2012 Monasterio de Corias “Seis Octavos” Tinto Joven, Cangas, Spain.
One of my favorite wines, I have been drinking this wine since the 2008 vintage and every year I find more interesting details, and while the 2012 might not be as exceptional as the 2011 or 2010 wines, it is a lovely and intriguing effort. Made from a cepage cuvee of red grapes grown within the Monastery the main varietals include Albarin Negro and Mencia, though in most vintages it is mostly Albarin Negro which is native to the Asturias region of northwest Spain, and is also known sometimes as Verdejo Negro, is is a dark skinned grape that has medium weight, good acidity and can sometimes remind of Syrah with floral, earth and meaty tones along with blue and black fruit character. The Monasterio de Corias 2012 Tinto Joven Seis Octavos is slightly reduced and funky on the nose and needs a minute or two in the glass to come to life, of course this was a early sample bottle and I’m sure it was a bit of bottle shock and travel bruising, so maybe by the time it finds the racks it will have cleared up and perked up, as it did in the last few vintages, but once alive in the glass this red shows personality and charm, it is certainly a bit lighter and juicier than the last two years, but it is delightful just the same with black cherry, plum, blueberry and currant fruits, wild herbs, mint and cured meat along with loamy earth, spice and mineral notes. A touch of tannin, mild mushroom and cranberry come into play mid palate, but the fruit takes charge on the finish though zesty acidity gives a sense of crispness and lift too. Not quite all together yet, but certainly unique and enjoyable, I would stock up on 2011 while you can, and give the 2012 a look see in the Spring of 2014, I think it should make for a nice drinker by then.
($18 Est.) 90-91 Points, grapelive
2011 Francois Chidaine, Tres P’s, Tempranillo y Monastrell, Bullas, Spain.
This sexy little red from famed Loire Valley producer Francois Chidaine is a great find, it is all organic from the Chidaine family estate in Spain near Murcia in the Bullas D.O. wine region, and while Chidaine is much more famous for their biodynamic Chenin Blanc wines from Montlouis and Vouvray, this cuvee of Monastrell and Tempranillo is an exciting red that in heavily influenced by the terroir and shows a garrigue character much like a Rhone Valley wine with a lavender and wild fennel streak running throughout, plus a nice bit of earth and spice to go with a rich fruit filled palate. The Tempranillo gives a dark color, ripe raspberry and smooth tannins while the Monastrell (Mourvedre) gives density, power and a baked cherry note making for an interesting meld of personality and flavors. The Tres P’s is a wonderful value priced red that shows pride in place, vibrancy and depth, be sure to check this wine out if you see it, it is imported by Beaune Imports (California) and while not easy to find, certainly is worth a look. The 2011 is the first vintage to reach me (though it was made in 2010 as well), but I’m sure there will be many more to follow and I plan to enjoy a few more bottles myself, it shows fresh herbs, pepper, violets and dried flowers, cassis and wild mushrooms along with raspberry, cherry cola, boysenberry, soy, plum and fig notes finishing with good length and has a lingering, as mentioned, essence of lavender and fennel plus a bit of blueberry skin, drink now through 2018.
($16-18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($15.95)
2012 Domaine des Costes Rouges, Marcillac Red, France.
This country wine from France’s southwest is slightly rustic and earthy, but it has plenty of bright fruit to show and almost feels like a robust Gamay, though it is made with the native grape Mansois, along with tiny amounts of Cabernet. I’ve tried the last two or so vintages and have found myself drawn to this interesting and uniquely flavored wine, it shows raspberry, blueberry and plum fruits upfront along with cranberry and dust cherry notes, plus there is pepper spice, candied red citrus, loamy earth, game and pipe tobacco. While simple and fresh now, there is some tannins and meatiness underlying here, it should drink well and change over the next 2 to 3 years in bottle, I maybe like it best now with it’s vibrancy of youth, it is medium weight and should be great with hearty cuisine and or lamb, sausage or sheep cheeses. Another off the beaten path find from Charles Neal Imports, San Francisco, I am grateful to taste the latest release as always, and this 2012 is consistent with the last three vintages.
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine Ilarria, Irouleguy AC Basque Red, France.
This intriguing Basque red comes from the foot of the French Pyrenees and is made from the classic Irouleguy blend of Tannat with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This makes for a chewy and tannic dry red, but Domaine Ilarria has crafted a balanced elegant vintage in 2011 with good fruit density and smooth ripe tannins that are not as harsh as can be the case in these rustic country wines, in fact this year’s Ilarria is a rival for many more famous Claret wines found in parts of Bordeaux and certainly makes for a wonderful alternative to those fairly generic wines, I’ll not name names, but let’s just say this distinct Basque red is a wine worth searching out, for short to mid term drinking pleasure as these wines do age pretty well and are very interesting in their first decade in bottle, though they can dry out after 15 to 20 years, I suggest to drink in the window of 5 to 7 years for the best results, and at around $20 a bottle this wine would be a great wine to grab a case of, it goes especially well with hearty cuisine. The 2011 Domaine Ilarria shows an almost Loire red like nose and mineral tones with roses and wild flowers, minty, red spices, game and red currants leading the way along with a palate of raspberry, black cherry, loganberry and plum fruits unfolding with air as well as briar notes, a hint of bell pepper, earthy loam, cedar and truffle. This wine feels juicy now and the ripe tannins don’t cut into the pleasure of this unique red, showing a deft talent in the winemaking and the finish is detailed and lingering, this is a fine and lovely Tannat driven effort deserving attention and praise, imported by Charles Neal Imports, look for it.
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy.
The legendary Quintarelli wine, from the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, was a special moment, I’ve never had many opportunities to try his wonderful wines, and certainly not his mythical Amarone, and with such powerful expectations it would be easy to be let down, but this was not the case and everything I’d heard and read about turned out to be true, this was one of wine’s holy grail masterpieces. The 2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico is a beautiful and emotional experience, it is gloriously elegant, richly textured and flowing with layers of complex flavors, I will say my biggest surprise was the subtlety and graceful nature of this heavenly wine, there is not the kind of ripeness that you’d think, everything builds slowly in the glass and the full force of this Amarone really comes in the aftertaste, this wine is almost dreamy, not to say it is light or delicate, for it is mouth filling and lavish without question, it is just not bombastic or jammy. The nose reveals a staggering array of details, dried roses, porcini, bitter chocolate, game, red currants and cigar spice leading to an equally detailed palate of plum, golden raisins, raspberry and fig pudding along with a surge of cherry and cedar notes. This wine is surprising and intriguing throughout with a ton of character and a lively amount of freshness, this is well judged and masterfully crafted wine, this is a classic that lives up to the legend and the hype, words start to fail and pure pleasure takes over, it is hard not to get lost in this beautiful and wondrous Amarone. This wine is unspeakably expensive and rare, but it is without question a bucket list wine, and I do hope I get a few more chances to try Quintartelli Amarone, but I am more than happy from my fleeting experience with this must try wine, drink 2013 through 2031, wow this was terrific stuff, the finish is almost endless. A huge thank you to Kermit Lynch Imports for sharing!
($329 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2010 Tenuta Dell’ Ornellaia, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
the 2010 Ornellaia is in a special bottle, this is the 25th Anniversary Edition with a label celebrating 25 vintages in bottle from 1985 to 2010, and even a difficult year didn’t stop Ornellaia from making an monumental wine from this famed estate near the Tuscan coast. Ornellaia is the second most famous Super Tuscan after Sassicaia, which was the first, and while similar in reputation this giants of Italian wine are very different creatures, the Sassicaia is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Cab Franc, with Ornellaia being a more rounded blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this makes Ornellaia more lush, lavish and a tad more accessible when young, even though this is a powerful and tannic wine, it is less austere than the Sassicaia in most vintages, but both wines are as fine and as good as First Growth Bordeaux, with Sassicaia being Chateau Latour like and Ornellaia comparing well to Chateau Margaux. The Merlot grown in Bolgheri is powerful stuff and it gives Ornellaia it’s weight, the 2010 shows impressive depth, density and length, with the good dose of Petit Verdot adding inky color to it’s strikingly dark opaque hue, while the Cabernets add power, character and spice to the whole of this wonderful Ornellaia. The nose is slightly shy at this young stage, but there is soft floral tones, creme de cassis, espresso bean and graphite before entry to a thickly rich mouth of dark currants, black cherries, blackberry and wild plum fruits, mocha, truffle and smoky char as well as cedar, cinnamon, vanilla and cigar box. This wine is robust and firm from start to finish, but it is not aggressive or porgy, this is refined and stylish wine, though it should be given some time to develop, I’d say 5 to 7 years would be enough to allow things to heighten and fill out and it should be a grand vin for up to two decades, drink from 2020 to 2030. It was a super opportunity to try this wine, it is always a massive treat to taste Ornellaia, it almost never disappoints and is one of the world’s top wines, no question.
($200 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($198)
2010 G.D. Vajra, Dolcetto D’ Alba, Piemonte, Italy.
The Vajra wines are a must try lineup of fantastic quality and style, from this tasty Dolcetto to their Barolo, these are stunning well crafted wines that have class and character. Vajra even does a dynamite Riesling too, in case you are like me and freaky for that kind of thing, but this Dolcetto is a great little wine and perfect for the easy family meal, it is highly entertaining and goes with an array of cuisine. It is hard to believe Dolcetto can be this good and all around complete, but Vajra’s Dolcetto D’ Alba is a gem and recently I took it to dinner and shared it with friends and before you could blink an eye the bottle was dry! Everyone was smiling and refilling with the pasta and pizza, and it was just a gloriously perfect wine for the occasion. The 2010 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto D’ Alba is fresh and vibrant with a dark unfiltered hue, a purple/garnet color, brisk acidity, blackberry, currant and tangy plum fruits, hints of mineral, kirsch and cranberry add zest to this joyous little wine. No sense of oak or sweetness here, just lively flavors that really take off with food, serve slightly chilled or cellar temp for more zip to the wine, drink now and over the next 2 to 3 years, get it while you can this is nice and pure Dolcetto from a talented producer.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($21.00)
2011 Julian Labet, Trousseau “En Chalasse” Cotes du Jura, France.
I waited a long time to get my hands on this Trousseau, and sadly by the time I did, there was nothing left to buy, as Labet made only a tiny amount and didn’t end up with much to import to the USA, though a few of his other wines did make it and are a tad easier to find, and importer Charles Neal is trying to get more. So, with great bittersweet expectations I give you my long awaited thoughts of the natural, artisan crafted Trousseau by Julian Labet, well, it is a solid effort, though it does fall short of his prior wines, and I would recommend getting his Metis cuvee, the blend of Pinot, Poulsard and Troussseau, as it is a more complex and complete wine, both 2011 and 2012 vintages, and they will be more available, but that all said I really did like the 2011 En Chalasse Cotes du Jura Trousseau and if by chance you do come across this rare wine you should get it, it is pretty and exotic with a wild herbal and red peach core along with delicate color and flavors, it is a pale and light red that shows faint earthy tones and layers of soft red fruits. There is a strawberry, fennel, celery seed and mineral spice that comes through in the glass and the finish is crisp, like a pinot noir with nice acidity and good length. As with most natural wines, best to drink young, as in within the first year or so, or if you want to give these time to mature, you’ll need a perfect cellar, as temp changes can really affect these wines, best to drink from 2013 to 2016. I am very impressed with Julian Labet’s wines and enjoy them, but they certainly with not be for everyone, and Jura wines in general are not mainstream wines, though they are very interesting and intriguing offering a unique style, sense of place and wildness that appeals to the adventurous.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2010 Chateau de Pressac, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion, Red Bordeaux, France.
This glorious Claret is made of 72% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere, 1% Pressac (Malbec) fermented in concrete vats and then aged in mostly new French oak barrel by Hubert de Bouard & Alain Raynaud. Pressac is a savvy Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion that is a breath of fresh air from the mainly Michel Rolland style wines made in the regions, it seems a bit more character filled and less finely polished, in a good way, even though oval the quality of Saint-Emilion wines has seen a huge step up in quality under this Rolland era, they tend to taste way too similar and maybe a touch too modern, though again this seems a petty gripe when you find such joyous wines, especially in vintages like 2009 and 2010. So, the uniquely styled Chateau de Pressac is right up my alley and it has a intriguing cepage make up with the addition of 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, a little Malbec (known as Pressac in this case) and the Carmenere all playing roles and adding to the exotic nature of this fine Bordeaux. I tasted this wine in a room with 50 or so other Grand Cru Classe wines and it really did stand out, very impressive indeed, and I would recommend this richly textured red to anyone looking for a great example of this right bank Bordeaux, it has plenty of fruit, drive and structure to hold up to any scrutiny and the complex array of flavors and balance will certainly give reason the celebrate, this is an exceptional Saint-Emilion, even if it isn’t in the same league as Angelus, Clos Fortet or Cheval Blanc it does offer a lot more bang for the buck. The nose is full of floral and earthy tones, mineral and graphite with a cassis and kirsch liqueur note leading to a forceful palate of red currants, raspberry, blackberry and sweet plum fruits with hints of dark chocolate, pepper, tobacco/cigar, cedar and cinnamon spice finishing with a mouth coating mix of ripe tannins, vanilla scented wood and lingering fruit essences. Everything is in place to make this Bordeaux shine in about 3 to 5 years time, but it is starting to really drink nicely even now, this is highly entertaining stuff, best from 2016 to 2028, should be available in Feb. 2014 in the USA, be sure to look for it.
($45-60 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Sergio Mottura, Poggio Della Costa, Grechetto, Civitella D’ Agliano, Umbria, Italy.
The Poggio Della Costa Grechetto from Sergio Mottura is a light and crisp white with nice character and Umbrian charm, in fact for years now Sergio Mottura has been making some of the best wines of the region and they are far better values than some of the boring bulk/generic Pinot Grigio that sells for twice the price, so be sure to locate some of these fine and interesting wines. The 2012 Poggio Della Costa Grechetto is fresh and tasty with lemon, apple and lime essence leading the way with bitter almond and a touch of steely mineral adding complexity to this easy and simple white. This wine is perfect with cheese, seafood, chicken or ham, it goes down smooth with a tangy/nutty quality and highlights the varietal flavors perfectly, this is very fine and detailed Grechetto from a talented producer. Drink this over the course of the coming year, look for the Porcupine label, this again is quality stuff at a great price.
($14 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive