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This is a great time of year to be in the wine country, it is before the summer tourist rush and all those new releases to try are more available. Plus some of the winemakers are not too busy, allowing them some time to travel, even to me! This week I got to catch up with Chad Melville of the famed Santa Rita Hills Melville Vineyard and estate winery. Chad is a great guy and super person and it was wonderful to taste through the line up of Melville wines, that he makes with the ultra talented Greg Brewer, (Brewer-Clifton) plus he brought in his own label he makes with his wife Samsara. Melville is a small winery that produces some of the best value wines in California, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier and Syrah, all of which are very good to outstanding. It was a lot of fun to get the inside scoop to the vineyards used and learn Chad’s winemaking priorities, and I found out that he wants to make the most natural wine he can and express the terroir the best that he can, well so far so good, as you’ll see below I really loved all the wines I tried. His Samsara wines were stunning as well and they showcase his own talents as a star winemaker. Chad loves the cool climate wines and enjoys working with Pinot Noir and Syrah from his family vineyards as well as a couple of other premium sites that are well suited to his ideas. His Syrah has wonderful perfume and lovely zesty spices, making it his own little version of Cote-Rotie, truely it is an amazing wine, and the Pinots are just as good, so check out Samsara wines if you can and be sure to pick up some Melville too.

Melville Reviews 

2007 Melville Viognier Estate Verna’s, Santa Barbara County
This fresh and stylish Viognier is a great wine with seafood and good for most anytime with bright fruit and elegant layers of flavor. There is plenty going on right from the nose, with lots of honeysuckle, spice, yellow roses and citrus blossom leading to the restrained palate of citrus, apricot, peach and jasmine. Without being sweet, this white gives long flavors and perfume with a touch of oily butter cream. The finish is savory and refreshingly crisp and tangy. ($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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2007 Melville Chardonnay Inox, Estate (Stainless Steel, Un-wooded)
This zesty and super fresh Chardonnay is everything you would not expect from Chardonnay; it is lean, bright and mouthwateringly crisp, almost like a Sauvignon Blanc. There is New Zealand like grapefruit and minerals with touches of green apple and pear on the palate. There is little to tell you that this is in fact a California Chardonnay, and I might be hard pressed to identify it in a blind tasting, but it is very cool and interesting wine. There is only a tiny amount of this wine made and I bet it is most drunk with fine sushi! ($35 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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2006 Melville Chardonnay Estate, Santa Rita Hills
This rich and elegant Chardonnay is everything you could wish for in a wine and is a fan favorite, with a huge following for its’ value and class. There are not many Chards that come close to this one for price and quality, even in high-end restaurants this is still a deal. The nose is classic white Burgundy and palate is lush and giving, combining the best of both worlds. The palate has lots of depth with plenty of pear, apple and white peach fruits with light touches of toast, mineral, fig and vanilla. ($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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2006 Melville Pinot Noir Estate, Santa Rita Hills
This pure and clean Pinot Noir has depth and beautiful textures with rich fruit and super balance. High Kudos to the gang at Melville for making such a wonderful Pinot and letting us have it at such a good price! This is still a small production wine and I am always amazed at how good it is for the amount of money it is. There is bing cherry, plum and cranberry fruits with a rich layer of spices and minerals all of which add to the enjoyment. The finish is clear and of good length with just the right amount of oak notes and creaminess. 91-92 Points, grapelive

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2006 Melville Pinot Noir Estate “Terraces”, Santa Rita Hills
This terroir laced intense Pinot is really all about the vineyard and this most be some kind of special place, because this is great Pinot noir! Made exactly the same as the Estate Pinot, with about 50% whole cluster and the same barrel treatment, it delivers more of everything with an amazing perfume as well. Violets, currants and a hint of blueberry come at you before the rich palate of cherry and plum fruits. There are notes of raspberry, spice and smoke that highlight the purity of fruit and the sense of place. This classic wine is very difficult to get and may take some long hours to find, but it is very rewarding and worth the time and money! ($57 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

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2006 Melville Pinot Noir Estate “Carrie’s”, Santa Rita Hills
This is another winner from this winery that keeps turning out great wine every vintage, and just keeps impressing with style and quality. This is a smoky and savory Pinot with a darker side than the other Estate wines in their line up, with black and blue fruits. There is lovely wild flowers, bacon and cassis on the nose, like a dark forest feel, but the lush palate is bright with black cherry, fresh plum and lavender oil. This is a complex and balanced Pinot that should develop nicely and a wine with balance and structure. The finish is impressive now, with sandalwood and vanilla scents and a lingering fruit and spice note. ($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

 Melville

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2006 Samsara Pinot Noir Melville Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills

Chad Melville and his wife’s private label, sourced from his Melville Estate Vineyard for this Pinot. This is a steal, go find it! Melville has really hit it right on here and I think it is a super wine, and ranks right up there with some of the other great wineries that use this Vineyard to such great effect, such as Brewer-Clifton, Lane Tanner and Bonaccorsi. This wine shows good richness and lovely aromatics highlighting the nature of Chad’s style of winemaking. The palate is elegant with softness and focused flavors, not a blockbuster, but a very complete and complex wine. The fruit is dark and very deep with black cherry, smoky berries and plums that keep pumping out flavors long after the glass is finished. There is subtle oak used to perfection, which adds a slight vanilla sweetness and a creamy velvet aftertaste. ($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Samsara

Grapelive Latest: Wine of the Month

Martin Alfaro Garys’ Pinot

2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Garys’ Vineyard”, Santa Lucia Highlands

This latest release is an awesome wine, the best yet and still a total steal, I mean it is a no-brainer for sure. I am a huge fan of Richard Alfaro’s talents and I’m a devotee of Gary Franscione and Gary Pisoni (Garys’ Vineyard) so it is a blessing they have got together in such a great way. The last three vintages of this Pinot have made my Top Ten Wines of the Year and I can almost be certain this one will be there too! This vintage is dark, rich and sublime in all areas, so if you’ve missed out on this wine in the past I must urge you to go out and get this one ASAP, as there is very little made and it is the best priced Garys’ Pinot I’ve found. The fruit is amazing, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, currant and a sweet and smoky cherry core that all flow together in silky layer after silky layer. The added depth of this vineyard comes through with lavender, violets and rose petals leading to the full creamy palate and long finish. The wood use is rich and perfectly matched with the weight of the fruit giving spice and vanilla. Plus, this wine is a baby still and should get even better in the next 18 months to 3 years, and will go on being great for another 5 years easy. ($42-45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

*A correction mention. I put the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard as my Wine of the Month for May, and I gave all the credit to Richard Alfaro, and that was a big mistake. Joe Martin, Richard’s partner was the winemaker and I would like to put that right. Joe, I’m sorry for my slight, you have made an awesome wine and deserve the kudos!  Please check out all the great wines made by Joe Martin and Richard Alfaro at their website MARTIN ALFARO WINERY, besides their amazing Garys’ Pinot they have just released one of my other favorites, the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Schultze Family Vineyards” Santa Cruz Mountains, which is one of the best deals in Pinot Noir out there!

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Bouchee Wines or Martin Alfaro Direct

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Grapelive Latest

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Grapelive News

As the economy gets bleak and the dollar becomes even weaker we need something to smile about, and the magic of Spring and wine do just that. Now we’ve had a pretty nice bit of weather, though some cold nights have played havoc with some vineyards with wide spread frost damage cutting down the crop level as much as 20% in some areas, we are still at some really nice fruit sets, so keep your fingers crossed. But, I am grateful for the longer days and clear sky, as it has brightened my spirits and then there is the amazing array of beautiful wines coming to market. Check out the Reviews Page for the latest!

Local to me, here in Monterey there has been some great news and events happening and the wine business here has been buzzing for the last month. The new Pebble Beach Food & Wine event went off without a hitch and has shown what can be done when your heart is really in it, so kudos to the people behind it for their faith and hard work, it paid off for sure. It was amazing to see the greatest figures in the food and wine biz all out on the town here on the Monterey Peninsula, especially for me when I got to meet up with a couple of my hero’s like Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres, and August Kesseler, of August Kesseler, Germany to to name a few. That was some week here and I’m glad to report that it is going to go on for many years to come.

As for great news, Talbott Vineyards just announce they hired Dan Karlsen as winemaker! Dan is great talent and a super person and I was very happy to hear of his appointment as consulting winemaker at Talbott. Talbott has been know for fantastic Chardonnay, really world class stuff, but have at times really missed the mark on their Pinot Noir and with Dan on board this looks to be a thing of the past. Dan’s touch with Pinot and his vast vineyard skills will surely produce whole new era at Talbott, and I can’t wait! Here is Talbott’s Press Release in full:

TALBOTT VINEYARDS NAMES DAN KARLSEN
AS CONSULTING WINEMAKER

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – April 21, 2008 – Effective April 21, 2008, Talbott Vineyards is pleased to name Dan Karlsen as consulting winemaker. Karlsen will be working with the Talbott Vineyards team for at least the next year, guiding the winery’s acclaimed winemaking program following the departure of retiring winemaker Sam Balderas.

Karlsen brings three decades of experience to his role as consulting winemaker for Talbott Vineyards. He began his career in 1980, working with David Stare at Dry Creek Vineyard. Throughout the ’80 and ’90s, Karlsen honed his skills making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir working at Dehlinger Winery, and later as the winemaker for Domaine Carneros. In 1998, Karlsen was named winemaker and general manager for Monterey County’s Chalone Winery, a position he held until 2007, when he left to focus on his own small label. In addition to farming his Monterey County vineyard and making his own wines, Karlsen is also the winemaker for Graff Family Vineyard.

“Dan is a gifted winemaker,” says founder Robb Talbott, “with a reputation for excellence. He also has a deep understanding of Monterey County winegrowing. His handcrafted approach to winemaking and his background working with exceptional estate-grown fruit makes him a natural fit for Talbott. We are thrilled to name him as our consulting winemaker.”

Talbott Vineyards was founded in 1982, when Robb Talbott personally planted his mountainous Diamond T Vineyard to the Corton-Charlemagne clone of Chardonnay. Today, Talbott Vineyards’ acclaimed estate program encompasses two of Monterey County’s most esteemed winegrowing areas: the Santa Lucia Highlands, where Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow and River Road vineyards are located, and the Carmel Valley, which is home to Diamond T. From this world-class palette of estate fruit, Talbott Vineyards crafts Burgundian-inspired Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that have earned a reputation for elegance and aging potential. Talbott Vineyards produces these wines under four labels: Talbott, Logan, Case, and Kali Hart.

Contact: Michelle Armour
Michelle@jam-pr.com

415.495.1107

 

 

Grapelive Latest: Santa Cruz Mountains

s5002379.jpgTouring the beautiful and mysterious Santa Cruz Mountains is too often an overlooked pleasure and after a wonderful spring Sunday in the green hills I am again a true believer! Without a doubt this is a rugged and raw wine region that offers scenic vistas and remote vineyard sites across a great area from Watsonville in the Southern most part to Woodside in the furthest Northern reach. Starting the lazy drive at Fins Coffee House on Ocean Street, downtown Santa Cruz we twisted and turned our way up Highway 9, seeing wildflowers and ranches all the way to the remote estate vineyard of David Bruce Winery, before going up Skyline and Highway 35 and on to Thomas Fogarty Winery. The views are amazing and there plenty of great areas to stop and take it all in, plus tons of great hiking trails to explore or to picnic on. The is also Castle Rock, a place for serious rock and boulder climbing. The distractions are many and varied in this most natured of wine county settings, with a more earthy and laid-back feel than Napa or Sonoma even. So expect glamor up here or lots of creature comforts, but be prepared to be awed by the shear beauty of the place, especially on a day like we had, where you could see forever and was without any sort of crowds. One thing to know going in, there are lots of cycles up here, both with either foot and horse power, so keep your attention dialed to the task at hand, trust me. It was a real Santa Cruz event, from driving a bio-diesel VW, dodging flying mud crusted Subarus driven by bearded smiling locals at lethal speeds, to watching turtles sun themselves in a pond, it was relaxing and a refreshing day, well except for all the driving on twisty roads. The first stop was David Bruce Winery on Bear Creek Road, a beautiful location with wisteria extra fragrant waiting ats5002371.jpg the tasting room, this was a nice way to cut the coffee buzz and really start the day afresh! David Bruce is one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir in California, only following a few notables like Chalone, Martin Ray, Joseph Swan, Walter Schug (while at Joseph Phelps) and Hanzell in this pursuit. He firmly believed in this wonderful grape and made his name on it and still makes a very good one indeed. We were well treated and serve at this out of way local and enjoyed their 2004 David Bruce Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains made from local vineyards, it showed an earthy richness and soft almost silky fruit profile very much in classic Pinot style. I will also mention their 2002 David Bruce Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, because it was full and chocolate like with an inky dark color that made us smile, so there you go. Both the those reds were very nice and well made, the same was not true of their 2003 David Bruce Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains, this wine was not drinkable and I have to be honest here, it was terrible with a dead sherry like tone that told you right away this wine was well on its way to vinegar. It is funny, because I do remember a time long ago when the Wine Spectator pulled not punches regarding a vintage of David Bruce Chardonnay calling it something close to cow dung! In fact a co-worker at the wine merchant where we worked just had to try it s5002392.jpgafter that, and even if that didn’t seem nice or fair after trying it ourselves, I was reminded of that here. So we bought a Pinot and a Petite and forgave them their pouring of the Chard and we went on with our day unharmed and happy. After some hair raising goat tracks and some avoiding vintage Triumph motorcycles, cruised along Skyline, then up Highway 35 to Thomas Fogarty Winery. Even before setting foot on the property, you can feel it is going to be a well worth stopping kind of place, it is a stunning and breathtaking location for a winery and tasting room with panoramic hilltop views of the whole Peninsula and sloping vineyards. With lots of wild and native gardens to enjoy as well as Mortimer the winery cat, even they didn’t make good stuff I would still come here, but luck was with us and the wines were all lovely. Doctor Fogarty is highly regarded in the medical community for his skill and his inventive mind, having invented many specialized surgical tools and the Fogarty catheter, as well as teaching at the famed Stanford Medical School. The family has a love for car racing, in fact I had met his sons during their racing careers and Jon still races today, while his older brother Thomas teaches race driving. That was when I first tried their family’s wine during the late 90’s, thoughs5002396.jpg that was in a past life. Nowadays there are lots of choices from this winery, like: A wonderful Chardonnay, a lush Pinot Noir, a chocolate and stylish Meritage, a couple of nice Cal-Itals from the Sierra Foothills, a Sparkler, a Napa Cabernet, a Port, a white Pinot Noir, a super Merlot based red, and best of all, a dry and perfumed Gewurztraminer, yes I said Gewurztraminer! On this day it was perfect and we took one, along with the Pinot Noir. I must say the 2005 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains may have been the best wine though, and I did a have a couple of maybe I should turn around and go back moments! Alas I didn’t, though I’ll go back to watch turtles, hang with Mortimer and get a few bottles of that Chardonnay. Then it was off to explore some more back roads and torture my friends tires on the fun winding paths that were more suited to pack mules than her Passat, what a day. Oh, and before I fade out, see below for another stunning wine from this fast becoming my favorite region.

For more info on Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries and Tasting Rooms Please visit the Santa Cruz Mountains Wines Website.

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s5002340.jpg 2006 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir “Wild Yeast”, Schultze Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains (Est. $55.00)
Kudos to Jim and Judy Schultze, they have again proved that their vineyard produces wonderful fruit and they let the terroir sing its lungs out in making their lovely wines. Small lots of Pinot are allowed to go through natural fermentation aided only by native yeasts, and this shows in the difference between this wine and the others in their impressive line. There is more to this wine and it seems a little deeper and more layered, also there is certain sexier and prettier nature here. That said I love all their wines, even if I might prefer this one. There is plenty of zesty raspberry, cherry and fresh plum fruits that go on and on. The depth is impressive now, but should develop nicely for a couple of years. Its sublime balance shades the sweet fruit and firm textures and the touches of spice, earth and minerals all fold together smoothly. Enjoy now, though I will put one away for a couple of years. 93-94 Points, grapelive
www.windyoaksestate.com

Grapelive Latest: Napa The Splendor & The Silliness


Napa Vines in springNapa Valley is wonderful in the springtime with the first leaves on the vines giving a lovely green liveliness and the lack of crowds really makes it almost perfect. The sun helps too, and we found some at the outdoor patio of Tra Vigne making for an extremely joyful lunch. There are few places to hang out on a lazy wine filled Sunday more pleasurable than Tra Vigne in St. Helena, and this visit will be remembered fondly. Jay Smith, the Wine Director at Tra Vigne knows his stuff and has created a fun and vast list of top Napa Valley gems along with a fine selection of Italian regional wines of which I sampled with my panino and awesome fresh local mozzarella on crusty bread with a rosemary sprig, how can something so simple take your breathe away? Of course, Jay brought something special to taste, that being the new release of 2005 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, and all I can say is thank you Jay! This vintage has smooth chocolate-like tannins and perfect fruit balance which make it a winner right now and with any luck get even better of the next 5-8 years. The finish was amazing with savory currants, cassis and tangy blackberry lingering on and on. As for the Italian vino at lunch, there was an impressive Feudi San Gregorio Falenghina, a bright and pleasing Tebbiano, a fruity and lush Primativo and a blueberry and vanilla laced Nero D’Avola from Sicily that was the star. Tra Vigne has remarkable olive oil and fresh produce that makes everything taste great!s5002311.jpg

Whetting the appetite driving into Napa, knowing that an Italian lunch lunch awaited, we did a drive by Luna Vineyards and sampled their Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese and looked out across their vines, it was an inspired choice and the wine tasted even better for being fresh on the palate with good mouthwatering acidity and bright flavors of spring. Back in the car we raced out the Silverado Trail and up to Stags’ Leap District to check out Cliff Lede Winery at the former site of S. Anderson on the Yountville crossing. Cliff Lede has made a big splash with this property and with David Abreu and Michel Rolland consulting for him, he looks to keep turning heads. Lede a Canadian businessman and rock music fan has spared nothing money-wise to build one of the best winery’s in the Valley, and the wine is right up there with the top echalon. Cliff Lede inheirited some of the S. Anderson sparkling wine which they continue to pour at their tasting room, and this of course was a great palate cleanser before driving into the Cliff Lede reds. The sparklers were very nice and well made with a real Champagne feel to them, but I was there to lose myself in the Cabernet and was luck they have a few bottles left of their wine! They produce a wonderful Claret, one of the best Napa values ever and a choice of three limited production Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, all of which will blow your mind, though sadly they sell out fast. I sipped on their 2004 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley of which is only sold at their tasting room. This Cabernet has wonderful intense mountain fruit and powerful tannins all done with finesse and sublime care. The black fruits, spicy red currant and plumy body are hedonistic and the finish is long and vanilla filled.

Castello di AmorosaAnd now for the silliness, as a wine professional and as someone that can usually find the hidden gems while flying under the radar, can for the most part avoid the garish and Disneyland-like places with posers and snobby-types, but I walked right into my worst nightmare with a smile. Castello Di Amorosa, the newest brainchild of the V.Sattui empire, looks like a castle plucked right out of Tuscany, though it looks more amusement park than Siena. At first with good humor I approached, but this faded into terror and disgust fairly quickly, almost the same feeling I get entering a Costco! There is a big attitude in the air here and it kind of sends the wrong message and I personally did not like the tacky buy a ticket to ride game they force on you here, though for some it might be okay. I just am not big on buying a ticket and being herded into a pre-paid pen, but I will say the place was packed and the cash register was singing away. Just because I kept thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean instead of Super Tuscan style wines doesn’t mean you won’t love the place, sorry I mean Castle, oh my I mean Castello! It made me really want to go back to Italy and the real hills of Chianti, so that is what I’ll save for for.

After Casello di Amorosa, I felt the need to clear my mind and refocus on the beauty of the day and of Napa, so I took the Oakville grade over the mountains, enjoying the amazing vistas and stopping for wild flowers in bloom, now this is my kind of Napa and I was refreshed and happy again. There is something special seeing mountain vineyards, nature, and the quiet that makes me profoundly happy, and you can still find it in Napa, even if you will be subjected to some silliness too.

Grapelive Latest

pisoni-1.jpgThe floodgates have opened and the new wines are flowing like raging waters to your restaurants, wine merchants or to your doorstep, and I can say it is all good. The wines I’ve had this month or even this week, most new releases and pre-sale samples, have been outstanding. Even my favorites have stepped up and there are some brand new faces that have scored big. 2005 for Cabernets and Syrah with 2006 for Pinot and Chards are the norm and with very few exceptions I’ve been blown away with the smoothness and richness of these wines, really you are in for a treat these days. My local area, Monterey had two utterly fantastic vintages in 2005 and 2006, for the small producers, and are now all on the market and ready to drink. Local icon Gary Pisoni (pictured with me) released the new 2006 Lucia line-up of Chard and Pinot Noirs, and they are amazing and a steal. Gary might have single-handedly turned the region to a world class region with his magical Pisoni Vineyard Pinot fruit that continues to awe Pinot lovers everywhere, whether it is under his on Pisoni label or made by one of less than a dozen winemakers that Gary sells his prized grapes to. Under his loving guidance his sons run and make the family’s wines and the Lucia Vineyards label is the main production, with a group or Pinot Noir and Syrah mainly, but they do an amazing Chardonnay, a bright Rose and a rare Cabernet Sauvignon in some vintages. Gary and his friend and partner Gary Francione who makes the Roar wines, have the Garys’ Vineyard that is also now one of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in the state. I have reviews of the Lucia posted, click on the link below. Then also locally for me Morgan Winery, headed by Dan Lee has just released their beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Dan has taken a major step up with his own estate vineyard wines from the “Double L Ranch” with both the Chard and Pinot rated outstanding. Then from over the hill in Carmel Valley, my hometown and my home team, Parsonage Village Vineyard turned out a selection of Syrah, Cabernet and a unbelievably fantastic Petit Verdot based red. These 2005’s are some of the finest wines I’ve every tasted from this area, in fact they rival anything from Napa! Also from Carmel Valley, Galante Vineyards continues to raise their quality and now have new wines in the pipeline too. I was very impressed with their lush and full-bodied Merlot and enjoyed the Almond Flat Pinot Noir, maybe the highest elevation Pinot Noir Vineyard in Central California? My kudos go out to Bill Parsons & Jack Galante for making me profoundly grateful and proud of where I’m from. Across the bay in the Santa Cruz Mountains there are some fine offerings coming out too, I love the new Windy Oaks Estate, Martin Alfaro 2006 Pinots and the Alfaro Family 2006 Lindsay-Page Vineyard Chardonnay especially. I have to wait a little longer to get my hands on the new release for Pandol Vineyards, but after Jennifer Pandol’s last effort I look forward to seeing the 2006 Schultze Vineyard Pinot Noir this summer. Her 2005 was one of my breakthrough wines of 2007, and I was very happy after tasting the barrel sample of both 2006 and 2007. Speaking of new faces, I got to taste a new Syrah from a new hot producer from the Sonoma County area and I’m sure he is going to be a star, his name is Jeff Ames and his label is Rudius, so write it down. His 2005 Rudius Syrah Russian River Valley is a seriously delectable treat with loads of style and rich fruit.
NEW REVIEWS

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Alaya’s Latest, March 28, 2008

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m_1ec3ee57ddf07e7cf3d55430264d29ba.jpgOregon Spring

By Alaya Wyndham-Price, Grapelive Guest Columnist

Springtime in Portland brings many things; crazy weather (it’s snowing in March) beautiful blooms (the Magnolias are stunning) and newly released Pinot Noir in the market–hooray! We’ve seen several 2006s thus far, but they are really starting to show up in good form now. 2006 was a big vintage for Oregon Pinot, the fruit was generally lush in style, and the production was larger than normal, by 15-20% in many cases. Because weather conditions allowed fruit to set and develop under warm conditions, then ripen gradually during a cooler trend, the Pinots of 2006 are fruity, fleshy, and approachable, but not overblown; they are balanced.

2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “The Beaux Freres Vineyard”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon
Deep garnet in color, and slightly cloudy, you can see the handcrafted character right away. Nose is huge with luscious fruits, bloody mineral, forest floor and spicy wild flowers. Plum, heirloom tomato, raspberry, fig, raisin, and black cherry are an influential on the nose. Notes of rare lamb, and copper follow this brawny fruit. Roasted cashew, morel, truffle, cedar, wet soil beneath a fir tree forest, wild orchid and fresh licorice root really make this wine smell like Oregon.

The palate offers the big rush of fruit that you would expect from the nose; it is bold, focused yet velvety, and lasts in layers. Cherry, plum, blueberry, and fig. I even taste roasted beets and squash, but make no mistake; this is a great influence and matches the earthiness of this pinot well. Rounded out with influential tastes of pesto, hazelnuts, maple syrup, molasses, pipe tobacco, soprasatta, dried truffle, and cocoa. This is one sexy wine!

With 100% Estate fruit from Ribbon Ridge, this bottling comes from the Beaux Freres Vineyard. Located on a special plot of 30 acres at 400 feet elevation, are the densely planted vines, ranging in age from 9-19 years. Thus, the production of this wine (especially in relation to its cult-like following) is small. Get some if you can, this wine will age and please for a decade, easily.

www.beauxfreres.com

Here are some of my recent favorites. READ ON

Read Alaya’s Blog at: www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Grapelive Latest

mikeandme.jpgBeaux Freres Releases Their Stunning 2006 Pinots

I should let my Oregon colleague Alaya handle the Pacific Northwest, as she does her local community very well indeed, but I could not control myself after trying the new Beaux Freres Pinots. Mike Etzel (pictured left with me) has a special place in the Ribbon Ridge region and makes a fantastic selection of Pinots. These wines are a great pleasure to try back to back and together, especially after tasting their 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Vineyard recently. I just posted the reviews on the 08 Reviews Page, see menu bar. The new Beaux Freres are richly colored and supple in tannin and deliver pure joy. The color is dark garnet and has a bright ruby edge, they seem darker than the California 2006 Pinots, but with fresher acidity and maybe have deeper flavors. That said, I’ve been really impressed with the Central Coast, Sonoma and Anderson Valley Pinots from the 2006 Vintage, which are less oaky and or Syrah-like than the recent vintages. Many of the 2006’s have a pale strawberry color to them and a brighter palate, though them seem deeply layered and have superb length and balance. So don’t read to much into the color, just let the wine show itself and I think you’ll be impressed. Also unfiltered wines tend to look lighter, because of the cloudy body that reflects light. I am thinking 2006 is going to be another banner year for Pinot Noir, with beautiful pure wines across the board! Oh, not that I mention Cabernet Sauvignon that often, but keep your eyes out for the 2005’s, these are amazing wines that offer full-bodied fruit, but with super ripe sweet tannins that are smooth giving early enjoyment and complexity even at this young stage. I will mention a couple to watch for now just hitting the market, these are: 2005 Miner Cabernet Sauvignon “Stagecoach Vineyard” Napa Valley, 2005 Keever Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa Valley and 2005 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. All of these are deals too, as they are in the $60-90 range, so check them out.

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s5002237.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This entry level Pinot from bought fruit is an outstanding wine and a killer deal! This is a big round Pinot with lush and textured layers of fruit and pretty perfume. There is everything to love and nothing to complain about here, I really savored every sip and didn’t want to put the glass down. This is what Pinot does best, it strikes an emotional cord and sings to the soul. Rich plum and bing cherries are all over the palate with flashes of red mountain berries, briar and smoky sweet spices. There is plenty going on and the wine is supported with nice mineral and oak notes. (Est. $50-60) 93 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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s5002236.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Beaux Freres Vineyard, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Bang, wow, swoon and then clap in praise, as this is a Grand Cru Burgundy rival, maybe better than most even. This wine is deep, complex and riveting right out of the bottle and only just begins to hint at its great potential that will certainly come. As with most great wines, it is stunning now, but promises to be near perfect for many years. The flavors come out in vivid detail and with sublime clarity and focus leading to a wonderful long and pure finish. Nothing is out of place, but it has its own uniqueness and terroir, which remind me of Musigny, but not quite. The blackberry, cherry and fresh berry fruits dance on the palate and the truffle, mineral, spice and exotic notes all play a part in the band. A rich currant and French oak streak unfold about mid way through to the savory and firm finish. Super now, but should hit its peak in 5 years. (Est. $79-99) 95 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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s5002238.jpg2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir “Upper Terrace”, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

Just when I thought I had reached the height of heights, then comes this wonderful masterpiece. This is everything the “Beaux Freres Vineyard is and a little more intense and wound up. There is a little more class and finesse here too, but it has its own presence too, with a hard to define violets and blueberry berry impression and a more meaty side as well. The round cherry fruit is mouth filling and there is a bramble-berry note that is distinct as well. The layers are linear and tightly focused with lots of mind blowing depth and expansiveness. Put this baby in the cellar and reap your reward in 5-8 years! 97 Points, grapelive

Beaux Freres Direct

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Grapelive Latest

march08kw1.jpgIt is Almost Spring!

This is a great time of year, a time of rebirth in the vineyard and a time when new releases start showing up in restaurants and shops! I just love it, and some wonderful wines are flowing in now and I’ve been hard pressed to keep up, though that can hardly be called a problem. I want to give my regards to Santa Cruz Mountains winemaker Richard Alfaro, who warm-heartedly opened his personal cellar and brought out some magical wines at a wonderful wine dinner at Soif Wine Bar in Santa Cruz. Thank you Richard! He unselfishly opened to following world-class wines: 1998, 1999 & 2000 Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux, 1993, 1994 & 1995 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir, 1995, 1996 & 1997 Williams Seylems Rochioli River Block Pinot Noir, 2003 Kistler Pinots (Kistler Vineyard, Cuvee Elizabeth & Cuvee Catherine), 2002 & 2003 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir, 2003 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge (Pisoni Vineyard), 1999 Bouchard Chambertin Clos de Beze, 1996 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard and finally but not least by any means the pretty 1994 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir! An amazing blast of Pinot greatness beyond belief and a night I won’t ever forget for the wine for sure, but also the kindness of Richard and the tasty food and service at Soif, a warm hearted thanks to all! Richard Alfaro I might add is now releasing some of his 2006 Pinot Noirs, like the 2006 Martin Alfaro “Schultze Vineyard”, a Santa Cruz Mountain gem that should not be missed and speaking of Schultze, Jim and Judy Schultze were also at that wine dinner and had some news of their own, their Windy Oaks Estate, of which I am a huge fan of is getting ready to ship a couple of new Pinots and I can hardly wait. Watch this space for notes on those soon, and I recommend getting on both the Martin Alfaro & Windy Oaks mailing lists as they sell out fast! 2006 vintage Pinots are all showing great form all ready and are good bets to stock up on early, check out the Cobb Vineyards reviews below.

Alaya Wyndham-Price is back from Walla Walla, Washington and reports in, see below!

Martin Alfaro Wines & Windy Oaks Estate

Cobb Coastlands Pinot

2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Coastlands Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

This their flagship Pinot from their home estate vineyard and the Cobb’s can be proud again with this wonderful wine. This is a complex, deep and pure Pinot Noir that is everything it should be and more. I continue to be amazed by Russ’ gifted touch and style which highlight the true nature of the grape and capture their terroir perfectly. This wine will lift your spirits and float you away and in my case with a happy stupid grin! There is plenty of raspberry and mineral laced cherry to entice you and subtle spice and wood notes. This is remarkable wine every year, but this just might be the best all around Pinot from this vineyard yet. Russ Cobb is the talented winemaker here and his dad David handles getting the wine out, and takes care of the vineyard, both are to be commended for their efforts. (Est. $69) 94 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines

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2006 Cobb Vineyards Pinot Noir “Rice-Spivek Vineyard”, Sonoma Coast

The second offering from Cobb, the “Rice-Spivek” is super perfumed and lovely in texture and life that comes out on the palate. This is completely different from the “Coastlands” and is a great contrast in terroir, even if it is difficult to chose a clear favorite between the two! So, I’d opt for both, no question, these are great Pinots. The “Rice-Spivek” has a more open nature and might not be the one for the cellar, that said , it is so pretty and easy to love that this Pinot really grabbed me. The red cherry fruit and floral nose just stay with you and the finish has just the hint of sweet creamy oak that adds to the joy that is this wine. This wine should develop all the classic Burgundy-style flavors over the next year or so in bottle, but there is no crime in drinking it now! (Est $69) 93 Points, grapelive

Cobb Vineyards Direct

Also at Bouchee Wines


Alaya Wyndham-Price Reports From Walla Walla!

Lifting cases off the bottling line for 10 hours last spring at Isenhower Cellars in Walla Walla was to my arms and back what hiking in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day was to my legs and feet. I woke up the next morning feeling muscles I didn’t know existed. This sort of work builds character, and a lasting appreciation for the wines produced in that winery you worked for. Naturally, I am excited about Isenhower Cellars wines! But for good reasons…

Isenhower is a great little boutique winery, known for both Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. A husband and wife team, Brett (winemaker) and Denise, are modern-day Rhone Rangers, with a healthy respect for the area’s propensity toward Bordeaux varietals – they produce great examples of both styles. What’s better, is they buy fruit only from producers that are concerned with letting the expression of the land come out in the grapes, in the most natural and environmentally careful way. They recognize the value of the terroir they are working from, and are dedicated to letting the land express its character in their wines. One estate the Isenhower’s buy from is the prestigious Ciel du Cheval site in the Red Mountain AVA. Vineyard owner Jim Holmes explains his philosophy on what makes the wines coming from Ciel du Cheval so special: “Dirt and climate, climate and dirt.”

roussanne_f.jpg2006 Isenhower Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, Walla Walla, Washington State
A true Rhone varietal, Roussanne expresses beautifully the land it comes from. The 2006 Ciel du Cheval Roussanne showcases its light residual sugars as you pour it. Crystalline in form, they make the geologist in me delight as I watch delicate flakes float around in the golden liquid. With a nose of round and lush notes of baked papaya, flambéed banana, and honeysuckle, this wine is balanced by the addition of lemon zest, spiced almond, and wet river rock. The viscosity of this wine is exciting, as its layers slip around on your tongue, coating it with silky mineral. Flavors of honeyed, grilled pear with lavender make me smile and sip again only to find further enchantment, from notes of chalk and fossil – thanks to the vineyard’s lively geologic past – and an exciting citrus-zesty finish. Really, this is a beautiful wine, with exotic intrigue and restrained elegance.

As a member of the bottling team, I not only spent the day talking wine, running, music and travel with a great group of people – “regular bottlers” – I had the pleasure of taking home two cases of wine for my efforts. Because I showed a special interest in the very limited older-vines Ciel du Cheval Roussanne, I was lucky to find 4 bottles of it in my box. Thanks, Brett! I’m so glad I had the chance to know this wine. After a year in bottle, it has really come into its own, and is so worth sharing. The wine is balanced, and will age for many years to come, into something as beautiful and rare as fossilized amber. I’m so looking forward to watching the life of this single-vineyard Roussanne progress in those remaining bottles. Very limited production; sold out at the winery. *Check out their website and get on the list for the new vintage, www.isenhowercellars.com
-Alaya

Read Alaya’s Blog at

www.myspace.com/winereviewsforpleasure

Grapelive Hot Picks

DeLille Chaleur Estate2005 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate (Bordeaux-Style Cabernet Blend) Washington State
Over the years I have grown very fond of DeLille wines and think Chris Upchurch is one of the top winemakers period, and I can say now that his wines are even better than ever. This is their top wine, the Chaleur Estate and it is remarkable for its lustiness and for its shear grace. This really should scare any of the First Growths, with depth and richness that are both lovely and stunningly good. Black fruits and pure currants mingle on the palate with layers of flavors and ripe tannins. Blackberries, cassis and smoky sweet oak notes and savory spices all add to the whole. This wine is totally sublime and a real beauty that should age well and give lots of pleasure over the next 5-8 years. (Est. $72-89) 95 Points, grapelive

www.delillecellars.com

DeLille Harrison Hill2005 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill (Bordeaux-Style Cabernet Blend) Washington State
The Harrison Hill seems tighter and spicier than the Chaleur Estate, it’s sister wine, but should develop nicely and be just as good. The nose was muted now, but I feel it will come around with ac little time to reveal a perfume and a sweet mix of wild fruits. The palate is big and rich, with red and black fruits coming in waves of plum, cherry, liqueur, mixed berry and tobacco spice. This seems more classic Bordeaux in style and may age longer than the Chaleur, but it does need a bit of cellar time. After some air it really gets going and is very impressive all the way through, this is serious stuff! (Est. $72-89) 94-96 Points, grapelive

www.delillecellars.com

Grapelive Latest: Reflections

s5002191.jpgGrapelive Best of 2007

by Kerry Winslow

I am going to reflect on just a few of the highlights of 2007 and then we can move on, as this year looks set to be a great one all ready. I must say on every front wine is getting better and better, which makes find that really special wine a bit harder, but gives the public a higher standard of options now. The French continue to regain some of the lost ground and even with the horrible exchange rates are getting fantastic wines to the USA. I know that Bordeaux prices are crazy right now, but I have found some great values in other regions of France, especially in the Loire. Italy too is jamming with amazing regional and village wines coming in from places as diverse as Sardinia and the Alto Adige, as well as better known areas like Tuscany and Piedmont. This last year I really came to understand and love German Pinot Noir, known there as Spatburgunder, and still go nuts for a Mosel Riesling. Here at home, I have many new favorites and keep getting blown away by new producers all the time. So here is my TOP TEN of 2007.

1. 2005 Tablas Creek Esprit du Beaucastel Rouge, 95 Points (great wine and still under $50) 2. 2005 Francois Raveneau Chablis Clos, 96 Points (Priced in the don’t ask range, but is fantastic at any price) 3. 2005 Reverdy Sancerre Rouge, 93 Points (this is a lovely Pinot Noir and it is about $25) 4. 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir “Deer Park” Santa Cruz Mountains, 93+ Points(A true lush and polished Pinot, and only about $35) 5. 2001 August Kesseler Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, Rheingau, 94 Points (An amazing mineral laced Pinot true to its Terroir and a Burgundy rival, and though price at near $125, it is just too cool not to include) 6. 2005 Deux Montille Auxey-Duresses White Burgundy, 93 Points (A pure and beautiful wine and at under $40 it’s a real value) 7. 2005 Telan Quarz Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige, Italy, 94 Points(Maybe the best Sauvignon Blanc ever, next to Dagueneau, about $55, but worth it) 8. 2005 Robert Foley Claret, Napa Valley 96 Points(What can I say? It rocks) 9. 2005 Parsonage Village Vineyard “Cuvee Rocco” Syrah, Carmel Valley Estate, 97 Points(A monster wine that blew me away, and this was tough, because the other Parsonage 05’s were rock stars as well) 10. 2005 Jennifer Pandol Vineyards Pinot Noir “Schultze Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains, 93-94 Points(A look to the future, as she made only 20 cases or so and never released it to the public, but the 2006 looks be right up there, and going to be released this spring/summer)

This really was hard and of course there were many others that could have easily been on this list, but I’ll go with it and hope that you get a chance to taste a few of these selections. Now it is on the next exotic nectar!
Happy hunting and enjoy the journey.

Wine Reviews, Articles & Travel