2009 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This powerful and young Pinot Noir is going to be a classic, an age worthy red that has firm structure and focus, not the typical ultra fruity style. The new Pisoni has all the depth and dark fruit you’d expect, but it is wrapped in gripping tannins and zesty acidity, this should be great in a few years, though now it is showing a more Grand Cru youthfulness, making it a Pinot for the cellar. Jeff Pisoni, winemaker for the family estate, and son of Gary Pisoni has crafted a profound wine that could in my opinion become the best yet from this fantastic vineyard. While tight and firm, the Pisoni shows blackberry, blueberry, savory cherry and wild plum fruits with hints of truffle, stones, briar and lavender spiciness, finishing long with mouth coating tannins and subtle toasty oak leaving hints of smoke, vanilla and kirsch. This brisk Pinot will fill out and pretty up over the next few years and should drink sublime for a decade. (Tasted at Family Winemakers Tasting 8/21/11- Release in Sept. 2011)
($80 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2009 Piedrasassi Syrah “PS” Santa Ynez Valley.
Sashi Moorman’s own project, when he is not making Stolpman, Sandhi with Raj Parr, or Evening Land wines, dedicated to small lots of Syrah, Piedrasassi has been making world class Syrah since 2003. Sashi is a great talent and one of California’s finest winemakers, he has quietly reached this level without lots of fanfare or Hollywood glamour, since his days as an assistant winemaker at Ojai Vineyards, and I’m not sure why, as he has scored big with Robert Parker and others over the years! That said, Sashi Moorman has a huge cult like following, especially within the industry, which is high praise indeed. This “PS” Syrah is trademark Sashi, and if you love Syrah you need to get some, this striking red has charm, depth and class way beyond it’s meager price, I can say it may just be the best wine for the price I’ve had this year! This 2009 PS is darkly fruited with blueberry, boysenberry and dusty olallieberry leading the way with cassis, mineral, pepper, truffle, game and licorice notes all flowing in the background. The palate is round and full, but everything is alive and balanced with fresh acidity and there is only a tiny trance of wood and a hint of smoky char. This wine is pure class and a steal, sadly it is likely to be hard to find as not much of it was made, but it is worth chasing!
($18 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Brovia Barbera “Sori del Drago” La Morra, Piedmonte, Italy.
Brovia’s wonderful Barbera “Sori del Drago” is one of the greats, and is a refined and balanced red that gives heightened elegance and depth to this very underrated grape. The 2009 Brovia is full and loaded with blackberry, cherry and tangy plum fruit, chalky mineral essence, violets and lavender spices. The nose is earthy floral and the palate fresh and bright with the black and blue fruits and is a alive with focused acidity. This wine really expands on the palate giving round smoothness with just a hint of tannin to frame it, making it glorious with food. There is a hint of neutral wood that helps keep it all together and there is a touch of truffle and fennel to go with the pure dark fruits. I tasted this wine twice and both times found it stunning and a Barbera of quality and charm with energy and complexity, making it a new pet favorite to go with my love of this grape and I put it up there with the best of the region, including La Spinetta and others.
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2008 St. Michael-Eppan Blauburgunder-Pinot Nero, Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Pinot Noir) Italy.
This lovely and delicate Pinot Noir from the Alto Adige tastes remarkably like German Spatburgunder with a hint of Dundee Hills added for good measure. Best known for Pinot Grigio, St. Michael-Eppan does a fine Pinot Nero and this is the best I’ve tried from them to date, and with beautiful details and silky texture this wine will appeal to Burgundy lovers as well as Oregon fans. Italy has a few good Pinots, and this is one of them with pretty cherry fruit, flinty mineral, tea spice and subtle oak. The nose is dusty with roses, truffle and a whiff of smoke leading to the cherry core on the palate, with raspberry, plum and slate like earthiness adding complexity. This is a very nice wine and a decent bargain to boot, I should think those that like a lighter, livelier and brighter style of Pinot will love this flavorful and balanced red.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscan Red, Italy.
This estate near Castelnuovo dell’ Abate was started in 1975 when the Roman lawyer, Gabriele Mastrojanni bought the two old estates of Loreto and San Pio near the river mouth of the Orcia River in a rocky wooded area of this famous region. Planted on river rock and south facing slopes the vines at Mastrojanni are as perfectly sited as can be and it shows in the beauty and depth in the wines made here. Loreto is mostly planted to Brunello clone, while San Pia has a block of Cabernet Sauvignon which is blended with a touch of their Sangiovese Grosso in a San Pia bottling to go with their Brunello and Rosso. Interestingly enough, while the Mastrojanni Brunello gets all the attention, I have twice now in great vintages of Brunello, have been more impressed by the Rosso di Montalcino and the 2009 certainly is a lovely surprise out performing the highly touted 2006 Brunello in a recent tasting! While the Brunello is no slouch by any means, the 2009 just is more elegant and vibrant, and even better, it is half the price at least! The nose is deep with spring flowers, black currants and lavender like sweet herbs leading the way while the palate has plum, strawberry jam, black cherry and raspberry fruits. The 2009 Rosso feels silky smooth, but has good fresh acidity and tangy flavors with a background of licorice, cedar, mineral spice and violets. Mastrojanni uses big, mostly neutral French casks for this wine (aged 6 months) and the Alliers wood is subtle and refined framing this Sangiovese perfectly.
($30 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2008 Le Berne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscan Red, Italy.
Made with Prugnolo (same Sangiovese clone as Sangiovese Grosso, as is found in Brunello), plus local varieties Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo Vino Nobile is one of Italy’s great wines, and a great value when compared to it’s Tuscan rival Brunello di Montalcino. I have found Le Berne in the last few vintages to be a real glorious red that offers class, richness and length so it was great to try this 2008 and find that it is as good as the 2006 and 2007 vintages were. If you want a great Tuscan wine and be savvy, this beauty is your ticket, no question. The 2008 Le Berne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is full and lively with blackberry, cherry and wild strawberry fruits with touches of smoke, mineral spice, cedar and sweet mountain herbs. The nose has floral tones and a touch of truffle that also translates to the palate with notes of violets and dried roses, earthy leather and blond tobacco. The subtle framing wood adds a touch of baking spices on the finish. If you crave Brunello or Chianti Classico you should find this fantastic wine and compare for yourself, this is a stunning wine that deserves more attention.
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine du Moulin Neuf Bourgogne Rouge (Danjean-Berthoux) France.
This little Bourgogne is a lovely Pinot Noir with impressive fruit and silky texture, especially at this price. With a good vintage and tough economy, 2009 sure is delivering great drinking Burgundies at every price point, and even these entry level wines show interesting depth and character, and while not of collector caliber they provide great fun and are easy on the wallet. This Domaine du Moulin Neuf has good ripe fruit and soft acidity, almost tasting like a good Oregon Pinot with spicy sweet red berries, cherry and strawberry leading the way on the palate. The nose is slightly floral and a touch earthy in classic style and the finish has just a hint of oak. Overall, this is a nice Burgundy to enjoy now and is a great gateway for those that are just getting started in their experience with this famous region.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir “Henry’s Block-Schultze Family Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains.
Jim and Judy Schultze has been making this Pinot Noir since 1999, and I have tried almost every vintage if not all and have loved to watch as the vineyard and the wine evolve, and I can say that both wine and vines seem to have reached the peak. I was blown away when Jim showed off his first release, that 1999 Windy Oaks Estate was a dead ringer for a fine Chambolle-Musigny and this new release, the 2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir “Henry’s Block” from the original block of vines is very similar and has that Burgundian charm and perfume that sets it apart. The nose has loads of striking violets and rose petals, sweet tea spices and mineral tones before a lively palate of silky fruits and earthy contrast with black cherry, strawberry and blueberry layers. There is a nice chalky mineral steak along with a lifting acidity that is fresh, but elegantly smooth and creamy. The subtle French oak gives hints of smoke, vanilla and mocha, though it is never the focus, only the frame, making this stylish Pinot a thing of beauty and grace. As much as I have loved prior vintages, this might be my favorite, and people looking for a more detailed and delicate style Pinot would be hard pressed to find a better wine. While 2008 in Sonoma, Carneros and Anderson Valley was not a great year, the Santa Cruz Mountains killed it, I suggest you check them out. Honestly, while this wine does show its unique terroir and is a California wine through and through it does remind me of Vosne-Romanee and Chambolle-Musigny Burgundies, a high compliment in my book.
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2007 La Spinetta “Casanova” Chianti Reserva, Terricciola, Tuscany, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta in Tuscany continues to impress and his latest release, the Chianti Reserva is a beautiful and elegantly styled wine that shows terroir and vintage perfectly. This Sangiovese gem has medium weight and lush textures with a long smooth finish, it all begins with flowers and sweet herbs in the nose with a heady mix of red and black fruits, earth and mineral tones. The subtle wood and tangy acidity make this Chianti wonderful with food and less showy than past efforts, though no one would ever be disappointed but popping the cork on this wine. The bright berry, strawberry and savory currant lead the fruit layers and tobacco leaf, lavender and truffle notes add complexities to this fine effort from a world class producer. Drink over the next 3 to 5 years and enjoy the graceful balance and pure Tuscan flavors.
($40 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
2006 Brovia Barolo, Piedmonte, Italy.
This producer is new to me and I was excited to try their wines, as I had heard about them and was told lots of good things. Brovia makes their wines in a classic, almost Burgundian style with terroir and purity of fruit and most of the vineyard sources are close to Falletto, near to where Giacosa is and other top winemakers. This 2006 Barolo “normale” is a wonderful example of the elegance that can be found in Nebbiolo, and it does share grace and charms that you’d expect from a fine Burgundy. I can tell you this wine is a thing of beauty and has fruit, structure, poise and length with a nose full of dried roses, lavender oil, truffle and fennel before pretty cherry and plum fruit come forward. The body feels heavenly smooth, but with life and taut balance, while in the background game, black tea, black licorice and menthol dance subtlety. The finish is long and flavorful, almost begging you for another sip, glass or bottle! While still youthful, the 2006 is drinking great now, though it should go another 5 or 6 years, gaining in small ways I’m sure.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive