Monthly Archives: July 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 11, 2018

2016 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.
I have been a fan of Waxwing Wine Cellars for quite a few vintages, Scot Sisemore’s tiny micro winery is making some great wines from top sites in Sonoma and the Central Coast, Sisemore, who has a B.S. in microbiology from Oregon State University and an M.S. in viticulture and enology from UC-Davis, has crafted some wonderful small batch wines from his facility South of San Francisco in Belmont California. The Dierberg Syrah is a new wine for Scott, he was offered a great block of fruit that he couldn’t refuse, from that cool site in the Santa Maria Valley, he did a midnight run in a refrigerated van to get these beautiful grapes as cool as possible, he did this full on Cornas style, 100% whole cluster with 15 days on the skins and stems, ending up at 13.9% natural alcohol and aged the Syrah in once used French oak for 15 months and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Creamy silken tannins give this away as Californian, but the profile and character is pure northern Rhone with layers of violets and black plum along with peppercorns, minty herbs, cedar and griddle bacon. The stems add a nervy green bite that keeps things thrilling from start to finish, that makes you think of Cornas, Scott did a wonderful job with this Syrah, it’s one of his best wines to date and well worth searching out! Waxwing’s Scott Sisemore has over 23 years of experience in the Northern California wine industry, having worked at Ravenswood Winery, Rosenblum Cellars and was the assistant winemaker at Pelligrini Family Vineyards before starting his indie label (Waxwing Wine Cellars) based in Belmont, just South of San Francisco. Sisemore’s new Syrah is really beguiling and offers a lot of quality and substance for the money, this and Scott’s Tondre Grapefield dry Riesling are wines to stock up on while they last. This 2016 Dierberg Syrah just gets better with air and time in the glass, it’s deep purple/black and garnet hue and wonderful perfume heavenly, this is right up there with some of California’s most sought after names in Rhone style wines, drink this one over the next 5 to 10 years.
($32 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 10, 2018

2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Dorsheimer Goldloch, VDP Grosse Lage, Nahe Germany.
Drier and more complex than a Kabinett should be, not that I’m complaining at all, this 2015 Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch is simply amazing with wonderful purity and a steely mineral driven form, Caroline Diel has done a masterful job of controlling the vintage’s ripeness with this one! Coming from the Grand Cru, VDP Grosse Lage site with it’s gravelly soils and steep eastern facing slopes this stuff is pedigreed Riesling at it’s best showing a more restrained fleshiness than it did in my earlier tasting notes it has developed a fine detail and vitality that is wonderfully energetic, the acidity which had once seemed muted has a brisk character that is giving fantastic class and freshness right now, hiding the sugar and extract to perfection, making this wine feel more like a Trocken or a modern Feinherb, but with food things swing back a bit and you get the generous fruitiness to match up to spicer cuisine. This wine was magic just sipping on a warm evening, and got even better with the Thai noodle take away, showing the marvelous flexibility of Diel’s Kabinett, which like Donnhoff are pure genius and spectacular values. I had the chance to most of Diel’s 2015 in pre-release samples and again at the winery itself in the fall of 2016, and I remember clearly being impressed by every example, but now here today in bottle, in 2018 they are exceptional, and in particular this Goldloch Kabinett, which is really showing the class of Diel’s winemaking and expressing the class of it’s terroir. The nose is mineral charged with lots of stony charm, subtle orchard fruit and flinty spice that leads to a light/medium bodied palate of lime, green apple, apricot and tangy mango fruits plus a touch of minty herb, creamy melon (sugar’s influence is more textural than sweet) along with kiss of dried pineapple and citron. Everything is woven together in a precise fashion and with a sense of grace, I am a huge fan and this wine is easy to love, it also has at least a decade of great drinking ahead if not more.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 9, 2018

2017 L’Aventure, Estate Rosé, Stephan Vineyards, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles.
Crafted by the Saint-Emilion native Stephan Asseo, the L’Aventure Estate Rosé is to California what Domaine Tempier is to Bandol, it is one of the state’s finest dry Rosé wines and a cult pink if there ever was one! This vintage the blend is made up of 37% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 26% Mourvèdre and intriguingly with 7% Petit Verdot as well, it is completely and crisply dry and powerful in intensity and mouth feel, but with sharp detail and mineral charms, it really put a focus on the talented winemaking and growing to produce such an amazing pink! Asseo, who began making wine in 1982, following his education at L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France, created a small Bordeaux, Domaine de Courteillac he he made the wines, but then his family took over the famed Chateau Fleur Cardinal in Saint-Emilion and he was put on the team there, though he longed for adventure and a place where he explore his craft outside the very rigid structure and expectations in Bordeaux. After searching for over a year among the world’s great regions, including some exotic and far away locations, from South Africa to Lebanon, and Argentina to Napa, Stephan found and fell in love with Paso Robles, at this in the nineties a remote and wild region with unbelievable and undiscovered potential. He first did a Zinfandel from purchased fruit to tide him over until he could get his virgin estate up and running with a mix of Rhone and Bordeaux varietals of which he makes some of California great wines, including this awesome Rosé. Being a maverick, he left his preconceived ideas behind in France and has embraced California fruit and the freedom to express it the way he wants without AOC rules getting in the way, he could never made a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot at home on the right bank, but here he can and does with distinction and verve. The Estate Rosé is a delicate shimmering pale wine with a touch of orange in it’s pinkish hue and the nose has a chalky tone and light floral note before leading to a rather bold and full palate of exciting layers of tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and candied citrus along with touches of sage, lavender, rosewater, mineral and a hint of savory spice. At 13% this vintage of L’Aventure Estate Rosé is not overly ripe or too hot, this is serious stuff that thrills from start to finish and is especially good with robust food choices and simple cuisine, though I can imagine experimenting with spicy sea foods and think it would be great with mixed shellfish, like mussels and clams in tomato and wine broth. Stephan Asseo’s Estate Rosé easily makes into the top ten of California Rosé with the likes of Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon, Arnot-Roberts, Ian Brand, Tribute to Grace and Skylark to name a few, this is a must have for the pink enthusiast.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 8, 2018

2016 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Trocken “Bömer” Zeltinger Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
This Bömer Trocken is amazingly perfumed, really highly aromatic at this stage, much more so than when I tried the cask sample (a year ago), it is full of jasmine, rose oil and citrus blossom with a mineral tone and peachy, but the wine is wonderfully lively, fresh and tangy with loads of dry extract and a light body at this stage, the delicacy is simply dreamy. Johannes Selbach’s 2016’s are remarkable wines, and I’m a huge fan of the Zeltinger Schlossberg site, it is magic and this single block “Bömer” is stunning in detail and unbelievably sexy on the palate with layers of apricot, white peach, passionfruit and tangerine/lime fruits, with a crystalline beauty, as well as flinty shale, verbena, minty tea, candied dried mango and saline notes in a refined Riesling that way over delivers, it’s a class act all the way. Zeltinger Schlossberg is a steep vineyard set on pure blue Devonian slate with the Bömer block being a parcel that sits directly behind the village of Zeltingen, it faces south east and gets reflected light from the Mosel and heat from the town’s rooftops which helps with ripening and the opulent flavors. I wonder if Selbach should join the VDP for his dry Riesling offerings, as this certainly would make for a Grand Cru in my opinion, but then again the price is outstanding the way it is without that GG on the bottle, still it’s an interesting question. That said, Selbach-Oster’s strength is the balance achieved with generous sugar levels and their fruity Spatlese and Auslese wines are some of the best in Germany. The “Bömer” is a gorgeous Riesling that should not be missed, it offers exceptional quality and stylistic charm with a heightened impact on the senses, it’s a brilliant dry wine, this one and Selbach’s Ur-Alte Reben Feinherb are my two absolute favorites in the lineup of greatness this Mosel winery has out right now, both will drink beautifully for years to come.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 7, 2018

