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Grapelive Latest: May 25

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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honigcab.jpg2007 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
This wine would have to be one of the all time underrated Cabs in Napa, but great for the wine lover that has a budget! 2007 is a super vintage and Honig didn’t mess it up, as this Cabernet is lush and deeply flavored with chocolate like thickness and good complexity. I think it will only get better with a few years of age, but it still is a good find right now. The nose is full of nice mocha and toasty sweet oak notes, and the mouth is rich with red fruits and medium weight texture. The palate is refined and balanced with plum, currant and black cherry layers, hints of mineral, pencil lead and creamy vanilla all coming together nicely. If you want a good value from a great vintage, this would be a good choice.
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: May 24

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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morgan.jpg2009 Morgan Pinot Gris “Ray Franscioni Vineyard” Monterey County.
This wine is a winner, and at the price even better still, Italy makes some great Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) and will always, but if you want a really good California white under $20, then you should try this one. The palate is full of green apple and citrus with hints of mineral spice and tropical fruits, with nice zesty acidity that keeps the fruit in check and make this wine a great summer quaffer! It may seem simple, but really you are not going to find a much better Pinot Gris out there, especially at this price. This wine is a favorite in Monterey bistro scene and it goes lovely with food and I hope to enjoy some this summer with picnics.
($16-18 Est.) 89-90 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: May 22

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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honig-sauvignon.jpg2009 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley.
Honig has long been making some of the nicest wines for the money in Napa, and this vintage of Sauvignon Blanc is even better than I can remember and I must say this vintage rocks for Sauvignon Blanc. There is everything you’d want, full vibrant flavors and crisp freshness all the way through, nothing out of place here and the finish is near perfect for sipping away an afternoon or enjoying seafood with. The nose is citrus infused goodness and the palate jumps with life and tangy fruits, grapefruit, lemon/lime and melon all adding to the whole. There is none of the usual herbal/grassy flavors that can show up in Napa Sauvignon Blancs, much to my joy, and that zingy acidity is great on the finish giving a clean burst that refreshes the palate.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: May 19

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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morgan07r.jpg2007 Morgan Pinot Noir “Rosella’s Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
Gary Franscioni’s personal vineyard continues to impress, and Morgan nailed it with this vintage, in fact this might be the best Morgan Pinot to date, and I found it better than the more hyped “Garys’ Vineyard” partner by a long ways, so when this wine shows up be sure to get a few, and like the other single vineyard Morgan Pinots there is a chance you’ll see it on sale for around $40 and again, don’t miss out if you can get it at that price! The nose is deep and rich with perfume and toasty oak, with a lush and full palate of black cherry, blueberry, plum and red berry fruits with a silky texture and intensity of layers. The finish is near perfect with creamy mocha, vanilla, smoke and lingering fruit. This wine will not disappoint, and I am thrilled to have tasted it and hope to see a few more bottles come my way!
($64 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: May 15

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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starry05.gif2005 Starry Night Syrah Russian River Valley.
This wine has a Black/Purple with a garnet hue, this is a dark and opaque Syrah that looks deep and rich, is very intriguing. The bouquet is a great mix of everything you love about Syrah, flowers, spice, liqueur, chocolate, game and a sweet grapey essence that bursts from the glass when poured. The mouth is full and giving with rich fruit, and velvety tannins that have matured with the couple of years in bottle. Everything is in place and the palate is complete with thick fruit, lush body and textures. The flavors jump and coat the palate with blueberry, blackberry, plum and crème de cassis all exploding in a cascade of layers with hints of mocha, pepper, cherry pie and warm toasty oak vanilla.The finish here on this Syrah is all about length and complexity, every flavor comes back at different times on the finish, every detail comes alive and finally when the story ends the fruit stays along with a touch of dark chocolate. This is a modern and clean Syrah that delivers great depth and flavors a better because it has that extra time in bottle, making give everything now, this wine is ready and willing to please. Big bold yes, but with lots of delicate notes and focus, this is a yummy wine that your friends will go crazy for. ($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: May 10

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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kasauri115.jpg2008 Kasuari Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast “Clone 115”.
This single clone wine shows unique qualities from the 115 clone, also known as Pommard clone, from the region of Burgundy it was developed before being rooted in California, Oregon and other Pinot regions around the world. This wine is amazingly detailed and finely tuned all ready, it has a wonderful aromatic nose with wildflowers, rose petals and hints of violets along with some blueberry and polished smoky sweet wood notes. If that wasn’t enough, things get better on the palate where the fruit is richly developed and layered, showing black and red fruits, cherry and plum leading the way with flashes of lavender, spice, smoke, mineral and vanilla oil. Everything is round and smoothly delivered in classic Burgundian fashion, but with a more clean and forward style the North Coast of California seems to often produce. I must say, this is very impressive Pinot Noir and remarkable even more by being so good at a very fair price point, I have seen recently many more Pinots at twice this price, that don’t deliver this kind of quality or pleasure.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

*The Winery Notes:

“In the winery natural winemaking practices are used in a quest to make artistic, handcrafted wines that reflect our passion to provide the most enjoyable wine drinking experience. Each wine is hand crafted with naturally occurring yeast handling the fermentations. We gently destem all fruit and often put whole clusters in the fermenter! Never fined or filtered these wines represent the vineyard and terrior as it should be at its very best!

Kasuari Wines

www.kasuariwine.com

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Grapelive Latest: May 6

Grapelive News: Kasuari Wines a New Discovery

By Kerry Winslow

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kwglimage70.jpgKasuari Wines

I just discovered a fantastic new source for great Pinot Noir, a small high quality label called Kasuari, made by Michael Peters. Peters is related to the family that owns Peters Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, the same vineyard that got everybody talking about Papapietro-Perry a few years back, and Michael get some great grapes from his family to work with. He also does a few wines from grapes in the Dry Creek Valley as well; a Sauvignon Blanc, a Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon, of which the Zinfandel was by far the best, but it was his Pinots that got my attention, and I am sure would certainly entertain any Pinot Noir lover as well. Kasuari’s Pinots one from the mentioned Peters Vineyard and one a Sonoma Coast cuvee (from a single clone 115) are deep and complex Pinot Noirs that have wonderful layers of silky fruit and distinct site (terroir) characteristics. Both wines were polished, well made and a total joy to drink, showing all the great qualities of the grape and the region(s) where they are grown.

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kasauri115.jpg2008 Kasuari Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast “Clone 115”.
This single clone wine shows unique qualities from the 115 clone, also known as Pommard clone, from the region of Burgundy it was developed before being rooted in California, Oregon and other Pinot regions around the world. This wine is amazingly detailed and finely tuned all ready, it has a wonderful aromatic nose with wildflowers, rose petals and hints of violets along with some blueberry and polished smoky sweet wood notes. If that wasn’t enough, things get better on the palate where the fruit is richly developed and layered, showing black and red fruits, cherry and plum leading the way with flashes of lavender, spice, smoke, mineral and vanilla oil. Everything is round and smoothly delivered in classic Burgundian fashion, but with a more clean and forward style the North Coast of California seems to often produce. I must say, this is very impressive Pinot Noir and remarkable even more by being so good at a very fair price point, I have seen recently many more Pinots at twice this price, that don’t deliver this kind of quality or pleasure.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

*The Winery Notes:

“In the winery natural winemaking practices are used in a quest to make artistic, handcrafted wines that reflect our passion to provide the most enjoyable wine drinking experience. Each wine is hand crafted with naturally occurring yeast handling the fermentations. We gently destem all fruit and often put whole clusters in the fermenter! Never fined or filtered these wines represent the vineyard and terrior as it should be at its very best!

Kasuari Wines

www.kasuariwine.com

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kasauripeters08.jpg2008 Kasuari Pinot Noir “Peters Vineyard” Russian River Valley.
This wine is more vibrant and intense than the other Pinot from Kasuari, it shows a slightly younger and more edgy side, but still proves to be a pretty and balanced wine. I mention that, because if given a bit more bottle age this wine might just turn out to be even better than I all ready think, and it is very, very good if not great all ready! The nose is more dark and earthy, though still perfumed and intriguing with heady floral notes and forest berries. The palate has a huge cherry core and classic Russian River character, but it also is layered with ripe silky flavors that at this point seem more complex than their other Pinot, but also with a bit more tannin and acidity that hold it together and give near perfect balance. As I said, given time I think this beauty will fill out even more and show more depth and an even longer finish, making it worth every penny. The mouth-feel is wonderful and the oak fits perfectly with the rich fruit and texture, and it shows hints of dried flowers, mineral spice and cola bean behind the black cherry and wild berry fruits. The creamy oak gives a lingering finish framed by vanilla, mocha and toasty char smoke. Every detail seems to fit perfectly and while I love it now, I am excited to see what a few years in the cellar will bring.
($49 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive

Kasuari Wines

www.kasuariwine.com

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Grapelive Latest: May 1

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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fairchild07nv.gif

2007 Fairchild Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
This Cabernet is a cuvee of 88% Beckstoffer George III and 12% Beckstoffer To Kalon, is almost a complete change from the 2006 Napa, as that wine had much more To Kalon and some Star Lane, but may just be all that much better for the switch to mostly George III, one of the most famous Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the valley. The wine certainly has more power and structure than the 2006 and will age like a champ, it shows intense fruit that is balanced by ripe, but firm tannins and while it will develop many more interesting layers given time, it all ready has complexity and depth that few 2007 show yet. I still think it would be best to put a few bottles away from 5 to 10 years; the wine would be great with food right now, tonight even. Everything is there to be a true classic, and the proof is in the details, a great vineyard, small production and a great winemaker, you can bank on this wine. The nose is showing hints of floral, mineral, smoke, red and black fruit, while the palate is alive with classic Napa Cab flavors, blackberry, blueberry, currant, crème de cassis, menthol and fresh tobacco leaf and cedar. Nothing is out of place here, the mouth-feel is full and lush, but still very dry and gripping, plus the flavors feel fresh and lifted with some gentle acidity. This serious wine will pump out layers of greatness for decades, of that I am confident, very much like fine Bordeaux, though more true to its own terroir. Only 100 Cases made. ($125 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

www.fairchildwines.com

or

www.750wines.com

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Grapelive Latest: Vinitaly Report

Grapelive Latest: Vinitaly Report
By Brandy Falconer, Guest Columnist, Grapelive

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itbluchips.jpg

Vinitaly Report-April, 2010

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bchips2.jpgIf someone says, “wine is for everyone,” I’ll bet the first thing most people think of is this wonderful new wine culture of enthusiasts and accessible tastings to discover new wines, and more importantly, new favorites.  At the same time, most wineries are embracing that sentiment with enjoyable and well-made “entry-level” wines.  Not to be confused (in most cases) with cheaply made wines, these diplomats travel the world and introduce indigenous grape varietals and wineries to enthusiasts via their value price in supermarkets and wine lists alike, which is great.
What I discovered at Vinitaly, though, is that “for everyone” has a flip side, and actually means for every kind of person–from the casual drinker to the connoisseur, from the weekly budget shopper to the big budget collector.  Think about it, it is the fine wines, ambassadors if you will, crafted by the top producers, which gain notoriety through scores and reviews in big magazines and are usually what create interest in the wineries in the first place.  This “two sides of the coin” approach applies to most everything in life, and I can also relate it to my other passion, auto racing.  There are many levels of competition, from amateur to elite professional; heck, even I have raced in an SCCA club race.  But, it is the premier events that really build the interest in fans and participants.  If there was no Indianapolis 500 or Monaco Grand Prix, would as many people have such passion and dreams to pursue the sport (Would I have belted myself in, scared out of my wits, just to experience what it’s like for myself) So let’s look at the other side of the coin this time, and celebrate the wines that put the wineries on the map and continue to inspire the public…and celebrate the people who are giving a little part of themselves in the crafting of their wines, no matter what their background.

bchips.jpgEach year at Vinitaly, there is an exclusive tasting event that happens exactly 24 hours after the expo opens.  This year, I was invited to attend this event, the “Blue Chips of Italian Wine”, hosted by Civilta’ del bere, one of Italy’s leading wine magazines (www.civiltadelbere.com) which for me was like being invited to attend a UN conference.  Representing over 40 countries, the 200 participants were journalists and “authorities of the international public of wine tasting” invited to experience how 12 top wineries in Italy are able to create wines of excellence in quantities large enough to support worldwide demand.
Borrowing from the stock exchange term for the companies who have the highest value based on the number of shares times price per share, the Blue Chips of Italy are those wines sold at a premium price while being produced in appreciable quantities.  Qualifying factors were: being sold in all major markets in the world, and having won at least two awards of excellence from the five main national guides including Duemilavini, Gambero Rosso and L’Espresso, as well as nods from international critics such as Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

Armed with my headphones, ready to receive live translation (my Italian skills were no match for the speaking velocity and different accents) I again felt like I was sitting in at the UN, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe if the UN had glasses of wine at the table instead of water there would be a lot less arguing…

The first wine to be poured was Planta’s Cometa, IGT Sicilia Bianco 2008, and the parade of suited-up sommeliers from the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) with bottles in-hand was magnificent as they came streaming into the room.  This 100% Fiano varietal wine, with a ‘juicy’ balance of acidity and complexity was an appropriate representation of the winery’s research into indigenous varietals. In the mid range of production at 88,000 bottles, this wine has a retail price of € 22, or $32.

Moving through the lineup, the first wine I had experience tasting was Mastroberardino’s Radici Taurasi DOCG 2005.  CEO of sales and marketing, Dario Pennino recounted a 2007 vertical tasting of this wine where the 1934 vintage was awarded 99 points by Gambero Rosso. This elegant and delicious 100% Aglianico wine which has won numerous awards and scores over 90 points, has a production of 80,000 bottles and a retail price of €25 or $37.

Allegrini’s Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2005 was the next wine to grab my attention because, as an Amarone lover, I was impressed by the freshness and layered flavors of this wine made from partially dried grapes–a result of Allegrini’s preference for a more modern style than conventional taste.  Retailing at €60 or $90, the production is 125,000 bottles.

The Tuscan wine that left me wanting more was the Flaccianello della Pieve, IGT Colli della Toscana Centrale 2006 from Fontodi.  It is This Wine Spectator 99-pointer made from 100% Sangiovese has enveloping aromas of ripe berries, spices and leather with distinct yet balanced tannins.  A production of 50,000 bottles, this super Tuscan retails for about €60 or $90.

Finally, the one I had been hearing about, the red giant, with the second-highest production at 180,000 bottles, San Guido’s Sassicaia, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC 2006, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  From its intense ruby color to the elegant aromas to the beautifully balanced silky cherry mouthful, I enjoyed every moment of my epiphany as I realized why some wines really do merit their high price tag, in this case, €130 or $195.

I will never again roll my eyes at someone extolling the virtues of a wine like this, and learned that the flip side of the “wine for everyone” coin can be just as interesting and exciting.  Though I am typically an advocate for indigenous varietals, this wine is without a doubt special.
Though all merit comment and exaltation, the following wines, not previously mentioned, completed the tasting:

Cantina Tramin–Nussbaumer, Gewürztraminer Alto Adige DOC 2008.  55,000 bottles.

Falesco–Montiano, IGT Lazio 2007.  55,000 bottles.

Firriato–Harmonium, Nero d’Avola IGT Sicily 2007.  120,000 bottles.

Lungarotti–Rubesco Vigna Monticchio, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2005.
 50,000 bottles.

Cantina Santadi–Terre Brune, Carignano del Sulcis Superiore DOC 2005.  80,000 bottles.

Ornellaia–Ornellaia, Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC 2006.
 140,000 bottles.

Antinori–Tignanello, IGT Toscana Rosso 2006.  350,000 bottles.

vintrullia.jpgThis particular day, I concentrated more on the organized tastings than going from stand to stand (with 4,200 to choose from, you can end up in wine oblivion!).  One I was particularly excited about attending was that of Podere Castorani winery in Abruzzo, owned by Formula 1 driver, Jarno Trulli.  Racing season has started with its usual changes in rules, drivers and helmet designs, and while searching for news on the internet, I took a minute to check out Podere Castorani’s website (www.poderecastorani.it).  When I saw that Jarno would be at Vinitaly to present his wines at a special tasting, I quickly called the winery to reserve a spot.  Abruzzo is best known for it’s flagship grape, Montepulciano, and the region, amidst rebuilding after the earthquake last year, is determinedly moving forward in many aspects, including showcasing their other varietal gems, and showing how well their wines are aging.  The Abruzzo pavilion, with the slogan “pleasing notes” referring to the wines as well as the region’s devotion to music, was spacious and full of large and small stands alike, with a beautiful tasting area and even a restaurant.

As one tasting was finishing, crowds of people were gathering for the Podere Castorani presentation and I could see Jarno Trulli talking with whom I assumed to be some of his associates.  The first thing I noticed was how low-key he seemed to be.  I could see that this event was entirely about the family winery, no matter that he had just flown in from Malaysia, and in a few days would be returning to China for the next Grand Prix.  I admit, this surprised me, and it made me even more interested to finally taste the wines and learn about their philosophy.  For those of you who have witnessed other celebrity figures venturing into wine, take this into account:  the family farm in Abruzzo was already established in 1793, and the 32 hectares of current estate vines are part of that original land.  Fifteen years ago, the family and business associates decided to build a modern winemaking facility and 2000 was their first year of modern vinification.  With this new facility, Jarno, coming from the world of Formula 1, wants to express the right balance between tradition and technology.  We began the tasting with the 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC Coste delle Plaie, with fresh and balanced acidity and minerality and flavors of citrus and exotic fruits.  Next was the Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT from 100% Pecorino grapes, which delivered a silky fruitiness with some herbal notes, which made me think of enjoying it with a baked herb and cheese dish.  I am a big fan of Montepulciano, and the next two selections, the Coste delle Plaie and the Amorino were both true to the grape and terroir, and I found the Amorina Casauria Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC with its deep ruby-purple color and balanced tannins to be the most delicious, like a mouthful of ripe cherry and plum.

2_castorani.jpgAfter the organized tasting, I spoke with the winemaker, Angelo Molisani to learn a bit more about the wines at their impressive stand complete with a vintage Formula 1 car at the entrance.  While he poured and explained a few more wines from their lineup, Jarno joined us with one of the winery’s associates and I learned about their philosophy for the international market.  The winery produces both estate wines and wines representative of other regions of Italy, like Barbera, Prosecco and international varieties like Syrah all grown in various regions, then vinified at the estate, allowing this smaller winery to offer a variety of wines representative of Abruzzo and all of Italy to international importers.  Needless to say, the winemaker is extremely busy, but loves the work they are doing.

While pouring the Cerasuolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2009 Rosato, Angelo was explaining a typical dish that might be enjoyed with this wine, the Abruzzese specialty, “Brodetto”, a stew made with tomato, peppers and different kinds of fish.  Angelo explained that Jarno’s father Enzo, who loves to prepare this dish, is an excellent cook and is planning to open a restaurant, much to the delight of those who enjoy his talents.  As for me, I can’t wait to try the Brodetto and happily accepted an invitation from Enzo to visit the winery and try this local delicacy with their wines.

The “wow” wine of the day was the Podere Castorani Montepulciano DOC 2004, the original wine produced by the estate, and what they call “the beginning of the story.”  If “comfort wine” was an acceptable description, I would use it here.  Well-balanced body and tannins, with beautiful color and flavors of spices and berries make this a wine for a meal that you wish would never end. And though I didn’t really want my experience to end at Podere Castorani, it was time for me to move on, and for them to share these great wines with other enthusiastic visitors. I look forward to visiting the winery soon and seeing the beautiful terrain of Abruzzo, with its mountains, coastline and devotion to nature.

As for my impressions of Jarno, for someone who would be justified in safeguarding his privacy, as one of only a handful of elite drivers in the sport’s highest echelon, his availability and genuine interest in this event was impressive. If his hope is to achieve a balance between tradition and the fast-paced world of Formula 1, I’d say he has achieved that in his winemaking and in his lifestyle. Bravo.

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Grapelive Latest: April 27

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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bcmel08pn.gif2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir “Melville” Sta. Rita Hills.
The Melville 2008 Pinot is the fullest and most intense of the Brewer-Clifton line up and feels like the youngest with a firm structure and more tannins, though it should soften and round out nicely. I am very sure this is a Pinot to get and watch for over the next couple of years, as it should develop lots more layers and complexities. That said, most of you that have had the Melville will love it, and love it now! Bold, intense, young and layered with black and dark fruit all through, rich palate, great depth, plum, cherry, currant, black fig, firm structure, but very long on the finish. Wind swept site planted to 114 and 115 clones, long hang-time adds complexities and the wine seems darker in color.
($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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