Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Grapelive Hot Picks! Dec. 7th

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2005 Ryan Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

Peggy Ryan has the touch to make pretty and lush wines that rewards those lucky enough to get her wine! This may just be her finest effort from this famed vineyard, with big and powerful flavors delivered in a velvety and balanced way. This Pinot just gets richer and deeper with air in the glass and is hard not to love right away with lots of complexity and style. There is cool raspberry, dark cherry, sweet plum and lots of rose petal and spice too. The wine has some very interesting crushed stones, toasty oak and a finish that is long and vibrant making you wish there was lots more of this wine in your glass and in the bottle! 93 Points, grapelive

*New Release

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Loimer Pinot Noir “Terrassen” Kamptal, Austria

So cool and so rare, I had to buy a bunch for myself, and then to my surprise it kicked ass! This is an intense and complex wine and very juicy to boot. Lots a fresh flowers, roses, violets and wild flowers give perfume with a strong grenadine and strawberry essence. the wine picks up depth and focus on the palate with clear and rich cherry and red berry fruit and a lush plumy texture. The wine has a sexy earthiness with a mushroom and mineral touch as well, which gives a Burgundy like feel, but this is a unique gem that is a no brainer if you can find it! Finished in screw-cap and very modern in packaging, this Pinot is a winner and a fresh terroir to talk about. 92 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

*And is only available in select markets

Hot Picks Dec. 2nd

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2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge (Rhone Style Red) Paso Robles

This amazing Chateauneuf-du-Pape styled red is rich, lively and full of fruit and texture with super balance and focus. This is one of the best red wines for all around quality out there. All red drinkers will find something to love about this wine, and I rate it as one of the top wines of the vintage period! This wine has power, depth and class with lovely perfume and a super long finish and is a wine that goes beyond the varietal and showcases the purest nature of terroir. There is lots of plum, black cherry, bramble berry and grenadine flavors up front with smoke, cassis, pepper and spicy oak notes in the background. The wine uses the best of its make up to be everything to every person with a combination of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other Rhone grapes that all add to the pleasure here. Finally Tablas has full-filled its mission, we have now the American Chateauneuf that is not a copy but a true expression on that theme! ($45-49 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

*Just being released

Bouchee Wines

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2005 Willowbrook Pinot Noir Morelli Vineyard Russian River

This lovely and round Pinot is totally enjoyable and lush in fruit and full in body. There is lots of raspberry, and a big burst of cherry fruit with toasty sweet oak giving creamy vanilla which make this a modern wine, but with classy style all the same. There is a background of spice, cola and mocha that just add to the tastiness! I really enjoyed this Pinot, the only problem is finding it again, as it is very limited and hard to find. Check good old Google or your local wine merchant. The winery only makes a tiny amount sadly, but they do produce a another couple of single vineyard and estate Pinots. 93 Points, grapelive

Hot Picks: Richard Alfaro, Santa Cruz Mountains Chard & Pinot

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Richard Alfaro Scores Big with Santa Cruz Mountains Chard & Pinot

Nov.24th Carmel, Ca

I just finished tasting wines from Richard’s great line up of wines, both under the Alfaro Family and Martin Alfaro labels. His Santa Cruz wines are world class and full of rich and exotic flavors, but remain amazingly faithful to Burgundy. He poured the 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay, his own 2006 Lindsay-Page Chard, the 2004 Schultze Family Vineyard Pinot, the 2005 Lindsay-Page Pinot and the yet to be released 2006 Deer Park Pinot with all scoring plus 90 Points!

Alfaro Family Vineyards

2006 Martin Alfaro Chardonnay Central Coast
This is a great Chard that is both affordable and filled with flavor. The fruit comes from solid vineyards including Sleepy Hollow and delivers big time, with intense fruit and lovely toasty oak notes. There is apple, pear, peach, pineapple and fig fruit and creamy layers. This wine tastes full and thick, but has nice zesty spice and is lively through out. ($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery

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2006 Alfaro Family Chardonnay Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a big full bore Chardonnay that is ultra rich and incredibly deep and focused with lovely flavors and a long lush finish. Hazelnuts and white flowers lead to pure pear and apple fruit, with touches of clove, mineral, honey and vanilla. This wine is still a month or so away from release, but it is well on its way to be a classic. (Due to be released in Jan. 2008) A little more than a hundred cases of this wine is heading to market, so get on it now! ($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Alfaro Family Vineyards

2005 Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a beautiful and darkly rich Pinot that has intense ripe fruit and exotic spiciness that is lush with plumy sweet flavors and smoky layers. Raspberry, cherry and candied cranberry burst out in this Pinot and vanilla mocha linger on the finish. This is a wild ride to be sure, but it is so good and it just seems to get better each time I try it. ($40 Est.) 92 points, grapelive

Alfaro Family Vineyards

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2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Deer Park Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains (Pre-Release Sample)
This wine will be released in December 2007 and I can hardly wait to buy it myself that is my way of putting my money where my mouth is. The potential is real that this will be an awesome wine and like I said it is something I’m going to bet on. It is all ready to enjoy now, but there is a lot more to come. This wine is tangy fresh, but it has heady perfume and clear focus with soft and pretty flavors that just stay with you a long time. There is lots of classic cherry, plum and currant fruit and earth, spice and mineral notes. ($35-38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery


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2004 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains (Library Selection)
This is a Burgundy-like gem of a Pinot that is sensual and earthy with delicate layers and subtle intensity. It starts with rose petal, dried wild flowers and red fruits on the nose with lush cherry and plum fruit. There is vigor and depth as well, but it comes in smooth layers that have a sense of terroir inter woven. There is mineral, mushroom and spice mixed with each layer and it finishes long and tangy. ($35-38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Martin Alfaro Winery

*Some of these wines are available at:

Bouchee Wines

Hot Picks

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2005 Tudor Pinot Noir Tondre Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands

This Pinot is all about purity and elegance with subtle power and solid structure and balance making it all that more impressive. Tudor got the max from this site and produced a wonderful and pretty wine, and one that will fill out and get richer over the next couple of years. There is everything to like and nothing to complain about here with this lovely Pinot. Soft full flavors and nice textures make this a joy to drink now, in fact I’m sure I would not be able to keep my paws off it! The flavors are vibrant and lush with cherry, raspberry and fresh ripe plum flowing through out. The has depth and complexity, but is more about pleasure and smoothness which makes it very friendly right now. The finish is long and has a lingering stawberries and cream note that really stays with you. Touches of toast, cranberry, vanilla and tea spice add to the wines allure. ($60-65 Est) 93-94 Points, grapelive

Tudor Direct

Hot Picks Nov. 10th 2007

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2005 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis “Montee de Tonnerre” Premier Cru (White Burgundy)

This is wine is always one of the world’s best whites and Raveneau is a master of this region and its grapes there is no doubt at all. Chardonnay may never be better than this! Chablis Chardonnay is pure, clean and elegant with pretty vibrant flavors and wild stoney mineral notes. This maybe one of the best ever vintages and this wine is amazing and damn near perfect, even if it is really too young to give its all yet. It opens slowly and tight with lime and slate that is very robust and tangy. With its youthful acidity still gripping the fruit is slow to develop, but wow after thirty minutes open at almost room temp. it explodes! This lovely white has white peach, lemon, green apples and a touch of spice on the palate. There is a awesome pear note that fills your mouth and stays all the way through with added touches in the background of liquid mineral that is both a taste and texture. Truly a mind-blowing wine that is worth the money and time to find! ($99-150 Est) 97 Points, grapelive

Kermit Lynch

*Very Limited. Call Bouchee Wines 1-831-626-7880

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2005 Ridge Geyserville California (Zinfandel) Sonoma County 40th Vintage Bottling

Three cheers for this California classic! 40 years of Geyserville is a very important and historic milestone, and this vintage proves it is worthy of 40 more! This vibrant and robust Zin is everything it should be and is every bit a true Geyserville has been and still is. This lively red has plenty of raspberry, briar, plum, cherry and bramble berry fruit flowing on the palate with hints of spice and cedar. The finish is zesty, clean and polished, this is a fine wine to be enjoyed anytime.($33 Est.)* 92 Points, grapelive

*Widely Available

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2006 Pax Syrah Sonoma Hillsides Russian River Valley

This wine is almost black, and for sure no light can get through it! This is great stuff with loads of thick fruit, but with balance and style. Lovely violets, sweet spices, lavender and black fruits shine through, leading to chocolate laced currants, cassis, blueberry and plum compote. Zesty, spicy acidity, earth, game and vanilla all add to the depth and complexity to this wonderful Syrah making Hermitage and Cote-Rotie proud! The finish is huge and long, giving lots of pleasure for what seems like 2-3 minutes! ($50-55 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

*Very Limited

Bouchee Wines


Radog Whites

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2006 Radog Gewurztraminer Monterey County
This is a nice juicy white with some classic Gewurz charm and spiciness. They is some bright citrus and apricots that shine through here and good acidity that makes this a balanced lighter style wine that is good for Asian cusine. ($17 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

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2006 Radog Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco, Monterey County
This Sauvignon shows some interesting terroir and sweet fruits along with crisp acidity and a tangy aftertaste. Dried candied citrus, lemon-lime and pear notes lead the way and zesty cleansing acid keeps it together. This little white makes for a good afternoon picnic wine and or fruit and cheese.($17 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

*Available through www.radogwines.com direct

Guten Tag! Here are German Pinot Noirs that are darn good!

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2005 Domaine Assmannshausen Staatsweinguter Kloster Eberbach (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken “Assmannshauser Hollenberg” Rheingau

Everything about this Pinot Noir is lovely and vibrant, well except the label and trying to pronounce it! After that struggle for this language challenged Californian, I was over joyed with the quality and purity of this German Pinot. No doubt, this is an “Old World” wine, but it is so charming even the most fruit-headed of Pinot drinkers will be impressed. I will tell you, I might have easily thought this was a premier cru Burgundy, either Nuits-St. George or maybe a Volnay and regardless this was a fun and pretty wine. The palate is full and lush with tingling red berry and solid cherry fruit, spices, and earthy cranberry. The wine has some lingering plum and mineral notes and only a touch of gamy mushrooms. Overall this is a super wine with nice balance and graceful winemaking that is not trying to be anything other than what it is. German Pinot is rare and difficult to find, but that said you should really try and find some! ($40-45 Est) 90 Points, grapelive

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2003 August Kesseler (Pinot Noir) Spatburgunder Rheingau QbA Trocken

Kesseler Rieslings are legendary and offer great quality at a impressive price, but his Pinots are extremely rare and have achieved “Cult” fame at home in Germany so they are a rarity here and very pricey. This one is the exception and is that high quality fair priced gem that we all search for. 2003 was a very hot and ripe year, which really helped the growers get great grapes even for their lesser wines. You won’t find this deal every vintage, so if you see it get it! This Pinot shows lush and fat fruit with red berries, cherry and sweet plums on the palate. The wine is fruity, but has good balance and is interesting and not dull at all with touches of spice, earth, slate and truffle that keep you guessing. While German Pinot is unique, it certainly can be very good and in league with Burgundy, it is also much more pleasurable with food. Very cool wine. ($35 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive

Dee Vine Wines

* Small amounts available at BoucheeWines call 831-626-7880

Grapelive’s Hot Picks

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2001 Mastrojani Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

This is a beautiful and pure Brunello that is both clean and old world charming, proving this is one place where you can keep terroir and still make a modern palate happy. Lovely richness and sublime textures with vigor and live, this classic Brunello can be drunk now or kept for another decade. Cherry, strawberry, cassis and dried herb Sangiovese purity flows across the palate with touches of rose petal, red berry and tobacco that add to the complex array of layers. This wine has a near perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acidity, again highlighting the vintage and superb winemaking here. ( $48 Est) 93-94 Points, grapelive


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2006 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone White, France

This classy vibrant white has plenty to love and is never anything but fresh and beautiful. Soft peach, pear and apricot fruit, clean acidity and subtle mineral and spice notes. Gets bigger and deeper with air, but it never gets flabby or out of balance. This Chateauneuf Blanc is fantastic and has the style of a Puligny in if it is Southern Rhone wine, that is how pure and focused it is. It shows ripe fruit, smooth texture and a full round mouth-feel with a long zesty finish. ($52-55 Est) 92 Points, grapelive

Kermit Lynch Direct

Also avail. at Bouchee Wines

Latest Reviews, Weekly Picks

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2005 La Spinetta Barbera D’ Asti Ca Di Pian, Piedmonte, Italy

I am a hopeless fan of this producer, I feel they might be the overall best winery in Piedmonte! This wine is a joy and offers so much it is hard to not fall in love with it. A super value, even with the lame dollar to euro, at $28 this is a steal. I get a case or so whenever I can! It is hard to find, but now that the Henry Wine Group imports it direct it has became easier for restaurants and wine merchants to get it, so get on your local to pick it up! Lush red fruits, plum, cherry and berries with some pretty currants. Good dark color and full-bodied, this Barbera gives it all. I give this wine to all my friends, and they just call it the Rhino Wine, because of the label drawing. ($28-30 est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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2006 Chateau Thivin Brouilly Cru Beaujolais (Gamay Noir) Claude Geoffray, French Red

If you want to perfect Thanksgiving red this just might be it, just one sip will convince most to the pleasure of a real fine Beaujolais! This clean and structured Gamay has tons of fruity flavor, but is lively and medium bodied. Pretty fresh crushed berries and strawberry compote smoothly dance on the palate with a flourish of cranberry and dried flowers on the finish. This is a totally yummy wine that has class, but easy to quaff anytime. You can find it through Kermit Lynch in Berkeley and it is under $20 most places! ($18-22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Reviews & News Oct. 2007

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I’m back from exploring Russia

Okay, so the wine sucked, but Russia was awesome and the beer and vodka made up for the disappointment with the wine. I tried an Abkahzian red made with a native Georgian grape of which I can’t spell nor pronounce, while the winemaking was sloppy and dirty I do believe the grape could be a very good one. I was told the Georgian made versions are wonderfully rich and compelling, but alas it was not to be for me. Russia has a strict embargo against Georgia and most of their ex-republics, which they claim is for quality and health safety issues, though it is known to be a political issue. So I made due with Baltika beer, which is like the Carlsberg of Russia and based in Saint Petersburg. Baltika makes about 12 different styles of which I tried most! The wheat beer (number 8 on the label) I think was the best, though the export Lager (number 7) and the porter (number 9) were of very good quality. The Russians did have a super selection of Italian wines along with a good choice of Aussie and French as well, so drinking wine is not bad and I did see more people drinking wine than vodka in restaurants, which did surprise me. There is a really bad drinking problem in Russia and lots of lives are being lost to alcoholism and drunk driving, but that said, Moscow streets were not littered with drunks and most people drinking out in public were doing so with beer and seemed fairly lucid. While surprised by the lax enforcement and open public drinking, it was nice to sit in front of the Kremilin on a sunny day with a brew from a keg served from a rolling kiosk! Check back as I’m putting a whole article together on my Russian holiday soon, under the “Fermented Travel” column.

Too see my notes on the latest Pasonage wines, check out my barrel tasting from last month <click here>

Latest Reviews

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2004 Nicholas Joly Savennieres Clos de la Bergerie Loire Valley, France (Chenin Blanc) White Wine

I have wanted to taste and review Joly wines for years, as he is one of the great pioneers of Bio-Dynamic (super organic) winemaking and is extreme in his views about it. I must say that I am now a full on believer! This Chenin is one of the top white wines you can get, with richness, depth and earthiness that puts it on par with Montrachet
or a great Alsace wine. This is his middle priced version and it is golden in color and has a perfect balance between old world and new world, meaning it has ripeness, but retains clarity and vibrant flavors. Peach, white plum, pear and clove with hints of mineral, straw and citrus. It finishes with dried flowers and a touch of honey. This is a joy, especial for the geeky wine drinker that is looking for something different to try their friends on.($45 est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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2004 Nicholas Joly Savennieres Clos de la Coulee de Serrant, Loire Valley, France (Chenin Blanc) White Wine

This is the top of Joly’s line and my God is it good! Like a Grand Cru Burgundy or First Growth Bordeaux, sometime somewhere regardless of price you must try this wine. It is lovely and intense at the same time and is amazingly complex for a Chenin Blanc, proving that Nicholas Joly has something special and his extreme views just might be 100% correct. This Bio-Dynamic thing has got something to it and this wine could be the poster child for the movement. This has to be the greatest Chenin in the world, who is going to argue that claim? Well I’m sure many, but find this wine and try it then write me and tell me it is not true! Jess Jackson (Kendall-Jackson) and his Regal Wine Company sells this wine wholesale, so ask your local wine store to get you some. This lush and pure wine has a freshness and light touch at first, but gets bigger and richer with air. I found all kinds of white and yellow fruits, flowers and subtle mineral notes with a grace and character not found that often in this in your face world. The texture is amazing and the length is fantastic. Words can’t do it justice, so at some point you’ll have to try it yourself. ($90-100) 96 Points, grapelive