Category Archives: Wine Articles

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

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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


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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

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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 

Has The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker Hurt the Wine Industry or Helped?

I was asked about the influence of The Wine Spectator (magazine) and Robert Parker (famous wine critic) and whether it has been a negative or a positive? The angle that was posed to me was that wines were now made for them and their taste rather than done as had been done traditionally and that wines were now more all the same… It seemed to me as if it was a statement of fact… Really, are we going to blame The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker this perception? Really? Okay, I’ve heard many frustrations regarding these wine critics, and from time to time I’ve taken issue with their assessment of a wine or two, but I guess I would have to defend them overall. My Opinion is as follows on the subject.

My view, or my two cents worth, on Robert Parker (Wine Critic) and Wine Spectator (Wine Magazine) is as follows, I like we must be fair and admit both Parker and The Wine Spectator have done wonders for the wine industry and bashing them seems to me to be sour grapes, sorry no pun intended! While Spectator seems highly political and maybe more money motivated, overall it is positive force for the consumer, though even it might help the collector more than the average wine drinker. As for Parker, he likes what he likes and who am I to argue with that, I am the same! I don’t always agree with him, but really he is good and I can’t fault his reviews or ratings much. People complain that wineries now make their wine to please him, rather than doing things per tradition or hanging when they pick the grapes to make a more fruit driven style. Maybe this is true, but if they make a better wine and people buy it, is that not good? Really, you must be realistic, Robert Parker has made fortunes for the wine industry and in my opinion, I think he almost saved the French wine trade at a time when it didn’t look good for them. The argument is that we are losing terroir driven wines, wines that show the true nature of the place or region. That is also highly suspect, I am finding more terroir driven wines now then ever before and I believe that this trend is not going to decline any time soon. It would be fair though, to say one of the bad effects, that both Parker and the Wine Spectator must accept as natural for the course, is greed.  This is a negative influence on the market place and can be traced back to good ratings from Parker especially, but the marketplace is always going to be controlled by the wealthy and what they are willing to pay. It has also been suggested that the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker are responsible for higher prices and a lack of quality wine at lower price points, okay someone needs to get a life and maybe stop taking the “Kool Aid” as this is crazy talk. The real problem is the cost of winemaking especially in California, small wineries can’t afford to make $2.99 bottles of wine here, honestly it costs most small producers about $7.00 a bottle at least to make good wine, so by the time it gets to the customer with some profit for each stop on the way, it will sell for about $20. You must remember they must grow the grapes, all the farming and utility costs, ferment, barrel age and bottle the wine, then there is staff, marketing and packaging too.  No you can’t blame Wine Spectator or Parker for those costs. There are factory made wines that sell for anywhere from $2 to 9 that have made it more hard for the small family winery to sell cheaper wines, I mean why would anyone want to compete in that price range, it would be crazy to do so. So small wineries are making more distinct wines for niche markets, that is their only hope. Especially as I haven’t even mentioned quality inexpensive wines that come from South American or even Australia. In summing it up, I can tell you that there are many factors to be reviewed and putting fault on Robert Parker’s or the Wine Spectator’s door is too simple and not fair in the slightest. All of us must grudgingly admit we all have been more helped by Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator than hurt, to me it is not even close.

Grapelive Latest

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Tasting Great Wines, Tough Job, Yeah Right!

I must say it is a blessing to be able to taste these wines and I remain thankful not jaded for this pleasure. This week has been a real joy I must say, as I was invited to taste some fantastic wines. I was in the company of some very interesting people, like Gary Pisoni, Pisoni Vineyards and Winery and Jeff Fink, winemaker for Tantara Winery, both of which shine the light on the Pinot Noir grape and have help shape the market for Pinot Noir with world class wines. We tasted Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir from vintages 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005 and Jeff Fink previewed his Pisoni Vineyard from Tantara for the up coming release of 2006! All these were amazing, as well as some Garys’ Vineyard Pinots from Pisoni’s Lucia label and Tantara, which again proved what a great region the Santa Lucia Highlands are for Pinot Noir. It was tough to pick a favorite, but I must say the 2004 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate, 95 Points & the 2006 Tantara Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard (Pre-Release, from magnum, due out in March 2008) 96 Points, both were fantastic and dramatic Pinots, which topped in my notes. Then from totally around the world another Pinot Noir caught my attention, an Austrian version! An outstanding wine, the 2005 Loimer Pinot Noir from near the beautiful blue Danube, this was ripe, lush and rich in fruit with pretty cherry, grenadine, strawberry and red plum flavors that just exploded on the palate. This wine will be a secret favorite, as it will be almost impossible to find even though it was only about $40 retail est. I gave it 93-94 Points. Apart from Pinot, I have tasted some Zinfandel & Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards, liking them very much, especially the 2005 Ridge Geysersville California (Zinfandel) 40th Vintage, Sonoma County. ($33 Est.) 92 Points, and the 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red (Cabernet Sauvignon) California. ($35-40) 91 Points. These were classic and will be loved anytime and anywhere! Finally, I was able to try the 2005 Robert-Denogent Pouilly-Fuisse(s) from Kermit Lynch, the “Cuvee Claude” & the “Les Reisses” both of which were stunning and would easily compete with Grand Cru White Burgundies! This guy can make Chardonnay with the best of them, no question and at a remarkable price too! These two bottlings rated at 94-95 Points and sell for around $40-45 Est. each. Enjoy!

Grapelive November Musings

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It’s Fall, The Joyous Time of New Releases!

This change of season brings the end of harvest and the time of year for new releases, so it is a thankful time and one to savor. It looks as if 2007 Harvest brought a very good vintage, as most of the growers I’ve talked to have said the magic combination of tiny berries and low yields have been uttered many times and that usually means top quality. This means great wines are fermenting in barrel or tanks, but in the meantime we have the new releases hitting the market now. 2005 and even some 2006 wines are popping up, in this case I mean red wine, as 2006 whites have been around for awhile now, and I can tell you both the 2005 and 2006 are super vintages! Look for great 2005 Cabernets to start hitting the selves near you and I say buy them up now before those critics start giving scores! I tried a couple of new releases, 2005 Keever Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($69 Est.) and 2005 Parsonage Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve <Click Here for 2005 Parsonage Reviews> both of which were awesome! The Keever is going to be a huge deal, a wine to watch for sure. Both wines rated in the mid to high Ninety point rage! The 2006 vintage Syrahs and Pinots are now just being let loose and show lots of promise, in fact they are fantastic! I fell head over heels for the 2006 Pax Syrah Hillside Sonoma ($50-55 Est.), it is a big wine, but is drinking great and super thick with almost black color! As for 2006 Pinot, it is great and less acidic than 2005, though it has sublime balance and depth, one that got my attention was the 2006 Drew Family Pinot Noir “Gatekeeper’s” Santa Rita Hills ($45 Est.) This was an amazing Pinot with intense flavors and deep complexities. So we have much to enjoy about this fall!

Grapelive Picks Fun and Local Wines For Ol’ Factory Cafe

Ol’ Factory CafeOl’ Factory Cafe is now the hottest place in Monterey for cool Beer & Wine selections

Grapelive hand-picked a few wines for their by the glass list including: Martin Alfaro Chardonnay, Pasonage Snosrap Cyrano Red, Galante Vineyards Rancho Galante Cabernet Sauvignon, and then also picked a couple of worldly selections as well. The spicy and juicy Minervois and a New Zealand Pinot by Dashwood rounded out my picks and fills out a great selection of Beer and Wine at this very cool cafe. Morgan Christopher has made this “Green” built urban bistro into a local favorite with a light and focused menu and the best coffee by far in the Monterey area. It is my local and I’m there almost everyday. In fact I hope to have a tasting group of wine lovers there soon! Then there is the other drink of choice, Beer and they have that nailed with some great brews on tap, my unholy weakness is the wonderful and hoppy Green Flash IPA, but they have some German and Belgian brews that you won’t find on tap many places. Even the famed Beer Geeks of “A Year in Beer”and thebeergeek.com  are considering putting their picks on tap there! So if you get a chance you must check this place out. For more details go to: www.olfactorycafe.com

Besides Florence this is the best place for cappuccino I have found, well in this town anyway.

Palmina Brings a Taste of Italy to California

Italian wines hold a special place in my heart and lots of us American’s are captivated by their romance and simple pleasures, all made more the unique due to the fact that we could not make the Cal-Itals taste or feel like the real ones. Well, until now! At first I was a non-believer and though I liked some Cal-Itals made with Sangiovese grapes, they were not very true to their Italian templates. Now I’m eating my words and thoughts that is because I have just tasted the line up of Palmina wines, which are the truest to their roots Italian varietals I’ve ever tried. Produced in tiny amounts, Palima delivers with quality wines crafted by the talented Steve Clifton (Brewer-Clifton, famed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir makers) these wines are not only dead-ringers for their Italian cousins, they are fantastic wines! I was blown away with their Nebbiolo that was a regal as any Barolo and even their pretty Arneis was a delight. While these wines will not replace the originals in my heart, they will be getting some space in my cellar!