Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 2, 2018

2015 Domaine La Grange Tiphaine “Becarre“ Touraine-Amboise Rouge, by Damien Delecheneau Vigneron, Loire Valley, France.
The 100% Cabernet Franc Becarre from Coralie and Damien Delecheneau’s Domaine la Grange Tiphaine in the Tourairne-Amboise is a wine of natural styling with an earthy character with dark fruits, an array of spice and herbs, chalky stones and rustic notes. Damien, the third generation to run this winery, studied oenology and viticulture in Bordeaux before working at wineries in California and South Africa, returning to the family estate in 2002 to take over the reins, now working fully biodynamic and with minimal intervention in the cellar. The Becarre comes from a plot of vines that are on average 20 years old set on calcareous Silex and red clay soils, it was fermented using native yeasts with a gentile maceration in cuve and concrete vats, with aging done in mostly used barriques with the elevage lasting about 9 months before bottling with the absolute minimum of sulfur and filtering to preserve the purity of the wine and sense of terroir. Damien, who’s know the president of the Montlouis AOC winegrowers association was inspired by Francois Chidaine and is well respected as a winemaker, he produces a set of reds, whites, a rosé and sparkling wines that he hand crafts from five different varieties: Chenin Blanc, Côt (Malbec), Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and even the ancient and rare Loire variety called, Grolleau, all from Montlouis and Touraine. While all organic and a natty winemaker, and according to the winery, the design of the winery itself and the steps taken to ensure quality in his wines rival some of the most technically advanced wineries in the world, but this is all in the name of using as few additives as possible, to evoke their precious terroir in its purest sense. This Cabernet Franc really impresses with a little air gaining violets, truffle, a hint of bell pepper and lovely textured red fruits along with a core of currant and blackberry as well as mineral notes and a bit of rustic leather, cedar and licorice. Delecheneau’s Becarre is a classic Loire Franc and shows good intensity of fruit, well hidden firm tannins and subtle acidity that allow allow a ripe sense of fruit to shine brightly here, making for a real pleasure in the glass, best though with cuisine, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 1, 2018

2016 Desparada, Nebbiolo “Dione.8.Nh4” Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles.
The Desparada 2016 Dione Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo was a small lot, just 24 cases, that was fermented in Amphora and is a part of Vailia From’s new experimental Stalwart Series with these terra-cotta vessels. Her cutting edge wines are all intriguing efforts, she is crafting some interesting wines focused on both Bordeaux and Italian varietals, as well as blends using both that are especially successful, much the same way as L’Aventure has been with their Bordeaux meets Rhone style bottlings, highlighting the amazing array of wines that impress here in Paso Robles. After the native yeast ferment in the Amphora, Vailia aged this Dione Nebbiolo in a single 100% neutral French oak, which means it is a rare edition with only 24 cases made and it was only offered to her wine club, though begging worked in her beautiful zen like tasting room and winery in Paso Robles’ Tin City, though joining the Desparada mailing list and or wine club is highly recommended. Richly flavored, ripe and lush with true Nebbiolo markers, though with the added density that the California sun brings, this Desparada Dione Nebbiolo from the Luna Matta Vineyard feels glorious on the palate with layers of racy, but opulent red fruits, light spices, incense, dried flowers and a touch of tannic grip. It opens up nicely and really flows seamlessly with black cherry, raspberry, damson plum fruits leading the way along with anise, lavender oil, chalky stone and a sweet/earthy Chanterelles note in a medium/full bodied wine that stills feels lively even at about 15% natural alcohol with enough acidity to cover the sweet character of the fruit adding a hint of mineral charm with air, this is impressive stuff, best served with robust cuisine and enjoyed slowly with a long meal.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 30, 2018

2017 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Sec, Clos du Bourg, Loire Valley, France.
The Clos du Bourg Sec (dry) is a thrilling Chenin with a precise form and crisp detail, while still being gloriously generous with pretty white peach, fresh citrus, wet stones, a touch of saline and steely mineral intensity, making this Vouvray a great wine and highlights the class of its terroir. One of the most iconic wines of the Loire Valley, the Huet Vouvray is one of the most sought after and admired wines of the region, and this amazing dry version from the outstanding 2017 is a thrill in the glass. Since its founding in 1928, Vouvray’s Domaine Huet has been the standard-bearer for great, age-worthy Chenin Blanc, especially those of the late Gaston Huet, though the wines made now are sublime and wonderfully elegant, especially this Clos du Bourg Sec. Clos du Bourg, farmed since 1953, and purchased by the domaine in 1963, is one of the top sites, along with Le Mont and Huet’s original estate parcel Le Haut-Lieu, which started the legend back in 1928, these three vineyards are considered the Grand Crus of Vouvray and have a long history of producing great Sec, Demi-Sec, or Moelleux wines as well as a tiny amount of gorgeous late harvest sweet wine, the legendary Cuvée Constance, a magical botrytized dessert wine that rivals the world’s best and Huet does a fine sparkler. The famed Gaston Huet believed Clos du Bourg to be the greatest of all Vouvray vineyards, and certainly his favorite with the Première Côte’s shallowest and stoniest soils it produces wine of dramatic energy, mineral complexity and remarkable generous texture. American Anthony Hwang, from New York, purchased a majority stake in Huet back in 2002, and today his children reside at and direct the estate, while long time winemaker Jean-Bernard Bertholmé continues to craft the wines, as he’s done since 1979. The Clos du Bourg 2017 Sec coming from old vines set on calcareous soils is a riveting Chenin Blanc with mineral intensity, bright details and exceptional length, this is everything you’d want from a dry version of this grape with peach and citrus fruit, chalky stones and a delicate floral sense plus a waxy almost honeyed mouth feel. This is one of best young Vouvrays I’ve ever had and it should just get better and better with some age, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, and don’t miss out on these 2017 Huets!
($33 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 29, 2018

2017 Brick House Vineyards, Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of the new world’s true Gamay Noir’s pioneers and champions, Doug Tunnell of Brick House Vineyards uses classic Burgundy techniques to make his version with all grapes being 100% true Gamay Noir from his estate in Ribbon Ridge, he is fully biodynamic certified by Demeter and part of the Deep Roots Coalition which shows his commitment to sustainable and organic farming. Made with traditional fermentation using native yeasts and extended elevage in French oak barrique, in other words he treats his Gamay with the same care and respect as his more famous Pinot Noir(s) allowing the grape to express a more subtle form and flavors. The 2017 seems a bit more pure in fruit and more expressive than the bigger framed 2016 and earthier version and takes on a wonderfully spicy nature with air, also gaining a mineral sense and sassy personality with racy red fruits leading the way. that air really brings extra joy and a textured smooth mouth feel in this more delicately natured Gamay, plus a racy spiciness comes through as well adding too layers of black cherry, candied plum, tart strawberry and raspberry fruits along with hints of the mentioned mineral, light florals, savory essences like pepper, herbs and light cedar. This is a wine that gets more and more engaging as it opens up, its lively acidity keeps it fresh, especially after significant time, hours even, showing there is great craft here being employed to make a wine of class, length and one that will age well, Tunnell deserves a lot of credit for championing Gamay and making such a beautiful version, which is one of the new world’s best examples.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 28, 2018

2015 Tablas Creek, Roussanne, Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
The glorious and pale golden/yellow hued Beaucastel clone Roussanne from Tablas Creek shows a remarkable family resemblance with its beautiful rich detail and intensity, while strikingly dense and full bodied it is still energetic, lively and finely balanced, somewhat intriguing it is that it almost feels more restrained than its old world cousins. Usually found as a significant player in Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc and Hermitage Blanc, Roussanne is less often found as a single varietal wine, though with the exception being as mentioned the Chateau de Beaucastel Old Vine (100% Roussanne) Chateauneuf du Pape white (one of the Rhone’s best whites), and in California there are very few pure Roussanne bottlings, but there are some absolutely gorgeous examples, most notably wines by Alban, Stolpman, L’Aventure (though I believe they have now changed to a blend), Truchard and this Tablas Creek version. As to why there are not more, it is known that Roussanne is tricky and fickle grape and there is a more recent concern that the vines are prone to conditions that make it less attractive to growers, and winemakers have seemed to have largely given up on it, preferring other Rhone whites more increasingly, such as Grenache Blanc. Tablas notes, Roussanne grapes are susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, and the vine is a shy and erratic producer even under ideal conditions, and of the five white Rhône varietals that they grow at Tablas Creek, Roussanne is generally the latest-ripening. In addition, it is prone to shutting down toward the end of harvest, as well as to shatter and uneven yields. I am a fan of Roussanne and think it is absolutely fascinating and expressive with a thrilling weighty mouth feel, it has a wildly hedonistic oily texture when barrel fermented, and this Tablas Creek Roussanne offers deep layers and a complexity of flavors. Tablas is very much in the Roussanne camp, even with it’s growing challenges and in the cellar they use a combination of small barrels, large foudres and tank to ferment and raise its version with partial malos to retain acidity and freshness, while allowing the grapes personality to shine through. The nose is slight floral with white blossoms, mineral toned and with a hint of spice and honey leading to a packed opulent palate of nectarine, apricot, pear tart, lemon curd/creme brûlée, tangy crystallized ginger, butterscotch, bitter almond, tropical/pineapple notes as well as honeycomb and a touch of wood, in a flowing round white wine of serious impact, gaining a wet stone chalky element, citrus rind and white anise on the finish. It seems to me that this wine is just coming out of a shy phase and is really starting to express its potential, I can imagine it getting even better with another 3 or 4 years, and it is truly magic with cuisine, especially lobster tail, richer fish dishes and or creamy cheeses. My recent visit to Tablas was highlighted by their amazing set of whites from their Rhone blends to their single varietal offerings, these are wines you should get to know, especially this lush and textual Roussanne, but don’t overlook the Picpoul, Vermentino and the Esprit de Tablas!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 27, 2018

2017 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir/Gamay Noir “Rhinestones” Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The fruity and spicing Pinot Noir and Gamey blend from Bow & Arrow is a lovely wine of unique quality and personality with layers of blackberry, cherry and plum fruits along with tangy elements, floral notes, exotic spices and delicate herbal notes. Scott Frank’s Bow & Arrow Rhinestones 2016 was one of my favorite wines of the last year, so I was hyper-excited for the new release of this natural, all biodynamic blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Gamay Noir, for the 2017 vintage. This new version is more structured and refined in texture with just a hint of earthy charm, it took a while to seduce the palate hiding some of it’s depth while it gets through it’s youthful shyness, it’s different than 2016, last years whole cluster intensity just blew me away. This is one of Oregon’s best kept secrets and greatest values, and both vintages are outstanding, maybe over time the 2017 will eclipse the prior year! Frank an expert on all things Gamay actually looks for the Loire Valley for his inspiration instead of Burgundy or Beaujolais where the natural and organic wine movement has really taken off, starting with classics like Joly and more modern heros like Fred Niger at Domaine de L’Ecu and Domaine Philippe Tessier in Cheverny. Pinot Noir and Gamay blends are not new by any means, even in Burgundy they thrive today in wines labeled Bourgogne Passetoutgrains with some top domaines in region making them, while it is more common in the Loire in and around Touraine and especially in Cheverny. According to Scott, his Rhinestones is aged in a mixture of concrete and old barriques, and he notes this wine is the flagship of the Bow & Arrow operation and communicates what “we’re” about as much as anything they make, and you can see why with every sip, it has a different percentage of each varietal each year depending on what nature gives and expresses. While the 2016 was more obvious, with it’s exciting stems showing through with an expressive thrill, while this 2017 is a little backward, more pretty in nature, a shade lighter/smoother or subtle, in style at this point, though the longer it was open the more it came into line with the expectations (I had) and it should get even more interesting with a bit more bottle age, there’s a lot to admire and even more to come, drink from 2019 to 2025.
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 26, 2018

2016 L’Aventure, Optimus Estate, Stephan Vineyards Red Blend, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
The deeply inky all estate grown cuvee Optimus Estate red from Stephan Asseo at L’Aventure Winery in western Paso Robles is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petit Verdot, and it’s an opulent and full bodied wine that combines the Bordeaux blood in Asseo’s veins, being from right bank, with the Cabernet and Petit Verdot and the Rhone of the Syrah. The inky deep colored Optimus really shows off the glorious vintage that this region enjoyed in 2016 with it’s densely ripe fruit and refined (though tightly wound) tannin structure, with this red being wonderfully endowed with richness and incredible length, but what impresses most is the remarkable balance in such massive wine, even at it’s 15.4% natural alcohol it remains lively and with clear detailing which shows Asseo’s deft touch and techniques. This vintage ended up with about 60% new French oak and 40% in 1-year-old French oak with malolactic fermentation in barrel and was raised for 14 months and then bottled with no fining and unfiltered, all in reaction to the intense fruit and powerful tannin structure, Asseo adds “In the 2016 vintage, every grape from my estate ended up making some good wine, which is not always the case. In terms of style, 2016 reminds me a lot fo the 2014. I love the balance, the silkiness and the length in this vintage. Most of the wines are big, super intense, rich and flavorful but at the same time super delicate, pure and vibrant. Once again the terroir spoke, producing some intense ripe wine but also with nuance and nice acidity! I am extremely happy with the result.” I couldn’t agree more, as mentioned and I love the thrilling full bodied palate that unfolds with thick layers of blackberry, creme de cassis, sweet plum, blueberry compote, smoky/toasty oak vanilla, sweet tobacco leaf, graphite/mineral, anise, violets and a touch of sandalwood. This young and firm, but extended air allows complete enjoyment, but this is serious stuff and could use a few years to develop, and needs matching cuisine to give it’s sexy best with robust dishes and or a hard cheese plate, drink over the next 5 to 7 years. There is a lot of excitement at L’Aventure, a recent visit to their winery and vineyard was an amazing experience in tasting, and seeing the caves, which were cut into a limestone hillside, very much like Saxum, and seeing the mix of fermentation vessels that now includes plenty of cement, wood and even amphora, as well as seeing some new grape varietals in the mix, like Graciano! The lineup here is stunning, I especially was impressed with the Cote a Cote Rhone style Grenache led red, the Sibling a proprietary blend of Grenache, Syrah and the Graciano, the unique Syrah, Graciano and Viognier blend For Her and of course the awesome L’Aventure 37% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 26% Mourvedre, 26%, 7% Petit Verdot Rosé, which is always one of my guilty pleasures, don’t miss a chance to visit this place!
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 25, 2018

2015 Portland Wine Company “Love & Squalor” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Winemaker Matt Berson has done more than ten years of harvests now for his tiny urban winery based in Portland, Oregon and each time I try his wines I am more and more impressed and can’t believe how reasonably priced his wines are, especially his signature Pinot Noir. Coming off six vineyards, primarily Sunny Mountain, Temperance Hill, Cherry Grove and Medici, the 2015 Love & Squalor is also made up of eight different clones all of which give depth of flavor, complexity and mouth feel. The name Love & Squalor is an ode to and a tribute to iconic author J.D. Salinger, one of Berson’s favorites, who lovingly and with some irony makes his wines with passion and with a less than glitzy winery. The 2015 Love & Squalor Pinot saw an 18-month elevage in well seasoned used French barriques, which allows it to show refined fruit maturity and elegance without obtuse or overt oak, there is a textural pleasure, but with an underlying class and freshness that you do not find in wines in this price class, and this 2015 is all about quality in the glass with lovely layers of expressive red fruit and a smooth tannin structure. Berson, who was a cellar rat in Oregon before venturing out into the world and doing stints around the globe in paces that include New Zealand, Napa, Germany, and Argentina where he gained the skills to come home and start his own label with success making wines, especially Riesling and this Pinot Noir, which are really worth searching high and low for. The 2015 is ripe with layers of black cherry, plum and sweet raspberry fruits primarily adding light mocha notes as well as brambly spices, ultra fine tannins, delicate herb/tea notes and a touch of minerallity. This medium bodied Pinot offers a lot of pleasure and roundness on the palate for immediate drinking, but should go a few years too, one of the best Love & Squalor(s) to date this really good juice for the price, enjoy now and often.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 24, 2018

2016 4 Monos Viticultores, Tinto “GR10” Garnacha, Sierra de Gredos, Vinos de Madrid D.O., Spain.
The 4 Monos Tinto is wonderfully vibrant and vivid in the glass with a translucent ruby hue and with sweet red berry, slightly earthy and floral perfume that leads to an intriguing lighter to medium weighted palate of purity and finesse. One of my new favorite Spanish producers, 4 Monos (the 4 monkeys) is team of four winemaker and wine loving friends that make handcrafted small lot wines in the mountains above Madrid, using old school techniques and a light touch to make delicious authentic wines from their native region. The Sierra de Gredos, made famous in recent years by the likes of Daniel Landi, Comando G and Alfredo Maestro, is a mountain range that spreads over parts of three appellations – Méntrida, Vinos de Madrid, and Castilla y León – and sits between 600 and 1,200 meters in elevation, only a short way west of Madrid itself. These old bush vines planted on sand, granite, and schist make for some amazing and expressive Garnacha, but with lively acidity and delicacy, Especially when done by the names mentioned and these 4 Monos, Javier Garcia (also the head winemaker at Méntrida icon Bodegas Jiménez-Landi), co-winemaker Laura Robles, wine-lover David Velasco, and vineyard holder David Moreno. This wine comes from regional vineyard parcels with head trained (En Vasco/En Gobolet) vines ranging between 30 and 85 years old set on mostly decomposed granite soils at about 800 meters up in the Sierra de Gredos, all within the Vinos de Madrid DO appellation and comprised of all organic 85% Garnacha, 10% Cariñena, 3% Morenillo, 2% Syrah for this lovely fresh vintage. Minimalists in the cellar, the 4 Monos wines are created with natural winemaking methods, such as wild yeasts and whole cluster fermentation, foot-trodding the grapes for minimal extraction, with very little sulfur added, and minimal oak treatment using old barrels exclusively. This GR10 Tinto village wine was on the skins for between 21-40 days, until primary was done then gently pressed and raised in 300 & 600 liter used oak casks and a 4500L foudre for 7 months, plus another 2 months in concrete to settle before bottling. Layers continue to unfold with air with tangy strawberry, pomegranate, briar laced raspberry and sweet and sour plum fruits along with sharp/crisp mineral tones, dusty tannins, dried herb, anise and lavender. After an hour it takes on some kirsch elements, gets silken and fills out a bit more, while always staying refined and showing just a hint of stems-menthol and leather, this wine way over delivers for the price and is ultra cool Grenache that Pinot Noir or Burgundy lovers will find hard to resist. In California we have Grenache re-imagined led by a mix of characters, Sheldon Wines, Ian Brand, Angela Osborne (Tribute to Grace), Birichino and Randall Grahm’s ever evolving Grenache based wines that are after or into this style, all with admirable results, so be sure to check them all out if you love Grenache, but certainly don’t miss this 4 Monos Tinto if you can find it, and drink this 2016 over the next 3 to 5 years, it’s a great and quaffable red to enjoy anytime.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 23, 2018

2017 Weingut Korrell Johanneshof, Riesling Trocken “Von den Grossen Lagen” Nahe Germany.
The beautifully steely crisp Von den Grossen Lagen Riesling Trocken by Weingut Korrell is a striking and complex wine that absolutely thrills in the glass with layers of tangerine, apricot, kumquat and quince fruits this is supported by smoky wet shale, rose oil, lime blossoms, verbena, saline, red tea spices, leesy almost caramel like textures as well as bone dry extract that makes this wine so wonderfully structured and with an underlying power. Even in it’s youth this fabulous pale limpid yellow/golden Riesling, which delivers graceful transparency, a subtle perfume and vivid energy, drinks with sublime form and elegance and of course there is the intensity and tension of the vibrant and racy acidity that provides the showcase for everything that is great in this fantastically crafted wine. It’s very exciting time for this small Nahe producer, as they just received one of Germany’s top prizes for this wine, taking the famous Riesling Cup! Winemaker, Martin Korrell adds that, the German Riesling Cup is perhaps the most recognized Wine prize in the German wine scene – with a blind tasting of more than 800 Rieslings and a participation of all top wineries. Wine legends like Doennhoff, Schäfer Fröhlich or Wittmann won this contest in the last years – and last Saturday we got the honor to be the winner of 2018. It was selected as the best by a jury of experts – sommeliers, journalists and oenologists. I extend my congratulations to Martin & Britta Korrell on this awesome win, and it certainly gave me food for thought as I was preparing to taste/review this wine, let’s just say it really whet my appetite to try it! And it does not disappoint with it’s class and depth it is without question a fantastic dry Riesling. Coming off four Grand Cru parcels, hence the name Von den Grossen Lagen (from the Grand Cru vineyards) this exceptional dry Riesling has it all, showing the Nahe’s great mix of soils in one wine, even though it is mostly marked by the volcanic influence. Martin Korrell blended this 2017 version from 34% Schlossbockelheimer in den Felsen, a vineyard you might have heard off being a site that Donnhoff uses in one of their own great Grosses Gewachs, 16% Schlossbockelheimer Konigfels, which is on porphyritic (volcanic) soils, 42% Norheimer Kirschheck, again a vineyard known for some of the best Spatlese from Donnhoff and set on intense slate soils, and 8% from an ultra steep parcel at Niederhauser Klamm known for it’s driving minerallity. Fermentations, with all four of the single sites done separately, the Norheimer Kirschheck begins as always with native and it is fermented in oak barrel, while the 3 other ones are done using more classical methods with special yeasts in steel tanks with cool ferments with all the wines seeing more than six months on the lees. I am so grateful for the efforts of Britta and Martin to get me this Von den Grossen Lagen to try, the Korrell’s are rising stars in the Nahe and I hope to visit them on my next trip to Germany, they make a full lineup of wines, including a set of dry Rieslings with this one and their monopole Paradies, along with what I hear is an amazing Sekt as well as off dry and fruitier styles. This is a winery of note that is currently looking for an importer for the US market, and after tasting this intriguing wine I hope it becomes more widely available!
($n/a- 16 Euro in Germany or about $48 US with exchange rates and import mark ups) 96 Points, grapelive