Grapelive Latest

Blaufrankisch a Grape to Watch

By Kerry Winslow

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2007 Carnuntum Blaufrankisch, Carnuntum Austria (by Niepoort)
In many circles, Blaufrankisch is being talked about as the next big thing in cool reds, though that can be the kiss of death, as we all know from Syrah’s hype a few years ago, but that said, it is a grape on the rise and this beautiful and spicy version is one to look for. This wine is made in partnership with the famed Port house Niepoort and is a personal love of Dirk Niepoort himself. Blaufrankisch has the elegance and soulful presence of Burgundy, but with a touch more grippy spice and briery notes. This wine from the tiny region of Carnuntum, though to be one of the best terroirs for the grape in Austria is a layered and pure fruited wine with touches of cayenne pepper and baked plum to go with a core of cherry and cranberry. This wine which is made without oak influence is tangy and brisk, but opens nicely and has silky texture with mineral and earthy tones, so make sure you explore it with food to get the best out of it, a prime rib or roast beef seem good choices. There are many styles of Blaufrankisch and many come with quality oak aging, and they can be as costly as a fine Burgundy or Bordeaux, and they are coming, but I featured this one because it is a great way to get an idea of the grape and it is of great quality for the price.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Radog Wines

By Kerry Winslow

Dan Todor’s Radog label is a great way to explore the Monterey wine region, as it offers wonderful wines at a great price, everything from his famous Pinot Noir to Syrah all the way to Dry Riesling and Gewurztraminer, all of which give lots of pleasure and reflect a fine sense of Terroir!
Since 2000 Tudor has been receiving critical acclaim for his fantastic hand crafted Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, many vintages way over 90 points and more recently he has been sourcing further afield to find quality grapes for his second label Radog Wines. These Central Coast wines have been big hits with bistros and restaurants on coast and savvy wine buyers looking for a good price to quality ratio.

2007 Radog Dry Riesling Monterey County.

This wine is fruity but still dry and tangy making it great with all kinds of foods from chicken and pork to Asian fare. Bright apples, hints of dusty citrus and apricot lead the way in this fun and crisp lighter style wine.
($20 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Dry Gewurztraminer Monterey County.
This Gewurztraminer is fuller than the Radog Riesling and has a burst of spicy sweet fruit, but again is mostly dry in style. This is great for Indian and hotter foods, plus it is great with cheeses and honey ham. A nice stone fruit and lychee palate goes down smooth, but has good zest and tangy acidity.
($20 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Syrah Monterey County.
The Radog Syrah is dry and dusty with blueberry, raspberry and mocha notes along with hints of game, earth and leather. It opens up nicely and the tannins soften quickly leaving a savory spicy kick to the sweet red cherry and bitter chocolate on the finish. This middle weight Syrah would go great with BBQ or grilled meats.
86 Points, grapelive

2007 Radog Pinot Noir Monterey County.
The polished and lush Radog Pinot is more like the more limited Tudor selections with rich cherry  and plum fruits that go great with the creamy silk like texture. While more ready and fruity than his other wines this a good everyday wine and one Dan Tudor can be proud of as it is clean and easy to enjoy with pure Pinot character.
90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Latest

Ridge Vineyards New Releases Spring 2011

By Kerry Winslow

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Ridge Vineyards
Ridge is really making some of the most noteworthy wine for every palate, the Chardonnay is pure Grand Cru Burgundy class and is one of the best in the state, the Cabernet is like a first rate Bordeaux, but is all California, and this 2008 is even better than the 2007, crazy how Ridge can make better wines in vintages where some others might struggle, then again they have a remarkable site and terroir that is much different than any other! Then their classic California Zin blends, which always make for interesting and flavor packed wines, like the new Geyserville that has powerful fruit, but still has balance and vibrant flavors! Funny the Chardonnay has become the brightest star and has the potential to shine with other top Chards like Peter Michael, Aubert and Brewer-Clifton, and is a strong value.

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2009 Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Just when you thought they could not get better Ridge surpasses expectations again with their Estate Chardonnay that has all the Monte Bello fruit this year. The 2009 Ridge Chard shows rich and focused flavors and layers with lemon curd, pear and peach while fig, butterscotch and hazelnut play in the background. Hints of brioche, toast and vanilla linger on the finish. Good acidity and a mineral streak give this beauty a real Burgundy feel and without question this wine will develop nicely over the next few years! I was told this was going to be the only Chard from the 2009 vintage, being that no “Monte Bello” Reserve bottling was made, so best to jump on this one while it is available.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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2008 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This vintage has a much higher dose of pure Cabernet, 75% with less Merlot than the last few vintages at 20% plus tiny amounts of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, and it feels most gripping and intense than the last couple of years have, though it still has the refined finesse that Ridge is famous for. Still at about 13.5% Alcohol, this wine fills the mouth and gives lush black fruit notes with blackberry, plum and currants, while impressive Bordeaux like pencil lead, smoke and cedar come through in the background. This wine gets better and richer with air and has a touch of tobacco leaf, licorice and smoky sweet oak shadings that add complexity and depth. This wine is a steal at this price, don’t miss out!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

***

2009 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (Zinfandel blend) Sonoma County.
This is a bigger and more vigorous red than recent vintages with sweet black raspberry, savory currant, plum and spiced cherry fruits with sweet and tangy mountain berries coating the palate. Good acidity and spiciness keeps everything in check here, all is vivid and full of energy and this wine should age well for a decade or more no problem. This vintage Geyserville is more of everything than has been the case in recent years, though it never steps over the edge to port or jammy it does have sweet fruit and leaves a creamy compote aftertaste. This Geyserville has over 70% Zinfandel, but the other black grapes add to the color and complexity making this an exciting and sexy wine. This is another classic from Ridge and it should drink great for the next decade and maybe beyond.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Available through www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive Latest

Breakthrough Artist of the Month: Eve Fricke

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Eva Fricke Riesling Rheingau Trocken, Germany.
This wine is all you could ask for in a drier Riesling with terroir driven flavors of the hills above Rudesheim and the soils that made them unique. The nose is citrus and tropical blossoms with hints of apple skin and slate-like minerals leading to a crisp and lean palate of white peach, green apple, apricot and pineapple/tropical fruits. A blast of citrus and stones comes through keeping the fruit in check and leaving an acidic freshness and lime note. I could drink this wine every night! Over the next few years it should develop nicely allowing classic petrol fumes and filling out a bit, even if I suggest drinking it now. I imagine it would be perfect with shellfish. Eva Fricke is the vineyard manager at Leitz, a world famous domaine and she is an expert in the field, she knows her soils, as well as now adding her name to the list of stars to watch, producing outstanding handcrafted wines! Bravo.
($18 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Available by special order at www.sfwtc.com 1-800-681-WINE

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Wren Hop Chardonnay “Shipwreck Savior” Sonoma Coast.
This Chard has vibrant and lush fruit with sweet citrus flowers, pear and pineapple with baked apple and bioche. This wine is deeply flavored, concentrated and vivid with flashes of mineral and lemon curd and finishes long with hints of hazelnut, smoke and Vanilla. Wren is a new label and winery and star winemaker Russell Bevan is crafting the wines here, with two Pinot Noirs and this Chardonnay being the first ever releases. I must admit there is a lot of buzz about these wines, especially after Robert Parker gave the two Pinots big ratings, so I had heard of them, but the Chardonnay had not been mentioned. While the Wren Hop Vineyards wines are uber California in style and there may be a few out there that will shy away from them, they are of the highest quality and very showy. ($42 Est.)

93 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow


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2008 Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
For those that can no longer afford Lafite or Haut-Brion, there can be no other choice than the outstanding Haut-Bailly, a Chateau that has now every right to claim itself one of the best, not just for value, but for total quality. I must say, the 2000 Haut-Bailly rocked my world, and on tasting the 2008, my feelings haven’t changed, and for me this is a Chateau to look to for top Bordeaux. Especially if you are going to drink it, and not solely buy to resale, as Haut-Bailly is right up there with La Mission Haut-Brion and a third of the price! The wine is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, about 60% and with 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc adding to the blend which is known for its terroir driven flavors and lengthy elegance. The 2008 Haut-Bailly gives layers of black and blue fruits, mineral earthiness, smoky sweet oak from 50% new barrels and subtle tobacco, mocha, licorice and pencil lead. This chewy Bordeaux needs some short term cellaring to fill out and soften up, even though it is world class already!
($75-100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive



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Grapelive Special Report

Grapelive: Pisoni’s Lucia Vineyards Spring Release Reviews

By Kerry Winslow

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2010 Lucy Rose (Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni) Santa Lucia Highlands.
This new vintage of Lucy, a Rose of Pinot Noir, is as everything with Pisoni, larger than life, with Bandol Rose meets Premier Cru Burgundy character! This certainly has to be one of the best California Vin Gris wines and a great Spring wine, with fresh watermelon, red peach, citrus leading the way before true Pinot Noir flavors come rushing forward with pure cherry and tangy plum filling the palate. The finish lingers, but there is plenty of spice and clean acidity to give a crisp and vibrant end. This Lucy has vivid color and lively rose petal notes to add excitement to go along with all the fun.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive


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2009 Lucia Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands.

Jeff Pisoni has nailed it again with some of his dad’s oldest vines to create a world class Chardonnay that can rival the best from anywhere! The 2009 Lucia Chard is rich, full and wonderfully balanced with vigor and fruit intensity showing pure pear, apple, white peach and lemon curd, while there is spice cake, clove, fig and hazelnut in the background. This Chard should gain lots in character with some bottle age and while it is rich and full bodied it has nice bounce and clean acidity. I hope it picks up a bit more mineral and brioche notes, as that is all that would be need to merit an even higher rating! This wine is hard not to love and competes well with $75 to $100 Chards, be they from Burgundy or the Sonoma Coast, bravo guys this is awesome.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


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2009 Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands.
This cuvee of selected barrels and vineyards is one of the great values in highend Pinot, with fruit coming from block at Pisoni and Garys’, both of which continue to be two of the best sites for Pinot Noir in the state. The 2009 gives the best of both Cru vineyards with loads of dark fruit, smoke, creme de cassis and minerally spice. The structure is firm with balancing tannin and acidity that holds the rich fruit in check, but still allows for a silky mouth feel. There is blackberry, cherry, plum and blueberry layers with hints of violets and a kiss of vanilla from the French oak. This outstanding wine should age well for 5-7 years, getting more complex and interesting as time goes by, though it will be tough to resist in its youth.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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2009 Lucia Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
I would like very much to see this wine in a blind tasting in 4 or 5 years time against Grand Cru Burgundy, Kistler, Beaux Freres and even the Pisoni Estate, as I think this wine would not only hold up, but I think it might just eclipse them if not take the honors. This is the real deal and all involved should be proud of this wine, Jeff Pisoni, winemaker, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni vineyard partners and Mark Pisoni who helps keep it all together, no question these guys and nature have blessed this vintage and this Pinot! The 2009 Lucia Garys’ is powerful and brooding with tight layers of black and blue fruits and firm tannins, both backed up by racy acidity. The nose is still shy, but shows violets and other floral notes, smoky toast, truffle and coffee bean leading to a deep palate of blueberry, plum, black cherry and currants. Complex earth, spice, mineral and wild lavender vie for attention in the background along with a hint of game. Give this baby some time in the cellar, and if you can’t wait, decant it for a good long while, allowing it to open up and show all of its pleasures.
($50 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive


Available at:

www.luciavineyards.com

or

www.sfwtc.com

1-800-681-WINE

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2008 Chateau Grand Mayne Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion, Red Bordeaux.
For those looking for a great Bordeaux that still qualifies as a value, would be well served to stock up on the 2008 Grand-Mayne, while not cheap, it delivers top notch quality and finesse. Some might suggest that its ripeness pushes the limit, it remains well balanced and will no doubt mature with grace and show remarkable depth and purity for a decade at least, while being a huge joy even in the short term. Grand Mayne is set on one of the best hillside slopes in all of “Right Bank” if not all Bordeaux, and with it’s make up 80% Melot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon it has great complexity and big flavors. The perfume and spiciness lift it above almost anything it the price range in both Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, and the lush and full body make it very approachable to more modern wine drinkers, me included to be honest. Clean and rich with great detail the Grand Mayne 2008 is a huge success and still can be found easily on the market at pre-release prices, so do a little searching and reserve some, it will be worth it, and I won’t be alone in praising this gem in the coming years! The nose is savory and toasty sweet with coca powder, blackberries and flower petals with a explosion of black and blue fruits on the palate and the wine is mouth filling with bold flavors and firm structured layers. There is some grippy tannins, but they fade into the background quickly and the subtle and smoky oak softens this Bordeaux nicely. The rich mouth has blackberry, boysenberry, spiced cherry, cedar, mocha and currants with plummy texture and hints of sweet herbs and spices along with touch of mineral and tobacco.
($79-125 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


Due in May 2011

Still available at Pre-Sale at www.sfwtc.com $59.95 (Pre-Paid)

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Grapelive Wine of the Day

Grapelive Wine of the Day

By Kerry Winslow

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2005 CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscan Red. (Frescobaldi)
This dark and richly fruity Brunello is wonderfully open and smooth with ripe fruit and solid structure contrasts greatly with most Brunello’s of the vintage, making me give kudos to Frescobaldi for going for quality in a very tough year. That said it is not for the long haul or a blockbuster by any means, but it gives a lot considering the vintage and the competition. The color is opaque and purple and the nose is deep and perfumed, before a lush mouth of red berry, cherry, strawberry and plum fruits with touches of coco, lavender, herbs, licorice, hay and tobacco leaf. While this wine tastes cleanly modern, it retains classic Sangiovese character and even has a acidic kick. Given air it tightens up and the tannins become more aggressive, but it still begs to be drunk now, so enjoy this very good 2005 while the 2001 and 2004 sleep in the cellar and you wait for the 2006’s to show up late this Spring of 2011.
($75 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive


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Grapelive Special Report

Bordeaux 2008 “Left Bank” Gems
By Kerry Winslow

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Regional Tasting Report

I got a chance to sample finished bottle examples of 2008 Bordeaux in late January, and here are my best wines from the “Left Bank” of Bordeaux.

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Pauillac

2008 Chateau Lynch-Bages Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, Red Bordeaux.
I have had 1961 Lynch Bages, and a few other top vintages, and while making no claim as being an expert on the Chateau, I find the 2008 the best vintage bar none of Lynch Bages, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great value in top Bordeaux. With out question this vintage rivals any First Growth, and I would put it right up with Latour and ahead of Mouton by far, and at one-tenth the price of Lafite, the 2008 Lynch Bages seems like a steal! While other critics, most note worthy Mr. Parker, had mentioned the quality of this wine in their barrel tasting notes, I got it straight from finished bottle, and was even more impressed than I thought I could be, this is an amazing wine and a wine that could go the distance. The nose is smoky, deep and mineral laced with pencil shavings, cassis and dark flowers leading to a remarkablely pure palate that screams of powerful Cabernet in very much the same fashion as a great Chateau Latour does with black currant, blackberry, crème de cassis, bitter chocolate, tobacco, mineral spice, licorice and gun powder. Gripping ripe tannins, natural acidity and great length make it clear this is a serious Bordeaux that has more to give and a long life ahead of it.  This Lynch Bages is the best deal in Pauillac by far, with only Pontet-Canet coming close.
($150-200 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

***

2008 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe, Red Bordeaux.
Pontet-Canet, an 1855 Cru Classe Growth, should be almost be consider a First Growth these days and since 2000 has rivaled Lafite, Mouton, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Latour for outright quality. This intensely farmed and cropped estate is pure class and quality with a make up of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and a touch of Petit Verdot, all which add power, charm, complexity and grace to the final cuvee. I thought the 2001 Pontet-Canet was fantastic, and in my own opinion might have been the best wine of the vintage bar none, and the 2008 is right up there, and was almost equal to the mind-blowing 08 Lynch Bages, and I feel both Lynch Bages and Pontet-Canet blow doors on the First Growths when price is considered. The 2008 Pontet-Canet is vivid and vibrantly flavored with loads of blue and black fruits surging across the palate with boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, plum and rich crème de cassis and currant notes. This Pontet-Canet is more fruit driven than the heroic 2000 and more balanced as well with ripe tannins and almost perfect oak shadings. There is a background of sage, vanilla, graphite, smoke and coffee grounds all of which heightens the fruit core and frames everything in classic fashion.
($125-175 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

***

Saint-Julien


2008 Chateau Leoville Barton Cru Classe, Saint-Julien, Red Bordeaux.
The powerful and tightly wound Leoville Barton may end up the finest of Saint-Julien for the vintage, as it is hard to imagine any of the others to come together to match this wine for quality, even if it might take ten years to reach its potential. This classic Bordeaux is a rival for anything out of Margaux and Pauillac and should be seriously considered by collectors and Bordeaux lovers that what quality cellar worthy claret for the long haul. The powerful tannins and fresh acidity are perfect foils for the richness of the fruit, even if the wine is tight and stark now, as it should all come right in a few years in bottle. The depth and color are as good as it gets, while the intense black fruits grabs equal attention and the smoky oak holds it all together. I have no doubt this wine will be a classic, and maybe even a legend down the road. This Chateau is close to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it that massive power, 20% or so of Merlot, and a tiny bit of Cabernet Franc, usually about 3% per vintage, all of which means length and structure, though the Merlot helps round things out and gives body. This vintage like most saw about 50% new French oak, though the fruit shines and almost no oak is showing at this early stage, which bodes well for the future of this wonderful Bordeaux. Of all the Saint-Julien’s this one stood head and shoulders above the rest in this tasting. (January 2011)
($100-200 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

***

Margaux

2008 Chateau Brane-Cantenac Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, Red Bordeaux.
From what I tasted, I think Margaux had the worst year in 2008 of all the Bordeaux regions, though I adored the rich and lovely Brane-Cantenac and think it almost surpasses the 2000 vintage even. I did a tasting panel of 2000 Bordeaux, and the Brane-Cantenac scored very well and most serious critics have been watching this Chateau rise again in class and, I think, seen it elevate to stellar heights, only a few clicks behind Chateau Margaux. With some of the greatest history in the region, not to mention the outstanding soils, Brane-Cantenac is an elite Chateau that makes one of the great wines of the world. The first wine is made up of about 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and the 2008 tastes pure and focused with smoky, earthy black fruits and dark opaque color, while ripe tannins keep everything in check. Best to give this rich and elegant wine some time to fill out and come together, even though it really delivers even now, lush blackberry, currant, licorice, plum and cherry load the palate and mineral, cedar and sandalwood come through in the background.
($75-120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

***

Pessac-Leognan (Graves)


2008 Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte Grand Cru Classe de Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
This vintage again is a stellar effort from Smith Haut-Laffite and showcases the wonders of Graves and is again one of the stars of the year when you factor in price with quality, as the Smith Haut-Laffite gives a lot of pleasure and class for the buck. I think Pessac did remarkablely well in 2008, only slightly out shined by Saint-Emillon for best of the vintage. While there was a few Pauillac and Pomerols that wowed too, I found overall that Pessac-Leognan and Saint-Emillon had the best overall regional consistent quality for Bordeaux, and Smith Haut-Laffite scored very high in my notes against all comers regardless of fame and address! This pure and minerally Bordeaux is all about cool clear fruit, balance and elegant length with blackberry, plum and savory currant, plus earthy leather, mint and pencil lead. The very dark garnet color seduces you and the rich mouth feel keeps you smiling, while it can age, it seems a crime not to enjoy this Bordeaux in its early days.
($80-120 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive


***

2008 Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
For those that can no longer afford Lafite or Haut-Brion, there can be no other choice than the outstanding Haut-Bailly, a Chateau that has now every right to claim itself one of the best, no just for value, but for total quality. I must say, the 2000 Haut-Bailly rocked my world, and on tasting the 2008, my feelings haven’t changed, and for me this is a Chateau to look to for top Bordeaux. Especially if you are going to drink it, and not solely buy to resale, as Haut-Bailly is right up there with La Mission Haut-Brion and a third of the price! The wine is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, about 60% and with 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc adding to the blend which is known for its terroir driven flavors and lengthy elegance. The 2008 Haut-Bailly gives layers of black and blue fruits, mineral earthiness, smoky sweet oak from 50% new barrels and subtle tobacco, mocha, licorice and pencil lead. This chewy Bordeaux needs some short term cellaring to fill out and soften up, even though it is world class already!
($75-100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Please note, as of March 2011, many of these wines are still available at Futures prices, so shop early to get the best deals.

Most of these are available at: www.sfwtc.com

Wine Reviews, Articles & Travel