Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2019

2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Alexandrine” Columbia Gorge, Oregon -photo grapelive

2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Cuvee Alexandrine” Columbia Gorge, Oregon.
One of Oregon’s best kept secrets, Phelps Creek Vineyards in the Columbia Gorge makes one of the state’s most compelling Pinot Noirs and their 2016 is a gorgeous wine with wonderfully delicacy and beauty that dances on the palate and lingers on and on, this is a not to miss vintage. Made by the Gevrey-Chambertin vigneron Alexandrine Roy of the famous Domaine Marc Roy for the Morus family who’s property is located on the picturesque hillsides above the Hood River and is perfect for cool climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Bob Morus’ small family winery has a talented crew, obviously with the quality you find in the glass and while Roy is exceptionally gifted she can’t be there full time as she makes her wines in Burgundy, she has long time Gorge guru Bill Swain and Ira Kreft to lead full time at Phelps Creek, both are UC Davis alums and fit perfectly in the fold here. That said, this special Cuvee Alexandrine, is all about what Roy brings to the winery and in the glass it drinks as brilliant and as elegant as her Gevrey bottlings, especially in this 2016 version.

The highly aromatic and lacy 2016 Cuvee Alexandrine is crafted in Alexandrine Roy’s signature style, with the fourth generation Burgundian winemaker’s best hand picked lots, it is a barrel selection of what the winery calls the finest of their native yeast fermented estate barrels and the ruby and bright crimson hued new release is full of flavor that rides in on a medium bodied frame. This warm year gave the purest of fruit with racy red cherries, vine picked raspberry, plum and wild strawberry layers that feel silken in the mouth with pretty floral tones and graceful mouth feel, while still being vibrant and lively. There’s a seductive and evocative sense of earthiness, minerallity and density that thrills and it adds a mix of Asian spice, chanterelle, cinnamon, a touch of sweet toasty oak and rose hip tea. I have been a fan of this Cuvee for many vintages, but this looks set to be the best yet and compares well with Cameron, Brick House and other elite Oregon offerings and even Phelps Creek’s regular estate stuff is well worth searching out, and as noted in prior reviews their Chardonnay is absolutely brilliant. The lightly reduced and slightly smoky 2016 Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot will gain with bottle age, best guess window looks to be between 5 to 7 years, even though it is sublime now, especially with matching cuisine.
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 25, 2019

2007 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Hochheim Holle VDP Erstes Gewächs, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2007 Weingut Kunstler, Riesling Trocken, Hochheim Holle VDP Erstes Gewächs, Rheingau Germany.
The gorgeous 2007 Kunstler Hochheim Holle, technically a GG (Grosses Gewächs), is drinking fantastic and has taken on a Montrachet level of class and distinction, it is stunning stuff from Gunter Kunstler and a wine that while showing the purity of terroir, but transcends grape perceptions! Kunstler, who’s family has been involved in winemaking since 1648, is one of Rheingau’s greatest producers based at the confluence of the Main and Rhein rivers in the “Hoch” sub zone, which along with Rudesheim one of the most historic winemaking villages in Germany. This area takes heroic farming effort to overcome the humid conditions to produce crystalline dry Rieslings without Botrytis and Kunstler is working these amazing sites with organic practices and his wines are some of the most elegant and monumental dry wines in Europe, this is especially true here in his 2007 Hochheim Holle, which is showing unbelievable finesse and a dreamy textural mouth feel. This Grand Cru vineyard, Holle, is set on a dense/hardened clay and Marl, which gives the core yellow fruits and subtle minerallity and allows a seductive perfume and refined acidity to shine through, and with this wine, Gunter employed a gentle hand, allowing gravity to settle the must at cool temperatures using a special yeast strain that brings out the delicacy in the Riesling grown here. Aged in Stuckfass and or stainless depending on the vintage, Kunstler’s wines are a reflection of the year and always show fabulous detail and focus with this 2007 showing a touch of wood with a toasty creme brûlée note. This wine would provide joyous companionship to hedonistic cuisine choices, in particular, lobster and sweet crab dishes as well, but can easily go with traditional German fare, it’s richness of form and opulent character make this a thrill in the glass no matter what you pair it with.

Imported by Riesling guru Terry Theise at Skurnik Wines, Gunter Künstler’s family winery founded in Hochheim am Main, in 1965 by Gunter’s father Franz, and In 1992 Gunter took over the estate, and in 1994 the estate was admitted to the VDP, and since has become the most iconic grower of the “Hoch” zone. Kunstler success really took off under Gunter in recent times, but as noted by Theise, back in 17th century England the term ‘Hock’ was used to describe all Rhinegau wines. At that time, in fact, these wines were much more famous than Mosel wines and were in some cases much more expensive than some of the finest Bordeaux including the First Growths! When our third US President Thomas Jefferson visited Germany in 1788 he described and noted in his writings Rheingau Riesling as “small and delicate Rhysslin (his spelling of Riesling) which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim”. He was so impressed with the quality that he found here, he took 100 cuttings of Rheingau Riesling back to Monticello. Kunstler has a vast collection of Cru plots from Hochheim to Assmannshausen, where he has an amazing parcel in the fabled Hollenberg Vineyard where he gets some his Pinot Noir, and Gunter has some Rudesheimer Berg vines in Rottland and Schlossberg which are serve and intense with slate vigor, as well as some quartzite influenced Drachenstein, making his lineup one of the most intriguing and varied lineup in the world. With layers of lemon curd, peach, kumquat, dried pineapple, crisp apple and quinces the 2007 Holle has a remarkably complex and full palate with added dimension and sublime length, this lightly golden dry Rieslings also has lime blossom, rosewater, chamomile, brioche and saline infused wet stones. Everything is immaculate and seamless with the ripe fruit held together with Riesling’s natural acidity and extract, this beauty will age another 15 to 20 years easy, even though it is close to perfection as is.
($80+ Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 24, 2019

2016 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Southern Rhone Red, France -photo grapelive

2016 Domaine Saint Damien, Gigondas “La Louisiane” Vieilles Vignes, Southern Rhone Red, France.
The awesome 2016 La Louisiane old vine cuvee from Saint-Damien is an intensely dark purply Rhone blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, plus a 5% remaining balance of Cinsault and Syrahwith amazing depth and complex, while still being wonderfully easy to drink, a hallmark of this vintage. Layered with blackberry/raspberry, boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits and a sweet nose of lilac and roses flows across the palate with hints of kirsch, anise, garrigue (lavender/sage) and a touch of exotic spices. This beauty of a Gigondas is from all organic vines set on sandy clay and red old alluvium soils with broken cailloux (round rocks) strewn throughout which shows in the lovely color, density and depth here and these vines, primary Grenache over 70 years old, this parcel was planted in 1942, give this wine ripe tannin and age worthy structure. With air the Gigondas La Louisiane gains a meaty power with sanguine, leather and peppery elements adding some soulful charm to this fantastic year’s silken and expressive fruit. Saint-Damien does three Gigondas, the normal and two single parcel wines of which this La Louisiane is from their oldest Grenache blocks, they also do a Gigondas Rosé, which is mostly Cinsault, two Côtes-du-Rhône(s) one Syrah based and one Grenache based, both of with are insanely good, like Saint Cosme and they also do a unique Vin de Pays Rouge made from two rare grapes, it’s 50% Caladoc, 50% Marselan, Marselan is a red French wine grape variety, found it the south of France as well as in Italy and Uruguay that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.and the exceptionally rare Caladoc that is a crossing of Grenache and Malbec, created by Paul Truel, who also bred the Marselan, in 1958.

One of the great values of the Southern Rhone, Domaine Saint-Damien, run by Joel, and his son Romain Saurel, is an old school traditional producer of top Gigondas, the winery is named after St. Damien, who was an early Christian saint considered the patron saint of doctors. There was a chapel to his honor in the tiny hamlet of La Baumette, just outside the village of Gigondas, where Joel Saurel has his cellars and lives, hence the name his family used for the domaine. The Saurel’s, with Romain now much more involved in the winemaking, keep things simple in the cellar trying to focus on the terroir and the vineyards, use traditional techniques, and with this wine used native yeast vinification with maceration lasting for about 6 weeks in concrete vats, with regular pump overs before racking to large foudre where it was aged just over a year. They really put a lot of attention to detail in the vineyards so they can pick a bit later without losing the energy of the wine which they bottle unfined and unfiltered, and while full bodied and richly textured it has superb balance and rustic charms with mineral/stone and earthy elements adding a contrast to the opulent fruit. This 2016 gets better and better in the glass, it’s a wine that expresses everything that it can and has that extra bit more that puts it in that special place among wines a level of greatness that is not pretentious, but magical, especially if you are a Grenache lover! Drink this glorious vintage for the next 10 to 15 years, though as mentioned it is hard to resist even now!
($36 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive; Wine of the Day June 23, 2019

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 Masseria Li Veli, Susumaniello, IGT Rosso, Salento, Italy.
The 2017 Susmaniello from Li Veli is extraordinarily rich and decedent on the palate with an opulent array of dense red fruits that at first sniff make you think it will be lighter and more tangy than it is in the mouth and the cedary wood notes add sense of power to this red from the Salento region. Lightly floral and minty this intriguing wine feels full in mouth with candied red cherry, plum, dried cranberry, red peach flesh and spicy raspberry fruits along with a touch of crushed rock, baking spices and mineral tones. This year is more weighty than my prior experiences with this wine, but with air it really comes alive and gives a solid all around performance in the glass, gaining sharper detail and taking on a dark fruit tone, more boysenberry and loses the first impression of baby fat and juiciness. This is always a fun wine to show off, as almost no one has ever heard of Susmaniello, and it’s far from just a curiosity, as it gives a lot of interesting character and is great with most Italian regional cuisines, including pasta dishes of course.

Askos is the name that Falvo family, the owners of Masseria Li Veli gave their project of rediscovery and selection of ancient Apulian grape varieties, like Susumaniello, that had almost gone extinct. Wines are produced by using exclusively these indigenous varietals, cultivated in their most suitable terroirs according the traditional methods. We have chosen a Greek “Askos” an ancient Decanter as a symbol of the wine making, a practice that in Puglia was started by the ancient Greeks. The Li Veli Susumaniello was aged for 9 months in a combination of 500 liter and 225 liter barrels, and while oak raised and toasty sweet, it remains fresh and vibrant with some savory elements, a streak of mineral, sweet and sour notes and a light earthiness. Believed to have been brought to Apulia in ancient times little is really known of this grape’s origins and if there is anyway else where it is still grown, so Li Vela’s Askos project certainly looks to have saved Susumaniello for the world, and tasting this wine is an experience into the region’s past, and its future.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 22, 2019

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany -photo grapelive

2016 Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder, Silvaner Trocken, Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl VDP Erste Lage, Franken Germany.
The 2016 dry Silvaner from Schmitt’s Kinder (like Schmitt’s Children or Kids) is lovely and complex white with bright acid intensity, but also with great extract and textural quality highlighting the Premier Cru terroir of Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl Vineyard site above the Main. While long considered a regal grape in Germany, Silvaner (Sylvaner) or Gruner Silvaner as it is officially known, but its history is still kind of a mystery as is its up and down place in the heart of Germany’s producers and wine drinkers and it is thought to have migrated from eastern Europe, maybe Transylvania, hence the name and is first recorded in Germany as far back as 1659. I have been a fan of this grape for decades and have followed it mainly in the form of Alsace’s Domaine Weinbach, but in recent years I have enjoyed the Franken and Rheingau versions greatly, like those of Rudolph May and Weingut Leitz’s Alte Reben from vines near Rudesheim. Famed Master of Wine and wine critic Jancis Robinson believes Silvaner is one of Germany’s few white wine grapes that seems obviously most at home producing dry rather than fruitier styles of wine, and so could be said to be particularly in tune with current tastes among wine drinkers in Germany, to which I tend to agree, lucky too as these Franken bottles are terrible for export shippers!

Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder is a nine generation family estate in the state of Franconia, on the Main River, in Germany that was originally established back in 1712 and grows a selection of traditional varietals including Pinot Noir, Mueller-Thurgau, Riesling, Scheurebe and Rieslaner, plus rarities Bacchus and Kerner, which are very popular in Franconia, as well as its signature grape Silvaner, which is native to western Germany, though grown in Alsace, where since 2006 it can be a Grand Cru, Alto Adige in the Dolomites as well as in the new world including California, in fact Silvaner has been in California longer than Zinfandel, first planted in the state in 1850 at the Scribe Farm in Sonoma by the Dresel family. Way too often Silvaner gets overlooked and is misunderstood, it is a noble varietal and while exceptional in some cases in Alsace, notably at Domaine Weinbach, it may actually grow best and make for much greater wine in Franken. This region, in Southern Germany, is a much under valued region, that turns out some amazing dry premier cru and grand cru, Erste Lage and Grosses Gewachs wines mostly made from Silvaner, though there is both Riesling and Pinot Noir as well, and Schmitt’s Kinder is one of most interesting producers. Franken wines usually are bottled and sold in a uniquely shaped bottle, called a Bocksbeutel, a vessel that is not without controversy as it is terrible for wine stores to rack, but is ultra traditional in the region and has somehow survived in the modern world with it’s round, flat body and a short neck for over 250 years.

This version, the Randersackerer Sonnenstuhl “Sun Chair” Trocken VDP Erste Lage comes from steep hillside vineyard that are farmed to organic practices and everything is done by hand to ensure quality and perfect ripening of the grapes with Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder employing Inox (stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks) and classic large cask for fermentation and aging, though in recent years they have added a few French barriques to the mix. Franken is heavily influenced by its combination of soils with mostly weathered sandstone and fossilized limestone which adds to the density and depth found in the wines, along with fresh acidity and mineral tones and this adds to Sonnenstuhl’s southern exposure, ripening the grapes to richness, but with complexity and focus, as delivered in this 2016 dry Silvaner. Imported to the US by Rudi Wiest, Weingut Schmitt’s Kinder are not easy to find, but very much worth the effort to find and drink, this Silvaner goes great with smoked trout and easily pairs with artichoke and asparagus, which is not always easy.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 21, 2019

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy -photo grapelive

2015 Bruno Giacosa, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Bruno Giacosa’s polished village wine, the Nebbiolo d’Alba is one of the most stylish and well made red from Piedmonte in its price class, it really is as close as you can get to the cliche “baby Barolo” without sounding like an idiot, with it’s depth and structure proving the point. Made from classic terroirs with southwest exposures, in the villages of Monteu Roero, Santo Stefano Roero and Vezza d’Alba, coming from 25 to 30 year old vines on the marl/limestone, sand and hardened clay soils, all of which provides the rich concentration and the pretty layers, especially in this warm vintage 2015, making it more ripe in detail and with great fruit expression, even in its youth. There’s a lot to love here with its subtle bouquet of roses, dark red fruits, spice and cedar that leads to a medium to full bodied palate of black cherry, damson plum, tangy currant and reduced strawberry fruits along with a mix of sweet French oak, minty herb, black salted licorice, new leather, mineral/iron, dried lavender and a hint of sandalwood. This vintage, as per normal, saw about 14 months in French oak after a stainless steel fermentation including a cool two week maceration, to highlight clarity and done in a more modern style, delivering an elegant Nebbiolo with a regal mouth feel and it’s luxurious in glass.

The late Bruno Giacosa, one of Italy’s greatest ever producers, died just last year (in January of 2018) was an Italian wine hero who was from the village Neive in the Langhe region most famous for his Nebbiolo and more so for Barolo. Today his daughter Bruna, who has taken over produces a number of Barbaresco and Barolo wines, as well as bottlings of Arneis, Barbera, Dolcetto and a sparkling wine, all up to the legendary Rocche del Falletto Barolo and the equally famous Santo Stefano(s) Barbaresco. Bruna, working with his longtime enologist and protegé, Dante Scaglione, has continued her father’s important work. Her commitment, according to Rare Wine Co. a direct importer of classic wines, is a guarantee, that the Giacosa name on a bottle of Barolo or Barbaresco denotes both the highest quality and true vineyard expression, I myself think of Giacosa as the Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, with their Barolo and Barbaresco comparing well with Vogüé’s Musigny and Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. I consider myself lucky to have tasted with Bruna at a tasting in San Francisco, and enjoyed her Tre Bicchieri (winning) 2004 Riserva Santo Stefano, it was an experience I won’t forget. While the regular Nebbiolo doesn’t rise to the greatness of Giacosa’s elite bottlings, it certainly offers a glimpse and it is a very rewarding Piedmonte that is well worth the price and a savvy choice for Nebbiolo lovers to drink over the next 5 to 10 years.
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 20, 2019

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
The Sheldon Sangiovese, their first wine to be made from this Tuscan grape, is an unbelievably gorgeous version with a seductive perfume and sensual fruit that is almost never found in California examples, this is impressive stuff that should not be missed. The 2018 vintage is proving to be an amazing year for purity, vivid fruit and heightened aromatic qualities with good acidity adding clarity and pop in the wines and Sheldon very much exploited this to great effect in their latest set of wines, especially this beautiful Sangiovese that shines with racy and transparent red fruits, spices, mineral charm, wild herbs along with its heady bouquet. Without question this wine is a special wine, considering its youth, it shows an exceptional poise and detail with an almost Grenache like set of layering of red raspberry, plum, cherry and strawberry fruits all supported by velvety almost creamy tannin structure, these sweet tannins are ripe allowing this Sangio to have a wonderful mouth feel, while still holding on to its energy and vibrancy. There are savory elements and the mentioned spicy tones, it adds pepper, pomegranate, iron/mineral, mint, framboise, anise, cigar wrapper and sanguine notes, dried lavender and rose oil that all play supporting roles to near perfection in this medium bodied red. I love this wine, it excites the senses and was a brilliant surprise in the glass with a lovely garnet/ruby hue with magenta edges and it is fantastic with food, it is very flexible and focused, going with classic pizza and pasta, plus BBQ pork, grilled meats, mushroom dishes and is great with a slight chill for out door dinning.

At first, I believed there was some Grenache, Syrah or Cabernet added, but winemaker Dylan tells me it is 100% Sangiovese from an mature, old clone, organically farmed site on volcanic soils, and I thought it might be partial whole bunches, but he adds that he de-stemmed all the grapes and did a traditional ferment. Sheldon employed a conservative approach to his first try with Sangiovese and even so it is wildly exotic and thrilling, the primary fermentation was done in stainless and only aged in a well seasoned neutral French barrique for just 5 months before an early bottling, which was done to capture the purity of this wine and hold on to that sexy nose. Sheldon racked with ultra gentle gravity and with very minimal SO2, which allows the wine’s personality to really take center stage, like you would find in Lapierre’s Morgon. This Sangiovese might be a game charger, it joins the best versions of this varietal in California, like Stolpman’s and Reeve’s examples, it fits nicely in between them and it transcends the grape itself, sadly Sheldon only did one barrel, as more people need to try this stuff. The 2018 Sheldon Sangiovese (like their Graciano) is an awesome wine, uniquely Californian, it is in league with Arnot-Roberts Trousseau, Pax’s Valdiguie or Carignan, Russell Joyce’s Gamay Noir, Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, Ryme’s Aglianico, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avila, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Petite Sirah and others of this new generation that are re-definning our understanding and perceptions of what California can do. This is a fabulous textured expression of Sangiovese, do not miss it, enjoy it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 19, 2019

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France.
Tasted from magnum, the 2017 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine is a beauty, so pure and mineral focused, I was thrilled with this vintage and as a longtime fan of Lafon’s Mâconnais project it was great to try the latest release as see that the quality seems to have even risen since I last had them. Attention to detail, using only the best grapes possible, indigenous yeasts and gentle winemaking Lafon and team, as his US importer Skurnik puts it, strive to preserve the fruit and minerality of the region by using only larger, neutral wood for the aging of the wines. This current lime blossom scented Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows precision and finesse usually reserved for wines are twice or three times the price with bright, but layered Chardonnay fruit, wet stones and a touch of leesy texture featuring lemon, peach, apple and bosc pear fruits along with a touch of clove spice and saline rich wet stone. While crisp and steely with loads of energy this year has a subtle creaminess of mouth feel hinting at its extract and underlying density, most likely from the rigorous selections, small yields and the old vine concentration. The 2017 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows a remarkable form and style, this might be my favorite “Cru” in the lineup, grown on clay and limestone that isn’t all that different from Puligny, Saint-Aubin and Lafon’s loved Meursault home.

Founded by Meursault legend, Dominique Lafon, in 1999 the Mâconnais based Héritiers du Comte Lafon is an all organic and biodynamic estate that crafts exceptional Chardonnay from this lesser appreciated region where he found treasured old vine parcels and excellent terroirs. The wines are now, since 2006, made by the hugely talented Caroline Gon, who was Lafon’s apprentice for many years, so there is a amazing chemistry and clearly a linage of quality. Lafon, one of best known Cote de Beaune winemakers, was one of the first to see the potential of the Mâconnais for its hidden magic and his success has brought on a wave of Cote d’Or producers to the region, looking for a less expensive place to source premium Chardonnay grapes, and now Saint-Veran, Vire-Clesse and all the various sub zones of Mâcon are all the rage. Historically, the Mâconnais was known for industrially farmed, volume driven wines usually just labeled Mâcon-Villages, sort of generic and sadly un-inspiring, but now thrilling wines are being handcrafted here, like those of Robert-Denogent, Domaine de la Sarazinière and Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon are as highly regarded as the more famous Beaune addresses! As mentioned repeatedly in my many prior reviews, if you want a truly fabulous White Burgundy at a fair price, this is a label to invest in and or search out.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 18, 2019

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The expressive and dynamic Flaneur Willamette Valley Pinot has that crunchy, semi carbonic like fruit intensity and exotic spices with layers of racy red cherry, briar laced raspberry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry fruits along with cinnamon, cola bean, tea and peppery herbs, plus a juicy Moro orange note, along with a faint wood shading. Flaneur hasn’t been on the scene very long, but if they continue with wines like this they are heading in the right direction and should pick up a serious following within a short time. I find this one to have a more Cru Beaujolais character at first and it reminds me of some great Fleurie and Morgon, but given air its Pinot fruit comes through and it gets very stylish. The color is bright ruby and garnet and the nose is ever changing with rose petal, earth, mineral and red berries all playing a role in the glass. This vintage, which typically is a bit more muted that the riper 2015 and 2016 is no wallflower and is bursting with flavor, with partial bunches and stems adding exuberant vitality and grip on the medium bodied palate, again air allows the true sense of this beautiful wine to come through with silken mouth feel and length on the finish. It also gets even better with food, especially slightly more complex stuff and it can stand up to some fun Asian dishes as well, plus it can be enjoyed, with a thrill, slightly chilled and with picnics or warm evening dinning. This 2017 Willamette Valley cuvee by Flaneur is youthfully flamboyant and vibrant, but there’s a lot to come here, and for the price I highly recommend getting a few to enjoy now and some to age.

One of the under the radar, but great values in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Flaneur Wines, made by Grant Coulter, who recently moved on from being winemaker at the famous Beaux Freres Vineyard, and maker of his own label Hundred Suns, his overseeing the vineyards and hand crafting these wines for Flaneur gives them instant street cred. Grant, a Monterey native, is one of many new generation winemakers from this region to be getting their due, along with Scott Shapely of Roar, Eric Hamacher of Hamacher, also in Oregon, Grant’s friends Cory (who told be to check this wine out) and Mike Waller of Eden Rift and Calera respectively as well as Jeff Pisoni of Fort Ross and his family’s wines, as well as Russell Joyce, to name just a few, all of which are making some world class Pinots. As a Monterey native myself I am proud of these guys and thrilled with their wines, especially Coulter’s stuff and I love this 2017 Flaneur. I first met Grant in 2008 at Beaux Freres, while visiting the vineyard and tasting through the wines and have been following his wines ever since, his time with Mike Etzel was time well spent and his has taken a lot with him, he looks to work organic and biodynamic where he can as well as using natural methods with native yeast fermentations and less new oak, with this Flaneur seeing only about 11% new French oak, all to preserve clarity, purity and freshness. This year saw 68% of the grapes sourced from La Belle Promenade and 32% from the Flanerie vineyard and ended up being about 36% whole cluster, the finished alcohol came it at 13.7%, though it feels less and it is a wonderfully balanced wine. I love it as is, but it will be a wine to follow for the next 3 to 5 years when it hits its sweet spot.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 17, 2019

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley.
A wine that seems forgotten in time, I’d bet the winery doesn’t know much about it either, the garnet and dark brick hued 1972 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah proved a delight at a recent dinner event, in fact it was an incredible bottle with Bordeaux like class and character with a sweet fruited medium bodied palate and only the slightest hint of true age, even after many hours it was still holding on with pretty flavors and wonderful length. This was a surprisingly impressive display, I have to believe this wine, which Freemark Abbey don’t even seem to make anymore, was made from old vines that either they don’t source from or re-planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, since that is there main focus and has been for many decades now. Not that I was shocked really, because I’ve had remarkable bottles of California wines that should have been long dead that weren’t, like old Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah, AKA Durif. Petite Sirah (or Durif) is a black-skinned grape variety that was developed by Dr. Durif, a French nurseryman living in the southwest of France in the late 1800’s. He created this new variety by crossing the Syrah grape with the little known Peloursin grape, with Petite Sirah being its North and South American name, and according to Patrick Comiskey, author of American Rhone, Durif took the name for a completely different variety (thought to be a clone of Syrah) in the early 1900s, and that’s why it can also be spelled Petite Syrah as well. In the rest of the world, like in Australia where it has become quite popular, it is generally known as Durif, as mentioned, named after its discoverer, Dr. Francois Durif himself. Tasting this Petite, is quite literally tasting history, and it is still astonishingly fresh wine with layers of only slightly faded blackberry, dusty cherry, dried violets, minty herbs, tobacco leaf as well as the mentioned below, mulberry and currant fruits along with a hint of earthy mushroom, gravelly loam, autumn leaves, a faint whiff of soy/balsamic and cedar.

Though the grape was never highly regarded in France, and is a rarity there, it makes for a inky dark wine of great tannic intensity with blue fruits and chocolatey element when in its youth, developing a more refined character with age, often losing the sense of jammy fruit and taking on, as this 1972 Freemark Abbey has a secondary, almost like a Cabernet Sauvignon personality taking on currants and earthy mulberries. Freemark Abbey, in St. Helena, which was first founded in 1886, as noted by the winery, by Josephine Tychson, a Victorian widow, built and operated the original redwood cellar on our estate, cultivated the land, and became the first female winemaker on record in Napa Valley. This was short lived, as in 1898, Antonio Forni, a good friend of Josephine’s, purchased the winery and renamed it as Lombarda Cellars, after his birthplace in Italy, he also build the winery structure which still survives today. Just before the US entered WWII, in 1939 three southern California businessmen purchased Lombarda Cellars, combining their names, Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster and Albert “Abbey” Ahern into the name, we know today, Freemark Abbey. Interestingly, Freemark Abbey was one of the first wineries in Napa to open a tasting room and visitors center back in 1949, and in 1967 a new partnership took over and into the 1970s they focused almost exclusively on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a few Bordeaux blends, including their Bosché Vineyard Cabernet, their signature wine, and one of the first single vineyard labeled bottlings in California. Freemark Abbey, one of the original twelve wineries to be included in the Judgement of Paris tastings, along with the likes of Chateau Montelena, Ridge Vineyards and others, and while I can’t find out much on this Petite Sirah, the winery does have an intriguing history that is worth remembering. What an experience, honestly, if tasted blind I might have said Napa Cab, but it does have a left bank charm, I wish I had a few more bottles!
($ N/A) 92 Points, grapelive

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