2012 Kaena, Rose of Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley.
Mikael Sigouin’s Grenache Rose is stunning, a complete wine of freshness and vitality with mineral and spice notes rounding out this moth watering gem that starts with red citrus, rose water and chalky stones. The palate is driven by brisk acidity, but opens to round watermelon, strawberry and tangy cherry fruits with hints of pepper and finishes with a nice steely edge and lingering tart raspberry. Kaena’s lineup is very impressive, there are many striking Grenache wines, a GSM, a Syrah and some thrilling whites too mostly Rhone influenced like Grenache Blanc and Viognier, but he also makes a fine Loire like Sauvignon Blanc that offers complex and compelling flavors, this guy is a real talent, and this Rose is a great place to start. Best get on it though, Sigouin’s Kaena wines are only produced in tiny amounts and they go fast, these are super values too, be sure to check them out soon.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
Tasted at the Family Winemakers of California Event August 17, 2013
2007 Saxon Brown, Syrah, Parmelee-Hill Camp Block, Sonoma Coast.
Jeff Gaffner’s wines are all interesting and well crafted, and he is certainly in demand given his success at Black Kite and here at Saxon Brown, making everything from Napa Cab, Sonoma Semillon to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, plus fresh un-oaked Chardonnay, but it was this seemingly late release of the 2007 Saxon Brown Camp Block Syrah that got my attention at the Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco. I must say his latest Saxon Brown Semillon was lovely as well, though I was slightly more impressed with the Syrah which comes from the Parmelee Hill Vineyard, which is a fairly cool climate site. The 2007 Camp Block starts with a nice floral array, liqueur, earthy spices, smoke and camphor leading to a palate of boysenberry, plum and blueberry compote with gamey notes, white pepper and cedar along with touches of grilled fennel, tangy currants and dark fresh ground coffee beans. This 2007 is still very vigorous, vibrant and fresh on the palate and has good firm tannins, drink now through 2018. Be sure to check Saxon Brown out, they make a fine selection of artisan wines that offer plenty of value as well.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Tasted at the Family Winemakers of California Tasting in San Francisco August 17, 2013
Family Winemakers of California Tasting Review By Kerry Winslow
This year’s Family Winemakers of California tasting event was a good chance to taste some new wines, new vintages and meet some interesting people, plus get a pulse on how the wine business feels to those on the front lines. There seems to be a ways to go in the economic recovery, but there is promising signs and even hope in most people’s eyes that things are getting better and that is a brighter future ahead, though there was a lack of attendance by premier artisan Pinot Noir producers that I found very noticeable and troubling for this event, which is one of my favorite to visit and report on. That said, there was plenty to enjoy, great weather, super location at Fort Mason and many exciting wines to sample, all in all a very worthwhile show.
Here is my list of highlights from the Family Winemakers Tasting, these are the producers and wines that left the biggest impression on me and my palate, and while I tasted lots of very nice wines, and to be honest there was not many duds, I tried to only include those that offered that something unique or special. I wanted to include a good range of new and already established producers and regions. This is a wonderful state, and we have in California a fantastic array of terroirs, styles and the choices are almost endless, there is something for everyone here and this event highlights that to perfection.
Best New Winery: Law Estate Wines
I’m always on the trail of new discoveries and future specialties in the vast wine world, and at this year’s Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco, I managed to find an exciting new producer that looks set to compete with Saxum, Booker, Epoch and L’ Aventure for honors in the western hills of Paso Robles, Law Estate. Don and Susie Law have planted a glorious hillside vineyard between 1,600 and 1,900 Feet up on shiny limestone chock soils, mostly to Syrah and Grenache, but with some Cabernet, Mourvedre, Carignan, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in black grapes and a few white grapes that include Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette. The Law’s hired Scott Hawley to be their winemaker and leader, to make the wines and get an ambitious state of the art winery done and up and running, Hawley is known for making some very intriguing wines including his own wines at Torrin, as well as Jada and Alta Colina prior, he is also very much dedicated to sustainable growing practices. This fall Law Estate will releasing their first four wines from the 2010 vintage, all of which are stunning and all of which will certainly blow a few minds.
2010 Law Estate, Beguiling, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
This Grenache cuvee, with a tiny amount of Syrah (94% Grenache & 6% Syrah) is lavish and lush with pure flavors and silky tannins, this is a delightful and throughly enjoyable wine. There is lots of lively layers to explore here with fresh fruit, floral tones and tangy grenadine on the aftertaste, the main drive though is a red fruit core that never stops pushing with loads of raspberry and baked strawberry leading the way. There is a spicy plum and pepper note that add to this fine effort, plus there is a shinning burst of acidity and hints of chalky mineral as well. This deeply colored red is very rich in the mouth and will satisfy most Grenache fiends addictions, this certainly reminds me of elements of Booker and Alban and pays tribute to the wines of the southern Rhone.
($62 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2010 Law Estate, Sagacious, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
I especially liked the 2010 Law Estate Sagacious GSM blend of 44% Grenache, 42% Syrah and 14% Mourvedre, this was pure pleasure in the glass and I wish I could have gone off with a few bottles right there and then! The nose was young and tight, but it turned magical with air, violets, creme de cassis, white pepper and sticky lavender all flowed from bouquet to palate while blackberry, boysenberry, loganberry and blueberry compote exploded in the mouth and layers behind the scenes included sweet herbs, all spice, mineral and game plus a touch of espresso. This full bodied effort is flamboyant and utterly hedonistic, but not in anyway over the top or out of shape, this is well crafted and focused wine, and it should drink fantastic on release plus age well for another decade, this is deserving stuff, not cheap mind you, but after having the Saxum 2010 ($169) recently, and Booker ($89), plus others, this price point is very fair for the quality on offer here, no question.
($62 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
2010 Law Estate, Audacious, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
While the westside of Paso is home to some of the greatest Rhone inspired wines in California, there are those that get there clues from more than one region and there are a few that combine many ideas, like this almost Aussie meets Priorat influenced cuvee of 44% Grenache, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Petite Sirah which all comes together in a most California fashion. The 2010 Audacious Red from Law Estate is super dark, brooding and full of explosive power, this is a wine to watch and while I quite like it now, it might be good to give this red some time in the cellar as it looks to be very rewarding, a solid investment in future pleasure. Certainly, as L’ Aventure’s Stephan Asseo has proved with his Estate Cuvee blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, there is great promise in these kinds of blends and they can really show the nature and personality of the region. This wine is massive and forceful on the palate with loads of creme de cassis, blackberry, blueberry and juicy sweet plums along with dried currants, tobacco leaf, licorice and chocolate elements. Ripe tannins and subtle wood frame this wine very nicely, and the is great potential here.
($62 Est.) 93-94+ Points, grapelive
2010 Law Estate, Intrepid, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
The 2010 Law Estate Intrepid is an intense 100% Syrah, the only one in their lineup this year to focus on a single varietal, but this wine lacks for nothing and is a very well crafted expression of this grape and place with lots of character and style. This gripping Syrah has eye popping fruit and almost a dry port feel to it, though I’m sure given time the wine will develop more graceful elements, I noticed air did open it up to reveal more complex details and there is plenty to enjoy here with it’s black and blue fruits, hints of peppery, sage and wild game. This wine leaves an impression, no question and I’m amazed by it’s depth coming from such young vines, this is a wine to take note of, I can’t wait to try not only this wine in a few years, but also to try future releases, this was the dark horse in the lineup, it might be a risk in the cellar, but I think it might be a good gamble. The nose has classic heady notes of sweet liqueur, smoke, salted licorice and meat along with loads of extract on the palate with blueberry, plum, kirsch and boysenberry fruit, plus hints of lavender oil, mocha and cracked pepper. For those that enjoy Alban and Saxum, you should be sure to look these guys up.
($62 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
Best Up and Coming Winery: Donelan Wines
The future looks very bright indeed for Donelan, I was very impressed by the whole lineup of wines on offer by Donelan and the Brothers Tripp and Cushing Donelan that took me through their latest wines and developments, the Donelan family were partners in Pax, and started their own label after their split with Pax Mahle. This year they have added Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to their portfolio of wines, moving away from the Rhone only style, though they will keep making their Syrah based wines, mostly to their loyal mailing list clients as these wines are produced in limited amounts. Both their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offering from the difficult 2011 vintage showed great, in fact the Pinot was utterly delicious and left me wanting more! I also tasted a barrel sample of their 2012 Chardonnay which was not in finished form and was from a single vineyard, but I can tell you it was spectacular and I highly recommend trying these wines and be sure to get on their list.
2011 Donelan, Pinot Noir, Two Brothers, North Coast.
The 2011 Pinot Noir is a multi-region cuvee from sites in Sonoma County, Russian River and Mendocino, and while I tend to be a purist when it comes to Pinot Noir preferring single sites, this wine is glorious and is drinking great, I had to put my inner wine snob away and just enjoy this Pinots beauty and charm without prejudice. The nose is full of bright notes of fruit and flowers leading to a transparent, but deep palate of wilted roses, wild strawberry, plum and a rich core of cherry fruit, hints of cinnamon, pepper and fennel add complexity along with a fresh mineral streak. This vibrant and vivid Pinot is one 2011 wine not to fret about and while not cheap, is a lovely wine and very worthy of a splurge. Drinking well now, though should be a fun cork to pull for the next 3 to 5 years. Donelan’s Chards and Pinots are going to be some super wines to look forward to, especially the up coming 2012 vintage, so I’d suggest securing some of their wine sooner versus later. By the way, their Syrah wines are rockstars, be sure to check out 2009 and 2010 vintages as well!
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Best Value Winery: Kaena Wine Company
Mikael and Sally Sigouin’s small Los Olivos winery is making some tasty Rhone wines from select sites in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez, and all of them are sold at what has to be considered bargain prices for small lot artisan handcrafted wines. I’d had heard quite a few times I needed to check these wines out, but for whatever reason hadn’t had the chance to sample them, and now I really feel stupid for not getting to them earlier, these are wonderful and interesting wines of great quality. Mikael’s day job is crafting the excellent Beckmen wines, so he does know a thing or two, and I was impressed with his humble and laid-back nature, it makes sense as he is from Hawaii, hence the name and all. Mikael has been making Kaena since 2001, he has worked for Beckmen since 1999, but with a short stint at Fess Parker, becoming head winemaker at Beckmen in 2007. His Kaena wines all drink well, better than well, I should just say they all rocked, because they did, I particularly loved the Rose, the Sauvignon Blanc (the only wine in the lineup not a Rhone) and his 2011 Grenache Noir Vie Caprice from the Santa Ynez Valley, though I liked every wine he poured me, Kaena should be on your radar, these are top notch whites and reds.
2011 Kaena, Grenache, Vie Caprice Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
This wine is full of energy, life and soul, it may not be the richest or flamboyant compared with the 2010’s in Kaena’s lineup, and those are excellent, but I really just fell head over heals for the 2011 Vie Caprice Grenache which shows a more delicate nature, but still is wildly enjoyable. Like Sheldon’s lighter style Grenache, this wine is just sexy and pleasing with spice, acidity and layers of silky fruit. While 2011 won’t ever be regarded as a blockbuster, or even a remembered vintage, it did challenge winemaker’s to show their talents and Mikael has some, and this wine is the reward. The nose shows wild flowers, peppery spices and tangy red fruits with hints of earth, chalk and cinnamon stick leading to a palate of raspberry, loganberry, plum and strawberry with sweet fennel and herbs, peppercorn and tart cherry. I recommend buying up the 2009 and 2010 Grenache and Syrah wines from Kaena while you can, no question they deliver the goods, but also, grab a few of these, I really think you’ll be impressed, Drink 2013-2015.
($38-45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Top Three White Wines
2010 Chester’s Anvil, Gewurztraminer, Potter Valley, Mendocino County.
This wine is for all the wine weirdos out there that crave something different, something wild or truly unique, an off dry Gewurztraminer from Lagier Meredith & Pott Wines, this is super fun stuff and at a huge trade tasting, it stood out and I had to include it here in my top white picks! Carole Meredith, Steve Lagier and Claire and Arron Pott, neighbors and friends created a joint project to fuel their collective wine geek, that is Chester’s Anvil and they have made a collection of interesting wines together, their latest offerings include a Malbec, a Sauvignon Blanc and this wonderful Gewurztraminer. This tangy, bright and fresh white has a touch of off dry RS, but you don’t really get sweetness on the palate, so fear not, this is a refreshing table wine that offers an amazing array of flavors. The nose has a floral and tropical bouquet leading to a wild palate of lychee, melon and basil with tangy mango, pineapple and lemon, plus pepper and honeycomb notes. Crisp, but with a slight creamy feel mid palate this Gewurztraminer is great alternative white, and would be a dream with Asian cuisine and or most salads, don’t be afraid, this is groovy stuff.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Tablas Creek, Esprit Blanc de Tablas, Proprietary White, Paso Robles.
The Tablas Creek Esprit Blanc is a Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc blend, an ode to Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc and Beaucastel’s glorious Roussanne based wines, and I think of it as one of the great white wines of California, it is a lovely and richly textured wine of utmost class and distinction. The 2011 shows a slightly lighter side than most vintages, but it is not a bad thing at all and I love the vibrancy of the fruit and the creaminess of the texture, it just plays well and makes for a balanced whole. This Roussanne led wine shows the intensity of this varietal with it’s hint of oiliness and that clarified butter note to go along with the citrus and stone fruits, while the acidity of Picpoul and complexity of the Grenache Blanc add mineral elements, fill out a peachy note and add to the life here. Tablas Creek maybe better known for their red, but without question this white rivals anything with loads of character, focus and seductive charms, it would be hard to imagine this wine needs anything more. The nose is subtle with hints of melon, pear, butterscotch and spices leading to a palate of white peach, nectarine, lemony citrus cream, a touch of wet stones. Beautiful and lush in the mouth and with a long clear finish this wine is world class, and it has good grip, but everything flows with smooth gracefulness, drink now through 2016.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Ramey, Chardonnay, Platt Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Dave Ramey nailed with this wine, the 2010 Platt is almost dead on perfect, this has to be one of the finest Chards I’ve had this year, and I will find it difficult to put into words just how good this wine is, so you’ll have to trust when I say, just try it yourself! While the Ritchie and Hyde Vineyard wines grab all the attention, it is this Platt that is more impressive, it is seriously fantastic, right up there with a top Puligny or dare I say a Batard, it is that good, it has it all and is a steal when compared to the great white Burgs it rivals, let alone the likes of Aubert, Kongsgaard or Peter Michael Chards. The 2010 Ramey Platt shows what a great vintage and site can do, it has a nose of white flowers, smoke, honeycomb and river rocks with a vivid palate of lemon, apple, pear and a hint of tropical fruit, firm acidity, chalky minerals and hazelnut notes. This Chardonnay is class from nose to finish with plenty of depth, length and laser like focus, without question this is pure class in the bottle, kudos to Ramey and his team, this is compelling juice and a fantastic wine, flirting with total perfection.
($55-60 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
Top Three Red Wines
2009 Lamborn Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Estate, Napa Valley.
There are few small wineries that can say they have Heidi Peterson Barrett as their winemaker and ask this kind of price, it may seem odd, but yes this wine is a bargain, a tiny plot of Cabernet Sauvignon on Howell Mountain made by one of the great names in California wine, yup it is a steal. Better still, the Lamborn’s are great people, I’ve known them for a long time now, and they are true special and kind, I admire them greatly, and I have always been a fan. I used to buy a small production Zinfandel call Rocking Horse during the early nineties and one of their wines was from this Lamborn Vineyard on Howell Mountain, it was so different and interesting I just had to find out more, and then I discovered they made their own wine and I was hooked, and between 2001 and 2009 I didn’t miss a vintage of their Zinfandel which I found gave the same pleasure as a fine Chateau du Pape. As of the 2005 vintage, the Lamborn’s got into the Cabernet Sauvignon business, with Heidi calling the shots and developing the vines, with her experience and talents, of which most people know through her efforts at Screaming Eagle and other top estates, she has created a striking Cabernet for the Lamborn Family, a wine with terroir, personality and pedigree, and the 2009 looks set to considered the best yet. The 2009 Lamborn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonder expression of varietal and place with a nose full of acacia and dark flowers, sweet creme de cassis and spiced cherry leading to a full bodied palate of blackberry, currant and plum fruits with hints of mocha, licorice, lavender, blonde tobacco and smoky vanilla. Richly packed, dense and firm with ripe tannins this a jewell of a wine and the rewards of lots of handwork and commitment, drink from 2015-2022, bravo.
($100 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2009 Guilliams, Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain Estate, Napa Valley.
Guilliams has long been making quality Cabernet from their estate on Spring Mountain, and while they are known more for their Cabernet Sauvignon, they also craft a fine Cabernet Franc as well, and this 2009 is really lovely and very much worth spotlighting here. Guilliams also poured the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which was well made and extremely good, but I decided to focus on this 2009 Cabernet Franc, well, because I wanted to and that is was very interesting with lots of character. The nose has hints of violets and dried roses with hints of all spice and peppers plus a tease of creme de cassis before a refined medium weight, Bordeaux like palate of mineral driven fruit including dark cherry, plum and brambleberry with smoke, vanilla and wild herbs. There is a earthy element and touches of cigar, dried currants and cedar that really come into view with air, and the finish, which is lengthy and rich. This pretty Franc is drinking super now and should age another 5-7 years easy with it’s balance of fruit, tannins, wood and acidity, this is a classy mountain wine.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Lagier Mededith, Syrah, Mount Veeder Estate, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith have been making wine up on Mount Veeder since the mid nineties and while I had heard of them, I only first sampled their Syrah when I tried the 2004, and I was instantly a fan, and the 2005 was a magical wine, it left a mark on me for sure, they certainly produce wonderful wines. This years Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco was a great chance to revisit their Syrah and the other wines in their lineup as well as get their expert insight into grape origins, with Dr Mededith being one of the world’s foremost researchers in the field, especially in the case of Zinfandel AKA Tribidrag and Syrah. Steve poured his latest samples, a Rose of Syrah with a touch of Mondeuse, the Tribidrag and the 2010 Syrah, but they he also brought out his 2002 Syrah, and wow, this was heaven, it was fresh and youthful with just a few signs of age, great stuff. But it was the new 2010 Lagier Meredith that blew me away, it was maybe my personal favorite of the show, though I must say it took me trying about 50 other really good wines to absolutely know just how remarkable it truly was, sometimes it is like that, putting things into context. The 2010 Syrah shows a deep opaque color, almost black in the middle with garnet edges and a nose of violets, huckleberry, creme de cassis, smoke and espresso bean leading to a full and robust palate of blueberry, boysenberry and mountain wild berry with touches of spiced plum, fig cake and cherry notes with pepper, cinnamon shavings, mint and vanilla. This beautiful and rich wines expands on the palate and the length is remarkable, this is special stuff, and while it drinks great now it should age with lots of style.
($48 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
More reviews to follow from this event on the main grapelive.com reviews page
A big thank you to Family Winemakers of California for putting on this event, again it was done right and with a warm and profession attitude making it one of my must go to events of the year, plus a special thank you to Dr. Carole Meredith, Steve Lagier for their graciousness in allowing me a thousand and one questions, and a shout out to Kathleen Naughton of Law Estate Wines that pushed through all the white noise and got my attention.
2010 Law Estate Wines, Sagacious (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre) Paso Robles.
I’m always on the trail of new discoveries and future specialties in the vast wine world, and at this year’s Family Winemakers Tasting in San Francisco, I managed to find an exciting new producer that looks set to compete with Saxum, Booker, Epoch and L’ Aventure for honors in the western hills of Paso Robles, Law Estate. Don and Susie Law have planted a glorious hillside vineyard between 1,600 and 1,900 Feet up on shiny limestone chock soils, mostly to Syrah and Grenache, but with some Cabernet, Mourvedre, Carignan, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in black grapes and a few white grapes that include Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette. The Law’s hired Scott Hawley to be their winemaker and leader, to make the wines and get an ambitious state of the art winery done and up and running, Hawley is known for making some very intriguing wines including his own wines at Torrin, as well as Jada and Alta Colina prior, he is also very much dedicated to sustainable growing practices. This fall Law Estate will releasing their first four wines, all of which are stunning and all of which will certainly blow a few minds, though I especially liked the 2010 Law Estate Sagacious GSM blend, this was pure pleasure in the glass and I wish I could have gone off with a few bottles right there and then! The nose was young and tight, but it turned magical with air, violets, creme de cassis, white pepper and sticky lavender all flowed from bouquet to palate while blackberry, boysenberry, loganberry and blueberry compote exploded in the mouth and layers behind the scenes included sweet herbs, all spice, mineral and game plus a touch of espresso. This full bodied effort is flamboyant and utterly hedonistic, but not in anyway over the top or out of shape, this is well crafted and focused wine, and it should drink fantastic on release plus age well for another decade, this is deserving stuff, not cheap mind you, but after having the Saxum 2010 ($169) recently, and Booker ($89), plus others, this price point is very fair for the quality no question.
($62 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive
Tasted at Family Winemakers of California Tasting August 17, 2013 in San Francisco
2011 Lagier Meredith, Tribidrag, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
For those that haven’t heard the exciting and geeky news, Tribidrag is the real name of our beloved Zinfandel, it comes after exhaustive DNA testing and historic research into Zinfandel’s Croatian origins. Madame Doctor Carole Meredith was one of those tireless researchers and this is her and her husband, Steve Lagier’s wine from their small estate on Mount Veeder, and in honor of all that history they have called their Zinfandel by it’s true name Tribidrag, and Doctor Meredith told me the Zinfandel AKA Tribidrag grape was the jewell of the Adriatic region as far back as the thirteenth century, making it older that Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was a very noble varietal then and as it is now, as California’s heritage grape. The 2011 Lagier Meredith Tribidrag is a beautiful and suave red with remarkable persistence and personality showing it’s pure mountain fruit, spice and savory essences to perfection. This wine is softly kissed with neutral French oak, these well seasoned Francois Freres barrels add just the right amount of cedar, smoke and creaminess to this exceptional wine allowing it’s natural charms to show through in detailed focus. The nose is full of raspberry, dried flowers, sweet herbs and spices leading to a briar laced palate of fresh raspberry, plum and marionberry with hints of earthy forrest, pepper, cinnamon stick, lavender and mint tea. This medium bodied Zinfandel, oops sorry, Tribidrag, is a wonderful drinking wine and is even more impressive considering how very difficult the vintage was, kudos to Steve Lagier and Doctor Meredith, drink now through 2016.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
Tasted at Family Winemakers of California Tasting in San Francisco August 17, 2013
Family Winemakers of California Tasting in San Francisco August 17 & 18
Grapelive will be there and tasting some of the best small producers, please follow along with my posts and special report over the next two days for more in depth coverage of this great event, one of my favorite trade and media tastings of the year. Please also visit the Family Winemakers of California website www.familywinemakers.org for all the details and event schedule, there is a public tasting 3-6pm Saturday August 17, if you are in SF, it will be a fantastic show with many rare and new wines on tap to sample, plus you’ll get to meet the winemakers and their families. This fun event is at the Fort Mason overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and near Greens, a great restaurant with some of the best cuisine and views on offer. To get an up to the minute account of this tasting Grapelive will be tweeting some exciting highlights, please follow at www.twitter.com/grapelive
2010 Clos Marie, Metairies du Clos, red Pic Saint Loup, Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc, France.
This rare and deeply flavored Grenache and Syrah blend from Clos Marie is a rival for many a Chateauneuf and or Gigondas with wonderful pure fruit, spice and mineral essences to put a smile on any Rhone lovers face. The Metairies comes from very old vines, all biodynamic, on clay and limestone soils that maximize that impact of the fruit, handcrafted and artisan made this is a spectacular wine of quality and style. The nose has earth, flowers and sweet herbs to start with fresh berries and exotic liqueur notes leading to a dense and dramatic palate of dark fruits, cracked pepper, violets and chalky stones with boysenberry, plum, fig and plum along with hints of cassis, saline, peppercorns, truffle and black licorice. While rich and intense this red has plenty of juicy acidity to keep things fresh and vivid, this is beautiful stuff, keep an eye out for it, I highly recommend it, drink now through 2018.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, IGT, Sicily, Italy.
The latest Frappato from Arianna Occhipinti is the most concentrated and dense version to date with a fuller and richer palate and delivers heightened intensity but with her trademark silky tannins and elegant balance. This wine certainly is a masterful feat and wonderful effort in natural craftsmanship for which we all celebrate Ms Occhipinti for, she is making some of the most exciting wines in Sicily and has a worldwide following, I even spotted her wines in the small Swedish town of Vaxjo at a hipster wine and beer bar last year! Without question Occhipinti is a much loved superstar, and her flagship Il Frappato is one of the must have wines in the world these days, and the 2011 is not going to disappoint and should bring even more new fans to her growing collection. The 2011 Frappato starts with a nose of wild berries, sweet herbs, dried flowers and a hint of meatiness leading to a palate of poached plum, baked figs, spiced cherry and savory notes before revealing more delicate notes of strawberry, loganberry, iodine, thyme, fennel and lavender. This 12.5% alcohol wine has good focus and zest, but it is noticeably thicker in the mouth than past vintages, this is not a bad thing, just a difference, and there is everything to love with pure fruit, earthy charm and lingering length giving lots of joy. This wine changes dramatically with air, bringing more acidity to the front and unfolding like a fine Pinot Noir, especially after a few hours, be sure to keep very cool and give this wine time to open up, I found it much better the second day even, but it really shines with food adding complexity and subtlety to the meal. This wine reflects it’s maker, it is wild, earthy, graceful, exotic and totally groovy, be sure to get some before it disappears!
($40 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2011 Foradori, Nosiola Fontanasanta, Vignetti Delle Dolomiti IGT, Italy.
Elisabetta Foradori’s white wines are mesmerizing and dramatic with salty intensity and meaningful extract and this rare Nosiola is a dynamic expression of ancient methods and passionate artisan craftsmanship. This wine was fermented on the skins and aged in amphora, making similar to an “orange” wine, though Foradori has created a modern version that is fresher and elegant in style, these are fantastic wines that deserve all the attention they are getting. The unique ancient varietal Nosiola shows bright citrus notes with hints at stone fruit, loads of mineral, spice and distilled pear with a touch of tannin, chalky texture and a real briny/saline tone. This tangy white has plenty of mouthwatering acidity and finishes with good length that leaves a melon and lemon/lime aftertaste plus a zesty orange rind note. This is a superb wine and is sublime with food and gives tons of excitement, I highly recommend trying Elisabetta’s fine efforts, both her reds and whites are simply stunning.
($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2010 Galante Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rancho Galante, Carmel Valley.
The Rancho Galante Cabernet is the estate workhorse for Jack Galante and his gang and it is a fine and pleasing wine that shows firm structure, detailed fruit with lively flavors. Having worked at Galante and having their wines since the mid nineties it was fun to sit down with Jack Galante and hear how things were going and what new ideas they were working on, since I left they added a fun Petite Sirah and Malbec and the Pinot Noir has matured. The Galante barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc is another smash hit for the estate along with their flagship Blackjack Pasture Cabernet, plus there is the top limited edition blended wine called the Grand Champion which would be considered the”Opus One” of Carmel Valley and is a good rival for the reserve wines from Parsonage. In other words, there is a lot to look forward to in Carmel Valley and Galante is looking ahead to the future with lots of excitement. Back to the latest Rancho Galante Cabernet, the 2010 vintage looks set to be one of the best years to date, though Jack did say he thought the 2012 vintage looks to be the best ever, I really liked the 2010 and enjoy the freshness and medium body, it drinks like a savvy claret with good balance and grace. A combo of red and black fruits hit on the palate with black cherry, plum and mixed berries with tangy cigar notes, pepper, saddle leather and hints of mocha. The acidity and tight tannins need to soften, but it does open with air giving a touch of creme de cassis and the finish is solid if dry, best to have with food, especially a nice cut of steak. Drink now through 2018, decant if possible for the next year, but this is a very well made Cabernet that is well rounded and a good value. (Disclaimer, as mentioned I did work at Galante in 2005-2006)
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive