Wine of the Day November 21, 2013

2012KWBryce2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Bryce Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The 2012 vintage in Oregon looks set to be a classic, and according to Ken Wright it is one of the top three vintages of his career in the Willamette Valley, and that is saying a lot from a man that has been some spectacular wines over the last quarter of a century up there. I tasted through most of his single vintage releases and can say these are a set of absolutely stunning wines, that showcase their individual terrors, the Willamette Valley and still remind me of classic Burgundy, these wines will certainly need some time to develop, they are still tight, ultra intense and slightly reduced, but they will be fantastic in a few years time, be patient. A new vineyard has made the lineup, the Bryce Vineyard from the Ribbon Ridge area, home to Penner-Ash, Brickhouse and Beaux Freres, is now in Ken Wright’s offerings, and it is a beauty with wonderful character, depth and poise showing dark fruits, mineral tones, earth and tension filled intensity. Of Ken’s 2012’s, the Bryce is right up there with the Carter, Shea and Nysa for the best of the set and should be a huge success if this year is anything to go by, it is dynamic, rich, vigorous and layered with black cherry, tangy plum, blackberry and cranberry fruits, bright acidity, firm, but silky tannins, subtle smoke, graphite and cedar along with hints of wild mushroom, strawberry and fennel. This wine feels brisk and austere at first, though air coaxes out a violets and dried rose petal perfume and glorious feminine charms, a bit of short term cellaring will pay off big time, there are great rewards to be found in this Pinot Noir, drink 2016-2023.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 20, 2013

2010ChezeauxVR2010 Domaine Jerome Chezeaux, Vosne-Romanee AC, Red Burgundy, France.
Vosne-Romanee, the town that calls home to the great Romanee-Conti, La Tache and Romanee-St.-Vivant as well as other historic sites is one of the spiritual homes for Pinot Noir, and the name always screams Burgundy. Domaine Chezeaux in the last three vintages, 2008, 2009 and 2010, has stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight, the wines have been beautiful, graceful and soulful showing impeccable winemaking, verve and vibrancy, if you’ve been looking for elegance and character filled Burgundy, you should try these wines, especially the simple Vosne-Romanee AC. The 2010 Domaine Jerome Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee is bright, dignified and complex Pinot Noir that shows it’s pedigree and sense of place to near perfection with earthy spices, wilted roses, violets and wild red fruits casting a subtle perfume, leading to a vivid palate of black cherry, mountain berry, plum and currant fruits along with truffle, briar, anise and light tea notes. The wine is lifted by well judged acidity and soft tannins, the texture is firm, but silky in the mouth and the length is impressive considering it’s youthfulness, this is classy and well made Burgundy, drink 2014 to 2026.
($70 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 19, 2013

2011SkerkOgrade2011 Skerk, Ograde, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
A proprietary white blend of Vitavska, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia is real Orange wine that shines pink/orange in the glass and tastes fresh and lively, the Skerk hallmark, this is lovely and compelling wine. This cloudy and dense dry wine feels light on it’s feet with bright and zesty aromas and flavors with tangerine, citrus flowers, savory and salty spices, mountain herbs, apple skin, peach and persimmon. I had been expecting a tawny element, but none showed up, this is pure, vivid and fresh wine that makes you re-think your ideas of “Orange” wines, this is an ancient style of winemaking known from Italy to the Republic of Georgia, and the Skerk version is stable, tangy, clean and delicious. The color is from the Pinot Gigio which has pink/grey skins, the long maceration bleeds the orange/pink hue, Sandi Skerk claims between 15 and 40 days on the skins with this wine, though he adds that long skin contact doesn’t always mean more color in the Orange wine, he says some wines with only 10 or 14 days sometimes have a much darker color from the skins. This is totally drinkable and beautifully balanced wine that begs for food, cured meats, cheeses, seafood and almost anything that requires a dry wine would be super with this dynamic wine.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Special Report: Tasting a Few of Italy’s Orange Wines

OrangeWinesCarso
Sandi Skerk, Kerry Winslow & Benjamin Zidarich (San Francisco)

A Look at Italy’s Carso Orange Wines
By Kerry Winslow

Two of Italy’s star winemakers that not many have heard of visited San Francisco to show off their latest releases and chat about their historic region, the Carso in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which lies in Italy’s far Northeast close to the Slovenian border, in fact some of the vineyards straddle both sides. Benjamin Zidarich and Sandi Skerk, both hugely respected for their wines, are continuing a long tradition of organic farming and winemaking with a proud love of their land and region. This area has many historical influences and has ancient traditions and customs, one of which is “Orange” wine, this is white wine usually that sees long contact with the skins, that gives “Orange” wine it’s name. Most white wine the world over is made from just the juice of the grapes with little or no contact with the grape skins, though there are some adventurous winemakers trying out this ancient style of winemaking in California, Germany, Spain and Australia, though it is much more popular in Eastern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and in the Caucacus, in places like the Republic of Georgia. The “Orange” wines are left on the skins, this is called maceration, and the amount of time on the skins varies depending on each wineries house style, some as little as 10 to 15 days and with some like Skerk that sees up to 40 days. The result of this long maceration is a more complex, and usually savory flavors more like red wines coming through, the wines tend to be tangy, spicy and exceptionally dry in character. While some wineries use Amphora to age “Orange” wine, neither Skerk or Zidarich employ ceramic vessels, they both use wood fermenters and age in cask or stainless, which might explain why both Skerk and Zidarich present such clean, fresh and elegant wines. My prior “Orange” experience has been mixed, and while I find skin contact white wines interesting and worth the exploration, there have been many disappointments, and some “Orange” wines can be oxidized, sherry like and volatile with dirty/muddy flavors, not so with Zidarich and Skerk, these are pretty and focused wines with elegance and vibrancy. Other serious and seriously good wines come from Kante and Radikon, that along with Skerk and Zidarich produce unique and complex world class wines. The new releases from both Shkerk and Zidarich are alluring and seductive wines, here are a few of my favorites, and I highly recommend checking these wines out, Viva la Orange!

2010ZidarichVitovska2010 Zidarich, Vitovska, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Made from the native Vitovska grape, the Zidarich 2010 shows bright grapefruit, melon and spiced pear, a light yellow hue and savory elements, this comes across austere and seriously dry, but it grows on you with time in the glass. The is an array of flavors that pop up, unexpectedly like cured meat, cheesy notes and there is a zest burst of acidity that adds kick to this white from Italy’s remote Northeast. A classic seafood white that is dusty dry and tangy fresh the Vitovska is a unique expression of grape, region and winemaking. Orange rind, lemon oil, verbena and soy notes come through after time in the glass.
($45 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

2011ZidarichMalvasia2011 Zidarich, Malvasia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
This Malvasia is golden/yellow with intense savory meaty layers, bright acidity, chalky minerals and tension filled dry fruits, dried apricot, pear, yellow canned peach, bacon oil, apple skin and orange rind. This vigorous white has loads of character and interesting elements, but needs time to come together. This Malvasia should potentially prove to be a seductive gem, though it is tight, powerful and somewhat severe at this stage. As an orange wine, the spice and savory side dominate and I’m certain with the right cuisine I’d come around to appreciate this well made white much more. The 2011 was much more interesting than the 2010 version, and Benjamin Zidarich explained 2010 was a tough and frightful vintage, while the 2011 looks set to be a classic in the region, though I noticed his wines seemed to need more time and thought to be as pleasing on the palate as I would like, give some time, I’ll be intrigued to re-visit this vintage in a few years.
($45 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

2009ZidarichPrulke2009 Zidarich, Prulke, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
This intriguing white is made up of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Malvasia and 20% Vitovska, Zidarich’s Orange wine cuvee sees a long maceration, fermenting on the skins for at least 14 days, and this is the darkest hued wine in the stable, though not orange in color, but more golden and sunny in appearance. Benjamin Zidarich loves his Sauvignon Blanc vines and uses them to good effect here, but he says he’d never even consider not using it as part of a cuvee, keeping with ancient tradition to blend, and he feels it would take away from the sense of place he feels very proud of, he says a Sauvignon Blanc only wine would be more French that the Carso area. Regardless this wine is gorgeous and complex with lemon/lime, melon, peach, saline/iodyne notes, tangerine and kumquat. This was my favorite Zidarich wine and while generous on the palate it is brisk, spicy and finishes on the dry savory side, with perfect acidity and focus throughout.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010ZidarichTeran2010 Zidarich, Teran, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
The red from Zidarich is lively, vivid and tangy with sour plums, wild cherry, blackberry and peppery spices, Teran or Terrano is a native grape related to Refosco and found in Croatia as well. I was able to taste 3 different Teran wines together, which all showed regional similarities and style, very unlike Refosco from just a few miles closer to Vence or to Teran found in Croatia, this is very much a wine of it’s place. The tangy notes are like sucking on a sour candy, very puckering and mouth watering, but still the fresh fruitiness shines through. The color is opaque and dark, the nose is spicy and the palate is zesty filled with acidity and spice, while a hint of floral incense adds flair to this medium light red. This wine grew on me in the glass and the lingering boysenberry note was compelling, though I had hoped for a touch more depth.
($42 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkVitovska2011 Skerk, Vitavska, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Sandi Skerk’s Vitovska is a lovely and brisk white, even if technically an “Orange” wine, it shows just a hint of pale yellow and flows vibrantly in the glass, I’d certainly enjoy this wine with oysters! The delicate aromas and sizzling acidity keeps this bright, tangy and fresh throughout, though it gains depth and density with air, best not to serve too cold, cellar temp is best and makes a huge difference. As this wine unfolds it really comes alive with savory elements, mineral and richer fruit notes with tangerine, melon and lemon zest. The Vitavska grape is found only here and is a purely unique example of region, terroir and winemaking, the long maceration on the skins doesn’t bring much orange/pink color, but certainly the skins impart character, spice and tannins making for a¬† gripping wine. Very interesting, though not as pleasing as the Malvasia or the Ograde in the collection from Skerk, both of which are more graceful than the Vitavska alone anyway.
($35 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2010SkerkMalvazija2010 Skerk, Malvazija (Malvasia Istriana) Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Sandi Skerk’s 2010 Malvazija is stunningly fresh and beautiful with impressive depth, elegance and life, for an orange wine it is delicate, vivid and crisp, not what I was expecting, but was gifted with a happy surprise, this really is glorious and complex wine. With such long maceration, up to 40 days on the skins, I thought the color was not much different than a normal chardonnay in the glass and this vibrant and tangy Malvasia shows vigor and intensity without losing any charm or grace. The nose is clear with steely mineral tones, jasmine, citrus oil and orange pulp leading to a zesty palate of lemon/lime, tangerine, peach and marmalade with chalky dry spices, stones and bitter almond. This a profound white wine that showcases a region and style that needs to be taken much more seriously.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkOgrade2011 Skerk, Ograde, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
A proprietary white blend of Vitavska, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia is real Orange wine that shines pink/orange in the glass and tastes fresh and lively, the Skerk hallmark, this is lovely and compelling wine. This cloudy and dense dry wine feels light on it’s feet with bright and zesty aromas and flavors with tangerine, citrus flowers, savory and salty spices, mountain herbs, apple skin, peach and persimmon. I had been expecting a tawny element, but none showed up, this is pure, vivid and fresh wine that makes you re-think your ideas of “Orange” wines, this is an ancient style of winemaking known from Italy to the Republic of Georgia, and the Skerk version is stable, tangy, clean and delicious. The color is from the Pinot Gigio which has pink/grey skins, the long maceration bleeds the orange/pink hue, Sandi Skerk claims between 15 and 40 days on the skins with this wine, though he adds that long skin contact doesn’t always mean more color in the Orange wine, he says some wines with only 10 or 14 days sometimes have a much darker color from the skins. This is totally drinkable and beautifully balanced wine that begs for food, cured meats, cheeses, seafood and almost anything that requires a dry wine would be super with this dynamic wine.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2011SkerkTeran2011 Skerk, Terlan, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Slightly less dark than the Zidarich Teran I tried alongside and more structured than the Skerk 2010, the future release coming from Skerk the 2011 Teran is a tangy combination of sweet and sour flavors, spice and is a fine example of this grape and regional style with a slightly more elegant frame and more defined fruit. I would happily drink this wine almost anytime and enjoyed the play between the candied and sour mixed berry fruits and plum core. There is a pepper jelly and cracked pepper play too that is interesting as well to go with added elements of meat, mineral and kirsch notes that fold into the blackberry and bramble that comes through mid palate in this fun and vibrant wine. As mentioned the Teran grape is also known as Terrano in Italy and is off-shoot of the more well known Refosco varietal found in near by areas. Skerk, well respected for his “Orange” wines, certainly makes a good red too, drink young and enjoy the zesty freshness of this unique wine from the hills of Carso.
($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 18, 2013

2011RaveneauButteaux2011 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis “Butteaux” Premier Cru, White Burgundy, France.
Bernard Raveneau’s wines are simply spectacular and I would say life changing experiences, if you like Chablis, you’d go nuts for Raveneau, these rare and wonderful Chardonnays are extremely difficult to get your hands on, but I recommend doing your best to grab a bottle or two, the 2011 vintage should be hitting the shelves soon. While, certainly not cheap, these are fantastic and unique expressions of terroir and gifted winemaking, these are bucket list wines, no question, especially Raveneau’s Grand Cru offerings, but I love the Premier Cru wines as well, and I was lucky enough to have been able to sample the new 2011 Butteaux Premier Cru recently and found it glorious and surprisingly decedent for a young Raveneau, which usually are a bit tight in their youth. The 2011 Raveneau Butteaux is very high toned and tension filled, but opens to round layers with air, it starts with lime blossoms, chalky wet stones, sea salt and hints of clove spice before revealing lemon and green tangy apple fruit with a chilling sense of steeliness, mineral streak along with more lime and hazelnuts. This classic austere Chablis races with brisk acidity and dances on the palate, exciting, vigorous and vivid throughout, there is fantastic balance and sublime flavors that are pure and vibrant, and while 2010 vintage Raveneau’s will need years and years in the cellar, the 2011 will be ready much earlier to enjoy, best in their first 5 to 10 years of life.
($120+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 17, 2013

2012BrundlmeyerR2012 Weingut Brundlmeyer, Riesling “Kamptaler Terrassen” Kamptal, Austria.
As a long time fan of Brundlmeyer my expectations run high when tasting their wines and I can honestly say I am almost never let down or disappointed, year after year Brundlmeyer delivers stunning quality wines, from Gruner Veltliners to sparkling brut, from single vineyard Pinot Noirs to this humble Riesling, there is no question Brundlmeyer is a top domaine and makes world class wines from the slopes above the Danube in the Kamptal region of Austria. The 2012 Kamptaler Terrassen is a dry and tangy wine of energy, poise and pleasure showing pure Austrian terroir and character with lime blossoms, lime zip and kumquat notes along with spicy mineral tones plus tropical mango and passion fruits to go with a core of peach and apricot stone fruits. The driving acidity and crisp steeliness make your mouth water and leaves an electric zesty feel on the palate throughout. Hints of wet stones, petrol fumes, ocean brine and mint leaves add complexity to this tension filling Riesling, this is super stuff from Brundlmeyer, drink over the next 5 to 7 years if not longer!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

 

avail at www.sfwtc.com ($24.95)

Wine of the Day November 16, 2013

2011JoguetChinon2011 Charles Joguet, Chinon “Les Petites Roches” Loire Valley, France.
On a night where Kermit Lynch was signing his books, the 25th anniversary edition of his famous “Adventues on the Wine Route” and rarities like Vieux Telegraphe and Raveneau were being poured, this little Cabernet Franc shined just as bright and was a scene stealing vixen. Charles Joguet’s Chinon wines are not secrets, but sometimes forgotten, and they deserve a bit more attention, this 2011 certainly is a stunner with ultra pure fruit, terroir and striking mineral focus, I have also adored the Les Petites Roches and the 2011 vintage brings all my memories of admiration and enjoyment of Joguet’s wines over the years, and I thank Kermit Lynch for discovering this domaine and sharing them with us, and while I did of course love the Raveneau Chablis and VT Chateauneuf, it is this little Cabernet Franc that made me get a signed copy of Kermit’s book, even though I do own the original still. The 2011 Joguet Les Petites Roches Chinon starts with violets, crushed stones and blackberry to go with it’s dark purple edged garnet hue leading to a palate of classic Franc layers of plum, black cherry, blackberry and huckleberry¬† fruits with allspice, garden grown peppers, cedar and sandalwood. There is a cool steely edge, this mineral essence runs throughout and brings the terroir into focus, all said and done this wine has vitality, grace, earthiness and balance, the acidity is juicy fresh and gives lots of vibrancy, vigor and life, drink this beauty over the next 5 to 7 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

 

avail at www.sfwtc.com ($21.95)

Wine of the Day November 15, 2013

2012SelbachZSkabinett2012 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, Mosel, Germany.
A beautiful Riesling, the 2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Kabinett is a showcase of detail, history and class with exotic tropical touches including mango, passionfruit and pineapple along with green apple, lime and vibrant salted citrus. This vintage is really a near perfect year with fantastic fruit clarity and vivid acidity, mineral force and a dreamy texture. The drive and vigor point to impeccable winemaking and high quality terroir, a historic terroir and the structure will allow great cellaring rewards, as well as making for a wine that can be drunk young as this wine proves even now. A subtle sweetness and a delicate floral perfume shines throughout, though there are savory elements, sea (briny) essences and basil, and white tea notes too, the Schlossberg finishes with a wet stones and a creamy peachiness that begs for another sip, this is gorgeous Riesling, drink from 2014 to 2024. Johannes Selbach and his team has crafted a majestic set of wines with the 2012 vintage and they will continue to dazzle on the world stage for many years to come.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

 

avail at www.sfwtc.com ($26.95)

Wine of the Day November 14, 2013

2010StewartCS2010 Stewart, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Paul Hobbs has made the Stewart wines since the beginning and they are consistently delicious and well made, this new 2010 is in fact even more tasty than per normal, in fact it may just be a rival for best yet from Stewart right up there with the 2007. The Stewart 2010 Napa Cabernet shows all the glorious fruit, silky tannins and velvet texture you’d expect from Hobbs, with dark fruits, vibrancy and a long finish this is classy and deep Cabernet from a maestro, no question at all, and look for a good life spam here as well, I’d say it will drink great for 10 to 15 years. The nose is softly perfumed with acacia flowers, mocha and creme de cassis with a touch of smoke and pencil lead leading to a richly flavored palate of currant, plum, cherry and blackberry fruits with bitter chocolate, licorice, vanilla and cedar notes, and as the air gets into the wine there is subtle sage, tobacco and cinnamon as well, but the black fruits lead the way and linger nicely on the finish. The 2010 Stewart Cabernet Sauvignon is a pure and polished example and highly enjoyable wine, it would be a savvy choice in the luxury arena that Napa Cabernet has become.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day November 13, 2013

2012SiduriPisoni2012 Siduri, Pinot Noir “Pisoni Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Adam Lee’s Pisoni Pinot has been a legend since the 1999 vintage, and he has made some great wines over the years from this fabled site, and from these unique Pisoni clone vines. The 2012 is a classic example of the style and terroir that comes out in the Siduri Pisoni, especially in a vintage such as this, there is ripe and intense fruit, which is dynamic and dark with black fruits, spice, game and briar notes which echo the rumored origins of these grapes, this is a Grand Cru like wine, big, robust and layered with blackberry, dark cherry, damson plum and blueberry fruits with touches of wild flowers, violets and stony minerals along with the hints of meat, truffle, bramble, finishing long and silky with pretty French oak shadings that provide a soft frame with a kiss of vanilla. There is unmistakable Pisoni richness and weight here, but this wine certainly flows elegantly with grace and detail, it should even age well for another decade, this is well crafted and distinct Pinot Noir that without question deserves it’s reputation, drink from 2014 to 2023.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive