Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 21, 2018

2017 Ameztoi “Stimatum” Getariako Txakolina Tinto, Spain.
The Basque Beaujolais! The Ameztoi Stimatum (Esteemed) is 100% Hondarribi Beltza from vines grown on limestone in the Getaria region of northwestern Spain with a vine age from 10 to 100 years old and is fermented and aged in stainless steel. Grown on an exposed peninsula north of Bilbao this red was done with native yeasts and bottled with that touch of spritz like the whites usually have, making for a dry, but fruity fresh, easy to quaff wine with low natural alcohol and soft in tannin. This maybe one of the most pleasing, intriguing and fun picnic wines in the world, it’s deep purple/garnet color contrasts with it’s bright lightness of body. Ameztoi is one of the top producers of Getariako Txakolina with Ignacio Ameztoi being the seventh generation of his family, carrying on their tradition of winemaking Txakolina in Getaria. The winery owns 20 hectares of vineyards in the best sites which are from vines that can almost be seen from St. Sebastian, crafting wines that have terroir and the influence of the cool Atlantic Ocean. This 2017 Ameztoi Stimatum, with it’s skin contact for 20 days is beautifully dark in the glass and has a spicy and floral bouquet opening to it’s light/medium palate with crushed violets, white pepper, fresh picked wild berries, black cherry and racy currant fruits along with a zippy acidity, a touch of cinnamon, basil/herb and a hint of almost carbonic creaminess. Those that like Gamay, Dolcetto or Trousseau wines will love this red, it is so drinkable and friendly with a wide range of cuisines, it just makes for huge smiles, drink this stuff up fresh.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 20, 2018

2017 Pax, Trousseau Gris, Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard, Sonoma County.
Trousseau Gris, a natural mutation from the red Trousseau grape, most commonly found in the Jura region of France, though more interesting is that it is was once called “Gray Riesling” and was once widely planted in California, but sadly that declined sharply in the 1980s until it was almost completely wiped out by the 1990s. Trousseau Gris can still be found inter-planted in a few old vine Zinfandel vineyards, and Pax’s Trousseau Gris comes from the only standing block in California, the ten acre parcel of the Fannuchi Wood Road Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. These days Trousseau Gris is mostly found in the Jura, Alsace, Lorraine and sometimes in the Champagne wine region, as well as tiny plantings in eastern Europe like Hungary, it makes for a bright and slightly phenolic white, Pax’s looks like it has a touch of skin contact or was gently whole cluster pressed? With a golden hue and pink/orange edges that gives a nice balancing bite to this wonderful fresh wine. Pax Mahle tends to ferment his Trousseau Gris in cement vat with helps with textural feel and he raises it in well seasoned French cask for a period of about 4 months to settle it, making for a dry and focused wine that delivers layers of citrus, spring blossoms, savory notes and shows lemon/lime, kumquat, a touch of orange peel, bitter herbs, wet stone and lingering unripe peach and green melon. Refreshing, briskly crisp, mineral infused and vibrant at under 12% natural alcohol, Pax’s Trousseau Gris has a nice tension and plays well with lighter cuisine, especially good with shell fish, I can imagine clams, mussels and oysters with this fun and unique wine, drink now. Pax, known for his world class Syrah and Rhone style wines, also makes a great set of alternative wines, some that were once under his Wind Gap label, like this Trousseau Gris, but be sure to check out his awesome Chenin Blanc, Carignane, Gamay Noir, Trousseau Noir and his Valdiguie as well!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 19, 2018

2016 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, The Ornbaun, Mendocino Ridge.
The new vintage of Drew “The Ornbaun” Syrah, a beautiful wine with an intense spicy nature, is a blend of two vineyards, both on silty clay and loam(y) marine sedimentary soils, on the western side of Anderson Valley. With the vineyard sites being on the extreme side of cool climate, one Valenti Ranch at 1,350 feet up, planted to McDowell and Cote-Rotie Clones is just 6 miles from the Ocean and the other Perli Vineyard, which sits at 2,400 feet, that is planted to Chave Selections (Hermitage Clones) with a few vines that are also inter-planted with Grenache and Mourvedre. Drew is now one of the hottest wineries in California with Jason Drew making some of the state’s best wines, the label was founded as a tiny operation, with Jason and Molly Drew starting Drew eighteen years ago with a clear goal in mind, which was to: to craft small lot coastal wines that express site specificity and traditional varietal character. While the beginnings of Drew began in the Santa Rita Hills AVA in 2000, with a set of Pinots and Syrah, they transplanted their small operation to the Mendocino Coast in 2005 to establish their estate ranch and winery, where they craft mostly ultra cool climate and high elevation Pinot Noir and Syrah. The Drew’s continue their long standing partnerships with several local vineyard growers who share their passion for sustainable and meticulous mostly organic farming practices, including Morning Dew Ranch, Valenti Ranch and Perli Vineyard. These vineyard sources are chosen for their climate, clonal selection and complexity of soil types, while Drew’s cellar approach is restrained and his winemaking practices remain focused on traditional methods, that includes a high percentage of whole cluster and native yeast fermentations, with gentile hand punch-downs and in most instances, without any no fining or filtering, as well as using a low number of new barrels per vintage. The 2016’s, and especially this “The Ornbaun” is wonderfully delicate in fruit and deep in spice and lift, taking some serious time to open up in the glass, it has loads of iron, red and black pepper as well as sticky lavender, high toned red currant, cherry and plum, later adding a darker sense of blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry along with hints of violets, chalky stones and wood notes. At this stage it seems a little shy, when compared with 2013, 2014 and 2015, so allow more development in bottle to give rich flavors, even though it is medium bodied and fresh now, perfectly going with food, it should get better, fuller and lengthier over the next 3 to 5 years, patience looks to be rewarded here. I absolutely love the earthy tones, energy and vibrant details of this Drew  “The Ornbaun”, it’s one of the best values in their gorgeous lineup, there isn’t a wine in Jason’s latest set that disappoints and as mentioned in the last two vintages this winery is making some of the best wines in California bar none! The Pinot and Syrah here are just exceptional and if you haven’t joined their list you are missing out.
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 18, 2018

2017 Kelley Fox Wines, Pinot Gris, Maresh Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The racy and unique skin contact (almost like a Rosé or Vin Gris) Maresh Pinot Gris from Kelley Fox, one of Oregon’s stars, is brilliant in detail and is a serious complex wine that almost defies it’s category, as John Paul of Cameron’s Rouge de Gris does, and Fox’s version is interesting for it’s texture and more powerful presence in the glass, while the Loire model tends to be a more pale, austere and minerally crisp in style as Denis Jamain’s Domaine de Reuilly is, by comparison. Fox explains her Pinot Gris with her winemaker experience as follows, it was produced from self-rooted vines planted in 1991 at the historic Maresh Vineyard, the 2017 Pinot gris was 100% destemmed and fermented in two 1.5 ton “macrobin” fermentors. One pigeage (foot-treading) by her, personally, this happened each day with about close to a 14-16 days skin contact prior to the wine being pressed at dryness. The elevage was in an old world if not ancient style uterine-shaped concrete amphora vat. The Maresh Pinot Gris is dry white wine that has the pink/reddish hue of skin contact and has enough acid to feel more Rosé like than a red wine, but with a touch of tannin and savory notes. There’s an almost smokiness on the palate as well as nice generous bright fruits which includes strawberry, apple skins, sour cherry and a peach element as well as mineral tones, dusty stones and snappy spices. This wine is more intriguing than pretty in the taste, but there is an appealing rustic charm that keeps you coming back and it’s much more lovable with food, drink it up!
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 17, 2018

2016 Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud, Crozes-Hermitage, Miss en Bouche, Northern Rhone, France.
One of the Northern Rhone’s best kept secrets and producer of some of finest values in the region, Domaine Emmanuel Darnaud crafts some excellent Syrah(s) from his tiny set of parcels in the Crozes-Hermitage area, he started his domaine in 2001 with just postage stamp (size block) of vines but worked his way up to a more serious set of vineyards, all in southern side of Crozes-Hermitage set on the zone’s Glacial alluviums of mostly smooth pebbles. His painstaking work in the vineyard yields amazing results and how he can sell this beautiful and authentic wine at under $20 is one of the great and most pleasurable mysteries in the world of Syrah! The 2016 is utterly delicious with an earthy intensity that starts with porcini/truffle and gamey Crozes purity before opening to beautiful violets and blueberry notes. Darnaud’s Crozes Mise en Bouche is a fine example of time and place, yummy from start to finish adding bright peppery spice, a touch of anise, dried herbs and damson plum as well as mineral notes and a touch of kirsch. Lighter in frame than some, there’s no whimpiness, but rustic layers of classic Northern Rhone Syrah at it’s best. Fermented in concrete vats and rested in small barrels, this 100% Syrah, 100% de-stemmed cuvee you’d never guess it had one third new oak such is the refinement and quality of fruit found here. This is a vintage to buy as much as you can, it drink lovely now, and should easily go for a decade too! Search this one out, it’s a winner, and a no brainer for the price!
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 16, 2018

2015 Navarro Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Méthode A L’Ancienne, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County.
One of California’s best value Pinots, the Navarro Anderson Valley is a classic wine with very ripe opulence and satiny texture, especially with this 2015 version, which is beautifully full, expressive and full of rich details. This wine is a no brainer when you see it on a restaurant wine list, it’s a low quilt and quality treat with lush textures, warm and generous fruit and delicate spice as well as well judged wood notes. Not far from the Mendocino coast and set in the middle of the Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards is a long time local legend and place you must stop at when in the area, they have a vast array of wines to sample with their off-dry Gewürztraminer and this Méthode A L’Ancienne Pinot Noir being two of my favorites to pick up at their tasting room on Hwy 128 in Philo, not too far away Boonville. The family, including Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett run Navarro and are always smiling faces at the winery, which also produce old vine Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet, A Brut Sparkler, Rosé, their Alsace style Edelzwicker, a top end reserve style Pinot Noir called Deep End Blend as well as a crisp and dry version of Riesling just to name a few! Navarro discovered early on that Pinot Noir wine tastes and smells less manipulated if the fermenting must is punched down by hand rather than using modern pumps, so hence the name and style on the Methode A L’Anicienne, they are looking to capture the purest essence of the vintage and keep a sense of place and while the 2015 is forward in style it has a lovely balance and seamless layers with 40% new French oak, which is way up from normal as the crop was smaller and more concentrated and soaked up the wood well. The Navarro 2015 comes in at under 14%, but feels luxurious on the palate, almost thick with black cherry, plum and raspberry fruits cascading in the mouth with a lush impact along with hints of cedar, tea spices, rose petals, cola bean and smoky vanilla. Not overly complex, but easy to love and rewarding this Navarro Pinot should be enjoyed sooner v. later, over the next 2 or 3 years.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 15, 2018

2015 Pagliarese, Chianti Classico DOCG, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany, Italy.
Fèlsina’s new release is a wine from an old property near by, and it’s a classy Chianti Classico that offers a lot of value and authenticity.  Pagliarese is a historic Chianti Classico estate located in Castelnuovo Berardenga, nestled between Fèlsina and Castell’in Villa. In the 1960’s and 70’s, Pagliarese was, in fact, one of the most highly regarded estates in Chianti Classico. However, by the 1980’s, the property was in need of some investment, particularly in the vineyards. In 1995, the Poggiali family, owners of Fèlsina, bought the estate and set out to replant 28 of the 32 hectares using a massale selection from the oldest vines at the property. Since that time, some of the grapes from Pagliarese have gone into the Fèlsina’s Chianti Classico, though a majority of the grapes and wine from the estate has been sold off, but now Felsina is now ready to show this estate in all it’s glory. Starting with this 2015 vintage, the Poggiali’s decided to make their inaugural release from the estate made from, and unlike the Sangiovese only Felsina, the wines at Paglierese are, of course, Sangiovese-based, they are also blended with small amounts of Canaiolo and Mammolo, but without the use of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon that has been the norm in recent times. The soil at Paglierese is a bit more sandy than that at Fèlsina. According to the winery the terroir is unique at Paglierese, as It combines sand, rock and clay with some tufo (a type of volcanic rock), whereas in Felsina’s Chianti Classico vineyards it is more dominated by stoney albarese soil. Given the differences in two terroirs, as well as the fact that the wines are blended (particularly with the Cannaiolo), means that the Pagliarese wines tend to be a bit more elegant and soft. The graceful style is accentuated by a classical wine-making regimen that promotes elegance over extraction including a gentle maceration regime as well as extended aging in mostly in neutral 50HL Slavonian oak botti. The resulting wines are beautifully refined, pure examples of Chianti Classico. This re-birth of Pagliarese in Castelnuovo Berardenga, in the southern zone of Chianti Classico represents a true renaissance of one of Tuscany’s forgotten treasures! This 2015 is ripe and lush on the palate showing the region’s success in this vintage along with the finesse and elegance you normally find in Felsina’s own wines with layers of smooth red berry, plum, currant and strawberry fruits along with classic dried tobacco, minty/menthol, anise and light cedary wood notes. This Chianti Classico has muted tannins and subtle acidity, but the structure is there, though hidden slightly by it’s seamless unfolding and opulent mouth feel, this is certainly an easy wine to enjoy young, and especially with simple country cuisine and or hard cheeses like Pecorino.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 14, 2018

2015 Poe Wines, Pinot Noir, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
The Pinot Noir vines in the Van Der Kamp Vineyard are sixty years-old, and Samantha Sheehan, one California’s rising (or risen) talents, at Poe Wines crafted a brilliant wine from this unique site set on a mix of soils that includes Speckles loam, sedimentary and volcanic influences. Sheehan, inspired by old world wines employs a gentile touch in the cellar, she allowed the fermentation to begin with native yeast, and with a light dance of foot treading to the fermentation two to three times per day. Sheehan used just 30% of the grapes whole cluster, which really gives this wine a lot of lift and spice, with the wine aging on it’s lees for 12 months in 30% new French oak and with the rest raised in neutral French oak before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Van der Kamp Vineyard lies at the very top of Sonoma Mountain, at a 1,400 foot elevation looking down on the town of Glen Ellen to the east and Bennett Valley to the northwest, not far from the famous Hanzell Vineyards. It is quite possibly the oldest planting of Pinot Noir in the state, planted in the early 1950s. The 2015 vintage, according to Sheehan, was unseasonably cold in the early spring, too cold for normal flowering.The end result was that the vines were only able to set a tiny crop – yields were down by 75% at the vineyard, but the fruit they got was exceptional, with the tiny clusters were concentrated and flavorful with plenty of acidity and thick skins. All this allowed for a powerful mountain Pinot Noir with a deep sense of terroir and incredible length, Sheehan managed to achieve everything you could ask for in a serious wine, complexity, stylish flourishes and seamless layers all with her exceptional refinement and grace that make this one of her best efforts to date. Fresh detail highlights the spicy Van der Kamp Pinot, it flows across the palate with black cherry, raspberry, cranberry, strawberry and dark plum fruits along with a range of zesty pepper, Asian spice, dried herb, vanilla and very pretty rose floral tones, hints of mineral charm and a snappy bramble pop. This youthful and lively Pinot picks up quite an impact with time in the glass and is a wine to be reckoned with, gaining excitement with every sip and minute, I wish I had bought more of this stuff, because sadly it’s looking like it will be hard to find now, so be sure to get on Poe’s list asap and hope the 2016 isn’t too far behind! Drink this Poe Van der Camp 2015 over the next 5 to 7 years, I can only believe it will just get better in bottle, bravo to Samantha on this one. Also be sure to check out Poe’s Pinot Meunier, the Chardonnay(s) and the Sparklers as well, these are all wonderful wines.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 13, 2018

2017 Sheldon Wines, Vinolocity Red, California.
To say that Dylan Sheldon, and his wife Tobe, owners of the micro-winery Sheldon Wines in Santa Rosa, think outside the box, is as an outrageous of an understatement as you could think of in the world of wine, especially in California, they continue to push and explore the envelope of norms, and this is fascinatingly true here in their new Vinolocity, a red blend of Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. Only produced in the best or unique vintages Dylan’s Vinolocity has up until now been more a Rhone inspired cuvee crafted from selected vineyard sites, with the White version usually Grenache Blanc based, while the Red normally formed around a core of Grenache Noir, but this one has gone a completely new and mind blowing direction with it’s two barrel blend of old vine Napa Valley Petite Sirah and full carbonic maceration Tempranillo! One barrel of Napa Valley, Collier Vineyard, Old Vine Petite made with traditional methods and raised in well seasoned French oak was blended with full carbonic and stainless fermented Sonoma County Tempranillo, it makes for a super tasty California rarity! Sheldon Wines is in a group of exciting winemakers in California that includes Arnot-Roberts, Windgap/Pax, Martha Stoumen, Broc Cellars, Ryme and Onward, just to name a few, that are going their own way and following new paths, exploring varietals and styles. Dylan Sheldon has been a champion of Graciano, the little known Rioja grape as well as his loved Grenache Noir, but he also does a wonderful set of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah bottlings vintage to vintage, all on the lighter and more delicate side. This 2017 Vinolocity is at first juicy and expressive with the carbonic influence taking the palate by storm with an almost Gamay like dark and tangy fruitiness before the dark and deep structural quality of the old vine Petite Sirah makes it’s presence known and felt on the intriguing medium weight body with a bust of fine tannin that puts the brakes on the fruity character adding a tight focus. The tension is intoxicating and the black, red and blue fruits feel bright and wonderfully lifted up by a touch of mineral and subtle earthy notes with layers of Tempranillo led black cherry, plum and racy currant as well as blueberry, cranberry and briar laced blackberry from the Petite, from my experience and then you get secondary notes of sweet and sour herbs, minty licorice, unsweetened coco powder, mixed spices and a touch of cedar. With air a floral array lifts from the glass and there is true sense of harmony, surprising texture and youthful freshness that makes this wine oh so easy to quaff and it’s lovely purple/garnet color invites repeated sips, this Vinolocity is wonderfully addictive and amazingly flexible with cuisine options from small bite Tapas to full on BBQ, drink now and for the next 3 to 5 years. Sheldon’s Vinolocity 2017 joins an up coming set of releases that also includes their Grenache and a single vineyard Graciano, but don’t wait, these are very limited and will go fast!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 12, 2018

2016 Halcon Vineyards, Syrah, Elevación, Halcon Estate, Yorkville Highlands.
The fantastic new Halcon Elevacion cuvee is an inaugural release, it’s a 100% Syrah that comes from their estate vines high up in the Yorkville Highlands. It is a single block of Chave clone, done with 100% whole-cluster in a very ultra traditional and classic Northern Rhone style. This is one of the best Syrah’s of the year so far, with it’s sweet perfume of crushed violets and lilacs mixed with nervy stems adding energy and tension to an open textured wine of complex detail and exotic highlights of flavors that range from boysenberry, plum, blackberry to cherry and currant fruits along with minty herb, peppercorns, liquid mineral, cassis, cedar and anise. Owner Paul Gordon, along with winemaker Scott Shapely, also of Roar, wanted to explore the individual blocks starting with Gordon’s favorite clone. This parcel was planted back in 2005 along with main vineyard. Paul personally likes, as do I, the extra complexity and elegance the 100% stems bring, I love as well the nervy energy, and there is a little carbonic pop to the fruit (which comes from the whole berries fermenting in the absence (scarcity?) of oxygen). With Gordon adding “(This is) Our first vintage of this special cuvee. Made using Halcón estate fruit, this wine is 100% Chave selection Syrah fermented with 100% whole-cluster and aged in a single neutral French oak puncheon. This wine highlights the meaty, savory characteristics of the Chave selection combined with the floral, spicy elements from the stems. No adjustments to alcohol nor acids and native yeasts.” Just 50 cases, two barrels were made, it was unfined and unfiltered, coming in at very Cornas like at 13.2% natural alcohol. There’s so much to admire here, from the expression of place, vineyard and style to the lingering intensity of the aftertaste, this deep garnet hued wine is a gorgeous example of what Syrah can be in California, it joins Drew, Piedrasassi, Pax, Peay, Lucia (Pisoni), Big Basin, Stolpman and Alban to name a few of the elite players in great Syrah in the golden state. Refined tannins and ripe texture allow this Halcon Elevacion to be enjoyed young, but it should get even better with another few years of age, this awesome stuff has a huge drinking window from now until 2027 at least. If you like Northern Rhone wines and geek out on stems, whole cluster wines then you’ll love this Syrah and will not want to miss this limited offering from Halcon, this is a list you need to be on.
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive