Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive Latest

s5002333.jpg

Grapelive News

As the economy gets bleak and the dollar becomes even weaker we need something to smile about, and the magic of Spring and wine do just that. Now we’ve had a pretty nice bit of weather, though some cold nights have played havoc with some vineyards with wide spread frost damage cutting down the crop level as much as 20% in some areas, we are still at some really nice fruit sets, so keep your fingers crossed. But, I am grateful for the longer days and clear sky, as it has brightened my spirits and then there is the amazing array of beautiful wines coming to market. Check out the Reviews Page for the latest!

Local to me, here in Monterey there has been some great news and events happening and the wine business here has been buzzing for the last month. The new Pebble Beach Food & Wine event went off without a hitch and has shown what can be done when your heart is really in it, so kudos to the people behind it for their faith and hard work, it paid off for sure. It was amazing to see the greatest figures in the food and wine biz all out on the town here on the Monterey Peninsula, especially for me when I got to meet up with a couple of my hero’s like Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres, and August Kesseler, of August Kesseler, Germany to to name a few. That was some week here and I’m glad to report that it is going to go on for many years to come.

As for great news, Talbott Vineyards just announce they hired Dan Karlsen as winemaker! Dan is great talent and a super person and I was very happy to hear of his appointment as consulting winemaker at Talbott. Talbott has been know for fantastic Chardonnay, really world class stuff, but have at times really missed the mark on their Pinot Noir and with Dan on board this looks to be a thing of the past. Dan’s touch with Pinot and his vast vineyard skills will surely produce whole new era at Talbott, and I can’t wait! Here is Talbott’s Press Release in full:

TALBOTT VINEYARDS NAMES DAN KARLSEN
AS CONSULTING WINEMAKER

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – April 21, 2008 – Effective April 21, 2008, Talbott Vineyards is pleased to name Dan Karlsen as consulting winemaker. Karlsen will be working with the Talbott Vineyards team for at least the next year, guiding the winery’s acclaimed winemaking program following the departure of retiring winemaker Sam Balderas.

Karlsen brings three decades of experience to his role as consulting winemaker for Talbott Vineyards. He began his career in 1980, working with David Stare at Dry Creek Vineyard. Throughout the ’80 and ’90s, Karlsen honed his skills making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir working at Dehlinger Winery, and later as the winemaker for Domaine Carneros. In 1998, Karlsen was named winemaker and general manager for Monterey County’s Chalone Winery, a position he held until 2007, when he left to focus on his own small label. In addition to farming his Monterey County vineyard and making his own wines, Karlsen is also the winemaker for Graff Family Vineyard.

“Dan is a gifted winemaker,” says founder Robb Talbott, “with a reputation for excellence. He also has a deep understanding of Monterey County winegrowing. His handcrafted approach to winemaking and his background working with exceptional estate-grown fruit makes him a natural fit for Talbott. We are thrilled to name him as our consulting winemaker.”

Talbott Vineyards was founded in 1982, when Robb Talbott personally planted his mountainous Diamond T Vineyard to the Corton-Charlemagne clone of Chardonnay. Today, Talbott Vineyards’ acclaimed estate program encompasses two of Monterey County’s most esteemed winegrowing areas: the Santa Lucia Highlands, where Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow and River Road vineyards are located, and the Carmel Valley, which is home to Diamond T. From this world-class palette of estate fruit, Talbott Vineyards crafts Burgundian-inspired Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that have earned a reputation for elegance and aging potential. Talbott Vineyards produces these wines under four labels: Talbott, Logan, Case, and Kali Hart.

Contact: Michelle Armour
Michelle@jam-pr.com

415.495.1107

 

 

Grapelive Latest: Santa Cruz Mountains

s5002379.jpgTouring the beautiful and mysterious Santa Cruz Mountains is too often an overlooked pleasure and after a wonderful spring Sunday in the green hills I am again a true believer! Without a doubt this is a rugged and raw wine region that offers scenic vistas and remote vineyard sites across a great area from Watsonville in the Southern most part to Woodside in the furthest Northern reach. Starting the lazy drive at Fins Coffee House on Ocean Street, downtown Santa Cruz we twisted and turned our way up Highway 9, seeing wildflowers and ranches all the way to the remote estate vineyard of David Bruce Winery, before going up Skyline and Highway 35 and on to Thomas Fogarty Winery. The views are amazing and there plenty of great areas to stop and take it all in, plus tons of great hiking trails to explore or to picnic on. The is also Castle Rock, a place for serious rock and boulder climbing. The distractions are many and varied in this most natured of wine county settings, with a more earthy and laid-back feel than Napa or Sonoma even. So expect glamor up here or lots of creature comforts, but be prepared to be awed by the shear beauty of the place, especially on a day like we had, where you could see forever and was without any sort of crowds. One thing to know going in, there are lots of cycles up here, both with either foot and horse power, so keep your attention dialed to the task at hand, trust me. It was a real Santa Cruz event, from driving a bio-diesel VW, dodging flying mud crusted Subarus driven by bearded smiling locals at lethal speeds, to watching turtles sun themselves in a pond, it was relaxing and a refreshing day, well except for all the driving on twisty roads. The first stop was David Bruce Winery on Bear Creek Road, a beautiful location with wisteria extra fragrant waiting ats5002371.jpg the tasting room, this was a nice way to cut the coffee buzz and really start the day afresh! David Bruce is one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir in California, only following a few notables like Chalone, Martin Ray, Joseph Swan, Walter Schug (while at Joseph Phelps) and Hanzell in this pursuit. He firmly believed in this wonderful grape and made his name on it and still makes a very good one indeed. We were well treated and serve at this out of way local and enjoyed their 2004 David Bruce Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains made from local vineyards, it showed an earthy richness and soft almost silky fruit profile very much in classic Pinot style. I will also mention their 2002 David Bruce Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, because it was full and chocolate like with an inky dark color that made us smile, so there you go. Both the those reds were very nice and well made, the same was not true of their 2003 David Bruce Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains, this wine was not drinkable and I have to be honest here, it was terrible with a dead sherry like tone that told you right away this wine was well on its way to vinegar. It is funny, because I do remember a time long ago when the Wine Spectator pulled not punches regarding a vintage of David Bruce Chardonnay calling it something close to cow dung! In fact a co-worker at the wine merchant where we worked just had to try it s5002392.jpgafter that, and even if that didn’t seem nice or fair after trying it ourselves, I was reminded of that here. So we bought a Pinot and a Petite and forgave them their pouring of the Chard and we went on with our day unharmed and happy. After some hair raising goat tracks and some avoiding vintage Triumph motorcycles, cruised along Skyline, then up Highway 35 to Thomas Fogarty Winery. Even before setting foot on the property, you can feel it is going to be a well worth stopping kind of place, it is a stunning and breathtaking location for a winery and tasting room with panoramic hilltop views of the whole Peninsula and sloping vineyards. With lots of wild and native gardens to enjoy as well as Mortimer the winery cat, even they didn’t make good stuff I would still come here, but luck was with us and the wines were all lovely. Doctor Fogarty is highly regarded in the medical community for his skill and his inventive mind, having invented many specialized surgical tools and the Fogarty catheter, as well as teaching at the famed Stanford Medical School. The family has a love for car racing, in fact I had met his sons during their racing careers and Jon still races today, while his older brother Thomas teaches race driving. That was when I first tried their family’s wine during the late 90’s, thoughs5002396.jpg that was in a past life. Nowadays there are lots of choices from this winery, like: A wonderful Chardonnay, a lush Pinot Noir, a chocolate and stylish Meritage, a couple of nice Cal-Itals from the Sierra Foothills, a Sparkler, a Napa Cabernet, a Port, a white Pinot Noir, a super Merlot based red, and best of all, a dry and perfumed Gewurztraminer, yes I said Gewurztraminer! On this day it was perfect and we took one, along with the Pinot Noir. I must say the 2005 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains may have been the best wine though, and I did a have a couple of maybe I should turn around and go back moments! Alas I didn’t, though I’ll go back to watch turtles, hang with Mortimer and get a few bottles of that Chardonnay. Then it was off to explore some more back roads and torture my friends tires on the fun winding paths that were more suited to pack mules than her Passat, what a day. Oh, and before I fade out, see below for another stunning wine from this fast becoming my favorite region.

For more info on Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries and Tasting Rooms Please visit the Santa Cruz Mountains Wines Website.

.

s5002340.jpg 2006 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir “Wild Yeast”, Schultze Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains (Est. $55.00)
Kudos to Jim and Judy Schultze, they have again proved that their vineyard produces wonderful fruit and they let the terroir sing its lungs out in making their lovely wines. Small lots of Pinot are allowed to go through natural fermentation aided only by native yeasts, and this shows in the difference between this wine and the others in their impressive line. There is more to this wine and it seems a little deeper and more layered, also there is certain sexier and prettier nature here. That said I love all their wines, even if I might prefer this one. There is plenty of zesty raspberry, cherry and fresh plum fruits that go on and on. The depth is impressive now, but should develop nicely for a couple of years. Its sublime balance shades the sweet fruit and firm textures and the touches of spice, earth and minerals all fold together smoothly. Enjoy now, though I will put one away for a couple of years. 93-94 Points, grapelive
www.windyoaksestate.com

Grapelive Latest: Napa The Splendor & The Silliness


Napa Vines in springNapa Valley is wonderful in the springtime with the first leaves on the vines giving a lovely green liveliness and the lack of crowds really makes it almost perfect. The sun helps too, and we found some at the outdoor patio of Tra Vigne making for an extremely joyful lunch. There are few places to hang out on a lazy wine filled Sunday more pleasurable than Tra Vigne in St. Helena, and this visit will be remembered fondly. Jay Smith, the Wine Director at Tra Vigne knows his stuff and has created a fun and vast list of top Napa Valley gems along with a fine selection of Italian regional wines of which I sampled with my panino and awesome fresh local mozzarella on crusty bread with a rosemary sprig, how can something so simple take your breathe away? Of course, Jay brought something special to taste, that being the new release of 2005 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, and all I can say is thank you Jay! This vintage has smooth chocolate-like tannins and perfect fruit balance which make it a winner right now and with any luck get even better of the next 5-8 years. The finish was amazing with savory currants, cassis and tangy blackberry lingering on and on. As for the Italian vino at lunch, there was an impressive Feudi San Gregorio Falenghina, a bright and pleasing Tebbiano, a fruity and lush Primativo and a blueberry and vanilla laced Nero D’Avola from Sicily that was the star. Tra Vigne has remarkable olive oil and fresh produce that makes everything taste great!s5002311.jpg

Whetting the appetite driving into Napa, knowing that an Italian lunch lunch awaited, we did a drive by Luna Vineyards and sampled their Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese and looked out across their vines, it was an inspired choice and the wine tasted even better for being fresh on the palate with good mouthwatering acidity and bright flavors of spring. Back in the car we raced out the Silverado Trail and up to Stags’ Leap District to check out Cliff Lede Winery at the former site of S. Anderson on the Yountville crossing. Cliff Lede has made a big splash with this property and with David Abreu and Michel Rolland consulting for him, he looks to keep turning heads. Lede a Canadian businessman and rock music fan has spared nothing money-wise to build one of the best winery’s in the Valley, and the wine is right up there with the top echalon. Cliff Lede inheirited some of the S. Anderson sparkling wine which they continue to pour at their tasting room, and this of course was a great palate cleanser before driving into the Cliff Lede reds. The sparklers were very nice and well made with a real Champagne feel to them, but I was there to lose myself in the Cabernet and was luck they have a few bottles left of their wine! They produce a wonderful Claret, one of the best Napa values ever and a choice of three limited production Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, all of which will blow your mind, though sadly they sell out fast. I sipped on their 2004 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley of which is only sold at their tasting room. This Cabernet has wonderful intense mountain fruit and powerful tannins all done with finesse and sublime care. The black fruits, spicy red currant and plumy body are hedonistic and the finish is long and vanilla filled.

Castello di AmorosaAnd now for the silliness, as a wine professional and as someone that can usually find the hidden gems while flying under the radar, can for the most part avoid the garish and Disneyland-like places with posers and snobby-types, but I walked right into my worst nightmare with a smile. Castello Di Amorosa, the newest brainchild of the V.Sattui empire, looks like a castle plucked right out of Tuscany, though it looks more amusement park than Siena. At first with good humor I approached, but this faded into terror and disgust fairly quickly, almost the same feeling I get entering a Costco! There is a big attitude in the air here and it kind of sends the wrong message and I personally did not like the tacky buy a ticket to ride game they force on you here, though for some it might be okay. I just am not big on buying a ticket and being herded into a pre-paid pen, but I will say the place was packed and the cash register was singing away. Just because I kept thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean instead of Super Tuscan style wines doesn’t mean you won’t love the place, sorry I mean Castle, oh my I mean Castello! It made me really want to go back to Italy and the real hills of Chianti, so that is what I’ll save for for.

After Casello di Amorosa, I felt the need to clear my mind and refocus on the beauty of the day and of Napa, so I took the Oakville grade over the mountains, enjoying the amazing vistas and stopping for wild flowers in bloom, now this is my kind of Napa and I was refreshed and happy again. There is something special seeing mountain vineyards, nature, and the quiet that makes me profoundly happy, and you can still find it in Napa, even if you will be subjected to some silliness too.

Grapelive Latest

pisoni-1.jpgThe floodgates have opened and the new wines are flowing like raging waters to your restaurants, wine merchants or to your doorstep, and I can say it is all good. The wines I’ve had this month or even this week, most new releases and pre-sale samples, have been outstanding. Even my favorites have stepped up and there are some brand new faces that have scored big. 2005 for Cabernets and Syrah with 2006 for Pinot and Chards are the norm and with very few exceptions I’ve been blown away with the smoothness and richness of these wines, really you are in for a treat these days. My local area, Monterey had two utterly fantastic vintages in 2005 and 2006, for the small producers, and are now all on the market and ready to drink. Local icon Gary Pisoni (pictured with me) released the new 2006 Lucia line-up of Chard and Pinot Noirs, and they are amazing and a steal. Gary might have single-handedly turned the region to a world class region with his magical Pisoni Vineyard Pinot fruit that continues to awe Pinot lovers everywhere, whether it is under his on Pisoni label or made by one of less than a dozen winemakers that Gary sells his prized grapes to. Under his loving guidance his sons run and make the family’s wines and the Lucia Vineyards label is the main production, with a group or Pinot Noir and Syrah mainly, but they do an amazing Chardonnay, a bright Rose and a rare Cabernet Sauvignon in some vintages. Gary and his friend and partner Gary Francione who makes the Roar wines, have the Garys’ Vineyard that is also now one of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the state. I have reviews of the Lucia posted, click on the link below. Then also locally for me Morgan Winery, headed by Dan Lee has just released their beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Dan has taken a major step up with his own estate vineyard wines from the “Double L Ranch” with both the Chard and Pinot rated outstanding. Then from over the hill in Carmel Valley, my hometown and my home team, Parsonage Village Vineyard turned out a selection of Syrah, Cabernet and a unbelievably fantastic Petit Verdot based red. These 2005’s are some of the finest wines I’ve every tasted from this area, in fact they rival anything from Napa! Also from Carmel Valley, Galante Vineyards continues to raise their quality and now have new wines in the pipeline too. I was very impressed with their lush and full-bodied Merlot and enjoyed the Almond Flat Pinot Noir, maybe the highest elevation Pinot Noir Vineyard in Central California? My kudos go out to Bill Parsons & Jack Galante for making me profoundly grateful and proud of where I’m from. Across the bay in the Santa Cruz Mountains there are some fine offerings coming out too, I love the new Windy Oaks Estate, Martin Alfaro 2006 Pinots and the Alfaro Family 2006 Lindsay-Page Vineyard Chardonnay especially. I have to wait a little longer to get my hands on the new release for Pandol Vineyards, but after Jennifer Pandol’s last effort I look forward to seeing the 2006 Schultze Vineyard Pinot Noir this summer. Her 2005 was one of my breakthrough wines of 2007, and I was very happy after tasting the barrel sample of both 2006 and 2007. Speaking of new faces, I got to taste a new Syrah from a new hot producer from the Sonoma County area and I’m sure he is going to be a star, his name is Jeff Ames and his label is Rudius, so write it down. His 2005 Rudius Syrah Russian River Valley is a seriously delectable treat with loads of style and rich fruit.
NEW REVIEWS

.

Alaya’s Latest, March 28, 2008

.

m_1ec3ee57ddf07e7cf3d55430264d29ba.jpgOregon Spring

By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist

Springtime in Portland brings many things; crazy weather (it’s snowing in March) beautiful blooms (the Magnolias are stunning) and newly released Pinot Noir in the market–hooray! We’ve seen several 2006s thus far, but they are really starting to show up in good form now. 2006 was a big vintage for Oregon Pinot, the fruit was generally lush in style, and the production was larger than normal, by 15-20% in many cases. Because weather conditions allowed fruit to set and develop under warm conditions, then ripen gradually during a cooler trend, the Pinots of 2006 are fruity, fleshy, and approachable, but not overblown; they are balanced.

2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “The Beaux Freres Vineyard”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon
Deep garnet in color, and slightly cloudy, you can see the handcrafted character right away. Nose is huge with luscious fruits, bloody mineral, forest floor and spicy wild flowers. Plum, heirloom tomato, raspberry, fig, raisin, and black cherry are an influential on the nose. Notes of rare lamb, and copper follow this brawny fruit. Roasted cashew, morel, truffle, cedar, wet soil beneath a fir tree forest, wild orchid and fresh licorice root really make this wine smell like Oregon.

The palate offers the big rush of fruit that you would expect from the nose; it is bold, focused yet velvety, and lasts in layers. Cherry, plum, blueberry, and fig. I even taste roasted beets and squash, but make no mistake; this is a great influence and matches the earthiness of this pinot well. Rounded out with influential tastes of pesto, hazelnuts, maple syrup, molasses, pipe tobacco, soprasatta, dried truffle, and cocoa. This is one sexy wine!

With 100% Estate fruit from Ribbon Ridge, this bottling comes from the Beaux Freres Vineyard. Located on a special plot of 30 acres at 400 feet elevation, are the densely planted vines, ranging in age from 9-19 years. Thus, the production of this wine (especially in relation to its cult-like following) is small. Get some if you can, this wine will age and please for a decade, easily.

www.beauxfreres.com

Here are some of my recent favorites. READ ON

Read Alaya’s Blog at: www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Grapelive Latest

mikeandme.jpgBeaux Freres Releases Their Stunning 2006 Pinots

I should let my Oregon colleague Alaya handle the Pacific Northwest, as she does her local community very well indeed, but I could not control myself after trying the new Beaux Freres Pinots. Mike Etzel (pictured left with me) has a special place in the Ribbon Ridge region and makes a fantastic selection of Pinots. These wines are a great pleasure to try back to back and together, especially after tasting their 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Vineyard recently. I just posted the reviews on the 08 Reviews Page, see menu bar. The new Beaux Freres are richly colored and supple in tannin and deliver pure joy. The color is dark garnet and has a bright ruby edge, they seem darker than the California 2006 Pinots, but with fresher acidity and maybe have deeper flavors. That said, I’ve been really impressed with the Central Coast, Sonoma and Anderson Valley Pinots from the 2006 Vintage, which are less oaky and or Syrah-like than the recent vintages. Many of the 2006’s have a pale strawberry color to them and a brighter palate, though them seem deeply layered and have superb length and balance. So don’t read to much into the color, just let the wine show itself and I think you’ll be impressed. Also unfiltered wines tend to look lighter, because of the cloudy body that reflects light. I am thinking 2006 is going to be another banner year for Pinot Noir, with beautiful pure wines across the board! Oh, not that I mention Cabernet Sauvignon that often, but keep your eyes out for the 2005’s, these are amazing wines that offer full-bodied fruit, but with super ripe sweet tannins that are smooth giving early enjoyment and complexity even at this young stage. I will mention a couple to watch for now just hitting the market, these are: 2005 Miner Cabernet Sauvignon “Stagecoach Vineyard” Napa Valley, 2005 Keever Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa Valley and 2005 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. All of these are deals too, as they are in the $60-90 range, so check them out.

.

s5002237.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This entry level Pinot from bought fruit is an outstanding wine and a killer deal! This is a big round Pinot with lush and textured layers of fruit and pretty perfume. There is everything to love and nothing to complain about here, I really savored every sip and didn’t want to put the glass down. This is what Pinot does best, it strikes an emotional cord and sings to the soul. Rich plum and bing cherries are all over the palate with flashes of red mountain berries, briar and smoky sweet spices. There is plenty going on and the wine is supported with nice mineral and oak notes. (Est. $50-60) 93 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

.

s5002236.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Beaux Freres Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Bang, wow, swoon and then clap in praise, as this is a Grand Cru Burgundy rival, maybe better than most even. This wine is deep, complex and riveting right out of the bottle and only just begins to hint at its great potential that will certainly come. As with most great wines, it is stunning now, but promises to be near perfect for many years. The flavors come out in vivid detail and with sublime clarity and focus leading to a wonderful long and pure finish. Nothing is out of place, but it has its own uniqueness and terroir, which remind me of Musigny, but not quite. The blackberry, cherry and fresh berry fruits dance on the palate and the truffle, mineral, spice and exotic notes all play a part in the band. A rich currant and French oak streak unfold about mid way through to the savory and firm finish. Super now, but should hit its peak in 5 years. (Est. $79-99) 95 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

.

s5002238.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Just when I thought I had reached the height of heights, then comes this wonderful masterpiece. This is everything the “Beaux Freres Vineyard is and a little more intense and wound up. There is a little more class and finesse here too, but it has its own presence too, with a hard to define violets and blueberry berry impression and a more meaty side as well. The round cherry fruit is mouth filling and there is a bramble-berry note that is distinct as well. The layers are linear and tightly focused with lots of mind blowing depth and expansiveness. Put this baby in the cellar and reap your reward in 5-8 years! 97 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

.

Grapelive Latest

march08kw1.jpgIt is Almost Spring!

This is a great time of year, a time of rebirth in the vineyard and a time when new releases start showing up in restaurants and shops! I just love it, and some wonderful wines are flowing in now and I’ve been hard pressed to keep up, though that can hardly be called a problem. I want to give my regards to Santa Cruz Mountains winemaker Richard Alfaro, who warm-heartedly opened his personal cellar and brought out some magical wines at a wonderful wine dinner at Soif Wine Bar in Santa Cruz. Thank you Richard! He unselfishly opened to following world-class wines: 1998, 1999 & 2000 Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux, 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, 1995, 1996 & 1997 Williams Seylems Rochioli River Block Pinot Noir, 2003 Kistler Pinots (Kistler Vineyard, Cuvee Elizabeth & Cuvee Catherine), 2002 & 2003 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, 2003 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge (Pisoni Vineyard), 1999 Bouchard Chambertin Clos de Beze, 1996 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard and finally but not least by any means the pretty 1994 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir! An amazing blast of Pinot greatness beyond belief and a night I won’t ever forget for the wine for sure, but also the kindness of Richard and the tasty food and service at Soif, a warm hearted thanks to all! Richard Alfaro I might add is now releasing some of his 2006 Pinot Noirs, like the 2006 Martin Alfaro “Schultze Vineyard”, a Santa Cruz Mountain gem that should not be missed and speaking of Schultze, Jim and Judy Schultze were also at that wine dinner and had some news of their own, their Windy Oaks Estate, of which I am a huge fan of is getting ready to ship a couple of new Pinots and I can hardly wait. Watch this space for notes on those soon, and I recommend getting on both the Martin Alfaro & Windy Oaks mailing lists as they sell out fast! 2006 vintage Pinots are all showing great form all ready and are good bets to stock up on early, check out the Cobb Vineyards reviews below.

Alaya Wyndham-Price is back from Walla Walla, Washington and reports in, see below!

Martin Alfaro Wines & Windy Oaks Estate

Cobb Coastlands Pinot

2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Coastlands Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

This their flagship Pinot from their home estate vineyard and the Cobb’s can be proud again with this wonderful wine. This is a complex, deep and pure Pinot Noir that is everything it should be and more. I continue to be amazed by Russ’ gifted touch and style which highlight the true nature of the grape and capture their terroir perfectly. This wine will lift your spirits and float you away and in my case with a happy stupid grin! There is plenty of raspberry and mineral laced cherry to entice you and subtle spice and wood notes. This is remarkable wine every year, but this just might be the best all around Pinot from this vineyard yet. Russ Cobb is the talented winemaker here and his dad David handles getting the wine out, and takes care of the vineyard, both are to be commended for their efforts. (Est. $69) 94 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines

cobb06b.jpg

2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Rice-Spivek Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

The second offering from Cobb, the “Rice-Spivek” is super perfumed and lovely in texture and life that comes out on the palate. This is completely different from the “Coastlands” and is a great contrast in terroir, even if it is difficult to chose a clear favorite between the two! So, I’d opt for both, no question, these are great Pinots. The “Rice-Spivek” has a more open nature and might not be the one for the cellar, that said , it is so pretty and easy to love that this Pinot really grabbed me. The red cherry fruit and floral nose just stay with you and the finish has just the hint of sweet creamy oak that adds to the joy that is this wine. This wine should develop all the classic Burgundy-style flavors over the next year or so in bottle, but there is no crime in drinking it now! (Est $69) 93 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines


Alaya Wyndham-Price Reports From Walla Walla!

Lifting cases off the bottling line for 10 hours last spring at Isenhower Cellars in Walla Walla was to my arms and back what hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day was to my legs and feet. I woke up the next morning feeling muscles I didn’t know existed. This sort of work builds character, and a lasting appreciation for the wines produced in that winery you worked for. Naturally, I am excited about Isenhower Cellars wines! But for good reasons…

Isenhower is a great little boutique winery, known for both Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. A husband and wife team, Brett (winemaker) and Denise, are modern-day Rhone Rangers, with a healthy respect for the area’s propensity toward Bordeaux varietals – they produce great examples of both styles. What’s better, is they buy fruit only from producers that are concerned with letting the expression of the land come out in the grapes, in the most natural and environmentally careful way. They recognize the value of the terroir they are working from, and are dedicated to letting the land express its character in their wines. One estate the Isenhower’s buy from is the prestigious Ciel du Cheval site in the Red Mountain AVA. Vineyard owner Jim Holmes explains his philosophy on what makes the wines coming from Ciel du Cheval so special: “Dirt and climate, climate and dirt.”

roussanne_f.jpg2006 Isenhower Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, Walla Walla, Washington State
A true Rhone varietal, Roussanne expresses beautifully the land it comes from. The 2006 Ciel du Cheval Roussanne showcases its light residual sugars as you pour it. Crystalline in form, they make the geologist in me delight as I watch delicate flakes float around in the golden liquid. With a nose of round and lush notes of baked papaya, flambéed banana, and honeysuckle, this wine is balanced by the addition of lemon zest, spiced almond, and wet river rock. The viscosity of this wine is exciting, as its layers slip around on your tongue, coating it with silky mineral. Flavors of honeyed, grilled pear with lavender make me smile and sip again only to find further enchantment, from notes of chalk and fossil – thanks to the vineyard’s lively geologic past – and an exciting citrus-zesty finish. Really, this is a beautiful wine, with exotic intrigue and restrained elegance.

As a member of the bottling team, I not only spent the day talking wine, running, music and travel with a great group of people – “regular bottlers” – I had the pleasure of taking home two cases of wine for my efforts. Because I showed a special interest in the very limited older-vines Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, I was lucky to find 4 bottles of it in my box. Thanks, Brett! I’m so glad I had the chance to know this wine. After a year in bottle, it has really come into its own, and is so worth sharing. The wine is balanced, and will age for many years to come, into something as beautiful and rare as fossilized amber. I’m so looking forward to watching the life of this single-vineyard Roussanne progress in those remaining bottles. Very limited production; sold out at the winery. *Check out their website and get on the list for the new vintage, www.isenhowercellars.com
-Alaya

Read Alaya’s Blog at

www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Grapelive Latest: Firmly in 2008 Now

This new year is getting off to a great start with many exciting things happening and many great wines being reviewed for your pleasure, well and mine of course. Grapelive is launching a sister Website called Fermented Travel and we’ll be talking more about that soon, but you can see the preview and first column all ready at www.fermentedtravel.com.

Just as exciting, Grapelive is turning to young blood to bring you some interesting content and reviews, first we are happy to have Alaya Wyndham-Price on board as a guest columnist, reporting from the Pinot crazy state of Oregon. She is bringing a new view on the Oregon wine industry and the rest of the world as well. With her passion and drive I look forward to seeing more and more of her thoughts and I think you will as well. It is great to have a fresh face keeping me honest and covering the areas that I might otherwise miss. To see her first column read below, and to see her bio click on the link on the right hand panel.

Looking ahead there are some great wines to relate to you soon!

Well, I better get back to work…

Cheers and Enjoy

Hot Pick

Jennifer Pandol

2005 Jennifer Pandol Vineyards Pinot Noir “Schultze Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains

Jennifer is a bright spot locally, making superb Pinot Noir’s from select vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I got to try her premier vintage of which she made only a single barrel, which made just over 20 cases, and I can say she is going places! This was a fine effort that blew me away, I rated it highly and deservely so, this Pinot has wonderful ripe fruit and sublime balance with lush texture and a long finish. Jennifer sourced fruit from and was mentored by Jim Schultze, Schultze Family Vineyards, of Windy Oaks Estate fame. I have been a big fan of his wines and his vineyard since his first vintage from 1999. The bold richness and round flavors are amazingly pleasing and again this was her first Pinot bottling, so look for great things to come. This wine has black cherry and focused red berry fruits and coffee bean and creamy tea spices, and a touch of cola. The earthy and dried flowers notes add to the complexity and the warm sweet oak vanilla finish it off with good style. The bad news is that she is out of this wine, though she plans on bottling her riper and bolder 2006 soon, so we should see it released late spring, and trust me I’ll be watching for it! At this time she does not have a list, but if you are interested, just drop me a line and I’ll pass it on. (Est. $40) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Jennifer Pandol Vineyards, Balmaseda Winery, Santa Cruz.

Negly

2002 Chateau de Negly Porte du Ciel, Syrah, (Coteaux-du-Languedoc), France
This brilliant 100% Syrah cuvee is a powerful and dark monster that belies the region and vintage, in fact this wine is on par with top Hermitage wines! Look out for the intense nose of black olives that is strikingly potent and will transport you instantly to the South of France, then come the waves of blueberry, herbs and cassis. This wine takes lots of air to gather itself, but once loose it is all-together a bold and structured red with creamy, lush fruit and a super long finish that highlights its complexity and balance. This might go another 10 years easy and should get more interesting with each year of bottle age. There are layers of cherry liqueur, rocky earth, game, pepper, lavender oil and sweet fresh picked plums. There are some hints of wild flowers, violets and tarry fruits. This wine is immense, but ripeness is near perfect with out any odd prune flavors, just purity of fruit and terroir. I was just amazed by this wine, especially in such a vintage that was seemingly so tough in this region, proving you can’t judge a book by its cover! *Note, after tasting it, I found out that Robert Parker had rated it highly too, damn it I didn’t scoop the master… (Est $100-125) 94-96 Points, grapelive

Dee Vine Wines

Merry Edwards Pinot Noir

2006 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

This lush and fruit forward wine delivers big goodness now, with creamy texture and lovely flavors. The wine is easy to love and quaff, it is not shy, but there is little acidity to worry about. Everything about this wine says drink up! And of course I did and will! This Pinot has classic Russian River like black cherry, cola and red earthy berries that feel layered and balanced all ready, even for a young wine. Feel free to give it a year or so if you like, but I’d say it is great now. The toasted sweet oak notes are persistent, but feel natural here. A very nice effort from a top producer, now for the hard part, finding it! Good luck and good hunting…($42-75 Est.)

93 Points, grapelive

Sherwin Family Cabernet

2004 Sherwin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain, Napa Valley

This is a near perfect example of Spring Mountain Cab, with rich, intense and loaded with fruit that is both dark and flavorful. It is hard to find anything that is not in balance or needed in this wine, it is simply a wonderful and complex wine that is easy to love. The black fruits have hints of briar, black mountain berries and fresh currants and there is a subtle smoky note to them. The structure is spot on and the whole wine is pure and everything it’s supposed to be. There are lovely cassis and vanilla touches that blend in nicely to the hints of lead pencil, tobacco and licorice that are present in the background. I recommend you get on their list and get at least a few bottle of this wonderful Cabernet and look for their other wines that they working on too. This is a great effort from a great location, I for one will go visit this vineyard on my next trip up that way! 95+ Points, grapelive

Sherwin Family Vineyards

Alaya Talks Up Oregon!

Oregon Pinot Noir–Boutique Style
By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist

Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest ColumnistI am an Oregon Native. Yes, I know…we are truly a rare breed these days. It may seem only natural that I would find myself in the wine business, as I grew up along with our wine scene. I have always been drawn to the outdoors, and the way things work within natural systems. In parallel, I have been called a sensual person, with a lust for finding and honoring the joys that life offers. The evolution that is wine (grape growing to winemaking to savoring) holds complete intrigue to both my scientist and my sensualist. As Oregon is now well established, and world renowned for our production of high quality wines, especially great Pinot Noir, I find myself, now in an excellent business. We honor our fertile land, and all of its ecological magic; we have friendly, no-nonsense people, who still tell stories by the campfire and are leading the nation in sustainable agriculture; and we possess a smart approach to a cutting-edge food scene, based on the farm-to-table formula. We are still writing history.

So much of what makes Oregon wine, namely Pinot Noir, charming lies in its ability to express terroir. A place holds history, it will tell the story of its origins, if you listen. Oregon is full of stories, isn’t it? Think of our history; an iconic destination in the Pioneer days, Oregon has always been known by outsiders as rugged, with fecund landscapes, and the undeniable sense of possibility. Modernly, we are marked by figures that have shown academic, athletic, culinary, and environmental innovation. Now, more commonly, we see great innovation in the production of wine. It’s no secret that Oregon grows the Pinot Noir grape well. It’s also fairly celebrated in the wine world that Pinot Noir expresses its roots well. But what’s exciting is that each individual Pinot Noir vineyard site in Oregon offers its own very distinguishable character. Oregon is marked by a colorful geologic history, an array of weather systems, and a team of viticulturists who care to let their grapes grow as close to naturally within their land space as possible. We don’t just have the category “Oregon Pinot,” we have Momtazi, Shea, White Rose, Seven Springs, Meyer, Stermer, Anden, Deux Vert…You get the idea…Pinot. Each place has such an outstanding character, prized for different reasons, and quite a recognizable face within whatever bottling they are present.

Like some of the great single-vineyard Cabernets of California, Oregon is making waves with its single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. These wines are often the wine-maker’s personal ode to the land; to deliver unique, interesting if not geeky wines that are pure descendants of one little place and time; vineyard natives. Small in production, these wines have become anticipated worldwide. They carry a certain panache; brazen enough to show their rugged origins, to express themselves without much outside influence, to tell a true story that helps them to stand out–oh yes, those of us that wish we lived our lives as fully, just yearn to get our hands on them, and begin feeling wild, vicariously, through our glass. Available, often times, only for a few months out of the year, single-vineyard designate Oregon Pinot Noirs are worth the wait, the effort, and the price. If you are a serious buyer, travel Oregon, start with the Willamette Valley and sample its bounty. Find your coveted bottlings, visit vineyards and develop a sense of place as you try wines produced there. Then join the wine clubs of those producers you feel passionate about, and get on their futures list, this will ensure you an annual taste of their expression in a bottle.

Hot Pick

2004 Ayoub Pinot Noir2004 Ayoub Pinot Noir Willamete Valley, Oregon

I decided to open and decant my last bottle of Ayoub’s first bottling, his 2004 Pinot Noir, for my birthday. Like any pinot that Josh Bergstrom makes, this one is brawny, highly structured, and storm-proof. This wine is built-to-last, and I knew that air would serve it well, as it’s only 4 years into its progression.

Garnet in hue, showing just a touch of age, the wine looks like my birthstone; how appropriate. In the nose I get a lot of plum, some cassis, and a bit of wild huckleberry and licorice root. What’s really noticeable and fun, is the Mexican hot chocolate note. This draws you in, and soon after, you are greeted by game; bloody lamb, and earth; clay, iron, and morel. Flavors mirror the nose, lots of plum and licorice, with the added joy of strawberry-rhubarb pie-mix. Very earthy in taste, backing up the brawn of the structure, I taste ginger root, fossil-rich alluvial clay, and wet moss. Delicious now, would keep progressing over the next 6-8 years.

To think Mohammed “Mo” Ayoub released this as his first effort, humbly and enthusiastically 2 years ago. Quite a stunning first release, and one that definitely put him on the map as someone to watch. A one-man viticulturist and now winemaker, who lives and grows grapes near Dundee, travels the world for business, and manages to make phenomenal Willamette Valley Pinot right away, all while smiling and selling his efforts…now that’s someone I want to support!

This pinot didn’t need a food accompaniment to taste great, in fact I sipped it after returning home from a sushi dinner as my dessert. But were one to pair it, I would recommend a nice Lebanese spiced lamb and rice dish, with hummus and fresh, hot pita bread. One could also easily enjoy an oily piece of smoked salmon, with an array of ripe sheep and goats milk cheeses, and some marcona almonds. AW-P

Ayoub Wines

Alaya Wyndham-Price

Visit Alaya Daily at www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Latest News & Reviews

Grapelive Latest News, January 2008

This is a great time of year to catch up with your reading and spend some quality time with your favorite wines, or explore a little and find something new. These storms out west have given me a lot of time to sort out some of my tasting notes and I’m working on a “Best of 2007” list and I should have that out shortly. In the meantime, I’ve been lucky to have had some interesting new wines come my way and I have a few reviewed at rated below. Pinot Noir again, I know I always seem to be tasting Pinot, but that is because it is what is hot and it seems to only get better and better. If you are getting tired of Pinot you should investigate the wonderful Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire Valley in France, especially the 2005 vintage as these wines are fantastic. Try a Chinon or a Saumur Champigny, and enjoy the spicy goodness and elegant easy nature of these underrated wines, I like Philippe Alliet, Jogeut and the Clos Rougeard wines from this region. Then there is Piedmonte, Italy with its tasty Barbera and Nebbiolo reds that are pure and terroir driven wines, just stay away from the 2002 vintage and you’ll be fine. Top wines from there include La Spinetta, Bruno Giacosa and Vietti, so go explore. As for white wines in winter, I go for Alsace and Riesling, German Riesling, Italian Gewurztraminer and White Burgundies. Back to Pinot Noir, and close to my home, there are some amazing wines coming out soon from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I’ll tell you about those soon.

s5002103.JPG2005 Silvestri Pinot Noir Carmel Valley

This is the winery owned by famous film composer Alan Silvestri, of Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Polar Express, which got the Academy Award for best original song. This Pinot has very ripe flavors and still retains high acidity, which makes the balance here pretty nice, but it really shines with food and comes alive with richness and terroir! Black and red fruits burst out on the palate framed with apple peal zestiness and spice notes. The plum and cherry are savory and long in the mouth with hints of raisins, forest brush, lavender oil and liquor. The finish is tangy with classic Pinot groove and subtle oak. This is not a shy boring wine at all, but don’t forget to have with food, or you’ll miss the magic!
90 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Russian River

Wow, I may have a new favorite Russian River Pinot here, and trust me you’ll love this wine, as it has it all and then some. This ranks right up there with Rochioli and Kosta Browne, so find some quick, because there is only 200 cases of this. Lush textures make your mouth water and the layers of fruit give big smiles on this near perfect wine. There is rich cherry, raspberry, currant and cola bean gracing the palate and lingering on the smooth long finish. Great oak toasty notes hint at vanilla and mocha with out being overly aggressive or out of place. This is a top flight wine that deserves lots of attention. 96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002101.JPG2006 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir Rio Vista Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

This might be the best value in Pinot going these days, a real world class wine at under $50 retail. These guys are good, I mean really, really good at making Grand Cru style Pinots, and this one lives up to the hype. Rio Vista gives thick and dark wines, but they always get an added dimension of purity and elegance from this site. This wine is soft and perfumed with great depth and balance making it great all ready. I must say this vintage has less acidity and is creamy, so maybe you’d want to drink it young. There is plenty of violets, rose petals and blueberry up front, with pure cherry and plum fruits. This beautiful wine is lusty and sexy all the way to the long savory finish. 95 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Carneros

This wine is bigger and more blooding than its sibling from the Russian River, making a huge impression and bolder statement. This Pinot has power and intensity with blackberry, cherry, plum and cranberry fruits leading to layers of spice, licorice and mineral notes. This might be the most complex and interesting Carneros Pinot out there! Since 2002 Donum Estate has been a stand out and this wine is by far the greatest effort to date and I can only see things getting better! This wine can go a long time, I see some cellar time giving big rewards, but don’t wait a minute to get it! 94-96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002102.JPG2003 Tangley Oaks Merlot Napa Valley Lot 7

If you like Silver Oak or Australian reds you will love this Merlot, and at $20, you’ll really love this wine. With sweet American oak barrels giving lots of vanilla cream, coconut oil and caramel this lush Merlot feels big and smooth with cherry and plum fruit. The wine gets richer and expansive on the palate giving subtle chocolate, sage and smoky spice. The fruit comes on strong at the finish make this an impressive wine. 88 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines


s5002062.jpg

2005 Chateau Puligny-Montrachet Clos-du-Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet White Burgundy

This is awesome Chardonnay and a terrific value, no doubt this normal Bourgogne is fantastic stuff with sublime flavors and purity. What more can I say? Well mostly I can tell you to find it and buy cases of it! At about $30 or so bucks this wine destroys many wines at three times the price. Beautiful in every way this white has perfume, body and elegance with white flowers, fresh lemon, delicate pear and lovely minerality. With a dose of apple pie and hazelnut in the background, this beauty has style to spare and a long zesty finish. This is what Chardonnay can and should be, a regal and noble wine that has it all. This might be hard to find, but press your local merchant to look for it. ($28-35 Est) 93+ Points, grapelive

Imported by Beaune Imports, Berkeley, Calif.

Bouchee Wines

Meet Richard Alfaro at Bouchee in Carmel Nov.24th

snc10080.JPG

Winemaker Richard Alfaro, of Alfaro Family & Martin Alfaro Winery Will be Pouring his Wines at Bouchee Bistro in Carmel Nov. 24th (Saturday12 (Noon) to 4 PM

I’ve been a huge fan of this talented winemaker for a few years now, and I recommend you check him out! He will be at Bouchee Bistro and Wine Merchants in Carmel-by-the-Sea this Saturday and he’ll be pouring his latest releases. Plus I believe he’ll try to bring a future release and a library selection of his Pinot Noir.

Bouchee Bistro & Wine Merchants