2017 Chateau Pradeaux, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The 2017 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is a powerful wine and one that demands your attention, this amazing effort really gives Domaine Tempier something to think about! At almost $18 less a bottle than Tempier, this Cinsault and Mourvedre based Pradeaux Rosé is a a savvy choice for enthusiasts. Château Pradeaux, a historic estate and provence legend, is located near the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer that is right on the beautiful azure Mediterranean between Toulon and Marseilles, it has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution, now run by Cyrille Portalis and with his sons Etienne and Edouard. I met with Etienne recently, he’s the new face behind these wines and his wines are all showing great, especially this 2017 Rosé, it’s surprisingly dense and full, but with crisp intensity, it’s a pink with a huge palate impact. Pradeaux uses Cinsault (50%) and Mourvèdre (50%) in their cement vat fermented Rosé, it is vinified via direct pressing for 24 hours, and is a non malo wine, with the wine aging about 6 months before bottling. The 2017 has a bright pink and orange hue in the glass and delvers a hedonistic mouth feel, it’s a bold wine, and at 14% it’s heady too, best to enjoy it with a full meal, it’s not a light and fruity style at all, this is mouth filling stuff, even though it’s chilled coolness is refreshing and it has a brisk presence in the glass with a nice balance between opulent (ripeness) and savory tones with a nice mineral and stony steak. There are layers of tart cherry, watermelon, strawberry and a cut of tangy/zesty citrus, wet chalk and rosewater as well as a snappy lavender note. The reds here are traditional Bandol with gripping tannins and leathery notes, but I love the layers and depth, and as I have mentioned in my prior reviews this is a label that offers exceptional wines, and while imported by Rosenthal, Pradeaux remains slightly under the radar, so the prices are more than reasonable for the quality, and a great way to explore them is to start with this wildly good dry Rosé, it will almost make your whole summer!
($29 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 6, 2018

2015 Domaine Xavier Gerard, Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France.
A wonderfully expressive and exciting Côte-Rôtie from new to me Xavier Gerard, who I met earlier this spring and tasted through his beautiful lineup of Viognier (Condrieu) and Syrah (Côte-Rôtie) wines, he is a young winemaker that is making an impression in this classic Northern Rhone region, he uses traditional methods and makes wines that sing with perfume and delicacy. Xavier, who recently took over the family business, has a quiet, but passionate personality and the estate accesses impressive holdings in Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, a majority of which are under estate ownership that allows a greater control of the vines and results are thrilling. He told me that their steep, craggy slopes, set on almost pure granite, demand that all the vineyard work be done manually, even tougher for the 6 foot 4 ish Gerard, it must be almost backbreaking, and he continues the old school practices in the cellar, with spontaneous (native yeast) fermentations and classic Northern Rhone elevage, mostly in used barrels, mainly demi-muids. His Condrieu, I tried both 2014 and 2015, plus the special 2015 and 2016 lieu-dit “Châtillon” versions all of which were absolutely gorgeous, these were not to miss whites for Viognier lovers, though I must say I couldn’t take my mind of his Côte-Rôtie, with the robust 2013, the lighter 2014 and this 2015, that shows the vintage’s concentration to perfection, again Northern Rhone Syrah fans had better check this guy out before the word gets around and the price goes up, they are sensational wines. The 2015 Côte-Rôtie, sourced mostly from the Mollard lieu-dit about 65% with the remaining balance coming off parcels in the Crus of Font-Jean, Viallière, and the world famous La Landonne! Gerard also does a single Cru La Landonne, though sadly I didn’t get to try it, though that being the case, I was not disappointed at all as the regular Côte-Rôtie is magnificent, not as rustic as Levet, it reminds me a bit of Rostaing if not even better. Gerard uses partial whole cluster, probably more than usual in this richer 2015, it shows a heroic sense of purity and has a heady violet laced perfume with subtle hints of wood, earth, spice and black fruits. The palate is still firmly tannic, but very drinkable even still, and with air this medium/full bodied Syrah fills out and the mouth feel is excellent with layers of boysenberry, damson plum, blueberry compote, black currants and sweet kirsch notes along with graphite, peppercorns, anise, powdered floral incense, flinty stones, earth and a whiff of cedar. This is spot on, watch out Jamet, there’s a new sherif in town, drink Xavier’s 2014 now, but be sure to get this 2015 to put away, it looks to have serious cellar potential, this and his Côte Châtillon Condrieu are mind-blowing Rhones, imported by Rosenthal, this is a guy to watch.
($69 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 5, 2018

2013 Domaine de L’Ecu, Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Taurus” Loire Valley, France.
Fred Niger’s Taurus is his tank and barrel raised estate 100% Melon de Bourgogne lees aged Muscadet Sevre et Maine and it is one of the most interesting whites I’ve tried this year,  with it’s amazing vitality and glorious textural quality. Domaine de L’Ecu makes some of the best regional wines in Muscadet and this one was aged 24 months, 12 months in stainless steel tank and then transferred to used Burgundy barrels for another year, it gives the wine a fuller presence and mouth feel, it is somewhere between a topped up extended aged Savagnin from the Jura and a pretty Saint-Aubin white Burgundy to give a reference point idea of what this lovely bright yellowish/golden white is like. The layers are satiny, but with fine definition and a nice cut of acidity showing apple, quince and lemony fruit tones along with classic saline, oyster shells and wet stones. It gains delicate complexity with air and even with the wonderful feel it stays brisk and cooly minerally crisp. Hints of briny seashore, verbena, sunflower seed oil, snappy herbs and white pepper add to the contrast from it’s leesy glycerin (creaminess) that is similar in flavor to a grower producer Champagne, without the mousse (bubbles) of course making for a stunning alternative white wine that has sublime class. This is a wine that love old world wines, it is for those that buy Cru Sancerre or Puilly-Fume, this is a wine that shows an oak subtly and very dry extract.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 4, 2018 – Happy Fourth of July!

2016 Bedrock Wine Co., Old Vine Zinfandel, California.
Bedrock’s Old Vine Zinfandel is one of the best deals in red wine in California and this latest vintage rocks. The man behind Bedrock, Morgan Twain-Peterson MW, son of Joel Peterson, a legend in his own right, making all those Ravenswood zins, yes, not only is he one of California’s best winemakers, he’s one of the world’s most authoritative wine experts having got his Master of Wine badge of honor last year, an amazing achievement, and his Old Vine Zin is a perfect wine to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s an all American red with it’s stylish bold bravado. Bedrock Wine Co. has also just opened their new tasting room in downtown Sonoma, the place where the California rebellion began and we raised the Bear Republic flag for the first time. This new tasting room is at the General “Fighting Joe” Joseph Hooker House, he was commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, Hooker is sadly best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 where he lost his command, he tried to redeem himself and was given a chance later, and he achieved an important victory at the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Chattanooga Campaign. Though he is also rumored to have brought women into the bases so his men could enjoy their company, it is thought that’s where we got the slang term “Hookers” from and his headquarters were known for parties and gambling, however, the term “Hooker” was used in print as early as 1845, years before Hooker was a public figure. Later in life he re-settled back in his beloved Sonoma, known for his efforts in farming and land developments. Apart from that trivia, Bedrock makes some of the state’s most compelling wines, they mostly focus on old vine field blends (mostly Zinfandel) from heritage sites that were interplanted with many black grapes and some whites, this includes their own historic Bedrock Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley that wasp planted back in the late 1800’s with many vines well over over a hundred years old. The Old Vine Zin is made up of Sonoma, Contra Costa and Lodi fruit mostly, all coming from vines over 80 years old and this 2016 version is a lovely effort with deep fruit, wonderful texture and complexity with a ripe dark berry profile to go with it’s purple/garnet color. Morgan embraces, as he puts it, uninoculated fermentations, native malolactic, the use of whole clusters in fermentation, and minimal handling with no additions or endowing of his wines, he goes for simplistic approach and for purity of form, and it all shows in his wines, which thrill the senses and comfort the palate with pleasure and easy to love opulence. He also says he hopes (his wines) are straddle the divide between intellectualism and deliciousness, I can attest to that, they do, no question. The 2016 Old Vin Zinfandel is sumptuous and full in the mouth with an almost youthful creaminess, it has hedonistic layers of black raspberry, briar laced boysenberry, macerated plum, tangy currant and juicy cherry fruits, all very open knit transparent and satisfying, but there’s more with hints of wild herbs, spice, a hint of cedar/sandalwood, light floral tones and anise as well. While decedent and fruit forward there is a impression of grace and life that make this wine super on it’s own, but even better with food, especially joyful with BBQ and friends, as mentioned, it’s a great wine for the Fourth of July and for any time you want to taste some California history in a bottle, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 3, 2018

2009 Pelissero, Barbera d”Alba DOC “Tulin” Piedmonte, Italy.
I have a huge soft spot for top Barbera and this glorious Pelissero Barbera d’Alba Tulin really sings to me with a siren song, it’s a fantastic wine right now, big and expressive, but with sublime structure and complexity of detail, it’s a Barbera with a Barolo attitude! The Tulin (a local dialect word for tin cup or metalsmith) is a vineyard is plot of land of close to 12 hectares planted to Nebbiolo (in the sub zone denominated San Stefanetto), as well as Barbera and a small part with Dolcetto. The vineyard is a almost an entire hill of its own, with elevation from 250 to 400 meters above sea level and it appears like a natural amphitheater with near perfect south/south-east exposures. And while in the Langhe hills of Alba, set on of sandstone and blue marlstone, it is really close to Barbaresco, and while rich and powerful it has the elegance and refinement of that terroir, and for Barbera it has stylish depth and complexity with cast of flavors that includes pretty blackberry, lingonberry, sweet cherries, plum and blueberry fruits with hints of leather, savory spice, mineral tones, minty wild herbs, cedar and black licorice. Classically crafted with stainless and large casks, the 2009 Tulin Barbera is a beauty and delivers a world class experience and delights in the glass, it shows no signs of age as of yet and should continue to gain with age, though I wouldn’t be able to resist drinking up near term!
($32 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 2, 2018

2016 Drew, Pinot Noir, Estate Field Selections, Mendocino Ridge.
Jason Drew’s cool climate Pinot masterpieces continues with his 2016 Estate Field Selections, it’s the third release from the Drew Estate Ranch, sitting on the far western coastal edge of the Mendocino Ridge on oceanic sedimentary deposits and gravelly loam soils, up at 1250 ft and just 3.3 miles from the Pacific, this vineyard is the coolest single vineyard in Drew’s collection. Blessed with a long growing season and heightened intensity, the estate wines are some of the most brilliant Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted, and as I have been saying for more than a few years now, Jason’s wines are some of the very best in California, I they without question offer some of the great value in Pinot Noir and Syrah period! This Estate Field Selections Pinot Noir, organically farmed, which is no easy task this close to the ocean, was crafted using traditional minimalist winemaking techniques, Drew employed about 40% whole cluster this vintage here with all native/natural yeast and it was unfined and unfiltered with just about 20% new French oak used, with the wine coming in at a very Burgundy like 13% natural alcohol, and even more impressive given the wines palate impact and depth, this is absolutely amazing stuff (again) from Jason Drew. Drew’s field selection estate vines include a series of clones, but this wine saw primarily Pommard, 667 and Mt. Eden clones which add to the wines complexity and charm, this site’s rocky underpinning has created the condition, along with the over ground influences has made for a special terroir which makes this wine sing. First, if you are lucky enough to get this or have it, give it another 3 to 5 years, it’s still way too young, if you feel the need to pop the cork, gently decanter it and give it at least an hour, best to try the second day honestly as it is so primal at this stage, but please note it is absolutely awesome and will be even more so in time! The palate is Grand Cru quality complex and with an array of Cote du Nuits like flavors, this is serious stuff here. It’s color is dark garnet and the nose, while shy opens to reveal earthy tones, floral highlights and wild berries before a medium bodied and brooding palate of black cherry, plum and currant fruits along with hints of dusty pebbles, tea spices, cinnamon, briar and a subtle tarry essence that reminds me a bit of young and tight Piedmontese Nebbiolo, but not in flavor, it’s more of personality impression and there is a thrilling sense of structure to this 2016 Drew Estate Field Selections Pinot that sets it apart, be patient with it, it’s a diamond in the rough at the moment, it’s like 2013 in power, but more similar to the 2014 vintage in raw underlying beauty. You cannot help but be awe struck by Drew’s wines these days, I kept this wine open for three days and the last sip was haunting, and showed a glimpse of the glorious future!
($60 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive