Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive Latest: Reflections

s5002191.jpgGrapelive Best of 2007

by Kerry Winslow

I am going to reflect on just a few of the highlights of 2007 and then we can move on, as this year looks set to be a great one all ready. I must say on every front wine is getting better and better, which makes find that really special wine a bit harder, but gives the public a higher standard of options now. The French continue to regain some of the lost ground and even with the horrible exchange rates are getting fantastic wines to the USA. I know that Bordeaux prices are crazy right now, but I have found some great values in other regions of France, especially in the Loire. Italy too is jamming with amazing regional and village wines coming in from places as diverse as Sardinia and the Alto Adige, as well as better known areas like Tuscany and Piedmont. This last year I really came to understand and love German Pinot Noir, known there as Spatburgunder, and still go nuts for a Mosel Riesling. Here at home, I have many new favorites and keep getting blown away by new producers all the time. So here is my TOP TEN of 2007.

1. 2005 Tablas Creek Esprit du Beaucastel Rouge, 95 Points (great wine and still under $50) 2. 2005 Francois Raveneau Chablis Clos, 96 Points (Priced in the don’t ask range, but is fantastic at any price) 3. 2005 Reverdy Sancerre Rouge, 93 Points (this is a lovely Pinot Noir and it is about $25) 4. 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Deer Park” Santa Cruz Mountains, 93+ Points(A true lush and polished Pinot, and only about $35) 5. 2001 August Kesseler Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, Rheingau, 94 Points (An amazing mineral laced Pinot true to its Terroir and a Burgundy rival, and though price at near $125, it is just too cool not to include) 6. 2005 Deux Montille Auxey-Duresses White Burgundy, 93 Points (A pure and beautiful wine and at under $40 it’s a real value) 7. 2005 Telan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige, Italy, 94 Points(Maybe the best Sauvignon Blanc ever, next to Dagueneau, about $55, but worth it) 8. 2005 Robert Foley Claret, Napa Valley 96 Points(What can I say? It rocks) 9. 2005 Parsonage Village Vineyard “Cuvee Rocco” Syrah, Carmel Valley Estate, 97 Points(A monster wine that blew me away, and this was tough, because the other Parsonage 05’s were rock stars as well) 10. 2005 Jennifer Pandol Vineyards Pinot Noir “Schultze Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains, 93-94 Points(A look to the future, as she made only 20 cases or so and never released it to the public, but the 2006 looks be right up there, and going to be released this spring/summer)

This really was hard and of course there were many others that could have easily been on this list, but I’ll go with it and hope that you get a chance to taste a few of these selections. Now it is on the next exotic nectar!
Happy hunting and enjoy the journey.

Alaya’s Latest

Masi Amarone2001 Masi Amarone “Serego Alighieri” Vaio Amoran, (single vineyard Amarone) Veneto, Italy
As soon as I opened this bottling of single-vineyard Amarone, I was inundated with the layers of hedonistic scents on the nose – cherry, powdered cocoa, coffee bean, sweet tobacco, candied anise, molasses, ink, amaretto, lavender, violet, and subtle mineral create a heavenly combination. One could become excited just sitting and breathing it in for several minutes, especially when sharing with a friend, and watching each other’s appreciative reactions escalate into sheer ecstasy. Then, you put it in your mouth, and let your tongue become gently coated with what feels like candied velvet. Luscious layer after layer of round, black fruit and spice – cinnamon cookies, nutmeg, and clove – are followed by a mid-palate of plum jam, raisin, and mocha. The mouth feel is something to fall in love with, for it is smooth, sexy, and feels slightly naughty. Fine powdery tannins integrate all of these lush layers, making the finish surprisingly dryer than you expect, and the Amarone arguably suitable for food.

In the words of the charming Raffaele Boscaini, whose family has owned the Vaio di Masi estate vineyard since the 1800’s “This makes a very good friend for your steak.” By no means does an Amarone need food; in fact many would argue that pairing it to something would risk the true experience of Amarone. This wine is heavy and intense, and offers enough interest to be its own meal; dessert, perhaps. But, as Raffaele pointed out, and I think it’s good to remember, you should eat and drink together what you desire. If it feels right in the moment, then that’s all that matters.

Since the acquisition of the first vineyards of Masi estate in the 1800s, the Boscaini Family continued to purchase vineyard parcels in what can be regarded as some of the best viticultural areas in Veneto. Currently, Raffaele and his sister Alessandra represent the seventh generation of the Boscaini Family to be involved in the Masi wine tradition. In addition to the traditional millennia-old Appassimento system of Valpolicella, the Masi Amarone Vaio is also aged in cherry wood casks. During Appassimento, grapes are harvested and laid on bamboo racks to dry for approximately four months, then crushed as a concentrated juice. At Masi, they are then aged in Slovenian oak for 20-30 months. The addition of the cherry wood aging in the Vaio adds to its depth, complexity and elegant structure. (This is) a special bottle to share with someone you love, in celebration of romance. * Check out the Masi website for the history and winery details MASI

Alaya Wyndham-Price

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

Grapelive Hot Picks! Dec. 7th

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2005 Ryan Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

Peggy Ryan has the touch to make pretty and lush wines that rewards those lucky enough to get her wine! This may just be her finest effort from this famed vineyard, with big and powerful flavors delivered in a velvety and balanced way. This Pinot just gets richer and deeper with air in the glass and is hard not to love right away with lots of complexity and style. There is cool raspberry, dark cherry, sweet plum and lots of rose petal and spice too. The wine has some very interesting crushed stones, toasty oak and a finish that is long and vibrant making you wish there was lots more of this wine in your glass and in the bottle! 93 Points, grapelive

*New Release

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Loimer Pinot Noir “Terrassen” Kamptal, Austria

So cool and so rare, I had to buy a bunch for myself, and then to my surprise it kicked ass! This is an intense and complex wine and very juicy to boot. Lots a fresh flowers, roses, violets and wild flowers give perfume with a strong grenadine and strawberry essence. the wine picks up depth and focus on the palate with clear and rich cherry and red berry fruit and a lush plumy texture. The wine has a sexy earthiness with a mushroom and mineral touch as well, which gives a Burgundy like feel, but this is a unique gem that is a no brainer if you can find it! Finished in screw-cap and very modern in packaging, this Pinot is a winner and a fresh terroir to talk about. 92 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

*And is only available in select markets

Hot Picks Dec. 2nd

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2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge (Rhone Style Red) Paso Robles

This amazing Chateauneuf-du-Pape styled red is rich, lively and full of fruit and texture with super balance and focus. This is one of the best red wines for all around quality out there. All red drinkers will find something to love about this wine, and I rate it as one of the top wines of the vintage period! This wine has power, depth and class with lovely perfume and a super long finish and is a wine that goes beyond the varietal and showcases the purest nature of terroir. There is lots of plum, black cherry, bramble berry and grenadine flavors up front with smoke, cassis, pepper and spicy oak notes in the background. The wine uses the best of its make up to be everything to every person with a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other Rhone grapes that all add to the pleasure here. Finally Tablas has full-filled its mission, we have now the American Chateauneuf that is not a copy but a true expression on that theme! ($45-49 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

*Just being released

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Willowbrook Pinot Noir Morelli Vineyard Russian River

This lovely and round Pinot is totally enjoyable and lush in fruit and full in body. There is lots of raspberry, and a big burst of cherry fruit with toasty sweet oak giving creamy vanilla which make this a modern wine, but with classy style all the same. There is a background of spice, cola and mocha that just add to the tastiness! I really enjoyed this Pinot, the only problem is finding it again, as it is very limited and hard to find. Check good old Google or your local wine merchant. The winery only makes a tiny amount sadly, but they do produce a another couple of single vineyard and estate Pinots. 93 Points, grapelive

Hot Picks: Richard Alfaro, Santa Cruz Mountains Chard & Pinot

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Richard Alfaro Scores Big with Santa Cruz Mountains Chard & Pinot

Nov.24th Carmel, Ca

I just finished tasting wines from Richard’s great line up of wines, both under the Alfaro Family and Martin Alfaro labels. His Santa Cruz wines are world class and full of rich and exotic flavors, but remain amazingly faithful to Burgundy. He poured the 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay, his own 2006 Lindsay-Page Chard, the 2004 Schultze Family Vineyard Pinot, the 2005 Lindsay-Page Pinot and the yet to be released 2006 Deer Park Pinot with all scoring plus 90 Points!

Alfaro Family Vineyards

2006 Martin Alfaro Chardonnay Central Coast
This is a great Chard that is both affordable and filled with flavor. The fruit comes from solid vineyards including Sleepy Hollow and delivers big time, with intense fruit and lovely toasty oak notes. There is apple, pear, peach, pineapple and fig fruit and creamy layers. This wine tastes full and thick, but has nice zesty spice and is lively through out. ($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery

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2006 Alfaro Family Chardonnay Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a big full bore Chardonnay that is ultra rich and incredibly deep and focused with lovely flavors and a long lush finish. Hazelnuts and white flowers lead to pure pear and apple fruit, with touches of clove, mineral, honey and vanilla. This wine is still a month or so away from release, but it is well on its way to be a classic. (Due to be released in Jan. 2008) A little more than a hundred cases of this wine is heading to market, so get on it now! ($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Alfaro Family Vineyards

2005 Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a beautiful and darkly rich Pinot that has intense ripe fruit and exotic spiciness that is lush with plumy sweet flavors and smoky layers. Raspberry, cherry and candied cranberry burst out in this Pinot and vanilla mocha linger on the finish. This is a wild ride to be sure, but it is so good and it just seems to get better each time I try it. ($40 Est.) 92 points, grapelive

Alfaro Family Vineyards

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2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Deer Park Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains (Pre-Release Sample)
This wine will be released in December 2007 and I can hardly wait to buy it myself that is my way of putting my money where my mouth is. The potential is real that this will be an awesome wine and like I said it is something I’m going to bet on. It is all ready to enjoy now, but there is a lot more to come. This wine is tangy fresh, but it has heady perfume and clear focus with soft and pretty flavors that just stay with you a long time. There is lots of classic cherry, plum and currant fruit and earth, spice and mineral notes. ($35-38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery


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2004 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains (Library Selection)
This is a Burgundy-like gem of a Pinot that is sensual and earthy with delicate layers and subtle intensity. It starts with rose petal, dried wild flowers and red fruits on the nose with lush cherry and plum fruit. There is vigor and depth as well, but it comes in smooth layers that have a sense of terroir inter woven. There is mineral, mushroom and spice mixed with each layer and it finishes long and tangy. ($35-38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery

*Some of these wines are available at:

Bouchee Wines

Hot Picks

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2005 Tudor Pinot Noir Tondre Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands

This Pinot is all about purity and elegance with subtle power and solid structure and balance making it all that more impressive. Tudor got the max from this site and produced a wonderful and pretty wine, and one that will fill out and get richer over the next couple of years. There is everything to like and nothing to complain about here with this lovely Pinot. Soft full flavors and nice textures make this a joy to drink now, in fact I’m sure I would not be able to keep my paws off it! The flavors are vibrant and lush with cherry, raspberry and fresh ripe plum flowing through out. The has depth and complexity, but is more about pleasure and smoothness which makes it very friendly right now. The finish is long and has a lingering stawberries and cream note that really stays with you. Touches of toast, cranberry, vanilla and tea spice add to the wines allure. ($60-65 Est) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Tudor Direct

Hot Picks Nov. 10th 2007

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2005 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis “Montee de Tonnerre” Premier Cru (White Burgundy)

This is wine is always one of the world’s best whites and Raveneau is a master of this region and its grapes there is no doubt at all. Chardonnay may never be better than this! Chablis Chardonnay is pure, clean and elegant with pretty vibrant flavors and wild stoney mineral notes. This maybe one of the best ever vintages and this wine is amazing and damn near perfect, even if it is really too young to give its all yet. It opens slowly and tight with lime and slate that is very robust and tangy. With its youthful acidity still gripping the fruit is slow to develop, but wow after thirty minutes open at almost room temp. it explodes! This lovely white has white peach, lemon, green apples and a touch of spice on the palate. There is a awesome pear note that fills your mouth and stays all the way through with added touches in the background of liquid mineral that is both a taste and texture. Truly a mind-blowing wine that is worth the money and time to find! ($99-150 Est) 97 Points, grapelive

Kermit Lynch

*Very Limited. Call Bouchee Wines 1-831-626-7880

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2005 Ridge Geyserville California (Zinfandel) Sonoma County 40th Vintage Bottling

Three cheers for this California classic! 40 years of Geyserville is a very important and historic milestone, and this vintage proves it is worthy of 40 more! This vibrant and robust Zin is everything it should be and is every bit a true Geyserville has been and still is. This lively red has plenty of raspberry, briar, plum, cherry and bramble berry fruit flowing on the palate with hints of spice and cedar. The finish is zesty, clean and polished, this is a fine wine to be enjoyed anytime.($33 Est.)* 92 Points, grapelive

*Widely Available

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2006 Pax Syrah Sonoma Hillsides Russian River Valley

This wine is almost black, and for sure no light can get through it! This is great stuff with loads of thick fruit, but with balance and style. Lovely violets, sweet spices, lavender and black fruits shine through, leading to chocolate laced currants, cassis, blueberry and plum compote. Zesty, spicy acidity, earth, game and vanilla all add to the depth and complexity to this wonderful Syrah making Hermitage and Cote-Rotie proud! The finish is huge and long, giving lots of pleasure for what seems like 2-3 minutes! ($50-55 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

*Very Limited

Bouchee Wines


Radog Whites

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2006 Radog Gewurztraminer Monterey County
This is a nice juicy white with some classic Gewurz charm and spiciness. They is some bright citrus and apricots that shine through here and good acidity that makes this a balanced lighter style wine that is good for Asian cusine. ($17 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

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2006 Radog Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco, Monterey County
This Sauvignon shows some interesting terroir and sweet fruits along with crisp acidity and a tangy aftertaste. Dried candied citrus, lemon-lime and pear notes lead the way and zesty cleansing acid keeps it together. This little white makes for a good afternoon picnic wine and or fruit and cheese.($17 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

Guten Tag! Here are German Pinot Noirs that are darn good!

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2005 Domaine Assmannshausen Staatsweinguter Kloster Eberbach (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken “Assmannshauser Hollenberg” Rheingau

Everything about this Pinot Noir is lovely and vibrant, well except the label and trying to pronounce it! After that struggle for this language challenged Californian, I was over joyed with the quality and purity of this German Pinot. No doubt, this is an “Old World” wine, but it is so charming even the most fruit-headed of Pinot drinkers will be impressed. I will tell you, I might have easily thought this was a premier cru Burgundy, either Nuits-St. George or maybe a Volnay and regardless this was a fun and pretty wine. The palate is full and lush with tingling red berry and solid cherry fruit, spices, and earthy cranberry. The wine has some lingering plum and mineral notes and only a touch of gamy mushrooms. Overall this is a super wine with nice balance and graceful winemaking that is not trying to be anything other than what it is. German Pinot is rare and difficult to find, but that said you should really try and find some! ($40-45 Est) 90 Points, grapelive

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2003 August Kesseler (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Rheingau QbA Trocken

Kesseler Rieslings are legendary and offer great quality at a impressive price, but his Pinots are extremely rare and have achieved “Cult” fame at home in Germany so they are a rarity here and very pricey. This one is the exception and is that high quality fair priced gem that we all search for. 2003 was a very hot and ripe year, which really helped the growers get great grapes even for their lesser wines. You won’t find this deal every vintage, so if you see it get it! This Pinot shows lush and fat fruit with red berries, cherry and sweet plums on the palate. The wine is fruity, but has good balance and is interesting and not dull at all with touches of spice, earth, slate and truffle that keep you guessing. While German Pinot is unique, it certainly can be very good and in league with Burgundy, it is also much more pleasurable with food. Very cool wine. ($35 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

Dee Vine Wines

* Small amounts available at BoucheeWines call 831-626-7880

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