2013 Ridge Vineyards, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Sonoma County.
The hillside old vine Carignane Buchignani Ranch from Ridge is a lovely and juicy deeply purple wine that smacks of old school Italian style California red with a hint of rustic charm and flowing with fruit and spicy goodness. The Ridge Vineyards Carignane Buchignani Ranch is a limited club and tasting room bottling, only 46 barrels were made in 2013, it was native yeast fermented, in small lots, with very low sulphur and aged in used barrels mostly, all American seasoned oak, and is one of the wines I also ask about when visiting Ridge at Lytton Springs and has become a particular obsession. While not as complex as the top Zin blends, this very dark and vibrant Carignane is impressive just the same and offers an intriguing array of layers with vivid loganberry, black raspberry, minty blueberry and tree picked plum fruits along with mineral notes, wild flowers, cedar, wild herbs, earthy/stony elements, peppery/flinty spices and a touch of cinnamon and dusty vanilla. This palate is round and full bodied, but there is lots of lift from natural acidity and the tannins are ripe and succulent though with just enough bite to let you know this red has a spine of structure. Ridge’s 2013 Carignane Buchignani Ranch is a great example of varietal and stylish, not over done, winemaking, and it goes great with many cuisine choices, it has enough up front fruit to handle BBQ, spicy Asian fare and just about anything else, I love this stuff! It’s great to see Carignan, the historic grape of Corbieres, getting it’s place back in California and being made into serious wine as the primary grape, you should also look for Carignan(e) wines by Pax, Signal Ridge Vineyard, Ryme Cellars, Broc and Hobo Wine Company’s Folk Machine Parts & Labor red, all of which show this grape in a brilliant way. Be sure to either join Ridge’s wine club to get this wine and other limited offerings, or beg for a few bottles at the tasting room, like I do!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Roulot, Bourgogne Blanc, France.
The new 2014 Roulot basic white Burgundy is a brilliant and stylish wine with real depth of character and steely mineral intensity, it is easy to love and admire. Jean-Marc Roulot makes some of the greatest wines in the region and his Meursault(s) is legendary, but not many know that this basic Bourgogne Blanc is all from Meursault and from organic 30 to 40 year old Chardonnay vines set on the classic clay and limestone soil, it certainly makes this cuvee a sweet deal, especially in a stunning vintage like 2014! Made in the same way as all the top Cru wines the Roulot Bourgogne Blanc is fermented in wood vats and is raised in barrel for about a year, with up to 20% new oak, then rested in stainless tank for seven months before bottling. Roulot’s style is vital and brisk with good strong acidity and vibrant detail, but his wine do see lots of lees contact and some batonage to add richness and mouth feel and this 2014 Bourgogne shows the fine balance and grace these wines have with lovely crisp mineral, white flowers, hints of brioche, but with saline chalkiness and cool freshness. The wine is vivid and bullet proof, I enjoyed in over the course of three days and it never lost it’s energy or tension, while still being wonderfully generous in substance, this is very impressive Chardonnay that shows layers of classic apple, lemon, white peach, hazelnut and lime blossom as well as light wood notes, savory flinty wet stones and a touch of melon and golden fig. While there is potential for aging here, this is an almost quilt free wine to open young and enjoy the pure Meursault goodness that flows into the glass, okay, it’s not cheap, but conceding what you get these days for $50 in Burgundy, and the wines pedigree, this is a steal!
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner, Senftenberger Piri, Kremstal Auistria.
The warm vintage shines through here without taking anything away from the electric energy and bright mineral character in Nigl’s lovely and stony Gruner Senftenberger from Kremstal not far from the Danube west of Vienna. These slopes provide for some of the best values in dry white wines in Europe as well as some of the most intriguing, I have always been a big fan of Nigl and usually opt for the basic light entry level offering, but this Senftenberger is so good and almost exotic in nature that I could not resist. After an amazing year in 2013, Austria had a slight slump with the 2014 vintage with wines that just didn’t reach the expected highs, but wow, you got to love the juicy and forward qualities of these 2015’s that have an extra depth and density that really sets them apart. This 2015 Nigl Senftenberger starts with vibrant citrus and white flowers, tropical notes, salty stones and a hint of minty Asian herbs as well and a touch of almond oil. This vital and vigorous white unloads a forceful rush of flavors on the palate with nice intensity and medium body, a bit richer and less severe than the sublime 2013’s, but more pleasing and generous in profile with white peach, lemon/lime, a hint of quince and mango with tangy crispness and subtle tart finish that is mouth filling, but mouth wateringly dry and refreshing. This steely Gruner is really impressive and should be explored with cuisine, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, though there is no reason to wait!
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Bernard Baudry, Chinon Rouge, La Croix Boissee, Loire Valley, France.
This Baudry Cabernet Franc is not showy or flamboyant, but amazingly pure and shines with an inner gorgeousness of detail, terroir and depth, this Chinon is for Loire Cabernet Franc lovers, it’s a stunning example of varietal and place, it just knocked my socks off completely. The 2013 La Croix Boissee Chinon by Baudry is surprisingly from younger vines, all organic from a hillside plot of Cabernet Franc on clay, limestone and sand, all southern facing for the best exposure, it was fermented in wood tanks with 24 months in 1 to 3 year old barrels. This unfiltered Cab Franc is very dark in the glass with deep garnet hues and opaque at the core, it starts with an earthy nose of loamy notes and subtle violet perfume with dusty red and black fruit with a medium bodied vibrant palate of black cherry, wild plum, tangy raspberry and cranberry fruits as well as tar, anise, chalk and mineral. The tannin is ripe and silky, but drying and a touch tart, so be sure to have with food, this beauty will stay mostly hidden without cuisine to bring out it’s full charm, seductiveness and personality, this Cabernet Franc from Baudry as the same kind of impact as a young Barbaresco or Roero Nebbiolo gives, this is serious stuff, focused and high strung now, but should entertain for years to come. The lightness of the finish, which lingers with lavender, cedar, bell pepper and kirsch, suggesting there is most to come in a few years time in bottle, the acidity is still strong and needs to full resolve, but with food everything changes for the better here, that’s when the magic happens and this wine hits it’s best notes, without question a stellar effort and classy Chinon.
($44 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Stolpman Vineyards, Para Maria de Los Tecolotes, Santa Barbara County.
Stolpman’s vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano has a en eye for great vines and grapes, this Para Maria, a mostly Syrah and Petit Verdot blend is sourced from vineyard sites he knows outside of the Stolpman estate and is a tribute to Ruben’s wife Maria, who also oversees and takes care of the crew at harvest. This wine, a collaboration between the Stolpman and Solorzano families, is a beauty with an exotic and sexy nature, highlighting the full and expressive vintage that was 2015, it was about 93% Santa Barbara Syrah and 7% Paso Robles Petit Verdot, it is similar in character and style to the La Cuadrilla, but unique as well with plenty of plummy fruit, mixed spices and ripe tannins. The 2015 Para Maria starts with hints of violets, camphor/embers, cracked peppercorns, sticky lavender and racy red fruits before turning darker on the palate with dense boysenberry, tangy black currant, plum and sweet cherry fruits along with red pepper flakes, zesty cinnamon, anise seed, Thai basil and bitter chocolate as well as blueberry and earthy notes. Opulent, deep and lively throughout, this Para Maria is an extremely fun and interesting wine, it has the authentic charms of Stolpman and influence of Sashi Moorman, Stolpman’s winemaker, though with it’s own thrust of flavors and soulfulness. Enjoy this wine with friends and food over the next 3 to 5 years, best with simple and rustic cuisine, grilled meats and or mushroom dishes. You have to admire people making great wine from their heart and that give back to the people that help make all the magic happen, bravo Pete Stolpman and especially Ruben Solorzano, this is wonderful stuff!
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Peters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Another wonderful and stylish Pinot from Anthill Farms, the latest 2014 Peters Vineyard, is really showing well right now with bright fruit intensity and charm along with mineral tones and vibrant spiciness. This is pure class from the Anthill Farms gang and highlights this cool climate and terroir driven site that is planted to an interesting mix of clones including Pommard and 777, near Sebastopol these 30+ year old vines always ripen late and have a wonderful marine/ocean cool influence. This unfiltered, brilliant ruby Pinot Noir intrigues from the start with a lightly perfumed nose of wilted rose petal, wild fennel and tangy red berries before an entry of vine picked raspberry, vivid cherry, pomegranate and tart plum fruit as well as tea spices, blood orange zest, red peach flesh, saline and dusty stones, finishing with a touch of cedar, cinnamon and dried vanilla. This wine fills out on the satiny palate to a beautiful medium bodied Pinot Noir, seamless and lingering with delicacy, detail and complexity. These 2014’s are sexy wines that look to surpass 2012 and 2013 with time, they just seem and feel so good, it’s hard to imagine that you could do much better, but Anthill Farms always deliver, check out all of these well crafted artisan wines, and without question get this Peters in particular, drink from 2017 to 2026.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Dunn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Wow, what an awesome wine, this 2013 Dunn Napa Cabernet is close to perfection and is a throw back to the early 1990’s in style, I would say it is a lot like 1992 or 1994, a pure classic in every detail! The Dunn Napa is a blend of valley floor fruit and Howell Mountain grapes, and this 2013 is missing nothing in terms of structure and style with Dunn’s estate Howell Mountain bottlings, it will be interesting to see these two side by side, but for the price of the Napa, which is far below it’s main rivals, this wine stands out as a killer deal, this and Cathy Corison’s 2013 are tremendous wines and maybe the best values in Napa Valley for the vintage! The 2013 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ha that particular great wine feel and presence in the glass, it is a wine you can certainly stash away in the cellar for 25 years, but a wine that gives you it’s pleasures even in it’s youthful stages, in fact I was blown away at just how gorgeously it was drinking right now, sampling from an non-decanted bottle it was magical and opulent in form, even with Dunn’s legendary structural tannins, Randy and his son Mike can really be proud of this one. Dunn, also known for not allowing for alcohol intrusion, has this vintage at 13.9% on the label, making for it’s polished and balanced feel, but don’t let that fool you either, this is a powerful and full bodied Cabernet with plenty of depth and force. The 2013’s are a less edgy than 2012 with wonderful mouth feel, layers upon layers of fruit and haunting length with seamless textures, and this Dunn Napa delivers this with stunning verve and grace, it shows blackberry, rich currant/cassis, liquid violets/acacia flowers, minty/licorice, peppery/sweet tobacco leaf, hints of smoke, mineral, earth and cedar. With air you get black plum, wild sage, vanilla and blueberry as well, this well crafted Cabernet Sauvignon is firm and muscular at it’s core, but even it’s coating of fine tannin allows beautiful fruit detail and hedonistic lavish side to show through, this is everything you’d ever want and more, drink from 2018 to 2032.
($90 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2015 Nanclares y Prieto, Albarino “Dandelion” Rias Baixas, Spain.
The Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto Dandelion Albarino is their village wine from multiple plots of vines around Cambados in the Rias Baixas, it’s beautiful and vigorous briskly dry Albarino that is a great introduction into the house style at Nanclares. This 2015 is wonderfully detailed and vital with lots of saline, stones and mineral character, but with expressive citrus, stone fruit and cool melon making for a vibrant and expressive example of varietal and terroir, it was wild yeast fermented from old school pergola trained vines between 30 and 60 years old, unfined and unfiltered raised on it’s lees for a year, and saw no malolactic fermentation and no oak. The granite and sandy soils and Atlantic sea breezes influence this organic beauty making it ultra traditional and acid driven, but with a gorgeous leesy character and fine craftsmanship shinning through, this small production artisan Albarino has the form and tension of a trocken Riesling, though with a pure Galician flair, this is a wine of the Ocean and pairs perfectly with seafood, white fish, posters, mussels, claims and more. The slightly golden opaque 2015 Dandelion bursts from the glass with bright mixed citrus fruit and flowers, a hint of rose petal, mini orange peel and bitter herbs, white peach, crisp melon, grapefruit, lemon/lime, beach shells, wet stones, chalky savory brine plus doughy brioche all race at you on the nose and palate in this delicately detailed and light bodied wine. This vintage of Dandelion is incredibly impressive and savvy Albarino, especially for the price, without question Nanclares is one of best finds in Rias Baixas, I absolutely love this stuff!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Chateau Bel-Air, Pomerol, Red Bordeaux, France.
The vintage shows through here without question, a great year makes this lovely Pomerol a terrific value and wonderfully textured wine from Chateau Bel-Air. This dark and full bodied Pomerol hits all the right notes and does so with class, vitality and verve showing beautiful detail and complexity in a forceful, but elegantly pure Merlot, this is really seductive stuff in the glass, holding it’s own against far more expensive labels with ease and poise. The rich layers of fruit, mineral tones and sweet tannin give decadence and refined structure, highlighting Merlot’s promise in a world that sometimes lacks the respect of this often maligned varietal. Chateau Bel-Air has captured in the bottle the right bank’s charm and beauty in this 2010, it shows terroir, with subtle loamy/earth, plummy dense mouth feel and stylish silken length with a wine that has the potential to age another 10 to 15 years, but is pretty darn good right now too. The lead off here is dark floral tones a hint of smoky cedar and black cherry fruit with blackberry, plum, dark kirsch liqueur along with a touch of mint, dried clay, a touch of cigar wrapper and vanilla. This fine Bordeaux delivers well beyond it’s price and is wonderful with food choices that range from duck breast, lamb, roast pork, wild mushroom dishes to prime rib, and or any comforting winter fare really, and it can also be enjoyed with cheeses or on it’s own. This is the kind of wine that brings you back to Bordeaux, and certainly makes you wonder why you don’t drink more Merlot, drink this Chateau Bel-Air Pomerol from 2016 to 2028.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Envinate, Garnacha Tintorera, Albahra, Vinos Mediterraneos, Almansa Spain.
I only just reviewed the 2014 vintage a short time ago, but this 2015 was so impressive and expressive I just had to include it in this months lineup of wine of the day! This Envinate 2015 Albahra Tinto is made from organic head-trained Alicante Bouschet (known as Garnacha Tintorera in Spain) that are about 30 years old, grown at about 800 meters near the town of Albacete in the Almansa region. Almansa is very Mediterranean influenced with sea breezes, hot days and cool nights, especially at this elevation, located between the cities of Valencia and Alicante. The soils here are chalky with ancient clay and calcareous in nature giving this juicy fresh red a hint of mineralite and bright acidity with soft refined tannin, the grapes are Fermented 50% whole cluster in concrete using native yeast and then raised in cement vats for 8 months with very little added sulfur. Envinate is the team of winemaker friends that wanted to work together after college, and though they now are talents in their own rights, they continue to craft artisan small lot wines under the Envintage label, this group includes Laura Ramos, Jose Martinez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente and they make wine from the Canary Islands all the way to the Ribeira Sacra. This 2015 Albahra Garnacha Tintonrera is dark, fruity and spicy with a zesty vibrant snap to it, it purely expresses the form of Alicante Bouschet, one of the few red grapes that actually has red juice itself inside the berry, it is a hybrid varietal that was created from the crossing of Grenache Noir and Petit Bouschet and is found in Spain, as well as in parts of Italy and California, it makes for a rich and spicy wine with zingy acids, like in this Envinate. This fun and flexible red has a garnet/purple hue and starts with peppery black fruits, a mix of dried and fresh picked flowers with loganberry, dusty plum and racy/tangy currants leading the way on the medium weighted palate, this is a red that doesn’t mind a slight chill on it and goes with many foods, mussels in spicy tomato broth, pastas and paella especially, as well as picnic and BBQ fare. This vintage gives some extra throughout, it is rather exotic in style with a riper, but not heavier feel with subtle anise, poached cherries, cinnamon stick and even some guava jelly and crushed raspberries. Less earthy than the 2014 version, the 2015 is my favorite vintage of this wine, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, this and all of the Envinate wines are worth exploring, great stuff!
($20 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive