2010 Pelerin, Les Tournesols Monterey.
This Rhone style white cuvee of Viognier and Roussanne is just plain delicious and wonderfully pleasing and filled with energy from start to finish. Chris Weidemann is crafting some world class wines under his own Pelerin and this latest set are stunning examples of artisan Monterey wines with a heavy focus on the Santa Lucia Highlands, where his sources fruit from Gary Francsioni (Rosella’s and the new Sierra Mar Vineyards) and from Paraiso Vineyards which are some of the best sites in the area. His Pinot Noir and Syrah wines are his claim to fame, but don’t over look this beautiful 2010 Les Tournesols White as it really delivers the best of these varietals with heady perfume of jasmine, honeysuckle and citrus and rich oily texture. For this vintage the blend was more Viognier, 58% and with Roussanne at 42% coming off Paraiso Vineyards and the year was very good for these grapes and it shows in the level of ripeness and pureness of character with vibrant acidity and stoney mineral essences. The flavors unfold with vigorous intensity showing apricot, meyer lemon, peach, tangerine and clarified cream plus hints of anise, peppery spice and butterscotch notes. The aging was in neutral French cask for about 6 months, that helped smooth the texture and gives a note of smoke and a kiss of vanilla, but allow the crisp fresh nature to continue to shine through. Look for this white blend to drink great for the next few years, highly recommended.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Cobb, Pinot Noir “Rice-Spivak Vineyard” Sonoma Coast.
Absolutely stunning, beautifully detailed and vibrant Pinot with graceful red fruits, floral tones and mineral essences with refined tannins and balanced acidity. Subtle French oak frames this layered wine and the finish is haunting and lengthly with lingering violets, saline and cola bean to go with a core of raspberry, plum, wild strawberry and morello cherry. Ross Cobb is one of the most talented Pinot guys out there and a harsh perfectionist that holds his wines an extra year or two depending on how he feels it is tasting before release. Cobb is one of a select group of Pinot Noir producers in the Pursuit of Balance group making lower alcohol style wines that can in his case show the most seductive and delicate side of the Pinot Noir grape. The more I think about this wine the more I like it and want it, this is stylish stuff handcrafted with passion and pride, bravo. For those that care this wine comes in at about 13% Alcohol and is unfined and unfiltered and was gently racked once before bottling to showcase purity and preserve it’s natural essence. I’ve been a big fan of the Cobb wines for many vintages now, and I just love this latest set, especially this gorgeous new Rice-Spivak release.
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
Avail soon at www.sfwtc.com
2011 Bodegas Monasterio de Corias, Seis Octavos Joven Seleccion, red Vino de Calidad de Cangas, Spain. (Albarín Negro & Carraquín)
One of my new favorites, a beautiful medium weight red that has elements of character that remind me of St.-Joseph meets Nuits-St.-Georges with dark violets, earth and spices with a core of cherry and plum fruits. The floral and loamy nose leads the way to a vivid palate of the dark fruit, peppery spices, sweet herbs, anise and lavender plus a touch of mineral and stone. Everything is nicely framed by soft tannins and juicy acidity in this delicious red from Spain’s Northwest. This wine is made from vines grown inside the Monastery de Corais in Cangas where the exposure helps get the Albarin Negro and Carraquin red grapes ripe in this cool climate area. Only a tiny amount of this wine gets made and considering the conditions and rarity it is also a steal! This is lovely and unique wine that is done organic and as naturally as can be, and after tasting the last four vintages I highly recommend searching it out.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com
2011 Weingut Knebel, Riesling “Von Den Terrassen” Mosel, Germany.
Mattias Knebel is a young German producer in the Mosel and new to me, but I’ll be following his wines from now on, his 2011’s are really fetching wines, especially this brilliant 2011 Von den Terrassen from steep terraced vines looking down on the river. His Kabinett and Trocken QbA wines were very nice too, but this wine stands out for it’s vivid terroir driven flavors, intensity and mineral spice qualities. The nose is subtle with light flint, wet stone and lime flower leading to a vibrant palate of lime, apricot, white peach, tangerine and ginger with slate infused mineral smoke, chalky saline essence and white tea. Good levels of extract and heightened acidity make for a exciting dry Riesling that shows the talent of this promising winemaker and makes for a wine that has strong aging potential, this is a winner.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Suertes del Marques, La Solana Vino de Parcela, Tenerife Valle de la Orotava DO, Canary Islands Red, Spain.
One of the most exotic and rare wines of the Canaries, the La Solana by Suertes del Marques is a masterpiece of the unique and a marvel of vigor and focus with fruit, spice, umami, mineral and textural pleasure. I adore these wines from the Canary Islands, especially the Suertes del Marques set of 7 Fuentes and this beautiful La Solana. The La Solana is racy and profound with a bouquet of dried flowers, porcini and pepper with mixed berry fruit that leads to a lively palate of spiced plum, raspberry, kirsch and currant with cayenne, grilled fennel and saline notes while warm stones, chalk and silky tannin mix in perfect harmony. This wild and natural wine is utterly seductive and has a wonderful sweet v savory tension that heightens the pleasure factor and leaves you begging for more. This is a thought provoking and beguiling red, made from the native Listan Nergo grape, that will challenge you and keep your attention for a long time.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay “Riverblock” Estate, Russian River Valley.
This wonderfully rich and detailed Chardonnay is wildly enjoyable and hedonistic, while still showing bright, vivid and focused layers of fruit, mineral and acidity. The vintage really brought out the best in Chardonnay, a long cool season with a few heat spikes and plenty of acid and fully ripe grapes. River Block is one of the great wines of California, and Rochioli has no trouble selling out to their mailing list, so it is a very rare wine, which is rather sad, and while I rather focus on wines that are more readily available, I couldn’t resist sharing my impressions of this American Classic. It is with ultra high expectations that I approach wine like this, especially Rochioli (It took me over 7 years to get on their list, and I am able to get maybe a few bottles a year.) so it was a great surprise that this 2010 J. Rochioli, Chardonnay “River Block” Russian River Valley blew away my high bar and set it higher with a wine that is almost perfect in everyday from bouquet to finish with mouth filling texture and sublime balance. The nose begins the journey with citrus, fig, clove, toast, mineral and clarified cream leading to a palate of lemon, peach, apple and hazelnut along with hints of char, vanilla and orange zest. This wine is pure textural pleasure and density along the lines of a fine Meursault or Corton-Charlemagne while retaining elegance and grace without flabby or overt oaky character.
($110+ Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
1989 Chateau Coutet a Barsac, Barsac “Cuvee Madame” Premier Cru Classe, Sweet Wine, Bordeaux, France.
Thanks to Fred Daniels, one of SF’s biggest Sauternes enthusiasts, for sharing this masterpiece with me, this was a treat no question and a welcome surprise. Only having limited experience with vintage Barsac (or Sauternes) is was a glorious learning occasion to sample the 1989 Coutet Cuvee Madame and furthered my advanced education. The nose of the ’89 Coutet starts with orange rind, dried roses, peaches and honey with leads to a remarkably taught palate of sweet fruit, lush texture and lifting acidity with lemon curd, apricot, tangerine, pineapple, candied citrus peel, vanilla and honey. While rich and decadent this beautiful Barsac never feels overly cloying or syrupy and the long finish is dreamy and zesty even. The amber hue hints at age, though the focus, detail and balance suggests another few decades of life, what a joyous wine, totally fantastic from start to finish.
($200-300 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2011 Castalia, Pinot Noir “Rochioli Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
Rochioli’s long time serving cellar-master, Terry Bering has been making Pinot since 1985 and helps craft all the glorious Rochioli wines, while making a small production of his own wine under the Castalia label, I’ve mentioned his wines many times since first having the 1994 vintage and have been a fan ever since. While never easy to find, Castalia still can be had and the quality is always high and the value pretty fair, and at almost half the price of Rochioli’s single vineyard wines, it is always on my must have list. With Terry’s Castalia you get about half River Block fruit and other select sites on the estate and of course it shows through, even in such a tough year as 2011 this wine shows pedigree and poise with lovely fruit and super long finish. The nose starts fresh and bright with hints at red citrus, smoke and some floral notes before and racy palate of plum, cherry and cranberry to start before giving way to more cherry, strawberry, raspberry and smooth mocha while flashes of mineral, saline, fennel and earth give detail. This is a first class Pinot with nice lift and vibrancy, but with all the rich and silky feel that is a trademark in these wines.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2009 Samsara, Syrah “Melville Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills.
This is absolutely my kind of Syrah, this stuff hit magic notes with me, and what a value for the quality, a wine full of personality, charm and vigor from the nose to the lengthy finish, I must confess this wine knocked my socks off. Chad Melville and his wife Mary craft the Samsara wines, separate from the Melville estate, but clearly they know where to find some prime grapes. I have always liked the Samsara wines, but this latest set are stunning wines that set Chad’s efforts apart from his family’s wines that are made by Greg Brewer, of Brewer-Clifton fame, there seems to be a certain rawness and natural element that shows through here in Samsara that I find appealing. This 2009 Samsara Melville Syrah opens in the glass with a heady perfume of violets, black olives and white pepper which lead to a whole cluster driven palate of blueberry, truffle, tarry licorice, cassis and back plum. Savory elements lift the fruit core with chalky mineral, pepper and smoke adding interest, while acidity and ripe tannins firm things up. Look for this complex and detailed Syrah to drink well for another 5 plus years and maybe another decade.
($38 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2009 Novy (by Siduri) Syrah “Rosella’s Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
This richly textured Syrah is full and darkly robust with deep color and flavors that fill the palate. The nose draws you in with hints of violets, blue fruits, currants and earthy charms that lead to a lively mouth of boysenberry, plum and cassis with hints of mocha, briar spices and char. The wine is dense, but still vivid and vibrant with a long finish. This vineyard, really known for great Pinot and Chard, continues to show potential for Syrah, in fact in some years I think this site can produce some of the finest Syrah fruit in the state, and this 2009 Novy Rosella’s is certainly a wonderful example.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive