Monthly Archives: April 2014

Wine of the Day April 21, 2014

2012CastaliaPN2012 Castalia, Pinot Noir “Rochioli Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
Rochioli’s cellar master Terry Bering makes a small handcrafted Pinot under his own Castalia label with fruit coming off Rochioli Vineyard, it is a selection of West Block clone, one of the old vine heritage clones found on the estate, and this wine is super limited. 2012 is looking like one of the best vintages to date and this beauty will sell out fast, especially with Rochioli’s single vineyard wines going for twice to three times the price. This year’s wine shows pure Rochioli richness and depth with dark fruit density and lavish texture, it has high PH and a bit lower acidity, making for a drink now kind of pleasure and it is an easy to love wine. Dark cherry, cola, plum and red raspberry lead the way with tea spice, vanilla cream and sassafras notes. I starting tasting Castalia back in 1996 or 1997 and it has been one of my secret favorites ever since, I confess it was a great joy to get this wine back then, because I was still waiting to get on the main list at Rochioli, and even though I’m on the list, I still get the Castalia too, this is great Pinot hand crafted, hedonistic, rich Pinot Noir that is hard not to love, but don’t wait it goes fast. Drink now and over the following 3 to 5 years, it is a wonderful quietly pleasure!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


avail at ($54.95)

Wine of the Day April 20, 2014-Happy Easter from Grapelive

2010LeMiccineCarduus2010 Le Miccine, Carduus, Rosso di Toscana IGT, Italy.
Le Miccine looks set to be a star in Chianti Classico for the longterm with the young and talented Paula Papini Cook leading the way, she has scored a Tre Bicchere and has received lots of critical acclaim and this is coming for only her first two vintages in charge, so the future looks amazing for this Gaiole estate, definitely a winery to watch in the coming years. Paula’s wines are full of life and character with terroir and passion oozing from the glass, the Chianti Classicos are marvelous examples and this Carduus is delectable and glorious, this is some serious stuff. The 2010 Le Miccine Carduus is a special 100% Merlot cuvee aged in French “hogsheads” 330L barrels and comes off the estate vines and calcareous soils, this is really classy stuff, Paula’s gifted touch shows in this wonderful wine, maybe it is her experience in Bordeaux, where she worked in Fronsac, that has paid off here? I think the merlot grape does great in Italy, and especially in Tuscany, in fact I believe some of the great Merlot to be found comes from Italy, anyone who’s had Castello di Ama’s from down the road in Chianti, the famed Masseto from Ornellaia or Messario from Le Macchiole would certainly agree, Italy’s fine Merlot rivals even the famed Pomerol wines of Bordeaux the home to Petrus and the other fabled Merlot wines. This regardless of varietal, is a super and pure red that is full of unique charm and distinction with dark fruits, loamy earth, mineral and supple tannins, the Carduus by Le Miccine flows on the palate with ripe plum, red currant, black cherry and mulberry fruit along with tobacco leaf, wild mushrooms, minty herbs and cedary spice. I had this sample bottle over the course of three days with gas, just the cork, and it was fresh and sturdy each night, this is well crafted wine, it in fact got better with each day and hour. This is rich and deep focused Merlot with a long lingering finish that has an echo of the fruit, subtle wood notes and leaves a smile on your face, drink from 2014 to 2021. I really hope the Le Miccine wines find an importer soon, I find these wines a great value and with huge potential, thanks again to Paula Papini Cook for her kindness and the samples, they are highly impressive wines, no question.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 19, 2014

2010TempeRiesling2010 Marc Tempe, Riesling, Zellenberg, Alsace, France.
Marc Tempe is a small family estate in Zellenberg, and is one of Alsace’s top guns, his wines are exceptional and soulful, especially his Rieslings like this beautiful 2010 Zellenberg. The Tempe wines all come from biodynamic vines and he employes natural winemaking techniques and long elevate, this rich and mineral driven Riesling was aged on it’s lees between 18 and 24 months in mostly neutral foudres. There is depth and length that will surprise you here, even though this is the village level wine and I highly recommend trying the 2010 Tempe wines, this one and his Pinot Blanc, these are unbelievably good wines for the money. The 2010 Zellenberg Riesling starts with a nice leesy, floral and steely nose with dried roses, crushed stones, lime flower and clove notes leading to a zesty, but full palate of citrus, apple and stone fruits with white peach, apricot, lime and granny smith along with river rock, tropical notes, saline and earthy tones. The lingering grapefruit, mango, white cherry and chalk stay on the aftertaste a long time, this is wonderful and stylish crisp and dry wine, drink over the next 3-5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


avail at ($26.95)

Wine of the Day April 18, 2014

2011OcchipintiSiccagno2011 Occhipinti, Siccagno, Nero d’ Avola IGT Rosso, Sicilia, Italy.
Arianna Occhipinti’s latest release is out, the new Siccagno Nero d’ Avola, and I’m sure her legions of fans will be racing to grab this new red up as soon as humanly possible, her last two offerings sold out extremely quickly and this looks to follow suit. Arianna is the queen of the new generation and of the natural wine movement, she has become one of the biggest stars in the wine world and her passion, hard work and charm drive her cult of personality, it is truly amazing to witness, she has brought a huge new following to the world of wine and excitement for wines and new terroirs. The results are something that we all should cherish and celebrate, I think it is well deserved and I’ve seen pure child like excitement from new wine drinkers not just here in California or New York, I have seen it while visiting a small town in Sweden, as I marveled the fact that Occhipinti was on the list at a remote little bar in Vaxjo, young hipster Swedes were enjoying Arianna’s SP68 Rosso. And now the 2011 Arianna Occhipinti Siccagno is out, it is everything her fans love, it is unique, a little funky, full of character and flavor, it is deliciously seductive. The Siccagno is all Nero d’ Avola, all organic, Arianna ferments with wild yeast and it spends a long time on the skins, almost 90 days, before aging in large neural Slovenian oak cask for about 16 months, then bottled unfined and unfiltered, with another 6 months of resting before release. This hand crafted, artisan wine is a Sicilian treasure, it shows a perfect play of sweet fruit and savory elements with pouched plum, loganberry, blueberry and spiced cherry fruits with balsamic and earthy notes, truffle, game and chalky minerals. The Siccagno is deep, but feels light on it’s feet, the tannins are super fine and many flavors come and go while in the glass with hints of anise, wild herbs, lavender and pepper, nutmeg along with cured meat, saline and toffee, but Arianna’s wines are all about fruit and pleasure and this one does not disappoint, drink now and for the next 3-5 years.
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


avail at

Wine of the Day April 17, 2014

1996RinaldiBarolo1996 Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo DOCG, Brunate-La Coste, Piedmonte, Italy.
A chance to taste a rare mature Barolo should not be missed, especially as they don’t come around too often, so I seized the moment and opportunity to sample this beautiful Rinaldi, of which I have almost record of trying in the past. While not all that keen on the Coravin system for personal use, I am grateful for it’s use in this case and have maybe decided they are useful tools, if not a must have for wine professionals. So in went the magic needle and out came this delicious 1996 Rinaldi Nebbiolo into a glass for me. Thanks to a lucky collector that scored this bottle recently, in perfect as new condition, and thanks to the Coravin device now knows it is not corked and in it’s prime. The 1996 vintage was a classic year in Piedmonte with firm tannins and plenty of acidity, both of which are still on display here in this lovely Barolo, it shows some stewy flavors at first, but soon opens to reveal dried roses, wild mint, anise and tar with a detailed palate of red currants, cherry and damson plum along with decaying autumn leaves, sandalwood, a hint of orange rind and mineral notes. After a few minutes the tannins perk up and things firm up with black licorice, game and truffle starting to show up as well, there is a complexity and pure character that are enchanting, this small taste left me wanting more and an evening to ponder the joys in the glass, this Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-La Coste Barolo is a seductive wine, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years, I certainly wouldn’t be waiting!
($220-400 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 16, 2014

2011EquipoNavazosOVNIsecoPX2011 Equipo Navazos “OVNI”, Vino Blanco Seco (dry) Pedro Ximénez, Montilla-Moriles, Andalucia, Spain.
This is a totally engaging crisp white from just outside the Sherry region in Montilla-Moriles is made from all Pedro Ximenez fermented in concrete amphora and stainless to give both freshness and roundness. This non Sherry, but Fino like wine though not as oxidized or is it fortified, it comes in at about 11.5% alcohol, making for a light to medium wine with lots of zest and character, perfect with seafood, picnics and of course savory tapas. Equipo Navazos is a new project that is exploring small lots of varied Sherry styles of wine, and the results are fascinating and leading the way for more people to become entranced with these exotic and largely undiscovered wines and this mysterious region in the southern most part of Spain. This delightfully expressive white shows lime, green apple, hints of white peach, chalk and mineral along with lemon oil and rind, tangerine, grapefruit and just the right amount of cashew nuttiness to remind you it is inspired by the region and style. The OVNI Vino Blanco Seco Pedro Ximenez is a fun and interesting white that really is a great palate refresher and starter wine at the Tapas Bar, I highly recommend checking what is going on with Sherry, there is some really exciting things coming out and it is a totally new world to enter for most wine lovers. I was wowed by this little gem, thanks to Duende Restaurant and Bar on Telegraph in Oakland for the introduction, this is a cool spot with some amazing food too.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 15, 2014

HidaldoWellingtonNV Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, Sherry, Palo Cortado “Wellington” 20 Years V.O.S. Jerez-Xérès, Andalucia, Spain.
The dry Palo Cortado Wellington 20 Sherry from Hidalgo is magnificent and beautiful with lots of savory character and a long fantastic finish, this is sublime stuff from the Jerez region of Spain, and perfect with a range of tapas. Sherry is a mysterious and complex world that can really intrigue and excite, from dry to sweet it is magic and a world to explore, I am grateful to Duende Restaurant in Oakland for offering this fine and distinct Sherry on their eclectic by the glass wine list, it went great with all their delicious small plates, this Spanish-World cuisine bistro downtown Oakland is a must visit spot for fun, food and interesting Sherry, the food is terrific and the place has a cool easy charm that makes it comfortable and exciting. We started with a fresh Fino made with Pedro Ximenez that was a super clean refreshing palate cleanser before finding this gorgeous Palo Cortado which was lovely amber in the glass and dry on the palate with a rich oily quality, but not over the top and it still has some acidity, plus lots of classic nuttiness with pecan, cashews and hazelnuts along with hints of orange rind, lemon and peach fruits plus sea salt, brine and caramel. Palo Cortado is a rare type of Sherry, it is a unique style that doesn’t often happen, it is started as a Fino, under Flor, but somehow starts to oxidize so they fortify it, only about 2% of Sherry grapes go through this and become Palo Cortado, it is also a crisp wine, but gains richer flavors, it is divine and glorious stuff and the age adds complexity, this is a Sherry lovers dream. Great with tapas, cheeses or sipping, it proved a wonderful companion and I will be re-visiting it and Duende again soon!
($38 Est. 500ml) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 14, 2014

2011LeMiccineCC2011 Le Miccine, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Le Miccine estate is located in the heart of Chianti Classic between Radda and Gaiole, in fact it is closer and part of Gaiole and it sits in a unique micro-climate in the hills, it is at about 400 Metres and has a slight valley effect which makes it a near perfect terroir with warm days and cooler nights allowing a long ripening season. The estate is now owned and run by the beautiful and dynamic Paula Papini Cook, who took it over in 2010 at the young age of 24, she is experienced in winemaking already with past work at Le Nozzole and in Bordeaux, she holds both French and Italian doctorates in winemaking and has converted Le Miccine to organic practices and has put out some compelling wines, including this wonderful Chianti Classico that is mostly of course Sangiovese, but with a bit of Malvasia Nera and Colorino in the blend, it was gently fermented in stainless then after malo it is then aged between 12-16 months in large French cask, Paula will employ differing techniques depending on vintage demands to capture the essence of her terroir, so far so good, and I can’t wait to see how this new project develops, it has incredible potential and the talented Papini Cook looks to be living the dream. The 2011 Le Miccini is a forward lush Chianti with rich flavors, pretty detailing and outstanding depth with good structure and balance, I was highly impressed, it starts with floral notes, sweet and savory elements from dried flowers, wild herbs and dark fruits with a touch of game and spice leading to a round generous palate of blackberry, red cherry, plum and strawberry reduction along with tobacco leaf, minty anise, crushed lavender, a hint of meat, mineral tones and a touch balsamic. The finish is fruity and the acidity is well integrated leaving a long aftertaste, but with nice freshness for a 14+ percent red. I tasted the sample bottle over the course of three days and it just got better and better with each sip, these are entreating wines. Drink this lovely wine over the next 3-5 years, I am hoping Le Miccine will be more available in the USA soon, now it is hard to find, and I’m grateful to Paula Papini Cook for sending the samples, so I could try her wines, so if any importers are listening, you should check out Le Miccine!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 13, 2014

2011EpochEstate2011 Epoch, Estate Blend, Proprietary Red, Paso Robles.
Epoch (Pronounced “Epic”) Wines is a recently established star in the California wine scene and these unique cuvees are some of the most compelling and alluring all California wines out there, made by one of the best young winemaking teams headed by Jordan Fiorentini and consultant Justin Smith of Saxum fame, you must give credit to owners Bill and Liz Armstrong, they’ve spared no expense and put total faith and belief in their terroir, vision and style and it has paid off. The 2011 Estate Blend is made of 37% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 19% Mourvédre,10% Tempranillo and 6% Counoise coming from Epoch historic Paderewski Vineyard and their newest site Catapult Vineyard, it was raised in concrete, stainless and bins, aged about a year and a half in French oak, half new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered, without question this has to be considered one of the 2011’s vintage most successful wines, especially in its price class. The Estate Blend is an energy filled expression of westside Paso, it has wonderful full flavors, elegantly refined tannins and structure and focus with lush fruit, spice, texture and depth all unfolding with style and charm, it has elements that remind me of Linne Calodo, Saxum, Torrin, Law Estates and Booker some of the heroic wines of the region, and Tablas Creek one of the pioneers of Westside Paso Robles which is seeing some of the most innovative wines in the state. If you were going in search of a great 2011 wine, Epoch would have to be at the top of your list, it is truly epic and terrific, it arts with black fruits, pepper, violets and spring flowers, almost like a Chateauneuf du Pape, it has a lavish palate of boysenberry, baked cherry, blueberry compote, raspberry and plum fruits with vanilla spice, white pepper, lavender oil, black licorice, soy/balsamic notes, crushed stones, chalk dust, game and saline, making for a incredible pleasing experience and a darkly rich wine that is full and loaded with glorious texture and life. The new Epoch Estate Blend is an over achiever and one very sexy red, drink now and for the next 5 to 7 years.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day April 12, 2014

2011RidgeCS2011 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
One of the vintage’s best secrets and surprises the Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Monte Bello Vineyard is a truly glorious and elegant wine, made from a classic Bordeaux blend, 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and weighs in at 13% alcohol. This new release from Ridge is from what can be considered a difficult if not bad year for most of California, but as per normal here at Ridge it made one of the best wines of the vintage in this trying growing period, there is just something special about Monte Bello and against all odds and common sense, we end up with a remarkable wine to cherish. The 2011 has a Pauillac meets Margaux feel, there is the firmness and black fruit that almost remind you of Pontet-Canet and the lush polish of Margaux, but cliches are not completely honest in this pure California red, it shows density, finesse and rich detail plus open fruit drinkability that Bordeaux doesn’t usually give and that California is famous for. The nose is complex with dark fruit, crushed stone, violet/acacia flowers and loamy earth with hints of toast/smoky char and graphite leading to a medium bodied palate of blackberry, dark currants, cherry and plum fruits with touches of licorice, sage, vanilla and savory elements along with cigar wrapper and bitter chocolate and a lingering finish of creme de cassis. This Cabernet certainly stands out in it’s price class and for the vintage, it has everything you’d expect from Ridge and is finely crafted and shows freshness throughout with soft tannins and juicy acidity, the Merlot adds some plump, while the other grapes add interest, look for this suburb Cabernet to fill out a bit more in bottle over the next year or so, but drink young, best from 2015 to 2020. I can’t wait to see how good the legendary Monte Bello is, especially as this is so good, I love just about everything coming out of Ridge these days and 2012 looks to be a blockbuster year, the future is looking great for one of California’s most prized wineries, bravo.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive