2013 Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson, Saint-Romain Rouge, Absolu, Red Burgundy, France.
The latest releases from Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson were soulfully crafted by Frederick “Fred” Buisson, a dynamic youthful winemaker that is going towards a natural style of wine, this is an excellent debut set of Burgundies, specially his classic set of Saint-Romain whites and this “Absolu” red Saint-Romain that was made from organic vines, native yeast fermented and with no sulfur added. It is similar in style to Philippe Pacalet and offers plenty of terroir and whole cluster influence and has lots of verve and spice with layers of red cherry, plum, chalk dust, loamy, cracked pepper and succulent red currants with light floral tones throughout as well as a mineral essence. This wine really grows on you in the glass revealing more charm and Pinot character with air adding hints of cranberry, apple skin, red peach and sweet tea spices. I can imagine Buisson the younger gaining a strong fan base over the next few vintages, there is a lot to admire about about this “natural” red Burgundy and for his traditional set of whites. Only tiny amounts of the production is imported, so this will be a hard get, but worth checking out if you come across it, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($56 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Lower East by Gramercy Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
The Lower East lineup, Syrah and this Cabernet are beautiful wines and great values from Greg Harrington at Gramercy, they offering amazing richness and detail for the money and are stylish reds from Washington State. The 2013 Cabernet is lush and round with loads of red and black fruits, but still has some serious vigor, thick texture, intensity and focus with ripe/sweet tannins as well as a long finish, this is some good stuff, honestly it would be difficult to find a wine of this quality in Napa Valley under $75 to 100! I’m a huge fan of all the Gramercy Cellars wines, from his Picpoul and Rhone style red blends to his lovely Syrahs and powerful Cabernet, I recommend you try all of Harrington’s stuff, but this Lower East Cabernet Sauvignon is a great place to start. The Lower East Cabernet starts with a hint of smoky wood, red berries, light floral tones and sweet licorice leading to a layered palate of blackberry, tangy currants, cherry and juicy plum fruit with notes of cassis, vanilla, stony earth, dried tobacco/cigar wrapper and sexy violet/acacia flowers and blueberry that linger on and on with a lift of smooth acidity and just enough grip tannin to let you know this wine has structure and poise. This full-bodied wine impresses and pleases the senses, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years, though I’m sure it will reward a decade in the cellar as well, have with BBQ, grilled meats and or mushroom dishes, 2013 is a vintage to stock up on!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Corte Sant’Alda, Ca’ Fiui, Valpolicella DOC, Veneto Italy.
The wonderfully aromatic and delicately flavored all natural Corte Sant’Alda Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella is a perfumed joy in the glass with light layers of dark fruits, mineral and exotic spices. Native yeasts and low sulfur make this pretty blend of Corvina Grossa, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara really stand out and shine brightly with a heady nose full of rose petals, rose oil and sticky lavender. The hue is dark ruby with a blueish core and while light to medium in body there is beautiful detail, ripe mouth feel and vitality in this stylish and charming Valpolicella. Black cherry, plum, crushed flowers lead on the palate along with bright herbs, peppery spice and a hint of red peach flesh, this is similar to Cru Beaujolais in style/weight and finishes with dry stoniness, minty herb and tangy acidity. Corte Sant’Alda makes a gorgeous Soave as well, and I can’t wait to try their more complete lineup in the future, both the wines I tried had an inner beauty and energy that was quite captivating and sensual, especially this Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella, imported by Portovino Imports/Regal Wine Co. Drink this lovely red over the next 3 to 5 years, this is impressive and a winery to look for.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett, Rudesheimer Klosterlay, Rheingau Germany.
The wonderfully aromatic and lively Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett delivers fresh and vibrant flavors that reflect the terroir and vintage perfectly with pretty white rose petal, green apple, tangy melon, lime and light tropical notes with a hint of dried honey, wet stones and a touch of salty loam. The sugar level never intrudes and while there is a kiss of sweetness this is a pleasingly balanced Riesling that is easily quaffed. The Klosterlay is not as intense as Rudesheimer Berg, but it’s mix of loess, clay and dusting of quartzite and weathered slate makes for an interesting mix and allows this fun Riesling to have a core of seriousness and vigor, as well as being forward and charming in style, the balance of acid, sugar and mineral elements are really dialed in. This is quality stuff from Johannes Leitz, who has a brilliant lineup of wines on offer including two fine sparkling wines, a Riesling Sekt and a Pinot Noir Rose, some fine Trockens, Grand Cru and Village, and some off dry beauties like this one, as well as his fantastic Rudesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels Terrassen and the sexy Dragonstone. Johannnes’ Spatlese and Auslese bottlings are legandary and should grace a few cellars! Look for a nice long drinking window on this Klosterlay Kabinett, though alluring now, it should develop nicely for 3 to 5 years picking up stone fruit and secondary layers and last another 12 to 16 years no problem.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, 3-D Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Greg Brewer’s lineup of Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are spectacular and deserving of attention, especially with a bit of time on them the 2012’s are showing stunningly well, in particular this gorgeous and complex 2012 3-D Pinot that seems to have really sharpened in focus and come together beautiful over the last 12 months since I last tried it. Brewer went whole cluster and no new oak on his 2012 and 2013 Pinots and this has proved a great success with wonderful vitality, texture and exceptional purity making these wines almost irresistible and alluring. At 14% this 3-D Pinot Noir shows a full bodied mouth feel without any heat or heaviness, in fact it’s come into almost perfect harmony with graceful lines and layers of seamless details and has a good lively nature and spiciness. The nose is full of red fruits, rose petal and exotic spices leading to an ultra silken palate of raspberry, cherry, plum, pomegranate and strawberry fruits with cinnamon, anise, Thai basil and tea notes. Sensual earthy notes and chalk dust add to the whole in this pleasing Sta. Rita Hills Pinot along with a hint of savory umami elements, mission fig and saline come out with air. This Pinot is entering a magical phase and should entertain and intrigue for another decade with ease. It’s great to see Greg’s Pinots reach the heights of his masterpieces of Chardonnay, of which I am in complete awe of, and have been since first tasting his 2000 Brewer-Clifton Mt. Carmel Chardonnay, to this day it remains one of my top ten California wines of all time!
($79 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Avinyo, Brut Rose, Reserva Cava, Alt Penedes, Spain.
A wonderful pink sparkler that makes for a fun and savvy Valentine’s Day choice, but really this is terrific stuff and quality Cava. From Alt Penedes, the Avinyo Cava made by the Esteve Nadal family is from high elevation vines, it is an estate Cava and this Rose Brut Reserva is all Pinot Noir from free run juice and crafted methode champenoise. The Brut Rose Reserva Avinyo is aged on the lees for 12 months before disgorgement and it has plenty of fine yeasty character along with clear red fruit, tart cherry, strawberry and citrusy notes, spice and mineral. The mousse is rich, but delicate in feel, this is Catalan bubbles at it’s best and most vibrant. Super just sipping away, though even better with cuisine, this beauty goes with just about anything, this Avinyo is a joy in the glass, dry, detailed, fresh and with good length, it is easy to love. Avinyo Cava’s are stylish, especially this Rose, but regular Brut Reserva is super tasty as well, be sure to check them out!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Smith-Story, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County.
The Smith-Story wines are all worthy of searching out and Eric and Alison Story have put together a great lineup of talent behind their wines with the likes of Ross Cobb, formerly of Hirsch and his pal Katy Wilson of La Rue, along with one of Germany’s best and most exciting producers from Ruedesheim in the Rheingau. Cobb and Wilson will really make a huge impact on the California offerings and the 2014 Anderson Valley Pinot is a good insight into how good these wines are going to be in the future. The current lineup includes a lovely pink Pinot Noir rose and dry Riesling from Germany at great prices, plus my favorite their Sonoma Mountain sourced Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc that has the Greystack clone, non musque, which is a delightful and interesting Sauvignon Blanc. The 2014 Smith-Story Sauvignon Blanc has nice ripe citrus, peach, quince, gooseberry and white cherry layers with a core of lemon/lime and cool summer melon along with a touch of tangy herbs, wet stones and a nervy steeliness. In a world of boring $30 Sauvignon Blancs, the Smith-Story stand above and has an almost Alto-Adige kind of feel and excitement to it, like the Terlano, I was impressed, if you are looking for a good and solid value in dry Sauvignon Blanc this will please you. The 2014’s from Smith-Story are all bargains and offer lots of personality, quality and verve for the money, especially the Sauvignon Blanc. All of them are easy to love and drink now, keep an eye out for them, this is a label to watch.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Maxime Magnon, Rozeta, Corbieres Rouge, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Magnon is an all natural producer is the wilds of the Languedoc in Vallee du Paradis and he crafts wines from field blend vineyards in Corbieres. These are beautiful, almost delicate wines, all organic and without the addition of sulfur, he learned his winemaking at the famed Morgon cellar of Jean Foillard and has been mentored also by Didier Barral in Faugeres. Maxime uses native yeasts and used Chassagne-Montrachet barrels to make his wines, the grapes are fermented whole cluster and all are co-fermented, the blend in this gorgeous Rozeta Corbieres is unique with varietals that include Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, but also has Grenache Gris, Macabou and Terret which are grayish and white grapes that add acidity, pigment and are in a way like Cote-Rotie is with the Syrah and Viognier. The soils part a part in the character in Magnon’s wines with limestone and schist adding complexity, mineral and spicy notes to these wonderfully textured and vibrant expressions of terroir. The 2014 Magnon Rozeta Cobieres starts with a spicy floral note, a flinty and rocky element, earth and herbs all coming through on the nose with wild strawberry and vine picked red berries which together also come through on the medium bodied palate as well, along with cracked pepper, cinnamon, raspberry, pomegranate, juicy tart currant and red peach flesh. Hints of sage, lavender, anise and sweet cherries add interest to this easy to love red, there is a nice burst of acidity, mild tannins that form the structure that holds the fruit together to the bright lingering finish. The impression of red plum and mixed flowers stays long after the last sip, this is really sexy unique wine, elegant and exotic, but with an authentic rawness that stays true to place and style, drink this over the next 2 or 3 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Weingut Prieler, Blaufränkisch, Johanneshole, Burgenland Austria.
The beautiful and stylish Prieler Johanneshole Blaufrankisch 2013 reveals the near perfect vintage and terroir expression with layers of blue and red fruits, mineral notes and earthy spices. Georg and his wife Silvia, who has worked at Burgundy’s Domaine Dujac, make some of Austria’s best under the radar wines, with a great lineup of Blaufrankisch, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and a gorgeous Blaufrankisch Rose. This Burgenland estate, like Burgundy, does village wines and single Cru offerings and in certain years such as 2013, which I believe maybe the best year I’ve ever tasted in Austrian wine in my 16 years of reviewing, the basic wines are not too far off the Cru bottlings, this is partitularly true of the 2013 Johanneshole Blaufrankisch, making it an exceptional value. The 2013 Prieler Johanneshole was fermented and raised in large neutral oak cask, where as the Cru wines age in small French Barrique, both are glorious examples of great Blaufrankisch, it is just that for around $20 the Johanneshole is a steal and more ready to drink. The nose has a floral tone and light perfume quality along with black raspberry, wild herbs and olive note leading to a rich and vibrant palate, the thing about 2013 the year is that it delivered wonderful ripe flavors, but gave thrilling acidity and mineral detail, and this shines through in Prieler’s wines, especially in this Johanneshole. The palate gives black cherry, plum, saddle leather, fig, a hint of bacon, tangy red currant and a trace of baking spices, anise, truffle and sensual earthiness. The medium full bodied Blaufrankisch flows with smooth tannins and has the impression of density without heaviness and it balances the sweetness of fruit with lovely savory elements, this is a stunning and expressive red from Prieler, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. Look for this and all the 2013 Prieler wines, the whites are worth looking for in 2013, 2014 and 2015, plus the 2015 Rose is killer!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff Trocken, Riesling, Tonschiefer, Dry Slate, Nahe Germany.
The Donnhoff 2015 Rieslings are going to be out of this world, they look set for a legendary future, especially the trocken wines in this vintage, which will have more depth and richness than the 2014 wines, and they were pretty nice, but 2015 is something special, you can already see it even from the cask samples. The 2015 Estate offerings were amazingly complete and lovely, both the Estate Trocken and the Estate QbA, which is just off dry, showed well, though in particular the 2015 Tonschiefer Trocken Dry Slate Riesling from blocks of fruit from the Oberhauser Leistenberg and it’s sandy slate soils really stood out and will be a fantastic value in dry Riesling when it’s released this late Spring or early Summer. Donnhoff is one of the great estates in the wine world, based in the Nahe, the vineyards are set in an array of gorgeous terrors and it offers a mixed palate of soils from slate to volcanic with areas of sand and loam as well as bits of quartzite and clay, this why Donnhoff can put out so many glorious wines from super dry to Eiswein and each with it’s own character and groove. The 2015 Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling is forward and lush with spicy mineral and brisk vibrancy with tangy lime, quince and subtle tropical notes and zesty wet shale/flinty stoniness as well as classic white peach, apricot and green apple fruits. The nose needs time to develop, but adds rosewater, saline/brine, citrus blossom and almost a white cherry note. The extract is gripping and tangy acidity make this Riesling sing, this is very exciting stuff that will certainly impress on release and age beautifully for a decade and a half easily. Look for this Donnhoff or get your order in on it, this is a wine you are going to want to own, especially at the price, and I cannot wait until this summer to try more of Donnhoff’s 2015 wines, this is a vintage to go nuts on, no question! (Tasted from tank sample)
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive