2012 Favia, Cerro Sur, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
One of the greatest California wines that you may not have heard of, the Favia Cerro Sur red, made from Napa Valley Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Combesville area is an awesome example of Bordeaux style wine, crafted by ex-Screaming Eagle and Staglin winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife Annie Favia. The 2012 Cerro Sur by Favia is rich and densely pack with opulent fruit, ripe sweet fine/firm tannins and gorgeous detail and class, putting in the same league as Ridge Monte Bello, one of my favorite all time wines, and maybe similar to Dalla Valle Maya, as it too is a wine with lots of Cabernet Franc, this is wine that is right up there with the world’s best and would certainly easily be one of the elite of California (in this vintage) and against the fine reds of Europe it is on the same level as Sassicaia, Cheval Blanc, Pontet Canet and Valbuena by Vega Sicilia! The deep garnet/purple color and silken lush mouth feel seduce completely with acacia/violet perfume, hints of exotic spice and sexy well managed oak framing set the stage for beautiful blackberry, cassis/currant, black cherry and plum fruit along with a spark of flinty stones and mineral elements with a touch of cigar wrapper, graphite, anise, cedar and vanilla. This is a wonderfully poised offering without heaviness or hard edges, one of the more brilliant wines of the vintage with great character, balance and unique sex appeal, this is really stunning stuff. The body is full and lavish, but with an elegant grace and never ending finish, this is a super impressive Cabernet Franc lead wine, it has plenty of depth, extract and life making it a wine that may go another 25 plus years, but still glorious to admire even now, it has what you might call controlled underlying power, like a leopard, gorgeous and satiny but with inner strength and with pure muscle underneath that outer beauty. Erickson has made some amazing wines in his career, but strangely his own label still flies under the radar, and while not cheap, they are well worth the prices.
($150 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2015 Motta, Ciliegiolo, Giove,Toscana Rosso, Italy.
Alberto Motta’s Giove Ciliegiolo is a wonderful expression of varietal and place, Motta is in the Morellino di Scansano zone of southern coastal Tuscany near the town of Grosseto, these wines are lovely, natural and with detail and energy, they are also some of the best values in all of Tuscany! The Motta Ciliegiolo was fermented 60% carbonic and 40% traditionally giving lots of forward fruit, but with plenty of vitality and subtle tannin, the vines are between 10 and 50 years old and worked organically, the sandy coastal soils are perfect for making elegant and fresh wines. The 2015 shows fine detail, and without oak everything is lively and vibrant highlighting the purity with fresh dark berry, strawberry, tangy cherry and plum fruits in this medium bodied Tuscan red, it’s lovely ruby with purple glint color in the glass is compelling and the palate is focused with subtle complexities such as minty herb, dried flowers, hints of spice, earth and mineral. Ciliegiolo has been gaining traction with the wine world, once almost forgotten and only found in blends, it has become the new Tuscan darling and has it’s own admiration society and has exploded in popularity, mainly because it is maybe a bit more like Pinot Noir than Sangiovese. The 2015 Motta is a complete example and easy to love with it’s supple texture, light earthy character and almost bittersweet tart notes making it very fun with not too heavy cuisine, even with a slight chill, for the richer and more powerful style of red try Motta’s Morellino di Scansano too. Drink the Ciliegiolo over the course of the next year or so, best young and fresh it is a bright quaffing pleasure.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Brooks basic Willamette cuvee is one of the best deals in Pinot, period, and the 2014 especially is a great value and a stylish terroir driven wine, this is one to stock up on! Showing the vintage, the Brooks 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has richness of fruit, but is so perfectly balanced it screams vitality and has wonderful inner energy with black and red fruits, vibrant acidity, Asian spices and crushed oyster shells lending a stony/earthy brine in the background along with faint wood notes, tea spice and mineral tones. This lithe Pinot fills out with air and has satiny tannins providing a youthful grip, though not aggressively so, this is a classic Brooks style wine that feels Cote de Beaune, but remains true to it’s own sense of place. Janie Brooks Heuk, the sister of the late Jimi Brooks the founder of Brooks Wine, and winemaker Chris Williams has really taken Brooks to the next level in recent vintages, these are exciting wines and their focus on terroir driven Rieslings is awesome and adventurous, look for the 2014 and 2015 wines the are something really special. The Brooks Pinots are natural and raw when young, this are not over polished or flashy wines, nor should they be or need to be, they are honest, pure and vigorous, they have their own virtues and charms, but 2014 is one of the best yet here with plum, black cherry and bramble berry fruit layers, gravelly loam, minty herb, anise, briar and light cedar elements adding to the complexity of form here along with a peek of dark currant, blueberry skins and chalk. Look for impressive results in bottle here, I’m sure there is a lot more to come and at this price it will pay off to put some away for another 5 to 10 years, I’m pretty it will be a sublime reward for those with patience. In short term this wine is medium weight, lean and is very pleasing, so not a crime to enjoy now, though I like it’s potential!
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine de Marquiliani-Anne Amalric, Rosé Gris de Marquiliani, Vin de Corse, France.
Anne Amalric’s Domaine de Marquiliani is one of the most stylish wineries on Corsica and this gorgeous and pale Rosé Gris is a delicate, but flavor filled pink made of Sciaccarellu with a tiny amount of Syrah. In year of great Rosé, this really stands out for it’s class and detail, and on an island where there is a huge focus on Rosé this is among the elite stable of wines along with Abbatucci, Canarelli and Leccia, this is thrilling stuff. The 2015, while extremely pale and maybe even lighter in the glass than 2014 is riper and more complex with more texture and length while still retaining it’s main character of mineral intensity, vibrancy and terroir charms. The Rosé Gris de Marquiliani 2015 starts with crisp citrus, white flowers, liquid stones, mild herbs and rosewater leading to a building palate of watermelon, lavender, flint with a hint of distilled peach and white plum notes. Not as flashy as the Domaine Comte Abbatucci offerings, but it doesn’t need or want to be, both sublime in their own way, these are leading the way on high-end pinks on the island, imported by Kermit Lynch, who dominates the wines from Corsica scene and who could sell two or three times his haul of goodies with Domaine des Marquiliani being one of the shinning stars of the portfolio, these wines sell out fast, but to get on them quick. I recently taste a new bottling of Rouge from Marquiliani that was stunning, so look for that as well, it is brand new wine, and it should be at a shop that carries Kermit Lynch wines soon. This bright, vivid and transparent Sciaccarellu based Rosé is ultra cool, bursting with energy and finesse and subtle, it whispers sexy and haunts you with a knowing smile, look for this graceful and lovely wine, drink it over the next half a year or so, sadly there’s never a lot around. Sciaccarellu is to Corsica as Trousseau is to the Jura, a geeky medium weight, spicy red grape that has a mysterious history and glorious future, originally from the Etruscans and still found in parts of Tuscany, where it is known as Mammolo, it has made Corsica and it’s granite/schist soils home and where it is much more notable and expressive, especially in Marquiliani’s and Abbatucci’s wines!
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 POE, Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The talented Samantha Sheehan’s POE wines are beautifully and artfully crafted wines from expressive cool climate sites, most in and around Anderson Valley and Mendocino County, except for her powerful Van der Camp Vineyard from Sonoma Mountain, her focus is classic Burgundy style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Her 2014 wines offer everything that is lovely and graceful about these varietals, they are richly flavored, layered with poise, silky tannins and vibrant acidity, these pure and mineral driven wines make it hard to pick a favorite in the lineup, but I decided to highlight this gorgeous Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot from Mendocino Ridge, just because, honestly all of them are great, this is a label to get into! The nose has flinty spices, wonderful rose petal florals and red fruit, it shows a pure ruby and garnet hue in the glass and the satiny medium body gives the mouth a sublime textural feel without heaviness, while still being alive and full of energy, this is a top drawer effort from Sheehan. Black cherry, tangy plum and a hint of blueberry flow across the palate with dusty/chalky stones, rose hip tea spice, hints of cedar and a touch of cinnamon and smoky vanilla linger with wild raspberry and tart currant on the lengthy finish. This pretty Pinot Noir is a real charmer and seduces completely with stylish and classic detail, it should prove a winner in the cellar too, and while I think the firmer Van der Camp might go longer in distance, this beauty will gain with age, drink from, well, now until 2029 at least!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Southold Farm & Cellar, Chasing Moonlight, Estate Sparkling Lagrein, N. Fork of Long Island, New York.
When we Californian’s think of east coast wines, especially New York we think of the Finger Lakes and Cabernet Franc and or Riesling, but there is an explosion of young winemakers doing new things all over and I recently discovered an amazing set of wines from Long Island by a talented new winemaker Regan Meador, who with his wife craft some beautiful wines at their Southold Farm & Cellar. The set includes a lovely Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, but it was the Alto Adige grapes that that thrilled me with his Teroldego and Lagrein making a compelling case for these Italian varietals there, but my favorite of all was his deep and dark sparkling Lagrein “Chasing Moonlight” it rivals any dry sparkling red I’ve ever tried including the fabulous Charles Melton sparkling Shiraz! The 2015 Chasing Moonlight is purple/black and garnet with a fine mousse and intense crisp energy leading with blackberry, plum and spiced concord grape with hints of mineral, wild herbs, as well as tangy minty and zesty elements, gorgeous style and mouth feel. This fruit forward red sparkler is a rewarding surprise and just so fun, not quite as rustic as Lambrusco can be, but not sweet either, this really hits the spot and is one of the coolest wines I’ve had all year. This impressive bubbly red Lagrein is lush, vibrant and full-bodied with a mix of black fruits and tight detail that make it refreshing and great with robust cuisine. Certainly this one is hard to express or explain, but a wonderful experience, the other bubbly wines from Southold Farm & Cellar are world trying too, a delightful Petillant-Naturale Rose and an earthy and powerful red sparkling Petit Verdot are all worth searching out!
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Wind Gap, Soif Red Wine, North Coast.
The 2015 Wind Gap is a creative kitchen sink old vine carbonic red made for pure drinking pleasure with low alcohol at 12.4% and juicy deeply dark grapey joy in the glass! Pax Mahle, known for his amazing Northern Rhone styled Syrah wines, crafts beautiful cool climate wines under the Wind Gap label and like Arnot-Roberts has found success with little known varietals just as much as the classics, he makes a fine set of Pinot Noirs, Grenaches and Syrahs, but also unlikely heros such as Trousseau Gris white and this wine, which is made mostly from old vine Valdiguie, a rare Southwest French grape that used to thought of as Gamay Noir in parts of California. The Soif Red by Pax is about 35% Valdiguie blended with Zinfandel, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Dolcetto, Negromaro and Mourvedre, all from vines planted between 1881 and 1975, all the grapes were fermented very much as Beaujolais and some Rhone wines are with whole berry carbonic maceration giving a forward and fruity wine with light tannins, using cement and neutral cask aged only about 4 months. This delightful and easy to love red jumps from the glass with fresh crushed blackberries, mountain raspberry and farm-stand bing cherries along with tangy sweet and savory spices and herbs, think cinnamon, sage, peppery elements and anise, plus strawberry/blueberry pie fillings. Vibrant and zesty this red begs to be quaffed, slightly chilled, it’s zippy acidity, easy medium body and raw sex appeal make it a mouth-watering treat, it’s super fun and joyous, but don’t sell it short, there’s a real serious quality to be found here, much like the iconic Sean Thackrey Pleiades, this is thrilling stuff, be sure to check out the latest set of Wind Gap offerings, these are some of the coolest wines in California right now!
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Champ DiVin, Cremant du Jura “Zero Dosage” Sparkling Wine, France.
The Closset’s have crafted a beauty in this gorgeous and hedonistic bubbly from their small Champ DiVin vineyard in the Jura, it possesses fabulous detail, richness of character and a pleasing textural mousse with all the biodynamic glory and energy you’d expect from a zero dosage, ripe, but bone dry sparkler. The Closset’s used about 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir in this sexy Cremant du Jura and it shows in it’s precise focus and stunning layers, this is right up there with top grower fizz! Bright with plenty of sizzle and mineral notes the Champ DiVin Zero Dosage gets the party started with a golden straw hue, white flowers, hints of chalk dust, green apple, clove, zesty lemon, brioche/yeasty notes and light hazelnut and steely white melon and subtle wet stones and orange blossom. The mouth feel is excellent and persistent with extra brut like intensity, lively tiny bubbles and density on the lavish palate, this was sublimely crafted and full of sensual and seductive charm, this really stands up to much more famous Champagne and Franciacorta, this is outrageously fun and serious vintage Cremant du Jura, stylish sex in a flute, do not miss! This is a label to watch, they produce a fine selection of classic Jura wines as well as this one, imported by Sacred Thirst.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Martinelli, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
This is no wimpy pink, this Martinelli has a full flavored mouth feel and at 14.9% is not lean, but remarkably fresh and vibrant, even if you’d want to be sure to drink it before the end of the year to be sure you catch it in it’s most vivid frame. The Martinelli’s are some of the hardest working and nice people in the wine business, I have nothing but great things to say about them and their wines and I think the wines have maintained their style and quality, even after the retirement of long time consultant Helen Turley. On a recent pop in visit I was treated to a smart and tasty lineup of wines, I admit it is hard to drink the 16% plus alcohol wines these days, though non were lacking in style and detail, maybe Martinelli is just more truthful in their percent of alcohol on the label than many would have you believe! The Rosé of Pinot Noir from west of the west Sonoma Coast fruit bursts from the glass with a really gorgeous hue and fresh strawberry, with bright citrusy focus and rhubarb tangy tartness along with pink grapefruit, wet stones, wild herbs, kirsch water, rosewater and juicy watermelon. I bought two bottles, really, it is so fun and lively I couldn’t resist and I bought a new Zinfandel, the Vigneto di Evo, a lower alcohol, I mean under 15%, entry level (red label) Zin that really stood out! The service and grace at Martinelli makes it a great place to visit in the Russian River, and of course the wines, and as a bonus, they poured a couple of 2009 Syrah bottlings, of which I was really impressed with the sexy and earthy complex Zio Tony Ranch “Gianna Marie” that showed black olive, game, spice and deep blueberry/cassis density. I usually grab a few bottles of Rochioli Rosé, this year I didn’t get them, but I’m thrilled to have found the Martinelli Rosé and will be drinking these up quick in the August heat!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Jerome Chezeaux, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Chaumes, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2009 Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee Les Chaumes Premier cru is a lovely and stylish wine just hitting it’s stride with detailed fruit, earthy notes and floral expressions that are just awakening in this silken Burgundy. Jerome Chezeaux one of the many stars in Rosenthal’s wonderful portfolio of old world producers really impresses me with the inner beauty and elegance that shine through, much of this is the vineyards in the Cote de Nuits of which he has, like this Les Chaumes, which shows deep fruit character with layers of loamy, mineral, spice and satiny density without a heavy feel to compliment blackberry, currant and kirsch. This wine from a warm vintage has ripe tannins, hints of graphite, dried violets, wilted roses, light cedar and smoke along with a touch of poached plum and a mix of baking spices, anise and an iron rich gamey trace. This is drinking well now, though it has a fast maturing feel and changes dramatically in the glass, opening up sensually then tightening up again, but while a little fickle this Pinot Noir pleases the senses and thrills the mind at points making for a glorious moment or two. I’d guess it can’t decide to sleep a bit longer or be great! So, rather than be disappointed, I’d risk drinking in the next 3 to 5 years, as even now it has plenty of pleasure to give, but with food especially, I’m sure some bottles of this wine in the near future will be fantastic, lucky those that have it and catch it in a glorious space. The 2008 Chezeaux’s were more delicate and wildly good, these 2009 look a touch more sexy and textural, tough to chose between them, but be sure to look for the 2010 and 2012 vintages as both were big steps up!
($80-100 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive