Hot Picks

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2005 Tudor Pinot Noir Tondre Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands

This Pinot is all about purity and elegance with subtle power and solid structure and balance making it all that more impressive. Tudor got the max from this site and produced a wonderful and pretty wine, and one that will fill out and get richer over the next couple of years. There is everything to like and nothing to complain about here with this lovely Pinot. Soft full flavors and nice textures make this a joy to drink now, in fact I’m sure I would not be able to keep my paws off it! The flavors are vibrant and lush with cherry, raspberry and fresh ripe plum flowing through out. The has depth and complexity, but is more about pleasure and smoothness which makes it very friendly right now. The finish is long and has a lingering stawberries and cream note that really stays with you. Touches of toast, cranberry, vanilla and tea spice add to the wines allure. ($60-65 Est) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Tudor Direct

Meet Richard Alfaro at Bouchee in Carmel Nov.24th

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Winemaker Richard Alfaro, of Alfaro Family & Martin Alfaro Winery Will be Pouring his Wines at Bouchee Bistro in Carmel Nov. 24th (Saturday12 (Noon) to 4 PM

I’ve been a huge fan of this talented winemaker for a few years now, and I recommend you check him out! He will be at Bouchee Bistro and Wine Merchants in Carmel-by-the-Sea this Saturday and he’ll be pouring his latest releases. Plus I believe he’ll try to bring a future release and a library selection of his Pinot Noir.

Bouchee Bistro & Wine Merchants 

Has The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker Hurt the Wine Industry or Helped?

I was asked about the influence of The Wine Spectator (magazine) and Robert Parker (famous wine critic) and whether it has been a negative or a positive? The angle that was posed to me was that wines were now made for them and their taste rather than done as had been done traditionally and that wines were now more all the same… It seemed to me as if it was a statement of fact… Really, are we going to blame The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker this perception? Really? Okay, I’ve heard many frustrations regarding these wine critics, and from time to time I’ve taken issue with their assessment of a wine or two, but I guess I would have to defend them overall. My Opinion is as follows on the subject.

My view, or my two cents worth, on Robert Parker (Wine Critic) and Wine Spectator (Wine Magazine) is as follows, I like we must be fair and admit both Parker and The Wine Spectator have done wonders for the wine industry and bashing them seems to me to be sour grapes, sorry no pun intended! While Spectator seems highly political and maybe more money motivated, overall it is positive force for the consumer, though even it might help the collector more than the average wine drinker. As for Parker, he likes what he likes and who am I to argue with that, I am the same! I don’t always agree with him, but really he is good and I can’t fault his reviews or ratings much. People complain that wineries now make their wine to please him, rather than doing things per tradition or hanging when they pick the grapes to make a more fruit driven style. Maybe this is true, but if they make a better wine and people buy it, is that not good? Really, you must be realistic, Robert Parker has made fortunes for the wine industry and in my opinion, I think he almost saved the French wine trade at a time when it didn’t look good for them. The argument is that we are losing terroir driven wines, wines that show the true nature of the place or region. That is also highly suspect, I am finding more terroir driven wines now then ever before and I believe that this trend is not going to decline any time soon. It would be fair though, to say one of the bad effects, that both Parker and the Wine Spectator must accept as natural for the course, is greed.  This is a negative influence on the market place and can be traced back to good ratings from Parker especially, but the marketplace is always going to be controlled by the wealthy and what they are willing to pay. It has also been suggested that the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker are responsible for higher prices and a lack of quality wine at lower price points, okay someone needs to get a life and maybe stop taking the “Kool Aid” as this is crazy talk. The real problem is the cost of winemaking especially in California, small wineries can’t afford to make $2.99 bottles of wine here, honestly it costs most small producers about $7.00 a bottle at least to make good wine, so by the time it gets to the customer with some profit for each stop on the way, it will sell for about $20. You must remember they must grow the grapes, all the farming and utility costs, ferment, barrel age and bottle the wine, then there is staff, marketing and packaging too.  No you can’t blame Wine Spectator or Parker for those costs. There are factory made wines that sell for anywhere from $2 to 9 that have made it more hard for the small family winery to sell cheaper wines, I mean why would anyone want to compete in that price range, it would be crazy to do so. So small wineries are making more distinct wines for niche markets, that is their only hope. Especially as I haven’t even mentioned quality inexpensive wines that come from South American or even Australia. In summing it up, I can tell you that there are many factors to be reviewed and putting fault on Robert Parker’s or the Wine Spectator’s door is too simple and not fair in the slightest. All of us must grudgingly admit we all have been more helped by Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator than hurt, to me it is not even close.

Grapelive Latest

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Tasting Great Wines, Tough Job, Yeah Right!

I must say it is a blessing to be able to taste these wines and I remain thankful not jaded for this pleasure. This week has been a real joy I must say, as I was invited to taste some fantastic wines. I was in the company of some very interesting people, like Gary Pisoni, Pisoni Vineyards and Winery and Jeff Fink, winemaker for Tantara Winery, both of which shine the light on the Pinot Noir grape and have help shape the market for Pinot Noir with world class wines. We tasted Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir from vintages 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005 and Jeff Fink previewed his Pisoni Vineyard from Tantara for the up coming release of 2006! All these were amazing, as well as some Garys’ Vineyard Pinots from Pisoni’s Lucia label and Tantara, which again proved what a great region the Santa Lucia Highlands are for Pinot Noir. It was tough to pick a favorite, but I must say the 2004 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate, 95 Points & the 2006 Tantara Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard (Pre-Release, from magnum, due out in March 2008) 96 Points, both were fantastic and dramatic Pinots, which topped in my notes. Then from totally around the world another Pinot Noir caught my attention, an Austrian version! An outstanding wine, the 2005 Loimer Pinot Noir from near the beautiful blue Danube, this was ripe, lush and rich in fruit with pretty cherry, grenadine, strawberry and red plum flavors that just exploded on the palate. This wine will be a secret favorite, as it will be almost impossible to find even though it was only about $40 retail est. I gave it 93-94 Points. Apart from Pinot, I have tasted some Zinfandel & Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards, liking them very much, especially the 2005 Ridge Geysersville California (Zinfandel) 40th Vintage, Sonoma County. ($33 Est.) 92 Points, and the 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red (Cabernet Sauvignon) California. ($35-40) 91 Points. These were classic and will be loved anytime and anywhere! Finally, I was able to try the 2005 Robert-Denogent Pouilly-Fuisse(s) from Kermit Lynch, the “Cuvee Claude” & the “Les Reisses” both of which were stunning and would easily compete with Grand Cru White Burgundies! This guy can make Chardonnay with the best of them, no question and at a remarkable price too! These two bottlings rated at 94-95 Points and sell for around $40-45 Est. each. Enjoy!

Hot Picks Nov. 10th 2007

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2005 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis “Montee de Tonnerre” Premier Cru (White Burgundy)

This is wine is always one of the world’s best whites and Raveneau is a master of this region and its grapes there is no doubt at all. Chardonnay may never be better than this! Chablis Chardonnay is pure, clean and elegant with pretty vibrant flavors and wild stoney mineral notes. This maybe one of the best ever vintages and this wine is amazing and damn near perfect, even if it is really too young to give its all yet. It opens slowly and tight with lime and slate that is very robust and tangy. With its youthful acidity still gripping the fruit is slow to develop, but wow after thirty minutes open at almost room temp. it explodes! This lovely white has white peach, lemon, green apples and a touch of spice on the palate. There is a awesome pear note that fills your mouth and stays all the way through with added touches in the background of liquid mineral that is both a taste and texture. Truly a mind-blowing wine that is worth the money and time to find! ($99-150 Est) 97 Points, grapelive

Kermit Lynch

*Very Limited. Call Bouchee Wines 1-831-626-7880

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2005 Ridge Geyserville California (Zinfandel) Sonoma County 40th Vintage Bottling

Three cheers for this California classic! 40 years of Geyserville is a very important and historic milestone, and this vintage proves it is worthy of 40 more! This vibrant and robust Zin is everything it should be and is every bit a true Geyserville has been and still is. This lively red has plenty of raspberry, briar, plum, cherry and bramble berry fruit flowing on the palate with hints of spice and cedar. The finish is zesty, clean and polished, this is a fine wine to be enjoyed anytime.($33 Est.)* 92 Points, grapelive

*Widely Available

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2006 Pax Syrah Sonoma Hillsides Russian River Valley

This wine is almost black, and for sure no light can get through it! This is great stuff with loads of thick fruit, but with balance and style. Lovely violets, sweet spices, lavender and black fruits shine through, leading to chocolate laced currants, cassis, blueberry and plum compote. Zesty, spicy acidity, earth, game and vanilla all add to the depth and complexity to this wonderful Syrah making Hermitage and Cote-Rotie proud! The finish is huge and long, giving lots of pleasure for what seems like 2-3 minutes! ($50-55 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

*Very Limited

Bouchee Wines


Radog Whites

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2006 Radog Gewurztraminer Monterey County
This is a nice juicy white with some classic Gewurz charm and spiciness. They is some bright citrus and apricots that shine through here and good acidity that makes this a balanced lighter style wine that is good for Asian cusine. ($17 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

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2006 Radog Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco, Monterey County
This Sauvignon shows some interesting terroir and sweet fruits along with crisp acidity and a tangy aftertaste. Dried candied citrus, lemon-lime and pear notes lead the way and zesty cleansing acid keeps it together. This little white makes for a good afternoon picnic wine and or fruit and cheese.($17 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

Grapelive November Musings

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It’s Fall, The Joyous Time of New Releases!

This change of season brings the end of harvest and the time of year for new releases, so it is a thankful time and one to savor. It looks as if 2007 Harvest brought a very good vintage, as most of the growers I’ve talked to have said the magic combination of tiny berries and low yields have been uttered many times and that usually means top quality. This means great wines are fermenting in barrel or tanks, but in the meantime we have the new releases hitting the market now. 2005 and even some 2006 wines are popping up, in this case I mean red wine, as 2006 whites have been around for awhile now, and I can tell you both the 2005 and 2006 are super vintages! Look for great 2005 Cabernets to start hitting the selves near you and I say buy them up now before those critics start giving scores! I tried a couple of new releases, 2005 Keever Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($69 Est.) and 2005 Parsonage Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve <Click Here for 2005 Parsonage Reviews> both of which were awesome! The Keever is going to be a huge deal, a wine to watch for sure. Both wines rated in the mid to high Ninety point rage! The 2006 vintage Syrahs and Pinots are now just being let loose and show lots of promise, in fact they are fantastic! I fell head over heels for the 2006 Pax Syrah Hillside Sonoma ($50-55 Est.), it is a big wine, but is drinking great and super thick with almost black color! As for 2006 Pinot, it is great and less acidic than 2005, though it has sublime balance and depth, one that got my attention was the 2006 Drew Family Pinot Noir “Gatekeeper’s” Santa Rita Hills ($45 Est.) This was an amazing Pinot with intense flavors and deep complexities. So we have much to enjoy about this fall!

Guten Tag! Here are German Pinot Noirs that are darn good!

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2005 Domaine Assmannshausen Staatsweinguter Kloster Eberbach (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken “Assmannshauser Hollenberg” Rheingau

Everything about this Pinot Noir is lovely and vibrant, well except the label and trying to pronounce it! After that struggle for this language challenged Californian, I was over joyed with the quality and purity of this German Pinot. No doubt, this is an “Old World” wine, but it is so charming even the most fruit-headed of Pinot drinkers will be impressed. I will tell you, I might have easily thought this was a premier cru Burgundy, either Nuits-St. George or maybe a Volnay and regardless this was a fun and pretty wine. The palate is full and lush with tingling red berry and solid cherry fruit, spices, and earthy cranberry. The wine has some lingering plum and mineral notes and only a touch of gamy mushrooms. Overall this is a super wine with nice balance and graceful winemaking that is not trying to be anything other than what it is. German Pinot is rare and difficult to find, but that said you should really try and find some! ($40-45 Est) 90 Points, grapelive

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2003 August Kesseler (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Rheingau QbA Trocken

Kesseler Rieslings are legendary and offer great quality at a impressive price, but his Pinots are extremely rare and have achieved “Cult” fame at home in Germany so they are a rarity here and very pricey. This one is the exception and is that high quality fair priced gem that we all search for. 2003 was a very hot and ripe year, which really helped the growers get great grapes even for their lesser wines. You won’t find this deal every vintage, so if you see it get it! This Pinot shows lush and fat fruit with red berries, cherry and sweet plums on the palate. The wine is fruity, but has good balance and is interesting and not dull at all with touches of spice, earth, slate and truffle that keep you guessing. While German Pinot is unique, it certainly can be very good and in league with Burgundy, it is also much more pleasurable with food. Very cool wine. ($35 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

Dee Vine Wines

* Small amounts available at BoucheeWines call 831-626-7880

Grapelive’s Hot Picks

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2001 Mastrojani Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

This is a beautiful and pure Brunello that is both clean and old world charming, proving this is one place where you can keep terroir and still make a modern palate happy. Lovely richness and sublime textures with vigor and live, this classic Brunello can be drunk now or kept for another decade. Cherry, strawberry, cassis and dried herb Sangiovese purity flows across the palate with touches of rose petal, red berry and tobacco that add to the complex array of layers. This wine has a near perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acidity, again highlighting the vintage and superb winemaking here. ( $48 Est) 93-94 Points, grapelive


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2006 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone White, France

This classy vibrant white has plenty to love and is never anything but fresh and beautiful. Soft peach, pear and apricot fruit, clean acidity and subtle mineral and spice notes. Gets bigger and deeper with air, but it never gets flabby or out of balance. This Chateauneuf Blanc is fantastic and has the style of a Puligny in if it is Southern Rhone wine, that is how pure and focused it is. It shows ripe fruit, smooth texture and a full round mouth-feel with a long zesty finish. ($52-55 Est) 92 Points, grapelive

Kermit Lynch Direct

Also avail. at Bouchee Wines

Latest Reviews, Weekly Picks

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2005 La Spinetta Barbera D’ Asti Ca Di Pian, Piedmonte, Italy

I am a hopeless fan of this producer, I feel they might be the overall best winery in Piedmonte! This wine is a joy and offers so much it is hard to not fall in love with it. A super value, even with the lame dollar to euro, at $28 this is a steal. I get a case or so whenever I can! It is hard to find, but now that the Henry Wine Group imports it direct it has became easier for restaurants and wine merchants to get it, so get on your local to pick it up! Lush red fruits, plum, cherry and berries with some pretty currants. Good dark color and full-bodied, this Barbera gives it all. I give this wine to all my friends, and they just call it the Rhino Wine, because of the label drawing. ($28-30 est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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2006 Chateau Thivin Brouilly Cru Beaujolais (Gamay Noir) Claude Geoffray, French Red

If you want to perfect Thanksgiving red this just might be it, just one sip will convince most to the pleasure of a real fine Beaujolais! This clean and structured Gamay has tons of fruity flavor, but is lively and medium bodied. Pretty fresh crushed berries and strawberry compote smoothly dance on the palate with a flourish of cranberry and dried flowers on the finish. This is a totally yummy wine that has class, but easy to quaff anytime. You can find it through Kermit Lynch in Berkeley and it is under $20 most places! ($18-22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine Reviews, Articles & Travel