Monthly Archives: November 2018

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 10, 2018

2016 Payten & Jones “Valley Vignerons” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.
Behn Payten and Troy Jones are the down to earth winemakers behind the Payton and Jones Yarra Valley based winery crafting an interesting set of wines in a more laid back and natural style. made with a bit of humor and Aussie honesty, they say the wines aren’t ‘squeaky clean’, they are a bit ‘edgy’, maybe even a bit ‘raw’,but always interesting, with a little soul left in. They reckon drinking these wines is like experiencing a band live, maybe in a small club, as opposed to listening to a studio recorded album, they have minimal intervention, delicious, always smashable. That’s exactly what I found experiencing their Valley Vignerons Pinot Noir, a full on whole cluster carbonic wine that is bright, almost Gamay like with expressive fruit and loaded with spice and floral tones coming off a 20 year plus vineyard in the Yarra Glen zone of the Yarra Valley set on an eastern aspect with silty loams and hardened clay soils with mud and iron stones scattered throughout the site, all of which leans itself to the carbonic maceration and adds to the nice fruity/spicy tension. This 2016 is Payten & Jones’ 10th vintage of VV Pinot and they consider it their best yet and I can see why, this is fun stuff, but a wine that can go toe to toe with much more expensive wines. The bright and tangy medium bodied palate shows pretty rose oil, minty herb (bite) and layers of racy red fruits including fresh picked cherries, wild strawberry, raspberry jam and tart plum along with hints of pepper, tea spice, dried orange peel and very subtle cotton candy/bubble gum. With air a more rustic earthy charm comes into view adding a balance and as they put it a certain “raw” sexiness, it’s wine to search out, especially for the price, it’s a tasty little thing to enjoy now.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 9, 2018

2014 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Red Blend, Swartland, South Africa.
Badenhorst is one of the top wineries in South Africa and their top label, A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, is all from old vine parcels in the Paardeberg zone of Swartland, it’s an area known for Rhone style wines, especially those made from Syrah and Cinsault, both which feature here in the 2014 Badenhorst red blend. Cousins from Constantia, Hein and Adi Badenhorst started this project, with Adi being recognized as one of South Africa’s great winemaking talents, by restoring an ancient farm and a cellar that had gone neglected back in the 1930’s focusing on Grenache, Chenin Blanc and local favorite Cinsault grown on the farm’s granite soils. All of the wines come from their Kalmoesfontein farm in the Swartland appellation of South Africa, though they do buy a bit of fruit from selected grape growers in the region to fill out the final blends, with their old bush vines, Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Chenin all planted in the 50s and 60s are grown in the Siebritskloof part of the Paardeberg mountain, and they use dry farming and mostly organic methods, calling their wines natural wines crafted in the traditional manner, I would say they are modern old school wines. Badenhorst uses concrete and old casks to make their wines, he’s all about keeping it simple and showing the wines soul and place, after completing his studies at Elsenburg, South Africa’s best wine college, Adi worked a few harvests at Chateau Angelus, as well as with Alain Graillot in the north Rhone, France, and Wither Hills in New Zealand, plus he did stints at local cellars including Simonsig, Steenberg and Groote Post, finishing by spending nine years as the winemaker at the esteemed Stellenbosch estate of Rustenberg. Adi’s 2014 is made from Shiraz 56%, Grenache 17%, Cinsault 17% and a touch of the Portuguese varietal Tinta Barocca 10%, all made whole cluster (he does the same with his white too) with foot treading and twice daily pigeage with primary fermentation in conical oak and concrete vats before going into closed cement vats with 6 months on the skins before pressing, and then the wine is raised in a combination of old casks and giant 4,000L foundres. Badenhorst has varied exposures and the vines are on three distinct types of granite(s) that are found here each providing personality and unique character to the wines, they include Paardeberg, Lammershoek and Lemoenfontein types (soils) plus some different sub-surface geology with a touch clay and some serious shale(s). Think of this A. A. Badenhorst red as a South African Chateauneuf du Pape hybrid with loads of earthy spicy charm and warm fruit with layers of plum, blueberry, poached cherries and boysenberry as well as peppercorns, minty herbs, licorice, lavender oil and flinty stones. With air this wine builds in presence on the medium/full palate gaining a beautiful sense of texture and depth, while still retaining a fresh core and sweet tannin that supplies a gripping mouth feel, providing proof of this wines seriousness and subtle earthy tones add to the mix making this stuff irresistible. This is a wine that simply entertaining, but has real complexity and class, it’s a wine that has a 5 to 10 year future at least, it’s drinking gloriously in this moment, be sure to check out this one, and Badenhorst’s single vineyard 2016 limited edition 100% Cinsault, as both are terroir driven awesome offerings!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 8, 2018

2014 Baxter, Pinot Noir, Valenti Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The beautiful and pure Baxter Valenti Pinot Noir from the cool climate site in the western end of the Anderson Valley in the Mendocino Ridge zone is a lovely and elegant wine that showcases both the stylish, though restrained winemaking and a sense of place. Baxter has risen to notoriety in recent years and are best known for their Pinot Noir(s), though they do a few other interesting interesting things including a Nebbiolo, the winery is a father & son partnership between Phil L Baxter and Phil T G Baxter, conceived to produce handcrafted single vineyard wines focusing on the Anderson Valley and surrounding Mendocino appellations with the pair combining more than fifty years of experience. Phillip Baxter the younger is becoming the face of winery and is part of the Anderson Valley generation that has made this region one of the best in the world, and like Jason Drew’s Drew Family Cellars bottlings, the Baxter wines are highly sought after and very limited, also Baxter trained in Burgundy with Pascal Marchand at Domaine de la Vougeraie and has put that to good use, as I noted when I reviewed his 2012 whole cluster Oppenlander a few years ago. The Valenti family originally started farming grapes on their homestead over 100 years ago, and the site is now farmed to organic practices by the mentioned Jason Drew. This Cru vineyard sits high upon Greenwood Ridge in the Mendocino Ridge appellation, according to Baxter, Valenti is nick-named ‘Islands in the Clouds’, because these ridge-top vineyards appear like islands peeking out from the maritime fog above the valley set on Gold Ridge loams, well-drained ancient oceanic soils with decomposed sandstone and with a high iron content and It is just a mere five miles from the Pacific Ocean, a stone’s throw from Baxter Winery. The Mendocino Ridge zone appellation (AVA) is special as it consists only of the coastal Mendocino ridge-top areas above 1200ft, and Valenti is one of the star vineyards as it shows clearly in this 2014 Baxter version with it’s layers of black cherry, plum and racy currant fruits along with wonderfully refined underlying acidity that keeps every detail brilliant and fresh on the rich medium bodied palate, additional notes of mineral, wild herbs, spice and subtle oak that flows in the mouth in a round and seamless fashion. Baxter usually works with native fermentation and per normal with his Pinots it looks like they use some whole cluster, though maybe not a high percentage on this 2014?, once pressed, the wine spent 18 months in a mix of neutral French oak barrels and small bit in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered, and aged a further six months prior to release. The aftertaste gets better and longer with each sip and air adding rose petals, blood orange, a touch of vanilla and raspberry cream, this is silky stuff, I think it shows off lots of potential and it could age another 5 to 7 years with ease, but it is drinking fabulously right now, impressive and delicious!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 7, 2018

2015 Le Miccine, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
One of Chianti’s rising stars, Le Miccine is crafting some impressive wines and the current Chianti Classico 2015, a Tre Bicchieri winner, is an absolute perfect example of what these Tuscany hillside vineyards are capable of producing with ripe warm fruit, exceptional purity and bright acidity, and with an authentic class. Paula Papini-Cook the highly regarded French Canadian winemaker with Italian grandparents is the one woman show here at Le Miccine, an amazing historic estate in the Gaiole Classico zone and her latest efforts show her gifted touch and finesse with Sangiovese especially though like Castello di Ama, Le Miccine does a single parcel Merlot too, and it’s riveting. Le Miccine follows organic viticultural practices as much as possible, which increases the biodiversity and allows the vines to increase their natural defenses against harmful elements, they are looking for a balance that gives optimum grape quality and respecting the nature of their place. The estate vineyards in this Chianti Classico include the native Sangiovese, of which there are 6 different clones along with Malvasia Nera and Colorino that make up a minor part in the blend, but adds to the depth and complexity in the wine. The crisply fresh Classico is fermented completely in stainless steel tanks with the wine being raised in mostly large cask to highlight the natural vibrancy and transparency, it’s a combination that works great in warm vintages, like this 2015, it gives a vigor and focus to this easy to love and understand Tuscan red. Beautiful detail and precision make this wine awesome with food, it shows a medium bodied palate with layers of plum, tangy cherry, blackberry and cranberry fruits along with minty herbs, mineral tones, cedary spice, anise, tobacco leaf and delicate earthiness. Things get a bit more lush with air adding a creamy feel, while still being well structured and held firm by soft tannins, again, this Chianti Classico from Gaiole in Chianti is best with food, be it rustic or robust cuisine, the meal will allow a deeper personality to show through and it will bring out a touch of floral beauty to the Le Miccine, making it even more impressive, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 6, 2018

2017 Quinta do Regueiro, Trajadura/Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal.
The beautifully mineral driven and zesty fresh Quinta do Regueiro Trajadura and Alvarinho from Portugal’s Minho DOC is a wonderful almost Riesling like white that offers a lot for the modest price. Regueiro, founded in 1988, is one of the best estate’s in the region and has some amazing old vine parcels, and is especially known for their single varietal Alvarinho/Albarino, the wines offer and step up in complexity and depth from the more basic Vinho Verde, while retaining the low alcohol and freshness you’d expect from this style of wine. This Trajadura led vintage adds an intriguing additional dimension which seemingly gives this wine a bit more substance as well as a slightly more expanded profile, it’s detail is certainly impressive and it’s acidity is vibrant though turns refined and almost rounded with air. The light/medium palate displays apricot, lime, green apple and honeydew melon as well as aromatic florals and delicate steely tones. While not as dense as the lees reserve Alvarinho, this wine for the price is an absolute steal, and it rivals much more expensive offers from it’s Spanish neighbors in the Ribeiro zone, it’s a beauty and goes great with fresh seafoods, especially clams, oysters and sardines. At under 12% this Trajadura and Alvarinho blend is perfect to drink with picnics and meant to be enjoyed in it’s youth, while Regueiro isn’t easy to find, it is worth searching out, drink up!
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 5, 2018

2014 Poe Wines, Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, Sonoma County.
The Poe Rosé Methode Champenoise Sparkling Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, crafted from vines at Van der Kamp Vineyard, high on Sonoma Mountain using grapes that were picked on August 30th of 2014, and fermented in barrel with native yeast and rested sur lie, it’s a remarkable example of California bubbles, maybe one of the best I’ve had! Samantha Sheehan of Poe Wines is an exceptional talent and her lineup is beyond noteworthy, her wines are some of the most intriguing you are going to find, and this Meunier driven sparkler is out of this world with vivid details and class, she allowed the wine finish primary then in January of 2016, she bottled the wine for another fermentation in bottle, as is done in Champagne, and then allowed it to age on the lees until March of 2018 when it was disgorged. Van der Kamp, planted in the early 1950’s, it is possibly the oldest planting of Pinot Noir in the state, and that Pinot adds structure and yeasty form to this lusty Rosé, while the Meunier gives that wonderful purity of fruit and I believe a streak of minerallity, this stuff is full of personality and charm it in fact reminds me of some of my favorite Champagnes like those of Christophe Mignon and Aurélien Laherte, both of which make exciting grower fizz. This Poe sparkler joins a few ultra premium California producers of fine bubbly, this one in particular is in league with the likes of Michael Cruse marker of Ultramarine, which is one of the hardest wines to get in California, Lichen by Dan Rivin and Monterey’s Caraccioli Cellars. As noted in my prior reviews on Poe, Samantha Sheehan founded POE in 2009 after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne, and she is fulfilling her dream and her potential in making terroir driven wines in California, I keep getting blown away with every new set of her wines, and this is something special, it takes it’s place along side Samantha’s fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and in recent years she has become a champion of Pinot Meunier both in Sparkling and still wines. This 2014 vintage Rosé has stunning vitality to match the Krug like barrel ferment textural richness and depth with sexy layering of flavors on the palate with a creamy, but perky mousse, it shows tangy cherry, strawberry, raspberry water, wet stone, brioche/toast, citrus and a hint of rosewater, it’s leesy decedent bubbly that thrills from start to finish. If you want something fun, but ultra serious in quality, you won’t want to miss this stylish Sparkling Rosé from Poe Wines, it’s pretty limited so if you want it for the Holiday season or because you love fine bubbly, you better not wait. Note meant to be an after thought, Sheenan’s Sparkling Rosé is even better with cuisine, it sings with food, it certainly is not just for rare celebrations, it deserves more attention than that, it is truly magnificent.
($42 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 4, 2018

2013 Tenimenti d’Alessandro, Syrah “Il Bosco” Cortona DOC, Tuscany Italy.
This Italian Syrah is unmistakably Italian in it’s soul, but in many ways it reminds me of Penfolds Grange with it’s opulence that is matched by intensity and structure with ripe layers of fruit, spice and wood tones, it’s without question of sublime quality and shows this warm vintage and terroir to near perfection. Massimo d’Alessandro’s Il Bosco Syrah from Cortona, in Tuscany, is one of the most exciting versions in Italy and is a world class wine and this 2013 does not disappoint expressing it’s warm vintage with class and ripe density, it’s a truly unique and impressive wine. Syrah first came to this old ex Etruscan enclave in Val di Chiana back in 1988 when Milan professor Attillio Scienza planted an experimental 10 acre plot using selected Rhone clones, and within 11 years the area was given DOC status for the Syrah, a truly remarkable accomplishment with Tenimenti d’Alessandro being one of the regions biggest successes. The Il Bosco is produced from 100% Syrah grapes selected from the three oldest hillside vineyards, with the Il Bosco (the forest in Italian) plots were planted between 1988 and 1995 and the wine is aged 24 months in oak, mostly French, 30% new and raised in a combination of barriques and bigger wooden casks, plus it gets an extra 12 months of bottle aging before release, similar to what you see in Brunello and Barolo, highlighting the serious nature of this wine. The Palate feels dense and chewy, but refined as well, showing copious amounts of cassis, plum and blackberry along with melted black licorice, a hint of menthol, mocha and lovely mix of dried herb, spice and floral elements with touches of lavender, lilacs and vanillin. There is a Guigal level of regal decadence here and this vintage is exceptional for d’Alessandro, making for an impressive performance, a potential 20 year wine in the offing.
($40-50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 3, 2018

2016 Brick House Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Select, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Wonderfully soulful and with layers of earth, woody/forest notes and dark fruits the estate grown Select Ribbon Ridge by Oregon legend Doug Tunnell’s Brick House Vineyards. This 2016 is an old school beauty with very expansive and textured fruit and wistful elegance, it’s a beguiling Pinot Noir in the Burgundy tradition. Brick House, organic since 1990 and now full Demeter certified biodynamic, is also part of the Deep Roots Coalition that is focus on dry farming and even in a ripe year like 2016 Tunnell made impressively delicate and balanced wines, especially this one, according to Tunnell it’s the most easy-going and approachable of all of Brick House’s Pinot Noirs, the “Select” is a moderately priced, estate grown wine that is a selection of barrels representing all the different vineyard blocks on the farm in the Ribbon Ridge AVA of the Willamette Valley, at the discretion of the winemaker and team. The medium bodied palate oozes with a sense of class and place with pretty floral notes and a mouth that shows blackberry, plum and sweet cherry fruits along with hints of tea, spice, herb, mineral and a touch of chalk with soft tannins as well as nice oak shadings, gaining that subtle earthy charm with air and lingering with an impression of rose petals and strawberries. There’s no drama here, no sharp edges and it’s a wine that sneaks in it’s best qualities without any showmanship, this is a transparent and pure Pinot Noir that tastes dreamy and hits all the boxes without being flashy, enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years. I love all the wines here at Brick House, especially their Pinots, and recent vintages are awesome, but don’t overlook their Chardonnay, which gets better and better, as well as their true Gamay Noir, which is one of the very best in the new world.
($35+ Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 2, 2018

2016 Drew Family Cellars, Syrah, Perli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
Of Drew’s latest releases you’ll find some amazing Pinot Noirs and Syrahs, that include this beautiful and richly flavored Perli Mendocino Ridge bottling, it seems the most forward of the three Syrahs on offer and lingers with studied elegance and freshness. The Perli Syrah by Jason Drew is one of the best examples of cool climate Syrah in northern California using California clones, which include McDowell and 877, grown at elevation, the Perli Vineyard is ten miles from the ocean, 2,200 feet up on a steep northeast-facing slope of thin oceanic soils. This site on a sunny ridge top is kept cool by Pacific winds, making wines, according to Drew, with immense structure, concentration and complexity, it has a different profile than some of Drew’s other Syrah offerings that are closer to the ocean and have Chave (Hermitage) selection clonal material. Typically for Perli, Drew used about 50% new oak and employs a bigger cask or “Puncheons” fermenting with about 50% whole cluster, that is done 100% native yeast, with gentile handling and punch downs before being raised in the cask where the wine is only gravity racked twice before bottling. Loaded with ripe black plum, vine picked berries, blueberry compote and briar/spiced currants this new release Perli Vineyard Syrah is compelling from the start, adding a dark floral tone to the inviting almost opaque purple/garnet hue in the glass, with air it adds a multi dimension and complex array of spice, licorice, mineral, meatiness, earth, mocha and just a faint subtle hint of toasty sweet oak. These 2016 also offer a lift of acidity that makes them a touch more light-footed in feel, but don’t let that fool you these are wines of wonderful inner beauty and density that will continue to develop and evolve on the coming decade, these are impressive wines, some of the very best in California.
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 1, 2018

2016 Cameron Winery, Rouge de Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Cameron’s skin contact Pinot Gris is one of America’s best Orange wines, and it really gets all the pigment from these grapes making for a deeply colored wine, hence the name Rouge de Gris, which means red from grey in French. According to John Paul of the famed Oregon producer Cameron, this wine is dedicated to the late Stanko Radikon, who was one of Italy’s most iconic orange wine producers, and his son, Saša of Radikon Oslavia in Italy’s northeast near the border with Slovenia, who made Paul realize the potential locked up in the Pinot gris grape. Cameron, and winemaker John Paul, is also notable for being the leading member of the Deep Roots Coalition, as are Doug Tunnell of Brick House and Kelley Fox—it’s an organization of wineries that are committed to dry farming and Paul is considered one of the most thoughtful farmers in the Willamette Valley. This Pinot Gris comes from Cameron’s oldest vineyard is Abbey Ridge located high in the Dundee Hills at an elevation range of 500-700 feet, with the first vines were planted here back in 1976. Made to be served chilled the Rouge de Gris is fresh and vibrant showing lovely wild strawberries, minty herb, rose petal and touches of red citrus, peach and tart raspberry in a medium weight wine, it has a striking generosity and perception of lush detail before a subtle grippy savory side comes through that makes you aware of just how serious this wine is. I loved the 2015 version, but this riper vintage really turns this Rouge de Gris into a very complete offering, maybe taking it to the next level, as it is especially well crafted and drinks beautifully and gets even better when paired with Fall food choices and more robust cuisine. Cameron, known for their legendary Pinot Noir(s) like their estate Clos Electrique and Abbey Riddge bottlings also make some Italian inspired wines as well, somewhat under the radar and having a cult like following they can be hard to find, but are well worth searching out, be sure to look for this Rouge de Gris as well as John Paul’s Nebbiolo and his Friulano based white blend Giuliano, all of which just got released!
($33 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive