Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 5, 2018

2015 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
The deep garnet and purple Crozes 2015 from Graillot is a brilliant wine, punching way above it’s price class, it’s ripe per the vintage, but with exceptional purity of place, balance and intensity. This whole cluster Syrah is already drinking fantastically well, even in it’s fresh youthful form and looks set to be a classic year for Graillot, in fact both the Alain Graillot, over seen now by his son Maxime, as well as Maxime’s own Domaine des Lises both are wonderful examples, with the Graillot being a bit more dense, serious and a bit Cornas like in presence, while the Domaine des Lises is just a touch lighter and more perfumed, this was a striking difference when tasted blind recently. Graillot, who began his Domaine in 1985, owns 50 acres of 30-year-old Crozes-Hermitage vines, which are worked all organically, they are set upon a mostly flat alluvial plain between the Rhône and Isère rivers, in well-draining soils consisting of sand, gravel, and broken rocks. The wine is crafted using hand harvested clusters that are carefully sorted for the quality of the grapes and stems, fermented, as mentioned all whole cluster and raised in used Burgundy barriques, normally 1 to 3 year old barrels to provide just the right amount of refinement, he ferments with native yeasts and in concrete, everything is done with precise focus and the wines always show this region in it’s best light, this is absolutely true in this 2015 version, which is as awesome as it gets. A big thank you to Sam Smith, winemaker at Morgan Winery in Monterey, as well as making his own line of wines, who has been to Graillot and has been inspired by them, which slows in his fine Syrah offerings (check out his Samuel Louis Smith Sunstone Terraces Syrah and his Morgan Double L Syrah) as well, for sharing this bottle from his personal cellar, as part of blind Rhone Valley tasting, it was one of the best of the night, certainly the overall winner in Syrah. The palate is packed with layers of violets, graphite/flint stone, minty herb, earth and peppercorns with a core of blackberry, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruit adding a touch of cassis, game and nervy stems with time in the glass, this is righteous stuff Ferris, and a soulful wine that seduces and charms from start to finish. It would be hard to resist drinking this Crozes up as fast as I can, but look for some extra rewards with patient cellaring, another 5 to 10 years easy!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 4, 2018

2017 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
Lulu’s pink wine is one of the world great treats and become to some, me included, the right of passage into Summer, the Domaine Tempier has a reputation for being the absolute best Rosé, and it certainly is one of the most sought after and fought over. Lulu Peyraud is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, she is legendary and her estate’s red wines can easily age with the elite Bordeaux that litter the top cellars of the rich and famous, it was her husband, Lucien, who help push through the AOC status for this unique terroir back in the late thirties and early forties and championed Mourvèdre here, making it the main grape. Lulu herself was a renown chef and sought to bring Provencal cuisine to the world, she has entertained the likes of Alice Waters and Julia Child, inspiring everyone she met. While these days I might go for the Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cotes de Provence Rosé Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes,  it’s hard not to love the much hyped, again by me as well, Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé with it’s inviting color and mouth filling palate that skirts the fine line between hedonistic density of form and lively refreshment to perfection with gorgeous texture and sharp detail, this 2017 is everything you’d expect from this famous estate. Farmed all biodynamic and from this spectacularly picturesque sea side region it France’s Provence, the Domaine Tempier Rosé is made from mostly Mourvèdre of course and grown on clay and limestone soils overlooking the blue Mediterranean, the vines and cellar are over seen by the talented Daniel Ravier, as well as Lulu’s sons taking over, with Jean-Marie sharing in the management of the domaine as well as helping in the winemaking, and with François working in the vineyards. The Rosé is crafted from 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache Noir and 20% Cinsault, pretty much the recipe these days here, it is from mainly 20 year old vines, and made by using 50% saignée and 50% done direct press (with early picks), it is all malolactic fermentation, which adds that sensation of a full body and opulence, while being raised 50% in stainless steel vats and 50% in concrete tanks for about 7 months allowing for more complexity and refinement upon release. There is great precision and attention to detail in the production of Tempier’s Rosé, it is a luxurious and vivid pink showing bright watermelon, strawberry, tart cherry and vibrant grapefruit layers, it has a fine mineral tone and hints at savory, with faint herbs and briar spice, while the nose is beautiful with rosewater and wet stones leading the way, this is as promised something ultra special, especially true this vintage. No one ever should pass up a chance to have this wine, it is without doubt Summer in the glass, drink up.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 3, 2018

2012 Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
This old school Chateauneuf by Chateau de la Gardine was the almost unrivaled star of a Rhone blind tasting that featured more than a few stars from the region, even in a mediocre vintage, it was strutting it’s stuff with the best, a gorgeous wine and a stellar performance for a winery and wine that gets often overlooked. The estate, in the hands of Gaston Brunel, a famous négociant, who acquired the Château de la Gardine in Châteauneuf du Pape in 1945 brought the property to it’s current fame now is run by his two sons, Patrick and Maxime with the help of their wives Eve and Maryse and their children Marie-Odile and Philippe, that later getting more and more involved and seemingly bringing an era of heightened quality and expectations, while the mentioned Eve Brunel directs the winemaking itself. The Château de la Gardine estate spreads over some 52 ha of vineyards 90% red grapes and a tiny amount of white and is uniquely set within a forested area. The terroir here is varied with some bits having the classic galets, the large river stones, along with limestone, sand and clay structures helping make these wines complex, well built and with a finessed elegance, with vines, farmed using organic methods, that average between 40 to 60 years of age. The winemaking is simple and traditional and in this red 65% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 5% Muscardin was used, all de-stemmed and from all hand harvested fruit that was sorted with extreme care, the Syrah got several picks to balance the wine and add to the aromatics, it was fermented in stainless steel and raised 60% in vat and 40% in 1 to 6 year old barrique for up to 14 months. The 2012 is surprisingly perfumed with a lovely dark flowers, violet led floral attack along with hints of dusty spices and cherry confit leading to a full bodied, but graceful palate of boysenberry, plum, strawberry and dense kirsch with added touches of salted licorice, wild mint, pepper, earthy stones, graphite, cedar and incense. The texture, fine ripe tannins and lift really play amazing roles here giving this Chateauneuf it’s charm and old world character, it paired well with homemade spicy lamb meatballs and was sublime on it’s own, it might just be peaking right now, it is hard to see why you’d wait longer, but it should live nicely for another 5 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 2, 2018

2016 Gulfi, Rossojbleo, Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
The all organic Gulfi Rossojbleo is a solid effort and great introduction to Gulfi’s Nero d’Avola wines, it’s a lighter and fresher expression of terroir and grape, showing vibrant acidity from limestone-rich soils of the south eastern side of Sicily removed from the volcanic influences. Gulfi has many vine parcels, both near Vittoria as well as on Mount Etna as well all of which are Biodynamic and vinified with minimal intervention to highlight purity and a sense of place, with this basic 100% Nero d’Avola cuvee that is all stainless steel fermentation and aging from non-irrigated southwest facing vineyard located 450 metres above sea level. This Rossojbleo Nero d’Avola comes a cru is grown at close to 450 meters up in the Hyblaean mountains in southeast Sicily. The nearby forests help to maintain a cooler climate and prolong the maturation period. The vineyard produces tiny yields, according to the winery, it’s less than 1kg (about 2 pounds) of fruit per vine with a planting density of 8,900 vines per hectare. The soil is rich in clay with limestone sediments, perfect for making fruit forward and elegant wines, and this Gulfi Rossojbleo is just that with a silky texture, medium body and layers of cherry rich retails with light spices, mineral tones and hints of dried herbs it flows smoothly across the generous palate with a sense of place and restraint. Sicily is one of the world’s most exciting places and while Etna, where Gulfi has some great stuff as well, gets the headlines, everywhere it seems on the island is making thrilling and unique wines, without question it is the golden age of wine from Sicily. This Nero d’Avola is a killer value and easy to love with it’s pretty delicate floral notes, earthy charm and it’s unfolding red fruits, including wild raspberry, strawberry, plum and the mentioned core of cherry make it a great budget choice for something interesting and entertaining, especially with simple and rustic cuisine. Look for Gulfi, they have a great variety to choice from, with a range that has an array of local grapes from Frappato to Nerello Mascalese.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day August 1, 2018

2017 Martha Stoumen, Post Flirtation Red, California.
Martha’s Post Flirtation Red is made up of early picked and juicy Zinfandel 55% Grown in pure sand using sustainable and ecologically sound practices. Planted in the 60’s, these head-trained, dry farmed vines are the youngest in the historic Del Barba Vineyard in Contra Costa County and Carignan 45% grown in the cool section of the Redwood Valley, near Ukiah using certified sustainable and ecologically sound practices. Planted 1948. Head-trained, dry-farmed vines lovingly tended to by the Ricetti family, it was whole cluster, with old school foot-tread ferments and was raised on it’s own in well seasoned casks for about half a year. This Carignan, according to Martha has inky color, bright acid, and brings all of the tannin to the blend, while the Zin was all destemmed & aged in neutral small barrels for the six months before getting blended in to preserve freshness and fruitiness. Martha Stoumen, already with an impressive resume, apprenticing under many greats of the wine world already including Reinhard Löwenstein (Heymann-Löwenstein, Mosel), Jordan Fiorentini (Chalk Hill, California) Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars, California), Clive Dougall (Seresin, Marlborough), Didier Barral (Léon Barral, Faugères, France), and Giusto Occhipinti (COS, Sicily), she is one of a new generation of California winemakers that is looking to drop pretense and craft easy to love and fun wines that are exploring a new side of our state and bringing an old world sensibility to their wines. Her stated desire (is) to recapture a farming and winemaking culture that has all but faded away in the modern world, she’s minimalist and close to a naturalist in her winemaking approach, she describe it as, letting the natural yeast and bacteria present on the grape skins perform native fermentations, and allowing longer macerations and elevage/aging in some cases to give the wines stability, rather than using additives such as tannin, acid, or stabilizing agents (enzymes) striving always to craft wines that are delicious, joyful, and truly representative of California, herself and the growers. The 2017 Post Flirtation is fun, funky and fruit driven, but at only 12.7% it’s vibrantly fresh, spicy and much lighter in style than you’d expect from a dark Zin and Carignan blend, in fact it should be enjoyed with a slight chill even and is refreshing even on warm days with black raspberry, sugar beat, strawberry, sweet cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits as well as a herbal note (stems?) as well as an array of saddle leather, anise, pepper, cinnamon, a faint hint animal and earth. This is a simple and raw country wine much in the same vein as a Corbieres or the likes with that no excuse slightly funky edge, best enjoyed with meals and with good humor as well as close friends, drink up!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 31, 2018

2017 Diatom, Chardonnay “Katherine’s” Santa Maria Valley.
Another exploration into purity and place from Greg Brewer at Diatom Wines, it’s an old vine Chardonnay, no oak, no malo from a unique site in Santa Maria Valley! The 2017 Diatom Katherine’s defies expectations and delivers a wonderful experience and unbelievably is a finely textural driven Chardonnay. Not for everyone, for sure, but I am thrilled it exists and admire this courageous example of California Chardonnay! The Katherine’s, sourced from forty-eight-year-old, self-rooted vines in the north-west corner of Cambria’s Santa Maria Estate that allows for generous fruit and complex depth of flavors. The 2017 Katherine’s, according to Brewer, is from a parcel that is set on gravelly loam soils heavily influenced by the pronounced maritime influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean making it perfect for his Diatom label. Fermentation is done at very low temperatures in small stainless-steel tanks, with inhibited malo-lactic, he uses ultra short hose transit to ensure precision and focus, all in pursuit of creating a vibrant form that looks towards honing down to the very essence of the grape and terroir. Explaining Diatom can sometimes wander off into zen writings and poetry, it’s not an easy wine to understand for the novice, but it’s without a doubt a serious palate journey and this Katherine’s is brilliant in it’s severe detail, best to take this trip with simple and raw foods, especially things like saline fresh sashimi. The core of this Chardonnay is it’s fruit with it’s intense layers of crisp apple, a mix of tangy citrus with kefir lime, lemon zest and touch of grapefruit along with quinces, kumquat and a vein of tart peach, adding mineral tones, wet stones and a bosc pear butter sensation, which is more of a texture thing, rather than an overt flavor. This is a wine that will challenge you, not a wine that seeks to comfort you, but that said and as mentioned there is a surprising amount of mouth feel and the fruit is ripe and rewarding, it’s an intriguing and well crafted effort, best with a sense of purpose, meaning a meal and friends.
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 30, 2018

2016 Guimaro, Camino Real, Ribeira Sacra DO, Galicia Spain.
Pedro Rodriguez’s Guimaro Camino Real from the Ribeiro Sacra D.O. is an old world, old school, old vine based red grown on the steep slopes above the Sil River in Spain’s historic and ancient Galicia wine region that has been around since Roman times. The Guímaro Camino Real is made From 6 hectare in Amandi planted primarily to 40 to 60 years old vine Mencía, along with other native Galician varieties. All of the grapes, according to the winery, were hand-harvested together and spontaneously fermented with 100% whole clusters in open-top oak vats with a 40 day maceration. Set on granite and sandy soils, the Camino plot is mostly bush vines in terraces at about 500 meters on these dramatic slate based hillsides. Half of this Mencia was raised in large foudre with the other half in used 225 & 500L French barrels for just about one year, and bottled without fining or filtration. Pedro Rodriguez, Guimaro’s owner, wine grower and winemaker is now one of the “Sacred Slopes” Ribeiro Sacra’s leading lights, he was mentored by the famed Raul Perez, and has an exceptional gift with Mencia, and I am left amazed that not more attention has been paid to them, as these are some of the most thrilling red wines in Spain. The 2016 Camino Real, a bottling that I have not had a chance to try yet, is a beautiful and soulful wine with subtle earthy tones and a racy/nervy edge, it reminds me of Lapierre Morgon (Cru Beaujolais) meets Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, it has a juicy/natural feel and a hint of Northern Rhone character with vibrant fresh detail and peppery spices, it shows delicate floral notes and dark fruits with a mineral streak all in a medium bodied wine that came in at just 13% natural alcohol. There’s lots of intensity from start to finish on this one and it gains complexity and texture with air, in fact I loved it even more on day two when it picked up layers of wild plum, blueberry, cherry and briar laced black raspberry fruits, along with flinty stones, a hit of saline, game, minty herb, anise and dark walnut elements, all lifted by bright acidity. The air really allows pure terroir and an expressive personality to shine, Pedro is really getting everything right at Guimaro and this is a wine that excels in this vintage, also look for the Finca Meixemán (70 year old vines) and the Finca Capeliños (95+ year old vines) bottlings too, along with Guimaro’s basic Tinto, which is one of my favorite go to wines! Look for this Camino Real to get more interesting with bottle age, I’m glad I got a few to put away for 3 to 5 years, best from 2019 to 2026.
($38-45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 29, 2018

2015 Satyre Wines, Pinot Noir “Aristaeus” Russian River Valley.
Satyre Wines, Nicole Kosta and her partner winemaker Ted Weisser, sourced their richly flavored Aristaeus Pinot Noir from two vineyards from the Dutton Ranch in the western part of the Russian River Valley. These cool vineyard sites allow Satyre to retain natural vitality in the wine, while the sandy Goldridge loam soils drain really well, making the vines struggle which intensifies the bold red fruit flavors. This is an all American Pinot Noir, showing lots of up front fruit, smoky sweet French oak and a curvy body, but there’s more here than meets the eye here, and the complexity fights through the big cherry cola and black raspberry first impact adding layers of dried Provencal herbs, rose petals and a surprising lift from acidity that keeps things in check along with hints of anise and Asian spices. I think, like young Rochioli Pinots, there is a lot more to come in the future here, be patient if you are looking for subtly and I believe there is a rewarding future ahead for Satyre’s impressive and wonderfully generous Aristaeus Pinot Noir, best between 2020 and 2028, though that said there’s a lot to like now, especially with matching cuisine. This is a label to follow, as reviewed before their Rosé, uniquely barrel fermented and aged is really good, check them out!
($54 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 28, 2018

2015 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir, Hughes Hollow Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The rather exotic Hughes Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir from Bow & Arrow is amazing stuff, it at first is tight and iron laced that in a way reminds me of young Nebbiolo, but a few swirls brings an exciting array of classic Pinot aromas and flavors out and with further coaxing in the glass a powerful sensation that you are tasting something other worldly. Scott Frank, winemaker at Bow & Arrow, has done some thrilling wines from this unique north facing 30 year old site, and this 2015 is impressive. Hughes Hollow Vineyard, located in the South Salem hills, on Jory and Nekia soils at about 675 feet up, now farmed all organic was a place Frank wanted Gamay from, but had to take Pinot grapes as part of the deal, and mercy be, what deal it has turned out to be, especially as at first it wasn’t even given a name! This vineyard, fast becoming a favorite of mine in Bow & Arrow’s lineup, has it’s own personality, the vines here are own rooted and have been dry farmed from the beginning which adds to the intensity of form and with a vintage like 2015, ripe flavors, a savory bite and crisp acidity dominate. It bursts from the glass marked with the volcanic mineral and spice along with dried roses, tangy strawberries and minty herbs (stems?) before gathering it’s forces for a medium bodied, but powerful palate of black cherry, plum and briar laced raspberry along with cinnamon, black tea, earthy leather/porcini and lavendery incense. This is a gripping Pinot, with a firm structure with young Vougeot like tannins and the length is heavenly and long adding the vintage’s sweetness that offsets the rustic nature of this unpolished wine, this really sexy stuff, drink over the next 3 to 7 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 27, 2018

2016 Domaine Agathe Bursin, Sylvaner “Lutzeltal” Alsace, France.
A beautiful and crystalline wine from Agathe Bursin, the 2016 Lutzeltal Sylvaner delivers a thrilling and complete performance that rivals any white made from this varietal and proves the talents of this Alsace producer, putting Bursin in the regions elite vignerons. In the past I’ve loved the Sylvaner wines of Domaine Weinbach, and they continue to be a standard barer for this grape in Alsace, but this Bursin is absolutely gorgeous and is one of the best I’ve tried, highlighting the quality of the vintage and of place. Bursin’s estate is in the town of Westhalten, near the famous Alsace wine center Colmar, set below the three hills of of the area which are a calcareous formation, these are Zinnkoepflé, Strangenberg and Bollenberg, that form a crown around the village. This is a serious terroir with a very warm climate and littered with fossilized anemones and oyster shells with sandstone soils that gives these wines there unique bold expressions. Agathe Bursin, the youthful viticultrice, is also experimenting with co-planted varietals, and looks to be about to explore the path that Marcel Deiss has gone down and her style is generous, but with refined elegance and a traditional feel, and this Sylvaner is very along those lines with it’s medium body and opulent fruit backed up by brisk focus and sharp detailing. The beautiful and lightly floral nose is vivid with intriguing white flowers, saline, mineral tones and orchard fruits that leads to a richly flavored palate that is both dry and decedent with a mix of citrus, peach, quinces and tangy mango fruits along with a chalky/stony element, a hint of lees and an array of minerals, spice and a touch of Summer herbs. This Sylvaner really impresses texturally and with it’s lovely charms, and it’s a grape that needs to be re-examined, especially when you find one as good as this! With it’s extract and subtle acidity, I’d expect this Bursin Lutzeltal Sylvaner to last a decade or more, but not drinking it now would be very hard indeed, this is pure pleasure and class in the glass and a great Summery white.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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