n.v. Lustau, Almacenista “Vides” Palo Cortado de Jerez, Solera Sherry, Jerez de la Fronterra, Spain.
This Lustau Palo Cortado “Vides” is one of the finest younger dry sherry expressions I’ve ever tasted, and it maybe be the best value in this style available, I know I would be hard pressed to name another that comes even close in the price class! Lustau and Equipo Navazos are really raising the profile of dry sherry and they both are releasing single Bodega offering that are mind-blowing in terms of complexity and quality, and this Palo Cortado especially delivers the goods. The Palo Cortado style means a dry sherry that starts under Flor, similar to fino, then quickly either naturally or on purpose switched into an Oloroso with oxidative aging, though originally thought to have been an ancient, this style has been making a come back, but still rare. The resulting wine is aromatic, nutty and richly detailed with weight on the palate, but with the vitality of an Amontillado, these unique sherries happy naturally only about 1-2% of the time, and this particular Lustau is from a single Bodega “Vides” near the ocean and from lots drawn from 50 Butts (Oak Cask) that average over 15 years. This beautiful Palo Cortado is a golden amber in the glass with a glorious nose of burn oranges, dried flowers, sea breezes, almond oil and pecans leading to a lavish palate of much the same with warm silkiness, verve and finesse, it is rich in the mouth, but still focused and crisp, nearly perfect with nice cut and length, this is heavenly stuff. The saline rich, chalky soils help the Palomino grapes express the terroir and the Vides Palo Cortado captures everything in the bottle and while fortified past 17% this dry and lovely sherry feels light and is easy to enjoy, it is great with rustic soups, sardines, cured meats and cheeses, be sure to search this wonderful Lustau out.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez, Vina de Martin “Os Pasas” Ribeiro Blanco, Spain.
The Rodriguez Vazquez wines are some of the best in Spain, this tiny producer in Galicia is one of the great secrets of Europe and in particular Luis Rodriguez’s whites are gorgeous expressions of terroir and style, they have very similar qualities as some of the iconic white Burgundy legends. The 2013 Vina de Martin Os Pasas is a blend of Treixadura, Albarino, Torrontes and Lado grown on granite and sandy soils and come off small plots farmed mostly organic around the town of Arnoia in Galicia, the wine is fermented in the old cellar using native yeast and is raised in large French oak, mostly neutral, though the Os Pasas is aged in stainless vats and the wine stays on the lees for about a year. The Albarino gives the wine vigor and dynamic acids, mineral tones and clarity while the Treixadura gives soft layers, delicacy and little extra sex appeal, the rest of the varietals add complexity to the Os Pasas. The 2013 is lovely, fresh and vibrant in every way, this is wonderful wine with a steely sense and fine detail showing white flowers, vivid mixed citrus, green apple and light peach notes along with wet stones, saline, a hint of tropical fruit and tangy lime on the crisp finish. There is a filling out with air and the palate expands, but everything remains tightly focused and refined and subtle hazelnut, earth and stone fruit linger on the aftertaste, this is very stylish white, drink this over the next 5 to 7 years, best from 2016 to 2022. It was a pleasure to meet Luis Rodriguez Vazquez and taste his latest lineup of wines, all of which are highly entertaining and impressive, a big thank you to his import, Jose Pastor and Farm Wines, as well as Aatxe Tapas Bar on Market, especially Sam (Aatxe) for such an awesome evening, it was an honor to see Luis, and Pedro Guimaro as well, Galicia is certainly a magical place!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren Rose, Cru Classe, Cotes de Provence, France.
The ultra traditional Clos Cibonne Rose made from the rare and native Tibouren grape is a year round and cellar worthy pink that delivers impressive depth and style. Tibouren is an ancient varietal that has little natural pigment, but works well in long lived Rose, it was the main red grape in the Provence region until the late 1800’s when they brought in and or planted more of the now famous Mourvedre, Cinnsault and Grenache, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon even, but Tibouren makes a wonderful wine and is still cherished and championed in the area, especially by Clos Cibonne. The Tibouren also makes a pale red wine and Clos Cibonne’s is a great example, for the wine geeks out there it is a must have wine, like the Jura’s pale Poulsard grape, but the Rose is very serious stuff and in particular this 2013 Clos Cibonne, which spends extended time on the lees and aged an extra year, mostly in old cask. This Cru Classe, one of the original 18 historic Crus of Provence, Rose of Tibouren excites from the first glimpse with it’s beautiful pinkish/orange hue, it is gorgeous in the glass and the palate is just as striking with subtle fruitiness, cool mineral tones, leesy mouth feel and mix of sweet and sour herbs, dried flowers and savory spices. This textured Rose has round tart cherry, wet stones, earth, watermelon, a hint of caramel, dusty lavender, rose water with a strawberry/cranapple finish and lingering chalk, saline, red citrus and light baking spice. This is a very sexy pink wine with vivid transparency, good focus, acidity and old school charm, and while not always easy to locate, you should grab it when you see it, drink the 2013 between 2015 and 2018. This is a year round Rose, great for all seasons and any cuisine!
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Jean-Francois Ganevat, Chardonnay “Les Chalasses” Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Jura, France.
The Ganevat Jura wines are to the Jura as Raveneau is to Chablis, these are iconic wines and masterpieces of style and terroir, especially riveting is the Jean-Francois Ganevat Les Chalasses Chardonnay from old vines, planted in 1902, yes this is from well over a hundred year old Chardonnay vines, and it has the presence of a Grand Cru Burgundy. While Ganevat makes a huge range of wines and in traditional and modern Jura styles, everything is crafted with passion and all are deeply detailed and entertaining wines, though I prefer the non-oxidized cuvees which excite with brisk acidity and mineral notes and are ever changing in the glass, and I am also thrilled with his rare lees aged Savignin which is hold ten years before release, that one I tried was the 2002 and it was one of the best white wines I can remember. The 2012 Jean-Francois Ganevat Chardonnay Les Chalasses Vieilles Vignes starts like Grand Cru Chablis, I liken it to Les Clos, with steely lime, white flowers, river stones, brisk acidity and powerful structure, this is serious stuff, you know instantly you have something really special in the glass, it is remarkably sensitive to temperature and will certainly fill out in the glass with air, cool it shines like a diamond and has sharp edges, as it warms it gathers intensity and girth with exotic layers unfolding, this Chardonnay is completely mind-blowing! A full range of flavors cascade on the palate with apple, pear, lemon and white stone fruits, saline, chalk and spice adding complexity with earth, golden fig and hazelnut also shinning through, it is stunning throughout and proves the Jura has the terroir to compete with the best and Ganevat joins the elites in Kermit Lynch’s Imports impressive portfolio of great Chardonnays. I can imagine even greater things coming from this wine, though pricey for Jura, it is a steal in it’s quality class, this rare Chardonnay is worth searching out and I would cellar a few bottles, a re-visit in 5 or 10 years looks very rewarding. I tasted this beauty from three different bottles and it was absolutely spectacular from each, amazingly so, consistent and vivid, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($55 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Broc Cellars, Zinfandel, Vine Starr, Sonoma County.
Chris Brockway’s post modern winemaking approach, going for juicy flavors and low alcohol (this 2014 has only 12.8%) shows considerable success in his Vine Starr Zinfandel that is both new and a throwback style, a hearty red that shows dynamic fruit and rustic charm with lifting fresh acidity. The latest release shines with pure raspberry, tart cherry and tangy plum fruits, chewy tannins and cedary spices, it was fermented with natural yeasts and aged in neutral well seasoned French barrels. As a fan of Brockway’s Berkeley based urban winery I find this vivid lighter style Zin refreshing and full of charm with lots of appeal and even better with food, it finishes with an entertaining play of pepper, sage, minty herb/licorice and currant coulees. Best to decant if drinking now, a little patience required here, this young wine will gain with a bit more time in bottle, best from 2016 to 2021.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Quinto do Regueiro, Alvarinho Reserva, Moncao e Melgaco, Portugal.
One of the best white wine deals around, I adore the Regueiro Alvarinho (Albarino) from Portugal is an intense and lazar sharp wine with Riesling like energy and old vine character. Regueiro has a unique Alvarinho clone, taken from their 200 year old own rooted old parcel of vines and this adds to the complexity and soul of the wine. The Regueiro Alvarinho starts with bright citrus, leesy brioche, spicy mineral and a mix of white flowers and sea breeze leading to a vivacious palate of lime, unripe green apple, white peach and mango fruits, riveting mouth watering acids plus a subtle underlying density which comes through in the glass, finishing with a lavish flourish and lingering stone fruit, chalk dust and river stones. Quinto do Regueiro’s Alvarinho Reserva is a gem, a wonderful white wine and a great deal, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($16 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Doniene Gorrondona, Txakoli, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain.
Facing the sea in the historic Basque region of Northern Spain, Gorrondona makes some wonderful old vine wines in the Bakio Valley, especially their brisk and energy filled white Txakoli made from Hondarribi Zuri. This zesty and vibrant white has Chablis like steely qualities with chalky stones and eye popping lime notes along with searing acidity and offers wonderful low alcohol refreshment. The property is tiny, only about 15 hectares sloping towards the Cantabrian Sea, it is a rocky and sandy site and includes a parcel of pre-phylloxera vines that date back to about 1852, but might be even older. The ocean influence and cool climate really show in the wines, in particular the white Hondarribi Zuri grape picks up the saline and brine and makes this Txakoli perfect with oysters, clams and mixed seafood and native cuisine. This wines here at Gorrondona all made with natural yeasts, all organic grapes and reflect the passion and sense of place, these are terroir driven and dynamic wines, these are lovely wines both the white and their Tinto that takes a bit like a fine Cabernet Franc. The white is vivid, delicately pale and offers the mentioned lime along with white flowers, river rocks, salt lick, green apple, tangerine and hint of basil like herb with a very light and mouth watering body. Drink this electric white wine over the course of the next year or so, best young and fresh, one of the top Txakolinas out there, look for it!
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Ameztia, Irouleguy Rose, France.
For me the 2014 Ameztia Rose, a late comer in the Rose season, is one of the coolest pink wines of the year and is perfectly timed with our extra warm indian summer weather here in California, plus as a bonus it is substantial enough and brawny enough to handle fall cuisine. Made from all biodynamic grapes and fermented using native/natural yeast this Tannat and Cabernet Franc based pink has some stuffing and power, while remaining refreshing and vibrant, it glistens with beautiful color in the glass and lively pop in the glass with spice, mineral and zippy acidity, with bright fruit essences and a tannic grip. The nose is stoney with citrus, wild berry and steely tones and a hint of peppers leading to a refined clear palate of zesty red citrus and peach, strawberry, watermelon, sour cherry, rose water and chalk dust with a bit of earth, cranberry, red apple skin, minty herbs, pepper and savory/bitters. Domaine Ameztia’s Irouleguy Red, also Tannat and Cabernet Franc, and Irouleguy White made from Petit and Gros Menseng are also vigorous and expressive examples that deserve merit and attention too, both are fine efforts. This is one of the most terroir driven pinks of the year, fun and very geeky, it has a great package, is pleasure and offers a unique view of the French Basque region, drink from 2015 to 2017.
($23 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Granja Remelluri, Rioja, Gran Reserva, Labastida de Alava, Spain.
In the few short years since Telmo Rodriguez returned to his family’s Alavesa estate, some of the highest vineyards in the region, he has turned Remelluri into the jewel of Rioja, but also moved Remelluri from the mainstream and created it as a cru on it’s own, making it unique and separate from their peers. Influenced by his experiences making wine from different regions, both in Spain and in France, and especially his spell at Rhone legend Jean-Louis Chave, Telmo’s wine are now expressions of site and he has made Remelluri an icon, similar to Chateau Haut-Brion or Pontet-Canet in Bordeaux or his mentor Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, he has also moved away from historical varietal definition and almost always refuses to talk about the grapes and make up his whites, he believes completely in terroir above varietal make up in his wines. The La Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva is from the oldest plots at Remelluri, all the grapes for this cuvee were hand selected in the vineyard, harvested alone and into small box/bins and made completely separately from the other wines, fermented in tank and large vat with native yeast and raised in mostly neutral barrels, both American and French oak were used and the wine was aged 27 months before bottling and rest until now for release. The old vines at Remelluri include Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano, this we know for sure, but exactly what was used here is a mystery though the Tempranillo seems to play the biggest role in this wonderful and amazing wine, most likely suppling the guts and soul in this Rioja Gran Reserva. Telmo has told me that over time he plans to add as many as 11 red varietals to his vineyards and he has been researching grapes that may have had traditional use in the area prior to Tempranillo becoming the main force in Rioja, this looks like an exciting project in the future, but in the meantime we can enjoy Telmo’s gifted touch and in particular the Remelluri estate offerings and the second line of purchased fruit bottlings now known as Lindes de Remelluri, these are some of the greatest value wines in the world. The 2009 Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva fills the glass with a brilliant ruby and garnet hue and has aromas of spice box, sandalwood and earthy berry fruits leading to a deep palate of textural pleasure and mature flavors with plum, black cherry, currant and mulberry fruits, along with mixed spice, graphite, cigar wrapper and dried flowers, finishing rich, sweet and savory with baking spices, cedar and refined tannin. The aftertaste is long and will take you places that certainly could be called heavenly, there is a real sense of greatness, with the same feelings you find when tasting wines like Rousseau Chambertin or Chateau Margaux for example, such is the quality and character of Remelluri’s Ganja Remelluri Gran Reserva! Drink this beauty over the next 15 to 20 years, this is truly world class wine, absolutely remarkable, graceful and with hidden depths, energy and passion, drink from 2016 to 2029.
($95 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
1995 Domaine Huet, Vouvray “Cuvee Constance” Sweet Loire Valley White, France.
The Cuvee Constance is a monument to great Chenin Blanc, and this amazing sweet nectar is as good as anything from Sauternes, Tokaji or TBA’s from Germany or Austria, it is without question a masterpiece with waves of pleasure, delicacy and grace. It was a fantastic treat to have a small collector pull this price from his cellar and share, and for which I’m truly grateful, it showed remarkable poise, character and depth, and it was even more special as it was a magnum and shared with a tight group of colleagues, it light up the table in a golden glow that’s for sure! This bottle, while stored well, did show a few signs of leakage and had a very wet and decaying cork, it was really perfect timing with this one, as it was reaching a now or disappointment zone, but thankfully all was good and it blew everyone away. The 1995 Cuvee Constance by Huet, as poured greedily into rather big Riedels, woke in the glass with a deep amber color with golden edges and a honeyed scent lifted up along with orange marmalade, lemon curd and peach as wells a muted floral note and earthy tone before the first sip. The mouth feel is rich and lush, but with still a lot of vibrancy and the palate is detailed and focused with apple tart, yellow peach, tangerine, candied citrus rind, baked pear and dried honeycomb as well as pineapple, truffle, wet stones, caramel custard, vanilla and decaying rose petals. There is a maturity and an autumn twilight sense about this vintage, but I can see it aging another 10 years easy, but it is really at a good point now, never easy to find, this glorious Chenin should be on any wine lovers bucket list.
($N/A 1.5L Magnum) 95 Points, grapelive