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Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 17, 2020

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Perli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge -photo grapelive

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Perli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Always an exciting wine, the Drew Perli Syrah, is quite lush in the 2017 version and full of black fruit and with smooth ripe tannins, and even though made using full bunches and stems it delivers an opulent and full bodied palate with presence that reminds me more of the southern Rhone than the Northern Rhone, though I do see a touch of Guigal Cote Rotie in the polished form here. This is a wine that excites in the mouth feel and in impact delivering blackberry, plum, black currant, blueberry coulis and kirsch fruits along with subtle spice, smoky mineral notes, anise, cedar and black Mission figs. The nose is still subdued at this stage, but a light floral array emerges with air, and you can see that underneath all the dense fruit there is a more savory side lurking and that much more is developing behind the scenes on display so far. The Perli drinks very well now, make no mistake, though I am more interested in its potential in 3 to 5 years, and if you do open it like I did, be sure to have it with food, especially heavy protein dishes and or hard cheeses. As I’ve been saying for some time now, Drew Family Cellars is one of California’s best wineries and Jason Drew is making some of the state’s absolutely best wines, in particular his awesome set of Pinots, like the Estate bottlings and the Morning Dew Ranch, as well as his limited release Syrah(s) like the Valenti Ranch and this Perli Vineyard.

The Perli Vineyard, which Drew notes, lies within the Mendocino Ridge appellation and sits at 2200 ft elevation just ten miles from the Mendocino Coast, cooled by the Pacific Ocean on a steep north eastern slope, which allows for long hang times for the grapes and with restrained sugars. This 21 year old vineyard is set on ancient ocean floor uplift with sedimentary soils with both the McDowell selection and the 877 clones of Syrah. The McDowell selection, Jason adds, is notable as it is the oldest field selection of Syrah in North America, that originally came into California in 1880 where it was propagated by the San Jose Mission and then later planted on the McDowell Ranch in Mendocino County in 1902, maybe the first Rhone Ranger. Drew employed a 100% Native Yeast and 100% Whole Cluster fermentation, on this vintage of the Perli Syrah, to promote purity and thrilling flavor evolution with gentle maceration, pilage and pressing, with the wine resting on the fine lees in neutral French oak for close to a year with gravity racking a couple of times before bottling. The Perli which really excels when given time to open in the glass has a joyous textural quality and while almost exotic and very expressive it has a natural balance and is just 13.8% in alcohol, keeping it from feeling hot or boozy, this is tasty stuff. Only 75 cases, or three barrels, were produced of the Drew Perli Syrah, making it a rare treat to cherish, Drew advises this one sells out fast, so keep an eye out for it.
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 16, 2020

2018 Weingut Künstler, Spätburgunder Rosé, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Künstler, Spätburgunder Rosé, Rheingau Germany.
When thinking back on the last year and celebrating my birthday, I wanted to reflect on some fun times and fun wines, less serious, but well crafted, so I reviewed my notes and found this one staring at me, it is perfect for this occasion and a sublime Pinot Noir Rosé with fresh details and a lively nature. Gunter Künstler, one of Germany’s best winemakers and world renown for his stunning Rieslings, is based the famous Rheingau village of Hochheim, on the banks of the Main river, which flows west from Frankfurt, meeting the Rhein here and is a place of unique conditions with a warm and somewhat humid climate and a mix of loess, clay, sand, loam, marl and limestone soils that allows for ripe and dense dry wines, when farmed with the passion and hard work like Künstler, with even his basic bottlings like this one being solidly crafted. The 2018 Rosé, a limited and hard to find pink, is full of wild strawberry, bright and sour cherry and plum water, it is fruity in a refreshing dynamic way and has good full Pinot character along with hints of spice, crushed wet stones, delicate rosewater and zingy citrus. Impressive for the cut of acidity and mineral tones as well as the wonderful round textured palate, it’s a wine for sunshine, laughter and friends.

Künstler, who has moved with great care and respect for his vines to organic practices, also takes a pragmatic approach in the cellar, which according to Riesling guru and importer Terry Theise, is in line with the elite producers in Germany with a focus on dry wines. The musts settle by gravity, to save the wine from bitter phenolics and are gently pressed clear with fermentation done with cultured yeast, because, as Gunter notes, it’s often still warm when grapes are being picked and to work sponti would mean a greater risk of volatile acidity. The winery, as Theise adds, orients toward cask as opposed to steel, though each is used, and the Spätburgunder Rosé is, I believe, mostly stainless fermented and aged to preserve fresh vibrancy and its purity. The latest set of wines from Künstler includes an amazing set of Riesling Trockens from the home village Crus to the fabled Rudesheimer Berg as well as a fabulous couple of Pinot Noirs, these are absolutely on par with Burgundies twice of three times the price! The Kirchenstück and Hölle Grosses Gewachs, no matter the vintage, are some of the greatest Rieslings you’ll ever taste and should be in your collection if you are into that sort of thing, of course you are! Keep an eye out for all the Weingut Künstler offering, and for instant smiles grab the Rosé when or if you see it!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 15, 2020

2016 Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Gevrey-Chambertin, Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Gevrey-Chambertin, Red Burgundy, France.
The Domaine Taupenot-Merme, a producer that is been making some noise in recent years, is based in the village of Morey St Denis in the Cote de Nuits, and was formed back in 1963 with the marriage of Jean Taupenot and Denise Merme, is known for classically style wines from small parcels in over twenty appellations. Today Taupenot-Merme is led by the brother and sister team of Romain and Virginie Taupenot, and they have moved to all organic farming and the quality has really started to rise, and I was was in particularly impressed with this beautiful and structured village Gevrey-Chambertin, it makes you admire the winemaking skills of Romain and his non intervention or hands off low key style that allows each wine to show a sense of place and individual personalities. This 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin shows a lively freshness and purity of fruit with some firm tannins and it has subtle perfume and a good long finish, this is impressive Burgundy to enjoy in the medium term, it will likely go another 10 to 15 years, but I love how it opens in the glass and think it can be enjoyed thoroughly even now, as within minutes of the first sip there was everything you’d want on display here with lovely rose petals, red Pinot fruit and a touch of spice, smoke and mineral notes. This is a pretty Burgundy that gives a solid performance showing the mentioned floral bouquet, light earthy tones and complex layers of tart raspberry, black cherry (that echos throughout), plum and red currant fruits, cinnamon, shaved vanilla, tea spice, a touch of orange zest, wild forrest mushroom and woody toast.

Romain is pretty traditional in the cellar with his wines and this one saw a careful sorting and was all de-stemmed with the primary fermentation occurring naturally with indigenous yeasts with a soft maceration before the grapes go into the Champagne style gentle pneumatic press to control the phenolic extraction to make the wine as refined and silky. The elevage, at Taupenot-Merme, as their importer Martine’s Wines puts it, is simple, with Romain favoring mainly two tonneliers, Francois and Mercurey for the aging for his wines, like this one, which saw 20% new oak. The Gevrey-Chambertin saw just over a year in barrel on the fine lees with no racking, then the wine was transferred to stainless to settle and clarify for at least three months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. I had not had many of wines of Taupenot-Merme in recent years, though many of my friends have and have been saying these were special offerings with lots of early drinking pleasure, with many saying they were an under the radar producer that still was an under valued estate, and from my own experience with this 2016 I would agree. This one certainly impressed me and I would recommend it for those that love Burgundy, it isn’t a blockbuster, but it would be a rewarding bottle with any meal. I am excited to try more of the lineup of Taupenot-Merme and I hope to try the upper end range of Premier Crus and Grand Crus, after the quality of this Gevrey, they must be outstanding.
($75 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 14, 2020

2016 Flywheel, Grenache, Boer Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2016 Flywheel, Grenache, Boer Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
Winemaker Scott Shapely’s Flywheel Wines, his own project, specializing in hand-crafting small-lot wines in his home town from fruit grown in Monterey County, with most vineyard sources located near the Pinnacles and especially the unique limestone terroir of the Chalone region. This chalky region has, as Shapley puts it, a majestic landscape that provides amazing grapes that showcases this special place and its characteristic dense fruit and minerality. Shapely who has been the winemaker at Roar for a while now, crafting some of the greatest wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands, especially the Garys’ and Rosella’s Pinots, as well as consulting at some other high quality boutique producers, which until recently included helping Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards, a winery that is fast becoming one of the state’s best Syrah makers. It was great to catch up with Scott recently and taste his beautiful 2016 Boer Vineyard Grenache, it is a wine that impresses with lovely delicacy and purity of varietal form, on par with some of the most finessed versions of this grape with layers of dusty raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate and plum fruits, brambly spices, chalky stones, rose petals, lavender and wild fennel. There’s a quiet sense of confidence on the medium full palate and a feeling of fresh lightness that allows easy drinking, the extra bottle age here really benefits it and lets this Grenache to unfold with graceful and sweet tannins and the wine doesn’t have a heavy hand with almost no oak accents showing at this point. The 2016 Boer Grenache is delicious from start to finish, its ruby/crimson color invites and the finish re-invites you to enjoy another sip, its a smooth wine that gives way more than expected, it really highlights Shapely’s talents and the Chalone regions personality in a natural and transparent way, this is tasty stuff.

Grenache is really seeing its time come and I have been blown away with what is going on here in California with this grape and the great array of expressions that are available and Shapely’s Flywheel Grenache is an under the radar offering that fans of this varietal should search out, it reminds me of a few top quality wines I’ve had in the last few months, like Ian Brand’s fabulous Besson, Sheldon’s Ceja Farms and it has a lot in common with a few made by the talented Angela Osborne as well, to name a few, as well as some classic Rhones and the gorgeous wines of the Sierra de Gredos in Spain. The Boer Vineyard is up in the Gabilan Range very near the Pinnacles National Monument, set on collection of desirable soils including decomposing granite and brittle, chalky limestone from an ancient seabed uplifted by tectonic plate movement, it is a place of big daily temperature swings that brings out the lush fruit that takes center stage in the wines, like this Flywheel Grenache, but also the chilly nights fresh the vines and gives the wines a lift of acidity. Shapely makes a full selections of tiny production wines under his label with a collection of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Mouredre and this Grenache, which is a very solid value, exceeding in terms of quality for the price, it is a wine that makes me want more and is brilliant with an array of cuisine choices. I can’t wait to dig into more of Scott’s wines, I really look forward to trying the Flywheel Mourvedre as well, it is a grape that also thrives in the limestone soils of the Chalone zone. This 2016 Boer Grenache is really hitting its stride and is in a great place, it should drink well for another 3 to 5 years easily, I highly recommend chasing down a few bottles!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 13, 2020

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg “1896 Alte Reben” VDP Grosse Lage, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Trocken, Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg “1896 Alte Reben” VDP Grosse Lage, Mosel Germany.
The fantastic Old Vine Trocken from Christopher Loewen is a great way to celebrate Riesling’s birthday, which is celebrated on March 13 and it looks like this grape is now 585 years old, especially well honored by this wine that comes from Germany’s oldest known Riesling vines dating back, to as the label and name suggest, 1896! This particular bottling is Loewen’s alternative top dry Riesling, labeled Alte Reben instead of Grosses Gewachs or a GG, it is a secondary special selection from this Grand Cru site. The historic Weingut Carl Loewen estate dates back to 1803 when a set of vineyards and buildings that was formally owned by the Maximin order, much the same way the famous Maximin Grunhaus (Von Schubert) started after the Church’s lands were sold off to fund the secular Napoleonic government, and this sale included Loewen’s prized, ultra steep, Maximiner Herrenberg, one of the Mosel’s greatest vineyards. The dry 2018 Alte Reben Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg is a striking and crisply focused Riesling with classic slate soil influence showing intense minerallity along with brisk citrusy fruit with layers lime, tangerine, white peach, quince along with hints of kumquat, green apple, pineapple fruits as well as flinty wet shale (stoniness), chamomile, saline, verbena and white flowers. This is a wonderfully complex and thrilling Riesling that expands on the medium bodied palate with gripping extract and the sensation of textural grace making for a profound experience!

The Maximiner Herrenberg vineyard, as mentioned and noted was originally planted in 1896, and is now farmed by Loewen using organic methods and carefully sorted to not have botrytis in the dry wines with this parcel being in the lower slopes, set on red slate soils, closer to the Mosel river, benefiting from both reflective light from the river that adds to the ripening of these amazing Riesling grapes. Using modern natural methods in the cellar, the grapes are all whole cluster pressed, and Loewen is careful not to move the pomace so to not get bettering phenolic flavors, then the juice, according to the winery, is “browned” or oxidized pre-fermentation to stabilized the wine and get away from harsh reduction. Loewen’s ferments are “Sponti” completely natural without addition of enzymes or nutrition, with these single vineyard wines, Christopher notes, being individually block picked with the juice going directly into classic Fuder barrels (or oak casks around 1000L in size) which average 25 years old to age. While the GG’s are awesome, especially the sister Herrenberg version, and Loewen’s majestic Ritch, there are two wines that you don’t want to miss, the 1986 Feinherb, one of the most sought after cult wines in the Mosel and this Alte Reben (Old Vine) Maximiner Herrenberg Trocken, both from the VDP Grand Cru (Grosse Lage) vines, these are exotic beauties that deserve your attention and a space in your collection! Happy Birthday Riesling! Loewen is quickly becoming a name on Riesling lovers lips, he is an outstanding talent and his collection of 2018 wines are stunning.
($50-55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 12, 2020

2007 Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Vina Bosconia, Spain -photo grapelive

2007 Bodegas R. Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Vina Bosconia, Spain.
The refined and mature tasting 2007 Vina Bosconia is a silky and pleasing Rioja made by the classic Lopez de Heredia is a real winner in the price point with loads of dried and fresh red fruits, spice, texture and delicate floral notes. López de Heredia hasn’t changed much the more than 130 years since its founding, it is an ultra traditional producer that has stayed true to its house style without any nod to modern fashion, these are not flashy wines, but wines of soulful elegance without compromise. in fact, the Bodega López de Heredia is owned by the same family who founded it, with Maria José, Mercedes and Julio César, the latest generation running the show seamlessly and with respect to their ancestors. López de Heredia produces a beautiful range of wines, including a collection of Crianzas and Reservas with red, white and rosé offerings, plus a series of Gran Reservas in great years, with this Vina Bosconia Crianza being a favorite of mine, especially for the price. Bosconia is always Tempranillo based, usually in the highest percentage and has that character and profile with red cherries, plum, raspberry and baked red peach notes along with an grilled orange notes, as well as cedar, minty herb, tobacco and leathery earth, gaining wilted roses, dried currants and the structure is held together with opulent, soft tannin. This is wine that is much better off with food that matches its style, this wine is heading into a mature and lightness of form that deserves consideration and should be admired with the right pairing, in this case sleep cheeses, roast poultry, less robust dishes and or delicately flavored meats.

Lopez de Heredia believes in extended elevage (barrel aging) with a bare minimum of three years in barrels and with many wines getting close to 10 years in cask, this one gets between 3 and 5 years, depending on vintage with all American oak being employed. The primary fermentation is done in large oak vats and includes daily pump overs and lasts about a week before the wine is raised in the Bordeaux sized American barrels all with a traditional oxidative style that leads to round soft wines and wine that have a track record of long lives. The medium bodied Bosconia comes from the Rioja Alta zone which gives this wine its balance with the cooler nights giving natural acidity, sourced from a vineyard called El Bosque, located close to the river Ebro, but with high elevation in the south-facing foothills of the Sierra Cantabria range. The soils here are a combination of clay and limestone, and these vines, which include mostly Tempranillo, in the Bosconia that translates to about 90% in the final blend, plus Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano with an average of 40 years. The 2007 isn’t one of the most critically acclaimed vintages and while the 2004, 2005 and 2006 versions were more impactful and richer, the 2007 still delivers a poised performance and is easy to enjoy and is a great way to get started with this famous estate. The white and rosé also get long barrel aging and are incredibly intriguing wines, though of course the reds are what people look for with Lopez de Heredia with Bosconia being a middle of range bottling, with their signature Vina Tondonia Reserva, a vineyard they purchased back in 1913, being the biggest prize in their masterful collection. This is a wine to savor over the next 3 to 5 years, and though it might not be their most impressive, it is a lovely wine that will bring smile all around the table, drink up.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 11, 2020

