2011 Raul Perez, Prieto Picudo, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y Leon, Spain.
The rare Prieto Picudo is an odd varietal with high acid, high tannin and slightly oval shaped with a pointy tip, it’s native and almost only found here in Tierra de Leon, the name means beaked, hence the name, Raul Perez’s is from a high elevation old vine site on sandy clay soils with river rocks, making for a unique wine that has an almost Nebbiolo or Ramisco like flavor profile. This extraordinary red, from vines planted in 1900 in the village of Pajares de los Oteros at about 900 feet above sea level, was fermented whole cluster in chestnut wood vats with a cool 60 day maceration and then raised for about 60 months in French barriques, this long elevage adding to the wine’s refinement and mature character. The 2011 Prieto Picudo, from 111 year old vines when harvested, is a brilliant ruby/dark red color with herb and floral notes on the nose with mineral tones as well as a slight earthy/spice and kirsch note before opening to a medium full palate of racy red fruits including brambly forest berry, cherry, plum and mulberry plus dried flowers, peppercorns, grilled fennel and light cedar. The texture is fantastic and mouth filling with satiny feel, this is mind-blowing stuff with great depth and layers of pleasure, but with firm tannins and glowing vibrancy making this wine really pop, lingering distilled strawberry, salty stones, sweet tobacco leaf and baking spice. This is one of the coolest wines I’ve tried this year, again it reminds me somewhat of Lessona DOC, Nebbiolo based reds that spend 4 to 5 years in cask, of the upper Piedmonte area. The fruit is ripe and polished, this is very much a classic Perez wine, it was great to taste it with the winemaker himself, you could see just how thrilled he was with this Prieto Picudo and his passion was thick in the air, and I think this wine has potential to age another decade, I hope to get a chance to see how it evolves. Wow.
($56 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2014 Alexana, Chardonnay, Terroir Series, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This pretty and ripe Oregon Chardonnay by Dr. Revana’s Alexana winery/label in the Willamette Valley shows classic apple/pear and lemony fruits, light hazelnut, mineral tones and subtle wood, offering texture and value for the money. This 2014 showcases the wonderful year for full round flavors and vibrancy of acidity, putting this white wine somewhere between California and Burgundy in style will forward fruit, but with graceful elegance and inner energy, it’s medium body giving nice mouth feel and it’s contrasting stoniness and saline elements balance out the fruity character. The Alexana Chardonnay Terroir Series starts with white flowers, wet river rocks, light citrusy brightness and an extremely delicate pale golden hue in the glass before filling out on the palate with the mentioned apple, bosc pear, lemon curd, golden fig and white peach fruits that seamlessly flow in satiny layers along with a hint of French oak, chalk dust and spicy shale. This wine cuts a detailed line, without heavy weight, while being a Chardonnay of substance that should perform well over the next 2 or 3 years, though there is no reason to wait to enjoy this wine. Not a complicated or an overly complex wine, but it has style and drinks above it’s price class!
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, West Block, Russian River Valley.
Picked out of the cellar on a whim to share with my brother and nephew, the 2011 Rochioli West Block proved majestic and perfectly performed with deep fruit and cool vintage class, while seriously lavish and rich, it shows brilliant detail, acidity and wonderful persistence, I was gratefully surprised at the level of purity and grace. I’ve always been a fan of West Block first planted in 1969 and with a parcel recently re-planted in 2008, with it’s heritage selection of clones, it always delivers a dark ruby/garnet hue with a hint of brick and a medium/full palate with ripe black cherry, fresh picked plum, cola bean, wild berry, apple skin, baking spices and a touch of earth with this 2011 adding a bit of cranberry and violet/rose petal tones. I was thrilled from the first sip to the last, it stayed remarkably focused and structured from the moment the cork was popped to that last drop that came out of the bottle, most people avoid 2011, but this wine is everything you’d want or expect from Rochioli, impressive, it goes beyond expectations and excels in this vintage, I really hope I have another one tucked away! This 2011 West Block has plenty of life to go, I might suggest another 3 to 5 years be added to the window here, best from 2018 to 2024, I imagine this will be showing up on Winebid, and with the lack of love for this year being what it is, this might be undervalued, it is a dark horse or sleeper, it will be a rewarding capture.
($80-110 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Morlet Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Coteaux Nobles, Sonoma Coast.
Luc Morlet’s fine and elegant Coteaux Nobles Pinot Noir 2012 is showing signs of quick maturity that might mean you’ll want to start drink it up, but certainly it is a quality effort that gives a gorgeous textured palate and long finish. The ex Peter Michael star Morlet is best known for his wonderful Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from estate vines in Knights Valley as well as Beckstoffer and selected coastal cool climate sites, along with a white Bordeaux blend that is truly spectacular, but he also does a lovely set of Pinot Noir, like this one. The opulent and richly flavored 2012 may not be a great choice for longtime cellaring, just my experience and opinion, but it is drinking with aplomb right now showing pretty floral tones, ripe red fruits, spice and fully integrated French barrique as well as subtle leafy earth and mineral notes. This soft and round Pinot coats the palate in silky creaminess with layers of kirsch/cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit, a light dusting of shaved vanilla, cinnamon and dried violets. With air it just gets more satiny and it’s medium bodied more refined and lingering with hints of plum, fig and anise, and while decedent and luxurious it does turn a touch stewed or poached, which is a bit worrisome for those that were thinking of holding this more than another 2 to 3 years. There’s a lot to admire now and it gives rich detail and mouth feel, it also excels with cuisine where it partners well with even more vibrant and robust food choices, including blackened salmon or beef dishes, drink now, best to pop these corks sooner versus later.
($90 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 von Hovel, Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Saar Germany.
Since taking over this historic estate in 2010 Max von Kunow has taken von Hovel into a new era with organic farming and a tweaking of the lineup and winemaking with the fruits of those efforts taking form in the 2012 wines, though really taking it to the next level with the monumental 2015 vintage. Though always a winery to follow, it’s recent years look like some of best, I can see a huge difference even with these 2012 offerings, and in particular this brisk and savory toned Kabinett Trocken that saw some skin contact and more gentle fermentation. With it’s greenish light golden hue this Riesling shows plenty of vigor and extract, making it seem almost powerful in intent, certainly it has the class and complexity to be on level with an Erste Lage, or Premier Cru, it’s forceful presence in the glass does make you notice it and it’s an exceptional value if you can find it. That said the 2015 and 2016 should prove even better and the future here looks amazing, highlighting the Saar’s soulful and even earthy elements rather than the vivid slate influences of the middle Mosel not far away, providing a wonderful contrast in terroir characteristics. This 2012 von Hovel Kabinett Trocken estate Riesling (black label) starts with a vibrant array of citrus, spices, white flowers, earthy stones and a zesty steely core leaning on lime, verbena, tart melon and subtle mango. This 2012 is still sizzling with crisp acidity making it feel remarkably youthful, I bet we’ll need a decade to see further evolution and secondary development here, but for the near term it is just a joyful and positive refresher that will go with oysters, smoked/cured meats and perfect for lively summer sipping. It’s charm is it’s inner energy rather than beauty, it gains more complex layers with air, while staying firm and focused, it’s more appealing to those inclined towards austere style wines, while it’s a study in dry extract, it’s not exotic or showy, lingering with it’s racy tangerine, faint rosewater and citron. Herr von Kunow certainly believes the Saar will be the next big thing in Riesling, even claiming that it can produce the world’s greatest Riesling, it’s going to be fascinating to see his progress with von Hovel, so far the results are impressive.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Shared Notes, Sauvignon Blanc “Les Pierres qui decident” Russian River Valley.
This might be a contender for American white wine of the year! I’ll go on record, I’m usually not a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan, especially ones from the new world, yes, I’m admitting I’m very hard on and snobby about Sauvignon Blanc, preferring Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume, Alto Adige and even the Pfalz, in particular Von Winning’s 500 Sauvignon Blanc, but Jeff Pisoni & Bibiana González Rave’s Shared Notes “Les Pierres qui decident” is something quite extraordinary, it’s wine inspired by the great wines of Didier Dagueneau and crafted to near perfection, it’s a wine that has it all and more. This epic white wine shines with vibrancy, depth and gorgeous detail with bright mineral focus, leesy texture along with stunning purity by two of California’s best young winemakers, the husband and wife have teamed up with this label, hence the name, Shared Notes, making a set of Sauvignon Blanc based wines that don’t compete with their day job wines with Jeff making his family wines at Pisoni and Lucia Vineyards while Bibiana is making Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer wines. This 2015 Les Pierres qui decident starts with a classic notes of orange blossom, mineral spice, melon, cat piss (gooseberry) and persimmon before lemon/lime, white peach, kumquat and a touch of brioche in a steely medium full palate that while rich and hedonistic stays brisk/crisp throughout with subtle sur lie and wood notes. This is a thrilling Sauvignon Blanc, with amazing lift and succulent mouth feel, absolutely worth every penny, I’d love to put this wine in a blind tasting with my favorites and see where it ranks, I’d almost bet it would finish top, it has style, class and wonderful sex appeal, it’s in league with the mentioned Dagueneau, Terlano’s Quarz and the top cuvees of Gerard Boulay! This wine proves the San Francisco Chronicle got it right when it named Bibiana González Rave winemaker of the year, and if you still need any more evidence just try her own Cattleya (label) wines, especially her Soberanes Syrah, while Jeff Pisoni is no slouch either, just look at his Pisoni Estate Pinot, this is a power couple to state the obvious. For me, in the world of Sauvignon Blanc, there have been two great surprises, Von Winning’s 500 Sauvignon Blanc from the Pfalz in Germany and this Shared Notes Russian River Valley Les Pierres qui decident Sauvignon Blanc, both of which look to challenge for my top ten white wines of the year! Do not miss this wine…
($65 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Charles Audion, Bourgogne Rouge, France.
This bright ruby/garnet colored Burgundy is wonderfully sweet fruited and juicy fresh with nice detail, life and almost surprising length, making this Charles Audion Bourgogne Rouge a very delightful class act. Mostly known for their Marsannay, Domaine Audion is now run by Charles’ son Cyril is continuing to produce quality and fair priced red, white and rosé bottilings that highlight the regions terroir earthiness and mineralite, but with generous fruit, this is showcased certainly even here in their basic Burgundy. The sandy and clay with limestone gives the wine it’s presence, and mineral driven profile according to Cyril Audion, who only has vines in Marsannay lieu-dit and cru sites that are well known and historically acclaimed, and even this basic cuvee Bourgogne AC comes from de-classified Marsannay lots. Pretty rosewater, candied bing cherry, wild plum and Asian spices burst from the glass along with raspberry, strawberry and cranberry fruits on the round open palate before an acidic lift of citrus rind as well as hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, loamy stones, saline, anise tea and chanterelle. Not overly complex honestly, but a solid and more than competent Burgundy and I really enjoyed this Audion, it is a fine example of the vintage to drink now and a great gateway wine to glimpse into the Domaine’s wines and of Marsannay itself. Imported by Martine’s Wines, Charles Audion is a winery to start following more seriously, I remember being impressed with their 2008, 2010 and 2012’s, but these 2014’s seem to take it to the next level, drink this enter level Burgundy over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
n.v. Maison Louis de Grenelle, Saumur Brut Rose, “Corail” Sparkling Wine, Loire Valley, France.
This is a brilliant organic Brut 100% Cabernet Franc from the Saumur region of France’s Loire Valley flows with a luxurious mousse and bright detail showing fresh strawberry, light cherry and brioche as well as a mineral steeliness. This non vintage Brut Saumur from Louis de Grenelle, an estate founded back in 1859, imported by Jon David Headrick and European Cellars (Eric Solomon) is wonderfully delicate, elegant and very stylish, it’s an exceptional value for the price that you’ll want to score by the case, all bubbles fans should search this well crafted methode champenoise. Each sip brings new pleasures in this Cabernet Franc Brut Rose, leading with light citrus and spice notes, dry fruitiness, chalky stones and faint floral elements with distilled rose petals. This sparkling wine is a sleeper offering high quality for the price and will prove a savvy choice for bistros and wine bars and great for party or everyday bubbly, it’s a crisp and cool way to celebrate any occasion or event. Cremant and or Prosecco fans will be impressed with this one, I know I was thrilled and I will be putting money where my mouth is and grab a case of this stuff!
($17 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2016 Alma de Cattleya, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County.
From Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni’s second label Alma de Cattleya this pretty Rosé of Pinot Noir, crafted from cool climate Sonoma sites it’s a crisp and vibrant Rosé with bright strawberry, sour cherry and watermelon fruits, chalky stones, floral tones bursting from the glass. Bibiana’s main label Cattleya, named after the Orchid, the national flower of her native Colombia is one of California’s most exciting newer wineries with an exceptional lineup up of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and my favorite her Syrah, with this second line of value wines under the Alma de Cattleya label originally only for the Colombian market, but now available on a limited basis here in California. Bibiana González Rave-Pisoni, married to Jeff Pisoni of Pisoni Estate, Lucia Vineyards and Fort Ross, has made wine around the world, her CV is extremely impressive with stints in Bordeaux, Alsace and with Ogier in Cote-Rotie as well as being the head winemaker at Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer today, her wines show a remarkable class and clarity. I love the 2016 vintage for Pinot Noir Rosé, and this one joins a few top picks including Brooks Winery, Stoller, Alfaro Family and Pisoni’s Lucy to name a few of the years best. This 2016 Bibiana González Rave Alma de Cattleya Rosé is all Pinot Noir, it’s surprisingly lithe and focused considering the 14.1% alcohol, though it does gain texture and ripe detail with air which gives it a certainly charm and flexibility with cuisine. Lingering rosewater, spice and citrus give this savvy Rosé a nice cut and finish, be sure to search this pink wine out and do not miss the fantastic Cattleya Soberanes (Alban Clone) Syrah, it’s one of the top Rhone inspired wines in California!
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes, Cru Classe, Cotes de Provence Rosé, France.
One of the most interesting wines in France, the Clos Cibonne Tibouren is a light Vin Gris (Rosé) made from a pale red grape that is extremely rare these days, Clos Cibonne is the only estate that is allowed to use Tibouren (varietal) on it’s labels do to it’s history and is one of only 18 Cru Classes in the Cotes du Provence. Clos Cibonne dates back to 1797 and still is is the hands of the Roux family descendants, with many re-vitalizations along the way, with Andre Roux making the historic decision in 1930 to ditch the post phylloxera Mourvedre and Grenache (brought in from Spain in the late 1,800’s) and to re-interoduce the native Tibouren grape being the one heroic moment that was the game changer here, though recent upgrades to the cellar and intriguing winemaking have elevated this estate to it’s current glory. The Cuvee Speciale des Vignettes Rosé is crafted from the oldest estate vines, about 60 years old on average, grown on schist soils, fermented in stainless with a light maceration then aged in 100 year old foudre(s) for a year on it’s lees under fleurette (Flor like fino sherry) which is unique and gives this Rosé it’s signaler style and character. The wine feels silky and earthy with a hint of cheesiness and truffle, it’s delicate orange/pink/salmon hue belies it’s depth and complexity, this is glorious old world wine with an inner vibrancy, but with wood aged silken textures, showing spicy mineral notes to go with subtle fruit essences that leans towards dried cherries, wild strawberry, quince paste, red peach and blood orange with hints of wilded rose, lavender, wet river stones, saline/iodine, faint nutty elements and damp/dankness. The tasting profile is refined, regardless of the wording and wonderfully seductive, even with it’s leathery wrapping, this is a Rosé by Clos Cibonne that fills the palate with cool crispness, but still rich in mouth feel and length making this a fascinating wine, and it can age for years!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive