Monthly Archives: November 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 20, 2018

2016 Jean Foillard, Morgon “Cote du Py” Cru Beaujolais, France.
One of Gamay’s most respected and most sought after superstars, the Jean Foillard Cote du Py is a gorgeous wine of class, divine balance and detail, it achieves what it does with charm and subtly, rather than any in your face overtness. This 2016 flows with beautiful layers of dark fruits, delicate floral notes, earthy/brambly spice and a touch of beet root. Foillard’s Cote du Py mostly old vine Morgon, is not just one of the world’s best Gamay wines, it’s one of France’s great wines period, it’s always a beauty with a soul that transcends varietal and speaks of place first and foremost and is highly prized and sought after for it’s class and depth that rivals top offerings in the Cote d’Or. Importer Kermit Lynch waxes lyrically about Foillard and his wines and are part of his gang of four, M. Lapierre, Thevenet, Guy Breton and Foillard that started the Cru Beaujolais revolution for his portfolio, which have changed minds about what Gamay and especially what this Cru village of Morgon can do, they join Fleurie’s Dutraive as the core of Beaujolais champions. According to Lynch, Jean and Agnès Foillard took over his father’s domaine in 1980, and soon thereafter began to make (his) Kermit Lynch’s customers very happy with stunning wines, and Jean followed the teachings of Jules Chauvet, a traditionalist that believed in organic and natural wines way before it was a thing. Most of their vineyards are planted on the Côte du Py, the famed slope outside the town of Villié-Morgon and the pride of Morgon. These granite and schist soils sit on an alluvial fan at the highest point above the town and impart great complexity. Kermit goes on to add, Jean along with the gang of four (that included the famed late Marcel Lapierre, with son Mathieu and daughter Camille now continuing, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton) never uses synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting later, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding only minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or sometimes none at all, and refusing both chaptalization and filtration in their wines. This end result allows Morgon Cru to express itself naturally, as it should be without that overly bubblegum and banana aromas that mark so many other Beaujolais available today, instead showing a rustic structure, spicy notes, and mineral-laden backbone this what real Morgon is all about. I would absolutely agree and I have long been a huge fan of these wines, especially Foillard who uses mostly ex-Burgundy barriques, sometimes sourced from the fabled Romanee-Conti, he uses 100% whole cluster fermentation mostly in concrete vats that lasts 3 to 4 weeks before raising the wine in barrel for between 6 and 9 months, in the case of this Cote du Py. The vines are up to 90 years old here and while a few young ones make up a small percent overall there is that old vine character that shines through as well as the class of the terroir that comes from it’s Schist, Granite and Manganese soil makeup. Layers of plum, blackberry, violets, walnut essence, a touch of green herb, sugar beet and hint of straw along with anise, mineral and citrusy acids all make appearances in this medium framed Morgon that feels just a bit sharp and raw on the palate, which doesn’t take away from any of the racy pleasures in this well crafted 2016 version, it is not a criticism of the wine, rather just the vintage reality, it just lacks the hedonism of the 2015 without being at all disappointing, it is racy on it’s own, but much more intriguing with cuisine, gaining refinement and dimension with food, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($48 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 19, 2018

2018 Cruse Wine Company, Valdiguie Nouveau, Suisun Valley, California.
Michael Cruse is one of the most admired new California winemakers, his Cruse Wine Company is an under the radar anti-mainstream success story who has a cult like following for his sparkling wines, both his Pet-Nats and his rare Champagne style version, but he also does some wildly fun still wines. in particular delicate and lighter framed Carignan and Valdiguie based red wines, especially Valdiguie, a grape of obscure origins in the southwest of France that was long thought to be Gamay in California, where it is still sometimes called “Napa Gamay” and is championed by a diverse group of winemakers and producers from J. Lohr and Rochioli Vineyards to recent stars Broc Cellars, Field Recordings, who make a Valdiguie Rosé and Cruse. One of his most fun jottings is this Valdiguie Nouveau, which is a stylish and more refined version with a lovely pale electric magenta/ruby color, just a shade darker than a Rosé, it’s floral and carbonic fruitiness make it almost impossible to resist, and this 2018 is outrageously good with pretty wild flowers, tart cherry as well as with classic Beaujolais Nouveau like hint of soft bubble gum and county fair cotton candy essences. Fresh and playful this Valdiguie Nouveau has a easy light weight form and with air gets more complex adding strawberry, herbs, watermelon/pomegranate and candied citrus. Served chilled it refreshes and stays focused with a crisp detail and is lively dry making for a cozy quaffer. Michael Cruse’s Ultramarine Brut Sparkler might be the most sought after new world bubbly and his mailing list is fast becoming a craze, I recommend getting on it, but I love the whole selection of stuff available, I must thank Stevie and Josiah at Bay Grape in Oakland for introducing me to Michael a few years ago at one of the Pet-Nat Zoo nights, as I have really enjoyed his wines over the last couple of years, and this Nouveau is a happy place to forget the seriousness of life, it’s much needed in this current age.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 18, 2018

2016 Foursight Wines, Semillon, Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Kristy Charles’ Foursight Wines are crafted from estate grown fruit and her Semillon is very much made in the Haut-Brion Blanc style with classic white Bordeaux character, she used 20% Sauvignon Blanc in the final blend of this 2016 and it was wild yeast/barrel fermented and used 20% new French oak and went through full malos to finish 13.9% and gives this beautiful wine it’s presence in the glass. Crafted by Krsty Charles and Joe Webb, the ex Joseph Swan man this all estate fruit grown Semillon is an exotic and exciting surprise in their latest lineup. Wonderfully textured and lush the golden hued 2016 Foursight Semillon melts in your mouth with dense layers of waxy/oily goodness and rich oak opulence making for a serious white wine, and while known almost exclusively for their Pinot Noir, this stuff will impress! Layers of white melon, lemon curd, papaya and quince fruits go wonderfully with creme brûlée, leesy, toasty notes and faint straw/hay. This Semillon cuvée from Foursight has tons of charm, class and potential to age for a decade with ease, air allows more finesse to shine through as well gaining some zippy citrus, lime blossom, mineral and eye opening length, it has some amazing palate impact and proves this grape doesn’t get enough attention and focus. I really enjoyed this wine, and in fact Foursight’s latest set is a great set of wines, especially their estate Foresight Zero New Oak all wild yeast Pinot Noir 2015 and this 2016 Foursight Semillon, with both showing expressive flavors and attractive textural quality, they are also really good values.
($25) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 17, 2018

2018 Poe Wines, Pinot Nouveau, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
Samantha Sheehan’s Poe Wines Pinot Nouveau is a wine is crafted/made in a Beaujolais Nouveau style, and according to Samantha it is an homage to the idea of celebrating the end of the vintage, and as well as giving a tease of of the upcoming vintage. Sheehan harvested just a couple tons from a Pinot Noir block that was planted back in the 1980s at the Van der Kamp Vineyard, on top of Sonoma Mountain, which is set on the alluvial and mineral rich soils that makes this site so exceptional. It was made from a selection of Mt Eden, Swan, Calera, Martini, and La Tache clones that was all whole cluster that went into a stainless steel tank, and then sealed the lid tightly closed for six weeks, Sheenan explains, that In the absence of any oxygen, the grapes went though an intracellular fermentation, or as we call it, full carbonic maceration. The 2018 is a beautiful version, showing the complexity and purity of vintage, while still being fun and easy to love with a light savory tone holding the fruity nature in check, it shows pretty tart cherry, plum and red berry flavors adding strawberry and just a hint of carbonic cotton candy, tropical and bubble gum and crisp acidity in this vivid light/medium bodied and ruby colored Nouveau. There is more to come with air as the palate refines and gets more Pinot like, it proves California Nouveau is not a gimmick and opens up nicely to become a more complete with floral notes and a dusting of spice and herbs lingering with the fruit essences on the finish. Serve slightly chilled and enjoy with food, it will impress with the holiday fare too, it also highlights the underlying nature of the 2018 vintage which looks exceptional, it whets the appetite for the wines to come. Poe Wines has an amazing set of wines as current releases, these are some of Sheenan’s best offerings to date, I can’t stress enough, you should get on her list and get these new wines, especially her new Sparkling Rosé, which is absolutely outstanding, her Pinot Noir, her Pinot Meunier and her Chardonnay, all of which are studied examples of varietal and place as well as being stellar wines.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 16, 2018

2016 Desparada, Syrah “Niobe” White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
Vailia From’s Desparada White Hawk Syrah is a show stopper with deep layers of black and red fruits, making it a great version of this singular vineyard, made famous over the years by Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard, Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non and Maggie Harrison of Lillian, it sits on the southern facing slope of Cat Canyon some 21 miles from the Pacific and 2 miles north of Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County on Arnold sand and Elder shaly loam. Vailia who got turned on to this fruit because she buys Sangiovese from here aged her White Hawk Syrah in 25% new French, 25% onetime used and 50% neutral (French) barrels to let the fruit express itself, and that it does, it feels dense and lively in the mouth somewhere between the delicate Ojai version and a more fruit forward style wine like an Alban Syrah giving the same thrills of both in a well crafted wine and it’s a great first 100% Syrah effort from Vailia, who considers herself an Italian and Bordeaux varietal producer. Desparada is a very unique all women winemaking team led by Vailia that makes craft wines in her winery in Paso Robles’ Tin City, an artisan industrial park that supports the micro producers in the region. I’ve followed these wines for quite awhile now and have always been impressed by their spirit and character, but I recently tasted through the new releases and found they have reached the next level and have gained impressive detail and grace, I especially loved her set of Sauvignon Blanc(s), her “Suitor” a fabulous red blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Sangiovese and 4% Cabernet Franc, it’s a beauty that over delivers for the price too, plus Soothsayer, a cool cuvee of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Barbera, and this “Niobe” White Hawk Vineyard Syrah. The Niobe starts with lifted aromatics with a subtle floral perfume and mineral note before the wave of thick black fruits fills the full bodied palate with layers of boysenberry, cherry compote, wild plum and vine picked berry fruit along with spice, cedar, camphor, dark chocolate, fig paste and dried flowers. There’s a burst of youthful acidity that gives a juicy tone to this lush Syrah, and the sweet tannin is ripe and gives this red a velvet spine, there’s even more to come too, rewarding potential looks like a sure thing, I plan to give the bottle I bought about 3 to 5 years in the cellar. Vailia is also experimenting with some amphora aged stuff, so I also scored a very limited bottling of her clay pot raised Sangiovese, also from the White Hawk Vineyard as well as her Nebbiolo, new Picpoul and the ultra cool Arclight which is a Rosé of Sangiovese, Barbera, & Nebbiolo! My recent visit to Paso Robles was a huge success, this trip confirmed that this region is still defining itself and is bursting with exciting new producers and small wineries that are fully embracing being different and crafting distinct California inspired wines using proprietary blends of grapes, I highly recommend discovering Desparada, Vailia From is putting out some amazing things.
($50 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 15, 2018

2016 Tablas Creek, En Gobelet, Red Blend, Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
Tablas Creek’s amazing red blend En Gobelet (referring to head trained or bush vines) crafted from a unique proprietary Rhone hybrid blend of Mourvèdre 39%, Grenache Noir 30%, Syrah 20%, Counoise 8% and the French Basque grape Tannat 3% that delivers a full bodied and deep wine of rich fruit and spiced complexity. The “gobelet” is an ancestral method of vine training, it was used by the Romans, and before, it allows the vine to grow up and more suited for hand harvesting and works best in warmer and breezy climates such as the Southern Rhone and of course Paso Robles, where you find many old bush vine vineyards. Interesting, the “gobelet” pruning method, which has been replaced mostly in favor of trellised vines which produces more fruit and is easier to harvest, but is perfect for the conditions in Talbas Creek’s Adelaida District vineyards, by allowing air through the vine while providing an umbrella like canopy of leaves/vegetation to shade there grapes, this works best with strong spur varietals like Grenache and Mourvedre that are used here to great effect. The En Gobelet Rouge uses Tablas’ original Chateau de Beaucastel clones for the the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes, as well as Tannat that was also brought over by the Haas (owners of Vineyard Brands wine imports) and Perrin (owners of Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the most prestigious wineries in France) families, the owners of Tablas Creek. Neil Collins, wine director at Tablas Creek, an English transplant who has been with the winery since it’s beginning has over the years, quietly become one of California’s most respected winemakers has put together an amazing set of 2015, 2016 and 2017 wines with both his reds and whites being exceptional throughout the range. I was down to Paso Robles recently to taste from this iconic producer that has through it’s wines and vines has made a huge impact on California wine and certainly helped lift the Rhone style wine movement, and I found some fantastic small batch offerings that I had not tasted before, like this En Gobelet Rouge. The 2016 vintage looks set to be a great vintage for Paso Reds, especially in the more Western and steep sloped vineyard sites, and this Tablas Creek En Gobelet highlights this perfectly, it’s mouth filling density and opulence is hard to resist, but it’s wonderful structure and balance sets it apart, Collins has nailed with this blend, allowing the full potential to flow forth across the textural palate with blackberry, plum, boysenberry, poached cherries and dusty raspberry fruits along with a touch of lavender, anise, pepper, tobacco leaf, chalky stones, leather and light cedary notes. With opening it gains a beautiful seamless refinement and the tannins turn ripe, while never getting dull, and at 14.2% natural alcohol it is not overt or hot, the thrills keep coming and a light floral perfume, sublime cassis, mocha and a hint of game reveal themselves and add to the glorious experience to behold in this special and limited edition bottling. The addition of Tannat to the dark garnet En Gobelet is what sets this apart from the usual Chateauneuf du Pape blend Tablas does in their flagship Esprit de Tablas Rouge, making for a unique purely California wine. A visit to Tablas is a fascinating education and must do when you visit Paso Robles, and the tasting flights always provide wonderful surprises to savor, this time I got to try a Picardan Blanc, a rare Chateauneuf Blanc grape of which there is maybe only 5 or 6 acres of in the whole world, a Picpoul, a 100% Counoise, a 100% Mourvedre and many more along with this En Gobelet Rouge, which was one of my personal favorites, it’s a wine that has a long life ahead of it, drink over the next 5 to 15 years.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 14, 2018

2014 Epoch Estate, Veracity Red, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
A recent trip to Paso Robles was a great chance to catch up with some old friends and check out some new places, I am absolutely blown away by the sense of community and knowledge to be found here, in many cases it is far more impressive than you would find in Napa Valley and there’s a more authentic casualness to be celebrated in the region that impresses and feels comfortable even in the most prestigious of spots here. Also I am impressed with the youth and enthusiasm for new things and ideas, there a lot going on here, it’s not just Southern California’s Napa clone, it’s unique style and terroirs make this an exciting place to be, and I tasted some amazing wines, especially those by L’Aventure, Tablas Creek and Bill Armstrong’s Epoch Estate in Paso Robles’ hillside Willow Creek District. All of the Epoch lineup rocked, I adore their Rosé, the Estate White and the Estate Red, but their more luxurious cuvees are just incredible, especially this Veracity and their inky Ingenuity Red which are made in their fantastic state of the art winery with lots of cement fermentors and a stunning underground cave system. Epoch’s gorgeous Veracity is their Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge style blend made from 66% Grenache with 18% Mourvedre and 16% Syrah and coming off their two estate vineyards, 63% Paderewski and 37% Catapult, on steep slopes, which are set on a mix of shale and limestone soils, that give this wine it’s depth and intensity. Jordan Fiorentini, Epoch’s winemaker, fermented in concrete, stainless steel, and oak tanks and 1⁄2-ton French oak puncheons then raised for 18 months in a combination of mostly wood, but with 8% in concrete eggs with about 24% new French oak overall to make for a powerful, full bodied and elegant wine that has opulence, but feels silky and balanced with a burst of energy and wonderful heightened flavors. A wonderful array of blue and black fruits greet the lush palate with some cool stoniness and spiciness with boysenberry, violet liqueur, cassis and a mix of plum, blueberry and raspberry adding a hint of vanilla, chalk, licorice and dusty chocolate. The satiny density of form doesn’t get flabby or dull the lively nature to be found here and the aftertaste goes on forever, lingering on and on with Pretty detail and a touch of welcome briar, lavender/incense, earth and kirsch. Air allows this Veracity to show it’s graceful textures, and while ripe at 15.4% natural alcohol, it shows great finesse and focus, right up there with great Chateauneuf(s), it certainly deserves all of it’s critical acclaim, this is one of California’s great wines. Drink this stuff over the next decade and try to enjoy with simple, but robust cuisine, and be sure to make Epoch Estate a stop when you get to Paso, their new tasting room is amazing, their people friendly and full of info about the wines, the vines and other fun under the radar places to visit, it’s a must see winery in the area.
($75 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 13, 2018

2017 Martha Stoumen, Carignan, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County.
It’s super fun to see a new generation of California winemaker going about re-inventing and discovering new ways to express grapes that never had much of voice here in California, like Martha Stoumen’s new release of Venturi Vineyard Carignan with it’s bright, but dark fruit, fresh flavors and slightly raw earthiness. Carignan also known as Carignane in California, is a grape that is found throughout the Mediterranean regions of Europe with major plantings in Italy, especially on Sardinia, Spain and in France where it plays a prime spot in Corbieres wines, an AOC in the Languedoc, as well as playing a minor role in the Southern Rhone, including Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a deeply colored red grape that most plays a supporting role in old vine field blends in California, blended with Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache to great effect, though in recent years it has started too come off the shadows and become a varietal that is getting attention as a solo grape or the main focus, in particular there has been some exciting versions from Ridge Vineyards, Sandlands, Pax, The Princess and the Peasant, Skylark, Bonny Doon and Ryme Cellars to name a few. Stoumen’s 2017 Carignan is really tasty and gets even more interesting and deep with air, she uses grapes that come off the historic Venturi Ranch in Mendocino, where Cariginan thrives, this parcel was planted back in 1948 and is extremely rocky, dry farmed with a make up of this old riverbed containing veins of quartz, shale, and sandstone soils all which seems to give the wine a mineral tone, a deep hue and a ripeness of detail with lower natural alcohol, with this one coming in at about 12%, this fits Martha’s style perfectly as she prefers a lighter and lively wine. The nose takes a moment to come alive and blow off a faint funk, very much like an old world country wine, giving some floral notes and brambly spices along with crisp blackberry, earthy/dusty plum and tangy cherry fruits as well as zesty blood orange, red peach along with light herbal elements, basil leaf, pepper and a bit of bite from skin tannins. Stoumen, who worked at COS in Sicily is known for her natural methods and textured wines, she has a lovely touch with her wines and a love for Italian grapes, she does a really good Nero d’Avila, see my review here. (click here) This is a vibrant red wine that gains greatly with cuisine, it has a streak that reminds me a little of Gamay with it’s juicy nature, it’s a playful wine that shows Carignan in it’s purest or naked form, it’s a version that should fill out more as it ages, but good to go right now, drink over the next 2 to 5 years and with food and friends.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 12, 2018

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul’s Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills 2016 is a beautiful youthful Pinot Noir crafted in classic Burgundian style with a dark ripe vintage backing up the slightly earthy reductive style, it impresses the palate much the same way as does Perrot-Minot’s Nuits-Saint-Georges, but with that Dundee spiciness from the Jory soils. Paul is one of the leading lights in the Deep Roots Coalition and is a firm believer in using only non irrigated (dry farmed) vines as well as striving for true sustainability and traditional methods in the cellar, his wines are authentic, dense and transmit a sense of purity. The Reserve is a special bottling, blended from lots of both of their top estate vineyards Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge from a vintage that Cameron considers a stellar year with tiny unusually small berries and amazing concentration with incredible flavor and powerful extract of which shows in the Reserve with a deep garnet and ruby hue in the glass and youthful intensity with a tight form that leads me to believe this will age fantastically well and get’s me really excited for the winery’s single vineyard top wines, because if this one is this good, then wow, they will be off the charts! Paul uses only native ferments and longer elevage, between 18 to 24 months (in only French oak small barrels) to allow his Pinots the show their terroir and complexity without being rushed out of the cellar. There is firmness to start here, but with air things just get better and better, dropping it’s gripping graphite/smoke and gamey notes to the background while revealing an inner beauty and perfume of violets and black fruits with layers of black cherry, plum, currant and misson fig fruits pumping on the medium full palate along with a dusting of red and brown spices, cedar, stinky truffle and a touch of char. The mouth feel is impressive and fruit density gloriously presented, while sweet and velvety tannins hold things in place, plus the subtle acidity gives an exciting precision to this 2016 Reserve Pinot and the finish is long and sexy. It really is a stunning wine, just note, it has much more potential and there’s much more to come, it’s still very primal at this stage, it is a wine that should hit it’s full stride in 3 to 5 years and go 15 years with ease! It should be held a while for best results, drink this Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot from 2023 to 2029 if you can wait, if not, give it plenty of air and enjoy with serious cuisine.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 11, 2018

2016 Bodega Garzón, Tannat, Reserve, Uruguay.
This deeply colored and flavored Tannat from Garzon comes from selected blocks coming from vineyards within 11 miles of the Atlantic Ocean that get plenty of warm sunshine and cool breezes that allows full ripening and balance, making for a complex and spicy wine. Done in modern, but not over done style with clean and clear detail this Garzón Tannat Reserve is full bodied and loaded with rich fruit decadence, but with a nice balance of tannin and acidity that allows a core of tar, spice and bite to offset the dense black fruits, which include black plum, currant, dusty raspberry and a touch of fig, I had this in a blind tasting and was leaning towards an ultra expensive cool climate Aussie Shiraz or maybe something with a touch of Cabernet or Mourvèdre in it, as we were doing Southern Hemisphere, but I got a huge surprise when it was revealed as pure Tannat, then it made such sense, especially after air when this wine added some leathery/earthy notes and brambly spices. This is a powerful and dark/inky wine, and it impresses for it’s unique and ever so slightly rustic character, aged in mostly used French oak and fermented in cement vats it has enough old world charm to make it thoughtful, but enough international cleanliness to please the many over the geek squad, it’s a wine I would buy no question, it also would be great with robust cuisine, as food brings out prettier elements and floral shadings. This Tannat finds the right path between international polish and the more traditional/rustic style like you’d find in a French version, say a Madiran or the Pyrenees Basque Irouleguy, you get a little bit of both and it’s the better for it, fun and impressive stuff from Uruguay, a country that deserves more attention than it gets.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive