2014 Domaine Costal, Chablis, Premier Cru Vaillons, White Burgundy, France.
With the Collet’s and Raveneau consulting, the Domaine Costal Chablis have a lot of talent going into them, and of course the savvy of Kermit Lynch behind the project almost puts it over the top, but they deliver, especially for the price, and this 2014 Vaillons in particular is a beauty with good depth of flavor and mineral steely character. Over the last 5 to 10 years Kermit has developed many value priced labels to help ease the pain of skyrocketing prices in top Burgundy, two of those that have continued to attract bargain hunters are Savary and Costal in Chablis, they are no longer well kept secrets, so you’ll need to get on it early to secure them, with many of the 2014’s selling out. With all the bad news coming out of the region and Chablis especially, hail and frost damage is going to make it hard to keep prices down, the vintage 2014 is a must grab year, before the lean amounts of wine really starts to get severe. For the good news, this 2014 Vaillons from Domaine Costal is a recent release and you should be able to get it, again you should not wait, it is a brilliant effort with striking citrus, white flowers, brisk acidity and solid extract showing lemon, green apple, liquid mineral, river stones and hints of straw, honey and zesty lime. This vigorous Premier Cru fills out on the palate, but stays nice and tension filled with balance and an appealingly pure Chardonnay soul/core throughout with Chablis terroir markers, like flinty spice and tangy crisp detail, light clove, fig and hazelnut play almost out of reach in the background. This well crafted white has control and finesse to really please the hardcore Chablis nuts, it is an alluring wine with a hint of austerity and old fashioned charm, sublime with cuisine and makes for a fine summer sipper. Drink over the next 3 to 5 years, the Domaine Costal Premier Cru Vaillons is a very complete and lovely wine, with very little buyers remorse to worry about!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Sciaccarellu, Rouge Frais Imperial, Corsica.
The young and lush Rouge Frais Imperial from Domaine Comte Abbatucci is an all biodynamic wine made from 100% Sciaccarellu, a native grape that originally came from Tuscany where it is still found though rare, known as Mammolo it was once in many Chiantis and in Vin Nobile and was thought to have been brought to Corsica by the Etruscans, along with the more famous Sangiovese that has now become Niellucciu. The new Abbatucci Rouge Frais Imperial is bright with red fruits, hints of violets and balanced with savory mineral, spice and earth notes to contrast with red cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits that fill the medium-full palate. This pure Sciaccarellu certainly delivers fine drinking pleasure with silken texture, ripe tannins and nice fresh acidity, it has everything for your needs in a fairly direct red that provides enjoyment of terroir and does not need much in the way of time or air to get going in a fun way. This wine can deal with lots of food options and cuisine, it’s focus makes it happy with meat, spicy dishes and hard cheeses, especially sheep cheese, it would make an excellent choice with outdoor meals, BBQ’s and grilling on the deck. You could even put a slight chill on it for warm afternoon picnics. Domaine Comte Abbatucci has a stunning array of wines, and they seem to get better and more complex as I taste each vintage, sometimes I get a bit concerned with the pricing, but the quality is always there throughout the range, especially in this red and the Rose bottlings. Kermit Lynch’s collection of Corsican wines are the elite of the Island with Abbatucci, Leccia and Canarelli leading the way, you should continue to explore these wines or start to, as they really are intriguing examples.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Laurent Combier, Cap Nord, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Rhone, France.
The Cap Nord Saint-Joseph Syrah from Laurent Combier is an organic red made from 20 Year Old vines on north-eastern exposure, hence the name “Cap Nord” and it is a lovely expression of varietal and terroir with it’s granite soils giving mineral complexity and floral notes to go with a pure juicy nature. The 2012 Cap Nord shows cool climate bright acidity with dark fruit and medium weight, fermented using native yeast and aged in large cask highlights the true character of the grape and place with flinty/pepper spice, violets, black raspberry, sweet plum and tart blueberry. Imported by Charles Neal, the Domaine Combier wines are great values and interesting wines with Laurent Combier really coming into his own as a winemaker, be sure sure to also check out his Crozes-Hermitage as well, it is really a bargain, not costing much more than a Cotes du Rhone, but this Cap Nord is in particular a beautiful wine with graceful tannins and easy textures. I enjoy this 2012 Cap Nord a lot and it was especially distinct with cuisine and it really hit the spot for my Syrah craving, I’ll be drink more of this no question and I’ll be following it over the next vintages as well.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru, Clos des Porrets St.-Georges, Monopole, Red Burgundy, France.
The Gouges wines are always a class act, and this 2009 surprises for it’s reserved and elegant character in such a warm vintage, I had expected a bit more weight and fruit, but it was remarkably fine and detailed with stunning mineral tones and subtle layers, it was almost crisp and delicate, while still providing depth and lingering grace. This 2009 Clos des Porrets St.-Georges Monopole is a beauty, a friend and client opened it from their collection of under $100 Burgundies to see where the vintage was going and shared it among a few curious souls, it’s refinement and balance were admired greatly and while not a blockbuster, it impressed and it certainly looks set for a long life, with solid tannins, good acidity and dark fruit intensity. It is as with all Gouges, a bit shy at first, slow to reveal much with an earthy punch to start with, opening to rose petals, graphite, ceps, gravelly loam and bright mineral before a core of black cherry, wild plum and steely currant fruit emerges. Solid, but light to medium weight showing, this is at a stage prior to it gaining back some weight and richness, though still exciting to drink, a nice size glass allows thought and pleasure to unfold, there is a heavenly silkiness that develops and an array of spice, floral tones and light cedar that adds complexity to this Burgundy. Lots of promise to be found here, if you own this bottle, you’ll be very happily rewarded by it’s glorious nature, it’s all Gouges, but be patient, I think another 5 to 10 years will be an ideal waiting period, maybe longer, but who has the time? The Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges offerings are rock solid choices in Burgundy, and remain excellent values, and I’m happy to see my experience with them re-enforces that opinion, this was a real treat and a thrill.
($80+ Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Fazenda Pradio, Mencia, Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
Xabi and Martina Pradio run this small all natural winery in Galicia’s Ribeiro Sacra as well as a guest house and restaurant that highlight their family traditions and respect for their land, the history and terroir. Xabi farms and makes the wines organically, no chemicals or additions are ever used, and like Lapierre in Morgon, Beaujolais, he is using almost no sulphur. The Mencia is fresh, vibrant and alive with flavor and fruit with spice, mineral and lifting acidity, this 2014 especially is an impressive effort with dark fruit at the core and rich medium weight, this is a textured wine that gives a lot for the price. Not as out-right beautiful as Guimaro, but certainly a wonderful expression of this grape and place, you’ll want to find Fazenda Pradio and enjoy the wines. The 2014 Tinto/Red is all Mencia, stainless steel fermented with native yeasts and without any added sulphur, finishing at just above 12% alcohol, this is vivid and expressive Mencia with subtle floral and earth tones that folds into dark cherry, black plum and wild berry on the palate with hints of flinty stones, lavender, pepper and blood orange. Nice bright acidity and satiny tannins hold things in place with traces of anise, strawberry and savory elements adding complexity to this stylish offering from Pradio, drink over the next couple of years, but right now is a great time to enjoy this Mencia.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner “Freiheit” Niederösterreich, Austria.
Nigel’s 2015 Freiheit Gruner is bright, fresh and steely crisp with light body and mineral charms, while not as exotic or extract filled like the 2013, it certainly surpasses the 2014 in pure quality and is a damn good drinker. Followers of Austrian wines are all trying to find the magic again after the highs of the amazing 2013 vintage, and while 2014 was terrible, it was a big let down in comparison, so the pressure was on when it was time to taste the 2015 wines, and expectations were sky high, so look for first reviews to be a bit flat, though the offerings are very good, it is a vintage to buy and enjoy, the wines have solid flavors and concentration with nice ripe tones, they should make for short and mid term agers as well, in some cases they get close to 2013’s, but there is nothing to hold you back from being very happy with them, especially Nigl’s base Gruner Veltliner Freiheit, this is a wonderfully focused and clear style with brisk acidity and zesty citrus layers, perfect for summer and everyday pleasures. The Nigl 2015 starts with lemon, white flowers almond oil and liquid mineral leading to a transparent palate of lime, white peach, light green apple and wet stones. This dry white come alive with food, while feeling slightly severe on it’s own with austere tangy character and traces of earthy loam. Not overly complex in it’s make up, it still holds your attention and does everything asked of it, drink over the next year or two, it has potential to gain a point with a little bottle time, but it is not supposed to be that serious, enjoy and quaff it up young.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Rose de Diel, Nahe Germany.
The Diel Rose de Diel, Rose of Pinot Noir, is a beautiful pink wine that is dry and mineral crisp with wonderful bright flavors and surprising depth, in fact all these 2015 vintage Schlossgut Diel offerings are stunning. Caroline Diel’s latest set of wines show gorgeous detail, life and extract with her dry Rieslings really standing out, but don’t miss a chance to try her Pinot Noir red and this Rose. This Nahe estate is one of the regions best and they have long focused on drier style wines, it has a great sense of place with a unique mix of soils to work with that includes spicy slate, gravel, clay and quartz that gives plenty of ripe character along with mineral essences that lends elegance and length to these wines. The 2015 Rose de Diel is lovely with a start that shows liquid roses, pink citrus, sour cherry and distilled strawberry along with wet stones, flinty spice, fine sweet herbs and hints of blueberry and tart plum. While flavor filled this Rose is vivid, vibrant and crisply delicate and hauntingly lingering, this is one of my personal favorites of the season, those that have been long time Diel fans will find the 2015 Rose de Diel a very special expression, those that have never tried Diel will want to find this rare offering! Other wines to look for by Diel include the “Caroline” Pinot Noir 2013, all the Trocken Rieslings, especially the Pittermannchen Grosses Gewachs and the Dorsheim Trocken, as well as the more fruity Feinherb “Von der Nahe” a special cuvee requested by Terry Theise. Also, 2015 Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese offerings fro Schlossgut Diel should not be missed, they will gain from years in not decades of cellaring! For sooner joy, get this Rose de Diel and drink it over the next year or so, it is a great example of German Rose.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Foradori, Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.
The beautiful and pure Manzoni, a crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, is a perfect summer white with plenty of complexity and fascinating character along with sizzling acidity and mineral tones going well with cool stone fruit. This steely edged wine is ultra fine and crisply elegant with subtle savory elements, it was fermented on it’s skins in cement vats and aged in acacia wood casks, the use of acacia rather than oak is usually to impart less flavor and allow the wine to speak truly of place as is the case here. Elizabetta Foradori’s estate is one of the best in the Alto Adige and her wines have become an inspiration and motivation for a new generation of winemakers and enthusiasts alike, these natural wines made with respect to the land and tradition are some of the greatest in world let alone the Alto Adige, proving real natural wines have a place at the table with the world’s best. Dedicated to organic farming, no chemicals and low or no sulfur the Foradori wines capture the soul and essence of the hillside terroir above Trentino both in her whites like this one, and of course her main red wines made from the native Teroldego grape and expressed in many ways, be in French oak, Amphora (clay) or stainless. The 2014 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco is lovely with delicate floral and citrus leading the way with pretty apricot, peach and lemon/lime coming through on the palate with an earthy note, orange rind and quince layer along with a dusting of spices, alpine herb and chalky stones. At first very light and shy, it opens with air to about medium weight, but held firm with acidity and a bit of skin extract, there is a sense of power and nobility in this white that is both alluring and sexy, even though it is very young and stand offish! Lingering tangerine, pear, wet river rocks and melon add to the joyous depth in this beauty, it is at it’s best with cuisine, even though it is vibrant and refreshing on it’s own, it shows more personality with food, especially mountain cheeses, seafood and or cured ham. Like trocken Riesling and Gruner Veltliner this Manzoni can age well, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, this feels like a special vintage of this wine, so I’d certainly search out a few bottles why you can.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine des Coteaux des Travers, Rasteau Reserve, Rhone Red, France.
Here’s a great Grenache based red that can be a go to wine for the next two or three years, it has lovely rich fruit, stony elements and spicy bramble making it a hedonistic and stylish value, very much in the Gigondas class at about half the price. Domaine des Coteaux des Travers have seen their two main wines go from Cotes du Rhone Villages to classified AOC’s, as both Rasteau and Cairanne becoming their own unique AOC, with Cairanne most recent, just last year getting the nod, as the quality of the regions and the wines meriting the upgrade, especially wines like this one making an impact, these areas are no longer the ugly step-sisters to Gigondas or Vacqueyras! The 2011 vintage Domaine des Coteaux des Travers Rasteau Reserve is full bodied with loads of black and red fruits with black cherry, plum and boysenberry leading the way with chalky stones, peppercorns, black salted licorice, lavender and creme de cassis adding to the pleasure, the fruit is ripe and the tannins are sweet and the wine feels tremendous on the palate, while still being focused and firm around the edges. Robert Charavin’s signature wine also hints at earthiness and has subtle floral perfume, this is a very lovely and fun effort, made from about 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourverde, a classic GSM, and it was fermented and aged mostly in cement vats with some lots in neutral oak cask, it is a fleshy wine that is really starting to come into it’s own right now, losing a bit of flamboyant baby fat and gaining in detail and length, it is impressive and easy to love at this stage. Imported by Charles Neal and available still it is a solid buy and should go another 5 to 7 years with no problem, though who wants to wait? Drink with cheeses, grilled meats and rustic cuisine for best results, but even just a glass on it’s very compelling.
($17 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sean Thackrey, Pinot Noir, Andromeda, Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Marin County.
The nose is wildly pure Thackrey, it is full of alpine herbs, amaro like, and with minty eucalyptus notes with rose oil and red berry, this can be no other wine. Sean Thackrey is an icon of weird, but lovable wines, they are more about personality than terroir and while this wine instantly makes itself known to be a Thackrey wine it is gorgeous texturally and the palate is pure silky Pinot in character showing rich cherry, raspberry and plum fruit and balanced detail with a lingering exotic finish. Getting past the aromatics and intriguing mix of spices with be tough for some, but Thackrey fans will swoon and be heaven sent over this Devil’s Gulch Ranch Andromeda 2013, it has similar qualities to his Pleaides Old Vine Red, I was smiling with every sip and swirl, it is very interesting wine and somewhat addictive, even though it will be a bit of a shock at first and certainly it is not for everyone. Pleasing and with a lot of flair, the latest Andromeda fits nicely into Thackrey’s lineup along side Orion and the mentioned Pleaides, and just like France has it’s Jura weirdness we in California have our Thackrey weirdness, both admired for being true to themselves and for the uniqueness they celebrate. Devil’s Gulch Ranch set into the wilds of West Marin, somewhere between Fairfax and Point Reyes is an extremely cool climate site and is surrounded by a dense forest of coastal pine and redwoods, not far from Sean Thackrey’s home base in Bolinas. If you know and love Thackrey, you’ll want this curious Pinot Noir and cherish it’s complexities and graces, while I may not encourage the masses to rush out and explore it, but I cherish it’s difference and again it’s mouth feel is a thing of beauty with smooth layers and a solid core of fruit along with cedar, cinnamon, pepper, lavender/sage and a touch of framboise adding to it’s array, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($60 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive