Grapelive: Wine of the Week

chante06.jpg2006 Domaine Chante-Perdrix Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rouge, Rhone Red, France
This 45-acre estate, owned by the Nicolet family, produces mostly reds from its vineyards in the official A.O.C., though some whites are made as well, with the largest crop being Grenache from a classic area with large river stones in the vineyard. This is a ripe and full-blown Chateauneuf with lush textures and intense fruit that explodes on the palate. The mouth is filled with blackberry, plum, grenadine, and tangy currant fruits with leather, lavender, game, earthy minerality and peppery spices mixed in. This wine was aged in big oak ovals and doesn’t have or need anything else, as it is rich and with solid structure that shows sweet fruit and zesty acid in good balance. I love this wine and have enjoyed a few different vintages and have found it a great choice for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This vintage is about 80% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre and a little known grape, maybe the rarest of Chateauneuf red grapes, Muscardin, and it really pumps out the flavors and has a super long finish. This red can be enjoyed now, but it has plenty of time to go, I’d say it will be at its best in 5-6 years and should last 12-15 years easy. ($45 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
*Imported by EX-Cellars, and be ordered through Rancho Cellars, 1-831-625-5646

Grapelive Lastest: Between the Holidays Wine Quest

glkwdec08f.jpgThe last two weeks have been filled with busy work and lots of driving, but also very enjoyable moments with visits to interesting friends and tasting their wines. My travels took me through the south of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains to Richard Alfaro’s estate Alfaro Family Vineyards, the amazing in wintertime Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, the Russian River Valley and in the midst of old vines in Dry Creek Valley seeing my friend Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines in his tasting room in Sebastopol. I tacked close to 400 Miles on the car and enjoyed numerous wines before returning to my hometown of Carmel Valley and another sampling of barrels at Parsonage Village Vineyard with Jennifer Pandol of Pandol Wines and Bill Parsons the winegrower at Parsonage. All friends and all makers of wonderful wines, and yes I feel blessed to have them as friends and to have access to their vines.  My notes on their wines and reviews on their latest stuff starts below!

Before delving into new and future releases, I want to share something I just read in the Financial Times (Newspaper) today, in the section on Slovenia, an article entitled “Ancient vine nursed back to life” by Kester Eddy. < > This semi retired winemaker 81 year old Tone Zafosnik, is taking care of a 400 year old grape vine. Amazing, and now in the Guinness Book of Records oldest vine in the world, this old little vine of Modra Kavcina, a native grape of parts of Slovenia and mainly Croatia still is producing fruit of which Tone Zafosnik makes wine from. In fact it is a heritage vine that has made wine that has been sipped by the likes of Pope John Paul the second, Emperor Akihito of Japan and former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton! The mayor of Maribor (Slovenia’s second city, after the capital of Ljubljana) was quoted as being “very grateful” to Zafosnik for his efforts to save this old vine, and I am too, that is awesome to have such history saved and honored. Zafosnik also credits Roma (Gypsies) squatters for helping save this vine from neglect, as the vine itself was left derelict at an ancient home in an old neighborhood, and he says that the city has allowed the gypsies to remain in the basement as long as they help the vine survive, which they have. Zafosnik is the official caretaker of this little piece of history and let us hope lives a long time as well.

ra.jpgLast week I posted the wine of the week, it was the stunning Alfaro Family Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay, and after visiting Alfaro’s estate I can say they is a lot more exciting wines to follow shortly.  I was able to try Richard’s estate Syrah (2007) just before bottling and I was very happy with his results, this is going to be an excellent wine with lots of fruit and character that should be ready for sales in the early part of next year. While visiting Richard, he was giving some winemaking Hungarians the behind the scenes tour of his winery and was loving every minute of it, happily explaining everything to them and letting them in on all of his secrets and showing off his latest winemaking gizmos and tools, as well as his bottling and label machines too. I enjoyed learning how to pronounce Furmit (for-met) Hungary’s most famous white grape, the one we know and that goes into their sweet wine, the famed Tokaji Essencia. A wine that rivals Chateau D’ Yquem!
He is also ready to release some of the 2007 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noirs, which also show wonderful promise from a near perfect vintage for Pinot. Sadly Joe Martin and Richard are ending their partnership and the Martin Alfaro label looks set to go away after this last vintage, though I was relieved to learn that Richard is set to keep contracts with the top vineyards and just put them into his own label, including the Garys’ and Schultze Vineyards that have wowed me for the last few years. The Martin Alfaro wines have been renowned for high quality and for being an amazing value in top wine. There is no question Joe Martin and the Martin Alfaro label will be sorely missed and I wish Joe all the best his future projects. Before they disappear they is some great stuff to get a hold of like the Chard and Pinot from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay and I can’t wait to get some of the 2007 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, one of the world’s greatest sites.  Plus the surprising and pretty 2007 Franscioni Vineyard Pinot (see below) from Monterey County, that shows rich sweet fruit and toasty oak, which is just being released now. The Martin Alfaro wines will be still available through Alfaro Family Vineyards until they are sold out, which after tasting some of the latest wines, should be sooner rather than later, so check them out quick.

jpandol.jpgOn a related note Richard Alfaro provided Jennifer Pandol with some beautiful grapes from his estate vineyards for her Pandol Wines label Pinot Noir for one of her 2008 wines. She has blown me away with her first two bottlings, the 2005, which make my Top Ten wines last year, and the equally impressive 2006 vintage, a wine that should be reaching the market soon, so stay tuned. She used the Schultze Family Vineyard for her 2005 and 2006 Pinots, and focuses on fruit from the Santa Cruz Mountains. This tiny winery in Santa Cruz looks set to keep rocking in the years to come and the 2008 Pinot from the Alfaro Vineyard is settling in nicely in barrel, along with a batch of Pinot Noir she sourced from Jack Galante’s Almond Flat Vineyard above his ranch in Carmel Valley, which should prove to be very interesting. Recently she joined me for a tasting of Carmel Valley’s Parsonage Village Vineyard and we got to re-visit Bill Parson’s 2007 vintage reserves in barrel and even got a first taste of his new bp.jpgPinot Noir from Cedar Lane Vineyard, just past Carmel Valley in Arroyo Seca and his select lot of reserve Syrah that goes into his “Cuvee Rocco”.  All the ‘07’s are coming along well, in fact they are fantastic wines, but you’ll have to be very patient as they need up to another year in barrel, yes they are that big and powerful! The 2008 Syrah for the “Cuvee Rocco” was electric purple blue and was full of fat fruit and youthful sweetness and should turn out to be another stellar wine. Jennifer was interested in the 2008 Pinot, and we got to taste two barrels of Pinot from the same vineyard, but from different clones (115 & 777) and they tasted remarkable different, both showed good fruit, though the 777 seemed more interesting at this point, for myself anyway. A Big kudos goes out to Bill for his great wines, and a big thank you for letting us in the barrel room to taste his new babies.

fogvines.jpgThen there was my blast through Sonoma and Napa Counties and time in Dry Creek and the Russian River Valleys to see a few places and friends. I must also mention I went to dinner at Central Market Restaurant in downtown Petaluma, and highly recommend you do, tell Tony I sent you! This great eatery uses only local produce and farms for their menu and use only a wood fired oven to cook everything, plus they also have a raw list of specials. Everything we tried was out of this world good and the wine list is full of rarities and some interesting by the glass selections. I had the slow cooked pork confit over white beans, red peppers and bacon that was sublime.

dcv.jpgOn my way to see my friend and winemaker Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines in Sebastopol, I detoured my way through the old vines of the Dry Creek Valley, where I stopped in on Ridge Vineyards’ Lytton Springs tasting room and tasted a few nice wines, including the serious good Lytton Springs Zinfandel blend. After buying one and the rare Grenache/Syrah blend I headed down the road, Dry Creek Road, to a new winery Truett-Hurst and tasted their very nice Zinfandels and tasty Petite Sirah. These guys are brand new and still getting things together with the plan to include only organic and or bio-dynamic grapes in the near future, so be sure to check them out when you get up this way. Then I made it to the Sheldon Wines tasting room, well, after a slight wrong turn that led me through the redwoods and through the ultra out of the way Guerneville, a cute small town on the Russian River and hidden by towering redwoods with a microbrewery Stumptown Brewing as one of its (only) highlights. Dylan and I go back a ways and he is in no small way responsible for my hunger to learn about terroir and my interest in rare grapes. Dylan and I helped put on wine classes, and he is a showman as well as a true certifiably committed wine geek in the nicest sense! Now he is a passionate winemaker that goes to great lengths to showcase unique terroirs and pure wines. My visit was supposed to be all about the release of his 2006 Marin County Pinot Noir from the Kendric Vineyard, though as always the case with Dylan is was much more than that, with him pulling out two wines that he has kept secret in barrel. These were an absolutely glorious 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from the Roma’s Vineyard and an intriguing wine made up of a rare Spanish grape most commonly used as a blending grape in Rioja or in weird Basque reds, Graciano, it is a small yielding variety that is spicy and fragrant and Sheldon’s was all that and more. It was hard not to love them, and of course I did! The new release 2006 Pinot didn’t disappoint and proved to be pure and lush with pretty and delicate flavors that were classic in character. Bravo Dylan, the wines were unique and stylish, you nailed it my friend!  I also tried Sheldon’s 2007 Sleepy Hollow (Monterey) Chardonnay, 92 Points, the 2007 Viognier, 90 Points, and their flagship wine, the 2005 Vinolocity (Grenache & Syrah blend) Santa Barbara County, 93 Points.


ma07.gif2007 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Franscioni Vineyard” Monterey County
This is another winner from this winery that continues to produce great small lots of Pinot Noir from select vineyard on the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.  The 2007 Franscioni Vineyard is ripe and complex with sweet raspberry and bright tangy cheery fruit and a rich, round body even in such a young wine, making it a pleasure to drink all ready. There is some nice earth, spice and truffle notes that keep it interesting along with classy French oak shadings that gives a creamy vanilla warm finish. Enjoy this wine now or hold for some short term cellaring that will allow this little gem to fill out a little more. Joe Martin and Richard Alfaro sadly with end their partnership after this vintage, but Richard will still source these vineyards and put them into his Alfaro Family Vineyards wines, so grab some the Martin Alfaro Pinots as soon as you can they are a great deal and offer wonderful quality! ($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive



sheldonkpn.gif2006 Sheldon Pinot Noir “Kendric Vineyard” Sonoma County (Marin County)
Only a few barrels of this wine were made and I hope you are able to get your hands on some, as it is truly a lovely and pure Pinot that offers much joy and stylish layers of fruit. This wine has soft red berries, dark cherry and round plum fruits, tea spices, cola bean, truffle and hints of char and vanilla cream. Dylan Sheldon and his wife Tobe make pure and unique wines from select vineyards and terroirs throughout California, and in the past have traveled the world and helped make wine in places like New Zealand and the Rhone Valley in France. They both work other jobs to keep their dogs fed and fund their passion for winemaking, this is one marriage that is made in heaven and it helps them produce wonderfully expressive wines, no question. The best way to get this rare jewel is to contact them direct and I also suggest getting on their list to get their other wines as well. ($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive



lytton06.gif2006 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel “Lytton Springs”, Dry Creek Valley
This California classic is one of my favorites and a must whenever I am up in Dry Creek, the Lytton Springs is a rich and easy wine made up of 80% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah and 4% Carignane. I’ve never been unhappy with a Lytton Springs, though 2003 was not my style, and this vintage the 2006 is right up there with my list of great vintages going back to the early 1990’s including the fantastic 1994. I like this wine for it’s freshness and balance with dark color and rich textures, but it is the fruit that speaks loudest to me. The tangy blackberry, bramble berry and plum lead the way with spicy raspberry, pepper, mineral, briar and just the hint of subtle oak makes for a very pleasurable wine of nice detail and focus. This wine is super now and it is not likely that I’ll age it long, but I have no doubt it would age beautifully and end up 10 years from now tasting like a fine Bordeaux. ($35 Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive



Grapelive: Wine of the Week

alfarochard07.jpg2007 Alfaro Family Vineyards Chardonnay Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
This wine is fast becoming a cult hit, and yet again proves to be one of the best Chardonnays in the state, following the remarkable 2006; this vintage shows even more elegance and focus! I loved the last vintage and thought I was going to be let down, but I am happy to report that this wine is even more balanced and pure, and gives all the complexities and depth I had come to enjoy and praise. The youth still shows and there is a lot more to come from this Chardonnay, but all the pieces are falling into place nicely all ready. Look for the body to fill out in a year in bottle, though it is really good now with beautiful layers of fruit and lifting acidity. The wine starts with white flowers, orange blossoms, lemon custard and green apples, leading into a creamy palate of clear butter, pear, tangerine, kiwi and sweet fig. There is a hint of clove, Hazelnut, smoke and a lovely mineral essence in the background, finishing full and with a whiff of spicy vanilla and perfectly framing French oak. This wine feels as pretty and classy as any premier cru Burgundy, and should get even better in the coming months and years!
($ 25 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive



Grapelive: Wine of the Week

2480.gif2005 Hollywood & Vine 2480 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (By Celia Masyczek)
From special lots of fruit, including Scarecrow, are crafted by Celia Masyczek to make this awesome Cabernet. She also makes Scarecrow, Keever, Lindstrom and her new label Corra after being with Dr. Stephens, Staglin and others, and is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers in Napa! This is a classic modern Cabernet with full body and layers of thick fruit, Blackberry, cassis, mocha, plum, currants and creamy vanilla all unfold in lush style with ripe smooth tannins that hold everything together. The nose takes awhile to develop in its youth, but after some air there is pretty floral notes to go with the bitter chocolate and smoky sweet oak shadings. This thick and rich wine is a cult hit and offers great depth and still regarded as one of the best kept secrets in Top Class Cabernet. ($85 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


*Can be ordered, though very limited



Happy Thanksgiving

glkw11081.jpgHappy Thanksgiving From Grapelive

I hope you are all doing well and have a wonderful holiday season with lots of food and beautiful wines with your loved ones and friends. I enjoy drinking food friendly wines that don’t take away from all the hard work that is done in the kitchen during this holiday, which I must confess will not be done by me! That is why I pick wines that are good in their own right, but that compliments the food and don’t steal the show. So what to drink? Well, it is not a time for big wines or wines that take lots of thought, it is more about simple wines that add to the whole that don’t steal the show. That means no blockbuster Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet or bold Shiraz during dinner, save those for after or a special occasion, instead I ‘d go with a fresh and medium weight wine, there are some old standards like Cru Beaujolais and Gewurztraminer from Alsace, though nice and fun I rather have something a bit more interesting. I like Champagne with any meal anytime and everyday, so make sure that it is always an option, one of my picks is a small Champagne house Pierre Peters, I really like their lovely Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, but a good sparkling wine with do, like Roederer Estate from Mendocino. Beyond that I have put together a small list of my favorites below. Thanks for all your support and have a great holiday!

nispero.gif2005 Adanti “Nispero” Rosso dell’ Umbria (Sangiovese) Italy.
This Umbrian red is round and lush with classic Sangiovese character with fresh cherry, strawberry and plum fruit with hints of cedar, dried flowers and mountain herbs. Clean flavors and soft textures cut the natural acidity, plus there is some Merlot in the blend that adds complexity and depth as well as body. This is a super value and an off the beaten path wine that delivers good rich layers and remains true to its heritage and terroir. ($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive


joguet.gif2006 Joguet Chinon Les Petite Roche, Loire Valley, France (Cabernet Franc)
Charles Joguet winery is a master of making lovely and textured Cabernet Franc in Chinon in the Loire Valley of France and this vintage is just beautiful. Kermit Lynch imports this little gem and Joguet’s other wines as well, so it can be found pretty easily, though it is a small production. This Chinon is everything it should be and just that little bit more that sets it apart from others from this area, with lush body and spicy, sweet perfume and dark color. This richness and depth are fantastic and it drinks great now, so drink up! There are lots of layers of flavors and clean focus with cherry, blackberry, plum and currant fruit all delivered brightly and fresh, which almost makes you, think of Pinot Noir. The tangy fruits are livelier than you’d find in a Bordeaux style Franc and much more fun! ($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

rossignol.gif2006 Nicholas Rossignol Bourgogne Rouge (Pinot Noir) Red Burgundy
Here is a classy and rich Burgundy that is a super value and reminds you why it is the holy grail of Pinot Noir, Burgundy that is. This winery is tapped to be a superstar in Burgundy and I would have to agree, as I have tried his upper level wines as well and found them amazing, though I am very fond of this little Bourgogne for its class and depth. I believe this wine is all or mostly from Premier Cru vineyards, and I must say it tastes like it with full classic flavors. Rossignol is based in Volnay, and I think they specialize in Beaune vineyard sites which character this wine shows. There is a hint of game and truffle behind the nose of wild flowers and red berries, before moving to soft cherry and cranberry fruits on the palate with touches of smoke, baking spices and a full plum note. This is a rich and savory Pinot Noir that is a killer deal, though it maybe hard to find, so ask your local merchant to dig around as it is worth your time. ($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

lagrola.jpg2004 Allegrini “La Grola” Veronese Red, Veneto, Italy
Allegrini is one of the great wineries of the world, let alone Italy, with many great wines coming from their cellar especially their Amarone. They seem to have the magic touch with the native Veronese grape Corvina of which they use to great effect in this wine. The “La Grola” is an IGT and a vineyard terroir wine from the hills above Verona and is truly a wine of the place with intensity and unique characteristics that make it a one of a kind red and one you really should try. This wine is always one that I get a few of each vintage and I am a huge fan of the winery, of that I will make not secret of! This vintage was a blockbuster and near perfect conditions gave both beautiful ripeness and good acidity. The 2003 had too much heat, so I was really happy with the classic style of the 2004 and it is really coming together nicely with bright intense red berry, earthy plum and spiced cherry fruits that explode on the palate. This wine has mineral, acidity and cedar notes that add complexity and it really finishes long and savory. ($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive


cadpian.jpg2005 La Spinetta Barbera “Ca’ di Pian” Barbera d’ Asti, Piedmonte, Italy
Whenever you read about Piedmonte and hear about the great reds of the region you hear of La Spinetta and its leader Giorgio Rivetti, who renowned for his famed Barbarescos and Barolo, just pick up Wine Spectator (Dec. 15, 2008 issue) to see his face and get his scores, this is top quality wine in the same league as Angelo Gaja or Bruno Giacosa! But, I love his Barbera and always get at least a case every year, especially the Ca d’ Pian Barbera d’ Asti. This is another favorite of mine, and a wine I can drink anytime without quilt, as it is a great wine and a super value. This vintage is big and lush, but has nice bright flavors and balance with pure Barbera flavors and ease of use! There are lots of fresh grapey layers with blackberry and plumy fruit, mineral and hints of cranberry with a full body and smooth tannins. ($29 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Chris Ringland Tasting

ringland1.jpgWhile not a household name here in the States, Chris Ringland is a star in the winemaking world, and a rock star in wine geek circles. Ringland is highly regarded for his own label Chris Ringland Shiraz (Formally known as Three Rivers Shiraz) and he now makes the Marquis-Philips wines. Australian winemakers are very successful and have made a name for themselves worldwide, in places like Italy, France and especially here in California, but as name brand winemakers maybe no one has quite the star power, both at home in Oz and on the world stage, as Chris Ringland. He was little known when he was discovered by, who else, Robert Parker, after Parker tried his Three Rivers Shiraz (Barossa Valley) in 1993, which he gave 99 Points!  Then the ’94 scored 95 Points, so he was no fluke and on his way, he was at this point fully and completely exposed and when his ’95 got another 99 Points, he had a rabid fan base that would pay almost anything to get his wine and did! His Shiraz sold for a mind-blowing $300 a bottle in 1999, but now sells for anywhere upward of $800 a bottle. He was now in the big league with top Bordeaux and Burgundy, though I would say he was more like Guigal who’s single vineyard Cote-Rotie’s got the same scores and money. Since then Chris Ringland has scored 4 vintages rated at 100 Points from Robert Parker! (With a 96 and 98 being the lowest scores) Ringland is a hard worker and prolific in creating wines now, after expanding into a multi-label portfolio with his “R Wines” company.chatchat.jpgWith all that, it was a great pleasure to meet Mr. Ringland and get to spend some time tasting through a huge line up of his wines. I was thrilled to be invited by his importer The Grateful Palate and The Henry Wine Group who wholesale his wines in Northern California to be a part of this event in San Francisco, part of a 12 city tour of the US. Along with Chris Ringland was William Downie, a rising star himself, from Victoria, and that makes stylish Pinot Noir from Yarra and Mornington, and David Hickinbotham of Paringa Winery of Riverland in South Australia who produces some of the world’s best $10 red wines, including his Shiraz that has almost always features highly in any value contest. Both Downie, who is also now going to make Oregon Pinot, and Hickinbotham, who got fame for selling top grapes from his namesake vineyard to Clarendon Hills which scored big scores from Parker and Wine Spectator Magazine, were not just taking up space at this tour of Oz, both being charming and showing super wines.

rwines.jpgRingland easily led our group through a line up of Grenache, mostly from his new label Chateau Chateau, which were mostly single vineyard wines from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. These wines are not shy wines with some topping 17% alcohol, though very interesting and for the most part balanced on the palate. This style reminds me of Turley Zinfandels that are sweetly fruited and rich, but stop short of being to heavy or too port like. After tasting through the line of Chateau Chateau wines and made my mental notes about them, I read the Parker reviews of the 2006 vintage and found that they all rated 93 or better! I tasted the new vintage (2007) and came up with similar notes and scores in general, though I am slightly less of a fan of this style of wine, but there were a few exceptions. The 2007 Chateau Chateau “Pergola” Grenache Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale was my favorite wine of the show and showed richness and ripe fruit, but also some earth, spice and mineral like a top Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Of course, it being from old bush vine vineyards didn’t hurt and that it was not done on new all new oak gave it more depth and complexity of fruit. He also poured some dazzling Shiraz’s that were blockbusters and powerfully dark with his 2004 F.U. Ebenezer Shiraz, Barossa Valley being the Shiraz star, showing massive power and thickness with inky black color and sweet plum and blueberry compote fruit. This wine is huge and textured with a super long sweet finish, being very much like a dry port. This wine was aged mostly in new French oak hogsheads for 30 months, some being the wonderful the Taransaud barrels, which maybe the best Syrah barrels in the world! The grapes come from vines that range from 40-80 years of age and only give about a ton of fruit per acre, so you get the idea that this is something really special and it lived up to its promise and I can tell you it was awesome.  This wine is priced high, and while it would never be considered a value at $265 a bottle, it is a stunning wine that showcases Chris Ringland’s talent and makes for a very special a unique wine.

3rings.jpgWhat is also unique about Chris Ringland and his “R Wines” is that they are all playful and you can tell that while being very focused and a supreme talent Ringland does not take himself too seriously, or well maybe he does, but his labels would not have you believe that. With labels like “Bitch” Grenache, Evil Cabernet Sauvignon, Bon Bon Rose of Shiraz, and Suxx Shiraz you can tell he is having lots of fun. Ringland was and is everything he is advertised to be and I was very impressed with his easy style that hides his passion, though it is very clear he is driven and has no slowdown in him at all. I must give kudos to the Grateful Palate and their owner Dan Philips for putting on this great tasting and bringing in such interesting wines, Thanks guys! Ringland makes the Marquis-Philips wines in partnership with Dan Philips, and together they continue to offer great wines at very fair prices, so check them out if you haven’t done so all ready as well.

3ringsreserve.jpg2005 R Wines 3 Rings Reserve “It’s Magic” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia (By Chris Ringland)
This is a massive and complex wine that has amazing depth of fruit and thick textures and a finish that never wants to leave, I mean it goes on and on! The fruit is so huge in this Shiraz that it takes 36 months in French oak to tame it and give it roundness and loving framework. This wine has pure purple goodness, a wonderful full body and looks very sexy in the glass! Black fruits, blueberry, prunes, chocolate, coffee bean, kirsch, white pepper, licorice, truffle and sweet vanilla all unfold in seamless layers on the palate and coats your whole mouth with an explosion of flavors, plus staining your poor teeth! This bold Shiraz comes from select vineyard sites that average 85 years in age, yeah this are old vines! Wait, it gets better, they only get about ½ on ton of fruit per acre, so now you know why it is worth every penny. ($60-65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive



Grapelive: Wine of the Week

chatchat1.jpg2007 Chateau Chateau “Skulls” Grenache & Mataro (Mourvedre) Barossa Valley, Australia

(By Chris Ringland)

This sweet and smooth fruit filled wine is easy to love and has a rich palate with lots of raspberry, plum and grenadine fruit. This wine is a blend of vineyard sites and is made from a hand picked selection of barrels to create this cuvee. The Mourvedre adds a gamy essence to the ripe sweetness of the Grenache making for a balanced and interesting wine. Chris Ringland has hit a homerun with his Chateau Chateau line, and this wine is a winner for sure. This wine opens up with a clean candy like bouquet, kind of like cotton candy, Jolly Rancher and with hints of cherry liqueur leading to a palate filled with fresh berries, spice, grilled sweet meat and subtle lavender oil. The wine finishes with a mouth-filling creaminess and lingering fruit pie. This wine has not been released yet and I was not able to get pricing, but you can check with The Grateful Palate for more details and see there other wines in the Chris Ringland Chateau Chateau line up. ($TBA Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive

The Grateful Palate

Grapelive Lastest

glkw1108.jpgIf you like touring the wine country, this is a great time to go, when things are slow and the weather is great for tasting. With the economic crisis and terrible job situation even the high end wineries are feeling the impact and are opening up their cellars and it is a good time to take advantage of this to see and taste these wines that are hard to get. Plus you can get into most of the super restaurants that are very hard to get into during the summer months, especially in Napa Valley. I am thinking that Santa Barbara may just be the spot to visit myself, with great wineries close by and warmer weather, plus an exciting nightlife Santa Barbara is a fun place to visit. Downtown Santa Barbara has the Wine Cask Restaurant and Jaffurs Winery so you can even do it on a day trip or a quick weekend get away, and if you have an extra day you can check out Melville Winery about 45 minutes North of S.B.

Hey, I just got news that one of my favorite winemakers has just released a couple of new wines and I am planning to get on to them real soon. Richard Alfaro, Alfaro Family Vineyards is releasing his estate 2007 Chardonnay’s and I am really looking forward to getting my palate on them, especially the new Lindsay-Page Vineyard as the last vintage was sublime and 2007 looks to be another fine wine. Richard just created a buzz here and in the Santa Cruz area by planting a plot of the Austrian grape, Grunner Veltliner! This wonderful grape produces a white wine of quality and goes great with food, I am all ready to drink it up, but sadly these vines will need about 3 years to get started, but I’ll be waiting!

My random thoughts, Oh, I just re-tasted the 2006 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, and it is even better than I thought it would be and still think it might be the wine of the vintage. I was hanging out with Jacques Melac of Carmel’s Rancho Cellars and noticed a tiny amount of this Pisoni in stock still… Plus he turned me on to some great values on some new wines he is stocking, a couple of these were from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant (Importer) you can see them on my reviews page So if you are looking for great small estate wines that offer great value you can check Jacques out at Rancho Cellars either online or if you get to Carmel you should stop by, he has just added a deli counter offering many gourmet sandwiches and tasty bites made by his Chef wife, Janet Melac. They are also doing take out, so now you know what I’m eating for dinner when I’m in town! Last but not least, I hear from my friends at The Wine Spies that sales are going great these days as they give huge discounts daily on some fun selections, good job guys, keep it up.

Grapelive: Wine of the Week

corison04.jpg2004 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard (Reserve) Napa Valley
Celebrated winemaker Cathy Corison has been crafting stunning Cabernet for more than 30 years and her resume includes Chappellet, Staglin, Long Meadow Ranch and York Creek as well as her own limited production label. Her Napa winery has been using the same blocks of Cabernet vines for 20 years and provide her with fantastic fruit of great quality and uniqueness. This vintage of Kronos is one of the finest I’ve had of her wine and I think is better than her famed 1997. The fruit is pure and complex with blackberry, currant and plum, leading the way on the palate aided by touches of cocoa, cedar, licorice, tobacco, backing spices, sage and famed by sweet toasty vanilla from the subtle and pretty French oak. ($125 Est.)

94 Points, grapelive

*Available by special order at RANCHO CELLARS 

call 831-625-5646

Grapelive Latest: Searching Out Values & Tasting Some Greatnes

kenandme.jpgEven though I’ve had some amazing opportunities this month with two stunning tastings that had a vertical retrospective of the late great Didier Dagueneau and a horizontal of the famed Oregon Pinot master Ken Wright’s (seen with me left) line of a single vineyard Pinot Noirs, it is the value wines that now take center stage. The global financial crisis is having a serious impact on the economy and is very scary indeed. As it was famously said; “it is the economy stupid”, even in the wine world, which usually holds its own during slow financial times, though this downturn is massive and I have noticed a big turn to sub $20 a bottle wine. So I’ve made a point of featuring some super wines that don’t break the bank and still leave you with a big grin after a glass or two. Some of my favorite value wines come from the Rhone Valley and other Southern France areas, as they offer ripe and richly flavored wines that are solidly made and easy to love. Then there is South America with wonderful wines coming from both Argentina and Chile, with Malbec and Syrah wines impressing lately.  Then there is Spain and Italy for values, with even the Islands of Sardinia and Sicily giving wines of top quality at everyday prices, including one of my favorite wines, the Cannonau di Sardegna made from old Grenache vines. That said, top end wines are still doing well and the blue chip investment wines from the top domaines and chateaux are still looking to be solid bets and prices have even gone up on California Cabernets…

For some good value selections check out my latest REVIEWS

pursang.jpgIt was a very sad day a little over a month ago when the news came in that Didier Dagueneau had died in a single engine plane crash in his native France. Dagueneau was renown for perfecting bio-dynamically made Pouilly-Fume to the point of beyond perfection, making some of the great wines ever produced from his loved Sauvignon Blanc grapes. He looked and acted something between a caveman and a rock star, but was a driven and intense character that was never shy when it came to his self believe and or views on winemaking. His wines are a true reflection of his terroir and his personality! I never got to meet the man, but I have been luck enough to taste his artwork and I can tell you he was an artist and that his wines are totally unique in flavors and are almost impossible to fairly review or relate to you. They are such different animals each vintage and taste like no other Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tried, as they are pure and true to vintage and terroir completely. His top two wines from his Loire Valley vineyards, the “Silex” and “Pur Sang” though signed by the same artist seem very different wines and go a long way to showcase the slightly different soils and climate, even though the sites are not so far away as to make one think there would be such a difference. I found the “Pur Sang” to have a smoky citrus and liquid mineral note, while the “Silex” showed an earthy quince and stone fruit quality. All the wines I tasted all showed something special and it was a once in a lifetime event to try some 15 wines, from 1994 to 2006. In my notes I had extra special stars for the 1999 Pur Sang, 2001 Silex, 2003 Pur Sang, 2005 Silex and the near perfect 2006 Pur Sang.

wrights.jpgThe only slight blemish on my Oregon adventure in September was that I missed catching up with the godfather of Oregon Pinot Ken Wright, so I was glad to put that right last week when Ken Wright was pouring his full line up of Pinot Noir at a special tasting of new world Pinot Noir in San Francisco. I had met Ken before and have always held him and his wines in high esteem, in fact his energy and passion during a seminar a few years ago helped me understand his region and gave me an extra insight and affection for the Willamette Valley and its wines. At this tasting, Ken was engaging and patient with me, explaining each vineyard in detail and what he likes best about each site and what special characteristics they impart on the finished wine. I am grateful he took the time and gave me his full attention, it is a rare thing at these tastings and it is the extra special effort that sets him apart. All this focus and intensity goes into each of his wines and I can honestly say it makes a great difference. Wright showed his 10 different single vineyard Pinot Noirs, all of which highlighted their terroir and were each unique. His line up of 2007 wines are going to be released between now and December and do show the vintage’s more Burgundy like profiles with higher acid and delicate fruit. These are more a winemaker’s vintage than the blockbuster ripe 2006 wines were, but should be very enjoyable for true Pinot lovers. The wines are young and will fill out over the next few years, though there are a couple that are easy to enjoy now, especially the up front and fruit driven Shea Vineyard and the lovely and textured McCrone Vineyard, both of which impressed me a lot! Others to stand out were; the Nysa Vineyard from the Dundee Hills, the Savoya Vineyard from Yamhill, and the Carter Vineyard in the Eola Hills area, all of which are lovely wines that should gain with a little cellar time.

Wine Reviews, Articles & Travel