Monthly Archives: October 2014

Wine of the Day October 21, 2014

2012SandlandsSoberanes2012 Sandlands, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua’s own label Sandlands is gaining traction and this new set of releases are stunning, especially the Soberanes Syrah which is showing the true potential and character of this Pisoni farmed vineyard. Tegan is the head vineyard manager and winemaker for Turley Cellars and has a true gift for old vines and unique varietals, this a hard working talented winegrower and under his own label Sandland he explores a more delicate and raw style of crafting his wines, though all the latest wines are full of flavor, deep in profile and wonderfully poised and balanced. This 2012 Soberanes Syrah from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands is a cool climate, northern Rhone style wine, it is stunningly terrific with violets and pepper on the nose, blueberries, boysenberry, tangy currant/cassis and juicy plum fruits to start the palate along with hints of sage, licorice, chalky/stones, briar, bacon/cured meat, cedar and black olives, finishing long and with a lovely play of sweet and savory on the aftertaste. This expressive and intriguing Syrah (only 13.2% Alcohol) is full of intensity, vibrancy and vigor, but still gives fine detail and finessed class, of all the great Syrah coming from this site, this has shown the most harmony and should age wonderfully for another 3 to 5 years and beyond. Tegan Passalaqua’s Sandlands wine are a must find, don’t miss this one if you are a Syrah fan, and the this whole cluster, native yeast, Alban clone version from Soberanes is a star, an impressive example of winemaking, site and vintage!
($48 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day October 20, 2014

2013VissouxBeaujolais2013 Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, Cuvee Traditionnelle, France.
Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Vissoux old vine Beaujolais is a Gamay wonderland and one of the best non Crus I’ve ever tried, this is serious and beautiful wine that offers joyous fruit and intriguing complexities. The 2013 Pierre-Marie Domaine du Vissoux Cuvee Tradittionnelle Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes starts with a deep garnet/purple hue that shines brilliantly in the glass, with a opulent palate of fine detail and subtle density displaying black cherry, plum, blackberry, strawberry and sweet currant along with hints of pepper, minty/anise, walnut oil and salted/chalk stones. Made with organic grapes and low sulphur, Pierre-Marie Chermette is hand crafting his wines in the style of Lapierre, Foillard, Julien Sunier and others that have made Beaujolais a worthy companion to Burgundy and a fantastic world class region. This wine especially is a fabulous value, richly flavored, transparently spun and gloriously delicious, this is a Gamay of class and finessed charms, don’t miss this one if you are a fan of this varietal, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day October 19, 2014

2012AlfredoMaestroTinto2012 Alfredo Maestro Tejero, Tinto Castrillo de Duero, Spain.
Coming from 70+ year old Tinto Fino (100% Tempranillo) grown at elevation on clay, loamy soils in Burgos, Ribera del Duero from a single vineyard parcel called La Ladera using all natural techniques and about 20% whole cluster in fermentation. I always am drawn to this wine and have been a fan for many years now, this is special stuff from a great guy and super winemaker. A Ribera del Duero, though because of his rebellious nature, Alfredo Maestro chooses not to label it as such after lengthy arguments with Ribera del Duero rule makers, but if anything that even makes this wine even more interesting and noteworthy. Alfredo follows his own path and passions in making his natural wines and should be admired for crafting wines of unique distinction and quality, and this Tinto, made from very old all organic Tempranillo vines and no new wood is beautiful, detailed and rich in flavor. The nose is spice and plumy with red fruits, figs and cedar notes leading to a palate of dark cherry, blackberry and currant fruits with licorice and English toffee notes. This lush and refined Tempranillo is graceful, with smooth tannins, round texture and a lengthy finish.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day October 18, 2014

2013VenierCheverny2013 Christian Venier, Cheverny, Les Hauts de Madon, Loire Valley Red, France.
This crisp and spicy loire red is lovely and fresh with tangy red fruits, lifting acidity, mineral notes and soft fine tannins, making for a stylish and easy drinking wine. Christian Venier’s Cheverny is a cuvee of Gamay and Pinot Noir from near his home in Madon, and this pretty wine was completely new to me, a big thanks to Stevie and Josiah at Oakland’s cool wine store and wine hangout Bay Grape for turning me on to this one, I love it and will be getting a few more bottles for sure. It is funny, as I get more wine than I can go through, and certainly can never begin to make notes for them all, but sometimes you just need something different to enjoy for yourself, and this wine really hit the spot, this is really delicious and interesting. At 12% is was very enjoyable and I was able to have a few glasses and still have plenty of energy, it shows strawberry, cherry and plum fruits along with peppery spice, a hint of chalk and saline plus tea, cinnamon and violets. This Gamay/Pinot is very quaffable and is great with food, lighter fare especially, it is not overtly fruity and while brisk at first sip, opens nicely and turns delightfully smooth and more complex with air. More Gamay comes through in the glass, but the Pinot structure and brightness stays start to finish, this is a name to watch for wonderful drinking vibrant and vivid Loire wine, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($21 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day October 17, 2014

Lovamor2013 Alfredo Maestro, Albillo “Lovamor” White, Castilla y Leon, Spain.
This rare varietal, Albillo, makes for a unique and interesting white wine, especially in the hands of Alfredo Maestro, a brilliant natural winemaker that uses old vines and a gifted touch to create handcrafted wines near the Ribera del Duero region. The Lovamor white is brisk and full of live and extract showing citrus, chalky minerals, hints of tropical essence and white peach in a tangy dry style with a salty edge. Coming from organic and dry farmed vines, the Alfredo Maestro Albillo made with some skin contact and aged in neutral vats, without sulphur and wild yeast fermentation. These wild vines are between 110 and 120 years old on limestone, giving intensity and regal class to this beautiful and savory white, plus the 6 day skin contact adds a golden color and exotic twist. The finish is surprising long and has spring flowers, dried herbs and orange peel. Alfredo Maestro is one of the best at natural wines in Spain, and his wines really make an impression, you really should check them out, and especially his Tinto’s from old vines, which are mostly Tempranillo, but also some Garnacha from near Ribera del Duero and also the Madrid region, these are lovely expressions of place.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day October 16, 2014

2013EvaFrickeTrocken2013 Eva Fricke, Riesling, Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
Eva Fricke’s basic QbA Trocken is stylish, zippy and dusty dry with yellow peach, lime, grapefruit, green apple and mango notes along with sizzling acidity, mineral tones and salted gravel. A recent glass at the Slanted Door convinced me again, Fricke is a talent to be followed and her wines are chiseled from the soils of her terroir. This fresh and vibrant young Riesling is very charming now with firm serve character and a surprising amount of natural extract, making it a wonderful food wine, but less a fruity sipper, best to pair it up with something enjoyable and take in the subtle nuances, as the wine unfolds in the glass, this is a serious glass of dry Riesling that can match up to almost any food option you can throw at it, including ginger beef! I really am impressed with all of Eva Fricke’s offering for 2013, which was a rather more difficult vintage in Germany, compared to 2012 and 2011, and her wines seem to not have missed a beat, in fact, I think I like the 2013’s a little better at this stage than her 2011 and 2012 wines, those I think need a bit more time to evolve yet. The weathered slate and quartzite earth of her region on the mighty Rhein shine through and the winemaking is focused on intensity and dry quality Rieslings of distinction, drink this Rheingau Trocken from 2015 to 2022.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day October 15, 2014

2012Piedrasassi2012 Piedrasassi, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi label is home to some of California’s most exciting Syrah, and this new vintage, 2012 Santa Barbara County is wonderful and extremely northern Rhone in style, dare I say very Cornas, with deep complexity, stem inclusion and spicy character. While the Syrah is the main focus, Sashi has been experimenting with Sangiovese and a unique skin contact white made from Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino, both of which are interesting and very tasty, as well Moorman makes the Stolpman Vineyards wines, plus his project with Raj Parr, Domaine de la Cote, crafting Pinot Noir. The latest Piedrasassi Syrah starts with blueberry, violets, black olives and dried celery seed and pepper leading to a palate of boysenberry, tangy plum, blackberry and cherry fruits along with mineral, earth and basil/licorice with a hint of cedar and briar. This is thrilling stuff, well judged and with a beautiful dark garnet hue, you can drink it now and or age it a few years, this wine is very worthy of your interest and will deliver an evening of rewarding Syrah. The nice cool climate firmness and non aggressive alcohol and vibrancy really keep the energy and focus, this is top drawer California Syrah, drink from 2015 to 2021.
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day October 14, 2014

2013BowArrowMelon2013 Bow & Arrow, Melon, Johan Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow Wines of Portland, Oregon are a boutique hand craft winery making some wonderfully creative wines that are inspired by the natural wines of the Loire Valley, I have been impressed and entertained by all the efforts I’ve tried to date and highly recommend sampling these innovative wines. Bow & Arrow would certainly feel right at home with Thierry Puzelat and the wines of Touraine, as they make a very nice Cheverny like Gamay and Pinot Noir blend called Rhinestones, as well as straight Gamay and Pinot Noir, again these are done in the Loire style, not trying to be either Beaujolais and Burgundy, plus they do a fabulous Melon, which is a dry salty white, and this could easily pass for a stylish Muscadet Sur Lie. The 2013 Bow & Arrow Melon de Bourgogne is tangy, crisp and mouth-watering zesty with apple, lemon/lime, salted citrus, peach pit and straw. This tightly fresh expression is vibrant, mineral laced and has faint earth, spice and chalk notes making lovely with oysters, light fish and cheese plates, especially good to as a refresher when you want some sting and sharp dry white. This fun light bodied white can be enjoyed now, but I think it will develop some interest in a few years in bottle, maybe filling out with honey tones? It is possible, just like Muscadet, to age a long time, but best to go for it while it’s young. The grapes come from the Johan vineyard, where all the vines are tended biodynamic and lots of care is given, and it was made using traditional/natural techniques, be sure to look for the Bow & Arrow wines, they are wonderful and value priced wines.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Tasting Report: Diamond Creek Classic Flashback

1981DiamondCreekRRT1981 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Rock Terrace, Napa Valley.
Diamond Creek might be Napa first cult single vineyard wine and are wines that seem to age forever without dying, these are the Dorian Grey of California wines! I have been a longtime admirer of Diamond Creek and I am grateful to have met the late Al Brounstein on a few occasions and his wife Boots, and was graced with a wonderful conversation and inspiration, Al was a great person and a visionary, starting his winery near Calistoga on Diamond Mountain back in 1968, and it is a piece of history that sometimes we get lucky enough to taste! I last saw Al and Boots in 2002 at a Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in Napa at the Greystone, and while very much affected by Parkinson’s decease, Al was gracious and warm, I’ll not forget that, and his kindness in chatting to me, and for having Phil Steinschreiber is winemaker pour me barrel samples of his 2001 Cabernets. Over the years I’ve picked up a few bottles of Diamond Creek, these have all been glorious, especially 1985 and 1987, along with 1990 and 1992, but also I’ve been at tasting that had early 1970’s and they were fantastic as well. Getting to the 1981 Red Rock Terrace, I must thank my friend Fred Daniels, it was his bottle we savored over a evening recently at Sens Restaurant in San Francisco, which happens to have a nice selection of Diamond Creek on their list, at remarkably fair prices I might add. I have in the past favored Gravelly Meadow from Diamond Creek, though each of the four single crus (vineyards) Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and the legendary Lake Vineyard, which is only done in the greatest of vintages, are grand wines. The 1981 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace, which we single decanted, started with violets, graphite, a hint of earth and lots of black and blue fruits, this Cabernet has a very Bordeaux like personality and is not too far off Latour or Montrose from a good year, the palate slightly hints at full maturity, but the color is solidly holding to deep garnet and ruby with a black core, this very much impressed me and the texture, layers and detail are all stunning, there’s currant, smoke, blackberry, plum and cherry along with mineral tones, dried flowers, a touch of game and cedar notes. with air the tannins melt away and turn sweet and succulent and hints of tobacco leaf, licorice and subtle vanillin emerge.The 1981 Red Rock Terrace is fabulous and I might say peaking now, it could go a few more years, but I doubt there is much to be gained by waiting in this medium/full bodied California classic. This was a great experience, again lots of thanks to Fred Daniels for bringing this wine out of his cellar and to Peter Steiner, a longtime friend, and wine director at Sens for making it all happen. You can still find Diamond Creek, both young and old at many wine merchants, and there are many good bottles to be had, even on Wine Bid where these older vintages go for reasonable prices.
($100-300 Est.) 97+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive Tasting Report: Dos Lagos Vineyards Fast Forward and Full Throttle

2011DosLagosCab2011 Dos Lagos Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley.
This small boutique producer has been making some full throttle Cabernet Sauvignon for a few years now, and while I think there is lots to admire and it certainly is better than lots of wines in this price class, it was a bit sad to open this bottle so early young), I think it will be much better with a few years of bottle age. Dos Lagos Vineyards, owned by Thomas and Marcie Dinkel, and made by the very talented Robert Foley of Pride and Hourglass fame, has all the right stuff, great fruit, dramatic vines and quality hands guiding it all, the wines are rich, full bodied and with generous French oak, and they are amazingly dark and polished examples of modern fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are remarkably ripe and smooth, but there is loads of fruit density and intensity, this 2011 is much like the prior releases, I had expected the vintage to be somewhat more restrained though it tastes very much like the 2009 version, thickly lush with lots of chocolate, blueberry, blackberry and sweet creme de cassis, in fact it almost oozes out of the bottle and the purple/black hue makes you think of vintage Port. Everything is very lavish and mouth filling, my only complaint is, it is way too soon to drink, I think a much better wine is hiding behind all this bold fruit, especially considering it does has a bit of acidity, and at 14.5% alcohol it is not excessive, that all said, they are plenty of fans of this style that will love it now. The 2011 Dos Lagos tastes like Tim Mondavi’s Continuum, it may even be a better more complete wine in fact, to give a comparison of equals so to speak, and hopefully gives you a better idea of style found here. This 2011 should find itself in 3 to 5 years time and deliver more elegance and detail, patience required, and while there is potential it may not reach the heights that the 2007 Does Lagos Vineyards is now and was capable of and can. This is a very solid hedonistic effort and a pleasant surprise overall, the Dinkel’s commitment and the vineyard team’s hard work paid off here and especially Bob Foley’s talented signature touch as well. With air and swirling this 2011 shows, smoke, pencil lead, cedar, sweet vanilla and even a few savory elements, but this wine is extremely opulent and weighty, drink from 2017 to 2025.
($125 Est.) 91-94 Points, grapelive