Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 8, 2018

2016 Samuel Louis Smith Wines, Syrah, Sandstone Terrace, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The long hang time and unique soils of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, especially in the Corralitos area makes for a new hot spot for Syrah, it brings out the true cool climate character and lively focus and Sam Smith, winemaker at Morgan Winery, has now released a brilliant 2016 vintage Syrah from here. After moving here to take over the winemaker duties at Dan Lee’s Morgan, Smith has made a serious impact both with Morgan’s latest offerings and his own label Samuel Louis Smith Wines, where he is expressing his own creative forces, he came to Monterey from the Santa Barbara area where he helped many awesome wines realize their potential including some fantastic wines from Margerum, from what I’ve tasted so far are classy wines with lovely transparency, especially this brand new 2016 Sandstone Terrace Syrah, named for some of the underlying soil where this wine was grown. This Syrah is bursting with pretty layers of blue and black fruits, dark floral tones and an array of spice, mineral and subtle savory tones along with a low alcohol feel and inner brightness, while still offering a textural mouth feel and fullness. Smith used about a third whole cluster in this Syrah and aged it in 25% new Francois Freres (1 new barrique) along with a few used Ermitage barrels (only 97 cases, four barrels made) and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, coming across on the detailed palate like a Saint-Joseph or baby Cote-Rotie, it’s 13.6% natural alcohol is perfect for the wine’s weight and purpose allowing a touch of heady perfume, ripe flavors and stylish lift (acidity) found in this well crafted red. The deep purple/black hue is sexy in the glass and with air this wine’s potential and complexity comes into view with damson plum, boysenberry, black olive, acacia flowers, peppercorns, sage, smoky vanilla and meaty notes cascading in a youthful fashion. Smith has a few library wines from his time in Santa Barbara, in particular his glorious Radian Sta. Rita Hills Pinot, it’s a do not miss small production wine, as well as his new releases like this Syrah, as well as his Albatross Ridge Pinot Noir from Garret Bowlus’ Carmel Valley estate, all of which merit your attention. Samuel Smith is great new addition to Monterey’s winemaker community and his talents are welcome in this new generation era here, it’s exciting times for Monterey’s youthful winemakers, and this is a label to follow.
($33 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 7, 2018

2015 Ian Brand “La Marea” Grenache, Brosseau Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
The just about to be released Brosseau Vineyard from Ian Brand, under his Spanish (varietal) inspired label La Marea is a gorgeous red with amazing sharp detail, focus and hedonistic charms showing deep fruit intensity in a well balanced and pure wine. This is one of the best Grenache bottlings in the state, it joins the likes of A Tribute to Grace (Angela Osborne), in allowing terroir and the grape to shine through, it has a reflection of place that marks it clearly with a nice chalky detail and a concentrated palate that translates the vintage in a ripe/opulent form without being sweet or heavy. The La Marea Brosseau Grenache opens with pretty floral tones, snappy spices and light mineral elements that lead to a medium/full body of densely packed layers of dark fruits including a mix of red berries and plum along with strawberry, pepper, minty herb, lavender, framboise, saline infused stones and anise. There is a nice lift that gives a lively and youthful brightness and the tannins are caressingly supple and mouth, everything folds together well, making for a textural gem, Brand has really crafted a beautiful wine here, it sits somewhere between a fine Gigondas and a more delicate example of Spanish Garnacha, especially those of the Gredos region, a high elevation area not far from Madrid, a new hot spot for Grenache. One of Monterey’s top young producers, Ian Brand is somewhat of a vineyard whisperer, he has a nose for unique and expressive sites and is a soil freak, his wines are transparent and thrill for their naked purity, he in particular has a gifted touch with Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Rhone varietals with Grenache leading the way, these are wines to discover now. This Brosseau is just one of a few not to miss new releases from Ian Brand that are going to be available soon, so keep an eye out for them, he also has an Albarino (La Marea) and an Enz Vineyard Mourvedre (I. Brand & Family) coming out that you’ll not want to miss.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 6, 2018

2016 Sheldon Wines “The Red Hat” Old Vine Field Blend, Napa Valley.
Unbelievably textured and pretty, the Sheldon Wines “The Red Hat” a field blend of co-planted and co-fermented ancient Napa Valley bush vine Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon is a gorgeous medium weight red of delicate fruit, heady perfume and satiny texture, with a hint of wildness and no oak traces this is a striking wine of authentic charm. This wines stands arrogantly against perception, normality and expectations with it’s like an old soul, drinking way better than it’s age would suggest it should. Dylan and Tobe Sheldon have found a tiny home vineyard near Calistoga in Napa Valley that has wonderfully old vines that are farmed holistically and interplanted with an array of other plants, flowers and trees that help provide a natural balance in the vines, making for one of the most unique expressions of these two grapes I’ve tasted, it is truly silken and transparent with modest fruit, low alcohol (under 13%) and native ferment finesse/character with hints of wild minty herb/sage, lavender and crushed spring flowers going nicely with backyard strawberry, raspberry, tangy currant and mulberry layers. This wine dances on the palate with ballerina twirls and softness, while still giving a long finish. Sheldon, who craves balanced easy to drink wine, manages brilliantly to take two powerfully tannic varietals and transform them into graceful and tame creatures of pleasure! You can’t help but be seduced by their efforts here and admire this single barrel (24 cases made), bright ruby/garnet hued red, remarkable for it’s beauty in such a youthful wine, it should fill out a bit over the next 3 to 5 years, though I can’t at this point even think of waiting that long!
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 5, 2018

2016 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gemischter Satz, Braitenpuechtorff, Weinviertel Austria.
Ingrid Groiss’ signature white field blend, her Gemischter Satz, is made from 17 co-picked and fermented varietals that include Chardonnay, Frühroter Veltliner, Grauburgunder, Grauer Vöslauer, Grüner Veltliner, Hietl Rote, Müller Thurgau, Neuberger, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Roter Veltliner, Rotgipfler, Sämling, Silberweisse, Welchriesling, Wiesse Vöslauer and Zierfandler! This 2016 is pretty and lacy white wine with a sense of energy and lightness, but still has intriguing complexity and a subtle opulence, showing the talents of Groiss, who has established herself as one of Austria’s stars. North of Vienna, Weinviertel is a historic region that is really making a modern comeback, as this old school style of wine, the Gemischter Satz, a co-picked, co-fermented single vineyard field blend that usually presents it’s self crisply dry with delicate floral tones. This vintage delivers brisk details with mixed citrus, melon, white peach and earthy quince fruits along with spices, chalk dust, minty herbs, lime blossom and wet river rock, highlighting the heady mix of grapes found in this thrilling wine. Getting this wine right, which is no easy task, Groiss proves her quality and with air you can see revealing elements of almost each varietal, this is such joyous quaffable stuff, a wonderful Summery white that is easy to enjoy as a light fare (cuisine) companion, it’s clear and vibrant nature makes it great with oysters and or picnic snacks.
($26-28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 4, 2018

2016 Famille Dutraive “Cap-Ô-Sud” Carignan, Vin de France, Languedoc, France.
A new project from Jean-Louis Dutraive and his three kids, the Cap-Ô-Sud is made from old vine Minervois grapes and fermented with carbonic maceration, making for a juicy fun red that reminds you of the famous Beaujolais from that is their claim to fame, but with a little less seriousness. Delightfully light and tangy the Cap-Ô-Sud, 100% Carignan, expresses it’s warm southern Languedoc-Roussillon terroir with fresh ripeness, but with the vintage’s mineral tones and acidity shinning through allowing a flow of distilled raspberry, zesty cranberry, tart cherry and mini strawberry fruits plus delicate floral notes, spicy elements and snappy lavender/herbal hints. This wine entertains and is very pretty in it’s lightness and quaffability never getting more than light to medium bodied and is best with a slight chill on it, great as a picnic wine or unheavy easy cuisine, it’s a dry, but fruity organic new style natural wine that offers lots of pleasure with it’s clean and vibrant presence. It is a quality wine no question, though not for people that are looking for earthy dark thick and sun baked reds more common to this region, you’ll have to be looking for this kind of wine to understand it or want it, it reminds me of the Vin de France bottlings from Ganevat. The Dutraive Cap-Ô-Sud Carignan is playful and should be enjoyed in it’s freshest form, drink now.
($30 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 3, 2018

2016 Union Sacre, Riesling “Fraulein” Riven Rock Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County.
A tiny micro winery owned by Philip Muzzy and French winemaker Xavier Arnaudin, from the Rhone, Union Sacre Wines calls Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties home, even though their Gewurz comes from Monterey, and are crafting some interesting and entertaining wines with this dry, but rather textural Riesling being a hit here. Their portfolio so far has the mentioned Gewürztraminer out of the Santa Lucia Highlands and a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Happy Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County, plus this San Luis Obispo Riven Rock Riesling that feels a bit like an Alsatian meets Aussie showing nice focus and surprising mouth feel. This zesty, but generous 2016 Fraulein starts with bright and fresh intensity with soft floral tones, snappy citrus and tropical notes, gaining more savory elements as it gets going on the light palate with layers of lime, meyer lemon, rosewater, wet stones, chalk and verbena. This has enough acidity and verve to hold your attention and gives a firm focus before a more textural side appears, it certainly has it’s charms and joins a new wave of fine California dry Rieslings, starting with Tatomer as well as Joyce Vineyards, Stirm, Reeve, Tudor and Cobb. Riesling is seeing a remarkable come back in the state, it’s a varietal that was almost totally shunned in California until recent times, now there is a race to catch up to other American Rieslings, like those from Washington, Oregon and New York’s Finger Lakes, which is arguably the most interesting region for this grape. As a Riesling freak myself, I really enjoyed this one and will without a doubt drink a few bottles of Union Sacre this Spring, bravo guys!
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 2, 2018

2017 Joyce Vineyards, Rosé, Turbidity Current, Monterey County.
It’s that time of year, when we all crave long summer days again and want to sip Rosé, lucky we are having a warm spell here in northern California right now and the thought of a dry pink wine comes into consciousness. Blessed are we that it is in fact time for the first of the fresh Rosé wines to be released, and I got a preview of a few including the wonderfully refreshing Joyce Vineyards Turbidity Current 2017, which is just being bottled as I write this, with a few gorgeous Magnums getting waxed too! One of Monterey’s rising stars, Russell Joyce crafted his pretty and delicately pale Rosé with a zesty mix of Gamay and Grenache along with a tiny about of Mourvedre that Russell feels really adds to the whole in a big way, giving a tad more texture and complexity even in such small amounts, and I agree this vintage, the first with the few percentage points of Mourvedre has a savvy air to it with a fuller mouth feel without expanding the palate of taking away the crisp and tangy nature. The 2017, a unique dusty dry California Rosé, has lots of energy with that brisk Gamay acidity and the juicy/generous Grenache strawberry tones, it starts with a hint of rosewater, bumble gum, tangy spice, mineral, citrus, sour cherry and earthy/chalky wet stone. This is vibrantly dry and cooly focused, perfect for quaffing, the grapes were picked exclusively to be Rosé, harvested cold and with low brix (sugar), getting a gentile fermentation with a short maceration with only stainless being employed to preserve dynamic vivid purity. This bright Rosé is going to be a huge hit, it will be released very soon, so keep an eye out, and also check out Joyce’s dry Riesling too, both offering tons of quality and fun for the Spring and Summer, plus don’t forget to grab Joyce’s awesome set of 2016 Pinots, especially their Gabilan Pinot Noir, one of the best new offerings in California and their northern Rhone style Tondre Grapefield Syrah, in particular Russell’s 2016 version. This winery has reached the next level and has some seriously delicious wines out right now with a awesome array of offerings from Merlot to Albarino and Cabernet to Chardonnay too, along with the mentioned Rosé, Riesling, Pinots and Syrah, this is a winery that is on a roll and a label to watch.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 1, 2018

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Esquisto, Rhone Style Red Blend, Yorkville Highlands.
The final 2016 blend of the Halcon Vineyards thrilling Esquisto was crafted from 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah, with about 30% whole-cluster, from estate fruit from Paul Gordon’s extremely high elevation, cool climate vineyard set on fractured shale, mica-schist and quartz-rich rock soils, a rare combination that mimics the Northern Rhone, making for an amazing unique expression and a truly wonderful wine. Winemaker Scott Shapely (Roar) used native yeast, with a few stems and utilized neutral French oak puncheons for the aging, with only 130 cases made of this pure and elegant, 14.2% natural alcohol, Rhone blend that shows a sweet attack, but with a nice savory/spicy tone. The latest Halcon GMS Esquisto grabs your attention with a seductive perfume, spices and earthy tones to go along with racy red fruits and a sexy purple/ruby color in the glass before widening on the medium/full palate with boysenberry, deep black cherry, plum and currant/blueberry fruits along with herbs de provence, crushed violets, pepper, flinty stones, iron/meaty elements, tarragon/minty basil and anise. This youthful and fresh wine gives off lots of energy and firm details, but the tannins are surprisingly supple and satiny, though certainly there and providing a spine for this Rhone style blend, it has the same gorgeous feel and class as wines twice it’s price and it’s high elevation freshness reminds me of the higher hillside style Gigondas. This wine looks set to expand and develop over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle, these new releases from Halcon are all beautiful and thrilling wines, and if their 2015’s put them firmly in the premier league, these 2016’s prove it wasn’t a fluke and it’s a winery to watch, and without a doubt you’ll want to get on their list, especially for their Syrah, Petite Sirah and their set of cool climate Pinots, as well as this one. The Esquisto 2016 really delivers, ripe and expressive, but with a graceful presence in the glass, with pure Grenache character coming through, it just gets better with every sip adding a touch of edgy stems and sweet liqueur making it even more alluring, while there is more to come, there is no penalty to open it young, best from 2019 to 2026.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 31, 2018

2016 Weingut von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Deidesheimer Kalkofen, Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz Germany.
Weingut von Winning’s inspirational winegrower Stephan Attmann has adopted the single cane trellising, much like done in Burgundy, and Grosses Gewächs wines ferment in 500ML French barrels with native yeasts and no pumping as the winery is all gravity flow, with Von Winning practicing organic and sustainable viticulture to highlight each Grand Cru (GG) with this Kalkofen set on a combo of limestone, marl and loam, making it one of the more exotic and flamboyant of the top wines here. This was especially true in the 2011, 2012 and 2015 vintages, while this gorgeous 2016 is a bit more refined and vibrant, a near perfect expression of place and vintage. Von winning’s wine transcend varietal, this glorious dry white has elements of a fine Meursault or Batard-Montrachet in it’s soul, even though it’s all Riesling at is core with power, from it’s extract and acidity, depth and complexity add to the intriguing stylistic charms in this GG. My tasting notes are from two separate barrel samples tried about 5 months apart, the final finished bottling certainly will be more complex, deeper in flavor and fuller in texture, but without question this was a special and beautiful dry Riesling even in it’s youth and in this primary form, it shows fantastic detailing already and has potential of greatness. Von Winning’s Kalkofen GG starts with a slightly muted perfume of white flowers, citrusy fruit, chalky stones and leesy brioche with a touch of reduction like a white Burgundy before it’s medium/full palate gets rolling with brisk stone/orchard fruits, delicate spices, steely mineral tones and salty essences. A bit of sulfur blurs the picture, this is due to this being a cask sample I’m sure, luckily it blows off quickly allowing everything to come into bright and clear focus in seconds, there is lovely texture and length to admire here, again it feels surprisingly majestic, and as mentioned, in a Meursault sort of way, gaining depth with air adding green apple, lime, white peach, wet rock, rose water, tangy citronella, a hint of sweet oak and hazelnut. There’s a ton of underlying extract and brilliant acidity, which plays in a ying and yang way giving great focus and tension, this is a powerful wine that will only get better over time, this will be a wine to look for, it’s a fabulous expression of the Pfalz and Grosses Gewachs, with a touch of the exotic, but done in a wonderfully elegant way, it’s a Riesling to blow the minds of the Burgundy only crowd, impressive and with star quality impact, best from 2020-2030.
($59 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 30, 2018

2014 Rochioli, Valdiguie, Russian River Valley.
One of my secret favorite wines, the wonderfully fruit forward Valdiguie by Rochioli is playful and expressive wine, the varietal once though to be Gamay is from southwest France and not related, though sometimes called Napa Gamay still is a light to medium bodied red that offers juicy red fruit flavors that in a vintage as 2014 can be almost candied and Zinfandel like. Racy sweet raspberries and dark flowers rush at you on the nose and palate with a hint of carbonic tropical fruit leading the way with black cherry, sweet and spicy red berry, a touch of cola and banana bread along with vanilla, wild herb and guava nectar. This vintage is ripe and bright with surprising length and flamboyant character, it is showy and has a personality that again reminds me a bit more of Zinfandel, but with a Pinot Noir size frame and acidity, add to that a dollop of smoky French oak and you capture the essence of this vintage. Prior releases seem a bit more subtle, but certainly this Rochioli Valdiguie doesn’t lack for anything, it might actually be a wine to hold on to for another few years, surprising in it’s substance and for it’s expressive style. Valdiguie had an early champion in J. Lohr, but has gained modern embrace by Cruse Wine Company and Broc Cellars, both of which are great examples, though a bit more natural and subtle than Rochioli. This Valdiquie is only available through the Rochioli tasting room on Westside Road, near Healdsburg, and sometimes on their website, best to check often to see what they are offering, especially if you are waiting to get on their full mailing list.
($28 Est.) 89-90 Points, grapelive

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