Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 14, 2021

2018 Veronica Ortega, Mencia “Quite” Valtuille, Bierzo D.O. Spain.
The lively and well crafted entry level Quite Mencia from the talented Veronica Ortega is a pretty, pure and highly enjoyable with layers of earthy dark fruits, delicate spice, mineral and bright acidity, it is a great alternative red to anything in this price range. The fresh light to medium bodied 2018 Quite Bierzo is a brilliant dark garnet in the glass and it reveals an array of blackberry, plum, cherry and currant fruits along with touches shaved cinnamon, minty herbs, anise, leather and a dark floral element, all is very compelling and held together with a satiny ripe tannin structure that feels almost Pinot like in mouth feel and in its vibrancy of flavors. Mencia is the star grape in this region of Spain, in the northwest of Castilla y Leon, as well as in Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra to the west near the Atlantic Ocean. The climate here makes for a denser and some profound versions of this grape and has made the career of some of Spain’s best winemakers, including Veronica Ortega, who was mentored by Raul Perez, the most famous of all of the local producers and who’s wines are absolutely legendary and have helped put this remote area into the spotlight along with outsiders Telmo Rodriguez and Alvaro Palacios playing no small part putting Mencia on the map. The Bierzo region was founded in pre Roman times, though the Romans expanded the wine growing here and gained attention when Cistercian monks moved here and set up wine production, but the vineyards were devastated in the 1800s by phylloxera that pretty much wiped all of vines out. After these vineyard sites were re-planted on the limestone, slate and clay based soils it took a very long time to re-discover the glories of this place and especially Mencia, which can be easily compared to Cabernet Franc, with wines that the soul of Chinon and the opulent character of Saint Emilion, though Veronica’s wines tend to be more racy and show a raw transparence, as this new release shows.

Veronica Ortega, originally from Cádiz from near the Sherry area, settled in Bierzo about a decade ago, and immediately went to work on developing her skills and understanding the terroir working under Raul Perez, later she acquired a few old-vine Mencia parcels near the village of Valtuille de Abrajo on sandy and clay soils that she made into her home base. She has developed into an important voice for this region and her series of wines has evolved over the years with her signature ROC lineup being the most intense, while the Quite Mencia offers a great value and shows the grape in its more quaffable form and is a great way to start getting to know Bierzo. The Quite Mencia is all de-stemmed now and sees a combination of natural yeast fermentation in stainless steel tanks and sees both neutral barrels and amphora in the short aging period, getting about 8 months in total. The sandy soils at elevation, around 500 meters up, and mature vines that average more than 80 years helps give this wine its personality with this vintage being less hot, allowing for a lower alcohol freshness, with this Quite 2018 coming in at 13%, making it wonderfully flexible with food and it can provide lots of smiles with your favorite Tapas as well. As with most producers here, Ortega farms her plots with all organic methods and all her vines are dry farmed with mostly old vines that are classic head trained or bush vines. Ortega’s Quite started with her 2012 vintage and she continues to carve her own niche and following, adding a new style called Kinki in recent years that is a carbonic, whole cluster and natural yeast version of Mencia that is kind off like a Cru Beaujolais, which I hope to try, as it is very hard to get here in California. The Quite Bierzo Mencia is more easily found and well worth the price, that last time I had it, in the 2014 vintage, I was impressed and this 2018 is even more fun and in my opinion up a notch in quality.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 13, 2021

2018 Le Piane, Maggiorina, Vino Rosso, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
The lovely and vigorous Nebbiolo based wines of Le Piane, a small artisan producer in the Boca zone of Northern Piedmonte, in the highest area of this famous wine growing region that is set between the Valle Sesia and Lake Orta, nestled in the foothills of the Lower Alps. The wines here, once a very remote, out of the way, place were chewy, rough and rustic, are now some of the most sought after and coveted wines in the world, with Le Piane being one of the stars, especially with their top Boca DOCG bottlings, which are exceptional and rival their more famous cousins in Barolo and Barbaresco. The 2018 Le Piane entry level Maggiorina Vino Rosso is wildly enjoyable, fresh and brings a pleasure filled array of flavors to the medium bodied palate with a touch of exotic fruit and spices from the unique blend of grapes in this stylish offering, which include the classic varietals of the Boca and Colline Novarese, Nebbiolo, which is called Spanna localy, Vespolina and Croatina. This vintage is bright and vividly floral in nature with layers of morello cherry, guava flesh, tart raspberry, strawberry and a touch of wild red peach fruits along with a range of spices, mineral, amaro herbal notes and anise. This red wine is extremely well balanced and the tannins melt away in the mouth with silky grace and the ruby, almost Pinot like hued Le Piane Maggiorina opens up to reveal liquid roses and its seductive delicacy makes it a real charmer.

The Boca area is underpinned by its special soils, which are glacial gravels over porphyry (rock) of ancient volcanic origin, that along with the Alpine cool nights make this terroir incredibly compelling and in recent times the these wines have taken on a much more serious significance with many wines getting world wide attention, with Le Piane being one of those in the spotlight and showing why these wines are must have efforts for Nebbiolo enthusiasts and savvy collectors. The Maggiorina Rosso, which is named after the traditional four cane goblet style vine training system that was historically employed here, is a true old school field blend made from about 40% Nebbiolo (Spanna), 40% Croatina, 5% Vespolina and at least 9 other local and rare varieties including some whites grapes that all inter-planted and co-fermented from vines that range from 40 to 100 years old. To keep things pure and vibrant this Le Piane Maggiorina was fermented and aged completely in stainless steel with a short maceration and primary fermentation that gently extracts the substance, with the skins in contact with the juice for just under a week, of this lighter style red wine. The Maggiorina Rosso is made to be enjoyed in its youth and is fabulous with food, from pasta to simple country foods, it is well made and crisply detailed, perfect for easy quaffing. While the more heavily Nebbiolo influenced Boca DOCG wines being the winery’s claim to fame, and of which, I wish I could afford to stock up on, I do really excited by this great value too and it is a great way to start your exploration of the intriguing Northern Piedmonte wines.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 12, 2021

2018 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah “Elevacion” Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyard, which sits at 2,500 feet up about the Anderson Valley on unique schist soils in Mendocino’s Yorkville Highlands, is one of the greatest Syrah sites in California and his wines are too, especially the two Syrah bottlings, the Cote-Rotie inspired Alturas Syrah and this unbelievably good Elevation, a micro bottling of 100% Syrah from a heritage clone. As noted by the winery, the Halcon estate, which has about 15 acres of vines, mainly tightly spaced Syrah on a steep sloping hillside, but with tiny amounts of Viognier, which is co-fermented into the Alturas Syrah, a la Cote-Rotie, as well as parcels of Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, along with some Roussanne and Marsanne, that now are being used to make a small lot white wine that will soon be released for the first time. Gordon had told me these 2018s were special wines from a long cool vintage that pushed this already cold climate site to the very edge, with conditions that allowed for deep complexity, from the long hang time, but the extreme late harvest and low sugar concentration made for some nervous days and nights waiting to get the grapes in. That said, these 2018s are spectacular and are what I consider profound offerings, in particular I am thrilled with this pure and exceptional Elevacion, a limited release that will only be made in the best of years, and I also highly recommend the Halcon Tierra Petite Sirah from purchased fruit coming from the terraces of the Theopolis Vineyard, Theodora Lee’s awesome vineyard that produces some of the most compelling Petite Syrah I’ve ever tasted. The Halcon Elevacion shows intense northern Rhone character, beautifully elegant, but with a edgy whole bunches profile that reminds me of the very best from Cornas, especially the fantastic wines of Thierry Allemand, G.Gilles, Auguste Clap and Vincent Paris’ 60 Granit, though Gordon says he was inspired by Cote-Rotie wines from around Ampuis, like Domaine Jamet and Bernard Levet, this wine certainly lives up to all this build up, with a fabulous and inviting opaque black and purple hue and a riveting bouquet of earthy dark berries, perfumed violets and bacon(y) meatiness that leads to a full bodied palate of blackberry, damson plum, creme de cassis, graphite, vibrant herbs from of the stem inclusion, a crunchy mineral note and a light sense of cedary wood, anise and a lingering echo of blueberry compote and the (crushed liquid) violet floral element. The wow factor is off the charts here, and sadly, there definitely is almost no way to put words down that truly give justice to the quality of this peppery and gripping Elevacion Syrah, it’s a wine that takes California Syrah to the next level, much the same way Cayuse, by Christophe Barron, in the Rocks district of Walla Walla in Washington State, did for that region in the early 2000s!

Paul and Jackie Gordon of Halcon Vineyards, who have had some serious help in their early years, with Wells Gutherie of Copain and Scott Shapely of Roar, more recntly, having played vital roles getting this label to the outstanding place it is, make wines that influenced by their deep love of the classic old world offerings, as mentioned, from the Northern Rhone, where they have travelled many times. Over the last few vintages, Paul Gordon, himself has guided the Halcon wines to bottle, he is, as he notes, committed to the most transparent possible expression of the Halcón Vineyards terroir. He will tell you, that he and his wife Jackie believes that wine is made, first and foremost, in the vineyard, and they follow a non-interventionist approach in the cellar, employs 100% natural yeast, partial to all whole cluster fermentation, with zero enzyme additions, there are no adjustments to alcohol or acids in the Halcon wines and the judicious use of new French oak, with this Elevacion Syrah seeing just about a year in a large neutral Puncheon, plus the wines get only a micro dose of sulphites or SO2, so the wines stay vivid and freshly focused. The 2018s have a nice sense of energy and good natural acidity with a slowly unfolding parade of flavors, which are set for long and very rewarding lives ahead, I can clearly see this Syrah getting even better and fuller over the next 5 to 10 years, patience will pay off with these new Halcon releases, especially this one. The structure and tannin of the Halcon Elevacion Syrah give this vintage an underlying power, much like the smooth feline tension of a leopard’s muscles and it should be paired with simply prepared and robust cuisine, it would be magic with rustic Lamb dishes and or prime rib, as well as hard cheeses and wild mushroom dishes. There is lots to admire about this wine and the current releases, and I am hearing that the upcoming 2019s are looking good too, and Paul thinks they will eclipse these awesome 2018s, which would be mightily impressive if so, but I am excited to find out and am eagerly awaiting to get my hands on them in the Spring. The cool temperatures here, which mimic those of Cote-Rotie over a growing season, give these grapes that long hang time, and the rocky – schist soils get the vines to dig deep and allows for enough stress to deliver expressive varietal character, and up at this site, there are crisp daytime breezes that provide refreshment for the vineyard throughout the year. Gordon adds, the finished alcohol is a modest 13.3%, making it remarkably well balanced, even at this early stage and this Elevacion is a standout to get while you can, it is absolutely beautiful, with a nice cut of savory stuff inside and it is wildly delicious, plus it is ridiculously reasonable in price, it could be the best red wine for the money in the new world!
($38 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 11, 2021

2019 Bow & Arrow, Rhinestones, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s most unique and tasty wines, Bow & Arrow’s Rhinestones is an all natural and organic blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Gamay Noir coming from the Johan Vineyard, a biodynamically farmed site in the Willamette Valley and fermented with lots of crunchy whole cluster, making for a darkly ripe and spicy wine that took its inspiration from the Loire Valley’s Cheverny region of France. Scott Frank, owner of Bow & Arrow, the urban Portland micro winery, is committed to producing artisan, fun, eccentric and delicious bottlings with a nod to the old world and with a modern twist in some cases and this Rhinestones is his unassuming signature wine, and one that can you on a thrill ride of flavors, as this new 2019 release does with bright punchy layers of black cherry, plum, lingonberry and bramble berry fruits, racy peppercorns, cinnamon stick, dark wood, floral notes and an earthy intensity that is very appealing in this medium bodied red. Like the Cheverny wines, where by law, the red wines must be a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, Frank follows suit with this stricture in his Rhinestones, with all the grapes being Pinot and Gamay, though the percentage will change a little depending on the year’s best offering in the vineyard, with this 2019 getting a bit more Pinot Noir as their quality was outstanding and gave an impressive structure and depth here. In some years, this wine can rival the best wines in the region and this 2019 really shines with an exciting dense mouth feel and a warm forward personality, a bit less edgy than the last two years, but still is its flamboyant and devilishly pleasing, especially with simple foods and with its quaffable low alcohol easiness.

The Bow & Arrow Rhinestones, is as Scott Frank notes, a blend that solely determined by nature and vintage, with the grapes brought into the winery cold and freshly picked, using as mentioned the whole bunches and stem inclusion with all native yeast fermentation. Frank, after primary seeing a semi carbonic maceration was then aged in a mixture of concrete and old barriques. This wine is the flagship of the Bow & Arrow (Portland based) operation according to Frank, who adds that it communicates what Bow & Arrow is all about as much as anything he makes. The winery focuses on transparency and raw authenticity with this Rhinestones, as they put, being an effortlessly drinkable effort, but a wine that rewards detective work if you’re in the mood, which I always seem to be, this is a wine that I try not to miss. A few years back, I ratted the Bow & Arrow at 96 Points, and this vintage is almost an equal and a wine to discover if you’ve not yet tried Bow & Arrow. The latest set of wines are all very interesting and quality efforts, I also recommend exploring their Air Guitar, an Anjou (Loire Valley) themed red blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the crisp and salty fresh Melon de Bourgogne, an oyster companion white wine, also from the Johan Vineyard as well as Bow & Arrow’s pure and rustically style Gamay and Frank’s Sauvignon Blanc, which is a lovely Pouilly-Fume influenced version. Oregon is really flying high with tons of exceptional stuff on offer, from studied classics to some decidedly quirky bottlings, which I would say that Bow & Arrow fits in, these are some honestly different or alternative wines, but wonderful values too.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 10, 2021

2019 Le Miccine, Rosato di Toscana “P” IGT Rosé, Gaiole in Chianti Classico, Italy.
Paula Papini Cook’s P Rosato di Toscana Rosé of Sangiovese from her all organic estate grapes at the historic Le Miccine, which is set in the forested hills of Gaiole in Chianti Classico is a bright and crisp effort with tart cherry, strawberry, peach and zippy citrus fruits, a soft texture, earth, dried herbs, mineral and rosewater. Light and delicate this pale easy dry Rosé has an orange/ruby pink color and has plenty of Sangiovese’s natural acidity, though everything is very elegant and round in style and lingers with a hint of caramel and summer melon. I am a huge fan of Papini Cook’s wines here at Le Miccine, especially her stellar Chianti Classico Riserva bottlings over the last five releases, in particular I was absolutely smitten with he 2013 and 2016 wines, superb vintages in the region, as well as the estate’s basic Chianti Classico and the single varietal Merlot Carduus, a wine that like Castello di Ama’s that shows this grape does fabulous well in Tuscany. Le Miccine estate has been an important part of the Chianti countryside since ancient times and served as a way station for travellers, usually produce traders and their donkeys to rest, where there was shade, a spring and refreshments. The name Le Miccine itself comes from the local dialect (a word) that means small female donkeys, taken of course from the service they provided over the hundreds of years of this route being in use. The vineyards at Le Miccine came later as the fame of Gaiole’s wines became widely known and that the terroir’s promise was cemented, they were initially planted in the sixties and that is when the estate began to produce wines. Though quite popular, the Le Miccine never reached their potential until Paula Papini Cook came here and revitalized the vineyards and set up her family’s cellars to compete with the legendary neighbors. I wrote about Le Miccine recently, reviewing the awesome Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 and will continue to follow the wines from this spot and the talented Papini Cook, who was trained in both France and Spain before coming to her family’s sleepy remote winery.

The Le Miccine winery has a special micro climate that enjoys warm long days and cool nights that helps ripen the classic native grapes here, Sangiovese, including a handful of different clones, Malvasia Nera and Colorino, along with the Merlot, making for wonderfully complex flavors and depth. The wines at Le Miccine, as Papini Cook, the youthful Canadian born and internationally trained winemaker explains, are carefully managed in stainless steel tanks until the (cool) fermentations end to preserve purity and freshness with temperature control and a lengthy gentle maceration. The wines are then pressed to a combination of vessels depending on the varietal and vine age with some aged in French oak barrels, and or large neutral (used) oak casks for optimal oak integration and balance in her wines. Le Miccine wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown organically on the property. The Rosé, which is usually reserved only for guests of the property, as is Le Miccine’s well known and admired olive oil, but can be ordered in a sampler set, which I acquired, that can be delivered to the United States directly from the winery’s cellar, when you visit their website. The all stainless Rosé is bright and simple, but it hit the spot with pizza on a nicely warm evening, but certainly it would be more refreshing on a Tuscan Summer day and native cuisine. It was my National Pizza Day wine, as I had felt like something cooly natured and a bit lighter to go with my toppings, it did the job very well and without pretense. Papini Cook’s hard work and passion has lifted Le Miccine and has made this small family estate one of the most exciting properties in these beautiful Chianti Classico hillsides, joining some of the elite labels in the zone. The Le Miccine wines are now award winning efforts, written about in many wine journals and very highly recommended by Decanter Magazine, where I first read about this Chianti, which is distributed internationally, including being found in restaurants world wide, as well as cities such as Montreal, New York, Auckland, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and in Europe. Again, while these wines are not easy to find, the main three stand out offerings can be found with a motivated search, and I cannot wait until travel is back to normal so I can finally visit in person!
($25 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 9, 2021

2010 Domaine la Monardiere, Vacqueyras Rouge, Les 2 Monardes, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Rhone Valley, France.
The nearly perfect and in peak condition, Vacqueyras Les 2 Monardes, by Martine and Christian Vache at Domaine la Monardiere put on a great show in the glass last night with crisp details and lovely maturity of flavors with seductive layers of ripe Grenache led red fruits, subtle earthy/savory elements, polished structural excellence and a beautiful array of spice, florals and a faint meatiness that impresses on the full bodied palate. I haven’t experienced the Vache’s wines to much and so this find was truly a brilliant discovery, it came to me through a friend that bought an incredible cellar full of top Rhone wines, where the wines were stored in pristine condition and of which had some gems that would not bring top dollars at auction, but offer an outstanding drinking value with just the right amount of age to bring out their full potential, as this La Monardiere delivered last night. In recent weeks, I’ve tried so even older (Rhone) stuff from the same cellar that also brought intense pleasure, so I was really excited for this one from a stellar vintage in the southern Rhone Valley, and I was not disappointed, this special Lieu-Dit Vacqueyras way over performed with classic, very Chateauneuf du Pape like presence, showing brambly boysenberry, dried sweet red cherry, pomegranate, black fig, strawberry preserves and racy currant fruits, wild herbs, crushed flowers, a hint of game (as the good dose of Syrah comes alive with air) and loaminess, as well as framboise, mint, pepper and anise. With time and food, this beautiful Domaine la Monardiere Les 2 Monardes adds dimension, depth and length with everything hitting the right notes and lifting this Vacqueyras to the next level, I am also excited to check out the wineries latest releases, especially from the 2016 vintage, that should be awesome and could be just as desirable in 10 to 15 years as well, like this 2010 is proving.

The Vache family bought this estate from Monardieres back in 1987 and began their journey into becoming a top producer in the Vacqueyras with a lot of hard work, investment in the cellar and converting all the vines to organic, which clearly paid off with their wines, they have found a sweet spot in their style that appears so well in the riveting results of their two main bottlings, with this one in particular being everything you’d ever want from a Rhone red wine at a very reasonable price. The Les 2 Monardes was crafted from 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah from vines of an average age of 40 years, with this Lieu-Dit planted in chalky grit (limestone) and sandy clay soils in the Vacqueyras AOC. The Grenache and Syrah grapes are all hand-harvested, with impeccable and careful sorting to only get the very best of the estate fruit for this wine. This version saw 100% de-stemmed grape berries that was fermented using spontaneous natural yeasts, with a maceration and extraction period of almost three weeks with gentle daily punch-downs to showcase the terroir. The Vache’s traditional approach included them aging their Vacqueyras cru from 12 months in a combination of tanks, especially revealing in the Grenache and a few lots in barrels to add richness and soften tannins and then chosen, blended and bottled, without fining or filtration to capture every nuance of this wine’s soul in the bottle. The Monardiere lineup includes a Vacqueyras Rosé, an Old Vine Vacqueyras (Vieilles Vignes) and this single vineyard style Les 2 Monardes, all of which should be on your radar if you love Rhone wines, and are Grenache fans. These artisan offerings from the Vache family show what Vacqueyras can do in the right hands and they, for all of the wines, they work with lower than the legal limits with very small yields to get serious concentration and express a powerful profile, while employing mostly cement vessels to promote transparency and freshness, which is highlighted in this spectacular Rhone red.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 8, 2021

2018 Martha Stoumen, Negroamaro Rosato, Benson Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino County.
There’s a time, when you taste something special, it takes you back to cherished memories and moments that bring unashamed joy of life, touch and smells, this serious and unique Rosé by Martha Stoumen is that kind of wine, inspired by what Martha says was a crisp, but warm Fall day on the rocky Mediterranean coast and made from a rare southern Italian varietal it is a barrel fermented and extended lees aged Rosé that delivers a fascinating complexity and substance, not usually found in pink wines. I would compare this to the glorious wines of Clos Cibonne, the Provence Tibouren based Rosés that are aged on the lees under a layer of Flor, similar to Sherries, but somehow remain intensely fresh, vibrant and mineral driven, which this Negroamaro Rosato 2018 that Martha recently released does, though without Flor, sourced from vines in the Mendocino. The 2018 Stoumen Negroamaro Rosato has a sensational presence in the glass with dusty dry layers of ruby grapefruit or Moro orange, tart cherry, strawberry and pomegranate water along with bitter herbal notes, distilled rose petal, lavender essence all framed by steely cool mineral tones and saline infused wet stone as well as having a graceful roundness of texture that really sets this Rosé apart from almost any other California version, with the exception of Randall Gram’s Reserve Vin Gris that also saw lees aging, though instead of barrel like this one, it was aged in glass carboys. The color is vivid and totally alluring with a stunning bright orange/pink hue that captures the sun and invites sip after sip, though this wine really excels with food, having a good depth and flexibility of flavors, I found it positively well behaved with the pungent, but oh so good, La Tur, the Italian soft stinky cheese and a sourdough baguette on a sunny February day and can easily see it holding up well with steamed mussels, or even more robust cuisine choices. I love La Tur, though usually it can be a bit strong for lighter wines, but was brilliant with this one, it’s a fantastic earthy/tangy cheese made with combination of cow, goat and sheep’s milk.

Martha Stoumen, is a great addition to the modern California wine scene and her talents are as transparently clear as her natural styled wines with her pure and rustically styled collection of southern European (Country) influenced offerings, including her signature Nero d’Avola that pays tribute to her time at the famous COS Winery in Vittoria Sicily, as well as her fabulous Carignan and intriguing low alcohol and whole cluster Zinfandel, to name a few of my favs of hers. Stoumen, based in Sebastopol, has been looking for a way to express herself by searching out old and organic family vineyards to make her wines, which has led her into grower partnerships, like her plots at Benson Ranch with rare or lesser known grapes being a core to her success, along with a studied artisan flare and hard work, with a slight focus on Italian varietals like this Negroamaro. There’s a lot to love in Stoumen’s lineup and she has also teamed up with natural wine specialists Las Jares to make a dark Valdiguie Bubbly, a California Lambrusco or Pet-Nat that is from organic and dry farmed 70 year old vines. For this Negroamaro Rosato, Martha helps farm the grapes at the Benson Ranch in remote Mendocino County, with dry famed 15-year-old vines set on a rocky, gravel and loam plot that sees no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. Stoumen says that the Benson Ranch Negroamaro grapes has such incredible concentration that she ages this wine, not according to its category (Rosé), but by what the fruit in this unique parcel dictates. Adding also very unique for Rosé, that her team barrel fermented and aged this wine, as mentioned above, on the fine lees, after they did a good old fashioned foot treading and an overnight maceration on the stems and skins, which adds to the complex nature of this wine, providing an textural quality and a refreshing minty bite. This wine, is an enthusiast Rosé, worth every penny and great for anytime of year.
($42 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day – Flashback – February 7, 2021

2009 Charly Thevenet, Regnie “Grain & Granit” Cru Beaujolais, France.
I featured this wine upon release, and stuck a few bottles away to explore later with this one my last and opened almost a full decade from when I first tried it and it was glorious with excellent detail and perfect maturity on display still, remarkable stuff, especially considering I hadn’t really thought about cellaring this and it saw less than ideal conditions for aging. I had been a big Cru Beaujolais fan fan prior to the vintage of the century, 2009, as I was converted by Kermit Lynch in the early 2000s, when he introduced me to fabulous wines from Thivin, Diochon, Thevenet (Charly’s dads), Foillard, Breton and of course the late great Marcel Lapierre. But for the rest of the wine world, the 2009 vintage changed everything for the Beaujolais region, these flamboyant and insanely rich Gamay wines had their breakout moment, and it also marked a generational change, with the spotlight coming down on some of the youthful talents, including the young Charly Thevenet, who debuted his own label just before this exceptional vintage. His wine, from a lesser known Cru – Regnie, and called Grain & Granit made a brilliant start for his start up label and Kermit Lynch brought a bunch of it and I was able to one of the first in California to try it. I originally was impressed and gave it 93 Points, and I am still impressed, it has remained fantastically solid in structure and has not lost any of its charm over the years with macerated strawberries, candied cherries and plum fruit still going strong, though with the signs of age melding them together and showing a touch of baked raspberry preserves, fig paste and dried potpourri along with some delicate dusty spices and earthiness. The year’s low acidity and heady ripe fruit is clear and present, but this wine has held up well and there is a gorgeous silken mouth feel, much like an aged Burgundy. This ruby/brick hued effort hints at its age, but is a fine, well crafted Regnie has survived my terrible abuse (bad cellaring, all my own doing) and delivered a stunning performance, I can’t wait to get a few of Charly’s newest releases.

As noted by Kermit Lynch, Charly, growing up the son of a famous “Gang of Four” Morgon producer in the legendary form of Jean-Paul Thévenet, the young Thévenet was exposed quite early on to traditional, Jules Chauvet inspired natural viticulture—a philosophy that his father and friends, Jean Foillard, Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton helped to resurrect in Beaujolais in the early eighties, working with organic grapes, whole cluster, native yeasts and no chemical additions. Though only in his twenties, Charly had already started, what Lynch, one of the most renown talent spotters, especially in the Beaujolais area, calls a dynamic career with stints with the family winery and experience under the guidance of Marcel Lapierre, who gave him some added confidence and maybe a few secrets. He purchased a parcel of eighty-year-old Gamay vines in Régnié, west-southwest of his hometown of Villié-Morgon to set out on his own and start on his own path, now ten years on he has re-joined his family winey, taking over as well as continuing on with this personal project which has developed a serious following. Régnié is a terroir enjoying something of its own renaissance in recent years, especially Julien Sunier’s example, as well as other talented growers like Charly, and his dad’s long time friend, Guy Breton. In fact, Regnié has joined the short list of Grand Crus in the Beaujolais, according to Kermit Lynch again, it is wonderfully located on a plateau of seabed stone, making it unique, in the foothills of the Côte du Py, which it noted to give a fruit forward, but with lively acidity, maybe less granite intense than other Crus. Charly uses biodynamic farming techniques in the vineyard, never adding synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides to the vines, and like Lapierre, he harvests late, with an aggressive sorting of the grapes, adds minimal doses of sulfur dioxide. The natural fermentation starts in cement and Thevenet then ages the wine in used Burgundy barriques, he and bottles his wines unfiltered, if you love Gamay and or Cru Beaujolais, you should search out Domaine Thevenet Morgon and Charly’s own Regnie, these are rewarding beauties!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

PS: 2009 Charly Thevenet: Grapelive Original Review

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 6, 2021

2018 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the world’s standard barer wines, the Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, one of its finest slash purist Syrah wines and a tremendous value for the cost, this 2018 version proving that with a cool toned flourish with vivid black fruit, spice, camphor and lively acidity. This vintage, not as dense as 2015, 2016 and or as ripe as 2017s were, makes for a more studied classic version with its purple/black and ruby edged hue and layers of blueberry, boysenberry, damson plum and kirsch fruits along with a touch of raw meat, graphite, peppercorns, Dutch salted black licorice, Olive paste, violets and minty Asian herbs. Why do these Graillot wines make our Syrah lovers hearts sing, maybe it is the Burgundy like sensibility and terroir character they deliver, especially now with Alain’s sons Maxime and Antoine running the famous estate and hand crafting the wines to honor their father, you can almost feel the pride they have in each of the wines. The legendary Alain Graillot established his winery back in 1985, who after working with the venerable Jacques Seysses (who has inspired many winemakers) at Domaine Dujac, came back to his home in Crozes-Hermitage to push this once rough and unloved region to new heights, helping raise the game here to levels that put it on par or worth mentioning alongside with its more fabled neighbors like Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Cote-Rotie and the spiritual hue of Syrah, the sacred hill of Hermitage itself.

The 2018 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage has all the right stuff to reward the enthusiast and it will please for years to come, especially with the underlying substance and extra vitality it has going for it, not that many will have the patience to wait. As per normal, the Alain Graillot Rouge, 100% Syrah, of course, was fermented using 100% whole clusters in a concrete cuve with all native or indigenous yeasts all from organic grapes grown gravelly and stony granite based soils from 30 year old vines in Graillot’s La Chene Verts parcels. Everything done in a nod to tradition and to promote clarity of flavors, but you can sense the attention to detail and careful hands in the making of this wine with a gentle guidance to bottle after seeing a year of so in all used or low influence (Burgundy sourced) French oak barrels, which allows this Syrah to show its transparent charms. Considering the whole bunches, this wine delivers a level of refinement that few Crozes can match, while hinting at Syrah’s natural funkiness and the wine has an opulent medium bodied palate with graceful tannins. As this vintage slowly opens up with air and time in the glass it gathers its aromatic quality and depth, it seriously changes dramatically as it fully unfolds, adding dimension and presence to an already very confidently impressive wine. Drinking the Graillot’s Crores-Hermitage offerings are always a treat and this bottling in particular highlights that truth, this 2018 is a rock solid wine. Enjoy this vintage with rustic cuisine, it goes brilliant with lamb, wild mushroom dishes and or short ribs, and over the next 5 to 10 years.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 5, 2021

2019 Sheldon, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
The beautifully detailed, spicy, dark fruited and delicately perfumed Sheldon Graciano, from a home vineyard on the cool rocky hillsides between Healdsburg and the Chalk Hill district, is one of the best yet examples of this Rioja grape in California with ripe flavors, opulent sweet tannins and a smooth low alcohol style. The brilliantly gleaming garnet/purple and ruby color and seductive bouquet are wonderfully inviting and the medium/full palate presents vivid layers of vine picked raspberry, black cherry, plum and garden strawberry fruits, all of which, is accented by an array of spices, mineral and a light earthy character with hints of cinnamon, wild flowers, herbs de Provence as well as forest floor, a cedary elements, loam and tangy sage. Graciano, usually blended with Tempranillo in Rioja has been gaining traction in California, with some of the plantings coming online in Paso Robles, where the grape thrives, was done by a lucky mistake, as they were supposed to be a new Monastrell clone of Mourvedre as well as being grown in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley area as well, but the Sheldon’s who have loved the Graciano grape a long time have sourced fruit from Ripkin Vineyard in the Lodi area and from this tiny parcel in Sonoma County, where the varietal does exceptionally well, as this 2019 vintage shows. Over the last decade, the Sheldon’s have explored many different styles with their Graciano, from Rosé to a dense red wine, and even two different sparkling versions, including the just released Brut Noir bubbly made from lots of macerated (skins) Graciano, making a dark red sparkling Graciano that is similar to Sparkling Shiraz and or high end Lambrusco! This Sheldon Graciano joins a celebration of obscurity along with Luke Nio’s Filomena St. Laurent, Arnot-Roberts’ Trousseau, Michael Cruse’s Tannat, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, to name a few fun and rare offerings from lesser known grapes in California.

The rare and limited 2019 Graciano red wine by Dylan and Tobe Sheldon, which is due out soon, was made in a traditional and transparent way with just two barrels being made with indigenous yeast spontaneous fermentation and cool maceration with classic foot treading and small basket pressing to neutral, well used or seasoned French oak for just about a year. The Sheldon’s note that no new wood was harmed during the winemaking process and that this new Graciano was bottled unfined and unfiltered to preserve every nuance from the vineyard and to highlight the purity of the finished wine. In an effort to make a varietally honest wine, the Sheldon’s went with about 50% whole cluster and made sure the fermentation went smoothly at low temperatures to retain the more delicate aromatics that this wine delivers with a sensually that makes this wine additive. Dylan Sheldon, the winemaker, says that to him, this ancient and rare varietal is uncommon to find as a solo varietal in its homeland, in the Rioja region of Spain, but the ones that are done as a single varietal wine has always intrigued and inspired him to do a Graciano here in California, which he has done for more than a decade with great and geeky success, again, as this example does with a flourish. This vintage come in at just 12.5% natural alcohol, which allows this wine to easily enjoyed and is excellent with a variety of food, though obviously fantastic with basque cheeses and or an array of Tapas. The Luc’s Vineyard, all organic, is planted on a west facing hillside on volcanic soils, that give this wine its iron rich and spicy personality, adding red pepper and pomegranate notes after getting air. To the best of Dylan’s knowledge this might be the only Graciano vines in this part of Sonoma County, and notes that there are only about 30 acres in total in the whole State, making it a unique treat that I highly recommend. The Sheldon’s vastest set of wines is an awesome collection of offerings, especially interesting are their micro lots of Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Syrah, this Graciano (both 2018 and 2019 editions) and the Grenache bottlings that are this wineries signature wines.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive