estate and make some of the greatest Swiss wine. Cornalin is a native varietal, almost exclusive to Valais, it makes for a gorgeous wine in Caloz hands, the 2013 is a vibrant and elegant example with detailed floral tones with hints of violets, dried roses and spring flowers, a ruby hue in the glass, mineral tones, spicy notes and a medium weighted body with expressive dark fruits, black currant, plum, red peach, tangy cherry, blueberry, cranberry and fittingly mountain berry along with a hint of red pepper, minty herbs, saline and a stony/gravel element. At 13% this is a balanced and vibrant wine that is plenty rich and interesting, it is unfiltered and is as pure as the alpine air. Caloz is the real deal, this is a graceful and alluring wine, and you should look for it, even with a horrible exchange rate with the Swiss Franc, these are intriguing and noble efforts. Drink the Cornalin over the next 3 to 5 years, it is super impressive, they also grow some Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a Pinot hybrid as well as make a dry white wine, plus a barrique aged Cornalin, all of which merit attention. That all said, the Les Bernunes version is delightful, playful and extremely joyous in the glass, drinking somewhere between a fine Burgundy and St. Joseph, with a style that reminds me of Jean Foillard’s Morgon, drink this excellent Swiss red between 2015 and 2023.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012JobardBlanc2012 Antoine Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, White Burgundy, France.
The deep and concentrated 2012 Bourgogne Blanc, the basic white, is rather much more than you’d expect, a small crop of grapes loaded with flavor all coming from 20 year old vines in Meursault, yes by any other name, this is Meursault from one of the regions most respected Domaines. The 2012 Bourgogne Blanc is energy filled, bursting with intensity as you’d expect from this label, these wines are always laser like sharp and precise with gripping acidity and with forceful mineral tones, truly terroir driven, you can taste the dusty limestone and river rocks. This version is bold and dense with white flowers, lime and lemon citrus, brine, wet stones, steely/liquid mineral, clove, a hint of wood and some green apple plus tangy peach pit. This is racy stuff, classic and with loads of character, charm and vibrancy, it was crafted by Jobard in artisan fashion in mostly used oak, but with up to 20% new, it was fermented in wood, though you’d never guess that and it saw lees aging, and was bottled unfined. This is serious Chardonnay and while insiders and Kermit Lynch fans have been trying to keep this all to themselves, this is one of the best secret values in white Burgundy, I highly recommend searching this out and stocking up, this vintage is stunning and is a step up from the last 2 or 3 vintages, which were exceptional wines as well! Drink this wine anytime for pure Burgundy class and pleasure, but it should be a superb wine to lose in the cellar for a few years too, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($40 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2010Muga2010 Bodegas Muga, Rioja DO, Reserva Selección Especial, Spain.
I love the 2010 Muga(s) especially this Seleccion Especial Rioja Reserva, they are dynamic, fresh and vital reds with loads of personality and charm, I think at this price point, these are a great alternative to Bordeaux or new world Cab. The Muga is a polished, poised and full bodied effort with superb focus and balance, even though it does still show off it’s sweet wood notes, though in time it should get massively better, this looks set to have an extremely long drinking window, it should be a savvy cellar choice, there is a lot of quality here for the money and it certainly is a wonderfully attractive Rioja, maybe close to Remelluri in that sense, both offer fantastic value. The 2010 Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial starts with a deep color in the glass and a dark fruit and toasty wood note on the nose with a bouquet of dried flowers, vanilla, cassis and creamy kirsch leading to a sweet tannin filled palate of blackberry, plum and cherry fruits with pipe tobacco, graphite, mineral tones, a hint of loamy earth, cedar and walnut, bitter coco and anise. Everything folds together nicely and there is a nice lift of acidity, and with air the texture fills the mouth in smooth fashion, this has some youth and vigor making it very good with food at this stage, though over time it will get even richer, denser and more complex. Mostly Tempranillo here, and it tastes of it, very pure and lengthy, this is true Rioja and a great Muga, drink over the next 10 to 15 years.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011Badenhorst2011 Badenhorst, Family Red, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
The A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines Proprietary Red 2011 is a revelation, this stunning cuvee is on par with many fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape at twice the price, this effort deserves lots of merit and is just another sign of just how far South Africa has come in recent years, especially with unique Rhone style wines. This Badenhorst and the Sadie Family wines just blew me away, no question this is a complete revolution and a dramatic new era in which young winemakers are thriving in, South Africa is certainly a special wine growing region and as they find their niche and perfect the vineyards you are going to see even better wines emerge, this is exciting times near the Cape. The 2011 Badenhorst red is made up of Shiraz (Syrah), Cinsault, Tinta Barocca (a lesser known Portuguese red grape), Grenache and Mourvedre and it is deep, spicy and full of gorgeous layers of fruit, mineral, earth and savory elements that build impressively on the rich palate, ripe tannin and juicy acidity hold things together and the balance, cut and focus are near perfect. The bouquet starts with a light floral perfume along with an array of red spices, bacon and dark berries which leads to deep and vigorous wine that shows a opaque garnet hue in the glass with boysenberry, blueberry, wild plum, morello cherry and tangy currant fruits with cracked pepper, smoked boar, sweet framboise, cinnamon, dusty stones, licorice and cedar notes. This is a serious offering from Badenhorst and there is real depth, style and charm here, it flows with intriguing character from start to finish, it seems to be in no need of anything and can be enjoyed now, though I’m sure it will be just as good if not a touch better in 3 to 5 years time, though it is hard to imagine too many cellaring this sexy red for too long, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013Dragonstone2013 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Dragonstone, Rheingau, Germany.
The Rudesheimer Drachenstein is full of quartzite with some slate, clay and loose soils, it is unique site and it gives the Leitz Dragonstone is flavor, it is a rich and pure Riesling showing upfront fruity character along with perky vibrancy. The vintage 2013 version is a touch lighter than either the 2011 or 2012, but doesn’t suffer for it, and is drinking wonderfully at present with a focus of crystalline mineral, yellow peach and soft tropical notes to go with bright and zesty citrus, lemongrass and honeycomb. The palate feels lush and weighty with about Kabinett levels of sweetness or a touch more, but you don’t taste a cloying sensation or are hit with sugar, more in texture which turns a touch creamy, without losing any vigor making the new Dragonstone by Johannes Leitz a pleasing wine and a very flexible one, it should be a great companion to all sorts of cuisine and makes for a relaxing sipper as well, especially on the warm evenings of late Spring and Summer. There is a hint of flinty spice, green apple and lemon/lime that go well with the chalky salty stone and brine notes in the background, this wine gets more appealing in the glass, lingering with candied dried pineapple, and it has plenty of charm and class, it proves again you do not always need a Trocken or bone dry wine to be very happy, I’ve always been been a fan of this wine and it is without question a super value for the quality, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013PiedrasassiPS2013 Piedrasassi, Syrah, PS, Central Coast.
One of California’s best kept secrets, the Sashi Moorman PS Syrah is a lovely and groovy wine with nervy whole cluster/stemmy character and beautiful opaque blue/purple/black hues in the glass. The 2013 is an opulent and riveting version that really reminds me of Auguste Clape’s baby Cornas, the Le Vin des Amis, this is thrilling stuff, especially for the price, and while never easy to find, at 480 cases made it should not be impossible to source some, oh and yeah, you really, really should get as much as you can, in case you didn’t catch my drift! Sasha makes the Stolpman wines, and consults for Raj Parr’s Sandhi and is the director of winemaking at Evening Land/Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon, he certainly is in the top echelon of modern winemakers, his style is not shy, but the wines are always balanced, poised and show a purity of fruit. The 2013 PS shows a deft touch, managing the stem inclusion to perfection and allowing the inner beauty of the grapes to shine, there’s pretty floral tones, spice, mineral, earthiness and deep dark layers of fruit starting with a heady mix of violets, pepper, burnt embers, creme de cassis and dried celery along with blueberry, boysenberry and damson plum fruit that forms of core around which the rest adds background complexity. There is hints of lavender, anise, chalky stones, espresso, a touch of cedar and black olives that come through as well and the finish is good and has nice length, this is stylish stuff with enough edge to keep things interesting, the balance and focus are ever present with mild ripe tannins and a subtle energy from the acidity and at 14.1% this is a medium to full bodied red that impresses and pleases, drink from 2015 to 2021, look for bit more aromatic enhancement and depth to come through with another 6 months to a year in bottle, but it is hard to resist now!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014AmeztoiRose2014 Ameztoi, Rose, Getariako Txakolina, Rubentis, Spain.
The latest Ameztoi is bursting with energy and has a sexy array of vibrant flavors, it is always a fun and entertaining pink, excitingly zesty, dry and almost with a spritz, don’t miss this Basque rarity, especially this new 2014 version. At first this eye-popping Rose puckers you with impressive tang, but as you adjust to it’s vivid crisp intensity you feel refreshed and alive and the wine’s lovable charm and character win you over completely, this is one of the all time great summer wines, it is alive, vivacious and wonderfully quaffable. The nose is full of mineral, citrus and wet stones with a hint of strawberry, loam and floral/spice leading to that extremely light and sizzling palate of watermelon, sour cherry, red peach, grapefruit, rosewater and wild herbs along with a touch of salt lick, wet stones and lingering grenadine. Pulling this beautiful Rose out of an ice bucket at a backyard BBQ is pure heaven, this is great and easy pink wine, super dry and delicate, it brings lots of smiles and laughter, what’s not to love. Ameztoi makes a fine set of Txakolina, and their white is also one to look for, the 2014 is a bit fruity with a Riesling meets Muscadet melding to it, but still feels dry and zingy, but it’s their lovely pink that really steals the show, drink now and as long as you can find it!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011FelsinaRancia2011 Felsina, Rancia, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany, Italy.
The Felsina lineup of Chianti Classico is a gorgeous group and 2010, 2011 and 2013 look wonderful and interesting from the basic Classic to the Gran Selezione Colonia, but I must say the Rancia is just stunning, it is a flowing sexy wine that is opulent, hedonistic and gracefully balanced. Even from this ripe and warm vintage, the Felsina delivers poise, class and focus, it is well crafted and is a total package of precise form and detail, it is hard not to love this stunning example of pure Sangiovese from the Castelnuovo Berardenga commune of Chianti Classico. The Felsina 2011 Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva starts with a bouquet of floral perfume, smoke, a mix of sweet and savory spices and roasted herbs, mint and red fruits leading to a layered palate of mulberry, black cherry, raspberry, plum and dark currant fruits with a complex array of supporting elements that include polished walnut, cedar, a hint of chalk dust, mineral, vanilla, cigar wrapper/sweet tobacco leaf, anise and mission fig notes. The sweet ripe tannins of vintage make this a pleasure filled experience, though there is live and vibrancy with subtle acidity and there is a lot of hidden vigor, this is not over-ripe or flabby, it reminds me of a superb Saint-Emillon in some ways, while the 2010 was more left bank Bordeaux like, Rancia is a special vineyard and a special place, one of Chianti’s finest terroir driven wines. The 2011 Rancia is a wine of body, texture and fruit, the feel is excellent and the length is magical, I certainly love this vintage and while it will drink great right away, it has the stuff to age well too, I would guess from my own experiences with Felsina, and Rancia is particular, the window is going to be easy 7 to 12 years, best from 2016 to 2028.
($48 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

2012ManincorRubatschLagrein2012 Manincor, Rubatsch, Alto Adige Lagrein DOC, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.
This is a spellbinding purple/blue opaque Lagrein, beautiful in detail and glorious on the palate, Manincor Rubatsch Alto Adige Lagrein 2012 grown at elevation on sandy/granite ancient rock soils, is a stunning example of varietal and place! Fantastic and deep with almost Hermitage (northern Rhone Syrah) like complexity with blackberry, huckleberry, walnut oil, creme de cassis, raw pepper, iron ore, anise, game and chocolate covered bacon plus cherry pie notes, lavender salt and cedar. The Rubatsch was fermented using native/natural yeast in wood open top and was cool fermented on it’s skins for two weeks, giving lots of intense color and extraction, this is a robust and vigorous wine, but with well manged tannin and spot on balance, reaching about 13% alcohol, it was aged in small barrels of which 1 in 10 were new for just over a year. This is very impressive stuff from Manincor, in fact all their wines are stunning in current form and vintage, especially worth mentioning as well are their Pinot Bianco Eichhorn, the Pinot Nero Mason and both the Conte & Contessa cuvees, both the red and white blends which offer wonderful value. I rank Manincor right at the top for quality, style and value for this mountainous region of northern Italy, these are glorious wines. The latest Lagrein Rubatsch blends the area’s mineral and stony character with richly textured layers of black and red fruits with powerful results, this comes from Count Michael Goëss-Enzenberg’s pursuit of excellence and his devotion to his land, all certified biodynamic by Demeter, and his focus on making the finest wine he can, his family have been running this wine estate for about 400 years and he hopes in continues for another 400 years at least! His efforts in healthy and holistic food and wine are leading to ever improving quality on this estate and raising the game for the whole region of Alto Adige, if you want to sample the best from here, Foradori, Terlano and Manincor are the must try wines. 2011, 2012 and 2013 all are superb vintages for Manincor, these elegant and flavorful wines show vibrant energy, substance and poise, in particular this 2012 Manincor Rubatsch stands out and will entertain for many years to come, drink from 2015 to 2026, it really is something dynamic and special a truly world class Lagrein, don’t miss it!
($38 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012StormVrede2012 Storm, Pinot Noir, Vrede, Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, South Africa.
Hannes Storm spent 12 or so years at Hamilton-Russell making some of the finest South African Pinot and Chardonnay ever, and now we get a chance to try his own personal wines here in the States, his Storm label is now being brought in by Broadbent Selections, and it is a must have Pinot Noir for wine enthusiasts, I was completely blown away, and I had tried his wines before and had pretty high expectations, but still this 2012 Storm Vrede is as good as Pinot gets, from anywhere! Hemel-En-Aarde Valley is south of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, close to the cooling influence of Walker Bay and up the Onrus River set on Clay rich soils, not unlike the Cote de Beaune stylistically and I would say similar to Pommard for the Pinots, and Puligny for the Chards, though this Storm is not a Burgundy clone it has some elements that remind me of Comte Armand and even Henri Gouges, though it is truly it’s own wine with it’s own terroir markers. Hannes is certainly a talent, and his younger brother Ernst is making Storm Wines in California, for which I hear are exciting wines themselves, but this South African Pinot Noir is really something special and merits real attention and celebration, kudos to Hannes for crafting such an amazing and beautiful wine. The Southern Hemisphere can do Pinot, sites in areas like Central Otago N.Z., Mornington Peninsula, Aussie hot spot and Patagonia in Argentina all make superb Pinot Noir, but I think this part of South Africa still has the edge, especially after tasting this latest Storm Vrede, it has soul, detail, complexity and a glorious lingering finish, as well as firm tannins, vivid acidity and vigorous character. The 2012 Storm Vrede Hemel-En-Aarde Valley Pinot Noir, of which only 250 cases or so were made, starts with a perfumed mix of roses, violets and wild herbs, spice and mineral along with a slight reductive note, a touch of iron/game/flint before opening to a gorgeous palate of dusty plum, black cherry, mountain raspberry and balsamic dipped strawberry fruits, dried mushrooms, earthy loam, gravelly stones and a hint of bacon/wild boar, coffee bean, cedar and a play of cinnamon/herbal tea, licorice and tangy currant. The mouth feel is heavenly, with vibrant lift, but pleasing silky textures, this wine is a class act with a vast array of layers to cherish, it should drink well for another decade, though I would be hard pressed to wait as good as it is now, but I might consider another year or so in bottle, best from 2016 to 2023. This is as exciting as it gets for Pinot lovers, I highly recommend tracking some of this down, it would be easy, but so worth it!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013AltaRoses2013 Joan d’ Anguera, Garnatxa “Altaroses” Darmos, Montsant DO, Spain.
All organic, demeter certified biodynamic, pure Grenache from Darmos in Montsant by Joan d’ Anguera the Altaroses is a great expression of place and varietal with beautiful detail and lovely mouth feel. There isn’t many under $20 Garnacha’s that compare to this one, and 2013 is a superb vintage for this wine, it shows impressive character and is very charming with wonderful balance, it is not an over-ripe jammy style, it is very stylish and shows restraint, supple fruit, savory elements and finesse. The 2013 Altaroses by Joan d’ Anguera starts with floral and peppery spices on the nose with a burst of red berries leading to palate that surprises with vivid black raspberry, plum, strawberry and boysenberry fruits, chalky mineral, nice refined sweet tannin, a bit of lift in acidity and an array of lavender, dried flowers, cola bean, a hint of game/earth, anise and kirsch. The texture and vitality is really pleasing, the feeling on the palate is rich and pleasing, but not heavy or too dense, there is an elegance and grace not usually found in this class of Grenache, and it is very quaffable, great for sipping and perfect for outdoor gatherings and BBQ cuisine. It is really hard not to love this medium bodied gem from Joan d’ Anguera, they are making a fantastic set of hand-crafted wines, from this beauty to their ultra top end single vineyard Syrah, this is a winery to watch! Over the past few years they have converted to biodynamic, gone traditional and less oak in the cellar and their rocky terroir with tiny yields have really turned this label around, this is a good time to discover their quality, drink the Altaroses now through 2020.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012VoillotVolnay2012 Domaine Joseph Voillot, Volnay, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2012 Voillot Volnay is a generous and remarkable young Burgundy, I’ve tasted it twice now and each time it gets better and better and over the course of the last year in bottle it has gained depth, finesse and hedonistic charm and has entered a long phase of pure pleasure! This beautiful Pinot Noir bursts from the glass with floral tones, energy and fleshy fruits, this is a blockbuster from first smell and sip and never shies away, this wine has Grand Cru feel and detail and is a killer deal for the quality in the bottle, kudos to Voillot, this wine is a stunning example and is almost as fantastic as his old vine Pommard, which I highlighted last May and is also drinking out of this world today! Where the Pommard has a bit more stuffing and intensity, showing exotic perfume and meaty character, the Volnay is more delicate and unbelievably sexy and seductive with a lightness and focus that is impossible to resist, these 2012 Voillot’s are works of art and a passionate set of wines, especially these two, the Pommard and Volnay village offerings, if you can find them, they are well worth investing in, classy and gorgeous stuff. I was and am completely smitten with them, in particular this Volnay, this is one of the best village level Volnay’s I’ve had, and it is my favorite village version no question. I have the De Montille Premier Crus from Volnay, but for the money, I’d buy this one every time, the latest Voillot old vine Volnay is that good and special with dark floral tones on the nose with just enough exotic spice, red berries and tangy herb to draw you into it’s fine complexities and guide you to a refined palate of black cherry, plum and red currant fruits with fine dusty chalk, crushed stone, saline and tea leaf notes along with rose water, a touch of mint, fennel and cedar. The Volnay opens with grace and silky texture, gorgeous mouth feel, even this young and with a long future ahead, there is medium body, vivid acidity, subtle briar elements, savory essences and ripe/sweet tannins that have really melded into this Burgundy in fantastic manner since last May (2014) and it shows wonderful drive and balance, drink it over the next 5 to 7 years easy, and it should be a winner all the way, best from 2016 to 2024. Thanks to importer Vintage ’59 in California for allowing to sample this sublime set of wines, again! Wow, it would be a tough choice between the pair, the Pommard might be a tick better, but this Volnay is damn good!
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012DivisionPN2012 Division Winemaking Co. Pinot Noir, Deux Vieilles Vignes, Eola Springs Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Division Winemaking Company is a Portland based urban craft winery that makes some amazing stuff, channeling the exciting vibe that is the city and the worldly experience that owners Thomas and Kate Monroe bring this is a winery to get on board with, and now! I was blown away with their offering at a recent trade tasting in San Francisco, I had heard from a Somm friend about them, but this my first time trying the wines and I’m so thrilled by what I sampled I am putting them on my list of bucket visits to exciting wineries to get to over the next year or so, especially good was their Gamay and this wonderful old vine Pinot Noir from Eola Springs Vineyard, not too far from Salem, from blocks originally planted in 1973. The 2012 is a beautiful and detailed wine, showing the fantastic vintage to near perfection with depth and gorgeous inner energy and ripe tannins, 20% whole cluster with about a third new oak, racked into neutral barrels after 9 months to preserve freshness and intensity. This is amazing stuff, with heady dark berry fruit, an almost Nebbiolo like tar and flowers start on the nose and nicely restrained alcohol at 13.3% a result of careful native fermentation, along with layers of silky cherry, raspberry, briar laced blackberry, strawberry and tangy smoky currants plus Asian spice, flinty minerals, crushed stone, sea salt and cedar notes. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon, roses and earthy loam float nicely in the background, adding to the whole joyous experience, Tom and Kate were going for excellence and achieved it here, a deft touch and a good year making for a sublime Pinot Noir, fitting perfectly with a house style that leans toward higher acidity and brightness, this Deux Old Vines is a stunner, drink from 2015 to 2022!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2006Tavares2006 Terras de Tavares, Quinta da Boavista, Dao DOC, Portugal.
Here’s a exciting discovery from Portugal, an estate crafted red from the Dao region made in an artisan style with pretty detail, mature character and real depth. Imported by a small importer, Bliss Wine Imports, the Terras de Tavares is a tiny production offering of barrel selected wine, and the 2006 is the current release, it is a cuvee of 50% Jaen and 50% Touriga Nacional vinified using native yeasts and aged in neutral oak, then rested for an extended period in bottle, everything done to highlight finesse and elegance, while still giving a sense of place. The Jaen grape is also known as Mencia, as found in the cooler Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo regions of northwestern Spain, but has been native here for generations, it adds lots of charm and life to the wine, and the Touriga Nacional gives richness and a dark core of fruit. The 2006 Terras de Tavares starts with a lush fruit and floral bouquet that evolves into a a heady mix and a certain spicy quality emerges with air leading to a smooth polished sweet tannin framed palate of black raspberry, plum and morello cherry with hints of brambly boysenberry, fig, creme de cassis and wild strawberry. There is surprising life, vitality and brightness to be found and the mouth feel is never flabby or heavy, while still almost full bodied and ripe in flavors, this is interesting and poised wine that is anything other than average and it picks up subtle wood cedar notes, lavender/red spice and dry stone/mineral notes that lift the complexity and carry on to the sweet and savory finish. There is plenty of vibrancy and focus to cheer about, this is very impressive and a well judged wine of quality and is very compelling, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, it looks to be at it’s best, no waiting required, fun and unique stuff no question, you should look for it.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013ClosCanarelliAmphora2013 Clos Canarelli, Amphora, Corse Figari, Red Wine, Corsica, France.
Yves Canarelli’s wines are a must try experience if you want to taste the real Corsica and his Figari wines are some of the most sought after on the island, and they don’t last long in Kermit Lynch’s warehouse either, these are special offerings and ultra luxurious examples of what can be achieved on this rugged French isle. Along with Leccia, Clos Canarelli produces some of the best white and rose wines from the region, their Vermentino, known as Vermentinu by the locals, and the rare native Biancu Gentile are spectacular and rival the whites from Bandol and Cassis, but Canarelli also does a fantastic set of reds, and these should not be overlooked. Clos Canarelli is now all organic and biodynamic and the vines sit on a windy granite outcropping near the bay of Figari with red alluvial soils that impart heightened mineral richness and vibrancy, the wines are fermented with native/natural yeasts and very low sulphur is used or if any, no finning or filtering is done and Yves is experimenting with cement and amphora in both his whites and reds, and it is his Red Amphora that is his newest offering, it is a masterpiece of beauty, grace and depth, wildly expensive and rare, it is not likely to be seen much, but it is certainly worth mentioning here. The 2013 Clos Canarelli Amphora Rouge is made up of five native varietals with 80% Niellucciu, which is island Sangiovese, and 10% Sciacarellu being the driving force, but with 10% unique grapes of which there are no names or classifications as of yet, they were from ancient vineyards of which there is not much known or written of, this adds to the allure and interest of this wonderful wine. The color is fairly deep, garnet/ruby in hue, the nose has lots of floral and red berry scents along with hints of warm clay and dried herbs leading to a dark fruited palate that reveals raspberry, black cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits with spicy/savory elements including sweet tobacco leaf, lavender oil, fig paste, mixed spices, elegant tannins, peachy fresh acidity and flinty/shale mineral tones. The Clos Canarelli Figari Amphora Rouge was made with de-stemmed grapes, vinified in amphora vessel, or cement egg shaped cuve for 4 to 7 weeks then transferred to stainless and or neutral oak barrel to rest, which in this case was between 7 to 9 months before bottling, there was no sulphur added, this is about as pure as pure gets and as natural as natural gets. The results are stunning and while I’m not thrilled about the price, this really is a glorious and gorgeous wine with real magic in the glass. This refined and poised red from Corsica is something to cherish and be swept away by, it’s smooth character and depth of flavor make it stand out, absolutely stellar like taking the best elements of Brunello, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and an ultra fine right bank Bordeaux, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($99 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2009PaoloBeaVeo2009 Paolo Bea, Rosso de Veo, Umbria Rosso IGT, Sagrantino di Montefalco, Italy.
The pure and raw Sagrantino Rosso de Veo was fermented with native yeasts and raised in stainless for about a year then into used wood for about 2 years then rested a further year in bottle, and now it is here, one of the world’s most famous and iconic natural wines by Bea is a treasure to behold. The dark and opaque hue, the wild scents from the glass, hinting at the joy to be found on the palate of this intriguing wine where it reveals black cherry, blackberry, pomegranate, wild mint, crushed flowers, incense, chalky dust, porcini/earthiness, leather and salted black licorice along with blueberry skin, iron/blood, olive paste, cinnamon, dried lavender and cedar notes. The 2009 Paolo Bea Rosso de Veo is sublime and without question a continued exploration of the house style and of it’s terroir, it is a gift from nature and reflects the passion and believe of Bea and his family, it is certainly one of the most honest wines you’ll ever taste and maybe the truest form of Sagrantino available. This 2009 shows some ripe tannins, warm stony elements and enough juicy acidity to lift the fruit, there is lots of vigor, grip and extract throughout, you’ll need a good plate of rustic cuisine to bring out the best here, but there is much to celebrate and savor with it’s charm, power and layers of character. I absolutely love this wine for it’s flirty swagger, it is not afraid to be totally transparent, it is totally open, intense and like a confident woman at ease with everything she is, no need for make up or fancy clothes, utterly captivating without the need for adornments. For those that mock natural wines and go all glassy-eyed when the subject of biodynamics is brought up, this might be the wine to convert them, if not, fine, there will be a few bottles for the rest of us to enjoy. Regardless of where you stand, I for one, love all wine that is driven by the love of the land and has a sense of place, and while there are people miss using the term natural wine, and or using it as an excuse for seriously flawed wines that taste like crap, the Paolo Bea wines are very special, while not perfect and robust, these are soulful, full of energy and are as interesting and as deep as anything. These are wines that speak to the heart, beautiful, thoughtful and sensual wines that are still rooted in their humble Umbrian soils, glorious, mystical, earthy and enlightening. The drinking window will be generous for this 2009 Rosso de Veo, it will not require too much patience as pleasing as it is now, and it should drink nicely for 5 to 10 years, best from 2016 to 2022, don’t miss this rare and impressive offering from the master!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012MarchandMSDVergy2012 Marchand-Tawse, Morey-Saint-Denis, Rue de Vergy, Red Burgundy, France.
The new Pascal Marchand 2012’s are a lovely set of wines, youthful, expressive and very elegant with pure and vivid flavors, they highlight the vintage and do everything you expect in a well crafted Burgundy. The 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis Rue de Vergy especially delivers on it’s promise and has even more potential in the next few years to blossom further, as a little time in bottle should bare out, but it still entertains even now. The Marchand-Tawse 2012 reds all were 100% de-stemmed and rigorously hand sorted, only the best grapes in this already tiny crop were used, all the vines are farmed by growers, or directed by Marchand-Tawse, with biodynamic principles and this vibrancy and inner life shines through in the wines, they use up to 30% new oak in selected wines, though the wines all seem perfectly integrated and well judged. In particular the Morey-Saint-Denis Rue de Vergy feels luxurious and clear, Marchand’s wines are fruit driven, beautiful and delicately detailed and this one certainly shows his style with vivid black cherry, raspberry, spiced plum, mineral tones, hints of chalk, saline, tea spice, cedar and a hint of smoky/sweet toast from the wood along with nice core of refined tannin and acidity that lift and frame this Burgundy adding poise and vigor without aggressiveness. In fact with air this wine gains body, texture and length with hints of blueberry, earth, anise and lavender oil all lingering on in the glass of this rose and violet scented, darkly hued ruby red Pinot Noir. The mouth feel is rich, satiny and seamless, but again a year or two in bottle will be a huge benefit to this very fine and flowing young wine, there is more to come here and I would like to see it with the oak a touch more folded into the background, which I’m sure will happen, drink this impressive gem from 2017 to 2024, and of the other 2012 Marchand wines to look for you should jump at the Nuits-Saint-Georges Vaucrains, Pommard and Corton all which were much better, but way too young, these are a stunning set of wines from Pascal Marchand and his team and are great values for the quality.
($67 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011DianoSuber2011 Daino Bosco di Santo Pietro, Suber IGT Rosso, I Vigneri, Caltagirone, Sicily.
This tiny organic estate on Sicily’s far eastern side near Catania has it’s own unique terroir with it’s own soil and climate conditions that make it special and it part of Salvo Foti’s I Vigneri which oversees holistic vineyard sites. The Suber is a blend of Nero d’ Avola, Frappato and Alicante which goes through natural/native vinification/fermentation then raised in old large barrel and cask for about 12 months, then rested in bottle a further 6 months, these vines are bush trained and everything is done with respect for the land and ancient traditional winemaking techniques, without fining or filtration. Daino was looking to achieve pure and distinct character from their estate which is set in an old cork forest and nature preserve with red sandy soils and Mediterranean arenaceous rock, which differs from the wines of Etna (all volcanic) and Vittoria to the south which is more limestone/seabed based. The sexy dark color is what you notice first, the Alicante is a real pigment intense black grape, while the Nero d’ Avola and Frappato give depth and delicacy to this lovely and hedonistic Sicilian red, at 14.5%, this not a wimpy wine, but there is superb balance and silky tannins that don’t take away from it’s earthy old world charms. The nose has a mix of floral and spicy tones with loamy notes along with a hint of black fig leading to a warm palate of blackberry, plum, raspberry and dark liqueur along with dusty raisin, anise, a mix of spice, earth and mineral. There is some grip and cut here too and the finish is long with a nice play between sweet and savory elements, this is an interesting and intriguing wine, sort of a new layer in Sicilian wine, best to enjoy in it’s youth, with a pleasing window from 2015-2018. Diano’s Suber is a great addition to the I Vigneri collection, well worth a little search to find it, it mixes old school winemaking with a modern thought to varietals, very impressive stuff.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2014LecciaRose 2014 Yves Leccia Domaine d’ E Croce, Patrimonio Rose, Corsica, France.
Yves and Sandrine Leccia make some of the most compelling wines on Corsica, and this pure and crisp all organic stainless steel Rose is a fantastic pink, and looks like one of the best of the vintage. The 2014 Leccia Patrimonio Rose is made from 60% Niellucciu, 40% Grenache, all hillside vines grown on mixed rocky soils including clay, limestone and schist, it is made from a 12 hour saignee and cold soak, no malo and raised 6 months in temperature controlled steel cuves to preserve vibrancy and freshness. This is superb Rose from a top Domaine on the Island and the combination of Grenache and Niellucciu (Island Sangiovese) works beautifully together making for a very sexy pink wine with striking vitality and delicacy, in fact all the new releases from Yves Leccia and his wife Sandrine, who is from Alsace, are stunning and may just be their best lineup to date. I tasted these with Sandrine at Kermit Lynch’s latest San Francisco portfolio tasting, and the Rose really stood out, but also you should not miss the Patrimonio Blanc (Vermentino) and all their reds with the 90% Niellucciu 10% Grenache Patrimonio Rouge a huge success! The Rose starts with rose oil, wild herb, mint, spicy mineral and citrus leading to a brisk and tangy palate of watermelon, strawberry and unripe plum, tart/sour cherry and red and yellow citrus with steely notes, flinty stones and peach flesh, with zingy acidity and fine detail. This is near perfect and a wonderful effort, this is everything you want in summer pleasure in a glass, it is vivid and refined with plenty of flavor and energy, great on it’s own, but will be easy with many cuisine choices, enjoy this Rose over the coming year, best from 2015 to 2017.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

April 2015

2013VajraRiesling2013 G.D. Vajra, Riesling, Langhe DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s Barolo grown Riesling is fast becoming a cult wine, it certainly is one of Italy’s great white wines to emerge in the last few years and is by far the best white from Piedmonte, yes in my humble opinion, but this is amazing wine of that there is no question. The special German clone vines grown high up on a cool hillside on a mix of rocky soils make for a dry and vigorous Riesling that has an experience that transcends time and place, there are taste elements found here that remind me of not only of German trockens of the Pfalz, but of Austria and even Eden Valley of Australia, though there is an Italian sense that shines through at it’s core. The latest release, the 2013 is vivid and bright with crisp intensity and elegant charm, it shows amazing grace for a wine with so much built up energy, there is is wonderful winemaking and talented hands crafting this Riesling and this edition shows balance and vitality not usually seen outside of Germany, this rare beauty has the wow factor. The Vajra Riesling starts with citrus and ocean brine on the nose with a delicate pale color with just a hint of pigment that has a touch of greenish/gold and a whiff of rose petal and kiwi before a vibrant palate of tangy lime, minty herb, peach flesh, a touch of tropical fruit maybe mango, green apple, tangerine and whisper of tart white cherry along with lip smacking acidity, chalk dust, river stones and steely mineral tones. The acidity keeps things dynamic and electric in the mouth, but with air the wine fills out and highlights it’s refinement and gives some density and texture. There is a sense of power, but at 13% alcohol it never feels heavy or hot, though it is exceptionally dry, saline rich, lemony and mouthwatering, this Vajra Riesling is a special wine, it seems utterly out of place and expensive on one hand, but when judged against what you get in the glass it is worth every penny and this wine is a treasure for Riesling lovers and compares well against it’s German Grosses Gewachs rivals, I’d put it close to von Buhl and some of von Winning’s, not too far off some of the Donnhoff drys, this is as geeky as it gets and a fantastic effort, drink from 2015 to 2022! Oh, and I almost forgot, don’t miss Giuseppe’s fine Barbera and Nebbiolo wines, especially his up coming 2011 Barolo offerings, they are stellar!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011WellanschitzHussi2011 Wellanschitz, Blaufränkisch “Hussi” Burgenland, Austria.
Wellanschitz is located in Neckenmarkt in the Mittelburgenland DAC and Burgenland region of eastern Austria near the Hungarian border in what is called Blaufrankisch-land, they are a small family run winery, with husband and wife, Stefan and Christine Wellanschitz running and making the wine here, in a state of the art cellar and focusing on mostly red wine growing. I recently did a panel on Austrian red wines and tasted through some of best and highly regarded producers from the top regions in Austria, so I was fresh and palate trained when I tasted a few samples of Wellanschitz, and they were very impressive, and in fact the Hussi single vineyard Cru was one of the best and most beautiful Blaufrankisch wines I’ve ever tasted, right up there with my favorites from Prieler and Muhr-van der Niepoort! Wellanschitz is now being imported by Bliss Wine Imports, a small natural wine importer focusing on tiny production hand crafted wines based in Marin County and San Francisco, and they have brought in two Blaufrankisch cuvees from Wellanschitz to start, this gorgeous Hussi and a less expensive easy drinking cuvee called Hochberg ($27 Est.), which is also a top class wine, but this 2011 Hussi Blaufrankisch is something rather special and shows exceptional inner beauty, terroir and class, it is a wine that reminds me of Philippe Pacalet (Burgundy), Jean Foillard (Cru Beaujolais) and Domaine Breton (Loire Chinon-Cabernet Franc) all wrapped up together! The Hussi is done “Sponti” with natural/native yeast and aged in wood, it shows good depth and density, though feels light and silky on the palate, there is an intense floral and mineral bouquet with black cherry and spicy plum fruit leading the way on the nose and palate along with complex, but smoothly flowing layers of currant, black olive, flinty/peppery spice, wild herbs both sweet and savory along with a light kiss of cedary oak and pipe tobacco, this is well judged wine with not detail out of place, it is focused, alive and extremely pleasing both in taste and feel, it has 14% alcohol and vibrant soft acidity and a lingering blue fruit finish. Drink from 2015 to 2021, it was a treat to try this wine and further explore hand crafted Blaufrankisch, bravo to Bliss Wine Imports for discovering this new winery, it will be one I look for in the future no question!
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010AntoniottiBramaterra2010 Antoniotti, Bramaterra DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Finding a new wine that excites you is one of the great joys in life, especially for those of us that live and breathe, and work in the wine business, so it brought much joy and wonder to discover the wines of Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti and especially this fantastic Nebbiolo blend from northern Piedmonte in Italy’s far north west corner. The Antoniotti’s father and son run a small old estate, the cellar sits below their house, it was built in the 1700’s and they make their wines from mostly organic and natural grapes grown on steep south facing slopes set on a mix of soils that are chock full of minerals, you could think of it as a northern Barbaresco with granite intensity and delicate details, though Bramaterra is tiny, only about 28 Hectares in total area for this DOC. The Antoniotti Bramaterra is a field blend that is mostly Nebbiolo with small amounts of Croatina (sometimes referred to as Bonarda) plus Vespolina and Uva Rara (which is thought to be another grape called Bonarda, not related to Croatina or the Bonarda found in Argentina, which is thought to be Charbono!) with this 2010 being about 70% Nebbiolo and it really shines through and has complete control on the palate. The Bramaterra was fermented in cement, the Antoniotti’s have two vats under their house, the grapes are dumped down into this old cellar through a window shaft after being destemmed, after that the wine goes into stainless to finish malos, then it goes into huge oak old cask to age, some of the oak was from local trees, and the Bramaterra is raised in cask 30 months before bottling, with a 6 month rest period before being released, these are old school hand crafted wines of great texture and terroir character, the winemaking is traditional and they use very low amounts of sulphur. The 2010 starts with classic Nebbiolo markers, minty herb, subtle rose petal, Asian spice, tar, earth and mixed red fruits all playing parts, the palate is full, vigorous and shows vivid layers, there is noticeable tannin, mouth watering acidity and plenty of tension, but the fruit really allows grace and beauty to be your first impression and in my case the last too, this is wonderful stuff. The main focus in the mouth is cherry, damson plum and balsamic dipped strawberry, but the is porcini, black licorice, cedar and liquid mineral notes as well, this is one of the best examples of northern Piedmonte I’ve ever had and the price is fantastic, the Antoniotti should be on your radar, imported by Louis Dressner, this is worth the search, especially Nebbiolo lovers will over joyed to experience this stunning and groovy Bramaterra, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012Schneider2012 Jakob Schneider Niederhauser Klamm Riesling Kabinett, Nahe, Germany.
From a site close to the famed Hermannshohle Cru in the Nahe, very near to Donnhoff and highly respected by Herr Donnhoff himself, Jakob Schneider the younger is making a name for himself and I must say I’ve become a fan in recent vintages, especially these 2012 Rieslings, imported by Terry Theise who else, this a superb stuff! This Jakob Schneider Klamm comes from the Nahe’s most dramatic and steepest slopes and is a mix of soils, a hint of volcanic and slate, but mostly porphyry, which I had to look up, which means it contains a matrix of igneous rock and crystals, better known as in this case quartzite. Schneider usually does differing lots with some on native yeast and some are aged in oak cask, as well as pure stainless steel fermented and aged, he is adding to the character of the wine without taking away the natural terroir markers, and this Kabinett is a complex and beautiful wine, while the 2013 shows sizzle and earth at this point, the 2012 is just hitting it’s stride with density, transparency and lush fruity intensity, and white having some RS (sugar) it is really a balanced and flexible wine, a Riesling to admire and savor over any meal, from smoked meats or roasted fowl, to semi spicy Asian fare this is a vibrant and charming Riesling, and I love it as a summer time sipper too. The bouquet has a soft array of white flower, flinty dust, minty herb, citrus and earthy/ocean notes leading to a mineral laced palate of crystalline purity, with white peach, tangy apple, tangerine, tropical fruit and essences, honey butter, brine, river stones and a hint of white toffee. This wine shows a great vintage, sublime terroir and a deft winemaking flair, considering the neighborhood here, this is a remarkable effort and a wine to stock up on, it should and will drink superb for years to come, best from 2015 to 2022, it is a steal!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012ClapeCornasRenaissance2012 Auguste Clape, Cornas “Renaissance” Rhone Red, France.
A vigorous and vibrant Syrah of great natural intensity, character and charm the Clape Renaissance young vine cuvee is an exceptional wine with a nice play between nervy edginess and elegant purity. It is hard not to get lost in the vivid layers in this fine example of northern Rhone Syrah with it’s complex elements all firing on all cylinders and with air a magical inner beauty comes shinning through, this is a Cornas for old school Burgundy lovers and will of course appeal to Clape’s loyal fans that covet this amazing small production wine. This is a focused and lively Syrah with a heady mix of spice and flowers on the bouquet, a massive dose of mineral/iron and wild game add to the excitement before a palate filled with classic black, blue and red fruits, anise, celery root, camphor and white pepper. After decanting, flowing violets, boysenberry, blueberry and kirsch notes come into play along with chalky stones, dusty damson plum, tangy currant and salted black licorice as well as cedar, minty herb, bacon and lavender oil. While not as glorious as the old vine Cornas, the Renaissance is a great wine and really stands out in a crowd, I highly recommend grabbing this 2012 vintage, it has potential to age well and still can be enjoyed in it’s youth, the vintage is rather juicy and dynamic with solid tannins that gain smoothness with air, best to decant, and forward acidity that lifts the fruit, this is savvy and alluring wine, best from 2017 to 2023, this again is a super fine Syrah of almost reckless hedonistic pleasure and verve, don’t miss!
($79 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013FotiAurora2013 I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Aurora, Carricante Vino Bianco, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
Salvo Foti, the King of the Volcano, crafts natural and organic native wines from Sicily’s Mount Etna region and is regarded as one of Italy’s top winegrowers, and his new 2013 Carricante Aurora is living proof, this is a gorgeous white with elegance, style and amazing quality. The 2013 Foti Aurora is stunning with delicate details that remind of top Premier Cru white Burgundy and still shows the pure terroir of Etna with exotic spice, flinty mineral and a lovely pale yellow/gold color, with sexy white peach, tropical notes and kumquat as well as soft butterscotch, salty chalk and lemon marmalade. The main force is a refreshing citrus core, but the acidity is smooth and this refined white, only 11.5% alcohol, feels seductive on the palate with almost satiny texture. This is a light and lifting wine, but with vigor and complexity, the finish is lengthy and leaves lingering dried roses, mixed herb and a trace of honeycomb. This wine comes from steep slopes on lava/iron rich soils, it is surprisingly cool and the grapes develop plenty of character and acidity, and these Foti wines, both his fantastic Nerello Mascalese offerings and this wonderful Carricante are must have, bucket list wines! Drink the 2013 I Vigneri Salvo Foti Aurora over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2020, it is a sublime hand crafted wine that will transport you away to the beautiful and wild island of Sicily, true genius stuff!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012CuilleronStJoe2012 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph, L’Amarybelle, Rhone Red, France.
When you are craving Syrah and especially Old world stuff, this Cuilleron St. Joe really hits the spot with beautiful details, density and terroir charms, it is hard not to love this wine, it’s deep hue, a black/purple core and lush dark fruits, mineral and mix of spice and earth are just sexy and compelling. Cuilleron sometimes get overlooked, but his his are alluring, well crafted and really solid efforts that deserve a lot of attention, especially his Cornas and Saint-Joseph Syrah wines, but be sure to check out his pure varietal bottling too, they are great little wines and remarkable values, in particular you should search out his Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne, and no question this L’Amarybelle really stands out, this 2012 is juicy, focused and wonderful stuff, and while not quite as good as 2010 and 2011, it sure is good and feels like it might get a bit better in the bottle. I adore this Syrah, it is what the grape is all about with vigor, intensity, soul and stylish character, this a classy wine that starts with a heady perfume of dusty violets, lavender. white pepper and a middle eastern market full of exotic smells leading to a full bodied palate of red and black fruits including a mix of boysenberry, blueberry, kirsch/cherry liqueur, damson plum and mountain berry along with camphor/graphite, slate, wild herbs, chalky/salty licorice, black fig paste as well as cedar, loam, leather and dried flowers with lingering currant notes. This beauty enjoys a cut of acidity and a nice round mouth feel with a hint of tannic bite and at only 12.5% alcohol is very easy to quaff and celebrate an evening with, drink between 2015 and 2021, I will want more of this, and I might not have given it the highest points score, but I certainly recommend it very passionately!
($45 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2013BeauxFreresWV2013 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
After the blockbuster 2012’s it was going to be difficult to make a follow up, then bring rain close to harvest and you make it even more challenging, but somehow Mike Etzel and his team have done it, and in fact this new 2013 Willamette Valley is a beauty, and delivers the goods with remarkable class and character making the drop off from vintage to vintage almost unseen! The Willamette Valley cuvee, an unfined/unfiltered Pinot from top site in the region, including a bunch of estate fruit along with Zena Crown, Hyland, Gran Moraine and others, makes for an incredible basic entry level wine, but it does come at a price, which has gone up in recent years, luckily so has the quality, pretty much equalizing the cost out and makes it worth the extra cash, remembering too this is one of America’s finest wineries, though it does makes the likes of St. Innocent stand out for value, though on the other hand there are many newer wineries charging much more in Oregon for for lesser wines, no shaming here, but they know who they are. So yes you should be sure to book the sexy new 2013 Beaux Freres, while the top BFV and Upper Terrace need cellar time to lose the reductive nose and show their depth this Willamette Valley is drinking great almost instantly and will prove a reliable pleasure over the next 3 to 5 years and maybe a few more, while the 2012’s can be put away, the 2013 should be enjoyed and drunk sooner. The 2013 Beaux Freres Willamette starts with a mix of aromas and a solid deep hue in the glass with rose petals, wild herbs, flinty red spice, red currants and mineral along with vanilla and cinnamon sticks leading to a medium weighted and silky palate of blackberry, bramble, briar, cherry and tart plum as well as smoke, gravelly stones, anise, tea spices and loamy earth along with forrest chanterelles. The finish brings hints of strawberry, cedar and mocha and while on the lighter side of Pinot there is always an impressive presence in the mouth, an underlying grip, energy and vitality, this is lovely wine and there is no reason not to indulge on this brilliant and well crafted offering, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013COSpithos2013 COS, Pithos Rosso, IGT Sicily, Italy.
I sat in recently to hear Guisto Occhipinti speak and show his wines, it was a wonderful experience and a huge education on the region of Vittoria with the bonus of tasting a dozen of his wines together, making it easy to understand and sample them in context. The Island of Sicily, as explained by Guisto Occhipinti is like it’s own continent with many single and unique terroirs, there are five mountain ranges and a huge active volcano, plus warm and cool areas to consider, as well as many differing soils, so he maintains both the land and culture has many influences from the geological history as well as the many invasions and populations have affected the society in this mysterious island. The COS wines are all now farmed biodynamic, they see almost no oak, most raised in glass lined cement and a few done in ancient style Amphora, like this wondrous Pithos Rosso, and all the wines are natural within reason with just a tiny amount of sulphur added before bottling, and native yeast fermentation only. COS and Guisto’s niece Arianna Occhipinti are Sicily’s leaders in natural wines, and they have brought world attention to the region of Vittoria and have highlighted the beauty of the Frappato grape to the wine world, as well as shown Nero d’ Avola in it’s purest expression. The blend of Nero and Frappato, like as in Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, with it’s old seabed/limestone soils, can be a fantastic wine, and both COS and Arianna excel in these cuvees, but I wanted to showcase the COS Pithos and in particular the new release the 2013 vintage, it is a majestic example of clay pot wine, the Pithos is fermented and aged on it’s skins in terra-cotta cuves, Amphora, that are inspired by the the Georgian traditional Kvervi aged reds, an ancient method that goes back at least 3, 000 years, with Guisto using specially made Spanish Amphora and resting the wines under ground for about 12 months. The result is a savory spiced wine of sound color and stability with almost no added sulphur, this is really old school, and they also do a white blend in the exact style, an orange wine, that is also lovely, but it is this 2013 COS Pithos (60% Nero 40% Frappato) that really stood out, it is delicate, focused and gorgeous with silky tannins, vividly pure fruit and a lovely long finish. The nose has hints of chalk dust, wild herbs, dried roses and wild flowers, soft raspberry and Asian spice leading to a refined palate of light to medium weight body, similar to Pinot Noir in mouth feel, with tangy strawberry, plum and red currant fruit, a touch of pomegranate, fennel and roasted herbs along with dance of minerals, and a stylish play of elements that make for a glorious and seductive wine. Drink this COS Pithos over the coming decade, it should be an every changing joy for many years too come, it is drinking exceptionally well and charming even now, though it might be best between 2016 and 2021.
($43 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013GroundworkCounoise2013 Groundwork, Counoise, Central Coast.
San Liege’s Curt Schachlin makes a great number of handcrafted wines under his main label Sans Liege and his Groundwork label, the Groundwork always being single varietal Rhone offerings, while the Sans Liege includes mostly Rhone blends, except in the case of his glorious Sancha 100% Marsanne and Curt’s two top Grenache cuvees En Gedi and Pickpocket. The latest Groundwork red, and new to me, is Schachlin’s Counoise, one of the rare Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone red grapes that almost never finds it’s way into mono varietal bottlings, but it’s use is on the rise in Paso Robles in exciting blends since it came to the region along with Cinsault and Tannat as part mainly of Tablas Creek’s cutting they brought from France and their vines at Beaucastel. Counoise is similar to Grenache with red berry fruit, peppery spice and light tannins, and this Groundwork Counoise is a superb expression of the grape and a very tasty wine, Curt was telling me, recently at a tasting in San Francisco, that he found some of this varietal in a small vineyard near his home close to Arroyo Grande and that it gets less than a ton per acre from almost wild shrub/head pruned vines and that he uses partial carbonic fermentation in a self taught technique that really works great on this new Groundwork Counoise wine. The 2013 Groundwork Counoise is medium weight, nicely dark with a garnet/ruby hue in the glass and very expressive with bright boysenberry, raspberry, strawberry and tart cherry fruits, zesty pepper spice, a touch of chalky stones and mineral, minty herb, salted licorice and dried wild flowers. This is a playful and vibrant red that creams to be drunk now and often, it is very pleasing without heaviness or having cloying fruit, this is a perfect Spring and Summer red, almost Beaujolais like in flexibility and style, and in fact I would serve with a slight chill in the heat of an afternoon BBQ party. Drink this little gem over the next few years, I love it, between this and Rochioli’s Valdiguie, I’ve found my Summer quaffers, best from 2015 to 2018. Also be sure to look for Curt’s Groundwork Grenache, Grenache Blanc and Mourvedre, these all really rock for the price!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012NeighborhoodPNRuinenlust2012 Neighborhood Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Ruinenlust, Enchanted Hill Vineyard, San Simeon.
From vines adjacent to the famed and majestic Hearst Castle comes Neighborhood Vineyards Ruinenlust Pinot Noir, this cool climate Pinot shows lush texture and full flavors, that you would expect of central coast wines with a deep ruby/red hue, silky and lush mouth feel and long lingering finish. With consulting help from ex Tantara winemaker Jeff Fink, Neighborhood Vineyards has put together a strong two wine lineup of 2012 Pinot Noir, and owner/winemaker Elly Hartshorn is planning to revive San Francisco’s wine growing tradition, she has planted a Pinot Noir vineyard in the City and it should be online in a few years, her Alemany Farms Vineyard is the talk of the town and we are looking forward to seeing this project take shape, she has a block of 828 clone in the ground since 2013 and we should be getting some fruit this fall, though we will have to wait for a production wine for another 3 to 4 years, but it is very exciting, especially after tasting her last set of releases from sourced grapes. Elly’s 2012 Ruinenlust Pinot with it’s beautiful fabric label and it’s Turkish Kilim artifact symbols plus a natural wax capsule make the package really stand out, but what’s inside the bottle is just as impressive and it expresses terroir, elegance and rich layers from start to finish with lovely fruit, spice and cedar wood. The palate expands nicely, but never feels heavy or overly dense, and at 13.8% alcohol it is a refined effort with glorious detail and grace showing black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, minty/fennel, vanilla, hints of smoke, Asian spice/tea and cola bean. This polished and easy drinking Pinot is really hitting it’s stride and should drink nicely over the next 3 years, this is a winery to watch and get on board with ASAP! Be sure to keep an eye out for Elly’s Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles and her upcoming Albarino, both are super wines as well!
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2013FieldRecordingsTempVentu2013 Field Recordings, Tempranillo “Ventucopa” Santa Barbara County.
Andrew Jones’ is making some of the best value wines in California and his Tempranillo offerings are some of the best varietal Tempranillo you can get, especially this new Field Recording release from Ventucopa in Santa Barbara. The Ventucopa is a juicy version of Tempranillo with dark fruit, a bit more acidity than the Paso Dead End Ranch, but showing lush texture and real harmonic flavors that dance on the palate and linger on the finish, this is really lovely stuff and drinks great right now. This Tempranillo is somewhere between a Joven and Crianza (Rioja) in style, in fact, it feels like a Chianti Classico with deep color, but with bright cherry and plum fruits. This entertaining red is one of many from Field Recordings, and you should be sure to check them all out, in particular Jones’ Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and his main wine the Fiction Red Blend are of the highest interest and give lots of pleasure, especially for the price. The Ventucopa Tempranillo starts with that garnet/ruby hue, a hint of spice and perfume, leading to a fruit driven mouth with morello cherry, fresh picked plum, minty herb, mineral, aromatic shrub, tangy dried currant and cedar as well as picking up some baking spice and raspberry on the finish. I think it would be fun to hold a few bottles for a few cellars in the cellar, though it wouldn’t be easy as it drinks so good right now, I highly recommend visiting as many Field Recordings wines as you can, they really are super wines and this Tempranillo might be the sleeper in the bunch, drink this Spanish themed red between 2015 and 2020.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012SaladinCS2012 Saladin Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley.
This brand new release from Saladin is an outstanding deeply colored and flavored Cabernet with a purple/black core, wild spice and ripe flowing layers from a tiny sloping vineyard on the famous Howell Mountain, it is hard not to love this new California wine. A new and sensational effort by a father and son team that were inspired by the wines of Randy Dunn, this Saladin Howell Mountain is a big and rich Cabernet that shows the quality of the vintage and the unique Howell Mountain terroir with tangy currant, cassis, plum and blackberry fruit, smoky oak sweetness, briar spice, pipe tobacco and acacia flowers. A tannic backbone and restrained alcohol, under 14%, and generous body make this a wonderful Cabernet to enjoy now and for many years to come, if you are looking for a great small production Napa Cab, only a few barrels made, that is not $200 a bottle, you should be looking at Saladin’s latest Howell Mountain, it’s a winner! This wine fills out nicely on the palate, good solid feel, density and it has a wonderfully long and complex finish with peppery lavender, sage, vanilla and mocha notes along with lingering blueberry. There looks to be a long drinking window here, but I wouldn’t be afraid to enjoy it in it’s youth either, though it should pick up more interesting detail and refinement in a few years, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013LuciaChardSLH2013 Lucia Vineyards, Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Lucia SLH Chard 2013 is one of the best yet from Jeff Pisoni, he seems to get better each vintage and of course the vineyards without question are getting better with superb farming by the Pisoni family. The SLH is a blend of select Pisoni farmed sites, it all adds up to a rich and layered Chardonnay with a cool streak of acidity and mineral tones, especially true of this fabulous 2013 vintage, (I was slightly surprised and disappointed last year when I tasted 2012’s and found sweet notes mixed with a hint of under-ripe almost veggie notes in quite a few wines from the region), happily this is not the case in 2013 versions, the year seems as close to perfect as you can get in the Santa Lucia Highlands with Pisoni’s Lucia being one of the best set of wines available. The balance is fantastic in Lucia’s latest releases and the quality for price in the Santa Lucia Highlands generic wines is great, if you were tasted blind again top $75 to 100 Chardonnay and Pinot, you would see just how good theses are, and you can see how accomplished Jeff Pisoni is as a winemaker, the ex Peter Michael man is really a huge talent. The SLH Chardonnay starts with bright citrus, white flowers, steely notes and opens to pear, white peach and apple fruits, clarified cream, saline, clove spice, river stones and honey butter/vanilla. This is impressive and the cut of lemony acidity keeps this full bodied effort fresh and dynamic, it drinks like a fine Chassagne and has a nicely lingering finish, best from 2015 to 2018.
($45) 92 Points, grapelive

2012BaxterWholeCluster2012 Baxter, Pinot Noir, Oppenlander “Whole Cluster” Mendocino.
Phillip Baxter, based in the Anderson Valley, joins an elite list of winemakers crafting beautiful Pinot Noir, and his gorgeous 2012 Whole Cluster a new benchmark for sheer beauty, class and quality, one of my top picks from the vintage and an absolute stunner. Baxter trained in Burgundy with Pascal Marchand at Le Domaine de la Vougeraie and has put that to good use, even though in this case with his Whole Custer, it was a totally new experiment, but a hugely successful one, and his talents are on show throughout his impressive lineup of Mendocino and Anderson Valley offerings. The Oppenlander Whole Cluster stands out, it is like a Grand Cru, majestic and regal, somewhat like Burgundy’s Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru does in a lineup up great Crus, it just has that something extra and flamboyantly shows it off. The 2012 Baxter Whole Cluster Oppenlander Vineyard, a cool climate site, starts with violets, rose oil, liquid minerals and is bursting with red fruits in the nose which is incense laced and wonderfully perfumed and spicy leading to a refined, but open knit palate of tangy plum, black cherry, fresh squeezed raspberries, briar, cinnamon and pomegranate along with sappy notes, loam and cola bean. There is a fresh streak of flowing acidity, but an extraordinary texture and well ripened tannins, the stems have melded in perfection to the soul of this wine, leaving a heavenly mouth feel and finish. The structure is sound, the balance superb and while long and silky, it has vibrancy and life, this will gain with a year or so in bottle, though no waiting is needed, drink from 2015 to 2020, this is outstanding Pinot Noir and Baxter is a name to write down in bold letters, you will want this wine!
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012CharvinCHDP2012 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Red, France.
Charvin is always one of my favorites and the 2012 is no exception, this is gorgeous stuff, one of the purest and most beautiful Grenache expressions on earth and without question one of the top Chateauneuf’s of the vintage. The Domaine Charvin is 85% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, and 5% Vaccarèse, fermented and raised in cement vats and is crafted from three Lieux-Dits plots in mostly sandy limestone and loamy soils with some loose rocks or Galets, these vines average over 45 years old, no oak is used and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered to capture the essence of terroir and keep freshness. Laurent Charvin is certainly a wonderful winemaker and this vibrant 2012 is everything that he aims for, balance, lush character and vivacious personality showing ripe density, spice, sweet fruit and layers of pleasure as well as a mix of complex savory and mineral tones. The nose is bright with acacia flowers, pepper, chalk and kirsch leading to a vivid palate of boysenberry, pomegranate, strawberry preserves, black cherry, just picked plum and tangy currants along with warm stones, minty herbs, anise, lavender/garrique and hints of iron, saline and umami. The finish is detailed and lingering, leaving sweet crushed berries and has a touch of rustic dustiness, this is a fantastic Rhone wine, it totally rocks even now in it’s infancy, if you own this you are a very lucky person indeed, if you love Chateauneuf or want one of the world’s great Grenache driven wines, then you must get this, drink from 2016 to 2022, Charvin, imported by Weygandt Selections, absolutely killed it in 2012, this is a stunner!
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2011BarroulNeve2011 Louis Barruol, Cote Rotie “Neve” Rhone Valley, France.
Another negociant masterpiece from Louis Barruol, the talent behind Chateau de Saint-Cosme, he certainly has a gift for Syrah and the special cuvees he does for Kermit Lynch are glorious expressions, especially this Neve Cote Rotie. Louis finds unique 100% Syrah parcels in Cote Rotie and makes small lots of each, and Kermit decides whether to bottle, unfined and unfiltered as is, or if it should be blended with another small parcel lot, but each bottling is unique and full of character. The Neve is from 30 year old vines grown on the classic schist slopes of Cote Rotie, there is no Viognier in the vineyard and none in this wine, this is pure Syrah, potent and full bodied with terroir and Barruol magic, he uses stems and ferments in cement vats before raising the wine in used barrels. The Neve 2011 is a beauty with loads of blue and black fruits, peppery spice, loamy earth and a deep blue/black core both in hue and flavors plus an exotic perfume of violets and amaro herbs. Even with the stems, Barrel has managed a stylish, elegant and smooth Syrah, much in following with classic Cote Rotie, it is not as gamey or nervy as Cornas or as powerful as Hermitage, but it shows layers of pleasure, refinement and density with vivid fruit, focus and nice vintage vibrancy. The nose starts with that violet tone, but also has savory and herbal elements leading to a lush palate of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and damson plum fruits along with hints of coco powder, classis, white pepper, tar, minty herbs, licorice and dried currants as well as a mineral/graphite streak, camphor, bacon and sweet kirsch. This is an excellent example of Cote Rotie and it should get better in bottle over the next 3 to 5 years, drink from 2017 to 2024.
($72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

image2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
The latest Anthill Farms Pinot, the Sonoma Coast is a beautiful and almost delicate with dreamy texture and light to medium in body, with alcohol at 13.4% and smooth layers of pure fruit. This is very elegant and classy juice, pretty and nicely vibrant, it shows bright cherry, raspberry, plum and strawberry fruits with spice, cinnamon, hints of stony/mineral, tea and saline notes. This is not overly complicated or complex, but so delicious and alluring you’ll fall easily for this beautiful and savvy Pinot Noir, a lot of credit to Anthill Farms for crafting such a lovely restrained wine. The Sonoma Coast is a lush and balanced effort with soft ripe tannins, lifting acidity making for a pleasing wine that just does everything right, these 2013 wines are very impressive and I highly recommend trying to find a few bottles, they usually are difficult to find, but worth the search and effort to find them. This seems to be drinking well young, but should gain over the next year or so in bottle, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012DuemaniCiFRA2012 Duemani, CiFRA Cabernet Franc, Costa Toscana IGP, Italy.
This all biodynamic Cabernet Franc from the Tuscan coast region, not too far from the famed Bolgheri area and is hand crafted by Luca D’Attoma, one of Italy’s best winemakers. D’Attoma consults for many top estates in this area including Tua Rita, Fattoria Le Pupille and Tenuta I Geppi just to name a few, but his biggest claim to fame was making the great and acclaimed wines at Le Macchiole that rivaled Sassacia and Ornellaia, especially his Messorio, a 100% Merlot that could be compared to Petrus! D’Attoma believes in biodynamics in his farming at his Duemani estate (Demeter certified) which he runs with his partner Elena Celli, he employs mostly natural winemaking practices and on most of his reds he uses a combination of cement and French oak, but this CiFRA is 100% Cabernet Franc that sees no oak at all, it might be the purest form of Cabernet Franc outside the Loire Valley, and it lacks for nothing, this is a glorious and seductive wine. Luca D’Attoma, an ex Rugby player, is truly gifted and this wonderful 2012 Duemani CiFRA Cabernet Franc is utterly stunning with gorgeous deep fruit, spice, texture and vibrancy, this is a wine that has soul and personality, and is most certainly a terroir wine, you get the impression of it’s varietal character, but it sings in Italian and is darkly sexy and compelling with black cherry, blackberry, tangy currants, dusty plum and huckleberry fruits with hints of loamy earth, pepper, herb and iron/mineral notes along with a touch of leather, cedar and black olives in a dense, but lifting medium weight frame, well integrated tannins and satin/silky mouth feel. This Cabernet Franc is stylish, elegant, supple and perfectly understated, I was left very impressed and want more, drink this fantastic Tuscan coast red between 2015 and 2020, imported by A.I. Selections, and just hitting the shelves now, this is a superb value, I highly recommend searching this one out, and now!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013LesVoleursPN2013 Les Voleurs, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
A brilliant and racy Pinot Noir showing ripe silky fruit and vibrant intensity, giving pure Sonoma Coast character. Sourced from great cool climate site and artisan crafted the San Francisco based Les Voleurs and winemakers Matthew Purdon, UC Davis trained and Keith Crowell who brings a background of craft beer and sake, make some well judged wines like this seductive Sonoma Coast Pinot. The latest release is lush with nice perfume, opulent cherry, juicy plum and raspberry, plus mineral, dried roses and spices along with soft wood notes, slightly smoky sweet vanilla that all combine in a pleasing way. Les Voleurs also makes a very nice Chardonnay, a Rose of Pinot Noir and a single vineyard series, all of which are worth checking out, but for the best value and stylish complexity you must opt for this Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Along with Ed Kurtman of August West and Sandler, Von Holt and Cellar 33, Les Voleurs is one of many handcrafted wines being made right in San Francisco, and list keeps growing. Drink this Pinot Noir over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012KanteMalvasia2012 Kante, Malvasia IGT, Carso Venezia Giulia, Italy.
The Kante wines are some of the best in the northeast Italy, regularly on Gambero Rosso’s list for quality and unique terroir expressions of both still and sparkling wine, and a great new addition to Kermit Lynch’s import portfolio. Edi Kante along with Gravner pioneered ancient methods, though unlike Gravner has moved back away from orange and amphora raised wines in recent years and makes wines more conventional in style, but with purity of varietal and with a great sense of place. These wines from Carso are expressive and poised with elegant layers and highlights the limestone and clay soils, white are similar to the finest of Burgundy, giving glorious mineralize, this comes through especially well in the Malvasia from 20 year old vines. This pretty wine starts with steely mineral notes, tangerine and honeysuckle in this light to medium bodied white, it was fermented in neutral large oak casks and aged about 12 months before moved to stainless tanks, then aged a further 6 months then bottled, this makes for a round and fresh wine with a nice fleshy feel, but with nice acidity, showing a palate of lemon/lime, kiwi, melon and white peach fruits, leesy notes, river stones and saline. This is a vibrant and vivid example and delivers joyous flavor and energy, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2019.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010GermanoLangheNeb2010 Angelo Germano, Visette, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Germano has been making Barolo in La Morra since 1908 and they craft an impressive array of wines from the region, including  this wonderful Langhe Nebbiolo Visette that really is drinking fantastic. Grown in the Barolo zone and from quality vines the stunning 2010 Nebbiolo from Germano is without question an amazing value and complex offering, highlighting the sublime vintage for Barolo and with the benefit of being a no quilt wine and with silky tannins and open nature it is a real pleasure to enjoy in it’s youth. The 2010 is lively and vibrant with ripe, almost succulent fruit, it comes in at a healthy 14.5% alcohol, so this is not a wimpy or lean watered down version of Nebbiolo, this wine has some force, density and Barolo like charms. Best with food of course this stylish red starts with a mix of dried flowers, amaro like herbal notes with currant, cherry and red berry fruit leading the way along with a sweet plumy core and mineral tones, plus cedar, minty licorice, porcini and earthy/savory elements. The color is dark red with a deep center with bright edges hinting at the classic orange/brick, this is a glorious example of varietal and terroir, drink over the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2015 to 2021, Germano is not always easy it find, imported by Tanaro River Imports, but it certainly is worth the hunt to get these wines!
($29 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013ChaninZotovich2013 Chanin, Pinot Noir, Zotovich Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
The latest from Gavin Chanin is a fantastic effort, one of the best Pinots of the vintage so far and a wine to get asap! Chanin is one of the newest members of In Pursuit of Balance and is making a huge splash in those circles with his beautiful and refined wines, he has an impressive resume as well, he has studied and made wine at Au Bon Climat and Qupe, along with making Forbes top 30 under 30 list for Wine, as well as being the winemaking partner in Lutum Wines (Another new label to watch). In the past few vintages Gavin Chanin’s wines under his Chanin label have been getting more vibrant and dynamic, his Chardonnays have been wonderful an elegant, but of course his Pinots are the main focus and they are sensational, especially this Zotovich, but also his Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido too. The 2013 vintage has taken these wines to another level and I highly recommend checking them out, and seeing the talent the Chanin is, he has certainly joined the elite set in the Santa Barbara area and his wines will surly impress and captivate you. This 2013 Zotovich by Chanin starts with heady perfume, violets, rose petal and spicy incense lift from the glass along with fresh berries in this family deep and dark hued Pinot leading to a satin and silk laced palate of wild plum, black cherry, raspberry and tangy blueberry fruits along with minty herbs, tea spice, cinnamon and licorice notes, as well as soft wood/cedary, vanilla and cola bean. The wine shows poise, detail and grace throughout, but there is good tension, energy and drive too, with mineral tones and chalky stones adding to the complexity in this medium weighted Pinot Noir that has an excellent acidity to fruit balance and at 13.96% is full flavored, stylish and not over blown with well hidden tannins. This Pinot Noir all ready drinking well, though should gain and develop nicely over the course of a few years and it should age well too, leaving a long window of pleasure ahead, drink from 2016 to 2023.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011FrontonTinto2012 Fronton de Oro, Tinto, Gran Canaria DO, Canary Islands, Spain.
Made from the Listan Negro and Tintilla varietals the Fronton de Oro is one of my favorite reds from the Canaries, and highlights the exotic flavors of this group of volcanic Islands of the coast of northwestern Africa. Listen Negro makes up the most of this blend with just a touch of Tintilla, Listan Negro is also known as the Mission grape and Tintilla is the same varietal as Graciano a minor Rioja red grape, both work beautifully in this wild marine and volcanic influenced region, showing salty and flinty spice character and medium weighted fruit. The Fronton de Oro 2012 is a complex and detailed wine, with a light perfumed nose of dried flowers and spices, but still rustic, earthy and raw with layers of blackberry, spiced plum, blueberry and cherry fruits along with loads of cayenne/red pepper, chalky stones, saline, black licorice, cedar notes and a hint of leathery game. The color and texture is much the same as Pinot Noir, not too heavy or dark and the tannins settle quickly in the glass, becoming smoother and there is a vital lift of acidity making this wines really wonderful with cuisine. Most people liken these wines to old school Crozes-Hermitage with the Syrah like profile and nature, and while I tend to agree, this are much more exotic and savory with a lighter feel on the palate, but they are for the adventurous and curious more than the mainstream, I am thrilled by the Canary Island wines, especially Suertes del Marques from Tenerife, and the Fronton de Oro wines of Gran Canaria, Fronton de Oro also made a pure Tintilla cuvee and a refreshing demi-sec white blend that are both worth the search for. The Fronton de Oro Tinto 2012 is impressive and alluring now, best to enjoy it with all it’s youth and vibrancy in top gear, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

1989JadotBeze1989 Louis Jadot, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Grand Cru Red Burgundy, France.
At my Easter Chinese dinner with friends and wine geeks, okay mostly wine geeks, we all brought a few bottles to share, but almost at the end of the meal with a few rounds of duck being passed about, this mysterious bottle starts coming my direction, and it turns out to be one of the finest Louis Jadot wines I’ve ever had, the 1989 Chambertin Clos de Beze. Well, yes it was surprising and a lovely surprise, I have not had much luck with Louis Jadot in the past myself, and I admit I have built up a prejudice against the big Negociants, and maybe to my own disadvantage, especially as this wine showed brilliantly, sexy and complete with full flavors and very elegant and stylish, was I eating crow or duck? Yes, the color was dark ruby, very little age showing, the palate was full and in great form with red cherry, currant and raspberry fruit, it was plumy rich in feel, sweet on entry with lovely secondary elements of dried flowers, wild mushrooms, loamy earth, without much decay, just a hint of orange rind, tea spice, a bit of leather/tobacco and fall leaves, I had have Jadot wines from this era and vintage that were tired, orange/brown and going thin, but this was not at all fading, this was by far the best I’ve tasted. I was thrilled by this Beze, it was great to go back in the time machine and explore this pretty Grand Cru with it’s generous fruit, fine tannins, still with some acidity and classic Chambertin force, and the finish was long and pure leaving cedar, Pinot fruit and wild strawberry notes, and I need to mention that the texture was silky, but the wine has plenty of vigor with life and density. As not a big fan of Jadot, and on a night with some glorious other wines, including magnums of Gerard Boulay Cru Sancerre, Marc Morey Chassagne, a bottle of exceptional Rinaldi La Coste Barolo, and the Les Vieux Clos Nicolas Joly I picked, this Clos de Beze shinned and made an impression, I stand humbled, happily, bravo Louis Jadot, drink this Beze sooner vs later, it certainly at it’s very best.
($350+ Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2000LopezTondoniaBlanco2000 Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, Reserva Blanco, White Rioja DO, Rioja Alta, Haro, Spain.
This historic winery has been around since 1877 and has been a bastion of tradition ever since, and while their red Rioja are glorious wines, it is their amazing long lived whites that make this winery one of the world’s best and most interesting, especially this Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco. Sometimes in the past I’ve cringed at mild oxidation and may not have given these wines their due respect, but at a recent tasting I was blown away at the freshness and detail of these wines, even the 1994 vintage was singing a youthful song from the glass, but for me the 15 year old 2000 vintage Vina Tondonia was the most impressive and incredibly lovely and vital. The Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco is a blend usually 80-85% Viura and 15-20% Malvasia and it ages wonderfully, and this 2000 has no hint of age yet, crisp and mineral driven, gorgeous as can be, with steely notes, white flowers, chalky stones, bright citrus, with lime and tangerine, zesty saline and peach notes flowing in the glass. These whites are unique and highly sought after, they remind me somewhat of late release Semillon, not in flavor really but feel, aged Hunter Valley wines from Australia come to mind, as do Graves white Bordeaux (Think Haut-Brion blanc) and Cantina Terlano in Alto Adige, Italy which hold back some whites for decades, plus even California has Kalin Cellars which release long aged white wines, in fact they are just on to their 2000 vintage Semillon. But these Lopez de Heredia whites stand above and apart, they offer richness of detail and give pleasure in a class hard to beat, with ultra traditional methods, organic farming and all native yeast fermentation, along with doing all their own cooperage work, from American oak, using big casks as not to crowd the wines for their long journey, making each highly individual offerings. Over time these wines gain body and length adding honeycomb notes, sweet lemon curd, nutty elements and soft woody notes, but right now this 2000 Vina Tondonia is a marvel of clarity and brisk with vibrancy, I might prefer it as it is now, but there is plenty of time ahead, this wine is stunning and beautiful, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($50+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013LuciaSLHPinot2013 Lucia Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The basic SLH Lucia Pinot by Pisoni is gloriously forward and supple, it certainly is a fantastic offering showing wonderful pure fruit and poise and polish of a much more expensive offering, then again the fruit is sourced from some of California’s most prized Pinot sites including the Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards! I had heard 2013 was going to be a super vintage from the Santa Lucia, and from what I’ve tasted, I would agree, in fact I like the year much better than 2011 or 2012! I got a preview recently and tasted 2013 wines from Siduri, Loring and Roar, all pretty darn good, but this Lucia was a good step up, maybe I just am more in turn with Jeff Pisoni’s talents, which seems to me gets better and better, he harnesses the power and dark natural flavors of these vineyards and crafts decidedly refined wines. The 2013 Lucia SLH starts with rose petal, crushed violets, incense, mocha and red fruits leading to a palate of black cherry, blueberry, plum and briar notes along with cola bean, cedar and blackberry. This wine is medium weighted, layered and lush with classic Pisoni feel and character, it is hard not to absolutely love this Pinot, drink from 2016 to 2020. The Pisoni family hit a homerun with these 2013 wines, and a big congrats to them, plus the ex-Peter Michael man Jeff Pisoni, winemaker, just has his first child, with his winemaking wife Bibiana, of Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer Sonoma Coast wines and her own Cattleya wines, so another great member to the family has been added!
($45 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2006FantinoDardiRiserva2006 Alessandro E Gian Natale Fantino, Barolo DOCG, Cascina Dardi-Bussia Riserva, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2006 Riserva Dardi from Fantino is remarkably fresh and pure with exceptional live, clarity and deep flavors that feel at once refined and still forceful with transparent detail and vigor. Fantino is an old school winery, there’s no extra bells and whistles to be found and the winemaking tends to be hands off, and this 2006 Riserva pretty much just gives the record of it’s vintage and terroir, it may lack some flavor, but it is really lovely and real with everything you really should care about in a Barolo. The nose holds a bouquet of dried roses, wild mushrooms, earth, sweet and sour herbs along with red berries and cool liquid stones before and bright palate that feels just a touch more robust than a Burgundy, but with a similar seductive texture, this is a natural beauty with all her freckles and slightly off center features not photoshopped out or fixed, which I kind of enjoy better. The hue is showing classic Nebbiolo brickish edges, but the core remains deeply red, this wine has plenty of years ahead and there is fine tannins and good lift from acidity, 2006 was a very solid vintage and often mistakenly overlooked, this wine is a super value at this price, and importer Kermit Lynch won’t have any trouble selling this Barolo. The main palate is rich, but not heavy, with black cherry, damson plum, meaty notes, salted licorice, hoisin sauce, fig paste and cedar, along with tangy currant and mineral tones. There is lots to admire here and it certainly offers a lot of class and pleasure for the price, though it doesn’t reach the stars, but it does not disappoint, this is a noble and fine example, I’d get a few bottles, it maybe surprise after another 3 to 5 years in bottle, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($54 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

StCosmeJamesn.v. Saint-Cosme, Little James’ Basket Press, Vin de France. (2013 Bottling)
Chateau de Saint-Cosme’s most playful wine is the 100% Grenache non-vintage red that is fermented and aged in vat, this bottling is from 2013 which is 50% from 2012 and 50% from a solera of mixed years, coming from mostly old vine plots in the Southern Rhone. This fun and unconventional Grenache shows both bright freshness and mature complexity, it is ripe and juicy, but still refined and balanced, this is really interesting stuff, I’m a huge fan of all the wines at Saint-Cosme and of Louis Barruol the winemaker.especially his Syrah Cotes du Rhone and his famous Gigondas. The Little James’ Basket Press is rich and persistent starting with ripe fruit, floral and spice elements on the nose with a full palate of boysenberry, plum, raspberry, and morello cherry fruits with pepper, chalky/stones, a touch of minty licorice, saline/soy sauce, dried flowers and golden raisins. The Little James’ shows lots of charm and character and while dark and lush, feels light and easy in the mouth making it very good with many cuisine options and easy to enjoy on it’s own, with air the Grenache really smooths out and opens it’s silky layers and lingers on the finish with liqueur notes, game and strawberry jelly. Best to quaff this bistro style red over the coming year, drink from 2015 to 2017, this is laughter and smiles in the bottle, but seriously pleasing juice.
($14 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013RidgeGeyserville2013 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville, Proprietary Red, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
The latest Geyserville is a lush, full-bodied effort with loads of fruit and rich textures, it is mostly Zinfandel along with Carignane, Petite Sirah and a tiny bit of Mataro (Mourvedre) from old vine plots in Dry Creek Valley. While the 2012 had a bit more raw tannin and a bit less alcohol the 2013 is a touch smoother overall at this stage and gives a lot of pleasure, it feels plusher and rounder in general and at 14.7% it has a more ripe profile, all this really means is that it should easier to enjoy young, it is only a hairs different from the glorious 2012, and most people will in all likely hood like it better, I bet I’ll like it just as much in another year or so in bottle, it is really close to matching the 2012 and I like it better than 2009, 2010 and 2011. As plain as I can put it, it will make lots of friends and Ridge fans will be more than thrilled, this eager young Zinfandel shows vibrant raspberry, briar, spice and sweet cedary wood notes. The nose has a mix of floral, pepper, cassis and mocha, it has a deep hue with purple edged garnet in the glass and the lush fruit layers fill the mouth with layers of blackberry, raspberry, bramble, coco powder, sweet and savory elements, vanilla and candied cherry. This 2013 Geyserville has sweet tannins, they will firm up some in the coming year and while lavish in style it shows good vigor, focus and refinement, everything you’ve come to expect from Ridge, this is very good and will drink great for the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2021.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

March 2015

2012RoulotBlanc2012 Domaine Roulot, Bourgogne Blanc, White Burgundy, France.
Jean-Marc Roulot’s basic Blanc is all from Meursault and comes off 30-40 year vines on clay and limestone soils, making this one of the all time great values in Bourgogne AC, and this 2012 is simply stunning and while young and lean, drinks fantastically well. My biggest complaint here, is that I couldn’t get more! Sadly this beautiful Chardonnay will be almost impossible to secure, but I had to put some words down it anyway, and it serves as a reminder to buy more in the future, I highly recommend getting on the list to get this when the 2013 version comes up, it is as always imported by Kermit Lynch and the 2013’s should be arriving in Fall. In case you know where some of this 2012 is, run and get it, don’t wait a second, I enjoyed a bottle of this the other night and it was sublime. We all know or should know that Roulot makes some of the greatest Chardonnay on the planet and his intense, mineral driven and dynamic Meursault Crus are coveted and collected the world over, and my limited experience with them left a mark on me, these are glorious examples and worth every penny, though the best deal is the plain and simple Bourgogne Blanc that is any other than plain and simple! The 2012 Blanc starts with white flowers, citrusy brightness, chalk/stoney notes and a zesty steely vibrancy leading to a crisp cool palate of lemon, spiced pear and golden apple with hints of clove, straw, saline and wet stones. With air the wine fills out with white peach and lime notes, but it stays poised, brisk and tension filled and at 12.8% it is easy to quaff, which I did, this is sublime stuff of vivid layers, transparency and vigor, really lovely. The fruit is succulent and polished, it shows good density and textural feel, but lithe and taught with gorgeous energy and cut, this is special stuff, best to hold another few years in bottle, but there’s no regret in opening now, I was thrilled by it’s performance, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013MasdelPerieLaRoque2013 Fabien Jouves, Mas Del Perie, La Roque, Cahors, Malbec, France.
Fabian Jouves is redefining what we think of as French Malbec, in fact his Cahors is one of the most interesting wines from the region and his natural winemaking practices are highlighting this varietal in a way we couldn’t have imagined, especially this La Roque. Fermented and raise in a combination of cement and neutral oak barrels this pure and delicious Malbec shows wonderful vitality and balance with dark fruits, good acidity and superb length. Some whole cluster and native yeasts add the complexity, and the low sulphur gives this wine the same kind of personality that you find in wines like Lapierre’s Morgon and the wines of La Stoppa, and while the term “Natural Wine” can turn people off in some areas, this wine is beautifully made, clear and focused, you could more easily compare Fabien with Arianna Occhipinti, talents that make honest terroir wine. The 2013 Mas del Perie La Roque Cahors is lively, fresh and vibrant with wild flowers, sweet herb and plum notes leading to a palate of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and tangy currants along with an almost red peach and citrusy dynamic that makes this wine feel refreshing while chalky mineral, anise, tobacco leaf and a hint of cedar comes through with air. The wine takes on a darker presence in the glass with bitter coco, blueberry and all spice coming through, this really good stuff that is modest in alcohol, lively with a medium body and is super pleasing throughout, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($23 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011Crater2011 Crater, Listan Negro, Tacoronte-Acentejo DO, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
This Listan Negro (Mission Grape) comes from the volcanic slopes of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands only about 80 miles off the coast of north Africa in the Atlantic Ocean and was one of first critically acclaimed wines from this remote region. Now we have many great wines from the Canaries, especially sought after is Suertes del Marques and Fronton de Oro, these are intriguing and unique wines and this Crater 2011 is deeply flavored with exotic spices that will appeal to those with a sense of adventure. The nose is full of savory essences, mineral and loamy earth before revealing red berry, dried currants and plum sauce with a palate that is medium in weight with wonderful textural mouth feel and life. There is a core of blueberry, cherry and poached red peach along with red pepper/cayenne, flinty stones, a touch of game, salted black licorice and rustic chalk dust and cedary notes. The tannins are firm, the acidity is juicy in this interesting red which turns more refined and poised with longer in the glass, but this is a wine made for food and can be friendly with a wide range of cuisine from braised goat shoulder to spicy seafood stew, I really think it shines with kabob and Turkish or Middle Eastern fare, best from 2015 to 2018.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013BedrockSyrah2013 Bedrock, Syrah, North Coast.
Morgan Twain Peterson’s basic North Coast Syrah is a blend of five cool climate sites and is made partial whole cluster and with about 40% stems with modest oak makes for a real generous and forward wine. Bedrock can’t seem to miss these days and this new vintage is as good as any they’ve done, with their Syrah and Zinfandel offerings both showing great fruit detail and rich complexity and style. The 2013 North Coast Syrah starts with crushed violets, cracked pepper, cassis and bitter chocolate with blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry on the palate along with vanilla, bacon fat and mocha. This sexy and ripe flavored wine is very pleasing and very opulent, giving Saint-Joseph like character, but truly Californian through and through, best to enjoy this one between 2016 and 2019. Not as nervy as past vintages and with good density and plush layers, this wine will appeal to a wider set of palates and it gets even better with air and time in the glass, very impressive length too!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013Largeot2013 Domaine Daniel Largeot, Bourgogne Rouge, Red Burgundy, France.
From Cote de Beaune fruit the Chorey Les Beaune based Largeot’s basic Bourgogne is a pretty little wine with good concentration and pure Pinot fruit, drinking exceptionally well and delightful, a perfect soft and graceful Burg for immediate enjoyment. This no frills and pleasing wine over delivers in this price class with clean and persistent layers, it starts with dried rose petals, chalky mineral and spicy red currants leading to a core of racy black and morello cherry along with raspberry, strawberry and dusty plum fruits plus hints of loam, tea spice, tangy cranberry, anise, saline and pea gravel. There is good life and vigor adding lift and energy, but nice smooth tannins and round texture give an almost rich mouth feel, the small crop and well sorted grapes show in this vintage, drink now through 2018, a pleasant surprise in this narrowed range, grab it while you can, imported by Charles Neal.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2014ArnotRobertsRose2014 Arnot-Roberts, Rose of Touriga Nacional, Luchsinger Vineyard, Clear Lake.
The latest version of Arnot-Roberts’ Rose is driving with energy and depth of flavor, it highlights the vintage and style perfectly with shear acidity, spicy mineral and a mouth filling presence. This impressive Rose has pink and red citrus, spice box and juicy melon notes to lead and intrigues with sour cherry, hints of strawberry, watermelon, red peach and grapefruit fruits, along with flinty/pepper spice, steely mineral and river stones. The bright intensity is balanced by textural silkiness as the wine hits mid palate and flavors expand, but finishing refreshingly brisk with a cool crispness, this is wonderful and exciting Rose, something we’ve come to expect of Duncan Meyers, as all of his Arnot-Roberts wines in recent vintages have shown. I am particularly fond of this Rose and his Syrah offerings, but the Trout Gulch Chardonnay and his set of Pinot Noir(s) are lovely and entertaining wines as well, if you’d not tried the Arnot-Robert wines yet, you need to and soon, these are super and classy wines with great style and quality. The Rose is very limited and unique coming off the Clear Lake Luchsinger Vineyard and being from the rare Touriga Nacional grape (most common to Portugal), almost never seen in California, let alone in a dry Rose, in recent years this pink wine has even lured me away from Tempier’s Bandol Rose! Drink this over the coming warm season and into the Fall of 2015.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

KaranikaBrut2012 Karanika, Brut Sparkling Wine, Cuvee Speciale, Blanc de Noirs Xinomavro, Amyntaion, Greece.
This is gorgeous bubbly, and while listed as a Brut it is super dry and vibrant more like an Extra Brut in feel and character, this beautiful Methode Champenoise is made from one of Greece’s best red grapes, Xinomavro and comes from the Northern Geek mountainous region of Amyndeon. Honestly, this is mind-blowing stuff, it rivals the best single vineyard grower Champagnes, it certainly is level at least in quality to the top Pinot Meunier stuff, like Benoit Dehu or Jerome Prevost, and it maybe the most inspiring Greek wine I’ve ever tasted. Laurens Hartman, who’s roots are Dutch, farms all organic and makes his sparkling wine in classic handmade style, he made wine in Champagne and understands every detail of his mountain terroir, more alpine in climate than one would imagine of Greece, even though Greece is home to the second highest set of mountains in Europe after Switzerland. The Karanika Brut is stunning from start to finish, leading with a nose of white flowers, fine yeast, bread dough, citrus and white currant with a super fine mousse, beading bubbles, ultra savvy intensity, almost poised tension in the mouth highlighting the sublime nature of this glorious nectar. The palate has mineral tones, steely and stony fruits including lemon, white plum and quince, plus an almost juice of cherry element along with leesy/brioche, a hint of spice and chalk dust. This Xinomavro sparkler is a marvel and is a must have wine for it’s exotic charm and class, it is hard to put into words just how freaking good this is, and it is pure excitement in the glass. It was a great pleasure to meet and taste with Hartman in person and his still wines were very solid too, though this bubbly really did steal the show. I would even bet on this being a great Sparkler to age in the cellar, though I would be hard pressed not to drink it on any occasion I could think of! I most certainly didn’t discover this great wine, it has been touted by many a great wine critic, but I most wholeheartedly recommend searching this stellar Bubbly out, Karanika is imported by Wine Wise in California, drink now for sure, but best from 2015 to 2022.
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014LArgentierRoseArmon2014 Chateau L’ Argentier, Aramon Rose, Vieilles Vignes, Sommieres, IGP Herault, Languedoc, France.
The Jourdan family has been making wine since 1937 and have a beautiful estate in Sommieres, which is in-between Nimes and Montpellier in the L’Herault region of the Languedoc, in southern France. The Rose from the Jourdan’s Chateau L’ Argentier is a beauty, made from the rare Aragon grape, this almost lost varietal was once the most widely planted grape in the area, but was almost wiped out by Phylloxera in the 1,800’s, and was never really re-planted, so only a tiny amount survives today. This 2014 old vines rose is perfectly vibrant and mineral driven with tangy refreshing fruit essences and crisp coolness, it tingles the palate with light floral tones, pink grapefruit, sour cherry, watermelon and strawberry along with steely notes and stony elements, plus a hint of savory spice. This classic Pink is delightful, character filled and wonderfully charming. I may have found my secret Summer go to Rose for the year, this is really pretty and entertaining wine and a easy way to spend the warm season ahead. Imported by Wine Wise in California, the Chateau L’ Argentier is a winery to look for, their other offering are quite fun as well with a Cinsault old vine red and Coteaux du Languedoc rouge worth looking for as well, though I think the star was this Aramon Rose, drink this gem over the next year, absolutely joyous!
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012JoussetChenin2012 Lise & Bertand Jousset, Estate Premier Rendez-Vous, Montlouis sur Loire, France.
Chenin is seeing a huge surge in desire with many gorgeous and delicate Chenin Blancs becoming the new white wine darlings, and while Chenin has has a rocky road and up and down cycle in California, it seems to have found a revival in popularity to the point where it has succeeded in getting a serious niche in the market place both in restaurants and wine shops. This is great to see, and we owe this to the new and old pioneers in the Loire that made such glorious wine, like these Lise & Bertand Jousset offerings, especially this latest estate Premier Rendez-Vous, an all natural Chenin Blanc from their own vines in Montlouis sur Loire, made with native yeasts, aged an the lees and with almost no sulphur, and like most of the top Loire estates is all organic, practicing biodynamic methods. Following in the tradition of Nicolas Joly and Francois Chidaine, but definitely showing their own style and terroir influences, their old vine Chenin is wonderfully detailed and elegant with loads of character and striking mineral focus. The 2012 Jousset Premier Rendez-Vous starts with earthy and floral bouquet with a hint of loam, river rock and white flowers leading to a vivid palate of mixed citrus, peach and quince notes, there is an almost grapefruit like tangy sensation and the wine plays delicately in mouth with vibrant acidity, chalky stone notes and lingers on with sweet herbs, verbena, golden apple and lemon. With air the peach elements show brighter and the drive folds nice into the texture, but this wine stays lifting, light and refined throughout, this is really beautiful and dreamy Chenin. The new world, especially South Africa and California are coming on strong too, with many new an exciting wines, in California in particular there is a lot of buzz from producers like Littorai, Sandlands and Field Recordings, and there have been some great Chenins in the past and present in the state too, I love the Casa Nuestra in St Helena old vine dry Chenin, and the Daniel Gehrs Chalone Chenin Blanc was one of my all time favorites, but it is hard to beat the classic Loire Valley wines for magical purity and seduction, all this Jousset is a fantastic wine. Drink this lovely Montlouis, imported by Return to Terroir, over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014CrusePetNat2014 Cruse Wine Co. Pétillant Naturel, Sparkling Valdiguie, Napa Valley.
The Cruse Wine Co. Pet-Nat bubbly is made in the Methode Ancestrale, bottle fermented naturally, which dates back to ancient times, even before Dom Perignon fashioned the first Champagnes and is making a come back in both the old world, especially in the Loire Valley of France and here in the new world with dozens of small handcrafted wines hitting the market, like this crazy cool sparkling Valdiguie (also known as “Napa Gamay”) from Michael Cruse. I got introduced to an amazing array of Petillant Naturel wines from California last night at Bay Grape in Oakland, they put on a seriously fun “Heavy Pet Nat Zoo” party at their shop/wine bar, this was like a rave for bubbles freaks and a wine geek Mecca of cool and rare sparkling weirdos, I mean that in a good way, this was pure fun and all the wines were interesting, in particular Broc Sparkling Cabernet Franc, Combe by Parr & Stolpman Sparkling Trousseau, Onward Malvasia and the Donkey and Goat Pet-Nat, but if I was to have a favorite I might have to confess to this Cruse Valdiguie Pet-Nat on the night, and it will be a wine I buy, no question. Michael Cruse’s Pet-Nat Valdiguie starts with it’s cool orange/pink hue that seems to glow and draw you in, it has a vibrant fine mouse and offers up zest dry mineral notes, lively fruit and is super tangy refreshing with hints of sour cherry, citrus, exotic tropical notes and lingering yeast, almost brioche Champagne flavors plus lingering strawberry. This is not a wine to over think, it is a simple celebration with a pop top, like beer cap, that is a perfect lead in to lunch or dinner to put a smile on all the faces around the table. I love this new wave of bubbly, it is anti-serious joy in a bottle, I highly recommend checking this one out and enjoy it over the coming Spring and Summer.
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013SaladinPN2013 Saladin cellars, Pinot Noir, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The new Saladin Pinot Noir from Keller Estate’s La Cruz Vineyard in the southwest end of the Petaluma Gap is youthfully lush, decedent and richly flavored, made in a modern style that fans of Kosta Browne, Black Kite, Walter Hansel and Sojourn will love. This Saladin release, is their first Pinot Noir, they make a Dunn inspired Howell Mountain Cabernet and bottled a fresh stainless steel aged Pinot Gris from La Cruz as well, and certainly all the wines deserve merit and attention, especially this Pinot Noir made from ripe grapes, de-stemmed and aged in a mix of new and neutral French oak. The 2013 Saladin La Cruz comes in at about 14.5% and has lots of texture, and is very hedonistic without feeling over weight or ponderous with good fresh acidity, coming from this cool and windswept site that allows slow ripening and deep color development, for a first time effort this Pinot comes out a solid offering and a winner. I tasted through the same vintage Sojourn recently as well, all rated between 90 and 95 Points by Parker and this Saladin was right there with them step by step, in fact I honestly would score this one a couple of ticks higher myself. The Saladin La Cruz starts with sweet raspberry, currants and dusty mocha notes with hints of floral tones and vanilla leading to a palate of black cherry, plum and cranberry fruits along with tea, clove, juicy red peach, mineral/stony elements and creamy soft wood (supple tannins) and Christmas spices, everything is still coming together here, I think more restraint and class will show up with bottle age, the oak notes will fold in and play a backseat framing and complex secondary elements will emerge with patience. This will be a very limited release, and looks set to be offered direct, but worth checking out and making the extra effort to find it, drink from 2016 to 2020, this has impressive form and style and is pure Californian in nature, this is well made Pinot that makes the grade and then some.
($45 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive

2013KrugerRumpfScheurebe2013 Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe Spatlese Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s gorgeous 2013 Scheurebe is one compelling wine, and one of best  examples of this grape in all of Germany, and it is stunner in the glass with a light golden hue. While a Spatlese, and pleasingly fruity/opulent, this wine is not cloyingly heavy in any way, but instead wonderfully balanced with vibrancy and purity of fruit. The Kruger-Rumpf’s Scheurebe bouquet is a perfumed expression of the varietal with delicate jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom, this is highly alluring, but still restrained and refined that plays with your senses offering hints of sweetness against some savory notes, along with loam and stoney contrasts. Maybe the secret to the class found here is that it comes from great terroir, primarily Munster Dautenpflanzer, a Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) site set in quartzite and loess clay soils and quite high up on the steep slopes, adding to the elegant flavors and driving focus. The mouth feel is medium weighted, but lush in texture with good extract/density with beautifully lifted and vibrant fruit, lemon, creamy melon, nectarine and honeyed pear all playing parts. Nice light mineral essences, chalky stone and Asian spice with exotic tropical as well, and while everything flows smoothly, there is plenty of vigor and life here with firm acidic structure, and a refreshing salt lick and crispness come through on the finish with the faint echo of honeycomb sweetness lingering on. Drink this beauty of a nectar over the next 3 to 5 years, this stuff is very sexy, best from 2015 to 2022.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013TatomerPN2013 Tatomer, Pinot Noir, Duvarita, Santa Barbara County.
Grahame Tatomer, best known for his wonderful Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, is releasing his first Pinot Noir and it’s a fabulous inaugural effort and a wine worth searching out, especially as only 150 cases were made. Tatomer’s Riesling offerings are some of North America’s finest dry offerings, along with his stylish Gruners, so it was interesting to see what he could do with Pinot Noir, and he’s hit the ground running with a flavorful and balanced wine, from the cool Duvarita site, it shows good depth, bright intensity and restrained alcohol (13%), it reminds me a little of Radio-Coteau and it should be rewarding in the bottle for another 3 to 5 years easy. Duvarita, formerly the Presidio Vineyard, is even father west of the Sta. Rita Hills near Lompoc, with sandy soils and cool windy Pacific influences giving this area great conditions for deep Pinot Noir and Tatomer has done a superb job with his 2013. The Duvarita starts with a dark ruby/red hue, showing hints of dark berry, floral notes and cedary spices leading to a palate of pure Pinot fruit along with black cherry, blueberry, plum and raspberry layers with minty herb tea, cinnamon stick, anise and a fine mineral and chalk dust element, it finishes with vitality and brightness, but lingers with strawberry and pomegranate and a hint of cola bean. This is a lovely wine with soft tannins and good acidity, it was aged in neutral barrel for 18 months, and it should gain a bit more character and charm with another 6 to 8 months of bottle age and should drink well for another 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($50 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012SheaPNEstate2012 Shea Wine Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s top vineyard sites and one of the best deals in top flight American Pinot Noir, Shea is must have wine, especially in such a great vintage as 2012 has turned out to be in Oregon. This dark and rich Pinot is a blend of many unique blocks and clones including Wadenswil, the old Swiss clone, Pommard and some new clone 777, which adds to the layers of complexity in this wine. Blackberry and dark cherry fruit leads the way with loam and chalky mineral, crushed violets, minty herb, plum and strawberry comes through on the mid palate along with cola, sweet oak notes, tea and cedary spices, firms up on the finish making for a vigorous and elegant Pinot Noir. Richard Shea’s vines supply top fruit to many a famous winery, list seems endless with Beauz Freres, St. Innocent, Penner-Ash and Rapter Ridge being just a few, along with Sine Qua Non and other Californian Pinot specialists getting grapes from this amazing site in Yamhill-Carlton. 2012 is a vintage to own, it was one of Oregon’s best and should be a cellar classic, and for your money, you should get some Shea Estate, without question St. Innocent and Shea are two of the best values in Oregon Pinot. This 2012 highlights the detail and richness a top vintage can deliver here, at 14.3% this is a full and dense wine, without heavy or sweet character, there is nice intensity of fruit, good mineral elements, a beautiful dark color and a long blueberry tinged finish. There’s supple tannins, lifting acidity and a taught frame in this wine, best to let things develop for a few years if you can wait, drink from 2017 to 2024.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013RoarChardSMV2013 Roar, Chardonnay, Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Sierra Mar Vineyard, part of the Franscioni estate along with Rosella’s Vineyard, and farmed in partnership with Gary Pisoni and family, is Gary Franscioni’s newest and most scenic vineyard set back in the Santa Lucia Highlands looking down on Garys’ Vineyard and with higher elevation. This site is just coming into it’s own and these 2013 vintage wines are really some of the best, most complex and most balanced offerings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Roar label, though I have long thought the Syrah’s were some of the best in the region. Recent changes in winemaking and with the vines getting some age have paid off here, especially charming in the set of 2013 wines, is the fantastic Sierra Mar Chardonnay which is now on par with the Rosella’s with wonderful vivid layers, bright fruit, mineral essence and textural magic with rich mouth feel, but not heavy, this is superb stuff and well worth searching out. The 2013 Sierra Mar starts with fresh citrus blossoms and fruit, wild heather, a touch of matchstick and wet stones leading to a vibrant palate of lemon, pineapple, green apple and spiced pear fruits along with chalk, saline, soft wood notes, a touch of cream and light fig and hint of smoke. The overall effect is one of poise and elegance, though very much in keeping with the region’s terroir, this a very good Santa Lucia Highlands Chard, well made, pleasing and focused, I admire the energy and harmony in this vintage, drink from 2015 to 2020. Roar looks headed in the right direction and have a some talented hands in the cellar with Scott Shapley putting his touch on the current set of wines, following in the big shoes left by Ed Kutzman and Siduri’s Adam Lee, and so far it seems he’s done a great job and is refining the estate style. I really look forward to see the fall release of Syrah, which have grown to be my favorite in the Roar lineup, but besides this really entertaining Chardonnay, the Roar Garys’ Pinot, the SLH Pinot and the Sierra Mar Pinot are all top notch too.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013WeinbachSchlossberg2013 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling Schlossberg, Grand Cru, Alsace France.
With the tragic loss of Laurence, Weinbach’s beautiful and gifted winemaker last year and the recent passing of the matriarch Catherine, Domaine Weinbach has suffered and the family is in our hearts. I have long been a fan of these wines and it was very sad to hear this last years terrible news, I really admire this Domaine and the class and level of quality, and the latest releases are simply stunning especially the Rieslings. The 2013 Weinbach Schlossberg Grand Cru is beautifully detailed with dynamic freshness and vibrancy showing bright citrus, white flowers, light rose petals, spice and mineral tones flowing from the start. The palate is vivid with lemon/lime, white peach, tangy apricot and tangerine along with dry sea salt, flinty stones and clove spiciness, everything feels tight and focused, though there is hidden density and richness that will come out over the next 3 to 5 years. This is gorgeous Riesling that gives lots of energy and youthful pleasure now, but should and will develop into a majestic wine, and certainly it will deserve more attention. This example of dry Riesling is more acid driven than in years past, but still has great levels of extract and complexity, it has layers of everything you’d ever want or need in a great wine, it is really impressive stuff, I highly recommend putting some of this and the other 2013 Rieslings in your cellar and drink over the next 10 years, best from 2016 to 2022.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2007Guimaro2007 Guimaro, Mencia, B2M, Ribiera Sacra, Galicia Spain.
After tasting all the currant releases of Pedro Guimaro’s, Jose Pastor his importer, brought out this gorgeous 2007 vintage B2M Mencia to try, and wow, it was drinking perfectly with a great array of flavors and complexity, showing some mature notes, but with lots of vigor and vibrancy. Guimaro’s wines from from vineyards in Spain’s wild northwest, first treasured by the Romans and the Ribiera Sacra looks more like the sleep river valleys of German’s wine country than anywhere else in Spain you could imagine, this is beautiful and haunting landscape, and this area and the Ribeiro are region that produce some of Spain’s most elegant and interesting wines, epecially Mencia, Brancellao, Caíño Longo, Ferrol, Caíño Redondo, Sousón and Garnacha Tintorera, for reds and Godello, Albarino, Treixadura, Torrontés and Loureiro in the whites. The Guimaro B2M 2007 is showing beautifully with sultry layers of racy fruit, mineral, spice and a touch of game/animal, in fact this Mencia reminds me of a Chinon, a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc with a leather horsey note, chalky stones and dried violets. The color is dark garnet with a bright edge, the nose is earthy with hints of flowers, truffle, sandal wood and red currants, while the palate shows red cherry, tangy plum, blackberry and porcini along with cedar, bell pepper, minty herbs and a faint touch of brettiness that I hope is not going to get bigger. Those that need fruity ultra clean wines will not be thrilled, but old school and natural wine drinkers will absolutely love this, especially fans of old Rhones or the mentioned Loire old school producers, I like the latest Guimaro wines a tad better as they has less old barrel influence, but this is a stylish, mature and classy effort that really impresses, this is good stuff. The new Guimaro lineup is pretty fantastic, from is Godello based white to all of his 2011, 2012 and 2013 Mencia offerings, so I highly recommend searching these wines out. It was great meeting Pedro Guimaro, getting to understand the vineyards and regions in Galicia, so a big thank you to Farm Wines, Jose Pastor Selections and San Francisco Wine Trading Company (my day job) for putting on this great tasting! I can’t wait to visit this part of Spain, especially after tasting these wines!
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014MeyerNakelRose2014 Weinhaus Meyer-Nakel, Rose of Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) AHR Germany.
Werner Nakel along with his daughters Meike and Dorte make some of Germany’s most acclaimed Pinot Noir or Spatburgunder from their estate in the AHR region in one of Germany’s most northerly river wine area grown on ancient slate soils and steep vineyards. Werner, know as the Red Baron, for his world class and Grand Cru Pinot Noir is letting his Daughter have a bit more influence these days and the wines which are amazing across the range are getting a more feminine touch and the power and oak treatment are being tamed a little, this dial back is not taking away anything from the glorious complexity and detail, but folding the wines into a fresher style. While their slate driven Pinots catch most of the attention, their Rose is one of Germany’s best too, along with Schossgut Diel of the Nahe, this Rose of Pinot Noir is bursting with vibrant energy and flavors with a smoky/spicy intensity along with tangy strawberry and sour cherry fruits. The mineral tones really make this bright pinkish/orange Rose and it starts with wilted roses, pepper and raspberry leading to a zesty palate of red citrus, watermelon, strawberry, plum and tart cherry along with wet stones and smoky flint spice plus exotic herbs and floral tea elements. There is a good fruity detail, but this is a dry and an acid vivid Rose with a great play of sweet and savory that lingers on the finish and is tangy refreshing. The aftertaste brings you back to true Pinot fruit a hint of tannin and a dried currant and blueberry note along with a crisp citrusy tanginess, this is wonderful stuff, can’t wait to enjoy it over the coming year, it should be available in May of 2015 in the USA, imported by Rudi Wiest, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010LaSpinettaBarbera2010 La Spinetta, Barbera D’ Asti DOCG, Ca’ Di Pian, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is great stuff, and I’ve always admired this bottling of Barbera from Giorgio Rivetti, along with his wonderful Barbaresco Crus and the very special Gallina Barbera. It’s always been the Ca’ Di Pian that I come back to every year to enjoy, it’s a comfort wine for me, it offers up dark flavors, mineral notes and a bit of earthy rusticness that appeals to me and the 2010 really stands out. The Ca’ Di Pian by La Spinetta starts a little awkward and slightly funky with a touch of reduction showing hoisin sauce, a hint of beef’s blood and alcohol warm, but give it a few minutes and there’s a rush of fruit, spice and complexity in the glass with blackberry, figs and morello cherry along with spiced plum and wild fennel/anise and stony/graphite, while time allows even more complex flavors of blueberry, dried flowers, coffee grinds, loam and cedar/sandalwood to come into play. The Ca’ Di Pian comes from vines that average 25 plus years, it gets 12 months of wood aging, another 6 months in steel vats before bottling, it is given time to mature before release, this vintage hits about 14% and is pretty full bodied. The color is deep with and purple core and garnet/red edges and there’s good depth on the palate with supple ripe tannins, a juicy soft acidity and a nice play between sweet fruit and savory elements, this is one of La Spinetta’s most raw and traditional wines, it has it’s own charms and rough edges, but is always a crowd pleaser and a great wine with cuisine, whether it is risotto, pasta or just a deli grab bag this Barbera brings a smile to your face, for years I used to give this wine as gifts, everyone of my friends knew and loved the Rhino wine, and I always try and have some bottles around, La Spinetta really put Barbera on the serious wine stage back in the 90’s and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. While Rivetti’s Barbaresco and Barolo (since 2000) continue to be some of the world’s great wines, his Barbera continues to be one of his best and most fun wines, this and his Moscato D’ Asti really should never be missed. The Ca’ Di Pian 2010 should age another 3 to 5 years easy, but it is pretty darn lovable right now, be sure to give it a chance to feel some air first then just quaff this superb and lovely Barbera, best from 2015 to 2018.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2009MortetGCVV2009 Domaine Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin “Vieilles Vignes” Red Burgundy, France.
I have been a long time fan of the Mortet wines and it was an unexpected pleasure to find myself with such a treat the other night, a big thank you to local collector and friend Fred Daniels for sharing. Domaine Denis Mortet has seen it’s ups and downs and the tragic loss of Denis Mortet by his own hands, but has been revitalized by his son Arnaud, who has put lots of hard work into the vineyards and passion into the winemaking since his father’s death in 2006. The wines now seem to be in good hands and are as good as I ever remember them, especially this old vine Gevrey-Chambertin, this is gorgeous stuff and shows classic layers of fruit, mineral and earthy character. Sadly now it is the importer that is going through a bit of upheaval and it is hard to find these wines through normal channels, in fact there has been a surge in grey market sales of Mortet, a few clients have reported recently being offered these wines ultra cheap, as low as $35 per bottle on pre arrival or at online wine auction sites, maybe the rising dollar has played a part? I would use wine-searcher to find the wine, and be careful to trust your instincts, but it would be a killer deal on a great bottle of wine. The 2009 Vieilles Vines Gevrey-Chambertin by Arnaud Mortet starts with a mixed of earth and floral tones with a deep ruby hue in the glass with red currant, roses and meaty notes as well before a rich palate of black cherry, raspberry and plum fruits, rocky and wet loam, chalk and truffle along with cedar, anise and tangy tea spices all play roles and there is ripe intensity, but with air everything folds together, gets tight and focused making for an impressive drinking young red Burgundy experience. This wine certainly is showing a willingness to perform and gives a lot of pleasure, this is a fine and well crafted effort, while not on the level of Perrot-Minot or Rousseau it is right up there with Maume, especially in this vintage, and is a good solid bet for mid term aging, best from 2016 to 2020.
($79-100 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013GuimaroBlanc2013 Guimaro, Vino Blanco, Ribeira Sacra D.O. Galicia, Spain.
The wines of Pedro M. Rodriguez Perez Guimaro are some of the best and most interesting wines of the Ribeira Sacra, and they are superb values and examples of terroir from the northwest of Spain. This region on cooler Atlantic is heavily influenced by the sea and is set on coastal and river soils that are mostly based on sand, which means very little vine disease and ancient vines, some of Europe’s oldest surviving vines are out this way. Guimaro is mostly known for their fantastic Mencia reds, but this beautiful and complex white, made from Godello and tiny amounts of native varietals. Godello makes a fresh style white that has elects that seem like a cross of Albarino and white Burgundy (Chablis) with brisk acidity, steely mineral and semi rich body and textural finesse, it has gained popularity and is making a comeback from only a few years ago when it was close to being a mere curiosity, as of 2004 there was only 2,200 acres planted in Spain. The 2013 Guimaro is bright and fruity with tropical elements, a light/pale golden hue, white flowers on the nose and a medium palate of lemon/key lime, green apple, passionfruit, hints of banana and bitter/briny notes with almond oil, saline, wet river stones and lingering kumquat, kiwi and quince. This is a very racy version of Godello, it has about 12.5% alcohol, comes from organic vines, and it stays tight and focused throughout with a nice play between the acidity, fruitiness and savory essences, this is impressive and refreshing wine, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013LisiniSanBiagio2013 Lisini, San Biagio, Toscana IGT Rosso, Sangiovese Grosso, Montalcino, Italy.
The Lisini is pure Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello cone) and is a fresh and fruit driven offering coming from vines in Montalcino and Sant’ Angelo in Colle e Castelnuovo dell’ Abate, these vines are at good elevation, between 300 and 350 meters with good exposures and mixed soils, and is made similar to their Rosso di Montalcino. The 2013 Lisini San Biagio shows wonderful expansion on the palate and good ripe flavors, it starts with a deep garnet/ruby hue, fresh crushed red berries, fresh and dried roses, wild herbs, dusty coco powder leading to a palate of plum, cherry and raspberry fruits with some tangy currant and strawberry notes coming in mid palate with pepper, pipe tobacco, star anise and a hint of stony/mineral. There is sweet tannin, a juicy burst of soft acidity and a cream/round texture to add to the pleasure and build quality here, this Lisini San Biagio is wonderfully crafted and delivers mostly straight forward quality from start to finish, it is highly entertaining and is a top value in it’s class, best enjoyed in it’s youth, this is seriously good fun for early drinking, best from 2015 to 2018. So if you are looking for an interesting Tuscan red that offers solid performance, pleasing flavors and easy on the wallet, this Lisini San Biagio will not disappoint, this is fine Sangiovese from an old school winery that does impressive wines year in and year out.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2009OdderoBarolo2009 Oddero, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Oddero from Barolo’s La Morra district is really nailing it these days and I’ve been highly impressed with every wine I’ve tasted, especially their Barbera and this amazingly good Barolo. While all the buzz is about 2010 Barolo, and it should be, it is great to taste a superb and almost ready to drink vintage, like this 2009, as I think most 2010’s will need some time to truly show all their greatness and unfold all their deep layers. So, with the ‘Tens tucked nicely in the cellar, I highly recommend gathering up some of this Oddero 2009 Barolo, this is fine and beautiful Nebbiolo with sweet/ripe tannins and Burgundy like class and pleasure, hat’s off to Oddero, this is not a wine to miss. The 2009 Oddero Barolo comes from 5 different vineyards within La Morra and Falletto, each vineyard is picked and raised separate, the wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and aged 30 months in a mix of big Slavonian cask and Austrian oak barrels, the vines are farmed mostly organic with an eye to convert to biodynamics, everything is done with a mind to showcase purity and highlight terroir, all of which seems to succeed, these are lovely and detailed wines, especially this Barolo. The nose is full of red fruits, rose petals, early tones and mineral, the wine is transparent, light ruby with brick and garnet hues, the body feels full and the texture is wonderfully satin and silk, but the wine does have energy and vigor too, with classic layers of Nebbiolo fruit and drive. The palate is refined elegance with good focus showing morello cherry, red raspberry, balsamic dipped strawberry and a flash of damson plum along with saline/brine, truffle, dried flowers and black licorice as well as fine traces of cedar and soft wood notes. With air the wine firms up and delivers lift and structure as well as a long finish, everything is stylishly transmitted and this is a real treat from a vintage that shouldn’t be overlooked short term, drink this beauty from 2015 to 2020, Poderi e Cantine Oddero is a winery to discover and follow! Buy the 2009’s to drink and the 2010’s to hold.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012CameronAbbeyRidge2012 Cameron, Pinot Noir “Abbey Ridge” Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul’s Abbey Ridge is one of Dundee’s old vineyards, his Cameron Abbey Ridge Pinot comes from vines at some of the highest elevation in the Red Hills of Dundee and is always a classic. Cameron Winery employs biodynamic principles to all it’s vines and is totally organic in farming, and the Abbey Ridge vines are non-irrigated, this combination takes harder work and much more care, along with the loss of crop, with small yields close to 2 tons per acre, making for serious wines of depth and intensity. The 2012 is an almost perfect example, and close to the best ever from Oregon with Cameron’s Abbey Ridge one of John Paul’s greatest wines. Paul came to Oregon along with the second wave of talent in the 80’s to early 90’s, about the same time as Ken Wright and a touch before Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) and were a group that really pushed Oregon forward, and the followed Burgundy’s commitment to organic and biodynamic practices and became a leading force in Oregon’s Pinot Noir. The 2012 Cameron Abbey Ridge is a majestic tour d’ force of brilliant concentration, vigor and purity of terroir with dark color, fruit, earthy notes, spice and mineral tones. This is an awesome wine, it shows dark flowers, minty herbs, truffle and small berry fruits on the nose before an explosion of fruit on palate with blackberry, huckleberry, black cherry and plum layers cascading in the full mouth along with fine acidity, sweet firm tannins and complex highlights of warm earth/loam, sappy notes, saline, flinty spice, anise, a hint of gravel/stones and pretty refined wood notes with a touch of cedar, cinnamon and vanilla pod. This medium full expression of Pinot Noir coming in at 13.5% alcohol, grown on the regions Jory red dusty soils, flows gracefully and is glorious in feel and texture, yet has forceful and has hidden power, it will be hard not to drink this fantastic and focused wine young, but it will certainly age astonishingly well and gracefully, it should gain to near 100 Point levels of greatness for those that have patience, drink from 2018 to 2026. This is an amazing vintage in Oregon, and these wines are worth investing in, there is so much pleasure to come it’s scary, the rewards are going to be huge, from St. Innocent, Ken Wright, Beaux Freres, Bergstom to many more, including these Cameron offerings, especially this Abbey Ridge by Mr. Paul, all will be jewels in the cellar!
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012MeoFixin2012 Meo-Camuzet Frere & Soeurs, Fixin, Red Burgundy, France.
I confess, I’m a huge Meo fan, and I always buy these lower tier offerings every year and I was really excited to try the first of the 2012’s from this domaine, and they do not disappoint, and in fact are more charming and delicate than I would have imagined. The Fixin is poised, finessed and light on it’s feet with much less concentrated color and body than the 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines, but seems better balanced and radiant with lots of strawberry, tart cherry, mineral and spice shinning through, though I suspect it will fill out and gain density over the next 12 to 18 months in bottle. There’s no question Jean-Nicolas Meo is a star and having been mentored by Henri Jayer he became one of Burgundy’s blue chip winemakers, his estate bottlings are some of most prized wines in the world, including his domaine Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux and Richebourg, but I also love his lesser offerings especially his fabulous Marsannay and Cotes de Nuits village wines, like this Fixin. The 2012 Meo Fixin, from 25 to 50 year old vines on limestone and clay, starts with light floral tones, bright acidity, medium light body and a brilliant soft ruby hue in the glass, this wine is just hitting the street and is very young, but it still delivers wonderful purity and alluring fresh detail and polish, I would have expected a bit more hard edges, but this beauty came right out of the bottle with lovely presence and grace. The palate is as mentioned full of delicate fruits including red raspberry, cherry and strawberry, gaining a darker feel with air adding plum and cranberry along with hints of wet stones, saline, baking spices, cedar, a bit of pepper and touch of fine oak. This is really delicious Burgundy with classic Pinot Noir quality, it will not blow you away or does it offer a great value if you can find it, but it sure is a joy to drink, best from 2017 to 2022, though I doubt I’ll wait too long if a year myself!
($60 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2014CountyLineRose2014 County Line, Rose of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
Eric Sussman’s County Line wines are some of the best deals in the state for quality varietal wines, especially his Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, but don’t miss his new 2014 Rose, it is a stunner with bright fruit intensity and vibrant crisp refreshment. The man who brought you Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir and Syrah from cool climate sites, almost before anyone cared for such things, Sussman, has crafted a line of fine wines from cooler vineyards from western Russian River/Sonoma Coast to Anderson Valley/Mendocino, he sources from organic sites and his winemaking is gentile and mostly natural with very low sulphur and a light touch on the wood, and his natural levels of alcohol are lower than most, he is right up there with Littorai, Copain and Hirsch in both quality and style. The 2014 Rose of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is energy filled and vivid with raspberry, strawberry and red citrus along with mineral/wet stone notes, watermelon, peppery spices and a hint of zesty grapefruit. This is very flavorful and will be a smart Spring and Summer charmer, I can easily see myself quaffing a massive amount of this brisk rose on the warm days ahead, and now, this is really lovely orange/pinkish hued wine, drink from 2015 to 2017, very very tasty and lip smacking juice!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

1964SittmannSilvaner1964 Carl Sittmann, Silvaner, Oppenheimer Brunnchen, Spatlese Cabinet, Rheinhessen Germany.
The star is fading on this most unique wine, but it certainly merits mention and was a highlight of a casual wine dinner, a big thanks to Fred Daniels, a friend that picked up this bottle in Berlin and brought it back to share, it might be the only time I get to taste a 50 year old Sylvaner (Silvaner) that was is such good shape. Considering it’s age and low acidity, this Silvaner Oppenheimer Brunnchen had some very nice flavors and compelling complexity, it has a deep golden/amber color at this point and was almost looking and smelling like an old Sauternes, creamy/oily texture though not really sweet, this was an intriguing old wine in the glass. The 1964 Sittmann Silvaner in 2015 is a bit fragile and falling, but it starts with dried roses, lemony fruits, baked peach, dusty apricot and tangerine and though the off dry fruit doesn’t collapse it does fade behind a savory wild mushroom layer, which at first was like the sun getting cloud cover, but the porcini and chanterelle notes turn pleasing on their own and wine settles again into a stable play of burnt fruit, autumn foliage and tangy ceps, it is remarkable that the wine held on this long, hats off to Sittmann, a winery I’ve never known and one that started back in 1512 in the Rheinhessen. Sylvaner or Silvaner was really popular in the 50’s and early 60’s, it was an easy drinking fruity wine with less firmness and intense acidity than Riesling, it is believed that Silvaner originated in Romania, near and came west through Hungary, Austria and ended up in Alsace, where it is still very well thought of, and of course mostly Franken in Germany, where it comes in those squat bottles and is prized for it’s fresh character, though still found in the Rheinhessen as well, though it competes with a vast array of other varietals these days. Sadly way past it’s prime, the Sittmann shows hints of it’s former grace, prize winning form and charms, it deserves a shout out for being a very nice example and a seriously fun old wine that had seen better days long ago, I bet this was a really good wine at one time.
($80 Est.) 86-88 Points, grapelive

2012RochioliValdiguie2012 Rochioli, Valdiguie, Estate, Russian River Valley.
A trip to Sonoma County and or the Russian River Valley is not complete without a visit to Rochioli, one of California’s great wine estates, and with a quiet winter day I got a chance to taste through their new releases, which is always a pleasure. I’ve been trekking to Rochioli myself since 1996 and every time I’m excited as the first time I came here, and with this visit I was able to get myself the latest release of their tasting room only Valdiguie, formerly thought to be Gamay, and sample this fun and hugely drinkable offering, made from estate vines. The 2011 was a pure and delightful wines, and the 2012 Valdiguie continues in that vein, but is with the vintage a touch more flamboyant and riper, but not overly so, just a bit more personality and verve. Rochioli in their notes, refer to the Valdiguie as a Cru Beaujolais style wine, as it does taste similar to Gamay, but Valdiguie is a lost varietal that originally came from the south of France and most likely the Languedoc, it doesn’t seem to be widely know there or is there much wine made from this grape, there are patches of it found in Monterey, where J. Lohr made the first correctly labelled bottling many years ago, and there is some in Napa, even though they try and call it “Napa Gamay” along with tiny amounts in Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills. The Rochioli 2013 Valdiguie is bright and fruity on the nose with floral and red berry notes, a good ruby hue in the glass and a palate of morello cherry, strawberry, raspberry and sweet plum fruits, hints of cedar, or walnut, minty herbs and a touch of oak. Overall it is a fresh and simple red that is flavorful and easy to enjoy, it should be a pleasing red for another few years in bottle, best from 2015 to 2018. Apart from the Valdiguie, the tasting room at Rochioli offers a Rose of Pinot Noir, offered in the Spring/Summer, and a Syrah in the Fall usually, though it looks to have found a place on the mailing list along with the estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc all which are tasting superb by the way.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013SheldonGraciano2013 Sheldon, Graciano, Ripken Vineyard, Lodi California.
The Sheldon’s have found a wonderful niche, making Graciano, and the 2013 edition is maybe the best yet for this Rioja grape. This varietal from Spain can and is used as single varietal wine, labeled as Rioja Crianza and it is a medium dark grape with lots of spice, mineral and floral perfume, it is also known as Tintilla and can be found in Sherry and in the exotic wines of the Canary Islands as well. The Sheldon’s make the best California version I’ve tasted, and for those that search out the geeky stuff like Arnot Roberts Trousseau, you’ll want some of this gorgeous juice. The 2013 Sheldon Graciano was fermented all natural, whole cluster and raised in neutral French barrel, it comes in at 12.5% alcohol, which you might not expect, but knowing Dylan and Tobe Sheldon look for low brix and elegance, as they always have, you end up with a vibrant, fresh and spicy wine with old school charm and grace. The Sheldon’s are a micro-winery, based in Santa Rosa, a must visit tasting room a.k.a The Sippy Lounge, they have now started a fun growler program (like at a craft brewery, but wine) of fill up wines with both red and white on keg, but their signature wines are their superb Grenache Noir and Grenache Blanc from Sonoma, both low alcohol beauties, be sure to check the 2012 and 2013 vintages out, though the wildly appealing Graciano grown on limestone like soils is a very sexy wine and one that sells out quickly, so don’t wait, only 3 or so barrels get produced, luckily the Sheldon’s have found a Sonoma grower with Graciano and look to add to the program starting with the 2014 vintage, which is in it’s own lovely barrel right now. The 2013 Ripken Graciano starts with a mix of sweet and savory lead ins with dried and fresh flowers, minty herbs, chalky stones, umami and hints of bacon bits which set up the palate for vivid strawberry, raspberry, tangy cherry, cranberry and blueberry fruits along with wild plum and a touch of cassis plus warm gravel, fresh acidity, pepper, red tea, cedar and salted European licorice. The tannins are very fine and meld nicely into this balanced lighter to mid weighted wine, it has a juicy feel on the palate and a layered finish, best to enjoy young, drink from 2015 to 2017. This latest set from the Sheldon’s are all hitting their stride and make for glorious post modern drinking, all with alcohol in the 12 to 13% range including their fantastic Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s, a tasty retro Cab if you will with wonderful pure fruit, but again, for something extra special, grab this Graciano!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012NanclaresAlbarino2012 Alberto Nanclares, Albarino, Salnes, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain.
This is the single most thrilling Albarino I’ve ever tasted, period. Alberto Nanclares has crafted a masterpiece with his tiny production Albarino Salnes, this wine is crystal clear, persistent and riveting with Riesling like focus and drive and wonderful leesy depth that gives rich detail but never feels heavy, this is euphoric white wine with sublime class and excitement from start to finish. The 2012 Nanclares Salnes starts with hints of white flowers, liquid mineral and a mix of wild herbs and spices with a salty kick leading to a pure and crispy palate of lemon/lime, green apple, white peach, melon and tangy tangerine fruits, cool river stones, brine and lemongrass/verbena. This wine gives the impression of weight with a hint of yeast/brioche, but is vivid, vibrant and eye popping, it has ripe and round textural element along with a austere briskness, it plays with you and is amazingly well judged, I was spellbound by this glorious effort, and though it will be insanely difficult to find, I highly recommend locating some and cherishing it! Great Albarino is like great dry German Riesling, not much gets exported, as the locals drink it up, though some does in both cases make to us here and we are grateful and eager for more, especially wines like this one from Alberto Nanclares. At 12.5% Alcohol and with wonderful acidity this is a fantastic food and summer wine, although not cheap, it is worth every penny and offers stunning quality and comes in at a price that most people with happily pay for a Bandol Rose, like Tempier, so again, it is a fair option for the (special) warm Spring and Summer days ahead, drink this beautiful Albarino from 2015 to 2020.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012BernabeNavarroGrenache2012 Bodegas Bernabe Navarro “Tragolargo” Garnacha, Alicante, Spain.
I just couldn’t help but love this unique high elevation Grenache from Spain far south, from mountain vines in the Alicante region, it is wild, earthy, full of exotic flavors and peppery spices. This fun wine is not what you’d expect from the hot and arid south of Spain, as the wine is not jammy and still has austere freshness with a nice array of complexity and mineral stony elements. Bernabe Navarro is part of the Natural wine scene in Spain and organic dry farmed vines form his efforts, this wines are not for everyone, but they are well made and a great value, I have enjoyed the Mourvedre (Monastrell) cuvee in past vintages as well. The wine starts with pepper, truffle, hints of floral tones, dark fruit and lavender leading to a vibrant palate of tart plum, boysenberry, candied cherry and strawberry with minty herbs, red pepper, loamy earth, cedar and game. With a bit of air the mouth fills out, the texture comes out and a nicely balanced wine emerges with supple tannins and gravelly elements forming in the back ground while more lush fruit takes over with raspberry, briar and fennel notes lingering on the finish, this is not a flashy or lavish wine, but a solid country wine that has a lot of character and earthy charm, best with food, drink from 2015 to 2018, this is a wine that grows on you!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

February 2015

2011SamsaraSyrahMelville2011 Samsara, Syrah, Melville Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Sometimes wines make you rethink your opinions and change your view, especially humbling when you’ve already made a judgement or two, and it the space of a week two Syrah wines from 2011 altered my held believes. I was ready to say, yes there were many nice wines made in 2011, but this tough year should just fade away and everybody should let it go, and we can move on the 2012, 2013 and 2014 which seem much more exciting all round in California. That was a mouthful, but I needed to set up what I wanted to point out, there will and will always be heroic surprises to discover in almost any vintage that will blow you away, for me, those two magical wines from 2011 are this glorious Samsara Melville Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, and the 2011 Lagier-Meredith Syrah from Mount Veeder in Napa Valley (94+) these are wines to search out and cherish, they are from very different terroirs and a quite a bit distinct individual stylistically, but both are fascinating examples of the varietal. Chad Melville’s Samsara Syrah from his family’s estate vineyard is refined, haunting and pure with violets, sea salt, mineral, mixed herbs and dark fruit compote leading the way with a medium full palate of blueberry, blackberry, dark cherry and tangy currant fruits with minty licorice, chalk dust, olive and peppery spices. The is a polished tannic backbone, lifting acidity, along with a beautiful textural mouth feel, the extra time in barrel really allowed this gorgeous wine to fully evolve and reveal itself, this an amazing effort, one of the best yet from Samsara, and it lingers on the finish with coffee bean, kirsch, cedar and back to that blueberry note, stunning throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020. Sometimes a tough year brings out the best in people, and highlights great terroir or vineyards, that is the case here, and it certainly gave me moments to re-think the vintage, be sure and check out the Lagier-Meredith 2011 Syrah and this sublime Samsara!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012PattonValleyEstate2012 Patton Valley, Pinot Noir, The Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This beautiful and open Pinot Noir is fantastically detailed and pleasing with gorgeous red fruits, silky texture and lengthy finish, you have to hand it to Patton Valley, they really took advantage of the vintage here and made outstanding wines, especially this estate bottling. While the 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines were pretty and solid efforts, the 2012 is a massive jump up in quality and depth, this is great way to start with Patton Valley and a superb introduction to the glories of the Willamette Valley, if you are new to Oregon wine. This impressive Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir also comes in half bottle, perfect for restaurant lists and in full bottle for home use, the pricing is fair for the wonderful quality in the bottle, their vines are tended in certified sustainable practices and the winemaking is based on the careful attention paid to the grapes from vine to cellar and there is lots to admire in these wines. The 2012 Estate is rich on the nose and on the palate, it starts with deep floral tones, plenty of red fruit and hints of spice and vanilla leading to an expansive palate of creamy cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, plum and blueberry fruits in the mouth with cola, cinnamon, black tea and wild herbs/anise. There is good underlying acidity, satin like tannins, with nice ripeness while not to excess coming in at 14% alcohol and lingering fruit and sweet oak notes being well judged, best from 2015 to 2020.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013GramenonLaSagesse2013 Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone, La Sagesse, Rhone Valley, France.
The Domaine Gramenon by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her talented son Maxime François is one of the finest organic Cotes du Rhone estates and their wines some of the greatest expressions of intense terroir wine in the region, these are as natural and pure as it gets, true authentic/soulful and passionate examples of what can be done with organic and biodynamic practices. The Laurent’s tiny handcrafted wines are full of energy, drive, verve and exceptional depth with wondrous layers of flavors and heady aromatics, and while they do an amazing Syrah and lovely white wine, it is Grenache that really stands out here and the latest La Sagesse is a fantastic effort that will give many a Chateauneuf a run for their money, if not totally blow them away! The 2013 Domaine Gramenon Cotes du Rhone La Sagesse, coming from 60 year old vines grown on a mix of soils including Clay, Limestone and Sand mostly with some Gravel and Galets Roules, it is made in an old fashioned way with almost no sulphur, no fining or filtration and aging is done in mostly big cask foudres and a few demi-muids, the results are a really sexy wine that flows across the palate with deep flavors, sublime texture and glorious complexity. This beautiful Grenache starts with a mixed floral bouquet with wild flavors and violets, a spicy array of herbs, pepper and mineral along with dark fruits leading to a full and plumy mouth of blackberry, boysenberry, pomegranate, bramble berry, strawberry and tangy currant fruits with briar, earth, sweet and savory gamey notes, chalky stones, saline, licorice, lavender oil and light cedar. There is a kirsch/liqueur element and lively youthful acidity, along with supple supporting tannins that with hold this pretty wine together and the finish is haunting, this is classy and persistent wine that deserves your attention, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012BeauxFreresUpperTerrace2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace” Beaux Freres Vineyard Estate, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The unfined and unfiltered Upper Terrace from Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres is one of Oregon’s most exotic and rare Pinots, I would compare it to Burgundy’s Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, it is dark, richly flavored and full of intensity and vitality, and 2012 is a blockbuster vintage. The Upper Terrace, farmed by biodynamic practices and using a mix of clones is a gorgeous and majestic Pinot Noir, it reminds me of the AF Gros and Anne Gros wines and especially their 2012 Vosne Romanee and Clos Vougeot bottlings (which I have just tasted as well) with layer after layer of lavish fruit and mocha notes, but this is still an infant and will need a few years in the cellar to really show itself in all it’s glory, be patient with this one and the rewards should be amazing. The latest and best Beaux Freres starts with a deep ruby hue, a hint of violets, smoke and sweet spices leading to a full palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with a touch of graphite, crushed stones, earth and vanilla, plus cedar, pepper and a finish that lingers with blueberry, strawberry and tangy currants. The texture is lush, but with some firm tannins and underlying acidity in this chocolatey and hedonistic that still needs to shed it’s baby fat and integrate it’s wood, though with air reveals wonderful Pinot fruit purity and detail, this is a monumental wine in the making, it will be great to taste it in ten years time, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($100 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2013PYCMSantenayVV2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Santenay Rouge, Ceps Centenaires, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
It was a great pleasure to meet and taste with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey here in San Francisco just after buying and reviewing his early release of 2013 Saint-Aubin Le Banc, and while he is known for his whites, all which were outstanding in this and the last 4 or 5 vintages, not many get a chance to sample is reds, like this old vine Santenay. The 2013 Cep Centenaries comes from a tiny plot, from as the name suggests, 100 year old vines and is made in a way that is in honor of Madame Bize-Leroy, I learned, Colin-Morey de-stems by hand using scissors, leaving a bit of stem attached to each grape to promote freshness and add aromatics, complexity and tannin. This works very here, this wine a barrel sample, is ripe, focused and full of charm and character with rich detail and vigor, it shows subdued floral tones, bright red fruits and mineral notes, but fills out with air. There is layers of red cherry, tart cranberry, raspberry, plum and hints of strawberry fruits along with tea and Asian spices, cedar, baking spice and stony/chalky mineral highlights. This is a Santenay that feels like a Beaune Premier Cru, and while the price is yet to be decided, I would imagine in comes in around $50 US retail and will be considered a tasty value, though there won’t be much of it. This clear and well crafted and seductive red Burgundy will be a wonderful catch and I would guess at a good mid term future, drink from 2017 to 2022.
($TBD-Barrel Sample) 92-94 Points, grapelive

2013LuytCarignan2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan “Cuvee Mathilde” Truquilemu Tinto Chileno, Sin Riego-Rio Reloca, Legno Duro, Chile.
This natural wine from Chile is crafted from old vines by the talented Louis-Antoine Luyt, after a handful of vintages under his belt the Frenchman has changed the way we look at Chilean wine, and his latest releases are easily his best and most expressive efforts to date. Luyt’s use of very old vines, and use of non Bordeaux varietals, except for a Carmenere cuvee, set his wines apart, especially his Pais, the mission grape that comes from vines closer to 300 years old than a hundred years old, and his championing of Carignan, a Rhone and Languedoc grape most common in Corbieres. The new Carignan, the 2013 Cuvee Mathilde is really impressive with exotic fruit, bursting energy and complex layers of flavors, this red has massive appeal and is wonderfully pleasing. This all natural, non solute and no new wood Carignan is richly flavored with blackberry, boysenberry, plum, strawberry and tangy cherry and currant notes along with spicy cinnamon, minty herbs, pepper, lavender and salted black licorice. Luyt spent time with Marcel Lapierre, one of the first masters of low and no sulphur wines in Morgon Beaujolais, and you can feel that in his wines, in particular this gorgeous and stylish, I highly recommend exploring this and the new generation of Chilean wines that are starting to gain traction in the market place, there are some really exciting times ahead for Chile. Drink this intriguing old vine Carignan over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013CattleyaChard2013 Cattleya, Chardonnay, Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
The talented Colombian winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni is crafting some amazing wines under her Cattleya label, as well as guiding Pahlmeyer’s Sonoma Coast wines and vines, and her and her husband’s (Jeff Pisoni) Shared Notes offerings. I was impressed by her Donum Vineyard Pinot Noir and her fantastic Soberanes Alban Clone Syrah is one of the best Syrah wines from the 2012 vintage I have tasted, but new and particularly outstanding is her latest Chardonnay release, an old Wente clone selection from Pratt Vineyard in a cooler site of the Russian River, this is a luxurious wine that rivals the best from California in that top of line range, it is right up there with Peter Michael, Aubert, Kistler and the single vineyard Rochioli Chards. Her experience with vines, as a vineyard manager, and stints in Bordeaux and Cote-Rotie have given Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni a special touch which shows through in her wines, if you’ve not tried her wines, you should be sure to check them out at the earliest possible opportunity, these are bottlings that are decedent, pure and full of pleasure with great life and intensity, especially this Pratt Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay that shows layers of dense fruit, but with plenty of vitality and elegance. The 2013 Pratt from Cattleya starts with mineral tones, honeysuckle, white peach and tropical notes leading to a gorgeous palate of lemon chiffon, apple. pear and golden fig fruits, wet stones, a hint of saline, vanilla and exotic citrus and brioche along with creamy texture and a super long finish. The small berry, Wente clone gives the glorious combination of concentration and vigor, allowing for incredible richness and vigor, this is heady and hedonistic, but with wonderful finesse and focus, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($68 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013ColinMoreyStAubinLeBanc2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Saint-Aubin “Le Banc” white Burgundy, France.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey is without question on a roll, in the last 5 vintages, almost every wine he has put out has been fantastic, and this Saint-Aubin Le Banc joins the list. The house style influences each impressive offering, and each, while distinct, are remarkably similar, precise, expressive and pleasing, these Chardonnays are stunning and wildly delicious. The 2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey starts with white flowers, matchstick, kiwi and lime before expanding on the palate to reveal stony mineral, lemon, peach and apple along with clove, clarified creme, golden fig and persimmon. the greenish/golden hue is pale in the glass, but really catches the light and the body and texture are just as gorgeous, all in all for such a young wine there is loads of character and charm, this wine has a magnetic personality and shows a supple and graceful allure, it is very hard to resist. There are only a few Chardonnays for which I must own, and this is one of them, especially for the price, I can’t afford Raveneau, Coche or many other great Burgundies these days, so when I can get my hands on these Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chardonnays I do so, and this wine wasn’t just a sample tasted, this was me rushing home to drink a much coveted bottle! The 2013 vintage is not far off 2010 or 2012 in quality from what I can taste, this bottle was labeled 12.8% alcohol, and it feels plenty rich, succulent, lively acidity and has nice density, my best guess would be, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012StInnocentMomtazi2012 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir “Momtazi Vineyard” McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossak handcrafts beautiful and pure Pinot Noir from selected sites in the Willamette Valley, and his wines are always some of the top values in the region. St. Innocent has been around since 1988 and Vlossak knows his way around, he was inspired by Burgundy and his wines are made from that influence, and his sourced grapes are farmed that way too, especially the grapes he gets from Momtazi, which are all biodynamic, like Leflaive, DRC and Leroy, and in a great vintage like 2012 is, these wines are fantastic. Vlossak, does these traditionally and with focus on his terroir and style with about 25% to 30% new wood, de-stemmed grapes and native yeast, plus very low SO2, all combined make for some open, clear and compelling wines, but I have to also to mention these wines age gracefully and really come into their own after a decade of cellaring. I recently had a 2000 vintage of St. Innocent that was amazingly fresh, pure and it seemed remarkably youthful, so I recommend getting putting some of these down, as this vintage is going to be one you’ll not want to miss out on. The Momtazi 2012 from St. Innocent is dark, rich and exotic with a deep ruby hue, sweet bouquet with floral tones, liquid mineral and black fruits leading the way, the palate is vigorous and vibrant with a core of black cherry, blueberry, plum, blackberry, strawberry and wild mountain raspberry fruits, tea spice, incense, cedar, coffee bean and stony mineral flinty notes. This Pinot Noir is vivid, youthful and very expressive with 13.5% alcohol, well integrated tannins, vital acidity and wonderful balance, giving pure pleasure, this Momtazi and the classic coast range Freedom Hill are wines that truly show Oregon at it’s finest at a great price, drink from 2016 to 2024.
($38 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012BretonIvresse2012 Domaine Breton, Bourgueil “Nuits d’ Ivresse” Loire Valley Red, France.
The Domaine Breton is Pierre and Catherine Breton, it is their personality and passion for wine that always shines through in their wines, each a unique terroir wine from biodynamic vineyards, mostly done in as natural methods as possible. Their Cabernet Franc wines are legendary and age beautifully, though as with most great wines, they can be enjoyed fantastically well in their youth, especially Catherine’s La Dilettante cuvees, but even their glorious Bourgueil and Chinon too. Funny, Cabernet Franc in the Loire is also know as “Breton” so it is very fitting they specialize in it and make such sublime wine from it, like this exceptional Bourgueil Nuits d’ Ivresse from 50 year old vines that is on a mix of clay and limestone soils, it is without a doubt, along with their Bourgueil Les Galichets and Les Perrieres, offer amazing value in cellarable reds. The 2012 Nuits d’ Ivresse, only 12% alcohol, is lush and open with a mix of floral and red fruits leading the way with classic earth, green pepper, mineral and cedary notes adding complexity. The nose leans to violets and exotic spice, while the palate feels richly textured with a cherry, currant, fresh plum and mulberry fruit influence, while lifting acidity and fine grained tannins lend control and structure to this beautifully crafted wine that clearly shows both the purity of these vineyards and Pierre’s talent in the cave, this wine is impressive now, though should be at it’s best in 3 to 5 years, drink from 2015 to 2025.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011GillesCornas2011 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Rhone Red, France.
The first vintage I tried was the Gilles Cornas 2007, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since, this is a fantastic Domaine, making some of the most exciting Syrah you can get your hands on. Guillaume Gilles was the longtime protege of Robert Michel, a classic vigneron that guided Guillaume and transitioned into retirement by gifting his vines and cellar to the young winemaker, who has taken full advantage and who has honored his mentor by raising the quality and turning out some lovely and mind-blowing wines. This handcrafted Cornas is maybe the best red I’ve tasted this year of the hundreds of new releases I’ve been getting through, it is farmed and made by hand using natural/organic methods, these are wondrous wines of terroir, pureness and passion. The 2011 coming after the 2009 and 2010 vintages had a lot to live up to, and wow, it completely blew me away, if you like Syrah, you must find a few bottles of this glorious Cornas… I could just leave it at that, you MUST try this wine. The 2011 Guillaume Gilles Cornas comes from small mostly old vine parcels including some Chaillot (one of Cornas’ best and cherished sites/crus), so you know it has it’s sense of place and pedigree starting with beautiful floral detail, violets and incense, wild minty herbs, pipe tobacco, meat, iron and fine pepper leading to a palate of boysenberry, blueberry, plum, cassis/currant and mulberry fruits along with truffle, game, graphite/embers, black licorice and sticky lavender all come through in layers in this magical and deeply purple/black/garnet hued Syrah. Hints of cedar, new leather and kirsch come through on the super sexy long finish that lifts the blue and black fruits back to the forefront of your mind. This young wine is firm, but very textural and sensual with finessed tannins, balanced acidity and at 13.5% alcohol it is deftly focused, generous and full of heightened pleasure, drink from 2015 to 2024.
($76 Est.) 95-97+ Points, grapelive

2014PrielerRose2014 Prieler, Rose of Blaufrankisch, vom Stein, Burgenland, Austria.
Coming in May of 2015 is this beautiful and very rare Rose of Blaufrankisch from Georg Prieler, this bright and spicy pink wine has loads of character and flavor packed into a liquid mineral frame, and it should be a wine to search high and low for upon release late this Spring. This was a dry thrilling example of Rose that show a great touch, vibrancy and has a pretty lingering finish, this wine and Nigl’s Rose from the Wachau are leading the way in Austrian pink this year, and they’ll deserve some attention this summer. The 2014 Prieler, which I tasted from a barrel sample, is imported by Terry Theise and should be arriving by May of this year, it was one of many great bottles shown to me by Georg Prieler, this is a winery to check out, with a string of fantastic vintages recently, especially compelling among the current wines were his gorgeous 2013 Ried Sinner Chardonnay, the Blaufrankisch Ried Johanneshohe and the Seeberg Pinot Blanc. The 2014 Rose starts with heady floral aromas, wild herbs, strawberry and peppery spices with a crisp mineral driven palate of tart cherry, crushed violets, wet river stones, red apple skin, hints of raspberry and peachy notes. This vivid hued pink is refreshing and zesty, but has some real texture and finesse, it certainly will give some high price Bandol a run for there money this coming season, this is glorious and utterly quaffable stuff, drink from 2015 through 2016.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013vonWinningParadeisgarten2013 Weingut von Winning, Riesling, Paradiesgarten, Trocken, Deidesheimer, Pfalz Germany.
The dry Paradiesgarten Riesling from von Winning is a killer wine and a great value in what you get inside the bottle, this is beautiful and vividly intense Riesling that excites the palate and engages the mind, much in the same way Burgundy does, and this wine is somewhat like Premier Cru Chablis, but may I dare say better! The 2013 version is absolutely delicious with vibrancy, fleshy extract and layers of tangy fresh fruits, liquid mineral and flashes of the exotic, the vintage is really starting to blossom and fill out all the missing pieces of it’s youth, it is really finding it’s feet, after being underrated after harvest, and these von Winning wines prove the year was worth some patience and will be great in the cellar. Especially good and now exceptional is this Trocken Paradiesgarten Deidesheimer which starts with a shinning light gold/green hue in the glass, a bouquet of white flowers, citrus, chalk dust and salty sea notes which leads to a mouth filled with zingy and zesty grapefruit, white peach, lime, tangerine, an almost cherry note, pineapple, verbena, green tea, herbs and loads of stony mineral. There is plenty of evolution to come here and while I adore it’s austere brisk nature, it should round out over the next 3 to 5 years, though it won’t be necessary to age it if you are looking for refreshing summer or food wine and I find it very impressive with it’s youthful vigor in full force, this wine is a classy acid freaks wine, of impeccable quality, wonderfully crafted, Pfalz terroir driven and racy, drink from 2015 to 2023. This wine is a great introduction to the upper level of the von Winning wines, but if you are looking for total mind-blowing experiences, you should try the von Winning Grosses Gewachs-Grand Crus which take Riesling to heights that put the Burgundians to shame!
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012RoussetMartinSavagnin2012 Francois Rousset-Martin, Savagnin “Vignes aux Dames” Cotes du Jura, White, France.
The tiny boutique winery of Russet-Martin does not much more than a thousand cases each vintage, and not much of it gets to the US, but Kermit Lynch kindly was showing there new Jura find around and it was very exciting to taste these rare goodies, especially compelling was this brisk, non-oxidative Savagnin, the Vignes aux Dames. This was my first and only time to taste Francois Rousset-Martin and I was very impressed, these latest wines are all well made and interesting wines, though I do prefer the less sherry like style with the vivid fresh character more to my tastes, but traditional minded Jura fans will certainly love the 2008 Clos Bacchus Savagnin with it’s nutty pure charm, these both will age for another decade easily. The Jura region is seeing lots of excitement, and exploitation with big firms and even Burgundy houses buying vineyards and wineries in this once mysterious and isolated place, so it is nice to discover a new face and one with generational roots get some success, especially with the generational changes going on with retirements and the younger set starting to make their mark on the world stage. The Rosset-Martin Savagnin 2012 Vignes aux Dames is young and tight with good intensity, persistence and vigor showing lemon/lime, quince, kumquat and unripe apple fruits, hints of hay/straw leesy notes (both taste and textural), mineral essence and bitter almond oil. The color is light golden and the body fills out with air, it has plenty of tangy acidity and puckering zest, it has a lot of drive, focus and balance, but it needs a bit of cellar time to come out of it’s shell, I should imagine it will develop into a stunning example over the next 3 to 5 years. There will be those that can’t wait, and while that might be a shame, they will not be disappointed in this intriguing Jura white, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($35 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012LagierMeredithTribidrag2012 Lagier Meredith, Tribidrag, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carol Meredith make some of the most unique and terroir driven wines in Napa Valley, and their Zinfandel aka Tribidrag is a sensational wine that shows a vibrant array of flavors and gives tons of pleasure. Dr. Meredith is one of the world’s top experts on wine grapes and vines, and speaking with her is always enlightening and her enthusiasm is contagious, especially about her work on the origins of our state grape, Zinfandel. The history of Zin was a long and winding road, but finally through DNA and great detective work we can now say, without any doubt, that Zinfandel came from Croatia and it is known there by the name Tribidrag. With the mystery of it’s heritage solved, Steve and Carole now label their Zinfandel by it’s true name Tribidrag and it ranks up there with the very best in the state. The new release, the 2012 is a beautiful mountain influenced wine with a good dark hue of ruby and garnet, it is spiced filled and wonderfully layered with balanced fruit, briar and length. The palate is vivid and totally seducing with plum, black raspberry, a mix of cherry and blueberry along with pepper, sweet herbs, anise, cedar notes and stony elements. There is vigorous focus and drive, but with wonderful texture and supple tannins, this will be an interesting wine to follow over the next decade, though it is certainly engaging now, this is an exciting and special Zin (Tribidrag) that I highly recommend, as well as their fantastic Syrah, plus they make Mondeuse, a rare Savoie varietal and a super Malbec from their estate on Mount Veeder, these all are classy efforts.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013LuytCarignan2013 Louis-Antoine Luyt, Carignan, Cuvee Mathilde, Sin Riego-Rio Reloca, Chile.
French natural winemaker, Louis-Antoine Luyt, former assistant at Marcel Lapierre, has turned his wines from a fun curiosity to some ultra serious stuff in a few short years, and this 2013 Carignan from ancient vines is by far the best and most exciting yet. Luyt has built up quite an impressive collection, he makes a few different lines of wines, lots made from 200 to 300 year old Pais (Mission Grape) vines, a Carmenere, a Pinot Noir and this gorgeous and vibrant Carignan. All organic vines, native yeasts and ultra low if not no sulphur, with good extraction and bright flavors make Luyt’s wines stand out and they have created a lot of buzz, making him the Natural Wine guru of South America. This ripe, dark and rich 2013 Carignan, 13.9% alcohol, bursts from the glass with an array of floral tones, loamy earth, mineral and a mix of spice and dark fruits leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, pomegranate, sugar beet, raspberry, wild strawberry and plum along with tangy peach, pepper, minty herbs, truffle and cedar notes with baking spices, anise and gravelly/stony elements. There is no question the terroir plays a huge role here, the sandy soils west of Andres and unique climate all play a part here along with these 150 year vines, this is a vivid and sexy expression of what can be done in Chile, other than cheap Merlot and Cabernet, and this wine in particular is thrilling stuff, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010SansilvestroBarolo2010 Cantine Sansilvestro, Barolo DOCG “Patres” Piedmonte, Italy.
This is a down right steal, a good to outstanding Barolo, under $35, and from a seriously great vintage, San Silvestro imported by Siena Imports has nailed it with this wine. Coming from what is being called the vintage of our generation 2010, this richly flavored and layered Barolo is already drinking pretty darn good, and it should really improve over the next few years in bottle, but this certainly is a wine to drink young as it is pleasingly up front and forward. Most top 2010’s are so tight, you’ll need a good decade to get your head around them, but here is a softer, more gentile Nebbiolo to give you a solid look see at what this vintage has to offer. While modest, the Cantine Sansilvestro Patres gives floral bouquet, salty/spices, hints of game, iron/blood and kirsch leading to a classic palate of tart cherry, plum, raspberry and red currant fruit, hoisin sauce, black fig, wild herbs, truffle, licorice and tar notes. There is some firmness, and tannic structure along with lifting acidity, but overall this is fairly poised and inviting with nice and pretty detail, finesse and charm. There is some pleasure to be found in this low key offering, and while the 2008 Barbaresco is more austere and mature and the 2012 Nebbiolo d’Alba offering varietal purity at under $20, it’s this fine Barolo that steals the show, drink from 2016 to 2020, this is a super effort, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
($34 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013SamsaraPN2013 Samsara, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills.
Chad Melville’s artisan handcrafted wines are worth searching out, especially his single vineyard Pinot Noir, Grenache and Syrah offerings, but the basic Santa Rita Hills Pinot should not be overlooked either, it is a stunning value and pleasure filled experience. It was great to sit down and catch up with the talented winemaker and get a chance to visit through most of his collection and hear his thoughts, Melville also puts his time in for his family estate, one of the premier wineries in the greater Santa Barbara area and beyond, but those wines are guided along by Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton, so Samsara is a very personal passion. The sandy soils, cool climate and beauty of the Sta. Rita Hills shine through in the Samsara wines, and Chad’s winemaking is very different than the wines of Melville, Chad uses only native/natural fermentations, very slow basket pressing and partial whole cluster/stem inclusion which highlight the bright vibrant flavors and spicy elements, these micro batch wines are raw, transparent and vivid expressions of terroir. The longer elevage in the Syrah and single vineyard Pinot Noir selections have worked wonders with the 2011 vintage, they are some of the finest examples I’ve tasted, they might be the best 2011’s I’ve tried, and from such a difficult year they are gorgeous, in particular look for both Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir and Syrah, Los Hermanas Pinot Noir and Larner Grenache, they are all fantastic, plus the 2012 Rancho la Vina Pinot is rocking good too. The 2013 Samsara Santa Rita Hills Pinot is a gem, beautifully detailed, opulently lush and complex with wild flowers, heady perfumed bouquet, strawberry, plum and sweet cherry fruit along with red tea, cinnamon stick, pomegranate and fleshy red peach note. This wine is a huge success, I adored the 2012, but I find the 2013 even more divine with tons of character already, the rich palate is held in place with juicy acidity, precise tannins and a hint of wood framing. This wine is just getting started and certainly with entertain for years to come, it’s plush red fruits, savory/mineral tones, tangy anise, saline, cayenne and sexy mouth feel make this a do not miss wine, drink from 2015 to 2020, this is another stellar set of wines from Samsara, very impressive across the board and seductive to say the least.
($32 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012LignierChambolle2012 Domaine Georges Lignier, Chambolle-Musigny AC, Red Burgundy, France.
This Chambolle comes from 100% estate owned, 70 year old vines set in nice parcel with plenty of limestone and old soils, it certainly tastes more than village level, plus the vintage, makes for an exquisite red Burgundy by Benoit Stehly and Domaine Georges Lignier. Last month I was able to taste through a few vintages and vineyards of Lignier, with an impressive response to their their lineup, especially the Clos St.-Denis and Clos de la Roche, but this Chambolle-Musigny starred for price and quality. The 2011 wines are more open and generous at this stage and should not be forgotten or dismissed, they really were excellent, rating even higher for pleasure, I highly recommend checking them out, but for cellaring, the 2012’s look to be a bit stronger and have more raw power and force with deeper concentration. That all said, the Geoges Lignier 2012 Chambolle-Musigny is a beautiful and well crafted wine of old school charm and manners with fresh vibrancy, it is very dynamic on the palate with lovely terroir distinction showing with wilted roses, mineral notes, black fruits, sweet herbs, chalk dust and a nice play of sweet and savory tones with hints of cedar, anise, iron and lingering cherry. The core fruit is still muted with layers of plum, black cherry, forest berry and a citrusy/peach tangy element, plus good intensity, density and fine tannins along with it’s round texture, still lifted by youthful acidity. Best to let rest in the cellar for another 3 to 5 years, but worth the wait, this is a classically proportioned Pinot Noir that has real personality, grace and vigor, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($76 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011AllemandSansSoufre2011 Thierry Allemand, Cornas “Sans Soufre” Northern Rhone, France.
The No Sulphur (added) Allemand Cornas is an interesting wine, it was great to taste such a rare and unique offering, there has been much said about low or no sulphur bottlings as of late and the whole “Natural Wine” debate, but after this beautiful Cornas, I doubt there will be any absolute resolution, nor will it have pushed the needle in either direction, though it certainly is a gorgeous and intriguing wine. The 2011 Allemand Sans Soufre, 100% Syrah, whole cluster with full stem inclusion, is a remarkable wine, it does, yes, taste different than the normal bottlings, it is more Gamay like, open knit, less austere, it hides the stemmy elements better, I would suggest it is both younger tasting and older tasting at the same time, fresh fruity upfront, and with more mature integration of all the pieces. To be honest, I don’t believe it is any better, or worse, though I would think with proper cellaring the no sulphur and regular wines would find a place where they were on par, though it would seem longer term aging would be a risk. As to the 2011 Sans Soufre, it starts with a mix of red and dark flowers with violets and spring floral tones, blackberry, light pepper notes, loamy earth, mineral and meat. Judged totally on it’s own, the Sans Soufre is lovely from start to finish, it is charming, poised and pleasing, you couldn’t ask for much more. The palate is vivid and mouth filling with boysenberry, dusty plum, blueberry and currant/cassis along with iron ore, red pepper, minty or basil like herbs, cedar and walnut oil, fig paste and black olive. The tannins are there, some acidity which shows up as juicy, but over all the feel is round, plush and stylish, much less edgy and nervy than the sulphur added wines, it is about what you expect or like on a personal level, in my opinion there seems little difference in quality or class, even though I really liked the non sulphur version very much, and would love to try it again 10 years on, I may opt for the normal bottling and save a few dollars. Allemand makes fantastic, character filled wines, all are worth every penny and while stupidly hard to get, they are treasures to search out. I would in all prudence suggest you drink the Sans Soufre from 2016 to 2021.
($169+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013AdLucem2013 Ad Lucem, Elaine’s Red, Columbia Valley, Oregon by Lady Hill Winery.
Jerry and Elaine Owen just started Lady Hill Winery in Oregon’s Columbia Valley in 2012 along with consulting winemaker Erik Brasher, they are Oregon veterans, Jerry had co-founded the famed Owen Roe and Erik had made wines at Argyle and raised his profile with top scoring wines at Owen Roe, so this project started off with sound footing. The Lady Hill Winery does a vast array of unique wines from Cabernet and Syrah to Italian varietals, but my friend and Sommelier Peter Steiner, who visited the winery recently, introduced me to their Rhone like blend Elaine’s Red under their Ad Lucem line. The 2013 Ad Lucem Elaine’s Red is a dark and spicy cuvee of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Durif (Petite Sirah) that folds together nicely with blackberry, brabble-berry, tangy cherry, plum and blueberry fruits along with briar, mocha notes, fresh cracked pepper, minty herbs and black licorice. There is not too much complexity to be found, but this was a lighter vintage and there is a lot of promise for future releases, though this little wine is very pleasing and well priced. Perfect for bistro drinking, it is also finished in Vino Lok (a glass closure) so there is not chance of cork taint, this well made Rhone inspired Oregon wine will be a tasty friend, drink well for another couple of years, best from 2015 to 2018. I am excited to see more wines and vintages from Ad Lucem by Lady Hill, be sure to keep an eye out for these!
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013StaussHipping2013 Weingut Stauss, Riesling, Hipping, Rheinhessen.
The 2013 Weinut Stauss Niersteiner Hipping Riesling is a dry and delicate offering, made by young Christina Stauss, she has done two vintages since taking over the helm at her family’s estate in the Rheinhesen. I got to meet her while she was on a fly away vacation to New Zealand with her boyfriend, with a brief stop over in San Francisco to see relatives. Weingut Stauss has many varietals in the vineyards, including Syrah, but of course the heart and soul of the winery is Riesling, plus they have a few rooms to rent for the country get away for those that want to taste the German farm life first hand. Christina’s other passion is horses and she’s an accomplished horsewoman and along with winemaking, cares for more than a few horses, while her boyfriend is an amateur motorcycle rallyist, preferring his off road experience on two wheels. Christina, who also works for Naked Wines Europe, is excited about her up coming wines and looks to craft wines with more her own personality over the coming years, but I enjoyed her first solo effort, this QbA Hipping Riesling (not labeled as Trocken) is lovely, clean and full of elegant and graceful charm, it shows real promise with bright green apple, peach and soft citrus notes leading the way in this dry style wine. The 2013 Niersteiner Hipping is about 12% and has plenty of acidity, drive and balanced extract, done in all stainless it delivers nice mineral notes, hints of loam, saline and light tropical essences along with that core of fruit, it feels crisp and vivid in the mouth and finishes with just a hint of creamy sweetness and a brisk tangy (sweet and sour) lingers. This lighter style Riesling is an everyday quaffer and should drink nicely for another 3 to 5 years, it should fill out a bit more on the palate with some bottle age and look for some aromatics to develop as well given more time, but this is a solid wine and very pleasing now, best from 2015 to 2020. Weingut Stauss is currently looking to expand to markets worldwide, though sadly has no importer yet in the USA, this is certainly a winery to check out and I hope they find there way to the US market soon.
($N/A No US importer) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2014SelbachSaarKabinett2014 Selbach, Riesling, Kabinett, Saar, Germany.
The Saar Kabinett from Selbach is a wonderful Riesling and especially this up coming 2014 release, which was shown to me by Johannes Selbach, of Weingut Selbach-Oster, in January of 2015 as a pre release cask sample. 2014 was looking like a perfect vintage until constant rain started falling late in the season, which promoted rot in the vineyards, then a huge plague of fruit flies emerged just before harvest, so between the careful picking, sorting and fly ruined grapes, the year ended on a very tough note. What fruit that came in was pretty good with all the right flavors and wonderful intensity, but it will be another small crop, like the 2013 vintage. From what I learned from Johannes and from what I tasted there will be some exceptional wines, but you’ll have to be careful, and there is more delicacy in the wines, lighter and less intense in the dry wines at this stage, the Kabinett level wines seem more expressive and vital at this stage, like this Selbach Saar Kabinett, while it is hard to known about the denser Spatlese and Auslese at this early stage, though I understand there will be very few BA, TBA and Eiswein in 2014 due to the conditions mentioned, best to stock up on 2011, 2012 and 2013 stickies! The Saar Kabinett is bright, forward/fruity and vivid with glorious bounce and lift, it shows vibrant white flowers, kiwi, lime and lime blossom, green apple, grapefruit and white peach along with liquid mineral, crunchy stones and plenty of mouth watering brine, saline and tangerine. A hint of flint and white tea, some honey and dreamy texture all add up to a classy, flexible and stylish offering from Selbach, be sure to keep an eye out for this 2014 when it is released in May or June of this year, the sweetness is matched perfectly with tangy acidity, this will drink great young and drink well from 2015 to 2019 as well as age up to a decade.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013StolpmanLaCuadrilla2013 Stolpman Vineyards, La Cuadrilla, Proprietary Red, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley.
The Stolpman La Cuadrilla red is a fantastic wine and a super value, this rich and juicy 2013 is going to impress and thrill those who have not had it and will equally please those that have, it is a dark blend of Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah all from estate vines. The 2013 has partial whole cluster, though feels and tastes refined and lavishly smooth with only a mild hint of stems, it was fermented mostly in neutral barrels, though some was raised in cement vats as well, everything done here was to make an over achieving red cuvee that has that wow factor, mission accomplished. The Stolpman’s and the talents of Sashi Moorman their winemaker really shine through in this superb and unique California wine that has elements of classic northern Rhone style wines and the ripe character of our golden state, plus a exotic Italian twist. I loved the last two vintages of this wine, each year has a new label, and slightly different blend of the varietals, but this young, soon to be released, 2013 is maybe the best and most polished version yet with deep flavors, beautiful detail, intriguing charm, lush texture and layered complexity. The 2013 La Cuadrilla, with a chunk of limestone on the new label, starts with violets, liqueur notes, cassis, white pepper, lavender and forest berries leading to a mouth filling palate of boysenberry, blueberry, plum and currant fruits along with dusty/chalky earth, black fig, olive, anise, cracked peppercorns and carob/mocha. This full bodied, plush and sweet blue/black fruited effort is about 14.5%, but still has juicy fresh acid, vivid transparency, fine tannins and a long graceful finish, it will be great on release and drink wonderfully for 3 to 7 years, best from 2015 to 2019, one of the best new wines for around twenty bucks in the state, do not miss.
($20 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2014KrugerRumpfTrocken2014 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Getting an early preview of the 2014 vintage was a thrill, especially good was the Kruger-Rumpf Estate Trocken, it is a beautiful wine with a great future and it’s a awesome value, be sure to look for it late this Spring/Summer on release. I tasted this wine twice from Georg Rumpf’s cask samples, and found it very consistent and well detailed even now, it comes from the Kruger-Rumpf vines in the Nahe where they have a variety of soils including some slate and quartzite, all of which add to the complexity and character. It was interesting talking to Terry Theise, the importer of Rumpf’s wines and Georg Rumpf himself about 2014 and the wines we are seeing from 2013, the 2013 wines have made huge strides in bottle and are almost eclipsing the more heralded 2012 wines at this stage, though both vintages will pay off big time in the cellar, while you’ll might find the 2014 wines a bit more shy, delicate and maybe lighter early, particularly the dry wines, don’t let that fool you, I think they just will, like the 2013, need time to unfold, even though you’ll need to look a bit harder for the best examples, hint, hint the Kruger-Rumpf is a solid investment. This Estate Trocken is a gorgeous Riesling expression, showing remarkable quality and refinement with electric shine, vibrancy and good dry extract. The nose is pure liquid mineral with hints of white flowers, mixed citrus fruits, and light brine leading to a vivid and tangy palate of lime, green apple, yellow peach, tropical notes, white melon and zesty apricot with lemon peel, salty stones, basil and verbena. This crisp and cool Riesling will drink nicely on release, Summer of 2015, and have a long window of pleasure, best from 2016 to 2022. Also, Kruger-Rumpf makes an awesome Scheurebe, look for the 2012 and 2013, and their Grosses Gewachs Pittersberg 2013 is turning into very special stuff, almost magical, be sure to look for it.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012VillaiCipressiRosso2012 Villa i Cipressi, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
This 100% Sangiovese Grosso, by former Honey barons Villa i Cipressi is gorgeous and lingering with perfumed fruit, rich texture and a wonderfully long finish, this wine is pure class. I was blown away, it really stood out with impressive personality, charm and graceful details it starts with a mix of flowers, a dark ruby/garnet hue, hints of mineral and stones along with pleasing savory herbs, chalky dust, red spice, sweet tobacco, cedar and strawberry liqueur to go along with a core of plum, cherry, raspberry and mulberry core. While the world climbs all over itself for the 2010 Brunello wines, this little beauty can be a great wine to enjoy while those big brother Brunelli age in the cellar, this sublime effort is ready to go right now, not waiting required or needed. Villa i Cipressi farms two distinct plots, one close to the town and heart of Montalcino itself and the other just south in Castelnuovo dell’ Abate, these tiny parcels hardly add to much at 3 Hectares, but the Rosso and Brunello are stunning examples of terroir and passion. The Rosso di Montalcino is the secret star here and a bargain with it’s sweet and succulent fruit, subtle complexity and vivid transparency, drink now or from 2015 to 2019.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013QuenardPersan2013 Jean-Francois Quenard, Persan “Les 2 Jean” Vin de Savoie Rouge, France.
The grape is Persan, it is native varietal to the Rhone-Alpes and Savoie, but can also be found in areas of Piedmonte Italy where it is generally known as Becuet. The origins are still a mystery, though there are many legends, the most likely at this point is that is intact from Savoie, though may have got it’s name from the hamlet of Princens by Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, a historic vineyard east of Grenoble that was very highly regarding back in the 17th Century. The reference on Persan comes from Jancis Robinson’s latest volume Wine Grapes, a lengthy and compelling read for the most hardened wine geek! This unique and rare grape, of which there is only about 25 acres to be found in France, makes for a pretty and Gamay like red wine that has elements that remind you of Pinot Noir and Syrah, with some characteristics and details that also feel like Trousseau. The Quenard 2013 Persan, imported by Charles Neal, is medium weight with a bright ruby hue starting with light floral and earth notes, hints of pepper, walnut oil and good acidity, it’s main core is plum, cherry and blueberry fruits with some strawberry, red peach and cranberry. This is a very elegant and direct wine with not too much complexity, soft tannins and with mild savory herbs and mineral tones in the background, it comes in at about 12.5% alcohol and has a decent finish, drink it from 2015 to 2018. I really enjoyed this totally new to me wine very much and hope to taste more, a super fun discovery and experience.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013WeinbachSylvaner2013 Domaine Weinbach, Sylvaner Reserve, Clos des Capucins, Vin d’ Alsace, France.
Domaine Weinbach is one of my favorite Alsace producers along with Deiss and Marc Tempe, and their Sylvaner is absolutely sublime, certainly the best around that I’ve tried from the region. Sylvaner, also known as Gruner Sylvaner, is now believed to an ancient eastern European grape, a cross between Traminer and Hunnic, a grape thought to be an Austrian wild grape, though it could very well come from Hungary or Romania. I had always thought it was a man made hybrid varietal, oops, shows you can learn something new all the time. The best versions of this grape come from Alsace and parts of southern Germany, but it seems to be losing favor in both France and Germany with many vines being replaced and it had it’s best run between WWII and the 1970’s, though Franken in Germany seems to be having a mini revival and are embracing as their own using those funky squat retro bottles. The wines you find now being made from Sylvaner tend to be mostly dry, and Domaine Weinbach’s is wonderfully dry, mineral intense and very flavorful, a classy and beautiful example. Domaine Weinbach’s tragic loss of star winemaker Laurence Faller, who died of a sudden heart attack last, has left the wine world and especially Alsace with a void, she will always be missed, but she and her spirit lives on in these new Weinbach releases. The 2013 Sylvaner Reserve Clos des Capucins starts with bright citrus, hints of oyster shell, mineral, white flowers and green apple with a light shinning golden hue in the glass leading to peach, tangerine, tropical notes and river stones along with a touch of salty/briny spices. There is surprising vigor and vibrancy with a nice lift of acidity and refined charm throughout with a round mouth feel, Sylvaner rarely reaches these heights, I happily recommend this lovely wine.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

January 2015

2013AltareDolcetto2013 Elio Altare, Dolcetto d’ Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Altare 2013 Dolcetto is a marvelous success in what is easily the toughest vintage since 2002 in Piedmonte, and it shows all the right stuff to be an excellent and friendly food wine and no pretense quaffer. This La Morra Dolcetto, grown in Barolo vineyards starts with dark berry, minty herbs, dark flowers and earthy spices lifting from the glass in this deep colored wine, on the palate it feels a touch light and brittle, but picks itself up with air and there is plenty of joy in the mouth with good fruit intensity. While just about medium weight, admirable clarity of fruit comes through with blackberry, tangy cherry, plum and blueberry fruits showing nicely along with red peach, orange rind, licorice, mineral and rustic earth/loamy notes. There is a crisp nature in this Dolcetto d’ Alba and while impressive and enjoyable, it is a pure reflection of year and place, not altogether hiding the difficult growing conditions, it is certainly not perfect or a great wine, but it does deserve merit and praise for as good as it is, and I would love to have a case to pop open with dinner over the course of the next year or so. This is a fun, well made and true to it’s terroir wine, it might be the best Dolcetto, or Barbera I’ve tried from the 2013 vintage so far, and I kinda like it, it will be great with Pizza, Pasta and or picnics, drink from 2015 to 2017. Altare is a super star producer and all his wines are worthy, but there is no question his Barolo is the main attention and they are some of Italy’s finest examples, especially his 2010’s which are hitting the shelves now, but for now and for any Tuesday night, the Dolcetto will do just fine by me.
($23 Est.) 87-90 Points, grapelive

2013GroissWhite2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gemischter Satz, White Blend, Breitenwaida-Weinviertel, Austria.
This wild natural field blend, the Gemischter Satz Trocken 13% alcohol, has 17 different varietals interplanted including Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Welschriesling, Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Grauburgunder, Pinot Blanc, Malvasier as well as rare and ancient varieties such as Neuburger, Zierfandler, Rotgipfler, Samling, Roter Veltliner, Grauer Voslauer, Hietl Rote, Weisse Voslauer and Silberweisse. Wines like this are going to make the young and charismatic Ingrid Groiss a superstar, this gorgeous white possesses a wonderful cascade of flavors, mineral tones and striking acidity, this is a dynamic and totally unique wine that has great fruit intensity and dry extract, that is both hedonistically pleasing and vibrantly vivid, this is seriously electric stuff. The nose is bright and mineral driven with apple, quince and citrus along with hints of clove spice, briny sea notes and white flowers leading to a flowing palate of yellow peach, ripe pear, lemon/lime, green and golden apple and kumquat plus wild herbs, sea salt, chalky wet stone, a hint of loam and lingering apricot and tropical fruits. There is plenty of style and substance to admire here, this is well made and balanced wine, I highly recommend searching out this wine and Ingrid’s stunning Gruner Veltliner as well, Grioss is a great new talent and her wines are riveting and offer a thrill ride on the palate, probably the best new winery from Austria I’ve tasted in the last 5 years and her 2013’s are a fantastic set of offerings, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012TreMontiPetrignone2010 Tre Monti “Petrignone” Sangiovese Riserva, Sangiovese di Romagna D.O.C. Superiore Riserva, italy.
True Monti’s beautiful and rich Petrignone is pre and dark Sangiovese from Italy’s Romagna region, grown on sandy clay and gravelly soils, similar to the Medoc, and it gives the wines depth, full maturity and old world charm. This wine a Sangiovese Riserva has won many awards in Europe and has gained a following here as well along with good critical reviews, I have tasted a few vintage’s now and can highly recommend these Tre Monti offerings, especially to customers looking for well made wines at great prices, and also to wine bars and bistros that are looking for superb wines for cuisine and or interesting and pleasing wines for by the glass. The Petrignone is a serious effort with deep garnet and ruby color, a nose that shows black fruits, spice and wood notes leading to a lush and full bodied palate of plum, black cherry, raspberry and currant fruits with cedar, sweet tobacco, licorice, mixed herbs, mineral and vanilla. This wine, while clearly Sangiovese and terroir driven, reminds me of a fine Rioja, it has that mouth feel, class and style, this is impressive and wonderfully textured wine, the finish is lingering with a mix of dark fruits, earthy notes and strawberry tart. The acidity and smooth/creamy tannins give vigor and structure, but never intrude on the pleasurable experience, the 6 months in used Bordeaux like Allier barrels really add polish and grace to this enjoyable Sangiovese di Romagna, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011MeyerPinot2011 Hubert Meyer, Pinot Noir, Fut en Chene, Vin d’Alsace, France.
This is beautiful and character filled wine, a detailed and complex Pinot Noir with full flavors and only at 12.5% alcohol. One of the best values in top quality Alsatian Pinot Noir, this Hebert Meyer is a real steal and a great new discovery, along with their fine sparkling wines and superb Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The 2011 Fut en Chene, aged in oak, has nice ripe fruit, earth and spice with a flowing silky texture and a good lingering finish along with refined acidity keeping everything in control, this is a very stylish example of terroir and varietal, this little gem puts some Burgundy, California and Oregon wines to shame in this price point. Hubert Meyer’s lovely Pinot Noir starts with dusty cherry, rose petals, hints of mineral, game and light pepper notes before folding into a medium weight palate of plum, raspberry, truffle, chalky stones and flinty spices with a hint of creaminess, think round and soft, but with nice vigor and vibrancy to the flavors, this is very pleasing stuff, I highly recommend keeping your eyes out for this well crafted Pinot, imported by H. Mercer, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013SelbachOsterAnrecht2013 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling, Anrecht, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel Germany.
This is a fabulous white wine, I rank it up there with the great wines of the world, and it sells at a ridiculously undervalued price for the sublime experience on offer, the 2013 Anrecht by Selbach-Oster is a masterpiece. Johannes Selbach crafts a few single block Rieslings each vintage, they belong to no classification system, they are single block wines that come of unique and old vines above the Mosel, these wines stand out with density, depth and striking mineral intensity. I put them up there with Chave or Chapoutier Hermitage, or the Grand Crus of Laflaive, but still with pure Riesling character and expression, these are big and powerful examples, coming in at Auslese must weights, and while not dry, they deliver an amazing balanced feel, especially the Anrecht, which feels lush and hedonistic on the palate without cloying sugar. Once you free your mind of perceptions, you’ll discover a whole new world of pleasure, the layers of detail found in the Selbach-Oster Anrecht are mind-blowing, this certainly is a white wine for red wine lovers, I must thank Johannes Selbach for making such a glorious outside the box wine and Terry Theise for the inspiration and passion for Riesling, they both introduced me to the joyous world of German wines and Riesling in particular. The 2013 Anrecht starts with white roses, salty stones, light honey notes and tropical essences, leading to a full-bodied palate of liquid mineral, yellow peach, green apple, apricot, lime and mango along with savory, cured meat/bacon, asian tea, smoky flinty spice and brine. The texture is creamy, lavish and flowing, but there is ever present acidity and lift, a deep focus that leaves a tangerine and honey play for control, the sugar takes away any shrill or bitterness, while the mineral tones and vibrancy keep everything tight and precise. This wine has blossomed and is a stunning Riesling, for now or for cellaring up to 15 years or more, absolutely gorgeous, drink from 2015 to 2028.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2011CamusBruchonLiards2011 Domaine Camus-Bruchon & Fils, Savigny-Les-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
This wonderful Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir comes from the 90 plus year old Grand Liards vines in Savigny-Les-Beaune and is made by Lucien Camus, latest in a long line of generations to make wine in Burgundy, he is really coming into his own at the helm of Domaine Camus-Bruchon, and this wine reflects his growing talent and reputation. Lucien is a vineyard winegrower, he loves his vines and spends most of his time with them, he is a traditionalist in the cellar, he only uses about 15% new oak and employs long maceration and fermentations, he wants the grapes to give everything they have to offer, with no filtering or fining used to delivery purity and balance of fruit and tannin. The Camus-Bruchon have been superb in the last few vintages and remain savvy wines for the Burgundy enthusiast, they offer great terroir driven flavor and character at a great value, the 2008, 2009 and 2010’s were lovely, but this 2011 is showing great and is a steal, this is a buyers year for Burgundy if you know where to look, and this 2011 Camus-Bruchon Aux Grands Liards Savigny is a fantastic bottle of wine, it shows depth, palate density and a glorious layered mouth feel with plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits, tea spice, hints of wild game, anise, bitter herb and cedar along with mineral and chalky stones. Beautiful floral tone lead in the glass with violets, rose petal, a touch of pepper and lavender waft from the glass in this vigorous Pinot that shows refined tannin, lifting acidity and a silky rich texture in a medium weight frame. This is really worth looking for, imported by Beaune Imports, and it has a good drinking window, and is damn good now, this old vine Burgundy should be best from 2015 to 2022, this is lovely, impressive and expressive stuff made by a domaine on the rise.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013Tandem2013 Domaine des Costes Rouges, Marcillac Rouge “Tandem” Mansois, South West, France.
A tiny country estate in the wilds of southwest France, the Domaine des Costes Rouge is a wife and husband property run by Claudine and Eric Vinas, they do everything themselves and grow their Mansois vines organically. Eric is a former restauranter, but still offers farm made fare/cuisine who happen to search out their beautiful hillside winery. The wines are all estate and organic grown 100% Mansois, these are natural, rustic and charming wines with terroir and real unique personality, the latest set are especially appealing and engaging. The Domaine des Cotes Rouges Tandem 2013 is bright, lightly fruity with medium weight and shows tangy red fruits, earth, spice and soulful character, it was fermented in cement vats in their underground/cellar keeping the process naturally cool then the wine is raised in cement tanks until the following spring, then the wine is bottled and rested until fall. The 2013 Tandem starts with plum and cherry fruit with hints of raspberry, cranberry and blueberry along with a Loire Cabernet Franc like bell pepper note, game, wet/loamy earth, truffle, wild herbs, a touch of red and black pepper, fig and stone/mineral. There is a bit of zesty acidity, mild tannin rawness and vigor. but still pleasing and easy on the palate, and it’s hard not to enjoy the pure honesty of this wine, it’s sense of place and the true nature, with low alcohol, about 12%, this is a fun and expressive wine. Enjoy this Marcillac, imported by Charles Neal, over the coming year or so, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010UccelieraBrunello2010 Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
There is a lot of intense hype about the 2010 vintage Brunello wines, the expectations are sky high and many critics are jumping all over themselves to declare it the greatest year for Brunello in our lifetime! Will all this swirling around it is hard to see the forest for the trees, but yes it will be a classic vintage for this Tuscan region and it will be good to get some of these mythical wines for the cellar, but these wines are going to take some time to develop, fill out and right now on release are not showing their potential, much the same way Burgundy tends to be. If you were as excited as I was to taste these wines, you’ll need to take a deep breath and relax, they have plenty on offer, it just will need a few years in bottle, the best show reduction and are tight as a banker’s wallet. The new 2010 Uccelliera, from a long cool year in the hilltop town, will be majestic, it has everything in raw form to become a 95-98 point wine, but there will be a waiting period of 5 to 10 years to get the full picture here. Tasted on January 23, 2015 the Uccelliera brunette di Montalcino showed a closed nose with reduction and earthy red fruits, it has a remarkably pure and expansive palate revealing little of it’s future greatness, though the basic blackberry, plum, minty herb, tobacco, kirsch and savory spice are attractive, and while pretty shut down you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Polished firm tannins, good acidity and mineral tones make it clear this is one of the best structured Brunello vintages since 2004, and while the feel is somewhere in between a young Bordeaux and a young Burgundy, there is no question the quality is there and that this is a special wine, this is a serious Sangiovese Grosso. With air more beautiful elements come to play in the Uccelliera with incense, rose petal and cedar spice, licorice and meaty notes unfold, it will certainly be a joyful experience to revisit this well crafted wine in a few years, drink from 2018 to 2030.
($75+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013ClapeAmis2013 Domaine Auguste Clape, Le Vin des Amis, Vin de France, Rhone Red, France.
The Kermit Lynch imported star of Cornas, (the) Domaine A. Clape makes some of the world’s finest and most distinct Syrah, and these wines sell out very quickly, but savvy wine lovers looking for a value should explore Clape’s Cotes du Rhone and this Vin de France in particular, the Le Vin des Amis is a pure Syrah that way over delivers in quality and detail at the asking price. Even in a restaurant with high margins this wine makes an excellent choice, giving lots of terroir character, dynamic flavors and it has the added benefit of being a deep Syrah wine that doesn’t mind being opened young. The latest Le Vin des Amis, from 40 year old vines grown a ways away from Cornas on river stone soils, it is fermented just like the top cuvees with whole cluster and native yeasts in cement cuves, and while the Cornas wines go on the spend almost 2 years in big foudres, the Cotes du Rhone and this Le Vin des Amis are aged half year in old foudres (neutral wood cask) and 6 months in the cement vats before release. While the Le Vin des Amis misses some of the power and intensity of the granite soils, it makes for a pretty impressive Syrah non the less and this 2013 is wonderful and full bodied with a deep purple hue in the glass and beautifully transmitted detail and old world charm, this is very much a northern Rhone Syrah with a nose full of violets, scorched earth, lavender, iron/mineral notes, camphor and blueberry and concord grapey notes leading to a lush palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and fig paste along with black olive, celery seed, minty herbs, currant/creme de cassis, european salted licorice, crushed stone and peppercorns. The fruit lingers expressively on the finish and with air some some nice savory and meaty elements shine through, while the alcohol is at a low 12%, with modest tannins and fresh acids, making for a wonderful wine with all kinds of food choices, this wine is a winner, especially in this vintage, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

BrangerSparklern.v. Sebastien Branger, Eclipse, Brut Sparkling Melon, Muscadet, Loire Valley, France.
Along with his father, Sebastien makes a few hundred cases of this glorious bubbly, all handcrafted method traditionnelle from his tiny 1.5 acres of vines in Muscadet, these older plantings from 1964 and some from 1985 offer brisk intensity and plenty of briny sea flavors that come through in this sparkling Melon. The Loire is the Prosecco, this is the hot spot for quality and value in Champagne style sparkling wines these days, and while Branger’s Eclipse is not cheap at $20, it is certainly a superb offering that rivals many $60 Champagnes, this is great stuff. The Eclipse is a very dry Brut, 12% alcohol, was bottled April 11, 2013 then disgorged on July 7, 2014, after spending some good time on the lees, and the classic terroir of clay and gneiss shines through with excellent mineral and salty flavors, perfect with oysters. The Eclipse shows vibrant citrus, green apple and chalky gravelly notes with a core of lemon/lime and melon along with steely mineral, hazelnut, bread dough/yeast with a fine mousse and an energy filled flow throughout. This vivid and unique sparkling Muscadet should age beautiful as well, a good 10 to 15 years, but it does give loads of pleasure and elegant detail now, drink from 2015 to 2025.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013KnollfederspielGV2013 Weingut Knoll, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Wachau, Federspiel, Austria.
The Emmerich Knoll wines always impress and are some of Austria’s most beautiful expressions of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, and these 2013 offerings are sublime, especially the Federspiel Gruner Loiben which shows a vibrant and vivid crystalline mineral tone and lifting acidity. The 2013 vintage, for me, is a good a vintage as I’ve ever seen in Gruner Veltliner, these wines are full of life, intensity and incredibly pure with dry extract and a pretty range of flavors and tangy dynamic fruit. In particular Emmerich Knoll’s 2013 Federspiel Loibner Gruner almost defines the year and varietal to perfection, this is glorious and pleasing stuff with fresh lemon/lime, white peach, almond notes, crushed stones and liquid steel, it tingles the palate and is wonderfully crisp, with melon, tropical essence and spice, though it does expand with air to reveal a bit of density, this is sublime Gruner and a massively appealing foodie wine. Being a Federspiel it feels a bit on the lighter side, coming in between the 11.5 and 12.5 alcohol, mandated by the category and there is certain playful quality and charm, making it easy to love, but it is a serious effort and will age well over the next 3 to 7 years, drink from 2015 to 2022. While the 2012 vintage was good all around and 2011 shined especially bright for Riesling, the 2013 vintage in Austria is the year of Gruner Veltliner, you should be sure to get them, these are electrifying and exciting wines with loads of character, quality and elegance, with Knoll one of the top of the top, do not miss.
($33 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012CocheMeursault2012 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meusault AC, White Burgundy, France.
Fantastically rare, wildly priced and insanely desired the Coche white Burgundies are the absolute best there is, it is always a special moment to try these elusive masterpieces, and for me this week was one of those wonderful occasions. Coche’s Corton-Charlemagne is maybe the most sought after white wine in the world, one of the elite, along with Domaine de la Romance-Conti’s Le Montrachet, these two stand alone as the top Chardonnay wines for collectors, these two regularly see auction prices over $3,000 per bottle, sometimes much more. While it is hard to talk about a $350 bottle as a value or in fact post it as a wine of the day here, it is important to showcase these wines for the glorious experiences they are and let people know these do stand up to expectation and are sometimes worth every penny, and it my case, someone else’s penny. I consider myself lucky to have had a few opportunities to sample Coche-Dury, and I must thank for long suffering boss (at my day job) for digging into his personal stash for our holiday staff party and opening this glorious wine, plus all the other magical bottles as well. The 2012 vintage Cote de Beaune wines are going to be even more rare and expensive than ever, a great year marred by huge crop loss due to hail storms in the region, this tiny crop produced highly concentrated and powerful wines, and this exotic Coche Meursault is filled with intensity and is deeply layered with stunning liquid mineral and stony elements somehow balancing the shear force of fruit density and richness, this wine is truly spectacular even now, but it should not even begin to show it’s best until 2020 or so. The nose is pure terroir and varietal with white flowers, steely mineral and match stick leading the way with citrus, quince, kiwi and stone leading, before a core of apple and lemon curd come out with air, there is a mouthful of wet rocks, hints of clove, butterscotch, briny notes and salted toffee as well with lingering creme, lime and honeycomb. This is amazingly gorgeous wine, I can only hope I get a chance in 10 or 15 years to see it in it’s prime, but I think that might be too much to asked for. For those with the means or if you have a bit of play money burning a hole in your pocket, I say lucky you, get this wine and lock it away, drink from 2018 to 2028.
($350+ Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012HoopesNapa2012 Hoopes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
I was turned on to the Hoopes wines by Tim Gaiser MS, and while I liked the 2010 and 2011 wines, the 2012’s are really a step up and Hoopes winemaker Anne Vawter looks set to be a star. The Oakville based Hoopes is a property to watch and I highly recommend getting some of the 2012, especially the regular Napa, it is one of the best young Cabs I’ve tried so far. Voter comes from Walla Walla Washington and grew up around the likes of Leonetti and other top Columbia Valley wines, she went to UC Davis and then worked under the famed Heidi Barrett, she has helped turn out some great wines at Paradigm, so she is major talent on the rise. The 2012 Hoopes Napa is a lush and full bodied Cabernet with a deep purple/black hue, wonderfully elegant with creme de cassis, acacia flowers, smoke and mineral tones coming from the glass, on the palate rich and decedent fruit fill the mouth, showing blackberry, currants, dark cherry and plum as well as sweet tobacco, sage/spice, cinnamon stick, licorice and soft wood vanilla notes, this is stylish stuff, with hidden power and tannic structure, but with finesse and a refined nature. I was impressed by this effort, in particular, the more expensive Oakville cuvee seemed a touch over done, though it should settle into a superb wine as well given some time in the bottle, though I think the quantity and price on offer in the regular Napa Valley bottling makes it the better deal. I should imagine the 2012’s will age beautifully for 15 to 20 years, best from 2018 to 2022 I suspect, but honestly this Cabernet Sauvignon is very approachable now and is easy to love, enjoy with cheeses and or any meat dishes, get this winery on your radar!
($50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011ChandonBriaillesLavieres2011 Domaine Chandon de Briailles, Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Lavieres, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
This gorgeous Pinot Noir from Chandon de Briailles shows the total commitment to quality this domaine strives for, Chandon de Briailles is Demeter certified 100% biodynamic, organic and each wine is a pure showcase of terroir and vintage. I have been lucky over the years to follow Domaine Chandon de Briailles, and even recently taste back to the 2001 vintage, these are wonderful Burgundy expressions and while savvy wine enthusiasts have known about this under the radar label, I’m going to recommend scoring these 2011 wines, they are vastly underrated and showing beautifully now, and they will age delightfully too, especially sexy and alluring is Domaine Chandon de Briailles’ Les Lavieres Premier Cru Savigny-les-Baune 2011. I’ve tasted this on two occasions over the last year and sampled three different bottles with consistent results, which I must say were great experiences, this is a classy and elegant wine with inticing perfume, mineral charm and detailed fruit, it shows violets and rose petals, kirsch, lavender oil, tea spice, light earthy notes, a hint of stems, along with a core of black cherry, raspberry and plum fruit. The wine is seductive, smoothly textured with silky mouth feel and good length, it is about 12.5%, but feels dense and medium full on the palate with nice tension, some savory elements in the background and a solid push of acidity driving it, this is really a fine Cote de Beaune that is expertly crafted, no new oak used or needed and partial whole cluster, about 20% stems, adding intensity and complexity, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011amidolirachommage2011 Domaine Amido, Lirac “Hommage” Rhone Valley, France.
This small estate in the Rhone, is really an exceptional find, they make delicious wines and offer great value, mostly from Lirac, not far from Gigondas in the southern Rhone. Charles Neal, the importer said he just happened upon them at a small local wine fair a few years back and was impressed by their basic Cotes du Rhone, a neat little example that sells for about $10, but their Lirac AC really is a bit more special and has plenty of what you’d want from Rhone blend, it is very much a baby Chateauneiuf du Pape. Then, there is the Hommage Lirac, this is even better, a special cuvee that seems modeled on the famed Chateau de Beaucastel, it is primarily Mourvedre about 60% with the rest a balance of Grenache and Syrah, this stuff is dark and deeply flavored, powerful and earthy in style, seriously endowed wine that grabs your attention. The 2011 Homage from Domaine Lirac oozes into the glass with a purple/black hue with deep garnet edges and makes an immediate palate impact with black and blue fruits, scorched earth, meaty notes and peppery spices along with a thick tannic texture. There is lavender, crushed violets, liquid stones, bacon, cassis, blueberry, boysenberry, leather, dusty loam and baked cherry layers and hints of wild herbs and tar along with salted black licorice. This is heady, vibrant stuff, an impressive effort and begs for hearty winter fare, this would go especially well with lamb, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012DelaireGraff2012 Delaire Graff Estate, Botmanskop, Proprietary Red, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
South Africa has some old vineyards and makes some great wines, and even though I don’t get to taste much of the really great stuff that often, I can certainly sense that good things are happening again in this often overlooked region and from what I did taste recently from Broadbent Selections there are some really good wines available and even more on the way, values and quality. A new one for me was Delaire Graff Estate, from the Stellenbosch region, near the Cape and set in one of the most beautiful wine areas you’ll ever see, near the ocean and with mountains that remind you of the mesas of the American southwest deserts, with glorious vineyards dotting the wild landscapes. The Delaire Graff is an old property and while it has changed hands a few times in it’s history it carries it’s past in the bottle and the latest set of wines are superb, but especially their Bordeaux style red blend Botmanskop which is as good as the latest few vintages of Opus One and would give many a Medoc estate a run for their money. The 2012 Delaire Graff Botmanskop is a cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, though I was lead to believe there might be a touch of Pinotage as well, but not officially confirmed, it was gently de-stemmed and fermented whole berry and raised in French oak for about 16 months, the result is a full bodied and elegant wine of graceful fruit, soft wood notes and richly finished. The 2012 shows deep garnet and red/black color and a classic Cabernet and Cab Franc nose with violets, hay, tobacco leaf, smoke, graphite and creme de cassis notes leading to a palate of red and black fruits, spice and cedar with blackberry, opulent cherry and plum along with pencil shavings, vanilla, mocha and mineral/earthiness. This beauty lies in between the heady Napa and Austere outer Medoc in style with polished refinement, good vigorous life, and a super lovely smooth lengthy finish, this is really impressive stuff, a steal at this price, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LignierChambolle2012 Domaine Georges Lignier, Chambolle-Musigny, Red Burgundy, France.
Ligner is a domaine to watch, there seems a lot to get excited about with the wines here and I was thrilled by the 2011 vintage offerings I tasted recently, especially the Grand Cru wines, as well as this up coming release of Chambolle-Musigny from estate vines that cut through three Premier Cru plots and are a good 70 years old. The 2012 Lignier Chambolle is fresh, pure, dynamic and shows lovely terroir distinction with aromas ranging from rose petals, violets, wild berry, kirsch to earth, savory elements and spices leading to a firm young palate of old school charms with red cherry, blackberry, plum and spiced red peach fruits along with forest notes, cedar, truffle and mineral/stony essences. There is plenty to admire here with fine grain tannins, vivid acidity and good density, structure and classic proportions, this wine looks set to be a real gem of a Pinot Noir and offers quite a solid value for a 2012 offering, I must say it was a pleasure meeting Benoit Stehly of Domaine Georges Linger and getting a chance to taste his wines, I’m grateful to importer Rosenthal for the experience, all the wines on show were exceptional and stylish, and while the 2012’s are the holy grail for collectors, you’d do really well for yourselves to grab some of the 2011 from Lignier, in fact you can get some of their Grand Cru wines at less than many 2012 Premier Cru, with Clos St.-Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes Mares all showing fantastic, plus their Morey-St.-Denis is awesome as well. The 2012 Chambolle-Musigny should hit the market in March or April of this year (2015) and it should be one to look for, but be sure to be patient, drink from 2018 to 2024.
($76 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011OdderoBarbera2011 Oddero, Barbera D’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Poderi e Cantine Odder is an estate on the rise, it has been around a long time, since 1878 in fact, and they bottle only estate wines from vineyards mostly in the Barolo zone itself and they are located in La Morra. The winery is most famous for their top Barolo offerings with Vigna Rionda, Brunate, Rocche di Castiglione and Villero all being highly acclaimed and prized, and in recent vintages these and all their wines have reached new heights in quality. I am very fond of Barbera and believe it is one of the most under-rated varietals, it is a grape that over delivers for the price and is a great wine with food, giving pleasure and fulfillment, and Oddero’s Barbera D’Alba is a stunning example, it is layered with beautiful fruit, charm, complexity and class. Cristina Oddero is now in charge of making the wines and overseeing the vineyards, which are moving towards full organic farming, she and her team Luca Veglio, winemaker and Sergio Blengio, vineyard manager are doing an amazing job with the estate. The 2011 Barbera D’Alba, from a warm vintage is 14.5% alcohol, is deep garnet and purple with a seductive bouquet of fresh berries, floral tones and a mix of spice, earth, herb and mineral leading to a vigorous and plummy palate of blackberry, cherry, cranberry and sweet currant fruits along with minty/licorice, dusty stones, savory elements, juicy acidity and graceful tannins. The wine is full of life and while fruity and hedonistic at it’s core there is plenty of loamy/umami essences to keep things balanced, this is a dynamic and well crafted Barbera, drink from 2015 to 2020, I highly recommend searching out this great little wine, it is a steal at this price, and if you want something for the cellar don’t miss the Odder 2010 Barolo, all of which are world class selections.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012ClosdesRocsPL42012 Clos des Rocs, Pouilly-Loche, Les Quatre Saisons, White Burgundy, France.
The Macon is one of the most exciting areas in Burgundy for new finds, especially for value priced offerings, and the Pouilly area in particular seeing some amazing wines, like this wonderfully expressive Chardonnay from Clos des Rocs in Pouilly-Loche. The “Four Seasons” comes from two plots of 40 year old vines set in clay soils just to the northwest of the village of Loche, not far from Pouilly-Fuisse, and this cuvee is half stainless steel and half in neutral oak barrels. The wine itself is exciting and has exotic elements, it even feels oil rich, but with good acidity and vivid flavors starting with pretty white flowers, verbena, melon and hints of brine/saline leading to a lovely palate of lime, tangerine, pear and soft apple fruits, light mineral tones, leafy/earth, a hint of hazelnut, wet stones and lots of zesty meter lemon and subtle tropical essences. There is good vigor, vibrancy and lift to be found though it does fill out in the mouth with plush creaminess, impressive textural feel and interesting terroir character, drink from 2015 to 2018, this was a good showing of a well crafted Chardonnay from a producer that I’ve not previously sampled, Clos des Rocs is imported by Rosenthal, and I highly recommend checking them out, both this and their Monopole estate bottling were performing excellently, very serious and delicious Maconnais!
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012 L2012linneinne Calodo, Rising Tides, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
Matt Trevisan’s Linne Calodo is one of a elite set of wineries that have given the west side of Paso Robles a world class voice, along with Saxum, L’Aventure, Booker, Epoch, Torrin and Law Estate this group crafts unique hybrid red blends, mostly Rhone varietals plus Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Tempranillo and few others. These are the new wave, that since the late 90’s have made this region one of the most exciting in California, some credit must go to Tablas Creek which led the modern Rhone movement bringing a vast array of quality clones and cuttings from Beaucastel and beyond. Part scientist part artisan, Matt has created one of the most followed and sought after wineries in the central coast with rich and flavorful offerings under his Linne Calodo label, named after the chalky soils of the west side, with names like Problem Child, Nemesis, Perfectionist, Cherry Red, Overthinker, Sticks and Stones and Rising Tides. Travisan uses some oak, but is also using cement to ferment and raise his wines and they show even greater promise for the future, there are still new trails to blaze here, and he has a second label now too called Slacker Wines, so be sure to check them all out. The 2012 Linne Calodo Rising Tides is a blend of 37% Grenache, 34% Syrah and 29% Mourvedre, a classic GSM cuvee in Matt’s lineup with a dense, fruit packed palate that is lavish, decedent and opulent with black raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry, creme de cassis fruits along with hints of pepper, licorice, briar and crushed stones, saline and bitter coca. There is only a faint trace of fine toasty sweet oak, with a slight vanilla kiss and smoke note, but mostly it has been totally absorbed by the ripe fruit. The alcohol is a robust 15.3%, but not in anyway excessive or overt, this wine is perfectly balanced and weighted with wonderful balance and vigor, it feels like a very fine Chateauneuf du Pape in the mouth and is an exceptional wine with a lingering lush finish that shows plummy/stone fruit and creamy tannins, this is sexy stuff, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($65 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2005DagueneauPurSang2005 Domaine Didier Dagueneau, Pur Sang, Blanc Fume de Pouilly, Loire Valley, France.
The legend of Didier Dagueneau continues, the man was larger than life and his wines show his passion and they continue to show his magic touch, these wines are mythical and wonderfully express his dynamic soul. Dagueneau sadly passed away in 2008 while flying his ultralight, and those in the wine world suffered the loss, it was a black day, but still his wines live on, and his son Benjamin has taken the weight of expectation on his back crafting the new wines from Didier’s cellars, and by all I’m seen the wines life up his father’s. Didier raced sidecar motorcycles internationally, dog-sledded and flew light aircraft with gusto, he was a wild man and lived life with a certain intensity and his wines were made with the highest standards applied and the focus was that of a professional sportsman and he was a zealot and loved his terroir, his wines were influenced by the famed Burgundy legend Henri Jayer, who went on to mentor him, and Didier honored his grandfather (Louis) too in the way he made his wines. It is hard to imagine a greater dry Sauvignon Blanc than a wine made by Dagueneau, and the chance to taste one of Didier’s creations is something that is not meant to be missed, and recently Beaune Imports shared a few old Didier vintages along with Benjamin Dagueneau’s new releases, and I got a rare chance to relive history and re-visit the 2005 Dagueneau Pur Sang. I seem to prefer the Pur Sang a tiny bit over the Silex, Dagueneau’s top cuvees, but that is personal preference only not a quality influence, I just love the Pur Sang, it sings to me, it is glorious and exotic. The 2005 is starting to reach it’s peak, even though it has another 10 or more years left of fantastic drinking ahead, it shows deep mineral concentration, vigor and breath taking purity and charm, flowing with layers of acid lifted mature fruits, stony notes and tropical essences. The nose has hints of chalk, white flowers, earthy character and feels like elements of a mountain stream, leading to a palate of lemon/lime, tangerine, mango, peach and gooseberry fruits with hints of cedar, truffle, river rocks, flinty spice, herb, saline, quince, verbena and tangy marmalade. This wine is brisk and steely still, dry and dusty, but with deep extract, it uncoils and expands giving a doorway to a new dimension of time and space. It is good to see Dagueneau’s wines again and see they live up to the legend, and I’m equally happy to report that Benjamin’s wines do as well, and I can’t wait to try his wines after 10 years.
($125+ Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012FaurieStJoe2012 Bernard Faurie, Saint-Joseph, Rhone Red, France.
The Bernard Faurie Hermitage wines are cult-like legends, rare and coveted, these are handcrafted wines from 100 year old plots in some of Syrah’s greatest terroir and vineyards, like Meal and Bessards on Hermitage hill, Syrah’s holy mecca. Besides those amazing Hermitage wines, he has a small holding in Saint-Joseph, and this wine is the one to find, it is open knit, beautiful, and full of glorious fruit, mineral, spice and refined tannins, a wonderful and as pure as pure gets Syrah. Grown on loamy hillsides and with a granite base, the Saint-Joseph is like a mini Cote-Rotie, but 100% Syrah and is handcrafted using whole cluster, foot stomped extraction, in old wood vats with fermentation occurring natural with native yeasts then aged in neutral cask for between 18 and 36 months. These are small lot old school wines, and while very traditional they are not rustic or rough, these are highly detailed and polished wines that are fruit forward and graceful. The 2012 Saint-Joseph is plush on the palate, dark and purple/black hued with a nose that excites with dark fruit, violets, pepper and mineral, in the mouth the layers unfold with boysenberry, blueberry compote, plum and black cherry fruits along with peppercorn, a hint of olive and salted black licorice, I was surprised at the silky tannins and the shear elegance to be found in this young and whole cluster Syrah, this is very hedonistic and stylish Saint-Joseph that has much more to come in the future, but is delicious now, the finish is pure with hints of game, earth, sweet creme de cassis and lavender/garrigue. Amazing fruit density without being heavy, the 2012 Bernard Faurie is about 13%, and it has plenty of well integrated acidity, almost juicy, but richly textured, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013BCSRHPN2013 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
The last year has been a great one for the talented duo of Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton, they have made some fantastic wines, put some great vineyards online and received wonderful critical acclaim from the world’s wine press, to say they are on a roll would be an understatement! Having tasted most of their wines going back to their 2000 vintage, I can honestly say their are crafting the best wines of their career, even though I have a personal fondness in my heart for a few particular vintages, like the 2000 Chardonnays and the 2004 and 2005 Pinots, but what is remarkable is that after all the glories that 2012 brought them, I think the 2013 wines might even be better! The 2013 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, following the 2012 that won best American Pinot in Wine Spectator’s Top Ten Wines of 2014, coming in at #8 wine of the year, is not taking a backseat to anyone, this is a beautiful wine of very similar quality and character, it to me feels more exotic, racy and expressive at this stage than the 2012 and I like the livelier acidity and heightened aromatics even more. The nose shows violets and roses with wild raspberry and lavender oil leading to a vivid and sweet Pinot fruit palate with plum, morello cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruits, minty tea spice, saline, licorice, baking spices and just a hint of vanilla/cedary wood. This wine has a bit more to come too, it should develop nicely over the next 2 to 5 years, allowing the sweet core of fruit to give way to secondary earthy elements and fill out, but it certainly is sublime now. At 14.5% it is full and ripe in style, yet it feels more refined and alive in the mouth than the 2012 with good vigor and vibrancy, this is sexy and seductive stuff, it is an amazing follow up to a great wine, bravo, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($40 Est.) 94 points, grapelive

2011MeoMarsannay2011 Meo-Camuzet Frere & Soeurs, Marsannay AC, Red Burgundy, France.
I bought about 6 bottles of this wine, and I almost every year get a batch of the Meo-Camuzet for my own drinking pleasure, I find them to be solid values and well made wines that I can count on vintage to vintage, and Meo is one of my favorites. I have found in recent years, the winery (Domaine) has dialed back on the oak, and has made a more vibrant style Pinot Noir, this has gracefully followed my own tastes, and most trends too, and this 2011 is wine that is getting more interesting by the year, it is much more complex and entertaining than it was even 6 months ago. The Meo Marsannay proved up to the moment with beautiful pure Pinot fruit, nice aromatics and tangy layers, shinning with acidity, charm and silky tannins. The nose shows hints of violets, rose petal, mineral and red currants, with a vigorous palate of plum, black cherry, forrest berry, minty herbs, anise, wet stones and a bit of game and cedar spice. A soft wood/smoke note well hidden in the background and a touch of soft vanilla are the only overt oak trances and the lively character make this Burgundy more of a charmer than a show off and the finish is almost crisp, dusty and lingers with a red peach note. Best to get another 2 to 3 years if you have this or the Fixin, but these 2011’s are turning out to be very impressive wines, a nice surprise, drink from 2016 to 2019.
($60 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2001OlgaRaffaultChinon2001 Olga Raffault, Chinon, Les Picasses, Loire Valley, France.
Another super old school, old world offering from Raffault, the 2001 is fresh, lively, earthy and succulent with red currants, violets, chalky minerals, truffle, leather and a hint of horse. This is a fine example of vintage terroir from the Loire, it shows pure Cabernet Franc in total transparency and with naked clarity, it is not a flattering or glamorous wine, but an earthy kind of beauty with an outdoorsy and tomboy attitude, and highly enjoyable. The color is richly dark with a garnet hue with a purply core, youthful still and vibrant on the palate with black cherry, plum, the currant note, game, a touch of barnyard, a hint of bell pepper, cedary wood and lavender/tea spices. After having the 2006 and even the 1989, I can say these Olga Raffault Chinon’s are growing on me, these are impressive and interesting wines that are wonderfully true in nature and very reasonably priced, Dressner imports these and is offering many vintages, I would recommend them to Loire and Cab Franc fans, hard to find as perfect of a textbook example of place and varietal as these, especially this classic 2001 Olga Raffault Les Picasses Chinon is full of character, charm and soul, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013LaRoqueWhite2013 Chateau La Roque, Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc, France.
Jacques Figuette’s Chateau La Roque is a Languedoc leader in quality and value with the talented Cyriaque Rozier making the wines from biodynamic vines grown near Pic St.-Loup. The winery was founded in 1259, but the region dates back to Roman times and the landscape here is largely unchanged, rugged and beautiful with an ancient and timeless feel, and this seems to translate into the wines and these are wines that are very much influenced by their terroir, which is a mix of clay and limestone, terraced vines and a south-southeast exposure, gathering in the Mediterranean warm, light and breezes. Rozier’s winemaking is deft and traditional with native yeasts, no malo and fermentation in mostly stainless and maybe large old cask and the raising in cement tank, this allows each wine, and grape to show through, elegant, earthy and classic. The 2013 Languedoc Blanc is bright, summery and delightful made up of Marsanne, Rolle (Vermentino), Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne this wine has loads of flavor and character. The nose is fresh with citrus, spice, wet stones and tropical leading to a zesty palate of lemon/lime, green apple, peach, bitter apricot, salty chalk, white melon and tangy herb/peppery spice. The wine is refreshing and light/medium in weight, but gains density with air and is really lovely with delicate earth and mineral notes coming through with lifting crisp acidity, turning round and pleasing on the finish, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012BoillotPommard2012 Domaine Lucien Boillot & Fils, Pommard “Les Croix Noires” Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
Longtime Kermit Lynch staple Burgundy producer Lucien Boillot is considered a safe bet and a solid performer in terms of quality and old school character driven wines, but this 2012 is a game changer for the domaine. These wines are much more intriguing and compelling than I’ve ever experienced from Boillot, even though the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 wines are were well crafted, they are not near the level of the 2012 vintage, which of course is what everyone is talking about since it was a year of tiny yields and excellent fruit density. What was surprising to me, especially with Boillot, was the generous nature and beauty the 2012 wines show already, this Pommard was opened, with no decanting and poured, and it revealed gorgeous perfume, heady black and red fruits, polished tannins and a lengthy finish, all within seconds of popping the cork, that is unbelievably rare for these wines, particularly a Pommard! Boillot’s home is Gevrey-Chambertin, but I think his most famous wines come from the Cote be Beaune, Volnay and Pommard, though they do a few Gevrey offerings, though nice, they are not as unique as the southern bottling, in my opinion, and I usually go for their Volnay in normal vintages, though as it looks with the 2012’s, the Pommards are the ones to grab if you see them, I think they are looking like rewarding investments for the cellar. The 2012 Boillot Pommard Premier Cru Les Criox Noires is a classy and firm Pinot Noir with an exotic air and marvelous intensity with a nose of violets, blueberry, graphite and truffle leading to a rich and concentrated palate of wild plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits, clove and celery spice, chalky stones, a bit of toasty wood, brabble/briar, red peach flesh and minty herbs, tea, lavender and anise. This is for sure a vigorous Pommard with lively acidity and forceful extract, plus it delivers superb detail and transparency with a touch of rustic nature, after a bit of air, a heightened degree of tannin started to rise and close things down, but not unpleasantly, though you can feel that this will be much more complete and complex in a few years time and age well into the next decade, best from 2018 to 2026. This is a really extra delicious Burgundy from Boillot, it far exceeds my expectations and it should get lots better in the cellar, lucky for those few that will get it, this is a fine and impressive set of 2012 wines from Boillot, bravo.
($100 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013MullerCatoirMuskateller2013 Weingut Muller-Catoir, Muskateller Trocken, Haardt, Pfalz Germany.
I think this Muller-Catoir Haardt Muskateller Trocken is the greatest dry Muscat wine on earth, and the latest release is absolutely gorgeous with white flowers and jasmine scents, lively lemon/lime and green apple fruit with lifting and framing acidity plus a bright mineral rich character. Muller-Catoir, imported by Terry Theise, is one of Germany’s most prized wineries, located in the Pfalz, making world class dry and sweet Riesling from Haardt, but they also produce wonderfully crafted other varietals with this Muskateller and especially their Scheurebe being some of their best examples. The Haardt wines come from sloping hills, yellow sandstone soils and distinct micro climates to highlight it’s unique Pfalz terroir, and while I adore the Muller-Catoir Rieslings, it is always exciting to taste the Muskateller and the 2013 does not disappoint, and I highly recommend getting some of this rare and beautiful white wine from Germany. The 2013 starts with that exotic floral perfume, it has a brilliant light greenish/yellow hue and the palate is crisp and delicate with brisk dryness and vivid energy, but enough body to be succulent and delivers a divine mouth feel with melon, spicy notes, sweet herbs, a whiff of mint, and finishes with just the right amount of saltiness. This wine is extremely well crafted and lingers on with white peach notes on the aftertaste, this is a stunning light bodied white that takes Muscat to new heights of quality and pleasure, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($44 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

FranckPascalBrutn.v. Franck Pascal, Reliance, Brut Nature Champagne, Vallee de la Marne, France.
One of the most interesting Champagnes of the last year has to be this Reliance Brut Nature, a Pinot Meunier based sparkler from Franck and Isabelle Pascal and their tiny 10 acre estate in Basilieux-sous-Chatillon. Franck’s vines are all biodynamic and he is all organic and natural in the cellar, he even uses pure organic cane sugar to dosage his wines, and the native yeasts add to the unique terroir and flavor profile of his wonderful Champagne. The Reliance cuvee is made up of 75% Pinot Meunier, 23% Pinot Noir and 12% Chardonnay, which was tank raised, no wood used, and this lot was disgorged in March of 2013, and it is a vigorous and intense sparkler with zero RS (sugar) per liter, a Brut Nature, but severely dry like an extra extra Brut, making for some serious drinking rather that special occasion celebrating bubbly, though there is plenty to hold your interest on it’s own, and this is down right righteous stuff. The nose is brioche/lessy with earthy notes, citrus and white tea leading to a tension filled palate, that is not at first generous, of fine apple, pear, white peach, quince and cherry essence along with loamy earth, hazelnut, mineral, river stones and racy lemon and marmalade. This is vibrant and high energy Champagne, but it gets more dense with food and air, opening up and giving more charm, it is a thinking man’s (or WOMAN’S) sparkler and a superb effort, not for everyone with it’s earthy/austere side, but be sure to invest in Franck Pascal’s latest set of bubbles, both this Reliance Brut Nature and the Rose are terrific and gloriously fun, especially with good company and good cuisine!
($58 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013DeuxRocs2013 Chateau des Deux Rocs, Cabrieres Rouge “Premices” Laguedoc, France.
Jean-Claude Zabalia, a long time Languedoc vignerons, worked more than twenty years at Saint Martin de la Garrigue before recently creating Château des Deux Rocs, and is now crafting wines with his own beliefs and vision. The Château des Deux Rocs wines are imported by Kermit Lynch a longtime admirer of Jean-Claude’s talents, and the latest release, the 2013 Premices Rouge is just hitting the shelves, and while the 2012 was a nice wine, this 2013 is much, in my personal opinion, better and more distinct with richer character, focused detail and lovely layers of flavor. The vineyard is old vine Grenache, Carignan and Syrah from mostly organic vines on Schist soils at about 1,000 feet, protected from the wind by the Vallée des Crozes, a unique/terroir area of Cabrieres, mostly known for dry Rose in the wilds of the southern Languedoc. In the 2013 Promices Jean-Claude chose 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, all fermented on nature/native yeast in stainless, with the varietals vinified apart and blended later, they both saw only stainless aging, but with no fining or filtering. The 2013 Chateau des Rocs red is lush, with a nose of wild flowers, pepper, earth, red and blue fruits leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, boysenberry, raspberry and plum fruits with hints of flinty/stones, minty herb, cracked pepper, fennel, lavender and currant/blueberry elements. The wine feels flowing and silky with well polished tannins and a subtle acidity, it has a nice refined old world charm with just enough earthy/savory edge to balance the fruity nature. This well made and highly enjoyable red is a another top value offering and should be drunk often and without quilt over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013ChaveCrozes2013 Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, Red Rhone Valley, France. 
Yann Chave makes one of the best Syrahs for the price and his latest release the 2013 Crozes-Hermitage is a great example, it is simply delicious and succulent with pure northern Rhone character and with easy to love generosity. The 2013 is clear, precise and juicy in it’s young showing a dark purple/garnet hue, almost black at the core with elegant perfume, mineral tones and lively fruit layers. And as with every vintage, there is spice flowing throughout this superb 100% Syrah along with hints of game, tar and wild herbs supporting the pretty plum, blueberry, boysenberry and currant fruits. The wine opens to reveal liqueur, salted licorice, cayenne and lots of peppercorns as well as violets, incense, cedar and mixed olives. The palate feels refined with smooth tannins, medium weighted with about 13% alcohol, and there is lifting acidity to add life and focus, it finishes fresh with a chalky dusty stony note and lingering black fruits, drink from 2015 to 2018, very nice and enjoyable now, especially with food, I adored it with wild mushroom ravioli, but it would be lovely with BBQ, lamb, Korean spicy pork and or most any meat dish. I highly recommend this tasty and entertaining Syrah from Yann Chave, it is ripe, juicy and poised, enjoy.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013KnollRieslingLoiben2013 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Loiben Wachau, Austria.
All of Knoll’s offerings are fantastic, this is one of the world’s best wineries and if you’ve not had any yet, it should be your New Years resolution to do so, and quickly, especially good are these 2013 wines, but I also advise scoring the 2011 vintage Rieslings if you can find them. The Steiner is absolutely stunning, and the Gruner Veltliners are a must have too, but don’t overlook the well priced Loibner Riesling, it is young and vibrant, but with some girth and full flavored. I was impressed with the open knit and generous fruit on offer and the smooth and almost silky acidity. The 2013 Gruners are much more electric and sizzling, making this Riesling seem down right tame, not a complaint, but more of a surprise, and this Federspiel Loiben Riesling should develop nicely over the coming years. Knoll’s touch is restrained here and while dry, there is fruit and body to enjoy and good levels of pleasing glycerin and background complexity. The 2013 Loibner Federspiel starts with white flowers, fresh peach, mango and apple/pear along with sea salt, lime and white tea. Mineral tones and earthy notes are subtle and a whiff of honey, clove and herb help frame this nice and easy Riesling, though I’m sure there is more to come in 2 to 3 years time, best from 2016 to 2020, though I certainly would consider it anytime I found it on a wine list!
($37 Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive

2013SelbachInclineRiesling2013 Selbach, Riesling “Incline” Mosel, Germany.
Selbach’s mostly dry entry level Mosel is a Riesling to enjoy with a variety of cuisines, from seafood to mild Chinese/Asian and Indian fare, it also makes for great afternoon and picnic sipping with refreshing bright acidity, low alcohol and tangy flavors. The latest Incline from middle slopes above the Mosel shows zesty citrus, stone fruit and green apple along with steely mineral and tropical essences. Fun, easy and vivid this simple, but polished Riesling will be a crowd pleaser and has a nice drinking window of 3 to 5 years, but too good and such value you’ll want to drink now, and often. The hint of sweetness adds to the pleasing nature of basic Selbach bistro style white, as with all of Johannes’ wine it has integrity and class.
($14 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2012GeilMuskateller2012 Johann Geil, Muskateller Trocken (Dry Muscat) Rheinhessen, Germany.
Fresh and perfumed with a bouquet of aromatic jasmine, wild herbs and sea salt leads to a palate of fresh citrus and apple fruits with chalky mineral and stony elements adding complexity. This is a fine example of this grape and is fun and interesting wine, another alternative white to compliment the most abundant Riesling. The slate soils add a flinty spicy kick making for a unique expression of Muskateller (Muscat) and makes it very different than wines from Alsace or Southern European areas, in fact Germany maybe interestingly enough may just produce the best dry versions of this grape. Geil’s Muskateller is very drinkable, not on the same level as Muller-Catoir from the Pfalz, which is one of my all time favorite wines, but is certainly worth a go, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

December 2014

FranckPascalRoseN.V. Franck Pascal, Tolerance, Brut Rose Champagne, Valle de la Marne, France.
The Champagne Franck Pascal bubbly is a unique terroir expression wine from heavier clay soils of his estate vineyards, with more Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the blend then Chardonnay and this Rose being the most distinct of his wines for both the color and flavors on offer. The Rose is listed as a Brut on the label, but I was understood to believe it is in fact closer to Extra Brut, it is dry and dusty with a wild nature, earthy character, almost robust in it’s rustic charm at first, though it opens beautifully and has gorgeous detail and length. Made without wood, fermented in tank, it does go through malo and shows nice density, power and tension, this is very intriguing and sexy stuff, very very different from the decadence and polish of let’s say Vilmart or Krug, but no less compelling and interesting. I also tried the Franck Pascal Brut Nature and loved that too, this is a Champagne house to watch and I highly recommend trying these amazing sparkling wines. The Rose starts with truffle oil, dried roses, bitter almond and light brioche on the nose with a bright vibrant pink hue leading to an earthy palate that shows peach, lemony citrus, sour cherry and strawberry essence along with mineral, loam and a delicate leesy note, this is vigorous and has an almost tannic grip, this no question this is a dinner Champagne, best with food and thought, in other words this is a stay at home wine, not a frivolous party favor, though no less a celebration. The refined and persistent mouse reminds you it’s a Champagne, but the layers of complexity ask you questions from start to finish, this is a next level sparkler that takes time to fully understand, mysterious and alluring, I love it, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($74 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012BenevelliBarbera2012 Piero Benevelli, Barbera d’ Alba DOC, Bricco Ravera, Piedmonte, Italy.
Massimo Benevelli only makes about 4,000 total each vintage from family plots in Barolo’s Monforte d’ Alba in the Southern most part of the zone near Serralunga, in fact most of his fruit comes off one of the regions top Cru sites, the Ravera Cru with great soils and exposure. This is great terroir and Benevelli makes some fantastic wines that are still reasonable and are super finds for the traditionalists, especially Massimo’s 2010 Barolo Ravera, but I particularly love the 2012 Barbera from hillside fruit, it is a stunning example of this varietal and old school winegrowing, you should not miss it. The newest release from Benevelli, imported by Kermit Lynch, is a pure and earthy effort with a rich dark color, lively palate and is a superb food food with complexity and pleasing balance, this wine over performs in it’s price range. The 2012 Bricco Ravera Barbera d’ Alba starts with an intense and earthy entry with violets, plum, game and wild mushroom notes leading to layers of blackberry, red cherry, light mineral elements and savory spices with licorice, saline and tangy currant. This wine seems vigorous, robust and has a nice interchange of sweet, sour and savory, there is density and good almost full figured body, firm fine grain tannins, but with drive and focus with juicy acidity making for a very savvy wine, best with simple cuisine, this Barbera has a hint of rustic charm and lots of character, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012LuciaSyrahGarys2012 Lucia by Pisoni, Syrah, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Lucia wines have touched a next level (of quality) with the 2012 vintage, and I think they are lead by the glorious and top notch Syrah offerings, crafted by Jeff Pisoni. Recently I matched the Lucia Garys’ Syrah against the Jean-Louis Chave Estate Saint-Joseph (100% Syrah from the Northern Rhone) and while the Chave might have edged it out slightly in elegance, overall the wines were most similar than they were dis-similar and I would have pegged the same overall rating score, this without question shows that California can and does compare with the world’s best. These Lucia Syrah wines from 2012 are on my short list for red wines of the year, and I highly recommend them for their class, intensity and pleasure. The 2012 Lucia Garys’ Syrah feels cool climate with crushed violets, burnt embers, cracked pepper, briar, dusty chalky/stones and layers of black and blue fruits, leading with blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry and plum along with creme de cassis, anise, wild herbs and bacon fat. There is some smooth toasty oak notes that add texture, without being invasive or overly overt, as well as a hint of minerality, earthy/truffle notes, vanilla and cinnamon stick. There is a density and fullness that marks it as Californian, but that is not a negative nor at about 14% is it hot or heady, and it does have lively acidity and lift to balance the wine as a whole, this is wonderful Syrah and absolutely world class, with a decedent lengthy finish, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($49.95 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2010MeoVR2010 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanee, Red Burgundy, France.
This is a good time of year, lots of gifts around the Holiday Season, and some wonderful wine being shared, I felt blessed a few clients and friends pulled some interesting bottles out of their cellars to open, especially this 2010 Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee, I love Meo, one of my favorites, this is a wine I’d usually buy for myself, but could not locate any for myself from this great vintage, as it was way too in demand. So it was nice to see what I’m going to be missing, and I will be missing this one, it is a beauty no question, though way too young yet to drink. But since it was open, I couldn’t resist, and there is lots to enjoy even now, though it will certainly be much better in 10 years time. Meo’s AC Vosne-Romaine is a domaine wine from estate vines and it shows in the class, finesse and balance found here, amazingly the oak is well muted, surprising for young Meo wines, and there is tangy acidity, a nice play of sweet and sour notes along with terroir character. The nose is shy, lacking the normal smoky sweet oak and violets, instead giving delicate rose petal, red peach and mineral notes leading to a fresh sour cherry, blackberry, blueberry and plum fruit filled palate with light truffle, chalk, earthy spice and cured meats. With some coaxing and air the wine gathers some body and depth hinting at things to come, impressive restraint and lively flavors throughout, and black tea, cedar, anise, a whiff of cinnamon and vanilla come out on the finish. This is a vibrant and clear effort with vivid intensity, a modest and charming Vosne-Romanee that at this stage lacks pretense and flamboyance, look forward to much more to come and be encouraged by the balance and poise this offering is showing now, it should fill out and gain an inner sweet core, drink from 2020 to 2025.
($100 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2007BeaPipparello2007 Paolo Bea, Pipparello, Rosso Riserva, Montefalco DOC, Umbria, Italy.
The wines at Paolo Be a are natural, unique and wonderfully different, they employee natural winemaking methods, no chemicals or additives ever, and are influenced by biodynamics and a sting believe in a healthy ecosystem, with all these connected, and moon cycles are very important here. Native yeasts, field blending and long maceration, up to 42 days are used in there upper end wines, they use stainless steel vats and large oak vessels, this combination and the fact that they allow a long settling time in bottle before release allows the wines to stabilize, develop and be expressive on release. The blended cuvees from 2007, the Rosso de Veo and this Pipparello are fantastic, brave and charming wines, it would be hard to pick a favorite, both show intense personal character, depth and style, much credit is deserved of Paolo Bea and his sons Giuseppe and Giampiero for staying true to their beliefs, even after so much acclaim and fame have come their way. I opted to focus here on the Montefalco Rosso Riserva Pipparello, a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano and of course Sangrantino, a dynamic red that comes in at 14% alcohol, from the 2007 vintage and which is the current release, after 12 months in stainless tank, 24 months in large cask and another year or so in bottle, and then being held a bit longer after being imported to the states. The nose opens slowly with dried flowers, earth, mint and brandy poached red fruits on the nose, a dark garnet hue greets the light in the glass and the palate explodes with layers of raspberry, plum, black cherry, balsamic dipped strawberry, wild herbs, truffle, game and black licorice along with dusty stones, tobacco leaf, a hint of shaved vanilla, Turkish figs and saline. The tannins are ever present, but never feel rough or interrupt the pleasure that flows from start to finish on this exciting wine, it is hard to compare the Bea wines to anything else, that is their soul and magic, but the Pipparello has a Barolo sort of feel to it and while the Sangiovese is the main leader here it doesn’t taste like anything you’d find in Tuscany. The Pipparello is a joyous red that shines especially bright with hearty food and thoughtful company, it has some intellectual sides to it, some funk and a playfulness that will bring lots of smiles, drink from 2014 to 2021.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013AlfaroPNMK2013 Alfaro Family, Pinot Noir, Mary Katherine Vineyard, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The organically certified vines are used to create the Mary Katherine wines at Alfaro Family Vineyards, both the Chard and Pinot, and these wines are showing absolutely beautifully, especially these 2013 versions, they are wonderfully expressive and well crafted. The 2013 Mary Katherine Pinot Noir is gorgeous with exotic spice and earthy components, pretty violets and roses, wild mushrooms (like porcini) and pepper/allspice leading to a transparent palate of tangy currant, black cherry, plum and mountain raspberry with hints of smoke, briar, cedar and sweet oak notes. The wine is a bright ruby in hue, comes in at 13.5% and has nice cool climate acidity that adds life, vigor and lifts the flavors while not hiding the silky texture and pleasing mouth feel, this is certainly a classy effort with refined poise, Richard Alfaro only made 4 barrels of this superb Pinot Noir, one of which was new. These is a lot to be excited about at Alfaro these days, with the addition of Trout Gulch Vineyard, the Gruner Veltliner, and there is Grenache Blanc and Albarino in the pipeline, plus these Mary Katherine organic offerings. Alfaro’s estate in Corralitos is a must visit if you tour the South Santa Cruz Mountains, not far from Aptos and the cold Pacific of the North Monterey Bay. The 2013 Mary Katherine Pinot was brilliant on my Christmas night, this is very impressive stuff and the elegance lingered on well into the quiet night with cinnamon, saline, kirsch, earl grey and vanilla. Best to let this one have another year or so in bottle, even though it is great now, best from 2016 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2009VilmartRose2009 Vilmart et Cie, Grand Cellier “Rubis” Vintage Brut Rose Champagne, Rilly la Montagne, France.
Vilmart’s stellar 2009 Rubis Vintage Rubis Rose is one of my wines of the year, a top 5 contender no question, it is magnificent and beautiful. Laurent Champs is one of the best winemakers in Champagne and his glorious bubbly rivals Krug for star power and luxury, and are less than half the price, these are artisan grown and crafted barrel fermented and wood raised leesy rich sparkling wines that show gorgeous layers, texture and elegance, especially his Rose Rubis. The 2004 Rubis Rose ranks among my 100 Point picks and the dreamy nose still haunts my dreams today, and this 2009 is not far off that magical level with vivid flavors, perfume and divine mousse the 2009 Rubis is stunning and jaw dropping sexy. The nose begins with violets, rose petal and strawberry with yeasty/toast, bread dough/brioche leading to a palate of exotic texture, lively focus and tension with creamy bubbles and lengthy finish, this is heavenly stuff. There is lemon, cherry essence, mineral and vanilla along with apple skin, peach flesh and a hint clove and hazelnut. Laurent Champs has created a masterpiece with his latest set of Champagne offerings with the 2009 Rubis leading the way, but his non-vintage bubbly all under $100, are fantastic as well and while it would be best to cellar his vintage wines, they are glorious now, there is his 2005 Coeur de Cuvee as well, which I sadly was not able to taste time through, but of which I’m sure is awesome and at the very top of Champs magical selections. Words often fail to relate the sheer beauty of these Champagnes, so I highly recommend you try Vilmart Champagne imported by Terry Theise, it is truly an experience of the gods! Drink the 2009 Rubis Rose over the next 10 to 15 years, best from 2018 to 2028.
($170 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

PierrePetersChampagneNVN.V. Pierre Peters, Cuvee de Reserve, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, France.
Rodolphe Peters makes some wonderful artisan Champagne from estate vines in one of the world’s great Chardonnay terrors, Le Mesnil an area that is only surpassed by Montrachet in Burgundy for having a bigger name when it comes to legendary Chardonnay. Le Mesnil is home to Krug and Salon, and while Krug is dense and exotic, Salon is powerful and serve, this leaves a lot of great middle ground, this is filled nicely by Rodolphe at Pierre Peters, his bubbles are luxurious and elegant, extremely well crafted and remarkable values in handmade Champagne. Pierre Peters, a small family Champagne house, a Terry Theise Selection, makes grower producer terroir driven Champagnes that show class, complexity and are easily understood, these are not in the same vein as Selosse, Cedric Bouchard, Jerome Prevost or Francois Boulard, which are unique single vineyard Champagnes, or the next generation (as I call them) style Champers, but Pierre Peters makes high end bubbles that are distinct and lavish. The Peters vintage Champagnes are excellent and very age worthy, it is better to cellar them, but the Reserve non-vintage is stunning and is fantastic young, it is on my list for a New Year’s Eve pick, especially this glorious new batch, which is now on the shelves. the Grand Cru “Cuvee de Reserve” is 100% Chardonnay and is lavishly rich and decedent with refined mousse, toasty birch, hazelnut, apple and pear fruits, mineral, saline, white flowers, white fig, melon, wet stones and a dreamy texture which is vivid, creamy, but lively and dry on the palate with nice lemony tension, lush mouth feel and lengthy finish. While I usually opt for extreme Extra Brut these days, this beauty is the exception, and I find it rewarding, pleasing and hedonistic, a superb Champagne that does not disappoint, and will make for a lovely celebration as the clock ticks down to the New Year, drink now and over the next 5 to 10 years.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011JobardGenervieres2011 Domaine Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Genevrieres, Premier Cru White Burgundy, France.
Jobard is one of the very top Meursault producers, a small family run Domaine using organic farming and traditional methods, it was one of the first properties to be discovered by Kermit Lynch in the 70’s when Francois still made the wines, and now it has reached even greater heights with the young Antoine at the helm here. My first exposure to the glories of Meursault came through tasting late 90’s Francois Jobard and Bouchard wines, and they left a mark, these are some of the finest Chardonnay wines you can experience, and I have always loved Genevrieres the best. The 2011 Antoine Jobard Meusault-Genevrieres Premier Cru is from 35 year old vines an sloping hills with a base of clay and limestone, these are classic Cote de Beaune soils and this spot makes for Grand Cru class wines, and without question Antoine’s glorious version is one of the best wines of the vintage, it is a stunning example and expression with driving acidity and a mineral core, it shows beautiful and intense tension and power framed perfectly by soft toast, dense extract and a wonderful generous palate. The life here is amazing with steely notes, poised fruit and background complexities that includes lemon, pear, apple and white peach, river/chalky wet stones, clove spice, quince, smoke, hazelnut, earth, savory salty/brine elements, cool melon and faint vanilla wood notes. This wine is a baby still, and will evolve gracefully, there is a lot more to come here, if patient, with hints of butter creme and butterscotch that seem only remote on the palate now, best from 2018 to 2024. This is a sublime Chardonnay, it made me do a little happy dance, it is very special even now, but the rewards are there for those that have this beauty in their cellar, those lucky few are in for some fantastic bottles in the future.
($120 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010BroviaBaroloGarbletSue2010 Brovia, Barolo “Garblet Sue” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Garblet Sue Barolo from Brovia is a fantastic wine, pure and classically defined with beautiful details and sublime structure. Brovia is becoming a top top tier Barolo producer, and with these 2010 wines certainly needs to be on the same shelf as Giacosa, Gaja, Aldo Conterno and Elio Altare. Set in Barolo’s Castiglione Falletto, Brovia captures the essence and soul of this terroir to perfection, and this 2010 Garblet Sue flirts with immortal greatness, and looks set to join the Nebbiolo hall of fame. The 2010 Cru Baroli will need some mid term cellaring to reach potentials, but even still you can taste the heart of these glorious wines and especially this one, where there is rose petals, dried violets, incense, wild herbs, bacon/meaty notes, tar, briar and a bonanza of red fruits with tangy currant, spiced plum, black cherry, strawberry and earthy mulberry, along with forceful tannin, brisk acidity and savory elements, mineral and loamy stones. This wine has a firm voice and is very intense, but as it starts to unwind there is grace and seductive charms to be found and celebrated, it lingers on the finish with a hint of kirsch, chalk, cedar, hoisin, fig and licorice, this is absolutely gorgeous Barolo and will be even better in a few years, drink from 2020 to 2028. One of the best wines I’ve tried all year, it offers ripe flavors, balance and velvet gloved power, at 14% alcohol it is not over the top and feels lovely and rounded on the palate, this is magical stuff and I highly recommend putting some of this away, and don’t miss their Dolcetto and Barbera for immediate pleasure and enjoyment.
($90 Est.) 96-98 Points, grapelive

2013HiedlerLoess2013 Hiedler, Grüner Veltliner, Löss, Qualitätswein Trocken, Kamptal Austria.
The Hiedler, a Terry Theise selection, Gruner Loess is a shinning example of vintage and terroir with bright mineral intensity, laser like precise detail and tangy crisp acidity that is a core of zesty energy and power. This is a dry and robust white that highlights the charms of Kamptal with serious focus and dense extract, this vintage really sticks out and offers a glimpse of Gruner at it’s best and finest character, and after almost 15 years of exploring Austrian wines, this vintage is among my very favorites if not my very favorite. The Hiedler Loess Gruner starts with grapefruit, minty herbs, almond oil, crunchy stones/gravel and white flowers leading to a sizzling palate of lemon/lime, bitter green melon, peach flesh and quince. There is a white tea, and oyster shell note that lingers with a hint of tropical essence that flitters in the background and it finishes briskly, dusty dry and salty, look for more fleshy qualities to come as it fills out over the next year or so, drink from 2015 to 2018, this is lovely and pleasing Gruner Veltliner and another solid effort from Hiedler.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013BowRhinestones2013 Bow & Arrow, Rhinestones, Pinot Noir/Gamay, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow are one of the more interesting additions to the Orgeon wine scene in recent years, they are inspired by the natural and organic wines of the Loire Valley of France, from Muscadet, sea influenced dry whites, as in their Melon, to the mineral infused and fruity wines of Cheverny where Pinot Noir and Gamay meet in a wonderful marriage of fruit and acidity. Going their own way has paid off here and the Bow & Arrow wines are all lovely, pure, fun and super reasonably priced. I especially love the latest Rhinestones, a mostly Willamette red blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, and yes Gamay has gone native in Oregon and it thrives here, much as it does in Beaujolais, Burgundy and parts of the Loire, in fact the biodynamic Gamay of Brickhouse (famed Willamette Pinot producer) are highly prized and sell out almost instantly on release. Bow & Arrow also do a straight Gamay which is also worth getting, it is more than just good it is wildly delicious, but the Rhinestones really hits all the right cords and appealed to me with structure, balance and flowing harmony, it has layers of cherry, plum, strawberry and cranberry fruit, stony/mineral notes, bright acidity and refined tannins. Background details include fig, walnut/cedar, salted licorice, minty herbs, flinty/saline and tangy black currants. There is classy fruity and savory interchanges throughout and the low alcohol and medium weight add to the pleasure, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011DeMontilleBeauneAigrots2011 Domaine de Montille, Beaune “Les Aigrots” Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
This majestic white burgundy from Domaine de Montille is almost as striking as their Grand Cru Corton and while not inexpensive, offers a tremendous value and class for the price. Etienne and Alix de Montille make the wines here in their late father’s cellars, with the recent passing of Hubert de Montille, who had retired a few years back, lead the next generation at this famous Cote de Beaune estate. Alix, being married to the famed jean-Marc Roulot of Meursault fame makes the signature white for the de Montille domaine and she is certainly very gifted in her own right, anyone who has tasted her last three or four vintages here can attest to her sublime talents with Chardonnay. 2011 has not been hyped, but it is a wonderful vintage for the Cote de Beaune whites and a vintage you can enjoy young, and or hold for many years, these wines have depth, generous fruit and classic character and quality, especially this 2011 Premier Cru Beaune Les Aigrots, one of my favorites of the vintage. The golden hued Beaune Aigrots starts with a nose that has hints of white flowers, smoke, straw, honeycomb and clove leading to a rich and dense palate showing lots of apple, pear and layers of lemon, melon, peach and a touch of tropical essence along with steely minerals, wet stones, a hint of toasty wood, hazelnuts and earthy notes. There is plenty of tension, vigor and life in this well balanced Burgundy and the acidity is a driving and lifting force behind the scenes, letting the texture to fill out in the mouth and delivers outstanding pure detailing in the wine. From start to finish this wine oozes elegance and grace, drink from 2015 to 2022, this is exquisite Chardonnay!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013Minges2013 Weingut Theo Minges, Riesling, Gleisweiler, Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
The Weingut Minges of Theo Minges and his daughter Regina is really coming into it’s own, and starting to challenge the top flight wineries of the Pfalz region in the southern zone of Germany’s wine area, they are in the process of certification of (to) total biodynamic and already are completely organic and this clearly shows in the charm and energy the wines show. The unique soils here include red sandstone, loamy/clay, loess and chalky limestone, all very different from the flinty/shale weathered slate of the Mosel, Nahe, Rhein and Ahr areas, and this really adds to the almost unlimited palate of flavors the Pfalz has to offer, and the Minges wines are wonderfully distinct and complex. Theo thinks of himself as a winegrower and does very minimal cellar tinkering, he wants true terroir expressions, he ferments using native/natural fermentations and leaves the wine on it’s gross lees for an extended period of time, and uses almost no added sulphur, just a bit before bottling. The very dry 2013 Gleisweiler Holle Riesling is marvelously crisp and thrilling with an electric shock of zesty acidity and gripping extract, this is poised and crisp Riesling that feels as steely as a fine Chablis and tangy like a Sancerre with pure Riesling soul and flavors with tangerine, grapefruit, white peach and lots of lime and a touch of green apple along with mineral, earth, minty herbs, chalky stones, vibrant sea salt briny notes, oyster shell, rose petals, river stones, verbena and mango. This a terrific effort from the Minges’ and I think the results speak clear for themselves here, you should check out the wines here, especially this vivid example, the Gleisweiler Trocken 2013, it drinking beautifully well even now, but best from 2015 to 2022.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

201250Havests2012 50 Harvests Scotto Family, Meritage Red, Napa Valley.
The Scotto family has continued with the second release of 50 Havests, their premier Meritage from their new Napa Valley winery. Like the Mondavis and the Gallos, the Scottos have a long Italian-American wine heritage, and this is their second premier release from their new Napa Valley winery. With rich history in the Central Valley, the Scotto Family Cellars efforts from Lodi include a juicy Mablec that seems very much in fashion along with solid offerings of old vine Zinfandel and other single varietal wines in the $15 range, all of exceptional quality for the price. They also have a Steele Canyon label featuring new Napa/Sonoma based wines. Also crafted at the Scotto’s Napa Valley facility is this 50 Harvests label which is primarily sourced from their Oak Knoll/Silverado Trail vineyard. Napa Valley’s legendary Mitch Cosentino has joined winemaker Paul Scotto to craft this 2012 50 Harvests Meritage that shines with dark rich blackberry, cassis, smoky wood/embers, vanilla and mocha notes flow nicely on the palate while soft tannins add a bit of a backstop to the fruit. It is a solid and polished effort with a sweet core and thick density. It is reminiscent of recent Caymus vintages and rivals the Louis Martini Cabernet in this category. While complexity is just now developing in it’s youth, it shows off good fruit and is very enjoyable! The Scotto’s have a good platform and home in the Napa Valley and are set to create a niche for themselves. Drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012BilaHaut2012 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut (M. Chapoutier) Cotes-du-Roussillon Villages Rouge, Roussillon, France.
This wonderful blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan comes from intense schist and gneiss soils of the high Agly Valley and crafted by the famed Michel Chapoutier and team at Domaine de Bila-Haut in the wild Roussillon, just south west of the Rhone region. Chapoutier has fell in love with the region’s dramatic micro climates and unique terroirs and he has crafted some fantastic offerings, of superb quality and exceptional values and the latest set of Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, a 2013 white and this 2012 red, which are his entry level wines, are both stunningly good and I highly recommend them, they are like baby Chateauneufs, as cliche as that might sound, it does fit the bill, these are lovely wines, easy to love and compelling. The 2012 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Cotes-du-Roussillon (14% alcohol) a classic Rhone style cuvee offers up wild scents of garrigue, bacon, cassis and pepper while the deep garnet hue lures you in, the palate is juicy with boysenberry, chalk dust, white pepper, minty anise, violet/floral tones, plum, cherry and mission figs. This red is made from all de-stemed grapes, raised in tank and vats only, no wood was used here, nor was it needed, with it’s fine tannins and lifting acidity it shows a nice cut and focus. This is pure and brightly flavored wine with solid density, vigor and volume that delivers maximum pleasure at a great price, drink from 2014 to 2018
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2006RaffaultChinon2006 Domaine Olga Raffault, Chinon, Les Picasses, Loire Valley red wine, France.
The estate of the late Olga Raffault, a Loire legend, is now run by her granddaughter Sylvie, and her husband Eric de la Vigerie, they still produce wines in the traditional ways and age them in their cellars for an extended time. Recently released is their 2006 Chinon Les Picasses, an unfiltered, old school Cabernet Franc, and it is lovely and fresh with earthy character and classic gamey notes along with pretty dark fruits. This wine is a steal and a real natural beauty, it starts with violets, chalky stones, plum sauce, a hint of horse and cedar, but opens to reveal black cherry, fig, dark currants and dusty mulberry fruits plus saline, mineral/iron tones, bell pepper, nutmeg, truffle, savory meat and anise, with the faintest of green bean notes and a slight bretty presence, but never unripe or unpleasant on the fine tannin laced palate, this is a wonderfully interesting and pure terroir driven wine. It is interesting to note too the domaine has also began offering library selections of the Olga Raffault wines, some dating back into the 1970’s and 1980’s, plus late nineties wines, I did get a chance to taste the 1999 and it was deliciously fine and superbly balanced, much the same as this 2006 is today. You should see another selection of these Chinon’s shortly from the 2001 vintage, according to importer Louis Dressner, and they should be something to search out and look forward too, but don’t miss the chance to get a few of these 2006 Les Picasses, they are drinking great and can age another 10 years easy, making for a bargain and savvy cellar option, drink from 2014 to 2025. There is a lot to admire from the latest Raffault offering, I was highly impressed with the complexity and expressive nature the wine showed, graceful, soulful and it kept me guessing all evening, a rustic and charming country wine with class, very nice stuff indeed.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012BernardBonin2012 Domaine Bernard-Bonin, Meursault, Les Tillets, White Burgundy, France.
This an exceptional Chardonnay, full of intensity, vitality and is gorgeously proportioned with vigorous acidity and density. The 2012 Bernard-Bonin Les Tillets is stunning and wildly beautiful in detail, finesse and is classic Meursault showing steely mineral, chalky stones and purity of fruit with layers of lemon, apple, peach, lime blossom and a touch of tropical essence along with salted cream, clove, hazelnut and hints of toast. This young Meursault is a driving force of nature with bracing citrus zest, sea notes, white fig and loads of extract making for an elegantly powerful white Burgundy that impresses and looks set to have a long and glorious life ahead of it. The Domaine Bernard-Bonin led by Veronique Bonin of the Michelot Burgundy clan and winemaker Nicolas Bernard, a new addition to Martines Imports and brand new to me is a small family estate, they grow and craft artisan wines, mostly bio-dynamic practices in the Cote de Beaune, and I understand it is just Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet owned plots, I tasted through the whole imported lineup from Bourgogne Blanc to Meursault Premier Cru, and all were lovely wines, this is a winery to start following, especially these nervy and graceful 2012 wines. The Les Tillets came of white marl, stony soils and that terroir is transparent in this beautiful Chardonnay which was aged sur lie in oak for about 18 months, and though the lees were not stirred (no batonage) there is loads of rich character and a hint of smoky wood, without question this is a sexy and top notch wine to savor over the next 5 to 10 years, drink from 2016 to 2024.
($68 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012PuffeneyTrousseau2012 Jacques Puffeney, Arbois Trousseau, Cuvee Les Berangeres, Jura Red, France.
The great Jacques Puffeney has decided to retire, he will continue with everything he has in the cellar, which include the 2014 harvest and the odds and ends he is toying with, but from 2015 on the vines will be leased out to Burgundy producer Marquis d’Angerville for its Domaine de Pélican label. Puffeney is a Jura legend and will be missed, this will leave a big hole in the region and it’s wines, his classic styled wines from his home in Montigny-les-Arsures are and were standards of the area and are highly prized, sadly he didn’t have anyone to take over his 17th-century cellars and his glorious vineyards. Jacques Puffeney’s whites were/are old school, sherry like and seriously groovy, they are long lived and certainly will be collectors items in a few years, but I adore his Trousseau, his Arbois Trousseau Noir is my all time Jura favorite wine, it always makes me happy to drink this wine, and the 2012 is a stunning example, one of the best vintages I’ve had to date of this geeky Jura red. Jacques “Santa Claus” Puffeney, have you seen a picture of him? Well, it looks like a friendly shopping mall Santa Claus or Father Christmas/Saint Nick and has a sly grin, celebrated 52 years as a winemaker with this years harvest and will call it quits, but he will consult and still make a bit of wine just for personal use, bravo Jacques, we salute you and all your success and thank you for all the joyous gifts you brought to the wine world. There couldn’t be a better Wine of the Day than this 2012 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Trousseau Les Berangeres, it is classic and glorious Jura red wine, balanced and stylish with savory earthiness and tangy red fruits, it starts with juicy almost Morgon like youthful plum, black cherry and strawberry fruits, mineral notes, wild herbs, peppery spice, mint tea and mushroom with a hint of leather and cedar. The latest Puffeney Trousseau weighs in at 13%, and has a pretty deep hue, it’s is a little more ruby in color than the last few years, it is wonderfully focused and vivid, this is charming stuff, the finish is lengthy, but there is bright acidity, silky tannin and it should fill out over the next year or so in bottle, it will reveal a bit more traditional funk over time, the easy fruity elements are appealing now too, I thoroughly enjoy it as is and hope to get my hands on a few more bottles, as this Rosenthal import selection is highly prized and sought after, it is worth the chase though, drink over the next 3 to 5 years (2015-2020), bravo Mr Puffeney, and congrats on your retirement, thank you for the experiences and great wines!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012DomainedelaCoteSRH2012 Domaine de la Cote, Pinot Noir, Estate, Sta. Rita Hills.
The Domaine de la Cote is Master Sommelier Raj Parr’s most high profile and exclusive project to date from the Sta. Rita Hills, and here again he has teamed up with the very talented artisan winemaker Sashi Moorman, the maker of fine limited production wines at Stolpman, Sandhi and his own label Piedrasassi. Sashi is very gifted with Syrah, and is now getting a chance to show his skills in Pinot Noir, and with Parr’s vision of style and goal of making long lived Burgundy style wine, things are showing promising results here, there is intensity and drive in the Domaine de la Cote wines that certainly impress and these look to be rewarding offerings, especially the top Cru wines Bloom’s Field and La Cote, though they look to be found only at restaurants or by mailing list sales, but there is the Estate available and it is a worthwhile and intriguing wine in it’s own right, it would be their Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru versus those Chambertin and Mazis-Chambertin, if you were to compare to Burgundy, the difference is minimal in location, but there is without question a good jump up in quality/vigor in to top offerings here. Raj Parr might be the most experienced US based Burgundy expert, and certainly he has drunk some of the finest red Burgundies ever produced, so he has palate and and hands on know how like very few people have, the lucky bastard-me being very jealous of that fact, and in recent years Parr has called on California producers to lower alcohol levels, especially in Pinot, he wants what he calls balance or delicacy in wine, and his almost always come in under 14%. The fine 2012 Estate Pinot Noir from Moorman and Parr’s Domaine de la Cote starts with powerful spice, earth and incense/crushed flowers on the nose with heady red and black fruits emerging in the glass with fine tannins and lifting acidity, the stem inclusion really shows here and will need time to resolve, but the sweet and savory play is amazing and very engaging, there is deft use of framing oak and the wine seems more alluring with each sip, this is entertaining and very serious stuff with black cherry, plum, logan berry and strawberry fruits, hints of lavender, celery root, minty herbs, licorice and tea spice, finishing with lingering saline, rose oil and kirsch. This really is something keep your eye on, I think these wines need a good 2 to 3 years to fill out, polish up and gain refinement in the bottle, but you should explore Domaine de la Cote sooner vs later, they live up to the hype and look to set new levels of expectation in Central Coast Pinot, drink from 2016 to 2020.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012GarnierVaudesir2012 Domaine Garnier & Fils, Chablis, Vaudesir, Grand Cru White Burgundy, France.
This dynamic, and new to me, estate is making a hell of a fine Chablis, and this glorious Grand Cru is nearly off the charts good, a not to miss wine for those with a sense of adventure and a thirst for something new on the scene. The brothers Jerome and Xavier run the domaine with Jerome working the vines, using organic practices and nature friendly methods, while Xavier is the cellar master and winemaker here, he uses traditional techniques, focusing on ripe fruit, native yeast fermentations and no new wood, preferring large old cask and not using stainless tanks for the Crus. This all adds up to exotic flavors, richness and transparent transmission of terroir, with brisk acidity, salty notes and steely mineral coming through from the chalky top soil and Kimmeridgian Limestone base, all this shines through especially so in the 2012 Vaudesir Grand Cru, a gorgeous pure Chardonnay that was aged a full 22 months in barrel and a magical wine of class and grace. The mineral and energy bring beautiful detail to life here and the dense fruit add pleasure and length, this Vaudesir has drive, deep layers and a sexy golden hue showing lime, white flowers, green melon, lemon curd, grapefruit, apple and white peach with hints of tropical essence, clove, saline, brine and chalky wet river stone. A touch of straw, wood spice and hazelnut, plus brioche add to the complexity of flavors and a crisp vibrancy runs throughout this fantastic Chablis, drink from 2015 to 2020, imported by Martines Wines.
($78 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013KenWrightCarter2013 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Carter Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Coming after the blockbuster 2012 vintage, a year that Ken Wright himself says might be the best ever vintage in his winemaking career there in Oregon, it was going to be a tough act to follow, especially in areas of the Willamette that got pounded by rain at harvest time, but somehow, these 2013 wines, particularly these new Ken Wright’s are showing surprising well, and this gorgeous Carter Vineyard 2013 is a stunning young Pinot Noir. Meeting up with Ken is always a treat and a learning experience, every time I come away knowing more, feeling excited about Oregon wines and tasting his single vineyard Pinot Noirs offers a great benchmark for the whole region in terms of class, quality and terroir. And this Fall was no exception, and while 2013 looks on paper to be difficult and a let down compared with 2012, it is a solid vintage and worth looking into for some stylish and rewarding wines, if you are careful, there are some fantastic offerings. This 2013 Carter Vineyard by Ken Wright is one to get, no question, and while it may not be the cellar star the 2012 looks to be, this is a fine and wonderful effort showing purity of fruit, detail and length, even young, and it has plenty of stuffing to intrigue and complexity to thrill most any palate. The Carter Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills is planted mostly to Pommard clone on Nekia soils, it is always a signature wine of Ken Wright’s offerings and a benchmark Pinot, he chose about 40% new French oak, aged 10 months, and though hints of vanilla are found now, it has almost melted into the background, giving a luxurious and subtle framework. The wine is vital, vivid and has fresh nervy tension showing wilted roses, smoke, hints of graphite, currant, cranberry and cinnamon stick, leading to a mouth of blackberry, cherry and plum fruits with mineral essence, peppery spice, peach and strawberry, lavender, minty herbs and a hint of licorice, finishing with crisp tannins and lingering red fruits. This is lovely stuff, though it should gain with a bit more bottle age, best to hold short term, drink from 2016 to 2020.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011Mucyn2011 Domaine Mucyn, Collines Rhodaniennes IGP, Rhone Red, France.
A brand new producer and wine, a fun discovery, the Domaine Mucyn is a Northern Rhone red from the Collines Rhodaniennes, it is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Gamay, and it is delicious and easy to quaff. This red comes in at 12.5% and is poised, brightly fruited and very pleasing, imported by Wine Wise (Oakland, CA) mainly for savvy bistros and perfect for by the glass, it makes for an interesting wine and it delivers what you’d expect and a bit more. The Domaine Mucyn comes from 25 year old vines set on granite soils on the rocky slopes not far from Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, a place of great Syrah terroir, but also not too bad for Gamay, which likes the cooler areas along the Rhone River as well. The 2011 Mucyn starts with black currants, mixed floral notes and tangy herbs, mineral and dusty stones leading to a medium weight palate of plum, blueberry, strawberry, cherry and a hint of peach flesh along with lavender oil, walnut, minty herbs, pepper and anise. There is a hint of bacon and earth in the background, but this is a very fruity wine, not sweet mind, but less intense than a pure Syrah would have been, I am really enjoying a season of Gamay influenced wines, and this one is a very nice addition to all that I’ve tried this Fall/Winter, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013BaudryGranges2013 Bernard Baudy, Chinon, Les Granges, Loire Valley, France.
Organic and artisan crafted, all of the Baudry wines are quality offerings, but you should not miss the latest Chinon Les Granges, it is splendid and charming Cabernet Franc that is cleanly made and full of flavor with classic terroir influence and class. Bernard Baudry makes some of the best Cabernet Franc for the money you will ever find, and I love his dry Chenin Blanc, white Chinons as well, this is solid value stuff no question and a staple in Kermit Lynch’s impressive Loire portfolio of imports. The 2013 Les Granges is dark, almost black in the glass with deep purple and garnet hues, leading to an impressive palate and a soft perfumed bouquet that hints at crushed violets, mineral and earthy elements. The mouth is filled with joyous red and black fruits with blackberry and cherry fruit leading the way along with plum and tangy currant, after which there is chalky stones, mineral essences, a touch of game, bell pepper, cedar, anise and pipe tobacco. This is supple, refined Cabernet Franc, fresh and youthful with good vigor and acidity adding life, it is drinking beautifully now and shows an artfulness and alluring grace, though it should age nicely for 5 to 7 years easy, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012SauzetBlanc2012 Etienne Sauzet, Bourgogne Blanc, Chardonnay, White Burgundy, France.
Gorgeous, exotic and vibrant are just the beginning in this fine and wonderful white burgundy from the legendary Gerard Boudot of Etienne Sauzet, the famous and treasured producer in Puligny. The wines of Etienne Sauzet are laser sharp, precise and filled with energy from this Bourgogne Blanc to their mighty Grand Cru wines from Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet as well as their stunning Premier Cru and village offerings, with out a doubt these are some of the best Chardonnay wines you can reasonable obtain, and this entry level 2012 Bourgogne is ultra fine, classic and stupidly good for the price. Boudot has always made intense wines, these are vivid and tension filled Chardonnays, I remember in my first tasting with one of his Puligny-Montrachet (s) back in early 2000’s being completely shocked and struck by the fierce acidity, mineral and power in the wine, it reminded me of a young Raveneau Chablis, but after opening up there was purity and deep complexity, amazing wines, and this 2012 brought back those memories, but it is more flamboyant, round and can be enjoyed now (young) with a palate that is packed with flavor and vibrancy. This must come from de-classified Puligny blocks, and maybe some of the Grand Cru as well, it is just to concentrated, sexy, gloriously layered and detailed to be from anything other than great terroir, regardless of my opinion, this is super stuff, with focus, drive and density. The Sauzet 2012 Bourgogne Blanc shows white flowers, hints of straw, lime and clove on the nose leading to a mouth filled with lemon, green apple, pear and white peach with hints of tropical essence, almost banana, vanilla bean and chalky stones, steely mineral, electric acidity lifting all the flavors and a bit of savory spice and saline adding to the balance. This wine is a fantastic and bold effort by a top Domaine, it comes in at a classic 12.5% alcohol and has a lovely long finish, dynamic and fresh from start to lingering aftertaste, drink from 2015 to 2020, imported by Vineyard Brands.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011OShaughnessyCS2011 O’ Shaughnessy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley.
Sean Capiaux’s O’ Shaughnessy 2011 Howell Mountain Cabernet is a glorious and stunning achievement in a difficult vintage, and it show’s the great terroir that is Howell Mountain, I must admit, I was a tad biased by my own disappointments with this vintage, but this wine surpassed all my expectations and found it to be truly worthy in everyday. I get lots of complaints and comments about my lack of enthusiasm for this tough and extremely cool year in Napa, and while I say there were lots of fantastic wines made (in 2011), lots that I bought for myself even and that I love and enjoy, but overall is was a struggle and there were many wines that lacked charm, depth and pleasure, this wine by O’ Shaughnessy happily was not one of those and is a real impressive bright spot in my journal, it seems one of the most complete wines of the vintage and a great example of balanced winemaking. The 2011 Howell Mountain, at 14.4% alcohol, is not light weight or lean, it possesses opulence and deep color and flavors, but is not an overblown wine, it feels restrained, complex, poised and has nice firm tannin structure that provides control and remarkably elegant framework for this wonderful and stylish Cabernet. Capiaux really has done an amazing job here at O’ Shaughnessy, not just for this beautiful wine, but every vintage he has crafted up here, these are superb high quality wines, and he continues to dazzle with his own label Pinot Noirs as well, he deserves much credit for his grand achievements over the years, and he seems to get better as time goes on. The 2011 O’ Shaughnessy Cabernet Savignon Howell Mountain starts with a deep hue of black/garnet and a bouquet of mulberry, violets, smoke, spice and vanilla leading to an earthy palate of blackberry, cassis/currant, plum, blueberry tang and dark cherry fruits with hints of red spice/pepper, sweet tobacco leaf, woodsy notes, pencil lead/mineral tones, licorice and mountain herbs, finishing with fresh cut cedar plank, minty black fruits, polished French oak shadings and a tad of espresso and new leather, with Bordeaux like intensity. The aftertaste is very pleasing leaving a linger fruit notes and a touch of sweet baking spice, this is fine and classy Cabernet from a talented winemaker and a special location, this compares well to Dunn and other classic hillside wines, best to decant and enjoy with a hearty meal, drink from 2015 to 2020. There are many successes from this vintage, but it will take extra care and effort to discover them, though it will be very rewarding, especially when you find gems like this one!
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013SelbachPiesporter2013 Selbach, Riesling, Piesporter Michelsberg, Kabinett, Mosel Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s best value would almost certainly go to his Selbach Kabinett Piesporter Michelsberg, from his negociant line of offerings, a semi sweet (off dry) Riesling, this wine is of stunning quality and remarkably easy on the wallet, it really is hard to imagine a better Mosel for the money. Selbach has access to some of the best vines in the region and this Piesporter shows that class, vitality and terroir with mineral laced flavors, juicy fruit and just the right amount of sweetness to fill out the palate, but not sticky or cloying, in fact it is best to not even worry about sugar levels from Selbach as they always deliver balance, drive and focus, making for wines that shine intensely and show restraint, vibrancy and elegance. The Piesporter Michelsberg Kabinett delivers lime blossom, sea breeze and verbena along with pineapple, white peach, green apple, apricot and a touch of honey with a little brine, earth and a mix of steel and stone. Finishing creamy but zesty with lingering tangerine and sweet herbs, drink from 2014 to 2018, this is super quaffing quality Riesling to enjoy now, fun, easy and fresh, a great by the glass or bistro wine, and for more serious stuff check out all the Selbach-Oster offerings, some of the finest of the Mosel.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013MeyerNakel2013 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Spatburgunder, Ahr, Germany.
Weinhaus Werner Nakel’s beautiful and joyous entry level Pinot Noir is a remarkable success in a difficult vintage, the 2013 Ahr Spatburgunder is blessed with deep color, vibrant layers and lovely balance. While 2011 and 2012 were richer, denser and more age worthy, this gorgeous 2013 is more delicate, nuanced and fantastically easy to quaff, it is hard to imagine a better under $40 Pinot from anywhere, period. I love the unique terroir influence, the mixed slate, mostly blue slate of the Ahr really shows through with a red spice, flinty mineral and a smoky character, along with ripe and deep fruit, this is impressive stuff. Werner is letting the next generation stamp some of their ideas into the wines at Meyer-Nakel and there seems a gentle hand is at work as daughters Meike and Dőrte Näkel work into positions in the vineyards and in the cellar here, and I have noticed the style is slightly moving to a bit more subtlety with oak and that the acidity is a bit more lively, all in keeping with the house style, but allowing a touch more elegance. The Meyer-Nakel wines are some of the world’s greatest, and their top single vineyard Pinots are regularly judged to be some of the best Pinot Noir wines, beating top Grand Cru Burgundy offerings from the finest domaines in the Cote d’Or, and in my experience, these are some of the most pleasing wines I’ve ever had, I certainly try to get as much as I can afford each year and take what ever is on offer from Meyer-Nakel, I collect three Pinots every year, Rochioli, Meo-Camuzet and Meyer-Nakel, and I can see no reason to change, especially when it comes to Meyer-Nakel and in particularly this new 2013, it is glorious stuff. The 2013 Spatburgunder starts with hints of violets and rose oil with smoke, red pepper and warm stones along with red fruits, in the glass the hue seems vividly dark ruby with bright edges, and the palate is smoothly refined, but lifting with freshness and lively fruits, raspberry, black cherry, blueberry and spiced plum lead to way along with flinty/shale notes, a touch of dusty earth, truffle, cranberry tang, middle-eastern spice, anise, saline and crushed gravel. The overall feel is harmonious and focused with class, graceful ease and the wood is perfectly framing, it is super drinking wine right now, it comes in at 13.5% alcohol and medium weight with a sublime mouth feel and tastes like Sonoma Coast or Oregon clean, but with it’s own exotic nature with an enjoyment factor that brings a smile from ear to ear and it should deliver even more such smiles over the next few years, drink from 2015 to 2019. If you can find Meyer-Nakel, you are urged to try them, these are fabulous Pinot Noir wines, imported by Rudi Wiest, worth every penny and any effort to secure them, trust me, I had to fly to Germany to get my first few bottles!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012LafargePassetoutgrain2012 Domaine Michel Lafarge, Bourgogne Passetoutgrain, L’Exception, Pinot Noir/Gamay, Burgundy, France.
Here is an old school Burgundy with a twist, Passe-tout-grain is the only allowed blended cuvee in Burgundy, it is Pinot Noir and Gamay, the percentage must be at least 30% Pinot Noir and at least 15% Gamay (They allow for up to 15% of white grapes to be added if desired, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and or Chardonnay, but this is not often done these days) and the wine must be co-fermented, this usually means whole cluster or whole berries with a shorter time in wood. These wines were meant for early enjoyment, are still are in most cases, the wine world tends to shun them, but they can be very interesting when done right, and Domaine michel Lafarge does them extremely well, especially in a great vintage like 2012, where you find concentration and complexity, making for a wine where both the Pinot Noir and the Gamay shine and each has it’s own dynamic. The 2012 L’Exception boasts a dark cored hue of ruby and pinkish red edges leading to a layered bouquet of earth, spice, leather and rose petals along with red currant, celery/green spice and raspberry leading to a palate of black cherry, autumn leaves, game, stem heightened peppery tannins, loamy wet earth, walnut and plum notes. As air gets in the wine smooths out and wild strawberry and baked red peach comes through with mineral, nutmeg and chalk dust elements. This wine is fun and interesting with compelling flavors and style, it almost gets medium weight, coming in at a modest 12.5% alcohol, but is just shy of perfect density, and it drinks easy now, so best to savor this over the next 2 to 3 years, this is a pleasing and fine example of well made Passetoutgrain.
($35 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

2012BouchardJeanne2012 Cedric Bouchard, Champagne Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs, Pinot Noir, Cote de Val Vilaine, France.
This wildly intriguing Champagne from Cedric Bouchard was all sourced from the vintage 2012, 100% Pinot Noir, no dosage, and from a single parcel (vineyard), it is not classic Vintage Champagne in the literal sense, and though it doesn’t say it on the label it is, I’m sure, an Extra Brut. Bouchard has become one of Champagne’s most interesting artisans, along with Selosse, Boulard, Lassaigne, Dehu and others, this goes beyond the Grower Producer this is cutting edge stuff that commands attention and are massively thought provoking, into a realm of extreme fanaticism and total passion, these are sparkling wines of distinct individual character, mostly specializing on single varietal and without any sugar or dosage, Extra Brut or Brut Nature (Natural) this makes for a more serve and nervy style, but with talents like Bouchard you end up with something excitingly special, as is the case in his latest offering the Roses de Jeanne Champagne Cote de Val Vilaine (2012 vintage, disgorged in April 2014) which is unbelievably complex and wondrous. This 12.5% non frivolous sparkler is to be enjoyed as you would a still wine with dinner, almost any cuisine would be enhanced by such an alluring fizz. This fine moussed dry bubbly is smoky and savory with intense tension and sublime finesse with white cherry, driving citrus, apple and apple peel, mineral, peach, saline and subtle richness with exotic notes of guava, oyster shell and truffle. This Champagne is mysterious, ever changing in the glass with lively small bubbles, and sublimely focused and vigorous, finishing with brisk vibrancy and length, fantastic from start to lingering aftertaste. This wine is austere in the normal sense, but feels wonderful on the palate with transparence, vivid pleasure and density of extract, this is hard to explain, but easy to fall in love with, it has vitality and charm, glorious detail and depth of flavors, a pure terroir champagne that only hints at yeast, hazelnut and white flowers, electrifying and still graceful, this is magical stuff for the brave! Very interesting now, but should be amazing in 3 to 5 years, drink from 2018 to 2024, sadly this will be almost impossible to find, but if you see it, get it, you’ll be thrilled!
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013KRFeinherb2013 Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, Feinherb, Nahe Germany.
This is marvelous Riesling, and it will be surely a most sought after wine, it comes from the Grand Cru of Dauntenpflanzer which is set in sand and loam, though there are areas of mixed slate soils intermixed, this adds to the complexity and exotic nature found in this wine. Tasting it with Georg Rumpf earlier this summer it was showing as well as any in his impressive lineup of 2013’s, and I’m sure it will only get better and better, requiring an uptick in rating in the future, without question this is a fabulous Riesling, it is mostly dry, though not dry enough to be a Trocken, or Grosses Gewachs, thats is why it’s labeled Feinherb, but don’t be confused this is not a sweeter or lighter version, this is as good as almost GG out there, and I real secret value in Nahe Riesling! The 2013 vintage is really turning out to be excellent in the bottle, and while you’d need to find the top producers in this small crop, and difficult year, there are some fantastic offerings available, and I highly recommend getting some Kruger-Rumpf, they really crafted an amazing set of wines in 2013, especially this beautiful Dautenpflanzer Feinherb. The 2013 Kruger-Rumpf Feinherb from Munsterer Dautenpflanzer shows an array of scents in the bouquet, ranging from citrus to ocean mist, including wild blossoms, tropical notes and earthy spices, with some fine mineral detail and yellow fruits leading to a dense palate of green apple, lime, mango and apricot as well as creamy peach flesh and tangy tangerine and grapefruit plus saline, steely notes, river stones, sweet and sour herbs, truffle and lemon zest. This is dynamic and fresh Riesling, easy to enjoy now, but with wonderful aging potential, being a tad off dry helps with the balance in this youngster and it will be sensational with cuisine even now, I can easily imagine this wine being a cellar prize in 10 to 12 years, though difficult to keep around being as delicious as it is, much praise to the team at Kruger-Rumpf for their efforts is deserved, this is great stuff, poised, elegant, detailed and intriguing. The long finish which has a touch of honeyed pear, kiwi, brine, coconut and crisp stony elements is gorgeous, drink from 2015 to 2026.
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2011FoillardFleurie2011 Jean Foillard, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, Gamay, France.
I have a soft spot for Foillard’s wines, a historical bias and love of Gamay, but with all honesty, this new release of his Fleurie is glorious and a masterpiece of pure pleasure and elegance. Foillard’s Morgons are the stuff of legend, but few people know of his Fleurie (black label) which delivers a more delicate and nuanced wine in most vintages, and he waits an extra year before releasing it, making it even harder to keep track of. The 2011 Fleurie is gorgeous, almost flawless in beauty, style and detail with life, textural magic and wonderful length, this is dreamy Gamay, sexy and crafted with precise focus and sublime balance. I adored the 2007 Fleurie, one of my all time loves, though I might say the 2011 is even more satisfying and compelling, it certainly is more dense and hedonistic, drinking with gusto even now, this is special stuff, which I have often in the past with top Premier Cru Burgundy, well, frankly, this stuff might be better still, in fact many a Grand Cru would wish to be this delicious! With 2010 and 2012 Burgundy prices skyrocketing, I wholeheartedly advise checking the 2011 Foillard Fleurie out, it offers amazing pleasure and is of fantastic quality, while not cheap, it still is a great value in the league of peers it has, truly it does. The 2011 Fleurie bursts from the glass with perfume of violets, roses and incense along with layers of black fruits, mineral, spice and earthy charms showing vivid transparency in flavors with blackberry, dark cherry, plum and strawberry liqueur plus truffle, walnut, nutmeg, cinnamon, saline, licorice and dusty peach notes. This is pure heaven in the glass with medium weight, poised acidity, refined tannins and lingering aftertaste that makes your knees buckle, this Gamay will get your heart racing and leave you wanting more, it is stunningly richly hued, shinning brilliantly with dark garnet, keeping your stare and the mouth feel is excellent, hard to imagine a better example of varietal and terroir, drink from 2014 to 2020, imported by Kermit Lynch, don’t miss!
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013Groiss2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC, Austria.
Wow, what a fabulous wine, this was my first experience tasting the Groiss wines from Weinviertel, a region north of Krems, in an area not readily discovered or known in the States, and made by the talented winemaker Ingrid Groiss. If you were ever wondering why Gruner is so popular with wine geeks and sommeliers, then find this wine, and don’t miss out on this particular vintage either, this is stunning stuff. The 2013 Gruner from Groiss is vibrant and striking with a cascade of gorgeous tangy/zesty fruits, sizzling/piercing acidity and charming complexity, showing intense force (drive), mineral essence and impeccable poise, this is very expressive and impressive, it has an almost Riesling like energy and vigor, but remains true to varietal profile, this region has Loess soils and it has less Danube influence than the Wachau or Kremstal, but is non the worse for it. I hope to explore more from Ingrid Groiss and after sampling this wine, will be a devoted fan I’m sure. This Weinviertel 2013 Gruner starts with a peachy note, lots of citrus and steely elements with lemon/lime, grapefruit, tangerine and unripe green apple, hints of pineapple, wet stones, chalky brine, almond oil and minty herbs. This wine, like many from this vintage show a heightened, electric like, vivid nature, this is a great year for Gruner Veltliner, and Ingrid Groiss has captured the best the year had on offer and took it to a great place, this is definitely a wine to get excited about and is a remarkable value, a big thank you to Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape in Oakland for turning me on to this wonderful wine and artisan producer. This 12.5% light to medium weight wine with brisk and crispy focus would be an ultra fantastic picnic wine, perfect with oysters and is super refreshing, sadly summer is gone, but it should drink superbly for another 3 to 5 years easy. This is a winery to watch, I enjoyed this as much as Knoll, Nigl and Brundlmayer, which are some of my very favorite wines, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

1996Schonborn1996 Schloss Schonborn, Riesling, Domdechaney, Rheingau, Germany.
Graf von Schonborn Schloss Schonborn is one of the Rheingau region’s classic estates and has been making wine under the Schonborn family since 1349, it is located near Hattenheim, there are single estate wines and they have holdings in the top vineyards in the area, these are classic wines and wines that age beautifully. The 1996 Domdechaney is an off dry example of Rheingau Riesling with wonderful fruit intensity and layered charm, opened on Thanksgiving with friends in 2014, this glorious golden/yellow hued Riesling at 18 years old is showing fantastic with rich flavors, mature stylish grace and density. This is why Riesling is a such a great value for cellaring, you can get a reasonable Riesling under $30 or $20 even and it will age superbly and give great rewards, like this one from Schloss Schonborn. The 1996 Schloss Schonborn Domdechaney opens with that brilliant color, and the bouquet is deep with rose oil, hints of mineral, petrol and honeycomb as well as clove spice, leading to a complex palate of baked apple, tangerine, lychee, dried apricot, honeyed pear and a mix of citrus and tropical fruits with touches of mushroom, brine, salted caramel, flinty stones, peach tart, apple butter and nectarine flesh. This classy Riesling is mildly sweet, but feels remarkably balanced and it has plenty of life, utterly delicious and compelling, drink now, and for another 3 to 5 years easy, this is sublime stuff with nice weight, depth and vigor, it flows with seamless grace on the palate with luxurious mouth-feel and a lingering aftertaste of pure pleasure.
($35-46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013Volvoreta2013 Vino Volvoreta, Flores de Cerezo, Toro DO, Spain.
Maria Alfonso Hernandez, of Toro in Spain, joins the list of aspiring young female natural winemakers, she, like Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily, Indrid Groiss in Austria, Eva Fricke in Germany and many others around the world, is a dedicated artisan making deliciously pure wines that reflect their unique terrors, using organic farming where possible and applying minimalist cellar techniques with out chemicals or additives, with low or no sulphur and never much oak, she prefers cement, terra-cotta, used casks and tank. These wines are all about purity and freshness, they have caused some concern among critics as many a prior example of “Natural Wine” proved a flawed/dirty wine, but this issue has largely been put to rest. Maria Alfonso Hernandez’s Volvoreta wines are clear, vivid and well detailed showing bright flavors, focus and are easy to love. She makes usually three cuvees, with her top cuvee being the Probus, one with and one with out any sulphur, and this joven of tank raised Tempranillo from her Toro estate. The Flores de Cerezo comes from a selection of plots, all biodynamic, and is light to medium bodied with vibrant layers of red fruits, a floral nose and seductive and delightful finish, it shows creamy cherry, raspberry, strawberry and dusty plum notes along with mineral, chalky stones, saline, red cirrus and peach brightness along with hints of earth, anise, blueberry and tangy currant. This playful and unpretentious red is not the usually international styled reds you find from this region of old Tempranillo (Tinta de Toro) vines, where is is common to see lots of flashy new French and American barrique influencing the wine. This wine feels alive and vivacious, more like a Loire wine and it is clean and almost crisply finished, but with a nice lengthy aftertaste, very impressive, especially good for drinking now, drink from 2014 to 2018, it won’t blow you away with depth or complexity, but is has many charms!
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011DehuMeunier2011 Benoit Dehu, Coteaux Champenois Rouge “La Rue des Noyers” Pinot Meunier, Champagne Still Red Wine, France.
This old Champagne house has been around since before the French Revolution, it started in 1787, and is now a leader in Pinot Meunier cult bubbly and still wine. Benoit, who is now the winemaker here, crafts about 300 cases of Champagne each vintage from his tiny single vineyard of 100% Pinot Meunier and does two still wines, a white and a red Pinot Meunier, the white is striking and totally unique, I’ve never had in my memory a blanc (white) Pinot Meunier, and it is lovely, as is Benoit’s fine organic Champagne, it is gorgeous, world class and vivid stuff, but I was totally geeked out by his 50 cases production, 2 barrel lot of Rouge. There are many Pinot Meunier reds out there, from California to Germany, some very good ones too, but I think this old vine Massale selection Pinot Meunier by Benoit Dehu is the most interesting version I’ve ever tasted, it is a fascinating wine of purity and terroir, an almost naked/transparent varietal wine of distinct character, this wine speaks of passion and place, graceful, lively and radiant. Dehu is in Fossoy, near the Valle de la Marne area and set on chalky soils, everything here is about openness and site expression, and the 2011 Dehu La Rue des Noyers Rouge shows it off to perfection, the nose is delicately perfumed with floral notes, loamy earth, spiced plum and red summer fruits leading to a medium weight palate of raspberry, cherry and cranberry fruits, candied and savory layers playing an aria in the mouth, there is added hints of mineral, game, truffle, mint, sweet and sour, anise and sappy red currant as well. This is a super rare, niche wine, with opulence and grace, not easily found or understood, but very intriguing and worth of that noble search, though you will be able to find the Champagne Benoit Dehu more readily and it is truly awesome bubbly and worth every penny, be sure to keep an eye out for these cool and fantastic wines, all single vintage, vineyard and varietal Pinot Meunier.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013CluselGamay2013 Domaine Clusel-Roch, Traboules, Coteaux du Lyonnais, France.
Guillaume Clusel’s Traboules is 100% Gamay from just outside of Lyon, but made at Ampuis, Northern Rhone, not too far away, made from 20 plus year old organic vines. This almost Rhone Gamay shows the influence of place and tradition, it is a little rough around the edges, but is a nicely detailed wine with it’s own charms and beauty. While most people know Domaine Clusel-Roch for their Cote-Rotie and Condrieu the winery also does a few Gamay wines, including a rose even, and this Traboules is a delicious, almost Rhone like, example of this Beaujolais varietal. While a bit weird, this intriguing wine is wickedly cool and has lots of interesting character, especially alluring to many a wine geek, at a quite easily affordable price. This Gamay, which the Clusel’s say is mostly destemmed, feels a bit Cornas like with spice, skin tannin and dusty/stony with grip and a slightly rustic nature, but with a good fruit core, admirable grace and impressive length. This Coteaux du Lyonnaise opens up to reveal, hints of wild flowers, blueberry, poached plum, dark cherry and strawberry fruits along with herb/tea notes, celery root, minty basil, walnut and melted black licorice. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in vats of stainless (no wood) the Traboules cuvee is a fresh and dynamic wine, it has surprising complexity, it certainly gives some appealing layers and is distinct wine, without question more Rhone than Beaujolais. Imported by Charles Neal a hero of the “country wine” and made in tiny amounts, the Clusel-Roch Coteaux du Lyonnaise are not going to be easy to find, but are worth the quest. This wine grew on me over the course of the evening, and it is wonderful with food, it is fruity, spicy, savory and earthy with good vigor, depth and playfulness, I really dig it, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012BlackKiteRest2012 Black Kite, Pinot Noir, Kite’s Rest, Anderson Valley.
Black Kite is one of the most prized Pinots in the state and the 2012’s are some of the best wines to date from this winery, if you’ve not had a chance to try them, this is the time. Well respected winemaker Jeff Gaffner of Saxon Brown, crafts all the Black Kite wines, which are mostly from single vineyard Anderson Valley sites, though Black Kite has expanded and now includes wines made from the Santa lucia Highlands, will fruit coming from Garys’ Vineyard and Pisoni’s newest star, Soberanes Vineyard. The Anderson Valley bottling remain the stars here, and I was thrilled to taste though a set of 2012’s, which were of top quality and certainly well crafted, the Stony Terrace made from Rochioli clone was an eye opener and was my favorite of the set, but the best value and not far off was the Kite’s Rest, the most true Anderson Valley in style with slightly lower alcohol and a bit more tension, live and vibrancy. The 2012 Kite’s Rest is by far the best version of this wine that I’ve tried, it shows more finesse, transparency and still has depth and hedonistic pleasure, when people imagine balance, this is what they are hoping for and there is subtle oak influence along with (ripe) nice fruit intensity. The nose begins the journey with dried roses, tea spice, hints of violets and red currants coming from the glass of this brilliantly ruby hued Pinot leading to a succulent palate of black cherry, juicy plum, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry fruits mixed with hints of stones, saline, chalk, smoke, vanilla and cinnamon plus anise, earthy tones and red peach. The mouth is filling, playing with vivid flavors, round texture and lifting acidity, gaining some weight, but never heavy or dulling, this is beautiful and rewarding Pinot Noir, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010CastellodiAmaCC2010 Castello di Ama, Chianti Classico “Ama” DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Castello di Ama 2010 Ama Chianti Classico is beautiful, old school and earthy with a cool vintage vibrancy and feel, this is a very stylish example of terroir. Mostly Sangiovese as per normal, the baby in Ama’s lineup doesn’t disappoint and the little bit of Merlot doesn’t take away a thing here, and of course Castello di Ama does do a single vineyard Merlot that is off the charts good, and a wallop to the wallet, in the same league as many exclusive Pomerol offerings, but back to the little Classico, it represents a fine value in today’s world and I highly recommend it. Castello di Ama is one of Tuscany’s most respected and celebrated producers, and certainly gives a quality product, Ama is between Gaiole and the famous Radda in the heart of the Classico zone, it sits on unique and historic terroir with olive groves and vines facing the sun from beautifully farmed hills, the Castello was originally built in the 12th century and the winemaking start not to long after that, though the modern Ama got going in the mid to late sixties (1960’s) becoming one of the finest Chianti Classico producers and home to some of the world’s great wine. The 2010 Ama Classico starts with wet earth, forest notes, dried roses and minty herbs along with a mix of red and black fruits plus a touch of mineral and game leading to a refined palate of black cherry, plum, blackberry and currant fruits with added complex layers of dusty stones, licorice, cedary spice, loamy notes, iron/mineral and tobacco/cigar wrapper. The cool vintage is highlighted by lifting acidity, Bordeaux like feel, a bit of tannic rustic charm and the medium weight, but it makes it seem far more elegant and with out question it is fabulous with food, the vibrancy and lively character are very pleasing and the wine should drink well for 5 to 10 years, drink from 2014 to 2018+, this is a wonderful Ama and a well crafted effort.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012BucklinAncient2012 Bucklin, Ancient, Old Hill Ranch, Proprietary Red, Sonoma Valley.
Will Bucklin’s latest Zinfandel blend from the historic Old Hill Ranch is a stunner, this is an awesome wine and one of the best reds of the vintage in California! First planted in 1852 and becoming California’s first vineyard to be planted with Zinfandel, Old Hill Ranch in Sonoma Valley, not far from Glen Ellen has the state’s oldest Zinfandel vines and this bottling features fruit from vines that were planted in the 1880’s! The Old Hill Ranch is more than that, it is also a Heritage Vineyard with dozens of varietals inter planted making an intriguing palate of complexity and diversity, much like Bedrock, the vines at Old Hill Ranch are living history and a tribute to California terroir over mono varietal labeling, this was the old school way of doing things in the state and it is nice that we can still cherish and taste the past and the future in one one. Zinfandel plays a big role, this long lost Croatian varietal also known as Tribidrag (not Plavic Mali as once thought) or known by Italians as Primitivo, but it is not the only story of these heritage sites with many black grapes playing a part too, like Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Grenache, the Mission Grape along with many others, and even a few white grapes thrown in too, all this adds to the great tapestry that forms these wines, especially Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch Ancient. I have tasted the 2012 Ancient on three occasions now, it is very impressive stuff, in fact in a recent panel it went up against the fine and highly rated Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape and in my opinion came away the clear winner! The 2012 Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Ancient starts with a burst of raspberry, floral tones, bramble/briar and earthy spice leading to an array of gorgeous layers on the palate with loganberry, currant, plum and frambois leading the attack along with minty herbs, pepper, cinnamon stick, game and anise making a presence as well as cedar, sweet tobacco leaf and dried flowers. Like Ridge, this is a wine that should gain over time and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the bottle, I can easily imagine great things to happen over the next 10 to 15 years, this wine, at this price is a rewarding option for medium cellaring, it is fantastic now, but with patience there should be lovely results. This is full bodied wine, no question, extremely hedonistic, but everything is poised, sharp and structured with supple tannins, a fair bit of natural acidity and remarkable depth and length. The alcohol is about 15.4%, but you’d be hard pressed to feel it, if you are honest, and there is good ripeness and pleasure, though not cloying or syrupy, this is not a candied Zin or porty wine by any means, and it should age well for another decade at least, this is spectacular California wine with a glorious history and future full of joy ahead of it, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2014VissouxBN2014 Domaine Vissoux-Pierre Chermette, Beaujolais Primeur (Nouveau) Gamay, France.
This is really good good! Not your typical Beaujolais Nouveau, maybe that is why Pierre Chermette doesn’t label it Nouveau at all, there is a tiny “Primeur”sticker on the neck, otherwise it says Beaujolais only, and to tell you the truth it tastes way better than it should for such a new wine, and I think I’ll be quaffing a few bottles over the next month or so. The Domaine Vissoux/Pierre Chermette wines are wonderful examples of top notch Gamay and are surly some of the best offerings for the money in the region, and while I love Foillard’s wines if you are going to pick just one Nouveau or Primeur to drink this holiday/celebration season I’d go with the Vissoux/Chermette, it is more complex, deep and rewarding. The 2014 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur is dark with violet/purple and garnet color, fresh flavors and surprising length showing a juicy plum, sweet strawberry, tangy cherry and dried currant along with hints of walnut, red peach and a mix of candied jells, plus a hint of earth, spice and mineral. There is a vibrant youthful zest and this is pure fun in the glass, but it has nice palace, elegance and a medium textural feel, making this fun little Gamay worth searching out, certainly a nice option for Thanksgiving table, and taking Nouveau to stylish heights! Drink now! In a world that takes itself way too seriously, this is a fun way to enjoy a few silly moments, and it is delicious.
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013ArnotRobertsTrout2013 Arnot-Roberts, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Trout Gulch Chardonnay comes off a vineyard above Aptos in the cool south Santa Cruz Mountains, not far from the ocean on a loamy hillsides that face mostly south, this is a great site for Chardonnay and Pinot. Duncan Meyers, Arnot-Roberts winemaker loves this vineyard, now farmed by Richard Alfaro and his team, and this new 2013 is a stunning and delicate wine that has loads of drive, energy and layers of subtle fruit. This brisk, about 13% alcohol, Chardonnay is believed to be old Wente clone and there is a hidden deep concentration and complexity underneath the zippy acidity, very much like stylish white Burgundy, this is very polished and elegantly textured wine that will be pleasing young and fill out and age well. The 2013 vintage looks set to surpass 2012 in quality, which was super in the Santa Cruz region, and this is awesome and classy Chardonnay with citrus flower, honey, peach, apple and lemon leading the way with hints of golden fig, clove and verbena notes. The mouth feel even so young is inviting with hints of butter creme/butterscotch and the finish is like old school white burgundy with mineral, hazelnut and a mix of citrus and pear. This seriously delicious and well crafted wine by one of California’s brightest stars will develop nicely over the next 3 to 5 years, drink from 2015 to 2020. This Chardonnay and their two Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir offerings are amongst the most exciting of the new 2013 vintage lineup at Arnot-Roberts, be sure to check them out, along with the Syrah and Trousseau!
($54 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013NiglAlteReben2013 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner, Alte Reben, Kremstal, Austria.
The 2013 wines from the Wachau and Kresmstal regions are the finest and more intense I’ve seen, it might be the best vintage for Austrian whites in my generation and Nigl’s lineup is fantastic, especially this Alte Reben, which is showing purity, heightened extract and powerful acidity. This Alte Reben Gruner is amazing, it shows a dynamic force of nature, terroir and vitality way beyond the normal and will age wonderfully as well, this is special stuff, and while not inexpensive, it is a superb value and intriguing Gruner Veltliner, it is right up there with Brundlmayer and Knoll in terms of quality and stylistically. The shear force of acidity and wonderful and graceful fruit and texture will blow your mind, it is dry and gripping, but the underlying extract is impressive. The 2013 Nigl Alte Reben starts with mouth watering lime and mineral essences with hints of grapefruit, white flowers, almond oil and thai basil leading to a stony/steely palate of lemon/lime, white peach, apple-skin, papaya and sea brine with loamy earth and wild herbs. This is vivid, eye popping Gruner with citrus rind and pip bitter elements, it finishes dusty crisp and vigorously fresh, this is glorious and would be a must have with food wine, enjoy with sea food, pork and poultry and lighter not overly spicy Asian cuisine, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($43 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2014FoillardBN2014 Jean Foillard, Beaujolais Nouveau, Gamay, France.
The new harvest is done and now it’s time to celebrate, and of course it is always that third Thursday in November that brings the joy, Beaujolais Nouveau day, a made up holiday and worldwide party, not that we didn’t have reason to party before, but it just got better with fresh juicy Gamay, and the tradition lives on. I always sample a few of these zippy and fruity new wines, but I must say I rarely find one better than Jean Foillard’s and while playful, it certainly can be called serious wine. The 2014 is looking pretty good, I must say it is even better than the last 2 or 3 vintages, almost on par with 2009! So if you want something a bit more savvy this year, I recommend the new Foillard, it is really delicious and pretty darn stylish with good depth, length and it has a nice play of fruit and tangy savory elements. The nose is juicy fruit, waxy concord grapes, blackberry, cherry and fresh picked plum along with spice cake, walnut and red citrus and peach notes. this year has a vivid garnet hue, vibrant flavor and even a hint of tannin, with zippy acidity and crisp finish it is a light and bright red weighing in at 11.5% alcohol, making it easy to quaff. Hints of earthy loam, saline and chalk/stones add to the complexity, but enjoy it for the youthful expression of this fun Gamay, Happy Beaujolais Nouveau day! In case you might not know, Jean Foillard makes some of the great wines of Beaujolais, especially his Morgon Cote de Puy, as good as any premier cru Burgundy, and his Fleurie, which is hauntingly heavenly!
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2013KRSpatMD2013 Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
Georg Rumpf’s 2012’s were stunning Rieslings and these 2013’s from a much more difficult year are almost a match, especially this beautifully balanced Spatlese Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, it just might be the best Riesling for the money you can find this year. The 2013 Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Dautenpflanzer is a fine and wonderfully crafted Riesling that while a Spatlese, feels comfortably dry on the palate, the sweetness never seems out of place or heavy, the acidity and extract give the wine a dynamic presence in the mouth and lift, this is a marvelous white from the Nahe and will be a wine that will gain with age as well, though I certainly plan to enjoy more than a few bottles sooner vs later, it will be a treat with traditional San Francisco holiday crab dinners and be joyous with any foods I place in front of it. Georg’s wines deserve attention, they offer some of the best values in the Nahe and are classically styled and refined with mineral intensity, depth and elegant flare, be sure to grab all the 2012’s you can still find, but also don’t miss these 2013’s, they are lovely wines. This Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese starts with white roses, citrus blossoms and steely mineral notes along with verbena, tropical essence and yellow fruits leading to a tangy palate of honeyed grapefruit, kiwi, lime, apricot, white peach, apple and pineapple fruits, there’s a nice play of sweet, savory and mixed spice with the texture gaining weight and roundness with air, there’s the magic of sugar, giving smooth pleasing sensations behind the vigorous tension and forceful nature of the acidity and extract, this wine feels as generous and as serious as a white Burgundy with complexity, density and finesse, but is all Riesling in character and terroir. There’s some detailed nuances of minty herbs, crushed stones, sea salt/brine, loam and flinty elements that are well placed and the finish is lush, hinting at sweetness with tangerine, sorbet and lemon tart. This is again, top class stuff, it should make for lot’s of happy campers out there, this is an opulent and focused Riesling with grace and class, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($27 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

LassaigneLaCollineN.V. Jacques Lassaigne, Champagne “La Colline inspiree” Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, Montgueux, France.
Emmanuel Lassaigne looks set to be one of Champagne’s brightest stars, this tiny grower producer in Montgueux (in Aube) does some fantastic Chardonnay Champagne from chalky limestone vineyards that have 25 to 45 year old vines. The cuvees he does are all zero dosage and mostly intensely dry Extra Brut in style, but these are seriously endowed bubbly(s) with striking opulence and depth, and while vigorous and precise they have a similarity to Krug and Vilmart with exotic notes and richness. While there is an up rise in pure Pinot Meunier in single vineyard grower Champagnes and it’s all the rage, with good reason, it is important not to forget just how great these Chardonnay wines can be, especially these Jacques Lassaigne offerings from Emmanuel Lassaigne, and in particular this sexy La Colline inspire Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs. The La Colline inspire is wood raised, one of the only wines Emmanuel does in oak, it uses old Chablis barrels, and it shows in the density and fullness, though still firmly dry and mineral driven, this is wow effect Champagne with layers of flavor and structure, beautifully detail and gorgeous from start to finish featuring lemon oil, banana, clove, steely mineral, spiced apple, pineapple and hazelnuts. Hints of saline, earth and crushed stones add to the complexity, this is a Champagne of amazing craftsmanship and controlled power with elegance and classic quality, this is blow your mind stuff, you could drink this wine still (flat) and it would never miss a beat, but with it’s heavenly mousse it is utterly glorious, it should age well too, but it would be more than difficult to be patient here, it is just stunning, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($90 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive

2012CarillonAligote2012 Francois Carillon, Bourgogne Aligote, White Burgundy, France.
Aligote is the other white Burgundy, usually quickly forgotten and while sometime pleasant, is rarely given much attention, even by me. Thankfully, I was at Oakland’s Bay Grape while Stevie was giving her Sunday wine class, this week was White Burgundy, she had picked out a killer lineup of offerings, and her husband, ex Michael Mina Somm, Josiah sampled me on this fabulous Carillon Aligote, if you are ever in Oakland head down to Grand Ave and check out Bay Grape, it is a great place to shop or pop a bottle with friends. The 2012 Francois Carillon Aligote is one of the best and most interesting versions of this varietal I’ve come across in a long time, up there with Ramonet and de Villiane, and it held my attention with wonderful depth and density, being both clear and vivid plus having a rich creamy round feel on the palate, I’m certain the small yields and vintage gives this wine it’s character, but then again it is grown in one of the world’s great terrors, Puligny-Montrachet. Carillon’s other wines from this vintage certainly must be out of this world, and I’d make a mental note to score a few bottles of his Chardonnay based wines too. The Aligote starts with citrus, with lemon/lime and gathers pear and apple notes along with a touch of butterscotch and creme, it seems simple and direct, but there’s wonderful texture and finesse with extra complexity lingering on the finish with hints of nutmeg, fig and clove. I would not count on too much aging potential, but I like the concentration and lovely mouth-feel now, this is serious good Aligote, drink from 2014 to 2017.
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2013DaulnyClos2013 Domaine Daulny, Sancerre, Le Clos de Chaudenay, Loire Valley, France.
This tremendous effort from Etienne Daulny is stunning and is beautiful Sauvignon Banc, one of the finest offerings to date from his Domaine Daulny in Chaudenay-Verdigny en Sancerre. Imported by Charles Neal, who I’m again grateful to for dropped in and sharing this gorgeous white, he finds some amazing country wines, and great values as well, such as and especially as this Daulny. Etienne does a few cuvees and a base Sancerre, but this Le Clos de Chaudenay is absolutely sublime and very vivid and drinks fantastic with lots of stylish charm. From a once walled plot of old vine Sauvignon Blanc grown on Chablis like limestone soils, the La Clos de Chaudenay is bursting with energy, vigor and is has a cascade of bright flavors with loads of mineral complexity. The nose starts with white flowers, citrus and wet river stones leading to a vibrant palate of lemon/lime, gooseberry, white peach, grapefruit, chalky/steely mineral, tangy herb, a hint of leesy extract, saline and a trace of tropical essence. This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and zesty, but does show good depth, roundness and length, making for a lovely Sancerre, drink from 2014 to 2019, one of my favorite under $30 Sancerres in years, you should check this one out, it is in league with Boulay and Chotard.
($22 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010LapeyreBearn2010 Domaine Lapeyre, Bearn, Southwest France.
The Bearn region is in the wilds of Southwestern France close to the Pyrenees and it’s capital city is Pau, it is part of both Gascony and Basque country. This is one of the old Provinces of France, in fact it is a historic place and restful, it was the birthplace of Alexandre Duma’s main character d’Artagnan from his tale of The Three Musketeers, and it is the home of some exciting wines. The area has mostly Tannat, but also allows Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the A.O.C, and while Tannat can be rustic, robust and raw, here it is made with more polish and more, shall we say, like Bordeaux with finesse and it is certainly less bold/shocking than Madiran and the Basque versions. Domaine Lapeyre, made by Pascal Lapeyre, is well crafted with stylish layers, he has embraced this powerful black grape, Tannat, and tamed it in his wines, the 2010 is an exceptional example from a wonderful vintage, he used about 60% Tannat, and the rest being a balance of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it shows the nature of the place and beautiful refined detail. Tannat is groaning in popularity, both in the new world and in it’s spiritual old world home in the Pyrenees, it can be found in Uruguay in South American and also in California, it has become an interesting blending grape in the central coast, finding it’s way into Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon “A Proper Claret” and it does well in Torrin’s deep reds from Paso Robles where it really shows well. Pascal Lapeyre’s 2010 Bearn shows deep garnet/black color, mountain blackberry, poached plum, dusty cherry and currant fruits along with hints of truffle, game, anise, pepper and cedar spices, along with coffee bean, wild herb, a hint of bell pepper and vanilla. This is a deep and tannic red, but it flows smoothy across the palate and has a nice lengthy finish, this is very impressive country wine, far more interesting than most Bordeaux in this price range, and a lovely showing for Tannat, a grape that you’ll hear more about in coming years, drink this Frenchie from 2014 to 2019, imported by Tannat crazed Charles Neal in San Francisco, who I am grateful to for showing me this fun wine.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013Arnot-RobertsSyrah2013 Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, North Coast.
This is another winner from Arnot-Roberts and super tasty value, a vivid and old world style Syrah that has plenty of class and spiciness, but still shows the smooth ripe tannins of California, making for very pretty wine. It is hard not to get excited by these new Arnot-Roberts, all of these 2013 wines are fantastic, stylish and elegantly crafted with sharp focus and subtlety. While not light, they show a lighter touch and remarkable restraint with lower alcohol levels, all this without missing a beat on flavor and density, a wonderful display of touch and talent, especially in the 2013 North Coast Syrah which shows deep violets, kirsch, cassis, bacon/meaty savory elements, cracked pepper, olive tapenade, camphor, mineral, saline and licorice along with a core of blueberry, boysenberry and plum fruit. This is a not to miss wine if you A. like Syrah and B. if you are an Arnot-Roberts fan, the finish is delightfully lengthy with refined tannins, black currant and cedar lingering on, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013SunierRegnie2013 Julien Sunier, Regnie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
This beautiful Gamay from Julien Sunier caresses the palate with fine detail and graceful elegance, making for a stylish Cru Beaujolais and a great and flexible wine for the Holiday season. Sunier’s set of of Crus are all serious and wonderful wines, but especially pleasing is the 2013 Regnie with delicate complexity and lovely Gamay fruit character, he is showing why he is a rising talent in the region, making natural/organic wines in the same league as Lapierre, Thivin, Chanrion, Brunn and even Foillard. This low sulphur and brightly flavored Regnie is deep in color, with ruby, purple and garnet shinning in the glass leading to a medium/full smoothly textured palate of blackberry, plum, strawberry fruits along with waxed red apple, walnut, fresh violets and roses, saline, earthy spice and a hint of cherry/cranberry tanginess. Like a Burgundy in substance, acidity and finesse, but truly a terroir driven Gamay and a very fine effort, at first I was drawn more to his Morgon, but as this wine sat in the glass it became a bit more sexy and alluring, I highly recommend searching out these wines, these are well crafted artisan Gamay, drink from 2014 to 2018, each Cru, the Fluerie, Morgon and this gorgeous Regnie has their own charms and all their own fans.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

20127Fuentes2012 Suertes del Marques, 7 Fuentes, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
The Canary Island wines fascinate me and I am always left with a sense of wonder and amazement, grapes grown on serve volcanic soils off the north west coast of Africa, these are unique and intriguing wines. The Suertes del Marques winery on Tenerife is one of my favorites, if not my very favorite, they produce a fantastic set of red wines from mostly Listan Negro, which is also known as the Mission Grape, probably originally coming from mainland Spain, it was the most successful seafaring varietal to make it to the new world (South America & California included), and has been known to last 200 to 300 years, there are some vines still producing wines in Chile that are 250 plus years old, and it has maybe found it’s greatest expression and true home here in the Canary Islands. The 7 Fuentes Tinto is a red made mostly from Listan Negro, but has a touch of Tintilla, a grape that is most likely the same as Graciano, a Rioja grape, which is also found in Jerez (Sherry) which blends nicely with the Listan, it comes from a mix of old and young vines grown on volcanic and clay/loam at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 feet. I love this wine, it starts with exotic spice, dried flowers, savory/flinty notes and poached red fruits leading to a medium bodied palate of raspberry, damson plum, briar, anise, kirsch/cherry fruits along with cayenne pepper, fig, earthy/meaty notes and sea salt with a lingering blueberry and chalky mineral finish. There is lots of vigor and energy in this wine, which has some qualities that remind you of Syrah though has a more Pinot like color and lightness while still being wild and robust, made in concrete and stainless vats then aged in cement tank and large old French cask, this wine is pure terroir and it has joyous layers, silky tannins and will be pleasing for 3 to 5 years easy, drink from 2014 to 2018. The 2012 7 Fuentes is a lovely fresh example of the house style, be sure to check out these wines, especially this one, plus I highly recommend the La Solana and the El Ciruelo from the 100 year old parcels.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010VajraBricco2010 G.D. Vajra, Barolo “Bricco delle Viole” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s wines are absolutely beautiful, especially his latest set of Baroli, three from his family estate and the three he does under the Luigi Baudana label. This year they released a new Cru Vajra Barolo, the Ravera, and it is the most expressive and forward of his wines to date, this is a real beauty, but I have to give a shout out to their top wine, the Bricco delle Viole, this wine will require some cellar time to show it’s full potential, it has the structure and grace of a top Grand Cru Burgundy, I found it very much like a Rousseau Chambertin, though with classic Nebbiolo markers and character, though I hope you get my point, this is fantastic stuff and a treasure to hunt for. The G.D. Vajra lineup is stunning, from their amazing Riesling and Freisa to these gorgeous Baroli, this is one of Italy’s great rising stars, and this 2010 Bricco delle Viole is a masterpiece with power and elegance, along with glorious detail and length, I can’t wait to taste it at full maturity in about 10 to 15 years, I can only dream that I get that chance! The 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole starts with tight force and takes time to unfold in the glass with black cherry, tar, game, licorice and mint/herbs slowly showing up before an impact of massive proportions on the palate with damson plum, liqueur, bacon, wild strawberry, hoisin and savory elements along with truffle, mineral and spicy cedar notes. Lingering violets, rose oil and lavender mix with earth, saline and tangy currants, all pushed up from the background by lifting acidity and firm tannins in this impressive and gripping Barolo. This is a blockbuster effort and a living classic, drink from 2020 to 2030, this will be a wine for the ages!
($90 Est.) 96-98 Points, grapelive

2011ColtibuonoRS2011 Coltibuono, Chianti Classico “RS” DOCG, Tuscan Red, Italy.
This ripe and juicy Sangiovese from the heart of Chianti Classico is reliable and easy to love from one of the oldest continuously run wineries in the world. The 2011 vintage was a warm/hot year and finding balanced wines can be a challenge, but Coltibuono did very nicely and while not overly serious the RS Chianti Classico has all the right stuff to make for an entertainingly interesting wine that delivers plenty of pleasure. The 2011 Coltibuono Chianti Classico RS starts with warm red fruits, floral notes and sweet herbs leading to a forward palate of blackberry, baked cherry, plum and raspberry fruits with a touch of sandalwood, lavender, tobacco leaf, cedar, spiced plum and minty/anise in smooth layers. There are sweet tannins and low acidity, which makes for great young drinking, and not a wine for mid or long term cellaring, which is perfectly fine here, in a simple country red that is not meant to anything pretentious anyway, just enjoy the nice fruit and Tuscan sun character, perfect for pizza or pasta, drink from 2014 to 2016. Coltibuono has stepped up it’s game in recent vintages and these warm vintages have actually been a blessing here, these are stylish, user friendly wines and a solid choice on bistro lists.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2010ViettiBarolo2010 Vietti, Barolo “Castiglione” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Vietti has become one of the major players in Italian wine, they hold the most Cru Barolo acreage and Luca Currado is one of the most prolific winemakers of his generation, influencing wine not just from his own region, but in many places across Italy and beyond. The latest Castiglione Barolo is deep and lush, this is one of the most complete and generous of the 2010 vintage that I’ve tried as of yet, it offers a look into the future, but still drinks fantastic now even. Vietti’s style is forward, but there is poise, grace and class too, it is hard to find fault here, you’ll love the textural pleasure, compelling fruit and dense complexity, everything is vivid, transparent and perfectly displayed, especially from such a young and powerful wine. The 2019 Vietti barolo Castiglione starts with a bouquet of wilted roses, spring blossoms, sweet morello cherry/liqueur, a hint of game, mineral and smoke leading to a lavish palate of rich raspberry, damson plum and strawberry fruits along with a mix of savory crushed stones, soy sauce, minty herbs and cured meat plus cedar, black licorice and fig paste. Look for lots of intriguing development and added layers to form over the next 3 to 5 years, it still has plenty of tannin and lifting acidity to hold firm, even though you’d be tempted to open this beauty it still would be best to show some patience, drink from 2017 to 2023.
($50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013AndrewMurray2013 Andrew Murray, Syrah “Tous les Jours” Santa Ynez Valley.
Andrew Murray makes the best value priced Syrah in the state, no question, and the 2013 is one of the finest efforts to date, if you like Syrah, you’ll love this wine. From select vineyards, grown mostly all organic and with smaller yields, the Tous les Jours, Andrew’s entry level Syrah, is a lovely and full flavored wine that can’t be beat for the price, honestly the last 3 or 4 vintages have been mind-blowingly delicious, not only for price, but for true varietal character, finesse and pleasure, this wine is joyously good. The color is deep with a blue/black/purple core and red/violet edges leading to a meaty/intense nose that reveals good vigor, earthy spices, violets, camphor/charcoal, grilled meat, pepper and cassis before settling into a palate of the same plus blueberry, boysenberry and plum fruits with mineral, licorice, cinnamon and truffle notes along with the faintest of cedar/wood elements. This is medium/full Syrah with good vivid acidity, bright notes and ripe tannins that firm things up, drink this beauty over the next 2 to 4 years, there is a lot to love here, this is certainly a savvy wine that play nicely with lots of food choices and is well crafted, bravo to Andrew for making another killer Tous les Jours!
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012FerrandoCanavese2012 Ferrando, La Torrazza, Canavese Rosso DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
This Nothern Piedmonte red, a blend of mostly Nebbiolo with some Barbera, is a delicious and stylish wine from Ferrando, a fifth generation producer in this region just above Turin, close to the Val d’Aoste in Italy’s top left corner. The Canavese, and Caluso area is set in beautiful hills with ancient soils left from a glacier, all these elements, plus climate and exposure add to the complexity and mix layers of acidity, juicy fruit and mineral tones, making for very interesting wines. Ferrando has been selling wine since before modern Italy was born, and there has been wine here since Roman times, and this area is fast becoming a place that savvy wine buyers are looking for, because of the great value Nebbiolo wines on offer, be it here or in the neighboring areas of Ghemme,Boca and Gattinara. Ferrando does a stunning set of wines, I also really like their Erbaluce whites, but this La Torrazza Canavese Rosso especially stands out with lots of bright and vivid layers, deep fruit and loads of character. The 2012 Ferrando starts with morello cherry, raspberry, plum and red peach fruit, earthy/loam, savory herbs and spices, sea salt, zest acidity and refined tannins with hints of truffle and floral notes on the bouquet and a lingering blueberry, strawberry and anise finish. This is easy going wine with personality and charm, no pretense, but still intriguing enough to hold your attention, drink over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013Serol2013 Domaine Serol, Cote Roannaise, Les Vieilles Vignes, Loire Valley Red, France.
Located west of Beaujolais, Cote Roannaise is in the southern most part of the Loire Valley region and close to the city of Roan, only 50k away from Lyon, this area makes roses and pure Gamay reds, like this one. Gamay is the only permitted grape here, and sine it is so close to Beaujolais, it might be regarded as the lost Cru of Beaujolais, as the wines here while small in number do have high quality and vigor, but this area is claimed by the Loire region and coveted by the select few that discover it’s charms. The unique location allows for very old vines and lots of bright acidity, with loads of mineral intensity. The soils are an ancient mix and the base is granite, pinkish and with sand, these soils add to the structure, generous nature and complexity found in these wines, the vineyards which are at close to 400 meters in elevation, higher than Cru Beaujolais, so later picking and higher acids, get good exposure and cool nights, all adding up to serious and delicious wines. Domaine Robert Serol is one of the top grower and vignerons in the Cote Roannaise and the 2013 is a Gamay that is bursting with energy and fine mineral tones with bright fruit and super length, one of my favorite Gamay wines of the year, showing black cherry, plum, cranberry, strawberry and tangy dark currant along with minty/anise herbs, pepper spice, cedar/walnut and baking spices. Fresh and vivid with a crisp/stony note with hints of truffle. wet rock/steel and lingering blue fruits. This is really fun stuff, especially for the price, be sure to keep your eyes out for Domaine Serol and the wines of Cote Roannaise, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013Gauthier2013 Pierre Gauthier, Domaine Bel Air, Bourgueil “Jour de Soif” Loire Valley Red, France.
I’ve been a fan of this Loire Cabernet Franc for a few vintages now, and highly recommend it for it’s stylish value and fresh vibrancy. The Pierre Gauthier Bourgueil Jour de Soif is an all organic Cabernet Franc from the the Loire with a medium weight body, mineral tones, mild spice and juicy fruit, it’s low alcohol and acidity add to the refreshing quality, but it does flow smoothly with ripe tannins and nice layers of flavor that includes dark flowers, peppery spices, garnet/purple hue and a mouthful of blackberry, cherry and plum fruits. As the wine’s name suggests, Jour de Soif, you could enjoy this for every or any day’s thirst, it is well made interesting and clean with classic earthy, stony notes, as well as subtle Loire Franc markers of green bell pepper and iron/steel elements in the background. The higher end cuvees from Gauthier show a bit more intensity with added leather/gamey notes, but for easy and lovely drinking it is hard to beat this one, this is plenty of wine for the money, it certainly would make for a savvy bistro selection, and would be great for picnics too.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2011deMontillePommard2011 Domaine de Montille, Pommard “Les Pezerolles” Premier Cru, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2011 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Pezerolles, this gorgeous well proportioned and stylish red Burgundy is just starting to fill out and come to life, it should be peaking in about 8 to 12 years from now, but it sure is lovely even now, especially after a long few moments in the glass. The 2011 Les Pezerolles, made by Etienne de Montille, is a light ruby, almost pale, hued wine with medium weight and delicate layers, it is a true, classic and focused red Burgundy that gets more powerful and more interesting with every sip, it shows spicy red fruits, earthy intensity and a nice cut of acidity, while remaining quite generous and opulent in the mouth. The nose brings together earth, truffle, herbal notes, rose petals and red currant with a hint of kirsch leading to a vigorous palate of cherry, plum, and raspberry red fruits, peppery spice, cedar, anise, mineral and touch of saddle leather and smoked meats with just a kiss of oak. This is a serious, and beautiful detailed wine, it is a wine that leaves an impression on you and gives you plenty to think about, it is a fitting way to remember the late Hubert de Montille, and celebrate his life, drink this lovely and distinct Pommard from 2018 to 2027.
($124 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2013ArnotRobertsTrousseau2013 Arnot-Roberts, Trousseau, North Coast.
Seriously, this is one of the most sought after wines in the state, yes, it is, a pale, light bodied red that just has enough color to make you believe it is not a rose, but it is ultra cool and Duncan Meyers can’t get get enough Trousseau Noir grapes to satisfy his Arnot-Roberts fans for this unique Jura style red. The 2013 Arnot-Roberts Trousseau (Noir) comes from two locations, from the original plots in Lake County and now from some new sites in the Sonoma Coast area, that is why the label now reads North Coast wine. Only a tiny amount of this wine ever makes the shelves, but in case you do see it, you should grab all you can, it is bright, lifting, spicy and delicate, a wonderful expression of this varietal and very delicious. In fact all the new and up coming releases from Duncan Meyers and Arnot-Roberts are wonderful wines, a couple worth mentioning are the two new Santa Cruz mountains Pinot Noirs, the new Trout Gulch Chardonnay, also from the Santa Cruz Mountains and farmed by Richard Alfaro, who has also sold some of his estate Gruner Veltliner to the Arnot-Roberts boys in 2014, plus the new North Coast Syrah, so be sure to keep your eyes pealed for the 2013 vintage Arnot-Roberts, these are beautiful California wines. Duncan has made a set of flavorful, vibrant wines all coming in around 12 to 13% alcohol, and all show beautiful detail and a talented artisan touch. Back to the lively and exotic Trousseau Noir, it starts with fresh picked strawberry, cherry and light plum fruits, a hint of floral tone, wilted rose petals, and earthy spices, fennel, plus with wet and dusty stones, peppercorns and with herbal notes, tangy red currants and a touch of cedar on the finish. This smooth and crisp red lingers gracefully on the finish and is softly fruity with saline and savory elements throughout, this is really fun wine, you can see why it is so popular and a total wine geek wine, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012CuilleronVillage2012 Yves Cuilleron, Cornas “Le Village” Rhone Red, France.
This young Cornas, 100% Syrah, is deliciously fresh and alive already and can be enjoyed even now, though I expect it to age with poise and grace for another decade. I found the new Cuilleron Cornas Village to be a wonderful wine, full of flavor and vibrancy, it certainly is not nervy, or tannic, though it also lacks a bit of the stemmy intensity like the some of the other latest Cornas releases, like the wines from Gilles, Clape and or Allemand. That said, it is not a clone of what is trendy and is perfectly crafted to reflect terroir and old world charm, as well as being a super drinkable Syrah with spice, layered fruit and earth/mineral elements, I can highly recommend all of Cuilleron’s wines, especially this one, they are pure and easy to love. The 2012 Cuilleron Cornas Le Village after 18 months in barrel, and coming in at 12.5% alcohol, starts with a bouquet of meaty earth, violets, minty herbs and red fruits, leading to a palate that turns dark, to match the blue/black and purple hue with blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, currants and plum all coming out along with bacon, pepper, cayenne, lavender, cinnamon and melted licorice finishing with hints of cedar, truffle and mission fig. This supple, refined and savvy Syrah is between medium and full bodied and shows restraint, lift and folds together remarkable well, it should be a super wine over the 3 to 5 year period gaining in depth and complexity, even though it can go longer still, drink from 2016 to 2019.
($60 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2012COSLupo2012 COS “Nero di Lupo” Nero d’Avola, Terre Siciliane IGP Rosso, Vittoria, Sicily, Italy.
COS-Cilia, Occhipinti and Strano was formed by three friends, Giambattista (Titta) Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino (Rino) Strano, winemaking visionaries that wanted to explore making wine of their ancestors and using biodynamic farming in the vineyards. Their project started in the early eighties, but everything as we know it changed in 2000 with the full adoption of biodynamics and the use of amphoras, like the ancient Greeks used to raise, age and transport wine. In recent times this practice has been gaining traction, but it was pretty revolutionary when COS committed to it, and now COS is one of the great wines, and estates in Sicily. The winery, with Giusto Occhipinti, who is Arianna Occhipinti’s uncle, making the wines has been very influential in Vittoria and especially in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria region, they make a number of wines from native varietals, especially Frappato and Nero d’Avola. The 2012 COS Nero di Lupo comes from sandy, clay and limestone soils and is fermented and raised in concrete, Giusto Occhipinti uses temperature controlled cement vats to ferment the Nero d’Avola and there is a lengthy period of skin contact, COS does use mostly used (Neutral) wood barrels to age, and this cuvee is not aged in the clay pots. The COS Lupo is delicate and subtle with chalky stone and mineral tones and some earthy meaty elements come through on the background, but the core of this beautiful wine is blackberry, cherry, strawberry and wild plum fruits. The texture is round, but not heavy, fine tannins and bright acidity add firmness and cut and there is complex layers of spice, savory herbs, truffle and anise as well here, this is a lovely example of artisan Nero d’Avola. The medium weight body and stylish and lengthy finish make you think of Burgundy more than new world, this is very much an old world, old school wine from an impressive and talented group that are passionate about nature and their sense of place, drink from 2014 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013CoulboisPF2013 Patrick Coulbois, Pouilly-Fume “Les Cocques” Loire Valley White, France.
This beautiful and thrilling Sauvignon Blanc from Les Berthiers in Saint-Andelain, the same town as Dagueneau, is crafted by Patrick Coulbois from grapes grown on vines that are rooted into Silex soils, and the results are divine, one of the best new Sauvignon Blancs of the year for me. Coulbois is imported by Charles Neal of San Francisco, and while I’ve tasted almost everything in his portfolio, this was a major new discovery, this 2013 Pouilly-Fume is bursting with energy, vigor and style, I highly recommend this lovely white to those that might have lost their faith in this varietal, this is a wine that will bring you back to Sauvignon Blanc. The Coulbois Pouilly-Fume lifts from the glass with white flowers, mineral intensity and a mix of earthy citrus and tangy gooseberry leading to a zesty palate of lemon/lime, a touch of grapefruit, chalky/stones, bitter herbs, liquid steel/mineral, hints of quince, kumquat, cat pee and finishes with white peach notes. This is classic Loire Sauvignon with vivid flavors and vibrancy, it should age well and have a enjoyable half decade or more. Note to self, get this wine and follow Patrick Coulbois, this is really fine and elegant Sauvignon Blanc, perfect with picnics, cheese and seafood, but don’t limit yourself, this would make a super anytime wine. This very distinct, focused and impressive wine is seriously good, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010BenevelliB2010 Piero Benevelli, Barolo “Ravera” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Benevelli, imported by Kermit Lynch, who started his career out in the early 1970s importing some of Burgundy’s most famous producers, is now discovering northern Italy and venerable Barolo producers like Benevelli. The 2010 Pero Benevelli Barolo is from southeastern-facing hillside cru of “Ravera” located deep in the southeast corner of the Barolo commune zone. According to Kermit Lynch, “The wines from Ravera have the distinction of combining the structural strength of neighboring Serralunga d’Alba with the concentration and richness of Bussia and the other crus further north.” I might agree, but I also find the Benevelli Ravera one of the most fruity and approachable of the seriously made Barolo 2010’s I have tried so far, and this is certainly a great staring out Barolo for the new wine enthusiast to understand fine Nebbiolo, and Barolo itself. The Benevelli starts with anise and balsamic notes and quickly offers up raspberry, cherry and plum fruits along with strawberry jam, game, wild mushrooms and minty herbs finishing with soft tannins, cedar, nutmeg and lingering currant. Drink from 2015 to 2020, this is a super nice Nebbiolo and a fine value. Tasted twice.
($50 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2010BroviaNormale2010 Brovia, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 vintage is looking epic, these are Barolo wines that might only come around two or three times a generation and there are some amazing wines just hitting the market that you should really jump on, and this regular Barolo from Brovia is for sure a top choice for quality and value. Brovias Cru Baroli are going to be legendary and spectacular, but this “normale” Barolo is fantastic, and it is a blended cuvee of their top Cru sites. Brovia from Castiglione Falletto is one of the great traditional new generation producers, a winery that uses old school techniques, but with intense attention to farming and every detail, I have become a huge fan of these wines over the last five years since being introduced to them. They are considered the Burgundy of Barolo, and in the 2007, 2008 and now in 2010 vintages, you can see why, these are beautifully crafted wines that gives pure Nebbiolo character, but are done in an elegant, poised and restrained fashion. The 2010 Barolo by Brovia is seductive from start to finish, leading with sweet and savory herbs, multi floral bouquet with incense, rose petal and mineral tones. The palate is vigorous with damson plum, cherry, balsamic dipped strawberry, red currant and black licorice flowing along with gravelly stones, saline, bitter herbs, tea spice, tar and truffle adding nice cut and counterpoints to the fruit, there is some fine grained tannins, as you’d expect from a young Barolo, but it doesn’t get in the way of massive appealing pleasure found in this classy Nebbiolo. There are added complex components to be found to, with cedar, mint, game and kirsch finding there way into the pretty layers that unfold in the mouth, this wine has good density and stunning length, it most certainly will age gloriously and drink well into the next decade and more, while it will be hard to wait too long on this Barolo, it should be advised to hold on for another couple of years before exploring it’s many exceptional facets, drink from 2016 to 2026. Be sure to look for these Brovia 2010 Barolos, and for great everyday stuff check out their fabulous Barbera too! Tasted twice, better each time.
($56 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2010BaudanaBarolo2010 Luigi Baudana, Barolo DOCG, del Comune di Serralunga d’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s lovely and precise normal Barolo from his Luigi Baudana label is maybe the steal of the vintage so far, it is wonderfully classic and full of flavor with an array of layers and superb structure, it shows fine tannins and nice acidity, neither of which intrudes on the generous fruit. The 2010 vintage is one of the most hailed years for Barolo I can remember, and after tasting the Vajra and Baudana I can certainly see why, and agree, this is a fantastic vintage and these wines have massive potential, even though you’ll need to wait some years to get all that is promised, these wines will be very rewarding and they deserve a place in your cellars. The regular Baudana crafted lovingly by Giuseppe Vajra is really a seductive and pretty wine with hints of roses and wild flowers, minty tar, bacon and lifted red fruits including plum, cherry and bramble berry along with anise, spice, loam and truffle notes plus a lingering finish of tangy currants and cedar. This wine shows a delicacy and poise already and there is much more to come, be sure to keep an eye out for the Luigi Baudana 2010 Barolo, it should arrive in the States late fall of this year (2014) and should drink wonderfully for the next decade easy, best from 2016 to 2021.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010LaSpinettaCampe2010 La Spinetta, Campe Della Spinetta, Barolo “Campe” Vursu DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 Campe Barolo from Giorgio Rivetti is a classic, but it is a powerful and forceful young Nebbiolo that will need plenty of time to shed it’s tannins, even though there is loads of character and charm waiting underneath. La Spinetta’s Campe is a lion in lion’s clothing, and certainly this vintage remains true to form with lots of savory/meaty elements and gripping tannins, hints of bright/minty herbs and spiced plum showing now. There are hints of floral notes on the nose, rose petals and smoky incense leading to cherry, red currant, cured ham, bacon fat, truffle and walnut/cedar along with mineral tones, anise and a touch of vanilla. These 2010’s have structure with lifting acidity and firm tannin, but there is an elegance hiding behind and the tannins are refined and should allow beauty to shine through in a few years. La Spinetta’s Campe Barolo is a very serious and in my opinion a blue chip Barolo, I have enjoyed many bottle, and I had the very first Campe, the 2000 vintage prior to it’s introduction, on one of Giorgio’s west coast swings, back in the day, and recently Campe 2000 came out on top of a blind tasting in Barolo with Gaja, Giacosa and other top producers in the lineup at the time, so while La Spinetta is well respected fro their gorgeous Cru Barbaresco, much deserved, the Barolo Campe and Barolo Vigneto Garretti are very worthy wines, and this is the vintage to discover and collect! cherish this super Nebbiolo from 2018 to 2028. Tenth anniversary Campe, and it’s a brilliant Barolo, bravo Giorgio!
($150 Est.) 96-98 Points, grapelive

2010BoschisBarolo2010 E. Pira-Chiara Boschis, Barolo “Via Nuova” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The queen of Cannubi, Chiara Boschis has made a glorious and hedonistic in 2010 with this Via Nuova offering blended from 6 Cru sites, that should be hitting the shelves as we speak, and if you like her wines you’ll want to chase this beauty down ASAP! The vintage of course is being hyped like crazy for Barolo, and while you can still get fine 2008 and plush 2009’s around, it will be a smart investment to grab these 2010’s, from what I’ve tasted the rumors are true, this is a fantastic year for Nebbiolo from Piedmonte, with Barolo in particular showing everything you’d ever want, period. This 2010 E. Pira-Chiara Boschis starts with tannic kick, but quickly unfolds pretty details with a bouquet of rose oil, lavender and dried violets along with earthy notes, amaro/herbal elements leading to a firm palate of baked cherry, damson plum, raspberry and strawberry fruits, balsamic/hoisin, truffle, savory meat and tar, plus a kick of black licorice and cedary wood. This wine is wonderfully proportioned and artfully crafted, even at this tight stage, potential rewards can easily be seen here, better to have patience, but a great wine is always a great wine. I am very impressed and smitten with the Boschis, it should deliver pleasure for another decade with ease, best from 2017 to 2026.
($98 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

2010PiraMargheria2010 Luigi Pira Barolo “Vigne Margheria” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Included in the New York Times Top Ten Barolo the Vigna Margheria secured the number four spot on the Eric Asimov’s well thought out list. Sadly this wine was the most serve and austere of the wines I tasted, but I’m sure it will come around, it was also a bit concerning to me that there was a lot of bottle variation in the 4 bottles I personally opened of the Pira Margheria, and two of the 4 has brittle wet corks, so be careful in handling and cellaring this wine. The Luigi Pira Vigne Margheria, even after lengthy decants remained shy and unwilling to give up much, though there were short moments where there was some glimpse of beauty. There is a earthy and mulberry element and a hint of rose petal that leads, but the palate stays sharp and intense with muted fruit, spice and tannins. I suspect the wine has gone into a shut down period, so I won’t give up hope here, and I trust the critical acclaim on the Pra is justified. I wanted more and never quite got it, and while some level of definition did finally come forth it was never on par with the other wines I tasted. There was tangy cherry, loads of earthy game and rustic force with strawberry, plum and bay leaf notes coming out with air, plus subtle tar, anise and cedar. Best to hold for another 5 years before even looking in on this one, drink from 2017 to 2022, fingers crossed. I am far from perfect, so I hope to re-visit in a few years to find a beautiful and glorious Barolo, and it certainly could happen. Having had Luigi Pira Barolo since the 1996 vintage and loving them, this was a confusing wine for me, but I tend to get the sister wine, the Marenca, which is a favorite of mine, so I’ll reserve judgement and hope to review the wines down the road…
($66 Est.) N/R-Wait and See

2010RCorino2010 Renato Corino, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
From La Morra and exotic, Renato Corino’s Barolo comes in at a whopping 15% alcohol and is an open knit wine that will not require as much aging to be ready to drink, in fact, you’d might even want to start drinking this bold effort early. The Renato Corino wines are always well priced for a top grower in Barolo and the 2010 is a generous and robust offering with bold notes of blackberry liqueur, morello cherry, red licorice, cured meats and mint-infused finish. While not your dad’s or grandpa’s Barolo, this is impressive young Barolo with true, though ripe, Nebbiolo character that is a crowd pleaser. The 2010 shows refined, mute and smooth tannins, a burst of acidity and juicy layers that come on in density worthy of a much more expensive wine. I must confess, it was a confusing Barolo when compared to a few of the more austere style bottling opened along side, but it held it’s own and was a nice contrast, if not my personal favorite, it is very serious juice and again a super value. There is plenty of flamboyant flavors to keep you interested for a few years, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($50 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2010Parusso2010 Parusso Barolo “Mariondino” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is another very shy wine, and it has a firm chalky and chewy tannic bitterness that hides the fruit, it also showed very different from bottle to bottle, and one bottle, not corked, was almost undrinkable and hard, but another was perfectly acceptable, though severe in style, regardless I have hope that more pleasure will come in time. To be fair, I think this wine has begun to shut down and should come back to life in a few years. I seem to catch these highly rated Parusso offerings at exactly the wrong time, as this wine was pretty clearly in a deep sleep. This is another Barolo that gets a lot of attention and mid nineties scores from notable critics, and while I’ve had them since the late 90’s and even sold many a bottle over the years, this is a producer I just don’t seem to get or enjoy when in my own glass, even if I have respect for and am sure it has many a loyal fan. There is clearly complexity here, in the better bottles I tried there was all the correct elements and depth to be a super Barolo and it does have classic Nebbiolo qualities. Showing bright cherry, racy acidity, driving tannins and brambly fruits. There is loamy earth and tar along with black cherry, plum and raspberry that form the core in Parusso’s Mariondino, as well as savory meats, soft woody notes and tea spices, best to give this a little time to fully form, drink from 2018-2026.
($66 Est.) 88-92 Points, grapelive

2010LaSpinettaGarretti2010 La Spinetta, Barolo “Vigneto Garretti” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
La Spinetta’s Garretti comes from the bottom portion of the calcareous-rich Campe site/vineyard at approximately 600 feet above sea level. The house style here has been called modern or ultra clean, but owner/winemaker Giorgio Rivetti is a minimalist at heart, choosing not to filter or fine his wines as well as moving towards biodynamics in his vineyards. This is an example of a fuller, broader, fleshier Barolo that is aged in medium toasted French oak for 20 months before going to bottle for another year, and that said it is not over the top oaky or ripe. Sweet smoke, earth, graphite along with seductive aromas of red violets and fennel grace the nose and are followed on the palate by black/damson plum, robust notes of black fig, sweet and sour cherry, licorice, incense or flavored tobacco leaf and tea, leather and vanilla. This “baby” or little brother to Campe is showing well, it is also showing a real savory and meaty side right now, best to let rest a few years, drink 2016 to 2020.
($80+ Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2010PaoloConternoGinestra2010 Paolo Conterno, Barolo “Ginestra” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 Barolo Ginestra has magical potential and while very intriguing now, the rewards of patience could be spellbinding, this could end up a hall of famed! This wine has wow factor with elegant mineral tones, deep and dense fruit, glorious structured and lengthy on the finish, all the while showing youth and power in spades, the wait will be worth it, no question. Ginestra is unique and is a great site, it could be one of the best in all of Barolo, and Paolo Conterno’s 2010 Ginestra is lovely stuff indeed with a haunting finish, I’m so glad this wine was last in my flight, it stayed with me forever and cemented my pure joy and belief in this remarkable vintage. The Conterno Ginestra is certainly a wine made and born in the vineyard and it has a real terroir driven personality with black raspberry, spiced plum, mineral, red cherry, clove/pepper spice, mint tea and licorice along with cedar, tar, bacon and liqueur notes with lingering wilted roses, dark violets and a savory truffle/earth note. This is going to be a rockstar, and an opera diva melded into one, drink from 2017 to 2025, no question the Ginestra will be a dream come true in a few years!
($90 Est.) 95-97 Points, grapelive

2012Mica2012 Mica by Buccella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
The second wine of Buccella made by Celia Welch, who also does Scarecrow and Lindstrom, the Mica in the unique plain label squat bottle is a little known secret, but certainly this 2012 will be a breakthrough and I highly recommend searching this one out, it is a truly awesome Napa Cabernet! The 2011 Buccella lineup was pretty nice, but wow, these 2012 wines, and especially this Mica Cabernet Sauvignon is fantastic with loads of fruit, full bodied texture and great length. The 2012 Mica delivers rich layers of cassis, sweet blackberry, plum and red currant fruit with mocha, vanilla, cedar, black licorice, cigar wrapper/tobacco along with a kirsch, smoke and pencil lead note. Lovely depth and richness, dark hued purple color and nicely balanced details make the latest Mica a winner, kudos to Celia for crafting such a pleasing wine, drink this Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015 to 2022.
($75 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

2013PandolPN2013 Pandol, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Having followed Jenny Pandol’s wines now for many years and being a big fan and supporter of her small production Pinot Noirs, it was great to check in on her latest wine, a totally new release from the Sta. Rita Hills, home to many great wines like Brewer-Clifton, Melville, Samsara, Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote, Lutum (mentioned recently here) and many other top producers, this region is on fire with wonderful wines at every turn. Pandol sourced Rita’s Crown Vineyard, right above Sea Smoke, in the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA for her latest wine, and it matches perfectly with her vision and style of wine wants to make, as well as highlighting the perfect growing conditions and vintage (from what I hear and from what I am tasting 2013 looks to surpass 2012 in quality in many cases!), giving a luxurious and lush Pinot Noir with low alcohol at 13% and soft bright acidity. Jenny is not going for stemmy or nervy/edgy wines, she wants balance and harmony, liking a fuller/round mouth feel, which the 2013 has in spades.The ancient seabed soils almost give a limestone quality, with loam and sand making for a glorious hedonistic Pinot Noir, this cool climate sea/marine influence and a long hang-time adds to the ripe complexity of layers and polish. Pandol’s handcrafted Pinot Noir is joyous and alluring, in this vintage she employed one third new French oak medium toast barriques, with rest being second and third year barrels, about 400 cases were produced, the grapes were picked from select blocks of clones 777 and 115. The 2013 Pandol Sta. Rita Hills is a deep garnet hue, an inviting nose awaits with toasty wood, attractive rose petal and red berry fruit lead, along with mineral and stone notes before a lavish/dense palate of black cherry, plum, currants, raspberry and fig paste along with touches of saline, cola bean, savory spice, mocha, cinnamon, smoke and vanilla. There is nice acidity which adds a vibrancy lift, while silky almost creamy, refined tannins provide structure, but allowing the full expansion of the fruit in the mouth, Pandol continues to grow as a winemaker and this is one of her finest, stylish and most charming wines to date, prior hits came from Santa Cruz Mountains grapes, but she has now made her home in the Santa Barbara wine country. This wine should age nicely for 5 to 7 years, though it is pretty damn good and sexy right now, it is seriously hard not pour another glass tonight, drink from 2014 to 2018. Be sure to check out this new Pandol Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, it is rare, but it is certainly worth the effort to search it out and/or join her mailing list at www.pandolwines.com.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012MC22012 Mathieu Coste, MC2, Coteaux du Giennois Biau, Villemoison, Loire Valley, Red, France.
A new comer to the quality natural wine scene Mathieu Coste of the Loire Valley has been making his own wine for about 6 vintages now, and I recently discovered his wine at a trade show in San Francisco, not much was to be learned, but I was highly impressed with what I tasted, especially this Gamay and Pinot Noir blend from Coteaux du Giennois Biau. This tiny appellation is across the river and south of Sancerre and the hamlet of Villemoison is where Coste calls home, he was trained in Bordeaux and made wine at the Coop in Pouilly sur Loire, he got his personal break when he took over the estate of Alain Paulat, an organic farmer, who’s grapes were almost always the best coming into the coop. Mathieu’s wines are made with fanatical detail and are delicately nuanced, made with natural winemaking techniques (low sulphur-no additions) and from total organic farming, he uses whole cluster, native yeast and ferments in cement vats, before aging in stainless tanks, making for clear, pure and bright wines. The 2012 MC2 is Pinot Noir and Gamay with crunchy stones and mineral tones, red fruits, spice and shows plenty of vigor and intensity in a fine light/medium weight wine. The nose has earthy floral notes along with dusty red currants leading to a lively palate of raspberry, cherry and strawberry fruits plus, minty herb, tea, lavender and pepper spice, after a bit of time in the glass there reveals anise, plum, chalky/stones, cinnamon stick and cured meat. The wine is tightly focused and vividly clear throughout, finishing with soft fruity character and a touch of saline savoriness, this is delightful wine and a name to watch for, drink now through 2017.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012KenWrightPB2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley.
While preparing to taste all the 2013 Ken Wright Pinot Noirs, I ran across this Pinot Blanc from Ken Wright and found it absolutely stunning and vibrant, it comes from two sites in the cooler western sector of the Willamette with more coastal influences where the vines store more acidity. This beautiful 2012 Pinot Blanc, from blocks at Meredith Mitchell and Freedom Hill, it was fermented and raised in old neutral French cask on it’s lees, with some stirring (batonage) giving the wine texture along with that zesty acidity. The nose is mineral laced and has hints of apple butter and honey, but the palate is vibrant with dynamic citrus, green apple, white peach and hints of tropical fruits with whiff of smoke and flinty rocks. This is impressive stuff and lovely refreshing wine, Ken thinks Pinot Blanc is the most interesting and best grape for Oregon whites, ahead of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, and he may find an argument on that over the coming years, but if this wine is anything to go by, well, he might be right, it is certainly vivid, crisp and delicious with lemon/lime, wet stones and touches of salty elements lingering on the attractively long finish, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012MontevertineCiampolo2012 Montevertine, Pian del Ciampolo, Toscana Rosso IGT, Radda in Chianti, Italy.
Montevertine’s organic estate in the heart of Chianti Classico is home to some of the finest wines in Tuscany, these natural wines, crafted of only local varietals made in an elegant fashion. The Montevertine wines are not oaky, extracted or do they have dollops of Merlot or Cabernet added to them, these are traditional and soulful wines, but don’t get me wrong there are lovely Merlot and Cabernet wines in Tuscany, wines that rival the world, no question, it is just that Montevertine follows their own path and I admire the wines of the late Sergio Manetti and now Martino Manetti very much, and his Le Pergole Torte is one of the greatest Sangiovese wines in the world, just don’t expect Manetti’s wine to be labeled Chianti Classico anytime soon, the Manetti’s believe that Sangovese doesn’t need international varietals added and withdrew from the Chianti brand, so no black roosters on the label. The last Montevertine Chianti Classico was made in 1981, after that they have only produced wines labeled Table wines or IGT with Le Pergole Torte being the first single vineyard 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan, and the Pian del Ciampolo is the little brother to Le Pergole Torte with a cuvee of Sangoveto (Chianti Classico’s old clone Sangiovese) plus Canaiolo and Colorino (Two minor Chianti grapes now making a comeback in the region) with all the fruit coming from the estate’s beautiful vines in Radda in Chianti. The 2012 Montevertine Pian del Ciampolo is glorious from start to finish, earthy, Burgundy like in fresh brightness and graceful on the palate with beautiful detail and wonderful delicacy. The bouquet is pure Tuscany with porcini, red fruits, herbs, iron/blood and wilted roses leading to a refined and vivid mouthful of spiced plum, raspberry, cherry and strawberry fruits, truffle, minty herbs, licorice, tobbacco/cigar wrapper and cedary spice. This is pure and perfectly weighted wine, no added adornments or flashy sweet oak, just a character filled expression of place and expertly crafted, bravo to the team at Montevertine for this beauty, it had me dreaming of the majestic Tuscan hills and the lengthy finish is just as magical, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012LutumLaEncantada2012 Lutum, Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Gavin Chanin’s new label Lutum compliments his own Chanin Wines and offers a selection of interesting and soil driven Pinot Noirs, most from Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara/Santa Maria counties, all follow the balanced or low alcohol approach and offer in 2012 generous fruit and depth. Having been an assistant winemaker at both Au Bon Climat and Qupe, Gavin has learned Santa Barbara’s lessons well and got to know the regions secrets and soul, these are being bottle under both his own Chanin label and here with the new Lutum wines, the quality and talent really shines through, especially in the latest set of Lutum 2012, and my favorite is the La Encantada, it is gorgeous Pinot Noir, very classy, elegant and full of character. While I was maybe most impressed by his Lutum Bien Nacido, one of the finest Pinots from this vineyard I’ve ever tasted even, the La Encantada for me was the most charming with floral tones, pretty red fruits and an amazing finish, these small production wines are certainly worth checking out and following. The 2012 Lutum La Encantada Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills comes from a very cool climate site grown on sandy soils, it is under 14% alcohol and has lifting acidity, sweet tannins and layers of texture showing bing cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit along with fennel, violets, rose oil and wild herbs, later as the wine opens there is a plum and blueberry note, plus a hint of toast, earth, mineral, saline, tea and cinnamon/nutmeg. This wine is intriguing and pleasing on the palate, drinking well now, but should gain with a year of bottle age, best from 2015 to 2019, Chanin has done a fantastic job with these Lutum wines, I will be sure to check back in on them over time, you should search them out, no question.
($52 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012KnezAVPN2012 Knez, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley.
Knez is a small boutique, hand crafted project in the cool and beautiful Anderson Valley, with Anthony Filiberti making the wines, he has built quite a reputation as a winemaker after tours at Bergstrom and Penner-Ash in Oregon and being part of the Anthill Farms team. Anthony guides the Knez wines into life, these wines are always delicately detailed and impressive for layered depth and length with beautiful textures and pretty flavors, and this set of 2012 might be the best yet. The entry level cuvee, this 2012 Knez Anderson Valley Pinot, a blend of estate blocks from Cerise and Demuth, plus a touch of their Knez Vineyard, the vines are from a variety of heritage and modern clones, but lean on the old Martini, Pommard, David Bruce and Wadenswil (Swiss Clone) and grown at close to a thousand feet up on mixed soils. This Anderson Valley 2012 is subtle, elegant and slightly shy at first, but opens nicely to a full and succulent Pinot with wilted rose petals, strawberry, wild mushroom, tea spice, anise and raspberry notes to lead, then gathering steam to provide black cherry, tangy plum and currant fruit, along with earth, stones and baking spices, cinnamon and nutmeg with very faint wood expression. The finish is the single most pleasing and stunning element at this point, it goes on forever and is dreamy gorgeous, lingering with layer after layer. Look for this wonderful effort to gain with bottle age, and at this price, you should invest in many a bottle, also keep a sharp eye out for Knez’s single vineyard 2012’s as well. Drink the Anderson Valley cuvee over the next 3 to 5 years, it has lowish/balanced alcohol, good acidity, refined, but firm tannins and fantastic purity of fruit, one of the best values out there, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011Grapillon2011 Domaine du Gapillon D’Or 1806, Gigondas, Rhone Valley Red, France.
The Chauvet family’s Grapillon D’Or estate is one of the classic properties of Gigondas, and it is an old school wine of great character and rustic charms. I’ve been a fan of this wine since the late nineties and have almost never been disappointed with this lovely and spicy style Gigondas, and this 2011 is a super example of why we love old world Grenache with loads of pepper, earth and dusty stones adding to the sweet fruit essence. The 2011 Domaine Grapillon D’Or 1806 starts with dried flowers, game, raspberry, chalk rock and cracked peppercorn with a deep garnet/red color and framboise note, leading to a sweet and savory palate of boysenberry, spiced plum, strawberry, pomegranate and cherry jellies along with licorice, lavender, all spice/herbs and gravel with touches of saline and grilled meat. Everything unfolds in a pleasing manner and there is no hint of wood, and the balance of earth, spice and fruit is near perfect, this is delicious Rhone red wine. This classy and stylish Gigondas, coming in at 14.5% from 2011’s ripe vintage is not overly polished or refined, but still does everything you’d want and maybe a bit more, drink over the next few years, best from 2014 to 2018. I was glad to recapture some fond memories and taste the latest from Grapillon, founded in 1806, as the new label plainly states now, and it is great to see this long time champion of traditional style Gigondas remaining faithful and of great quality, this is really interesting old school Grenache that beats expectations.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012AFVLester2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro does a wonderful selection of non estate Cru bottling, these include a Schultze Family Vineyards, a Garys’ Vineyard farmed by the Franscioni and Pisoni Families, and this stunning Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park Pinot Noir. These compliment his own estate and Trout Gulch offering that he farms with his crew and his own hands, and of which I have mentioned many many times here, all of the wines Alfaro makes are great and worthy of searching out. The new release of Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park is a rich and opulent Pinot with a gorgeous ruby/red hue and wonderful bouquet of rose oil, incense, mocha, red fruits and baking spices leading to a lush, silky full palate of raspberry, plum and cherry fruits with touches of cinnamon stick, cedar, tangy currant, smoke and earthy/loamy notes. This wine feels decedent and layered with smooth refined tannins, but there is plenty of vigor and lift too with acidity and drive adding balance and grace to this Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir. The wine opens nicely and gives waves of pleasure, sweet fruit, nuance and finesse with a lovely strawberry and truffle/wild mushroom component coming through along with spice, dried flowers and mineral tones with a whiff of toasty wood. The Lester Family at Deer Park is a real jewel, it shows loads of character and depth, but is stylish and only about 13.5% alcohol making for a focused and dynamic offering from a winery already on a roll with 2012 and 2013 wines that are glorious, drink this one from 2014 to 2021.
($40 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Matthiasson2012 Matthiasson, Refosco, Matthiasson Estate Vineyard, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley.
One of Napa’s top vineyard managers, Steve Matthiasson is making a name for himself as a winemaker, and his estate wines are some of Napa Valley’s most interesting and unique wines, especially this rare northern Italian grape Refosco bottling. This was the first time trying this opulent and unique red from Matthiasson, and I can tell you it was a stylish and wonderful experience, this is super stuff with dark fruit, hints of herb, spice and mineral. Refosco, found mostly in Friuli, Colli Orientali Italy, but is also widely planted in Slovenia and even Croatia, it is a tannic and identified by it’s red stems, making for powerful and sometimes very rustic wines, though modern and gentile winemaking has tamed this varietal in recent decades. Refosco has been around for a very long time, it seems to be first praised in the first century by Roman writer Pliny the Elder, it is mentioned in his text as a famous good wine, and the Hapsburgs are said to have built a railway from Austria to the Trieste region to have the wine transported! And now Matthiasson is creating a new chapter for Refosco here in Napa Valley, and after having it for the first time recently, I think it is a success and should be celebrated! The 2012 Matthiasson Refosco starts with a Gamay meets Syrah character with an extra kick of tannin making for a quite serious and powerful red, showing red cherry, blackberry, plum and strawberry fruits along with rocky/mineral, dried flowers, hints of game, truffle and sweet tea, plus minty herbs, anise, blueberry and tangy currant notes. There is a touch of wood with cedar notes and the wine coats the palate and is very full and round, almost creamy in feel, this is classy stuff and well crafted, drink from 2015 to 2022. (Please note the image above is not the Refosco label which is white with blue)
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012SandlandsSoberanes2012 Sandlands, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua’s own label Sandlands is gaining traction and this new set of releases are stunning, especially the Soberanes Syrah which is showing the true potential and character of this Pisoni farmed vineyard. Tegan is the head vineyard manager and winemaker for Turley Cellars and has a true gift for old vines and unique varietals, this a hard working talented winegrower and under his own label Sandland he explores a more delicate and raw style of crafting his wines, though all the latest wines are full of flavor, deep in profile and wonderfully poised and balanced. This 2012 Soberanes Syrah from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands is a cool climate, northern Rhone style wine, it is stunningly terrific with violets and pepper on the nose, blueberries, boysenberry, tangy currant/cassis and juicy plum fruits to start the palate along with hints of sage, licorice, chalky/stones, briar, bacon/cured meat, cedar and black olives, finishing long and with a lovely play of sweet and savory on the aftertaste. This expressive and intriguing Syrah (only 13.2% Alcohol) is full of intensity, vibrancy and vigor, but still gives fine detail and finessed class, of all the great Syrah coming from this site, this has shown the most harmony and should age wonderfully for another 3 to 5 years and beyond. Tegan Passalaqua’s Sandlands wine are a must find, don’t miss this one if you are a Syrah fan, and the this whole cluster, native yeast, Alban clone version from Soberanes is a star, an impressive example of winemaking, site and vintage!
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013VissouxBeaujolais2013 Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, Cuvee Traditionnelle, France.
Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Vissoux old vine Beaujolais is a Gamay wonderland and one of the best non Crus I’ve ever tried, this is serious and beautiful wine that offers joyous fruit and intriguing complexities. The 2013 Pierre-Marie Domaine du Vissoux Cuvee Tradittionnelle Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes starts with a deep garnet/purple hue that shines brilliantly in the glass, with a opulent palate of fine detail and subtle density displaying black cherry, plum, blackberry, strawberry and sweet currant along with hints of pepper, minty/anise, walnut oil and salted/chalk stones. Made with organic grapes and low sulphur, Pierre-Marie Chermette is hand crafting his wines in the style of Lapierre, Foillard, Julien Sunier and others that have made Beaujolais a worthy companion to Burgundy and a fantastic world class region. This wine especially is a fabulous value, richly flavored, transparently spun and gloriously delicious, this is a Gamay of class and finessed charms, don’t miss this one if you are a fan of this varietal, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012AlfredoMaestroTinto2012 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Tinto Castrillo de Duero, Spain.
Coming from 70+ year old Tinto Fino (100% Tempranillo) grown at elevation on clay, loamy soils in Burgos, Ribera del Duero from a single vineyard parcel called La Ladera using all natural techniques and about 20% whole cluster in fermentation. I always am drawn to this wine and have been a fan for many years now, this is special stuff from a great guy and super winemaker. A Ribera del Duero, though because of his rebellious nature, Alfredo Maestro chooses not to label it as such after lengthy arguments with Ribera del Duero rule makers, but if anything that even makes this wine even more interesting and noteworthy. Alfredo follows his own path and passions in making his natural wines and should be admired for crafting wines of unique distinction and quality, and this Tinto, made from very old all organic Tempranillo vines and no new wood is beautiful, detailed and rich in flavor. The nose is spice and plumy with red fruits, figs and cedar notes leading to a palate of dark cherry, blackberry and currant fruits with licorice and English toffee notes. This lush and refined Tempranillo is graceful, with smooth tannins, round texture and a lengthy finish.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013VenierCheverny2013 Christian Venier, Cheverny, Les Hauts de Madon, Loire Valley Red, France.
This crisp and spicy loire red is lovely and fresh with tangy red fruits, lifting acidity, mineral notes and soft fine tannins, making for a stylish and easy drinking wine. Christian Venier’s Cheverny is a cuvee of Gamay and Pinot Noir from near his home in Madon, and this pretty wine was completely new to me, a big thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Oakland’s cool wine store and wine hangout Bay Grape for turning me on to this one, I love it and will be getting a few more bottles for sure. It is funny, as I get more wine than I can go through, and certainly can never begin to make notes for them all, but sometimes you just need something different to enjoy for yourself, and this wine really hit the spot, this is really delicious and interesting. At 12% is was very enjoyable and I was able to have a few glasses and still have plenty of energy, it shows strawberry, cherry and plum fruits along with peppery spice, a hint of chalk and saline plus tea, cinnamon and violets. This Gamay/Pinot is very quaffable and is great with food, lighter fare especially, it is not overtly fruity and while brisk at first sip, opens nicely and turns delightfully smooth and more complex with air. More Gamay comes through in the glass, but the Pinot structure and brightness stays start to finish, this is a name to watch for wonderful drinking vibrant and vivid Loire wine, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($21 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Lovamor2013 Alfredo Maestro, Albillo “Lovamor” White, Castilla y Leon, Spain.
This rare varietal, Albillo, makes for a unique and interesting white wine, especially in the hands of Alfredo Maestro, a brilliant natural winemaker that uses old vines and a gifted touch to create handcrafted wines near the Ribera del Duero region. The Lovamor white is brisk and full of live and extract showing citrus, chalky minerals, hints of tropical essence and white peach in a tangy dry style with a salty edge. Coming from organic and dry farmed vines, the Alfredo Maestro Albillo made with some skin contact and aged in neutral vats, without sulphur and wild yeast fermentation. These wild vines are between 110 and 120 years old on limestone, giving intensity and regal class to this beautiful and savory white, plus the 6 day skin contact adds a golden color and exotic twist. The finish is surprising long and has spring flowers, dried herbs and orange peel. Alfredo Maestro is one of the best at natural wines in Spain, and his wines really make an impression, you really should check them out, and especially his Tinto’s from old vines, which are mostly Tempranillo, but also some Garnacha from near Ribera del Duero and also the Madrid region, these are lovely expressions of place.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013EvaFrickeTrocken2013 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
Eva Fricke’s basic QbA Trocken is stylish, zippy and dusty dry with yellow peach, lime, grapefruit, green apple and mango notes along with sizzling acidity, mineral tones and salted gravel. A recent glass at the Slanted Door convinced me again, Fricke is a talent to follow and her wines are chiseled from the soils of her terroir. This fresh and vibrant young Riesling is very charming now with firm serve character and a surprising amount of natural extract, making it a wonderful food wine, but less a fruity sipper, best to pair it up with something enjoyable and take in the subtle nuances, as the wine unfolds in the glass, this is a serious glass of dry Riesling that can match up to almost any food option you can throw at it, including ginger beef! I really am impressed with all of Eva Fricke’s offering for 2013, which was a rather more difficult vintage in Germany, compared to 2012 and 2011, and her wines seem to not have missed a beat, in fact, I think I like the 2013’s a little better at this stage than her 2011 and 2012 wines, those I think need a bit more time to evolve yet. The weathered slate and quartzite earth of her region on the mighty Rhein shine through and the winemaking is focused on intensity and dry quality Rieslings of distinction, drink this Rheingau Trocken from 2015 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012Piedrasassi2012 Piedrasassi, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi label is home to some of California’s most exciting Syrah, and this new vintage, 2012 Santa Barbara County is wonderful and extremely northern Rhone in style, dare I say very Cornas, with deep complexity, stem inclusion and spicy character. While the Syrah is the main focus, Sashi has been experimenting with Sangiovese and a unique skin contact white made from Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino, both of which are interesting and very tasty, as well Moorman makes the Stolpman Vineyards wines, plus his project with Raj Parr, Domaine de la Cote, crafting Pinot Noir. The latest Piedrasassi Syrah starts with blueberry, violets, black olives and dried celery seed and pepper leading to a palate of boysenberry, tangy plum, blackberry and cherry fruits along with mineral, earth and basil/licorice with a hint of cedar and briar. This is thrilling stuff, well judged and with a beautiful dark garnet hue, you can drink it now and or age it a few years, this wine is very worthy of your interest and will deliver an evening of rewarding Syrah. The nice cool climate firmness and non aggressive alcohol and vibrancy really keep the energy and focus, this is top drawer California Syrah, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013BowArrowMelon2013 Bow & Arrow, Melon, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow Wines of Portland, Oregon are a boutique hand craft winery making some wonderfully creative wines that are inspired by the natural wines of the Loire Valley, I have been impressed and entertained by all the efforts I’ve tried to date and highly recommend sampling these innovative wines. Bow & Arrow would certainly feel right at home with Thierry Puzelat and the wines of Touraine, as they make a very nice Cheverny like Gamay and Pinot Noir blend called Rhinestones, as well as straight Gamay and Pinot Noir, again these are done in the Loire style, not trying to be either Beaujolais and Burgundy, plus they do a fabulous Melon, which is a dry salty white, and this could easily pass for a stylish Muscadet Sur Lie. The 2013 Bow & Arrow Melon de Bourgogne is tangy, crisp and mouth-watering zesty with apple, lemon/lime, salted citrus, peach pit and straw. This tightly fresh expression is vibrant, mineral laced and has faint earth, spice and chalk notes making lovely with oysters, light fish and cheese plates, especially good to as a refresher when you want some sting and sharp dry white. This fun light bodied white can be enjoyed now, but I think it will develop some interest in a few years in bottle, maybe filling out with honey tones? It is possible, just like Muscadet, to age a long time, but best to go for it while it’s young. The grapes come from the Johan vineyard, where all the vines are tended biodynamic and lots of care is given, and it was made using traditional/natural techniques, be sure to look for the Bow & Arrow wines, they are wonderful and value priced wines.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013ManincorContessa2013 Manincor, Reserve della Contessa, Terlano Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy.
Near Trentino and Kaltern, the 400 year old estate of Michael Conte Goess-Enzenberg is one of the most exciting and quality wineries in Alto Adige, Count Michael’s Manincor is all demeter certified biodynamic and his wines are absolutely pure and elegant. It was a unique pleasure to meet the Conte, he is very soft spoken and humble, but with a burning intensity and passion for his vines and the beautiful nature of the Dolomites, he shows a respect for tradition, but is intrigued by the future and he has admiration for his region’s other winemakers including Elisabetta Foradori and her amphora wines and the care she puts into her estate. Michael has more than a dozen different varietals to farm and raise, from Merlot, Pinot Nero(Pinot Noir) and Lagrein to Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay along with the classic Terlaner (Sauvignon Blanc) that really stands out here. I enjoyed to tasting through all the current releases with Michael and hear about each wine from the Conte, every wine was precise and wonderfully crafted, the stand outs this time were the Lagrein, the Sauvignon Blanc and the delightful Pinot Nero, but I surprise favorite was his glorious white blend the Reserve della Contessa Terlano Bianco, a near perfect match up of Pinot Bianco 60%, Chardonnay 30% and Sauvignon Blanc 10% making for a savvy and stylish cuvee. The Reserve della Contessa comes from classic Terlan soils, ancient pulverized rock, clay and sand, these are areas that drain well and have west and east facing exposures at about 500 meters above sea level in the Italian Alpes, this leads to vigorous and steely wines bursting with flavor and acidity, and this vivid expression of terroir comes through in dramatic fashion in the Reserve della Contessa white. I’ve had three vintages now of this wine and each year I like it more and more, it shows impressive depth and grace with a greenish golden hue leading to a dense and vibrant palate of lemon/lime, peach, honeyed pear, green apple and gooseberry fruits with lots of saltiness, flinty spice, wet stones and minerality along with hints of white flowers, sweet herbs and it open to a round mouth filling textural feel without being heavy, this is sublime mountain wine. There is an almost German, or Riesling like force running through this wine that really lifts the flavors and gives fantastic extract, energy and structure, but the Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay make it smooth, lush and graceful, drink this beauty anytime over the next 5 to 10 years, this is an exceptional value from a top regional producer, don’t miss any of the Manincor wines, especially this one.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013ClosduTueBoeuf2013 Clos du Tue-Boeuf, Cheverny “Rouillon” Loire Valley Red, France.
Thierry Puzelat and his brother Jean-Marie run a small winery in the Le Montils area in Touraine, and are the Natural Wine gurus of the Loire Valley, crafting a beautiful selection of wines, including this gorgeous Pinot Noir & Gamay blend from the historic Clos du Tue-Boeuf, a 10-Hectare family estate Lieu-Dit, which has been noted as a great or excellent source of fine wines since the middle ages. The Loire Valley of France is maybe the spiritual home to the Natural Wine movement, certainly in France, and it was the birth place to the modern guide to biodynamics with Nicolas Joly pioneering the way, this influence has spread around the world with remarkable success. While the Natural Wine, no sulphur, no chemicals, native yeast fermentation(s) and no new wood, still seems a mere curiosity, it is also gaining traction, though it is meeting some hard push-back in certain quarters, but if you try the wines of Thierry Puzelat you can see just how good and expressive these wines can be, they are not all brown/funk that some critics have suggested, in fact these are stunningly pure and stylish wines that merit attention and are joyous in the glass. The Puzelat 2013 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny Rouillon Gamay/Pinot Noir is delightful and wonderful, it shows fresh and vibrant flavors, interesting mineral, subtle complexity and terroir character with tangy acidity and stony mouth feel. The nose is bright with hints of floral elements, wild herbs, crushed raspberry, currants and old wood leading to a zesty palate of black cherry, plum, strawberry and cranberry as well as apple skin, anise, red peach, peppery spice, nutmeg, truffle and concord grape. This is zippy youthful wine with a light to medium body, but should fill out over the next few years in bottle, but it should be enjoyed sooner v later, it’s charm is it’s energy and freshness, drink from 2015 to 2018, this is very pretty and pleasing wine, lovingly make and shows Natural Wine in it’s best light, a superb effort.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013GeyerhofGV2013 Weingut Geyerhof, Gruner Veltliner, Hoher Rain, Kremstal, Austria.
This electric and dynamic Gruner is a beauty, with lively acidity and crunchy minerals this wine sizzles with vivid fruit and vibrant intensity, made by the family Maier and done all biodynamic. The Hoher Rain Cru is a lovely wine, made from nature, it shows precise terroir and finesse, it was fermented using native yeast and it comes from sandy loam, mixed soils and deep loess, it is a very cool site and the extraordinary minerality and stony essences shine through, this is pure as pure gets. the fruit is subtle with hints of lemon/lime, green melon, white peach and grapefruit core along with a salty taste and hints of bitter almond and Chablis like steely elements, plus wet chalk and gravel notes. This standout Gruner would be an excellent choice with oysters and appetizers as well as being appealing as an afternoon picnic wine and an Indian summer sipper. These 2013 Austrian whites from the Danube region, not far from Vienna, either Wachau or Kremstal are showing fantastic, this is a great vintage and the Gruners are especially stunning and this Geyerhof is absolutely delicious and a stellar example of place and varietal, if you find this wine you’ll be rewarded with much joy and pleasure. Drink from 2014 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011KnollRiesling2011 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Ried Pfaffenberg Steiner, Wachau, Austria.
I was so thrilled to taste and enjoy this wine, I’ve always admired Knoll, and I haven’t had one of their wines in a long time, so I had a lot of expectations built up, and this 2011 did not disappoint, it is an absolutely gorgeous Riesling. Share over dinner, it really unfolded and showed wonderfully changing layers of complexity, this vibrant and dry white has fantastic energy and extract, and it should age great for another ten years. The 2011 Knoll Ried Pfaffenberg Steiner is a terroir driven example of top quality Austrian Riesling with poise, beautiful detail and graceful balance, there is depth, vigor and loads of intensity to enjoy and savor, there is bright citrus, spice, mineral and subtle tropical notes. The color is greenish and very pale, the nose is a mix of stones, a whiff of petrol, yellow roses and brine leading to a vivid palate of lime, white peach, apricot and melon along with hints of truffle, salt, grapefruit and wet rock. The body is medium weighted and taught, there is tangy/firm acidity and lots of sizzle, this wine still manages to feel smooth and generous in the mouth and there is a hidden depth and richness to be found when given time to open. This is very lovely, dazzling and stylish Riesling, drink from 2014 to 2026, this is all you can ask for in a dry Riesling and more!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012PatailleMarsannay2012 Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay AC Rouge, red Burgundy, France.
This fantastic Marsannay is a completely new discovery for me, Sylvain Pataille looks set to be a star in Marsannay and his wines are super delicious. I tasted through three reds and one white, everything he does comes from Marsannay and are all organic, and I believe biodynamic, all of the wines were highly impressive, but especially his base Marsannay AC (Pinot Noir), which I thought was stunning. Pataille makes his wines with almost no sulphur and follows in the style of Philippe Pacalet, making natural wines in Burgundy. These red Marsannay wines lovely ruby/garnet hued, very pretty in the glass and are full of flavor, energy and are very pure, time will tell how they age, but I must say, it would be hard not to drink these superb Pinots young and fresh, they are delightful and richly layered showing great already with good fruit density, acidity, minerality and subtle earthy spices. The 2012 Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Rouge starts with blackberry, cherry, strawberry and plum fruits, it really reminds me at this stage of a Jean Foillard Morgon, and that is a not a bad thing at all, then there is wet stones, truffle and cedar spice with cinnamon, nutmeg, dusty lavender and walnut oil in the background. Things unwind with air and tangy currant, blueberry and rose petals show through along with a lift of tea spice and hint of savory elements and saline. This is a fine offering and stylish wine, I’m grateful for Veritas Imports for sampling me on this exciting new producer, be sure to keep an eye out for Sylvain Pataille, and his gorgeous lineup of Marsannay Burgundy.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012ComptcheRidgePN2012 Comptche Ridge Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Mendocino County.
This is another very cool and exciting side project from Anthony Filiberti, he is one of California’s most gifted and influential young winemakers, working at Anthill Farms and at Knez, he has certainly made a name for himself, especially with a new generation of wine lovers, he is one of a group of stellar artisan winemakers that have shown we are in good hands for the future of California wine along with the likes of Ross Cobb (Cobb & Hirsch), Duncan Meyers (Arnot-Roberts) and many more to be sure. Anthony’s wines are terroir driven, cool climate wines that highlight acidity, delicacy and vintage and this new Comptche Ridge from the wilds of Mendocino is bright, fresh and vivacious with pretty fruit and lots of personality, this limited offering is very close in style the the Anthill Farms as you’d expect, but with the benefit of being a little easier to get your hands on as it hasn’t been discovered yet! The 2012 Comptche Ridge Vineyards shows a generous and loaded palate with a sweet and savory bouquet with soft floral notes, spice and mineral elements, there is black cherry, tangy currant, plum and strawberry fruits going along with light oak, cedar, briar, wild herbs, fennel/anise and saline. Filiberti’s wines, this one included, always are pleasing with subtle tannins, vivid layers, lifting acidity and a less extracted color, this wine has a light ruby hue, but with lovely deep flavors. Hints of earthy character, tea and red peach add to the young freshness in this poised Pinot Noir, Burgundy like is very cliche, but it does help you understand while being a true California coastal wine, there is a grace, class and vibrancy that reminds you of the inspiration of Pinot Noir’s spiritual home. Filiberti, who once was mentored and cut his teeth at Bergstrom in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, is making some wonderful wines and if you’ve not been lucky enough to try the sensational Anthill Farms or his Knez wines, you might want to do so, and especially this beautiful new Pinot Noir from Comptche Ridge!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012RidgeLytton2012 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Proprietary Red, Dry Creek Valley.
Ridge’s iconic Zin blend the Lytton Springs is mostly old vine Zinfandel (about 70%) along with Petite Sirah (about 20%), Carignane and a touch of Mourvedre aka Mataro making up the rest, and all from their Lytton Springs estate in Dry Creek, coming in at 14.4%, with this 2012 release. This latest edition of Lytton is a classic, and while I always love the Lytton, it maybe the best in many years with great character, richness of flavors and stylish structure and lift, without a doubt this is going to be a winner with everyone, and interestingly enough, I think this new Lytton with bridge the gap between Cabernet fans and Pinot Noir fans too, this wine has it all going on, with depth, finesse and charm, a California wine that can easily stand on the world stage and deliver fruit, layers and balance. The 2012 Lytton starts with floral notes, red fruits, bramble and smokiness leading to a vibrant palate of black raspberry, boysenberry, plum and currant fruits along with briar/spice, cigar wrapper, minty herbs, cedar and anise, finishing with a hint of vanilla, bitter coco and kirsch. This wine is pretty intense with ripe tannins, sweet fruit, but has poise and graceful flow, this is a wonderfully pleasing Lytton Springs that can be enjoyed now and over the next decade and a half with ease. Kudos to the Ridge team, this wine is nearly perfectly crafted, the deep color, a vivid garnet shines in the glass and each sip is a glorious experience to savor, drink from 2015 to 2025, very very impressive and joyous.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010BroviaBarolo2010 Brovia, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 vintage is looking epic, these are Barolo wines that might only come around two or three times a generation and there are some amazing wines just hitting the market that you should really jump on, and this regular Barolo from Brovia is for sure a top choice for quality and value. Brovias Cru Baroli are going to be legendary and spectacular, but this “normale” Barolo is fantastic, and it is a blended cuvee of their top Cru sites. Brovia from Castiglione Falletto is one of the great traditional new generation producers, a winery that uses old school techniques, but with intense attention to farming and every detail, I have become a huge fan of these wines over the last five years since being introduced to them. They are considered the Burgundy of Barolo, and in the 2007, 2008 and now in 2010 vintages, you can see why, these are beautifully crafted wines that gives pure Nebbiolo character, but are done in an elegant, poised and restrained fashion. The 2010 Barolo by Brovia is seductive from start to finish, leading with sweet and savory herbs, multi floral bouquet with incense, rose petal and mineral tones. The palate is vigorous with damson plum, cherry, balsamic dipped strawberry, red currant and black licorice flowing along with gravelly stones, saline, bitter herbs, tea spice, tar and truffle adding nice cut and counterpoints to the fruit, there is some fine grained tannins, as you’d expect from a young Barolo, but it doesn’t get in the way of massive appealing pleasure found in this classy Nebbiolo. There are added complex components to be found to, with cedar, mint, game and kirsch finding there way into the pretty layers that unfold in the mouth, this wine has good density and stunning length, it most certainly will age gloriously and drink well into the next decade and more, while it will be hard to wait too long on this Barolo, it should be advised to hold on for another couple of years before exploring it’s many exceptional facets, drink from 2016 to 2026. Be sure to look for these Brovia 2010 Barolos, and for great everyday stuff check out their fabulous Barbera too!
($56 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2012VTBlanc2012 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, La Crau, Rhone White, France.
The Brunier team at Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe have done a masterful job with the 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape white wine, and while it still remains a rare curiosity against their more dominant red wine, I actually like it better in this vintage and find it amazingly pleasing and rather elegant. This wine has not been as consistent as the main red wine over the years and it has not got the cult like following that Chateau de Beaucastel has built up around it’s white wines, but in some vintages Vieux Telegraphe puts out a great white, and while not ultra great, this 2012 is a very stylish example and is drinking wonderful at the moment. That said, it should be a great deal better in 2 to 3 years. I have found a little bottle variation so far, I was able to taste it 5 times from 5 bottles and 3 out of 5 were brilliant, 2 out of 5 were a touch shy, not as good, so I think a year in bottle will bring things right. The 2012 VT white shows loads of citrus and stone fruit, gets creamy towards the mid palate and finishes with enough spice and bitter elements to keep vibrant and focused, it is no where near as lavish as Beaucastel, but you will be rewarded with an elegance and finesse instead and it should go remarkably well with food. There is a lovely golden hue, a bright nose with floral notes and spice, hints of saline, peach pit, apricot, tangerine, pear and a lemony feel, it gathers density with air and the are notes of butter rum, fig and sublet Roussanne oily intensity. This years cuvee is made up of Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and a touch of Bourboulenc, and it comes from La Crau one of Chateauneuf’s great lieu-dit(s) that has the classic galet stones and farmed in old school bush vine fashion. The latest white from Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe is a sleek, stone and vivid offering that will certainly get better in the coming months in bottle and should have an early window of enjoyment, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($80 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

2012BeauxFreresZena2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, Zena Crown Vineyard, Eola/Amity AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
I had heard the rumor that Beaux Freres was so happy with certain 2012 purchased fruit that they’d do single vineyard wines from their partner’s grapes, and this Zena Crown is one of them, maybe the only to be offered, and it is magnificent, a ultra pure Pinot Noir that goes beyond beautiful! I have been working on 2010 Barolo notes and other fantastic Nebbiolo, and it would take something really special to get me away from them, and this Beaux Freres Zena Crown did that, this wine is extremely world class, graceful and wonderfully deep, in fact it is more evolved and focused that the Beaux Freres Vineyard estate wine at this point, it’s much more integrated, showing more elegance and the wood has melded in and is much more subtle, this sublime Pinot really makes an impression, it is terroir in the glass, but it also transcends it, this wine’s inner core of Pinot fruit is amazing, it could be a Grand Cru Burgundy, it could be a great Spatburgunder from the Ahr in Germany, it is not trying to be either, but it has so much character it is hard to imagine limited it in your mind. The 2012 Beaux Freres Zena Crown starts with blackberry, bramble, rose petal, violet notes, a deep garnet hue and light spice, mineral and smoke leading to a detailed and layered palate of black cherry, plum, kirsch, red currant and dusty/flinty notes with faint vanilla, cedar, briar, anise and incense/tea. The textural feel is heavenly and the tannins are ripe and silky, the acidity is juicy and more creamy adding the vibrancy and lift, but feeling smooth and juicy, this wine is flowing and seamless, impressive in everyday, Mike Etzel and his team have crafted a gorgeous Pinot Noir from near perfect Zena Crown grapes, which has a mix of modern Dijon and Pommard clones on Volcanic and Nekia soils, and allowed them to shine through and come to live in a glorious way, this is special stuff, there might be more available from other top sites as well, Grand Moraine, Hyland and Savoya are listed as other vineyard designates on their website, and if this Zena Crown is anything to go by, you’ll want to get them as well, I hope I get my own hands on them! 2012 is a vintage to buy in Oregon, it looks like the best since 1994, and better than 1998 or 2008, if you are a Pinot lover, don’t miss these wines!
($75 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2008NadaCasot2008 Giuseppe Nada, Barbaresco Riserva “Casot” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
This absolutely gorgeous, head turning Nebbiolo from Enrico Nada is succulent, detailed, silky and wonderfully sexy, one of the best Barbarescos from the vintage I have tasted to date and drinking fabulous already, this Nada 2008 Barbaresco Casot Riserva is the real deal. Nada’s Barbaresco plots are very near the famed Gaja Crus and while not as intense as those fabled “Sori” sites, this wine shows the terroir and quality with a true feline nature and delicacy that can only be delivered by a top Barbaresco. (Barolo is known as the King of Wines, while Barbaresco is the Queen, and Barbrasco is a much small area than Barolo, making the Queen wines that much more rare) As a huge fan of Nebbiolo, and of Asti, I adore Barbaresco, with La Spinetta, Giacosa and Gaja being wines that made a monumental impact on me, and this Nada has that same kind of glorious emotional affect, this is sublime wine with class, grace and stylish flare. The 2008 Nada Casot starts with light herbs, dried violets, rose water and basaltic dipped strawberries leading to a mineral laced palate with damson plum, kirsch, raspberry, minty/basil, black licorice, lavender tea, creamy cherry and fine woody cedar detail. The tannins hold firm, but are very supple in the mouth, there is a saline and dusty stones note along with the slightest hint of truffle, game and savory spice, making for positive background elements. Everything lifts and highlights the pretty core being of this fine Barbaresco and the lingering fruit, perfume and texture lay bare it’s magic. This is a medium weighted, none too dark, transparent Nebbiolo that will surely capture your attention if not your heart, it should age gracefully for another decade, even though it is quite alluring at present, best from 2016 to 2019. The Nada wines are well crafted and all worth a look at, the normal 2009 Barbaresco is a top value, the Barbera too, but this Casot Riserva is especially fantastic and fetching, tasted twice with very much the same thoughts.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2010BonipertiCarlin2010 Boniperti Vignaioli, CArLin, Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is superb Nebbiolo from Piedmonte’s northern reaches, I am so happy I was recommended this wine, it was a stunning choice, and I’m grateful for Stevie at Bay Grape in Oakland for intriguing me into this lovely ruby hued wine. This is a great value, I would say one of the finest under $25 examples of Nebbiolo I’ve had in recent memory and honestly this wine doesn’t get shadowed by Barolo or Barbaresco offerings at three times the price, this area of Piedmonte is on fire these days and the wines of the Novaresi area are really showing some class and are very compelling, especially this gorgeous Nebbiolo from Boniperti, imported by Oliver McCrum, a long time finder of Italian treasures off the beaten path. The 2010 vintage Boniperti Vignaioli CArLiN Nebbiolo starts with a rich nose of wild strawberry, roses and earthy spices and mineral leading to a pretty full palate of plum, strawberry, raspberry, cherry and mulberry fruits along with dried flowers, a hint of game, black tea like tannins, basaltic notes and tar plus a solid core of black licorice. As the wine opens and with food, multi layers emerge and silky refinement edges out the youthful fruit and a true Nebbiolo comes to live with lifting acidity, dusty red fruits, mineral/stony essences and a tangy minty note, along with lavender and cedar spice all bring a joyous union of secondary flavors. This wine is like drinking a Burgundy in many ways, it keeps your attention completely, you can’t wait for more, and it seduces with mysterious unfolding nuances with each sip. This Novaresi Nebbiolo is highly enjoyable, beautifully detailed and a wonderfully crafted wine, drink from 2014 to 2022.
($22 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2013FrisachVernatxa2013 Celler Frisach, Vernatxa, Garnacha Blanca, Terra Alta DO, Spain.
This is a totally new find for me, an all organic producer from the tiny Corbera d’ Ebre in Terra Alta, in the very southwest of Spain’s Catalunya region. Imported by Andrew Yandell of Trumpet Wines in San Francisco (a new and young importer of organic selections from Spain), Celler Frisach is a young winery, with 26 year old Francesc Ferre making these natural/organic wines from his little cellar, where his family has been growing grapes on ancient sand dunes for more than 200 years. This area sits at high elevation, it’s saving grace to add acidity from cool breezes and chilly nights, even though it is one of the western most areas of Catalunya it is not far from the Mediterranean and is influenced by the coastal in flow. This is a great site for Grenache Blanc, and Francesc has a gifted touch, all of his wines are lovely, but especially standing out was this Vernatxa bottling of Grenache Blanc from 24 years old bush vines grown on the petrified sand dunes on this mistral swept area. This 2013 tastes like a Chateauneuf du Pape white with deep flavors, richness, but with nice lively force from the balanced acidity, it shows loads of stone fruit, hints of tropical essence, white flowers, citrus and spice with apricot, honeycomb, chalky/stones, lemon/lime, white peach and a touch of oily/clarified butter. This is a classy effort, and while not much has so far reached the US market, Frisach is a winery that I hope makes it here, these are very attractive wines that offer plenty of character, charm and I was very impressed by the superb quality and compelling nature of this hand crafted of this beautiful young and vibrant wine.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013AlfaroCHMK2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Mary Katherine Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Mary Katherine Chardonnay is Richard Alfaro’s limited estate organic Chardonnay that comes from a special plot of organic vines planted to select clones, I believe to be Wente and a unique Kongsgaard clone, regardless this 2013 is a distinct and fascinating wine full of flavor, vigor, intensity and depth. The Alfaro estate is in Coralitos in the southern part of the cool Santa Cruz Mountains, it is not far from Aptos and sits in a mostly southerly facing area near the ocean, this gives tons of acidity and long hangtimes, making for very exciting Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir too. The grapes from Alfaro’s home estate and his leased site Trout Gulch have become very in demand with a long list of top winemakers interested in sourcing the fruit, look for Arnot-Roberts and Big Basin wines from these grapes and a few more I can’t mention yet, but it’s Richard’s wines that you should really take the time to find, these are glorious efforts, especially his Chardonnay, one of my top picks for personal use and a great value. The 2013 vintage looks set to be one of best yet from Alfaro, from the Gruner Veltliner to his Pinots, but again it’s his Chards that rock n roll, particularly and spectacularly this 2013 Mary Katherine and as always the Lindsay Paige Vineyard estate wines, plus the Trout Gulch Vineyard, these are three fantastic offerings. The MK starts with exotic honeysuckle, butter rum, pear tart, tropical essences and earthy sea notes leading to a dense and tension filling palate that shows mineral, wet stones, tangerine, quince, apple and tangy lemon curd along with salted caramel, bitter peach, floral herb/spice all lifted by zesty acidity, hints of brioche and wood and a touch of honey. This dry and driving Chardonnay is packed with layer upon layer, and it changes beautiful in the glass, this is majestical, stylish and gripping Chardonnay, complex, elegant and lingering in class and detail, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2013SavaryVV2013 Francine et Olivier Savary, Chablis, Selection Vieilles Vignes, White Burgundy, France.
The Savary Old Vine Chablis is a wonderful Chardonnay, it is known to bring joy and laughter and brighten even the darkest day, it is easy on the wallet and oh so rewarding, with the new release 2013 being a glorious wine as well. Since discovering this for myself with their 2007 vintage, the Savary Old Vines has always been a top pick in my book, there is superb quality, great price and lots to admire in complexity, terroir and energy in these wines, and for me, I like the Old Vines just as much as the higher priced Premier Cru if not more. I have tended to call the Savary Chablis the Baby Raveneau, since not only do these wines offer sublime pleasure, and look a bit like them with a little yellow wax top, but because Bernard Raveneau himself did lend a talented hand to the Savary’s and has consulted for them, along with the Collet brothers and Kermit Lynch their importer being influential, this is not to take anything away from the Savary’s (they have really come into their own as winegrowers) themselves and I admire and respect the hard work and their beautiful plots of vines very much, and I do myself buy more than a few bottles to consume of their handiwork. The 2013 is surprisingly full, vigorous and intense with a leesy smoky nose, lively acid rich palate and a striking steely core, if blind tasted I might go for a Grand Cru or Premier Cru at least, this is awesome stuff, and drinking remarkably poised even now with vivid layers, vitality and persistence. The nose is smoky, mineral laced and with a hint of salty goodness with white flowers, green apple and citrus leading to a bright and zesty palate of lemon/lime, apple and subtle peach with wet river stones, liquid steel, melon, flinty spice and a hint of soft cream, while always being razor sharp, focused and full of drive, lingering with some more citrus and a touch of pear and chalky aftertaste, brilliant in everyday, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011FerrandoErbaluce2011 Ferrando, La Torrazza, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Piedmonte, White, Italy.
This seriously delicious Italian white from northern Piedmonte in the greater Canavese area, a new hot spot for great wines, especially this tasty Erbaluce from Ferrando, one of the regions best and traditional producers. The 2011 Erbaluce di Caluso is gorgeous with aromas of fresh picked apples, gardenia, tropical essence and citrus leading to a refined and silky palate of melon, passion fruit, lemon/lime, kiwi and verbena with bright minerals, wild herb, ginger/anise, vibrant acidity and lengthy elegance with lingering saline, stoniness and peachy notes. This is very classy and vividly flavored wine, stunningly impressive, and it really will turn some heads. While unique and native to upper Piedmonte, the Erbaluce grape shares some relations to Trebbiano and is also known as Greco Novarese and Vernazza di Gattinara in neighboring towns, but this version is by far the best I’ve tasted from this distinct varietal, drink now!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013CountyLineZin2013 County Line, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley.
County Line, the second label of Radio-Coteau and winemaker Eric Sussman, is offering out some great wines for the 2013 vintage, especially the County Line Pinot Noir and this very attractive Zinfandel. The latest to the County Line set, the Russian River Zin comes from a vineyard farmed organic in the western regions of the AVA, a cooler site, but with old vines that give character, this plot is on a ridge and has good sun exposure to ensure ripeness, but cool nights to lift acidity and keep the alcohol down, this wine comes in around 14% and is made in neutral wood with natural winemaking techniques as is per normal for Sussman. The 2013 vintage is bursting with juicy fruit, medium weight body and lovely mouth feel, I was very impressed, it reminded me of old school Zinfandel from the eighties and early nineties, this is a great and honest Zin that can be enjoyed even by Pinot Noir lovers. The starting gun on this nicely crafted ruby hued Zin, brings light floral and spicy notes with black raspberry, plum and kirsch, along with black currant, briar, shaved cinnamon stick, sage and licorice/herb with a hint of tangy loganberry and cedar. This is young fresh Zinfandel that pleases throughout, entertains without being a showy wine, I will be grabbing a few bottles of this for myself, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012ForadoriFontanasanta2012 Elisabetta Foradori, Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Trentino, Italy.
This wine is one of the top ten whites of the year, in a great year for white wine, and another stunning wine for Elisabetta Foradori’s collection of glorious offerings, this 2012 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco is a masterpiece. The Fontanasanta is made from the native and rare Manzoni grape, fermented and aged by Foradori in amphora and raised on it’s skins, this ancient technique is making a come back around the world, but nowhere have the results been as good, as they are in northern Italy, especially the beautifully detailed wines of Elisabetta Foradori, who employs natural winemaking and organic farming at her winery high in the Italian Dolomites near Trentino not from from Alto Adige. The skin contact gives a bit of yellowy color, but not as much as you’d find in other varietals like Pinot Grigio which really turn orange, but the Fontanasanta gains tannin and savory elements that bring superb structure and complexity to this gorgeous white wine, this wine certainly rivals white Burgundy for elegance, layers and finish, but it is much more unique to it’s varietal and terroir, as well as the winemaking style itself, it is truly a marvel to cherish, in the glass it gives unending pleasure with bright flavors, subtle density and mineral tones. The 2012 is a bit lighter and delicate than the 2010 or 2011 versions, but that might even make it that much better, starting with a play of aromas, white flavors, anise, chalky stones, saline and tropical essences lift dreamy from the glass, leading to a medium weight palate of lemon/lime, orange, green apple, white peach, flinty/rocks, apricot pit, melon and cured meats along with rose petal, earth and wild fennel. This wine is graceful, joyous and exotic, it is a masterful piece of craftsmanship and passion, I can’t recommend this beauty strongly enough, you should experience this rare wine, fantastic in everyday, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2013EvaFrickeKiedrich2013 Weingut Eva Fricke, Riesling Trocken, Kiedrich, Rheingau Germany.
Eva Fricke, former vineyard manager and winemaker at Leitz, has turned out some poised dry Rieslings for the 2013 vintage, these are austere and salty wines that show good vivid flavors, tangy fruit and have superb extract and structure. Her efforts under her own Eva Fricke label are really coming into their own, and these 2013 wines clearly show her talents and unique characteristics of her style, and that of the terroir, she is passionate about soils and she focuses on the dry wines, this is an area where she excels especially in her region. She has found distinct sites in the Rheingau that give her wines their special profiles, her crisp and mineral laced wines seem perfectly chiseled from the soils and showing glorious transparency and brilliance, in particular I admire the latest addition to her lineup, the Kiedicher Trocken, most of Fricke’s wine are from the Lorch area of the middle Rhein, area of the Rheingau not too far from Rudesheim, the soils here are mixed quartzite, slates and other ancient sub soils, her vines are mostly older, 30-45 years average with some much older still, and give lots of quality to her offerings. The 2013 Eva Fricke Kiedrich starts with citrus, white flower and tropical notes with a sea salt, brine and spicy mineral, leading to a vigorous palate of dusty dry flavors, bright peach, grapefruit, lime and mango lead the way, along with tangerine, apple skin, chalk and flinty spice, but the dry/crispness is super refreshing, sizzling and lip-smacking, this is a food wine, and there is serious extract here, intensity drives this Riesling throughout and the stony/mineral elements always stay at the forefront of your attention. This wine needs a bit more bottle age to develop, but it is a stunning example of dry Riesling and is well worth the search to find it, drink from 2016 to 2021.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2013CantineFedericiane2013 Cantine Federiciane, Gragnano, Penisola Sorrentina DOC, Secco, Sparkling Red Wine, Italy.
Slightly fizzy chilled red wine, it is the new geeky cool and you should not overlook them, there has been a revolution in these wines recently, especially the Lambrusco wines, but there are many regions in Italy that make this style fizz and there are exciting and great. The generational change in winemaking across Italy is bringing back ancient wine techniques and styles with a new dedication to quality, tradition and terroir, these are not your grandpa’s Lambruscos or rough stuff, there are some amazing wines to explore, and I recently found a southern Italian wine worth checking out, it is a Lambrusco dry style red from the Campania region near Sorrento in Monteleone, this deeply colored fizzy red is made from Aglianico, Piedirosso and a rare local grape, Sciascinoso, this full flavored wine bursts from the glass with a dark ruby hue, a bouquet of floral notes and mineral, along with wild herbs, spice and anise, leading to an energy filled palate of dusty raspberry, plum, cherry and currants with a hint of tar, lavender, iron and black figs. The soft mousse and the chill really lift the flavors, there is nice acidity and the tannins are firm, but supple, this is a well judged dry sparkler and crazy good food wine. I was very impressed, I might pick up a case or two to share with friends and or enjoy with spicy pasta dishes, pizzas with Calabrian peppers, or roasted red peppers, or almost anything, it also with make for festive holiday cuisine pairings, Cantine Federiciane also makes a sweeter version, but I really liked this Gragnono and highly recommend you search it out, imported by Villa Italia, drink now and often.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2012Foti2012 Salvo Foti-I Vigneri 1435, Vino Rosso, Etna, Sicily.
Salvo Foti is the Volcano Man, he makes and consults for some of if not all the greats of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active Volcano and home to very old Nerello Mascalese vines that produce some of Sicily’s most prized wines. The Etna Rosso wines are often called the Burgundies of Italy, and tasting them, you can see why, these are delicate, spicy and emotional (evoking), sexy, compelling reds that speak to the heart and are passion filled, not heavy or fruity, but yes, somewhat like earthy Pinot, I am reminded of Nuits-St.-George, though the Etna wines when done well, like the Foti wines are, can be exotic and spellbinding with red spices and flinty minerals adding a level of complexity that is hard to beat. Foti is part of an association he created called I Vigneri 1435 (named after the pioneers of winemaking on Etna) that farms organically if not completely biodynamic, makes wines very naturally and uses only the native varietals, they are the volcano purists and everything is done my hand and hard work. This non classified Etna Rosso is a field blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese along with a little bit of Nerello Cappuccio, and maybe some other old time local grapes, who knows, but it is of course the Nerello Mascalese, from intense volcanic soils, that is the dominate force, and this 2012 Foti sings a siren song, it is beautiful and sublimely crafted, Foti uses cement vats, low sulphur and the wine is unfiltered, there is a gorgeous texture, lovely lift and vigor and a super long finish. The lead here is delicacy and grace, highlighted with lush fruit, plum, black cherry, strawberry and red peach along with slate/stones, truffle, basil/mint spices, savory elements, dried flowers and a hint of saddle leather. Foti’s touch is a gift, he captures the soul of the vines, the terroir and allows the grapes to paint a spectacular image, the 2012 Rosso is ruby red, With smooth tannins, bright acidity, medium weight, deep in flavor and shows lots of class and vibrancy. This is fantastic stuff and a great value in terms of quality to price, drink over the next 5 to 7 years, if you’ve never had Salvo Foti’s wines, you must, and if you’ve not ventured a taste of Sicily’s Etna, you really need to do so, and soon.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

GrantAmontilladoBodegas Grant, La Garrocha, Amontillado, Medium Dry, Sherry, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Jerez-Xeres-Sherry, Spain.
The Bodegas Grant has been making fine Sherries since 1841 and their La Garrocha label is a tribute to the local Andalusian dance on horseback, current proprietor Edmundo Grand continues his family’s long traditions and the Bodega crafts some of the best value in small batch Sherry. I love the whole line from crisp Fino to rich, oil Oloroso, but I especially like this fabulous La Garrocha Amontillado, it is a steal at about $15 or so on the shelf. The Grant Amontillado La Garrocha starts with a dark amber hue, a heady bouquet of the ocean, almonds and warm honey with a hint of marmalade and flowers leading to a dry, but rich palate of roosted pecans, walnut, orange rind, hazelnut, stone fruit,sea salt, brine and peach tart. This is decedent Sherry that goes with many moods and foods, I had it with a spicy sardines on flat bread, but it would pair with cheeses too, as well as be a great pre or post dinner sipper. The medium dry style Amontillado is very flexible, feeling nicely balanced with a subtle play of savory, bitter and richness, but with a long finish that leaves a lingering oily/nutty/honeycomb aftertaste and has you dreaming of the south of Spain, this a very pleasing and reliable Sherry, drink now and often.
($16 Est. 375ml.) 92 Points, grapelive

2010RelicCS2010 Relic, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
The duo of Mike Hirby and Schatzi Throckmorton make and run Relic, a small lot winery in Napa Valley, these two worked at the famed Behrens & Hitchcock and craft some great wines, including some of the best Petite Sirah and Syrah wines in the Valley. Mike also makes Realm and has consulted at D.R. Stephens, Husic and Sarocka, while Schatzi continues to run and manage Behrens & Hitchcock, these are hardworking and busy people, who deserve some light shinning on them, especially for their work at Relic. They have done a bit of Chardonnay and have a new Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir coming, so it’s exciting times for this small label and winery, but you should not miss their 2010 Cabernet, this is impressive stuff. The 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which is sourced from top tiny parcels is a big, dense and deeply colored wine, but that has structure and remarkably refined tannins and lifting cut, this is not shy at about 15%, though you’d not find any overripe or heat in this well balance Cab, it is shockingly easy to love and evolves nicely in the glass, pure and wonderfully layered from start to finish. The Relic Cabernet starts with plenty of dark fruit, wild flowers and hints of sweet oak and smoky embers leading to a mouth coating full palate of blackberry, currant, plum and blueberry fruit along with a mineral streak, mocha, creme de cassis, licorice, cedar and vanilla all playing supporting roles plus as it gets air some tobacco/cigar wrap, sage and acacia come through. This excellent Napa red is really starting to strut it’s stuff, but it should be at it’s best between 2016 and 2024.
($65 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2009ChapellePN2009 Paul Chapelle, Santenay “Gravieres” Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The Paul Chapelle wines have to be some of the most underrated wines in all of Burgundy, here a guy who worked with or consulted for De Montille, Jobard and Ramonet, plus Lafarge and Simon Bize, and yet almost no one knows about him or his wonderful wines! I can tell you, I’ve been a fan for years, not even knowing his history, I must thank Beaune Imports from showing me these wines many years back, I have enjoyed many a Paul Chapelle Cote de Beaune wine at home, his Puligny and Meursault wines especially, but the is this glorious and pretty little Santenay Premier Cru Gravieres too, it s a lovely Pinot Noir with class, grace and vigor that screams “Here I am and you can afford me, take me home!” and you know what? I did, and I hope to do so again often! I can honestly say, Paul Chapelle makes better whites, but you should not pass up his Santenay, there are not much better Pinot Noirs out there at this price. These wines are old school, pure and traditional, you can see from the guys Paul worked for or with to understand what he believes and this 2009 Santenay Premier Cru Gravieres showcases this brilliantly with about 13% alcohol and loads of chalky mineral/stony elements this is not a fat/fleshy wine, but a wine with savvy, finesse and still generous with round, pleasing texture and persistency with black cherry, plum and cranberry fruits, briar, spice, dusty tannins (very Volnay like) and mild cedar, fig paste, and loamy earth. With air things fill out as you’d expect from a ripe vintage, but focus and vibrancy hold true, this is sexy-classy in the same glass. Drink now, or hold for a few years, best from 2015 to 2020. Paul Chapelle & ses Filles from Le Poil, Montagny-les-Beaune, makes an honest Burgundy, these are wine lovers wines not fashion labels, but stylish and great values, be sure to check them out soon.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011RodriguezEidos2011 Luis Rodriguez Vazquez, Eidos Ermos Tinto, Ribeiro DO, Spain.
The Luis Rodriguez label is something of a celebrity wine in the Ribeiro, these wines are always sought after and they garner high praise from around the world, especially from wine professionals and critics, these are special and unique wines, I have loved many a release from Rodriguez’s estate with the white and the A Torna Dos Pasas red really making a huge impression in the past. The Eidos Ermos is new to me and comes with a whole new mix of varietals I’ve never heard of before, making for an exciting new experience and a truly magical wine. This cuvee is a field blend of Brancellao, Caiño, Ferrol and Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache Noir I believe) all of which are fermented naturally together from vines that are on an ancient estate site that is farmed organic. The Luis Rodriguez wines always capture the essence of the place, they are energy filled and deep in flavors, the Eidos Ermos 2011 with Brancellao a grape that is thought to be more native to Portugal and Caiño Tinto which seems to be related to Albarino plus Ferrol a very rare varietal that seems to be very high in Anti-Oxidants all add up to an interesting mix along with the Garnacha from the cool climate of the Ribeiro. The wine itself is darkly hued, medium weighted and silky in texture with dark fruits, spice and mineral all playing out in a gorgeous seamless fashion, this is fantastic wine and a great value for something so wildly unique. The Eidos Ermos Tinto starts with black cherry, blackberry, plum and blueberry fruits, steely and stony mineral notes, wild herbs, briar and pepper spice, mint, licorice and cedar with polished tannins, lively acidity and sublime focus. This is crazy delicious wine from Spain’s glorious north west in the greater Galicia region, this is an area of fantastic potential and remarkable discoveries, be sure to keep an eye out for the Luis Rodriguez wines, this will blow your mind, drink from 2014 to 2021.
($26 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2011CuilleronStJoe2011 Yves Cuilleron, Saint-Joseph, L’ Amarybelle, Vieilles Vignes, Rhone, France.
I tasted the 2011 L’ Amarybelle twice now, and both times was left very much impressed, this Saint-Joseph old vine Syrah is just beautiful in everyday, very much like a Cote-Rotie in style with elegance, delicacy and clear with a long persistent finish. While drinking very generous and graceful now, this lovely wine should fill out and gain complexity with some bottle age, Cuilleron is a master at making superb early enjoyment in his offerings, his wines show a pure focus of flavors and refinement right at release, even though they can age nicely for many years. His regular varietal bottling are great value wines as well, so don’t miss they, his latest Roussanne and Viognier are both wonderful especially, though if you want some a bit more serious then wines like his Condrieu and this Saint-Joseph L’ Amarybelle really do the trick. The 2011 L’ Amarybelle starts with violets, camphor, graphite and minerally dark fruits with hints of truffle and spice leading to a medium weight palate of boysenberry, cassis, blackberry, plum, anise and pea gravel along with peppercorns, black olives, blueberry and mountain herbs. The finish is long and graceful, with pretty elements lingering on the youthful and slightly chalky aftertaste. Drink this fine terroir driven effort over the next 5 to 7 years, best between 2015 and 2022, Cuilleron makes great go to Rhones, I’ve been a big fan for many years and continue to be greatly impressed by his stylish wines, be sure to check these latest releases, they are some of his best yet.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2007Rovelloto2007 Rovellotti, Ghemme “Chioso dei Pomi” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The northern Piedmonte region is really becoming the hot spot for great Nebbiolo wines, especially the areas of the Colli Novaresi, these are really wonderfully expressive wines with depth and complexity. The Ghemme wines had only been mild curiosities in the past, but now these wines are as serious as many Barolo or Barbaresco, and it certain cases, like this Rovellotti can reach amazing levels of quality, this 2007 is simply as good as Nebbiolo can get and rivals it’s much more famous cousins from Alba and Asti. The DOCG in Ghemme means the wine must age 20 months in wood and 9 months in bottle prior to release, and they also allow the blending in of Vespolina known locally as either Uva Rara or Bonarda di Gattinara (though not related to two other grapes named Bonarda in Italy or the Bonarda in Argentina!) this adds unique character to the wines here, it gives the Nebbiolo, known native here as Spanna, some lift and exotic notes. The Rovellotti Gheme Chioso die Pomi had an extra long maceration to extract structure, pigment and flavor, helping endure it’s long 20 months in wood, but it still has delicate color, showing a pale orange rim around a light ruby hue and this wine is impeccably crafted with wonderfully pure layers, classic Nebbiolo power and elegance, heightened tones and a stylish long finish. The wine starts with bright red fruits, wilted roses, Asian spices and glorious mineral elements leading to a robust and taught palate with firm, but refined tannins that with air feel ripe and silky with just a faint dustiness, there is plenty of cherry, damson plum, raspberry and strawberry fruit to please, plus added interest coming from hints of truffle, dried fig, cedar, lavender, tar, briar, salted black licorice and a whiff of earth, game and a lingering tangy currant aftertaste. This is dynamic and terrific Nebbiolo from Rovelletti, I thought the 2006 was a stunner, and this vintage might even surpass that glorious effort, this is truly a spectacular wine, drink from 2016 to 2024 for the best rewards, but I have no problem just drinking it now myself, and certainly would be a hard not to open a few bottle sooner vs later!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012BFV2012 Beaux Freres, Pinot Noir, The Beaux Freres Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Still young and showing sweet/smoky wood upfront the new Beaux Freres is still a classic and will be a total rockstar wine, given the vintage and the history here there is no doubt in my mind this beautiful blockbuster Pinot will end up one of the best ever from this Ribbon Ridge estate. The 2012 Beaux Freres shows richness, texture, balance and lavish hedonistic pleasures with blackberry, plum, mocha, dark cherry and tangy currants in the mouth with stylish polish, silky tannins and enough lift from juicy acidity to remain focused and lively. There’s hints of cinnamon, vanilla, cedar and finny minerals as well as some dried roses, violets and touch of tea and red spice. The fruit and new wood are very forward at this stage and it might close down a little in the short term, but this is a magnificent wine of density and grace that will just get better and better in bottle if you have the time and patience, this Pinot should be your cellar, don’t miss it, especially if you are an Oregon fan, or a Pinot enthusiast, this is the real deal. Mike Etzel and team deserve all their successes and rewards for their hard work, and this is just one of many glories from this great American winery, stunning, drink from 2018 to 2024.
($80 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2012LaStoppa2012 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso, Emilia IGT, Barbera/Bonarda, Italy.
Elena Pantaleoni is one of the revolutionary women winemakers of her generation, she is also one of the world’s most respected natural vignerons, she has taught and inspired many a rising star, including most famously Sicily’s starlet Arianna Ochipinti was mentored here. Elena’s own wines are earthy and speaks from the heart of this region of Italy, these intriguing wines capture the soul of Emilia-Romagna, she has expert help in the cellar with Giulio Armani at the helm of this old winery. This small estate in the northwest side of Emilia-Romagna is known for their Barbera, but also have a local Bonarda (Not related to Bonarda found in Argentina, and as many as two other varietals called Bonarda in Italy itself.) and La Stoppa has some white grapes too with Malvasia being the pride of the place, again it is a unique clone call Malavasia Candia. Of the latest wines from La Stoppa, I was completely blown away with the blended rosso Tebbiolo, which is a cuvee of Barbera and Bonarda, this natural beauty has wonderful deep color, flavors and complexity. This wine is made from organic vines grown on clay and mixed soils, fermented in a combination of steel, cement and wood vats, exceptionally long skin contact is employed here as well, using only native yeasts and no chemical additions, no sulphur, except a low amount at bottling, aging takes place in large used casks. These techniques have been the standard Natural Wine guidelines and La Stoppa has been a model case for these wines for many years now. The La Stoppa Tebbiolo Rosso 2012 starts with plenty of earthy tones, porcini notes, iron/meat, bright red fruits and floral tones making for an alluring mix to excite the senses leading to a fruit driven palate with plum, wild berry, strawberry and black cherry leading the way on the medium palate along with hints of cranberry, chalky tannins, juicy acidity and a array of herbs and spices plus a mineral/stony streak. The wine feels energetic and lively in the mouth, it expanses and widens with air, but never gets heavy, it would be best with hearty cuisine and should drink nicely for another 2 to 3 years easy. Whiffs and teases of licorice, minty notes, cedar, briar and tangy currant linger on the surprisingly long finish, making for a wine that is hard to put down or forget in the glass, this release is far less earthy/funky than past wines in my experience, highlighting the vintage and balance, this is really fun and lovely wine from La Stoppa, imported by Dressner, hard to find, but well worth the search, especially for this Tebbiolo 2012!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2005Levet2005 Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie, Les Journaries, Rhone Red, France.
This 2005 is starting to open up and shows a well of personality, it feels still a bit rustic, but that is it’s most treasured charm in many ways, it has a more Cornas or natural air about it, it is not overly polished or shiny. People used to Guigal with find Levet with a few rough edges, but people that adore Allemand will be very intrigued with this medium weighted and hued Syrah, it shows a lot of old school and is very textural with spice, mineral, earth and not overly fruity. The Levet Les Journaries Cote-Rotie starts with a nice ruby color, fresh and dried flowers, violets, wilted rose petal, light meat/iron notes, new leather, red currant, plum, leading to a lively, especially for 2005, palate of boysenberry, cherry, porcini, loam, wild herbs, pepper and melted licorice. You’d think this was full on steamy at first, but with air things really change and a gorgeous delicacy comes through, the wine smooths out completely and the finish is long and dare I say Burgundy like? Cliche at best, lazy at worst, but you get the idea, the Levet gets sexier and more interesting every moment in the glass, this is classic northern Rhone Syrah with all it’s terroir, style and complexities, along with it’s natural gifts and gritty/earthy side as well, this wine is transparent and beautiful in it’s most naked/exposed form, it is what it is and happy to show you it all, not perfection, but seductive and charming in it’s own confident way. This is a wine geeks wine, no question, but that said, it is totally pleasing and entertaining, drink from 2015 to 2018, though it is really great now now, it put a damn big smile on my face, even without decanting, this is impressive stuff. It’s admirable too that importer Rosenthal keeps these a few years before selling them, this wine is current, great for restaurants and wine enthusiasts alike, clever thinking for sure.
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012VVRebusRuche2012 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra, Rebus, Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
Here’s another wildly cool wine to search for, imported by Bon Vivant Imports, the Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Ruche from Piedmonte is bright, intensely floral and playfully charming. Ruche is a rare varietal, native to Piedmonte and almost exclusively found in Castagnole Monferrato, it was almost extinct at one point, and still there is only a handful or maybe a dozen producers available, I’ve tried most all the wineries that export to the States, and while I have a few favorites, this Vinchio-Vaglio Serra version might be the best for the money in the 2012 vintage. Last year Twitter lit up with a Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato trend, even Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon was singing the Ruche praise, it was amazing an obscure little grape could explode like that, but it shows the love of Italian reds is still very high and the thirst for new things, but it made Ruche harder to find on the shelf! The 2012 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Rebus starts with the varietal pureness that Ruche is famous for, a burst of rose oil, rose petals, sweet herbs, wild strawberries, white anise and a lovely ruby hue, the Vinchio-Vaglio Serra is not all perfume though, it deepens on the palate with hints of earth, game and the core flavors expand into cherry, raspberry and are lifted by mild acidity and a refined almost creamy texture along with a cut of minty/basil spice, mineral notes and touch of liqueur. This is a medium bodied red that is well put together with a velvet like finish and lingers with a mix of flowers, spice and fruit, it should be interesting to follow over the next few years, drink from 2014 to 2018, this is a very nice version of this unique grape, it should pair well with lamb kabob, roast poultry, think Thanksgiving meal and I like it with some Indian fare too.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012RadioCoteauSY2012 Radio-Coteau, Syrah, Las Colinas, Sonoma Coast.
The new 2012 Las Colinas Syrah from Radio-Coteau is a gorgeous, seductive and well made wine that makes you wonder why anyone would buy a mediocre $100 Cabernet when you could drink this at almost half the price, well, in a way I’m fine with that, it means there are beautiful Syrah wines out there that are reasonably priced and not too hard to find. Syrah is always considered the next big thing in the wine world, but it never really is, even though the wines are stunning and easy on the wallet, Syrah is grown around the world and made into great wine, from France, of course, to Italy, Spain in Europe to Argentina, Chile and Brazil in South America, there’s super Syrah made in New Zealand and a huge selection from Australia, along with a host of fantastic wines crafted here in California, and Eric Sussman of Radio-Coteau makes one of the finest examples, from the cool Sonoma Coast. Sussman is a natural wine, low alcohol and an artisan producer, he uses native yeast fermentations and some stem/whole cluster with mostly neutral oak, much like the traditionalists of Cornas in the northern Rhone of Syrah’s historical home. The 2012 is an energy filled, dark and wonderfully textured wine, this is one of the best yet from Sussman, it comes off about 5 single cur sites with a mix of soils and clones, including Alban and Durell, it is an unfiltered beauty that should just get better over the next 2 to 5 years in bottle. The Radio-Coteau Las Colinas Syrah starts with violets, camphor, mineral and dusty/salted stones with a deep blueish black hue and a burst of mixed berries, leading to a sweet and savory palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum, cherry and cassis/currant fruits with cracked pepper, mint, sage, bacon, iron and chalk with hints of cedar and licorice along with unsweetened coco and olive. This is really good juice, a very savvy wine and I highly you recommend you find some, and also check out Sussman’s Pinot, especially his glorious 2012’s.
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2013SaintCosmeCDR2013 Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone, Red, France.
Every year, almost without fail I try Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone, and every time I’m just as excited and impressed by this wine. Louis Barruol and his team at Chateau de Saint Cosme deserve all the acclaim and credit they get, for vintage after vintage they turn out some of the best wine for the money any where, especially this one. The basic Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge is 100% Syrah in most every vintage I remember and it is always a lovely wine, and the latest release from 2013 is no exception with great vitality, charm and style showing dark fruit, spice and savory notes. The Saint Cosme 2013 Cotes-du-Rhone starts with violets, tar, meat and damson plum, black olive, along with a medium/full palate of boysenberry, black cherry, blueberry and currant fruits plus peppercorns, chalky/dusty stones, licorice, lavender, bacon and kirsch/liqueur. The alcohol is about 14.5% and the texture is rich, but there is a juicy freshness and brightness that is pleasing and adds to the balanced feel, this wine is dark hued goodness and I highly recommend securing a bunch this fall. This is a top value in my book and it should drink well for the next 3 to 5 years, but no need to wait, I can tell you, I’m a huge fan and I’ll be scoring more than a few bottles myself.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2011VolvoretaNoSulphur2011 Vino Volvoreta, Probus, No Sulphur, Vin Natural, Toro DO, Spain.
Maria Alfonso Hernandez, one of Spain’s youngest female winemakers, is another rising star in the organic/natural wine scene and her wines from Toro are beautiful and intriguing, made from old vine Tinta de Toro, which is Tempranillo. She makes three wines for export, all elegant and beautifully crafted, but it is the Amphora (terracotta/clay vats) raised, no sulphur Vin Natural that stands out for it’s sheer transparency, stunning intensity and seductive qualities, it is delicate and one of the prettiest Tempranillo wines I’ve ever had, with Burgundy like finesse and has lots of unique personality. The 2011 Vino Volvoreta Propus No Sulphur cuvee is as mentioned exotic with intense floral tones, a deep nose of mixed flowers, lilac, violet and rose petal (fresh and dried) included with loads of plum, cherry and black raspberry fruit along with dusty stones, mineral, red spices, anise, lavender oil, red peach and tangy currant. This is a clean wine, grown on her bio-diverse, 100% organic, high elevation estate with rocky soils in the hills of the Toro region in upper middle Spain, shows only a faint and attractive loamy/truffle note in the background, it’s main core is pure fruit with a lift of savory elements in a medium weight, with a deft lightness and low alcohol, Alfonso’s talent and passion are on full display here, this is glorious and thought provoking wine of sublime charm, drink from 2014 to 2018. Be sure to check out her normal cuvees too, low oak with only a touch of sulphur they are almost equally delicious and are exceptional values in hand crafted wines.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012BDVClaret2012 Bonny Doon, A Proper Claret, Proprietary Red, California.
Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard is one of California’s most innovative and eccentric wineries, making wines that are both gloriously serious and somewhat masterfully humorous, and his foray into a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine is just that. Randall makes the Iconic Cigare Volant, his irrelevant take on Chateauneuf du Pape and is known for his mainly Rhone style wines and focus, even though he loves many wines and is intrigued by numerous grapes. The idea of blending Syrah, Petite Sirah and even Tannat with the classic Bordeaux varietals will make the Downton Abbey watching puritans, well, frown of course, but the dirty little secret is that years gone by, when a Bordeaux vintage wasn’t up to standard, there would be a mid night truck from Hermitage filled with Syrah, a truck loaded with Tannat from Madiran or the like to help make the Chateaux wines much more drinkable, then they’d be shipped off to England for the nobles to enjoy. In that witty context, the new A Proper Claret from Bonny Doon is lots of fun, playful, but it is also a terrific wine with style, personality and a certain rogue handsomeness. The 2012 Bonny Doon, A Proper Claret (Claret is the very English name for a red Bordeaux) is a cue made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a huge dark dose of Petit Vedot both classic Bordeaux grapes, Syrah, that Rhone beauty, along with Tannat a very tannic, black grape found in some west France, but now grown with success in Paso Robles and Monterey County, and Petite Sirah who’s real name is Durif and is famously added to many of your favorite wines secretly or not so secretly. This combination of varietals works fantastically well together and makes for a rich and gorgeous extremely dark wine with juicy forward fruit and nice graceful complexity, this is a compelling deep purple/black wine, it is very generous, perfect for a cold night reading Milton by the fire in the library, and for under $20 it really offers tremendous value, poking many a Bordeaux and Napa wines in the eye with causing riots or chaos, well not too much anyway, this is really a well crafted red that deserves your attention, even if your a hardened wine snob, it is good to laugh at yourself once in a while, life’s short, have some fun. The Proper Claret shows wild blackberry, creme de cassis, plum and blueberry compote, hints of cedar, pepper, graphite, sweet and minty herbs, Hershey bar and liqueur notes with a touch of oak and cinnamon stick. There is some vigor and energy, plus ripe, but firm tannins that give structure and poise, no telling how long lived this might be, but for kicks it might wise or unwise to age a few bottles and see what comes, drink from 2014 to 2019, or? Bravo Randall Grahm, Mr Flying Saucer for keeping it real and keeping us guessing.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2012BCSRH2012 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Steve Clifton and Greg Brewer are two of the good guys in the wine biz, likable, charming and two of California’s great talents, their Brewer-Clifton wines have been wowing us since the late nineties, and now they’ve even raised the bar with their 2012 releases, especially the multi-vineyard cuvee, the Sta. Rita Hills bottling of Pinot Noir. This new edition is simply gorgeous, and amazingly pure, there are no flashy adornments, nor is there any weakness to be found, this wine just sings beautifully with lovely fruit, floral tones and seamless texture, this energy filled and remarkably balanced young Pinot shows the meticulous precision of Greg Brewer’s talents in the cellar, he ferments everything in stainless steel and uses no new oak, and highlights the total commitment to farming the guys are doing, every grape they use now are from vines they farm themselves, this took a big investment and was a risk, as the grapes they were sourcing were from some of the best vineyards in the region and well known, but everything is paying off, and the rewards are really evident in this wine. The vivid and fresh 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot begins with it’s garnet/ruby hue, stunning and bright in the glass, a deep bouquet leading with soft violets, mixed roses and brambly red fruits, sweet herbs with hints of mineral opening to a medium bodied full flavored palate of refined and poised raspberry, plum, currant and dark cherry fruits, super clear, transparent and being lifted by focused acidity, creamy/silky textures and array of subtle complexities including cedar, anise, wild strawberry, pomegranate, stony elements, briar spice and rose oil. This wine is strengthened by the whole, the sum of it’s parts all coming together to be a complete and pleasing wine, Greg and Steve can be proud of their latest wines, and this one in particular is a fantastic Pinot, a real statement of intent, drink now through 2019.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011RidgeMonteBello2011 Ridge, Monte Bello, Proprietary Red, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Ridge Monte Bello is one of the great wines of the world, often besting the First Growths in my book, and often the wine to look for in an off year, proving that point especially well is the 2011 vintage, as Ridge has turned out an amazing wine. I taste lots of wine, I’ve had hundreds of 2011 Cabernet blends, and while there have been many outstanding wines and some great surprises, there has been some real troubled wines and it has to be said it was not a great year, some like to spin it and say it was a year for refined palates and such, I will be honest, it wasn’t all that pleasing to be kind. Then along came the 2011 Ridge Monte Bello, if you wanted to get a fabulous and complex world beating wine from this vintage, then this might be your top option in Cabernet Sauvignon, again in my opinion, and I have some experience with Monte Bello, this is amazing wine. The latest Monte Bello shows a beautiful dark garnet/purple hue with an almost blue/black core with floral tones lifting from the glass along with mineral/graphite, hints of camphor, blueberry and baking spices leading to a glorious palate arrayed with blackberry, mulberry, plum, deep black currant/cassis plus tobacco, cinnamon, pencil lead, cedar, black licorice, smoke, sage/briar and vanilla. This 12.8% medium to full weighted wine is utterly spellbinding, sublime and graceful, bravo to the whole Ridge team, this is a majestic Monte Bello that shines brightly, can’t wait to revisit this fantastic wine again in 5 to 10 years. Drink this beauty anytime you wish, but those that have patience will certainly be rewarded, it should drink well if not perfectly brilliant from 2016 to 2025. This 2011 Ridge Monte Bello, about 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with small parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, will be a savvy choice and rivals the best from Bordeaux, it tastes like a blend of La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau Margaux with a California heart and soul, both thumbs up, I might even re-rate higher as I only was able to taste from a 375ml-Half Bottle, absolutely super!
($145-169 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

2011PuzeletBohommeCot2011 Puzelet-Bonhomme, Cot “KO” In Cot We Trust, Malbec, Loire Valley, Vin de France.
Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelet, along with Pierre Bohomme are Loire Valley Natural Wine legends, their unique and creative wines are stunning examples of how far this movement has come and show that these wines are not a passing fad, but are serious and beautiful wines, especially wines like this gorgeous 100% Malbec, known as Cot in the Loire Valley. This intriguing and interesting wine feels more like Burgundy than Cahors, and nothing like Bordeaux, it is a totally terroir distinct expression of this grape from vines that have been in the Loire region for three generations of Puzelet’s with Pierre having influence over this project. The KO Cot, In Cot We Trust is a delicate and medium weight red with floral notes and succulent blueberry, plum, mulberry and strawberry fruits along with mineral tones, light earthy/loamy notes, hints of pepper, lavender and crushed rose petal, it gains in texture in the glass and a lift of acidity brings the flavors to life with trust a hint of cedar and whiff of cured meat. This is wonderful stuff from Puzelet-Bohomme, and if you enjoy Vin Naturel, you should search high and low for this wine and others from either Puzelet Clos du Boeuf or Pierre Bohomme, both based in Les Montils in Cheverny, they also have Pinot Noir, Gamay and other fun reds to marvel at. This wine comes in about 12%, no filtering, no new wood and very low sulphur, but is stable, clear and lingering, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2010AlfredoMaestroTerrunos2010 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Terrunos de Castilla, Seleccion, Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Tempranillo, Spain.
Alfredo Maestro’s Terrunos is a barrel selection of very old vine Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and it is a lovely deep wine of purity and terroir, he employs natural winemaking and shuns new French or American oak, preferring neutral cask and letting the wine express itself, and this wine does beautifully. Maestro is an artisan and his wines show his passion and each of his many creations are wonderful examples of place and expressions of his commitment to each vineyard. These wines are unique and full of character and soul, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, being a playful person by nature, he lets the wines speak for themselves, if you haven’t yet tried these wines, they must now be a priority, especially this Terrunos old vine Tempranillo. The 2010 vintage Terrunos de Castilla Seleccion is darkly hued with a deep garnet and ruby core with earthy red and black fruits, spice and toffee notes rising from the glass leading to an expansive palate of plum, raspberry, red currant, fig paste and creamy black cherry layers, along with cedar, minty herb/anise, warm rock/chalk, truffle and English toffee notes. This wine is pleasure filled and silky with refined tannins and low acidity, it feels at a good stage with everything in place, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010BaudanaBarolo2010 Luigi Baudana, Barolo DOCG, del Comune di Serralunga d’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Giuseppe Vajra’s lovely and precise normal Barolo from his Luigi Baudana label is maybe the steal of the vintage so far, it is wonderfully classic and full of flavor with an array of layers and superb structure, it shows fine tannins and nice acidity, neither of which intrudes on the generous fruit. The 2010 vintage is one of the most hailed years for Barolo I can remember, and after tasting the Vajra and Baudana I can certainly see why, and agree, this is a fantastic vintage and these wines have massive potential, even though you’ll need to wait some years to get all that is promised, these wines will be very rewarding and they deserve a place in your cellars. The regular Baudana crafted lovingly by Giuseppe Vajra is really a seductive and pretty wine with hints of roses and wild flowers, minty tar, bacon and lifted red fruits including plum, cherry and brambleberry along with anise, spice, loam and truffle notes plus a lingering finish of tangy currants and cedar. This wine shows a delicacy and poise already with a glorious full mouth feel, subtle density and there is much more to come, be sure to keep an eye out for the Luigi Baudana 2010 Barolo, it should arrive in the States late fall of this year (2014) and should drink wonderfully for the next decade easy, best from 2016 to 2021.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2004DielSpatlese2004 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling, Dorsheimer Burgberg Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
The absolutely gorgeous 2004 Dorsheimer Burgberg Spatlese by Diel is spectacular in it’s subtlety and glorious detail, this is a beautiful and delicate wine of character, class and finesse with lifting acidity and remarkable clarity. Being a Spatlese, pure and with sweetness allows a generous and pleasing quality to shine through without any overt cloyingness to over shadow the complexity and graceful nature of this stunning Riesling. This 2004 feels dreamy and light, with silky flowing layers of green apple, apricot, white peach, melon and plenty of mixed citrus-tangerine, orange, lime, rose oil, minty tea along with dried tropical fruit, flinty spices, wet stones, salted toffee, bitter herbs, brine, steely mineral, waxy honey and hint of petrol fumes. This is really coming into it’s own now, 2004 was a vintage that didn’t get much attention or play from critics, but some have turned out fantastic and way beyond expectations, and this wine especially is case in point, Schlossgut Diel, while known as a top place to collect trocken style wines, should not be overlooked for brilliant Spatlese and Auslese Riesling, these are some of the best in the region and while it might be difficult to find older vintages, I highly recommend buying the Diel wines from 2011, 2012 and the new 2013 vintages, all of which are as good as it gets in fine Riesling. If you find this 2004, drink anytime, from 2014 to 2022.
($68 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

2013OcchipintiSP68Bianco2013 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 hot 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

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