2017 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes, Côtes de Provence Rosé, Cru Classe, Provence, France. The heart and soul of Clos Cibonne is Tibouren, the ancient local grape that seems impossibly pale as a red grape, but makes for maybe the greatest Rosé in the world. André Roux, who ran the estate back in the 1930s to after WWII, was a great fan of this native varietal and believed it to be the ideal grape for the region, though had a tough time after Phylloxera and was largely forgotten by the Provence vignerons of the time. Roux, with great bravery and insight in fact replaced all of the estate’s Mourvèdre with Tibouren and Clos Cibonne soon became synonymous with Tibouren, which also led the A.O.C. to give special permission for the winery to list the grape on its labels. Bridget, André Roux’s granddaughter, and her husband, Claude Deforge, took over reins of Clos Cibonne in the late 1990s and have raised the profile and quality here beyond anyone’s hopes or expectations focusing on the vines and rebuilding the cellars. Clos Cibonne is only about 800 meters from the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea, set in a natural amphitheater that allows for wonderful ripening and with a unique constant air flow through the vines that keeps all the clusters wonderfully healthy. For Clos Cibonne’s Côtes de Provence Rosé, which is completely unique wine, the Tibouren, after harvest is fermented in stainless steel and then aged Sur Lie under fleurette (a thin veil of yeast like is found in Sherry) in 100-year-old, 500L foudres, which adds a touch of oxidation and stabilizes the wine allow it to age way beyond what a normal Rosé.
The 2017 Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes Côtes de Provence Rosé, a reserve style bottling that is sourced only from the estate’s oldest vines is an amazing wine that transcends any traditional preconceptions on what Rosé should be, it is wonderfully expressive, lively and rich in texture with true vinous hedonism. Grown on schist soils from 60 plus year old vines at 50 meters above sea level the Clos Cibonne Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes comes from a single parcel known as Le Pradet and farmed all organic. The orange/pinkish Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes was aged in cask on the lees for a full year, making it feel more like a normal wine wine on the palate, but still it has a sense of mineral charm and good acidity on the medium bodied palate. The flavors are an array of complex fruit and earth along with a touch of pecan oil and saline showing tangy cherry, grilled citrus with Moro orange, reduced strawberry, peach flesh and distilled currant along with a hint of leather, lavender, lemon rind, stone fruit pit and wet rocks. This iconic pink wine is lees dense, chewy and crunchy with enough pithy bite to refresh the taste buds, it is so good, no bottle of Clos Cibonne Tibouren lasts long enough, magnums would be a way better way to enjoy this stuff! Drink over the next 3 to 5 years, I had the 2015 vintage last month and it was spot on and still incredible and this 2017 is a bit more vibrant at its core, enjoy it with classic Mediterranean cuisine or anything you have in the fridge! ($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Phelps Creek Vineyards, Chardonnay “Lynette” Columbia Gorge, Oregon. Phelps Creek Vineyards, established in 1990, is a small boutique winery that focuses on estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and owned and run by Bob Morus and his family. Morus is a winegrower, and he believes in his fruit, for him the vineyard care takes center stage in PhelpsCreek’s wine production and he tends his vines using sustainable agricultural practices that are combined with strict management of the fruit yields. This leads to the higher concentration of flavors and a noted luxurious intensity in their bottlings. Located in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, Phelps Creek does some wonderfully crafted wines, with a great set of wines like this cuvee Lynette Chardonnay which was overseen by the highly talented Gevrey-Chambertin vigneron Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy, who has been helping this small winery craft Burgundy style and class wines since about 2007. Roy has brought a real sense of purity and direct to Phelps Creek and you can easily see her own Domaine Marc Roy in her efforts here and she has a wonderful touch, as this gorgeous Lynette Chardonnay proves. The Columbia Gorge is a dramatic region, significantly different from the Willamette Valley and has some fascinating vineyards and wines to discover, and Morus, who first planted Pinot Noir in 1990, added a block of Dijon clone, that I believe is Clone 96, Chardonnay two years later in 2002, which forms the backbone of this wine. Alexandrine’s wines also remind me of John Paul’s wines at cameron Winery, especially her signature Cuvee Alexandrine Pinot Noir, which is on par with Paul’s Clos Electrique, and the 2016 is absolutely lovely and a wine not to me missed if you love Oregon Pinot and for Chardonnay fans, this Lynette is something incredibly special, I think it might be my favorite Oregon Chardonnay!
Ms Roy and Bob have winner here with the expressive 2015 Lynette Chardonnay, it really reminds me a lot of John Raytek’s beautiful Ceritas wines with it’s purity and textual grace, it certainly is expressive and unique stuff that deserves attention. This Phelps Creek Vineyards Chard shows crisp mineral focus with layers that fill the palate as you sip it in the glass, it gains density and nuance as it gets air revealing apple, pear, lemon and peach fruits, soft floral tones, wet stones, a hint of brioche, clarified cream, delicate and polished wood notes and clove spice. Not as weighty of powerful as Wente clone, but a wine of serious impact and complexity, it give a wonderful performance with tons of personality and charm. If you had tried the best of Oregon Chardonnay, like the mentioned Cameron or the likes of Brick House, Bergstrom, Evening Land and Westerly to name a few, you need to try this Phelps Creek Lynette Chardonnay. This lightly golden hued Chardonnay is really coming into its own and should drink well for another 5 to 10 years, though its already in the great place, especially with food, I can imagine it with lobster and swordfish, in fact that makes my mouth water, and it should be awesome with soft cheeses too, in particular Époisses, that incredible Bourgogne washed rind intense creamy cheese that is washed in brine and Marc de Bourgogne, pomace from Côte-d’Or brandy. The basic Chard and Pinot here at Phelps Creek Vineyards are very solid too, and represent good value for the money, but these special cuvees are truly exceptional, be on the lookout for them! ($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2018 Reeve, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Bybee Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. The Reeve Rosé is beauty, every vintage I try I love and this 2018 is bursting with energy and pure Pinot fruit, it is wonderfully refreshing, mineral driven stuff that is flexible, it can be happy as a poolside sipper and or just as good with a serious meal. In this vintage, Noah Dorrance and his team sourced the Rosé fruit from the Sonoma Coast instead of the Anderson Valley or Mendocino area per normal as they were a touch fearful that there might be some smoke taint from fires that affected certain areas, having that flexibility and passion to make the best wine possible is what makes Reeve standout, and these new releases are stunning wines. Making a great 100% Pinot Noir Rosé takes commitment as there are not quality Pinot grapes available on the cheap, and to craft a beauty like this, that rivals top Sancerre Rosé and Marsannay Rosé is pretty damn good. Dorrance notes, that the Bybee Vineyard, located within the Sonoma Coast AVA, is farmed in an extremely hands-on fashion, “beyond-organic” as he puts it, in a way that puts purity and vibrancy into the bottle. The twist top Reeve Pinot Noir Rosé, as noted by Dorrance, has a fanfic following already and like Arnot-Roberts Rosé of Touriga Nacional sells out fast, so be sure to act quick to get it.
The 2018, was as per normal with this Rosé, which is delicately pale with a very light salmon/pink hue didn’t get a long soak on the skins, in fact it was pretty much straight to press and aged in stainless steel with just a few months of lees contact before bottling, all done to retain its freshness and vitality, it is a tangy and mouthwatering dry wine. Endowed with vigorous form, the 2018 Reeve Rosé delivers crisp punch on the lighter framed palate with spring flowers, racy grapefruit, watermelon, sour cherry, liquid plum and strawberry fruits along with a hint of zesty herb, saline and wet stones all wrapped in a steely and zingy package. Reeve’s latest set of wines, all handcrafted by Dorrance with expert consultants, Ross Cobb, ex Flowers, Hirsch and who makes some of California’s best Pinots under his own Cobb Wines label, and Katy Wilson, long time Cobb friend and assistant in projects as well as making lovely wines under her LaRue label add firepower to Reeve’s efforts that include a few select Pinot Noirs, a dry Riesling and some Italian inspired Sangiovese bottlings, all of which are fabulously delicious. Happy #internationalroséday Celebrations! ($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Foradori, Teroldego “Sgarzon” IGT, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Alto Adige, Italy. The gorgeous 2017 Sgarzon from Foradori shows wonderful purity as well as having a lovely play between deep fruit and savory elements with an intense purple/garnet color. This vintage is loaded with black fruits, including marionberry, plum, currant fruits along with bright spicy notes, mineral tones and ripe/sweet tannins that taste rich, with seamless textured palate and long in the finish with crushed lilacs, cassis and wild fennel. This amazing wine is luxurious and full bodied but with only about 12% natural alcohol and is subtly earthy with a seductively raw sensual core. These high elevation single vineyard Foradori Teroldego are utterly spellbinding and riveting wines, some of the most treasured wines in Italy. This vintage has a warm ripeness and an incredible mouth feel and density, though wonderfully transparent and shows this alpine grape and region in its best light. The Foradori winery is based in a small village, Mezzolombardo, which is close to Trentino, in the greater Alto Adige area up in the Dolomite Mountains. Foradori, who has influenced many Italian winemakers and inspired thousands more around the world with her wines and her organic/natural methods, though she is most proud by making Teroldego a world class wine. Never one to rest on her laurels, in recent years she has branched out and is making some brilliant stuff from the Tuscan Coast at Ampeleia working with Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Carignan and Alicante Bouschet to name a few. The latest Dolomiti wines, like this one are must try wines, especially if you’ve not tried them!
Elisabetta Foradori, one Italy’s most iconic winemakers and who has led the country’s natural wine movement in recent years crafts a unique set of wines made from indigenous varietals in the Trentino area of the Alto Adige region set in the high northern reaches of Italy. Foradori is most well known for her signature bottlings of Teroldego, the dark local grape of which she usually does four different versions, one tank and cask raised, one barrique aged Bordeaux like version known as Granato and two Cru, single site offerings, the Morei and this Sgarzon, which are both macerated and aged primarily in clay amphorae for 8 months with a finishing of three months in oak barrels. Along with these fabulous reds, Foradori does an interesting “orange” style Pinot Grigio and two stunning and crisp whites, one made from Manzoni ( a cross between Riesling and Pinot Blanc) that she uses cement and acacia wood for aging and her Nosiola, which is done in the amphora along with a finishing in acacia. The Foradori estate today comprises 28 hectares of vines with 75% Teroldego, 15% Manzoni Bianco, 5% Nosiola, 5% Pinot Grigio being grown here. The vineyards are high in altitude, surrounded by mountains, but mostly on flatter parcels which receive plenty of sunlight and drain exceptionally well. The Teroldego, as well as Pinot Grigio, is set on the limestone and granite-rich Campo Rotaliano plain, which could be called the “Grand Cru” of Trentino, with the Teroldego thriving on its sandy, gravelly alluvial soils, while Foradori’s Nosiola and Manzoni whites come from the Fontanasanta hills above Trento on clay-limestone soils, which give these wines their class and elegance. Foradori is all biodynamic and with ultra low sulphur with this estate Sgarzon vineyard, in Mezzolombardo, of Campo Rotaliano zone coming from a sandy plot with small pebbles over deep gravelly soils. Teroldego, an ancient variety native to the alpine Trentino region and related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein (another intensely dark local grape) and Syrah among others, Teroldego thrives in the high, sunny foothills and plateaus below the Dolomite peaks, it is a varietal that few had done noteworthy things with until Foradori come along, and now it is one of Italy’s most revered.
The Foradori family, according to NYC importer David Bowler, purchased the estate back in 1934, but it was her father who bottled Foradori’s first estate vintage in 1960 after many years of growing generic grapes for the near by co-op. When her dad passed unexpectedly in 1976, her mother kept the winery going until her daughter could graduate with her enology degree, so fresh out of school, Elisabetta, then only 19 jumped into her first harvest in 1984 and the rest is history as they say. Early on, as Bowler adds, she began caring for her vines and harvesting by hand, pruning rigorously and converting the farming to organic practices and this included replanting to the best clonal “massale” selections to improve the concentration and the complexity, she put her heart and soul into making Teroldego great, eventually turning to holistic and natural winemaking to achieve even greater results. Foradori was inspired by (Rudolph) Steiner’s, the founder of biodynamic farming, writings about clay’s vitality as well as by the amphora-aging practices of Giusto Occhipinti at COS winery in Sicily, so she undertook experimentation(s) with aging some wines in clay. Elisabetta started with Nosiola, a local, nearly-extinct and usually-uninteresting white variety, which was put it into handmade, unlined Spanish clay tinajas (amphorae) with its skins for months. The Nosiola results were so exciting, she ttried the same program with the terroir driven Teroldego(s) from Sgarzon and Morei, which as mentioned above spend about 8 months with their skins, including some riper stems, employing only natural yeasts and with no sulfur added in the amphora. I have been following Foradori’s wines for many years after being turned on to them by Louis/Dressner Selections, who import her wines into the USA and their California arm at Farm Wines, who also got me hooked on Salvo Foti, La Stoppa and Arianna Ochipinti, the niece of Giusto Occhipinti of COS, and I always look forward to the latest releases, especially her Sgarzon Teroldego. The 2017 Sgarzon should age well and while drinking outrageously good now a few years will only benefit this brilliant red, be sure you enjoy this with rustic or substantial cuisine and plan an meal around it, wild mushroom dishes, game hen, duck confit and or mountain cheeses are just a few ideas, but it will be really good with almost anything. ($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2017 Weingut Müller-Catoir, Riesling Trocken, Haardt, Pfalz Germany. The 2017 Müller-Catoir Haardt Trocken is exotic and highly aromatic with lovely fruit and mineral intensity, it is a wonderful and crisply dry Riesling that reflects the vintage and its remarkable Pfalz terroir. The family owned Müller-Catoir, now managed by Philipp David Catoir, who wears the weight of his families traditions well at this famous estate, which was founded back in 1774, and he has the talented Martin Franzen running the cellar here. Franzen, who in the past ran the operations at Schlossgut Diel, employs a strict program with a move to organic practices and severe selections in the vineyards, where everything is worked and picked by hand now and focuses on ultra transparency in the wines with a reductive approach, with every wine getting a hand crafted attention to detail. The Haardt, a village bottling is a pure example with expressive bright flavors and a heavenly floral perfume, while being brisk, tangy and dusty dry on the light framed palate. Müller-Catoir does a gentle crush and gives the juice plenty of time on the skins before a slow and soft pressing before an stainless steel fermentation and aging, all to preserve vibrancy and purity, the wines are always stylish and evocative and while they focus on Riesling, like this beauty, then also do one of the world’s best dry Muscat(s) or Muskateller and Scheurebe.
The Haardt Riesling Trocken is all from organic grapes that were grown on standstone soils, which gives this wine its pretty nose and steely form, and this 2017 is absolutely seducing with a complex array of sensations that ranges from tropical essences to flinty wet stones, it is clear and with a tiny hint of sunshine in the glass. In the mouth this calcareous influenced Riesling shows jasmine, oyster shell, peach, tart apricot, green apple and saline notes, adding guava/papaya, rosewater and hint of zesty lime. This is impressive stuff, and I can’t wait to try the upper echelon Cru wines, especially the GG’s and the Scheurebe Trocken, in this fantastic vintage I bet they are rockstar wines, and this one itself is fabulous and a true value offering from this great estate. I am glad I got a few bottles of Müller-Catoir from 2017, they are looking like classics. This is a great Summer refresher, but serious enough to hang out with haute cuisine, it gets more intriguing with matching food, it can go with a wide variety of foods from fresh shellfish, spicy prawns, sushi as well as cured meats, picnic fare, street tacos and Moroccan lemon chicken even. This vivid and zippy young Riesling is a quality white that makes for a nice alternative for Chablis, Kiwi Sauv Blanc and or Albarino, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years. ($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Alfaro Family Vineyards Small Lots, Pinot Noir, Heirloom Clones, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains. One of the most exciting wines in Richard Alfaro’s impressive lineup of new releases is his Heirloom clone bottling of Corralitos estate grown Pinot Noir, and while I’m always thrilled by his astonishingly good Chardonnay(s) and absolutely love his dry and mineral driven Gruner Veltliner, Alfaro’s Pinots are lovely authentic, stylish and polished wines that deserve lots of praise. The Heirloom Clone Estate Pinot is 80% de-stemmed, 20% whole cluster and crafted from various blocks within the Lindsay Paige, Ryan Spencer, Alfaro Family and Mary Katherine vineyards all of which were planted and farmed on Alfaro’s Corralitos Estate using Heritage (Heirloom) clones including Calera, Mt. Eden, Pommard, Martini and Swan selections. Richard used indigenous yeasts and a five day cold soak and the must was gently fermented without punchdowns, instead the cap was kept wet with gravity flow rack and return, after finishing primary the wine was lightly pressed to French barrels where it went through natural malos and was raised on its lees for nine months. This unique bottling is lush, but with an dark earthy background, it was unfined and unfiltered and shows exceptional purity, vitality and drive in what was a stellar vintage for this part of the Santa Cruz Mountains and highlights the sandy loams and the cool marine influence here.
Coming in at 13.5% natural alcohol and with just hint of smoky sweet oak toastiness the 2017 Heirloom Clone is all about the fruit and its background complexities with a pretty garnet/ruby hue in the glass and with delicate floral perfume accented by hints of spice and a touch of tapenade before opening up to a layered medium bodied palate with satiny mouth feel. There is plenty to keep your attention and every sip begs for more with black cherry, plum, strawberry and cranberry fruits holding court, but also with blood organs, Earl Grey/rose hip tea, cinnamon, cola bean, vanilla and a faint sense of tarry rawness that actually adds a compelling almost old world charm to this ripe and textural Pinot Noir. The acidity is well integrated, but gives lots of personality and life here, this is a wine that can come across stoic in a sense until you have it with food, especially with well matched cuisine, it really takes off with the right pairing, duck, roast chicken, blackened salmon and or wild mushroom dishes, these kind of pairings let this wine fly, and that last glass is utterly awesome, drink this beauty over the next 5 to 10 years, probably at its best in 2024 and through 2027. I really love what Richard, and now son Ryan are doing at Alfaro Family Vineyards both with the estate wines and the Trout Gulch Vineyard, a source for some outstanding Chardonnay(s) not just for Alfaro, with Arnot-Roberts, Kutch and Ceritas, along with their mentioned Gruner and delicious Sparkling Pinot! ($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2017 Domaine La Manarine, Cotes du Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France. Wow, just when you though Cotes du Rhone couldn’t get any better, after two stellar vintages in 2015 and 2016, it does with these 2017’s, and especially lovely and intriguing is this La Manarine which shows Grenache is its finest light. The Domaine la Manarine was established back in 2001 by Gilles Gasq, who was the long serving assistant winemaker at the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Domaine Monpertuis, and he has a wonderful collection of vines as well as his cellar in the tiny village of Travaillan, in the southern Rhone just northeast of Orange, not too far from Chateauneuf. The soils here are mostly marl (limestone) and is also littered with Galets, the smooth round stones and pebbles that are famous in Chateauneuf and Gasq has mainly Genache planted here, though he does have a parcel of Syrah and recently added a vineyard of Carignan, which he plans on bottling as a single varietal wine along with a smattering of various white grapes that form his Cotes du Rhone Blanc. The warm and dry Mediterranean climate leads to small yields of concentrated grapes making for wines of complex and dense in flavor. There is so much going for this wine, easy to quaff, but seriously built and great with food, this is a wine to drink over the next 3 to 5 years, I love this vintage, in particular its fresh detail and length.
Gilles uses indigenous yeasts and relies on a non interventionist style, believing the wines are first and foremost made in the vineyard and his wines show terroir and vintage purity and character every year, and I have followed many vintages of them, so I know this 2017 is rather special, for me it is the best yet from this winery. The 2017 La Manarine, 100% Grenache Noir, was from all de-stemmed grapes and fermented in cool stainless vats with a cuvaison of about 20 days, it is then raised for a year on the lees in stainless steel and enamel lined tanks before a racking to clarify, then aged another 6 to 8 months. The 2017 unfined and unfiltered La Manarine Cotes du Rhone from vines that close to 40 years old shows pretty floral aromas, dark fruits and a mix of spice, mineral, incense and earthy highlights with smooth/ripe layers of plum, boysenberry, strawberry and pomegranate fruits, a touch of pepper, lavender, cinnamon stick, salty licorice and kirsch. The deep garnet/ruby La Manarine opens up and gives a wonderfully performance, this is a wine that gains complexity with air, but stays nicely balanced and vivid throughout with a full body and a slightly rustic form making for a classic old world charmer and a Rhone wine of tremendous value. This is joyous and unpretentious Grenache at it’s best, enjoy! ($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2017 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Camino de la Frontera, Vino Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Spain. The 2017 Camino de la Frontera, Mouratón based, Vino Tinto by Laura Lorenzo is a bright, lightly perfumed and savory red with a wild array of flavors in a medium bodied wine that has great sweet and umami play and a nice dark hue in the glass that reminds me of Crozes-Hermitage mixed with a Morgon, it’s an exciting vintage that is already drinking exceptionally well. There is a growing mystic around Laura Lorenzo and her wines, and there is an undeniable terroir driven greatness to be found in them, she has without question brought the world’s attention to her little patch of each made up of steep granite and slate hillsides of the Quiroga-Bibei terruño. Laura is a fascinating character in this old and historic region of Spain, standing over 6 feet tall and previously of dreadlocks she towers over most Galicians and making her work even more backbreaking than it is for us shorter people while working these ancient vines, she has become as iconic to Bibei as Raul Perez is to the Briezo! Laura Lorenzo always had an interest and love for wine, she even started enology school at 16, then after graduation, as noted by her importer Jose Pastor, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, but the world of wine called out to her and she then went overseas, first with the famed Eben Sadie in South Africa, who’s natural wines are some of the greatest in the world and she went Achaval Ferrer in Argentina, another elite producer that crafts gorgeous Mendoza wines that rival top Bordeaux. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra, and here she made a name for herself and the area with a string of outstanding offerings, before leaving to make her own label and exploring her own path. In 2014, after her last harvest at Dominio do Bibei, she and her partner Alvaro Dominguez, an artist and chef, formed Daterra Viticultores, and the rest they say is history, with her 2014, 2015 and 2016 wines making a big splash in the natural wine world and gaining her fame by even the most serious of wine critics. I have followed her wines since her time at Domino do Bibei and they are some of my absolute favorites, so I was thrilled to get a few of her new 2017’s to explore and review here, though I honestly buy these purely for my own love of them, they are such thrilling examples and expression of place, I find them impossible to resist.
While usually we think of Mencia when we think of the Ribeira Sacra, the 2017 Daterra Vino Tinto Camino de la Frontera is a field blend coming from Val do Bibei sub zone, and intriguingly is comprised of 70% Juan García, 15% Tempranillo, 5% Bobal, 3% Rufete, surprisingly only 2% Mencia, and 5% Bastardo (which may be Trousseau) grapes. Juan García is also known as Mouratón, a very little known varietal usually used as a blending grape and rarely featured in a high percentage, it can be found mostly around the Arribes area (as in this one), though it is also in the Salamanca area of Spain. Because of the close proximity to Portugal and also that this area was inhabited by the wine obsessed Romans there are many differing grapes here in Galicia and sometimes the Ribeira Sacra with it’s remoteness can feel like a place where time stood still, it is close to a miracle that these isolated river valleys have a thriving wine community in the modern world, it is almost heroic. The Val do Bibei is at the confluence of the cool Atlantic and the Continental climate with this wine having more of the warmth and influenced by the sandy granite loams all highlighted here in Laura’s Camino de la Frontera, which comes from a high elevation parcel with a northwest exposure that helped, during this warm dry year, by keeping things fresh, while the tannins are ripe and juicy. Lorenzo used 50% de-Stemmed grapes, while 50% whole foot stomped whole cluster employing 100% natural yeast fermentation with a 14 day maceration, after which she aged this vintage in a new 2,000 liter French Foudre and a couple of well used 500 Liter barrels for close to a year before bottling unfined and unfiltered. The 2017 shows more zip and crunchiness than the 2015 or 2016’s I had from Lorenzo and the purity of fruit is impressive with layers of blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry and tart currant along with loads of mineral, crushed quartz, rose oil, minty herb, walnut, earthy tones and Moro orange. This wine benefits from cuisine that matches its lifting savoriness and vibrant acids and is lovely with a slight chill on it, drink Lorenzo’s Camino de la Frontera over the next 3 to 5 years. ($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Alheit Vineyards, Cartology Bush Vines White, Hemel & Aarde Ridge, Walker Bay, Western Cape, South Africa. Chris & Suzaan Alheit’s gorgeous Cartology white is crafted from 87% Chenin Blanc and 13% Semillon coming from old bush vines, it is an amazing wine of character and of textural class. The Alheit Cartology, a Western Cape Herritage blend, has achieved an almost cult wine status since it’s first vintage in 2011, and joins a growing list of new South African offerings that are changing the way we perceive the country’s wine industry and like Sadie Family’s offerings, it is a wine that takes on the best in the world, and in want for a better term, this stuff is Grand Cru quality. Alheit notes that the Cartology parcels are dry farmed bush vines, with a minimum age of 30 years, although most are around 40 years old (or more) and comes from Chenin parcels in the Skurfberg, Piekenierskloof, Perdeberg, Bottelary, False Bay and Tygerberg, while the Semillon comes from the old La Colline block in Franschhoek. This 2014, which seems to have gained with bottle age and should last decades, is wonderfully structured and has a waxy/oily mouthfeel, while still having intensity and vitality of form. This 2014 is a wine that deserves your time and attention, it will seduce you completely if given time and a meal that compliments it, I would suggest baked or grilled fish and or roast poultry dishes.
Chris and Suzaan, who met in college studying wine at Stellenbosch, are hardworking, humble and passionate about wine and are trying to make wines that celebrate the Cape’s heritage and showcase it’s unique terroir and grapes from it’s historic sites. In the cellar, the Alheit’s are minimalists and work with natural wine making principles, though more pragmatic with the use of a little sulphur, they use 100% indigenous yeasts and long fermentation(s) without using much in the way of new oak, as they put it they don’t want their wines to smell like or taste like a French tree. The grapes that come into Alheit’s winery for the Cartology white are cooled, hand sorted, and whole bunch pressed, then resulting juice is allowed settle, and it is racked off into a combination of neutral vessels that include old barrels, clay pots (Amphora) and concrete eggs to ferment naturally and as Alheit puts it, then it is left alone. The 2014 shines with citrus, mainly lemony elements and mineral tones adding a full range of flavors on the medium bodied palate including quinces, white peach, bruised apple, honeycomb and wild herbs as well as crushed stones, lime blossom and star anise. The pale golden/straw hued Cartology is a sensational white wine that really delivers a great performance in the glass and is uniquely South African, and while hard to put into old world context it has the feel of a white Burgundy, but with a profile that has the soulful Chenin, dusty dry personality, like a top Saumur or a Domaine Huet Sec. ($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2017 Tablas Creek, Patelin de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles. An impressive California Rhone white blend that relies on brightness and tangerine tangy details, rather than the oily depth and density of the Esprit, the Patelin de Tablas Blanc feels lighter framed or lithe, exciting and with a sense heightened aromatics. Lacy, minerally and floral toned, which of course comes from the Viognier, which gives a glorious perfume of honeysuckle and jasmine while the palate stays crisp and dry with layers of pear, apricot and tangy citrus fruits, a touch of wild herb, steely focus, plus hints of wet stone/chalk and peppery crystallized ginger. The Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc 2017 vintage’s final assembly included 44% Grenache Blanc, 29% Viognier, 12% Marsanne, 12% Roussanne and 3% Clairette Blanc (Blanche) coming from mostly purchased grapes within the region, westside Paso, with all the varietals for the Patelin de Tablas Blanc being whole cluster pressed, and fermented in stainless steel to emphasize the clean brisk flavors and preserve the aromatics. Tablas employed only native yeasts on each of the lots, with the grapes being fermented separately, raised in only stainless, then after fermentation the wine was racked and blended to tank for early bottling, again to keep it racy.
The Patelin is a Paso white that features more Viognier than the higher end estate versions that use more Roussanne and Picpoul, but still relies on Grenache Blanc, and interestingly has a touch of Clairette Blanc, instead of the Picpoul. All the vineyards used are within the cooler zones and on limestone soils. I was really impressed with the vitality and driving energy in this 2017 and this white delivers plenty of charm and thrills on the palate and it has progressed well since I first tried it last fall, it seems to be in a wonderful sweet spot right now, but has the guts to age another 3 to 5 years with ease. The 2018 version looks set to be released soon and that will be maybe even a better vintage, so regardless of which year you find on the shelf, you should grab it. Along with this value packed Patelin Blanc, you shouldn’t miss Tablas’ set of Rosé(s) and explore their single varietal series, with the unique Picardan, Counoise, Picpoul, Vermentino and Mourvèdre being lovely, along with the stellar 2015 Esprit Rouge. Every time I taste Tablas Creek I find something intriguing in their wines, it never gets boring and the wines are not flashy or tricked up, they are just pure and naturally complex, making them wonderful with meals. ($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive