Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 10, 2015

2011BenessereSagrantino2011 Benessere Vineyards, Sagrantino, Napa Valley.
From a tiny half acre plot comes Benessere’s Sagrantino, about 4 to 6 Barrel’s worth of this gets produced, and Sagrantino is rare, especially in California, there isn’t much around, I think Benessere is the only Napa label doing it, and maybe 3 or 4 others in the whole state. Sagrantino is the great grape of Umbria in central Italy, made famous by producers like Arnaldo-Caprai and the ironic Paolo Bea, it is a deeply tannic grape, in fact it has the highest levels of polyphenols in the grape world with loads of antioxidant and power, in fact until fairly modern times most growers made only sweet wines from the varietal, it was so difficult to manage the tannic nature. Now, with gentile techniques and controlled fermentations, they’ve tamed this beast, there is almost no sweet Sagrantino now, though they are very good. While it took Umbria a long time to make Sagrantino a world class wine, and it certainly is, Benessere has a steep learning curve, but the 2011 is showing some the grape’s potential (in California) and is drinking wonderfully, I must say I am impressed by the quality and complexity found here, especially given the tough vintage, though the longer growing season and lower sugar levels may have been a blessing too, the 2011 drinks with refined grace, firm, but well polished tannins, it doesn’t feel like a monster, and it has a nice medium weight palate with tangy, minty red fruits, spice and subtle earth and herbal elements along the leather and cedary wood notes. The main flow on the palate is morello cherry, briar, strawberry and rhubarb as well as dried, dusty currant, red peach, licorice, lavender and brandied plum. At 14.2% alcohol this no whimpy effort, but it is not a jammy wine, it feels just about right and has a solid structure with density as well as a well judged play between savory and fruity, though it does finish dry with lingering sage, tobacco and kirsch. This will be an interesting offering to follow over the next couple of years, though I think it should be enjoyed sooner v later, most likely best from 2016 to 2021, if you are looking for something rare from Napa this would be a good choice, it will be great companion to rustic cuisine, grilled meats and lamb come to mind, this is nice stuff. Benessere is focused on Italian varietals mostly with solid bottlings of Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and now an Aglianico which I’ll be trying soon, as well as top notch Zinfandels, be sure to check them out.
($50 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 9, 2015

2009LaTorre2009 La Torre, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
Even with the justified hype about the 2010 Brunello wines, you shouldn’t overlook some great other vintages and individual efforts, I have found many 2008 and 2009 bottlings especially impressive, one of those is this 2009 La Torre Brunello di Montalcino, imported by Neal Rosenthal, it is expressive, earthy and generous on the palate. The La Torre is a traditional Brunello, not flashy or flamboyant, but in this warm vintage it shines with depth, density and shows ripe tannins, making it a wonderful option for youthful drinking, while you cellar your 2010 collection. On the nose the La Torre starts with a mix of earth, herb, walnut and red berries along with dried flowers, mineral and fig leading to a palate of flavors including a core of black cherry, plum, raspberry, red peach and currant as well as pepper, tobacco leaf/cigar wrapper, wild mushroom, iron ore, cedar and salted licorice. This beauty really opens up with air, filling the mouth with a lingering finish of strawberry, soy sauce and a hint of mint, and while earthy and rustic at first, it reveal layers of sweet fruit and refined tannin with a poised acidity that keeps these in check, this would be a savvy choice for short term aging and near term enjoyment, especially with cuisine to match it’s medium full body and old world Italian charm, drink from 2016 to 2022. This is a wine that made the most of it’s fine terroir and classic winemaking in a hot year, and delivers impressive form, this a sleeper to look for!
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 8, 2015

2012MannGewurz2012 Domaine Albert Mann, Gewurztraminer, Grand Cru Steingrubler, Alsace, France.
This glorious example of Gewürztraminer is a highlight in the impressive set of new releases from Domaine Albert Mann, having tasted a set of eight or so wines from this claimed producer from Alsace, all of which left me highly impressed, especially the Cru offerings. These artisan and hand crafted bottlings showcase a talent in the cellar and the absolutely remarkable terroirs of the region, there is depth of styles and varietal expression that really captures the soul of Alsace, and I adored the Schlossberg Riesling, V.T. Gewürztraminer and this beautifully detailed and richly textured Steingrubler Gewürztraminer 2012. This is a wine that reminds you that Gewurz is a serious and sensual grape, it shows juicy layers, exotic flavors and is full of perfume, spice and delicate sweetness with intense rose oil, crystalized ginger, white pepper, lychee and yellow peach leading the way along with river stones, mixed citrus, tropical essences and verbena. There is a light honey and off dry feel, but this is a balanced and vibrant wine that is very flexible, it can be enjoyed with a huge range of cuisine and or just sipped in the sun, it goes great with ham or roast bird, it goes exceptionally well with medium spicy Asian fare and can be joyous with fruit and cheese. This is a stunner, and has rekindled my love of Gewürztraminer, this along with Domaine Weinbach, are special versions and they are not only perfect Thanksgiving wines or for holiday dinners, they deserve more attention and use than that, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2015 to 2018.
($38 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 7, 2015

2012OcchipintiNero2012 Arianna Occhipinti, Siccagno, Nero d’ Avola, Terre Siciliane IGT, Sicily, Italy.
Arianna Occhipinti is a world phenomenon, and her wines illicit magical responses, she is the poster child for the natural wine movement, at only 31 years old, she has much more to offer us in the future and we can hardly wait, in the meantime her latest set of wines are intriguing, especially the 2012 Siccagno Nero d’ Avola. The new Occhipinti Nero d’ Avola shows fine detail and vibrancy with an earthy side, it starts with dried violets, blueberry, porcini, hints of chalk dust, leather and a mix of dark cherry and currant leading to a light/medium mouth feel, there is always texture and finesse in Arianna’s wines and this Nero is as expected pleasing, sensual and a bit wild in nature with forest berries, loamy, game, roasted herbs, anise and spicy mineral. It might sounds cliche, but this does have a quality of Nuits-St.-Georges about it, but still lets you know it is pure Occhipinti, organic, natural/native yeast fermented, with very low sulphur and aged in mostly neutral barrel, in the glass. The finish is lingering and seductive with a nice play of strawberry, huckleberry, cedar/walnut and saline/savory elements, and it is dense, but with vital freshness, being only about 13% alcohol, and it is balanced, soulful and honest throughout, drink from 2015 to 2020.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 6, 2015

2012LoimerPN2012 Loimer, Pinot Noir, Langenlois, Austria.
Fred Loimer styles some pretty wines and his Pinot Noir is an elegant and earthy wine that really shines in good vintages, and 2012 is such a year, though I can’t wait to try the 2013, which looks set to be even better. I have long been a fan of Loimer, having tasted them more than a few times over the last 7 or 8 years, and I was thrilled by his 2004, 2005 and 2006 wines, these were Pinots I bought for myself, and this 2012 is much the same with Burgundy like qualities, though still very much an Austrian wine, some say Austrian Pinot is like German meets Italian (Alto Adige Pinot Nero) but I don’t see that in the flavors, these Austrian wines have their own character, soul and the terroir is very different, there isn’t the slate that makes some of the German Pinots so intriguing and there are not too like the Sud Tirol offerings in my opinion. The 2012 Loimer starts with loamy and leafy earthiness, spiced red fruits, dried flowers, smoke and graphite leading to a plum and cherry fruited palate with some raspberry, mushroom, saddle leather, tea spice and crushed stones along with hints of rose petal and violets. The Loimer Pinot has fine tannins, a streak of soft acidity and feels light and delicate in mouth, but gathers some body with air and has nice length and leaves extract and tangy red currant notes on the finish. This is not a flamboyant offering, but alluring with poise and well crafted quality, I highly recommend giving it a go if you are looking for something with natural graces and different, drink from 2015 to 2020, this is a really lovely wine.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 5, 2015

2014DupuyRose2014 Domaine Dupuy de Lome, Bandol Rose, Provence, France.
It’s the season, the time of year you throw your paychecks at Rose and live through the hot summer months bathed in a pink glow! Nothing says, F*CK IT, I want to live well, better than Bandol Rose, it is a right of Summer,  and this new Dupuy de Lome is a smart choice, it is almost Tempier quality juice at almost half the price making it a savvy deal and a great little pink friend. The 2014 Domaine Dupuy de Lome comes from old vines and one of the most dramaticly beautiful estates in Southern France, the pictures from here are stunning with the Mediterranean Sea, pine forrest, exposed rocks, vines and ancient castle/chateau all add to the romance and certainly the terroir here is prime contributing to the fine detailed flavors. The cepage for the Dupuy de Lome is mostly, about 80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault, higher in Grenache for 2014 than normal, but it adds a bit of fruit to this austere and charming Pink which is welcome, it shows good cut and mineral notes along with spice and has nice depth and mouth fell. The Bandol Rose starts with a steely sea breeze note, citrus and tangy cherry with a hint of rose water and lavender leading to a palate of tart fruit and stony layers with strawberry, grapefruit, watermelon and fresh red peach along with pepper, saline, flint and gauva tea. There is mouth watering acidity, cleansing and vibrant, making this a zesty dry Rose that has a hint of tannin and a lingering finish, drink over the next year or so, amazingly enough people are developing a taste for short term aging of their Roses and like the mature wax and caramel notes of 2 or 3 year old stuff, especially Bandol, but I enjoy mine extremely brisk and youthful, between now and next Spring! The Tempier will still tempt me into a few bottles, but with this gorgeous effort I’ll be investing even more cash and getting lots more for it!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 4, 2015

2012BibiSoffocone2012 Bibi Graetz, Soffocone di Vincigliata, IGT Rosso, Toscana, Italy.
The Graetz Soffocone is made up of single vineyard fruit, 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3% Colorino from the Fiesole zone, near Florence, it is fermented in stainless steal and aged in primarily used French barriques, it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and not just for it’s label and name! The label and name, which in Italian means blowjob, somehow has made it through ATF screening, much to many smiles and giggles and it has been called a very naughty wine, but forgetting this selling point, this is a superb Tuscan red that delivers almost as much pleasure as it’s name, sorry couldn’t resist… From what I understand the hills around Florence have been popular with young lovers looking for romance and a certain privacy, and Graetz has a few times discovered this near his vineyard in Fissile, and being the artist he is, he designed the label to honor these lovers. Bibi Graetz’s Fiesole vineyard Vincigliata is over 30 years old now and provides some impressive flavors and terroir, he also now does a traditionally labeled Chianti DOCG from these vines as well, first release is also like this Soffocone, a 2012, it is maybe a slight step up from the Chianti in it’s price range and deserves attention as well, plus Graetz’s top wine the Testamata is one of the top 100% Sangiovese wines available, though it comes from a small site in Grieve, Chianti Classico, plus there is a very special white wine, Bugia from the Isola del Giglio, a small Tuscan island where Graetz found an ancient Ansonica vineyard, it is a lovely, rare and intriguing wine as well. The 2012 Soffocone di Vincigliata IGT Toscana Rosso starts with a hint of sweet smoke, dried flowers, Spring herbs and earthy red fruits leading to a medium/full palate of raspberry, cherry, strawberry, black plum and tangy currant fruits along with tobacco leaf, soy sauce, minty herb, mineral notes, vanilla, anise and porcini. There is a lovely mouth feel, don’t snicker, silky tannins, a lift of acidity, even in this warm vintage everything comes together nicely with good depth of character and charm, this is a very well balanced wine, the fruit is ripe and pleasing, but controlled with good savory and earthy elements which linger on the finish with the red berry. This wine will aged, though I don’t think you want to test it’s limits in the cellar, best from 2015 to 2020
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 3, 2015

2013MelvilleVernasPN2013 Melville, Pinot Noir, Verna’s Estate, Santa Barbara County.
The latest and maybe the last Melville Verna’s Pinot Noir is a wonderful and juicy wine with pure Pinot fruit and character, another outstanding value from Chad Melville and winemaker Greg Brewer. The Melville wines only get into neutral barrel, they have partial whole cluster and they are vivid and richly flavored, especially good in 2013 is this Verna’s Pinot Noir, though be sure to also keep an eye out for the 2013 Syrah, both the Verna’s and the Estate as they are super efforts as well. Melville, over the last decade, has established it’s self as one of California’s top family wineries and has solidified the career of Greg Brewer and made him one of America’s most influential and admired winemakers, and these 2013 and 2014 wines show there is no let up and that Melville is still a label to follow. The 2013 Verna’s Pinot starts with wild strawberry, pomegranate, chalk dust, rose petal, minty herb and slate/spice leading to a palate of black cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, plus Asian spice, tea leaf, earth, red peach, a hint of wood, baking spice and sweet fennel. This vintage is medium bodied and well balanced with silky textures, smooth acidity and a good finish, this wine really punches above it’s price, and it should gain with short term aging, best from 2016 to 2021, when it hits it’s sweet spot, this is one of the best under $30 bottles you can find in Pinot, don’t miss it.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 2, 2015

2012RidgeMataro2012 Ridge Vineyards, Mataro, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley.
Finally back in the lineup is the fabulous Ridge Mataro (Mourvedre) from their Lytton Springs estate vines, this wonderful and plush red has lots of deep red and black fruits, spice and plenty of grippy ripe tannins, it is a lovely mouthful of wine and great with BBQ and a wide range of meat or mushroom dishes. Think of this as a California Bandol, a big and sexy red that has nice balance and lots of character, with 15% Petite Sirah adding a deep color, bitter coco notes and a hint of dry Port. As much as I adore the Lytton Springs Zin blend, I think this 2012 Mataro is fast becoming one of my favorites, especially in this vintage which shows good depth and sweet fruit, but stays in control with perfect integration of alcohol, at about 14%, oak and fruit, it just does everything you’d want and well, it certainly will age nicely, though you will really enjoy it even now, as I did recently, after sampling it at Ridge’s Lytton Springs tasting room, where I bought a few bottles, of which I now have exhausted! The 2012 Mataro starts with dark berries, dried violets, savory herbs and red pepper leading to a full bodied palate of black cherry, poached plum, blackberry, blueberry and mountain raspberry fruits with briar notes, anise, creme de cassis, cracked peppercorns, chalky tannins, a hint of game, lavender oil, sage, cedar, a touch of smoke and vanilla, finishes with dusty dark chocolate, savory spice and stones along with lingering red currant. There is a great play of dense fruit, that feels rich and sweet, but also a backbone of firm dry elements, as mentioned, a supporting savoriness that keeps this in check and interesting, this wine is simply seductive and slightly wild at heart, drink between 2015 and 2024, I hope I find a few more bottles myself! Ridge continues to make stylish and intriguing California wines with soul, these are wonderful celebrations in the bottle, great people and great wines, it is always a must visit stop when in Dry Creek.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 1, 2015

2014LeitzRose2014 Weingut Leitz, Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany.
The new Leitz Spatburgunder Rose Trocken is a great summer wine with riveting acidity and mineral intensity, it drinks like a pink Riesling and it is wonderfully fresh and vibrant. This wine joins Meyer-Nakel and Schlossgut Diel in my short list of great German Roses, it is very serious, but uniquely festive and invigorating with subtle fruitiness and austere charm with it’s stony dry character. The 2014 Leitz Rose of Pinot Noir starts with liquid mineral, pepper and delicate rose oil with a bright pink and salmon hue leading to a zesty and zippy palate of eye popping limeade, grapefruit, tangerine, red peach, sour cherry, a hint of watermelon and a whisper of strawberry, but it is the tangy citrus that leads the way along with wet river stones, flinty spices and a steely core essence. This is mouth watering and crispy dry Rose that sings a refreshing and electric song throughout, it is absolutely delicious and vivid in detail, it is the perfect read a book by the pool wine, and or with almost any cuisine as a starter or picnics. There is more mineral and acidity than fruit giving a light and tight expression, and I really like that, though it should gain some benefits from age, I see this as a two or three year Rose, it might just fill out over the next year in bottle, but like I said I dig it just the way it is and will be quaffing plenty of this summer sizzle pink myself, thanks Johannes for making this stuff! Weingut Leitz is now imported by Schatzi Wines and you should check out the latest offerings beyond this outstanding Rose, the 2013 Rieslings are an amazing set of Rheingau wines, especially intriguing are the new G.G. Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Ehrenfels, the Roseneck Spatlese and the Drachenstein QbA, AKA Dragonstone, one of the best off dry Rieslings for the price anywhere!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive