Monthly Archives: September 2017

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 10, 2017

2013 La Spinetta, Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG “Bionzo” Piedmonte, Italy.
Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta Bionzo Cru Barbera d’Asti is a beauty with rich detail, full flavors and a kiss of sweet toasty oak, it’s a luxurious Barbera with a deep garnet/purple hue in the glass and a medium/full palate, it’s wine to take very, very seriously, it shows soul, length and lingering complex fruit, earth and spice. This 2013 shows the richness of the vintage and the understanding of the winemaking to highlight it, it’s crafted as if it was a ripe year Premier Cru or Grand Cru Burgundy rather than a typical rustic Barbera, Rivetti and his team carefully sorted the grapes here and raised this impressive wine in new medium toast French barriques from Bionzo’s 45-55 year old vines that are grown at over 1, 200 feet on calcareous soils, this site faces south and really delivers brilliant vitality and layers, especially in a year like this one, this is a Barbera that packs a punch and shows refined tannins that holds everything together in a graceful form. The 2013 is all about deep fruit, but there is subtle and charming mineral tones, mixed spices, mouth feel and inner perfume, it starts with crushed violets, black currant, cherry and blackberry along with chalky stones, anise, cinnamon, vanilla, cedar and mure. There’s a creamy opulence to the texture that gives a sense of density, but also a nice cut of natural acidity that sets the individual elements off in this Bionzo Barbera d’Asti Superiore, this is certainly not a shy wine and it’s a Barbera that can sit at any table with the likes of a Burgundy, Bordeaux or one of it’s cousins like a Barolo or Barbaresco and provide a thrilling experience, especially with robust cuisine, drink this special wine over the next 5 to 10 years. I love Barbera is all it’s styles from peasant/rustic to Cru class and this lavish example is clearly a modern classic from La Spinetta that was one of the first wineries to take Barbara to the next level, I’ve been a huge fan of La Spinetta since the mid nineties when I discovered their Barbera Gallina and the un-oaked Ca’ di Pian, before I could afford their Barbaresco Crus!
($54 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 9, 2017

2016 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Roxheimer Hollenpfad, Nahe Germany.
The Hollenpfad Trocken is crazy good, and it is a real sleeper in Cornelius Donnhoff’s wonderful set of dry 2016 Rieslings, it should be a wine that catches your attention as it delivers GG quality and intensity that will even thrill the socks off Chablis fans, with it’s mineral driven palate and dynamic energy. Sizzling with youthful acidity and flinty crushed stones this 2016 Roxheimer Hollenpfad Trocken is beautifully detailed with brisk vibrancy showing delicate white flowers, layers of tangy and zesty citrus fruits, as well as stone fruit pit, green apple flesh and skin, a touch of yellow mango, verbena, saline infused wet rock and sea mist. Vigorous, dusty dry and electric, but with loads of crunch and extract that gives plenty of substance and depth, this is serious, slightly austere stuff from Donnhoff, maybe not as open or as concentrated as the 2015’s tend to feel, though maybe more pretty and seductive, both vintages are off the charts from Donnhoff! The Roxheimer Hellenpfad is a vineyard dominated by iron rich red sandstone, and Donnhoff uses a combination of stuck and stainless with sponti (native) ferments, employing all means to capture freshness and terroir character in each wine, they also reflect the dedication to quality and focus of Donnhoff, one of the world’s best wineries, let alone being a top German estate. Terry Theise, Donnhoff’s importer says this riveting Hollenpfad is the best yet from this vineyard, who I am to argue? This is great stuff with lingering lime, yellow peach, chamomile/herbs and subtle iodine/savory tones, look for this one to gain with 2 to 5 years in the bottle and it should go a decade and a half easy, sadly the only problem this wine has, is that it has such competition from it’s own stable mates in Donnhoff’s glorious lineup!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 8, 2017

2015 Halcon Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Cerise Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Paul Gordon’s Halcon Vineyards and winemaker Scott Shapely (Roar) have released an awesome set of wines from the small yielding 2015 vintage, and while known as a serious Syrah and cool climate Rhone inspired producer, these Pinots are fantastic, especially the 2015 Cerise, which is a gorgeous and stylish energy filled wine of class and length. Cerise Vineyard is a windswept hillside vineyard 1,200 feet above Boonville set on thin top soil over shale and schist, Halcon’s version is made up of 80% Wadenswil (Swiss Clone) and 20% Dijon Clone 115, all organically farmed, this site has produced great wines over the years since it was planted in 1995, with notable bottlings by Littorai and more recently Knez (Anthony Filiberti, Anthill Farms) before being taken over by Kosta Browne. Shapely used 20% new French oak here, allowing the vineyard and terroir to shine through, he also used native yeasts and 35% whole cluster, which gives a bit more grip and spice to balance the concentrated and perfumed fruit, but this cool site, even with dense ripeness still comes in at a very Burgundy like 12.8% alcohol, remarkable for a wine of such impact and mouth feel. The brilliant ruby/brickish garnet hue in the glass charms the eyes before a bouquet of mixed flowers, including intense rose petal and subtle violets, black walnut, framboise, liquid mineral and sweet herbs and Asian spices lead to a graceful palate of black cherry, tangy plum, huckleberry and racy/earthy currant fruits along with bright blood orange, minty tea, cinnamon stick and crunchy stones, plus a hint of saline and dried/dusty vanilla. This complex and compelling Pinot Noir has medium weight, California opulence, but with that striking mineralite that reminds me of a fine Morey-St.-Denis in the Fourrier Clos Solon Vieilles Vignes mode, and it just gets better the next day adding sharper detail and texture, highlighting it’s potential to age. These Halcon wines are intriguing and entertaining offering real value for the money, I highly recommend getting on their mailing list, don’t miss their Alturas Syrah, their signature estate wine, plus their mind blowing Tierra Petite Sirah, and certainly stock up on their Pinots, in particular, this Cerise, only 120 cases made!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Quickie Notes on the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley

A quick study guide

The Loire Valley in France’s central western middle is a vast wine region that follows the Loire River from near Orleans where famed Sauvignon vineyards of towns like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume sit to Muscadet’s salty Atlantic sea coast where old vine Melon de Bourgogne grapes thrive, along with classic Cabernet Franc areas like Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, Anjou and Chinon as well as the Loire darling Chenin Blanc that has homes in areas like Vouvray, Savennières and Montlouis. Though the Loire is much much more, it’s maybe the birth place of Cabernet Sauvignon and maybe the first place to take biodynamics seriously, it also has almost every style of wine, from sparkling to sweet, oxidized to ultra fresh, from delicate light whites to heavy reds there is something for everyone and now it is the hot spot for natural wines. This vast cool climate region has an amazing array of soils from clay and limestone to granite schist to sandy loam, and even can lay claim to the lost Cru of Beaujolais in the remote Cote Roannaise where 100 year old Gamay vines live!

The Loire’s Nicolas Joly is credited with making Rudolph Steiner’s Biodynamics mainstream and his long lived Chenins from Savennières are legendary, while the late Didier Dagueneau made Sauvignon Blanc one of the world’s greatest wines, and who also followed an organic path, and now a whole new generation is taking to the next level, so don’t let the Loire’s ancient history make you think this region is old news, it certainly is not and the excitement here is growing with each new vintage.

The are many grapes growing in the Loire Valley and while I can give you a basic list there is more than most can identify, but with the AOC system there is a sense of order and place, so here it goes with a few reminder tips attached to the varietal. Melon de Bourgogne, the dry white grape of Muscadet, Pinot Gris, usually with a touch of skin contact making it almost a Vin Gris (Rose like), Pinot Noir, usually found in Touraine, but also way out west, Chenin Blanc, Chinon, Savennières, Suamur, Vouvray, Montlouis, Bonnezeaux, Anjou, Jasnieres and Quarts de Chaume, where it is most common as late harvest sweet wine, Pineau d’Aunis, a light and spicy red found mostly in Touraine, Chardonnay, a grape that only plans a bit part in the Loire, usually in sparkling and with a minor role in Cheverny, Mablec, known as Côt by the natives, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, mostly used in the blends of Anjou with Franc and in Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, found in Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre, Quincy, Touraine, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon with the Silex soil influenced mineral driven Sancerres being the cat’s meow, and last but not least the main red grape of the region, Cabernet Franc, which has a cult following worldwide with wines by Clos Rougeard being an almost unicorn wine from the Foucault brothers of Saumur-Champigny, though sadly we just lost Charly (Foucault) this last year, but with Olga Raffault and Charles Joguet of Chinon not far behind along with biodynamic Bourgueil hero Breton as well.

Without question there is a lot happening in the Loire Valley and there is no doubt you can find classics and cutting edge stuff here, there is some ultra cool amphorae raised wine now making headlines from Domaine de l’Ecu’s new owner Fred Niger in Muscadet Serve-et-Maine, plus you can’t skip the value priced Cremant de Loire bubbles, made from any of the combination of grapes, these sparkling wine, both Brut and Brut Rose are great everyday treats. Importers are many, but the guys that put the Loire on the map in the U.S include Kermit Lynch with Joguet, Breton, Revardy, Chotard and Thierry Germain, along with Rosenthal, Olga Raffault and Beaune Imports, Clos Rougeard, Nicolas Joly and Francois Chidane are guys you want to check out, plus Martine’s Wines has Domaine de la Bergerie, one of the great value producers in the Loire, and small importers like The Source, Charles Neal and Joly Vin have some awesome producers in their books.

Wines to look for
Domaine de la Bergerie (Anjou & Cremant)
Domaine de l’Ecu (Muscadet and Amphorae Pinot Noir)
Domaine Serol (Cote Roannaise Gamay)
Clos Rougeard (Saumur-Champigny)
Francois Chidane (Montlouis)
Domaine Huet (Vouvray)
Patrick Coulbois (Pouilly-Fume)
Dagueneau (Fume de Pouilly)
Olga Rauffault (Chinon)
Breton (Bourgueil)
Charles Joquet (Chinon)
Pascal or Francois Cotat (Sancerre)
Domaine Jousset (Montlouis)
Nicolas Joly (Savenieres)
Domaine de Reuilly (Reuilly)
Château du Hureau (Saumur-Champigny)
Adele Rouze (Quincy)
Etienne Daulny (Sancerre)

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 7, 2017

2012 Revana Family Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Terroir Selection, Napa Valley.
Dr. Madaiah Revana’s Revana Family Vineyard has gone from a luxurious boutique wine to a long term staple elite winery with both his Napa estate and his Alexana Willamette Valley, Oregon offerings becoming serious world class wines, with his Thomas Rivers Brown made Cabernets being right up there with Napa’s top cult legends. Thomas Rivers Brown (Schrader) came on board in 2011, taking the reins here from Heidi Barrett of Screaming Eagle fame, and has taken Revana to the next level with 2012, 2013 and 2014 all looking to be classics. In the 2012 vintage, with an exceptional and large crop, Revana added a second wine, similar in concept to what is common in Bordeaux, this wine know now as “Terroir Selection” is a slightly more approachable version, though not lacking in quality and character, it is this wine I tried recently and will highlight here, it’s a beautiful full bodied wine with loads of dense opulent fruit, refined tannins and wonderful length, it may not be up to the Estate in total, but it is an impressive effort in it’s own right. Deep black/purple with garnet edges this 2012 Terroir Selection starts with acacia flower, smoky sweet oak shadings, along with blackberry, creme de cassis, black cherry and blueberry fruits at it’s core, plus cigar wrapper, violette, vanilla bean, mocha and lingers with anise, cedar and sweet currant. This ripe and lavish Cabernet Sauvignon screams Napa Valley and is clearly a post modern style wine, but you can see at it’s heart a wine that will continue to develop nicely for another decade, gaining refinement, elegance and charm. This wine shows a substance and richness that will thrill Napa fans and old school fans will admire the balance, complexity and structure as well, this wine has plenty of palate impact and will light up robust cuisine meals. As good as this one is drinking, be sure to look for the 2013, now on the market, and the 2014, which will be out soonish, as they look to be vintages to remember, keep your eyes peeled!
($90 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 6, 2017

2016 Weingut Hexamer, Riesling Kabinett, Meddersheimer Altenberg, Nahe Germany.
Hexamer’s 2016 vintage is near perfection for his house style, bright, vigorous and wonderfully flavorful, especially charming are the Spatlese and in particular the Kabinett level wines, with this Meddersheimer Altenberg, grown on the estate owned steep south-east facing slopes, set on red slate, sandstone and quartzite, being a great little wine. Brilliant in it’s golden sunny hue and drinking with a juicy, but feeling nearly dry and spicy verve showing racy yellow fruits, crushed stones and liquid white roses as well as a light creaminess the only hint at RS, this stainless steel aged Kabinett Riesling from Harald Hexamer is lively and refreshing, it’s a classy and traditionally minded wine that goes to the next level in it’s price category offering a lot of value for the money. On first sip this Meddersheimer Altenberg Kabinett Riesling almost transports you to Condrieu with it’s pretty floral (mixed white flowers) perfume and mineral intensity, the layers of apricot, tangerine, apple, lime and melon sorbet seduces in the mouth and the underlying acidity adds a nice cut along with the wet stones, hints of saline/briny elements and a cooly crisp finish that lingers with just the right amount of sweetness and white plum/nectarine. This fleshy slightly off dry Riesling is more impressive than first impressions would suggest, native ferments, whole cluster pressed and aged only in clean stainless tank, this clear and transparent Riesling is full of detail and wonderful with food, in my case is was fabulous with a spicy tuna Poke Lab bowl, but it is a super summer (Indian summer and fall) sipper and or with cured meats and picnic fare. Hexamer’s last couple of vintages have been fantastic and this is a winery to keep in mind for easy quaffing and subtle seriousness, also look for Harald’s QbA Quartzit Riesling and his volcanoc soil influenced Porphyr Riesling Feinherb, both of which deliver huge bang for the buck.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 5, 2017

2014 Cattleya, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The brilliantly executed 2014 Soberanes Syrah by Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (winemaker at Wayfarer and co-star of Shared Notes with her husband Jeff Pisoni) continues her hot streak, she is making some of the most seriously compelling wines in California and who’s star continues to rise, especially with this gorgeous Cattleya offering from the Pisoni owned vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Made using 45% whole cluster and native ferments, the 2014 was aged in specially spec (long air dried and light/medium toast I believe) French barrels with about 63% new, Bibiana’s experience at Ogier in Cote-Rotie certainly shows, she has captured the soul of the varietal and terroir in a near perfect wine that looks set for a long beautiful life, it shows clearly the real potential of Syrah in the Santa Lucia Highlands, a grape that since about 2004 has just about eclipsed the dense Pinot Noirs of the region, with wines in particular grown by the Franscioni and Pisoni families. Soberanes Vineyard has reached Grand Cru level quality, joining the famed Pisoni Estate Vineyard (Susan’s Hill) and the Garys’ Vineyard, especially with Syrah, but also coming along nicely with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Syrah thrives in the cool here and the long growing season allows extra dimensions of flavor, depth and complexity, it is a different expression no question, when compared to the zestier nervy Mendocino, of which I love too, especially Drew, Halcon and others, or the fine examples from the Sonoma Coast (Peay & Pax), Mount Veeder (Lagier-Meredith) and Ballard Canyon/Santa Barbara County/Edna Valley (Alban, Samsara, Stolpman, Piedrasassi and Andrew Murray). Here there is opulence, texture (mouth feel) and rich detail, and Cattleya’s 2014 is one of best yet, with wines such as this, Syrah’s future here looks fantastic, without question this has California ripeness and generous body, but still shows the class and finesse found in top French offerings, giving rise to comparisons to Guigal’s famous La La’s! The 2014 Cattleya Soberness Vineyard Syrah, all Alban clone, grown on granite/quartz laced soils on the higher and breezy Santa Lucia Highlands bench, starts with glorious deep purple/blue and garnet hues in the glass with stunning violets, creme de cassis and light toasty oak leads to a soulful palate of powerful layers of blackberry, boysenberry, currant and blueberry compote, plum and black cherry fruits along with a touch of charcoal embers, smoke, peppercorns, sticky lavender/sage, dusty coco, shaved vanilla, chalky stones, tapenade and a delicate touch of feral/briar savory earth. The 2014 is a full bodied Syrah that is still light on it’s feet and not heavy, it’s sweet tannins are firm, but lavish, with perky acidity allowing the inner beauty of this wine to shine through, but without question this wine enjoys air and decanting should be required for another 3 to 5 years at least, this is absolutely a classic that has a lot more in store for the patient. While not an inexpensive wine, once you taste it you’ll be glad you splurged, it’s worth the price and effort to get this wine.
($67 Est.) 95-97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 4, 2017

2016 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Trocken, Dautenpflanzer, Grosses Gewachs, Nahe Germany.
This gorgeous blisteringly dry Riesling from Georg Rumpf at Kruger-Rumpf is one you’ll want to give it some time to develop, it is a powerful and complex wine made from very old vines (ancient Nahe Clone 365 Finkenaurer) in the steep amphitheater of the Grand Cu Munsterer Dautenpflanzer on a mix of Loess and Quartzite. The wonderfully detailed Dautenpflanzer GG is thrilling, showing a tension filled palate with remarkable depth and inner beauty, less concentrated than 2011 or 2015, this stunning 2016 has a bright liquid sunshine burst of acidity and shimmering mineral core, this might proof legendary, this wine has such an impact and intensity you can’t take yours eyes off of it’s light/pale golden hue in the glass and your attention to it’s extract in the mouth. With air this dry Riesling opens to reveal tart apricot, zest lime citrus, green apple and tangerine fruits with subtle tropical events, spiced white flowers, white tea, wet stone and steely charm, think Emmerich Knoll Loibner meets Francois Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre! Absolutely brilliant and stylish throughout the Kruger-Rumpf Dautenpflanzer is certainly one of the great white wines of the world and this 2016 vintage, while severe and slightly austere now, looks set to blossom into a classic and has elegant layers and faint floral perfume, which gets exotic and intoxicating when isolated in your mind, it’s pure, focused and lovingly crafted, pressed whole cluster with about 6 hours of skin contact, ferments are natural/native and it’s raised for a short time in neutral stuckfass (old ovals of oak) before finishing it’s aging in stainless tank to preserve freshness, while still having a leesy mouth feel and expansion. Lingering ferrous notes, saline, light herb, jasmine and peach flesh make this crisp GG very seductive and hint at it’s glorious and rewarding future, best to allow this Dautenpflanzer a period of time, about 5 to 7 years, in bottle to gather all of it’s potential and grace, but oh man, you’ll want this stuff in your cellar!
($48 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 3, 2017

n.v. Domaine Remy Nodin, Saint-Peray, Extra Brut Marsanne Sparkling Wine, Rhone, France.
This is the first Northern Rhone bubbly I’ve ever tasted, and wow, it is a thrilling 100% Marsanne Extra Brut that shows brilliant detail and leesy class from Remy Nodin, think of this as a grower producer that crafts this sparkling wine from a single estate vineyard. I would have never guessed this was from Saint-Peray, nor that is was Marsanne, I was completely stumped when I tasted this wonderful Extra Brut in a blind tasting, it shows a luxurious and fine creamy mousse, but with wonderful vitality, vigor and tension with apple, waxy pear and light peach notes along with serious mineral elements, as well as wet stones, brioche and crisp lemony citrus. Again this methode champenoise offers refined balance, vibrancy and subtle richness in a complex and pleasing sparkling wine that is not only fun and unique it drinks with verve and is a great food wine. This Extra Brut, with just 5g/L of residual sugar is seriously dry and brisk, it comes from a family farmed plot in their estate lieu-dit La Beylesse and was aged 21 months on it’s lees, which shows in the lovely toastiness found here, this is an exciting and racy bottle to look for!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day September 2, 2017

2014 Jean-Luc Jamet, Syrah, Valine, Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes IGP, Northern Rhone, France.
The baby Jamet is a lovely and fresh Syrah from vines just outside the Cote-Rotie AOC on the same continuous hill as the famed Côte Brune on the brown schist that delivers wonderful detail and purity. Not as edgy as the original Domaine Jamet Cote-Rotie, but still an awesome little wine with layers of blueberry, crushed violets, boysenberry, mineral tones, peppercorns, black currants and plummy mouth feel as well as earth, truffle, black olive and dried herbs. Vibrant, tight and with a touch of funk, let this Syrah Valine open and magic bursts out of the glass with floral perfume and racy black fruit, lingering with cinnamon, lavender and savory notes, this is very tasty stuff. Jean-Lux split with his brother Jean-Paul, who took over the historic Domaine Jamet, in 2013 and began making his own wine under his own label, but from the same vines, which they divided equally, and this looks to be the only wine imported so far, but it will be well worth searching this one out, especially for the price. This Valine by Jean-Luc Jamet is certainly impressive and will make a lot of Cote-Rotie fans, and in particular Jamet fans, very happy with it’s traditional character, quality and it’s ease of use. Drink this 2014 now and as often as you can, but don’t wait, it won’t last long, I got this from Portland’s very savvy Vinopolis Wine Shop!
($26 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive