2014 Samsara, Syrah, Santa Barbara County.
The latest Samsara wines are all wonderfully complex, textural and ripe in flavor profiles, both the new Sta. Rita Hills Pinot and Santa Barbara County Syrah show fine definition, smooth tannins and whole cluster spicy characters, and better still both offer great value for the hand crafted quality in each varietal. Focusing on the beautiful and dark Santa Barbara Syrah, by Chad Melville, reveals a wine with a blueish/black core and vibrant garnet edges that has mixed scents of violets, minty herbs, cracked peppercorns and cassis notes leading to a full bodied palate that shows boysenberry, pomegranate, kirsch, cedar, earthy/loam and bitter coco as well as black olive and wild lavender. There is a pleasing vibrancy and energy that keeps these fresh and a lingering tangy currant and anise on the finish. This is a very solid effort that has lots of pretty details, it’s wine that shows off a bit of California swagger, but still pays homage to the Northern Rhone, leaning more towards Cote-Rotie than Cornas in a very poised and entertaining way. Samsara is a winery to search out, both the Syrah and Pinot bottlings are outstanding and will make for excellent drinking over the next 3 to 5 years.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
1997 Chateau Coutet, Cuvee Madame, Premier Cru Classe, Sauternes-Barsac, Sweet Bordeaux Wine, France.
One of the great surprises of the month was tasting the sublime “Golden Wine” from Chateau Coutet, this 1997 was pure heaven in the glass, in fact I was far more impressed with this Coutet than the 2001 Chateau D’Yquem, a legend 100 Pointer, I had tasted a week earlier! I am always grateful for my friend and collector of Sauternes Fred Daniels for expanding my knowledge on these gorgeous and often overlooked wines, as he was the generous soul that opened this wonderful nectar for a group of us. Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet would be proud of the 1997’s showing, the Cuvee Madame, only made in the better vintages is a stunning example of balance and hedonism in what Baly calls a “Golden Wine” instead of sweet wine or dessert wine, and who am I too argue as wines like hers should not be put into a limited box. The Coutet 1997 Cuvee Madame flows with yellow rose petals, creme brûlée, sweet peach and apricot fruits, but is lifted by contrasting saline, tangerine/lemon citrus and clove spice before a long finish of pineapple and honey. The texture is rich and silken, but there is energy and delicacy as well, this is a gorgeous Barsac that can be enjoyed in so many ways, from raw oysters to savory cheeses or pear or apple tarts, while sweet and decedent it never feels sickly or cloying in sugar, this wine is pure class. This is what late harvest Semillon is all about, drink this beauty over the next 15 to 25 years, it’s a stunner.
($60-100+ Est. 750ml) 95 Points, grapelive
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Saint-Aubin, Le Banc, White Burgundy, France.
Bottled in wide heavy glass the new 2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin Le Banc is a curvy sexy white Burgundy with everything you’ve come to expect from this talented winemaker that seems to have completely mastered the art of crafting great Chardonnay! While his top Premier Cru and Grand Cru stuff are legendary, I love his entry level and village wines for the ability to impress at a reasonable price, and in particular this Le Banc Saint-Aubin from PYCM really over delivers with pure and vibrant flavors and layers of texture. The 2014’s look to surpass the 2012 and 2013 in sheer pleasure terms, but there are no duds in the last 10 years from Colin-Morey, though 2014 is a bit more flamboyant and plush at this stage, and easy to love right now even. The 2014 Le Banc starts with matchstick, lemon notes and a bit of smoke before hints of white flowers, clove spice and wet stones come through as it warms in the glass. The palate is lively, fresh and like golden velvet with an underlying brisk flow of acidity and mineral/steely intensity with peach, lime and apple along with hazelnut, dried honey, salty chalk and soft wood notes. For value and quality it is hard to beat Saint-Aubin for white Burgundy these days and the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey just give that bit of extra that make them so appealing, these are gorgeous Chards that live up to the hype, don’t miss them they are too rewarding to pass up and worth the effort to find them. Drink the 2014’s anytime and anywhere, best from 2018 to 2024.
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Knoll, Riesling, Loibner Federspiel, Wachau Austria.
The lovely Knoll Federspiel Loibner Riesling is seriously dry and tangy, dripping with minerals and bright citrus fruit, this 2014 is a charmer. These 2014 wines are very nice and thoughtfully engaging, but it is very hard to follow what is considered the vintage of a generation in 2013 and certainly even the best of 2014 lack the personality of the 2013, though it is not a huge gap and wines like this Knoll, plus Groiss, Nigl, Loimer and others are wines you’ll want to drink. The Knoll is light in body and full of zesty acidity with white peach, brine, wet river rocks, lemon/lime, wild herbs, dusty unripe apricot and an edgy steely nature. With air the pale/golden hued Knoll Loibner gains a bit of extract, yellow fruits and hints at rose petals, tropical essences and some subtle earthy tones making this a pleasing and refreshing Riesling, still nervy and electric, but not as serve or austere as it starts out. I love the Knoll wines in every vintage, they are always stylish offerings and this 2014 is not a let down in anyway, though I wish I had more 2013’s in my cellar if I am truly honest. Drink the Federspiel Loibner Riesling over the next 2 or 3 years, best from 2016 to 2020.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Carrick, Chardonnay, Bannokburn, Central Otago, New Zealand.
If you love Chablis and or Chassagne-Montrachet you’ll be wonderfully surprised and impressed by Carrick’s lovely and vital Bannockburn Chardonnay from New Zealand’s beautiful Central Otago. This Carrick Chard is very different from the Marlborough and Martinborough wines that are more commonly exported, this not a fruity or tropical style, the Carrick shows real mineral intensity, lemony citrus and classic matchstick that really remind you of Burgundy. The 2014 Carrick Bannockburn Chardonnay starts with a hint of white flowers, straw, citrus and a touch of smoke before a vigorous attack on the palate with steely layers of green apple, lemon, wet stones, fig, clove, hazelnuts and white peach. This is exciting Chardonnay that delivers nice racy acidity, verve and really turns on the style, especially for the price, this is one of the finest examples of Kiwi Chardonnay I’ve tried. Carrick, which is all biodynamic, also makes a superb Pinot Noir as well, the vines are set into almost pure rock and surrounded by gorgeous glacial lakes of a vivid blue I’ve never seen before, this wine and photos of the vineyards really are compelling, I want to visit! Drink this beautiful and well crafted Chard over the next 3 to 5 years, and Carrick is certainly a winery to look for.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sylvain Dittiere, La Porte Saint Jean, Saumur-Champigny, Loire Valley, Cabernet Franc, France.
My first time tasting the Sylvain Dittiere wines and I was left very impressed, especially by his stylish La Porte Saint Jean Saumur-Champigny Rouge a lovely and dynamic Cabernet Franc that shows a wonderful range of flavors and class. Bright red currants, mixed spices and delicate floral notes lead the way on the nose giving way to earthy and savory elements in true Loire Franc fashion with hints of tart plum, green pepper, leather and flinty mineral. The main palate spins around a core of red berry and crushed violets with the mentioned currant, cherry and plum fruits along with a bit of truffle, celery root, cedar and dusty lavender. This medium bodied effort is really a pure terroir wine and in keeping with Dittiere’s mentors at Clos Rougeard and a little like the younger Olga Raffault wines, this is expressive and intriguing stuff! I must say this was a delightful experience to discover this up and coming producer that is steeped in old school tradition, big thanks to Nadia Dmytriw at Joli Vin Imports for introducing me to La Porte Saint Jean and Sylvain’s wines, both this one and his 2011 were really alluring and have great aging potential.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir, Carter Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The new 2014 Carter Vineyard from Ken Wright is devilishly good already, it shows amazing poise and concentration of fruit even in it’s infantile youth and looks set to be one of the greats in his lineup for this spectacular Oregon vintage. The 2014 shows shows the perfect combination of terroir and vintage influences with lovely textural pleasure and depth of flavors along with an almost endless finish, this is a special Pinot Noir from Ken Wright, who’s been doing in Oregon since the later half of the 1980’s. The nose is rich with floral tones, dark fruits, exotic spices and sweet smoky wood leading to a decedent palate of blackberry, plum, pomegranate and a solid band of morello cherry fruit as well as a background of cola bean, earth, cinnamon, minty herbs, pipe tobacco and cedar. The body is round and medium to full, but with lively acidity and smoothly polished tannins, as well as a play of savory elements, saline, fine stones and flinty minerals. There is a lot packed into this Pinot Noir and it will certainly age fantastically well and gain even further over the next decade, the Carter is a gorgeous Oregon wine, it and Ken’s Shea and Freedom Hill Pinots are wines from this vintage you really must search out, all will be classics and rewarding treasures to pull out of the cellar. The Carter’s length at this stage goes the extra mile holding currant, black fig, rose petal, kirsch and vanilla for what seems like ages, drink this beauty from 2018 to 2028.
($63 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
2012 Niepoort-Quinta de Baixo, Tinto Lugar de Baixos, Baga, Bairrada, Portugal.
One of the wonderful still wines from famed Port house Niepoort, the Lagar de Baixos is 100% Baga from Bairrada, this lively and interesting red comes from young and old blocks of Atlantic influenced vineyards. The spicy and complex Baga Lagar de Baixos by Dirk Niepoort is a very pretty red wine that has cool climate lively freshness and delicate fruity elements with cherry, strawberry, plum and wild raspberry layers along with dusty notes, minty herbs and cracked peppercorns. This red from northwest Portugal has a wonderful texture and feels almost Pinot Noir like on the palate, but with a more spicy kick with hints of cinnamon stick, red pepper, a hint of olive and lavender. There is a kiss of raw cedar and a briny ocean saline note in the background, but the finish is mineral crisp with lingering tangy currant, red peach and cranberry in this fine and pure expression of Baga. This one is ready to drink now, medium weighted and great with seafood, especially spicy mussels and cheeses, best from 2016 to 2021.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Rheingau Germany.
Spreitzer’s wonderful and delicate Rieslings seem to fly under the radar, but always deliver quality, finesse and value from their Estate in the Rheingau, one of the oldest continuing in winemaking in the region, stating back in 1641. Unlike the main Rheingau that is mostly mixed slates and quartzite based soils the Lenchen vines of Spreitzer grow out of a mix of clay, loess and loam, this makes for very refined and aromatic Riesling and while their sweeter wines at Kabinett and Spatlese are some of their best offerings, they do a fine set of Trockens, which are getting better with every passing vintage with their Grosses Gewachs pair, the Wisselbrunnen and Rosengarten being gorgeous dry wines, plus three underlings including this Estate Trocken, which should not be overlooked. With less wood than the Grand Crus the Spreitzer Riesling Estate Trocken is a fresh example of brisk and dry Riesling that has bright acidity, but also pleases the palate with pretty layers and a perfume of white flowers and tangy citrus. The palate is vibrant with lemon/lime, green apple, crisp melon and mandarin orange leading the way along with saline, white tea, steely mineral and a touch of earthy chalkiness. The upper level dry wines here at Spreitzer have a rich and classy oak influence, but this one delights for it’s purity and delicacy without losing it’s complexity or charm, and it is a steal at the price. This uplifting summery Riesling can be enjoyed with many cuisines and styles of food, it is so easy to love and is a great quaffer, drink this well crafted white over the next 3 to 5 years. Andreas and Bernd are making some fantastic wines, be sure to check all of their 2014’s, and in particular this expressive value priced dry unique Rheingau Riesling.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive