Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 1, 2020

2018 Samuel Louis Smith, Pinot Noir, Montanita de Oro, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2018 Samuel Louis Smith, Pinot Noir, Montanita de Oro, Monterey County.
The latest set of wines from Sam Smith’s Samuel Louis Smith label are stunning, I‘ve mentioned the gorgeous Chardonnay from the Spear Vineyard and most recently his Syrah, which I absolutely love, but you shouldn’t miss his Pinot Noir either, this 2018 Montanita de Oro, Monterey County, all from hillside vines, is outstanding. Sourced from two distinct vineyard sites, Pelio Vineyard in Carmel Valley set only 7 miles from Carmel Bay on shales and chalky stones with its cool marine climate delicacy and the Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan Range, northwest of Chalone with a complex set of granite and limestone soils giving this wine depth and intensity of flavors. Smith who’s really making a name for himself with his fabulous efforts at Monterey’s famous Morgan Winery, especially with his latest Double L Estate wines, both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offerings are delicious and some of the most elite Santa Lucia Highlands wines to date, on par with the Roar and Lucia by Pisoni stuff. His own micro-négociant label, Samuel Louis Smith Wines, is one of the most exciting small lot handmade wines (boutique) collection on the Central Coast, with a focus on the Sta. Rita Hills and Monterey. Smith, who credits his experience making Pinot Noir wines in the Willamette Valley, cool climate Northern Rhone Syrah and as well as being a winemaker for Margerum in Santa Barbara County as giving him the understanding of terroir and insight to craft his wines has really shown his potential with these 2018’s!

This Samuel Louis Smith Montanita de Oro Pinot Noir, which saw loads of whole cluster, is vibrantly expressive and sensual with layers of black cherry, strawberry, plum, blood orange, pomegranate and tart cranberry fruits along with an array of spices, a touch of earth, mineral tones, light sweet toastiness and crushed flowers. I got to taste through the new releases with Smith and I, as mentioned, was thrilled by them, and throughout the last almost three years I have tried quite a few of Sam’s earlier wines, and they are exceptional as well, providing insight into how they develop with a few years of bottle age and they have impressed, especially the Radian Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Lafond Vineyard Syrah, both from fantastic sites in the Santa Barbara area where Smith was based before moving to Monterey. I must also mention, his Morgan Double L Estate 2017 Pinot, which is just released as well as is beauty and already creating a lot of buzz too, it is is great time to discover his wines, both the Morgan stuff, which includes some small batch single clone bottlings, like Pommard, DRC and in particular the Double L clone 96 Chardonnay, which is one of the best Chards I’ve tried this year in California, right up there with some of the state’s classics, as well as his personal wines, like this one. Textural and intriguing from start to finish, this Montanita de Oro Pinot, still youthful and vivid, with its balancing natural acidity has many years of pleasure in store, don’t miss it and get on Smith’s mailing list, these will go fast.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 31, 2020

2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard, Elivette Red, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard, Elivette Red, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley.
A winery that is reviving itself is Spring Mountain Vineyard with a confident set of new releases, especially their lovely Sauvignon Blanc, but it is the history of the place and their re-release of some exciting library selections that has got a lot of attention, with their 2008 Elivette Cabernet based red being one of the nicest surprises so far. The Elivette was made from Spring Mountains Estate fruit and is comprised of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon,13% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec and it shows its mountain structure perfectly, the fruit is well balanced, quite lively too, and the color is remarkably youthful and beautifully dark, making for a stylish drink and a wine that is putting on a great show in the glass. The historic Spring Mountain Vineyard is an 845-acre estate, with 225 acres under vine, that was once three separate estates each with its own vineyard and winery beginning in 1873, these make up collection of vineyard sites, including Spring Mountain Vineyards/Miravalle, Chevalier, and La Perla. Interestingly, below La Perla, and eventually added to it, was the first vineyard planted by Fredrick and Jacob Beringer in 1882. These terraced hillsides were planted in a wide assortment of grape varieties to support the Beringer brothers fledgling, but now famous, winery. The privately owned estate, with current ownership taking over the property in 1992 after its rise in modern times under Mike Robbins, who had the label from 1974 to 1992 and oversaw an incredible period that brought fame to this world class winery, is now comprised of four historic vineyards that were first, as noted, planted to vine in the late 1800s and only estate bottled wines are produced. This 2008 is lovely stuff with loads of pleasing personality on display, I’m glad to see this winery making a comeback in some ways and getting attention again, I was very impressed with this vintage Elivette, plus their delightful and fresh 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, which I enjoyed with soft cheese and grilled prawns.

Spring Mountain’s complex vineyard, once the setting for a prime time soap opera “Falcon Crest”, has vines are planted on 135 distinct hillside plots that rise from 400 to 1,600 feet above sea level on the eastern slopes of Spring Mountain with a stunning view of the Napa Valley. The weathered volcanic materials, sandstones, shales and sedimentary rock mountain soils make for small yields, less than two tons of grapes per acre typically, making for big shouldered wines that reflect terroir with intense flavors, though Spring Mountain is known for finesse and their supple tannin structure and bright acidity from the cool nights, leading to graceful long lived wines, like this 2008 is showing today. The unique qualities of each block, which are fermented and aged separately and then carefully blended to make the top cuvee, the Elivette. This Elivette was crafted to become the finest expression of the Spring Mountain Vineyard, and it shows brilliant layers of blackberry, blueberry, dark plum and kirsch fruits, creme de cassis, dried sage, tobacco, acacia flower, a touch of earthiness, smoke and mineral tones, finishing with anise, cedar and vanilla. An amazing string of winemakers have worked at Spring Mountain over the years and it has at many times been the equal of Napa’s greatest estates, mostly known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, this Elivette Bordeaux blend and Sauvignon Blanc, they have also made one of Napa’s most sought after Syrah(s) and now, in particular that White Bordeaux style Sauvignon Blanc. After tasting this 2008, which I tasted blind, I am even more interested to see what the 2014, 2015 and especially the 2016 versions of Elivette and the basic Cabernet.
($150 Est. “Current Release Price”) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 30, 2020

2016 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Von Den Terrassen, Mosel Germany -photo grapelive

2016 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Von Den Terrassen, Mosel Germany.
This beauty comes from the steep slopes of slate above the river with vines holding on by the use of historic terraces, these need constant work and tender love and care, which Matthias Knebel does to produce his distinct Rieslings, this area Winningen, is one of the sites that defines the essence of these terraced vineyards, that are cultural landmarks, in the Mosel Valley. This wine, Knebel’s Von Den Terrassen Riesling, represents this sense of place and tradition, it is an off dry style that drinks clearly on the drier scale, but with a rich density and a gorgeous vinous charm, while retaining the classic stony/smoky slate driven character with plenty of natural acidity and a crystalline mineral essence. Working with natural methods and sustainable vineyard practices, Matthias, creates authentic wines that reflect his passion and commitment to his craft and his back breaking work in the vines, he is among a talented group of a new generation in the Mosel, and in Germany, that have broken through in recent years for the exceptional quality and intensity of their wines, with his Rieslings reminding me of Christopher Loewen, Mosel, and Theresa Breuer in the Rheingau, to name a couple of modern stars. Knebel is grateful for the work done in the past, by his family, and the gifts of nature, or as he beautiful says “We see ourselves in charge to maintain this legacy, that our forefathers bequeathed to us.” – Matthias Knebel.

The 2016 vintage Von den Terrassen, fermented with sponti, indigenous yeasts and aged in stainless steel, shows remarkable purity and terroir with a slight hint of reduction and earthy charm before opening up to a leesy rich palate of wild peach, lime, apricot, tangerine and muskmelon fruits that are accented by wet shale, flinty stones, saline, spearmint, a faint petrol note, honey and verbena elements in an intriguing Riesling that would be excellent with Asian and Indian cuisines as well as rustic German dishes as well as fish tacos, sushi and or Parma ham. Knebel has a collection of top parcels of vines many of which are between 40-70 year-old, some of which are un-grafted and as mentioned, Matthias is dedicated to farming with minimal intervention, no herbicide or pesticides and relies on small yields, fewer canes, natural competition with his old old vines, all hand tended and picked with rigorous selection both in the vineyard and the cellar, ensuring perfectly ripe and healthy grapes. Knebel uses primarily stainless steel in his vinification(s) and aging, as he notes, these stainless tanks best expresses his nuanced terroirs, also depending on vintage, malolactic fermentation is mostly avoided but much like maceration, some of which see skin contact, is determined on a case-by-case, year by year basis. This 2016 is current in the United States and it is just getting into its groove, so be sure to snap some up, and I look forward to the following 2017’s and 2018’s, which certainly will be exciting stuff!
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 29, 2020

2015 Cave Dog, Red Wine, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2015 Cave Dog, Red Wine, Beau Terroir Vineyard, Napa Valley.
The gloriously balanced and nuanced 2015 Cave Dog Red Wine from Michael Havens was crafted using 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Franc in a classic Right Bank Bordeaux style from a vineyard he has long used, Beau Terroir Vineyard in Napa Valley, it is a wine that shows a stylistic nod to the old school and is very svelte and beautifully detail, offering up the vintage’s ripe and density with an irresistible finesse and graceful length. This wine is a throwback to Havens’ original Bourriquot, like the ones he made during the late 1990s and early 2000s, which were some of the savvy and desirable wines in Napa Valley, I was a huge fan and they were exceptional values, like this one from his Cave Dog label is currently. Havens, it should be noted, is not involved with the wines now named after him, Havens Wine Cellars, they bare no resemblance to his own efforts, and this Cave Dog line is an awesome set of wines, with this one being the leader of the pack and his only red wine, plus his lovely set of whites from Galician grape varietals, Albarino, a grape he personally brought to America and made it a star here and his latest import, Godello. The Cave Dog Red shows gorgeous aromatics with floral tones, a light toasty note and a deep sense of dark fruits before a full bodied palate of blackberry, currant, plum and black cherry fruit as well as delicate cedar, refined Cab Franc earthy elements shining here along with the Merlot’s smooth tannin and textural quality, gaining mineral notes, vanilla, anise and baking spices. Made with passion and with Chateau Cheval Blanc as a model, this Cave Dog Red, even with its unlikely name, is a fabulous wine, honest, authentic and opulent with a polished mouth feel and a stunning lingering aftertaste, especially with matching cuisine, think roast meats, duck breast in cherry reduction and or a rack of lamb.

Havens, who works without dogma, believes careful thought and common sense is required to produce a great wine and starts with a plan with each stage needing a thought process that gets the best out of the grapes with each stage being extremely important to achieve one’s goal, so every detail is done with precision and with a gentle hand to preserve nature’s gift. This wine was ultra carefully crafted using hand picking, hand sorting and the grapes were all de-stemmed and allowed to ferment with indigenous yeasts in open-topped tanks, and to preserve the wonderful aromatics Havens gets, as he notes, from Beau Terroir vineyard, he pumps over or punch down(s) the cap as gently as possible, typically twice a day. After primary fermentation is complete, with lots of tasting to be sure extraction is refined and is giving sublime structural integrity, the wine is free run to barrel with a lightly pressed selection added as needed if the quality is there and then the full wine is allowed to go through malos own its own without inoculation. The aging is usually between 16 to 20 months in medium plus toast French oak from Havens’ preferred barrel makers, Boutes, Sylvain and Atelier, all of which specialize in Bordeaux cooperage and add just the right amount of accents and nobility to the finished wine. The Cave Dog whites are marvelous too, especially the crisp and mineral driven Albarino, with its Rias Baixas inspiration, which I have reviewed here at grapelive.com, it’s one of the best if not the best version of this grape in the new world. It’s exciting to follow Michael Havens again, I love his wines and recommend getting on his list, and I can’t wait to see what the new vintages bring!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 28, 2020

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Estate Riesling Trocken, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Estate Riesling Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
The delightful and crisp Spreitzer Estate Trocken is at first easy and delicious, but soon you realize it is far more serious than expected with a wonderful depth of flavors and a gripping dry extract hidden beneath its generous personality, and while I had put praise on Spreitzer’s GG, Alte Reben and Feinherb offerings in prior reviews, I really had to showcase this wine for the quality and exceptional value in this Riesling. Andi and Bernd Spreitzer has put together an excellent set of wines from the 2018 vintage, which looks set to be a classic year in the Rheingau and most all of Germany, from what I’ve tasted so far, highlighted by wines that have richness of fruit, vinous pleasure along with fresh energy, all of which this Estate Trocken shows. The Weingut Spreitzer estate, also known as Josef Spreitzer, as originally founded back in 1641, now run by the Spreitzer brothers Andreas and Bernd, is also one of the oldest privately run wineries in the Rheingau region and has some tremendous vineyard holdings in the middle Rheingau, where the Rhein River runs at its widest point. These vineyard sites, many Grosse Lage and Erste Lage crus are set on an amazing combination of different soils including loess, loam, sand, slate, quartzite, red iron rich stones and clay, all of which add complexity and the climate here is slightly warmer which aids in ripening, helping develop exotic flavors and textures. The Estate Trocken, influenced by the Lenchen vineyard in Oestrich, the heart of Spreitzer’s holdings, is composed mostly of loam and loess soils, is also the basis of one of their majestic GG’s, the Rosengarten, which is one of the most prestigious wines of the lineup and the region.

This 2018 Estate Trocken Riesling from Spreitzer comes from 20 year old vines sourced from three of their vineyards around and in the village of Oestrich, these include Klosterberg, Lenchen and Doosberg set on mainly loam, loess and quartzite soils very close the the estate with its panoramic view of the mighty Rhein. This tasty stuff starts with vibrant citrus and green melon notes and crystalline mineral charm along with brisk saline, stoniness and tropical elements before getting more classic in detail on the graceful medium bodied palate with green apple, peach, lime and tangy apricot fruits, a touch of dried ginger, lemon zest, chamomile and spearmint. This little Riesling got some love and care in the cellar with it being fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and old barrels, the large stuckfass German oak casks which are cherished family members here at Spreitzer, with mostly native yeast fermentation(s). The winery, as noted by their importer Terry Theise, strives to maintain fruit (intensity) and finesse by cleaning the must by gravity for 24 hours after the grapes get their whole-cluster pressing, then the wine rests on their gross lees for an extended time and only is filtered once before bottling to promote both freshness and depth, with the final product showing only a hint of reduction, and no oxidation typically. While nicely dry in style there is a distinctive opulence and presence in this Riesling which makes in standout in its price class and it is impressive in the glass and especially with food, in particular grilled BBQed shrimp, light curries, cured ham and or crab cakes. There’s a lot in this current selection at Spreitzer to admire, but this one is a good choice to stock up on.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 27, 2020

2018 Assiduous, Merlot, Kells Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains -photo grapelive

2018 Assiduous, Merlot, Kells Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Winemaker and farmer Keegan Mayo, founder of Adissuous Wines, who calls the Santa Cruz Mountains his home, his inspiration and his focus point for his wines, was born on the Big Island of Hawai’i, but moved to Santa Cruz when he was just eight years old, is making expressive, vividly fruit forward and lively wines. Mayo says he is on a mission to create savory wines that have a sense of place and picks growing sites that have special qualities, like an outlier soil or climate factor to achieve a uniqueness in his wines. These Adissuous wines are totally new to me, I was given the heads up on them by Kristie Gallo, an advocate for a new generation of Santa Cruz Mountains wines, so it was really fun to try this intriguing whole cluster and carbonic Merlot, it isn’t what I had expected of this varietal, but it is wildly delicious with an almost Cru Beaujolais feel about it. Mayo farms organically, noting also that he has a less is more approach in his winemaking and creates single vineyard/single variety wines using minimal intervention in the cellar, making natural modern wines with clean and clear flavors. This Kells Vineyard Merlot, presented in a Bordeaux bottle with a red lipstick wax capsule, bursts from the glass with a full carbonic floral and fruit array showing off crushed raspberry, strawberry, fresh plum and sweet cherry fruits that caresses the medium bodied palate with a round soft creaminess before you get a nice savory stemmy crunch with a light herbal sensation, cinnamon spice and a hint of cedar. Like other areas in California, the Santa Cruz Mountains is seeing a changing of the guard and more and more this youth movement is gaining a foot hold with some talented folks, like Keegan, making some headlines.

Keegan got his introduction into the wine industry when he helped out for a few summers at the Split Rail Vineyard in Corralitos, one of the first plantings in the region before going to UC Davis, where he studied and graduated from their prestigious Viticulture and Enology Program. He also spent a harvest with Mumm in Napa as a cellar hand/intern as well as doing a stint with Church Road Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, before, as he puts it, settling into a nearly nine year tenure with Testarossa Winery, in Saratoga, where he eventually became the Assistant Winemaker. Now with his own label, Mayo has began to express his own ideas and I look forward to exploring more of his wines, especially as I really loved this totally different path version of Merlot, with its vivid and juicy character, it is a quaffable and well price wine. I have noticed he does Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris as well as a 100% Malbec, a wine that excites me to chase down, along with this Merlot. This was a seriously fun wine without being serious, easily quaffable in every way, even if it isn’t recognizable as Merlot at this stage, which may upset purists, but will thrill those that enjoy natural wines. That said, this Adissuous carbonic Merlot is extremely well made and has no sloppy or natty funk, and it joins some very cool carbonic wines, like the Reeve and Sheldon Sangiovese(s), Pax Gamay and Carignan, to name a few. This non varietal correct Merlot is for people that are not traditional Merlot fans, and it rewards those seeking out fresh transparent wines.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 26, 2020

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Elevación Syrah, Estate, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County -photo grapelive

2017 Halcon Vineyards, Elevación Syrah, Estate, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
This is the second vintage of this special 100% Syrah cuvée Elevación by Halcon Vineyards from their high elevation estate in the Yorkville Highlands and it is absolutely outstanding with stunning purity and an amazing play between ripe fruit and savory elements. Paul Gordon, who had enjoyed Scott Shapely of Roar and Flywheel as his winemaker consultant through the 2017 harvest, has crafted one of California’s greatest Syrah offerings from this cool climate hillside site in the wilds of Mendocino County. Syrah is really hitting its groove again in California, and this latest generation of offerings are mindglowingly good, they easily rival top Rhone stuff from some famous names and they are insanely affordable for the quality on offer, especially these Halcon Vineyard bottlings. This Elevación shows an intense black/purple color with magenta/garnet edges in the glass and the magic starts to lift from the rim with a bouquet of violets, black fruits, racy herbal notes and an earthy sultry sensation before unfolding in layers on the medium/full bodied palate with black raspberry, damson plum, blueberry compote, tangy dark currant and kirsch fruits along with a full stems crunch, olive tapenade, melted black licorice, delicate bacon fat, peppercorns and a touch of a mineral/stony element. This 2017 shows warm rich detail, rather forward for this winery, but classic to its track record it has remarkably low alcohol for a wine of this impact, sensual texture and depth, its a very lively Syrah with a personality that reminds me of Auguste Clape or Guillaume Gilles, both famous Cornas producers.

This Halcon Vineyard Elevación was crafted using old school traditional methods, fermented in a very hand crafted small batch using indigenous yeasts, with Gordon admitting he is a Northern Rhone fanatic and inspired by Cote-Rotie and Hermitage, wines by Domaine Jamet and Alain Graillot seem obvious influences. The 2017 Elevación is again, as Gordon notes, 100% Chave selection (Hermitage clone) Syrah fermented with 100% whole-cluster (full stem inclusion) and aged in neutral French oak puncheons, bottled as per normal here unfined and unfiltered, with everything done to promote transparency and highlight the unique schist soil terroir. There were, as Paul adds, no adjustments to alcohol nor acids and again they needed no additions, going for a very natural style with minimal sulfur, as is the fashion. Just like main Syrah offering at Halcon, the Alturas Syrah, this wine benefited from very mature fruit, from the extra long hang time and stems at low sugars, as mentioned, and it came in at only 12.8% natural alcohol. Halcon only made 185 cases of this Elevación, so it is a good idea to get on the list here, it is also a wine that looks like to have a long drinking window with potential to age up to another decade, even though I find it almost impossible to resist even now. I’ve been a long time fan of these wines and still get giddy when I open a bottle, there is an awesome sense of thrill and value for the money in these wines, don’t miss them. This 2017 set of wines is high quality stuff, with this one in particular being a standout, I can’t to enjoy it with Zuni (Cafe in SF) style chicken, spicy lamb and or Korean BBQ pork!
($38 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 25, 2020

2018 Weingut Goldatzel, Riesling Spaltese Feinherb, Johannisberger Goldatzel, Rheingau Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Weingut Goldatzel, Riesling Spaltese Feinherb, Johannisberger Goldatzel, Rheingau Germany.
Johannes Gross is one of the rising stars of the Rheingau and his Goldatzel wines are a stellar set of under the radar Rieslings that deserve wider attention, especially these beautiful 2018’s, like this unique Johannisberger Goldatzel Spatlese Feinherb with its exceptional crystalline detailing and subtle fruit density and depth. This almost dry, but round structured Riesling glistens in the glass with a pale sunlight hue and thrills the palate with ripe and pure fruit layers that includes apple, key lime, white peach, apricot and papaya along with hint of zesty grapefruit, crunchy mineral, saline infused stones and acidic energy, gaining in body and textural charm with air, making a vinous and complex Riesling that would impress both modern dry style drinkers as well as classic traditionalists. The youthful talent, Johannes Gross, who is in his third year post-university, having studied at the famous Geisenheim, one of the world’s great wine college/institutions, has taken the helm of his family’s very respected small estate in the middle Rheingau with selected vineyard holdings in the villages of Johannisberg, Winkel and Geisenheim, not far from Spreitzer, one of my favorites, has brought international interest to this winery in recent vintages and got renown Riesling guru Terry Theise to take him into his fantastic portfolio of wines.

The Johannisberger Goldatzel vineyard site is set on loam, loess and quartzite soils and is beautiful situated well above the Rhein River where it runs at one of its widest points and makes for wines, that Theise calls, are distinct showing fastidious chiseled clarity of form, which Gross’ 2018 Johannisberger Goldatzel delivers with style and generous grace. Goldatzel’s wines are made without extreme dogma and each wine is made with an individual attention to detail, Gross uses whatever techniques give the best results to promote transparency and elegance. They use a combination of native and specialized cultured yeasts and have both large stuckfass and stainless tanks with each vineyard and wine getting the treatment that best suits each lot, with this Johannisberger Goldatzel getting “Sponti” spontaneous fermentation with primary and less aging done in stainless steel. The underlying quartzite influence really shines through and the vinous feel creates a wonderful play in mouth, in particular this 2018 drinks in a drier that the label suggests and while crisp and delicate, there is a serious substance here and it has a real presence or impact, it is a lovely and thoughtful Riesling that gets the juices flowing. After time in the glass it certainly adds a nice perfume too with citrus blossoms and rosewater to the aromatic array and the finish is equally impressive, this would be fabulous with spicy or cracked crab and or Asian cuisines.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 24, 2020

2016 Simon di Brazzan, Cabernet Franc, Isonzo del Friuli DOC, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy -photo grapelive

2016 Simon di Brazzan, Cabernet Franc, Isonzo del Friuli DOC, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.
Tucked in Italy’s top right corner, the Friuli Venezia Giulia region is known for most recently as the Orange Wine capital of Italy and famous for great Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Friuliano wines, but there is some fine reds made here too, especially Bordeaux varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and interestingly Cabernet Franc, like this gorgeous very Loire like version from Daniele Drius, a fourth generation winegrower, at Simon di Brazzan winery. The Brazzano and Mariano del Friuli Vineyards, in the Isonzo del Friuli DOC near Cormons and Mariano, are the source of this beautiful and perfumed wine from Drius and the vines which range from 20 to 30 plus years old set on Alluvial allochthonous soil with excellent drainage allowing a wonderful fruit intensity as well as delicate detailing and sublime length, especially in a fabulous vintage such as 2016. I really thought this was a top Loire wine, as I tasted it completely blind in a Bordeaux varietal tasting panel, it has a Bourgueil like elegance, though it also has Chinon like density, so I was surprised to find it was in fact from the Friuli! This winery, which is totally new to me, is now a label I plan to follow closely and I can’t wait to try their other offerings, especially their “Ramato” coppery “Orange” Pinot Grigio and their sparkling wine!

This deep garnet hued and smooth textured 2016 Cab Franc from Simon di Brazzan is a stunner and a fantastic value as well as being unique and maybe geeky cool, it is certainly a wine I would buy and drink often, I am grateful to Ms. Kelsie Gray for bringing this wine, imported by Vinity Wine Company, an imported with a big presence in San Francisco with a top notch portfolio of wines from Italy, including some favorites like Marisa Cuomo, ArPePe, De Conciliis, Damijan Podversic, Cascina Val del Prete, Le Piane, I Favati, Valle dell Acate, Querceto di Castellina and Graci, all that are usually featured at Slow Wine events and winners of famous Tre Bicchieri awards. The traditionally fermented Simon di Brazzan Cabernet Franc, using de-stemmed grapes, it is gently handed and spends about a week on the skins in tank then aged with extended lees contact without new oak to preserve vitality and purity. This expressive wine is generous on the palate with ripe tannins, a sensual medium body and a heavenly perfume of violets and dark flowers, light spices, mineral notes and subtle earthiness with layers of black cherry, plum and currant fruits along with a touch of olive, bell pepper, anise and a faint cedary/tobacco note. This is outstanding stuff to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years and great with lamb, mushroom dishes and rustic cuisine.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 23, 2020

2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Picardan, Rhone White, Adelaida District, Paso Robles -photo grapelive

2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Picardan, Rhone White, Adelaida District, Paso Robles.
One of the rarest white wines and varietal in California is Tablas Creek’s tasty Picardan, made from this little known and little planted Chateauneuf du Pape grape. With maybe a dozen or so acres of Picardan planted worldwide, Tablas Creek’s version maybe one of two or three wines made as a single varietal wine and it is a crisp and interesting example with elements that remind me of Vermentino (Rolle), Picpoul and maybe Trebbiano (d’Abruzzo) or Pecorino with a crisp tangy profile. It is surprising in this day and age, just how little is known about Picardan, which is also known as Araignan, Oeillade blanche and or Picardan Blanc other than its classic place as being one of 13 permitted blending grapes within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC in Rhône Valley region of France, but even that is very thin as the grape is usually only found in the blend as a very minor player with maybe six to eight known acres grown in this famous region if that. With Tablas’ success in bringing the Chateauneuf grapes to California, from their partnership with the famed Chateau de Beaucastel and their estate vineyards, it was intriguing that they they brought some Picardan, which I guess was to be used as part of a field blend to add complexity and authentic character to their amazing set of Rhone whites from their estate vines in the Adelaida District of the westside zone of Paso Robles and its limestone based soils. Picardan, lightly golden in hue, is one of the Rhone’s most obscure white grapes, as the winery notes, although it was apparently more common before phylloxera’s arrival in the mid to late 1800s.

The 2017 Tablas Creek Vineyard Picardan starts with orange blossom, wet stones, snappy herbs along with bitter white peach, unripe apple and zesty lemon/lime fruits and even in a ripe year it stays nice and bright with a light delicacy and refreshing acidity, though it does gain a bit of texture (faint oily notes) with air without any sense of weight. Since the variety is practically unknown for any other use than being a tiny part the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend(s) it is hard to find many reference points to really judge what this wine should taste like, but that being said, this is worthy of place in the lineup and is fun to sip on and I can see it going well with delicate and or briny seafoods, like oysters and steamed clams. There is a saline note, in this Picardan, that is mouth watering and it clears the palate, making it brisk and delightful and it can be enjoyed as a warm day sipper with picnic fare. This is not an exotic or overt white wine, more neutral in style, it’s not going to blow your mind, even though it will hold your attention and easily quaffable. Tablas brought in the budwood (of Picardan) into the United States in 2003 as part of our goal to have all the Chateauneuf du Pape varieties (available) and It was released from quarantine to Tablas in 2012, and they planted a half-acre in 2013, farmed organically, certified biodynamic, with a first harvest in 2016 for a single varietal bottling. The 2017, the second edition, was whole cluster pressed and fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts, all in a quest for purity and made to be drunk in its youth, so drink up!
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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