Category Archives: Wine Articles

Latest News & Reviews

Grapelive Latest News, January 2008

This is a great time of year to catch up with your reading and spend some quality time with your favorite wines, or explore a little and find something new. These storms out west have given me a lot of time to sort out some of my tasting notes and I’m working on a “Best of 2007” list and I should have that out shortly. In the meantime, I’ve been lucky to have had some interesting new wines come my way and I have a few reviewed at rated below. Pinot Noir again, I know I always seem to be tasting Pinot, but that is because it is what is hot and it seems to only get better and better. If you are getting tired of Pinot you should investigate the wonderful Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire Valley in France, especially the 2005 vintage as these wines are fantastic. Try a Chinon or a Saumur Champigny, and enjoy the spicy goodness and elegant easy nature of these underrated wines, I like Philippe Alliet, Jogeut and the Clos Rougeard wines from this region. Then there is Piedmonte, Italy with its tasty Barbera and Nebbiolo reds that are pure and terroir driven wines, just stay away from the 2002 vintage and you’ll be fine. Top wines from there include La Spinetta, Bruno Giacosa and Vietti, so go explore. As for white wines in winter, I go for Alsace and Riesling, German Riesling, Italian Gewurztraminer and White Burgundies. Back to Pinot Noir, and close to my home, there are some amazing wines coming out soon from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I’ll tell you about those soon.

s5002103.JPG2005 Silvestri Pinot Noir Carmel Valley

This is the winery owned by famous film composer Alan Silvestri, of Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Polar Express, which got the Academy Award for best original song. This Pinot has very ripe flavors and still retains high acidity, which makes the balance here pretty nice, but it really shines with food and comes alive with richness and terroir! Black and red fruits burst out on the palate framed with apple peal zestiness and spice notes. The plum and cherry are savory and long in the mouth with hints of raisins, forest brush, lavender oil and liquor. The finish is tangy with classic Pinot groove and subtle oak. This is not a shy boring wine at all, but don’t forget to have with food, or you’ll miss the magic!
90 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Russian River

Wow, I may have a new favorite Russian River Pinot here, and trust me you’ll love this wine, as it has it all and then some. This ranks right up there with Rochioli and Kosta Browne, so find some quick, because there is only 200 cases of this. Lush textures make your mouth water and the layers of fruit give big smiles on this near perfect wine. There is rich cherry, raspberry, currant and cola bean gracing the palate and lingering on the smooth long finish. Great oak toasty notes hint at vanilla and mocha with out being overly aggressive or out of place. This is a top flight wine that deserves lots of attention. 96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002101.JPG2006 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir Rio Vista Vineyard Santa Rita Hills

This might be the best value in Pinot going these days, a real world class wine at under $50 retail. These guys are good, I mean really, really good at making Grand Cru style Pinots, and this one lives up to the hype. Rio Vista gives thick and dark wines, but they always get an added dimension of purity and elegance from this site. This wine is soft and perfumed with great depth and balance making it great all ready. I must say this vintage has less acidity and is creamy, so maybe you’d want to drink it young. There is plenty of violets, rose petals and blueberry up front, with pure cherry and plum fruits. This beautiful wine is lusty and sexy all the way to the long savory finish. 95 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002100.JPG2005 Donum Estate Pinot Noir Carneros

This wine is bigger and more blooding than its sibling from the Russian River, making a huge impression and bolder statement. This Pinot has power and intensity with blackberry, cherry, plum and cranberry fruits leading to layers of spice, licorice and mineral notes. This might be the most complex and interesting Carneros Pinot out there! Since 2002 Donum Estate has been a stand out and this wine is by far the greatest effort to date and I can only see things getting better! This wine can go a long time, I see some cellar time giving big rewards, but don’t wait a minute to get it! 94-96 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines

s5002102.JPG2003 Tangley Oaks Merlot Napa Valley Lot 7

If you like Silver Oak or Australian reds you will love this Merlot, and at $20, you’ll really love this wine. With sweet American oak barrels giving lots of vanilla cream, coconut oil and caramel this lush Merlot feels big and smooth with cherry and plum fruit. The wine gets richer and expansive on the palate giving subtle chocolate, sage and smoky spice. The fruit comes on strong at the finish make this an impressive wine. 88 Points, grapelive

Bouchee Wines


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2005 Chateau Puligny-Montrachet Clos-du-Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet White Burgundy

This is awesome Chardonnay and a terrific value, no doubt this normal Bourgogne is fantastic stuff with sublime flavors and purity. What more can I say? Well mostly I can tell you to find it and buy cases of it! At about $30 or so bucks this wine destroys many wines at three times the price. Beautiful in every way this white has perfume, body and elegance with white flowers, fresh lemon, delicate pear and lovely minerality. With a dose of apple pie and hazelnut in the background, this beauty has style to spare and a long zesty finish. This is what Chardonnay can and should be, a regal and noble wine that has it all. This might be hard to find, but press your local merchant to look for it. ($28-35 Est) 93+ Points, grapelive

Imported by Beaune Imports, Berkeley, Calif.

Bouchee Wines

Meet Richard Alfaro at Bouchee in Carmel Nov.24th

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Winemaker Richard Alfaro, of Alfaro Family & Martin Alfaro Winery Will be Pouring his Wines at Bouchee Bistro in Carmel Nov. 24th (Saturday12 (Noon) to 4 PM

I’ve been a huge fan of this talented winemaker for a few years now, and I recommend you check him out! He will be at Bouchee Bistro and Wine Merchants in Carmel-by-the-Sea this Saturday and he’ll be pouring his latest releases. Plus I believe he’ll try to bring a future release and a library selection of his Pinot Noir.

Bouchee Bistro & Wine Merchants 

Has The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker Hurt the Wine Industry or Helped?

I was asked about the influence of The Wine Spectator (magazine) and Robert Parker (famous wine critic) and whether it has been a negative or a positive? The angle that was posed to me was that wines were now made for them and their taste rather than done as had been done traditionally and that wines were now more all the same… It seemed to me as if it was a statement of fact… Really, are we going to blame The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker this perception? Really? Okay, I’ve heard many frustrations regarding these wine critics, and from time to time I’ve taken issue with their assessment of a wine or two, but I guess I would have to defend them overall. My Opinion is as follows on the subject.

My view, or my two cents worth, on Robert Parker (Wine Critic) and Wine Spectator (Wine Magazine) is as follows, I like we must be fair and admit both Parker and The Wine Spectator have done wonders for the wine industry and bashing them seems to me to be sour grapes, sorry no pun intended! While Spectator seems highly political and maybe more money motivated, overall it is positive force for the consumer, though even it might help the collector more than the average wine drinker. As for Parker, he likes what he likes and who am I to argue with that, I am the same! I don’t always agree with him, but really he is good and I can’t fault his reviews or ratings much. People complain that wineries now make their wine to please him, rather than doing things per tradition or hanging when they pick the grapes to make a more fruit driven style. Maybe this is true, but if they make a better wine and people buy it, is that not good? Really, you must be realistic, Robert Parker has made fortunes for the wine industry and in my opinion, I think he almost saved the French wine trade at a time when it didn’t look good for them. The argument is that we are losing terroir driven wines, wines that show the true nature of the place or region. That is also highly suspect, I am finding more terroir driven wines now then ever before and I believe that this trend is not going to decline any time soon. It would be fair though, to say one of the bad effects, that both Parker and the Wine Spectator must accept as natural for the course, is greed.  This is a negative influence on the market place and can be traced back to good ratings from Parker especially, but the marketplace is always going to be controlled by the wealthy and what they are willing to pay. It has also been suggested that the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker are responsible for higher prices and a lack of quality wine at lower price points, okay someone needs to get a life and maybe stop taking the “Kool Aid” as this is crazy talk. The real problem is the cost of winemaking especially in California, small wineries can’t afford to make $2.99 bottles of wine here, honestly it costs most small producers about $7.00 a bottle at least to make good wine, so by the time it gets to the customer with some profit for each stop on the way, it will sell for about $20. You must remember they must grow the grapes, all the farming and utility costs, ferment, barrel age and bottle the wine, then there is staff, marketing and packaging too.  No you can’t blame Wine Spectator or Parker for those costs. There are factory made wines that sell for anywhere from $2 to 9 that have made it more hard for the small family winery to sell cheaper wines, I mean why would anyone want to compete in that price range, it would be crazy to do so. So small wineries are making more distinct wines for niche markets, that is their only hope. Especially as I haven’t even mentioned quality inexpensive wines that come from South American or even Australia. In summing it up, I can tell you that there are many factors to be reviewed and putting fault on Robert Parker’s or the Wine Spectator’s door is too simple and not fair in the slightest. All of us must grudgingly admit we all have been more helped by Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator than hurt, to me it is not even close.

Grapelive Latest

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Tasting Great Wines, Tough Job, Yeah Right!

I must say it is a blessing to be able to taste these wines and I remain thankful not jaded for this pleasure. This week has been a real joy I must say, as I was invited to taste some fantastic wines. I was in the company of some very interesting people, like Gary Pisoni, Pisoni Vineyards and Winery and Jeff Fink, winemaker for Tantara Winery, both of which shine the light on the Pinot Noir grape and have help shape the market for Pinot Noir with world class wines. We tasted Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir from vintages 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005 and Jeff Fink previewed his Pisoni Vineyard from Tantara for the up coming release of 2006! All these were amazing, as well as some Garys’ Vineyard Pinots from Pisoni’s Lucia label and Tantara, which again proved what a great region the Santa Lucia Highlands are for Pinot Noir. It was tough to pick a favorite, but I must say the 2004 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate, 95 Points & the 2006 Tantara Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard (Pre-Release, from magnum, due out in March 2008) 96 Points, both were fantastic and dramatic Pinots, which topped in my notes. Then from totally around the world another Pinot Noir caught my attention, an Austrian version! An outstanding wine, the 2005 Loimer Pinot Noir from near the beautiful blue Danube, this was ripe, lush and rich in fruit with pretty cherry, grenadine, strawberry and red plum flavors that just exploded on the palate. This wine will be a secret favorite, as it will be almost impossible to find even though it was only about $40 retail est. I gave it 93-94 Points. Apart from Pinot, I have tasted some Zinfandel & Cabernet from Ridge Vineyards, liking them very much, especially the 2005 Ridge Geysersville California (Zinfandel) 40th Vintage, Sonoma County. ($33 Est.) 92 Points, and the 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red (Cabernet Sauvignon) California. ($35-40) 91 Points. These were classic and will be loved anytime and anywhere! Finally, I was able to try the 2005 Robert-Denogent Pouilly-Fuisse(s) from Kermit Lynch, the “Cuvee Claude” & the “Les Reisses” both of which were stunning and would easily compete with Grand Cru White Burgundies! This guy can make Chardonnay with the best of them, no question and at a remarkable price too! These two bottlings rated at 94-95 Points and sell for around $40-45 Est. each. Enjoy!

Grapelive November Musings

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It’s Fall, The Joyous Time of New Releases!

This change of season brings the end of harvest and the time of year for new releases, so it is a thankful time and one to savor. It looks as if 2007 Harvest brought a very good vintage, as most of the growers I’ve talked to have said the magic combination of tiny berries and low yields have been uttered many times and that usually means top quality. This means great wines are fermenting in barrel or tanks, but in the meantime we have the new releases hitting the market now. 2005 and even some 2006 wines are popping up, in this case I mean red wine, as 2006 whites have been around for awhile now, and I can tell you both the 2005 and 2006 are super vintages! Look for great 2005 Cabernets to start hitting the selves near you and I say buy them up now before those critics start giving scores! I tried a couple of new releases, 2005 Keever Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($69 Est.) and 2005 Parsonage Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve <Click Here for 2005 Parsonage Reviews> both of which were awesome! The Keever is going to be a huge deal, a wine to watch for sure. Both wines rated in the mid to high Ninety point rage! The 2006 vintage Syrahs and Pinots are now just being let loose and show lots of promise, in fact they are fantastic! I fell head over heels for the 2006 Pax Syrah Hillside Sonoma ($50-55 Est.), it is a big wine, but is drinking great and super thick with almost black color! As for 2006 Pinot, it is great and less acidic than 2005, though it has sublime balance and depth, one that got my attention was the 2006 Drew Family Pinot Noir “Gatekeeper’s” Santa Rita Hills ($45 Est.) This was an amazing Pinot with intense flavors and deep complexities. So we have much to enjoy about this fall!

Grapelive Picks Fun and Local Wines For Ol’ Factory Cafe

Ol’ Factory CafeOl’ Factory Cafe is now the hottest place in Monterey for cool Beer & Wine selections

Grapelive hand-picked a few wines for their by the glass list including: Martin Alfaro Chardonnay, Pasonage Snosrap Cyrano Red, Galante Vineyards Rancho Galante Cabernet Sauvignon, and then also picked a couple of worldly selections as well. The spicy and juicy Minervois and a New Zealand Pinot by Dashwood rounded out my picks and fills out a great selection of Beer and Wine at this very cool cafe. Morgan Christopher has made this “Green” built urban bistro into a local favorite with a light and focused menu and the best coffee by far in the Monterey area. It is my local and I’m there almost everyday. In fact I hope to have a tasting group of wine lovers there soon! Then there is the other drink of choice, Beer and they have that nailed with some great brews on tap, my unholy weakness is the wonderful and hoppy Green Flash IPA, but they have some German and Belgian brews that you won’t find on tap many places. Even the famed Beer Geeks of “A Year in Beer”and thebeergeek.com  are considering putting their picks on tap there! So if you get a chance you must check this place out. For more details go to: www.olfactorycafe.com

Besides Florence this is the best place for cappuccino I have found, well in this town anyway.

Palmina Brings a Taste of Italy to California

Italian wines hold a special place in my heart and lots of us American’s are captivated by their romance and simple pleasures, all made more the unique due to the fact that we could not make the Cal-Itals taste or feel like the real ones. Well, until now! At first I was a non-believer and though I liked some Cal-Itals made with Sangiovese grapes, they were not very true to their Italian templates. Now I’m eating my words and thoughts that is because I have just tasted the line up of Palmina wines, which are the truest to their roots Italian varietals I’ve ever tried. Produced in tiny amounts, Palima delivers with quality wines crafted by the talented Steve Clifton (Brewer-Clifton, famed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir makers) these wines are not only dead-ringers for their Italian cousins, they are fantastic wines! I was blown away with their Nebbiolo that was a regal as any Barolo and even their pretty Arneis was a delight. While these wines will not replace the originals in my heart, they will be getting some space in my cellar!