Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 11, 2021

2004 Pascal Cotat, Sancerre “Les Monts Damnés” Loire Valley, France.
One of the most underrated treats in the wine world is finely aged Sauvignon Blanc, like this one from Sancerre legend Pascal Cotat, that comes from one of the top hillside crus in Sancerre and hand crafted to age, those that have had old Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume, fellow top gun Sancerre artist Boulay and or Italians like Jermann and one of my all time favorites, Quarz by Cantina Terlano in the Alto Adige will understand just how good Sauvignon Blanc can be when made right and cellared well at around 20 years old. This 2004 was remarkably fresh, even feeling zesty at 17 plus years old, but with complex secondary evolution adding dimension and tertiary elements to this gorgeous example sounded from 45 plus year old vines, in what maybe the best vineyard site in the region, above the village of Chavignol, set on classic ancient chalky and fossilized limestone, often described as the most singular Sauvignon Blanc and notably these vines are on very steep slopes,Chavignol’s finest with these “terres blanches” soils being very much like those of Chablis with a thin layer of clay. This wine might be long in the tooth, but it showed extremely well against some tough competition and with more youthful fruit density, proving maturity and grace are still appreciated. This wine shows terroir, wears its age proudly and its pedigree is clearly on display here, it was superb with a soft goat brie cheese, holding up even after an hour or so, pure class.

There are a of Cotats in the region, but the two best vignerons are the brothers Francois, who makes his own wines from the older family cellars, and Pascal, who has a cult like following with older vines and the new cellars. In the previous generation their father and uncle ran separate domaines, but made the wines in single lots and just labeled them under their own label, this practice went on from 1947 to the 1990s before the French government decided that was legal and the wines had to be made separately for each domaine name, which how it is done today. This 2004, by Pascal, is light on its feet and vigorous for its age with nice energy behind the more mature profile with orangey citrus, dried peach, paraffin/honeycomb, oyster shell, wet flint, morel and cedar all flowing smoothly in the mouth and lingering with hint of leesy nuttiness. The single cru wines, this one, the Les Mont Damnés and La Grand Cote are native yeast barrel fermented and raised in large very old demi-muids with a little bit sometimes aged in neutral smaller French oak barrels, depending on the vintage and cellar needs. Cotat wines are unique, often not interesting when young, so if you buy one of the cru wines, be patient, there will be rewards for waiting. I’ll be getting a 2019, that is just out now, and pop it in the cellar with tag that reads don’t open until 2028. Thanks to my friend Alex Lallos and studied wine professional for sharing this bottle, that he had hidden away, with a few of us studying Loire varietals, it was a valued look at well aged Sancerre from a great vineyard.
($59 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 10, 2021

2011 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme DOCG, Anno Primo, Alto Piedmonte, Italy.
The Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo “Cantalupo Anno Primo’” Ghemme DOCG is a dark and powerful example of these Nebbiolo based wines of the region and this one really delivers for the price, showing you why these Alto Piedmonte wines are now all the rage with savvy Nebbiolo drinkers with a deep and pure sense of the grape thing through on the ful bodied palate. This Anno Primo crafted from the older and more prized selection of vines is made up of mostly Spanna (Nebbiolo) along with a small percentage of rare other local varietals, notably Vespalina, which helps give a bit of pigment, perfume, spice and an exotic fruit expression without taking away from the classic Nebbiolo charm and character, along with a tiny amount of Uva Rara, an ancient native grape that is almost never done in a single varietal wine. Slightly less tannic and brooding than the more gripping 2010 wines, this 2011 has a bit more supple fruit and feels wonderful in the mouth, but it is no softy and offers plenty of classic underlying muscle with great definition and a sturdy backbone that holds up the beautiful dark red fruits. The profile is evolved with brandied raspberry, damson plum, dried cherries and mulberry leading the way along with subtle earth, spice, mineral and cedar notes, as well as licorice, blood orange, pipe tobacco, delicate rose petals and a hint of herbal amaro. Barolo and Barbaresco fans will be well served to check this winery out and search out this exceptional effort by winemaker Alberto Arlunno and put Cantalupo on their watch lists, in particular this serious and age worthy Anno Primo, and the lighter fresher styled Agamium, Colline Noravesi DOC, a wine that is delicious and a steal at under $20.

Alto Piedmonte, including Ghemme, Gattinara and is one of Italy’s major hot spots for Nebbiolo with well draining rocky soils and old vines, with Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo being one of the new stars in the region. The terroir here was formed in ancient times as the great Monte Rosa glacier receded leaving morainic rock, sand and alluvial deposits, making it a perfect place for high quality Nebbiolo, with the vineyards being rich in quantity minerals, scattered with pebbles. The cooler climate here and long sunny days have seen it become a highly coveted zone for top vignerons, in fact many classic producers in Barolo and other more well known areas have started buying up sites here. Ghemme is planted mostly to Spanna, as noted, the local name for Nebbiolo, with about 80% of the vines dedicated to this noble grape, but it shares space with Vespalina and Uva Rara, lesser known red varietals which also make up a minority of the blends here and they add aromatics, color and a light fruity note to the very structured and complex Nebbiolo. Alberto Arlunno, of Cantalupo, uses stainless tanks to ferment his carefully de-stemmed grapes and he ages mostly in large Slovenian oak casks, in traditional fashion, but also employs a small amount of French though usually reserved for the top Ghemme offerings, like this one, giving some extra luxurious personality to the more concentrated wines. I have enjoyed my limited experience with these Cantalupo wines, and this one certainly leaves an impact, it is beautifully crafted wine with a nice gracefully maturity settling in, it should be rewarding for many years to come as well. The 2011 might be hard to get at this point, but the 2012, another very solid vintage, is still current and easier to find, and I will be getting a few bottles myself!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 9, 2021

2014 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley.
The historic Stony Hill Vineyard, founded back in the early 1950s, on Spring Mountain is still one of Napa’s great secrets, largely overlooked, but one of the most prized by collectors and those that enjoy aging their wines and their Cabernet Sauvignon is notably less than other wines in this level of quality and I have been a fan of their dry Riesling for years. That all said, the Stony Hill Chardonnay is not less exciting and age worthy, as I was reminded of at the last Slow Wine tasting, when I got a chance to sample their 2011 and 2014 Chards, with both impressing with depth and intensity from the slightly cooler vintages and the estate’s mineral driven mountain fruit. The 2014 won my heart and palate with a bit more of all of the elements coming together with harmonious complexity and a pleasing textural grace, it shows a steely nature not often found in California, and especially in the warmer Napa Valley, though that is exactly why this wine is a stand out and highlights the great terroir underneath this famous vines. Golden and with the impression of maturity beginning to show the 2014 is still wonderfully vibrant and focused with layers of apple, lemon, nectarine and Asian pear fruits along with hints of white flowers, fig, clove and wet stones that all flow smoothly across the medium/full palate that feels nicely creamy without any heavy hand showing and a retrained use of oak. This is a beauty and should cellar well for the better part of a decade, maybe more and it will be fabulous with various cuisine choices, especially crab and or lobster. Established by the McCrea family, who were big fans of French wines were visionaries and played a big role in inspiring many famous Napa winemakers, built the first Napa Valley post-prohibition winery in 1951, and released their first vintage of Stony Hill with their 1952 vintage almost 70 years ago. Stony Hill, now run by the respected Carlton McCoy, Jr, who will honor the McCrea’s legacy and retain the classic winemaking style of Mike Chelini who made these incredible wines for more than four decades.

Stony Hill, a classic old school label is not resting on its laurels and is looking toward the future, recently announcing the hire of the youthful and talented Jaimee Motely as winemaker, who is excitingly approaching her first harvest here and I am really looking forward to see what she does here, I am confident that she will do fantastic stuff and re-invigorate this winery. Motely, who is known for her work with Chenin Blanc and the rare in California, Savoie grape, Mondeuse, has a natural gift for expressing varietal purity and is highly regarded for her skills in the cellar and her attention to detail, so I am sure she’s put out some special stuff that fulls respects the history of Stony Hill and faithfully follow the style here. Interestingly, Cabernet and Merlot didn’t make an appearance at Stony Hill until 2009, with the McCreas being more interested in the whites, they originally planted Pinot Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, an old German Rheingau clone and later added Gerwurztraminer and Semillon, as well as Chardonnay. This 2014 Chardonnay was grown on the high elevation parcels that are set on a complex set of mountains soils with volcanic influence along with broken limestone, all of which give this wine its class, structure and vitality that sets it apart and makes it a Napa icon, but with an old world soulful personality. The all organic Stony Hill sits on steep terraces on the slopes of the Mayacamas range, on the western side of the Napa Valley, in the Spring Mountain District AVA , with their vines up at an elevation between 800 and 1550 feet and facing northeast that allows ripening, but also is more moderately cool that gives these wines their balance. The vineyard was established in 1948, between St. Helena and Calistoga, as the winery notes, predates the beautiful and serene Bothe State Park, which surrounds the entire property. It’s a great time to get on the mailing list here at Stony Hill, which is going all biodynamic, looking to get fully Demeter certified, and has some intriguing wines in the works, with new plantings of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Gamay, Petit Verdot, and a little bit of Chenin Blanc!
($58 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 8, 2021

Latest Review

2018 Jean Foillard, Morgon “Cote du Py” Cru Beaujolais, France.
The deep colored and densely fruited 2018 Foillard Cote du Py is an absolute thriller in the glass and is really hitting its stride right now with expressive and exotic ripeness, but with great structure, elegance and clarity of detail, highlighting the vintage and the sublime talents of this superstar winemaker. Foillard is one of greats of the region and his wines rival Premier Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy and this wine is his signature bottling and always is a magical treat to behold, this wine never fails to blow minds and bring joy to the palate and this vintage does not disappoint, especially with its luxuriously opulent mouth feel and incredible length. Coming from vines that range from 10 to 90 years old and set on the granite based soils with schist and veins of manganese this gorgeous Cote du Py shows dark berries, sweet plum, black currant and strawberry fruit on the lush and ripe full bodied palate along with an array of subtle spice, dried herbs, mineral notes and heavenly florals with hints of anise, walnut, a light earthy stoniness and crushed peonies. The acidity is non aggressive, but life giving here, as in a fine Pinot Noir, and the textural grace of the semi-carbonic whole cluster fermentation is divine and satiny. This year’s version, from organic grapes with ultra low SO2 employed as per normal, is as hedonistic as it is serious, with this wines later picking making for a real impact and a heady 14.5% natural alcohol, which is much less obvious than one would imagine with this Gamay’s elegance, this is very special stuff.

Foillard, as mentioned here in prior reviews, was greatly inspired by natural wine guru Jules Chauvet, a traditionalist who led the natural wine movement in the Beaujolais and redefined the wines of the region and who wanted to go back to pre-industrial style organic farming and not use chemical additives in the cellar. Jean and three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton joined in on this movement, this became the Gang of Four, a nickname coined by the famed importer Kermit Lynch, who brought these masterpieces of Gamay to America, along with Dutraive and others brought critical acclaim to this region that had been badly maligned for generations. Foillard took over his father’s domaine in 1980, with stellar vineyard holdings mainly in the revered Côte du Py, as Kermit Lynch notes, the famed slope outside the town of Villié-Morgon and the pride of the Morgon cru. These granite and schist soils sit on an alluvial fan at the highest point above the town and impart great complexity on these wines. Jean Foillard, who hand crafts his wines using native yeasts and using traditional 100% whole cluster with a long gentle maceration that usually lasts just over 3 weeks and raises his wines in older barrels, always well seasoned and sourced from top estates in Burgundy, including the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. This elevage of the Cote du Py in the used French barriques is between 6 to 9 months, depending on the vintage and always to preserve energy, transparency and purity, as this fabulous 2018 shows impeccably. There are so many new vignerons making fantastic wines in Beaujolais it is hard to keep up, including a new generation of Foillard, with Jean’s son Alex making his own delicious wines, but this wine is still a legend.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 7, 2021

2017 Theopolis Vineyards, Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise, Red Wine, California.
The extended aged deep purple/garnet 2017 Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise is surprisingly fresh and vibrantly spiced with a smooth full bodied palate of black fruit and showing a delicately perfumed nose making for a wine that was an easy, but serious companion to late meal and cheese plate, while watching the amazing tennis on display in New York for the US Open. This vintage, which was held back in barrel, was made from 50% Petite Sirah, the winery’s signature grape, and the main varietal of their iconic Theopolis terraced vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands, and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, which they sourced from outside their own vines and region, hence the California wine on the label, these Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise bottlings are helping fill out the small collection of hand-crafted wines made by Theodora Lee, which include her awesome estate Petite Sirah, a couple of Pinot Noirs and the rare and unique off dry estate white wine made from the Symphony grape, which is a California crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris that was originally developed back in 1948 by the late Harold Olmo, a noted professor of viticulture at the University of California, Davis. This 2017 flows densely across the palate with blackberries, blueberries, plum and creme de cassis leading the way along with a bright peppery note, subtle florals, mint, sage and anise, as well as a touch of fig, cedar and coco powder. Theodora, who’s fast becoming part of the fabric of the new California wine scene and a modern champion of the Petite Sirah grape, had told me this was a wine I didn’t want to miss, and she was right, I was very impressed with this special edition of her namesake Theo-Patra’s Cuvée, of which only 132 cases were made.