2018 Roar, Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands -photo grapelive

2018 Roar, Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Rosella’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, planted back in 1996 on a cool site with classic Arroyo Seco sandy Loams, is one of the Grand Crus of the region and the Franscioni family, fourth generation growers produce some of Monterey’s best wines under their Roar label, which they started with the 2000 vintage. Gary and Rosella, along with their sons Adam and Nick Franscioni have produced a fabulous set of wines in the 2018 vintage, especially this gorgeous Rosella’s Pinot Noir, which was a selection of the best barrels from their estate and home vineyard, it is wonderfully aromatic and dances on the palate with a ballerina’s sense of grace and form making it one of the best versions of Roar’s signature bottling I’ve tasted. I have followed the Roar wines since the beginning and have had almost every offering, so I have a great palate reference to these wines and this latest Rosella’s is one of my favorites with its vibrancy, depth, texture and length all being incredible here. There is a sense of density and opulence that will satisfy the returning fans of this wine, but I love the delicacy and energy in this edition that highlights the greatness of the vintage, which was long and cool, giving the wines lots of ripe flavors without heaviness or overt alcohol, this is going to be a legendary year for the Santa Lucia Highlands. This Rosella’s has a beautiful dark ruby hue, a mix of rose petals and dried violets making it seductive, luxurious and inviting for Pinot lovers and it will need something a little more special in the form of cuisine to match it, maybe duck breast with a huckleberry reduction?

The 2018 Roar Rosella’s starts with its heavenly floral perfume, red fruits and subtle smoky sweet toastiness that leads to a medium full bodied palate of black cherry, plum, vine picked raspberry and a touch of tangy blueberry fruit along with bramble and briar spice, rose hip tea, vanilla and a faint elegant earthiness. Roar craft just tiny amounts of wine with a focus on Pinot Noir, though they also do Chardonnay as well as Syrah and even a micro batch of Viognier with Nick and consulting winemaker Scott Shapely leading the efforts in the cellar. Rosella’s is planted to a mix of Pinot clones and is traditionally fermented with all hand sorted and mostly de-stemmed grapes, after maceration, pilage and primary (fermentation) the wine is gently pressed to 100% French oak for aging, with about 50% new barriques employed from a variety of coopers including Cadus, Ermitage, Francois Freres, Latour, Remond and Seguin Moreau. The Franscioni’s love the expressive nature and character of the fruit and never shy away from the deep and dark flavors that come from their vines, these are hedonistic, alluring and showy wines that deliver on their promise in the glass with impressive confidence, this vintage is totally irresistible! These days, the Roar wines are hard to find, it is best to get on their mailing list and the 2018 Pinots are going to go fast, so keep your eyes out. The 2016 and 2017 vintages produced a mixed bag of Santa Lucia Highlands wines and made the growers pull their hair out, but these 2018’s are the rewards of their hard work and commitment, with this Rosella’s, which will only get better and better over the next 5 to 10 years in bottle, being a stunning example.
($62 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 10, 2020

2018 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer Trocken, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
The fabulous Rudesheimer Trocken feels more like a GG than a QbA with beautiful detailing, texture and density showing a real presence in the glass with plenty of extract and vigor with a focused array of briskly dry fruits, crystalized stones, mineral and salinity making it vividly refreshing, cooly crisp and serious good with oysters and lightly spiced cuisine. This bottling is always worth searching out and this 2018 takes it to another level and it is drinking well and has extra sense of refinement and graceful tension on the medium bodied palate. Coming from a quality site above the village of Rudesheim that has a good slope plus weathered slate and some quartzite soils, these Riesling grapes transmit pure terroir driven character, making for a stylish region wine that was fermented and aged solely in stainless to deliver its vibrant form. The mouth feel is surprisingly round, but with losing any of its lively nature and it expands in layers with lime, green apple, a touch of peach, quince and papaya fruits, as well as light flinty liquid mineral notes, wet stones, a touch of spearmint and white flowers that unfolds on the nose. I have visited Rudesheim, a picturesque wine village on the Rhein River, a few times now and this Riesling really makes me miss it, in particular this great estate and state of the art winery.

The Leitz Rüdesheimer Trocken is the “village level” dry Riesling for this highly regarded estate, but Johannes is fanatical about quality and value, delivering wines that allows give more for the money. The fruit for the 2018 version in fact was sourced entirely from the Drachenstein vineyard, and comes from a single VDP Grosse Lage parcel that is set at the same height of the famous Rüdesheimer Berg with a mix of loess and loam, that brings out the expressive fruit, but includes, as mentioned a smidge of broken slate and a touch of quarzite. This is a very different expression of Drachenstein, more precise, drier and taut than the fruity and opulent Dragon Stone bottling. This winery, one of the best in the region and as you’ve guessed from my reviews it is a favorite of mine, sets the standard in the Rheingau across their range, especially with their majestic Grosses Gewachs from Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, Kaisersteinfels, Roseneck and the Hinterhaus! That said, these entry level wines are outstanding, especially this one, and Leitz never rests on their laurels, with owner Johannes Leitz always looking toward the future. You can easily see why Johannes was recently recognized by Gault Millau as “Winemaker of the Year” and I highly suggest looking for these 2018 wines.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 9, 2020

2017 Hundred Suns, Grenache, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Yakima Valley, Washington State -photo grapelive

2017 Hundred Suns, Grenache, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Yakima Valley, Washington State.
Winemaker Grant Coulter, most famous for his Willamette Valley Pinot Noir(s) from top sites in the Willamette Valley, including the Sequitur Vineyard, owned by his old boss Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) has released a Washington State Grenache, adding it to his Hundred Suns label, which at first seems out of place, until you remember he has experience with this grape from his time at Beaux Freres in Ribbon Ridge, who had an Upper Terrace plot of Grenache. That wine, which was released only in the perfect years, was an ultra cult rarity, which I am lucky to have had a couple of times, so I was excited to see what Grant would do with his new version, and I can tell you it is just an awesome wine! The dark fruited and spiced Hundred Suns Elephant Mountain Grenache is intensely flavored, deep in color and concentration, it at first reminds me of a great Gigondas, but takes on its own personality with air and flows into a complex array of unique elements that fill out on the full bodied palate with ripe and textural layering. There is a core of boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits that is wonderfully accented by a touch of stemmy tanginess, this crunch adds a stylish tension to wine and there’s a nice savoriness and sweet tannins giving the wine balance and raises the intrigue level significantly. Coulter captured delicacy and pretty details as well with light floral tones, mineral, roasted herbs de Provence, bitter coco and creme de cassis all integrated into the background. This wine got better and more interesting with every sip and was awesome with food, I put some challenging cuisine into the mix and this wine handled it with grace and enhanced the meal fantastically well, it was brilliant with grilled octopus, rosemary roast chicken, seared and pepper crusted Ahi (Tuna) as well as fennel, watermelon radish and sautéed endive! This wine delivers an exceptional performance, it will really turn on Grenache freaks, it is a profound version and seriously fun, those that can find it will be rewarded and it is worth searching for.

Hundred Suns is a label you should follow and these wines are as exciting as anything I’ve ever tasted, Grant Coulter and Renee Saint-Amour took a giant leap of faith to start this small winery and the results so far have been thrilling. After leaving one of the highest regarded wineries in America, Beaux Freres, Coulter has taken those experiences and took his own ideas in a new direction and led to experimentation and a winemaking freedom. Coulter’s exploring new techniques of fermentation and aging without fear because of his own experiences and the insights from his years in the cellar. They manipulate their wines as little as possible, and try hard to let the individual vineyard(s) and vintage(s) speak for themselves. The wines, Grant notes, are fermented with indigenous yeasts, native malolactic bacteria, and without the use of unnatural additives. The winemaking in this Grenache from this unique vineyard in Washington State’s Yakima Valley was inspired to say the least, Coulter explains, at harvest, they foot-stomped a small layer of fruit at the bottom of a tank and layered the remainder of the fruit on top, 100% whole cluster in a hybrid carbonic maceration. The tank was then gassed and sealed for 20 days. Once opened, the grapes in whole bunches (mostly still fully intact) were pressed and fermentation was completed with indigenous yeast, Coulter adding that, then the wine was aged in terra-cotta amphora for 12 months followed by a spell in neutral French oak for 5 additional months. After which this unique 100% Grenache was hand gravity bottled unfined and unfiltered, making for wine that takes cues from natural wine, old world/ancient tradition and new world ideas and melds them together in a seamless fashion. While I love the Hundred Suns Pinots, all of which are outstanding and the Gamay, this Grenache is a welcome addition to the collection and one I will continue to grab when I can, it is pure pleasure and joins some of my favorite wines made from this grape.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 8, 2020

2011 Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta “Bagnadore Riserva” Dossaggio Zero, Sparkling Wine, Lombardy, Italy -photo grapelive

2011 Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta “Bagnadore Riserva” Dossaggio Zero, Sparkling Wine, Lombardy, Italy.
Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Barone Pizzini’s vintage Franciacorta Riserva 2011 is a stunning bubbly as serious as serious gets in the grower fizz world, and it is a wine that clearly points to Franciacorta as Italy’s true version of Champagne, this is a wine a regal class and style. Brilliant in refinement with a luxurious mousse and outstanding vigor and dry detail, plus exciting leesy depth, it reminds me a lot of vintage Agrapart, one of my favorite Champagnes that always shows intense mineral driven vibrancy and crispness. Franciacorta, Italy’s first Sparkling DOCG is set in the hills surrounding Lake Iseo, which form a glacial carved amphitheater, and it is here in the Lombardy region where these sparkling wines have been produced and consumed as long ago as the 13th century. Barone Pizzini has crafted theirs here since 1870, and in recent times have led an organic movement, with all their 125 acres of vineyards being certified organic as well as providing support for historical causes and preserving cultural sites with respect of the land and the areas traditions. These vineyards are mostly all at least 200 meters above sea level and are set on complex soils with a mix of morainic and fluvioglacial deposits from, from what the winery calls, the many epochs of advancing and retreating glaciers, all which with the cooler almost alpine climate make for the exciting and vivid flavors in the Franciacorta wines and that lovely mineral driven character, especially in the zero dosage versions like this awesome Bagnadore Riserva.

The brisk nature and lively focus of this 2011 from Barone Pizzini is joyous and electric in the glass with its ultra cool shade of pale and tiny bubble beading make this stylish stuff very inviting along with its beautiful laying on the poised and delicate palate showing lemon, quince, racy fresh apple and orchard fruits as well as that mentioned mineral element, faint rosewater, brioche and hazelnut, gaining a deep impression with time in the glass. There is a sensational almost feline quality to this exceptional grower producer bubbly with the feeling of muscles flexing under the sleek and elegant form. In the cellars, the Barone Pizzini team use a tiny amount of partial malolactic fermentation, but usually less than 5% preferring to showcases a natural vitality and freshness. They employ barrel fermentation cellar for most of the wines, adding that as well as using some barrique-aging for the resulting base wines prior to second fermentation in the bottle, like famous Champagne producers like Krug and Vilmart. The Bagnadore, named after a flowing creek near the winery’s cellars, is sourced from a single vineyard called Roccolo and its Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes getting a careful sorting then are gently pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless and barrels, plus It is aged for six months in stainless steel tanks and French barriques, followed by 60-70 months in bottle to mature on the lees (natural yeasts) until disgorgement without any addition of a dosage. This is a classic Franciacorta that thrives with lighter and briny cuisine, perfect with oysters and other sea foods, be sure to keep an eye out for this bubbly.
($45-55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive