Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 8, 2019

2015 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2015 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravelly Meadow, Napa Valley.
Diamond Creek, one of the first single vineyard wines and a California legend, still makes one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the state and this latest Gravelly Meadow is a gorgeous wine with a deep purple/crimson color and ripe tannin, it’s a wine that is packed with fruit and should age, like all Diamond Creek’s, for another two to three decades. I was saddened to hear of the passing of Boots Brounstein this week, and I will always be grateful of her kindness and support over the years, she and her late husband Al, were wonderful people and their passion for wine infectious, they were always generous with their time with me and I will never forget that. When I first got into the wine business, I used to attend a special Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in Napa Valley, at the Greystoke or the CIA and the Brounstein’s were enthusiastic and even in his poor health Al would charm the room, and many times he even would have a secret bottle under the table to share, these were great moments they have always stayed with me. Diamond Creek, which I have many times compared to Chateau Latour, have always been treasured bottles and they have a fantastic track record for quality and staying power, I recently had a 1981, which proved all my beliefs, still remarkably fresh and brilliant in detail, and not too long ago I had a mid seventies version and it too was nearly perfect, I think maybe only Ridge come close to the age worthiness of Diamond Creek. The winery began when Al Broustein bought about 70 acres on Napa’s Diamond Mountain in 1967, and he planted around 25 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a small amount of merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot on four distinct terroirs, incredibly all were within 60 feet of each other with Volcanic Hill, Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow and the tiny Lake cru all becoming prestigious sites and are always bottled and vinified separately. By the early to mid seventies Diamond Creek was producing powerful mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that rivaled the best Bordeaux and their long time winemaker Phil Steinschreiber has made some of the state’s greatest wines, and the current 2015 vintage is top notch, and for me, this Gravelly Meadow is Cabernet that lives up to the historic wines from their past with blackberry, plum, black currant and blueberry fruits on the full bodied palate along with touches of smoky wood, anise, minty sage, sweet tobacco leaf, violet florals and lingering creme de cassis all wrapped in a firm structure, though unlike the 1970s and 1980s, the tannins are lush and smooth, mostly from the vintage rather than any winemaking changes.

Founded in 1968, Diamond Creek was California’s first exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard, though many more have followed, especially those famous “Cult” producers in the early nineties like Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Bryant Family that were, I’m sure inspired by the visionary Al Broustein and his pioneering and iconic wines. Even though, he thought he had a special place, Al brought in iconic Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff (of BV Georges Latour fame) and got his seal of approval. As the winery notes, Brounstein, who loved Burgundy and Bordeaux equally, but knew that Napa, even back in the late sixties, was not well suited for Pinot Noir and opted for Cabernet. So he went to Bordeaux, checked out places in Pauillac and Pessac Leognan and talked some of the region’s top vintners into giving him some vine cuttings. (And) Because there was a seriously long quarantine process before using them on these shores, Brounstein had the cuttings shipped to Rosarita Beach, in Baja California, where. Al flew his own plane down and picked up the cuttings and secretly brought them back to Napa, an exercise he repeated — seven times! This parcel, the Gravelly Meadow, is one of the coolest micro-climates on the property, it is a five-acre vineyard that was originally a pre-historic river bed, that the Broustein’s noted, that this stony plot, with it’s gravelly soil drains rapidly and the vines struggle for moisture, resulting in the lowest yields and giving amazing concentration. Al Broustein famously suggested his Gravelly Meadow wines were some of his favorites and can be described as “earthy, cedary, jammy and ripe blackberry with a spicy expansive finish.” All of which I agree with, and this 2015 can easily fit that, though I find them more complex than that certainly and they develop a real Medoc like loamy character as they age that takes away the jamminess, without losing the purity of fruit that make these Cabernet’s so compelling. In modern times, this traditional or old school Napa wine seems timeless and in my mind only Cathy Corison’s, who’s latest Cab is fantastic too and Philip Togni’s wines are in same vein. I love these wines and while not cheap, they are often better than wines twice or three times the price, and while in recent years the climate and warm years have made these wines beautiful in their youth, they still reward patience, making them attractive to collectors, and this 2015 looks set to be a classic.
($225 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 7, 2019

2018 La Marea by Ian Brand, Albarino “Alt Cut” Kristy Vineyard, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2018 La Marea by Ian Brand, Albarino “Alt Cut” Kristy Vineyard, Monterey County.
One of the purest and freshest whites of the Summer is Ian Brand’s La Marea “Alt-Cut” Albarino, and this limited edition is a special batch that was vineyard yeast fermented or Pied de Cuve and was whole cluster pressed with a few days of skin contact, making for a vibrant and mineral crisp dry white with nice depth and extract. Ian’s regular version saw more skin contact and is more Sancerre like, which is also incredible, but this Alt-Cut version is wonderfully stylish and far more Rias Baixas true in character with electric acidity and green apple leading the way along with layers of citrus, melon and fleshy white peach, finishing with tangy notes and saline infused wet rock. This Alt-Cut is flying out of the tasting room and you can see why, it is pretty in detail and refreshing on the lighter bodied, but textural palate. The Kristy Vineyard, where this wine comes from, is on the western bench above the Salinas River set on an alluvial fan of diatomaceous earth, or ancient sea bed, with some broken limestone sediment that allows a ripening of flavors, but with a noticeable lower alcohol, it makes for complex and zippy wines.

While harvesting the grapes, sometimes a few days before the full pick, a small batch is put into buckets or small bins and crushed right there within the rows of vines and allowed to ferment naturally and then this is used to set off the crushed grapes in the winery. This Pied de Cuve Alt-Cut, I hope gets done again, as this vintage shows a lovely and distinct personality that really satisfies all the wants in an Albarino, it is great as a poolside or beach party sipper on it’s own, but also is great with food, in fact it gains depth and entertains especially well with food, in particular briny options like Claims, oysters and mussels as well as going great with grilled or pan fried Sardines and or squid. This Albarino gains aromatic as it opens revealing lime blossom and some brisk herbs, while the mouth feel softens making it even more compelling in the glass where its pale greenish gold hue catches the light. Brand de-stemmed all the grapes from a special parcel in the vineyard and left them on the skins for two days in cool vats, aging it with minimal lees and bottled it early to preserve its vivid personality, with only 70 cases made. This is tasty stuff that highlights the fantastic vintage in the region, if you are looking for something fun and unique, check this out.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 6, 2019

2017 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Ritsch, Grosses Gewächs, Mosel Germany.
Loewen’s amazing Ritsch GG coming from extreme slopes, the second steepest in Europe, set on intense slate is a wonderfully concentrated dry Riesling that shows the historic terroir along with the talents of Christopher Loewen, who took over the estate’s winemaking in recent years and has brought this winery to new heights of quality, focusing on a sophisticated drier style. The Carl Loewen estate dates back to 1803, and according to importer Terry Theise, one of the world’s most respected Riesling experts, when an agent in Paris purchased a set of vineyards and buildings owned by the Church’s religious Maximin order. This sale was part of an auction used to generate money for the Napoleonic government after secularization thought Europe and included some of the finest vineyard site in the Mosel, including Maximiner Herrenberg, which has the oldest set of Riesling vines in Germany, planted in 1896 and then two years later Loewen acquired their main parcels at Maximin Klosterlay. Christopher’s dad, always wise and with a nose for great sites, Karl -Josef, was always looking for old vineyards and grew the Estate by purchasing steep old vineyards (low yielding) that no one wanted to work anymore, he in fact for this wine, he got the estate’s first selection in the Thörnicher Ritsch vineyard in 1998, which as noted, is the second steepest vineyard in Germany, second only to Bremer Calmot in the lower Mosel. This is an exceptional site with grey weathered slate and quartzite soils, and as Christopher notes, it took awhile for the Loewen’s to get this place up to speed, going from conventional farming to chemical free organic methods here, as they now practice throughout their holdings, and the quality in the last three vintages have reached impressive levels of quality, with this 2017 being absolutely gorgeous and perfumed with beautiful mineral detailing and crystalline transparency. There are three wines that you’ll want to get from Loewen, their Alte Reben Trocken, their incredible 1896 Herrenberg Feinherb, from Germany’s oldest Riesling vines and this Ritsch GG, it’s a powerful and majestic wine that really stands out.

Christopher employs a natural approach to making his wines, and as Theise notes, all of the grapes are all pressed whole cluster pressed, but the pomace is never moved. With Loewen adding “when you move the solids, you break stems, which leads to phenolic flavors”, which he avoids. The juice is then “browned” or oxidized pre- fermentation, that reduces reduction and brings out more fruit purity. Loewen’s ferments are Sponti (native yeast) and completely natural without addition of enzymes or nutrition for the yeast, with single vineyard wines, like this one, are bloc picked and go directly into Fuder barrels (around 1000L in size) which average 25 years old without temperature control as the cellar here is very cold already. The 2017 Thörnicher “Ritsch” Grosses Gewachs is rich, ripe and opulent in personality with a hint of exotic fruits, but still is driven by this vineyard’s special characteristics, it’s a site that Theise calls, one of Germany’s great undiscovered Grand Crus, and there is a certain intensity of extract, a slight green note, though less obvious in this vintage, as well as the flinty spiciness which contrasts perfect with the fruit density. The palate reveals layers of apricot/peach stone fruits, a subtle tropical element with touches of papaya, mango and passion fruit along with a burst of lime and tangerine as well as crushed wet stones, minty herb, verbena, lemongrass and leesy notes. This 2017 will continue to evolve, it’s lush and forward now, but the underlying grip and the core material has potential elevate this beauty to an even greater level, it will be worth it to put a few bottles away, even though it is such a joyous Riesling as it is now. Loewen’s upcoming 2018’s are without a doubt going to be legends, I had a chance to try them with Christopher and they are some of the best young Rieslings I’ve ever tried, his whole collection is stellar. When I fist started exploring German wines over 20 years ago, I was taken by Selbach-Oster, Leitz and Loewen, they have always been special to me and helped me understand the greatness of Riesling, and they still do, especially in recent years and with the direction Christopher has taken, his wines are some of the greatest white wines in the world, do not miss them, in particular the old vine trockens!
($65 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 5, 2019

2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The amazingly seductive and Burgundy like, Cameron 2017 Dundee Hills cuvee Pinot Noir is from grapes exclusively from the two exceptional estate vineyard sites in the Dundee Hills AVA, these being the fabled Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge Vineyards, both of which are multi-clone and non-irrigated vines. The 2017 version is wonderfully lively and bright with phenomenally low alcohol at only 12.6%, but still surprisingly deep in flavors and with a dark hue and fruit profile along with tons of personality and charms, it sometimes is hard to imagine a better Oregon Pinot for the price. Slightly reduced at this stage, as all Cameron’s seem to be when young, the 2017 Dundee Hills Pinot is lively with layers of blackberry, strawberry and plum fruits that are wrapped around a dark cherry core along with red spices, cinnamon, graphite, sweet toast, tea notes and cedary/wood.

John Paul, Cameron’s legendary winemaker, who is Burgundy influence to the core of his being, is devoted to non-irrigated vines for the intensity of concentration and pigment, and that he strives for sustainable and organic grapes and in the cellar he goes for traditional methods. The Pinots are all 100% native yeast fermented and they receive long elevage, at minimum 18 months and such was the case here in the this beautiful, rich and spicy barrel selection Dundee Hills bottling. After time in the glass and with air this deep garnet/ruby Pinot opens to reveal more floral elements, ripe currant jelly and savory things both meaty and herbal, making for a sexy and stylish wine to drink over the next 5 to 7 years easy. Not as densely packed as 2014, 2015 and 2016 versions, the 2017’s are more lacy and lighted, though not light or missing anything, it is much more a finessed year to cherish.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 4, 2019

2017 Tablas Creek, Vermentino, Adelaida District, Paso Robles -photo grapelive

2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Vermentino, Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
The Tablas Vermentino is an amazing dry white wine with crisp minerally detail and plenty, fresh fruit of zesty zippiness, but also with a beautiful textural charm, reminding me somewhat of Yves Leccia’s Patrimonio Blanc (Biancu in Corsican dialect), which is high praise as Leccia’s wines are some of my favorites, especially his 100% Vermentinu (Vermentino). Vermentino, one of the great Mediterranean varietals can be found from Corsica to Sardinia, as well as mainland Italy from Liguria to Piedmonte, where it is known as Favorita, because it was the Duchess of Savoy’s favorite white wine, hence the name, though because it has mutated slightly, as has Pigato, it is listed as a separate grape, while in France it is known as Rolle, though can be labeled either Vermentino or Rolle. None other than the iconic California Rhone pioneer Randall Grahm, of the Bonny Doon Vineyard, believes Vermentino might be the best grape for the central coast and thinks it can be the next big thing, in fact he is going to include it more prominently in his famous Rhone white style Cigare Blanc blend, and other wineries are interested in Vermentino too, such as Ryme Cellars, which do two distinct single varietal versions that are awesome. The Tablas version is a classic example to get a feel for the grape, and in much the same way as they did with Picpoul, have made this wine extremely popular for the alternative to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc crowd, it is a stylish and vibrant wine that has enough mouth feel, depth and complexity to satisfy serious connoisseurs as well. Vermentino, while not a household name is waking waves and there is a lot to admire in terms of quality and personality, especially with this intriguing Tablas Creek all stainless wine.

The estate grown Tablas Creek Vermentino comes from all organic and biodynamic vines from their own Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape clones in the Adelaida District of Westside Paso Robles, which is set on most limestone, just like it is back home in the Rhone and as well in Provence. This 2017 is Tablas’ 15th vintage of Vermentino and it’s a beauty, it delivers a worthy performance in the glass with rich layers of racy fruits on the medium bodied palate including tangerine, white peach, lemon/lime and tangy green melon along with lime blossom, tart grapefruit, orange zest/peel, light herbs and a touch of savory/briny salty elements. With air and a slight warming in the glass this ultra pale wine gains a certain creamy density and glycerin level, making an impact and while brisk throughout and steely dry it can hold your attention and go with a richer selection of cuisine options from tuna and swordfish steaks to pasta and basil dishes and or claim linguine, as well as even salads, oysters and picnic fare. Vermentino should be on your radar and you should be drinking a lot of it, be sure to check Tablas Creek’s 2017, and look for their 2018, which looks even better vintage wise, and while you are at it explore Ryme’s set, Chesebro’s extra crispy version from Arroyo Seco, the mentioned upcoming wines from Bonny Doon as well as the old world wines of which Kermit Lynch, who’s a huge fan of Vermentino, imports, like the Yves Leccia and Antoine Arena on Corsica and Clos Sainte Magdeleine in the Provence village of Cassis, who use Vermentino in their non AOC white as well as the Languedoc Pic St. Loup estate Château La Roque. Visiting Tablas Creek is a must do when in Paso Robles and Vermentino is a required highlight and you’ll be surprised to find it is featured in many wines, sometime in the rose as well as a single varietal, this one is drinking great now, enjoy.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2019

2017 Eden Rift, Pinot Noir, Terraces, Cienega Valley, San Benito County -photo grapelive

2017 Eden Rift, Pinot Noir, Terraces, Cienega Valley, San Benito County.
The wildly expressive, perfumed and complex inaugural release of Eden Rift’s Terraces Pinot Noir, 100% Calera heritage clone, comes exclusively from the estate steep Q-block, part of a section of limestone terrace plot that has prime south exposure and enough elevation to receive the cool ocean breezes, making it the most version from the winery, and the best wine to date from this new project in the Cienega Valley. The Calera clone vines, got from Calera itself, as the property is just a mile away or so, produce extra small berries and intense flavors and with the dramatic day to night temperature change and the fabulous calcareous soils deliver ripe fruit density, but with vivid natural acidity, allowing the wines to be generous and graceful on the palate, as this one certainly is, as well as having poise and balance. Crafted by Cory Waller, who’s brother is the long time Calera winemaker and native son of the region is one of the emerging youthful talents, has put Eden Rift on the map with his 2017 vintage, and the 2018 looks even better still, so this is a winery and winemaker to keep an eye on. That said, this 2017 Terraces, a late release, is really good and worth investing in with it’s layered mouth feel and exciting medium/full palate that shows rich blackberry, succulent cherry, plum and pomegranate fruits along with wild mint, liquid flowers, a hint of sweet toast and mineral tones. Gaining depth with swirls in the glass this dark garnet and ruby edged Pinot is less reductive than the neighbors version and its fine tannins make it highly entertaining and joyous to drink in its youth, while it does have structure and loads of energy from the partial whole cluster, it should age well too.

The Eden Rift property, one California’s earliest homesteads under vine, dates back to 1849 and is a historical site with a parcel of old vine Zinfandel, along with a few other black grapes, like Carignan, known as the Dickinson Block that was planted in 1906. A visit to the winery recently was a revelation, it is an amazingly beautiful place and the hillside terraces are spectacular in the dramatic landscape that is out here in the remote wilds of San Benito County, and while a trek to get here it is worth a day trip to taste along the Cienega Valley wine trail. As mentioned above, Waller chose a special selection of Calera clone lots to make this 2017 Terraces Pinot, while the main estate bottlings include a mix of Dijon and Heritage clones with Mount Eden and Swan there, going with 38% whole cluster, fermented with native yeasts in open top temperature controlled tanks with gentle daily punch downs. The wine after primary was racked into just seven barrels where it went through secondary and raised for close to 10 months before going into bottle unfined and unfiltered, Eden Rift decided to bottle at that point to preserve the lovely aromatics and then they held it back in the cellar for an extra period of time to allow it to find its feet and I was thrilled with their results and I can’t wait to see how it develops, it has a deep sense of fruit and has a smooth/silky feel, but in the background the tiniest pop and spicy bite of stems gives me some idea that there is more to come in 3 to 5 years. This is a winery that has big ambitions and the potential is on display in this Terraces, and I think their Chardonnay is wonderful too, plus as I reviewed prior Eden Rift has a fun and crunchy carbonic Pinot Noir, the Eden – A – Vent, it’s a wine that I’m hooked on, as well as a nice Summer sipping dry rosé of Pinot Noir.
($64 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2019

2015 Jean Foillard, Morgon, Les Charmes “Eponym” Cru Beaujolais, France -photo grapelive

2015 Jean Foillard, Morgon, Les Charmes “Eponym” Cru Beaujolais, France.
Rivaling the 2009 vintage, Foillard’s 2015’s are amazing Gamay wines, from his classic Cote du Py, his floral and delicate Fleurie to his most unique bottlings, like his Cuvee 3.14 and this Morgon Les Charmes “Eponym, these wines expand the mind to what can be achieved with Cru Beaujolais. A bit more restrained and tannic than the 2009’s this 2015 is still packed with depth and density with a pure hedonistic joyous palate and with an exotic quality to the deep black fruit character, its a gripping wine from one of the greatest producers in the region. One of group of Beaujolais producers who are disciples of Jules Chauvet, the godfather of french natural wine in the Beaujolais region, Jean Foillard, uses organic grapes, ultra low SO2, and makes very natural style wines, but wines that are luxurious and Burgundy like in class. Famous importer, Kermit Lynch, who brought the great Beaujolais to us in the United States and gave us a true glimpse of just how great these wines are, adds Foillard’s Morgons are deep, structured, and complex, with a velvety lushness that makes them irresistible when young despite their aging potential. Jean raises his wines in older barrels sourced from top estates in Burgundy, a logical decision for someone crafting Gamay in a Burgundian style. The 2015 Eponym thrills from the start with crushed violets, dark berries, spicy notes and a hint of black walnut along with layers of rich plum, blackberry, sweet cherry and tangy currant fruits, plus anise, cedar, dried basil, mineral tones and a touch of stoniness.

Jean Foillard’s 2015 Les Charmes “Eponym” cuvée is a rare treat from all organic vines at the very top of Morgon that are close to
One of the true Gamay masters, Jean Foillard makes some of the world’s best versions, as mentioned above, from that dreamy Fleurie to his Cuvee 3.14, which has a cult like following, being maybe the hardest to find and his most sought after wines, as well as the unbeatable Cote du Py, Foilard’s main wine. All are utterly compelling and delicious wines, though if you were looking for a wine of severe brut force and power, very uncommon for this grape, you’d find it in Foillard’s most intense bottling, his Morgon Les Charmes “Eponym” cuvee with its, as noted, raw tannin and usually rock hard nature, it is a wine to lay down for a decade if not more. That said, in warmer years, like this 2015 it can be really enjoyed when young, though best with fuller cuisine so that it can unwind and show its majestic array of flavors. The Les Charmes Eponym is sourced exclusively from the Les Charmes vineyard, the highest altitude lieu-dit in the Morgon appellation, it was traditionally fermented with 100% whole cluster with native yeasts and raised in ex-Burgundy barrels, well season, for about 9 months before bottling with Foilard’s traditional exceptionally low SO2, unfined and unfiltered. If you can find this bottling, buy it and cellar it for 3 to 5 years, it’s Foillard magic!
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 1, 2019

2016 Domaine du Closel, Savennieres “La Jalousie” Loire Valley, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine du Closel, Savennieres “La Jalousie” Loire Valley, France.
The beautiful 100% Chenin Blanc Domaine du Closel La Jalousie, from the 2016 vintage, shines in glass and thrills on the palate with loads of purity, mineral character, racy fruit and a lovely textural feel that comes from younger biodynamic vines in the Savennieres region of the Loire Valley set on schist soils that allow its expressive nature to lead the way. The all organic, which was certified biodynamic in 2015, Domaine du Closel is run by the talented Evelyne de Pontbriand, who took over the family estate in 2001. Her passion for wine finally got the better of her, becoming a leading vigneron, which was a big career change from teaching French literature, but the results are clear she has a gift for wine, as this wine shows, and she was even elected President of the Savennieres AOC, the first woman ever to hold this position. Her talents in the cellar has made her wines at Domaine du Closel, once known historically as the Château des Vaults, which dates back to 1495, the estate changed its name when it was inherited by Michèle de Jessey, Evelyne’s dad, world class offerings, that I feel are not far off the famous Nicolas Joly Vignobles de la Coulee de Serrant in quality. The Closel vineyards are located exclusively in the most western hill of the Savennières area and includes some of the best parcels in the whole region, including the famed Les Caillardières and Clos du Papillon. The topsoil here is shallow, very warm and made up of purple/green schist and sandstone as well as mineral rich volcanic rock with quartz, phtanites, ryolites and spilites that deliver sublime finesse and complexity in the wines.

The La Jalousie comes from 15 to 20 year old vines set on quartz schist and sandstone, but mostly that decomposed schist and Pontbriand fermented and aged this in stainless steel with 9 to 12 months of aging on the lees, the Jalousie is a modern rendition of Savennières, it is not overtly rich, honeyed or oxidative, but a more crisp version and is nicely fruit-forward, fresh and vibrant made for earlier-drinking. All the grapes, hand harvested, are the first by the estate to harvest each vintage, are destemmed and gently pressed, then fermented with all native yeasts and with very little additional sulfur, so impressively the wine shows almost no reduction in bottle and the mouth feel is opulent, this 2016 is gorgeous in detail and form. The layered and seamless performance of the La Jalousie opens with white flowers, wet stones, preserved citrus that leads to a core of peach and delicate pear fruits along with quinces, muskmelon and a hint of apple butter. There are faint traces of honeycomb, though briskly dry and while elegantly lighter in style it gains a stylish creaminess. This Chenin Blanc really is a fine wine that is great right now, though I can even imagine it aging pretty well for another 3 to 5 years with ease. Interestingly, Pontbriand also has re-trained most of her vines to goblet, or head trained, which she says has improved aromatics and in a step further, she believes trimming the canopy is traumatizing to the vines, so she has been lifting the leaves up and gently winding them up the posts to expose the clusters to the sun. This sensitivity and the attention to detail really seems to have made a difference, this is a stellar white wine and is well worth searching out.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 31, 2019

2017 Martha Stoumen Wines, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2017 Martha Stoumen Wines, Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County.
Martha Stoumen has become quite a sensation since joining the California wine scene a few years ago, bringing her experience of making wines in France and Italy along with her and her natural wine style, making her a new favorite within an exciting niche of young talents and lovers of off the beaten track wines. This 2017 Nero d’Avola, a very personal expression for her, given her time in Sicily, is a vibrant and lively red with intriguing earthy character and layers of lighter flavors with tart fresh crushed blackberry, spiced plum, lingonberry, cherry and strawberry fruits along with touches of porcini, mineral, wild herbs, lilac flowers and candied blood orange. In recent times there has been a renewed interest in Italian varietals in Mendocino County with many new things popping up and or rediscovered, from Dolcetto to Nebbiolo and from Sagrantino to Barbera all joining the more well known and used Sangiovese, but Nero d’Avola is still pretty rare. According to Stoumen, the beauty of Nero d’Avola is its Chiaroscuro-like nature, with brightness from its ability to hold onto acidity in warm Mediterranean climates, and her version is quite lovely and almost delicate in form and at 13% natural alcohol it feels fresh, but with nice depth and texture. This vintage is my favorite so far and this wine can go with a wonderful range of foods, from some sea foods to more hearty cuisine and or BBQ fare. Stoumen’s wines are slightly raw, but very stylish too, fans of Broc Cellars, Jolie-Laide, Ryme, Jaimee Motely, Raj Parr and Ian Brand will find similarities and a certain fraternal brother/sisterhood.

The Stoumen Nero d’Avola is maybe her signature wine and reminds us that she has good experience with this Sicilian grape, mostly found on the southern side of the island in the Vittoria region, where it is commonly blended with Frappato, though done solo too, having worked for Guisto Occhtipinti at COS, one of Italy’s most prized wineries. This vintage comes from two sites, with 62% coming off Benson Ranch Vineyard, in Ukiah, Mendocino County, a site that has 14 year old dry farmed (no irrigation) vines that is farmed according to organic principles without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fungicides, while the other 38% being sourced from Fox Hill Vineyard. Fox Hill, which has a full selection of Italian grapes is in the Talmage Bench area of Mendocino County, with the Nero d’Avola that Martha picked was from 33 year old vines, which Stoumen adds, is as far as she knows, the oldest Nero d’Avola in California, and it is farmed sustainably without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and or synthetic fungicides. Stoumen is not showy in the cellar, she uses native yeasts and low sulphur, allowing everything to show through with a purity of place, she usually employs an elevage of 12 to 18 months on her Nero d’Avola with only neutral wood, and this 2017 wonderfully quaffable, and while structured its tannins are ripe and smooth, which allow it to also be served with a slight chill for warm days and evenings of Summer and Fall. Stoumen’s current set of offerings, which is a bit wild and varied are all really fun wines, mostly for early drinking, though this one seems to have enough complexity and stuffing to age 3 to 5 years no problem, check them out.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 30, 2019

2018 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany.
These 2018 German Rieslings are out of this world with amazing purity and vibrancy, especially the wines of Dönnhoff and while most won’t be available for awhile yet, the early release “estate” as well as this fantastic Tonschiefer “Dry Slate” bottlings are available now, and no one should miss them! Exceptional in vivid detail and minerally crisp, the slate influenced and terroir driven Tonschiefer is heavenly light, bone dry and zesty with flinty/steely spice, wet rock and citrus infused with laser like focus, while still being wonderfully generous in form. Tasting Dönnhoff is always a treat, this estate is one of the world’s great and their Rieslings never disappoints, even now with my expectations as high as they are, I am left in a state of awe, even for the less expensive wines like this one, which I can’t ever get enough of! I had this bottle recently with sushi and it provided excellent palate refreshing cleansing as well as a dynamic flavor enhancement to the purity of fish, never outshining the food, it was just perfect and the lighter body here made it easy to quaff along merrily. This vintage shows a fantastic vitality with lime, white peach, spiced apricot and a white currant fruits to go along with the slate stony core as well as chamomile, citron, apple skin and orange blossom, all in a saline and mouth watering Riesling. Importer Terry Theise, one of the world’s most renown Riesling gurus, has often quoted Helmut Dönnhoff , but his “Extraordinary wines are based on extraordinary vineyards.” has always stuck with me, and when I get a chance to try his legacy in the bottle of all the Dönnhoff wines I can truly see his proof in them, they are great wines from great vines!

The Dönnhoff family first came to the Nahe region over 200 years ago, and after establishing a modest farm, it slowly evolved into a full-fledged wine estate, in more modern times it became world renown when in 1971 Helmut Dönnhoff began the making the wine here. Now things are run, and the winemaking, by Helmut’s son Cornelius, and I feel the wines just get better and better here, both the ultra premium dry stuff led by the GG’s and the sweeter versions from Kabinett to Eiswein, which maybe be the greatest wine I ever tasted! I love their Spatlese and Auslese bottlings, these are high residual sugar wines that do not taste sweet in the obvious way and are glorious wines of class and refinement. That said, it is almost impossible to resist the Dönnhoff Trockens, like this one, and especially Cornelius’ drop dead gorgeous Hermannshohle GG, one of the planet’s absolutely best dry white wines! The Nahe, and Dönnhoff , has a wide variety of soils from loess to volcanic as well as gravel, sandstone and a mix of slates, and the Tonschiefer comes from a pure slate set of vines, all between 25 and 40 years old, at the Oberhausen Leistenberg estate vineyard. The grey slate Leistenberg vineyard, a VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru), lies in a small side valley of the Nahe just outside Oberhausen where these warm, decomposed clay slate soils and steep terraced hillsides provide ideal conditions for Riesling, and the cooler afternoon conditions here allow for long hang times and lower natural alcohol, making for sophisticated versions of this grape. Note to self, get more of the tasty Tonschiefer, with its stunning delicacy and pop of acidity, and stock up on the 2018 vintage!
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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