2013 Ryme “Crackling Carignane” Pétillant-Naturel Sparkling Red Wine, Testa Vineyard, Mendocino.
Ryme Cellars is the husband and wife project by Ryan and Megan Glaab, both immensely talented winemakers with an amazing background in wine, even at such young ages and Ryme reflects that, it’s a young winery with an old soul, tasting their wines is a thrilling experience. They make a wide range of wines with no dogma or fashionable pretense, from Aglianico to “His” and “Hers” versions of Vermentino, these are wines of the earth, organic, natural and made with love of California terroir, but of old world (ancient) character, in other words they are a modern throwback with native yeasts, low sulfur, well used seasoned wood (neutral French) and without fining or filtration, with many of the reds fermented whole cluster and with stems and some of the whites seeing skin contact. That brings us to this wonderfully sensual and earthy old vine Carignane Pét-Nat sparkling red wine, a wine that has similarities to a robust Lambrusco, but deeper and more textural with vibrant tiny bubbles and zesty fizz, this is one of the most serious and impressive Pét-Nats I’ve every tasted, Megan explained that they left the dark Carignane on it’s lees for two years, which certainly added the complexity and depth, and while most opt for light and charming in Pét-Nat, Ryme is more like a cross of rustic Lambrusco from Emilia in Italy and Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, though the style is unique, highlighting the varietal and California origins. Dark berries, woodsy mushrooms, dried flowers and crisp spices lead away in this robust food craving sparkling red, it even has a meaty layer to go with plum, blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruits. Lingering currant, anise, porcini and pepper notes shine through and are lifted by the natural acidity and the soft bubbly mouse. This brilliant and joyous dry Crackling Carignane Pét-Nat should be served with an intense range of food, a spicy charcuterie plate, Turkish lamb or grilled meats and friends, especially as it is only available in pop-top big bottles!
($60 Magnum Only) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Brick House, Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The latest Gamay from Brick House rocks! Without question one of the most beautiful and complex Gamay wines in America, and it really comes close to Foillard and Lapierre level of enjoyment, this is a blockbuster vintage for this wine. The Willamette Valley with it’s maritime and volcanic soils create a special terroir for Gamay and this Brick House 2014 drinks wonderfully with silky Pinot Noir like texture and detail with delicate perfume, mineral spice and a mix of cool blue fruit and bright red fruit all coming together in a gorgeous example of this varietal. Doug Tunnell’s estate Gamay now includes a secret new Cru Beaujolais clone in the mix along with his heritage Gamay Noir old vines, which they say is giving added layers, but regardless this is sleek and stylish stuff with just enough earth tones and savory notes to balance the ripe fruit core, this is a class act from start to finish. The start is a bit flamboyant, as you’d expect from a near perfect vintage, with sweet florals and vivid fruit and a sexy ruby hue glittering in the glass leading to a lengthy and refined palate with satiny tannins, poised acidity and deep flavors including black cherry, strawberry, dusty plum and blueberry along with a hint of porcini, flinty pepper, walnut/cedar and zesty anise/fennel. This will not be an easy find, but worth the search and every penny, this is lovely and highly seductive wine, Gamay has well and truly lost any stigma and has been complete released from it’s chains of perception to take it’s place as one of the great grapes of the world, free at last, drink this gorgeous Brick House 2014 over the next 3 to 10 years!
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Brundlmayer, Langenloiser Rosé of Zweigelt, Austria.
It’s the season of Rosé and here’s another must have pink for summer, the Brundlmayer Rosé from near Kamptal on the Danube is a bright and focused wine that offers stylistic pleasures and is unique. The 2015 Langenloiser Rosé starts with delicate rosewater, lavender and distilled raspberry essences leading to a vibrant and fresh palate of sour cherry, summer melon and strawberry fruits lifted by mineral, wet stone, chalk and a wave of mixed citrus including ruby grapefruit as well as pithy stone fruit. This light and zesty Rosé is wonderfully refreshing and tangy with austere charm and is just easy to quaff, showing an understated confidence and Brundlmayer refinement. Vincent Brundlmayer is one of the leading lights in Austria’s youth movement and his wines are some of the finest in Europe, the Gruners and Rieslings are stunning, as are Brundlmayer’s glorious sparkling wines, especially the Brut Rosé, which ranks way up there with top grower producer fizz, plus Vincent does an intriguing Cabernet Franc and a gorgeous old school Pinot Noir. Brundlmayer is a winery to search out, and this Rosé is great place to start!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken Estate, Deidesheim Pfalz, Grermany.
The basic Von Winning Trocken is one of the best kept secrets in the wine world, this intense un-adorned pure Riesling is a killer wine with power, tangy freshness and Von Winning class, you’ll want to stock up on this wine, especially the highly charming 2014. While the Cru wines here are utterly awe inspiring and among the finest wines from Germany, this Estate Trocken has a more more raw and vibrant personality with tangy/bitter stone fruit, vivacious citrus and steely Chablis like minerality leaning on zesty lime, spiced pear, hints of chalky earth, river stones, green melon, mango and white tea. This is saline rich and almost violently dry, but oh so good with plenty of extract and inner perfume with wild roses, white flowers and lemon oil adding to the complexity in this brisk white. For those looking for a bit of sugar or creaminess, this is not your wine, this wine is really Trocken and hits like an electric fence! For a bit more fruity you should check out Von Winning’s slightly off dry “Winnings” Riesling, also a stunning value with a softer impression, but those that dig on serve with love this Estate Trocken, it is so bright and vivid, I almost crave it, a must have for summer. The Von Winning estate Trocken is a great starting point to understanding the dry style Rieslings and is the entry into the glorious world of Pfalz sandstone terroir!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Baker Ranch Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
The absolutely beautiful 2013 Anthill Farms Baker Ranch Pinot is one of my favorite of the vintage with everything you could ask for in a medium bodied vibrant wine with heady perfume, energy, lacy fruit and stylish grace. While the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages were solid performers, this 2013 takes it to another level with gorgeous underlying texture and silky long length, while still being vital and vigorously complex with highly entertaining layer after layer, definitely one of the best yet from Anthony Filiberti and the team at Anthill Farms. On a side note, it will be intriguing to see how Filiberti does at Hirsch Vineyards after he gets settled in there, and if you can’t get get enough of Anthill Farms, be sure to check out Anthony’s Knez wines, they are very compelling as well. The Baker ranch 2013, from a plot of sandstone on a steep grade not far from Philo, starts with alluring wilted roses, raspberry and delicate mineral tones with light slightly clouded ruby hue in the glass and deep black cherry, plum, strawberry and tangy red currant fruit around which revolves hints of cinnamon, dusty earth, spiced tea with juicy acidity keeping everything fresh and light on the palate. This is fresh, lower alcohol style, and exciting Pinot Noir is crafted with care and talent using native yeast and mostly used french barrels, it also shows touches of blood orange, red peach, cedar, wild anise and just a trace of toast/vanilla that adds to the whole balanced feel, everything flows with focus and finesse, gaining a real presence and depth with air. This is very impressive and seductively lovely now, but should be even more rewarding in 3 to 5 years time, best from 2018 to 2026.
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Umathum “Rosa” Rosé, Burgenland, Austria.
Most known for his deep reds and aromatic whites, Herr Umathum one of Austria’s most cherished producers also crafts his Rosa (Rosé) from a saignée of all organic Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch and Sankt Laurent. The Umathum Rosa is surprisingly vibrant and vivid with a burst of pink grapefruit, tart cherry, watermelon, rosewater, spices, lovely mineral notes and a hint of river stone. The color from the bleed off is pretty with a rich hue which is bright and shiny in the glass, while the wine itself stays vital, charmingly delicate and tangy fresh. This is an impressive showing for this wine and set of grapes, right up there with Brundlmayer, Groiss and Prieler for my favorite Austrian Pinks! Umathum is making a great set of wines, I highly recommend any and all of his collection, especially charming, biodynamic and stylish is the Traminer, one of the best examples of this in Europe, it is wonderfully complex, perfumed and rich with a crisp/dry intensity that is riveting as well as some of the most sought after Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch which are old school, deep and earthy. That all said, I love the Rosa and hope to enjoy more than a few bottles of this Umathum Rosé this summer, it’s full of life, pleasure and is glorious with food, it really hit the spot at a recent lunch at the famed Slanted Door in San Francisco, going perfectly with an assortment of exotic dishes! Drink the Umathum Rosa over the coming 6 months to a year, it will be at it’s best young and briskly fresh.
($20 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2013 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Pisoni’s 2013 Lucia Soberness Syrah is gorgeous and full bodied red from the family’s youngest vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, set over the next ridge from Garys’ Vineyard, but higher up, on a sandy loamy hillside with an almost constant cool breeze. Soberanes just might be the most exciting plot in the Santa Lucia Highlands right now and this Lucia Syrah shows why, it’s a cool site that allows for long hang time and planted with an excellent set of clones, like Alban clone for Syrah, Pisoni clone for Pinot Noir and Wente Clone for Chardonnay, and with more vine age the results look set to be even more spectacular! The 2013 Soberanes Syrah displays a deep intense color, blackish purple with dark garnet edges and reveals a heady perfume of crushed violets and lilacs, smoky embers, black fruits and vivid spices before a palate of dense blackberry, loganberry, creme de cassis/currant and sweet plum fruit along with mocha, minty anise, cracked pepper, cedar, black olive and game. Impressively dense and with glorious mouth feel the Lucia Soberanes Syrah has plenty to admire and graces the senses with elements of Cote-Rotie like class, this is opulent wine, but is has great detail, nice acidity and polished tannins, highlighting it’s well crafted nature and balance, it certainly re-enforces my personal belief that Syrah here is equal to Pinot Noir in quality. With air, nice brambly (stems?) notes, boysenberry, blueberry, lavender and subtle oak linger on the lengthy finish, Pisoni just gets better and more finessed with every vintage, also check out Cattleya, made by Jeff’s wife Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni and Sandlands by Turley’s winemaker Tegan Passalacqua for comparison, these are some of the best Syrahs in California, both also from Soberanes! Recently I tasted this Lucia 2013 Soberanes Syrah next to the same vintage of Clape Cornas and it held it’s own and was nearly on par with it’s old world rival, impressive, drink this complex and pleasing wine over the next 3 to 7 years.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Kabinett, Klostergarten, Mosel Germany.
The transition from father to son at Weingut Carl Loewen is going smoothly and with seamless precision, in fact the 2014 wines might be the best set from this estate, so the future with Christoph Loewen making the wine here in this Mosel estate looks fantastic. Looking back a few years to 2012, a wine overseen by Karl-Josef the father, from the grey slate of Klostergarten, the Kabinett level Riesling crafted from organic vines, it’s a showy vintage and a gorgeous wine with loads of complex fruit and minerality in a ripe, but balanced wine. Rich flavors of golden apple, lemon/lime, apricot, dried honey, rosewater and peaches in syrup play perfectly with vibrant acidity, flinty spices and smoked meat notes in a smart and seriously judged Riesling with exotic dried ginger, tropical essences, white flowers and liquid stones adding to the complexity. While very open and lush the Loewen Klostergarten Kabinett has a core of vigorous extract and power, the sweetness adds grace without being cloying, making this Riesling fantastic with food even dishes you’d want a red wine with! While the 2014’s show more detailed finesse and inner perfume, this 2012 is a more dense and sober style that is just beginning to show it’s impressive layers, this is a winery to watch and look for the 2015’s that should be hitting the market soon, they should be even better still. Drink this 2012 over the next 5 to 7 years, it is great with spicy curry, Thai beef and baked ham, it has subtle and seductive charms with classic Mosel terroir character.
($18-22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Luigi Baudana, Langhe Bianco Chardonnay “Dragon” Piedmonte, Italy.
The Luigi Baudana Dragon Langhe Chardonnay by Giuseppe Vajra is a crisp and delicate expression of place rather than pure varietal wine, given the secret that there’s some Riesling blended in here and that it has more elegance than you’d expect from a Piedmonte Chardonnay with wonderfully mineral driven finesse. I love the beautiful and light detail and graceful focus and vitality in this 2013 Dragon, this is just gorgeous with faint floral tones, wet stones and vibrant citrus and stone fruits, it flows across the palate like a ballet dancer, filtered like a watercolor painting, agile and precise with transparency and style, it keeps your attention and never puts a foot wrong. The nose has orange blossom and steely tones with green apple and a touch of tropical fruit along with a trace of hazelnut before a palate of white peach, pear and lemon/lime framed by lifting acidity and light lessy notes. This light bodied white seduces with it’s elegance and clarity, complexity comes in the form of seashells, golden fig and summer crisp melon with a bit of brine and earth, it does fill out with air, but stays contently subtle and Chablis like, I think it is a terrific value and that the Riesling really makes it more intriguing overall, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, bravo Mr Vajra, this is enticing stuff!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba, Maturana Tinta, Rioja, Spain.
The incredibly rich and dark Vina Ijalba Maturana Rioja is a very hedonistic red that would not be out of place in a top flight of Napa Cabernets! Matron Tinta is a rare native varietal in Rioja and is almost never made as a single varietal wine, the grape has little information of it’s origins, though it is believed to be a distant relation to Cabernet Sauvignon, which when you taste it seems almost certain to be true. Vina Ijalba is know for crafting wonderful value wine and have a glorious array of wines, especially noteworthy are their beautiful Graciano Rioja offerings, but this 2011, a warm and decedent vintage, Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba Maturana Tinta is a standout and is the most powerful and dense wine I’ve ever had from this winery. This thickly textured and opulent red starts with deep creme de cassis, violets and minty dark chocolate with a black cored purple hue in the glass, this is serious stuff, very Ribera del Duero in style with blackberry, plum sauce, sweet smoky vanilla and a mix of anise, coconut oil, sage and tangy dill. At first the wood and sweetness of flavor and ripe tannin hit you hard, but with air and food this wine turns on the charm, it is very seductive, sexy and aggressively pleasing with a lengthy finish that lingers with mocha, tobacco leaf and blueberry compote. Not terribly subtle, but a great wine for the price, it is a perfect wine get a big WOW effect around the table and wonderful with a big steak or with rosemary roasted lamb, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive