2014 Ojai Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County.
Delicate and beautifully textured with impressive aromatics the 2014 Ojai Santa Barbara Pinot is a class act from Adam Tolmach and team. Ojai has been a guiding light to many up and coming talents and an inspiration to the lower alcohol and balanced wine crowd, coming off a decade of high scores and huge market success, Tolmach took a brave turn in 2005 and changed almost everything to follow his heart and his own path, to focus on lighter and age worthy wines, this led to some awkward moments with critics, but he was proven right and has watched as wave after wave of winemakers have joined him, and importantly the market has approved wholeheartedly and his wines are just as desired as they have always been, if not more. The latest set of Ojai wines looks really exciting and while I adore his Syrah wines, it was the basic Santa Barbara 2014 Pinot Noir that caught my attention most recently, this is gorgeous and pure stuff, perfumed and heavenly in mouth feel. The 2014 Santa Barbara starts with a whiff of morning violets and summer roses, sweat pea and spiced tea as well as fresh picked raspberry, bing cherry, plum and strawberry fruits that unfold in silken layers on the lively palate. The satiny mouth feel and light to medium body makes for sublime Pinot Noir that has energy, finesse and length, this is graceful, soulful and sexy wine. Mostly from the cool Kick On Vineyard as well as having fruit from Puerta del Mar, Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills, the complexity of sites shines through, with hints of chalk, earthy notes, pepper and cedar adding contrast to the elegant fruit, this is a wine that drinks great now, but should reward further over the coming decade, look for this brilliant Pinot and all of the Ojai wines!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Robert-Denogent, Beaujolais Villages, Cuvee Jules Chauvet, France.
Mostly known for their gorgeous set of Maconnais whites from old vine Chardonnay, Denogent also makes a red, a Gamay, Beaujolais Villages from an ancient block of vines. In recent vintages this has proven to be a nice novelty, but this 2014 takes this offering to the next level, this is the best yet in my opinion with an amazing array of flavors and instant hedonistic charms. The 2014 Domaine Robert-Denogent Cuvee Jules Chauvet old vine Gamay Beaujolais Villages bursts from the glass with rose petals and lilacs, wild berries, peppery spices, cinnamon stick and kirsch unfolding in an ornate collage, this is a succulent, complex and seductive wine. This medium bodied Beaujolais holds your attention on the palate with ripe strawberry, tangy cherry and plum fruits along with subtle earth, the mentioned spices, hints of mineral and cedar with a lingering finish and excellent balance and vibrancy. Drink this over the next 5 to 10 years, though it will hard not to enjoy it sooner versus later, this is seriously fun stuff, best from 2016 to 2024, and if Denogent’s red is this good in 2014, I can’t wait to see the whites from Pouilly-Fuisse and Saint-Veran, they should be epic!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Josep-Maria Vendrell, Seré, Montsant Spain.
The 80% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena young vine Seré is an all organic red from Josep-Maria Vendrell, a small artisan producer in Marca, he does almost everything himself on this tiny estate, and the hand-crafted excellence shows through. This 2014 is a superb effort, tasting like Gigondas, though with a Spanish flare, it is very pure and offers much more teruño or terroir complexity than you’d normally expect from a wine of this price or from this region, Josep-Maria is going down his own path, instead of making the ultra ripe oaky wines that have been so internationally popular in the recent decade, his wines offer more nuance and feel more natural, more like the changes we’ve admired at Joan d’Anguera, also from Montsant. The 2014 Seré starts with juicy red berry, spice and floral notes leading to a medium full, dark garnet with purple edges wine that expresses raspberry, plum and pomegranate on the palate along with pepper, lavender oil, dusty stones, minty anise, kirsch, black currant jam and soft cedar. This wine has subtle richness and wonderful balance with pleasing opulence and contrasting savory tones, drink now and often!
($13 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Peay Vineyards, Syrah, Les Titans, Sonoma Coast.
One of California’s best and an ultra cool climate Syrah, the Peay Les Titans has that Cote-Rotie class and Cornas old world character that purists love, and this 2013 is a stunner effort from Vanessa Wong-Peay. The Les Titans is intense and blooding with black fruit and an amazing bluish purple/garnet hue in the glass along with sexy floral and spicy notes, this is a do not miss miss wine! Along side a gorgeous set of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay offerings the Les Titans really stood out in a lineup poured by Andy Peay, but be sure to also keep an eye out for the 2014 Peay Estate Chardonnay and all of the 2014 Peay Pinots, these are some of the most sublime and detailed examples of varietal I’ve tasted from Peay. The 2013 Peay Les Titans Sonoma Coast Estate Syrah starts with dried violets, cracked pepper, tangy lavender, creme de cassis and hints of graphite embers leading to a full palate of low alcohol intensity with blackberry, boysenberry, wild plum and tart blueberry fruits along with black olives, minty licorice, kirsch, cedar, shaved cinnamon stick, bacon and subtle smoke and earthy fig. Sea breezes, salty/briny foggy nights and long a hang time add to the complexity and allure of this stellar Sonoma Coast Syrah, refined tannin, energy and balance give me reason to believe it has a bright future ahead, it should develop even more interesting elements over time, this is a massively rewarding wine with even greater potential, drink a few now and hold a few for as long as possible, best from 2018 to 2026.
($52 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Moric, Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, Austria.
The latest Moric highlights the seriousness of the grape and the intensity of the vintage in Austria, this wonderfully layered and complex version of Blaufrankisch is a beautiful example of varietal and place. With lots of dark blue fruit, mineral and earth the Moric shines with vitality and charm showing violets, minty herb, black olives and earthy spices from start to finish along with a core of black cherry, huckleberry and currant fruit. With a medium to full body and plenty of vigor this Austrian red is singing with a great voice in it’s primal youth, but it should evolve nicely too as it has solid extract and fine acidity with velvety tannins, it comes in at 12.5% alcohol and feels a bit like an old school Bordeaux with elegance, rustic nature and smooth balance of ripe fruit and savory elements. With air the more subtle character begins to show with tangy plum, cedar and truffle coming through, 2013 was a brilliant vintage in Austria, and not just for the whites, here in Burgenland too, drink this poised Blaufrankisch over the next 5 to 7 years.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Condamine L’Eveque, Mourvedre, Cotes de Thongue, France.
The Cotes de Thongue is a small IGP, established in 1982, in the Languedoc-Roussillon near Herault with a huge mix of grape varieties from Cabernet and Merlot to classic Rhone Syrah, Cinnsault, Carignan and Grenache as well as Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Gros Mensang, plus Petit Verdot and this Mourvedre. The area is allowed to use Cotes de Thongue IGT for Reds, Whites and Rose, though still commonly thought of as a simple Vin de Pays, many stellar producers and estates dot the landscape here from Mas de Daumas Gassac to Domaine de la Serre, and Domaine de la Condamine makes wonderful varietal wines that capture the spirit of the place in this region between Montpellier and Narbonne, not too far from the blue Mediterranean. Why these flavorful Domaine de la Condamine L’Eveque wines don’t cost more and are not taken more seriously is beyond me, but that said these are great value wines that deliver handsome quality and are rewarding to drink, especially this 2014 Mourvedre and the Syrah, these are wines to stock up on. The 2014 Condamine Mourvedre, a dark and seductive offering, starts with violets, blueberry and tangy lavender leading to a medium full palate of blackberry, dark cherries and plum jam along with pepper spice, dusty earth notes, anise and black tea. A purity of fruit highlights these wines, there is ripe layers, but they are not heavy or sweet, the tannins are well managed and there remains a touch of gentile acidity, overall these are super pleasing balanced efforts that offer some rustic charm and are easy to quaff, in particular this Mourvedre is a top bargain to enjoy over the next year or so.
($11 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Muller-Catoir, Rieslaner Auslese, Herzog, Pfalz Germany.
First Rieslaner is not a cute pet or local name for Riesling, it is it’s own varietal, Rieslaner is a hybrid grape that was created in 1921 in Franconia Germany by crossing Silvaner and Riesling. It is thought that is was a way to make a grape that was better coping with botrytis, frost and was able to have a bit more acidity, which it seems to have done to near perfection, hat’s off to grape breeder August Ziegler, the man that created it in Veitshocheim all those years ago, and while it remains a very minor player in Germany it can make for an awesome wine, especially in the hands of Martin Franzen, who follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hans-Gunter Schwarz at Muller-Catoir. Grown at Herzog on sandstone, the Muller-Catoir Rieslaner is expressive and vigorous with honeyed melon, lime blossom and white currant/berry layers along with bright mineral, vinous thickness without heavy or cloying feel, this is gorgeous sweet wine with fine detail and elegance. The 2014 Muller-Catoir Rieslaner Herzog Auslese shows this grape in it’s best light and has wonderful depth, structure, vibrancy and haunting length, and while Muller-Catoir makes sublime Riesling, you should search them out for their Muskateller Trocken, Scheurebe and this Rieslaner too, these are some of the most intriguing wines in Germany. The 2014 Rieslaner Auslese stands out in this vintage and lingers on the palate with ginger, clove, tangerine sorbet and chalky salted honey, absolutely brilliant, drink over the next 20 years!
($45 Est. 375ml) 94+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sandhi, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
The latest from Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman’s Sandhi Wines are absolute gems, I loved tasting the Chardonnay and especially this 2013 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, it is wonderfully expressive, lush and detailed with balance and drinkability. Sasha, who also makes Stolpman and wines under his own label, poured at a great event at Bay Grape in Oakland, last night March 24, where Stevie and Josiah the owners had a full house at their shop and wine bar on Grand Ave, I can’t say enough about how awesome these guys have done in bringing in honest wines and fun to this neighborhood. The wines of Sandhi are made to be pure California examples of terroir and highlight the flavors and wonderful nature of the SRH region, but also to remain true to a core believe that wines should have restraint in alcohol and keep vitality to their personality, they were leaders in the In Pursuit of Balance movement, along with Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast and others that have formed that collective of like minded wineries. The Sandhi 2013 Pinot starts with flamboyant whole cluster aromas with juicy red fruits, mixed floral tones, spice and savory elements both on the nose and on the surprisingly decedent and rich palate, even with the 13%, rather low for Sta. Rita Hills, this wine feels perfectly lush and ripe with succulent cherry, raspberry and plum fruits forming the main layers. There is silken tannins, bright acidity holding things together and the background holds interest with dried celery, minty herbs, lavender, rosewater, cedar and cinnamon as well as very soft and subtle sweet French oak/wood framing. Light mineral and earthy notes come through as contrast to the open fruit in this highly entertaining Pinot, this wine has a good drinking window ahead of it, but as serious as it is, it shows it doesn’t need too much extra waiting to be a thrill, drink from 2016 to 2028. It was great to catch up with Sashi, and I highly recommend trying any or all of the wines he has a hand in crafting from Stolpman to Evening Land in Oregon, his own Syrah, the Salem Wine Company Gamay, one of my new favorites, and of course the Sandhi offerings, he is one of California’s outstanding talents.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Momtazi Vineyard, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Mark Vlossek’s 2013 St. Innocent Momtazi is an elegant expression of vintage and terroir with supple layers, beautiful detail and complexity of character, I was entranced by this one. Sandwiched between blockbuster vintages the 2013, which gets a bit overlooked, has turned out with a mixed bag of wines, but some really shine and this St. Innocent is one of those happy surprises to cherish. Momtazi is certainly turning out to be a gorgeous site for top Pinot fruit, this biodynamic vineyard sits on the slopes of the McMinnville AVA and has a deserved reputation for quality and Vlossek has done a masterful job with these grapes to make, and I know it is cliche, a fine Burgundy like wine with divine lightness and savory contrast that reminds me of a lovely Chambolle-Musigny. The 2013 Momtazi starts with delicate scents of wilted roses and violets, smoke, flinty mineral and tart fennel with strawberry, raspberry, soft plum, red peach and fresh picked cherry fruits on the palate in a decedent medium weighted Pinot Noir frame as well as some wet earth, herbal tea, shaved cinnamon and cedary spices. There is just a tiny bit of shyness mid way through that keeps this very impressive wine from reaching a higher rating, but I think it will fill out and evolve with the potential to reward patience in 3 to 5 years if not 10, I’ve had remarkable success from St. Innocent in the cellar, and this one is just so seductive I forgive minor flaws at this stage, this light ruby hued, floral toned Pinot is full of grace, vibrancy and finishes with length, a touch of saltiness and tangy currant, very hard to resist indeed.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Manincor, Bianco, Reserve della Contessa, Alto Adige Italy.
Made from roughly equal parts Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc the 2014 Reserve della Contessa from Manincor is a heavenly white from the Dolomites in the north of Italy, it’s a pale golden nectar that showcases the best qualities and terroir of each varietal to near perfection. This vintage starts with fresh peach, white flowers, hints of baled hay, chalk dust, steely mineral and vibrant citrus, this is wonderfully crafted wine with great detail and vitality as well as silken textures. There is lemon/lime and gooseberry, juicy stone fruits and Burgundy, almost Chablis like wet stones and green apple/pear on the fine palate with touches of earth, quince and honey. Quite impressive for it’s focus and energy, the latest Manincor Contessa can be enjoyed now and certainly with age with it’s mountain acidity and extract, it’s a bit less creamy than the past two vintages, showing a racy side in it’s youth, this is top notch stuff from Manincor, it seems the 2014 wines have reached another level for delicacy and elegance, be sure to look out for this pretty little thing as well as their Schiava especially, and I’m excited to see new the Lagrein offerings along with the single varietal whites, drink the Reserve della Contessa from 2016 to 2026.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Green & Red, Zinfandel, Chiles Canyon Vineyards Estate, Napa Valley.
Still one of the great deals in Zinfandel, the 2013 Green & Red Vineyards Chiles Canyon Estate is one of the best vintages I’ve had to date, with a deep garnet and purple hue this Zin has loads of fruit, ripe tannins as well as a nice play between opulence and spicy verve. The nose starts with a mix of floral tones, creme de cassis, peppercorns and black licorice leading to a palate of black raspberry, sweet cherry, juicy plum and tangy currant fruits along with cedar, sage, a hint of red pepper Mexican chocolate/mole and a touch of dusty loam. This is richly flavored, excitingly thick with red and black fruit giving a full bodied and lush mouth feel, but it is also well judged and balanced with a lift of acidity and savory elements. Look for this Green & Red to develop nicely for many years, it’s a thrilling Zin, and in an age of huge egos and exceptionally high prices in Napa, it’s gratifying to know you can get such a pleasing and honest wine under $30, bravo to Green & Red for such impressive stuff year after year.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Liquid Farm, Rose, Vogelzang Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA.
The Liquid Farm Rose is modeled after the Bandol Rose wines of Provence, mostly Mourvedre in make up and very well structured, this is a serious pink wine, know to it’s fans as “Liquid Crack” or “Pink Crack” for it’s hedonistic addictive qualities! The 2015 is ripe and pure with good framing and brisk acidity showing this wine at it’s best, it is like Bedrock’s Ode to Lulu Rose from the south with great detail and pleasure, and while there are some great Rose choices these days, the Liquid Farm is one of the most sought after and joins California’s elite group of pinks along with the mentioned Bedrock, Arnot-Roberts, and Matthiasson to name just a few. The 2015 Rose by Liquid Farm is bright and vigorous with rosewater, sour cherry, raspberry and nervy citrus along with watermelon, liquid mineral, chalky river stones, anise and spicy pepper and sticky lavender, this tartly fresh pink is very invigorating and length with subtle fruitiness and cool crisp finesse. Drink this Liquid Farm Rose of Mourvedre now through Thanksgiving if you can possibly hold on to any that long, one of the best vintages of this wine to date, it will sell out fast, also be sure to search out the Chardonnay offerings too, especially the Golden Slope.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Kabinett, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel Germany.
At 7.5% alcohol and with beautiful mineral spice the latest Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett from Johannes Selbach shines brightly and feels fresh and opulent, almost creamy, in the mouth. This is pretty stuff, it shows fine balance and has a wonderful mix of rose petal perfume, saline/brine, salty/flint stoniness and a contrast of sweet and tangy fruits with loads of terroir character. The 2014 vintage was extremely difficult with lots of stresses on the growers to make healthy grapes, but the hard work paid off in the end with surprising rewards, especially with Kabinett and Spatlese in the Mosel doing amazingly well, these lightly sweet examples show the best at this stage, while the Trockens (dry styles) will certainly have the upper hand in the 2015 vintage. 2014 is a vintage of delicacy and heightened aromatics, with Selbach’s Wehlener Sonnenuhr showing this to perfection, the nose has a mix of pure rose petal and rose water as well as exotic spices, sea breeze, a hint of hemp/tea and dried honey leading to a lime/mango and fleshy stone fruit peachy palate with shale and river stones. While a Kabinett, this Riesling gathers a bit of weight with air and finishes with a succulent decedent sweetness with juicy apricot and white flowers, while juicy/crunchy acidity keeps it vibrant and crisp, very well judged and poised. From mixed slate slopes on the sunny side of the river the Wehlenner is ripe with yellow fruits, elegantly spiced and steely focused. This should age nicely, but can really be enjoyed as is, a very fine Spring and Summer white, lively, classic and refreshing.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Bucklin, Zinfandel, Bambino, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
The latest Bambino Old Hill Ranch field blend Zinfandel shows Bucklin at his best, this vintage had enough warmth to allow early picking, native yeast fermentation and a long time on the skins, this made for more complexity and balanced alcohol, 14.1%, without needing to water down of fix anything. This natural Zin blend from younger vines in what is one of California’s oldest Zinfandel sites pays homage to these classic heritage vineyards with the same mix of black grapes that were originally planted together back in the later 1800’s, this vintage make up is about 80% Zinfandel (or Tribidrag, originally from Croatia) plus a dose of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Syrah, Granache and Carignane. Will Bucklin certainly has crafted his own style and niche, but compares well with Bedrock and Ridge, especially his Ancient, from 130 year old vines, but for the money this Bambino is one of the best handcrafted Zins around. Aged for about 20 months in used/neutral French barrique the 2013 Bucklin Bambino is bursting with flavor with heady scents of flowers, spice and red berries to start in this deep ruby/garnet hued wine, rich detail and vibrant layers of raspberry, wild plum, pomegranate, cherry and tart currants unfold on the palate with cedar, bramble/briar spice, lavender, minty sage, hint hint of vanilla, as well as pepper, anise, cinnamon and boysenberry that linger on the finish. There is just enough raw tannin and juicy acidity to frame this energy filled Zinfandel to keep it all poised and structured, but still let maximum pleasure ensue, this is fruity and robust wine that impresses for it’s verve and old school styling, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Elio Grasso, Gavarini, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte Italy.
The very sexy and satiny Gavarini Langhe Nebbiolo from Elio Grasso is wonderful example of stylish ready to drink young terroir driven baby Barolo! Gavarini is a Cru site in Monforte d’Alba’s Barolo zone and that pedigree shines through here, and this vibrant Nebbiolo has pitch perfect balance and plush mouth feel. The 2013 has surprising ripe tannins and silken layers, it starts with mixed floral tones, a bit of chalk dust, mineral and racy red fruits with rose petals, crushed violets, raspberry, tangy plum, a hint of soy/hosin, truffle, fig paste, minty/tar infused salty black licorice and kirsch. The body is medium/full and the acidity is well integrated, and while it won’t be a long term tannic ager, you’ll want plenty to drink shorter term, this is really pleasing stainless steel fermented and aged pure Nebbiolo, from 20 year old vines on crumbly limestone and loamy soils, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Rudolf May, Spatburgunder, Langenberg VDP Erste Lage, Franconia Germany.
The Rudi May Pinot Noir, from clone 777 mostly, is from 20 plus year old vines in Franconia, grown on a steep sandstone/marl slope and fermented with natural yeasts and neutral French cask. The results are lovely and the 2013 Langenberg is a stylish medium weight Spatburgunder with wonderful finesse and detail, very different from the Rheingau or Ahr smoky/slate influenced Pinot Noirs, the May gives rich layers with a more elegant profile, this is a great bottle of wine for $25! The nose starts off with a mix of rose petals, tangy red fruits, spice and is lightly earthy, the hue is a deep ruby, true to this darker clone (777) and the palate is full of black cherry, raspberry, plum and strawberry fruits along with mineral notes, saline/oyster shell and cinnamon. The fruit is ripe and sweetly succulent, but it is vibrant and dry with silky sexy texture, again this is joyous stuff and well worth searching out, 2013 was a perfect vintage for Franconia and for Rudi May in particular, especially for his Cru wines like this one and his amazing Silvaner GG, and he told me both 2014 and 2015 were even better, keep an eye out for these impressive wines! Drink this very bright and attractive Pinot Noir over the next 5 to 10 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Foradori, Morei, Teroldego IGT, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Italy.
Fordori’s efforts take Teroldego to another level, especially this beautiful and all natural amphora raised Morei with it’s sublime balance, textural feel and delicate detailing. The 2013 vintage was cooler and a bit lighter in style than the warmer 2011 and 2012 bottlings, though I think that just makes it that much more elegant and even more compelling, it shows crisp acidity and mineral tones with verve, without weightiness, truly lovely and haunting. The 2013 Morei starts with fresh cherries, minty herbs, saline notes and wild flowers with hints of flint/shale as well as currant leading to a mid palate of dark fruit including plum, blueberry and black raspberry along with truffle, chalky stones, lavender oil and sweet tobacco. The body fills out with air making for some pleasing and stylish experiences in the glass, this is a dark and complex beauty that should develop into a very intriguing Teroldego over the next 3 to 7 years, very impressive again from Foradori, this is without question a must have for her fans!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Athenais, Irancy Cherelle, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France.
The Athenaise label is non domaine wines from Athenaise de Beru of Chateau de Beru, a revolutionary natural winemaker in the very north of Burgundy and Chablis. This was first experience of her wines and I was left spellbound by her 2013 Irancy Cherelle Pinot Noir which reminded me of Jean Foillard’s Fleurie (black label) with pretty whole cluster and Gamay like carbonic/organic nattiness. With air the Pinot fruit takes over and wonderful bright cherry, rose petal and strawberry layers shine through on the palate, it similar though more delicate than the Pacalet Burgundy offerings. The 2013 Athenaise Pinot Noir Irancy Cherelle was fermented with natural yeasts and raised in mostly neutral cask, though there has been experiments with amphora and vats, the wine is very low sulfur and is unfined and unfiltered with a light cloudiness. Lavender, spice and mineral notes come through in the background and it deepens on the finish to reveal plum and tangy currants. This wine has a low alcohol feel and a certain earthy rawness which will appeal to the modernists, though even classicalists will find it hard not to be attracted to it’s charms. I must say, I was more than pleased by it’s performance in the glass and want to explore more of Athenaise de Beru’s wines.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Scaia Rosato, Veneto IGT, Italy.
One of the best Italian dry Rose wines of the season so far is the Rose of Rondinella from Tenuta Sant’Antonio, this crisp and lively pink is mineral fresh and delicate in detail. I was very impressed with this Scaia Rosato, unlike a lot of Italian Roses that can be weighty and too fruity this light and bright Scaia really feels dusty dry and a perfect sense of lightness, while having a pure range of flavor and distinction that is alluring and seductive. The Sant’Antonio delivers Rondinella’s high acidity perfectly in this vibrant wine with tangy citrus, sour cherry, crisp watermelon and garden picked tart strawberry as well as wet stones, bitter herbs and rosewater. This lip-smacking and puckering Rosato has lots of verve and is treat for the warm days of summer, this is a cool wine from where Valpolicella comes from, and maybe the only wine I’ve sampled made exclusively from this native grape which is usually part of the red blends of Valpolicella, Bardolino and of course Amarone!
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 A Coroa, Godello, Valdeorras, Galicia Spain.
The 2014 A Coroa Godello is a brilliant white wine from northwest Spain, it has the saline qualities of a lessy tangy Melon de Bourgogne, as in Muscadet, as well as the depth of a fine white Burgundy, it is dry, but rich in mouth feel and lovely detail. A lot of photos of this wine are popping up on social media, usually placed in front of a try of raw oysters, this has got my mouthwatering for it, and proves it has been well and truly discovered by foodies and wine lovers, but for good reason, it is an example of the varietal and region highlighting it’s character and showing off it’s good graces with cuisine. I adore this A Coroa Godello and have followed it for more than a few vintages, though I must admit this 2014 is maybe the best I’ve tried, it’s a stunner with great balance and pleasure throughout, it starts with sea breezes, chalky (yes dried oyster shell) elements, white flowers and juicy citrus vibrancy. The palate fills out to Chablis like density with hints of creaminess, but still bright acidity and steely mineral driven layers along with cool melon, apple, lemon/lime and light tropical notes. Nice length, zesty crispness and faint herb and brine make for a complete and complex white, drink over the next 3 to 5 years and be sure to stock up for the warm summer evenings ahead.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Albert Mann, Riesling, Schlossberg Grand Cru, Alsace France.
Showing class and beauty the Albert Mann Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling is hitting all the right notes with verve and poise, this is very crafted wine from a domaine that is wonderfully re-vitalized and producing some really fantastic offerings. The vibrant and youthful 2012 Schlossberg has some real depth and complexity, but can be enjoyed now as well, it starts with lime and rose petal detail and gathers richness with air, peach, clove and shale unfold with a few swirls, with layers of wet stones, apricot, lemon and verbena all coming forward on the palate. Good fruit density, ripeness and textural mouth feel, but with lifting acidity and structure to hold everything together, again this is elegant and terroir focused Riesling that has a nice mineral spice and steely nature with a lovely long finish that lingers with pineapple, mixed citrus and light earthy/loamy tones. This is wonderfully flavorful dry Riesling from one of Alsace’s best crus, right up there with Weinbach and Trimbach, drink the Albert Mann over the coming 7 to 10 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Stolpman Vineyards, La Cuadrilla, Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara County.
The La Cuadrilla red, with a different label each vintage, from Stolpman continues to be one of the finest wines in California for the money, and an under the radar masterpiece, kudos to Peter Stolpman, Sashi Morrman the winemaker and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano, who selects the blocks for this beauty. The 2014 version is a savvy and gorgeous full bodied effort with whole cluster Syrah leading the way, rumor has it that it is 80% Syrah along with small amounts of Sangiovese, Grenache and Petite Sirah and has Sashi’s classic Stolpman style with lush textures, deep color and wild spiciness. The nose is full of red and black fruits, pepper spice, violets and hints of tobacco leaf, minty herb and lavender leading to a rich palate of boysenberry, damson plum, vivid currant and kirsch along with cracked peppercorns, celery root, black olive, mineral, earthy stones, anise and clove. There is a lively kick of acidity and youthful ripe tannins in this focused and succulent La Cuadrilla, this is like the Bedrock of the southland, and while not a field blend, the selected plots from Stolpman’s chalky limestone rich soils and hillsides give it that kind of feel. The latest releases by Stolpman are a stunning set of wines, especially the 2015 Rose, The Originals 2013 Syrah, this great new La Cuadrilla and Ruben’s own project with Stolpman the brand new Para Maria, a Syrah offering that pays homage to his skills with the vines. Drink La Cuadrilla anytime, and in particular with friends and outdoor BBQ, it is such a gem, best from 2016 to 2024.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Cibonne, Rose Tentations, Cotes de Provence, France.
Clos Cibonne’s entry level Rose, the Tentations Cotes de Provence, is a beautiful pink wine that is meant and is easy to drink young and fresh with bight fruit, mineral and dry crispness. Made mostly from Grenache and Cinsualt, it also has some of the rare Tibouren, Provence’s ancient native varietal that graces the estate’s upper level Clos Cibonne bottlings and that can age decades as both Rose and as a pale red wine. The 2015 Cibonne Tentations Rose Coptes de Provence starts with lively red citrus, tart cherry and cool watermelon along with a hint of lavender, wet shale, strawberry and mineral spice. This is very steely and refreshing stuff with good acidity giving a balanced play of sweet, sour and savory elements making it a wonderful summer pink to enjoy over the next year or so. If you want really sexy and thought provoking pink, be sure to check out the lees aged Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rose Tradition, usually a year behind in release, these wines make you rethink your approach to Rose! But for now and lots of fun, don’t miss the 2015 Tentations Rose, it is one of the best vintages I can remember from Cibonne!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Unculin, Tinto Mencia de Valtuille, Bierzo DO, Spain.
The Unculin from Jose Antonio Garcia is a lovely fresh style Mencia with delicate layers and juicy fruit flavors, unlike some deeper oak aged Bierzo, this wine feels lighter and more vibrant. The graceful Unculin Tinto Mencia de Valtuille Bierzo is fermented using native yeast and aged a short time in well used neutral cask to highlight terroir and purity of varietal and it works well here making for an energy filled expression of Mencia that delivers red berry fruit, mineral notes and spices. The nose is gifted with floral elements, mild saline and subtle earth notes along with fresh currants leading to a medium weighted palate of cherry, plum and cranberry fruits along with a wet rock core, sweet and tangy herbs. Hints of anise, olive and loam add complexity to this stylish Mencia that shows off this grape, be sure to keep an eye out for this alluring red from Spain’s very in fashion Galicia region, this cool climate area in northwestern Spain has in recent years become the go to region for elegant excellence that can in many cases rival Burgundy, both in white and red wine! The Jose Antonio Garcia wines are impressive, especially the latest Mencia Unculin which should drink nicely for 3 to 5 years easy.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Big Basin, Syrah, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s 2013 Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah is lush and Cote-Rotie like with beautiful dark violets, cassis and boysenberry leading the way in this very stylish wine. The Big Basin Syrah has about 5% Grenache and 4% Viognier blended in, it was native yeast fermented with some whole cluster and aged just about a year in mostly used French barrels. This is full bodied red and has sweet ripe tannins coming in at about 14.5% alcohol with round glycerin rich textures, it reminds me of Guigal or Delas Cote-Rotie with it’s voluptuous and pure character. This is really seductive and sexy Syrah that starts with floral tones, hints of embers, black fruits and mineral spice while the palate is dense and has glorious mouth-feel with blackberry, plum, wild lavender and mocha notes to go along with the mentioned boysenberry, blueberry and currant fruits as well as some juicy acidity and youthful grip. Grown on sandstone, loam and sandy clay the 2013 mostly Alban clone Big Basin Syrah is very impressive and pleasing wine which should gain detail and layers over time. I can imagine holding a few bottles for up to 10 years, but it certainly is very compelling even now especially with robust cuisine, best from 2018 to 2024.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Guimaro, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, Vino Tinto, Galicia Spain.
Pedro Rodriguez’s Guimaro wines are some of the most compelling from the region and the basic Mencia Vino Tinto is one of the best values you’ll ever find, especially the beautiful and mineral driven 2014. The 2014 Mencia from Guimaro shows fine detail and layered textures with very Burgundy like grace and lightness, the color is garnet/ruby in the glass and the medium weighted palate gives a gorgeous mouth feel. At 13% alcohol, the latest Guimaro is well balanced and is full of vitality with pretty raspberry, cherry and tangy red currant fruits shinning through. Light floral tones, wild flowers, dusty spices and stony notes add complexity and the finish is lengthy with a lingering red berry pureness. Rodriguez crafts his wines using old school and natural techniques with native yeasts and a mixture of tank and neutral casks, everything is done to let the terroir speak in it’s own voice through the wines, and these wines are glorious with cuisine, Mencia from this cool climate region of northwestern Spain goes great with seafood, cheeses and has the flexibility of Pinot Noir, with it’s lifting acidity and brightness. I highly recommend all of the Guimaro wines, the white, made from Godello and the Cru wines are all fantastic, I’ve been lucky enough to taste with Pedro a few times and it would be hard to find a nicer person and his wines are a great reflection of person and place, be sure to look for this Guimaro Mencia, it should drink well over the next 5 to 10 years.
($18 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Workman Ayer, Ipso Facto White, Central Coast.
The latest Workman Ayer from Michel Ayer is the lovely and juicy 2014 Ipso Facto white, a 100% Viognier from a top vineyard in the Santa Barbara area, and it is certainly one of the better examples of this varietal to be found, especially at this price, putting next to Alban’s base bottling. The balanced Workman Ayer white shows pure Viognier character with tree picked apricot throughout with a heady perfume of honeysuckle, crushed stones and spicy jasmine. The palate is vibrant and lush with peach flesh, kiwi, mixed citrus and apple butter notes to go along with core of mentioned apricot. While very forward and direct there is nice vigor and vitality to be found, the lively acidity and light mineral elements are very welcome and give this wine so life and focus. I liked the first set of wines from Workman Ayer I sampled, but without question this release is the best yet for this small label, there are only about 147 cases of this Ipso Facto Viognier made, so you’ll have to look hard to find it, but if you are a fan of this grape and are looking for something unique then check it out. A lot of California Viognier, especially in this price class come across sweet or flabby, but the Workman Ayer does a nice job of giving pleasure, but still retaining poise and vitality, drink over the next 2 to 3 years, it will be best enjoyed young and fresh.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2001 Domaine Ponsot, Clos de la Roche, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Grand Cru Red Burgundy, France.
During La Paulee Week in San Francisco people were pulling out all the stops to celebrate Burgundy, and I was lucky enough to be a sounding board for a client that wanted to impress a few friends and wasn’t convinced he picked the right wine from his cellar, and so I got to sample and review a very special wine, this Ponsot Clos de la Roche, one of my all time favorite vineyards, what a treat, Shane, I’m very grateful! I could easily imagine his concern, at first the 2001 Ponsot was tight with reduction and powerful acidity, along with a tight fist of dusty tannins, but with patience and gentile swirls an inner beauty developed and a glimpse of greatness, the magic happened as this wonderful wine opened up. The revealing of violets, wild plum and black cherry was amazing, over shadowing the meaty and graphite elements allowing this Clos de la Roche to flow, and while intense and gripping it shows fine detail with mature notes just starting to emerge, this is still a young wine, though it is light in alcohol and body for the vintage and it has the finest of orange tint starting to peak out on the edges in what is a nice ruby hue at the core. It’s hard not to go on and on here, but this medium weighted Grand Cru is seductive, transparent and very true to it’s nature and terroir, it is full of layers and with plenty of air offers everything you could want of a fine Burgundy and the length is stunning and racy/sexy. The palate delivers cherry, plum, black raspberry over and over and dried rose petals, red tea spice and lovely mineral tones, I loved every second of this Ponsot, it’s a treasure, and while it may not have the extract to go another 20 years, I think it should be hitting it’s best spot and perfect window between 2018 and 2028. I don’t get to try many Ponsot’s, so this was a glorious thrill ride, and I hope to see a few more!
($275+ Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive
2014 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Spatlese, Pittermannchen, Nahe Germany.
One of the leaders in dry style Rieslings for many years Schlossgut Diel also does lovely and luxurious fruity wines, this Spatelese Pittermannchen is a great example of just how great balanced and sexy sweeter Riesling can be. The finely balanced Diel Spatlese 2014 Pittermannchen does not have any cloying elements and it drinks with gorgeous panache and lush creaminess while retaining vibrant acidity and stony cool grace, this is one of the most elegant and noble wines of the vintage. The detailing here is beautiful and shows deft winemaking and winegrowing, a perfect melding of Terroir and house style, the 2014 Diel’s have bright yellow fruits, distinct perfume and heavenly lightness of feel, though with plenty of extract and depth. The 2014 Pittermannchen Spatlese starts with a pale greenish/gold hue in the glass with white flowers, wet rocks, hints of flinty shale and green apple leading to a layered palate that adds apricot, white currant, dried rose petal, tropical elements, sweet spring melon and finishes with a trace of peaches in syrup, sea breezes and steely mineral tones. This is the kind of wine that will gain body and structure over time, but will always feel pleasingly drier than it is, though will shine with many cuisine options, especially smoked meats, Asian dishes and well, just about anything! Drink now, but look for patience to be highly rewarded in 5 to 10 years, this is remarkable stuff again from Diel, from Kabinett to Auslese, as well as their Trockens, Diel is one producer you should not miss in the 2014 vintage.
($58 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Mordoree, Lirac, La Reine des Bois, Rhone Red, France.
Grown on sand, clay and with galets the intense Domaine de la Mordoree Lirac La Reine des Bois is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah with tiny amounts of Cinsault and Counoise. This 2014 is beautifully fresh and vibrant, but with a real dark hue in the glass with blue/black and purple at it’s core, maybe the result of a cooler vintage and one where the Syrah and Mourvedre did exceptionally well, which balanced out the riper Grenache character, but retains it’s overall terroir charms, this wine is gorgeously detailed and wonderfully pleasing, one of the most stylish of the new Domaine de la Mordoree’s offerings. Tasting through the wines with owner vigneron Fabrice Delmore was a great experience, on his tour of San Francisco, and his 2014’s were showing remarkably well in what some have reported as a difficult vintage for the southern Rhone and his Lirac and Chateauneuf-du-Pape offerings were all glorious youthful expressions of mostly old vine Grenache, stand outs were this La Reine des Bois Lirac and the 40+ year old vine Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Belle Voyageuse, as well as the sexy riper and fuller 2012 Lirac La Reine des Bois for contrast, which also impressed. Fabric’s 2014 La Reine des Bois Lirac starts with cassis, lavender, cracked pepper, mineral and sweet lilacs leading to a deep palate that while intense does not feel heavy, about medium full, with black currant, boysenberry, plum and kirsch as well as warm terra-cotta, salted black licorice, bitter coco, a hint of olive and black fig. The tannins are still firm as you’d expect, though not aggressive, and there is a certain juiciness that is very appealing making this a wine that you’ll want to drink young and often. Mordoree’s 2014 reds and their 2015 Rose wines are on schedule to be released in late March or April, be sure to keep an eye out for them!
($46 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Vin Gris de Cigare, Rose, Central Coast.
Randall Grahm again proves himself to be a master blender and craftsman with his beautiful and crisp UFO Pink, the Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, it is one of best early releases of Rose I’ve tried so far and a very exciting wine. The Vin Gris de Cigare is a cuvee of many grapes including Grenache, both Noir and Blanc, Cinsault, Roussanne, Carignane, Marsanne and Counoise showing a chalky grip and lively acidity revealing stony citrus, pit fruit and watermelon along with mineral spice, lavender and tangy strawberry. The white varietals help with freshness, but also add body and mouth feel it seems making the Vin Gris de Cigare a complete and complex wine that will be a thrilling addition to your summer drinking lineup, it’s delicate salmon hue and light floral and flinty personality charms and seduces the senses, this is fun stuff that shows an underlying seriousness and style that seems to run through all of the latest Bonny Doon offerings, if you haven’t tasted Randall’s wines lately, you are missing out. The other Pink, the Proper Rose a blend of Tannat and Cabernet Franc, inspired by French Basque Irouleguy, is another Pink to enjoy over the coming year along with this one.
($21 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Manincor, Schiava, Kalterersee Keil, Alto Adige, Italy.
The gorgeous Manincor Schiava 2014 is one of the best examples of this varietal I’ve had to date with amazing clarity, mouth feel and fine detailing with good acidity and ripe flavors. The Kalterersee Keil is a wine made in the vineyard, a terroir driven red from old vines and high elevation, set on a south facing slope, one of the warmest in the region with chalky sandy-clay soils giving the Schiava richness, mineral tones and pigment. Count Michael Goess-Enzenberg farms the Manincor all bio-dynamic and is a protector of the nature, the family has owned the estate for 400 years, and prior to the Manincor label the grapes were often in the best bottlings of Terlano. Over the last few vintages these Manincor wines have really found a sweet spot and are some of the best values in the region, especially this Kalterersee Keil Schiava, and whilee the reds are superb, you should also search out the whites made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and in particular their stunning Pinot Blanc. The 2014 vintage Schiava starts with it’s bright ruby hue in the glass with a subtle perfume of spring flowers and light rose petal along with a steely note and a mix of spice, herb and saline leading to a delicate medium weight palate of vibrant strawberry, red currant, plum and raspberry with accents of chalk dust, snappy fennel, a touch of savory/bitters. This satiny red needs to be served cool, almost in the same fashion as Beaujolais, and is amazingly flexible with cuisine, I certainly tested it out with a various Chinese dishes from seafood to crispy skin duck all with mixed sauces and spices and this playful, yet serious Schiava handled them all. Native yeast fermentation and extended time on the fine lees in neutral large cask help add complexity and depth, this wine will drink beautifully for up to ten years, best from 2016 to 2022.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Maume-Marchand-Tawse, Gevrey-Chambertin, En Pallud, Red Burgundy, France.
Pascal Marchand’s right hand man and winemaker Mark Fincham has crafted a magical Pinot Noir in a vintage that seems to be getting overlooked, but has some wonderful surprises, just like this new Maume beauty. Finch was trusted with getting the best out of the En Pallud and he delivered with an expressive and detailed Burgundy of character and classic style with clear/transparent layers of pure Pinot fruit, mineral and silken textures. While the Marchand 2012’s still have closed firm tannins holding them back, these 2013 are shinning and offer gorgeous satiny fruit and floral tones, and though they seem lighter at first give great length and impressive extract while preserving freshness, these are heavenly wines, especially the Domaine Maume-Marchand-Tawse En Pallud and the 2013 Maison Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru La Perriere. The Marchand influenced or Fincham Maume wines are much cleaner examples than old Maume, some will not recognize the linage, though you’ll admire the attention to vines and terroir, and you’ll not have to wait decades to enjoy these new wines. The 2013 Maume En Pallud starts with earthy roses, red currants, dried violets and flinty mineral leading to a palate of medium weight showing tangy bing cherry, plum and raspberry fruit. Complexity? Well, it feels dreamy and forward, hiding the complexity in pleasure, but the background holds loamy/chalky stones, saline, pipe tobacco and stylishly subtle wood shading with just a hint of vanilla and smoke. This wine firms up in the glass and the bright acidity never lets this Gevrey dull and reminds you of Pinot Noir’s majestic presence and emotional response. Light anise, tea spice and strawberry linger on the finish of this ruby hued nectar and I can only see it getting better over the next 5 to 10 years, look for a bit more dark fruit and savory elements to emerge in the next few years, drink from 2017-2025, be sure to give these sensual and finessed Marchand-Tawse 2013’s a try!
($75 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Robert James, Pinot Noir, Pinnacle, Russian River Valley.
Rob Klbecka, the winemaker and owner of the new Robert James Wines, has just released his debut lineup of wines, which include two beautiful Chardonnays, one lees stirred without oak and another aged in barrel, both of which has rich character and full of flavor, and two Pinots, one a wild ferment 2011, that was his very first wine, with a delightful Central Otago like guava/pomegranate note, and this Pinnacle 2014 Pinot Noir that maybe impressed me the most. The expressive and focused 2014 Robert James Pinnacle Pinot Noir comes from cooler Russian River Valley fruit sources and delivers fine detail, poise and energy, it starts with a lovely garnet/ruby color in the glass, clear and brilliant to view and a sweet floral nose with fresh and dried rose petal, black raspberry, loamy earth, sappy herbs and red tea spices. The palate is medium full with racy acidity lifting the fruit and keeping this Pinot from feeling too weighty, though the texture is lush and welcoming with a certain silken mouth feel, while a cascade of red plum, cherry, strawberry and currant fruits shine through, with hints of vanilla smoke, saline and cola bean also playing parts. It was very cool to meet the hardworking Klbecka and tasting through his quality set of wines, this is a new label that looks set to make an impact, it’s great to see so many passionate new small producers getting their chance, and Rob’s wines are solid and noteworthy. While, like I mentioned, the Robert James Chardonnays, especially Klbecka’s un-oaked leesy “Ocel” stainless steel aged offering, were well worth exploring and highly enjoyable, it was this Pinnacle 2014 Pinot that stood out, with only a few barrels made, this hand crafted wine will not be an easy score, but rewarding to those that find it, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Louis Barruol-Barruol-Lynch, Cote-Rotie, Neve, Rhone Red, France.
The 2013 Barruol-Lynch Cote-Rotie and Hermitage offerings are brilliant and delicate, these are surprisingly light on their feet, but gorgeous Syrah wines, especially delicious is the Neve Cote-Rotie, which I put above the other for stylish flourish and complexity. The 2013 vintage Barruol-Lynch, a partnership between famed Berkeley importer Kermit Lynch and Chateau de Saint-Cosme owner/winemaker Louis Barruol, shows vibrant pure Syrah character with Cote-Rotie’s signature violets, flinty stones and cracked peppercorns along with boysenberry, plum and kirsch notes plus a hint of game, granite and black olives. This is pretty stuff, the floral perfume lingers both in scent and aftertaste and the modest alcohol makes for fresh and almost Pinot like experience for the palate. Unlike the denser and glycerin heavy Guigal Cote-Rotie examples this Barruol made version is more old school, restrained and can be enjoyed right now. The northern Rhone lineup from Barruol-Lynch is an exciting set of wines, be sure to search out the 2010’s if you can still find them, but the 2013 is certainly a pleasing option that looks to gain a bit with age and drink well now.
($70 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Saraziniere, Macon-Bussieres, Le Pavillon, White Burgundy, France.
Here’s another beautiful 2014 Maconnais Chardonnay that you should really stock up on, it is really pure and flavorful with classic limestone influence from Domaine de la Saraziniere, a producer new to me, but one I plan on keeping track of. Imported by Joli Vin Imports, the natural and mineral driven Le Pavillon Macon-Bussieres drinks wonderfully well and more like a Premier Cru white Burgundy that you’d imagine from wine of this price class, it’s vivid, vibrant and texturally pleasing, showing it’s terroir and gentile handing from vine to bottle. The 2014 Saraziniere Macon Bussieres starts with mineral tones, salty chalk and white flowers with clear lime and kiwi leading to a lemony palate with apple and white peach fruits with hints of clove spice, leesy smoke, hazelnut and steely wet stones. Lingering tart pear, orange blossom and fresh acidity make this wine stand out, and while filled with zest and energy this crisp Chardonnay fills out in the mouth and has balanced density. The Domaine de la Saraziniere Macon-Bussieres Le Pavillon is impressive and graceful, without question a steal at this price, this stuff will be a huge hit with the wine bar and bistro set, great to sip and better with cuisine, drink up!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau Thivin, Clos de Rochebonne, Beaujolais Blanc, France.
Claude Geoffray’s stylish and unique Chardonnay, a Beaujolais Blanc from 50 year old vines that have their roots in limestone, gravel and mineral intense soils, delivers class and character that see it perform at a level that demands attention and praise. The Thivin Blanc from near Brouilly is a beautiful offering that is similar to White Burgundies from the Maconnais, I’d say it is close in personality to a better Saint-Veran with bright fruit, steely mineral and stony throughout along with subtle creaminess. Geoffrey uses neutral cask for a short period prior to bottling, but mostly this Chardonnay sees clear tank aging with a hint of lees. The nose is lightly floral, white flowers and citrus lead along with pear, lemon/lime, melon and tart apple fruits on the very charming palate which is vibrant and barely medium-bodied with hints of saline infused rock, hazelnut, raw butter and spiced honey. The vivid acidity keeps things pure and fresh all the way in this wonderfully judged white, this is very balanced, focused and poised Chardonnay that drinks above it’s origins and price point, one of the finest Beaujolais Blancs I’ve tasted to date, it is definitely worth searching out, imported by Kermit Lynch, who knows a fair bit about desirable Chardonnay… Drink the 2014 Thivin Clos de Rochebonne over the next couple of years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Vigneti Massa, Derthona Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmonte, Italy.
Walter Massa almost single handedly saved this varietal from extinction and makes what might be the best example of Timorasso you can find. This white is a wonderful expression of complexity and terroir with intense almost meat character with fine details and alluring textures along with steely mineral and vibrant fruit. The 2012 Massa Timorasso is exotic and savory, it was fermented using native yeasts and kept on it’s lees for a year, from all organic vines with no new wood, allowing the grape’s true nature to shine through. I was thrilled by this wine, in the glass it has a light golden pale hue, clear and bright with an earthy nose that has a hint of floral elements along with bacon oil and cheesy/lessy notes, like a young white Hermitage, but not as dense, leading to a vigorous palate with tangy citrus, lemon/lime, jasmine, white anise, kumquat, wet river rocks with chalk and flint spice along with peach and bruised apple. The vitality and light/medium body of this wine makes it extremely flexible with cuisine, though this wine will not be for everyone, it is an intriguing study and absolutely pure in quality and style. Drink this impressive white from Piedmonte’s southeast corner over the next 3 to 5 years, and bravo to Massa for bringing back this native grape, the world is a better place for having Timorasso and Erbaluce, another Piedmonte white grape that has made a stunning come back, awesome.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Saint-Veran, White Burgundy, France.
The 2014 vintage from Lafon’s Maconnais based Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon is beautiful, especially the newest addition to the series, the Saint-Veran, which is a lovely and vital Chardonnay that has depth of flavor and bright energy. The whole of Burgundy seems to be getting a complete reset, in particular the Maconnais and Saint-Aubin have risen up to be the new (old?) Chassagne, now that Puligny, Meursault and Chassagne offerings have all been priced out of affordable realm for most people that enjoy white Burgundy are not high-end collectors. For superb quality at fair prices, Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon wines really deliver, hats off to Dominique Lafon, and while his Domaine des Comtes Lafon continues to be one of the greatest estates in Burgundy, the Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon gets better and more desirable with each year. The Saint-Veran 2014 starts with white flowers, chalk dust, brine and lemony yellow fruits with light rose petal, mineral/steely notes, hazelnut and wet river stones all showing on the vigorous and textured palate along with green apple, white peach, matchstick, golden fig and clove spice with the faintest traces of tropical fruit, honey and quince. This white drinks brilliantly in it’s youth with elegant layers, it shows a Premier Cru Chablis like character though not as flinty with a certain creaminess without loosing it’s dry crisp vibrant/racy qualities, this is exciting and poised Chardonnay. If you are looking for gorgeous white Burgundy that would break the bank, 2014 will be a good vintage to stock up on, with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Marc Colin and Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon all making very entertaining and savvy wines.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 M. Lapierre, Morgon, Marcel Lapierre Cuvee MMXIV, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Cuvee Marcel 2014 from Lapierre is a glorious serious Gamay that shows the future of how we think on this place and varietal, the new generation has arrived in the world and are making great wines, their own way. This is a wine that honors the past, especially the talents of the late Marcel Lapierre, but also delivers a message that without question Mathieu Lapierre is a gifted winemaker and communicator of tradition and terroir. Lapierre is one of the leading lights of the natural wine world, which against all odds has firmly established itself into the modern world of wine and culture. Tasting both of Lapierre’s Morgon bottlings, this Cuvee Marcel and his non sulfur, exclusive to Kermit Lynch in the States, is revealing, both are gorgeous wines, with the “N” non sulfur at first being more expressive and pleasing really gets exciting the instant it hits the glass, while the more reserved Cuvee Marcel takes it’s time to unwind, but once it gets air look out, this is mind-blowing Gamay! I have always admired Lapierre wines, though if I’m honest have usually opted for Jean Foillard’s Morgon when I’ve had the chance, but I must say Mathieu’s latest wines are rocking good and may be the best yet, I would not pass up to chance to score either of his 2014 wines, in particular this Cuvee Marcel, which is drop dead gorgeous, pure, soulful and stunningly lengthy, it’s a must have! The 2014 Lapierre Marcel starts with blueberry, violets, wild plum with tangy herbs and salty mineral essence leading to a medium full palate of blackberry, cherry, strawberry, dark currant and walnut oil. Minty anise, saline, shale and incense provide background music in this lovely and textured Gamay, this is special and decedent juice that should age beautifully and rewarding for at least a decade. The ultra low dose of sulfur doesn’t take away the all natural appeal, it just gives this beauty a little security for cellaring. These 2014 Lapierre Morgon(s) bring the same kind of joy and energy that you’d expect from top Burgundy, these are truly emotional and provocative efforts, bravo!
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Le Vignoble d’ Elian, Cotes du Marmandais, France.
Here is an interesting wine from the upper Gironde River in France’s wild southwest, but not too far from Bordeaux as to miss an influence. The 2012 Le Vignoble d’ Elian Rouge Cotes du Marmandais is made up of mostly Cabernet Franc and Merlot but also has some percentage of a rare native grape, Abouriou, it is a very intriguing example of terroir and style with early tones that remind you of the Loire, but with almost right bank density and mouth feel, though very clearly is unique. The ancient rocky loam and clay soils allow the Franc and Merlot to really shine with opulent fruit and there is a wild side of exotic spice, game, leather and raw intensity which adds character and complexity to this darkly fruited wine. The nose has crushed flowers, minty herbs, red berries and briar notes leading to a reasonably full bodied palate of plum, black cherry, raspberry and currant fruits with cinnamon, nutmeg, roof tiles, green pepper, sugar beet and a subtle mineral/iron meatiness. This finely balanced red, with 13.5% alcohol and mild tannins, turns on the charm with air and elegance emerges from the glass with a few swirls, this is a wonderful off beat red that is going to confuse your wine friends, but will really please at the table, especially with simple and hearty cuisine. This is well made, fun and full of flavor, with just enough rustic edges to keep the faith with it’s sense of place, off the beaten path for sure, but certainly worth exploring!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson, Saint-Romain Rouge, Absolu, Red Burgundy, France.
The latest releases from Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson were soulfully crafted by Frederick “Fred” Buisson, a dynamic youthful winemaker that is going towards a natural style of wine, this is an excellent debut set of Burgundies, specially his classic set of Saint-Romain whites and this “Absolu” red Saint-Romain that was made from organic vines, native yeast fermented and with no sulfur added. It is similar in style to Philippe Pacalet and offers plenty of terroir and whole cluster influence and has lots of verve and spice with layers of red cherry, plum, chalk dust, loamy, cracked pepper and succulent red currants with light floral tones throughout as well as a mineral essence. This wine really grows on you in the glass revealing more charm and Pinot character with air adding hints of cranberry, apple skin, red peach and sweet tea spices. I can imagine Buisson the younger gaining a strong fan base over the next few vintages, there is a lot to admire about about this “natural” red Burgundy and for his traditional set of whites. Only tiny amounts of the production is imported, so this will be a hard get, but worth checking out if you come across it, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($56 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Lower East by Gramercy Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
The Lower East lineup, Syrah and this Cabernet are beautiful wines and great values from Greg Harrington at Gramercy, they offering amazing richness and detail for the money and are stylish reds from Washington State. The 2013 Cabernet is lush and round with loads of red and black fruits, but still has some serious vigor, thick texture, intensity and focus with ripe/sweet tannins as well as a long finish, this is some good stuff, honestly it would be difficult to find a wine of this quality in Napa Valley under $75 to 100! I’m a huge fan of all the Gramercy Cellars wines, from his Picpoul and Rhone style red blends to his lovely Syrahs and powerful Cabernet, I recommend you try all of Harrington’s stuff, but this Lower East Cabernet Sauvignon is a great place to start. The Lower East Cabernet starts with a hint of smoky wood, red berries, light floral tones and sweet licorice leading to a layered palate of blackberry, tangy currants, cherry and juicy plum fruit with notes of cassis, vanilla, stony earth, dried tobacco/cigar wrapper and sexy violet/acacia flowers and blueberry that linger on and on with a lift of smooth acidity and just enough grip tannin to let you know this wine has structure and poise. This full-bodied wine impresses and pleases the senses, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, though I’m sure it will reward a decade in the cellar as well, have with BBQ, grilled meats and or mushroom dishes, 2013 is a vintage to stock up on!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Corte Sant’Alda, Ca’ Fiui, Valpolicella DOC, Veneto Italy.
The wonderfully aromatic and delicately flavored all natural Corte Sant’Alda Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella is a perfumed joy in the glass with light layers of dark fruits, mineral and exotic spices. Native yeasts and low sulfur make this pretty blend of Corvina Grossa, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara really stand out and shine brightly with a heady nose full of rose petals, rose oil and sticky lavender. The hue is dark ruby with a blueish core and while light to medium in body there is beautiful detail, ripe mouth feel and vitality in this stylish and charming Valpolicella. Black cherry, plum, crushed flowers lead on the palate along with bright herbs, peppery spice and a hint of red peach flesh, this is similar to Cru Beaujolais in style/weight and finishes with dry stoniness, minty herb and tangy acidity. Corte Sant’Alda makes a gorgeous Soave as well, and I can’t wait to try their more complete lineup in the future, both the wines I tried had an inner beauty and energy that was quite captivating and sensual, especially this Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella, imported by Portovino Imports/Regal Wine Co. Drink this lovely red over the next 3 to 5 years, this is impressive and a winery to look for.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rudesheimer Klosterlay, Rheingau Germany.
The wonderfully aromatic and lively Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett delivers fresh and vibrant flavors that reflect the terroir and vintage perfectly with pretty white rose petal, green apple, tangy melon, lime and light tropical notes with a hint of dried honey, wet stones and a touch of salty loam. The sugar level never intrudes and while there is a kiss of sweetness this is a pleasingly balanced Riesling that is easily quaffed. The Klosterlay is not as intense as Rudesheimer Berg, but it’s mix of loess, clay and dusting of quartzite and weathered slate makes for an interesting mix and allows this fun Riesling to have a core of seriousness and vigor, as well as being forward and charming in style, the balance of acid, sugar and mineral elements are really dialed in. This is quality stuff from Johannes Leitz, who has a brilliant lineup of wines on offer including two fine sparkling wines, a Riesling Sekt and a Pinot Noir Rose, some fine Trockens, Grand Cru and Village, and some off dry beauties like this one, as well as his fantastic Rudesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels Terrassen and the sexy Dragonstone. Johannnes’ Spatlese and Auslese bottlings are legandary and should grace a few cellars! Look for a nice long drinking window on this Klosterlay Kabinett, though alluring now, it should develop nicely for 3 to 5 years picking up stone fruit and secondary layers and last another 12 to 16 years no problem.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, 3-D Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Greg Brewer’s lineup of Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are spectacular and deserving of attention, especially with a bit of time on them the 2012’s are showing stunningly well, in particular this gorgeous and complex 2012 3-D Pinot that seems to have really sharpened in focus and come together beautiful over the last 12 months since I last tried it. Brewer went whole cluster and no new oak on his 2012 and 2013 Pinots and this has proved a great success with wonderful vitality, texture and exceptional purity making these wines almost irresistible and alluring. At 14% this 3-D Pinot Noir shows a full bodied mouth feel without any heat or heaviness, in fact it’s come into almost perfect harmony with graceful lines and layers of seamless details and has a good lively nature and spiciness. The nose is full of red fruits, rose petal and exotic spices leading to an ultra silken palate of raspberry, cherry, plum, pomegranate and strawberry fruits with cinnamon, anise, Thai basil and tea notes. Sensual earthy notes and chalk dust add to the whole in this pleasing Sta. Rita Hills Pinot along with a hint of savory umami elements, mission fig and saline come out with air. This Pinot is entering a magical phase and should entertain and intrigue for another decade with ease. It’s great to see Greg’s Pinots reach the heights of his masterpieces of Chardonnay, of which I am in complete awe of, and have been since first tasting his 2000 Brewer-Clifton Mt. Carmel Chardonnay, to this day it remains one of my top ten California wines of all time!
($79 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Avinyo, Brut Rose, Reserva Cava, Alt Penedes, Spain.
A wonderful pink sparkler that makes for a fun and savvy Valentine’s Day choice, but really this is terrific stuff and quality Cava. From Alt Penedes, the Avinyo Cava made by the Esteve Nadal family is from high elevation vines, it is an estate Cava and this Rose Brut Reserva is all Pinot Noir from free run juice and crafted methode champenoise. The Brut Rose Reserva Avinyo is aged on the lees for 12 months before disgorgement and it has plenty of fine yeasty character along with clear red fruit, tart cherry, strawberry and citrusy notes, spice and mineral. The mousse is rich, but delicate in feel, this is Catalan bubbles at it’s best and most vibrant. Super just sipping away, though even better with cuisine, this beauty goes with just about anything, this Avinyo is a joy in the glass, dry, detailed, fresh and with good length, it is easy to love. Avinyo Cava’s are stylish, especially this Rose, but regular Brut Reserva is super tasty as well, be sure to check them out!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Smith-Story, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County.
The Smith-Story wines are all worthy of searching out and Eric and Alison Story have put together a great lineup of talent behind their wines with the likes of Ross Cobb, formerly of Hirsch and his pal Katy Wilson of La Rue, along with one of Germany’s best and most exciting producers from Ruedesheim in the Rheingau. Cobb and Wilson will really make a huge impact on the California offerings and the 2014 Anderson Valley Pinot is a good insight into how good these wines are going to be in the future. The current lineup includes a lovely pink Pinot Noir rose and dry Riesling from Germany at great prices, plus my favorite their Sonoma Mountain sourced Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc that has the Greystack clone, non musque, which is a delightful and interesting Sauvignon Blanc. The 2014 Smith-Story Sauvignon Blanc has nice ripe citrus, peach, quince, gooseberry and white cherry layers with a core of lemon/lime and cool summer melon along with a touch of tangy herbs, wet stones and a nervy steeliness. In a world of boring $30 Sauvignon Blancs, the Smith-Story stand above and has an almost Alto-Adige kind of feel and excitement to it, like the Terlano, I was impressed, if you are looking for a good and solid value in dry Sauvignon Blanc this will please you. The 2014’s from Smith-Story are all bargains and offer lots of personality, quality and verve for the money, especially the Sauvignon Blanc. All of them are easy to love and drink now, keep an eye out for them, this is a label to watch.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Maxime Magnon, Rozeta, Corbieres Rouge, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Magnon is an all natural producer is the wilds of the Languedoc in Vallee du Paradis and he crafts wines from field blend vineyards in Corbieres. These are beautiful, almost delicate wines, all organic and without the addition of sulfur, he learned his winemaking at the famed Morgon cellar of Jean Foillard and has been mentored also by Didier Barral in Faugeres. Maxime uses native yeasts and used Chassagne-Montrachet barrels to make his wines, the grapes are fermented whole cluster and all are co-fermented, the blend in this gorgeous Rozeta Corbieres is unique with varietals that include Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, but also has Grenache Gris, Macabou and Terret which are grayish and white grapes that add acidity, pigment and are in a way like Cote-Rotie is with the Syrah and Viognier. The soils part a part in the character in Magnon’s wines with limestone and schist adding complexity, mineral and spicy notes to these wonderfully textured and vibrant expressions of terroir. The 2014 Magnon Rozeta Cobieres starts with a spicy floral note, a flinty and rocky element, earth and herbs all coming through on the nose with wild strawberry and vine picked red berries which together also come through on the medium bodied palate as well, along with cracked pepper, cinnamon, raspberry, pomegranate, juicy tart currant and red peach flesh. Hints of sage, lavender, anise and sweet cherries add interest to this easy to love red, there is a nice burst of acidity, mild tannins that form the structure that holds the fruit together to the bright lingering finish. The impression of red plum and mixed flowers stays long after the last sip, this is really sexy unique wine, elegant and exotic, but with an authentic rawness that stays true to place and style, drink this over the next 2 or 3 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Prieler, Blaufränkisch, Johanneshole, Burgenland Austria.
The beautiful and stylish Prieler Johanneshole Blaufrankisch 2013 reveals the near perfect vintage and terroir expression with layers of blue and red fruits, mineral notes and earthy spices. Georg and his wife Silvia, who has worked at Burgundy’s Domaine Dujac, make some of Austria’s best under the radar wines, with a great lineup of Blaufrankisch, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and a gorgeous Blaufrankisch Rose. This Burgenland estate, like Burgundy, does village wines and single Cru offerings and in certain years such as 2013, which I believe maybe the best year I’ve ever tasted in Austrian wine in my 16 years of reviewing, the basic wines are not too far off the Cru bottlings, this is partitularly true of the 2013 Johanneshole Blaufrankisch, making it an exceptional value. The 2013 Prieler Johanneshole was fermented and raised in large neutral oak cask, where as the Cru wines age in small French Barrique, both are glorious examples of great Blaufrankisch, it is just that for around $20 the Johanneshole is a steal and more ready to drink. The nose has a floral tone and light perfume quality along with black raspberry, wild herbs and olive note leading to a rich and vibrant palate, the thing about 2013 the year is that it delivered wonderful ripe flavors, but gave thrilling acidity and mineral detail, and this shines through in Prieler’s wines, especially in this Johanneshole. The palate gives black cherry, plum, saddle leather, fig, a hint of bacon, tangy red currant and a trace of baking spices, anise, truffle and sensual earthiness. The medium full bodied Blaufrankisch flows with smooth tannins and has the impression of density without heaviness and it balances the sweetness of fruit with lovely savory elements, this is a stunning and expressive red from Prieler, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. Look for this and all the 2013 Prieler wines, the whites are worth looking for in 2013, 2014 and 2015, plus the 2015 Rose is killer!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff Trocken, Riesling, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany.
The Donnhoff 2015 Rieslings are going to be out of this world, they look set for a legendary future, especially the trocken wines in this vintage, which will have more depth and richness than the 2014 wines, and they were pretty nice, but 2015 is something special, you can already see it even from the cask samples. The 2015 Estate offerings were amazingly complete and lovely, both the Estate Trocken and the Estate QbA, which is just off dry, showed well, though in particular the 2015 Tonschiefer Trocken Dry Slate Riesling from blocks of fruit from the Oberhauser Leistenberg and it’s sandy slate soils really stood out and will be a fantastic value in dry Riesling when it’s released this late Spring or early Summer. Donnhoff is one of the great estates in the wine world, based in the Nahe, the vineyards are set in an array of gorgeous terrors and it offers a mixed palate of soils from slate to volcanic with areas of sand and loam as well as bits of quartzite and clay, this why Donnhoff can put out so many glorious wines from super dry to Eiswein and each with it’s own character and groove. The 2015 Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling is forward and lush with spicy mineral and brisk vibrancy with tangy lime, quince and subtle tropical notes and zesty wet shale/flinty stoniness as well as classic white peach, apricot and green apple fruits. The nose needs time to develop, but adds rosewater, saline/brine, citrus blossom and almost a white cherry note. The extract is gripping and tangy acidity make this Riesling sing, this is very exciting stuff that will certainly impress on release and age beautifully for a decade and a half easily. Look for this Donnhoff or get your order in on it, this is a wine you are going to want to own, especially at the price, and I cannot wait until this summer to try more of Donnhoff’s 2015 wines, this is a vintage to go nuts on, no question! (Tasted from tank sample)
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Samsara, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
The latest Samsara wines are all wonderfully complex, textural and ripe in flavor profiles, both the new Sta. Rita Hills Pinot and Santa Barbara County Syrah show fine definition, smooth tannins and whole cluster spicy characters, and better still both offer great value for the hand crafted quality in each varietal. Focusing on the beautiful and dark Santa Barbara Syrah, by Chad Melville, reveals a wine with a blueish/black core and vibrant garnet edges that has mixed scents of violets, minty herbs, cracked peppercorns and cassis notes leading to a full bodied palate that shows boysenberry, pomegranate, kirsch, cedar, earthy/loam and bitter coco as well as black olive and wild lavender. There is a pleasing vibrancy and energy that keeps these fresh and a lingering tangy currant and anise on the finish. This is a very solid effort that has lots of pretty details, it’s wine that shows off a bit of California swagger, but still pays homage to the Northern Rhone, leaning more towards Cote-Rotie than Cornas in a very poised and entertaining way. Samsara is a winery to search out, both the Syrah and Pinot bottlings are outstanding and will make for excellent drinking over the next 3 to 5 years.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
1997 Chateau Coutet, Cuvee Madame, Premier Cru Classe, Sauternes-Barsac, Sweet Bordeaux Wine, France.
One of the great surprises of the month was tasting the sublime “Golden Wine” from Chateau Coutet, this 1997 was pure heaven in the glass, in fact I was far more impressed with this Coutet than the 2001 Chateau D’Yquem, a legend 100 Pointer, I had tasted a week earlier! I am always grateful for my friend and collector of Sauternes Fred Daniels for expanding my knowledge on these gorgeous and often overlooked wines, as he was the generous soul that opened this wonderful nectar for a group of us. Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet would be proud of the 1997’s showing, the Cuvee Madame, only made in the better vintages is a stunning example of balance and hedonism in what Baly calls a “Golden Wine” instead of sweet wine or dessert wine, and who am I too argue as wines like hers should not be put into a limited box. The Coutet 1997 Cuvee Madame flows with yellow rose petals, creme brûlée, sweet peach and apricot fruits, but is lifted by contrasting saline, tangerine/lemon citrus and clove spice before a long finish of pineapple and honey. The texture is rich and silken, but there is energy and delicacy as well, this is a gorgeous Barsac that can be enjoyed in so many ways, from raw oysters to savory cheeses or pear or apple tarts, while sweet and decedent it never feels sickly or cloying in sugar, this wine is pure class. This is what late harvest Semillon is all about, drink this beauty over the next 15 to 25 years, it’s a stunner.
($60-100+ Est. 750ml) 95 Points, grapelive
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Saint-Aubin, Le Banc, White Burgundy, France.
Bottled in wide heavy glass the new 2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin Le Banc is a curvy sexy white Burgundy with everything you’ve come to expect from this talented winemaker that seems to have completely mastered the art of crafting great Chardonnay! While his top Premier Cru and Grand Cru stuff are legendary, I love his entry level and village wines for the ability to impress at a reasonable price, and in particular this Le Banc Saint-Aubin from PYCM really over delivers with pure and vibrant flavors and layers of texture. The 2014’s look to surpass the 2012 and 2013 in sheer pleasure terms, but there are no duds in the last 10 years from Colin-Morey, though 2014 is a bit more flamboyant and plush at this stage, and easy to love right now even. The 2014 Le Banc starts with matchstick, lemon notes and a bit of smoke before hints of white flowers, clove spice and wet stones come through as it warms in the glass. The palate is lively, fresh and like golden velvet with an underlying brisk flow of acidity and mineral/steely intensity with peach, lime and apple along with hazelnut, dried honey, salty chalk and soft wood notes. For value and quality it is hard to beat Saint-Aubin for white Burgundy these days and the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey just give that bit of extra that make them so appealing, these are gorgeous Chards that live up to the hype, don’t miss them they are too rewarding to pass up and worth the effort to find them. Drink the 2014’s anytime and anywhere, best from 2018 to 2024.
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Loibner Federspiel, Wachau Austria.
The lovely Knoll Federspiel Loibner Riesling is seriously dry and tangy, dripping with minerals and bright citrus fruit, this 2014 is a charmer. These 2014 wines are very nice and thoughtfully engaging, but it is very hard to follow what is considered the vintage of a generation in 2013 and certainly even the best of 2014 lack the personality of the 2013, though it is not a huge gap and wines like this Knoll, plus Groiss, Nigl, Loimer and others are wines you’ll want to drink. The Knoll is light in body and full of zesty acidity with white peach, brine, wet river rocks, lemon/lime, wild herbs, dusty unripe apricot and an edgy steely nature. With air the pale/golden hued Knoll Loibner gains a bit of extract, yellow fruits and hints at rose petals, tropical essences and some subtle earthy tones making this a pleasing and refreshing Riesling, still nervy and electric, but not as serve or austere as it starts out. I love the Knoll wines in every vintage, they are always stylish offerings and this 2014 is not a let down in anyway, though I wish I had more 2013’s in my cellar if I am truly honest. Drink the Federspiel Loibner Riesling over the next 2 or 3 years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Carrick, Chardonnay, Bannokburn, Central Otago, New Zealand.
If you love Chablis and or Chassagne-Montrachet you’ll be wonderfully surprised and impressed by Carrick’s lovely and vital Bannockburn Chardonnay from New Zealand’s beautiful Central Otago. This Carrick Chard is very different from the Marlborough and Martinborough wines that are more commonly exported, this not a fruity or tropical style, the Carrick shows real mineral intensity, lemony citrus and classic matchstick that really remind you of Burgundy. The 2014 Carrick Bannockburn Chardonnay starts with a hint of white flowers, straw, citrus and a touch of smoke before a vigorous attack on the palate with steely layers of green apple, lemon, wet stones, fig, clove, hazelnuts and white peach. This is exciting Chardonnay that delivers nice racy acidity, verve and really turns on the style, especially for the price, this is one of the finest examples of Kiwi Chardonnay I’ve tried. Carrick, which is all biodynamic, also makes a superb Pinot Noir as well, the vines are set into almost pure rock and surrounded by gorgeous glacial lakes of a vivid blue I’ve never seen before, this wine and photos of the vineyards really are compelling, I want to visit! Drink this beautiful and well crafted Chard over the next 3 to 5 years, and Carrick is certainly a winery to look for.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sylvain Dittiere, La Porte Saint Jean, Saumur-Champigny, Loire Valley, Cabernet Franc, France.
My first time tasting the Sylvain Dittiere wines and I was left very impressed, especially by his stylish La Porte Saint Jean Saumur-Champigny Rouge a lovely and dynamic Cabernet Franc that shows a wonderful range of flavors and class. Bright red currants, mixed spices and delicate floral notes lead the way on the nose giving way to earthy and savory elements in true Loire Franc fashion with hints of tart plum, green pepper, leather and flinty mineral. The main palate spins around a core of red berry and crushed violets with the mentioned currant, cherry and plum fruits along with a bit of truffle, celery root, cedar and dusty lavender. This medium bodied effort is really a pure terroir wine and in keeping with Dittiere’s mentors at Clos Rougeard and a little like the younger Olga Raffault wines, this is expressive and intriguing stuff! I must say this was a delightful experience to discover this up and coming producer that is steeped in old school tradition, big thanks to Nadia Dmytriw at Joli Vin Imports for introducing me to La Porte Saint Jean and Sylvain’s wines, both this one and his 2011 were really alluring and have great aging potential.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Carter Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The new 2014 Carter Vineyard from Ken Wright is devilishly good already, it shows amazing poise and concentration of fruit even in it’s infantile youth and looks set to be one of the greats in his lineup for this spectacular Oregon vintage. The 2014 shows shows the perfect combination of terroir and vintage influences with lovely textural pleasure and depth of flavors along with an almost endless finish, this is a special Pinot Noir from Ken Wright, who’s been doing in Oregon since the later half of the 1980’s. The nose is rich with floral tones, dark fruits, exotic spices and sweet smoky wood leading to a decedent palate of blackberry, plum, pomegranate and a solid band of morello cherry fruit as well as a background of cola bean, earth, cinnamon, minty herbs, pipe tobacco and cedar. The body is round and medium to full, but with lively acidity and smoothly polished tannins, as well as a play of savory elements, saline, fine stones and flinty minerals. There is a lot packed into this Pinot Noir and it will certainly age fantastically well and gain even further over the next decade, the Carter is a gorgeous Oregon wine, it and Ken’s Shea and Freedom Hill Pinots are wines from this vintage you really must search out, all will be classics and rewarding treasures to pull out of the cellar. The Carter’s length at this stage goes the extra mile holding currant, black fig, rose petal, kirsch and vanilla for what seems like ages, drink this beauty from 2018 to 2028.
($63 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
2012 Niepoort-Quinta de Baixo, Tinto Lugar de Baixos, Baga, Bairrada, Portugal.
One of the wonderful still wines from famed Port house Niepoort, the Lagar de Baixos is 100% Baga from Bairrada, this lively and interesting red comes from young and old blocks of Atlantic influenced vineyards. The spicy and complex Baga Lagar de Baixos by Dirk Niepoort is a very pretty red wine that has cool climate lively freshness and delicate fruity elements with cherry, strawberry, plum and wild raspberry layers along with dusty notes, minty herbs and cracked peppercorns. This red from northwest Portugal has a wonderful texture and feels almost Pinot Noir like on the palate, but with a more spicy kick with hints of cinnamon stick, red pepper, a hint of olive and lavender. There is a kiss of raw cedar and a briny ocean saline note in the background, but the finish is mineral crisp with lingering tangy currant, red peach and cranberry in this fine and pure expression of Baga. This one is ready to drink now, medium weighted and great with seafood, especially spicy mussels and cheeses, best from 2016 to 2021.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
Spreitzer’s wonderful and delicate Rieslings seem to fly under the radar, but always deliver quality, finesse and value from their Estate in the Rheingau, one of the oldest continuing in winemaking in the region, stating back in 1641. Unlike the main Rheingau that is mostly mixed slates and quartzite based soils the Lenchen vines of Spreitzer grow out of a mix of clay, loess and loam, this makes for very refined and aromatic Riesling and while their sweeter wines at Kabinett and Spatlese are some of their best offerings, they do a fine set of Trockens, which are getting better with every passing vintage with their Grosses Gewachs pair, the Wisselbrunnen and Rosengarten being gorgeous dry wines, plus three underlings including this Estate Trocken, which should not be overlooked. With less wood than the Grand Crus the Spreitzer Riesling Estate Trocken is a fresh example of brisk and dry Riesling that has bright acidity, but also pleases the palate with pretty layers and a perfume of white flowers and tangy citrus. The palate is vibrant with lemon/lime, green apple, crisp melon and mandarin orange leading the way along with saline, white tea, steely mineral and a touch of earthy chalkiness. The upper level dry wines here at Spreitzer have a rich and classy oak influence, but this one delights for it’s purity and delicacy without losing it’s complexity or charm, and it is a steal at the price. This uplifting summery Riesling can be enjoyed with many cuisines and styles of food, it is so easy to love and is a great quaffer, drink this well crafted white over the next 3 to 5 years. Andreas and Bernd are making some fantastic wines, be sure to check all of their 2014’s, and in particular this expressive value priced dry unique Rheingau Riesling.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre Rouge, Les Herses, Loire Valley, France.
A “cult” Pinot Noir from the Loire the Alphone Mellot Sancerre Rouge is living up to the hype, this deep and Sonoma Coast dark red is jaw-dropping, it takes some decanting and time, this 2012, but wow, when it opens it is stunning. A recent Loire tasting as all it took to make me a believer in Alphonse Mellot’s Pinot, but like Burgundy these wines need some age on them, the 2012 when I first tasted it about 7 months ago was massive and so tight it was too hard to judge, but now it is really starting to reveal gorgeous detail and is opening up wonderfully, while remaining vigorous and intense, this is wildly impressive and exciting stuff with a gloriously long finish. Grown on Silex soils and small yields help bring out concentration and the cone is particularly rich in color, making Mellot’s Sancerre Rouge unique and powerful in the glass, especially the Les Herses which has a garnet and ruby hue. While pouring into a decanter waves of floral perfume, earth, flint/stones and spices came rushing out with dried violets, leather, red rose petal, a hint of graphite and kirsch coming into focus along with touch of mint, clay and forest berries. The palate is firm and well structured with black raspberry, plum, currant and sweet red cherry fruit as well as anise, cinnamon stick, sticky lavender, cedar and smoky mineral. This young Pinot feels more Nuits-St.-Georges than Loire with briar, bramble and grippy tannins, the pretty elements take the center stage when allowed the grace period to awaken, be patient and reap the rewards, I’d give it another 3 to 5 years to really become a superstar, it certainly shows the core of a great wine, best from 2018 to 2029. If you can’t wait, then be sure to make an evening of this Sancerre Rouge and may I suggest duck breast or wild mushroom dishes, this is serious juice to be celebrated and it needs food to shine.
($65 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Weinget Leitz, Dragonstone Riesling Sekt, Sparkling Wine, Rheingau Germany.
The beautiful and thrilling Dragonstone Riesling Sekt is another brilliant creation from Johannes Leitz, it is a slightly drier, leesy and bubbly version of his famed Dragonstone Riesling from Rudesheim on the Rhein. The Drachenstein sparkler is a wonderful addition to the Leitz family of wines and is not just a celebration once in a while offering, this is a serious food wine and drink often Riesling that goes with a wide range of cuisine, it has enough complexity and vitality to please in almost any setting. In other words this is not a novelty item, but a wine you’ll want around in numbers! The Leitz Dragonstone Sekt bubbles turns on the charm the second it hits the glass, in fact even before you taste it you’ll be licking your lips as the packaging is superb, it beads gracefully with fine small bubbles and the mousse is luxurious this is really fun stuff with a Riesling mineral driven character. The nose has golden fig, chalk dust, rosewater, hazelnut and apple start before a steely palate of lime, peach, yeasty notes and a touch of honey balanced with salty wet stones, dried pineapple and lemon oil tanginess in this slightly sweet, but focused sparkling wine. There is good extract and density here, same as the still wine version, though it feels delicate and the sugar level adds a welcoming caress of grace, texture and pleasure, it is the perfect foil to the natural acidity and overall the impression is about extra dry, making for a less severe style, but still very controlled, flexible and refreshing. I can see a lot of this in my future, and I highly recommend you chase this beauty down, last year’s Pinot Noir Sekt sold out fast, so don’t wait to long to get your hands on Leitz’s Dragonstone Bubbly! I sampled it at the famed Slanted Door, where it is BTG (by the glass) a perfect place to give it a test drive!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Casanova di Neri, White Label, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscan Red, Italy.
It was a pleasure to meet Giavanni Neri and taste through the latest Casanova di Neri wines, Casanova di Neri is one of Italy’s great wineries and a blue chip standard Brunello year after year. The new set of Casanova di Neri is an amazing lineup from the humble Rosso di Neri to the mind-blowing perfection of the 2010 Cerretalto Brunello! Of course, I was most interested in the soon to be released 2011 Brunello offerings, and how they’d compare to the 2010’s, so I picked the classic White Label to focus on, though I did try the 2011 Tenuta Nuova with Giavanni as well and while not as firm or as focused as the 2010’s these 2011 wines are highly enjoyable and wonderfully expressive and impressive. Similar to 2011 Barolo, these wines gained from the warmer summer heat, these are more generous wines with sweeter tannins and will be easy to please in their youth, but Casanova di Neri really did a great job here, as these Sangiovese Grosso Brunello di Montalcino 2011’s both have balance, depth and vitality. The 2011 Casanova di Neri White Label, the Brunello Normale, is full of flavor, extract and energy with ripe fruit, structure to match and pleasing mouth feel. The 2010 Cerretalto Brunello by di Neri and the 2011 Tenuta Nuova are absolutely stunning wines, but both learn towards Bordeaux in style, and in price, especially the Cerretalto at $375/bt is in league with the great Paulliacs, with the Tenuta Nuova being more Right Bank in style, while the 2011 Casanova di Neri White Label shows more it’s Tuscan soul. The 2011 White Label Brunello di Montalcino starts with a touch of graphite/flint, red raspberry, sweet minty herbs, light floral tones and cigar wrapper leading to a full and round palate of blackberry, cherry, spiced plum and wild strawberry fruits along with cedar, black fig, anise and warm stones. The body is lavishly textured, but there is lift and vigor with just enough acidity and fine tannin to framed this spot on Brunello. This will be a sleeper, while most people will chase the top end wines and or keep tracking down 2010’s, this looks set to be a great wine that might get overlooked, that will be a mistake, this is one to have and drink over the next decade, it’s very nice stuff. The 2011’s should be widely available in March, be sure to keep an eye out for these Casanova di Neri’s, and if you like Tuscan reds, then you’ll love the stylish flare of di Neri!
($63 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Maison Roy & Fils, Pinot Noir, Petite Incline, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Even better and more dense than the glorious premier release 2013, the new 2014 Petite Incline from Marc-Andre Roy and Jared Etzel is the real deal with expressive fruit, depth and multi layered texture. The deep color and almost blackberry first impression lead into a rich and decedent Pinot Noir with violets, rose oil, smoky/toasty wood, framboise and mixed spices, briar notes and sweet herbs highlighting a core of cherry and plum fruit. Hints of earth and mineral float well in to background in this well crafted wine, both Marc-Andre and Jared are sons of the founders of Beaux Freres, and yes there are similarities and a pedigree of style that flows in this next generation project. This wine has balance, length, vitality and gorgeous detail and should develop nicely in bottle with smooth ripe tannins, perfectly judged acidity and energy even hard-core Burgundy lovers will be smitten with this new Maison Roy Pinot. The Petite Incline is made from grapes from well established vineyards in the Willamette Valley and oh my is is a great value for the quality, it is much the same in terms of quality and price to St. Innocent and certainly is a wine to hunt for if you like Oregon Pinot. The 2014 vintage in Oregon, like 2008 in style, will be one you want to owe, check the new Ken Wright’s, Johan as well as this one, they are all available now and will go fast. Drink the stunning 2014 Petite Incline from Maison Roy from 2017 to 2027, don’t miss out on this rising star.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Erste Lage, Pfalz Germany.
The bright and clear pale gold Paradiesgarten 1er Lage Trocken, one of von Winning’s Premier Cru dry Rieslings, is like a swan, is is beautiful and graceful, though while young is a bit awkward and even a touch ugly, but wow it is really starting to blossom now and is a glorious and dynamic wine. The 2014 Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Cru leads with white flowers, rosewater, salty herbs with lemongrass and intense mineral notes leading to vibrant lime, tangy green apple, hints of white peach, mango skin, nectarine and wet stones. The extract is chalky and there is a touch of earthy complexity starting to emerge which adds character, this wine certainly looks to be a classic, it just needs a bit more time to unwind completely, it is von Winning’s best deal in dry Cru Rieslings and it as it opens in the glass gets very Chablis steely and reveals more textural pleasure and charm. I might call it nervy at first sip, but by the third sip you are beginning to rock and roll, I love it personally and can’t wait for Spring and Summer evenings to enjoy this racy white with it’s crisp and cool vigorous acidity and tightly wound focus. While not as generous and flamboyant as the Grosses Gewachs, this is a super wine with great mid term potential and rewards, drink over the next decade. For the best value from von Winning be sure to look for this and the new 2015 Riesling “Winnings” that has just a bit of sweetness, they are both steals!
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Jerome Gradassi, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Red, France.
The 2014 Jerome Gradassi Chateauneuf is one of the most exciting examples of this historic region I’ve tried in years, and is an amazing value in tiny production handcrafted old vine Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Gradassi is much more famous for his Michelin-starred L’Isle Sonnante restaurant located in Avignon, but after taking over a parcel of ancient Grenache that was once his grandfathers he taught himself how to make wine, very much influenced by hard work and tradition, and through trial an error, Jerome has led himself down the natural winemaking path in his very rustic cellar. The 2014 Domaine Jerome Gradassi Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge was fermented 100% whole-cluster, in underground cement vats with native yeasts and almost no sulfur, everything is done by hand, in fact it is rumored he uses a bucket and rope to move the fermented juice to cask! The Chateauneuf is a cuvee of 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre, with the stems, as well as 4 week maceration and hand punch downs makes for a rustic and spicy wine, but good ripe berries and 10 months in very old barrel/cask help smooth the tannins and it is remarkably fresh and vibrant. The nose is all earth, cracked pepper and wild lavender with hints of kirsch, raspberry and anise leading to a medium full bodied palate of much the same along with boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits, sweet tobacco leaf, a hint of black olive, game, grilled herbs and a lingering note of framboise. This wine has a real thrill about it and I love it’s intensity, spice and rawness, it can be approached now, especially with robust cuisine and or cheeses, but should really age well offering intriguing rewards for those with patience, drink from 2018 to 2026, this is impressive and a very dry Chateauneuf expression, imported by Martine’s Wines.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Bedrock, Nouveau Zinfandel, California.
It took me way too long to get my hands on this wine, I should have tried it back in November, but it was almost impossible to find, this is Bedrock’s Zin tribute to Beaujolais Nouveau and it is really fun and tasty! Great China in Berkeley is still pouring it by the glass and that is were I got my first taste of this carbonic Nouveau Zinfandel made by Morgan Twain-Peterson. It smells a bit like bubble gum and has classic fruity character, but I enjoyed it and it was surprising good with food, with ripe plum, sweet strawberry, a bit of raspberry jello, cranberry and cherry fruits on the palate. This light/medium bodied Zinfandel plays the part of Gamay very well, it is bright and vibrant with nice dark flavors and even though it is quite simple it pleases the senses. This is fun stuff and I hope Bedrock keeps making it, I will be much quicker in getting it next time if they do, to celebrate the vintage. Of course this won’t blow your mind with depth or complexity, but it does give you a hint that 2015 should be a pretty darn good year and you must admire the serious time and effort to make it, just so we can have some fun, hats off to Bedrock, it was worth the wait and fingers crossed for this year!
($20 Est.) 87-89 Points, grapelive
2013 COS, Pithos Rosso, Vittoria, Sicily, Italy.
Pithos is Giuisto Occhipinti’s amphora raised organic Nero d’Avola and Frappato red blend from Vittoria Sicily, think Cerasuolo di Vittoria meets orange wine, and it is one of the best wines to come out of terra-cotta I’ve ever had. COS has changed to a no wood policy in the cellar with dramatic effects, especially in the Pithos lineup of white and red, so now Occhipinti uses tank, cement and Spanish terra-cotta “Kvervi” egg shaped clay vessel to age his wines. The Pithos Rosso, 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, is from de-stemmed grapes aged on the skins in amphora set into the earth for up to a year, and this vibrant and tangy 2013 vintage is a stunner with it’s Georgian influence showing with loads of complex skin tannins and antioxidant accents giving substance and framework to this impressive red. The nose has dried flowers, red currants, Spicy cinnamon stick, chalky earthiness and savory tones that lead to a fine grained palate of spiced plum, black cherry, strawberry and briar laced vine picked berries along with wild herbs, dusty tannins, backed earth/stones, grilled fennel, lavender as well as light red peach and orange marmalade notes. There is about 12% alcohol and a remarkably vibrant and fresh nature to this wine, it is both pleasing and thought provoking, it is a lovely and exotic Sicilian beauty, both this and the white versions are intriguing efforts, I’ve tasted this Pithos red twice, once prior to release with Giusto at a COS seminar in SF with his importer Domaine Select and just last night at home, it has really filled out in the last six months, it has gained detail, depth and is a wonderfully textured wine at this point, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($44 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spatlese, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
One of my all time favorite vineyard sites and maybe the best 2014 Mosel for the money the classic Spatlese Zeltinger Schlossberg from Johannes Selbach is really moving in the right direction and will offer great rewards for the cellar in the decades to come! The rich and layered Riesling has plenty of extract and depth to age and still thrill with youthful energy, this is highly impressive stuff in a very difficult year for growers in the region, tiny crops, humid and muggy weather and Asian fruit flies played havoc with the grapes, but in the end there are some wines that are spectacular, this is one of them. Of course in recent years the talk has been mostly about Grosses Gewachs and dry style wines in Germany, with good reason as they are some of the best white wines in the world, but overlooking these slightly sweeter wines is a serious mistake, with the mineral driven character and beautiful acidity they are gorgeous to drink and have sublime balance, especially the ones from Selbach-Oster. The 2014 Zeltinger Schlossberg bursts from the glass with white flowers, saline, stones and a hint of honey leading to a gloriously decedent palate that shows a trace of botrytis with lush layers of apricot, dried pineapple, minty herbs, flinty/steely mineral and sweet yellow peaches. This wine is developing a wonderful mouth feel and texture, but a underpinning of bright and tangy acid keeps these in control and there is a nice play of savory and briny elements to keep your interest. Finishes with nice energy, lime blossoms, kiwi, mango and tree picked apple haunt in the background. You can easily enjoy this Riesling now with many foods, but 10 years in the cellar would really be the best option, a treasure for those with patience.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Hexamer, Grauburgunder Trocken, Nahe Germany.
The Hexamer Pinot Gris is a pretty and complex mineral driven white that is both serious and fun with an open leesy charm plus vibrant acidity and smoky spices. The mixed soils of Hexamer’s vines give interesting layers of flavor and vitality to this grape, this is one of the best examples of this varietal in Germany I’ve tasted, the Nahe is one of the great terroirs in the world and this 2013 Hexamer Grauburgunder is a stunner, easily on par with anything coming from Alsace or Alto Adige. Hexameter’s wines always seem to enjoy extra time to unfold, and he let this one spend a bit more time in tank on the lees before bottling, it worked out perfectly allowing an added richness of character to come through, but still being energy filled and cooly crisp, it is very lovely and sharply focused. The 2013 Grauburgunder starts with a hint of smoky/leesy brioche and citrus blossoms leading to a round palate of apple, lemon/lime and melon fruit with fine crushed stones and light mineral notes plus a fresh/dry saline element along with a mix of white tea, ginger and unsweetened honey. This is impressive stuff from Hexamer and it should get even better in bottle over the next 3 to 5 years, though there is no need to wait on this one, unlike his Rieslings that need 5 to 10 years to really show their potential, these latest set of offerings are sleepers and amazing values, especially this Pinot Gris, but be sure to score Hexamer’s 2014 and 2015 Rieslings and in particular the 2014 Feinherb Porphyr and 2014 Quarzit Meddersheimer-Rheingrafenberg, at about $20 per bottle they are excellent bargains to put into your cellar!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Montanet-Thoden, Bourgogne Rouge, Garance, Vezelay, France.
Valentin Montanet is the young winemaker who’s making the wines at Montanet-Thoden, his mother’s project from vines she inherited and he is the son of Jean Montanet, a long time Kermit Lynch imports favorite, of Domaine de la Cadette in Vezelay. Vezelay was a historic and ancient wine town in northwest Burgundy, almost directly west of Dijon and close to Chablis, it got wiped out in the 1800’s by phylloxera and only started to make a comeback in the 1970’s, the soils are clay rich and with classic limestone underpinning. Valentin makes natural wines and uses no new oak, his wines show a juicy vibrant style with hints of spice, he tries to ferment whole cluster and ages the Pinot Noir in 80% all neutral barriques and 20% in tank to preserve life and vitality. The 2014 Garance Bourgogne Rouge is a beautiful and stylish effort with graceful lines and drinks clear and persistent with lovely floral tones, chalk/stones, tart cherry, plum and wild strawberry fruit along with zesty pepper, anise and cinnamon notes. Hints of rose petal, earth and light cedar notes add to the complexity of this fine Burgundy and the finish lingers on with red currant sweet and tangy. The white and red Burgundies from Montanet-Thoden are worth searching out for their quality and value with a drink now and often profile, and these 2014’s are in particular very charming offerings.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges Blanc, Vieilles Vignes, White Burgundy, France.
The rare Chevillon NSG Pinot Blanc, made from white berried Pinot Noir vines, in my words an “albino Pinot Noir” which naturally mutated from the red to the white spontaneously in the Nuits Saint Georges vines of Henri Gouges as far back in 1936 and were later grafted over to selected plots at Chevillon intermixed with the Pinot Noir, including the Premier Cru site Les Chaignots. One of the few White Burgundies that is not Chardonnay, the Chevillon Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gouges as it was originally called is finer in rich detail than Aligote, but more vibrant and lighter than Chardonnay with it’s own glorious unique personality. I’ve have the Henri Gouges version a few times, starting with the 2000 vintage and this Chevillon 2013 takes it to another level, this is a thrilling white, and though pricy and not a wine to rival Puligny or Chassagne in most cases, it is rare and exciting to drink. The 2013 Chevillon Nuits-Saint-Georges Blanc old vines starts with a hint of French oak, a touch of toast, but nice white flowers, cool melon and mineral tones take over quickly with a medium palate of lemon/lime, white peach, green apple and kiwi fruits leading the way along with wet gravel, steely tones, bright acidity, saline and light dusting of minty herbs and vanilla. In the deep background you get the impression of creamy textures to come over time and you can see a fig and butterscotch layer to found in the future given time in the bottle. I must say this was super impressive right out of the bottle, no question it can be enjoyed right now, though most fans of this wine like to see the development unfolded and age them 3 to 5 years, though I kind of like the vigor and vitality of it’s youth, it is not an easy wine to locate, but very entertaining and a beautiful effort.
($80 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut von Hovel, Riesling, Oberemmeler Hutte, Kabinett, Saar Germany.
The 2014 von Hovel Kabinett Obermmeler Hutte Saar Riesling is delicately perfumed, light bodied and vibrant with a kiss of creamy sugar, this is classic and quality stuff. Balanced by fine mineral, spice and acidity the latest von Hovel shows precision and vitality throughout with traditional character and vigor, this pleasing Riesling was a treat to find by the glass at lunch recently, hats of the the wine director for their enlightened choice, it was a perfect afternoon, outdoor and food friendly white with low alcohol and it went gloriously with my spicy dish. The 2014 vintage von Hovel Obermmele Hutte Kabinett lifts from the glass with white flowers, rosewater, salty brine, zesty lemon, peach and wet stones along with a palate of pineapple, candied mango, lime, apricot and a touch of honeyed sweetness, while being fresh and steely. This is bright and highly pleasing Riesling from a winery that continues to impress, look for this is be a fun and youthful wine over the next 3 to 5 years, it also has enough pure extract and focus to age for a decade or so with ease. There is a lot of value in these Saar offerings, von Hovel especially is using this terroir not too far off the Mosel to produce classic style Rieslings of exceptional quality for the price, this is a great and underrated region to explore, in particular look for Selbach’s Saar bottling, Peter Lauer and von Hovel.
($18-24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfredo Maestro, Tinto Castrillo de Duero, Castrilla Y Leon, Spain.
Alfredo Maestro’s Tinto Castrillo de Duero is an all natural old vine Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero region made by one of Spain’s most creative and passionate wine personalities. The 2013 is juicy fresh with dark intense color and ripe grape flavors, it is somewhat raw and primal at first, but opens to reveal decedent luxury and richness all in Alfredo’s own unique style with lingering concord grape and sweet toffee notes. This pure and purple Tinto takes a bit of air and time to get going, best to decant or be better rewarded on day two or three, as it starts with a shy creamy nature that deceives you before the true palate comes alive, the main thrust is dark berry fruits and black cherry at the core with blackberry, ripe plum and racy currant tanginess. Hints of anise, cedar and terra-cotta/warm stones add to the interest here in this subtlety robust Tempranillo, at 14.5% this native yeast fermented red, aged in neutral used cast, manages to be lush and vibrant and not too heady. With almost no sulfur and with a hint of wildness, the Alfredo Maestro Tinto Castrillo de Duero is a wine that reminds of other leading natural wines such as Lapierre, Occhipinti, La Stoppa and Fabian Jouves. I am a fan of Alfredo and his wines, he is a great character and his small winery near Madrid continues to turn out intriguing and charming wines, drink this 2013 over the next 3 to 5 years, though I’d be interest to see what happens in 10 or 15 years too, best from 2017 to 2022.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Les Roncieres, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The surprisingly open and expansive 2013 Chevillon Roncieres is a remarkable young Burgundy, absolutely bursting with flavor and seductive charms, this an impressive vintage from Chevillon, the best since 2005 in my opinion. Tasted with the Vieilles Vignes, which is also a thrilling wine, the Les Roncieres takes it to the next level, this is without question a Premier Cru that could easily be mistaken for a Grand Cru, though sadly the prices are starting to reflect that, tiny crops in the last 3 years and the high quality in the bottle have taken Chevillon from a bargain Burgundy to a blue chip elite go to from Nuits-Saint-Georges, on par with Henri Gouges. That said, these 2013’s are worth it and are gorgeous Pinot Noirs, and then there is the rare Pinot Blanc, made from white berried Pinot Noir vines, in my words an “albino Pinot Noir” that is quite lovely too. The Roncieres is all about pleasure, intensity and detail with mineral and subtle earthy undertones to go with rich and pure fruit, it starts with crushed stones, violets, rosewater, huckleberry and cedar before unfolding with black cherry, plum and tart currant that form the core along with blonde tobacco, saline rich chalk, wild mushroom, a hint of leather, anise, tea spices and polished wood influence and grace. This compelling wine is complex, complete and exciting even this youthful and it has decades a life ahead, Les Roncieres a Cru that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle against sites like Chaignots, Vaucrains, Pruliers and Perrieres really holds it’s own here in this vintage and deserves attention and merit, and while not cheap it looks like a rewarding offering, as are all the 2013 wines from Chevillon, it’s a brilliant lineup. I will point out, the Chevillon’s maybe pricy, but at 13% alcohol, with deep layers, pedigree and wonderful terroir with ancient vines are certainly no more expensive than Peter Michael, Kosta Browne and Sea Smoke, so I can without any hesitation recommend these fine Burgundy beauties!
($124 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Richou, Savennieres, La Bigottiere, Loire Valley, France.
This is a lovely and interesting Chenin Blanc from Domaine Richou, grown on schist in Savennieres it shows fine detail, spice and inner depth, this is why this grape is being rediscovered and cherished. Beautifully terroir driven and pure in varietal character the Richou Savennieres leads with salty and stony notes with light peach and vibrant citrus fruits along with a core that is very steely and lean, though the texture is smooth, dense and mouth filling. The acidity is ever present, but not aggressive or excessive in this wonder Chenin, Richou are all organic, going for biodynamic in the future maybe, and there is plenty of energy and life in this well crafted and clear expression. Flinty notes, tropical essences and a touch of quince and the impression of honeycomb come through with air adding depth to this Richou, this is wine to enjoy young with food, though I imagine it will age well too, it has the structure no question. This dry and racy medium bodied white was a happy surprise, I’d not had the wine or tasted anything from this Domaine prior and it was a thrill to taste this one and hope to try more.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
nv Domaine Pfister, Cremant d’Alsace, Brut Sparkling Wine, France.
Melanie’s precise and brilliant wines at Domaine Pfister are turning heads and are worth checking out, since taking over her family estate the wines have really seen a positive shift in quality and style. Pfister in Bas Rhin makes super clear and vital wines with striking mineral and vibrant acidity with Melanie choosing to use almost exclusively stainless steel in fermenting and aging of her wines, with the Riesling being the stand out in the set, but her Gris and Blanc are lovely wines as well, and her Pinot Noirs are a work in progress as she explores her own style with the varietal, though for me, I adore this beautiful Cremant d’Alsace best of all. Pfister’s crisp and leesy sparkler shines in the glass with a creamy mousse and vibrant flavors, it is a cuvee of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, aged in vat and on the lees for a few years and crafted with low dosage, this is a vivid and charming bubbly with green apple, mixed citrus, liquid mineral, hazelnut and brioche along with hints of pear, peach and fig. This lean and focused Cremant is a perfect food wine, and it is just a joy to sip on as well anytime, this is an easy choice and a wonderful expression from a talented winemaker, who after a stint at Zind-Humbrecht has made her mark on her family’s domaine, this is a winery to follow for terroir driven and pure old world style wines with sublime clarity and vigor.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Maison Roy & Fils, Pinot Noir, Petite Incline, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The young sons of the founders of Oregon’s famous Beaux Freres have crafted a stunner for their debut to the world, Maison Roy, with Jared Etzel and Marc-Andre Roy proving the next generation are a talented group. I tasted the estate Maison Roy Incline, also known as Domaine Roy, as well as this gorgeous Maison Roy Petite Incline, which I found to be more expressive and detailed at this stage, it comes from purchased fruit, many of the same great vineyards used by Beaux Freres in their Willamette Valley cuvee, and the wine is of a similar quality and style! Jared, who’s dad mike Etzel started Beaux Freres in 1991 and who’s brother is now the winemaker at Maison L’ Envoye down the street, must have winemaking and growing in the blood, he is heavily influenced by the wines of Burgundy, but also names Willamette stars like Brick House and Thomas as his favorites, leaning on wineries that are totally organic and biodynamic, this shows in his wines and you can taste the energy and finesse, this is going to be a label to look for. The 2013 Maison Roy Petite Incline starts with floral and sweet smoky tones with rose petals, toasty char, red currant and briar spiciness leading to a textured round palate of cherry, blackberry, plum and strawberry fruit with hints of fig cake, vanilla and red tea as well as a touch of damp earth, chalk, flint and mineral notes. This is a wonderful first time effort, especially given how difficult 2013’s rain affected harvest time was and how awkward a few wines are from this vintage, this one with silken tannins and perfect alcohol to fruit match, with 13.5%, is lovely and ripe, but with vibrancy and grace. The Petite Incline is a killer deal in handcrafted Willamette Pinot, right up there with St. Innocent, Johan, Division and Maison L’Envoye in this price class, drink from 2016 to 2023, and I can’t wait for the 2014 vintage, which can only be better still!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Luigi Baudana, Barolo DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Luigi Baudana Barolo, crafted by Giuseppe Vajra of G.D. Vajra, is one of the best and purest Nebbiolo expressions for the money you can find, especially impressive and a super value is the basic Barolo normale all from gorgeous Serralunga d’Alba fruit. The classy and expressively vibrant 2011 Luigi Baudana Barolo highlights the warm vintage with ripe tannins and deep layers, but still manages lovely vitality, freshness and has plenty of structure, making for a wine that can be enjoyed even it it’s youth, but can also age well and gracefully for another 10 to 15 years without a problem. Since 2008 Vajra has been one of Piedmonte’s greatest new talents, both with the G.D. Vajra and Luigi Baudana offerings, Giuseppe has really proven to be a superstar with an amazing range of wines, he is excellent with Dolcetto, Barbera and of course Nebbiolo, and he makes what could be the best Riesling in all of Italy! The Baudana 2011 Barolo starts with a flow of earth, anise, red currant and a mix of rose petals and lavender on the nose, leading to a palate of rich black cherry, raspberry, damson plum and tart backyard strawberry fruits along with flinty minerals, tar, tea spices, cedar, mint and a bit of game and loamy earth. The 2011 is still tight and shy, but opens remarkably well with air and fills out in the mouth, it finishes with surprising detail and length, but it also litters a good dose of dusty tannins and lingering dried currant, black licorice and faint violets. This is a glorious Nebbiolo that has the charms to seduce and thrill, best to give another 2 to 3 years of time, but worth it, knowing the rewards, if you are looking for values in top Barolo, Giovanni Rosso, Brovia, Oddero and this Baudana 2011’s are all awesome wines and killer deals.
($54 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
nv Vettori, Brut Prosecco, Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy.
Prosecco is so popular right now the world can’t get enough of it and once where there was a huge gut has now become empty forests of stainless steel vats, but while prices have risen, so has the image and emergence of craft Prosecco, or better still grower (Prosecco) fizz, with quality reaching new heights as a new generation takes the helm in this region. Now Prosecco has the world stage like never before and it looks like it aims to stay there with lots of wonderful bubbly for us to celebrate with, one of my favorite new sparklers is the Brut Prosecco from Vettori, imported by Rinascimento Wine Co. Rinascimento’s Justin Gallen, who brings G.D. Vajra to the states, showed off the Vettori sparklers to me at a tasting recently and they left me very impressed with their style, flair and value, these limited offerings are well worth searching out. What is true now of Prosecco, and of sparkling wine as a whole has been the campaign to re-think the world on what bubbly is and how we drink it, now it is much more a serious food wine and there is really momentum to do away with flutes, to pour and enjoy sparklers in regular glassware, it’s a huge shift, but it is happening and I am onboard with these changes, especially with wines as good and as interesting as this Vettori being an option. The Vettori Brut, 100% Gerla (Prosecco) estate grown is a vibrant and pretty sparkling wine that offers plenty of entertainment and verve with green apple, lemon/lime and chalky stones leading with subtle citrus blossoms, mineral notes and a stylish creamy mousse with lingering brioche and hazelnut, this is lively, crisp and wonderfully dry throughout. This clean and clear Prosecco shines in the glass and goes gloriously well with light cuisine, in particular pastas and seafoods, this stuff stands out for it’s charm and function, drink now and often.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Vina Mein, Tega do Sal, D.O. Ribeiro Blanco, Galicia, Spain.
Javier Alen’s Vina Mein in Spain’s Galicia region of Ribeiro makes some compelling whites from native varietals, these are wonderfully textural wines that speak of place and history. Ribeiro has been at the forefront of European white wines since the 1600’s, but is in the middle of a great renaissance and re-birth with attention to tradition and micro terroirs in this amazing area in northwestern Spain. This single parcel white, the Tega do Sal is a field blend of 50% Treixadura, 40% Albarino and 10% Loureira, it was fermented in large cask with native yeasts and aged on the lees for 8 months, the grapes being from high elevation show the cool climate and come in at modest alcohol, here about 12%, but full of rich detail, lush body and impressive length. The Tega do Sal feels like a premier Chablis with a slight brioche and underlying creaminess to go with lovely acidity and steely mineral raciness, this shows marvelous even this young with white flowers, wet shale, lemon/lime and peach all making a vivid showing along with a hint of tropical fruit, green apple, hazelnut and chalky sea salt. The basic stainless steel Vina Mein Ribeiro is a bargain and should not be overlooked, but these single parcel whites with the extra time on the lees and the touch of wood are very special wines that deserve high praise and merit your attention, Galicia is one of the most exciting regions in the world right now, check it out!
($47 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Ganevat, Plein Sud, Trousseau, Cotes du Jura, France.
This 2013 Jean-Francois Ganevat Trousseau is wildly amusing, wonderfully exotic, delicate and perfumed, it’s hard to imagine a more lovely example of this Jura varietal. J-F’s Plein Sud comes from organic vines grown on steep rocky soils that are set of grey marl, or Jurassic limestone, the site is facing south getting good exposure, the winemaking is restrained and natural, Genevat’s reds are light and dreamy, it’s his whites that show the most power and intensity, but this Trousseau is my favorite of his lineup of reds and especially in this vintage. Opening the 2013 Ganevat Plein Sud Trousseau Cotes du Jura is a magical experience, except for the flaky wax that gets everywhere and requires zen like patience, lucky though is the fact that after the cork is pulled a heavenly floral array of scents greets you followed by sexy earthy spices lifting from this pale beauty. The glass reveals the slightly cloudy, barely ruby hue of this Jura Trousseau, this is haunting stuff that you cannot wait to dive into, at just 12% it is fully ripe and complete with layers of complexity and textural wonderment. This is why we geek out on Trousseau, and why it has seen a explosion of popularity, and wineries in California getting into the Trousseau business, the two finest examples to date being maybe Arnot-Roberts and Sandlands, and look out for Stolpman’s Combe, these are all very cool expressions. Back to the J-F Ganevat Plein Sud, the nose brings rose oil, lavender, lilac and white pepper along with pink guava leading to a palate of crushed strawberry, vine picked raspberry, tart cherry, dried red currants and a bit of peach/plum stone fruit flesh as well as a hint of leather, walnut and flinty/dusty earth. This light bodied red is graceful and silken with super smooth tannins and acidic lift and dry saline elements, the heady aromatic attack is balanced by savory underpinning and graceful focus, I’d rate it higher if it wasn’t so rare and pricy, but it is worth it and well worth the pain and suffering to acquire this gorgeous wine. The lingering rose petals and tropical guava note stay with you for ages, drink this Trousseau whenever you can or want, best from 2016 to 2022, and be sure not to overlook Ganevat’s excellent Pinot Noir and stunning whites, especially the 2012 Chards!
($60 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2006 Caprili, Brunello di Montalcino, Reserva, Tuscan Red, Italy.
The rich and powerful Caprili Reserva Brunello is just entering it’s prime phase, though it will certainly last for another 10 to 15 years without a problem, maybe longer, such is the life force in this Italian red. I’ve tasted Caprili since the late 1990’s and they’ve always offered a solid wine, especially the normale Brunello and their Rosso di Montalcino, both of which deliver a big bang for the buck, but the Reserva is much rarer and dearer, and while not cheap it still represents a good value in it’s class. The full bodied 2006 Reserva is a stunning wine at the moment and will only get better, it begins with flamboyant presence and deep fruit, the color is dark garnet with just a hint ruby/orange at the edges and layers of dried flowers, savory herbs, spice and liqueur emerge from the glass before of a cascade of flavors unfold on the firmly tannic palate. The core is a mix of berry fruits along with plum and black cherry, but there is more than fruit in this intense Sangiovese Grosso, it also brings on sweet tobacco leaf, anise, cedar and Bordeaux like mineral/graphite elements as well. This Brunello Reserva is vigorous and vivid with just the right amount of wood accents and it shows a very controlled structure, while still being full of pleasure and is a very joyous experience, finishing with sexy earthy tones, incense, blackberry essence and a hint of vanilla, this wine will not disappoint, drink from 2017 to 2028, this is impressive stuff that is just starting to hit it’s stride.
($90 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Benedicte & Stephane Tissot, DD, Cotes du Jura Red, France.
A new wine from Tissot, a red cuvee made up of Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir, all are vinified on their own and then blended after elevage with the Poulsard getting extra skin contact and raised in amphora while the Pinot and Trousseau get more traditional treatment. This fresh natural wine with very low sulfur has a lovely light red color with ruby hues and drinks with a nice vibrant energy with a mix of red fruits, plenty of tangy sweet and sour along with a play of spice and earth, it shows youthful acidity as well as satiny textures. These light Jura reds surprising age fantastically well and their low alcohol savory style is all the rage and though some can be quite weird and wacky, this Tissot is lovely and full of flavor. While Jura purists or freaks will want to age this between 5 and 10 years to allow the Poulsard to fully develop, and I can see why, it still is fun and easy to love now, so you may want to buy a few bottles to hide away and a few more to enjoy earlier, I completely support that choice. The nose is lightly fruity with a hint of blue fruit, rose oil, a touch of herb and earth leading to a medium weight palate with wild plum, tart cherry, juicy peach, a touch of marmalade as well as forest floor, salty stones, traces of pipe tobacco and pepper. The Pinot adds body and a silky frame in this really good Jura red, this is well crafted and seriously entertaining with some interesting rewards and funky promise for the future while pleasing in the present. A nice mineral laced finish with lingering red currant, Asian spices, sugar beet and anise make for a fine ending in this Tissot, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($32 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, IGT Terre Siciliane, Sicilian Red, Italy.
The beautiful and charming Occhipinti 2013 Frappato is everything you’d expect of this natural wine superstar with it’s earthy/fruity interchange and subtle complexity. Arianna’s sincerely reflect her passion of place, these are serious and focused real terroir wines, in 2013 and 2014 vintages she has really crafted some compelling wines from the area of Vittoria in south Sicily. The latest Frappato shows a slightly darker profile with an almost ruby/garnet hue in the glass and the palate feels a bit more gripping, though it is still alive and vibrant with bright flavors and with it’s usual tangy sweet and savory balance, this is a vivid and transparent medium bodied offering with a rustic authentic character. The main thrust is wild tart strawberry along with interesting red peach, bing cherry and fresh vine picked raspberry along with lingonberry and truffle notes. The soft tannin and citrusy acidity give structure and bitter herbs, exotic spice, cedar, saline and dusty stones add contrast to the more fruity elements making for a delicate and entertaining wine that really impresses on the second or third sip and is magic with cuisine. The alcohol is about 13% which is perfectly ripe for Frappato and Arianna uses native yeasts to ferment, this wine has almost no sulfur, similar in style to Morgon’s Lapierre and the wines of La Stoppa in Emilia, Occhipinti’s wines are unique, a bit racy and wonderfully pure. This is an ironic wine, it could be from no other winemaker and from no other place, while others make lovely Frappato, including her uncle Giusto Occhipinti at COS, this wine is the standard barer. Drink Arianna’s 2013 Frappato from 2016 to 2024, it’s a glorious example of varietal, showing finesse and elegance, but with a raw organic streak that shines through that makes it addictive even now.
($39 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez, Vina de Martin, Escolma, Ribeiro Blanco, Spain.
Luis Rodriguez’s gorgeous Escola Blanco from Galicia’s Ribeiro DO is one of the great white wines of the world and it was a pleasure to meet him and drink this beauty from magnum with his importer Jose Pastor last October. Grown on sand and granite, the Vina de Martin Escolma is a selection of the best and oldest vines, these are somewhere close to 40 years old and this bottling only happens in the best vintages, it is made from native varietals and is a field blend. The Grapes in the mix include mainly of Treixadura, but usually has some Albarino, Torrontes and the very rare Lado, this combination along with gentile winemaking produce one of Spain’s glorious treasures, a wine that rivals the best from Burgundy, in fact it tastes most similar to Corton-Charlemagne or Batard-Montrachet in certain years! The 2011 Vina de Martin Escolma is exotic and plush, the warm vintage brought out a wildly hedonistic nature in this Atlantic influenced cool climate white, it shows deep layers, mineral intensity and stunning length with citrus, apple, melon and stone fruits all vying for attention. The nose is a mix of white flowers, yellow fruit, sea salts and hints at shea cream/butter leading to a dense palate of peach, summer melon, green apple, lemon and bruised pear along with flinty mineral, ocean brine, hazelnut, farm cream and tropical sorbet. Luis uses native yeasts and temperature control in his tiny old world cellar to preserve fresh details and terroir, the wines are aged on the lees and they almost never exceed 13% in natural alcohols, he is careful to use quality oak in different sizes with just a little new wood when the vintage needs it, such as the case with this Escolma. Treixadura is Rodriguez’s hands is one of the great grapes that you’ve maybe never heard of, and his wines are masterpieces, drink this glorious and decedent white over the next 7 to 10 years, it is something amazing.
($60 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2013 Radio-Coteau, Pinot Noir, La Neblina, Sonoma Coast.
Eric Sussman’s Radio-Coteau 2013 La Neblina is a juicy and expressive Pinot Noir with vibrant flavors and rich detail, exuberant in it’s youth, but with solid underlying balance. The 2013 feels fuller and riper than the last few vintages with more body, though you’d expect that from a more normal growing year and the tannin is super plush and satiny making for a lush and forward wine. I expect this wine with mellow a bit in bottle and age remarkably well, it certainly will focus out in with some time, even though it will thrill and excite in it’s youth. The palate shows layers of fruit with black cherry leading the way with plum, sweet raspberry and pomegranate adding to the whole along with subtle mineral, spice and polished acidity. The nose is fruity, but with pretty floral tones and color is a vivid ruby in this native yeast fermented and very naturally crafted Pinot Noir. Elements of earth, cinnamon, cedar and red peach flesh come out with air adding complexity, so I believe there is more potential rewards to come in this Radio-Coteau, with patience this wine should reach the next level. While you allow this one to gain in the cellar, be sure to check out the County Line wines also by Sussman, they are a stunning value, especially the Pinot, Rose and Zinfandel offerings and don’t forget the Radio-Coteau Syrah, another killer wine. The upfront La Neblina Pinot Noir can be enjoyed now, it is very joyous and giving, but more pleasure awaits, best from 2018 to 2024.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Trocken, Rheingau, Germany.
Fricke is one of the most exciting young producers in Germany, she has a wealth of experience and is dedicated to her craft, after winemaking and vineyard management around the world, her CV has some impressive names on it with Pingus in the Ribera del Duero, Castello di Verduno in Piedmont and of course Leitz in Ruedesheim where most people became aware of her talents. She has also made wine in Bordeaux and Australia, but her home in the Rheingau and the vineyards of Lorch are her future and where her vine roots are deeply set into the quartzite and slate. She is a star and her wines are glittering with impressive character, terroir and beauty, especially her new set of 2014 wines, which are now available in the States, and in particular her latest Lorch Rheingau Trocken. Having tried most every vintage of Fricke’s wines, I can really see her style emerging and the 2014 for me have everything in harmony, the really burst with energy, detail and pleasure highlighting her love of quartzite with it’s delicacy and yellow fruit intensity. Having met her briefly while at Leitz, I found her deeply passionate about terroir and especially soils, and her wines all are a reflection of that, the 2014 Rheingau Trocken is a brisk mineral driven Riesling with classic extract, acidity and finessed fruity elements, it has wonderful aromatics, salty dryness and old school austere refinement. This vigorous Riesling pops in the glass with bright citrus, flinty spice, yellow peach, hints of tropical fruits learning on mango, apple skins, rose petal and lemon oil. This is her best vintage to date for this basic offering which can only get better in bottle, and while 2014 was a small crop and a difficult year for growers, this wine is the reward for hard work and talent, this a stylish wine and a killer value, be sure to search out Eva Fricke’s 2014’s and this one is a great place to start, drink now through 2024.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Fattorie Romeo del Castello, Vigo, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Chiara Vigo’s Nerello Mascalase from the slopes of the Volcano is a ripe and powerful version of varietal and place with deep intensity and glorious dark fruit. In this vintage I think you’d have to say the Vigo is Grand Cru like much more Richebourg than Volnay in style, since most critics call Nerello Mascalase the Burgundy of Sicily. The 2012 Fattorie Romeo del Castello Vigo, from a single parcel of vines called La Fruttiera, is rich and sweet fruited example with about 14.5%, it is no light-weight, but it still flows with silky tannins and graceful detail with loads of spicy/flinty mineral charm, this is very serious stuff and it drinks majestically with regal depth and density. The nose starts with crushed stones, ash and dried flowers along with spiced plum leading to a medium/full palate of blackberry, sweet and tangy currants, damson plum and black cherry fruit with notes of shale, iron, cedar and grilled fennel. As the wine opens it gains lavish mouth feel and a sexy mure, kirsch or framboise element comes through and while the sweet tannins and fruit seduces there is a nice cut of acidity and vibrant complexity of mineral and spice with subtle pepper flakes, chalk dust, roasted herbs and anise to be found. This is certainly one of the most flamboyant offerings from Fattorie Romeo del Castello and is an amazing and entertaining expression of Etna, this is gorgeous and exotic Nerello Mascalase, drink over the next 3 to 10 years, best from 2016 to 2022.
($44 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Querceto di Castellina, Chianti Classico, L’Aura, Tuscany, Italy.
Committed to organic farming and with glorious vista, Querceto di Castellina is a traditional producer of elegant Chianti Classico in the hills of Castellina in the northwestern part of the zone, between the cities of Florence and Siena. The L’Aura Chianti Classico is 100% Sangiovese and bares itself with pure varietal character showing a mix of fresh and poached fruits, spice and earthy elements with a touch of French oak, it is fermented in stainless steel and aged in a mix of small and medium sized barrels, mostly neutral as to not overly influence the Sangiovese. The 2013 is fresh and vibrant, but with good ripe flavors and a medium weighted palate of raspberry, plum, sugar beet and wild strawberry fruits along with pipe tobacco, cedar, savory spices, classic sappy herbs and anise tangy notes as well as the soft effect of the wood which lingers with a vanilla tinge. This is lightly tannic and with just enough rustic charm to encourage the use with food, it is much happier and joyous with it’s native cuisine, drink this easy to love Chianti Classico from 2016 to 2023.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2010 Ridge, Syrah, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
I pulled this my my secret stash of Ridge wines, a hedonistic New Years’s Eve choice to go along with some Jura bubbly, I got this from the Ridge Vineyards tasting room at Lytton Springs in Dry Creek, it performed very well and drinks beautifully. I might suggest to hold this one another 3 to 5 years, but it certainly shows flamboyant fruit, terroir and Ridge stylistic character already with loads of rich boysenberry, raspberry, plum and a touch of forward American oak with that hint of coconut oil and smoky vanilla. Ridge used 91% Syrah and 9% Perfect Viognier, a Cote-Rotie like blend, though this wine tastes more like a young Penfolds Grange Shiraz, high praise, and Muga Rioja, another very impressive wine, it doesn’t show much Northern Rhone, but that is not a fault, just interesting and it is very enjoyable and full bodied lavish in feel. The alcohol does feel overt either at 14.2%, and there is a decent cut of acidity too, all in all this is classic stuff from Ridge and a rare treat. The nose starts with blueberry pie, star anise and has a hint of camphor and baking spices leading to the dense palate of the mentioned boysenberry, plum, currant/cassis and licorice along with bitter coco, dusty stones, briar spices and sweet cherries. This black/purple Syrah from Ridge is a very exciting red that has a lot going for it and will appeal to Ridge fans, of which I am a full on one, and it delivers something unique to their lineup, drink over the next 3 to 10 years! This would be even more amazing with Indian or Turkish lamb, though it went well with spicy cajan gumbo, the sweet fruit really holds up to spice!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Sheldon, Grenache Blanc, Sonoma Coast.
The latest Grenache Blanc from Dylan and Tobe Sheldon is a wildly expressive white with exotic tropical notes and plenty of verve, it is without question one of the most interesting and balanced versions they’ve made to date from their cool climate sites. Grenache Blanc, usually found in the southern Rhone Valley and most famously in Chateauneuf du Pape whites has found a home in California, but it is more happy happy in the warmer areas best suited to the varietal, it’s natural home in California seems to be west side Paso Robles, though there are good plantings in Santa Barbara County and Monterey County as well as southern Oregon and eastern Washington State. That didn’t stop the Sheldon’s from finding cooler Sonoma sites that have managed to produce fine grapes for their micro bottlings and the 2014 is wonderfully flavorful and seductive, fermented on native yeasts and with lower natural alcohol. Sheldon Wines latest handcrafted Grenache Blanc starts with citrus and bruised pear with mineral and spice notes leading to an explosion on the palate of white peach, lemon/lime, wet stones, saline/tangy brine and pina colada! Yes pineapple and coconut burst from the glass, but while this is not true to form, it is not off putting and adds to the pleasure in this vibrant white, quickly apricot and tangerine take center stage and linger on the finish, and with food the wine tames and gains vigor, this stuff is awesome with Moroccan dishes and rocks with spicy seafood and shellfish stews. I have tried this beautiful white twice now and love it, it shows bright acidity and freshness which keeps things in focus while enchanting mouth feel and exciting layers reveal themselves like a sexy fan dancer! Drink now, it’s too much fun to wait and be sure to check out the other great new offerings from Sheldon, especially the 2014 Syrah, the Red Hat old vine Petite Sirah and 2014 Vinolocity Grenache Noir.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Littorai, Pinot Noir, Mays Canyon, Sonoma Coast.
The 2013 vintage in California is really turning out fantastic, especially for Pinot Noir with many wines surpassing 2012 with ease and in particular Ted Lemon’s Littorai Pinots are gorgeous! I’ve been lucky enough to have tasted the 2013 Mays Canyon twice and it is a stunner, it shows the finesse and detail Lemon’s wines are known for, but it also has the depth and texture of the year marked into it’s being. This Littorai Mays Canyon and Ted Lemon’s other project Burn Cottage in Central Otago New Zealand both are thrilling Pinot Noir wines that moved me this year, Lemon is making some of the finest wines in the world right now, these are hard to find and get, but certainly they are must get wines for Pinot lovers, they are so good, you just might forget about Burgundy all together, at least for a short time! The 2013 Littorai Mays Canyon Pinot Noir starts with delicate rose petal and violets perfume along with hints of smoke, cedar and red berries leading to a satiny palate of black cherry, plum and tangy vine picked raspberry along with briar, spice, stones, vanilla and sappy herbs. With air a creamy density fills the mouth, but it is matched by oft tannins and acidity that adds verve and focus, this wine gets more and more impressive by the minute with a flow of ripe fruit, savory elements and near perfect oak shadings. The aftertaste leans on kirsch, cinnamon, anise, a touch of earth and red currant, making for a beautiful and stylish wine that has years more to go in bottle, huge potential development and rewards in 5 to 7 years even though it is drinking great already, best from 2018 to 2024.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Le Piane, Maggiorina, Vino Rosso, Boca, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Le Piane Maggiorina Rosso is a traditional field blend that contains about 40% Nebbiolo, 40% Croatina, 5% Vespolina
plus 15% 9 other old grape varieties and also white grapes grown in Piedmonte’s far north on unique volcanic and gravel soils at quite high elevation. The resulting wine is a fresh Nebbiolo influenced red that is vibrant and vigorous with a subtle perfume and bright acids showing nice tart cherry, wild plum and strawberry fruits along with zesty citrus, rose oil, briar and shale mineral tones. This wine was a conferment of all the grapes and done in all stainless steel vats, no wood is used making for a lighter style table wine with plenty of character and verve, best served with meals and medium weighted cuisine, this is a classic bistro style Italian red that goes easy with food and allows terroir charms to shine through. Le Piane’s Boca Le Piane is much more serious with intense Nebbiolo and needs cellaring for a decade before full enjoyment, where as the Maggiorina can be popped young and is easy to quaff, Le Piane is one of Italy’s best kept secrets. The Maggiorina grows on me overtime I try it and while 2013 wasn’t as ripe or full as some vintages, it certainly springs to life in the glass, at 12.5% it is not a heavy wine and will not impress for density or depth, but it drinks nicely and is a good value, drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
($20 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2012 Krutz Family Cellars “Magnolia” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
The Krutz brothers from Mississippi form a trio that make up the Krutz Family artisan winery based in Santa Rosa focusing on most Napa Valley grapes, and especially Cabernet Sauvignon. Patrick began the journey to winemaker after working at the famed Cheese Shop with Kent Torrey and meet local winemakers in Carmel by the Sea and the Monterey area before following other artisan winemaking friends north to Sonoma County where he set up the winery and drafted his brothers Cole and Bryan into the new family business. Patrick with talent and his southern charm has developed many long term relationship with growers and special vineyards including the famous Stagecoach Vineyard, owned by the Krupp brothers high up in the eastern hills of Napa Valley between Howell Mountain and Pitchard Hill on red volcanic soils, this site forms the base of their top Cabernet. The 2012 Magnolia Cabernet is a forward and lush Cabernet made in an approachable new world style and offers a terrific value in handcrafted Napa wine. The Magnolia series is huge hit for the Krutz brothers, they make a lovely Sonoma Chardonnay, a Napa Zinfandel and this Cabernet Sauvignon from sites in Napa Valley, Magnolia is their entry level offerings, but these are serious wines that deserve attention and are well made, solid and wonderfully pleasing. The 2011 Magnolia Cabernet from a difficult vintage was a killer wine, and while more tannic and fuller the 2012 is tasting great too with very deep garnet/purple color, lush blackberry, cassis and plum fruit leading on the ripe and dense palate along with stylish sweet oak notes, cedar, tobacco, mocha and lingering black currant. This wine impresses for it’s price no question, but it would still be worthy at $50, this a wine to search out if you want a full flavored Cabernet on a budget, it perfectly expresses varietal character and terroir, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, this is a big wine for the buck.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The 2012 Garys’ Pinot thrills with bold fruit, luxurious textures and depth, Richard Alfaro has done very nice job here crafting a hedonistic and lavish wine that still has energy and verve. With most of the Garys’ I’ve tried from 2012 you saw alcohols closer to 15% or more, Alfaro’s comes in at 14.5%, and while this is not a lighter version, it does show fine focus and life, but don’t kid yourself this is no wallflower, the Garys’ is as sexy and lush as ever. The 2012 Alfaro Santa Cruz Mountains Estate offerings might offer more delicacy and interest, you would not want to miss this vintage of Garys’ with it’s flamboyant dark core of black and red fruits that gives a full bodied Grand Cru class density and rich intensity. I must admit I adore this bottling, I have always been a fan of this vineyard and in particular Alfaro’s rare version, I think the 2012 might be the best yet, though I have high hopes for 2013 too, as 2013 in both the Santa Lucia Highlands, and Alfaro’s home vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains had a great vintage, which I’ve rated a notch higher overall. The Alfaro Garys’ Pinot compares well against the Roar, Lucia by Pisoni and other top Santa Lucia Highlands producers and offers a great or better value price wise, so I highly recommend searching this one out, especially if you are a Garys’ fan. The 2012 Alfaro Garys’ Vineyard starts with classic deep hues, very forward fruit, light floral tones, sweet smoky oak framing along with silken tannins and an alluring creamy mouth feel with blackberry, plum, black cherry as well as mixed baking spices, cedar and briar notes. Lingering kirsch, dried currants, mocha/vanilla and raspberry add to the complexity to this flavorful and loaded Pinot which should drink impressively for another decade, Garys’ Vineyard wines have surprising age worthiness and are very rewarding, even though they please immediately, best from 2015 to 2022.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Alberto Nanclares, Albariño “Soverribas” La Vina del Mochuelo, Rias Baixas, Spain.
Another mind-blowing Albariño from Nanclares, the Soverribas has amazing clarity and delicacy with steely mineral intensity, leesy extract and beautiful detailing. These 2013 Albariños from Alberto Nanclares are a revelation, without question they are highly impressive white wines that should get lots of attention, these rival the best wines in Europe, especially this 2013 Soverribas with it’s pure crystalline elements and gorgeous brilliance. The regular Albariño felt maybe a touch richer and forward, the glorious Soverribas La Vina del Mochuelo is much more graceful, elegant and dreamy showing off it’s sea influence and granite soils with hints of brine and saline along with pretty mineral and wet stones. These vines are about 30 years old, farmed old school, organic and with very small yields that showcases the heightened energy and concentration. The balance and focus are truly special, the fruit is so clear and lifted by the acidity. I am reminded of Donnhoff’s GG Rieslings and or a great Chablis, think Les Clos, that is how good this Albariño is. The 2013 Nanclares Soverribas Albariño starts with tart green apple, lemon/lime, white peach, a hint of apricot along with chalky/oyster shell, shale and hazelnut, all forming in lovely fashion into a very pleasing wine with wonderful textures and subtle depth. The Soverribas drinks well now and is a remarkably complete as a young wine, it certainly expresses it self best with seafood, but it worked well with my Christmas dinner, and while not overt and showy this is serious stuff from Nanclares. Drink this exquisite Albariño over the next 5 to 7 years, this and all the Nanclares offerings are thrilling, worth every penny and should be considered elite examples of this varietal, do not miss!
($36 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2010 Monasterio de Corias, 10 Meses Barrica, Vino de Calidad de Cangas, Spain.
This earthy and natural red from Asturias was a beautiful choice for Christmas eve dinner with friends, humble and unpretentious with an almost Barbera d’Asti like character, bright in acidity and with a dark garnet/ruby color, it is one of my favorites from northwestern Spain. Juan Redondo, the winegrower at Monasterio de Corias uses native yeasts, ferments in stainless and in some cases like this wine ages for short periods in French oak, here for example only 10 months to keep the delicacy and vitality. The grapes are all local, this cuvee breaks down with 45% Albarin Negro, 25% Mencía, 20% Carrasquín, 10% Verdejo Negro with the Albarin Negro giving a light Syrah impression and the Mencia giving the bell pepper almost Cabernet Franc feel, while the others add spice, fruit and complex details in this lighter style red, it comes in at 12.5% and has mild, silky tannins. The herb and dried flowers lead the nose with a sense of flinty/shale from the broken slate soils comes through as well, the mouth gets a lightly fruit dose of plum, cherry, beet and cranberry along with wild mushroom, gamey notes and all-spice with just of touch of cedar. This stylish, funky and almost raw red really drinks well with cuisine, it needs food to blossom and as mentioned it goes along a path that reminds me of Barbera, though you can also see a bit of Cru Beaujolais too. I’m a big fan of this winery and terroir, I may prefer the Joven, no oak offerings a little more, but this was a wonderful way to spend an evening, drink the Monasterio de Corias 10 Meses Barrica now, no cellaring needed!
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Alberto Nanclares, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain.
The 2013 Nanclares Albariño is absolutely beguiling and majestic, it, as I said about the 2012 is utterly profound wine and the single most glorious expression of the varietal I’ve ever tasted. The Albariño in the glass makes for a totally humbling experience, it is truly amazing the quality found here and Alberto Nanclares is genius, to really imagine this wine or relate to it I would say you need to compare it to a mix of Donnhoff Trocken, Raveneau Chablis and maybe Emmerich Knoll Steiner Gruner Veltliner just to grasp to the idea, but of course it is much more that that even, it is the perfect reflection of it’s own terroir and one that will leave you in complete awe. Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto at Bodega Alberto Nanclares have crafted what I think is my wine of the year, and are certainly a producer to search out, my meager words do not do these wines justice! The 2013 Nanclares Albariño starts with a light and brilliant golden hue with mineral intensity jumping from the glass, the nose is austere with a hint of citrus flower, clove and salty elements leading to a palate bristling with acidity, extract and feline muscle with layers of lemon/lime, wet river stones, unripe apricot, peach and kumquat as well as steely liquid mineral, faint hazetnut/almond notes, apple skin, tangerine and fine chalk. Wow, this is powerful and graceful stuff with vibrant energy and leesy complexity, focused detail, sublime balance and at 12.5% alcohol it is easy to enjoy and just plain gorgeous to drink, it reminds of a story I heard during the 1990’s when I first ever tasted an estate bottled Albariño, I was told that between 80 and 90% of all good Albariño stays in Spain and that very little escapes to the export market, and after tasting the last two vintages of Nanclares Albariño I can understand why this was true then and true today, except now we are lucky enough to have some available thanks to importer Jose Pastor and his Jose Pastor Selections Vinos & Gourmet! Drink this enchanting white over the next 3 to 5 years, though without a doubt this should age well for another 10 years no question. Nanclares Albariño is like being let in on a great heartwarming secret leaving a cat’s grin smile and blissful inner peace, it’s pure seduction in the bottle, don’t miss out!
($32 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2013 Phelps Creek, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
Burgundian vigneron Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy crafts the beautiful Phelps Creek wines, and these are well worth searching out, the 2012 version of this Pinot Noir is one of my favorite Oregon wines ever! So, it was always going to be difficult to follow up with an even better wine, especially in a fickle vintage as 2013 turned out to be in Oregon, but I think the 2013 has the potential to surprise, it just will need more time in bottle to really show what is has and to perform, but that said, those real hard core Burgundy lovers will adore this effort with it’s natural restraint, freshness and delicacy. The 2013 Phelps Creek Cuvee Alexandrine is bright and austere, and feels very Cote de Beaune with brambly red fruits, loads of mineral, zippy acidity and a lighter profile, it doesn’t at this stage have the hedonistic pleasure and depth of the 2012, but is a very solid effort with fine detail and verve. The 2012 was really sexy, while the 2013 remains more mysterious, it is a wine for old world traditionalists, and it is going to be really interesting to see how they both turn out in bottle down the road, it intrigues me, even if I highly recommend finding as much of the 2012 as possible while you can. The 2013 Cuvee Alexandrine starts with dusty red berries, rosewater, sappy herbs, steely/stony elements and forrest floor leading to a vibrant palate that offers an array of cherry, tart plum, dried currant, briar notes and earthy fig along with anise/peach tea, orange zest, raw cedar and a hint of baking spice. This lighter 2013 has some tannins that should fade into silk with time and lively acidity, both of which hide the extract at the moment, look for deeper expression after a year in bottle, you’ll need patience to find the treasure here, but the rewards are not out of reach. I really admire this Phelps Creek Vineyards wines and look forward to the future releases, as well as Alexandrine’s Domaine Marc Roy’s gorgeous set of 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin’s due out in early 2016! Drink the 2013 Phelps Creek Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir Columbia Gorge from 2017 to 2026, but without question go out and find the 2012 now!
($45 Est.) 90-92 Points, grapelive
2014 COS, Nero d’Avola, Nero di Lupo, Terre Siciliane IGP Rosso, Sicily, Italy.
Giusto Occhipinti’s COS Nero di Lupo 2014 is an amazingly pure expression of Nero d’Avola from the Vittoria region of Sicily, it is a natural old world wine that delivers delicacy, freshness and style. Giusto’s winemaking has refined over the years and I believe 2014 is the first year without the use of wood at all, he uses organic farming, native yeast fermentations and aging in cement as here with the Nero di Lupo and amphora, with his Pithos bottlings seeing all amphora, both white and red. The results are wonderfully vibrant wines with loads of character and mineral charms, lower natural alcohols, as with this Nero di Lupo which comes in at 12.5% giving more a Beaujolais like feel rather than a Shiraz, and they show a brilliant clarity. The 2014 COS Nero di Lupo starts with mixed berries, wild herbs, pepper, light floral notes and red earth leading to a vibrant palate of fine texture, light tannins and lifting acidity that highlights plum, huckleberry, black cherry and tart red currant fruits as well as traces of dusty stones, anise, strawberry/rhubarb, tangy orange rind, red peach and earthy blueberry. The latest COS is absolutely impeccable and delightfully light to medium weighted, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, along with his niece Arianna Occhipinti, Giusto is redefining the expectations and varietal profiles of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, these are glorious and impressive wines well worth searching out!
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2007 Chateau Dauphine Rondillon, Loupiac, Cuvee d’Or, Sweet Bordeaux White Wine, France.
This wonderful and noble rot infused sweet wine is from Loupiac across the Gironde river from it’s more famous cousins Barsac and Sauternes and is a seriously joyfully unctuous dessert style white. The Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac 2007 Cuvee d’Or is not cloying or ultra honeyed, it shows a fine balance and finesse, it is a cuvee of Semillon (all Loupiac must have at least 80% Semillon) with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle as well adding complexity, vitality and aromatics. Loupiac is the sweet wine, while the region’s dry white and reds are called Entre-deux-Mers and Cadillac, the vines are set on clay and gravelly soils which suit the Semillon and Merlot best, with the whites doing better overall here, especially the sweeter style which pick up the Botrytis that imparts the powerful intensity and concentration of flavors. The Dauphine Rondillon Loupiac is wonderfully smooth and textured with a nose of yellow fruits, white flowers and citrus leading to a richly decedent palate of apricot, lemon curd, orange zest and peachy fruits along with honeycomb, creme brûlée and tangerine sorbet notes. There is still a bit of perky acidity, earth and spice to keep things lively, and while sweet it drinks with enough contrast that you can enjoy this Loupiac with more than just dessert, sometimes it is fun to pair with salty/briny foods like oysters, though most people will find it very charming with cheeses, in particular the more pungent styles, and of course the less sweet French country tarts or custards. The Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Cuvee d’Or is a very solid effort with a gorgeous golden hue and is a great value in a long lived Sauternes style wine and this 2007 is especially appealing, drink from 2016 to 2024.
($30 Est. 375ml-Half-Bottle) 91 Points, grapelive
2002 Copain, Syrah, Broken Leg, Anderson Valley.
This amazing find from the darkest region of my tiny cellar is rewarding as rewarding gets, the 2002 Copain Broken Leg Syrah from Anderson Valley lit up my winter last night, Wells Guthrie take a bow sir, this glorious cool climate expression rivals many a Cornas in their prime! The 2002 Broken Leg Syrah is still vibrant and vigorous with classic secondary flavors adding to the joyous harmony and energy in this entertaining red, the spicy stemmy qualities remain and pretty dried flowers add charm. This Syrah still has plenty of fruit with blueberry, damson plum, black cherry and tangy currant along with a touch of charcoal embers, cracked peppercorns, a hint of black olives, grilled herbs, sweet tobacco,bacon fat and licorice with a foreshadowing of decay. There is just a little stewy element to the fruit that tips it’s maturity, as well as a fine balsamic note, but it all holds together and stays balanced and poised at this place in time, in other words if you have this beauty, it is the perfect time to open it. I was very impressed with this older Copain, I only wish I had more, this is tasty stuff that just kept getting better and better each minute, finishing with lingering violets, cinnamony raspberry tea, flinty minerals, cedar and briar notes. The Copain Broken Leg Syrah came in at just over 14%, but feels much less and the tannins have melted in nicely though still have an Henri Gouges or Jamet hint of green, overall this is a fantastic effort that should give any Rhone or Syrah lover a huge smile, as it did me, this 15 year old Syrah is drinking gorgeous!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Knoll, Loibner Rose, Blauer Burgunder Federspiel, Wachau, Austria.
The Emmerich Knoll Rose of Pinot Noir from Austria is a lovely and austere example of super dry and mineral driven pink, I adored it’s fresh compact style and vitality. This is one of the more rare Rose wines, and I happened upon it by chance, as I was searching out the Knoll Gruner and Riesling, for which this great producer is world famous for, so finding this steely Rose was a big bonus, and I’ve grateful for Bay Grape, the cool wine bar and fine wine merchant in Oakland for carrying them, like I said this stuff is hard to find. Grown on the slopes above the Danube, down up the river from Vienna in the Wachau, the Emmerich Knoll Loibner Rose Blauer Burgunder starts with faint traces of rosewater, crushed stones and a mix of citrus leading to a palate that has some earthy tones and savory elements, this is not a fancy/fruity Rose, this tangy and crisp wine highlights it’s terroir and has the vigor you’d expect of a Knoll wine. As it opens up it reveals tart cherry, spices, grapefruit and strawberry, but still drinks with the intensity of the Knoll Gruner Veltliner, it went well with my lobster tacos and still entertained delightfully enough though the weather has turned to a very wintery feel. The Knoll Rose is very impressive and serve with a restrained and vibrant character, drink now and for the next year or so, it has plenty of acidity and guts to last, this is cool and tasty stuff.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Paloma, Merlot, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley.
I don’t drink that much Merlot, I confess, I never have really, but I really like a good one, either Washington (Think Leonetti) or California (Like Ridge) in the new world or “Right Bank” Bordeaux in the old world, plus my secret favorite place for Merlot, Italy, so it was a wonderful surprise to taste the latest Paloma, it is surely one of the best I’ve had in ages. Paloma, influenced by Duckhorn of old and Pride, not too far away on Spring Mountain, is crafted by the Richards family, now led by Sheldon Richards and his mom Barbara, after the sad loss of Jim Richards a few years ago, it is nice to see Sheldon honor his late father and is dream to make great wine from this historic site, he is crafting some of the best wines to date and the future is looking great for Paloma. The 2012 Merlot is rich and dark with a full bodied, full throttle feel, but wonderfully balanced with depth and supple, but firm ripe tannins that makes this charmer an old school California dynamic, it certainly reminds me of the late 1980’s or early 1990’s in it’s style with lots of dark fruit, briar, bramble spices and a Cabernet like presence in the glass. In fact there is plenty of Cabernet in the blend, as much as 20% in some years, this is a huge plus for such a stylish mountain wine and adds complexity and power, not that you need too much power, as the Merlot gown up here is pretty intense anyway. The nose has hints of spring flowers, forest berries, a hint of pencil lead, smoky embers and a mix of sage and cassis leading to a mouth filling palate of blackberry, plum, red currants and sweet cherries along with tobacco leaf, cedar, vanilla and a touch of licorice. This is a wine that begs for roast duck, prime rip or grilled steak, though you could sail through a cheese plate with this Merlot as well, I tasted this Paloma along side Silver Oak and Caymus Cabernets and if I’m honest, it blew them away in every way, shape and or form, be sure to check out Paloma when you want a true Napa classic, and especially when you compare the quality/price to other offerings, the Paloma is a solid deal, drink from 2016 to 2024.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Gramercy, Lower East, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
Greg Harrington’s Lower East line from his Gramercy Cellars are killer deals in northwest wines and show the power, deep color, fruit and vitality that always amazes people when they try reds from the Columbia Valley, especially near Red Mountain or Walla Walla, Washington. I thought the Lower East Cabernet was fantastic and now I have had the chance to taste the latest Lower East Syrah it is hard to pick between the two offerings, both rock! The new 2013 Lower East Syrah by Gramercy Cellars is a rich and full bodied wine with lots of character and verve showing dark almost purple/black hues and loads of blue and black fruits, this is a sexy and lavish Syrah that has great detail and contrasts with light spices, truffle and subtle oak nuances. The nose shows a hint of violets, bitter coco, blackberry liqueur and iron/shale mineral leading to a round mouth filling palate of boysenberry, creme de cassis, blueberry compote, mole and black cherry along with a touch of pepper, licorice, cedar and vanilla. This is decedent and full of baby fat, but the class is certainly there, drink this exciting Syrah over the next 3 to 5 years, but my guess is that is will develop nicely and be best from 2017 to 2022, it is a terrific value!
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Leitz, Riesling QbA, Dragon Stone, Rheingau Germany.
This wine has it all, a great package, superb quality and is a killer value, Leitz nailed it with the Dragon Stone and it certainly remains one of my favorite wines, I in fact always try to keep a few bottles around, this is solid slightly off dry Riesling that delivers in wonderful and expressive fashion. 2014 was a difficult vintage and I was wondering how Leitz would do, but all fear melted away the second the wine hit the glass and it’s golden hue shimmered brightly and a lovely pure scent rose up, on the palate this Leitz Drachenstein aka Dragon Stone, named for the veins of quartzite that are in this vineyard that look like dragon skin against the loose slate and ancient soils above Rudesheim, is full of flavor with classic yellow fruits, mineral, mixed herbs, saline and lush texture. The 2014 is slightly drier in feel compared to the last few vintages, but still has some sugar, somewhere close to Kabinett level in impression, though more dense in body, it comes in at 10% alcohol, this is pretty much as expected in this charming Riesling, it can be very flexible with cuisine and is great all on it’s own. This wine has enough flare and verve to keep you entertained all on it’s own, though fabulous with fall salads, seafood, Indian fare and even Central American dishes, I enjoy it with my hybrid spicy street/food truck Asian/Mex tacos, plus it goes brilliantly with smoked ham and even the holiday season table, as mentioned it is a great drinking Riesling to have around all year. The 2014 starts with a nose that shows tropical notes, rose petals, basil and wet river stones which leads to a palate of yellow peach, lemon/lime, kiwi and green apple along with flinty/chalk stones, pineapple, tart white cherries, a hint of honey, tangy minty notes, steely mineral, a touch of sea brine, earth and spice finishing with a burst of acidity and crisp sweetness. This wine is hard to beat for the money, well crafted and from an important terroir, the Leitz Dragon Stone continues to impress and in style, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, though with this level of extract and sugar, I might put a few bottles away for 10 to 15 years just to see, could be magic, best from 2016 to 2021.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
n.v. Serge Mathieu, Select Tete de Cuvee, Brut Champagne, Avirey-Lingey, France.
Michel Jacob farms and produces the Champagne at Serge Mathieu in the Cotes des Bars, the soils are limestone, kimmeridgian like Chablis with a hardened clay structure and they have vineyards that average over 30 years, mostly Chardonnay and with a about 20% Pinot Noir on 30 acres of estate/grower vines. The Select Tete de Cuvee is a leesy and mineral laced luxury sparkling wine of richness and elegance with fine details and lovely harmony, it was aged 7 years on the lees, went through full malos and is mostly from 2006 and 2007 vintages. The mousse and pale gold color entice, but the palate gives the big wow with a ravishing personality, but ultra control and steely edges for a Champagne of such hedonistic charm and lavish feel, bright citrus notes, hazelnuts and wet stones add to the full bodied texture with pretty green apple, pear and golden fig fruits. This is very delightful, vibrant and decedent fizz and offers a great value in this pleasing style, also worth looking for is the Serge Mathieu Extra Brut made from 100% Pinot Noir might be more intriguing and vital, especially for my personal tastes, but all of this grower/producers wines are lovely, imported by Charles Neal, these Champagnes deserve attention and merit, they also go wonderfully with cuisine and should be served in prime glassware, not in flutes which hide the complexity and uniqueness of these superb efforts. The Serge Mathieu Select Tete de Cuvee is pure pleasure in the glass, it is perfect for celebrating and will entertain and seduce any Champagne lover, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, this is one of my picks for New Years Eve, and that is a tough group to get into!
($58 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2014 vintage in Oregon will be a smash hit, similar to 2012 and maybe 1998 in style, and Ken Wright has crafted an amazing set of Pinots to highlight the great year with his Shea Vineyard being one of the best offerings. While Ken’s wines typically are not so appealing when just released this Shea thrills from the very first impression and sip with well defined fruit, powerful presence in the glass and wonderfully textured depth and length. No question there are some tannins here, but everything is perfectly placed, and yes it deserves some cellar time, that goes without going overboard, this is pretty darn good right now with ripe fruit, vital acids and terroir charms from a vineyard that has long formed some monumental Oregon wines. The 2014 Ken Wright Shea starts with a deep garnet/ruby hue and is darkly enchanting with earthy berry and floral tones along with hints of smoke, spice and mineral leading to a medium weighted palate of blackberry, plum and a core of sweet cherry fruit along with tangy currant, cedar, flinty/shale stones as well as anise, saline and shaved vanilla bean. With air the tannins ripen and gain a satiny pose, but still grip and hold tight this classic Oregon Pinot that haunts on to a long finish of cinnamon, strawberry, chalk dust and violets. Look for this glorious edition to off the charts in 5 to 10 years, I hope I get a few more chances to see how it develops, it is pretty magical stuff, drink from 2019-2026.
($62 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
1998 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Dorsheimer Burgberg, Nahe Germany.
What a wonderful surprise, getting to re-visit a mature Kruger-Rumpf in it’s prime, a huge thank you to Joe Young for sharing his treasure, this wine is still available from Terry Theise and Wine Wise and it is tasting wonderful with glorious delicacy and sublime balance, grace and a touch of old funk. It was a pleasure to be asked to open this 1998 Dorsheimer Burgberg even if the wet cork made it a careful chore, if you do find some of this fine and pretty Riesling be sure to use a an Ah-So or be very gentle with your wine key as not to flake the cork into your wine, but after that was accomplished everything was smooth sailing and the Kruger-Rumpf was ready to sing! The nose is heavenly with rose petal, rose oil, lemony tones, wild mushrooms, honeycomb, flinty spice and burnt orange leading to a remarkably light palate, silken and dryish with baked peach, white tea, dried pineapple, apricot and tangy mixed citrus marmalade along with wet river stones and faint mineral traces plus a very behind the scenes petrol fumes note, but non intrusive. Lingering earth, honey and mango add to the magic in this joyous Riesling expression and experience. This bottle seemed a bit peaky, no more age required on this one, especially as you are hard pressed to feel any sugar or extract, this is where it should be and delivers dreamy texture and flavors that please an impression of wilted flowers and the beginning of winter, like a gorgeous sunset it is fading out with style!
($48 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Fabre Montmayou “Donaire” Malbec Reserva, Rio Negro Region, Patagonia, Argentina.
I don’t review that many Argentine wines, but after tasting some new releases from Patagonia recently I’ve come around to really liking many more offerings other than a selected few from Mendoza and one of my favorites from this ultra remote region is the latest Donaire Reserva from Herve Joyaux Fabre’s Fabre Montmayou Winery. Fabre is a Frenchman from Bordeaux with a family history of wine merchants and he was inspired on a visit to Argentina by all the remarkable old vine vineyards available, so he bought a few up including some in Mendoza and this 122 acres in Patagonia with a plot of vines dating back to 1908 being his prize. The Donaire Malbec Reserva is a natural/native yeast fermented lot from mostly organic grapes that have no pesticides or herbicides used, the terroir here is very different than that of Mendoza and the wines have more energy and delicacy, especially this one with beautiful floral notes and medium weight body. There is almost a Cahors like old school charm here in the Donaire with a lovely violet scented nose that folds into a palate of blueberry, blackberry and tart plum fruits along with hints of leather, earth, spice, mineral and cedar. The mid palate and air bring out a fuller side to this Malbec, but it does feel heavy or oaky at all and doesn’t turn sweet and chocolatey as some Mendoza versions sometimes get, it remains vital and lingers on with kirsch and currants with just the right amount of firm tannin and lifting acidity. This is very entertaining stuff, drink over the next 3 to 5 years and best with robust and or rustic cuisine, Patagonia is on the rise, be sure to check out this and other wines from the area.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Brick House, Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Doug Tunnel’s latest Brick House wines, even from 2011 and 2013 vintages, both tough years for Oregon, have turned out amazing and are wonderful wines with the 2011 Evelyn’s Pinot and the exotic and perfumed Les Dijonnais Pinot being stand outs, impressive stuff from Tunnel, a pioneer in Willamette biodynamics and Burgundy fiend. It was great to taste through the lineup and revisit his 2012 Chardonnay, which is drinking fabulously and very Puligny like, but I think my favorite Brick House was the new 2014 Gamay Noir, it really stood out and reminds me of 2009 Cru Beaujolais, it has a Cote de Brouilly feel and wonderful structure to go with expressive and ripe dark fruits. This vintage of Brick House Gamay is only the second to get above 14%, and honestly it isn’t fruity or thin, it drinks with Pinot Noir class and detail, medium in weight and with some tannin. The pure Gamay Noir character shines through on the nose and palate with blackberry, a mix of floral and spice, cherry, strawberry and succulent currant as well as a hint of flinty stones, minty herb, walnut oil and plum/peach flesh. This savvy Gamay picks up some earth and dried cranberry with air adding some savory/bitter element to fold in nicely with the lush fruits making for a very complete experience, Brick House is a leader in quality Gamay, but this varietal is doing great in Oregon with many fine efforts available, I especially recommend searching out Salem Wine Co. by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr, Bow & Arrow and Division Wine Company versions, these are all very cool wines, and while the Brick House will be the toughest to get, you should search it out, it is lovely juice, drink from 2016 to 2021.
($32 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Sheldon, Vinolocity, Grenache, Sonoma Valley.
The Sheldon Vinolocity is a 2 barrel cuvee of Sonoma Valley Grenache grown on ancient river bed soils with sandy loam and it is a severely rocky site, the location is cool and breezy near the border with Carneros to the south and Sonoma Coast to the west, making for a unite site that requires lots of hard work and serious hang time. Dylan and Tobe Sheldon love it, they get surprisingly low alcohol and supple tannins along with exotic spice, mineral and luxurious fruit and textural sensuality, and the 2014 looks set to be a special vintage for this special cuvee. Grenache is their thing, it is a shared passion for this varietal and the Sheldon’s do it well since their honeymoon making wine for Louis Barruol at Chateau de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas, and the Vinolocity is their flagship example and wine. The 2014 Vinolocity starts with dried roses, black raspberry, cinnamon and chalk dust as this ruby red hued wine unfolds in the glass, it has a light to medium mouth feel, silken and graceful, but as it gathers itself and has some air it fills out on the palate with pomegranate, wild strawberry, peppercorns and red peach flesh and the weight seems to grown in a subtle and slow fashion. Dylan, a Wine geek slash perfectionist and Tobe the artist slash scientist , love elegance, delicacy and balance, and at 13.8% the new release of his Rhone influenced Vinolocity seems wonderfully in line with their goals as a winemakers, this is a focused Grenache with satiny lush fruit and a rewarding long finish that lingers with dried currants, cedar, star anise and tangy huckleberry. Ferments happen naturally, whole cluster and basket pressed, methods that have served them well and allow terroir and character to shine through, with zero new oak. This wine is young and has some more complexity to come, but it is oh so tasty now it is almost impossible to resist! The Sheldon’s micro-winery in Santa Rosa only crafted some 50 cases of this stuff and it will go fast, drink from 2016 to 2022, this is another impressive wine from Sheldon, also be sure to check out their old school Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, the Red Hat old vine Petite Sirah and the gorgeous and tropical Grenache Blanc, plus the earlier rated/reviewed Syrah!
($42 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, Sonoma Coast.
The new Arnot-Roberts Syrah, now Sonoma Coast instead of North Coast, shows some subtle changes from a slightly different vineyard mix giving this lovely wine a bit more energy and depth of character, and it further displays the talents of Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts in the cellar. The 2014 Arnot-Roberts Sonoma Coast Syrah is wonderfully textured and lifted with velvet and lacy tannins, good acidity and full of savory mineral and spicy elements to go with deep black, blue and red fruits in a very pleasing medium bodied wine that certainly has a lot of northern rhone style charm to admire. The palate is gifted with black raspberry, plum and blueberry fruits along with an array of additional flavors including cracked pepper, camphor/embers, kirsch, black olives, dusty earth, minty herbs, anise, cedar and a lingering currant and green spice. This is a very pure example of a classy Syrah, starting with it’s purple/garnet hue and light violet/floral nose, it has the right feel and low alcohol poise to be easily quaffed, it is impressive stuff to drink now and or in the midterm, best from 2016 to 2022. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages have seen some amazing quality and stylish post-modern Syrah in California, be sure to check out the latest offerings from Pax, Copain, Peay, Samsara, Melville, Sheldon, Stolpman, Piedrasassi, Lucia/Pisoni, Cattleya, Lagier-Meredith, Sandlands and this Arnot-Roberts for some stunning Syrah wines, they might very well be the best wines for the money in the state!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
n.v. Franck Pascal, Tolerance, Rose Brut Champagne, France.
The latest release and disgorgement of Tolerance Rose from Franck Pascal is stunning and a gorgeous wine, one of my top Champagne’s of the year! I love this bubbly, it’s always a favorite of mine, it has beautiful color, vitality and depth with lingering life and majestic detail, this is a classic grower’s bubbles that delivers everything to near perfection. The Tolerance Rose is a similar blend to Reliance, about 60% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay with a small amount of still red wine made from both Meunier and Pinot Noir, plus a bit of reserve wine to add character. This is about as unique and as good as it gets for Rose, it is vigorous and full of energy, but has silken tannins and remarkable elegance showing a bright pink hue, shiny tiny bubbles with an ultra fine mousse along with a sexy palate of wonderful pleasure and complexity, it is certainly Extra Brut in feel with brisk intensity and charm. The nose starts with a delightful citrus, red peach, yeasty brioche, white currants and the impression of rosewater and strawberry which all also unfold in the mouth with great life and expansion, this Champagne, which is super dry with only 4 g/l of sugar in the dosage, has amazing textual harmony, graceful lines and is pure seduction, this and Vilmar’s Rubis are certainly my top non-vintage Rose choices for the year! Added elements of mineral, chalk, hazelnut and tangy cherries play subtle roles in the background, this is a sublime effort, drink from 2015 to 2020, also be sure to drink this with cuisine, though it is great on it’s own it really gets interesting with food, world class Pinot Meunier and terroir driven stuff again from Franck Pascal!
($74 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rouge, Cuvee Classique, Provence, France.
A slightly tricky, cooler year in the south of France somehow played into the hands of Syrah and Mourvedre, and especially at Tempier the Mourvedre in their Bandol reds is classically deep, meaty and brooding, but with a juicy grapey balance to make them very pleasurable, in particular the basic Bandol stands out in it’s youth. The Domaine Tempier has in recent vintages been a bit cleaner, internationally styled, friendly and a touch easier to love on release, but while it is so, the 2013’s bring back some of the raw and wild nature of Bandol, this is surly true in the upper end cuvees with the famed Cabassaou being extreme, it is a cellar wine of enormous potential and power, though it will need the patience of the gods, so I highlighted the basic Bandol Cuvee Classique, though it still has a long life ahead of it too, it can be drunk with joyous rapture short term. The Tempier Bandol Rouge 2013 starts with a contrast of scents from dark flowers to iron along with truffle, black fruits, saddle and horse leading to a complex array of flavors on the palate, heightened acidity and firm tannins. The mouth feel is powerful with leather, gritty stones, concord grape, black cherry, boysenberry, wild plum and tangy currant, this wine oozes Mourvedre through and through, though there is a dose of Grenache and Cinnsault as well, they play subtle support roles and may add to roundness and spicy side of this forceful red. There is an animal nature and an earthy element that screams old school, so if you’ve longed for the old days from Tempier 2013 is your vintage to reconnect to this great winery, I love these 2013’s and this regular bottling is a great place to start, and if you’ve not tasted Bandol or Tempier this year is a must experience. Drink over the next 10 to 15 years, best from 2017 to 2025, this slightly gamey edition is wonderfully crafted and pure, it certainly should be enjoyed with cuisine.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Cantina Cenci, Anticello, Grechetto IGT Umbria, Italy.
This Umbrian white is a very pure and beautiful, an all natural wine with just a tiny amount of sulfur added at bottling, imported by Bliss Wine Imports, a new portfolio of interesting low production natural European wines, all of which are made without chemicals and all estate grown grapes. Cantina Cenci’s winemaker has been making wines in ancient vineyards since he was 4 years old and now crafts a few whites and reds from organic vines south of Perugia in the hills of Italy’s Umbria region, his Rosso made from Sangiovese and Merlot is also wonderfully textural with deep red fruits, but I adored Cantina Cenci’s crisp Grechetto Anticello with gusto, it shined with grilled octopus and a mixed shellfish dish which highlighted it’s refreshing character and bright flavors, it’s a winner. Grechetto is the native star white varietal of central Italy and in particular Umbria where it is the heart of Orvieto, it’s most acclaimed region, and Cantina Cenci makes one of the finest non Orvieto examples I’ve tasted in recent years. The fresh citrus leads, but gives way to green apple and stone fruits on the palate with a tight band of acidity and a light mineral/steely briskness makes this an appealing summer wine, but it reacts well with cuisine and turns on the charm, like mentioned, especially seafood, it is an easy quaffer that doesn’t put a foot wrong. A tiny amount of free SO2, though not at all spritzy, adds zest and keeps the profile clear and persistent throughout, it is a slight flaw that is easily forgiven in this pretty white that gains a little weight with air, but always stays focused. There’s a sense of white peach, saline, wet pebbles, minty herb and lemon/lime that comes through that entertains and the finish makes you want another sip, this is tasty and fun stuff, thanks again to Alleah Friedrichs and Erin Geyer of Bliss Wine Imports for sharing one of their discoveries, drink this small production hand crafted Grechetto over the next 3 to 5 years, impressive.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2005 Peay, Syrah, Les Titans, Sonoma Coast.
The 2005 Peay Estate Syrah Les Titans is a very pretty mature wine at this stage and it is drinking beautifully at the moment with peak performance happening with a mix of dried flowers, grilled herbs and truffle leading the way with sweet and savory tones to compliment it’s northern Rhone character and earthy fruit. Vanessa, Nick and Andy Peay turn out some of the most compelling extreme Sonoma Coast wines out there with Pinot Noir that joins an elite group such as Cobb, Hirsch, Littorai and others, along with a wonderful Chardonnay, a trademark of Vanessa’s time at Peter Michael, but it is there intense cool climate Syrah that always thrills me the most, so it was great to taste one of their early efforts and re-enforce my high opinion of this remarkable wine. While the current releases of Les Titans show massive improvement as the vines have gotten some age, I was very enthusiastic about where this 2005 was, it is a tasty Syrah that is fully evolved and very expressive. The nose keeps getting better in the glass with air, an array of flavors entertains of the palate and the finish has superb length, the tannins have melted away into the background with silky grace and it still has enough acidity to hold the fruit together with blueberry compote, fig paste, boysenberry, creme de cassis and stewed plums forming a core along with a trace of camphor, minty licorice, wild mushroom, dusty stones, olive tapenade, cedar wood notes and lingering wilted violets and baking spice. This medium bodied Syrah seems at it’s best right now, though could go another couple of cellars, so I wouldd suggest drinking soon before it fades, this is stylish stuff that proves California Syrah is the real deal!Thanks to my friend Fred Daniels that pulled this from his cellar, very kind of him to share, he bought this new from Peay on release. Be sure to look for the 2012 and 2013 vintages as well as 2007, 2009 and 2010 if you can find them!
($45-60 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2003 Domaine Bouchard, Volnay-Caillerets Premier Cru, Ancienne Cuvee Carnot, Red Burgundy, France.
This is a wine that proves terroir and certain vineyards are special and can make great wine no matter what mother nature throws at them, in 2003 a heat wave lingered in Europe killing hundreds of people and it was common thought that most wines would be overripe and short lived, that surprisingly is not the case with this beautiful Volnay-Caillerets from Bouchard. I was hugely skeptical about this bottle and almost passed over it when a friend brought it to dinner, I’m very glad curiosity kicked in and we popped the cork, it was very rich, full and decedent, but not sweet or pruned at all, in fact I’ve tasted 1990 and 2005 vintage Burgundies that were much riper and sugary, so bravo Bouchard and kudos to Caillerets, a vineyard that deserves much respect! The nose is fruity, grapey and has nice floral notes along with a fair amount of spice, bramble and mineral tones and on the palate it is fresher than you’d imagine with black cherries, juicy plum and vine picked summer raspberry with subtle blueberry compote, sweet tea, briar and cedar. There is not as much earth and acidity on display, but it still feels balanced and poised with ultra velvet tannins and a lingering finish of rosewater, strawberry tart and a mix of anise, cinnamon and vanilla. Decanted and enjoyed over a few hours there was no fade off or porty effects, in fact the last glass showed as well as the first and it took on a slighter firmer stance, it was great with food and over all impressive, especially for a vintage that is not regular by any means, it should last another 3 to 5 years easy, maybe not a classic in style, but still a joy!
($50-75 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 G.D. Vajra, Barolo, Bricco Delle Viole, Piedmonte, Italy.
While everyone wants and covets the 2010 vintage in Barolo, it is these 2011’s that are biggest surprise, in most everyway the match for the 2010’s and much more charming to drink in the nearer term, especially the top Crus from Oddero, Brovia, Boschis, Giovanni Rosso and in particular this gorgeous Bricco Delle Viole Barolo from G.D. Vajra. Sadly I missed Giuseppe Vajra on his last tour through San Francisco, but I did get a chance to taste his amazing new set of wines all of which are lovely efforts. Vajra’s 2011 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole is a powerful expression of Nebbiolo and terroir with beautifully layers fruit, mineral, spice and earth heavenly textured together with refined acidity and velvet coated firm ripe tannins, this is a less brooding wine than than 2010, more like 2008 in my opinion and is one of my top 10 wines of the year, no question. The balance is sublime for a big wine, it comes in at 14.5% alcohol, but still feels poised and doesn’t lack for energy and vitality. Giuseppe Vajra has allowed the hedonistic nature to shine through, while crafting a serious wine of beautiful detail, this Bricco Delle Viole is elegantly sexy and will age with rewarding grace. The nose has a burst of dried roses, cinnamon, tar and dark fruits leading to a full and robust palate of black cherry, damson plum, spiced raspberry, strawberry and tart currant fruits with chalk dust, truffle, salted black licorice, cedar and a hint of iron. This wine fills out with air and has amazing length, this wine pleases in the same way a great Burgundy from a Grand Cru vineyard does, it brings pure emotion and joy, if I had to compare it, I would say it is on terms with Comte Georges de Vogue’s Musigny! This is fantastic Nebbiolo, if you’ve not had Vajra, you should and soon… This 2011 Bricco Delle Viole is a star, it should have another 3 to 5 years in the bottle before final judgement, but I’d say it will go a good 15 to 20 years, best from 2019 to 2028.
($90 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2014 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2014 vintage is looking good, in fact those that want to invest in a little vino might start to spend, this is going to be a year to buy, it reminds me of 2006 and 2004 with rich fruit intensity and great structure, it is also a vintage that is showing remarkably well straight away, this is especially true of the new set of releases from Ken Wright! These are going to be stars to look for, with Shea, Abbott Claim and this Freedom Hill Vineyards all amazing efforts, with only the Shea being still a bit tight, and for Ken Wright, this is pretty impressive as most vintages need about 3 to 5 years before beginning to show the potential in the bottle. The 2014 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot from Ken Wright is from the western coastal ranges area of the Willamette, west of Carlton, it is an area of Oregon that is getting more and more attention, though Freedom Hill has always been highly regarded, and the wine shows why with gorgeous purity of fruit, mineral tones, spice, acidity and solid tannins that frame this wonderful Pinot Noir. The year was ripe and delivered dark flavors and deep layers, but balance is sublime, on the palate there is the pleasure of richness, but delicacy of details and racy energy with charming vitality and verve. The reaction is emotional, like a great Burgundy this wine makes an impact, the nose is slightly floral with rose petals, dried violets along with the impression of blueberry, peppered berries and a hint of char leading to a mouth filled with blackberry, plum and a core of dense cherry fruit as well as basil, anise, saline, pebbly stones, smoky vanilla and cedar/walnut. This Pinot feels silken with air, but firms again with vigor, this is classy and wildly entertaining even so brutally young, this is an awesome effort from Ken Wright, don’t miss his 2014’s, best to hold them a few years for the greatest of rewards, drink from 2016 to 2025.
($62 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Le Berne, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
Montepulciano was one of my favorite places in Tuscany to visit, it is an amazing setting with grand vistas and unspoiled hilltop town life with less crowds than Cortona and less pretense than Montalcino it’s great rival. The Le Berne Vino Nobile is a wine that I’ve been following for years, but a wine that now is being chased down, it is a true estate field blend mostly Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese Grosso, same as in Brunello di Montalcino) plus native varietals Colorino and Mammolo a grape that is now only found in Montepulciano. Le Berne does not add the common place Merlot or Cabernet, which can now be part legally of the blend in Montepulciano Vino Nobiles, they just must be 80% Sangiovese. This 2011 is one of the best vintages I can remember for this winery, and it scored a highly prized Tre Bicchieri from Italy’s Gambero Rosso Wine Guide, but still remains an under the radar wine in the USA, and a remarkable value, especially considering the prices of high scoring Brunello. The Le Berne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 starts with a deep color, a dark garnet with bright orange/red edges and a black/garnet core and a beautiful perfume of violets, sweet herbs and fresh mint leaf with dark berries leading to a full bodied palate of refined tannin structure and smooth acidity with rich layers of blackberry, cherry, plum and fig paste as well as sweet tobacco cigar wrapper, mocha, licorice, tangy currants, mineral tones and spicy elements. A long lingering finish with balsamic dipped strawberries, a hint of framboise and cedary oak really make for a lovely and well crafted Tuscan red, it drinks wonderfully now, but has another 10 plus years of pure enjoyment ahead. Imported by Siena Imports of San Francisco, the Le Berne is a great value in Vino Nobile and this 2011 takes it to the next level, best from 2016 to 2024.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Sheldon, Syrah, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The latest and upcoming releases from Sheldon Wines, mostly 2014 vintage, are all stylish and wonderfully textured offerings much in line with their own character and low alcohol charms, especially the new Syrah from the recently formed Fountaingove District in Sonoma County, tucked in between Santa Rosa and the Russian River Valley with cool climate hillside fruit. Fountaingrove may sound new, but it is in fact an old wine growing area by California standards and was in fact home to the famous Fountain Grove Winery, established back in 1875 but spiritual cult leader Thomas Lake Harris who wanted to create a utopian society/community and produced some of California’s best wines at the time, though now only remains as a ghost winery. The area provides some impressive grapes from it’s mix of Sonoma volcanic and Franciscan Formation bedrock soils, Dylan and Tobe Sheldon found Luc’s Vineyard, a tiny patch of vines that include Syrah, Graciano and Tempranillo, and because of their love of Graciano decided to take all the grapes farmed here, and rather than producing a Rioja hybrid blend, they have separated the lots and produced a micro batch of wine from each grape with just two barrels of the 2014 Luc’s Syrah being made. The gorgeous and lively Luc’s Syrah by Sheldon is medium bodied, northern Rhone style Syrah, it is just 12.5% alcohol and reminds me of Arnot-Roberts and Bedrock Syrah with crushed violets, faint traces of cassis, bacon, truffle and cracked peppercorns coming through on the nose and palate with blueberry, loganberry and black cherry fruits. This is a classy and dreamy whole cluster effort that gains plummy layers with air, it has a bit of stem spice, black olive and star anise that compliments the tangy fruit, this is really good stuff from one of Sonoma’s coolest micro-wineries, it shows plenty of energy and length with crisp acids and mild tannins, drink from 2016 to 2022. This was one of the stars of the set that also included a sexy and tropical Grenache Blanc, a deep old vine Petite Sirah call Red Hat and the wonderfully expressive Vinolocity a Gigondas inspired cool climate low alcohol Grenache cuvee, they all should be available soon in the tasting room, don’t miss them, and in particular this juicy ultra-tasty light-footed and savory Crozes like Luc’s Vineyard Syrah.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaines Minchin, La Tour Saint-Martin, Menetou-Salon “Pommerais” Pinot Noir, Loire Valley, France.
The La Tour Saint Martin Pommerais is a bright and fresh old world Pinot Noir with cool Atlantic influences and terroir character coming from the Mentou-Salon et Valençay on the Loire River, it shines with juicy reds fruits, perfect lifting acidity and a mineral spiced profile. The Minchin La Tour Saint Martin Pinot is grown on Kimmeridgian soils, a marl/limestone that is famous in Chablis, this chalk and dense clay add to the complexity and really give a sense of place in this wine. The 2014 Pommerais shows tangy red cherry, strawberry and plum fruits with hints of salty granite, red tea, apple skin and soft cedar notes framed with satiny tannin and lingering minty herb, zesty raspberry and cranberry. The sweet and savory play makes this unique Pinot great with holiday fare and many cuisines, a nice pairing with roast bird, pork and less spicy Asian dishes. At first glance this Loire Pinot seems subtle and simple, but it grows on you and gains in interest with air and will please for a few years to come, especially considering the price, best from 2016 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 De Ponte Cellars, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Baldwin family and winemaker Isabelle Dutartre (from Burgundy) have made De Ponte Cellars one of the finest small estate’s in the Dundee Hills, it’s an impressive vineyard with amazing valley views and the wines are some of the best values in Oregon Pinot. De Ponte Cellars also makes a great little Melon de Bourgogne, but it is their jory soil influenced Pinot Noir that really gets your heart pumping and the 2012 vintage is a not to miss beauty, full of intensity, depth and impressive ripe flavors. The 2012 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills is one of five different Pinots that were produced in this extraordinary year, and the best price, it was crafted from all estate fruit and saw about 20% new French oak, this maybe the sleeper in the set of 2012 offerings, being a bit less flashy and polished it shows great structure, vitality and length it has a lot of pleasure to give and should gain even more rewarding character over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle. The Dundee Hills De Ponte Cellars Pinot starts with a mix of floral tones with violets, rose petal and lavender coming through with dark berries, red pepper, smoke and minty herbs leading to a full palate of blackberry, plum, tangy red currants adding to a pure morello cherry core. There is a good play of juicy acidity to lift the weighty fruit and silky tannins to hold things nicely in place along with just the right amount of sweet toasty oak with just a hint of mocha and vanilla coming through, but with air some interesting truffle, mineral/flinty spice and licorice add to the array of flavors on parade. This is an easy wine to love now and I certainly recommend it for mid term drinking as well, plus if you get to Oregon, this is a must visit stop, best from 2016 to 2021.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Tournelle, Poulsard “L’ Uva Arbosianna” Arbois, Cotes du Jura, France.
Evelyne and Pascal Clairet’s Domaine de la Tournelle is one of the rising stars in the Jura and the wines are very much in the style of Puffeney and Gahier, and the latest set of wines will not disappoint especially this unbelievably light/pale Poulsard. The 2014 Poulsard L’ Uva Arbosianna starts with a delicate hue, with much less pigment that your average Rose, but full of flavor, spice and sublime delicacy with wild strawberries, dusty lavender, rose oil and cracked peppercorns as well as tart cherry and plum along with light tea notes, candied orange peel and red peach. With air a fuller feel in the mouth unfolds with fine tannins, smooth acidity and earthy tones. There is a stone and mineral element as well, though still hidden mostly by the youth and freshness of this Poulsard, overall this is a interesting and pure expression of varietal and place, it is worth checking this classic Jura red out. Poulsard is a sommelier wine, sometimes difficult to understand or enjoy by the general public and it hasn’t quite got the stylish charms of Trousseau, it’s more desirable Jura cousin, but it still is a fun experience and Domaine de la Tournelle make a very intriguing and tasty version, drink this one over the next 3 to 5 years, and be sure to look for Domaine de la Tournelle’s powerful dry white Savagnin that can age decades like Riesling or old vine Melon in Muscadet!
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
n.v. Bodegas Cesar Florido, Moscatel Especial, Medium-Sweet Sherry, Chipiona, Jerez D.O. Spain.
Sherry is vastly underrated as a food wine and it makes for a really special and flattering companion to Thanksgiving dinners, in particular medium-dry, medium-sweet and cream sherry styles, plus Pedro Ximenez for desserts works beautifully. I love the rare Moscatel Sherries with turkey and sweet potatoes or yums with floral notes and decedent texture plus exotic tropical fruit and sweet honeyed nut flavors they add lots of joy to the tastes of the holiday table. The Bodegas Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial is one of my favorites, it’s from the Jerez zone in Chipiona, an area almost exclusive to growing Moscatel with sandy soils and ancient vines, the Bodega was founded back in 1887 and is just southwest of Sanlucar, not too far from the sea. The Cesar Florido Moscatel Especial is not overly sweet or cloying with a nose of jasmine and sea breezes leading to a rich palate of peach tart, pineapple, honeyed mango, orange rind, apple butter, pecan and almond oil. the balance to wonderful with a contrast of briny nutty elements with the sweeter fruit playing well together. This well crafted Sherry goes great with cheeses and is great pre meal too, along with Tapas of course, Cesar Florido’s Moscatel is lovely stuff and a great deal with tons of character. It’s sad people tend to overlook fine Sherries, I highly recommend checking them out during the holiday season, especially Equipo Navazos, Lustau, Alvear, El Maestro Sierra and Cesar Florido!
($14 Est. 375ml/bt) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Remelluri, Lindes de Remelluri Rioja, Vinedos de Labastida, Rioja Alavesa, Spain.
Made from old vines not farmed on the estate, Remelluri’s Lindes de Remelluri Rioja offerings are in my opinion the best young Rioja reds made for the money, and especially captivating and rewarding is the Lindes de Remelluri Labastida. Grown at elevation on chalky soils the Labastida showing wonderful depth, life and length, made from mostly ancient Tempranillo, it mostly likely has a good dose of Graciano and Garnacha in the blend making for a complex wine of sublime texture and detail. Telmo Rodriguez is coy about winemaking and varietals, he really only wants to showcase terroir in his wines, so getting exact grapes and process is like pulling teeth, but the wines are truly gorgeous and his two Lindes de Remelluri 2011, this Labastida and the San Vicente are wines to look for, they both are stunning values and savvy cellar choices, while Telmo’s estate offerings, the white, estate red and Gran Reserva red are world class. The 2011 Labastida Lindes de Remelluri starts with dark wild flowers, hints of truffle, smoke and black currants leading to a rich and polished palate of cherry, plum and fig fruits with anise, cola berry, cedar and exotic spices. There is vitality and refined tannins holding everything together and while lavish in feel there is underlying substance and power here, Remelluri has gone it’s own direction and it is well worth the ride, and this 2011 Lindes de Remelluri Labastida is highly entertaining, deeply impressive and a sensual delight, drink from 2016 to 2024
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Arnot-Roberts, Trousseau, North Coast.
The Arnot-Roberts wines, in case you’ve not had a chance to try them, are some of the most interesting and wine geeky wines out there and their new release of Trousseau is another beautiful and delicate example. Trousseau is native to the Jura region of France, it is a light/pale red wine that is light to medium bodied, but wonderfully complex and compelling as a single varietal or in a blend with Gamay, Poulsard and or Pinot Noir, it is also in some Crement du Jura sparkling wines. In California it has recently been discovered in old vine field blends and may have found it’s way to California back in the late 1,800’s, about the time Zinfandel (Tribidrag) came west, and looks to have been planted together along with many other grapes, but in much smaller amounts. Duncan (Arnot) Meyers and Nathan Roberts of Arnot-Roberts have become champions of Trousseau and their 2014 is a really lovely effort with a soft ruby hue and bright flavors that show subtle ripeness and layers of wild strawberry, cherry and huckleberry along with a mix of herbs and spices plus faint earthy tones and mineral notes. This is a red wine that whispers gently in your ear and has a seductive sirens call, it is a pleasing and an old world charmer with silken tannins and lifting acids, it finishes with lingering and surprising length with cranberry, dusty lavender and rosewater. While slightly darker than it’s French cousins, the Arnot-Roberts Trousseau is a fine homage to it’s roots and a wonderfully detailed wine, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($35 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc Trocken “I” Deidesheim, Pfalz Germany.
I must admit for a few vintages I was in total denial and didn’t give enough attention or time to the Von Winning Sauvignon Blancs, but recently I’ve been transformed by these amazing wines and now consider them among the world’s best examples of this varietal! The Sauvignon Blanc “500” is monumental, and this Sauvignon Blanc “I” is not far off, both being more in the Bordeaux Blanc class of style and both riveting and mind blowing wines, the “500” is more woody and richer, and this “I” being fresher and more delicate. Both wines are aged in oak cast on their lees and fermented dry with the grapes coming off the loam, loess and red sandstone soils of Paradiesgarten in the Von Winning Deidesheimer planted in high density with very low yields. It is hard to image a better set of Sauvignon Blancs, and the pure intensity and complexity is absolutely humbling, but this is a winery that never rests and is pushing the boundaries, dedicated to extreme quality, every single wines translates the desire and passion to create something magical and special at Von Winning, while the Rieslings here grab the headlines, Stefan Attmann’s Sauvignon Blancs are remarkable in their own right and should not be missed, especially the Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc Trocken “I” 2013, it is simply stellar. The energy and depth is fantastic with white flowers, sappy herbs, smoky notes and vibrant citrus lead the way, loads of lemon/lime, kiwi, quince and opulent peach fruits unfold on the palate along with steely mineral, wet stones, a hint of vanilla/creme brûlée and sweet and sour, lemongrass, grapefruit seed and tangy acidity. The texture is sublime, with well judged balance with a lush feel, but still lifting, tangy and electric, this is stunning stuff that rivals any Graves Blanc and or the best of California, for those that have had Peter Michael or the new Shared Notes wines, you’ll be thrilled by this Von Winning, and I can’t help imagine it will get even better with age! This is luxury in a bottle, it will also change your mind and perception of what German Sauvignon Blanc is and can be, drink this game changer between 2015 and 2028, this stuff is the real deal.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Munsterer Dautenpflanzer, Nahe Germany.
Importer Terry Theise describes the Kruger-Rumpf Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese as a “Horny” wine with uncontrollable urges, I like that, as for my notes, they include forward and flirty like comments, there is no way of getting around it, this is sexy and vivacious Riesling grown in a prime site in the lower Nahe. While not wine-porn in XXX fashion, this is a wine that does grab your full attention with layers of flavors and scents that excite and thrill, this without question over delivers for the price and should be in your cellar often, if not always! The 2011, 2012 and 2013 all rocked, and this 2014 is beginning to fulfill it’s potential and get beyond it’s youthful shyness, it has plenty of extract and mineral tones to age gracefully for decades, but still shows an elegance that will make it easy to enjoy even now. The 2014 is very pretty with added delicacy and shows more of a fan dance that a poll dance, it teases, but still winks at you to let you know there will be a very happy ending! This makes for racy Sunday morning reading, but this is that kind of Riesling. The 2014 Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Spatlese is grown on a mix of sandy loam and a bit of slate allowing Georg Rumpf and the team at Kruger-Rumpf to craft a generous and stylish wine, this wine even at Spatlese sweetness continues to impress with it’s poise and balance, it is a fantastic food wine, especially with smoked meats, Asian dishes and roast bird. The nose is full of exotic flowers, wet steel and yellow fruits, white violets, anise and salted rose petals leading to a rich palate of honeyed verbena, peach, tangerine sorbet, crushed river stones, a burst of bright lime citrus, apple and a hint of basil leaf over dried pineapple. The mouth feel is creamy as it warms, but everything flows in orderly rhythm and is taught with precision heightening the pleasure, drink from 2016 to 2028, I’m thinking perfection with Thai cuisine, maybe date night take away would be best!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Purple Hands, Pinot Noir, Stoller Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Purple Hands winemaker Cody Wright, son of famed Oregon legend Ken Wright, has really got something special in this latest release and certainly he will be a talent in his own right. The 2014 Stoller shines in the glass with heady aromas and a youthful fullness on the palate highlighting the ripe and lush vintage the 2014’s are turning out to be in Oregon, this is going to be an outstanding year for Pinot Noir, rich and deep like the 2008 wines, but with more balanced alcohol and vigorous acidity and Cody’s 2014 Stoller has it all! The nose brings violets and black currants along with cinnamon and red pepper spice leading to a dark and mouth filling palate that showcases blackberry, plum, sweet cherries and sticky lavender along with minty herbs, vanilla, cedar, a hint of smoke plus earthy stones, dusty and salty flint and wilted roses. There is some tannin and vibrancy in this wonderful terroir expressive Pinot grown on Jory soils, this is an impressive effort from a great organic site in the red hills of Dundee, Purple Hands is a winery that you should check out, and especially this 2014 Purple Hands Stoller. Drink this beauty over the next 7 to 12 years, best from 2017 to 2024, though as with a really good wine, it will be hard to keep your hands off it even now, this is tasty well crafted stuff!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Bedrock Wine Company, Zinfandel, Old Vine, California.
The 2014 Bedrock Old Vine Zin is wonderfully expressive and lively with a heady mix of red and black fruits, spice and stylish textures, Morgan Twain-Peterson again has knocked it out of the park with his latest releases, especially with this one from vines that average over 80 years old. Mostly from Sonoma fruit, Morgan added a few more sites outside the region, hence the California on the label, but regardless this is the same compelling Zinfandel based blend we know and love, in fact with maybe even a bit more complexity and flair with the other black grapes blended in, it has a bit of Mourvedre, Trousseau and whatever else might be lurking in these heritage sites like Persan, Alicante and the Mission grape! Most historic and classic Zins have been field blends, this is especially true of the beautiful and long aged wines of Ridge Vineyards, and the Bedrock wines continue that tradition. The 2014 Old Vines starts with black raspberry, baked cherry and loganberry along with pepper, sage, anise and dried dark flowers, this is a full bodied effort with deep layers, but still full of energy and balanced with just a kiss of oak showing. This edition has fine tannins, a push of acidity and has plenty of contrast between sweet fruit and savory elements with a brambly pop and light earthy tones, finishing with plum, cedar and briar notes. This is a nice and fleshy Zinfandel that drinks lovely and fresh right now, but can please for many years to come, very nice and impressive again from Bedrock, best from 2016 to 2022.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Kabinett, Oberhauser Leistenberg, Nahe, Germany.
This slate driven Kabinet is sexy, aromatic and full of mineral personality with a faint sweetness that lets everything form together in near perfection, this vintage proves a little sugar goes a long way, in fact with Donnhoff especially, the 2014 Kabinett offerings are some of the best wines of the vintage! With unique charms and it’s own bright personality the 2014 Oberhausen Leistenberg, grown on pure slate, is very alluring with white flowers and rosewater rising from the glass along with wet shale, dried honey, ginger and ocean breeze leading to a palate that has a sense of feline grace and tension, a hint of wild, but sleek and stealthy. The main thrust here is lime, white peach, crushed stones, apricot, dried pineapple, a little green apple and tangerine sorbet with touch of salted verbena. This is the real deal, Donnhoff nailed the vintage in Kabinett and Spatlese, these are classic and stylish wines that have very few peers, be sure to hoard the QbA Estate and the Kabinett level wines for short to mid term drinking, the vintage was difficult with a tiny crop so the wines will be in short supply. There is a wonderful play between dry and lush, sweet and savory, mineral and fruity that challenges you and excites your senses, it is fantastic in feel and refreshing with acidity and energy throughout. The Nahe terroir shines through in 2014 and with truly special delicacy and inner perfume you will be hard pressed to find a better and more compelling white wine for the money than this Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett, drink from 2016 to 2022, DO NOT MISS!
($30 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Deidesheimer Grainhubel, Grosses Gewachs, Pfalz, Germany.
The Von Winning Grand Crus are some of the greatest white wines you’ll ever taste and winemaker Stefan Attmann’s style is genius and unique in the world of dry Riesling. The latest set from Von Winning highlight the flexibility of the winery and the heavenly elegance of the difficult 2014 vintage, this shows especially in the gorgeous and lifting Grainhubel Grosses Gewachs, this is a Riesling with a sense of refinement and old world charm, but don’t let that first impression of austerity fool you, there is something remarkable shyly hidden just beneath the surface here, power and subtle richness taught and intense like a stalking tiger. The comparison of Von Winning to white Burgundies is cliche, even though I use it often and there is a direct link in style and feel, but the 2014 wines have brought the house style into it’s own league, though if you would forgive me, you could reasonably argue that they do have a striking steely Chablis like character, in the Raveneau and Christophe mold. The Grainhubel Trocken is a dynamic and beautifully detailed wine, grown on red limestone, sandstone and loam soils, aged on it’s lees and in wood, slightly less new oak these days, all give this vintage room to express itself in clear and pure form with lots of mineral driven charm, delicate nature and dreamy length, this is a not an in your face vintage, but still massively impressive with aromatics that will seduce you and a palate that will leave you weak in the knees. The fresh white flowers, spring blossom and rosewater play with chalky eat, saline and tea notes with white stone fruit and lime leading the way in the mouth, this takes a few minutes to unleash peach, tropical essences, basil edged herb, white raspberry and tangerine. There acidity is there and is vital from start to finish, but with air you feel layers of texture and everything is perfectly controlled, and the finish delivers the knockout blow with a dreamscape of minty tang, grapefruit, kiwi, river rocks, lemon, honeysuckle and apricot! Drinking this wine young is not going to be a serious crime, but the rewards of aging it 10 years or more will be amazingly paid with treasures, this is an exciting and glorious wine from one of German’s great estates, check out all of the Von Winning wines from Pinot Noir to Sauvignon Blanc, absolutely world class, but in particular it’s always about the Rieslings, and the Grainhubel Grand Cru with it’s lime infused core stands out and is a great value, drink from 2016 to 2028!
($45 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Marc Roy, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
In October of 2015 Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc visited San Francisco and showed off her beautiful Gevrey’s, these preview barrel samples gave great insight into the vintage and showcased Roy’s gifts as a winemaker, in was a great pleasure to meet her and finally taste her wines, something I had wanted to do for a few years now. While tight and young all the Marc Roy 2014 Burgundy look outstanding with deep flavors, wonderful intensity, verve and length, these are all offerings you want to look for come this next Spring when they are scheduled to arrive, in particular I adored the basic cuvee, this Vieilles Vignes and the Gevrey-Chambertin “La Justice” though all of the Roy wines merit attention. The Vieilles Vignes Gevrey is the most forward and open of the four wines I sampled, it comes off ten small plots just south of Gevrey, these Lieu-dits average out at over 70 years old with some much older and historically have made some classic wines, this shows in Alexandrine’s latest effort, this is one wine I hope to meet up with again. The 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin Old Vines starts with a hint of reduction, which blows off easily and reveals dark red and black fruits, a brilliant ruby color in the glass with a nose that plays with you, showing rose petal, spices, mineral notes and pencil shavings along with forest berries and stones. The palate is medium weighted with a touch of baby fat and pleasing textures with black cherry, plum and currant fruits, black tea, crushed violets, minty herbs and wild ceps, while a frame of sweet oak cinnamon, vanilla and cedar add luxury without being intruding. Alexandrine sorts vigorously and everything is de-stemmed in 2014, but there is plenty of style and substance here with a good firm structure and juicy acidity making for an elegant Burgundy that also has some grip and power in reserve, and the finish is sublime and lingering velvet. This is a big sneak peek and a heads up, the Domaine Marc Roy 2014’s are a stunning set of red Burgundies, these should be treasures to covet over the next decade, also be sure to check out Alexandrine’s Oregon wines, the Phelps Creek Vineyards, especially the 2012 Pinot Noir Cuvee Alexandrine, thrilling and lovely stuff!
($78 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider, Riesling Trocken, Niersteiner Hipping “Vom Rotliegenden” Red Soil, Rheinhessen, Germany.
This exquisite and delightful dry Riesling from Georg Albrecht Schneider, a winery that goes back more than seven generations, located on the Rhein, near the wine town Nierstein, is from vines planted on iron rich volcanic soils, hence the name, that give it a full flavored palate while delivering a crisp dry white wine with class and ease of use. The Rheinhessen has a vast array of soils and mixes of, but the volcanic soil might be the most interesting aspect, certainly for this particular wine, as opposed to the normal loam, clay, slate or sandstone features, it gives a fruit driven palate and fresh clear aromatic transparency without the diesel or flinty notes from the hardcore slate, here you get a burst of lime, white flowers and stone fruit. Perfect with a wide selection of foods, especially ham, turkey and seafood choices, it also works wonderfully with salads and veggie options or as a starter, it has bright refreshing flavors, it is low in alcohol and cleans the palate perfectly with a lingering tangerine, tropical essences, steely notes and apricot fleshiness, being always focused, and brisk. Overall this is the kind of wine found at German pubs or bistros, it is a quality wine that offers a more than reasonable value, while not mind blowing it surly will please and should age beautifully as well, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($15 Est.) 87-89 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lindsay Paige Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The beautifully detailed and rich Lindsay Paige Estate Pinot from Alfaro is the most flamboyant and full bodied of his set of gorgeous 2013 vintage Pinot Noirs, and maybe will be the longest lived, it certainly looks set to please for many years to come. The last to be released the Alfaro Lindsay Paige is the flagship or signature wine of Richard Alfaro’s lineup, it highlights the estate’s best features which includes deep fruit intensity, good cool climate acidity, color and silken like tannins, the terroir here is similar in flavor profile to Oregon in many ways, but with a more coastal influence which is natural being that Corralitos is not much more than 4 or 5 miles from the Ocean and the cold Monterey Bay. The 2013 Lindsay Paige saw the most time in barrel at 17 months, and it saw the highest percentage of new wood, at about 42% of medium/hight toast French which kisses the wine with smoky vanilla, but remarkably has not over shadowed it at all, the year was fantastic in this part of the Santa Cruz Mountains one of the best in my memory, especially for the reds. The latest release from Alfaro starts with dark hues, ruby and garnet with a deep core and a heady perfume of rose petal and framboise that lead to a palate of ripe fruits, spice, mineral and hints of earth and sweet cedar and vanilla. The sexy mouth feel expands with plum, cherry and black currants as well as refined acidity and faint traces of savory, stony and saline laced elements that add interest to this forward and juicy Pinot. Lingering blackberry and Asian spices add to the joy of this well crafted wine, it has a balanced 13.6% alcohol, satiny layers and with only 175 cases made it is a steal at the price, drink over the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2022, this is top notch stuff!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Mas de Daumas Gassac, Rouge, Haute Vallee du Gassac, Vin de Pays de L’ Herault, Languedoc, France.
Samuel Guibert’s Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge and Blanc continue to get better and better, with in my opinion the 2012 reaching new heights for the red Grand Vin. it is showing a verve and freshness that never really emerged as much in prior vintages, this is not a criticism of the early wines many of which were masterpieces, it is just to highlight the evolution of the wines and celebrate a lift in energy in them. The 2012 Rouge Mas de Daumas Gassac is a field blend of 75.6% de Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.5% Merlot, 4.4% Tannat, 3.9% Cabernet Franc, 1.8% Malbec, 1.8% Pinot noir, 7% other grape varieties grown on sloping vineyards sites that have iron rich soils, it is fermented in stainless and was aged about a year in mostly neutral French oak. The Cabernet leads the way, though the terroir influence is serious and gives this Grand Cru du Languedoc it’s unique character, it bursts from the glass, almost black at it’s core and a bright garnet hue with a bouquet of dried flowers and juicy blackberry, spice, graphite and anise that leads to a clear and persistent palate of tangy black currants, boysenberry, dusty plum and kirsch/cherry along with sweet herbs, sage, tobacco leaf, minty/licorice, light earthy notes, dark coco powder and cedar spice. This feels almost full bodied and mildly tannic, but is wonderfully textured with fine poise and length, this might be a vintage to drink in it’s youth? Drink the 2012 Mas de Daumas Rouge over the next 3 to 5 years, though a few bottles left in the cellar might be rewarded after a decade, time will tell, but it certainly pleases with vibrancy and stylish charms in the here and now!
($48 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Hooker Creek, Sonoma Valley.
The first release of Hooker Creek is only available at the tasting room and through the Ridge wine club program, so be sure to get to Lytton Springs or trek up to Monte Bello and grab some of this rocking Zinfandel that comes from 80 year old vines in Sonoma Valley. The Hooker Creek 2013 is a thrilling glass of purpleness and a classic study in hedonism with a deep bluish/purple core and garnet edges it shines in light and delivers a light floral and red berry and cedary nose before an entry of black raspberry, plum, cherry and tangy currant fruits with a hint of pepper, laurel leaf and salted black licorice along with bitter chocolate, lavender and fig. Big and juicy at 14.7% this is not over the top thick or sweet, but certainly full and ripe with well judged tannins and smooth acidity, Ridge nailed this one, this is a fine California Zinfandel that should please anyone that opens it and it does have a tiny percentage of Alicante and Petite Sirah that adds to the overall old vine feel on the palate and has a typical Ridge field blend character. This Hooker Creek drinks fantastic in it’s youth, and in fact, while full of radiant flavor and expressive it feels balanced, poised and easy to quaff right now, I’d hold the more tightly wound Lytton Springs in the cellar a few more years and drink this and fruitier Pagaini Ranch sooner, even though I think the Hooker Creek has solid aging potential, as do most Ridge offerings, drink from 2016 to 2022. I confess to really, really enjoying this Zin, it reminds me of recent Bedrock bottlings and I hope it is part of Ridge’s lineup permanently, this is pure California in the bottle!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Valle Dell’ Acate, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG Classico, Sicily, Italy.
The Valle Dell’ Acate winery with a history that dates back to 1870 makes a fine and rewarding Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a textured blend of Nero d’ Avola and Frappato that performs solidly with some flair and energy. Along with COS, Occhipinti and Nanfro, Valle Dell’ Acate is proving the more elegant and vibrant style of winemaking is the way to go with these grapes and terroir, they have brought this small region to the world’s attention and deserve huge credit, these are glorious and fun wines, all with their own story to tell, in particular this 2011 Valle Dell’ Acate Cerasuolo shines with deep flavors and refinement, it highlights perfectly the play in contrast of these two native varietals with the Nero d’ Avola giving the impression of black and blue fruits while the pretty Frappato gives strawberry, crushed roses and red baked peach elements. The start has a nice array of scents and a beautiful ruby red hue with dried flowers, light balsamic notes, blueberry and sweet herbs leading to a palate of silky tannins lifting up raspberry, plum, pomegranate and strawberry fruits with a hint of basil and anise, a bit of guava, chalky earth, cedar and exotic spice all add to the pleasure in this vivid medium weight red. This wine is lovely from start to finish showing finesse and stylish flourish, drink this well made Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico over the next 3 to 5 years, this is savvy stuff!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Burn Cottage, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand.
The 2013 Burn Cottage is a beautiful and expressive Pinot Noir with gorgeous fruit and stylish verve, this is one of the best Kiwi Pinots out there, along with Felton Road, Ata Rangi, Two Paddocks and Mount Difficulty and leads the way in biodynamics (in the region) and showing Central Otago terroir. Ted Lemon of Littorai is the winemaker behind Burn Cottage and the latest Burn Cottage shows his touch and gifted talents, this is a world class wine with a pure clarity and inner energy that makes it really stand out, it feels light and silken on the palate, but with deep rewards, it elicits an emotional response and a zen like pleasure. The start is a thrilling mix of floral and mineral spice along with the impression of blueberry, raspberry and strawberry leading to a mouth of cherry, plum and currants with layers of powdered stones, baking spices, Asian market scents and a touch of cedar and rose petals. The Burn Cottage gains force and width with air while remaining poised and underlyingly firm of structure with good acidity and grip, this is special stuff, this is a wine that lives up to the hype. The 2013 is pretty just resting in the glass with a deep ruby and almost garnet hue shinning back, it goes a long way as well proving the quality of the Central Otago terroir and if you are a Pinot lover you’ll want to try this wine, drink over the next 5 to 10 years, best from 2016 to 2024.
($60 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2013 Johan Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The all biodynamic Johan Estate is tasting wonderful at this point after an early awkward stage when I last tried it, Dag J. Sundby has done a masterful job with this wine, especially considering the huge challenge of unseasonable weather so close to harvest and that he was still able to go 45% whole cluster, which adds to the depth of flavors. The Johan wines, fermented with native yeasts always come in with low alcohols and have less oak impact with less than 30% new barrels, the finesse, freshness and balance are welcome and the wines are easy to quaff and great with all types of cuisine, the 2013 Estate in particular, it is only about 12.2% and is evolving nicely. The longer hang time has given the 2013 Estate a bit deeper feel and it has gained substance in the last 4 or 5 months since I first sampled it, it has loads of fruit, spice and mineral complexity coming from Johan’s 10 clone selections in the vineyard. The 2013 Johan Pinot Noir Estate shows a solid ruby color with a vibrant nose of red fruits, mixed flowers and exotic spices leading to a palate of black cherry, loganberry, tart plum and tangy currant fruits with layers of cinnamon, fennel, tea spice, pepper and truffle along with violets, cranberry, flint and earth. This pure and energy filled Pinot has silken tannin and bright acidity that has melded in with grace and will continue to add life and verve, drink this pretty and stylish effort over the next 3 to 5 years. I still think the 2014 vintage second label Farmlands by Johan has the edge and I can’t wait for the 2014 Estate, but everything from Sundby is quality juice, look for these wines!
($35 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Pax, Syrah, Castelli Knight Ranch, Russian River Valley.
The multi layered Pax Castelli Knight Syrah beams a purple message to the heavens, this stylish offering puts Pax in the spotlight as one of California’s best producers of this varietal, and without question is an awesome modern example. While full bodied and ripe, it carries a pretty heavy hit of alcohol at 14.9%, it does feel and taste much more light-footed and northern Rhone in character with stemmy Cornas like qualities and it handles itself with poise and vitality, very balanced and wonderfully complex, whole-cluster California Syrah at it’s best, this is serious stuff. The nose gives you gorgeous aromatics with violets, creme de cassis, white pepper, cedar and black olives leading to a palate with Guigal La La type impact and verve with boysenberry, kirsch, peppercorns, stony notes, a touch of graphite, anise and tangy blueberries. Air just brings refined depth to the fore, structure stays intact with chewy, but well judged tannin control, subtle wood and a plush plummy mouth feel. The Pax 2012 Castelli Knight rocks, plain and simple, it has pleasing everything and is pure sex in the bottle and the finish is a lingering array of cinnamon, minty herbs and blueberry compote. This year, Pax joins Lagier Merideth, Samsara, Peay, Stolpman, Lucia-Pisoni and Sandlands as my top California Syrah wines of the last 12 months of tastings, drink this fantastic wine over the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2022.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine des Tours, Reserve, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, Rhone Red, France.
After a long day pouring a nice selection of California Merlot for #MerlotDay it was really nice to come home to this beautiful Domaine des Tours Reserve, one of the great value wines of the world made by Emmanuel Reynaud of the famous Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau Rayas. The spicy complexity and rustic earthy charms seduce completely with a sense of maturity and sensual pleasures that don’t often fin their way into an under $25 bottle of wine, the Domaine des Tours Reserve Rouge is a blend of Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, Cinsualt and Merlot (making sure I don’t offend any of the International Merlot Day officials…) fermented and aged in stainless tank and cement vats, some of the blend is from declassified lots of estate Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras, grown on a mix of sand, clay and stony soils over marne rock, almost the same as in Gigondas. This mostly Grenache cuvee opens to reveal dried flowers, burnt orange, wild red peach and peppery spices in a light cloudy garnet hued wine, this wine at first smells and tastes much older than it is, a confusing effect that lasts a few moments before the wine unfolds into a fresher version of itself with waxed blueberry, pomegranate, dusty plum, baked morello cherry and tangy red currant pushing through along with hints of game and truffle, licorice, garrique/lavender and a touch of stewed strawberry. The overall impression is all about old school hedonism, and even though there are some quick aging elements going on, it is just part of the experience, though I may suggest drinking this tasty stuff early (and often) it looks to have reached it’s best, drink from 2015 to 2018? This natural, slightly weird and sexy red is a really wonderful and unique southern Rhone expression, kind of interesting like a pseudo antique, I can’t wait to get a few bottles more!
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Saint Glinglin “Carte Verte” Cotes de Bordeaux, France.
The Richard Betts (Sommelier) and Francois Thienpont, who’s family owns some top Chateaux in Bordeaux, namely Le Pin & Vieux Chateau Certan in Pomerol, Saint Glinglin “Carte Verte” is an easy drinking Merlot based Bordeaux that offers plenty of joy and style for the buck, especially the 2010 vintage with a bit of extra stuffing, substance and ripe flavors, it’s perfect to celebrate Merlot Day. The Saint Glinglin is clean, charming and layered with nice dark berry and light violet notes leading the way with black cherry, fig paste, olive, fennel/herb, dried red currant and earthy/rustic tones. This is not your flashy sexed up Bordeaux, no sweet vanilla laced French oak was used, in fact it was fermented and aged in cement vat to allow the varietal and terroir to show in their pure forms making for a subtle and enjoyable food wine. The 2010 is very successful mainly due to the wonderful vintage, though I’m unsure if a lesser year would please as this one does, there is a certain sense that raw tannin and greeness would leave too many bitter elements in the wine in a year that was not as good, so I’d be sure to locate this 2010, and avoid 2011. With air and cuisine to compliment it, the Saint Glinglin Carte Verte gains depth and plummy texture giving a more pretty and complex array, hats off to Richard Betts for this staid Bordeaux offering, it really grows on you, and be sure to check out the Saint Glinglin Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc it is even better with mind-blowing acidity and zest, it was from the 2013 vintage and it was one of my favorites of Bett’s lineup! Drink the medium weight Saint Glinglin Bordeaux over the next 2 to 3 years, this nice little claret is where it should be, best from 2015 to 2018.
($22.50 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
n.v. Scacciadiavoli, Brut Rose, Vino Spumante Metodo Classico, Montefalco, Umbria, Italy.
Wow, this is fun! A dry and beautifully crafted Rose of Sagrantino Montefalco, that is almost a Blanc de Noirs, as it is mostly if not all Sargrantino, and it might just be the only sparkling Sagrantino di Montefalco, which gives it extra cool points! Plus the name, Scacciadiavoli gets its curious name, “Cast out the Devils,” from a 19th century exorcist who lived near the winery’s vineyards and used the wine to carry out his exorcisms. Today the wine is made by the fourth generation of winemakers at the estate, Jacopo and Liu Pambufetti, they are a couple of rising stars in the region and are putting out some terrific offerings, especially worth mentioning is the 2007 Sangrantino di Montefalco that rivals many of the top producers in the area and reminds me of Arnaldo Caprai with deep fruit and layers that go on for days, but in particular the Scacciadiavoli sparkling Sagrantino Brut Rose stands out for unique character and luxury, this is devilishly good stuff. The non vintage Brut Rose starts with rosewater, dried currants, citrus and earthy mineral tones with a vibrant beading of the mousse and a hint of yeasty brioche, brisk acidity plus lengthy tart cherry, fig and river stones. The Scacciadiavoli bubbly has a sense of refinement and poise without losing it’s rustic charm and vigor with splendid detail and wonderful refreshment, while their regular Brut made with traditional white grapes feels bland and flabby, this one rocks and will really turn some heads. Lingering bright strawberry, anise and wild red peach add to the enjoyment in this tasty Sagrantino sparkler, it won’t be easy to find, imported by Vinity, it is worth tracking down!
($32.95 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Marcel Couturier, Pouilly-Loche “Le Bourg” White Burgundy, France.
A recent discovery by importer Andre Tamers of De Maison Selections, the wines of Marcel Couturier in the Maconnais are a glorious secret and are a must find for the savvy Burgundy enthusiast, these hand crafted Chardonnay offering are wonderfully expressive and hail from very old vines on limestone soils. The Couturier Pouilly-Loche Le Bourg from 70 year old vines was fermented using native yeast in wood cask with a long cool malo and extended lees contact, making for a vibrant and mineral driven wine with subtle richness and inner perfume, these are very fine and serious offerings that impress and seduce in similar fashion to classic Puligny and or a modern St. Aubin, somewhere between Jobard and Colin-Morey in style! The nose lights up a smile with white flowers, crushed chalk, lime and pear leading to a palate of light brioche, green apple, lemon and tangy peach fruit, river stones, saline notes, a hint of tropical essences, quince and hazelnut, while all the while presenting a steely nature and vivid vibrancy. With air the depth begins to show in this energy filled (beautiful acidity) wine and the underlying details and structure comes into view, this is fantastic stuff, especially for the price. Drink this sublime and delicately pale Pouilly-Loche Chardonnay over the next 3 to 5 years, this White Burgundy is already drinking well now and I would guess it has enough form to age 10 or 15 years, though best from 2015 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau de Lascaux, Carra, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup Rouge, France.
The fabulous 2014 Carra is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache that gets a short cold maceration with gentle racking of the must, with 100% de-stemmed grapes, the aged about 14 months in cuve at the all organic Chateau de Lascaux in the heart of the Midi in Languedoc Pic St.-Loup not far from l’ Herault. This area which is at good elevation, framed by an ancient forest of pine and oak has cooling influences, it is very good Syrah terroir with limestone and sloping rocky vineyards that allow for a long growing season making for grapes that get ripe, but have focused structure and slightly lower sugar/alcohol than the warmer flat lands of the lower valleys of the southern Languedoc-Roussillon. The Carra by Chateau Lascaux made by proprietor Jean-Benoit Cavalier comes in at about 14% and shows pretty aromatics, spice and joyous harmony, it is always one of my favorite offerings from Lascaux along with the almost Gewürztraminer like exotic and spicy dry white, both exceptional values and top quality, especially this 2014 Chateau de Lascaux Carra Rouge. The lead in is a nose full of dark flowers, mountain herbs, sticky lavender/garrigue and creme de cassis along with earthy peppercorns which perfectly sets off the palate with black plum, blueberry and loganberry fruits (Syrah in character with good middle and body thanks to the Grenache) with a mix of rosemary, dried celery seed, wild mint, anise and sun-baked tiles. This deeply hued purple/blueish wine has a heady mix of fruity richness and savory balancing elements with refined tannins and verve, this is really good Rhone style wine with plenty of flavor and flare, drink from 2016 to 2021, this Lascaux is bang spot on right out of the gate, imported by Kermit Lynch, be sure to stock up and enjoy it, this one always goes fast.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2009 Jacques Tissot, Pinot Noir, Cotes du Jura, France.
There are a lot of Tissot’s to go though in the Jura region of France, a big family in the area, and as I make my way through them I find myself liking the Jura region more and more, especially when you come across a lovable Pinot Noir as this Jacques Tissot which gives pretty details and unique terroir character. The Jacques Tissot offers very nice quality for the price throughout the lineup, imported by Diva France and Vintage Wine Marketing here in California, who were nice enough to sample some of the current offerings, two of which really stood out, the Jacques Tissot Chardonnay Les Corvees Sous Curon Arbois 2011 a non-oxidative fresh style mineral intense wine of style and substance, and this delicate medium light Cotes du Jura Pinot 2009. The 2009 Tissot Pinot Noir starts with it’s shiny ruby hue in the glass, this wine is very transparent and fine with a perfume of rose petals, flinty/pepper spice, crushed stones and wild herbs along with red fruits leading to a palate of the same, but with a classic sense of red cherry, plum and strawberry fruits as well as earth, shale and dried currant wrapped up with faint cedar, tea notes and baking spices. The finish is round and soft with lingering red berry and refined tannins that seem to melt away into the ether, though there is enough basic structure to hold on another 5 to 7 years in bottle, there seems no better time than now to enjoy this one. This would be a great alternative to cheap and iffy Bourgogne Rouge as it drinks very nicely and priced very well, best from 2015 to 2020.
($25 Es.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 The Princess & The Peasant, Carignan “City of 10,000 Buddhas” Mendocino County.
The 2014 old vine Carginan made by the up and coming talent Stephanie Rivin and her The Princess & The Peasant label is an utterly delicious and stylish red, coming off a vineyard that is owned by Buddhist monks in Mendocino, hence the name. Rivin has mentioned that the vines were used just to make grape juice for decades, before she was able to get the fruit and that it was surreal at harvest with all the monks in colorful robes in the vineyard. It seems like a wonderful experience and makes for an interesting story, but sipping on this wine will be the richest reward as it fills the palate and entices the senses with dark fruits, spice and texture. This Carignan is an awesome value and even in it’s youth shows class and expressive character with vibrant panache, I’m a big fan of Rivin’s efforts to date and her work at Signal Ridge, I’m especially impressed with her Pinots, which are very intriguing, in typical Anderson Valley, Boonville and Mendocino modesty, she says she thinks she is getting a hang of the winemaking thing! The Princess & The Peasant wines are not fully discovered yet, so get there first and score some of their wines while the getting is good and their offerings are so reasonably priced, don’t wait on scoring these small hand-crafted wines, in particular this savvy Carignan. The black fruited Carignan busts from the glass with a deep almost purple/black hue and ruby edges with a mix of floral and spice aromas leading to a mouth of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and tangy currant fruit along with a luxurious texture that feels creamy and like chocolate, but with vivid acidity that keeps things flowing with very polished tannins adding structure without being aggressive, especially at this stage along with savory elements, mineral/stony notes and a sappy mix of black licorice, minty herbs, cedar and tart unsweetened blueberry compote. This wine is very fresh, juicy and fruit forward, making it easy to enjoy now, though it should firm up and become a much more serious with a bit more time in bottle, I found after a day of being open everything come together gloriously with hints of earth and morello cherry unfolding with air, drink this fun and tasty wine, that compares well with the Carignan based wines of Corbieres, over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s really a solid quaffer!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Guimaro, Mencia, Finca Meixeman, Ribeira Sacra DO, Galicia, Spain.
The vines of the Ribeira Sacra are some of the most remote and most beautiful in the world, I hope to visit and experience them first hand in the near future, in the meantime I will rely on the wines of Pedro M. Rodriguez Perez to transport me there and his wonderful Mencia is a great place to start. The Guimaro wines are all worth searching out both the Godella based white and the Mencia offering are stunning and world class efforts, and especially fine is his single vineyard Finca Meixeman, which compares well with Premier Cru Burgundy for elegance and style. The vines sit high up steep rocky slopes, farmed by hand, the look more like vineyards on the steep river banks or the Mosel or Rhein than you’d imagine of Spain, the pictures Pedro showed me were breathtakingly gorgeous, and of course they do not due the reality justice, I cannot wait to see it in person this amazing place, about 45 miles from the Atlantic in northwest Spain, sandwiched in between the triangle of great Basque cities, San Sebastián to the east, Bilbao to the south and La Coruña to the northwest. My mind races with thoughts of sardines, octopus and ham, the cuisine from this region inspires wondrous dreams, as do the wines, in particular the Mencia reds of Ribeira Sacra and Guimaro is one of the best with glorious detail, pure terroir (cool ocean climate) influences and magical delicacies, very different from the Beirzo grown Mencia that feel much more powerful and oak driven, like Cabernet Franc in many cases, the Ribeira Sacra are more Pinot like and mineral laced. The 2012 Guimaro Finca Meixeman starts with a bright ruby hue with garnet edges, a mix of earth, floral tones and vibrant red fruits with rose petals, crushed violets, fennel, flint/shale and porcini aromas leading to a medium weight palate of tart cherry, dusty plum, mixed berries with layers of spice, savory elements and light cedar notes. In the background there is black olives and crushed stones which add to the complexity and pushes the fruit throughout and on to the lengthy finish, there is subtle tannins that quietly mirror the fruit here and give structure as well as a nice cut of acidity that keeps things vital and fresh in this very alluring Mencia. The regular Tinto Mencia is darn good too, but this Finca Meixeman from Guimaro is something rather special, chase it down and enjoy it over the next 5 to 8 years, best from 2016 to 2021, absolutely too good to miss!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Salvo Foti-I Vigneri 1435, Vini Rosso IGT, Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
The wines made by Foti and the rites of I Vigneri are all natural and the grapes are farmed near Mount Etna in northeast Sicily and are produced in a holistic fashion, a term for the local version of biodynamics with great respect for nature and native history. The I Vigneri Rosso by Salvo Foti is made mostly of Nerello Mascalese, though some of the vineyards are old vine field blends with maybe a dozen different varietals which include some mystery vines that no one where or what is really is as of yet, hence the generic label instead of the Etna Rosso DOC. The 2014 has the usual funk, spice and wild fruits character you’d expect of Foti and still possesses a majestic presence in the glass with medium weight, lively vitality and a raw beauty that always intrigues and seduces with mulberry, strawberry, tart cherry and plum fruits along with flinty red pepper, hints of smoke, cayenne and cedar all come through on the palate as well as blueberry, anise, minty herb, beet root and warm stones. This earthy mix of sweet and savory layers feels radiant and is terroir driven, fermented with natural yeast in old oak vats without temperature control, this wine captures the age old passion of place and ancient traditions perfectly and it succeeds with it’s un-photoshopped or adorned sense of realism, worn proudly, faults and all. The Foti 2014 Rosso is appealing and truly almost erotic, gloriously unique, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, this is special stuff from high slopes of the volcano from the “Godfather” of Etna’s vines.
($30 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2011 Oddero, Barbaresco DOCG “Gallina” Piedmonte, Italy.
It was great meeting the youngest of the Oddero’s Pietro and taste the latest releases from this great Piedmonte winery, in a few short years Odder has moved into my top 5 Piedmonte wines, joining Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta, Chiara Boschis, G.D. Vajra and Brovio as my favorites, I especially love their Barbera and Barolo wines, but just I discovered and fell in love with the Oddero 2011 Barbaresco Gallina! If you were going to compare Piedmonte to Burgundy, just by using Nebbiolo as your grape, then Barbaresco maybe would be Morey-St.-Denis or Chambolle-Musigny, and the Gallina Cru to me would be likened to either Clos Saint-Denis or Clos de la Roche, such is the lovely perfumed nature and Grand Cru class this vineyard elicits on your senses! All of the Oddero Nebbiolo wines are silken and wonderfully elegant, in fact they are amazingly so and each shows distinct pure terroir character, less about the winemaking, which is exceptional, and more about the place and time, these wines are transparent and deliver a clarity of purpose with grace and stylistic charm, in particular this gorgeous Gallina. The 2011 Gallina Cru Barbaresco from Oddero, a warm and near perfect Barbaresco vintage with joyous textures, aromas and wondrous inner complexity is delightfully easy to dive into with reckless abandon, it pleases completely with glorious fruit, mineral tones and well defined structures. The Gallina is full of flavor with a a light ruby/brickish hue in the glass and a lifting nose of dried roses, fennel, cinnamon stick and mixed berries leading to a round and full palate of black cherry, spiced plum, raspberry, tangy dried currants with basil and balsamic covered strawberries along with chalky stones, tar, melted black licorice plus sweet and savory spices, garden herbs and crushed violets, finishes with a hint of cedar, blueberry tart and kirsch. This is a total beauty, lengthy, vibrant and expressively seductive, this is tasty stuff and a knockout in this price class, drink over the next decade, best from 2017 to 2022.
($66 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Richard Betts “Sucette” Grenache, Vine Vale-Barossa Valley, Australia.
Richard Betts, the well known American Master Sommelier and author, has been a long time champion of Australian old vine Grenache and his continued passion for this terroir and varietal shows in the soul and delicacy his latest Sucette offering from Australia’s Barossa Valley, this is fine and beautiful effort that highlights the grace and detail this grape can deliver. The vines are ancient own-rooted grown on sand, just like some of the most sought after and famous Chateauneuf du Pape wines, and Betts achieves that kind of impact, but with a slightly more restrained approach and subtlety in his 2014 Sucette Old Vine, it reminds me also of some of the latest wines from Westside Paso Robles made from Grenache, like Booker, Epoch and others. This is pure Grenache in it’s ready to please best clothes with ripe red fruits, spice and a balanced mix of sweet and savory elements, this is thrilling stuff and the finish is lengthy echoing the palate. The start is exciting as the Sucette enter the glass with a gleaming ruby/garnet hue with a lifting perfume of mixed fruits, pepper and lavender leading the way to a rich mouth filled with raspberry, black cherry, strawberry and plum fruit as well as chalky peppercorn, sweet herbs, anise and soft creme de cassis. This is very defined, vigorous and opulent Grenache with well judged tannin and round textures, full bodied and joyous from start to finish, but poised and charming, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, impressive without having to shout from the rooftops, this is one to look for.
($57 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Christiane Chambeyron-Manin, Cote-Rotie, Cote Brune, Rhone Red, France.
This is a stunningly beautiful example of Cote-Rotie with life and vigor showing wonderful detail and full stem inclusion aromatics and spiciness in a lighter medium bodied style. I’d never had Christiane’s wines before, so this was a thrill to taste and discover, this Cote Brune, a lovely and very pretty wine gives the grace and harmony of the region and terroir in great focus with floral notes, flinty/pepper and subtle earthiness along with black and blue fruits. This Syrah is fermented old school, whole cluster with the stems and unlike many of her fancy neighbors comes in at a native yeast lower alcohol, at 12.5% which adds to the delicacy and vitality of Champbeyron-Manin’s Cote-Rotie. This vibrant and elegant wine has nice acidity and enjoys a long finish, it gives everything you’d expect and a bit more, starting with violets, smoky shale mineral notes, mixed olives, anise and peppercorns leading to a palate of boysenberry, plum, black cherry and wild currant fruits, all spice, cedar and a hint of meat and iron. It’s the total of these expressions and pure terroir clarity that gives the feeling of joy and complexity, this is a thoughtful and alluring effort to cherish over the next 3 to 5 years and maybe longer, this was impressive stuff that should fill out still and gain with another year or two in bottle, best from 2017 to 2020.
($68 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Tatomer, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County.
In a few short years Graham Tatomer has given us amazing Gruner Veltliner and Riesling offerings to ponder and be thrilled by, helping elevate the two varietals in California, he trained with Weingut Knoll in the Wachau, one of the world’s great producers and brought back a gifted touch and talent for Riesling and Gruner, plus now he is making a fine collection of Pinot Noir. The latest set of Gruner and Riesling are some of the best efforts to date and his sweet Beerenauslese like Riesling is outstanding too, certainly it ranks as one of the top stickies in the State, though I must say I was moved by Graham’s latest Pinots most of all, especially his single vineyard Duvarita, which I’ve mentioned prior, and the wonderful Spatburgunder styled Santa Barbara County Pinot 2014, this was my new wine of his road show in the City this week, it is a light to medium offering with brilliant color and complexity with dreamy textures and exotic spices. The 2014 Tatomer Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County comes off three sites, and is made with a gentle touch and much less extracted making for an old school, old world charmer, and I really enjoyed the soft cascade of layers, that really reminded me of some of my favorite German Spatburgunders, it has lots of freshness, vibrancy and delicacy. The nose is spicy with lovely wilted roses, smoky fruits and flinty minerals, the light and shiny ruby hue shimmers in the glass and the palate is silken with raspberry, tangy plum and black cherry fruits, savory lavender, dusty stones, truffle and mixed baking spices finishing with dried currants, red peach, tart blueberry and chalky notes, this is a gorgeous expression of Pinot Noir, be sure to look for it, it comes in a tall almost Riesling shaped bottle and drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, this wine over delivers for the price!
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Magna Mater, Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
The beautiful and beguiling Sauvignon Blanc, from the very talented Jordan Fiorentini, the winemaker at one of California’s brightest Rhone style producers, Epoch Estate in Paso Robles and who used to work with Justin Smith, of Saxum fame, is a wine you should look for, it is a complete and joyful white that is pure quality in the glass. Fiorentini, who cut her teeth as head of winemaking at Sonoma’s Chalk Hill, has made many impressive and critically acclaimed wines, so it was no surprise to find her personal label Magna Mater a fine and expressive effort, but because I’m quite jaded when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc it was a little bit of a shock to find myself adoring this one as much as I do. Honestly I don’t get all that excited about Sauvignon Blanc from California, but this is an exception and a really fun wine, I found myself going back in time to the early years of Brander, the Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc pioneer, when my mind was blown that Santa Barbara County was a place that could produce sublime Sauvignon Blanc with either Loire like raciness or Graves like richness, and Fiorentini’s Magna Mater Vogelzang again proves the point, with the idea combination of both mineral driven energy and textual pleasure on the palate, this vibrant Sauvignon really stands out in a crowd and deserves real kudos. The 2014 Magna Mater Vogelzang starts with bright lemon/lime, white flowers, kiwi and a steely rail that runs the length of this intriguing white along with wild peach, tangy quince, liquid stone, verbena, saline and basil/herb notes. This is vivid and mouth-watering stuff that gains weight or gravitas with air, but stays vigorous, dusty dry and crisply focused throughout, this is a very polished and poised offering and I can’t wait to see what other interesting wines take shape under this new label, drink this over the next 2 or 3 years.
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Maxime Magnon, La Demarrante, Vin de Pays de la Vallee du Paradis, France.
Whatever your feelings on “natural” wine or biodynamics, this wine and Maxime Magnon might move the needle, his wines show a pure clarity that defines the place and cepage into a single life force, you can not help but be impressed and admire the pleasure in these wines, especially the La Demarrante 2014 made from old vine Carignan and Cinsault. The La Demarrante is labeled as a Vin de Pay, because Corbieres doesn’t allow for this particular combination of varietals to be classified, but for understanding proposes it must be said that is what this beautiful red wine is in it’s soul and character, made with native yeasts and almost no sulphur, with whole cluster/semi carbonic fermentation(s) and the La Demarrante is aged in neutral cask and cuve/vat. The soils here are Schist and iron rich with some limestone, there is almost no top soil and it is dramatic rocky terroir and in Magnon’s case a place of small yields and expressive fruit, he trained with Jean Follard in Morgon and you can see that style coming through, in recent vintages there’s no question that Maxime is on a roll, these wines are remarkable and wonderfully focused with energy and verve. The young La Demarrante is gorgeous right out of the bottle with flamboyant fruit, floral and savory spices jumping from the glass with charm and fresh intensity showing blackberry, huckleberry, red pepper flakes, chalky minerals, crushed violets and bright cinnamon with a certain plummy feel and lingering anise and briar tangy sensations along with a hint of leather, cherry and blueberry compote finishing with dusty currant and sticky lavender. Drink this one greedily and as often as you can, one of the most interesting Carignan offerings I’ve tried this year and lovely stuff, best from 2016 to 2020.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto D’ Alba DOC, Coste & Fossati, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Vajra Dolcetto Coste & Fossati is like the Grand Cru of Dolcetto, it is very unlike any Dolcetto I’ve had in recent years, the best way to relate it or explain it is say it has varietal correctness, but drinks more like a Barolo, maybe it’s the terroir and vintage, which was severe, I can’t really say, though I can say it is magnificent! The deeply flavored Coste & Fossati Dolcetto by Giuseppe Vajra starts with wild blackberry, sweet herbs, hints of dried violets and bright cherry and plum, it is nicely hued with garnet and blueish with ruby edges and the palate is rich, but energy filled. There is hints of anise, mineral, truffle and earthy notes as well as new leather and cedar spiced wood shadings in this medium weighted wine that feels impressive in the mouth and lingers on the finish, this is easily the best Dolcetto of the vintage I’m tried, this is very tasty and very special stuff from Vajra, this and his 2011 Barolo lineup are must have knockouts. Drink the Coste & Fossati Dolcetto D’ Alba 2012 over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
nv Hure Freres, Extra Brut, Reserve Champagne, a Ludes, France.
This Extra Brut Reserve from Hure Freres displays rich yeasty elegance with dense power and vitality of mineral tones and acidity, giving a lush out feel, but with good energy, it is golden in the glass with vigorous beading and creamy mousse. The Reserve is a cuvee of 45% Pinot Muenier, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, all coming from family owned plots, farmed organic and mostly biodynamic, the base wine spends an extended time on the lees and it gets a minimum dosage, adding up to a stylish Extra Brut with layers flavors and lifting vibrancy, this is really hedonistic bubbly. The nose has a classic bready/dough and toast note with light citrus, fig and dried fruits along with hazelnut, apple butter and lemon on the palate, it shows a decedent vinous expression and a bit of nervy tension, finishing lavishly long and poised, this is a very fine and thrilling offering from Hure Freres. Drink this lovely Champagne over the next 3 to 5 years, it is perfect for #ChampagneDay2015 or the coming holidays, or even better with any meal or any damn time you feel like it, best from 2015 to 2020.
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Cobb, Pinot Noir, Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The 2013 Cobb’s are sublime Pinot offerings, especially great is the Rice-Spivak, one of my all time favorite single vineyard wines, this vintage brings these Cobb wines plush textures, pure fruit and divine balance and poise. The last few vintages seemed edgy, serve and in some cases lack a certain charm, but 2013 brought back the X factor, or sexiness, it still is heavenly low in alcohol at 12.8% which will appeal to the faithful, and there is verve and vigor a plenty to go along with beautiful silky fruit and a gorgeous inner perfume of wilted roses and crushed violets. The 2013 Rice-Spivak opens to immediate pleasure with floral grace, mineral tones, bright cherry, tart blueberry and raspberry fruit and a light dusting of spices, cedar, earth and a hint of candied citrus and cola bean, it feels dense and deep with round layers with rich detail and wonderful length, finishing with plum, strawberry, cinnamon and a touch of smoke, coming back to the beam of black cherry on the aftertaste, and with time in the glass. Ross Cobb has again, in my opinion raised his game and the latest set of Cobb wines are a must have vintage, he also has a great lineup of wines he consults for that deserve attention at Hirsch Vineyards and even his talents help guide the Banshee single vineyard cuvees, be sure to check them all out, and drink this thrilling Cobb Rice-Spivak between 2016 and 2025.
($68 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive
n.v. Lustau, Almacenista “Vides” Palo Cortado de Jerez, Solera Sherry, Jerez de la Fronterra, Spain.
This Lustau Palo Cortado “Vides” is one of the finest younger dry sherry expressions I’ve ever tasted, and it maybe be the best value in this style available, I know I would be hard pressed to name another that comes even close in the price class! Lustau and Equipo Navazos are really raising the profile of dry sherry and they both are releasing single Bodega offering that are mind-blowing in terms of complexity and quality, and this Palo Cortado especially delivers the goods. The Palo Cortado style means a dry sherry that starts under Flor, similar to fino, then quickly either naturally or on purpose switched into an Oloroso with oxidative aging, though originally thought to have been an ancient, this style has been making a come back, but still rare. The resulting wine is aromatic, nutty and richly detailed with weight on the palate, but with the vitality of an Amontillado, these unique sherries happy naturally only about 1-2% of the time, and this particular Lustau is from a single Bodega “Vides” near the ocean and from lots drawn from 50 Butts (Oak Cask) that average over 15 years. This beautiful Palo Cortado is a golden amber in the glass with a glorious nose of burn oranges, dried flowers, sea breezes, almond oil and pecans leading to a lavish palate of much the same with warm silkiness, verve and finesse, it is rich in the mouth, but still focused and crisp, nearly perfect with nice cut and length, this is heavenly stuff. The saline rich, chalky soils help the Palomino grapes express the terroir and the Vides Palo Cortado captures everything in the bottle and while fortified past 17% this dry and lovely sherry feels light and is easy to enjoy, it is great with rustic soups, sardines, cured meats and cheeses, be sure to search this wonderful Lustau out.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez, Vina de Martin “Os Pasas” Ribeiro Blanco, Spain.
The Rodriguez Vazquez wines are some of the best in Spain, this tiny producer in Galicia is one of the great secrets of Europe and in particular Luis Rodriguez’s whites are gorgeous expressions of terroir and style, they have very similar qualities as some of the iconic white Burgundy legends. The 2013 Vina de Martin Os Pasas is a blend of Treixadura, Albarino, Torrontes and Lado grown on granite and sandy soils and come off small plots farmed mostly organic around the town of Arnoia in Galicia, the wine is fermented in the old cellar using native yeast and is raised in large French oak, mostly neutral, though the Os Pasas is aged in stainless vats and the wine stays on the lees for about a year. The Albarino gives the wine vigor and dynamic acids, mineral tones and clarity while the Treixadura gives soft layers, delicacy and little extra sex appeal, the rest of the varietals add complexity to the Os Pasas. The 2013 is lovely, fresh and vibrant in every way, this is wonderful wine with a steely sense and fine detail showing white flowers, vivid mixed citrus, green apple and light peach notes along with wet stones, saline, a hint of tropical fruit and tangy lime on the crisp finish. There is a filling out with air and the palate expands, but everything remains tightly focused and refined and subtle hazelnut, earth and stone fruit linger on the aftertaste, this is very stylish white, drink this over the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2022. It was a pleasure to meet Luis Rodriguez Vazquez and taste his latest lineup of wines, all of which are highly entertaining and impressive, a big thank you to his import, Jose Pastor and Farm Wines, as well as Aatxe Tapas Bar on Market, especially Sam (Aatxe) for such an awesome evening, it was an honor to see Luis, and Pedro Guimaro as well, Galicia is certainly a magical place!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren Rose, Cru Classe, Cotes de Provence, France.
The ultra traditional Clos Cibonne Rose made from the rare and native Tibouren grape is a year round and cellar worthy pink that delivers impressive depth and style. Tibouren is an ancient varietal that has little natural pigment, but works well in long lived Rose, it was the main red grape in the Provence region until the late 1800’s when they brought in and or planted more of the now famous Mourvedre, Cinnsault and Grenache, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon even, but Tibouren makes a wonderful wine and is still cherished and championed in the area, especially by Clos Cibonne. The Tibouren also makes a pale red wine and Clos Cibonne’s is a great example, for the wine geeks out there it is a must have wine, like the Jura’s pale Poulsard grape, but the Rose is very serious stuff and in particular this 2013 Clos Cibonne, which spends extended time on the lees and aged an extra year, mostly in old cask. This Cru Classe, one of the original 18 historic Crus of Provence, Rose of Tibouren excites from the first glimpse with it’s beautiful pinkish/orange hue, it is gorgeous in the glass and the palate is just as striking with subtle fruitiness, cool mineral tones, leesy mouth feel and mix of sweet and sour herbs, dried flowers and savory spices. This textured Rose has round tart cherry, wet stones, earth, watermelon, a hint of caramel, dusty lavender, rose water with a strawberry/cranapple finish and lingering chalk, saline, red citrus and light baking spice. This is a very sexy pink wine with vivid transparency, good focus, acidity and old school charm, and while not always easy to locate, you should grab it when you see it, drink the 2013 between 2015 and 2018. This is a year round Rose, great for all seasons and any cuisine!
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Jean-Francois Ganevat, Chardonnay “Les Chalasses” Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Jura, France.
The Ganevat Jura wines are to the Jura as Raveneau is to Chablis, these are iconic wines and masterpieces of style and terroir, especially riveting is the Jean-Francois Ganevat Les Chalasses Chardonnay from old vines, planted in 1902, yes this is from well over a hundred year old Chardonnay vines, and it has the presence of a Grand Cru Burgundy. While Ganevat makes a huge range of wines and in traditional and modern Jura styles, everything is crafted with passion and all are deeply detailed and entertaining wines, though I prefer the non-oxidized cuvees which excite with brisk acidity and mineral notes and are ever changing in the glass, and I am also thrilled with his rare lees aged Savignin which is hold ten years before release, that one I tried was the 2002 and it was one of the best white wines I can remember. The 2012 Jean-Francois Ganevat Chardonnay Les Chalasses Vieilles Vignes starts like Grand Cru Chablis, I liken it to Les Clos, with steely lime, white flowers, river stones, brisk acidity and powerful structure, this is serious stuff, you know instantly you have something really special in the glass, it is remarkably sensitive to temperature and will certainly fill out in the glass with air, cool it shines like a diamond and has sharp edges, as it warms it gathers intensity and girth with exotic layers unfolding, this Chardonnay is completely mind-blowing! A full range of flavors cascade on the palate with apple, pear, lemon and white stone fruits, saline, chalk and spice adding complexity with earth, golden fig and hazelnut also shinning through, it is stunning throughout and proves the Jura has the terroir to compete with the best and Ganevat joins the elites in Kermit Lynch’s Imports impressive portfolio of great Chardonnays. I can imagine even greater things coming from this wine, though pricey for Jura, it is a steal in it’s quality class, this rare Chardonnay is worth searching out and I would cellar a few bottles, a re-visit in 5 or 10 years looks very rewarding. I tasted this beauty from three different bottles and it was absolutely spectacular from each, amazingly so, consistent and vivid, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Broc Cellars, Zinfandel, Vine Starr, Sonoma County.
Chris Brockway’s post modern winemaking approach, going for juicy flavors and low alcohol (this 2014 has only 12.8%) shows considerable success in his Vine Starr Zinfandel that is both new and a throwback style, a hearty red that shows dynamic fruit and rustic charm with lifting fresh acidity. The latest release shines with pure raspberry, tart cherry and tangy plum fruits, chewy tannins and cedary spices, it was fermented with natural yeasts and aged in neutral well seasoned French barrels. As a fan of Brockway’s Berkeley based urban winery I find this vivid lighter style Zin refreshing and full of charm with lots of appeal and even better with food, it finishes with an entertaining play of pepper, sage, minty herb/licorice and currant coulees. Best to decant if drinking now, a little patience required here, this young wine will gain with a bit more time in bottle, best from 2016 to 2021.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Quinto do Regueiro, Alvarinho Reserva, Moncao e Melgaco, Portugal.
One of the best white wine deals around, I adore the Regueiro Alvarinho (Albarino) from Portugal is an intense and lazar sharp wine with Riesling like energy and old vine character. Regueiro has a unique Alvarinho clone, taken from their 200 year old own rooted old parcel of vines and this adds to the complexity and soul of the wine. The Regueiro Alvarinho starts with bright citrus, leesy brioche, spicy mineral and a mix of white flowers and sea breeze leading to a vivacious palate of lime, unripe green apple, white peach and mango fruits, riveting mouth watering acids plus a subtle underlying density which comes through in the glass, finishing with a lavish flourish and lingering stone fruit, chalk dust and river stones. Quinto do Regueiro’s Alvarinho Reserva is a gem, a wonderful white wine and a great deal, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($16 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Doniene Gorrondona, Txakoli, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain.
Facing the sea in the historic Basque region of Northern Spain, Gorrondona makes some wonderful old vine wines in the Bakio Valley, especially their brisk and energy filled white Txakoli made from Hondarribi Zuri. This zesty and vibrant white has Chablis like steely qualities with chalky stones and eye popping lime notes along with searing acidity and offers wonderful low alcohol refreshment. The property is tiny, only about 15 hectares sloping towards the Cantabrian Sea, it is a rocky and sandy site and includes a parcel of pre-phylloxera vines that date back to about 1852, but might be even older. The ocean influence and cool climate really show in the wines, in particular the white Hondarribi Zuri grape picks up the saline and brine and makes this Txakoli perfect with oysters, clams and mixed seafood and native cuisine. This wines here at Gorrondona all made with natural yeasts, all organic grapes and reflect the passion and sense of place, these are terroir driven and dynamic wines, these are lovely wines both the white and their Tinto that takes a bit like a fine Cabernet Franc. The white is vivid, delicately pale and offers the mentioned lime along with white flowers, river rocks, salt lick, green apple, tangerine and hint of basil like herb with a very light and mouth watering body. Drink this electric white wine over the course of the next year or so, best young and fresh, one of the top Txakolinas out there, look for it!
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Ameztia, Irouleguy Rose, France.
For me the 2014 Ameztia Rose, a late comer in the Rose season, is one of the coolest pink wines of the year and is perfectly timed with our extra warm indian summer weather here in California, plus as a bonus it is substantial enough and brawny enough to handle fall cuisine. Made from all biodynamic grapes and fermented using native/natural yeast this Tannat and Cabernet Franc based pink has some stuffing and power, while remaining refreshing and vibrant, it glistens with beautiful color in the glass and lively pop in the glass with spice, mineral and zippy acidity, with bright fruit essences and a tannic grip. The nose is stoney with citrus, wild berry and steely tones and a hint of peppers leading to a refined clear palate of zesty red citrus and peach, strawberry, watermelon, sour cherry, rose water and chalk dust with a bit of earth, cranberry, red apple skin, minty herbs, pepper and savory/bitters. Domaine Ameztia’s Irouleguy Red, also Tannat and Cabernet Franc, and Irouleguy White made from Petit and Gros Menseng are also vigorous and expressive examples that deserve merit and attention too, both are fine efforts. This is one of the most terroir driven pinks of the year, fun and very geeky, it has a great package, is pleasure and offers a unique view of the French Basque region, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Granja Remelluri, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Labastida de Alava, Spain.
In the few short years since Telmo Rodriguez returned to his family’s Alavesa estate, some of the highest vineyards in the region, he has turned Remelluri into the jewel of Rioja, but also moved Remelluri from the mainstream and created it as a cru on it’s own, making it unique and separate from their peers. Influenced by his experiences making wine from different regions, both in Spain and in France, and especially his spell at Rhone legend Jean-Louis Chave, Telmo’s wine are now expressions of site and he has made Remelluri an icon, similar to Chateau Haut-Brion or Pontet-Canet in Bordeaux or his mentor Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, he has also moved away from historical varietal definition and almost always refuses to talk about the grapes and make up his whites, he believes completely in terroir above varietal make up in his wines. The La Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva is from the oldest plots at Remelluri, all the grapes for this cuvee were hand selected in the vineyard, harvested alone and into small box/bins and made completely separately from the other wines, fermented in tank and large vat with native yeast and raised in mostly neutral barrels, both American and French oak were used and the wine was aged 27 months before bottling and rest until now for release. The old vines at Remelluri include Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano, this we know for sure, but exactly what was used here is a mystery though the Tempranillo seems to play the biggest role in this wonderful and amazing wine, most likely suppling the guts and soul in this Rioja Gran Reserva. Telmo has told me that over time he plans to add as many as 11 red varietals to his vineyards and he has been researching grapes that may have had traditional use in the area prior to Tempranillo becoming the main force in Rioja, this looks like an exciting project in the future, but in the meantime we can enjoy Telmo’s gifted touch and in particular the Remelluri estate offerings and the second line of purchased fruit bottlings now known as Lindes de Remelluri, these are some of the greatest value wines in the world. The 2009 Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva fills the glass with a brilliant ruby and garnet hue and has aromas of spice box, sandalwood and earthy berry fruits leading to a deep palate of textural pleasure and mature flavors with plum, black cherry, currant and mulberry fruits, along with mixed spice, graphite, cigar wrapper and dried flowers, finishing rich, sweet and savory with baking spices, cedar and refined tannin. The aftertaste is long and will take you places that certainly could be called heavenly, there is a real sense of greatness, with the same feelings you find when tasting wines like Rousseau Chambertin or Chateau Margaux for example, such is the quality and character of Remelluri’s Ganja Remelluri Gran Reserva! Drink this beauty over the next 15 to 20 years, this is truly world class wine, absolutely remarkable, graceful and with hidden depths, energy and passion, drink from 2016 to 2029.
($95 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
1995 Domaine Huet, Vouvray “Cuvee Constance” Sweet Loire Valley White, France.
The Cuvee Constance is a monument to great Chenin Blanc, and this amazing sweet nectar is as good as anything from Sauternes, Tokaji or TBA’s from Germany or Austria, it is without question a masterpiece with waves of pleasure, delicacy and grace. It was a fantastic treat to have a small collector pull this price from his cellar and share, and for which I’m truly grateful, it showed remarkable poise, character and depth, and it was even more special as it was a magnum and shared with a tight group of colleagues, it light up the table in a golden glow that’s for sure! This bottle, while stored well, did show a few signs of leakage and had a very wet and decaying cork, it was really perfect timing with this one, as it was reaching a now or disappointment zone, but thankfully all was good and it blew everyone away. The 1995 Cuvee Constance by Huet, as poured greedily into rather big Riedels, woke in the glass with a deep amber color with golden edges and a honeyed scent lifted up along with orange marmalade, lemon curd and peach as wells a muted floral note and earthy tone before the first sip. The mouth feel is rich and lush, but with still a lot of vibrancy and the palate is detailed and focused with apple tart, yellow peach, tangerine, candied citrus rind, baked pear and dried honeycomb as well as pineapple, truffle, wet stones, caramel custard, vanilla and decaying rose petals. There is a maturity and an autumn twilight sense about this vintage, but I can see it aging another 10 years easy, but it is really at a good point now, never easy to find, this glorious Chenin should be on any wine lovers bucket list.
($N/A 1.5L Magnum) 95 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Spatlese, Rheingau Germany.
Since first trying this beautiful Riesling as a cask sample it has really changed and grown into a magnificent wine of subtlety and grace, it is a wine that softly whispers in your ear and pleases all of your senses. The 2013 Rosie is not as flamboyant as the 2011 or 2012, but this is not a bad thing at all and it carries it’s Spatlese weight and sugar lightly, in fact at 7.5% alcohol the Leitz Rudesteimer Berg Roseneck is wonderfully balanced, there are Chardonnays out there, even so called “great” ones that feel so much more sweet or cloying than this wine, such is the terroir and balance, this is lovely stuff. Somewhat shy at early stages, vintage 2013 is looking fantastic as a long term cellar charmer for most of Germany, especially coming good are Rheingau and Nahe wines and they seem to be catching up on the much more sexy 2011 and 2012 wines, but these are without question wines to own, and all starting to show their unique characteristics. The 2013 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck cru Spatlese starts with a pale golden color and catches light like a diamond in the glass, then a soft slightly honeyed perfume rises with delicate rose petals, tropical essences, salty brine, flint and fleshy stone fruits leading to a palate filled with lime, apple butter, mango and yellow peach fruits along with shale and river stones, white tea, dried pineapple, verbena and lingering apricot marmalade. The Roseneck feels heavenly and the mouth feel is creamy and round, but still full of vibrancy with a lifting tangerine/citrus energy as well as pure mineral tones, there is very little if any petrol fumes at this stage, it is more about finesse and gorgeous delicacy and detail, though there will be more to come in the years ahead, and you can easily see this is going to age remarkably well. The 2013 is a wine that is now superb cuisine and posed table wine with some sugar and fruity qualities, it would be great with BBQ shrimp, Asian fare, smoked ham and sushi, I even adored it with ginger beef and noodles! Drink the 2013 Leitz Roseneck Spatlese over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2024, maybe longer? As a side note, having walked this vineyard, it offers a glorious view of the Rhein and Rudesheim, this steep site on weathered slate is a spectacular place for a hike, and even better with a glass of this Riesling in your hand.
($43 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaines Minchin “La Tour Saint-Martin” Menetou-Salon, Morogues, Loire Valley White, France.
This lazar sharp and mineral infused Sauvignon Blanc is an impressive and electric energy filled white that bristles with vigor, acidity and Riesling like intensity, in other words, it’s really good and fun wine. Menetou-Salon is like Sancerre in style, though slightly different soils and conditions usually don’t allow it to raise to it’s cousins heights, but this Domaines Minchin La Tour Saint-Martin Morogues shows lots of flair and substance, this a stylish and brightly flavored Sauvignon Blanc that goes great with varied cuisine and is mouth-wateringly refreshing and vibrant. The 2014 vintage of La Tour Saint-Martin Morogues starts with white flowers, fresh picked herbs, grapefruit, white peach and a hint of cut grass leading to an explosion of lemon/lime on the palate along with steely minerals, wet river stones, saline and a faint trace of classic cat pee. Overall there’s a lot to be impressed with here and the focus is spot on, this is everything you’d want and a touch more from this place and varietal, it was most tank raised with just a touch of neutral cask and not too much lees, though the Fumet cuvee, a higher end version sees an extra 6 months of aging in barrel and on it’s lees, it is also very good and age worthy, though for the price and vibrancy, I like the zippy and transparent 2014 Morogues just fine, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
The 2012 Phelps Creek Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir is one of the years best Oregon wines, hand crafted by Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, it comes from the cool Columbia Gorge, which is northeast of the Willamette on the Hood River. The Cuvee Alexandrine comes from vines planted at between 950 and 1,200 foot on steep slopes set on volcanic rocky soils, Roy uses native yeasts to highlight the unique terroir, all the grapes, 100% Pommard Clone, are de-stemmed, fermentation is done in open top stainless tanks with punch downs and pump overs to gain color and structure, allowing the wine to be full and expressive, and her 2012 is a masterpiece with a wonderful layered feel and it is strikingly beautiful. I was honored and pleased to meet Alexandrine Roy and taste through her Phelps Creek line up as well as a set of her Domaine Marc Roy 2014 samples from her tiny estate in Gevrey-Chambertin, needless to say it was an awesome experience and her Burgundies are glorious and divine, more on those later, but it was the Phelps Creek Pinot Cuvee Alexandrine that stood out, from a great Oregon vintage it is very sexy stuff and should be on any Pinot Noir lovers radar! The 2012 Phelps Creek Cuvee Alexandrine starts with it’s pretty shinning ruby color in the glass, heady perfume of summer rose and fading violets along with wild raspberry, flinty spices and touch of warm earth leading to a silken palate of red plum, black cherry, mulberry and forest fruits plus dried fig, tea spice, cedar and cinnamon. This charming and seriously good Pinot picks up life and vigor with air and while lush and mouth filling it has plenty of verve, vibrancy and drive, this is highly entertaining and impressive stuff, bravo to Phelps Creek Vineyards and Alexandrine Roy for making such a stunner, drink from 2016 to 2020.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine de L’ Hortus “Grande Cuvee” Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
It was a pleasure to taste the L’ Hortus wines with Yves Orliac, who was visiting recently, and while all the wines were really deserving of attention, I fell for the Grande Cuvee the hardest. This area of the Languedoc, not far from Montpellier, is a a bit higher up and cooler in climate than you might expect, it is great Syrah country and the rocky soils really add to the complexity, and this 2012, based on Syrah, is lovely and vibrant wine with deep layers and a dose of spice and garrigue, it reminds me of Chateau du Saint-Cosme’s Syrah based wines, and that is a good thing, it shows verve, style and length. The 2012 Orliac Domaine de L’ Hortus Grande Cuvee Pic Saint Loup starts with crushed violets, flinty earth, pepper and black raspberry coulis leading to a rich and vigorous palate of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and currant fruits along with black olives, peppercorns, lavender and a hint of kirsch, this dark hued red finishes with lingering minty herb, saline, fig paste, strawberry and black licorice. This is very impressive stuff, focused, serious and vital with plenty of pleasure and interest to keep your attention, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Cave Caloz, Heida-Paien “Les Bernunes” Valais White, Switzerland.
This remarkable white wine from Valais Switzerland is made from Heida-Paien, also known as Savignin, one of the white grapes found in the Jura region of France, but this Swiss white tastes totally unique and reflects it’s own special terroir. Cave Caloz is a great winery, and Conrad Caloz, who I call the king of the mountains, makes some monumental wines, especially his Humagne Rouge Coteaux de Sierre red, and now I have discovered his Heida, which I feel has a impact not unlike a Hermitage Blanc on the palate, I though it might have been Roussanne at first! I was completely spellbound by this Caloz Heida-Paien, it starts with white flowers, verbena, citrus and stone fruit with a light gold/greenish hue in the glass and delivers impressive form on the palate with lemon/lime, dried mango, tangy apricot, tangerine and apple skin along with a sense of steely mineral, as well as a certain richness and mouth filling creaminess than is more an impression than reality as this wine pumps out the vigor and vibrancy with a nice groove of acidity. The finish is crisp and there’s lots of vitality, but there is a haunting aftertaste of succulent peach, wild herbs, saline and wet stones, this is lovely stuff and a great wine, I just wish the exchange rate with the sky rocketing Swiss Franc was better, but that said it is still worth every extra penny, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Olek Bondonio, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2011 Bondonio Barbaresco normale is a beautiful and full bodied Nebbiolo with lavishly layered complexity and real gravitas in substance, style and performance, sourced from Cru sites including Roncagliette and Starderi, close to Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta plots. Olek makes some fantastic wines and his regular Langhe Nebbiolo is a steal, and his seriously endowed single Cru Roncagliette should be on any Barbaresco lovers list of must haves, but in particular this DOCG Barbaresco 2011 really shines and offers the best value for what you get in the glass, especially if you want to drink it young, the 2011 vintage was surprising generous, ripe and open. The Olek Bondonio Barbaresco starts with liquid roses, a deep garnet hue with brick/orange edges and a cascade of fruit, earth, spice and mineral elements, the palate is packed and there is s steady supply of firm, but not aggressive tannins, along with refined acidity. The mouth feel is big with black raspberry, damson plum, morello cherry, dried red currant and a touch of strawberry fruits, plus tar, melted licorice, truffle, chalk dust, saline, minty herbs, all spice, cedar and a hint of game. This forward Nebbiolo really shows it’s pedigree with constant terroir reminders and vigorous persistence, this is lovely and rich Barbaresco that even in it’s youth is poised and charming throughout, best though with food, drink this Bondonio from 2016 to 2026, very impressive again from this star producer.
($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Trout Gulch Vineyard, close to Aptos, is a sweeping and beautiful hillside vineyard that is really making some fantastic grapes after being taken over by Richard Alfaro, who now has a long term lease on the site, it is now very much like a second Alfaro estate vineyard planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Both the Chard and Pinot coming off Trout Gulch show wonderful cool climate energy, vibrancy, ripe flavors and lower alcohol, the soils have sand, clay, loam and a chalky top layer that remind of the Cote de Beaune, with the Chardonnay feeling like Chassagne and the Pinot much in the same profile as a Volnay with red brambly fruits. Richard sells a bit of Chardonnay from this site as well, and it is highly regarded, with Arnot-Roberts and another top end winery that can’t be named getting fruit from here. The 2013 Alfaro Trout Gulch Pinot Noir is lovely, lush feeling and vigorous on the palate with a deep ruby hue in the glass and this is an absolutely gorgeous wine with character, style and graceful layers, it pleases in every way. The Trout Gulch Pinot was aged 10 months in barrel, 20% new, all French and only 500 cases were made, it is drinking fantastic, as are all of Alfaro’s 2013, which include this one, a Lester Family Vineyard, a Garys’ Vineyard and three home estate Pinots, the Estate, the Mary Katherine and the Lindsay Paige, one of the best ever vintages for this Santa Cruz Mountains estate near Corralitos, and the balance is near perfect, 13.5% alcohol, fine structural tannins and acidity give a framework that should allow this beauty to age for another decade as well. The mouth feel is excellent with silky roundness and charming life, the main core of this Pinot shows red raspberry, black cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits along with dusty stones, saline, red rose petals, a touch of earth, spice, cedar will sweet toasty oak, vanilla and cinnamon adding a nice subtle shading. There is a lingering fruit essence on the very lengthy aftertaste and overall is is hard to find any faults here, especially when you consider the price, a top caliber single vineyard, low production Pinot that sells for under $40, this is pretty awesome stuff, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Champ Divin-Fabrice et Valerie Closset, Pinot Noir, Cotes du Jura, France.
The Jura is one of France’s major hot spots and while we all like those funky geeky wines made from Trousseau, Savignin and Poulsard, there is also some great sites for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with many well known Burgundy houses sneaking into the region and buying up some good old vine plots, but there are small vignerons showing off their talents as well, and especially charming is this Champ Divin Pinot from the Clossets. A husband and wife team, Fabrice and Valerie Closset, who farm all biodynamic, are making a stylish range of Jura wines, I am very impressed and look forward to following their progress, I am smitten on their Champ Divin Pinot Noir, this is a vibrant and pure wine with distinct flavors and energy showing a range of red fruits, mineral and spices, ripe tannins, fresh acidity and a delicately lingering finish. Subtle earthy tones add to the juicy nature of the Closset Champ Divin Pinot, with black cherry, blueberry, violets and currant jam taking center stage along with red tea, plum, truffle and apple skin on the fringes. The finish has dusty plum, more cherry, a hint of cedar, wet stones and rosewater, everything feels complete and silky with youthful fruit character, there is a lot to admire here and it is a lot of fun to drink with a light to medium body and plenty to keep your attention, this can easily replace many Bourgogne Rouge wines at almost twice the price, drink over the next few years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Julien Sunier, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Sunier Fleurie is the most exotic and developed of this artisan winemaker’s current lineup of 2014 Cru Beaujolais and is a real beauty, for Gamay fans this a must try wine. I have been very impressed with the last few vintages of Julien’s wines, they seem influenced by Lapierre or Foillard in many ways, this is a big compliment and a statement for the level of quality and style achieved in a short time, these are delicious wines, made in the natural way with native yeasts and almost no sulphur. The 2014 Fleurie explodes from the glass with dark berries, violets, rose oil, pepper spice and a hint of walnut leading to a vibrant and vivid palate of blackberry, black cherry, plum and wild strawberry fruits, sweet and sour herbs, cedar and dusty and sticky lavender. This light to medium bodied Gamay flows with silky tannins and pure acidity, it displays focused transparent flavors, textural layers with a lush mouth feel and the lingering tangy currant and anise makes for a lovely and fetching wine. While the Morgon impresses for it’s more tightly wound and robust fruit, this Fleurie just drinks wonderfully and is much more expressive at this stage. Julien Sunier should be on your radar if you like top Cru Beaujolais and these 2014’s are looking like his best yet, in particular search out his Fleurie for it’s grapey charm and it’s ready to please nature, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Roxheimer Hollenpfad, Trocken, Nahe, Germany.
This beautifully detailed and rather delicate dry Riesling is very aromatic, vivid and wonderfully balanced with a light body, polished acidity and enough extract to deliver length and substance for aging. The Donnhoff Roxheimer Hollenpfad is a bright and stylish young Riesling with plenty to admire right now, but looks to be a wine that will improve and fill out over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle, so some faith and patience will be needed to get the maximum from this 2014, though lovely as it is. I really enjoy the fresh and vibrant feel and weightlessness on the palate with subtle and graceful layers of lime, white peach, tropical essences, tangerine, salty spices, rose oil and white flowers all hauntingly appearing and fading in and out along with wet stones and crunchy mineral notes. This steely Trocken is pure and crispy lean, it has bits that remind me of Pouilly-Fume and Chablis, but without question is centered around it’s own terroir, this is all Nahe in the glass and should deliver long term rewards, I am highly impressed with the 2014 wines from Donnhoff, mostly for the precise expression of vintage and devoted craftsmanship in the winemaking, these are wines of inner power and outward shyness with finesse. Certainly Donnhoff’s Roxheimer Hollenpfad could be a Grosses Gewachs, but since it is not, you can find it at what has to be considered a remarkably fair price for what is in the bottle, this austere and thoughtful Riesling is one I hope to re-visit again and again, drink from 2018 to 2024.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Louis Antoine Luyt, Pipeno, Pais, Coelemu, Chile.
The fresh and fun Pipeno Pais line from Louis Antoine Luyt are from some of the oldest vines still producing wine grapes in the world and are certainly the most affordable piece of history you can drink! The Pais grape is known as the Mission Grape or Listan Prieto, it was carried to the new world by the Spanish Missionaries in the later half of the 16th century, and Luyt’s Pipeno wines come from areas around those original Mission sites, which are set on 300 million year old soils similar to Morgon and Cote de Brouilly in Beaujolais with iron rich layers and granite schist. Luyt’s Pipeno Pais Coelemu is delightfully bright and earthy with dark berries, spice and an almost tart/herbal vermouth note, light in tannin and medium bodied making for a great food wine and easy like a Beaujolais, it is make in an ancient and traditional way, all natural, so it isn’t overly polished and you get an honest and interesting wine. This lively 2015 Pipeno Coelemu starts with sour cherry, raspberry, minty herb, plum and red pepper spice along with zesty red peach, dried orange rind and truffle notes, this red will settle some in bottle and get a bit fuller on the palate with short term aging, but it is seriously all about enjoyable quaffing and is great for picnic, BBQ and parties, especially for the adventurous! Drink ex-Lapierre winemaker, of Morgon in Beaujolais, Frenchman Louis Antoine Luyt’s vibrant Pipeno red over the next year or so, it is like drinking history, especially when you realize the vines are close to 300 years old!
($17 Est. 1L) 86-88 Points, grapelive
n.v. Eric Rodez, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France.
There isn’t many people more passionate about terroir and quality than Eric Rodez and it shows in his fantastic Champagne, and better for us is the fact that these wonderful cubes are delightfully affordable and without pretense or brand envy, these wines are in the same league as Krug and Vilmart. Eric practices mostly bidynamic principals in the vineyard and in some cases he goes further, even to the point of treating vines with essential oils, or as Charles Neal his importer puts it, he treats his vines with aromatherapy if needed! In the cellar, his two years working at Champagne Krug gave him his core beliefs, though he is influenced also by his time in both Alsace and Burgundy, he uses a combination of tank and wood, uses barrel aging and uses lots of very old reserve wines in the blended non vintage cuvees. Rodez has only 15 acres in Grand Cru Ambonnay, mostly Chardonnay and a touch of Pinot Noir, and this gorgeous 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs comes from between 15 and 20 separate lots, from different plots in his vineyard, this enhances the complexity, with the base vintages being 32% from 1999, 19% from 2008, 24% from 2007, 16% from 2006 and 3% from 2004, all aged 53 months Sur Lie, with 18% aged in cement/enamel lined tanks and 82% aged in small Barrel. Most of his wine goes through malo, though you still find energy and finesse in these luxurious Champagnes, I adore these offerings from Eric Rodez, especially this one. The nose is amazingly deep with layers of brioche, hazelnut, lemon pie and fig leading to a full bodied palate that shines and sparkles with apple, white berry, citrus, exotic tropical fruits, textural creme brûlée, baking spices, wet stones and mineral tones along with a glorious beading from the fine mousse. This is seductive, richly flavored and vibrant bubbly, absolutely world class and eye-poppingly sexy! Drink this stunning non vintage Blanc de Blancs Rodez over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2021, I know I will. (Disgorged Oct. 2014- 4 gram dosage)
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Louis Antoine Luyt “Cruchon” Pinot Noir, Coteaux de Trumao, Valle del Bueno, Chile.
The Cruchon Pinot Noir by Frenchman Louis Antoine Luyt is from old vines of Massale Selection, these are a mix of original old Burgundy clones thought to have been brought to Chile in the mid 1800’s, and this all natural wine is a light and flavorful treat. Luyt is working with a collection of growers throughout Chile, and he is most interested in the ancient Mission Grape plantings that can be around 300 years old and counting, the Mission Grape, called Pais in Chile and known as Listan Prieto, which seems certain to have come from Spain, though may in fact be either related to a Greek grape or maybe a grape that was at home in north Africa. It seems that Listan Prieto is different even from the Listan Negro found on the Canary Islands, also thought to be a Mission Grape, that it in fact is a separate vine all together. Luyt himself, worked at famous Beaujolais producer Lapierre and is a passionate Natural Wine advocate, his wines are organic, raw and terroir driven with low alcohol and fresh transparent flavors, though they can show a mix of earth and funk, especially when young, though they tend to clear up and get deeper with a few years in bottle. The Cruchon Pinot Noir is one of his newest wines in Chile, where he has found a welcoming home, it shows delicacy and bright red fruits with mineral tones and savory spices, the 2014 version is the best yet, as it has more character and pretty layers of cherry, strawberry and peachy fruit with hints of plum, briar, truffle, wild herbs, rhubarb and earthy cranberry. The Cruchon comes in at 11.5% and has a soft ruby hue, it feels more like a Fleurie Beaujolais than a Bourgogne and while youthful and tangy, it should gain a bit of weight and complexity in the bottle and the finish is quite impressive for such a light wine. The tannins are faint and silky, while the acidity is driving and vibrant, which makes this subtle and delightful wine seem almost Rose like at this stage, though it does deepen in feel with air and cuisine, give it a short time in the cellar, best from 2016 to 2019, this is a wine with unique charms and will elicit both raves and a few boos, be your own judge, I found a hint of intrigue and was left delighted. Luyt’s must try offerings include his Carignan “Legno Duro” and Pais de Quenehuao, as well as his fun Pipeno line made also from 200 to 300 year old Pais vines!
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Damilano, Barolo “Cannubi” DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2010 Cannubi by Damilano is a massive and youthful Barolo that needs plenty of time resting in the cellar, but those that have this beauty will be rewarded with an amazing wine, I would guess the best window for enjoying this Barolo will open around 2020. There is so much packed into this tannic beast that it is hard to keep up with it on the palate, the nose too is far from formed yet, but there is gorgeous violets, smoke, earth, spice and deep fruit essences that need constant swirling to see, smell and feel, and the mouth is richly flavored with brandied cherries, raspberry, wild plum, mocha, melted licorice, tar and truffle. This is a meaty wine with classic Nebbiolo character, there is lots of vigor and extreme tension that make it difficult to fully enjoy at this stage, though the structure is impressive and there is a lot to get excited about, this is going to be a thrilling Barolo, all need is money and patience! After lengthy air and chopping you catch a glimpse at the inner beauty here and can just make out the glorious detail, dried roses, sweet strawberry and mineral notes tease you like a haunting ghost. This is serious stuff, and I know I’ll be jealous of those that have this bottle of Cannubi, drink from 2020 to 2032, great vintage and wonderfully crafted, bravo.
($95 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Aia Vecchia, Lagone, Toscana Rosso IGT, Italy.
With great vineyards in both Bolgheri and Maremma, Aia Vecchia makes some fantastic wines, at the top end from Bolgheri is there Sor Ugo that comes from vines close to Ornellaia and Sassicaia, and is a wonderful Cabernet blend, as well as making some awesome value wines from both areas with a superb Vermentino and this stunning Lagone rosso. This 2012 Lagone red blend has Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese mostly and comes from both estates, this is a wine that delivers way beyond it’s price class and a great wine for the savvy buyers that want wonderful quality and compellingly friendly wines. I must say, this Lagone is very impressive and I would recommend it for wine lists and or parties, it has alluring dark flavors, rich texture and nice depth and length, this red offers a lot of bang for the buck. The nose has warm earth, dark flowers, black fruits with hints of spice and toasty wood leading to a lush, round palate of blackberry, baked cherry, tangy currants, plum and creme de cassis with cedar, mint, mocha, anise and sweet tobacco. This leans toward medium/full body and feels creamy in the mouth, but has a nice burst of acidity and refined tannins holding it together, it makes for excitement and joyous drinking, perfect with a vast array of cuisine, and is pretty darn tasty stand alone for a drinking all on it’s own. Again this Aia Vecchio is a bargain red that gives great Tuscany charm for a great price, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine A et P de Villaine, Mercurey “Les Montots” Red Burgundy, France.
Aubert de Villaine’s family estate in Bouzeron is still one of the best deals in fine and early drinking Burgundy wines, these wines are a far cry from his day job wines at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, where he is the managing director, but they make for exciting and well crafted offerings for savvy wine buyers and enthusiasts. Imported by Kermit Lynch, the de Villaine wines have a very sexy appeal and can be outstanding, and they usually are fruit forward, but with poise and vibrancy that give them the ability to age well, even though I would bet most people enjoy them young and fresh. The estate is farmed with biodynamic practices and the wines show a beautiful inner energy and charm, especially good in this 2013 vintage are the Rully white and in particular this wonderful Mercurey red, which is full of flavor and intensity, and if I’m honest I like it better than the more acclaimed 2010 and 2012 vintages, this is really stylish and excellent stuff. The 2013 de Villaine Mercurey Les Montots starts with an almost Gamay expression with dark floral scents, spice and juicy berry fruits leading the way, but starts to tighten up and get focus on the palate with pure Pinot character coming through with tangy red cherry, plum, red peach flesh and black raspberry layers along with mineral, pepper, cinnamon, cedar and sweet tea notes, the mouth feel is robust, but medium bodied making for a focused and vivid Burgundy. The wine changes a bit in the glass, it keeps your attention with much allure and detail, and the finish is crisply zesty, though with lovely lingering currant and strawberry fruit as well as hints of anise, saline and truffle, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso, IGT Emilia, Italy.
Elena Pantaleoni’s famous natural wine estate of La Stoppa continues to intrigue the wine world with a unique set of wines from Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy, from her savory Ageno orange wine to a set of Frizante sparklers, a sweet passito Malvasia, then there are the reds, a Barbera and this Trebbiolo red blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda. The wines farmed here by Elena and her vignaiolo Giulio Armani are all organic, fermented with their native yeast in a combination of stainless tank, concrete vats and cask, with an all natural approach, without any chemicals or additives other than a tiny dose of sulphur at bottling, these are pure expressions of La Stoppa and Emilia. The 2013 Trebbiolo Emilia IGT Rosso is surprisingly forward and different from the last two vintages and really shows the deep and dark fruit of the Barbera with much less reduction (funk) in the nose, though hints of animal/game remain and the mouth feel is fuller and has a certain density and persistence that impresses, this wine has an inner force and vitality. There is an array of layers and a cascade of flavors to enjoy here with floral/dried violets and rose oil, hints of horse, saddle leather, lavender, minty herbs and cinnamon wrapped around a core of tangy plum, black cherry and raspberry fruits along with a touch of earth, truffle, cedar and mineral on the vibrant palate. There is some licorice and tart currant that comes through with air along with faint blueberry and briar notes making for a very pleasing Trebbiolo that feels a bit more ripe and polished than prior efforts, but that is a very good thing and I love this 2013 and it should appeal to a wider audience, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Daniel Bouland, Morgon Vieilles Vignes “Delys” Cru Beaujolais, France.
Wow! This is gorgeous old vine Gamay at it’s finest, beautifully detailed, fresh, vivid and with extraordinary layers of pureness, Daniel Bouland’s Morgon is right up there with Foillard and Lapierre! Tasting this glorious example of top Cru Beaujolais from vines planted in 1926 was an honor, I have not had the Bouland Morgon “Delys” before and it left me spellbound, this is the real deal and has a wonderful sense of subtlety and elegance, the intensity is like an inner zen experience, this is not a flamboyant or slutty wine, this Gamay builds slowly on the palate and is the ultimate seduction, it has that X factor you find in great Burgundy, needless to say I was very impressed and intrigued. The 2013 Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys old vine Gamay starts with delicate violets, walnut oil and blue fruit that leads to a silky palate of black cherry, plum, blackberry and strawberry fruits along with a touch of mineral, chalky stones, a mix of Asian spice, herbs, cinnamon and savory earth notes with hints of cedar and dried currants. The mouth feel is excellent, with light to medium body, transparency of flavors, lifting acidity and sublime length, this wine is just magical, words fail to capture it’s essence, but this is very sexy stuff. The big take away here is the terroir and unique sense of place, this most likely could not be achieved anywhere else, this wine highlights that eternal truth, this is like drinking the land’s soul, it’s something you feel and respect. Drink this well crafted Cru Beaujolais over the next 3 to 5 years, though I suspect it will drink with style for a full decade easy, be sure to chase this entertaining and stunning offering down!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Claus Schneider, Weiler Schlipf, Spatburgunder Trocken “CS” Baden, Germany.
This Claus Schneider CS Trocken Pinot Noir is really lovely wine, it is hard to imagine a more elegant example of Spatburgunder with so much flavor and silky texture at this price point, in fact this tasty stuff will impress Burgundy and Oregon Pinot lovers and those looking for class and detail should really search this Baden beauty out! Imported directly by Wine Wise in Oakland, California this Pretty Pinot Noir from Weingut Schneider should be filtering into the market place soon. Baden in Germany’s restive spa region in the south is home to many interesting and unique wines, the soils are mixed and are less serve than on the rivers with more limestone, sandstone, loam and clay, the weather can be warmer and you can find lush easy to love wines, especially fine Sylvaner, usually in those funny shaped bottles, but there’s quite a lot of good Pinot Noir too, and this Weingut Claus Schneider is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The 2012 Weiler Schlipf CS is the signature wine of the winery and is their best bottling, or reserve if you will, and it is wonderfully complex and composed with black cherry, plum, vibrant red berry and tangy currant fruits along with hints of mineral, rose oil, spice and earth, showing good vivid character, creamy tannin and superb length, this is very stylish stuff. A touch of cedar, floral tones, mint tea, perfectly mated oak notes and fresh acidity add to the array of layers, but there is seamless harmony and grace here, everything is folded together with poise and this Spatburgunder drinks stupid good right now and will for many years to come, best from 2016 to 2021, even the basic Spatburgunder from Schneider is rocking good too, this is a winery to keep an eye out for!
($31 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
n.v. Mousse Fils, Brut Rose Champagne “Tradition” France.
Cedric Mousse’s Rose Tradition is a great new addition to Terry Theise’s portfolio and Cedric is the only producer at this time to make a 100% Pinot Meunier Special Club bottling, and is a vigneron totally new to me, but one I will be paying much more attention to! The Rose is about 90% Pinot Meunier & 10% Pinot Noir, the still wine is barrel aged 100% Pinot Meunier and is used for the vivid color, the estate grapes are grown using organic methods and the wine is bright and expressive, the bubbles bead beautifully and there is a sense of balance and detail throughout, this is impressive pink sparkling wine. The nose has the earthy tones and fruit you’d expect from Meunier, but there is a nice yeasty note, clear mineral elements and the palate is sensual and seductive with great mouth feel, fruit and vibrant mousse, plus there is a well judged frame and focus to be found here, everything speaks well of a really long cellar life, though I find it profound and joyous as is. There’s rose water, spices, a mix of citrus, strawberry, tart cherry and a mulberry sense along with leesy sex appeal, a brioche note and steely clarity that keeps the fruit in check. This is steal in the unique grower producer world of stylish Pinot Meunier Champagne and it is a fine and elegant Rose Brut, that is expressive and also refined, in other words you will really love this wonderful bubbly, Mousse is a fantastic new discovery and you should really look high and low for it, and his other amazing Champagnes.
($56 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2014 Waxwing, Rose of Pinot Noir, Blair Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Scott Sisemore’s Rose of Pinot Noir from the Blair Vineyard is a bright and savory pink wine that has lots of zing and is almost severely austere, but still delivers fresh fun. The 2014 Waxwing Rose is a lovely orange/salmon pink in the glass with loads of spice, mineral and wet stones, it is very muted fruit wise with vivid citrus, light watermelon, rose water and a shock of dusty black pepper. As it opens you get a bit of sour cherry and strawberry plus a lot of tangy herbs in this tart mouth watering Rose, it has a much more European feel than you’d expect from a California pink and it goes much better with food than on it’s own, I must say it took a few sips, even glasses to build a fondness for this one, though in the end I admire the effort and it certainly has a niche to fill. Sisemore is turning out some lovely and well crafted wines under the Waxwing label and I do love his Pinot Noir and Syrah offering very much, and recommend searching them out, this rose comes of the Blair Vineyard, which is in the Arroyo Seco area just south east of the Santa Lucia Highlands with cool fog and wind influence set on chalky soils, gravel, silt and sand, it was picked especially for making Rose at low Brix, though real alcohol does get to 13%, and it ends up a complex and zesty Pink. Only 86 Cases were made, this one is mostly sold direct from Waxwing, and it should drink vigorously for a year or so, best right now and with cuisine and very cold.
($20 Est.) 88-91 Points, grapelive
2013 Tetramythos, Agiorgitiko, Peloponnese Red, Greece.
The Tetramythos Agiorgitiko is an impressive red wine that delivers fresh intensity, savory spiciness and deep fruit, it comes from high elevation and it has an interesting cool climate character, it isn’t unlike Austrian reds, it has a mouth feel and quality that reminds you a bit of Blaufrankisch or St. Laurent! This interesting Greek red shows blue and red fruits on the palate with a hint of aromatic floral perfume and mineral spice, it has a creamy texture with refined tannins and juicy acidity, it all flows together nicely from start to finish making for a detailed and complex wine. The main profiles of fruit in the mouth are red plum, blueberry, cherry and black raspberry with a hint of dried currant, baking spices and black olive. Agiorgitiko is the most widely planted red varietal in Greece, it is also known as St. George, and it is usually blended, most often with Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a difficult grape to grow well as it is prone to need water and is sensitive to many vine problems. The best areas for Agiorgitiko are areas with altitude and cooling influences, it is a late ripening grape and takes constant thinning and care to produce it’s best flavors, so this Tetramythos is what it looks like when done well and deserves praise and attention. When drunk with grilled meat and or with Middle-Eastern cuisine this charming red comes alive and exotic spices and fuller bodied character comes out, it is without question one of the more pleasing Agiorgitikos I’ve ever had, drink this fun red over the next 2 to 3 years.
($14 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Bodegas Charca “Barda” Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina.
The Charca estate, owned by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of the Sassicaia family, was founded in the remote desert of Southern Argentina in Patagonia, it was discovered by the Italian by chance and is formed around an gnarly head trained old vine Pinot Noir vineyard, and is one of the great new legends in the wine world. I’ve tried the Estate Charca Pinot and it is the real deal, but this was the first time for me to taste the second wine of the Bodega the Barda “The Ridge” which is from lots of juice that didn’t make the single vineyard wines and the young vines that were planted less than 10 years ago, the old vines at Charca were planted in 1932 and look more like old California heritage vines than Pinot! The 2013 Barda by Bodegas Charca is a lovely and fresh wine, de-stemmed, but with whole berry fermentation in cement vats, almost carbonic, and aged in mostly neutral French oak, it is unfined and unfiltered and there is very little sulfur used. The wine starts with a delicate ruby hue, soft floral notes and a mix of red fruits and spices lead to the palate which shows raspberry, tart cherry and strawberry along with red plum, cinnamon, sweet herbs, tea spice and a hint of cranberry, earth and salty stones. This is classy and interesting stuff, it opens to a smooth and silky texture, but has a bight vibrant character throughout, it is hard to place it’s terroir in comparison to the great Pinot Noir regions, but it does share some qualities with maybe Chambolle or Morey-St.-Denis, though more red fruited and the gravel, galets and limestone soils in Patagonia add their complexities similar to maybe the Pfalz Spatburgunders of Germany, but regardless, this is very stylish Pinot Noir, rare and enchanting. The Barda by Bodegas Charca finishes with a crisp mouth watering austerity and a lingering blueberry note, there’s lot to admire here, drink from 2015 to 2020, and be sure to check out the Charca Estate and the single vineyard wines for something even more intriguing!
($37 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine D’ Ourea, Vacqueyras, Rhone Red, France.
This gorgeous Vacqueyras is a mind blowing effort from a new young vigneron Adrien Roustan, who looks to be the next Rhone superstar and who is growing his grapes all biodynamic, and at some elevation which gives these wines some greater life and vigor. The Domaine D’ Ourea Vacqueyras especially this 2013, which it is assumed is mostly Grenache with a good dose of Syrah and Mourvedre, shows a real dark element and core with the Syrah varietal character shinning the brightest at this stage with exceptionally deep purple/garnet color, a heady violets and spice bouquet and loaded with blue fruits. The core of Roustan’s Vacqueyras is deep blueberry, boysenberry, sweet raspberry and wild plum fruit along with fresh cracked peppercorns, paprika and crushed stones as well as hints of black olives, creme de cassis, cedar, lavender and anise. This Domaine D’ Ourea Vacquetras is stunning in the glass and on the palate with a bit more vivid intensity and pitch than you’d expect from the Southern Rhone, it reminds me of the profiles you find in the marvelous wines of Domaine Gramenon and or Maxime Laurent, which is high praise as these producers are some of my favorites. I look forward to following the Adrien Roustan wines over the coming years, both his Gigondas and this impressive Vacqueyras, I’m certain these are going to be must have wines, and without question I’m going to get a few more of the 2013 Domaine D’ Ourea Vacqueyras, it is a thrilling effort with a pleasing mix of beautiful details with floral tones, meaty/savory elements, dense black fruits and earthy spices, this is truly awesome stuff, drink over the next 3 to 5 years!
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Arianna Occhipinti, SP68, Nero d’ Avola/Frappato, IGT Rosso, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
It’s well known now that Arianna Occhipinti is a superstar and one of the leading lights of the “Natural Wine” movement, but it is worth mentioning that her wines are getting better and more complex with each vintage, and she has really turned out some special stuff in the 2014 vintage, especially this SP68 Rosso in particular, it is a full flavored joyful bottle of wine. The 2014 SP68 Rosso IGT Terre Siciliane is a blend of Nero d’ Avola and Frappato, similar to Cerasuolo di Vittoria, it is a darker version that in the past with a garnet/blue hue and packed rich transparent layers of vibrant fruit, as also with Arianna’s wines there is great detail, silky tannins, a sense of place and vivid acidity, this is impressive and easy to love. Arianna’s latest SP68 starts with a bouquet of red rose petals, sweet herbs, mineral spice and a mix of black, blue and red berries with black cherry leading the way on the palate with plum, cranberry, strawberry and juicy red peach adding depth of character along with slate/stones, fennel, blood orange, dried currant, red pepper and hints of earth, cedar and bramble. At first things are light and playful, but with air things get rather more serious and deep and the finish is very clear and lengthy with blackberry and mission fig lingering on, this is Arianna at her best and the alluring and enduring charm of her creations. The SP68 red is flexible and can be enjoyed young and with many cuisine options, I think it will be superb with Thanksgiving and or Christmas meals, it can be slightly chilled, Beaujolais style, spicy dishes, even some sea foods and it holds up to meat well too, drink from 2015 to 2020, at 13% it seems larger in scale to prior releases, but still showing her delicacy and it has a very Pinot Noir mouth feel, some of the best yet from Occhipinti, don’t miss.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Francine et Olivier Savary, Chablis, Selection Vieilles Vignes, White Burgundy, France.
The Savary Old Vine Chablis is one of my all time favorite wines, it is a great deal and has everything you could want in a Chablis, it blows away wines twice and three times the price. I call this this the “Baby Raveneau” and when you taste it you’ll understand why, it is always intense, vigorous and mineral rich, but the Savary VV is a no quilt and drink now option! When Kermit introduced Savary to the wine world back in 2006 or so, I was in awe of just how good a Chablis in this price class could be and I’ve been a huge fan ever since, and I believe legend has it that Bernard Raveneau and Kermit Lynch had a hand in getting the Savary’s to bottle their own wine, and now they offer three different cuvees in the States, they do a lovely Premier Cru Fourchaume, a straight Chablis AC and this Selection Vieilles Vignes. I only have eyes for the Old Vines cuvee, for me it is the perfect match for my palate and I usually drink a bit of it myself. The 2014 is a beauty, one of the purist vintages since 2007 and 2008with steely character and sharp tangy fruit, it is alive and mouth watering with nice density and flavors, but with loads of chrunchy acidity and stony elements, it’s like dipping into a cool forest stream on a hot day. The Savary Old Vines starts with a hint of white flowers, tangy citrus, traces of sea shore and flint leading to a pale palate the reflects with a bit of greenish/gold in the glass and has a burst of lime, white peach, green apple and zesty lemon fruits with chalk, ultra steely mineral and river rock along with a slight touch of hazelnut. This is electric and vibrant Chardonnay, I like it now, though I suspect it will gain depth and interest in the short term, it might be fun to put some down for 5 to 7 years and see, but I know I would be hard pressed not to drink it all much sooner, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas, Northern Rhone Red, France.
This is one of my favorite wines, and this vintage of Gilles Cornas is really alive and richly packed with flavor showing the juicy ripe nature of the year and highlighting his gifted touch with Syrah. The 2012, as per normal, 100% Syrah, all whole cluster, natural/native yeast ferment and raised in mostly old casks, in other words, this is a tardily crafted wine with very old school character, but the attention to detail is amazing and everything is poised, finessed and beautifully balanced. The Syrah is from great sites and the terroir shines through with lots of mineral, deep layers and sublime textures, this Guillaume Gilles Cornas is very lovely stuff, I’ve had the Gilles Cornas going back a few years and I loved each and every one of them, and while the 2012 isn’t quite the best year, it still merits top marks and is an exciting thrill of a wine that will not disappoint, and it should get a bit better in the bottle. The 2012 Guillaume Gilles Cornas starts with heady red fruits, camphor, minty herbs, pepper and flinty minerals along with seductive crushed violets, the color is invitingly dark and the palate is dense and deep with blueberry, boysenberry, damson plum and mulberry fruits along with red and white pepper, black olives, melted licorice, cedar notes, dried currants and kirsch. There is a youthful meaty quality throughout with bacon fat, blood/iron in the background in this complex Syrah and there is plenty of vivid acidity to keep the fruit in focus along with a fair amount of grip from fine structural tannin, this wine shows a nice medium/full body and has glorious length. This is a wine to search out and savor, best to rest it a few years in the cellar, patience will always be rewarded in these wines, best from 2018 to 2024.
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Silvestri, Rose of Pinot Noir, Estate, Carmel Valley.
The 2014 Rose from Silvestri is from estate grown Pinot Noir in Carmel Valley and is about the best pink wine I’ve tried from Carmel Valley and it’s easy to enjoy with it’s fine detail and fresh dry crispness. When you want to taste some of Carmel Valley’s best best wines, Silvestri must be included, their fine Barbera stands out as well as the estate bottlings of Syrah and Pinot Noir, and be sure to look for the 2013 vintage in the reds, they are the best yet from Alan Silvestri, the Academy Award nominated composer of famous music scores including Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Predator. The Silvestri pink starts with brisk and steely notes of vibrant citrus, rose water and spice leading to a light and refreshing palate of tart sour cherry, watermelon, strawberry, pepper, chalky stones, a hint of earth and is lifted by tangy acidity, making for a very fine effort. The price seems a tad high, but then again only about 6 barrels were made and it certainly is delicious enough to splurge on, plus this warm summer means there is not going to be much left hanging around, especially at the Silvestri tasting room downtown Carmel by the Sea, where the long summer heat has driven the tourists into the areas tasting rooms by the droves, myself included! Silvestri is making some really good stuff and are great people, drink this Rose of Pinot Noir over the next 6 moths to a year, it’s exciting, cool and tasty.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Ridge, Monte Bello, Proprietary Red, Santa Cruz Mountains.
One of the great wines of California, the Ridge Monte Bello delivers pure class and First Growth substance and this infantile 2012 will certainly be one of the vintages big prizes with hedonistic fruit, firm structure and gorgeous detail, this is one for the cellar, no question. The 2012 Monte is about 64% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest being made up of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, I’m almost convinced they could have gone with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage, but because the other grapes did so well they earned their spot in this great wine and they add unique flourish and the Merlot especially gives a plummy rich roundness to the bold palate, while the Franc and Verdot add spice, color and additional bouquet, the mix gives the Ridge Monte Bello a certain Chateau Margaux character in this vintage. At 13.8% alcohol, the 2012 is just above average to most recent versions, though very well integrated into this stylish Bordeaux blend that still retains acidity and structural poise with firm fine grained tannins and complex layers of fruit, earth, subtle wood, spice and mineral tones. The 2012 starts with red fruits, slight floral expressions, smoke, pencil lead and cassis leading to a mouth that unfolds with blackberry, dusty plum, currant and dark cherry fruits along with black olive, sweet tobacco, cedar and black licorice. The wood feels a perfect frame with subtle vanilla and toasty feel that doesn’t intrude on the moment and there is a background array in this dark garnet hued wine that leave faint traces of mocha, pepper, sage and acacia flower. This beautiful Monte Bello still has some baby fat to burn and it feels big and powerful, but nothing is out of place and the future looks stunning for this vintage, best to invest in it’s rewards and give it a decade in the cellar, drink from 2022 to 2035, this will be a great one to own, bravo Ridge for another amazing Monte!
($165 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner “A” Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This is a blend of two plots of Gruner at Alfaro, and while the single vineyard and organic La Playita is getting extended lees and barrel aging, the “A” from both sites is ready to enjoy now, and it is a sexy little wine with plenty of character, vibrancy and intensity. Alfaro’s Gruner is maybe some of the state’s best and has found a perfect home here in the Corralitos area of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the climate is cool and the wines result in dry and sizzling versions of this Austrian varietal, both this and Alfaro’s Albarino are excellent alternative whites offering exciting acidity and unique flavor profiles, they are good companions to their excellent Chardonnays, this winery is on top of it’s game right now, I highly recommend scoring these limited edition offerings, especially this Gruner Veltliner, which is fantastic with an array of food choices from shellfish, mixed seafood, cheeses and Asian cuisine. The 2014 “A” Estate Gruner starts with light white flowers, fresh squeezed meyer lemons, a hint of almond, verbena and seashore notes leading to an electric and vigorous palate of tangerine, wild peach, sour apple and crisp lemon/lime along with mango, oyster shell, river stones and salt lick. This Alfaro Gruner has a light to medium body and brisk mouth feel making for a zesty and refreshing wine, but opens up and has the impression of density, finishes with lots of zing and it really makes your mouth water, very fine and exciting Gruner Veltliner, the Alfaro and Tatomer versions are the best of this grape in California and really do justice to their Austrian cousins. I had an exciting visit to Alfaro recently and everything was tasting fantastic, I was able to taste a tank sample of Estate Chardonnay as well that was pure and Chablis like, there is some thrilling wines being put out by Richard Alfaro, you should really investigate them for yourselves, lots of fun stuff to discover, and in particular this sexy little white, drink this crisp and tangy Gruner from 2015 to 2019.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Hermannshole, Grosses Gewachs, Trocken, Nahe, Germany.
The Donnhoff Hermannshole GG Trocken Riesling is one of the world’s top wines, in fact in some years it is by far and away the world’s greatest dry white wine, and while the 2014 might not be the best vintage, it certainly deserves high praise and attention. The Hermannshole Grosses Gewachs from the Nahe is a savvy choice every year, especially for those that collect or cellar their wines, it is a great value in it’s class, as the prices for comparable Burgundy offerings, think Coche-Dury, Roulot, Raveneau, Sauzet, Ramonet or even Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, all of which cost double, triple or more than the Donnhoff for Premier Cru or Grand Cru bottlings! The 2014 Donnhoff Hermannshole is refined, stylish and has a near perfect balance of austere subtlety and delicate aromatics with vibrant acidity, vigorous energy and a mix of savory terroir elements all layered together in seamless joy. This all said, the best to come from this vintage is a few years away, be patient, have faith and wait, the rewards will be amazing, as the potential in this and the two other main Grand crus from Donnhoff will need time to fully develop, but the raw material is there, hidden and shying away from the spotlight. Hermannshole is a vineyard Cru that has unique soils, part volcanic, loose rock and slate, this gives a vast array of spice, mineral tones and intensity of fruit, you might compare it to Montrachet or the Les Clos in Chablis, it is one of those very special places and it makes for sublime wines, both dry and sweet, all of which are rare and beautiful! The 2014 Donnhoff Riesling Hermannshole Grosses Gewachs starts with white roses, citrus blossoms and flint rock splinters along with subtle brine, tropical essences and green melon leading to a vibrant palate of lime, grapefruit, apricot and sour apple fruits as well as wet shale, saline, white tea, steely mineral and lingering tangerine and soft peach. This is way too young to unfold completely, but the core elements are lovely and the structure and spine are forming an excellent base for future pleasure, the 2011 and 2012’s were much more flamboyant and blockbusters, this one will take it’s own sweet time to get to it’s best, I hope I get a chance to see and taste it again, there is some wonderful stuff building slowly in this glorious expression, it is worth a go for sure, drink from 2018 to 2027, in the meantime find the 2007, 2009, 2011 and without question grab any 2012 you see!
($75 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Estate Chrisohoou, Xinomavro, Naoussa PDO, Greece.
Nana Chrisohoou studied in Piedmonte, Italy and it shows in this beautiful Naoussa Xinomavro that really tastes like a fine Langhe Nebbiolo is many ways and is a great example of this varietal and place. The Estate Chrisohoou was originally founded just after World War II, but became a wine grower/producer in the 1970’s and now a new generation is making it’s mark here, with many of the most current releases grabbing international attention and acclaim, they have score many gold and silver medals in Decanter Magazine and are now finding success in the United States, these wines offer a lot of value for the money and are unique, fun and entertaining. I really was thrilled with the Estate Chrisohoou 2009 Xinomavro, Nana has done a masterful job in crafting this wine, it shows wonderful fruit, spice, earth and charm with dried flowers, peppery spice, cedar and vibrant red cherries leading the way along with dusty/bramble berry, plum and slate/stones, tarry melted licorice, soy sauce and lavender oil. This medium full wine feels smooth and textured on the palate, the extended aging helps silken the tannin, but good acidity and focus keep things detailed and lively, at 13.5% it is nearly perfectly balanced and it is really drinking well now. If you want Greek, I’d recommend searching this surprising and stunning Estate Chrisohoou Naoussa Xinomavro out, best from 2015 to 2018.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Princess and the Peasant, Pinot Noir, Signal Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Signal Ridge Vineyard, high above the Anderson Valley in the Mendocino Ridge AVA is the source for this new project by winemaker Stephanie Rivin, this is name to watch as her Princess and the Peasant Pinot Noir is a real beauty. Riven works closely with Nicole Scommegna at Signal Ridge Vineyard and between them they have put out some wonderful wines, the Signal Ridge Pinot is also a worthy effort, but I liked the Princess and the Peasant 2013 a tad better and chose to highlight it here, it really is a glorious and balanced wine with deep flavors and zesty vibrant acidity, there is lots of energy and vitality with silky tannin, as well as layered fruit. The 2013 Princess and the Peasant Pinot Noir is a dark ruby in the glass and shows some black cherry, blueberry, plum and dried currants on the palate with a hint of floral tones, minty herb, rhubarb, mineral and a light cedar note, while the finish lingers with strawberry, apple skin and licorice root. The oak is very faint, subtle framing only and the wine has medium weight, coming in at about 13.9% alcohol, but the feel is excellent, with a blue and black fruit profile similar to what you find in Oregon and overall this is very stylish and tasty stuff, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, and be sure to keep an eye for this, as well as checking out all Signal Ridge and the other Rivin, Dan Rivin Lichen offerings too, all are lovely and exciting wines.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling, Munsterer Trocken, Nahe, Germany.
One of the best dry Rieslings flying under the radar is Kruger-Rumpf’s Munsterer Trocken, this beauty is a steal and should be bought in large amounts by Riesling fans, this flexible and succulent white offers pretty aromas, bright fruit, savory spices is salty dry, filled with vibrant acidity and steely verve. This is such a complete wine, you won’t believe it is not a Cru, especially attractive is the price and complexity of flavors on offer. The 2014 vintage is not as up front as the last 3 years in Germany, and it’s going to be difficult finding a sweet spot and there is not going to be a lot of choices, but Kruger-Rumpf’s basic dry Riesling is a shinning star and a wine of substance and class, it does everything right and has terroir character, finesse and vivid allure. This little gem starts with tangy citrus, white flowers and rose oil leading to a tart and refreshing/brisk palate of lime, mango, apricot flesh and peach pit along with mixed mineral and stony elements. The mouth feel is sizzling and austere, but the fruit has layers and the wine is in complete balance, I have tasted it twice and it continues to impress and improve, this is stylish dry Riesling that never puts a foot wrong from start to finish, this super effort is a winner and is a great value. Touches of flinty pepper, wet rocks, brine, white tea, sour apple and tropical fruit add to the depth, this is wine for any purpose and in particular will be a go to for some of our Indian Summer nights, but this baby will be great year round, drink from 2016 to 2020, be sure to search this one out!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Windy Oaks Estate, Pinot Noir “Diane’s Block” Charmant Mountain Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This is another brilliant effort from Windy Oaks and marks the beauty of 2013 in the south Santa Cruz Mountains, one of the best “Diane’s Block” to date with multi-layered finesse and texture. The Windy Oaks Estate has a small vineyard close to Aptos, now called Charmant Mountain Vineyard, this is the source for Diane’s Block and it is at a slightly lower elevation and a touch warmer, making it a perfect spot for a generous and forward wine with silky mouth feel, but still with cool climate vibrancy and charm. I tasted the Diane’s Block along side two of the Estate offerings, and while all the 2013 Windy Oaks Pinots are wonderful and skillfully crafted, the Diane’s Block stood out at this time with lovely heightened aromatics, long lingering fruit and sublime delicacy. The light ruby hue and subtle perfume draw you in and the palate is richly detailed with black cherry, strawberry and dried currant and to the rose petal and crushed violets with spice, cedar and tangy cranberry. The wine unfolds to deliver a creamy and plum laced mid palate and the finish has a hint of saline, warm stone and vanilla/toast as well as lengthy anise infused raspberry and briar, fruit and acidity are already singing together in great voice here. This is a very seductive wine and it should only dial it up over the next 3 to 5 years, drink from 2016 to 2018.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut von Winning, Riesling, Langenmorgen, Grosses Gewachs, Pfalz, Germany.
The von Winning Grand Crus are some of the finest and most exotic white wines in the world, and while 2014 isn’t the greatest vintage, it shows the strength and talent in grape growing and winemaking, these barrel samples are showing amazing delicacy and finesse, not the usual tour de force and give more elegance, a feature of the 2014 vintage. The 2014 Langenmorgen Grosses Gewachs Trocken starts with graceful detail and light perfume, white flowers and yellow roses lead the way with soft brioche, toast and vivid citrus in this pale Riesling, being a cask sample, it still is a bit shy, but with a bit of coaxing the Langenmorgen opens are unveils it’s inner soul and complexity with vibrant lime, lemon peel, pineapple, pear and kumquat fruits, a hint of leesy richness and subtle wood smokiness. This wine is heaven, briskly focused and has a nice play of salty/brine, fruit and wet stones along with potential textural sensations in the future, I can’t wait to try this again in a few years time. There is plenty of acidity and charm here in this gorgeous wine by von Winning’s Stephan Attmann, he is probably one of the world’s best winemakers and his work on the 2011, 2012, 2013 and even these 2014’s show why, the man is a gifted talent, inspired by the greats in Burgundy he has transformed what can be achieved with dry Riesling! The von Winning lineup is strong throughout, especially great are the Sauvignon Blancs, the basic dry and off dry Rieslings, their Pinot Noir and of course the Grosses Gewachs from Deidesheim in Germany’s Pfalz region. The Langenmorgen really stood out in the samples of the Grand Crus, though I expect the others to develop into fantastic wines as well with more time, these glorious expressions of dry Rieslings highlight the sandstone, loam and limestone soils, that again are more in tune with Burgundy then the slate of the Mosel, Rheingau or the Nahe. I highly recommend searching out the 2012’s which are still out there, especially to drink sooner, and let the 2013 and 2014 wines have a bit more time to grow and fill out, though if you like Grand Cru Chablis or nervy Meursault or Puligny, you should secure some of these 2014 von Winning Grosses Gewachs, with less obvious oak and with more steely/mineral elements these wines look to be thrilling in another few years. The Langenmorgen GG most likely will be released in the new year, so make note, and it should be a quick sell out, as these wines gain notoriety, drink the 2014 from 2016 to 2028, it is a ways from being it’s best, but it is certainly a very impressive and special Riesling of class and refinement.
($72 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Ransom Wine Company, Pinot Noir, Selection, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Here is a great Pinot from Oregon that will surprise even the most jaded of Pinot lovers, a wonderful vintage shines through in this beautiful wine from Ransom, with fruit coming from good sites in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Ransom does a series of unique wines as well as some remarkable sweet and dry Vermouth, everything I’ve tried from Tad Seestedt recently, were tasty and fun, but the 2012 Selection Pinot is amazingly delicious and vibrant. The wax capsuled 2012 Ransom Selection Willamette Valley starts with red fruits, wilted roses and sweet spices that entices the senses and leads to a palate of blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruits along with hints of earth, pepper and cedar. This bright ruby hued Pinot gains density with air, but remains lively, vivid and transparent throughout, it adds complex layers as it unfolds in the glass with touches of flinty mineral, vanilla, cinnamon, blueberry, anise and dried currant all making appearances in the background of this polished and pleasing offering. This is lovely effort with ripe fruit, tangy acidity and nice textures, it finishes with a superb lingering aftertaste of sweet fruit and saline savory elements. Best to enjoy this Pinot Noir with cuisine, I can see it going great with duck breast and or wild mushroom dishes, and it should age pretty well, though I recommend it now, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Albatross Ridge, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Vivienne” Estate Grown, Carmel Valley.
One of the most exciting wines in Monterey, and especially in Carmel Valley, has to be the Albatross Ridge Pinot Noir(s) made by Garrett Bowlus, these beautifully crafted wines are the highlights of a extensive Carmel Valley tasting and were without a doubt the best Pinot Noir I’ve ever tried from the Valley. The Albatross Ridge estate sits high up, not far from from Talbott’s Diamond-T, across the valley from Garland Park with southeast exposure and set on chalky, ancient seabed, soils, this is a steep site and very cool, perfect for Burgundy style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Pinot Cuvee Vivienne 2012 is a magnificent effort, it is richly detailed with gorgeous fruit and mouth feel with great acidity, focus and vigor, but with refined tannins and elegance throughout. The winemaking is impressive with deft touch and finesse, the 2012 Cuvee Vivienne saw about 30% new French oak, 100% native yeast fermentation and is unfixed and unfiltered, all of which preserves the purity and sense of terroir, Bowlus is very much a winemaker that rejoices in low alcohol and delicacy of flavors, very much as you find in Cobb, Hirsch, Peay and Failla wines from the Sonoma Coast, which the Albatross Ridge resembles. The 2012 Vivienne starts with spice, floral tones and earthy notes, it is medium dark ruby in hue with a palate of black cherry, tart plum and wild strawberry fruits, chalky stones, mineral and a fine creamy texture along with subtle fennel, briar and cedar. This is exciting Pinot and drinks with flourish and style, I loved the play of fruit, savory elements and vibrancy that keeps your attention from start to finish, look for further gains with bottle age and drink between 2016 and 2020. I tasted through the current lineup of Bowlus’ Albatross Ridge, all of which merit mention with a dense and lush estate Chardonnay, a tangy/austere Rose of Pinot Noir and a higher end estate reserve Pinot that displays a bit more power, body and smoky oak, a superb wine in it’s self, but the wine that really stood out for quality and price was this fabulous 2012 Cuvee Vivienne, named after Garrett’s young daughter. Pinot Noir looks set to be the go to grape for Carmel Valley, particularly in the cooler areas, my favorite wines are led by Albatross Ridge, but Silvestri and Holman Ranch are also very good too.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Parsonage, Xandro Reserve, Proprietary Red, Estate, Carmel Valley.
One of the great wines of Carmel Valley, Parsonage Village Vineyard’s Xandro Reserve is an opulent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wonderfully crafted by Frank Melicia, Bill Parson’s winemaker and son in law, who is making quite a name for himself. I’ve followed Parsonage since the beginning and have many times suggested that these wines are the benchmark wines of this region, this still seems to be the case, especially when it comes to Cabernet, Syrah and big red blends, but other wineries have raised their game and a generation has grown up here making for some serious competition to Parsonage’s wines, wines from Holman Ranch, Albatross Ridge, Figge, Madeleine and Silvestri (Frank Melicia also makes the wines here) all make fantastic wines, all have reached that top echelon, with some others putting in superb efforts from Carmel Valley and just beyond in the greater Monterey area including Arroyo Seco. The Parsonage wines show gorgeous fruit, density and length. While Carmel Valley’s old school reds from the likes of Durney (now Heller) Galante and Bernardus have made good examples, and Bordeaux style reds, the Parsonage wines are richer, fuller and much more lavish, especially the reserve wines that rival Napa and Paso for hedonistic pleasure, though with tiny amounts available the downside is the seemingly high prices keep these wines from gaining mainstream attention, in other words, these wines remain one of the great secrets of the Central Coast. The 2013 Xandro Reserve has a flamboyant and expressive character with a beautiful bouquet of violets, sweet new French oak, creme de cassis and mixed spices leading to a dark fruited palate of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry and succulent currant with smoke, camphor, graphite, black licorice, cinnamon stick, kirsch, spiced plum, cigar wrapper, vanilla, sage, chalky stones, mocha and cedar. Everything feels textural, thick and sensual, but there is nice vigor, power and focus, making this unique red blend very interesting and dynamic, it shows both varietals in a polished way, similar to some of new generation of westside Paso Robles, this is a deeply colored and full bodied wine, it is ripe, but with refined tannins that holds things together. The 100% Syrah “Rocco” and the Petit Verdot based “Bixby” are also sublime wines and are worth checking out, but this Xandro Reserve really delivers, this is very sexy stuff, drink from 2016 to 2023.
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This is a stunning and wonderfully textured Pinot Noir from the Alfaro family Vineyards and is one of the best values in California, period! 2013 is a fantastic vintage for Richard Alfaro’s Santa Cruz Mountains estate, the Pinots show amazing detail, beautiful fruit and with almost perfect balance with lifting acidity, lower alcohol, but with deep rich character and style. I am a huge fan of Richard’s wines and his grapes, these are wines that deserve much praise and attention, in the last few years Richard has found fans in the industry, he now sells fruit to a few superstar wineries, these include Arnot-Roberts, Big Basin and Ceritas, so now is a good time to discover this estate near Corralitos. The estate 2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot is a bright ruby color in the glass, it is nicely perfumed with violets, roses and fresh black raspberry leading the way and the palate is bursting with bing cherry, dusty plum, tangy currant and sweet smoky notes, black tea, cedar, cinnamon, anise and mineral/flinty elements along with lingering blueberry, vanilla and earthy notes. The 2013 saw about 20% new French oak and was aged about 17 months in barrel, allowing full flavors to develop and this beauty is showing fantastic, it is exciting, vibrant and packed with ripe layers highlighting the cool climate hang-time. I love the vivid juicy nature, this is a well judged and deftly crafted wine with hidden silken tannin, lush mouth feel and is thrilling from start to finish. All of Alfaro’s Pinots in 2013 are looking good, and they should age brilliantly, as well as this one you should check out his other estate offerings, the Lindsay Paige, The Mary Katherine (Organic) and the Trout Gulch. Drink the 2013 Estate bottling over the next 3 to 5 years, though I am convinced the 2013 with go a decade or more, this is tasty and well made stuff, best from 2015 to 2022.
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Olga Raffault, Chinon “Les Picasses” Loire Valley, France.
This old school and beautifully crafted Cabernet Franc is a classic example of varietal and terroir with wonderful texture, vigor and depth. The Olga Raffault wines are exceptional values, especially this Les Picasses Chinon that gives tremendous charm, character and pleasure for a remarkable price, and I also really enjoyed the 2014 Chinon Rose as well, these are world class offerings. Interesting and intriguing to note, Raffault also offers older vintage wines from the cellar, recently they releases wines from the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, all of which have thrilled those lucky few that snapped them up, I tasted an ’89 that blew me away and I also just sampled the 2006 that is still available with very positive results, these wines drink great young, but age fantastically well and at this price you should consider putting a few bottles away. The 2010 Olga Raffault Les Picasses Chinon Cabernet Franc is a dark garnet hued wine in glass with a complex nose of violets, chalk dust, leather and spice leading to a delicately layered palate of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and plum fruits emerge with green pepper, black olive, earth, mineral and animal in the background along with minty herbs, anise and cedar. As the wine unwinds a fuller sense of mouth feel comes through and the lightly grainy tannins smooth out and a nice tangy currant aftertaste lingers along with lifting acidity. This is a lovely and focused Cabernet Franc that carries it’s sense of terroir with pride, these are pure and gorgeous wine of style and class, drink the 2010 from 2015 to 2025.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Chesebro, Rose of Grenache, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
Mark Chesebro’s wines are all well made and vigorous offerings and his latest set includes some excellent choices with his Vermentino and this Grenache Rose showing really good right now. The 2014 Chesebro Rose of Grenache delivers brisk and steely coolness in the glass with bright intensity and charm with tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and zesty citrus along with mixed spices, chalk and mineral. This is a light and refreshing wine with focus and vibrant character, it lacks a bit of complexity and depth, but is very pleasant and does everything well. The Rose is available through the tasting room at Chesebro in the Carmel Valley Village, and is worth picking up if you get a chance to visit the region. Chesebro offers a solid lineup of well priced wines and they work well with food, they may not be as polished or flamboyant as some, but still should be noted these wines age well, in particular the reds and the whites always show a lot of vitality and brisk focus. Enjoy the rose of the next 6 months to a year, best from 2015 to 2017.
($18 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Albarino, Ryan Spencer Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The newest wine from Richard Alfaro is his Ryan Spencer Vineyard Albarino, a crispy divine white that is a great summer refresher, made from estate young vines that show a lot of potential for this Spanish varietal. A recent visit to Alfaro Family Vineyards revealed a great deal of excitement for some new Malbec plantings and another few hillside acres that will get mostly Pinot Noir, but the current lineup is showing fantastic with glorious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner along with this tasty Albarino, of which only 70 cases were made. The 2014 Albarino, aged in neutral oak and steel for 7 months is delicately detailed, at 13% and still has some depth, complexity and swagger with bright citrus, white flowers, unripe green apple, peach and chalky/stones with hints of hay, a touch of leesy brioche and steely vigor. This wine comes through on the palate as energy filled, brisk and a tad austere, this will appeal to old world fans, but still charms with it’s vibrancy and subtle wood notes. The light straw and gold color is lovely in the glass and it gains with cuisine, I had it with Padron peppers and salt, and a squash frittata, it was a perfect foil and the cool chill of this Albarino made it easy to quaff on a warm summer night, lovely. It will very interesting to follow Alfaro’s Albarino as the vines get some age on them, it certainly is a much more intriguing option than Sauvignon Blanc would be in this region of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which sits pretty close to the Monterey Bay and it nicely cool, not too different from northwestern Spain. Drink this white over the next year or two, best from 2015 to 2018.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2009 Caraccioli Cellars, Vintage Brut Rose, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This classy and lees Brut Rose from Caraccioli is an impressive American sparkler that is a blend of Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, done in true Methode Champenoise giving a true grower producer taste. This is a wonderful pink bubbly that delivers a stylish array of flavors and a pretty delicate color with a light salmon and orange tint in the glass with a fine bead, creamy mousse and nice vitality throughout. Not thrilled about the price, but that said, it certainly pleases the palate with bright tart cherry, citrus and strawberry notes to go with rich yeasty toast, brioche, hazelnut and a bit of earthy briar and rosewater. The mouth is vigorous and lively and the Caraccioli never dulls the senses, this has energy, depth and finish, feeling clear, transparent and light with some sexy character and it is a very alluring effort. This is rather pricy, that is true, especially when you consider the range of choices in that price class, though definitely a worthy offering, without question one of the best California sparkling wines available, drink this one over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2020. I tasted this in their fun tasting lounge in Carmel by the Sea, where they offer it by the glass at a special and fair rate, I must say and the experience was very positive and youthful, I’d go back for more without hesitation.
($57 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinvietel Reserve, In Der Schablau, Austria.
The Groiss Reserve in a much denser, richer and sweeter version of Gruner Veltliner, but with fabulous energy and balance, this is remarkable stuff that feels almost about spatlese in weight and feel. This deeper and more hedonistic wine is fairly unique, as we almost always see bone dry selections of this varietal, so it kind of throws you off a bit, being off-dry sweet, and want to compare it to Riesling, and Groiss does a fantastic job here, making a stylish and complex Gruner that while honeyed and lush also holds it’s fruit and weight in check with vigorous acidity, mineral tones and a nice play of salty/savory elements that adds dimension. The nose is lightly floral with spice, citrus, marzipan and baked peach leading to a full and decedent palate with gorgeous mouth feel with a mix of stone fruits, almond paste and wet stones. A hint of dried pineapple, saline, oyster shells, steely notes, white currant and honeycomb add complexity and there is a lingering finish of lemon/lime, minty herbs and summer melon. This was quite a treat and was amazing with spicy Chinese cuisine and curry with enough fruity character to refresh the palate and give heightened pleasure, this was a winner from start to finish. 2013 was a spectacular vintage, especially for Groiss, I wish I had got another few bottles to cellar, this one in particular would be interesting to follow, though I do admire her 2014’s as well, her drier wines are some of my favorites of the year. Drink this opulent Reserve In Der Schablau Gruner Veltliner over the next 3 to 5 years, I imagine it should be best from 2016 to 2020.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Madeleine “Maddie” Vin de Table Red, California.
Damien Georis’s Madeleine label makes some wonderful and flavorful wines including Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Pinot Blanc, plus this red blend Maddie a cuvee of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon done with a nod to the Loire Valley. The French, and Bordeaux trained, Georis also makes the namesake wines of Georis Winery in Carmel Valley, owned by Belgian Walter Georis, the famous Carmel restauranteur. Madeleine is made at Georis Winery, but is very much Damien’s own baby and are unique wines that are part of a new generation of Carmel Valley and Monterey wines. I have long been a fan of Madeleine, but this was my first chance to try the Maddie red and I was excited by what I found, this is a great little wine and a real value, it is full flavored and lush with mostly Cabernet Franc character and nice verve and focus. The Maddie 2013 starts with a dark garnet hue, a pretty nose of red fruits, spice and floral tones that leads to a medium full bodied palate of black cherry, dried currant, plum and raspberry fruits with subtle pepper, black olive and cedar notes along with a bit of chalky/stones, dusty tannins and a lift of acidity. The soft texture coats the mouth and light herbal notes, tobacco and cinnamon come up in the background, but the finish is lush and lingers with loads of fruit sweetness, making for a very pleasing experience. This wine should develop a more subtle nuance over the next year or so, maybe even gathering a austere side with time, but most people will adore it’s youthful forwardness and charm, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s vivid pink Rose of Pinot Noir is full of Pinot fruit and boldly lush to start with loads of tart cherry, a hint of blue fruit, a kiss of wood and sweet herbs and spice before quickly turning more vibrant and austere with a burst of acidity, mineral and red citrus coming to the fore. The dark pink wine has ruby edges and feels textural in the mouth, but manages to stay vinous and lively with tangy plum, peach and watermelon shinning through with some anise and earthy charm, this is a great food wine and perfect for summer, it is a full flavored Rose and is refreshing at the same time. Like I mentioned it almost tastes like a chilled red at first, but instead of feeling hard or tannic, this wine turns crisp with nice bright fruit, staying more balanced, poised and dry than I would have imagined, this is delightful and savvy stuff. On the Rose scale the Alfaro Rose of Pinot Noir is most certainly Californian, but with an almost Italian Rosato character to it, and it gives an insight into the beautiful detail and complexity of the vintage, it makes my mouth water for the upcoming releases of the Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir! The Alfaro Family Estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos is a must visit, just south of Santa Cruz city and close to Aptos, it is a cool climate site that makes for amazing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Gruner Veltliner, Albarino and Syrah. The Alfaro Rose is a tasting room wine, but can be bought on line at www.alfarowine.com as well, it is perfect right now, but should stay interesting over the next year or so, though I bet my bottles won’t last long!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Broc Cellars, Love Red, California.
Chris Brockway’s new Love Red is a juicy blend of Carignan, Valdiguie and Syrah that gives lots of personality, charm and unique character with dark fruit and vibrant layers. The nose shows crushed berries, light floral tones and spice leading to a palate of plum, blackberry, bing cherry, red peach, spiced currants and wild raspberry as well as hints of cinnamon, bramble, fennel notes. This wine is very much in keeping with Brockway’s style and is vivid, fresh and easy to quaff, the tannins are light and the acidity very tangy adding to the lift and energy, this Love Red delivers loads of fun and enjoyment. This wine joins a great new set of wines made from different varietals and done in a lighter style, wineries like Hobo Wine Company’s Folk Machine label, Arnot-Roberts, Stolpman’s Carbonc line, Donkey & Goat, Cruise Wines and classic wines like the iconic Sean Thackrey Plaeides. We really have some wonderful choices in California for interesting wines, and Broc Cellars based in Berkeley is a great label to follow, the lineup includes Sparkling Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Carignane and more small lot offerings that are worth checking out. The Broc wines are done with mostly native yeasts and neutral oak, allowing the wines to be clear and vibrant, these are lovely wines, especially this new 2014 Love Red, drink with a slight chill for refreshing summer drinking. The latest from Broc is a solid winner, drink over the next few years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Farmlands by Johan Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The gorgeous and forward Farmlands Pinot by Dag Johan Sundby of Johan Vineyards, a Norwegian winemaker in the Willamette Valley is a great all biodynamic estate wine that is full of life, vigor and class. This beauty gives you an idea of how wonderful 2014 looks set to be in Oregon and highlights the nature of Johan’s vines and the intensity of fruit, this is a sexy little Pinot Noir and a top value, so make sure you look for it and don’t miss Sundby’s other super offerings, especially his Gruner Veltliner, Rose of Pinot Noir and his main estate Pinot Noir. The 2014 Farmlands bursts from the glass with energy and lovely perfume, there is a classic spice, rose petal and mineral note to go along with a vivid light ruby hue and a richly textured palate of medium weight that jumps out at you with blue and red fruits. The core is black cherry, plum and blueberry with hints of flint and chalk dust, minty anise, cedar and dried tangy currants. The youth shows, but fine tannin and acidity are welcome in this fruit packed wine, I love it as is and certain it will entertain in style for many years to come, I really am impressed with this one and I can’t wait to see what the main Johan Estate 2014 is like next year, there is no question Dag Johan Sundby is on a roll, drink the 2014 Farmlands over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo DOCG “Villero” Piedmonte, Italy.
The latest Villero from Giacomo Fenocchio is a lush and full bodied expression of pure Nebbiolo, it may not be a 2010 and be a cellar queen, but it is a wonderful drinking wine that has all the right stuff, and I should think it will reward short to mid term aging with no problem, this is a Barolo with pedigree and substance. The 2011 Giacomo Fenocchio starts with beautiful details, nice floral perfume, spice, earth and mineral notes leading to a lavish palate of ripe cherry, juicy plum, raspberry and candied orange rind turning a bit more meaty on the mid palate along with soy sauce, black licorice, wild mushrooms and cedar. The thick tannins are polished and not too intrusive or drying, but add a firm control to the structure while a nice energy is maintained throughout, even though the acidity is more subtle in this warm vintage, overall this is a focused effort that manages it’s weight and forward character well. There is lots to enjoy here even young, and there is a lovely long finish that keeps pumping fruit for a very lengthy amount of seconds in the aftertaste with lingering cherry, strawberry, lavender, chalk/stone and dried roses. Mostly about red fruit and body at this stage, though no one will complain, and look for more complexity to form in the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2018 to 2022, that said, you can be totally thrilled in the nearer future as well, just decant and enjoy with rustic cuisine! This is a super impressive Barolo Villero from the Bussia in Monforte d’Alba, this is a label to follow along with G.D. Vajra, Brovia and Giovanni Rosso, especially in this vintage!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2006 Domaine Francois Bertheau, Chambolle-Musigny, Red Burgundy, France.
This was a pleasant surprise, I have been tasting quite a few new vintage wines and didn’t expect to be so pleased with this lovely and stylish 2006, but the Francois Bertheau Chambolle was fresh and delightful gaining depth and complexity with every minute of air and turning into quite a fine expression of grape and place. The 2006 Domaine Francois Bertheau starts a bit reduced with some earth, funk, graphite and some hard edges, but with only a few swirls in the glass things change for the better with dried roses, pretty herbs and red currant fruit emerging in nice detail and in the mouth a lush array of cherry, raspberry, tangy plum and red peach start flowing along with a hint of green olive, camphor, forest floor, chalky stones and tobacco leaf. Every is bright and vigorous, juicy acidity keeping things from getting muddled, for a few more moments, then this Pinot Noir unveils an inner softness and a tender side when the tannin seems to turn to silk and the fruit turns delicate and flowing with strawberry and cedar lingering with traces of rosewater on the succulent finish. This should drink well for another 3 to 5 years easy, it is not overly dark in color and feels old school and light hearted, but it delivers more than enough to keep a huge smile on your face and looks like a good value when comparing Chambolle prices, this is a solid wine that would be a great find on a wine list, drink from 2016 to 2021.
($79 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Lagier Meredith, Syrah, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
The husband and wife team of Dr. Carole Meredith, the renown grape varietal researcher, and Steve Lagier are making some of the most impressive wines ever to come from Mount Veeder, high above the Napa Valley in the Mayacamas range. Every vintage seems to get better and better here at Lagier Meredith, and Steve Lagier did a fantastic job crafting the latest 2012 vintage wines from this estate, especially his Syrah, which is one of the best in the state. Along with this fantastic Syrah they also do Tribidrag, the grape as known as Zinfandel, of which Carole was instrumental in discovering it’s origins in Croatia, as well as Mondeuse, a rare Savoie grape that has found a nice home up on Mount Veeder, both are well worth checking out. This 2012 Lagier Meredith Syrah starts with a heady mix of perfume and spice with crushed violets, red pepper flakes, espresso and cassis leading to a gripping palate of medium to full weight that reminds you of Guigal’s Cote-Rotie in many ways with lush texture and deep character, showing racy plum, blueberry, fig paste, boysenberry and kirsch along with camphor, bacon, graphite/mineral, cedar, peppercorns, flinty stone and a touch of vanilla stick. I’m a huge fan of this wine that is most certainly a California wine, but one that shows it’s Northern Rhone heritage in gorgeous fashion with a hint of black olive and stems in the background. Alban, Stolpman, Samsara, Pax, Bedrock, Pisoni, Sandlands and Arnot-Roberts lead the way for top Syrah in California in recent years, and this Lagier Meredith joins these elites as well as the likes of Cayuse and Sine Qua Non with this effort. If you like Syrah at all you’ll love this one, and this vintage should develop further in the next 3 to 5 years, be sure not to miss it, best from 2016 to 2022, though it will be damn hard to resist it’s charms as is! This is awesome Syrah!
($50 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Dugat-Py, Gevrey-Chambertin “Cuvee Coeur de Roy” Tres Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
Bernard Dugat-Py’s stunningly gorgeous Gevrey Coeur de Roy 2013 is one of the most moving and captivating Pinots I’ve tried all year, but it comes at a hefty cost, in fact it comes in at a Grand Cru price, and that is tough to shallow, even though I absolutely admire and adore the quality and depth here, it is truly a great wine. The 2013 Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvee Coeur de Roy old vines is a pure and unfiltered Burgundy with silken layers and deep fruit complexity, it is nobility and elegance in the glass with an enticing and subtle perfume, a fairly dark hue of ruby and bright garnet and medium bodied palate as well as a spectacularly lingering and haunting finish. The Domaine is run by Bernard, Loic and Jocelyne Dugat-Py, the thirteenth generation of family winemakers here at Dugat-Py, they family only their own vines, never buying grapes or wine, they farm organic and have mostly vines older than 65 years old, they believe in traditional and artisan winemaking with an amazing attention to detail from the vineyard to the glass. The Cuvee Coeur de Roy comes from vines 50 to 100 years old, one plot was planted in 1910, they are set on clay and limestone soils and have been biodynamic since 1999, these old vines give such intensity the wine sees 100% new French oak and was aged in barrel for about 18 months, this seems hard to believe when tasting as there is very little trace of oak present, such is the quality and power of the fruit. The nose starts with soft floral tones of wilted roses, hints of violets and moves to spices, earth and black fruit before guiding to the mouth where the remarkable play of texture, energy and fruit is mind blowing, this is the real deal with glorious feel and poise showing black cherry, plum, raspberry, strawberry and blackberry fruits with subtle pepper, cedar, anise and clove along with cinnamon, wild mushroom, dusty tannins and a beam of acidity lifting the pleasure factor higher. Sweet and savory caresses continue on and on here, with rose oil, dried currants, pipe tobacco and a delicate trace of smoky toast, and I couldn’t help fall in love with this Dugat-Py, and I do hope to re-visit this beauty again, it is opulent, decedent and hedonistic Pinot Noir at it’s finest, very impressive, drink from 2018 to 2024.
($240 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Le P’tit Paysan, Le P’tit Pape, San Benito County.
Ian Brand’s Le P’tit Paysan based in Salinas is a wonderful winery focusing on Central Coast grapes, mostly in Monterey and just north in San Benito County, where they have some great old vine vineyards that are starting to get some real attention, and that love is showing in Brand’s well crafted Le P”tit Pape, a tasty treat Chateauneuf du Pape style Rhone blend. The 2012 Le P’tit Paysan Le P’tit Pape is 53% Grenache, 28% Syrah and 19% Mourvedre and it is rich, delightfully fresh and spicy with a cascade of flavors, nice grip and lovely finish with a nose of red fruit, wild herbs, chalky stones, light floral notes and a hint of framboise. The palate lined with fine grained tannins shows raspberry, boysenberry, red cherry and pomegranate fruits along with lavender, anise, peppercorns, a touch of leather, dusty gravel and light cedar, finishing with a play of savory elements and pleasing cassis. This nicely balanced red blend is showing well right now and is a superb value in it’s price class, Brand is really making some good wines, as well as this one, he is doing a Viognier and Chardonnay, both exciting wines with loads of character and interest, and under the La Marea label a single varietal Mourvedre, Albarino and Grenache, also worth searching out. The Le P’tit Pape 2012 is a stylish effort that is a wine to drink in the next 2 to 3 years, it is really hitting it’s stride right now, though I might put a couple of bottles away, it might be very rewarding to re-visit in 5 to 10 years time, this is fun stuff, best from 2015 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo DOCG, Del Comune di Serralunga D’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
The new Giovanni Rosso Barolo Serralunga by Davide Rosso is absolutely outstanding, and it seriously seduces from the first sip, this is wonderfully textured Nebbiolo of richness and purity with firm, but velvet gloved tannins and stunning length. Even young and robust in the glass the Rosso Barolo delivers glorious detail and depth with a beautiful perfume of violets, herbs and rose petals along with subtle meatiness, earth and mineral leading to a mouth filling palate that highlights the warm vintage with full bodied fruit. Still this is an old school wine with deft winemaking and refined class, it is totally transparent and it’s opulence is a reflection of nature and a show of it’s place, the layers are seamless and flowing and there is no overt wood or embellishment, just a gorgeous mix of fruit, savory elements and structural pillars, this is a balanced Barolo that drinks superb now and will age gracefully for many years to come. The main thrust is a core of black cherry, damson plum, fig paste, blueberry and a touch of strawberry fruits with wild mushroom, beef stock, minty herbs, black licorice, gravel stones and cedar spice, and finishes with dried currants and candied citrus rind. The lift from acidity and slight bite of dusty tannins really are well integrated, though certainly you’ll want cuisine to match this Barolo, drink this beauty over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2026. This is another stunning wine from Davide Rosso, I highly recommend getting his Giovanni Rosso offerings from this Barolo Serralunga to his basic Barbera, Langhe Nebbiolo and his Grand Cru class “Serra” Barolo, which is not cheap, but oh so good, Davide Rosso and Giuseppe Vajra are my top picks for the winemaker of the year in Piedmonte!
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Villages, White Burgundy, France.
The latest from Dominique Lafon’s Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon is a quite extraordinary Macon-Villages, an entry level offering that will certainly please almost any white Burgundy lover, it is precise, vibrant and surprisingly deep and complex. I tasted it over two days and found the immediate pleasure and youth charming with upfront acidity, mineral and subtlety, while over the next hours and day it grew in dimension and developed a rich leesy mouthfeel, gained texture and showed a polish and poise you’d expect from a much grander appellation, in fact it will be a real sleeper in a blind tasting, as long as it gets a bit of decanting. The nose is shy still with hints of white flowers, hay, wet stones, mixed citrus and clove leading the way to a vibrant and racy palate of lime, lemon, green apple and tart pear fruit along with light hazelnut, brioche, saline, chalk rock, chilled melon and lemongrass. fresh from the bottle everything is vigorous, bright and zesty, with air everything opens up and crunchy mineral, hints of smoke and fine lees add to the complexity as well as peach flesh and faint tropical notes. This wine really over achieves and is a Chardonnay of life and class, and for the price, a must have bargain in quality Burgundy, very impressive again from Lafon, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
n.v. Andre et Mireille Tissot, Cremant de Jura Rose Extra Brut, Sparkling wine, France.
The Benedicte & Stephane Tissot Rose Extra Brut Rose is a thing of beauty, this sublime example of Crement de Jura really delivers and stuns for the price, this wonderful dry bubbly certainly stacks up against top Champagnes and is at a price where you can just enjoy it now, no special occasions needed to pop this almost quilt free sparkler. The Tissot Rose is crafted from Pinot Noir, Poulsard and a touch of Trousseau and it tastes and feels like a grower producer, it has depth, character and charm with luxurious layers and a fine mousse. The Andre et Mireille Tissot Crement de Jura Rose Extra Brut starts with a heady yeasty note with subtle rose water, hazelnut and mineral elements along with a touch of citrus, tart cherry and brioche, plus wet stones, strawberry and white plum. This is super tasty stuff with a gorgeous salmon/pink hue, creamy beading bubbles and vivid transparency along with serious mouth feel and lavish style. It is hard not to gush over this method traditional sparkling wine from the wilds of the Cotes du Jura, but let’s just say I highly recommend getting some, or a lot of this, I know I’ll be drinking more than a few bottles in the near future! The compelling bouquet, vibrant dry nature, a subtle complex mix of floral, fruit and savory/stony, along with class, elegance and verve make this a glorious offering from Tissot, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau Pech-Latt, Corbieres, Selection Vieilles Vignes, France.
This is a terrific Syrah based old vine Corbieres that is all organic and made with natural winemaking techniques, it is full of flavor and has a true terroir character. Mosty Syrah with small amounts of Grenache and Carignan this Chateau Pech-Latt is a super example of luxurious and vigorous Corbieres with dark fruit charm, spicy pop and earthy soul, I was very impressed, it might be my favorite ever Corbieres! The nose starts with dried violets, warm clay tiles, blackberry and a hints of sticky lavender leading to a palate of blueberry, boysenberry and tart plum fruit with touches of wild mushroom, bacon, red and black pepper, gravel and salted licorice. This wine pleases from start to finish with a nice streak of zesty acidity and fine grain tannin holding it together, at 14% this is not a lightweight, but still feels vibrant and fresh, though it does fill the mouth and has length and legs, it will give a few Crozes and Cornas a run for the money. This was my first time tasting the Chateau Pech-Latt and it was a great first impression and experience, I highly recommend looking for this lovely Corbieres, it has all the right stuff with focused fruit and nice savory elements, this is very savvy, jazzy and entertaining wine, drink from 2015 to 2022.
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 J.K. Carriere, Pinot Noir, Antionette, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Jim Prosser’s latest set of Pinots are majestic and especially gorgeous and outstanding the 2012 Antionette is one of the stars of the vintage. The Antionette is a barrel selection, but it comes mostly from old vine plots at Temperance Hill from what I gather and it shows amazing focus and is wonderfully layered, it was fermented with wild yeast with the wine aged in French oak of which one barrel was new out of the seven made of the 2012 Antionette, a wine named for Jim’s grandmother. The vintage shines through here, this is a lavish and beautifully detailed Pinot Noir with vivid and lush flavors, a deep color and polished silky tannins, but because of the elevation, cool site and vigorous acidity everything is balanced, refined and almost perfect with about 13.5% alcohol, making for a Grand Cru class effort that should age well and drink fantastic for years to come, as well as now. The 2012 Antionette starts with rose petals, violets and currant notes on the nose with subtle cinnamon, briar and flinty spices leading to a densely filled palate of graceful fruits including black cherry, plum and blackberry along with tea spice, clove, anise and mineral tones, light toast and cedar. The finish in this elegant Willamette is lingering with deep fruit that has lengthy staying power with wild strawberry, racy candied citrus and framboise floating in the background, look for savory and natural earthy elements to develop over time and add to the complexity and charm, drink from 2016 to 2024. Wow, what a wine, what a vintage and what a winemaker, this is stunning stuff, I highly recommend grabbing this awesome wine, and checking out all the J.K. Carriere offerings, I was very impressed with everything I tasted from Jim Prosser, in particular this Antionette, but also the Vespidae, Gemini and his 2013 Provocateur were exceptional!
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2014 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
The new Vajra Dolcetto is bright, tangy and full of personality, even in what was a fairly trying vintage, and it delivers it’s usual excellence with charm, poise and style, this is another beauty from Giuseppe Vajra. Coming from vines in the heart of the Barolo zone the 2014 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto starts with a deep ruby red color and a nose that has dark berry, herbs, spice and light floral tones leading to a zesty youthful palate of black cherry, tart cranberry, a peachy/citrusy juicy note and a plum fruit core along with wild fennel, dried currant, a hint of wet earth, grey salt, oyster shell and a touch of vine picked wild berry. There is vivid acidity and feather light tannins in this lighter style Dolcetto, there is a sense of vintage and terroir marking this wine and while not as gorgeous and expressive as 2010 or 2011, this lovely Dolcetto is worth searching out, as are all of Vajra’s offerings. As well as this little gem, you should really keep an eye out for the Vajra Riesling, easily the best Italian dry example of this grape, their Barolo bottlings of course, and the Freisa Kye, an exotic and stunning impression. No question, if you love Barbera, Nebbiolo or Dolcetto you should be already a Vajra fan, and this 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba is a really fine place to start if you’ve not had a chance to try these wines, it really is a nice red that is pure joy in the glass, drink from 2015 to 2019.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
nv Domaine Rimbert, Cousin Oscar, on se l’ arrache, Vin de France Rouge, Languedoc, France.
The fresh young vine Cinsault from Domaine Rimbert’s Saint-Chinian estate Cousin Oscar is a charming, playful and easy drinking Vin de France red that comes in at only 11.5% and tastes bright, fresh and spicy. Jean-Marie Rimbert has some fun with this one and we all benefit, this is all 2014 vintage 100% Cinsault, it shows classic Roussillon character and should be enjoyed over the next year or so. The latest Cousin Oscar “On se l’ arrache” named after a family member with a fancy reputation for enjoying many a women’s company, wink, wink, starts with a mix of raspberry, blueberry, cherry and dried currant fruits along with cracked peppercorns, chalk dust, flinty/mineral notes, roasted herbs, lavender, warm stones and red spices. Light to medium bodied and with a balanced mix of savory and fruit flavors this Cinsault impresses for interesting and pleasing drinking and the finish is crispy tart with some strawberry and anise lingering, this stuff is nice summer and BBQ vino!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc “500” Trocken, Pfalz, Germany.
The von Winning Sauvignon Blancs are game changers for this varietal, they are without a doubt some of the best Sauvignon Blanc offerings in the world, and in particular the von Winning Sauvignon Blanc 500 stands out and above, it will take you places you could not imagine from this grape and especially the place! People will talk about the great dry Sauvignons from Graves, like Haut-Brion or even the newer Cos d’Estournel white, both fine white Bordeaux, though silly expensive, but if you want to be completely blown away you must try this German Sauvignon Blanc, from the sandstone and limestone soils of the Pfalz. Done with “500” Halbstuck oak cask, hence the name, to give richness and smoky/sweet oak character, the 2013 is surprisingly finessed, elegant and detailed with intense acidity and mind-bending length, this is an absolute stunner, seriously one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tasted, period. It is a wine of a certain style, no question, it has lots of wood and it has massive power, texture and hedonistic pleasure or rock star personality, but even if you are a Dagueneau or true Sancerre fan you’ll be seduced and swept away in this wine’s charm and layers, and it casts aside almost any dry white Bordeaux offering. This wine may have been modeled after some of the best white Bordeaux wines, but it leaves them in the dust, and considering I’m not a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan and not given to like oaky ones especially, this wine certainly opened my eyes! The Weingut von Winning “500” comes from Paradiesgarten, and high density plantings, with winemaking more in style of Grand Cru white Burgundy, in fact, while you can be certain of varietal, you can relate this beautiful wine to a top Chablis such is the grace, drive and seriousness. The 2013 is less oaky/smoky than the 2011 or 2012 versions and the added delicacy truly is remarkable, it starts with wet stones, smoke, white flowers and a hint of quince before a palate of lemon/lime, white peach, grapefruit, melon and tropical notes along with a huge mouth feel, zesty acidity and mineral tones. The vanilla and creme brulee notes are more subtle than prior vintages, plus there is a chalky earthy element and the wine unfolds in modest fashion revealing layer after layer, this is utterly fantastic Sauvignon Blanc and the finish is gorgeous with hints of nectarine, gravel, lemon curd, custard/toffee and verbena. Look for even greater things in the future too, this young wine has plenty more to offer with time in the cellar, drink from 2017 to 2024, wow this is sexy stuff, and while I’m a total geek for Riesling, this is one of the wines of the year so far, no question.
($67 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2013 Silvestri, Barbera, Estate, Carmel Valley.
Alan Silvestri’s estate in Carmel Valley is really coming into it’s own, producing many fine offerings and especially good in this 2013 vintage is the estate Barbera which is fast becoming one of my favorite Carmel Valley wines. Alan Silvestri, the Oscar winning composer, is a Syrah lover and his two Syrah bottlings are really good too, then there is his promising Pinot Noirs, which are the best yet in 2013, along with a new Pinot Noir Rose that is showing nicely, but I just adore his Barbera, it is a lovely wine with deep fruit and bright acids making for a very pleasing and balanced effort. I love highlighting wines from my hometown, I’m very proud of the place and it is great to see a new generation of winemaking and varietals become successful, for a longtime it was only Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc with tiny amounts of Chardonnay that made any impression, but now there is much more quality stuff showing up and scores of new wineries, the main grape now showing the most promise is Pinot Noir and Carmel Valley has about a dozen producers making superb wines, Silvestri, Holman Ranch, Albatross Ridge, Figge and more are doing some of the most exciting. Syrah also is doing well and a few whites, like Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Viognier and Galante is doing a great Sauvignon Blanc, so Carmel Valley is on a roll, and in particular Silvestri is an estate to discover, and if you are in Carmel-by-the-Sea you should sample the wines at their tasting room, between San Carlos and Dolores Streets on 7th. The 2013 Silvestri Estate Barbera starts with crushed raspberry, mixed flowers and spices with a deep garnet hue in the glass leading to a palate of tangy blackberry, bing cherry, plum and dried currant fruit along with light tannins and lifting acidity that give the wine focus. In the background there is minty herbs, chalk dust, strawberry, blueberry and basil notes as well as soft cedar and a hint of anise in this easy and medium weight Barbera, it is drinking delightful and fresh now, but should prove to be solid short to mid-term effort, best from 2016 to 2020, though I really think it is ready to go now, especially with pasta, pizza, burgers and even BBQ, this is tasty and interesting Piedmonte inspired wine.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Albert Boxler, Chasselas, Alsace, France.
This cooly crisp and stylish white from Alsace is an interesting and dry detailed wine that really pleases, made from Chasselas, a grape much more common in the higher elevations of the Savoie and in Switzerland. The Boxler Chasselas starts with vibrancy and lots of steely citrus showing hints of white flowers, lemon/lime, white peach and tangy melon. With a bit of air you get some wet river stones, a hint of tropical fruit, creamy pear and a touch of flinty spice, making this a charming lighter style white that is well crafted. This is very clear and transparent stuff, pure and mineral driven with subtle earthy tones and light herb notes, it also has a very smooth and polished mouth feel without having weight or sweetness while still having a a certain briskness, this is impressive and is superb with shellfish and cheeses. After tasting through almost all of Boxler’s lineup of 2013’s I find myself wondering if this Chasselas is not their best offering, really it is that poised and enjoyable, I honestly though the Rieslings were seriously dull in comparison! Now that Kermit Lynch imports Albert Boxler it shouldn’t be too hard to find this wine, and I think you should try it, it is a truly a brilliant effort and another must have for summer, best to drink this one over the next 2 to 3 years and celebrate it’s lovely freshness, I want a few bottles myself to pair with mussels, claims and maybe some oysters!
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Pieropan, Sauve Classico DOC, Veneto, Italy.
The 2014 Sauve Classico by Pieropan is fabulous and a gorgeous white wine that almost reminds me of a great Condrieu! The Pieropan Classico is made from all organic 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Sauve (the same as Ugni Blanc) grown on hillside plots and hand tended, Pieropan ferments and ages the Sauve Classico in glass lined cement vats, it is always aged on the lees, all of which really shows in the quality and detail of this beautiful wine. The nose is full of white flowers, crushed stones and peach leading to a stylish palate of vitality and class with honeysuckle, tangerine, apricot, steely mineral elements, verbena, brioche and melon notes as well as vibrant acidity and a background of delicacy and subtle spice, earth and clarified creme. While not as intense as Viognier in it’s purest form, this lovely Pieropan really excels and has that evocative perfume, grace and sex appeal that you find in Condrieu, this is impressive stuff, and this is their “normale” basic example! When I was young I used to buy jugs of Sauve, it was always an easy white wine and great with picnics, days at the beach and a good seafood wine, and now, going full circle I’m finding the quality showing in the top estates reaching new heights, Pieropan and Gini are making awesome stuff these days and they can rival anything in their price class! This 2014 Pieropan Sauve Classico is a stunner, drink this over the next 2 or 3 years, if you want a great example of Garganega and of special terroir, you should grab a few bottles of this beauty, best from 2015 to 2019.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino, Barolo DOCG “Cascina Dardi-Bussia” Piedmonte, Italy.
This new 2010 Fantino Dardi-Bussia is a real head turner with loads of sex appeal and depth, this is a true Barolo that offers everything you could want and delivers on it’s promise even in it’s youth. Casino Dardi is the new trademarked name for Vigna dei Dardi, for those that know the Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino wines, it means the vines are in a certain place within Bussia with the perfect exposure and soils giving wines of deeper color, richer fruit and more finessed tannic structure, the Fantino’s make classic Baroli, but one that is enjoyable even early in it’s life, and while stunning now they can age too. The ruby/garnet Casino Dardi Barolo starts with floral tones, mineral and spice along with red fruits and earthy allure leading to a powerful palate of damson plum, mixed cherry and tangy currant fruits with cinnamon, black licorice, pipe tobacco, rose petals, pepper, porcini/wild mushroom, saline, cedar and a touch of strawberry essence. There is a firm bite of tannins, a juicy lift of acidity and savory elements that hold back the fruit, this Barolo is wonderfully balanced and has plenty of room to grow in the future. I can only imagine how good the upper end old vine Fantino offerings, the Rieserva and the Vigne Vecchie will be, but this Casino Dardi-Bussia from 21 year old vines is a great deal and a glorious Nebbiolo that over delivers in this price range, don’t miss this Kermit Lynch import, and while it will be easy to drink them all now, put a few bottles away and be awesomely rewarded in 5 to 10 years! The latest set of wines from Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino are all worthy of attention, these are old school traditional bottlings with character and detail, especially this 2010 Barolo from a stellar vintage, drink from 2016 to 2026.
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2013 Waxwing, Syrah, Lester Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Scott Sisemore’s San Francisco based micro-winery Waxwing Wine Company is a label to discover after a handful of vintages he is making some really good juice, all small lots of cool climate offerings, especially good are his Sonoma Coast Pinots and Syrah wines, but he also crafts a tasty Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah from Lester Family Vineyard. The Lester Family Vineyard at Deer Park not far from Aptos and very close to the ocean is a sandy/loamy soiled site that catches marine influence and lives on ancient seabed, the cool air allows long hang time and smooth tannin development, but with good acidity and lower alcohol, Scott has made the most of these qualities here in his 2013 Syrah, which he fermented whole cluster and soaked on the skins for seven days. The results are impressive, the 2013 Lester Family Syrah by Waxwing shows rich fruit intensity, silky fine grained tannins, lifting acidity and chocolatey texture, it was raised for 18 months in once used French oak and has a very pleasing mouth feel and a deep purple and garnet hue. The nose starts with crushed flowers, cinnamon stick and peppery spices with hints of dark berry and liqueur leading to a full bodied palate of blackberry, plum and sweet cherry fruits with mocha, new leather, anise and wild herbs and a hint of stems along with cedar and vanilla notes. This is a decedent Hermitage clone Syrah that is drinking ripe and forward young, but with it’s subtle complexity and structure I believe it might be interesting to tuck a few bottles away for another 2 to 5 years, I think it will really bring out some extra depth and character, and at 13.4% there is no drama of heat or loss off freshness, this is fun stuff and the finish is expressive with hints of cassis, blueberry, celery root and fudge lingering on and on.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Janus, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Brooks winery is an inspirational tale starting with passion, leading to heartbreak and then to love of family and responsibility and I’m honored to have had an early look in on this great journey in American wine and it was a pleasure to catch up with Janie Brooks Heuck and taste through the new releases. The Brooks wines are lovely, dynamic and filled with life, they are well crafted and have plenty of acidity to keep their fans happy, especially standing out right now are the 2012 Dry Yamhill-Carlton Riesling, the 2014 Pinot Blanc and the gorgeous 2012 Janus Pinot Noir. I remember tasting some of the first Brooks Pinot with the late Jimi Brooks, looking back it was a very special moment in time, and though sad he isn’t around now, you can still feel his presence and influence in these wines and certainly within his family, these wines truly possess his soul. Jimi liked lean and energy filled wines, and that tradition is strong, but this 2012 Janus has that something extra and really puts the vintage in the bottle with extra depth and generous character, this wine is a glorious example of year and place. The nose lifts from the glass with rose petal and hints of violets, red spice and soft earthy fruits leading to a beautiful and detailed palate of juicy plums, cherry, raspberry and currant fruits with marvelous textural harmony and mouth feel as well as a complex background with pepper, cinnamon, dried fennel, tea notes, fresh tilled earth and a touch of oak with cedar and light vanilla bean. Chris Williams, Winemaker, did a masterful job here putting all the elements together, this is top shelf juice and he deserves a lot of credit for reaching new heights of talent with his latest set of wines. If you admire Pinot Noir, no matter where from, be it Burgundy or the new world this wine will please and seduce you,it has a core of vibrant acid and silky ripe tannins holding the fruit in place, but allowing everything to shine in graceful fashion, for me it is one of the best all round quality offerings out there and one of the finest Brooks to date, it is also a deal, so don’t miss this new Janus it is a focused and lovely Pinot Noir, drink from 2015 to 2024.
($39 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Lapierre, Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, France.
The latest Lapierre is a beauty, the non sulphur cuvee “N” is the offering Kermit Lynch sells in the US in 750ml bottles and it is an outstanding Gamay showing more vitality and charm in this vintage than I can ever remember, this is a wine not to miss. I’ve been a fan of Lapierre since the 2006 and 2007 vintages, and along with Foillard are my favorite Morgon producers, these guys take Gamay to the next level, year in and year out, though I must say the 2013 Lapierre is something very special and is my favorite vintage, even getting my nod over the famously exotic and deep 2009, but by the thinnest of margins. The 2013 is more subtle and finessed than many vintages, but still has depth and gorgeous detail, plus the finish is the best yet in my book for this cuvee, it was truly spectacular in a recent tasting, and while there can be some bottle differences, I sampled three bottles and they all were absolutely stunning. The nose is perfumed with dried violets, acacia and fresh picked plum leading to a palate of cherry, blackberry, strawberry and tart currant fruits with sweet walnut oil, cedar and snappy minty herb, pepper and light earthy notes. There is a burst of red peach, flesh and stone along with a hint of saline that adds freshness and balance plus silken tannins and a bright lift of acidity, this is an easy wine to love and it flows gracefully with superb mouth feel and life. The finish is haunting with lingering cinnamon and lavender laced plumy red fruit, the Lapierre Morgon is totally rewarding and expressive, I imagine this one gaining with another few years in bottle and being best from 2016 to 2021, but then again I would be hard pressed to wait on this baby! This is really lovely stuff, pure, natural and terroir driven with the house’s style stamped on it, not always easy to find, but well worth the search, especially this 2013.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Pra, Soave Classico DOC “Otto” Veneto, Italy.
Made from mostly Garganega the Pra Soave is a crisp and gentile white of fine character and class, with subtle fruit and good detail and length, this in fact is one of the top whites from the Veneto and is a wonderful summer and or sea food wine. The 2014 is aromatic and poised with fresh acidity and cool mineral tones, it certainly pairs with clams, mussels and creamy cheeses, the profile here is delicacy and balance with lemon/lime, white peach and summer melon along with a hint of dandelion, wet stones, clay dust and basil with a touch of sea shells. Everything feels brisk and alive with a light bodied mouth feel, but with underlying depth, this is a pretty wine that does everything you ask of it, it has a nice steely charm and it pleases easily, solid effort again for Pra, proving it’s reputation for quality and style in Soave, drink from 2015 to 2018.
($22 Est.)91 Points, grapelive
2012 Braida “il Baciale” Monferrato Rosso DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Braida was one of the pioneers in elevating Barbera to Cru class and their commitment to this varietal hasn’t let up and this Barbera based blend “Il Baciale” is another gorgeous, generous and savvy wine with distinction and verve. This dark and medium/full bodied effort storms out of the gate with blackberry, cherry and plum along with minty herbs, anise, wild flowers and cedar offering richness and held together with acidity and ripe tannins. Giacomo Bologna’s il Baciale is a mix of 60% Barbera, 20% Pinot Nero, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and is fermented in steel, separately and then raised in cask, with some parts in small barrique, this is a lot of wine for the money and it shows rich detail and texture, best with rustic and vibrant cuisines, especially meat dishes. The finish lingers with spice, cinnamon and dried currants, this is super tasty stuff, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 The Sadie Family, Columella “Liberatus in Castro Bonae Spei” Proprietary Red, Swartland, South Africa.
The Columella by Eben Sadie is one of the great wines of the world, I cannot stress that enough and is one of the finest Rhone blends I’ve ever tasted, without a doubt the most impressive South African wine to date, along with Storm Pinot Noir and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay are among the mind blowing offerings coming from the Southern Hemisphere. It’s no secret The Sadie Family wines are amazing wines and the Columella has been made since 2000, but I’ve not had a taste before and I was floored by the 2012 recently when I tried it, their importer Broadbent Selections was kind enough to sample some. To give you an idea how good I mean, the Columella reminds me of Beaucastel’s Reserve Homage Jacques Perrin or a great vintage of Rayas, it is monumental red Rhone blend, for those in the new world think; Cayuse, Saxum or Sine Qua Non, it is mostly Syrah with a good dose of Mourvedre and Grenache, plus possibly though not listed or confirmed a tiny bit of Cinsault is likely. This wine has redefined my opinion of top end South African wines, and certainly this wine is expensive, it proves it’s worth in detail, finesse and style, it is hand crafted with gifted talent and loving care. Fermented with some whole cluster, aged in barrel for about 12 months with between 5% and 10% new wood, that is something 2 new barriques out of the 18 to 20 barrels made per vintage, then the wine rests in large neutral founders until bottling, with usual alcohol in the 13.5 to 14% range. The 2012 Columella is gorgeously proportioned and deep with a nose of intoxicating floral and spice with a medium dark hue that learns towards garnet with ruby edges leading to a full, but impeccably balanced palate with utterly spectacular textural mouth feel and depth with blueberry, boysenberry, earthy mulberry and damson plum fruits, violets, dried roses, cracked pepper, bacon/meaty notes, lavender, melted black licorice, cedar, tobacco leaf and light creme de cassis as well as glazed strawberry and dusty mineral/stone tones. This is wildly seductive wine, bursting with energy, focus and pure class and the lingering finish will haunt your dreams for days, just ravishing stuff, drink over the decade to come, this is a buy it if you see it effort from Sadie, best from 2016 to 2025.
($79-90 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2012 Quarticello “Neromaestri” Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy.
Roberto Maestri’s Quarticello Meromaestri Lambrusco Emilia is a dry and tannic Lambrusco that is made from Lambrusco Maestri 50%, Lambrusco Grasparossa 30%, Malbo Gentile 10%, Ancellotta 10% and it perfect for serious Secco Lambrusco lovers, it has a severe and austere style, meaty/sanguine with a beautiful blue/black hue. This bold Lambrusco is not fruity or sweet at all, in fact it is a bit shocking at first with crisp mineral toned coolness, with intense dark fruits a light mousse and plenty of grip. This has some rustic charm with hints of leather, horse and earth adding some bite and savory vigor, though there is detailed and pretty layers as well with roasted herbs, floral notes, bitter coco, anise and lots of blackberry and cherry fruit, this is a food wine first and for most and it will be seriously good with grilled meats, cold cuts, cheeses and I loved it with a mound of pasta. With air and cuisine this sparkling red turns on the class and shows why Roberto Maestri is the talent he is, this gains delicacy and everything becomes heightened and focused, while dusty dry in style it really is a fantastic wine. Look for black fig, plum and cedar to linger here and I highly recommend taking a look at the Quarticello line from Roberto Maestri, especially this darkly fantasyic Neromaestri, drink this anytime, and over the next year or so, another stunning effort.
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haut Vallee du Gassac Blanc, L’ Herault Languedoc White, France.
This has become an iconic wine of the the south of France with an exotic blend of varietals that make it totally unique in character. The lovely and stylish Gassac Blanc is a blend of Chardonnay 25%, Viognier 25%, Petite Manseng 25% and Chenin Blanc 25% which add up to a white that has mix of flavors that take you from Condrieu to Chassagne and to Montlouis in the Loire with a bit of Jurancon thrown in! This layered wine, about 13% alcohol, starts with white flowers, hazelnut, clarified cream, brioche and wild peach with tangerine and lemon bursting through on the mid palate. The core opens to apple, pear, tropical essence, dried honey and apricot with liquid mineral, chalk and toasty notes that flow seamlessly and fill the mouth with refined textural feel and class, without question this is gorgeous wine. While expensive and a touch annoyingly arrogant, I can’t help but love the Mas de Daumas Gassac “Grand Cru of the Languedoc” wines, both this one and their Cabernet based red, though this 2013 Blanc might be the best offering to date and should drink well for a decade, best from 2015 to 2022, it is pretty damn good!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Mas Grand Plagniol, Costieres de Nimes, Rhone Red, France.
The 2014 Plagniol Rouge, a fine light to medium bodied effort is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache from the old vines around Nimes in the Gard, and while this is typically thought of as in the greater Languedoc, the wines are officially Rhone Appellation d’Orgine Controlee (AOC) and have been since 1986. This is lovely, easy and delightful stuff, the Mas Grand Plagniol Rouge Costieres de Nimes is vibrant, spicy and has just a just of game and earth, but with nice bright dark fruits, it drinks well with almost any food choices and is a go to party or bistro style red. I adore the juicy nature and quaff factor, there’s no pretense and while not overly serious or complex, it does everything well with hints of violets, white pepper, warm stones and garrique to go along with blackberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry fruits. Ripe tannins and a nice cut of acidity keep this from feeling weighty, and it certainly doesn’t pack an alcoholic punch, this is just a fun Rhone blend to have a few smiles and laughs with, it should take to much thought or ask anything of you. I’ve been a fan and customer of this wine since around 2000, it has always been a great value, and the white blend it also a savvy choice as well, both are no quilt wines that deliver quality and stylish lighthearted drinking, best from 2015 to 2017.
($12 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC, Austria.
Here’s another exceptional release from Groiss, and while 2013 remains the absolute star vintage in a generation the 2014 wines are really lovely and will not disappoint, especially this one. The 2014 Ingrid Groiss Guner Veltliner Weinviertel starts off earthy/cheesy, tightly wound and charmingly rustic with dusty stones, bread dough, forest floor notes and salted citrus before unfolding it’s brisk acidity and delicacy of fruit and mineral tones, it takes a while before the rush of flavors blossom, in fact I was stunned to find on day two a much more intense wine with an almost backward evolution, it shines after some air and time revealing more depth, power and extract plus it just get’s about to 2013 levels of thrill and enjoyment, even if it is slow to get there, this is very impressive stuff again from Ingrid Groiss. There is vivid lemon/lime, green melon, bitter almond, white pepper, baked clay, yeast, steely liquid mineral and zesty brine and white peach, it is more subtle at first, but this light Gruner has all the right stuffing and should prove interesting and pleasing for 3 to 5 years, it might be best to give it another 3 to 6 months if you can keep your hands off it, best from 2016 to 2020, the finish day one is crisp with wild mushroom and grapefruit, and day two there is a bit more apricot and stones. I highly recommend discovering these wines by Ingrid Groiss, the 2013’s if you can find them are mind-blowing and these new 2014’s are not far off either, her stuff is not easy to get, but well worth the search, she is my new favorite producer from Austria and a wonderful talent.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
nv Stephane Serol, Turbullent, Natural Sparkling Gamay Rose, Cote Roannaise, Loire Valley, France.
This pretty and fun Turbullent “Pet Nat” style méthode ancestrale sparkling Rosé of Gamay by Domaine Serol in the Cote Roannaise is a great summer wine with class, live and plenty of allure. This all natural and organic wine is made from 100% Gamay, hand picked and sorted, fermented in cement vats, temp controlled to keep cold until 7% then finishes fermenting in bottle to 8.5% then disgorged to remove extra material making for an elegant and refreshing bubbly Rosé with vitality and depth of flavor, it has a fruity essence, but feels wonderfully crisp and dry with a soft and vibrant mousse. The Serol Turbullent is pale pink in color with a palate of sour cherry, plum flesh, strawberry, peach and citrus fruits along with hints of yeast/brioche, mineral, rose water and an earthy/grapey note, it finishes with lift and zesty character. Finished in Champagne cork and cage, this is a stylish package without pretense, Domaine Serol is a serious winery with a stunning lineup of wines, including this Turbullent, but also a fantastic selection of old vine Gamay Noir, plus still Rosé and even a Viognier! This part of the Loire is sometimes considered the lost Cru of Beaujolais and it has very little in common with the other more well travelled areas of this region, it is more like the very upper Rhone in fact! Be sure to search out the Domaine Serol wines, they are glorious and rare offerings, and enjoy this lovely méthode ancestrale Rosé over the coming year or so, it is delicately forward and great with food, breakfast, lunch and diner as well as being a superb summer wine pre meals.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Podere Le Cinciole, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
Le Cinciole from Panzano in Chianti, near historic Greve, makes a smooth and elegant style Classico with stylish flourish, especially good is their 2011 vintage, a warm year that blessed the region with ripe tannins and lush textures. Organic and rustic by nature Le Cinciole breathes tradition and charm, and this Chianti Classico 2011 is full of character, terroir and detail with a graceful density, this is a pleasing and wonderful Sangiovese that balances sweet fruit and savory earthiness to perfection. The start is dried roses, minty herbs, porcini and wild berries leading to a medium weight palate of raspberry, cherry, strawberry and dusty plum fruits along with fine cut tobacco, cedar and anise. This light ruby hued red is full of flavor and has subtle complexity that extends and expands, but allows simple enjoyment and it certainly makes for a terrific companion to food, it has 14%, but still very vibrant, focused and plays well with Italian or California cuisine. I must say, after a full Tuscan tasting including some serious Brunello and higher priced wines, this looked even better, this is not a flashy or sexy wine, but not a wallflower either, especially at this price it delivers everything you’d expect and a bit more, this is a fine estate effort that is a super value, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($22 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau Soucherie, Rose de Loire “Cuvee L’ Astree” Loire Valley, France.
The Soucherie rose of Cabernet Franc from the Anjou region of the Loire is a very stylish and seductive pink, one of my favorites of the Summer and maybe my top pick for Cabernet Franc Rose for the year! I love this wine and adore it’s stunning aromatics, bright tanginess and mineral infused palate, it is wonderfully dry and refreshing in this vintage. The nose is perfumed with hints of violets, rose water and spicy lavender oil, along with a touch of rustic earth, dried herb and cirtus leading to a crisp palate that feels cooly zesty with tart cherry, watermelon, mixed citrus, red peach and a touch of strawberry with a bit of saline, celery, spice and crushed stones. The latest set from Chateau Soucherie are gorgeous wines, especially the classic Anjou Rouge and this pretty and exciting Rose de Loire, be sure to keep an eye out for them, they really are lovely. It is difficult to make Cabernet Franc Rose this complete, alluring and without “green” meanies showing up, so when you nail it like Soucherie, it should be celebrated, and I plan to enjoy many of these bottles! Drink this wonderful pink over the next 6 months, though it should prove interesting for at least a year in bottle or maybe more, though I enjoy it’s energy and verve right now.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Fiorini, Lambrusco Grasparossa “Becco Rosso” Emilia-Romagna, Red Sparkling Wine, Italy.
The Florin Becco Rosso is a clear and most dry red Lambrusco done in the Charmat method and is a blend of at least 80% Lambrusco Grasparossa with the rest being Lancellotta, it is a real easy to love style with good detail and character, not too rustic and with a solid fruity core with a soft mousse. I really liked the latest Florin Becco Rosso and highly recommend it to those unfamiliar with Lambrusco and those that want a crowd pleasing sparkling red to go with summer BBQ and picnics, this is certainly classy and fun stuff from the hills at the base of the Appennine Mountains near Modena in Emilia-Romagna. The Becco Rosso has a creamy bubbles a good dark garnet hue and starts with dark floral tones, a hint of raw meat and crushed blackberries along with dried anise, pepper, mineral and earthy/stony elements as well as subtle cherry cola, tangy currants and plum notes. Lambrusco is a historic and traditional food wine, it pairs with every dish from Antipasto to grilled meats and pasta, as well as cheeses and cold cuts, this delight medium bodied version from Fiorini really checks off all the boxes and makes for a great Summer and Fall wine, served chilled and refreshing, while full enough and brawny enough to make even the manly group happy. Forza Lambrusco! Drink this zesty and well made example over the next year and without quilt, it is a steal at the price and a hell of a lot of fun, Ciao!
($14 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
nv Sean Thackrey, Pleiades XXIV Old Vines, Red Table Wine, California.
Sean Thackrey’s old vine Pleiades is now on the 24th edition and it still as intriguing and beguiling as ever, this is truly a California inspired icon and should be celebrated for it’s success and rule breaking uniqueness, a non-vintage kitchen sink blend that is both serious and fun. The blend is as unusual as it gets with all old vine hillside grapes that include Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Mourvedre that mostly come from Sonoma County, though I think Mendocino and Marin play parts too in this savvy and sappy red. The latest release XXIV is a bit richer and deeper, bucking the recent trend going to the lighter style, it shows more to it’s original roots with black cherry, plum, balsamic dipped strawberry, tangy currant, menthol, sweet herbs, cola, dusty spice and raspberry liqueur. The Pleiades XXIV is a medium full red that comes in at 14.5%, still feels vibrant, silky and textural in the mouth without heat or heaviness and it plays well with almost any cuisine, drink over the next few years. This is a wine that will certainly appeal to Thackrey’s legion of fans and can attract a whole new adventurous crop as well, very interesting and distinctly singular in style.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 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