Grapelive Special Report

Grapelive: Pisoni’s Lucia Vineyards Spring Release Reviews

By Kerry Winslow

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2010 Lucy Rose (Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni) Santa Lucia Highlands.
This new vintage of Lucy, a Rose of Pinot Noir, is as everything with Pisoni, larger than life, with Bandol Rose meets Premier Cru Burgundy character! This certainly has to be one of the best California Vin Gris wines and a great Spring wine, with fresh watermelon, red peach, citrus leading the way before true Pinot Noir flavors come rushing forward with pure cherry and tangy plum filling the palate. The finish lingers, but there is plenty of spice and clean acidity to give a crisp and vibrant end. This Lucy has vivid color and lively rose petal notes to add excitement to go along with all the fun.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive


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2009 Lucia Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands.

Jeff Pisoni has nailed it again with some of his dad’s oldest vines to create a world class Chardonnay that can rival the best from anywhere! The 2009 Lucia Chard is rich, full and wonderfully balanced with vigor and fruit intensity showing pure pear, apple, white peach and lemon curd, while there is spice cake, clove, fig and hazelnut in the background. This Chard should gain lots in character with some bottle age and while it is rich and full bodied it has nice bounce and clean acidity. I hope it picks up a bit more mineral and brioche notes, as that is all that would be need to merit an even higher rating! This wine is hard not to love and competes well with $75 to $100 Chards, be they from Burgundy or the Sonoma Coast, bravo guys this is awesome.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive


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2009 Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands.
This cuvee of selected barrels and vineyards is one of the great values in highend Pinot, with fruit coming from block at Pisoni and Garys’, both of which continue to be two of the best sites for Pinot Noir in the state. The 2009 gives the best of both Cru vineyards with loads of dark fruit, smoke, creme de cassis and minerally spice. The structure is firm with balancing tannin and acidity that holds the rich fruit in check, but still allows for a silky mouth feel. There is blackberry, cherry, plum and blueberry layers with hints of violets and a kiss of vanilla from the French oak. This outstanding wine should age well for 5-7 years, getting more complex and interesting as time goes by, though it will be tough to resist in its youth.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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2009 Lucia Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.
I would like very much to see this wine in a blind tasting in 4 or 5 years time against Grand Cru Burgundy, Kistler, Beaux Freres and even the Pisoni Estate, as I think this wine would not only hold up, but I think it might just eclipse them if not take the honors. This is the real deal and all involved should be proud of this wine, Jeff Pisoni, winemaker, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni vineyard partners and Mark Pisoni who helps keep it all together, no question these guys and nature have blessed this vintage and this Pinot! The 2009 Lucia Garys’ is powerful and brooding with tight layers of black and blue fruits and firm tannins, both backed up by racy acidity. The nose is still shy, but shows violets and other floral notes, smoky toast, truffle and coffee bean leading to a deep palate of blueberry, plum, black cherry and currants. Complex earth, spice, mineral and wild lavender vie for attention in the background along with a hint of game. Give this baby some time in the cellar, and if you can’t wait, decant it for a good long while, allowing it to open up and show all of its pleasures.
($50 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive


Available at:

www.luciavineyards.com

or

www.sfwtc.com

1-800-681-WINE

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2008 Chateau Grand Mayne Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Emilion, Red Bordeaux.
For those looking for a great Bordeaux that still qualifies as a value, would be well served to stock up on the 2008 Grand-Mayne, while not cheap, it delivers top notch quality and finesse. Some might suggest that its ripeness pushes the limit, it remains well balanced and will no doubt mature with grace and show remarkable depth and purity for a decade at least, while being a huge joy even in the short term. Grand Mayne is set on one of the best hillside slopes in all of “Right Bank” if not all Bordeaux, and with it’s make up 80% Melot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon it has great complexity and big flavors. The perfume and spiciness lift it above almost anything it the price range in both Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, and the lush and full body make it very approachable to more modern wine drinkers, me included to be honest. Clean and rich with great detail the Grand Mayne 2008 is a huge success and still can be found easily on the market at pre-release prices, so do a little searching and reserve some, it will be worth it, and I won’t be alone in praising this gem in the coming years! The nose is savory and toasty sweet with coca powder, blackberries and flower petals with a explosion of black and blue fruits on the palate and the wine is mouth filling with bold flavors and firm structured layers. There is some grippy tannins, but they fade into the background quickly and the subtle and smoky oak softens this Bordeaux nicely. The rich mouth has blackberry, boysenberry, spiced cherry, cedar, mocha and currants with plummy texture and hints of sweet herbs and spices along with touch of mineral and tobacco.
($79-125 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


Due in May 2011

Still available at Pre-Sale at www.sfwtc.com $59.95 (Pre-Paid)

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Grapelive Wine of the Day

Grapelive Wine of the Day

By Kerry Winslow

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2005 CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscan Red. (Frescobaldi)
This dark and richly fruity Brunello is wonderfully open and smooth with ripe fruit and solid structure contrasts greatly with most Brunello’s of the vintage, making me give kudos to Frescobaldi for going for quality in a very tough year. That said it is not for the long haul or a blockbuster by any means, but it gives a lot considering the vintage and the competition. The color is opaque and purple and the nose is deep and perfumed, before a lush mouth of red berry, cherry, strawberry and plum fruits with touches of coco, lavender, herbs, licorice, hay and tobacco leaf. While this wine tastes cleanly modern, it retains classic Sangiovese character and even has a acidic kick. Given air it tightens up and the tannins become more aggressive, but it still begs to be drunk now, so enjoy this very good 2005 while the 2001 and 2004 sleep in the cellar and you wait for the 2006’s to show up late this Spring of 2011.
($75 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive


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Grapelive Special Report

Bordeaux 2008 “Left Bank” Gems
By Kerry Winslow

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Regional Tasting Report

I got a chance to sample finished bottle examples of 2008 Bordeaux in late January, and here are my best wines from the “Left Bank” of Bordeaux.

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Pauillac

2008 Chateau Lynch-Bages Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, Red Bordeaux.
I have had 1961 Lynch Bages, and a few other top vintages, and while making no claim as being an expert on the Chateau, I find the 2008 the best vintage bar none of Lynch Bages, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great value in top Bordeaux. With out question this vintage rivals any First Growth, and I would put it right up with Latour and ahead of Mouton by far, and at one-tenth the price of Lafite, the 2008 Lynch Bages seems like a steal! While other critics, most note worthy Mr. Parker, had mentioned the quality of this wine in their barrel tasting notes, I got it straight from finished bottle, and was even more impressed than I thought I could be, this is an amazing wine and a wine that could go the distance. The nose is smoky, deep and mineral laced with pencil shavings, cassis and dark flowers leading to a remarkablely pure palate that screams of powerful Cabernet in very much the same fashion as a great Chateau Latour does with black currant, blackberry, crème de cassis, bitter chocolate, tobacco, mineral spice, licorice and gun powder. Gripping ripe tannins, natural acidity and great length make it clear this is a serious Bordeaux that has more to give and a long life ahead of it.  This Lynch Bages is the best deal in Pauillac by far, with only Pontet-Canet coming close.
($150-200 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive

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2008 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe, Red Bordeaux.
Pontet-Canet, an 1855 Cru Classe Growth, should be almost be consider a First Growth these days and since 2000 has rivaled Lafite, Mouton, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Latour for outright quality. This intensely farmed and cropped estate is pure class and quality with a make up of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and a touch of Petit Verdot, all which add power, charm, complexity and grace to the final cuvee. I thought the 2001 Pontet-Canet was fantastic, and in my own opinion might have been the best wine of the vintage bar none, and the 2008 is right up there, and was almost equal to the mind-blowing 08 Lynch Bages, and I feel both Lynch Bages and Pontet-Canet blow doors on the First Growths when price is considered. The 2008 Pontet-Canet is vivid and vibrantly flavored with loads of blue and black fruits surging across the palate with boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, plum and rich crème de cassis and currant notes. This Pontet-Canet is more fruit driven than the heroic 2000 and more balanced as well with ripe tannins and almost perfect oak shadings. There is a background of sage, vanilla, graphite, smoke and coffee grounds all of which heightens the fruit core and frames everything in classic fashion.
($125-175 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

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Saint-Julien


2008 Chateau Leoville Barton Cru Classe, Saint-Julien, Red Bordeaux.
The powerful and tightly wound Leoville Barton may end up the finest of Saint-Julien for the vintage, as it is hard to imagine any of the others to come together to match this wine for quality, even if it might take ten years to reach its potential. This classic Bordeaux is a rival for anything out of Margaux and Pauillac and should be seriously considered by collectors and Bordeaux lovers that what quality cellar worthy claret for the long haul. The powerful tannins and fresh acidity are perfect foils for the richness of the fruit, even if the wine is tight and stark now, as it should all come right in a few years in bottle. The depth and color are as good as it gets, while the intense black fruits grabs equal attention and the smoky oak holds it all together. I have no doubt this wine will be a classic, and maybe even a legend down the road. This Chateau is close to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it that massive power, 20% or so of Merlot, and a tiny bit of Cabernet Franc, usually about 3% per vintage, all of which means length and structure, though the Merlot helps round things out and gives body. This vintage like most saw about 50% new French oak, though the fruit shines and almost no oak is showing at this early stage, which bodes well for the future of this wonderful Bordeaux. Of all the Saint-Julien’s this one stood head and shoulders above the rest in this tasting. (January 2011)
($100-200 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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Margaux

2008 Chateau Brane-Cantenac Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, Red Bordeaux.
From what I tasted, I think Margaux had the worst year in 2008 of all the Bordeaux regions, though I adored the rich and lovely Brane-Cantenac and think it almost surpasses the 2000 vintage even. I did a tasting panel of 2000 Bordeaux, and the Brane-Cantenac scored very well and most serious critics have been watching this Chateau rise again in class and, I think, seen it elevate to stellar heights, only a few clicks behind Chateau Margaux. With some of the greatest history in the region, not to mention the outstanding soils, Brane-Cantenac is an elite Chateau that makes one of the great wines of the world. The first wine is made up of about 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and the 2008 tastes pure and focused with smoky, earthy black fruits and dark opaque color, while ripe tannins keep everything in check. Best to give this rich and elegant wine some time to fill out and come together, even though it really delivers even now, lush blackberry, currant, licorice, plum and cherry load the palate and mineral, cedar and sandalwood come through in the background.
($75-120 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Pessac-Leognan (Graves)


2008 Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte Grand Cru Classe de Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
This vintage again is a stellar effort from Smith Haut-Laffite and showcases the wonders of Graves and is again one of the stars of the year when you factor in price with quality, as the Smith Haut-Laffite gives a lot of pleasure and class for the buck. I think Pessac did remarkablely well in 2008, only slightly out shined by Saint-Emillon for best of the vintage. While there was a few Pauillac and Pomerols that wowed too, I found overall that Pessac-Leognan and Saint-Emillon had the best overall regional consistent quality for Bordeaux, and Smith Haut-Laffite scored very high in my notes against all comers regardless of fame and address! This pure and minerally Bordeaux is all about cool clear fruit, balance and elegant length with blackberry, plum and savory currant, plus earthy leather, mint and pencil lead. The very dark garnet color seduces you and the rich mouth feel keeps you smiling, while it can age, it seems a crime not to enjoy this Bordeaux in its early days.
($80-120 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive


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2008 Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Leognan, Red Bordeaux.
For those that can no longer afford Lafite or Haut-Brion, there can be no other choice than the outstanding Haut-Bailly, a Chateau that has now every right to claim itself one of the best, no just for value, but for total quality. I must say, the 2000 Haut-Bailly rocked my world, and on tasting the 2008, my feelings haven’t changed, and for me this is a Chateau to look to for top Bordeaux. Especially if you are going to drink it, and not solely buy to resale, as Haut-Bailly is right up there with La Mission Haut-Brion and a third of the price! The wine is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, about 60% and with 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc adding to the blend which is known for its terroir driven flavors and lengthy elegance. The 2008 Haut-Bailly gives layers of black and blue fruits, mineral earthiness, smoky sweet oak from 50% new barrels and subtle tobacco, mocha, licorice and pencil lead. This chewy Bordeaux needs some short term cellaring to fill out and soften up, even though it is world class already!
($75-100 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Please note, as of March 2011, many of these wines are still available at Futures prices, so shop early to get the best deals.

Most of these are available at: www.sfwtc.com

Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Martinelli Pinot Noir “Bella Vigna” Russian River Valley.
Another great vintage for Martinelli, 2009 might be the best Pinot year of the decade for this fantastic producer. Helen Turley, of Marcassin, consulted until 2010 harvest, so this is one of the last under her reign at Martinelli and she made she she went out with a bang! The “Bella Vigna” is a cuvee of select barrels from Martinelli’s top single vineyard sites, though mostly Bondi Home Ranch, making for a complex and lush Pinot. This vintage shows rich dark fruit, black cherry, raspberry, strawberry and plum with sweet smoky oak notes, truffle, cola bean and a touch of mineral. Good balance and a long finish that lingers a good 30 seconds, make this Pinot just that little bit most interesting and one not to be missed at this price.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Roar Chardonnay “Sierra Mar Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands.

This vineyard is another joint project with the Pisoni clan, and again the two Garys’ have a winning Cru site in the Highlands. Gary Franscioni’s Roar label only makes a tiny amount of wine each vintage and plans to keep it that way, but the quality found in this new vineyard made him add this Chardonnay to the line up, and I can tell you, it is a stunning wine, in fact it just may be my favorite Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay to date! I loved that last two vintages of Roar Rosella’s Chard and love what Ed Kurtzman has been doing with these wines, he is making amazing stuff for Gary and Roar. This wine is vivid, layered and richly flavored with Grand Cru class and balance; I’m talking Corton-Charlemagne and Batard-Montachet league! The nose has white flowers, mineral, bread dough, lemon and toast leading to a mouth filling palate of pear, apple, white peach and hints of tropical fruits with a touch of lemon tart, cool steely mineral and subtle vanilla. Outstanding now, but should add complexity over the next few years, this Chardonnay is absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to
($45 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

Available at www.sfwtc.com

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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2007 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vigneto Starderi Vursu, Neive, Piedmonte.
The Neive Cru “Vigneto Starderi” is for me perhaps the finest site in Barbaresco and for me rivals the Cru’s of Gaja, Sori Tilden, San Lorenzo and Costa Russi for beauty and complexity of fruit, though Starderi is 100% Nebbiolo, while Gaja’s famous threesome are usually blended with Barbera and are classified as Langhe Rosso. Both Gallina and Valeirano are wonderful wines as well, but it is always Starderi that moves me just that bit extra. The elegance and subtle complexities seduce very much the same way a fine Chambertin or Richebourg do, making Starderi one of the great wines of the world, no question. The 2007 Vigneto Starderi is a masterpiece and will only get better and more refined with 5 or 10 years in bottle, but as with most La Spinetta wines it is almost perfect now with style and elegance showing already with lush fruit and earthy depth, I should say otherworldly layers that unfold in seemless grace. The nose is heavenly with rose petals and lavender oil with hints of warm sweet toasty oak and fennel laced cherries. The palate is firm with framing ripe tannins and lifting acidity, a true Nebbiolo is structure, but with a Grand Cru Burgundy like silkiness and length. Tarry cherries, plum, currant and licorice dazzle in the mouth and truffle and mineral notes add to the whole, while the oak is subtle and  plays a very mild background role with just a hint of vanilla. The lingering finish is crisp and long with sweet herbs and raspberry aftertaste. This wine is sublime and brilliant, Giorgio Rivetti is on the top of his game, this Starderi is his crown jewel.
($165-180 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

(Due in US this Spring 2011)


Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2007 School House Pinot Noir Spring Mountain Estate, Napa Valley.
This is the 50th anniversary release of this unique Napa hillside Pinot Noir, it comes from vines that are claimed to be DRC cuttings smuggled to Napa and planted way up on Spring Mountain, from Vosne-Romanee to Napa Valley with stolen love, this story has gained traction in recent years as the wine has reached more and more critics and experts, regardless these dry-farmed old vines made a wonderful and complex wine that it a must have with serious Pinot lovers, like the Pisoni wines which also have the claim of coming from DRC, though Gary says he bootlegged vine cuttings from La Tache! Legend aside, Robert Foley has again produced a deep and complex Pinot Noir from this tiny estate. The 2007 vintage was fantastic for quality, but they only got half the amount of grapes, because of severe yields, down more than half from 2005 and 2006!
($70-90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2008 Pavo Syrah Estate, Bennett Valley, Sonoma.
Made by Jordan Kivelstadt, former winemaker at Donum Estate and Stemmler, working with Ken Benards, Ancien and making wines at Copain. A terrific deep small handcrafted Syrah from a small Sonoma Estate in Bennett Valley. (one the super Syrah hot spots) Only 200 Cases made, super dense and opaque purple with violets, blueberry and cassis layers. This is one of the best Syrah’s of the vintage from the North Coast and frankly I could easily mistake it for any of the best in 2007 too, this is a Syrah to look for and enjoy over the next 3-5 years. The nose has it all, crushed flowers, smoke, minerals, game and bitter chocolate along with blackberry and currants. The palate is wide and mouth-filling with dark rich fruit, earthy spices and mocha, plums, mountain berries and lavender oil add interest as does a touch of white pepper and vanilla. This is a stunning artisan wine that delights with power and elegance, bravo! ($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Available at www.sfwtc.com


Grapelive Latest

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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2009 Selbach-Oster Riesling “Anrecht” Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel, Germany.
This single block Riesling is Auslese weight and textured, but is so well balanced it doesn’t feel overly sweet in fact it shows such depth and complexity the sugar level doesn’t matter much. This wine should gain from a few years in the cellar, though so far I haven’t been able to not open the two bottles I’ve bought, this wine is that good. The nose is minerally and citrus blossoms with hints of jasmine and bacon before a lush palate of apple, apricot, peach and loads of tropical fruits. Rocky minerals and tangy acid keeps things focused and balanced, there is slate like spicy notes too. There are background touches of honey, petrol, verbena and rose oil. This beautiful and stellar Riesling stands alone, but it does remind me of a Condrieu for exotic style and of a Grand Cru Burgundy for class, not meaning to take away anything from the greatness of German Riesling, it is just that this wine rises above perception while being true to its terroir.
($35 Est.) 95-96 Points, grapelive


Available at www.sfwtc.com ($29.95)

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