Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 8, 2017

2014 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
One of the leading Rhone estates, and Chateauneuf icon Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the great domaines of the world, crafting noble and complex wines that show their commitment to terroir, tradition and organic viticulture with owners the Perrin family being four generations of caretakers of their land. The Perrin’s were leaders in the post phylloxera rebuilding in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the early twentieth century helping put Chateauneuf on the map and helping lead the region into becoming France’s first AOC in 1929, they also helped bring in a rebirth after WWII, when Jacques Perrin took over the estate in 1953 he brought many innovations and refocused the vines being planted as well as using organic methods, he many sure all the allowed varietals were used, but singled out Mourvedre as the backbone in his reds, while also highlighting Roussanne in the whites. Now the domaine and company is run by the brothers Jean-Paul and Francois who have turned the Perrin labels into a global powerhouse, much in the same way Guigal did for their winery in Ampuis (Northern Rhone rivals). Now Jean-Paul’s Pierre, Marc and Thomas are involved and look to take Beaucastel to new heights, and let’s also not forget their family’s American partnership with the Haas family Tablas Creek that has become a California classic, with Tablas Creek not only making great California Rhone wines, but also being a gift to American wine by bringing their Beaucastel vine cuttings to America allowing California wineries to take their examples to the next level with wineries like Saxum, Bonny Doon and Alban all enjoying the fruits of this gift. Recently I had the opportunity to taste through some vintage Rouge library releases as well as the current 2014 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape red which is showing beautifully, I am always stunned by the purity and sex charms of these wines and this is a classic vintage, even though it will be over shadowed by the 2015, which looks set be a legendary year for Chateauneuf, and like the overlooked 1999 vintage, it will be a secretly coveted wine and will reward the patient. The 2014 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf Rouge is a blend of 30% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Cinsault along with 15% of the following grapes, Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Picardan, Terret Noir, Muscardin and Roussanne, all of which add to the house style and complexity of flavors, while the deep and meaty Mourvedre gives this wine it’s soul and spine, it is not about the individual varietals as much as place that makes Beaucastel a special wine and this lovely 2014 is fresh, intense and full of character. Grown on the classic pebblely/stones soils with a mix of limestone, clay and sand, this terroir is clearly showcased in this wonderful example. Deeply colored with a black/garnet hue in the glass it shows a fine nose of red fruits, floral tones and earthy spices that leads to a full bodied palate of boysenberry, plum, sweet currant and racy raspberry along with kirsch, lavender, chalky stones, truffle, cracked pepper, game and new leather. This vintage has an inner vibrancy and good acidity, while still feeling lush, silken and fruit driven. Fermented in concrete and aged in large foudres this is made in a clean, but traditional way, allowing for a wine of stylish class, depth and refinement that grabs your attention and leaves a hedonistic pleasure that cannot help but seduce completely. Drink this underrated beauty of a year over the next 4 to 10 years, and if you are like me, after 12 to 18 years when I think this should be fantastic.
($86 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 7, 2017

2014 Bonny Doon, Sparkling Pinot “Donnier” Methode Traditionnelle, California.
Randall Grahm’s red Sparkling Pinot “Doonier” Methode Traditionnelle bubbly is a wonderfully dry blend of Pinot Noir 48% and Pinot Meunier 52% with a luxurious mousse and a cascade of flavors, it will be brilliant for Fall and for holiday cuisine as well as romantic celebrations! Red bubbly from Lambrusco to Sparkling Shiraz is a thrill, but Bonny Doon’s version takes it to the next level for California, it’s pretty in fruit, fresh in character with subtle mineral and earthy complexity and elegant in form and focus. Brisk and medium bodied the Bonny Doon Doonier Sparkling Pinot starts with it’s deep garnet hue and vibrant pinkish mousse and a nose of red fruits, floral tones and faint brioche, spice and feral savory note before a palate of crisp raspberry, black cherry, dried candied cranberry, tart red peach, blood orange and steely charm along with dusty stones, saline, red apple skin and Asian spices. Fun and geeky on one hand while still giving real pleasure and charming throughout with a touch of the wild lifting it beyond the norm, I love this stuff, Randall has found a new friend in Pinot Meunier with this bubbly as well as his pure 100% Meunier still wine being a lovely effort. A recent visit to Bonny Donn’s tasting room in Davenport showed that Randall Grahm is still the master of mind expanding wines, his newest lineup is remarkable, with his Cigare Volant range showing fantastic, especially the en Bonbonne aged Le Cigare Blanc Reserve, as well as his more weird offerings that deliver spine tingling entertainment. In recent years I’ve impressed with the energy and quality of Grahm’s wines, he has had an amazing re-birth of sorts, you’ll want to check out his Sparkling Pinot and be sure to have it around for the season ahead, but also visit his tasting room just north of Santa Cruz in Davenport, it’s the Area 51 of wine! Sometimes people in the wine business take themselves too seriously and overlook Bonny Doon, this is pretentious folly, while Grahm’s wines have a sense of humor they are authentic and seriously intriguing for those with an open mind!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 6, 2017

1985 Marques de Caceres, Rioja Gran Reserva, Spain.
Showing it’s age in a beautiful way this mature Gran Reserva Rioja from Marques de Caceres has peaked with beautiful detail, silky texture and marvelous length, this is everything you’d ever want in a cellared wine, best of all it’s available cellar direct from the importer! Marques de Caceres uses extended barrel aging in French oak, which tends to enhance the Bordeaux like quality, but without taking away the classic Rioja feel and flavors, it’s crafted from about 85% Tempranillo and the rest made up of Graciano and Garnacha that is all from the prized Rioja Alta zone and vines that have the best exposures and most age. The 1985 is gorgeous and lush with a slight browning of the edges the only thing that gives it’s 32 years of age away while the palate is still vital and fresh showing bright cherries, plum, sweet fig and fading blackberry as well as a smooth creamy mouth feel along with vanilla, dusty spices, dried flowers, Dutch pipe tobacco, delicate notes of leather and cola bean. There’s not anything that stands out as wrong here, this wine is pure class in the glass and it’s length is sexy and stylish, it’s more modern and polished than Lopez de Heredia, which is the standard barer in fine Rioja, and one of the world’s best and most authentic wines, this Gran Reserva by Marques de Caceres is more like La Rioja Alta is style, but a bit lighter and finessed, with all three unique and elite at the top of this region’s Gran Reserva bottlings. Tasted along side the 1986 (91Pts) and 1987 (92Pts) versions the 1985 shined brighter with a profile and complexity the other two didn’t quite match, though both showed well and were solid efforts, it was a thrilling experience to do this mini vertical, thanks to Vineyard Brands Imports for showing these off and for offering them, these are going out in a set, 6pks of 2 each. This 1985 really stood out and gave a great performance, it has lots of substance and delivers an impressive layered impact and should be fantastic with matching cuisine.
($125 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 5, 2017

2015 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lindsay Page Vineyard, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The 2015 vintage, extremely low yielding, is a full flavored effort from Richard Alfaro that seems to get better each time I try it, in fact it is now showing world class depth and concentration with a sweet palate of black and red fruits, but with a modest 13.5% natural alcohol highlighting the cool climate of the Pacific influenced cool climate of Corraltos in the South Santa Cruz Mountains. Much in demand as a farmer these days, Richard Alfaro continues to craft over performing wines under his Alfaro Family Vineyards, with star guys like Arnot-Roberts, Ceritas and Kutch all getting fruit from him. Besides his lovely and modern Pinots, Alfaro does exceptional Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner and Albarino too, and these wines, along with his Syrah deserve attention, and best of all they are stupid good values! The 2015 Lindsay Paige Vineyard Pinot delivers intense fruit, vibrant acidity and ultra smooth mouth feel with density and a seductive palate of black cherry, wild blackberry, plum and smoky sweet toastiness as well as a bang of spice, earth and mineral, as a whole this is decedent/opulent stuff, but still elegant and balanced, it has an impact no question, similar in style to 1990’s Rochioli(s) which is no bad thing, this is a lot of wine for the money, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 4, 2017

2014 Francois Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet, White Burgundy, France.
A very serious Puligny with a rich and full bodied character that showcases the vintage and a refinement of style coming out of Francois Carillon’s cellar, this wine is not the modern lean and nervy Puligny-Montrachet that we’ve seen in recent years from the likes of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey or Jean-Marc Roulot, it’s more of a throwback to the denser wines of the late nineties. While I’ve grown fond of the steely verve of the new classics, this wine has an opulence that is hard to resist, while underlying acidity holds it together and it’s layering is seductive, and it makes an excellent contrast in a quality offering. The 2014 Francois Carillon Puligny-Montrachet village wine starts with a light golden hue and a nose of orchard fruit, citrus blossom and brioche on the nose before a concentrated palate of golden apples, bosc pear, lemon curd and Turkish fig along with subtle creme brûlée, wet stones, stone fruit fleshiness and mineral tones. This wine is creamy in texture with leesy roundness and exceptional length, this is a regal Chardonnay that reminds me more of Corton-Charlmagne than Puligny in many ways, but after it has time to open up it changes back into a fine and elegant example of white Burgundy gaining energy with every sip, making for a slightly backward wine, but one that has potential to develop over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle. The Carillon brothers Francois and Jacques split the family’s domaine and cellars in 2009, each deciding to do their own thing after centuries of being a classic generational domaine, dating back to 1611, though Carillon’s have been making wine in the region since at least 1520, they both are traditionalists in winemaking and even though Jacques is more the true winemaker, this Francois Carillon is well crafted and could be mistaken for a Premier Cru of even a Grand Cru. This ripe Puligny comes from the Carillon owned five hectares of vines in Puligny, it has a soft mouth feel which hides the inner vibrancy a little and a touch of smoky oak that adds to the impression of nobility and grace, this is a powerful wine in the glass and it demands your attention.
($62 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 3, 2017

2015 Halcon Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Wonderfully pure and like a ballerina on the palate with beautiful detail, brightness and a heavenly perfume, the 2015 Halcon Vineyards Oppenlander is a gorgeous light footed wine with stellar length and a soulful palate! At 13.2% this cool climate Pinot feels Burgundy like and shows it’s terroir perfectly, Oppenlander is only 10 miles inland from the coastal hamlet of Mendocino and most be one of the coldest sites in California for Pinot, it joins Drew and The Princess & The Peasant as some of my new favorite wines from this region, joining top Anderson Valley producers like Copain, Baxter and Cliff Lede’s Fell label, just to named a few. Delicate and focused, winemaker Scott Shapley (of Roar) has done a masterful job of getting everything out of this wine and showcasing the best of this extreme vineyard, he used 35% whole cluster, which gives so much verve and nervy spices, while allowing lush fruit and floral notes to express themselves, this vintage was 2/3rds clone 115 and 1/3rd Pommard and it was native ferment, unfined and unfiltered, it shows amazing lift and satiny textures. Pretty rose petal, Again spices, gravelly stones, blood orange and sweet herbs add to the complexity of this layered and lithe/leanPinot that has a ripe core of cherry, strawberry, plum and lingonberry fruits with just of touch of cola bean and vanilla. Impressive, lively and everything you’d want from the region, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards Oppenlander Pinot Noir is just one of many stunning new releases from this winery, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Pinot Magic Mendocino v. South Santa Cruz Mountains

Tasting Highlights: Mendocino v. South Santa Cruz Mountains

Four Great Cool Climate Pinots from High Flying Regions, 2 from vineyards near Corralitos in the South Santa Cruz Mountains that are grown on gravelly soils and that are heavily influenced by the cold water of the Monterey Bay and 2 are from maybe California’s coolest region in Mendocino County, these all have great terroir character and modest alcohol, while still offering a great depth of flavors. Certainly both regions are a awash with stunning wines these days and there is so much excitement about these areas, especially from Pinot Noir fans that what a more Burgundy like style of wine. The Anderson Valley, Mendocino County and Yorkville Highlands just might be the most thrilling area for wine right now, I have had a mind blowing array of wines come across my desk and table in recent months and over the last few years, and while Pinot is still the most sought after, I just love the Syrah from this area, plus Carignane and Petite Sirah! I tasted these four wines together as a comparison panel, it’s just a tiny sampling of these areas, but all of which deserve your attention. Please note, I work for Windy Oaks Estate and as part of our wine education I included one of our wines, I am not rating it here as to avoid a conflict of interest.

2015 Drew Family Cellars, Pinot Noir “The Fog-Eater” Anderson Valley.
This reminds me of De Montille’s Volnay, but maybe even better, just fantastic Pinot Noir from Jason and Molly Drew at Drew Family Cellars, this 2015 Fog-Eater Anderson Valley is wonderful concentrated and packed with fabulous fruit, coming from top sites including Valenti Ranch, Balo, Fashauer and Joshua’s Vineyard. This vintage, low yielding and cool was fermented 100% native yeast with 20% whole cluster and raised in all neutral French oak barriques and was a studied blend of Rochioli, Pommard, 115, 667 and 777 clones grown on Oceanic Sedimentary and Alluvial gravel/loam soils, all of which make this gorgeous wine sexy as hell! 2014 and 2015 have been outstanding vintages for Drew and I can’t think of another Pinot and Syrah producer that has done better, these might be some of the greatest wines made in California to date, a huge success and Jason and Molly deserve massive credit for them, and if you think that is hype, just try them, these are awesome wines of class and stylistic charm that very few can match. The 2015 Fog-Eater is alive with flavors starting with crushed flowers, peppery spices, mineral tones and it’s beautiful garnet/ruby hue in the glass along with cinnamon, tea spices and tangy cranberry. This acid filled wine stays laser sharp and dynamic throughout, though very textured and silken, it’s a wine with a sweet ripeness, but with a harmonious mouth feel, at 13.6% it never strays into overkill, absolutely thrilling, drink over the next decade.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

2015 Halcon Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County.
Wonderfully pure and like a ballerina on the palate with beautiful detail, brightness and a heavenly perfume, the 2015 Halcon Vineyards Oppenlander is a gorgeous light footed wine with stellar length and a soulful palate! At 13.2% this cool climate Pinot feels Burgundy like and shows it’s terroir perfectly, Oppenlander is only 10 miles inland from the coastal hamlet of Mendocino and most be one of the coldest sites in California for Pinot, it joins Drew and The Princess & The Peasant as some of my new favorite wines from this region, joining top Anderson Valley producers like Copain, Baxter and Cliff Lede’s Fell label, just to named a few. Delicate and focused, winemaker Scott Shapley (of Roar) has done a masterful job of getting everything out of this wine and showcasing the best of this extreme vineyard, he used 35% whole cluster, which gives so much verve and nervy spices, while allowing lush fruit and floral notes to express themselves, this vintage was 2/3rds clone 115 and 1/3rd Pommard and it was native ferment, unfined and unfiltered, it shows amazing lift and satiny textures. Pretty rose petal, Again spices, gravelly stones, blood orange and sweet herbs add to the complexity of this layered and lithe/leanPinot that has a ripe core of cherry, strawberry, plum and lingonberry fruits with just of touch of cola bean and vanilla. Impressive, lively and everything you’d want from the region, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards Oppenlander Pinot Noir is just one of many stunning new releases from this winery, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Lindsay Page Vineyard, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The 2015 vintage, extremely low yielding, is a full flavored effort from Richard Alfaro that seems to get better each time I try it, in fact it is now showing world class depth and concentration with a sweet palate of black and red fruits, but with a modest 13.5% natural alcohol highlighting the cool climate of the Pacific influenced cool climate of Corraltos in the South Santa Cruz Mountains. Much in demand as a farmer these days, Richard Alfaro continues to craft over performing wines under his Alfaro Family Vineyards, with star guys like Arnot-Roberts, Ceritas and Kutch all getting fruit from him. Besides his lovely and modern Pinots, Alfaro does exceptional Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner and Albarino too, and these wines, along with his Syrah deserve attention, and best of all they are stupid good values! The 2015 Lindsay Paige Vineyard Pinot delivers intense fruit, vibrant acidity and ultra smooth mouth feel with density and a seductive palate of black cherry, wild blackberry, plum and smoky sweet toastiness as well as a bang of spice, earth and mineral, as a whole this is decedent/opulent stuff, but still elegant and balanced, it has an impact no question, similar in style to 1990’s Rochioli(s) which is no bad thing, this is a lot of wine for the money, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2015 Windy Oaks Estate, Pinot Noir, Limited Release 100% Wild Yeast, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Since I’m a wine educator for Windy Oaks Estate, I’ll refrain from rating this wine, but since I am doing a class comparing the South Santa Cruz Mountains v. Mendocino County Pinot Noirs I will include this note, which is my personal thoughts only, not a winery pitch, and no score will be posted. Jim Schultze’s Windy Oaks Estate is Burgundy inspired, sitting in the hills above Corralitos backing up to the redwoods and with a panorama view of Monterey Bay it’s an extremely cool site with very late harvests that allows for deep fruit development while showing delicacy and finesse. At 13.7% the Wild Yeast 2015, aged in 40% new French oak for 18 months, shows a fuller body than most vintages, it has a richly textured mouth feel and pretty oak shadings with black cherry, raspberry and a long smooth finish. Rose petals, smoky oak, tart herbs and brandied plum flavors add to the whole in a well balanced way in this concentrated year, this is a wine with solid palate impact and will certainly benefit from short term bottle aging and if drunk now should get decanting and served with care to maintain a cellar temperature to ensure the freshness of flavors, this also really wants cuisine to match it’s character, I’d suggest duck breast and or wild mushroom dishes. While the other Limited Release 100% Whole Cluster is more nervy and exotic this one has more polish and clarity, so depending on your personal tastes each has their own unique qualities. Only four barrels made, 97 Cases in total.
($58 Est.) N/R

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 2, 2017

2015 Drew Family Cellars, Pinot Noir “The Fog-Eater” Anderson Valley.
This reminds me of De Montille’s Volnay, but maybe even better, just fantastic Pinot Noir from Jason and Molly Drew at Drew Family Cellars, this 2015 Fog-Eater Anderson Valley is wonderful concentrated and packed with fabulous fruit, coming from top sites including Valenti Ranch, Balo, Fashauer and Joshua’s Vineyard. This vintage, low yielding and cool was fermented 100% native yeast with 20% whole cluster and raised in all neutral French oak barriques and was a studied blend of Rochioli, Pommard, 115, 667 and 777 clones grown on Oceanic Sedimentary and Alluvial gravel/loam soils, all of which make this gorgeous wine sexy as hell! 2014 and 2015 have been outstanding vintages for Drew and I can’t think of another Pinot and Syrah producer that has done better, these might be some of the greatest wines made in California to date, a huge success and Jason and Molly deserve massive credit for them, and if you think that is hype, just try them, these are awesome wines of class and stylistic charm that very few can match. The 2015 Fog-Eater is alive with flavors starting with crushed flowers, peppery spices, mineral tones and it’s beautiful garnet/ruby hue in the glass along with cinnamon, tea spices and tangy cranberry. This acid filled wine stays laser sharp and dynamic throughout, though very textured and silken, it’s a wine with a sweet ripeness, but with a harmonious mouth feel, at 13.6% it never strays into overkill, absolutely thrilling, drink over the next decade.
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 1, 2017

2015 Reyneke, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Bright and tight the all organic Reyneke Chenin Blanc is a biodynamic beauty with layered complexity and terroir character, from a single vineyard, with 50+ year old vines, grown in the Polkadraai Hills. Brilliant pale straw/gold in glass the 2015 has a mineral, citrus and lightly floral nose with a medium bodied palate of lemon/lime, kumquat, grilled grapefruit, white peach and faint honeycomb along with snappy herb and spice as well as a steely verve and wet river stones. With air a bit of yellow fruit comes through with a a waxy feel, but without question this wine is pure class and is exceptionally focused. A winemaker friend shared this stylish effort with me, since he is going to make he’s own version with this harvest and wanted to get a feel for this varietal, what a great pick to try, especially as the grapes he is considering are all biodynamic/organic too, and grown on ancient seabed. Less fruity and more old world in form, the 2015 Reyneke Chenin was whole cluster pressed and fermented in big French cask, mostly neutral and rested on it’s lees in barrel and then rested in tank before bottled, making for a wine that delivers a lot for the money, Reyneke is a winery to watch, every vintage seems to get better and better, I’ve really enjoyed their Syrah in the past too. Best to enjoy this 2015 Chenin over the next 2 to 3 years, though I’d expect it to do fine for 7 to 8 years too if I were honest, this is well crafted stuff, absolutely quality all the way.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 30, 2017

2015 Foradori, Pinot Grigio, Fuoripista, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.
One of Italy’s most exciting winemakers, Elisabetta Foradori is one of the queens of the natural wine world mixing modern thought with ancient methods, along with biodynamics makes clear and beautiful wines mostly from her estate near Trentino of the Alto Adige in the Dolomites, or Italian Alps, though she has added a winery in the Tuscan Coast region, Ampeleia in recent years. Most famous for her Teraldego reds, Foradori’s whites have gained a cult like status with wine enthusiasts with her Manazoni and Nosiola from her Fontanasanta vineyard easily becoming some of Italy’s best wines with their skin contact and amphorae aging adding to the excitement and thrill in these complex wines, In 2014 Foradori added a skin contact Pinot Grigio, making her first single varietal from this grape, sourced from a near by biodynamic vineyard it is also her first colorful Orange Wine, you’ll note she even puts an orange wax capsule on it so you know what you are getting. The 2015, from a warm vintage is sweet fruited, but with savory/earthy tones and bright energy with a lovely pink/orange hue that some might confused with a Rose, until they taste it of course! Wonderfully deep and exotic with vibrant citrus, apple, cherry and baked peach fruits, along with saline, wet river stones, a hint of meatiness, leesy notes, dried white flowers, spices and flinty mineral. Grown in Campo Rotaliano by Marco Devigili on gravel, sand and alluvial soils, the Fuoripista, which means “another way or different path” with a view of nature was hand picked, native fermented on the skins as well as aged in clay pots (Spanish Amphorae) for 8 months, in similar fashion to ancient Georgian wines and more recently Giusto Occhipinti at COS. This brilliant and delicately nuanced wine has a dreamy texture and dry extract giving an almost tannic spine, this is a thinking persons wine and needs plenty of time to reveal itself and full personality, and while some orange wines can be funky and hard to love completely, this wine really pleases the palate and has impressive mouth feel and weight, but retaining a lightness and lift that intrigues and keeps your attention.
($40+ Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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