2012 Weingut Leitz, Riesling “Dragonstone” Rheingau, Germany.
The Drachenstein (Leitz Dragonstone) is a lush and seductive wine of suburb quality and intensity with rich layers, but with loads of tangy acidity, this is an exotic wine and a great value. The 2012 edition is striking for it’s weighty feel, but dry crispness, this is a mostly dry style that has plush fruit and creamy texture, the unique Drachenstein site above the major Crus is from quartzite and slate soils, this is what gives the area it’s name Dragonstone, it is this terroir character that separates it from the schist and collared slate that makes up the premier Rudesheimer Berg vineyards. The Dragonstone keeps evolving and getting better and better each vintage, highlighting it’s personality, the Dragonstone has plenty of sweet peach, mineral essences, minty spices, saline (sea salts) honeyed fruits, bitter pit, apricot, apple and tropical fruits, plus there is hint of tart cherry water, tangerine and lots of limeade notes. With air the citrus elements gather strength and drive, but the mouth feel gets denser and coats the palate with a steely/stone dustiness, though everything is smooth and creamy. A hint of sweet and sour in the long aftertaste begs you to keep sipping, this is fantastic and fun Riesling that would go great with crab, smoked ham or Asian cuisines, drink now through 2021.
($18 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Sineann, Pinot Noir “Resonance Vineyard” Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Wow! This is a blockbuster Pinot Noir from Sineann, the swan song from this fantastic vineyard site, it is fitting that the last of Sineann’s Resonance be one of the very best ever, the owners of Resonance sold the vineyard to the Louis Jadot company, the famed Burgundy Negociant and that means no more from Sineann, sadly. Sineann is a top artisan winery and their collection of Oregon offerings are always highly sought after and delicious, especially their Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are legendary, both of which rock in 2012, this is clearly a great vintage for Oregon and I look forward to seeing more wines as they become available this fall and winter. This newest release from Sineann is stunning and full throttle Pinot Noir, it weighs in at 14.8%, even if it doesn’t feel hot, the density is impressive, very Grand Cru like with striking fruit layers and super long finish, this wine gives the Sta Rita Hills and Santa Lucia Highlands in California a run for their money, no question. The 2012 Sineann Resonance Pinot bursts from the glass with powerful fruit and heady aromatics with roses, violets and wild flowers, blackberry compote and sweet fennel notes leading to a full plummy palate of creamy red cherries, plum, loganberry and mocha notes with tea spices, kirsch and lavender essence. This wine expands and coats the mouth, but still has plenty of drive and vibrancy making for a richly textured and hedonistic wine. This beautiful Pinot Noir looks set to be a classic and a collectors item, so be sure to grab it while you can, drink from 2014-2019.
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
Hungary is a wine region on the rise (again) and the dry white wines are continuing to show great promise with local grapes like Furmint and Harslevelu making some fine examples, plus others. I recently tasted a flight of these exciting wines from a selection of offerings from Blue Danube Imports, a company committed to the regions between the Balkans and eastern Europe, including Croatia and Austria as well as Hungary. Here are my top picks to look for if you are interested in something wildly different than the mainstream.
Hungarian Dry Whites
2011 Bodrog Bormuhely, dry Tokaji Furmint, Lapis Vineyard, Hungary.
This Hunarian dry white from the famed Tokaji region is a lovely single vineyard wine that is like Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) and an ultra crisp Chablis with mineral essence and sharp clean citrus. The Bodrog Bormuhely Lapis Vineyard Tokaji Furmint is a crisp and lean light bodied white that also reminds me of Basque whites with bright and tart lime, chalky mineral, wet stone and a hint of pear. This direct and brisky refreshing Furmint is tangy and pleasing from start to finish, it has loads of juicy acidity, subtle fruitiness and mouth watering saline, this is a wonderful picnic wine and would be great with oysters. Bodrog Bormuhely is a quality producer, be sure to search them out, especially this Lapis Vineyard Tokaji Furmint, it sure beats all those generic Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand for unique character and interest. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Tokaj Nobilis, Tokaji Harslevelu “Hars” Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary.
This beautiful and detailed white wine from Hungary’s historic Tokaj-Hegyalja region is a hand crafted artisan wine from a tiny estate and made by Sarolta Bardos. The Harslevelu grape producers a medium bodied dry white that reminds me certainly of quality Marsanne from the Northern Rhone with a lanolin and bees wax texture and subtle mineral essence to go along with apple and white peach notes. Sarolta planted her 6 hectars of vines in 1999 from carefully selected cuttings and planted on ideal soils and her dedication and drive shine through in her wines, I also loved her Furmint as well, but it was this Hars that really got my attention. The 2011 Hars shows hints of white blossoms, spicy mineral oil, honey comb and stone fruits to go along with the core of apple, pear and peach fruit with an underlying citrus cut. Flashes of herbs and cream come through as well in this nicely balanced and made white. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Szoke Matyas es Zoltan, Zold Veltelini (Gruner Veltliner) Matra, Hungary.
Szoke’s Gruner Veltliner is a quality example of delightful Hungarian dry white wine, which has really come a long way in recent years and looks to be finally on solid footing these days with many small artisan producers getting their wines into many important markets, where as not too long ago we only saw generic co-op wines or top sweet wines. Gruner Veltliner, known as Zold Veltelini in Hungary seems a bit unique, but you can see it is only natural that this mostly Austrian grape found it’s way to Hungary across it’s neighbors border, and because of the very different terroir it gives it’s own character here. The 2012 Szoke Zold Veltelini Matra is zesty fresh with clarity and focused favors that include lemon/lime, pear and white plum with almond oil, lime flower and under ripe apple plus mineral and crushed stones. Everything pays out in a vibrant array of details and finishes very dry and crisp, this is a nice zippy white. Imported by Blue Danube Imports, Los Altos, California.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
Thanks to Blue Danube for showing me these exotic wines!
2011 Samsara, Grenache “Black Oak Vineyard” Santa Barbara County.
Chad Melville’s Samsara wines are wonderfully crafted artisan offerings that include a handful each of Syrah and Pinot Noir bottlings, plus this Grenache and a Rose, all of which are worth searching out, even if they are pretty rare. The latest Grenache from Black Oak Vineyard is a very unique and stylish wine with lots of character, Melville used whole cluster and total (100%) stem inclusion with the 2011, this can be tricky at times, because the stems can add green flavors an harsh tannin, though when ripe and well judged can really add dimension to the wine, heightened aromatics, better balance and an added layer of flavors. In this wine it certainly works is is rewarded, the 2011 Samsara Black Oak Grenache is simply stunning and flows with intriguing layers from start to finish and should get even more interesting in the following 2 to 3 years. The nose is bright and spicy with dark fruits, sweet herbs, pepper and dried flowers leading to a tangy palate of plum, boysenberry, red cherry and strawberry fruits along with green peppercorn, anise seed, lavender oil, dried currants, shaved cinnamon, salted licorice and cedar notes. The finish is sweet with refined tannins, and the acidity is well matched in this medium bodied red, drink from 2013-2018.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Louis Barruol, Cote Rotie “Neve” Rhone Valley, France.
Barruol’s newest Cote Rotie, the 2011 Neve, is a stunning piece of work and without question is a sensational Syrah with wonderful intensity, vibrant flavors, regional purity and graceful elegance. The Neve shines brightly and fashionably with only about 13% alcohol it has striking inner beauty without losing density or persistence. While not as extroverted as the 2009 or 2010 vintages are, this 2011 still has everything you could want in a wine from this classic terroir, this is a example of why we adore Cote Rotie with it’s dark purple and blue hue, heightened aromatics and refined palate. The nose intrigues with violets, roasted herbs, graphite, bacon fat and creme de cassis leading to a medium weight palate of blueberry, currant, boysenberry and black cherry fruits with mineral, white pepper, hints of grilled meat, smoky plum, fig cake and cinnamon stick. These layers are complex and compelling from start to finish, this is very sexy Syrah that vividly exciting and very focused with a lengthy finish, drink young and often, best from 2015 to 2020. Louis Barruol is the legend behind Chateau de Saint-Cosme in Gigondas (Epic Wines Imports, Aptos, California) and this line of wines under his own name are available through famed importer Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, California.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Burg Ravensburg, Spatburgunder Trocken, Burg Ravensburg, Baden, Germany.
I tasted this wine earlier in the year, and it is now available in states, I bought a fresh bottle and re sampled it, it is certainly better with the extra months in bottle, fuller, richer and more lively, this is a real steal for fine Pinot Noir from Germany. Weingut Burg Ravensburg in Baden specializes in Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and was a new producer for me at the recent portfolio tasting of German and Austrian wines, and they are imported by Wine Wise in Oakland, California for you West Coasties out there, and while there are some value wine in this class, this producer is making some pretty classy stuff, really worth checking out. This German Pinot shows focused structure and vivid fruit with poached plum, dark cherry and balsamic/smoky strawberry fruits with spicy minerals, dusty raspberry, salted licorice, finty stones and black tea notes. While no where the near the level of Meyer-Nakel or Becker, this wine delivers some surprisingly good depth and pleasure, but certainly a more interesting wine than most village Burgundy and a great value at around twenty bones. Good acidity, juicy in lushness and a good long finish, and a bit of flair and character in a solid Pinot that comes in at about 13% alcohol with a silky soft tannins feel, I am pretty sure I’m going to get a few more bottles myself, very tasty.
($22 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2012 Sheldon, Grenache “Ceja Farms” Sonoma Valley.
Without question one of the finest expressions of single varietal Grenache in northern California, the Sheldon Ceja Farms Grenache is a beautiful wine, the 2011 and 2012 versions mark a big shift to only Sonoma grown fruit for their Grenache, and it is a huge success for the talented Sheldon team. Recently tasting the 2011 I was blown away, in such a difficult vintage, it had really filled out and was so polished, but the 2012 is just fantastic, right away, only a week after bottling it is drinking amazingly well. Stylistic wise, the two wines are incredibly similar, though I’m thinking the new 2012 might be a bit more of everything, and certainly has lots of future potential. The 2012 starts with a bouquet of floral and red berry tones with hints of cracked pepper, herbs and framboise which in turn lead to a vibrant palate of raspberry, cassis, pomegranate, loganberry and wild strawberry with chalky mineral essences, warm stones, garrigue and anise. The medium weight, low alcohol (under 14%) and no new wood gives this Grenache a vivid clarity and highlights the charm and artisan craftsmanship, this is a superb effort and lovely wine. Drink 2014-2019, very limited, but just being released this fall, look for it or get up to the Sheldon Wines Sippy Lounge Tasting Room in Santa Rosa.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Donnhoff, Riesling Tonschiefer Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Another fantastic wine from Donnhoff is the Tonschiefer Trocken Riesling, it is a real classy effort that brings intensity and vitality to the table, but in a graceful and purpose filled fashion with an amazing mineral/steely core and perfectly judged acidity. The fruit is tangy fresh with lime, yellow peach, mango, bitter apple and green melon along with chalky stones, briny sea salt and spicy herb notes. There is a subtle bouquet of citrus blossoms, smoky flint and tangerine essence that lead into the palate, and the crisp, dusty dry finish leaves an electric buzz of acidity, but a lingering hint of creaminess. This is sublime Riesling and a mega deal, be sure to look for this wonderful Donnhoff Riesling, in the US, again look for Theisse Selections for it, it should be hitting the shelves in Oct or Nov of 2013. With out question this wine is a class act, even now, but patience will be rewarded and you should look to putting a few bottles away, drink 2014-2020. Weingut Donnhoff is serious one of the greatest wineries in the world, if you’ve not tried their wines you are missing out, from top to bottom this wines rock, especially the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 vintages!
($27 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Alfaro Family, Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Richard Alfaro has been getting Garys’ fruit for many years, along with grapes from Lester Family Deer Park and Schultze Family, these wines are now like an artist series in his lineup that compliments his great set of estate wines, though the Garys’ always seems a rare prize. I’m been following this wine since the beginning, and have always coveted it, but this 2011 might be one of the best yet with creamy richness and silky texture this full flavored Pinot is nothing short of excellent, and pure Garys’ with blackberry, plum, black cherry, tea leaf, briar, mocha, pepper and currant layers, in this deep hued beauty. At 14.5% it is neither shy or is it over the top, giving a hedonistic Pinot Noir nirvana with hints of smoky sweet French oak and subtle mineral notes with touch a little earthy essence, look for this wine to develop over the next few years in bottle, it might just get get even better, drink now through 2018, bravo.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Here is a look at two outstanding dry style Rieslings from Johannes Selbach of Weingut Selbach-Oster, these two exciting wines were shown to me by Johannes in June of 2013, and should be arriving soon in the US, be sure to look for them, these are wonderful expressions of the Trocken style from the Mosel and exceptional values.
2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Schlossberg Spatlese Trocken (one star) Mosel, Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s dry Spatlese wines are truly special in this vintage, the Mosel was blessed with an amazing vintage in 2012 for a full range of Rieslings, there is greatness from each level and while there maybe a lack of TBA and Icewine, the quality of the Trocken, QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese is outstanding, and especially the Spatlese Trocken. While, I admit I adore the slightly sweet regular Spatlese from Selbach-Oster, I must say the Zeltinger Schlossberg Trocken is a fine example of the dry style, and even I personally like the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr a bit more, this is an amazing wine of class and nature with lush texture, extract and brisk acidity. The nose is full of mineral tones, spicy slate essences, hints of tropical fruit and white rose leading to a tangy palate of sizzling intensity with tangerine, grapefruit, dried pineapple, mangoes and lime, plus hints of apricot and green apple, briny saline and peach pit. The dusty minerals coat the mouth and a spicy element lingers on the crisp and clear finish, drink from 2014-2017.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Selbach-Oster, Riesling Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese Trocken Mosel, Germany.
This is the real deal, without question this should be a Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) with it’s power, grace and extract this wine is utterly mind-blowing, a dry Riesling for the ages. This wine might be a game changer, with it’s pure Mosel character, focus, drive and depth it goes beyond what I’ve experienced in Mosel Trocken, this is glorious wine and a top cellar choice, if you can find it of course. I freely admit I’m a huge fan of Selbach’s wines and have been for ages, but honestly I can’t remember a better dry style in previous vintages than this 2012. The single block collection wines might be more of everything, weight and potential included, but for the money, it is hard to imagine a better dry Riesling from the Mosel than this. The 2012 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Trocken Spatlese starts with heady bouquet, it is more expressive at this stage than the Schlossberg, with white flowers, tea spices, tropical essences and flinty minerals leading to a lifted palate of lime, papaya, orange and apricot fruits with chalky wet stones, bacon fat, sea salt and grapefruit seeds adding savory notes to the bright freshness of this gripping Riesling. A huge explosion of secondary citrus, green apple and peach flow from the mid palate to the tangy finish that leaves a lime and pineapple aftertaste. This vivid and vibrant wine impresses for the expansion of flavors in the mouth, the vigor of it’s acidity and the density of the extract all coming through in a well judged fashion, this artisan crafted wine is pure, round and exciting throughout and should drink fantastic for the next decade or more, if you are looking for a dry Mosel, this is a wine to search out.
($30 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
Look for the full Riesling 2012 Report at Grapelive in October 2013
Thanks to Johannes Selbach, Hiram Simon, Wine Wise & Theisse Selections for their kindness and support!