Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 27, 2018

2017 Niepoort Lagar de Baixo, Baga, Bairrada DOC Portugal -photo grapelive

2017 Niepoort, Baga, Lagar de Baixo, Bairrada D.O.C., Portugal.
The exceptionally pure and almost Cru Beaujolais (think Fleurie) like Baga Lagar de Baixo by Dirk Nierpoort, best known for his Port wines, is a wonderfully fresh dry red wine of delicate detail and brisk intensity, from mostly old vines in the Bairrada region. This light ruby hued Lagar de Baixo is from estate vineyards with a vine age of almost 50 years, these head trained vines are grown on sandy soils over calcareous clay which allows good fruit density, but with really low natural alcohol, in this case well under 12% making it a lovely bright quaffer. Mostly carbonic maceration with stainless steel with cool and a quick fermentation with a longer elevage in tank and neutral large casks all to keep its vivid flavors and fresh crispness with tangy red fruits, light earthy notes, floral tones in a light to medium bodied wine that highlights the terroir and the character of this grape, which is gloriously intriguing. This 2017 is so bright and pure it pops in the glass, something like Gamay or a lighter Mencia in feel with red cherry, juicy plum and tart raspberry fruits along with zippy detail, delicate floral elements, mineral and spices all of which make you want to put a slight chill on this one and enjoy it outdoors, picnics and paellas sound just about right and or with lighter meals. Drink this delightful brisk ruby hued wine over the next 2 or 3 years, though I suggest sooner vs. later as I love the vivid freshness it has right now. Niepoort has a great lineup of still wines, some that rival Burgundy in complexity and class, they are not wines to overlook, and while this light red is not all that serious, it is utterly delicious.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 26, 2018

2017 Weingut Korrell, Riesling Trocken “Paradies” Monopol, Nahe -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Korrell Johanneshof, Riesling Trocken, Monopol “Paradies” Nahe Germany.
The radiant and graceful Korrell Paradies Trocken leads with expressive pure apple tones impresses for it’s elegance and subtle character, it’s a wine of great poise and delicacy, especially admirable for such a young Riesling. The monopole estate vineyard, Paradies, is the oldest single site Korrell has and is the flagship wine from winemaker Martin Korrell, it comes from his family’s vines that are set on limestone and clay soils in Bad Kreuznach area of the Nahe region. The Paradies Riesling Trocken is a gorgeous white of depth and precise winemaking that takes advantage of this unique site in the Nahe. This wine is the heart and soul of Korrell and it is product of it’s unique climat,or terroir, it sees more sunshine and the limestone allows for serious concentration, while retaining acidity, though there is always great attention paid to pick dates to finely tune this signature bottling to place and vintage. Korrell mixes some traditional stainless fermentations with some native yeast and barrel ferments to craft his wines and the Paradies shows a beautiful leesy finesse that reminds me a bit of the Von Winning GG’s, with a long time on the lees adding a beautiful glycerin density to this gorgeous dry Riesling. Coming off Korrel’s incredible Riesling Cup win for his Von den Grossen Lagen (Grand Crus) Riesling Trocken, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to try this wine, and found this particular wine just as intriguing. Martin focuses on preserving heightened aromatics and crisp mineral tones, while allowing the mouth feel and depth to shine through, it is an amazing accomplishment to get it all right, and Korrell deserves his time in the limelight, this is complex and glorious stuff. Layers of that green apple, peach, mixed fresh citrus and melon fruits are lifted by liquid rock, steely mineral and faint perfume of white flowers along with a silkiness of mouth feel, while still delightfully crisp, delivering an exciting energy filled performance. This is a winery that about to break out and join some elite company, in fact they are riding high after winning, as mentioned, the famous Riesling Cup award with their unique multi (Grand) cru Von den Grossen Lagen Trocken Riesling, and this wine is just extra proof there is real quality here! The lightly golden hued and generously textured Paradies will age well, it’s full of charm, class and potential, best to let this one have another 3 to 5 years, though it certainly is delicious right now.
($n/a- 19 Euro in Germany) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 25, 2018-Merry Christmas

2017 Diatom by Greg Brewer, Chardonnay Hilliard Bruce Vineyard -photo grapelive

2017 Diatom, Chardonnay, Hilliard Bruce Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Greg Brewer’s Diatom 2017 Hilliard Bruce Vineyard is all Chardonnay clone 96, sourced from a steep, ultra cool climate north facing slope on the western border of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA that makes for an acid and mineral intense version that almost has Raveneau like presence in the glass, but with a touch more generosity on the palate, more perfumed with citrus blossom rather than hazel nut, impressive non the less. The severe ocean winds influence the land, Brewer notes, adding that the sand and gravel characterize the soil profile that transmits purply into this vibrantly expressive Chardonnay from one of California top winemakers and Chard masters, who’s best known for his efforts at his Brewer Clifton and his work at Melville Estate. I love all these 2017’s, but this Hilliard Bruce Vineyard shows a beautiful harmony between the bright minerality of site with the rounder mouthfeel characterized by this clone. Brewer’s approach to Diatom is to dig down to the purest form of Chardonnay he can, I like to think of it as a zen like focus that captures the grape in a vacuum, with the fermentations down at very low temperature in small stainless-steel tanks, or Innox, coupled with inhibited malo-lactic, so no cream or butter distractions, and short hose transit ensure precision and ultra sharp detail. This is wildly amusing and intellectually intriguing Chardonnay with ripe flavors, but with steely crispness, at 14.5% natural alcohol there is mouth feel and expansion on the vibrantly electric palate with fresh citrus, green melon and white peach notes along with wet stones, liquid mineral and tart herb, lemongrass, quince and hint grapefruit zest. The wine rounds out with warm and time in the glass revealing a touch of honeysuckle and lime. Ultra pale, clean almost devoid of color except for a faint greenish gold, the Diatom Hilliard Bruce Vineyard 2017 is an awesome if not super geeky Chardonnay that takes its style to the extreme, beware this is polar opposite to mainstream barrel aged Chard, and as I curious and adventurous wine professional I find it massively exciting and thrilling, though best with briny dishes, white fish, mussels, claims and especially oysters, drink over the 2 to 5 years.
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 24, 2018

2016 Saint Cosme, Crozes-Hermitage AC, Nothern Rhone, France -photo grapelive

2016 Saint Cosme, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
Louis Barruol’s Saint Cosme, most famous for his Gigondas, negociant series is one of the great values in the wine world, and especially his northern Rhone lineup impresses, with his Crozes-Hermitage always a stand out, and this 2016 is no exception with the vintage’s amazing combination of power and poise showing a deep character, but with a lovely freshness of detail and inner energy. Barruol’s deep/dark purple/garnet hued Crozes-Hermitage is 100% Serine clone (a local and an ancient variety of Syrah) that is 100% destemmed fruit coming off main sites in the extraordinary hillsides around the villages within Crozes, Larnage, Gervans and Erôme lie vineyard plots set of sand/clay over granite soils. This vintage was aged in 20% new French oak with the rest being put in 1 and 2 times used cask, with the Syrah seeing about a year of elevage before bottling, unfiltered, making for a rich, ripe and vivid Crozes-Hermitage Rouge with a pure and earthy Syrah personality and a classic regional terroir core and character with a loaded palate of black and blue fruit, spice and savory elements with a raw tannic grip as well as the vintage’s nice acidity that gives this wine a exciting kick in the ass! Barruol notes that his growers and in particular where he buys his grapes for this wine, in Tenay, Habrard and Batits, set behind Hermitage hill itself, with the oldest vines having the ability to produce wines that can compete with Hermitage! I do not doubt that and you can feel their presence in vintages such as this, no question, again this wine is an absolute steal for the price. The Saint Cosme 2016 Crozes surprises for the width and textural feel with beautiful layers of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, damson plum and black cherry/kirsch fruits along with light camphor/embers, violets, mission fig, cinnamon, black licorice, creme de cassis, peppercorns, and a hint of crushed rock and leather. There is a lot going on here, and the finish is exceptionally lengthy and smooth, again it has serious palate impact, while still fresh in details, at 13% natural alcohol, it is medium/full in body, perfectly weighted, and I can see it getting better over the next 3 to 5 years too, very impressive, it’s a Syrah that delivers on its promises. Delicious stuff, give air or decant for best results, but absolutely magic when paired with rustic/robust cuisine, drink this Crozes over the next 5 to 10 years.
($26 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 23, 2018

2014 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2014 Forman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Ric Forman’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is a big Napa Valley wine, but with the vintage’s fresher style, sharp detail and potential for extended cellar aging, it absolutely thrills from start to finish, making one of his best efforts in years, I like it much better than 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions, somewhat a sleeper year overall I adore this one with its wonderful play between opulence and vibrant form. Mainstream media types have gone crazy for the ultra luxurious, fat chocolate style Cabs, especially loving the 2013 and 2015 vintages, and while Forman excelled in those years too, I still am much more excited by the complexity and inner energy found in the best 2014’s like those of Corison, Corra by Celia Welch, Chappellet and this Forman, ask me in 15 to 20 if I’m proved right, but I think they are more intriguing than the more heralded 2013’s, so we’ll see. Ric Forman credits Bordeaux as being the biggest influence on his wines and style, though you can’t hide, especially in the last decade the explosive ripe quality of Napa fruit, so the touch Forman has is even more impressive, as like his inspiration he crafts wines of elegance and unending layers with a sense of soul, life and restraint. Like the top cellars in Bordeaux, Forman uses the most advanced equipment while using traditional hand harvested fruit, that is cared for with gentle techniques, it is also quickly done, with the grapes processed within 30 minutes of picking. Ultra selection of berries on the clusters, with rigorous hand sorting, the fruit is gently de-stemmed in a French Delta de-stemmer and transported, intact whole berry, for fermentations in small 2-4 ton temperature controlled stainless steel fermentors. Cold primary and maceration lasts for 3-4 weeks to get all the extraction of color and complexity of the skins, while malos happen in the barrels and the wine is aged for almost years, with no pump racking periodically done and a light egg white fining being done, also a la Bordeaux. Forman’s blend usually comes out something like 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being close to 5-6% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5-6% Petit Verdot all coming off Ric’s own vines in Saint Helena, 100% off the estate owned and farmed Grande Roche Vineyard with the finished wine getting about 75% new oak. This 2014 flows with pretty perfume and delicate toasty sweetness on the nose with acacia flowers, vanilla, mocha and black fruits while the palate gains depth and feel with every sip, evolving into layers of blackberry, creme de cassis (currant cored), plum and cheery along with a touch of cedary wood, tobacco spiciness and hints of licorice, sage and unsweetened cocao, before a lengthy finish that reveals the oak in a graceful way along with an echo of the vanilla/mocha. After time in the glass you feel the expressive purity of fruit and the wine gains a sense of integration and class, while filling out and delivering a full bodied palate impact, this is worthy of it’s hype and reputation, and why Napa is a force in the wine world, excellent and finessed stuff.
($120 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 22, 2018

2016 Domaine Equis (Maxime Graillot) “Equinoxe” Crozes-Hermitage -photo grapelive

2016 Equis, Crozes-Hermitage “Equinoxe” Northern Rhone, France.
Maxime Graillot’s Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage is one of the best values in pure terroir driven northern Rhone Syrah out there, it’s a lighter framed version, but still with great detail and varietal pleasures. The 2016 vintage is especially fun in the glass with vibrant energy and a lovely purple/garnet hue showing fresh blackberry, blueberry, plum, racy currant and tangy cherry fruits, a hint of camphor/graphite, minty herb, anisette, mineral/stone and ripe tannins along with a burst of juicy/fresh acidity. This edition is almost crisp in nature, but opens to a creamy medium weight wine with air, this shouldn’t be judged with an ultra serious eye, but rather enjoyed for it’s quaffable personality, it’s like a Beaujolais-Villages vs. Cru Beaujolais in a way, it’s brightness and barely medium weight frame make is a relaxed Syrah, while displaying all the right elements and a touch of class. Maxime uses organic grapes from sandy granite hillside vines, mostly younger here, and he de-stems 90 to 100% depending on the vintage and raises the 100% in used Burgundy barrels, usually bought from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti when available, much like Jean Foillard does for his famous Morgon Cote de Py. While not a full on natural wine guy, Maxime Graillot understood that organic and bio farming were the best route for himself, he trained under his very famous father Allain Graillot from a young age and in 2004 decided to split his time between his father’s domaine and establishing his cellar and small estate. Being a local kid, he knew where the best parcels in the Rhône’s Crozes zone, and in Saint-Joseph, were to be had, and he purchased a few tiny plots in the village of Beaumont-Monteux, just south of his pop Alain’s plots in La Chene Vert. He has converted the previously conventionally farmed vineyards to organics, making sure to soils were hand tended with great care allowing the roots to dig deeper into the gravel, which brings out concentration and terroir complexity and he banned the use of herbicides, relying on holistic treatments. His top Cru wines under Domaine des Lises and Domaine Equis are incredible wines, deeper in style, more heady and age worthy, but it’s hard to resist this joyful meant to drink young Equinoxe, it’s a wine that excites for its value and expressive style. The 2016 is going fast off the shelf and lists, so don’t wait, though the newly released 2017 shouldn’t be any less delicious!
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 21, 2018

2015 Field Recordings Verdot Santa Barbara County -photo grapelive

2015 Field Recordings, Petit Verdot, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara County.
This fun, dark fruited and unique bottling from Andrew Jones at Field Recordings is primarily Petit Verdot 76%, but with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and intriguingly 12% Carignan, sourced from sites within the Happy Canyon AVA, near Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County makes for a wonderfully California only style of wine. Very dark, almost inky with a deep sense of fruit with a unique black fruit profile with the perfume, color and spice of Petite Sirah, the tannin and currant notes of the Cabernet along with a bright juiciness and crunchy character of the Carignan, making for a gripping, but mouth filling wine with black cherry, blackberry, plum and briar laced boysenberry along with dried flowers, cedar, anise and light toasty oak shadings. Field Recordings makes a real interesting set of wines with many rare varietals featuring along with more classic stuff, based in Tin City in Paso Robles, this is an under the radar winery that makes for a great sideline visit when in the area, you’ll find something for every palate here, from Chenin Blanc to this full bodied red blend, as well as a wonderful Cabernet Franc and even a 100% Tannat! I picked up this bottle, the Chenin and a Rose of Valdiguie on my recent visit to Field Recordings and it was great to catch up with Andrew Jones, winemaker, and seeing his winery, there is even more cool stuff coming out soon, I can’t wait to visit again soon.
($25 375ml-Half Bottle) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 20, 2018

2017 Domaine Camille et Mathieu Morgon Cru Beaujolais -photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Camille et Mathieu Lapierre, Morgan, Cru Beaujolais, France.
One of the modern world’s most iconic wines, the Lapierre Morgon continues to be both the standard barer for the Morgon region of Beaujolais and for pragmatic natural wines. One of the first and most successful on the world stage, the Lapierre Morgon is one of the most highly sought after and prized wines in the world, the late Marcel Lapierre was a legend and followed a holistic approach in the vineyard and his kids Camille and Mathieu continue true to his beliefs farming close to biodynamic levels of organic and natural farming and using natural yeasts and exceptional low sulfur additions, in some cases with no sulfur added at all, all in the quest to transmit the purity of terroir and the most vivid form of Gamey Noir. The 2017 vintage is bright, fresh and thrilling, it rivals the best vintages for clarity with vibrant cherries, violets, fennel and a light walnut note leading the way before opening up to a deeper, dark sense in the glass with plum, blueberry and black raspberry fruit coming alive in the crisp medium bodied palate as well as hints of earth, spice, mineral and savory tones. This cuvee, the standard “S”, with a light sulfur addition, this is not the normal Kermit Lynch offering that sees no sulfur and marked “N”, it is from the estate’s 60 year old vines set on the gravelly pure granite soils of the Cru, it was whole cluster fermented with the mentioned indigenous yeasts only and on the fine lees in old Burgundy barrels where the wine is raised for just under a year, then bottled unfined and unfiltered. This version is slightly less expressive and fruity versus the cuvee “N”, but still absolutely glorious Gamay, translucent and this 2017 is drinking fantastic right now, I have had it out of both 750ml and magnum already and I am very impressed, the quality and pleasure make this dark garnet and ruby hued wine is an authentic and fun example of the grape and place, absolutely irresistible from start to finish, I love this year a lot and I cannot wait to try the cuvee “N” and the limited reserve bottling Cuvee Camille too.
($38-44 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 19, 2018

2015 Ian Brand La Marea Old Vine Grenache Besson Vineyard -photo grapelive

2015 La Marea, Old Vine Grenache, Besson Vineyard, by Ian Brand, Santa Clara County.
Just named 2018 Winemaker of the Year in the San Francisco Chronicle, Monterey’s Ian Brand is one of the region’s most interesting characters in the area, known as a soil freak and a vineyard whisperer, who’s wines are now known and respected far and wide! The latest Ian Brand Grenache release, is his 2015 Old Vine Besson Vineyard under the La Marea label, it is a gorgeous medium bodied and vivid red wine from a unique spot that lies between three regions, Santa Cruz Mountains, San Benito and Santa Clara on an ancient river bed and was planted over one hundred years ago, this vineyard Vineyard sits just shy of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, on the ‘Hecker Pass’ a gap that cuts a path to Santa Cruz from Gilroy. Planted in 1910, this historic Besson vineyard was brought to fame years ago by Bonny Doon’s Clos de Gilroy, these head trained mature vines makes for wonderfully expressive Grenache(s) and transmits it’s terroir beautifully through its gravelly/stony dirt and hardened clay/loam soils, not forgetting its all dry-farmed and organic. This one forgotten vineyard is now one of the hottest places in the central coast for old world style Grenache with amazing life, delicacy and complexity, while still being a great value and easy to love and Ian Brand does it style and transparent grace with his 2015 showing the vintages warm and concentration in a refined and almost raw presentation of flavors, it’s a serious wine, but with a lighter touch and focus, and while youthful it has a sense of sophistication and class in the glass, similar to Spain’s Garnacha hot spot Gredos de Sierra, as made by 4 Monos, Daniel Landi, Comando G and Alfredo Maestro. In California, Grenache’s star is rising with wines from many producers and regions giving this grape a spot among the states elite wines with many different forms from powerful/dense examples from Saxum, Sine Qua Non, Stolpman, Sans Leige to the more earthy/lighter examples like Sheldon, Tribute to Grace, Pax, Birichino and this La Marea version by Ian Brand that has a zesty freshness and bright spicy nature. The 2015 starts with dusty raspberry, floral tones and a spicy herb note, opening up to layers of tart cherry, guava, minty anise, warm stones and a hint of earth before a core of strawberry, plum and pomegranate awakens in the mouth along with a faint trace of wood, Ian used only neutral French oak here to allow this site to shine through without any distraction as well as allowing a natural lift from acidity and subtle ripe tannins. This wine seems brisk and gripping, but cuisine changes everything bringing a much more textural impact and darker fruits, this wine has even greater potential in the coming years, best to give it another 2 to 3 years, or be sure to have with robust foods. Brand’s new set of releases is brilliant and this one is a sleeper in his latest series, be sure not to miss it, but also look for his 2015 Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon, a Margaux like beauty that has the authentic feel of Corison and terroir markers similar to Ridge, from just down the road, as well as Ian’s 2016 Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc, which is a pure California version of Franc, somewhat between Loire and Bordeaux in style, but with a polished California opulence, it is one of the best wines for the money you can find! If you are a Grenache freak, you’ll want to discover Brand’s La Marea, especially this one with its pretty ruby/garnet hue and its lingering savory edge and his sweet(er) and chalky Chalone AVA Brosseau!
($38 Est) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day December 18, 2018

2016 Inspiration Vineyards Grenache Ceja Farms Sonoma Valley -photo grapelive

2016 Inspiration Vineyards, Grenache, Ceja Farms, Sonoma Valley.
Santa Rosa’s under the radar winery Inspiration Vineyards, located in the new Olivet District, has just released a very full bodied and generous Grenache, coming off Ceja Farms in Sonoma Valley, a site that I have enjoyed in Sheldon Wines in the past, it is a bit of a cooler vineyard that highlights the fresher side of this grape, but 2016 was ripe and lush too, making for a compelling and fruit forward wine. Jon Phillips winemaker and proprietor of Inspiration Vineyards, a Sonoma based micro winery with a few old vine Zinfandel estate vines, with the help of Grenache freak Dylan Sheldon of the mentioned Sheldon Wines have teamed up to make an intriguing set of new releases, all are wonderful values and easy to love with very hedonistic pleasures, especially this new 100% Grenache bottling. This vintage is very expressive right out of the bottle with a initial sensation that rinds you of a juicy Zin before settling into a more complete Grenache like wine with lush plummy fruits that include raspberry, pomegranate, sweet cherry and racy strawberry fruits with an array of spices, floral tones, soft wood/mocha notes and liqueur. Only 2 barrels of the 2016 Grenache were made with just 50 cases released, making this limited wine a pretty good deal at under $30, and its flamboyant personality will make it a real crowd pleaser too, its 14+% alcohol gives a the impression of richness and body, while still having an energetic character and nice balance.
($29 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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