As mentioned and reviewed many times here at Grapelive, the Theopolis Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah is one of the best new versions of this grape in the state, grown in Mendocino County’s Yorkville Highlands. Petite Sirah or Petite Syrah is also known as Durif and originally comes from an accidental crossing of Peloursin and Syrah vines in the southwest of France. Named after the French botanist Francois Durif, who’s nursery is where this happened, the grape saw little success or admiration in its home country, but it has found a welcome home here in California, where it makes a dense and inky wine with incredible aging potential and is great in a blend or as a solo varietal wine. A long and conclusive of DNA study confirmed the grape’s history with a fingerprinting happening at the UC Davis in 1997, that identified Syrah as the source of the pollen that originally crossed with the Peloursin flowers, creating this separate varietal. The grape’s high natural resistance to downy mildew had encouraged its cultivation in the early 20th century in the southern part of France, but as stated, it never really took off there, in fact it extremely hard to find in France, while it has gained more excitement in places like Australia, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, as well as here in California. For the Theopolis Theo-Patra’s Cuvée Cerise the Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon were fermented in separate small lots with hand punch downs and saw a full extraction of color and tannin before being blended and barrel aged a full 48 months before bottling to mature this ripe and powerful wine. Theodora, along with Ed Kurtzman, her winemaking consultant, who is famous for his efforts with Roar and Freeman, decide to use neutral French oak here as to not over toast this tasty wine, which proved an excellent choice and this wine is the better for it, allowing some rustic charm to shine through. Best to enjoy this expressive effort that lingers on with an aftertaste that adds sandalwood, kirsch and dried violets, with robust cuisine and while really delicious now, it should continue to improve over the next two to three years
($36 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 6, 2021

2017 La Ca’ Növa, Barbaresco DOCG “Montestefano” Piedmonte, Italy.
Absolutely one of the best deals out there, the Cru Montestefano Barbaresco by La Ca’ Növa is a wonderfully expressive, deeply fruited and silky Nebbiolo to enjoy in the near term, it is a wine of pleasure and class with sense of place and transparent purity of form. The dark ruby/garnet color with hint of electric brick on the edges is unmistakably Nebbiolo and is inviting as is the seductive nose of wilted roses, crushed red berries, kirsch and mountain herbs leads to a full bodied and textural palate that highlights the ripe and concentrated vintage, but don’t be fooled, there is a serious feline muscular structure underneath here that reminds you that this is something extraordinary and non to common of a thrill to behold. With velvety tannins holding up a classic array of flavors, this Montestefano impresses from start to finish with seamless layers of black cherry, damson plum, reduced strawberries, earthy forest floor, a hint of cedar, minty licorice, liquid flowers and chalky stones that seem to echo on and on. This is fabulous stuff from a top and sometimes underrated vineyard site, certainly this Barbaresco is flying under the radar and savvy Barolo and Barbaresco drinkers will want to track this beauty down, it is sensuous Nebbiolo that is raw and sultry without pretense. This is a wine that will transport you directly to the ancient hills of Piedmonte and makes you dream of Alba truffles and long meals with friends and or family.

Marco Rocca’s La Ca’ Növa winery is located just outside of the historic village of Barbaresco and is a small winery that produces traditional styled wines that way over deliver for the price, especially Rocca’s basic Barbaresco and this masterpiece from the famed Montestefano cru. Marco’s main passion is his Nebbiolo parcels and his trio of Barbaresco wines, but as the winery notes, Marco also does Dolcetto and Barbera, which I will now search out, because if his Cru Montestefano is this good and is this insanely low priced, they must be fantastic values. The winery has prized holdings in the Montefico and Montestefano crus, as well as nice sites within the Barbaresco DOCG zone from which they make the set of Barbarescos, plus Marco does a entry level Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, another wine I think needs investigating. Rocca is old school and shy by nature, he is not into modern technology and his wines are made in rustic fashion but with extreme care and love. He does his fermentation(s) without temperature control or with stainless tanks, he only employs indigenous yeasts and everything is done by hand using open barrels, as was done in older and simpler times. The maceration, interestingly is done with a large wooden spoon, which Marco uses to stir the musts, which he notes, is very difficult and time consuming work, but it worth it, as it helps extract a much richer color as well as more polyphenols. If you’ve not had La Ca’ Növa, this is a great time to explore their wines, this must be one of the best kept secrets I’ve run across in the last few years!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 5, 2021

2020 Domaine de La Begude, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The brightly colored and fruit forward Domaine de La Begude Bandol Rosé is a classic styled and dry version made from mostly Mourvedre, with a little bit of Grenache and Cinsault showing ripe fruitiness, but with good structure, zesty acidity and a bit lower natural alcohol than most modern Bandols making it nicely refreshing and food friendly. I’d not had or remember having this certified sustainable Domaine previously and I was impressed with the performance here with its transparent layering of ruby grapefruit, plum water, tart cherry, watermelon and strawberry fruits, a fine mineral detail, a steel coil of energy and a mix of florals, dried herbs and wet stones. The Domaine de La Begude grows its vines on a forested plot near the Mediterranean sea with beautiful south facing terraced vineyards with an average vine age of close to 25 years and planted to mainly Mourvedre, but with Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette, Rolle and Ugni Blanc as well. The wines here are notably done in a more modern clean style and have retrained natural alcohols for ease of use and to go great with the region’s inspiring cuisine. The vines, it should be noted, set on clay and limestone of the Maures Mountains are all certified organic and have been since 2006.

Pretty new on the Provence wine scene, Domaine de La Bégude was founded in 1996 by the Tari family, who are an old wine producing family with a historic pedigree in Bordeaux where they own the famous third growth, Château Giscours, in Margaux. Begude is run by Guillaume and his wife Soledad, who have really made Bandol their passion and home, not only is Guillaume ithe winemaker for the estate, he also serves as the president of the prestigious Bandol AOC. The Domaine le La Begude is based in an ancient Merovingian chapel that dates back to the 7th century and the “Conil” seigneury, where a thriving village once sat, but no longer exists. From here Guillaume hand crafts his Bandol wines, he does mostly his Bandol Rouge bottlings, though he also does a crisp Clairette Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Rolle (Vermentino) white as well as a couple of Rosé efforts, with this being his classic version. The Rosé sees a bit extra skin maceration with string to achieve its glowing vivid hue and was aged a full 18 months in neutral French oak casks to add depth and a round mouth feel, while still having plenty of zippy detail. I love that this Bandol Rosé is just about 12.%, instead of the more common 14 plus you see now, and while not on the level of the stars in the region yet, it offers a fabulous value and has a terroir driven and lovable charm.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 4, 2021

2018 Domaine Camus-Bruchon, Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru “Aux Gravains” Red Burgundy, France.
Guillaume Camus, who has now taken the helm from his dad Lucien, is one of the rising stars in the Côte de Beaune, and is making outstanding and elegant wines from vineyard holdings in in the Cote de Beaune, with many parcels in Premier Cru sites, especially in the Savigny-Les-Beaune, where this gorgeous Aux Gravains comes from, as well as nice pieces of Pommard and in the Beaune zone. The Camus-Bruchon vines are solidly mature and old, averaging at least 35 years, though as noted by importer Beaune Imports, they have some fabulous 95 year old vines too, like in their plot in the Grands Liards vineyard. This 2018 vintage Premier Cru Aux Gravains is an absolute gem of a red Burgundy with exceptional purity and a beautiful dark garnet/ruby color in the glass with supple/smooth layers of black cherry, plum, red currant and Moro orange fruits, a fine chalky tannin, refined natural acidity, mineral notes along with a touch of rose petal, Asian spices, black tea and a subtle wood frame in this wonderfully pleasing medium bodied wine. The Camus-Bruchon Burgundies, which I have been following and buying for many years have been superb dating back many vintages and remain savvy buys for the Burgundy enthusiast, they offer great terroir driven flavors and character at an insanely good price and they age fantastically well as I have found at trade tastings, when I have experienced 20 to 30 old bottles that showed almost no signs of their age. I took a uncharacteristic gap in reviewing these wines, which isa shame, as they taste even better than I remember, with the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 being excellent, as I noted, but this 2018 is looking like a step up. All the vineyard sites farmed by the Camus family are dome using sustainable methods and with great respect for the lands and to promote healthy soils, these wines really showcase each site’s distinct micro climates and are really respectful of history of this region.

Like his father, Guillaume, of Domaine Camus-Bruchon, has a light touch and very much a winemaker that makes his wines in the vineyard, rather than in the cellar, everything he does is to showcase each vineyard site and produce transparent wines. He uses approximately 15% new oak in any given year, including in his top Premier Cru bottlings like this one, preferring to follow the Domaine’s tradition of crafting raw, balanced and graceful Pinots. The Camus-Bruchon wines see an extended maceration to fully extract the terroir and structure with about 18 days in total for the period of fermentation. The wines are all done with indigenous yeasts in old school concrete vats before being racked of to the French oak for over a year and then they are bottled unfined and unfiltered to capture every nuance and the full sense of place. The older Camus-Bruchon wines might have been a bit more chewy and meaty, a touch more rustic, but there is a long lineage of continuous quality and highlight the classic clay and limestone soils, these Burgundies are fine examples of wines grown in the vineyard, and as Guillaume says, he firmly believes that one can only make wine as good as the grapes that you grow and it is clear he spends much more time with his vines that he does in the cellar, as it should be, especially when you have the parcels at your disposal like he does. The Camus-Bruchon Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Crus are stunning values and this Aux Gravains is one to stock up on, but be sure to also keep an eye out for the Lieu-Dit, non Premier Cru, Aux Grands Liards Vieilles Vignes (old vine), it maybe one of the best Pinots for the price in all of Burgundy. Others to look for in this stellar collection are the Savigny-Lès-Beaune Les Narbantons 1er Cru, which has been a long time favorite of mine, it is more dark fruited, complex and deep with lots of inner power and a heavenly perfumed nose, and the rare Clos des Arvelets Premier Cru from the legendary Pommard zone. Enjoy this 2018 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru “Aux Gravains” now, particularly with robust cuisine, or put some bottles away and be gloriously rewarded with patience, no doubt this wine will be excellent in 15 years too.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 3, 2021

2020 James Rahn, Skin Contact Pinot Gris, Weber Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Another one in my group, of my study of Pinot Gris, that highlight the past and future of this grape, is the James Rahn Weber Vineyard Willamette Valley skin contact Pinot Gris with its bright reddish/organge pink color, with a hint of cloudiness and slightly savory/smoky profile with a fleshy medium bodied palate and smooth texture, making it an interesting Northeast Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia) inspired version. I have a feeling this vineyard might have been effected by some smoke from the fires that raged through the Pacific Northwest as I maybe just feel a touch of ashy influence, but with the minimum amount of skin contact it doesn’t really intrude on the mostly pleasing freshness and fruit detail here, though it would be best to enjoy this wine in the immediate future and not to wait to get the best of the pretty layering that it now shows. There is plenty to like here with a mix of fruit and stony notes with red apples, grilled citrus, melon and earthy strawberry along with a hint of leathery and woodsy truffle, minty herbs and delicate baking spices. This dusty dry wine is best served with pungent foods, I can see it going well with everything from briny raw oysters to feta cheese salads and even sea urchin. Oregon is a hot bed for new and exciting wines and has led to a whole new wave in whites, including an array of Pinot Gris styles from the classic Eyrie version to Cameron’s Ramato (cooper colored) example to various shades of skin contact, with the new label from Fair Moon Wines, the Sunshine Effect Skin Contact Pinot Gris being another really nice savory style, like this Rahn Weber edition, all showcasing the full range of what this grape can do.

In recent years, James Rahn has become a highly sought out label, producing highly individual and unique wines with a focus on Pinot Noir, but with some beautifully hand crafted bottlings of cool rarities like Mondeuse, the famous Savoie red grape, Trousseau, the lighter hued Jura grape that has become an underground success story in both Oregon and California, Gruner Veltliner, the classic Austrian white grape and Pinot Meunier, the other Champagne red grape that has shown huge potential here in the Willamette Valley along with Gamay, the classic Beaujolais grape that is thriving and getting almost as desirable as Pinot Noir these days, being a fast seller in lineups like Rahn’s and last but not least a dry intense Riesling, which is how I discovered Rahn. The Pinot Gris, made more like a red wine with a skin maceration, is sourced from the sustainably grown Weber Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA on a combination of soils with mainly Jory, red volcanic and marine sedimentary influences here. The Weber Vineyards, which are quite mature vines that were planted between 1975-1988 the Weber’s property includes a total of thirty five acres, with old vine Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and even some Gewurtzraminer grapes, as well as the small parcel of Pinot Gris. Rahn notes that, over the years the Weber Vineyard grapes were sold to some famous names, such as Erath Winery, John Paul at Cameron, Rex Hill and Arterberry Winery to name a few. The Rahn Pinot Gris saw a ripe pick, but finished at 12.3% natural alcohol, retaining good energy with fresh acidity and was aged in neutral French oak barrels, to promote purity, going through full malos and bottled unfined and unfiltered after a few months in the wood, this vintage is slightly lighter than in the past, with the 2018 being much darker, made in the Gris Rouge style, by comparison. There is a lot to get excited about in Rahn’s collection and I highly recommend checking these cool wines out!
($25 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 2, 2021

2020 The Language of Yes, Le Cerisier, Rosé of Tibouren and Cinsault, Central Coast.
The Language of Yes wines are a collaboration between Randall Grahm, post Bonny Doon Vineyard, and Gallo, the massive family wine company, exploring some of the unique sites and varietals in the Central Coast of California, which at first seems like an unlikely coupling, but it offers both great benefits and the first release from this partnership is this fabulous Le Cerisier dry pink wine that is a uniquely wonderful take on old school Provence Rosé. The genius and creative mind of Grahm is exploited to its full potential here with grape choices and labeling and Gallo’s resources, facilities and vineyards have paid off in this wine no question. At first crisp and mineral driven with a subtle fruit element, this The Language of Yes Rosé turns on the charm and adds a sensational textural quality that is surprisingly vinous and luxurious that gives this wine a presence, elegance and complexity that will remind you of maybe, the most famous Tibouren based wine, Clos Cibonne, which is high praise, as that wine regularly gets called the greatest dry Rosé in the world. This seductive Rosé has a slightly orange, pale pinkish hue and round medium bodied palate of racy citrus with blood orange and ruby grapefruit, peach flesh, sour cherry, watermelon and rosewater with that supple opulence of lees and a delicate caramel note. There is a fine cut of natural acidity and tart and tangy juiciness, like sour cherry and strawberry, brought into focus with the good dose of Cinsault in this vintage, making for a well judged and balanced effort that also allows this wine to be a refreshing sipper, though honestly this wine is made for serious meals and pairs excellent with a range of cuisine, though I would suggest sea food stews, steamed mussels in spicy broth and or with a selection of farm cheeses.

Tibouren, also known as Rossese di Dolceacqua in Italy, is a rare ancient varietal that is found primarily in the Cotes de Provence wines, where it is mostly used in the Rosé, like those of the mentioned Clos Cibonne and the Roux family that are credited with restoring its fame and make the most highly regarded version. Randalll Grahm is leading the charge in California to get more plantings of this grape and this 2020 Le Cerisier Rosé might be the first Tibouren based version in the state, at least it is the first I’ve seen and he has his blocks planted at his Popelochum Vineyard in San Juan Bautista, where he is doing an exciting grape breeding program. Tibouren, which is earthy and very light in pigment is, as mentioned, most common in the Provence wine region, though, as French ampelographer Pierre Galet suggests, the grape possibly could be from the Greeks, but also notes that the origins might actually be Middle Eastern. His studies seem to point to he uniquely shaped leaves of the Tibouren vine, that includes some deeply incised lobes that are usually seen in the Vitis selection of grape vines in the Middle East. Galet also explains that over hundreds of years the evolution of Tibouren it is likely that its ancestor vines were brought to Greece originally and then later introduced to France by the Ancient Greeks at their settlement in Marseille, which seems pretty easy to believe, though some think that Tibouren arrived much later in the 1800s as there is very little documentation to prove otherwise. Grahm believes Tibouren (Rossese) will play a big part in California’s wine future, and if the wines made from it are anything like this one, it would be hard to argue against that. Look for more offers coming from The Language of Yes wines this fall, including a pure Grenache, which I am excited to try!
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive