2017 Bedrock Wine Co. Lorenzo’s Heritage, Dry Creek Valley. The beautiful and complex Lorenzo’s Heritage by Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Co. is from historic vines in the Dry Creek Valley, farmed by John Teldeschi, from a family with a long tradition of growing in the region. Made from old vines, the 2017 is roughly 46% Zinfandel, 35% Petite Sirah and 14% Carignan, along with the small amounts of Alicante Bouschet, Cinsault, Peloursin and a few vines of Vaccarese, a rare Chateauneuf du Pape grape. Bedrock’s Lorenzo’s Heritage red field blend comes from the beautifully drained, gravelly clay soils of the western bench of Dry Creek Valley, which Twain-Peterson notes that these are some of the best soils for producing Zinfandel, Carignan and Petite Sirah in the state. Bedrock crafts their wines to provide a platform a stage for the vines to showcase their sense of place and history, and while known as a Zinfandel expert, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who is one of American’s very few Master of Wine, has done heroic work in preserving California’s Historic Vineyard sites that include a range of inter-planted varietals, some that were planted back in the late 1800s, like his own Bedrock Vineyard.
The 2017 Lorenzo’s shows a deep color and has a nose of black fruit and deep floral intensity that leads to a full bodied palate that radiates with raspberry, black plum, mission fig, cherry and a racy burst of blueberry all in a dense form that is hedonistic and textural in the mouth, but in a vivid and pure fashion. There is a ton going just under the surface with spicy tones, dried herbs, mocha, cedar and licorice. Impressive in feel and complexity this is a fabulous vintage it is a warm and ripe wine that is lifted by natural acidity and luxurious, velvety tannins, this is a red that has maybe 20 years of great drinking ahead of it. The structure is enhanced by that 35% of Petite Sirah, plus the juicy fruit of the Zin and lively old vine Carignan at it’s core with the other grapes adding background intrigue, this wine reminds me of some of the great Ridge Lytton Springs in it’s transparent style. Bedrock’s latest set are some of the best yet from Morgan and his team, and they look like California legends in the making. ($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2018 Morgan Winery, Dry Riesling, Double L Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. The incredible limited bone dry version of Morgan Winery’s Double L Vineyard Riesling is deeply perfumed, vibrant and mineral driven, reminding me of some great Pfalz Trockens by Mueller-Catoir, Von Buhl, Rebholz, Bassermann-Jordan and the unoaked versions from Von Winning, as well as a few top Alsace versions! I love the main, slightly off-dry edition and I am highly impressed with all of Morgan’s 2018 wines, these are all next level wines, owner Dan Lee and winemaker Sam Smith have raised the game here and this two barrel Dry Double L Vineyard is an absolutely gorgeous wine. The organic Double L Vineyard, as noted by the winery, is at the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands where the ultra-cool climate and porous, mountainside soils provide ideal conditions for growing world-class Riesling, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Northern Rhone style Syrah. Like the “Kabinett” style fruiter Double L Riesling, this Dry edition was from, as Smith notes, grapes that were foot stomped and left on the skins for 18 hours, then whole-cluster pressed, which adds extract and intensity, preserving freshness and bright fruit character, with a cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks, after which Smith racked some of the juice to just two neutral French oak barrels to finish fermentation. That final bit in barrel lasted about a month, just getting the wine to dry, reducing any remaining residual sugar and then bottled before any malos, to retain bright and vivid acidity, while allowing the wine to gain a textural charm, and the results are amazing in glass. This thrilling Riesling is drinking great, already a class act, but I am going to put a bottle or two away for a few years, I think it will age a decade or more with huge potential for further intrigue.
The brilliant clarity of form of this 2018 Dry Riesling is stunning, you will marvel at it’s pale hue with only the slightest of green and gold tint in the glass and be blown away with the depth of flavors and impact on the medium bodied palate, it has the feel of a bigger wine and its dry extract will appeal to red wine lovers. In recent years California Riesling has truly come of age and competes well with any old world regions with many world class bottlings, by producers like Tatomer, Cobb, Reeve, Joyce, Desire Lines, Stirm, Union Sacre and Scribe to name a few as well as long time quality stalwarts Stony Hill, Casa Nuestra, Chateau Montelena and Smith-Madrone. This Morgan dry Double L is crisp and tangy with Condrieu like aromatics with vivid floral elements like honeysuckle, jasmine and lime blossom leading the way to a saline and stony palate that opens to green apple, tart apricot, brisk lime and bitter melon fruits, along with wet chalk, minty herbs, citron/verbena, rosewater and peach pit. Sadly there is not going to be a lot of this outrageously good wine available, and you’ll have to contact Morgan directly to get this, as it is not even listed on their web store, but trust me it will be worth it, but also grab the regular off-dry offering, which I have reviewed earlier. Morgan is one of Monterey’s best family owned wineries and has a long history of crating pure regional wines, but with the addition of Sam Smith, these bottlings have taken a big step up, be sure to check the 2017 and 2018 vintages, especially the estate Double L Vineyard offerings from the Lee family’s SLH property, like their limited Pommard Clone Pinot, Clone 15 Chardonnay as well as there G17 Syrah, one of their best values, and certainly these Rieslings. ($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2017 Cattleya, Chardonnay, Cuvee Number Five, Sonoma Coast. The thrilling Cuvee Number Five Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni and her personal Cattleya label is one of the white wines of the vintage, it is gorgeous in depth and expressive in flavors with wonderful balance. Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni, the Colombian native who’s travelled the world to learn and make wine, is one of California’s hottest talents and part of a serious power couple with husband Jeff Pisoni of the Pisoni Estate and former winemaker at Peter Michael. Bibiana started her journey in wine at University in Cognac getting her first degree there in 2001, before moving on to Bordeaux and achieving a higher degree with honors in enology, all of which led her to winemaking stints at some famous Chateaux and small domaines including Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Leognan as well as with Domaine Stéphane Ogier in Côte-Rôtie along with small family estates in Alsace, Burgundy and far away in South Africa. With her impressive resume, she made a quick splash here in California and has made the state her home fitting in perfectly with the vines of the Sonoma Coast as well as her husbands family vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands and in recent years she has been named winemaker of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and crafting the amazing wines at Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer. Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni started her own label Cattleya in late 2011, Cattleya means Orchid in Spanish and it is the national flower of her beloved home country of Colombia.
The Cattleya Cuvee Number Five is composed of different vineyards that are influenced by the cooling effect of the coastal fog, marine sedimentary soils and multiple clones of Chardonnay to preserve intensity and still have palate impact and richness. Bibiana notes that, she has been waiting for a while, to produce a blend with Sonoma Coast fruit that would capture the essence of the cooling influence of the ocean proximity, which highlights the terroir and sense of place, she adds she wants her wines to reveal complexity, acidity, minerality and longevity, this is especially delivered in her 2017 Chardonnay. Crafted from small lots from two vineyard sites using a selection Old Wente, 78 and 15 clones, Bibiana gently bladder pressed the grapes letting the juice settle overnight in very cool stainless tanks before being racked to French oak for barrel fermentation and aging. The Cattleya Chardonnay saw about 40% new oak with the rest being in neutral casks to allow the grapes purity to thrive, it spent just about a year in barrel before bottling. The nose starts with stunning aromatics with citrus blossoms, stone fruit and a light toasty note that leads to a full bodied palate, which is slightly exotic, almost like a Hermitage Blanc, with layers of brilliant and detailed fruit including peach, apple, pear, kumquat and lemon curd as well as mineral tones, a creamy brioche/creme brûlée, subtle hazelnut, golden fig, saline, wet rock and just a touch of vanilla. This is right up there with the elite Chardonnay producers with its class showing from start to finish, this is a wine that shows its confidence, strutting its stuff, but without any pretense or gaudy glitz, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years. ($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2017 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes, Côtes de Provence Rosé, Cru Classe, Provence, France. The heart and soul of Clos Cibonne is Tibouren, the ancient local grape that seems impossibly pale as a red grape, but makes for maybe the greatest Rosé in the world. André Roux, who ran the estate back in the 1930s to after WWII, was a great fan of this native varietal and believed it to be the ideal grape for the region, though had a tough time after Phylloxera and was largely forgotten by the Provence vignerons of the time. Roux, with great bravery and insight in fact replaced all of the estate’s Mourvèdre with Tibouren and Clos Cibonne soon became synonymous with Tibouren, which also led the A.O.C. to give special permission for the winery to list the grape on its labels. Bridget, André Roux’s granddaughter, and her husband, Claude Deforge, took over reins of Clos Cibonne in the late 1990s and have raised the profile and quality here beyond anyone’s hopes or expectations focusing on the vines and rebuilding the cellars. Clos Cibonne is only about 800 meters from the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea, set in a natural amphitheater that allows for wonderful ripening and with a unique constant air flow through the vines that keeps all the clusters wonderfully healthy. For Clos Cibonne’s Côtes de Provence Rosé, which is completely unique wine, the Tibouren, after harvest is fermented in stainless steel and then aged Sur Lie under fleurette (a thin veil of yeast like is found in Sherry) in 100-year-old, 500L foudres, which adds a touch of oxidation and stabilizes the wine allow it to age way beyond what a normal Rosé.
The 2017 Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes Côtes de Provence Rosé, a reserve style bottling that is sourced only from the estate’s oldest vines is an amazing wine that transcends any traditional preconceptions on what Rosé should be, it is wonderfully expressive, lively and rich in texture with true vinous hedonism. Grown on schist soils from 60 plus year old vines at 50 meters above sea level the Clos Cibonne Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes comes from a single parcel known as Le Pradet and farmed all organic. The orange/pinkish Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes was aged in cask on the lees for a full year, making it feel more like a normal wine wine on the palate, but still it has a sense of mineral charm and good acidity on the medium bodied palate. The flavors are an array of complex fruit and earth along with a touch of pecan oil and saline showing tangy cherry, grilled citrus with Moro orange, reduced strawberry, peach flesh and distilled currant along with a hint of leather, lavender, lemon rind, stone fruit pit and wet rocks. This iconic pink wine is lees dense, chewy and crunchy with enough pithy bite to refresh the taste buds, it is so good, no bottle of Clos Cibonne Tibouren lasts long enough, magnums would be a way better way to enjoy this stuff! Drink over the next 3 to 5 years, I had the 2015 vintage last month and it was spot on and still incredible and this 2017 is a bit more vibrant at its core, enjoy it with classic Mediterranean cuisine or anything you have in the fridge! ($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Chardonnay “Lynette” Columbia Gorge, Oregon. Phelps Creek Vineyards, established in 1990, is a small boutique winery that focuses on estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and owned and run by Bob Morus and his family. Morus is a winegrower, and he believes in his fruit, for him the vineyard care takes center stage in PhelpsCreek’s wine production and he tends his vines using sustainable agricultural practices that are combined with strict management of the fruit yields. This leads to the higher concentration of flavors and a noted luxurious intensity in their bottlings. Located in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, Phelps Creek does some wonderfully crafted wines, with a great set of wines like this cuvee Lynette Chardonnay which was overseen by the highly talented Gevrey-Chambertin vigneron Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy, who has been helping this small winery craft Burgundy style and class wines since about 2007. Roy has brought a real sense of purity and direct to Phelps Creek and you can easily see her own Domaine Marc Roy in her efforts here and she has a wonderful touch, as this gorgeous Lynette Chardonnay proves. The Columbia Gorge is a dramatic region, significantly different from the Willamette Valley and has some fascinating vineyards and wines to discover, and Morus, who first planted Pinot Noir in 1990, added a block of Dijon clone, that I believe is Clone 96, Chardonnay two years later in 2002, which forms the backbone of this wine. Alexandrine’s wines also remind me of John Paul’s wines at cameron Winery, especially her signature Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir, which is on par with Paul’s Clos Electrique, and the 2016 is absolutely lovely and a wine not to me missed if you love Oregon Pinot and for Chardonnay fans, this Lynette is something incredibly special, I think it might be my favorite Oregon Chardonnay!
Ms Roy and Bob have winner here with the expressive 2015 Lynette Chardonnay, it really reminds me a lot of John Raytek’s beautiful Ceritas wines with it’s purity and textual grace, it certainly is expressive and unique stuff that deserves attention. This Phelps Creek Vineyards Chard shows crisp mineral focus with layers that fill the palate as you sip it in the glass, it gains density and nuance as it gets air revealing apple, pear, lemon and peach fruits, soft floral tones, wet stones, a hint of brioche, clarified cream, delicate and polished wood notes and clove spice. Not as weighty of powerful as Wente clone, but a wine of serious impact and complexity, it give a wonderful performance with tons of personality and charm. If you had tried the best of Oregon Chardonnay, like the mentioned Cameron or the likes of Brick House, Bergstrom, Evening Land and Westerly to name a few, you need to try this Phelps Creek Lynette Chardonnay. This lightly golden hued Chardonnay is really coming into its own and should drink well for another 5 to 10 years, though its already in the great place, especially with food, I can imagine it with lobster and swordfish, in fact that makes my mouth water, and it should be awesome with soft cheeses too, in particular Époisses, that incredible Bourgogne washed rind intense creamy cheese that is washed in brine and Marc de Bourgogne, pomace from Côte-d’Or brandy. The basic Chard and Pinot here at Phelps Creek Vineyards are very solid too, and represent good value for the money, but these special cuvees are truly exceptional, be on the lookout for them! ($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2018 Reeve, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Bybee Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. The Reeve Rosé is beauty, every vintage I try I love and this 2018 is bursting with energy and pure Pinot fruit, it is wonderfully refreshing, mineral driven stuff that is flexible, it can be happy as a poolside sipper and or just as good with a serious meal. In this vintage, Noah Dorrance and his team sourced the Rosé fruit from the Sonoma Coast instead of the Anderson Valley or Mendocino area per normal as they were a touch fearful that there might be some smoke taint from fires that affected certain areas, having that flexibility and passion to make the best wine possible is what makes Reeve standout, and these new releases are stunning wines. Making a great 100% Pinot Noir Rosé takes commitment as there are not quality Pinot grapes available on the cheap, and to craft a beauty like this, that rivals top Sancerre Rosé and Marsannay Rosé is pretty damn good. Dorrance notes, that the Bybee Vineyard, located within the Sonoma Coast AVA, is farmed in an extremely hands-on fashion, “beyond-organic” as he puts it, in a way that puts purity and vibrancy into the bottle. The twist top Reeve Pinot Noir Rosé, as noted by Dorrance, has a fanfic following already and like Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional sells out fast, so be sure to act quick to get it.
The 2018, was as per normal with this Rosé, which is delicately pale with a very light salmon/pink hue didn’t get a long soak on the skins, in fact it was pretty much straight to press and aged in stainless steel with just a few months of lees contact before bottling, all done to retain its freshness and vitality, it is a tangy and mouthwatering dry wine. Endowed with vigorous form, the 2018 Reeve Rosé delivers crisp punch on the lighter framed palate with spring flowers, racy grapefruit, watermelon, sour cherry, liquid plum and strawberry fruits along with a hint of zesty herb, saline and wet stones all wrapped in a steely and zingy package. Reeve’s latest set of wines, all handcrafted by Dorrance with expert consultants, Ross Cobb, ex Flowers, Hirsch and who makes some of California’s best Pinots under his own Cobb Wines label, and Katy Wilson, long time Cobb friend and assistant in projects as well as making lovely wines under her LaRue label add firepower to Reeve’s efforts that include a few select Pinot Noirs, a dry Riesling and some Italian inspired Sangiovese bottlings, all of which are fabulously delicious. Happy #internationalroséday Celebrations! ($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Foradori, Teroldego “Sgarzon” IGT, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Alto Adige, Italy. The gorgeous 2017 Sgarzon from Foradori shows wonderful purity as well as having a lovely play between deep fruit and savory elements with an intense purple/garnet color. This vintage is loaded with black fruits, including marionberry, plum, currant fruits along with bright spicy notes, mineral tones and ripe/sweet tannins that taste rich, with seamless textured palate and long in the finish with crushed lilacs, cassis and wild fennel. This amazing wine is luxurious and full bodied but with only about 12% natural alcohol and is subtly earthy with a seductively raw sensual core. These high elevation single vineyard Foradori Teroldego are utterly spellbinding and riveting wines, some of the most treasured wines in Italy. This vintage has a warm ripeness and an incredible mouth feel and density, though wonderfully transparent and shows this alpine grape and region in its best light. The Foradori winery is based in a small village, Mezzolombardo, which is close to Trentino, in the greater Alto Adige area up in the Dolomite Mountains. Foradori, who has influenced many Italian winemakers and inspired thousands more around the world with her wines and her organic/natural methods, though she is most proud by making Teroldego a world class wine. Never one to rest on her laurels, in recent years she has branched out and is making some brilliant stuff from the Tuscan Coast at Ampeleia working with Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Carignan and Alicante Bouschet to name a few. The latest Dolomiti wines, like this one are must try wines, especially if you’ve not tried them!
Elisabetta Foradori, one Italy’s most iconic winemakers and who has led the country’s natural wine movement in recent years crafts a unique set of wines made from indigenous varietals in the Trentino area of the Alto Adige region set in the high northern reaches of Italy. Foradori is most well known for her signature bottlings of Teroldego, the dark local grape of which she usually does four different versions, one tank and cask raised, one barrique aged Bordeaux like version known as Granato and two Cru, single site offerings, the Morei and this Sgarzon, which are both macerated and aged primarily in clay amphorae for 8 months with a finishing of three months in oak barrels. Along with these fabulous reds, Foradori does an interesting “orange” style Pinot Grigio and two stunning and crisp whites, one made from Manzoni ( a cross between Riesling and Pinot Blanc) that she uses cement and acacia wood for aging and her Nosiola, which is done in the amphora along with a finishing in acacia. The Foradori estate today comprises 28 hectares of vines with 75% Teroldego, 15% Manzoni Bianco, 5% Nosiola, 5% Pinot Grigio being grown here. The vineyards are high in altitude, surrounded by mountains, but mostly on flatter parcels which receive plenty of sunlight and drain exceptionally well. The Teroldego, as well as Pinot Grigio, is set on the limestone and granite-rich Campo Rotaliano plain, which could be called the “Grand Cru” of Trentino, with the Teroldego thriving on its sandy, gravelly alluvial soils, while Foradori’s Nosiola and Manzoni whites come from the Fontanasanta hills above Trento on clay-limestone soils, which give these wines their class and elegance. Foradori is all biodynamic and with ultra low sulphur with this estate Sgarzon vineyard, in Mezzolombardo, of Campo Rotaliano zone coming from a sandy plot with small pebbles over deep gravelly soils. Teroldego, an ancient variety native to the alpine Trentino region and related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein (another intensely dark local grape) and Syrah among others, Teroldego thrives in the high, sunny foothills and plateaus below the Dolomite peaks, it is a varietal that few had done noteworthy things with until Foradori come along, and now it is one of Italy’s most revered.
The Foradori family, according to NYC importer David Bowler, purchased the estate back in 1934, but it was her father who bottled Foradori’s first estate vintage in 1960 after many years of growing generic grapes for the near by co-op. When her dad passed unexpectedly in 1976, her mother kept the winery going until her daughter could graduate with her enology degree, so fresh out of school, Elisabetta, then only 19 jumped into her first harvest in 1984 and the rest is history as they say. Early on, as Bowler adds, she began caring for her vines and harvesting by hand, pruning rigorously and converting the farming to organic practices and this included replanting to the best clonal “massale” selections to improve the concentration and the complexity, she put her heart and soul into making Teroldego great, eventually turning to holistic and natural winemaking to achieve even greater results. Foradori was inspired by (Rudolph) Steiner’s, the founder of biodynamic farming, writings about clay’s vitality as well as by the amphora-aging practices of Giusto Occhipinti at COS winery in Sicily, so she undertook experimentation(s) with aging some wines in clay. Elisabetta started with Nosiola, a local, nearly-extinct and usually-uninteresting white variety, which was put it into handmade, unlined Spanish clay tinajas (amphorae) with its skins for months. The Nosiola results were so exciting, she ttried the same program with the terroir driven Teroldego(s) from Sgarzon and Morei, which as mentioned above spend about 8 months with their skins, including some riper stems, employing only natural yeasts and with no sulfur added in the amphora. I have been following Foradori’s wines for many years after being turned on to them by Louis/Dressner Selections, who import her wines into the USA and their California arm at Farm Wines, who also got me hooked on Salvo Foti, La Stoppa and Arianna Ochipinti, the niece of Giusto Occhipinti of COS, and I always look forward to the latest releases, especially her Sgarzon Teroldego. The 2017 Sgarzon should age well and while drinking outrageously good now a few years will only benefit this brilliant red, be sure you enjoy this with rustic or substantial cuisine and plan an meal around it, wild mushroom dishes, game hen, duck confit and or mountain cheeses are just a few ideas, but it will be really good with almost anything. ($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2017 Weingut Müller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haardt, Pfalz Germany. The 2017 Müller-Catoir Haardt Trocken is exotic and highly aromatic with lovely fruit and mineral intensity, it is a wonderful and crisply dry Riesling that reflects the vintage and its remarkable Pfalz terroir. The family owned Müller-Catoir, now managed by Philipp David Catoir, who wears the weight of his families traditions well at this famous estate, which was founded back in 1774, and he has the talented Martin Franzen running the cellar here. Franzen, who in the past ran the operations at Schlossgut Diel, employs a strict program with a move to organic practices and severe selections in the vineyards, where everything is worked and picked by hand now and focuses on ultra transparency in the wines with a reductive approach, with every wine getting a hand crafted attention to detail. The Haardt, a village bottling is a pure example with expressive bright flavors and a heavenly floral perfume, while being brisk, tangy and dusty dry on the light framed palate. Müller-Catoir does a gentle crush and gives the juice plenty of time on the skins before a slow and soft pressing before an stainless steel fermentation and aging, all to preserve vibrancy and purity, the wines are always stylish and evocative and while they focus on Riesling, like this beauty, then also do one of the world’s best dry Muscat(s) or Muskateller and Scheurebe.
The Haardt Riesling Trocken is all from organic grapes that were grown on standstone soils, which gives this wine its pretty nose and steely form, and this 2017 is absolutely seducing with a complex array of sensations that ranges from tropical essences to flinty wet stones, it is clear and with a tiny hint of sunshine in the glass. In the mouth this calcareous influenced Riesling shows jasmine, oyster shell, peach, tart apricot, green apple and saline notes, adding guava/papaya, rosewater and hint of zesty lime. This is impressive stuff, and I can’t wait to try the upper echelon Cru wines, especially the GG’s and the Scheurebe Trocken, in this fantastic vintage I bet they are rockstar wines, and this one itself is fabulous and a true value offering from this great estate. I am glad I got a few bottles of Müller-Catoir from 2017, they are looking like classics. This is a great Summer refresher, but serious enough to hang out with haute cuisine, it gets more intriguing with matching food, it can go with a wide variety of foods from fresh shellfish, spicy prawns, sushi as well as cured meats, picnic fare, street tacos and Moroccan lemon chicken even. This vivid and zippy young Riesling is a quality white that makes for a nice alternative for Chablis, Kiwi Sauv Blanc and or Albarino, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years. ($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Alfaro Family Vineyards Small Lots, Pinot Noir, Heirloom Clones, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains. One of the most exciting wines in Richard Alfaro’s impressive lineup of new releases is his Heirloom clone bottling of Corralitos estate grown Pinot Noir, and while I’m always thrilled by his astonishingly good Chardonnay(s) and absolutely love his dry and mineral driven Gruner Veltliner, Alfaro’s Pinots are lovely authentic, stylish and polished wines that deserve lots of praise. The Heirloom Clone Estate Pinot is 80% de-stemmed, 20% whole cluster and crafted from various blocks within the Lindsay Paige, Ryan Spencer, Alfaro Family and Mary Katherine vineyards all of which were planted and farmed on Alfaro’s Corralitos Estate using Heritage (Heirloom) clones including Calera, Mt. Eden, Pommard, Martini and Swan selections. Richard used indigenous yeasts and a five day cold soak and the must was gently fermented without punchdowns, instead the cap was kept wet with gravity flow rack and return, after finishing primary the wine was lightly pressed to French barrels where it went through natural malos and was raised on its lees for nine months. This unique bottling is lush, but with an dark earthy background, it was unfined and unfiltered and shows exceptional purity, vitality and drive in what was a stellar vintage for this part of the Santa Cruz Mountains and highlights the sandy loams and the cool marine influence here.
Coming in at 13.5% natural alcohol and with just hint of smoky sweet oak toastiness the 2017 Heirloom Clone is all about the fruit and its background complexities with a pretty garnet/ruby hue in the glass and with delicate floral perfume accented by hints of spice and a touch of tapenade before opening up to a layered medium bodied palate with satiny mouth feel. There is plenty to keep your attention and every sip begs for more with black cherry, plum, strawberry and cranberry fruits holding court, but also with blood organs, Earl Grey/rose hip tea, cinnamon, cola bean, vanilla and a faint sense of tarry rawness that actually adds a compelling almost old world charm to this ripe and textural Pinot Noir. The acidity is well integrated, but gives lots of personality and life here, this is a wine that can come across stoic in a sense until you have it with food, especially with well matched cuisine, it really takes off with the right pairing, duck, roast chicken, blackened salmon and or wild mushroom dishes, these kind of pairings let this wine fly, and that last glass is utterly awesome, drink this beauty over the next 5 to 10 years, probably at its best in 2024 and through 2027. I really love what Richard, and now son Ryan are doing at Alfaro Family Vineyards both with the estate wines and the Trout Gulch Vineyard, a source for some outstanding Chardonnay(s) not just for Alfaro, with Arnot-Roberts, Kutch and Ceritas, along with their mentioned Gruner and delicious Sparkling Pinot! ($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2017 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France. Wow, just when you though Cotes du Rhone couldn’t get any better, after two stellar vintages in 2015 and 2016, it does with these 2017’s, and especially lovely and intriguing is this La Manarine which shows Grenache is its finest light. The Domaine la Manarine was established back in 2001 by Gilles Gasq, who was the long serving assistant winemaker at the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Domaine Monpertuis, and he has a wonderful collection of vines as well as his cellar in the tiny village of Travaillan, in the southern Rhone just northeast of Orange, not too far from Chateauneuf. The soils here are mostly marl (limestone) and is also littered with Galets, the smooth round stones and pebbles that are famous in Chateauneuf and Gasq has mainly Genache planted here, though he does have a parcel of Syrah and recently added a vineyard of Carignan, which he plans on bottling as a single varietal wine along with a smattering of various white grapes that form his Cotes du Rhone Blanc. The warm and dry Mediterranean climate leads to small yields of concentrated grapes making for wines of complex and dense in flavor. There is so much going for this wine, easy to quaff, but seriously built and great with food, this is a wine to drink over the next 3 to 5 years, I love this vintage, in particular its fresh detail and length.
Gilles uses indigenous yeasts and relies on a non interventionist style, believing the wines are first and foremost made in the vineyard and his wines show terroir and vintage purity and character every year, and I have followed many vintages of them, so I know this 2017 is rather special, for me it is the best yet from this winery. The 2017 La Manarine, 100% Grenache Noir, was from all de-stemmed grapes and fermented in cool stainless vats with a cuvaison of about 20 days, it is then raised for a year on the lees in stainless steel and enamel lined tanks before a racking to clarify, then aged another 6 to 8 months. The 2017 unfined and unfiltered La Manarine Cotes du Rhone from vines that close to 40 years old shows pretty floral aromas, dark fruits and a mix of spice, mineral, incense and earthy highlights with smooth/ripe layers of plum, boysenberry, strawberry and pomegranate fruits, a touch of pepper, lavender, cinnamon stick, salty licorice and kirsch. The deep garnet/ruby La Manarine opens up and gives a wonderfully performance, this is a wine that gains complexity with air, but stays nicely balanced and vivid throughout with a full body and a slightly rustic form making for a classic old world charmer and a Rhone wine of tremendous value. This is joyous and unpretentious Grenache at it’s best, enjoy! ($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive