Wine of the Day

2011BastideCHDPPignan2011 Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, red Chateauneuf du Pape “Secrets de Pignan” Rhone Valley, France.
La Bastide is modern, clean and focused on freshness with a lineup of fine Rhone wines that are all fermented in stainless steel that highlight the pure character of each wine, and while I sometimes enjoy a bit of funk and awkwardness in my Chateauneuf these wines are without question top notch and deliciously decadent and are masterfully crafted. The 2011 vintage is not getting the hype that 2009 and 2010 got in the southern Rhone, but that is just fine by me as there will be lots of great wine available, and it will not need too much cellar time to show it’s best, the year has nice acidity, forward fruit and a bit less alcohol by and large, and while slightly less ripe overall these wines can be much more pleasing, especially the latest offerings from La Bastide Saint Dominique, and this 2011 Secrets de Pignan is a stunner with everything you’d ever want from a Chateauneuf du Pape. The Grenache purity of this wine is joyous with hedonistic red fruits, mineral, spice and sweet herbs flowing throughout and lingering on forever on the finish. Floral essences, lavender and pomegranate notes go nicely with the plum and strawberry fruit along with creme de cassis, pepper and anise, plus a touch of sea salt and crushed stones. Still youthful and zesty at times this wine is drinking great now, though should develop nicely for another 5 to 7 years easy, best from 2014-2020.
($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day


2008MastroJanni2008 Mastro Janni, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany Italy.
Coming from the southern zone of Montalcino near an ancient volcano, Mastro Janni makes one of the finest and elegant wines of the region that shows plenty of sunny fruit, but with good acidity and spiciness, these are Brunelli of subtle detail, grace and finesse. The soon to be released 2008 is a lovely wine of pure class and character, and looks set to be a winner for this vintage, which was not without some serious difficulties, though Mastrojanni seems to have avoided any flaws or compromises with this deep and complex Brunello. The nose has floral notes, peppery spices, sweet herbs and mocha to go with mixed berry and plum fruit leading to a giving palate of blackberry and cherry fruit with subtle hints of licorice, cigar tobacco leaf, mineral, red spice and mint tea. This wine gains with air revealing touches of strawberry, balsamic and cedar. The balance is graceful with plenty of lift and lingering fruit on the lengthy finish, best to cellar for about 3-5 years, which should allow everything to fill out and come together completely. (Tasted from pre sale sample)
($65-75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

“Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” Premieres at The Sonoma International Film Festival

Grapelive Extra: The Sonoma International Film Festival 2013


“Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” Makes World Premiere at the 16th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival

By Bradley Gray


Grapelive’s Bradley Gray gets insight from Writer/Director James Orr (Photo: Vance T. Petrunoff)

Passion. That’s the one element that attracts us to the great wines of the world. Our passion is shared over great meals, with friends and family, and in adventurous travels to fantastic wine regions. This passion is reignited each time we pop, dissect, romance and sip every bottle we encounter.

Our planet is dotted with great wines from every corner of the map. We discover them through ratings from critics, suggestions from wine retailers or dinners with friends. We assimilate our impressions by reading, researching and enjoying — one sip at a time.

It was a rare treat to discover the film “Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” at the 16th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival. The Cannubi vineyard is the gem of Barolo, and this short film gives one a true sense of place and romance.  “Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” beautifully illustrates the history of the land, the magic of the vines, the passion of the producers and the enjoyment of the enthusiasts.  No good story is complete without controversy, and Cannubi (and this film) has plenty of that, too, as neighboring vineyards are also trying to cash in on the coveted designation, “Cannubi.”

“Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” was written, directed and filmed by James Orr, who was present at the screening to introduce the film. Orr has achieved Hollywood acclaim as the writer/director/producer of such films as Mr. Destiny, Father of the Bride, Sister Act 2, Three Men and a Baby, Man of the House and others. He has been a collector of world-class wines for three decades.

The film was narrated and produced by James Suckling, one of the most influential wine critics in the world, spending 29 years as an editor for Wine Spectator. He estimates that he has tasted around 150,000 wines in his career.

Cannubi is the central and most-coveted vineyard in Barolo. Adjacent vineyards include Cannubi Boschi, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Muscatel and Cannubi Valletta. These neighboring vineyards make up an additional 60 acres, and they all want a piece of the original Cannubi, or at least the price that it commands.

In the film, Suckling takes us on a romantic journey through this magical Cannubi vineyard. Two-dozen producers create wines from this miniscule 35-acre plot, and (as mentioned above) there are plenty of others who want in on it. We learn of Cannubi’s struggle for identity, we meet the winemakers and experience passionate tensions between producers. We often hear that great wines are all about place, and this vineyard was the first in Barolo, dating back to the early 1,700s. The title suggests some intervention from God, and nearly every Cannubi producer interviewed makes reference to God or the heavens.

Grapelive’s Bradley Gray spent some time with James Orr at the 16th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival, and got some additional insight on this magical wine film.

Bradley Gray: How did the film come about?

James Orr: We initially went there to make a promotional film for some Barolo producers, promoting Barolo wines, etcetera. When we got there, we found this whole situation going on with Cannubi and the surrounding vineyards, so we thought we should do this story too, as it’s a really engaging story of what’s going on in the wine world.

BG: There are merits on both sides of the controversy. How do you see it being resolved?

JO: You are right! There are merits on both sides of the story. I think it’s ultimately going to be resolved in Italian High Court, but it’s complicated in many ways, because (as one of the producer in the movie said), all of the wines from this area, including the surrounding Cannubis, are good wines, even if they don’t have the single Cannubi designation. Historically, Cannubi has always been the heart of the Cannubi vineyards. There are more people interested in keeping it that way rather than not keeping it that way.

BG: It was clearly illustrated in the film that this is a small piece of land, and everybody wants a piece of it, but they can’t all have a piece. Do you feel this argument is being driven by price and salability? Is it all about money? Or is there passion and history involved?

JO: It’s about money to some degree. The price difference between a Cannubi single-designate and a Cannubi Boschi or any of the other Cannubi designates is significant. A bottle of designate, say Damilano Cannubi may cost $80-125, depending on where in the world you get it. A Cannubi Boschi may be $75 at the high end. A Boschi is not quite as desired within the community, because these are people who know Barolos, love Barolos. The collectors really go for the single-vineyard designates, and they are willing to pay a little bit more. I’d estimate that this is 75% about money and 25% about passion.

BG: In the film, you and James Suckling brought together all of the Cannubi producers for a dinner.  James Suckling comments that it was a tense beginning, that the mood was chilly, and he even said; “What a disaster!” Can you elaborate on this?

JO: These are all great wine producers in their own right, and they probably would have never gotten together for a dinner like this if it weren’t for James and for us doing this movie. So James took advantage of that, and invited them all. It wasn’t that easy to get them all together for one night. It took some seducing, but we did get them all there. In the beginning, it wasn’t going well at all! It wasn’t very warm. With the wine, they became what they are – brothers, sisters, the Cannubi! By the end of the evening, there was nothing but warmth in the room.

BG: The climax of the film was a toast given by James Suckling. Was that moment truly as magical as it came across in the film?

JO: Here’s an interesting sidebar. He initially did that toast in Italian, and yes, it was magical. But it was a fairly long speech in Italian that was going to require a lot of subtitles. So, I asked him to do it again in English, and that’s what we used for the movie. I felt that it was better to see it than to be distracted by reading along with subtitles.

BG: Did you have any preconceived notions about Cannubi that changed during the making of this film?

JO: Yeah, in fact I did! I was certainly aware of Cannubi before, but in doing the movie and tasting so many Cannubis from so many different producers – I now have an enormous regard for Cannubi and Cannubi wines than I didn’t have before. For me, as a collector and a lover of Italian wine for years, I always thought Barolos to be elegant, feminine and kind of the Burgundy of Italy. But on top of all of that, they were powerful!



Grapelive’s Bradley Gray introduces “Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” to a full house audience at the Sonoma International Film Festival. (Photo Vance T. Petrunoff)

“Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” made its world premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival, which was quite fitting. In the heart of California wine country, the festival showcases not only great films, but also the finest wines from the Sonoma Valley. If you like wine and film, this is one festival not to miss!

This film is really Cannubi 101. It would have taken months of reading, tasting, chatting and researching to learn what one absorbs by thoroughly enjoying a half-hour movie.

This movie has been carefully created to suit television, and Orr and Suckling are optimistic that Food Channel or Discovery Channel may pick it up. If you can wait a month (estimated May or June), you can download it from

“Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God” is delightful, but there is a downside that will cost you about $100 — you won’t be able to resist that Cannubi on your favorite wine shop’s shelf! Treat yourself and enjoy it while watching “Cannubi – A Vineyard Kissed by God.” You’ll be glad you did.



Bradley Gray Grapelive Guest Columnist


Bradley Gray is a freelance journalist based in Sonoma, California. His weekly wine columns have appeared in The Sonoma Valley Sun and Marin Scope Newspapers. He was the Sonoma Valley Regional Correspondent for Appellation America. In addition, his work has appeared in The Wine Spectator, Grapevine Magazine, Vogue,, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, Sonoma Magazine, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Dot.Direct Magazine, FineLife Magazine, The Sonoma Index-Tribune, Weekender Magazine, Leeds Guide Weekly (U.K.), Patchwork Tsushin Magazine (Japan) and others. He may be reached at

Wine of the Day

2005HuetMoelleux2005 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Moelleux “Le Mont” Premiere Trie Loire Valley, France.
Huet’s Moelleux Chenin Blanc wines are legendary and the 2005 does not disappoint with loads of honeycomb, candied apple and peach notes flowing on the richly textured palate. Not overly sweet and with touches of saline, mineral and spice the 2005 seems nicely mature with a slight nutty quality showing at this stage and though it should age another 10 years, it seems to be almost at it’s best now. The Vouvray Moelleux style is very underrated and increasingly rare these days, which is a real shame as it is a great wine, especially from a top estate like Domaine Huet, these are lovely and complex wines that cellar well and go with lots of foods, and the sweetness is refreshing not cloying and with that touch of oxidation these wines are unique and very pleasing, and are some of the best Chenin Blanc wines, which can be compared to Auslese (Germany Riesling) though I don’t find the heavy sweetness in Moelleux and while I adore Riesling young and old a tad more, these Moelleux are wonderful expressions and deserve much more consideration and attention. The 2005 Le Mont Moelleux finishes with hints of truffle, hazelnut and fig while the soft acidity still adds life and a citrus lift to the profile, this is a very fine effort and a real treat to sample.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive



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Wine of the Day

2011PuzelatPinot2011 Puzelat-Bonhomme, Pinot Noir Touraine AC, Loire Valley, France.
Puzelat’s earthy, natural and wild Pinot is fun, lively and unique with dried currants, plum and mixed berry fruits while zesty acidity, tangy herbs and earthy funk add complexity. This Touraine terroir gives an interesting character and twist to Pinot Noir and Puzelat’s light touch allows the sense of place to shine through and there is some intriguing spice and mineral essence as well in this most fruity of wines. The natural winemaking and rustic notes are signature details for Puzelat’s wines and there are devoted followers of his creations and I am fast becoming a fan of these artisan wines from the Loire Valley.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day

2011CapiauxGarys2011 Capiaux, Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Sean Capiaux’s 2011 Garys’ shows remarkable poise, balance and lift in this difficult vintage, yet retains the classic terroir markers for this world class site as well. This impressive wine shows deep color, lush silky layers, bright acidity and refined tannins with fresh cherry, plum, loganberry fruits, mocha, mineral essences, briar and anise notes. The warm French oak shadings fold in nicely on this Pinot Noir never overshadowing the fruit and adding a good frame for the wine, while spicy notes and hints of earth and saline add a mouthwatering edge that drives on to the finish which turns creamy with air and lingers with tangy fruit and a touch of vanilla. The 2011 Garys’ really entertains the palate and and fulfills the mind all very lively, rich and seductive now, and will continue to develop over the next few years, drinking best from 2015-2019, even though I do love it now.
($50 Est.) 92-94 Points, grapelive


Avail at ($44.95)

Wine of the Day

2011SchaeferKabinett2011 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling “Graacher Domprobst” Kabinett #16, Mosel Germany.
This rare and beautifully sexy Riesling from Willi Schaefer dazzles the senses and is totally seducing with lush vibrant fruit, mineral charms and zesty acidity throughout with that refreshing candied pineapple sweetness that you find in fine Mosel Kabinetts. Schaefer is one of Germany’s great wineries and are known for classic Riesling in traditional styles with lots of interest paid to their mind-blowing sweet wines, but I love their Kabinett and Spatlese just as well, and you can’t argue about the quality, these are stunning wines from top to bottom, especially this Graacher Domprobst Kabinett from the 2011 vintage, it is truly world class. The nose starts with salted honey, orange blossom and wet stones leading to a mildly sweet fruited palate of green apple, tropical essences, white peach, apricot and nectarine with a touch of honey and sea breeze/brine. This Riesling is all you could ask for and should age well too, drink over the next ten years, again Schaefer goes beyond expectations, bravo.
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day

2011ShaneVillian2011 Shane, Syrah “The Villain” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Shane Finley, a former winemaker at Kosta Browne and now at Lynmar, does a fantastic set of wines under his own label Shane and while very limited they still can be found and they are all priced extremely fair considering the quality and the tiny amount made. Shane’s handcrafted wines include a couple of Rhone style wines made from mostly from Syrah, such as this one from the Santa Lucia Highlands The Villain. The 2011 Villain comes from well known sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands that maybe include Garys’ and the like and it is a rich terroir driven wine with great color, intensity and texture showing plenty of black fruits, dark chocolate, gamey notes, mineral, pepper and briery earth.  Blackberry, blueberry and cassis flow across the palate throughout and linger on the finish making for a hedonistic experience, but the good balance, focus and complexity make this beauty one to admire completely with it’s velvety tannins and lifting acidity, drink over the next 5 or so years.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day

2011DielK2011 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Nahe Germany.
The baby Diel Riesling delivers amazing quality and has only got better in the last six months since I last tasted it, I’m thrilled to find much greater depth and vibrancy in this killer little wine. Armin Diel’s estate wines are some of the best in Germany, and with Caroline Diel and Christoph Friedrich at the top of their games these wines seem to get better and better each vintage. While the Diel Dry Grosses Gewachs and Sekt Sparkling wines tend to grab the headlines, the regular Kabinett seems to fly under the radar, which is great for wine lovers as it is a superb wine and a great value. This Nahe Kabinett is beautifully crafted with nice acidity and slight sweetness that is lovely and refreshing not in the least bit cloying or overt allowing the mineral and terroir notes to shine through showing the deft touch of the winemaking. The Diel wines have really gained delightful delicacy and grace over the last few vintages and I find myself completely smitten by the 2011 wines from this estate, especially this 2011 Schlossgut Diel Kabinett which has classic Nahe character with nectarine, white peach, pineapple and green apple notes with touches of white pepper, saline, honey and petrol/mineral flinty touches. Tangy citrus, white flowers and light apricot layers also come through on this very fine Riesling that explodes on the palate and lingers on the finish, not a wine to miss if you can help it, drink over the next 10 years.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


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Wine of the Day

2006RidgeLyttonEstate2006 Ridge, Zinfandel Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
This wonderfully rustic and classic Ridge Zin is drinking at it’s peak right now, and if you have any I’d consider popping corks soon, not that it is done yet by any means, it should go on for another 3 plus years with a cool cellar, but it is just so good now why wait. A recent trip through the Russian River and Dry Creek ended as per normal for me at Ridge’s Lytton Springs, a great spot to see 100 Year Old vines and taste some of the most pure California expressions available, including this 2006 Ridge Lytton Estate (Not to be confused with the regular Lytton Springs bottling, this wine is only available through the Ridge wine club and or at their tasting rooms) that is a Zinfandel from hillside blocks and has about 16% Petite Sirah in the blend which gives tannin, color and a coca note to the traditional Zin fruit layers that show raspberry, black cherry, baked plum tart, briar, herb and cedar notes along with a certain amount of spice and a touch of soft oak. This wine still has it’s tannins, though they have shed their hard nature and the acidity is starting to fade away leaving a creamy feel without losing too much vibrancy. This rich has developed nicely in the few years since I last tried it and I had to buy a few bottles to drink myself, I think that tells of my personal endorsement of this Ridge classic.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive