2012 Gérard Boulay, Sancerre Monts Damnés, Loire Valley, France.
This is absolutely the best Sancerre I’ve had this last year, maybe ranking all time in fact, without question Gerard Boulay is one of the greatest talents with Sauvignon Blanc currently, and these are wines that are profound. His latest set of Cru wines really are spectacular and filled with glorious harmony and grace. I found the Clos de Beaujeu and this Monts Damnes a slight step up from the rest at this stage, while the La Cote might come along as a better wine with time, but that might be nitpicking on my part as all the Boulay wines were stellar. The Monts Damnes entranced me with steely mineral essences, precise detail and balance, this wine was created by an artist with a deft touch, it has layers of fruit that is both lively and subtle in a most joyous way. The 2012 Gerard Boulay Sancerre Monts Damnes starts with spring blossoms, citrus and crunchy stones showing lemon/lime, grapefruit, white peach, gooseberry and quince, then there is chalky wet stones, hints of grass, herbs and melon. There is an intense core of acidity, but you don’t get a shock or is it nervy, it just is there freeing the wine, lifting and keeping it in a heightened state of pleasure, this is grand Sauvignon Blanc, drink 2014 to 2020.
($45 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Von den Terassen, Trocken, Mosel Germany.
Matthias Knebel’s 2012 wines are a fantastic collection of pure Mosel Rieslings, he used stainless steel for fermentation and aging, preserving the dynamic freshness and showcasing the vintage in it’s truest form, these Mosel wines are a huge success for a new generation winemaker. The single Cru wines are each unique and wonderful examples of varied terroir, but I found absolute joy and pleasure in the 2012 Von Den Terrassen, this dry “Trocken” style Mosel offers intensity and extract, though is perfectly balance with beautiful fruit and was perfectly crafted. Knebel’s 2011 vintage was a breakthrough achievement no question, but these 2012 wines are even better, these wines confirm Matthias Knebel as a star in the making, I highly recommend trying his 2012 Rieslings, particularly his regular Trocken, his Hamm single cur and this gorgeous Von den Terassen, made from only terraced, steep slopes, where more vigorous flavors seem to ooze from these historic vines above the Mosel River. The Von den Terassen starts with bright citrus, white roses, saline, white tea and spice before leading to a refined and intensely dynamic palate with lime, melon, pineapple, white plum and peach fruits along with steely mineral, wet stones, briny notes, hints of chalk, minty sweet basil, flint and tangy acidity. There is a sense of lightness, but turns almost creamy with every sip, though there is plenty of vibrancy and zest here, this is a suburb effort and finely detailed wine of classic form. Knebel’s Von den Terassen will drink nicely for a decade if not more, drink from 2014 to 2026.
($24 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Arnot-Roberts, Syrah, North Coast.
This is another lovely and intriguing wine for the talented duo at Arnot-Roberts, these guys are crafting some amazing wines, and this 2012 Syrah North Coast is a stunner. While it is hard to pick from their wonderful selection of unique wines, everything from Chardonnay to Gamay, Cabernet to Trousseau Noir these guys are hitting it out of the park, especially with their Syrah wines, this 2012 North Coast in particular being a fantastic example, this wine shows beauty and detail, I can’t recommend strongly enough, you need to check these wines out, this is one of the best newer wineries in California and deserve lots of attention. The 2012 North Coast Syrah tastes like it was mostly whole cluster fermented with loads of fruit, spice and vibrancy with an amazing red/purple hue and a black opaque core in the glass. The nose is violets, dried roses, cinnamon stick, white pepper and game, along with stony notes and loads of black fruits, while the palate is fresh, blueberry, boysenberry, creme de cassis and damson plum, plus raw meat, sweet roasted herbs, black olives, warm earth, briar and brine. Lingering cedar, kirsch and compote of mixed berries hold on the finish. There is good firm youthful acidity and tannins that are sweet and ripe, everything in nice balance, making for a super interesting and savvy Syrah, drink over the coming decade, though it would be hard not to drink sooner vs later, best from 2014-2021. Though rare, it will be rewarding to search out, be sure to do so, this is great Northern Rhone style juice.
($36 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($34.95)
2012 Colleoni, Selvarella Orcia Rosso DOC, Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy. (San Maria)
The latest releases from Coelleoni are sensational, especially this vibrant and exciting pure Sangiovese Grosso, a whole cluster fermented and tank raised beauty that shows rich and bright flavors with intensity and depth, remarkable for a young wine. While Colleoni Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino grab all the attention, well deserved no question, you should not miss this Orcia Rosso, this wine is exotic and vivid with a burst of red fruits that dance on the palate and a lush texture plus a surprisingly long finish, truly lovely Tuscan red. This fresh 2012 shows damson plum, black cherry, loganberry and cranberry fruits along with sweet herbs, spice and hints of mineral, truffle and pomegranate. With no oak and fresh acidity this wine still shows fine tannins and polish, this is a winery to discover if you’ve not had the chance, imported by Kermit Lynch and available in very small lots, this wine especially is worth searching out. The finish is lingering with touches of strawberry, kirsch and licorice, look for stylish development over the next 2 to 3 years, but best to enjoy young, drink 2014 to 2019.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Francois Chidaine, Touraine, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France.
Chidaine, known for fantastic Montlouis and Vouvray Chenin Blanc and biodynamic vineyard practices also makes a lovely and value priced Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine, with 2012 again proving to be an intelligent and savvy buy. This Touraine from the Val de Loire is my go to Sauvignon Blanc for something easy and fresh, it always has plenty of flavor and character with nice mineral and fresh acidity. The 2012 is a juicy wine with a steely core showing lemon/lime, melon, grapefruit, hints of quince, gooseberry and wet stones, this is a light and citrusy wine that just does everything you’d expect, it is spot on and fun. Chidaine is a long time favorite of mine and while his more famous Chenin wines are built to age and are much more serious, this Sauvignon Blanc is meant to be drunk up young, best to enjoy over the next year, drink from 2014 to 2016. This Touraine is a perfect picnic wine and or super with cheeses or light seafood dishes.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($13.95)
2009 Piero Benevelli, Barolo “Ravera” DOCG, Monforte d’ Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
Kermit Lynch has raided Italy again, sticking to Piedmonte, to find another wonderful small hand crafted producer, Massimo Benevelli a winemaker at his family’s winery in Monforte d’ Alba. Massimo makes classic Dolcetto and Barolo that is now imported to the US by Kermit Lynch, with the first two offerings being the 2012 Dolcetto and this glorious 2009 Ravera Barolo, both wines are worth searching out, these are well judged and true reds that reflect traditional artisan winemaking and showcase fine terrors. The 2009 Benevelli Barolo Ravera highlights the vintage’s character with ripe fruit, silky tannins and density, this was an open year in Piedmonte giving generous wines, there is good depth and complexity in the Ravera and a sexy long finish. The wine starts with a mix of earthy herbs and spices and floral tones with hints of mineral and kirsch, this is pure Nebbiolo with dark cherry, damson plum and soy dipped strawberry along with juicy raspberry, candied citrus rind, black licorice, tar, briar and game. The acidity and tannin play a key role, though not intrusive, everything flows nicely on the palate and there is subtle saline and savory elements that add counterweight to the lush fruit, and there is no sense of oak, just a kiss of cedar spice, this is lovely stuff that leaves a well earned smile on your face and a lingering memory, drink 2014 to 2021.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2011 Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht, Riesling, Kallstadter Saumagen, Spatlese Trocken, Pfalz Germany.
This wine is wickedly sexy and wondrous with lovely texture, vivid flavors and vibrancy, Koehler-Ruprecht crafts some seriously delicious Riesling, especially this Spatlese Trocken from Kallstadter Saumagen in Germany’s Pfalz region. This 2011 version flows with a rich, decadent palate that feels almost creamy, while being lifted by perfectly judged acidity, there is a weight here that gives an impression of sweetness, but is not intrusive or cloying, it is really well balanced with the tangy and zesty side of this wine, the nose is full of citrus, white flowers, crushed stones and briny elements leading to a palate of lime, green apple, peach and kumquat along with savory white tea, wet river rocks, saline, apricot and tropical notes. The play of sweet and sour is near perfect throughout and flinty spices, mineral tones and honey dipped tangerine lingers on the finish. This is really interesting and well fashioned Riesling that has a lot to offer, great now, but should age wonderfully for another decade or more, drink from 2014 to 2026.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Weingut Hexamer, Riesling, Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg, Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
Harald Hexamer’s Nahe estate is a gem and his wines are wonderful expressions of this glorious region of Germany, these wines are even much more intriguing with a few years of age, like this magical 2009 Kabinett Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg which I sampled at the famed Slanted Door in San Francisco. The 2009 Haxamer Kabinett Meddersheimer Rheingraffenberg is drinking fantastic right with mature notes and full of complexity, it was ultra delicious with the Slanted Door’s fresh crab and noodles with just a touch of sweetness and Nahe class, it is amazingly enough it was a by the glass option of which I could not refuse. The Riesling starts with dried roses, tropical essences, petrol fumes, crushed stones and flinty spices before a palate of pineapple, white peach, mango and persimmon fruits with mineral, savory elements, sea shore brine and a honeyed tone. There is a great play of sweet and sour notes, lifting acidity and exotic quality from start to finish, this is a fine and well crafted effort that is near perfect now, though should be good for another 3 to 5 years easy, there is a lot going on in the glass here and this is a wine of compelling charm and character.
($24-28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Arbe Garbe, White, Russian River Valley.
Letizia and Enrico Maria Bertoz are producing some of the Russian River’s most interesting new white wines, inspired by their roots in Italian’s Friuli region, northern Eastern Italy, but still reflect the new world and California. The grapes are sourced from Saralee’s Vineyard a long time source for off the beaten path varietals, Joseph Swan in particular has made many a fine wine from this wealth of goodies, and now the Bertoz’s are doing the same. The Arbe Garbe, which means “Bad Weed” in Friulian dialect, is a reference to the native cover crops that are used to replenish the soils between rows of vines, and the name of the Bertoz’s label, the make two wines, a straight Malvasia and this lovely blend of 45% Pinot Grigio, 40% Malvasia Bianco, and 15% Gewürtztraminer. This new vintage, the 2012 Arbe Garbe White, is the best yet for this young winery and it reminds me of both the Alsace and Alto Adige regions, it is totally unique and is utterly delightful and delicious, this years release starts with vibrant citrus, white flowers, hints of rose petal, spice and tropical essences leading to a light to medium palate of fresh apple, pear, lemon, passion fruit and white peach fruits with a tangy tangerine and apricot side that comes through as it opens up. The nice and graceful lift of acidity, mineral and slight bitter tones help keeps things interesting and dry, along with touches of clove, pepper, wild herbs and raw ginger add to the intrigue and exotic nature of this well crafted wine, drink now through 2018.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Blanc, France.
Domaine Tempier’s wines are legendary, with glorious richly textured reds and the world famous Rose, sometimes it is easy to overlook the white, but make no mistake about it this Bandol Blanc is the real deal and an exotic rarity that is simply delicious from start to finish. I must admit, I adore the Mourvedre based cuvees from Tempier, the La Tourtine and La Cabassau are world class meaty reds, plus the classique Bandol AC Rouge which is no slouch either, especially the sublime 2011 vintage, but I’ll tell you, the white is a stunner and should not be missed. The 2012 Blanc from Tempier is mostly Clairette with small amounts of Ugni Blanc, Bourblanc and a touch of Marsanne, making for a refreshing and textural wine of vigor and detail with bright fruit and creamy mouth feel. The nose is citrus and stones with a palate of lemon/lime, melon, tangerine, clarified butter cream and sweet herbs. Hints of sea salt, spice and peach come though with air and as the wine opens there is a touch of almond oil and bitter stone fruit pit which gives the wine a nice balancing tanginess, drink this lovely wine with seafood, from shellfish to fish stew, and well, with anything you want, it is a suburb and compelling white. This Southern French white reminds me a bit of Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf white, though still very much it’s own unique wine and better still it is less than half the price of Beaucastel’s Roussanne based cuvee, Tempier is riding high, the last few vintages are stellar efforts and seriously appealing. Drink the Blanc over the next 2 to 3 years, from 2014-2017 for best rewards.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($39.95)