Grapelive Latest: War and Politics in the Birthplace of the Managed Vineyard, and Wine.

kw0808gl.jpg Today, I was planning on writing about recent wine trips and the ups and downs, but I was confronted with the news this morning and became sad and worried, with all the terrible things going on. Train, bus and car crashes, idiotic lying Politians, and media that needs a moral compass and the worst of all things war. Trying to clear my head and escape the images of tanks and selling became totally impossible. The war, between rebels in South Ossetia, a want away republic sandwiched by Georgia and Russia, and the forces of the Republic of Georgia has intensified to the points where Russian army forces now are faced up against the Georgian army and the whole of the region could explode.

The Caucasus have been quiet for a few years following Putin’s crushing of the Chechens, but remains a simmering hot spot with many ethnic tensions. Let us hope that things will cool off and may peace win, instead of violence.
If you were wondering why I would mention this little known area and passionately want things there to stabilize, well, there are many reasons, but the region is also the most likely birth place for modern winegrowing, dating back 5,000 years! Wine relics, vineyard cultivation remains and trade records all point to an advanced wine trade here and may even be older than mentioned. This was part of the Silk Road, the trade route between Asia and Europe.
While winemaking from wild grapes and fruits seems to date back to about 7,000 years ago, these finds in the Caucasus Mountains seem to be the true home of trained vineyards. These areas stretched from the sea in what is modern day Iran to these very Mountain Valleys that we have this war going on.
I was in Russia last year and was told because of politics they were not importing Georgian wines, and I had to settle on some pretty scary stuff from the other break away republic in Georgia, Abkhazia. In Hugh Johnson’s “The Story of Wine”, he puts forward that the Caspian Sea and Black Sea are the birthplace of winegrowing, and goes with modern day Iran as the likely _44904633_-2.jpgstarting place along with areas of Georgia. While I was in Russia, I had heard tales that it was for sure parts of Georgia and other hidden mountain valleys in the Caucasus range that may have been first, but it was hard to get in there to prove it, and now it seems even more unlikely that we are going to be able to explore this beautiful and mysterious wine region.
In an ironic twist, it is the Russians that have promoted Georgian wine and were their biggest market, as even though the west enjoys open trade with Georgia, we are not into their wines and have very little available to us. I tried to find hidden stashes in Moscow, in small markets and restaurants, but was denied. Too much fear and nationalism in Russia allowed me to get my hands on any. So I was forced to drink European and wines from the Ukraine mostly, while in Russia. Though I am very interested to explore Caucasus wine and maybe discover some of wines’ history. I will say I did get to try some lovely Georgian red wine in Riga, Latvia back in 2005, and it was that taste that set my mind to finding more.
So let us hope for true and lasting peace in the Caucasus regions and bring all of these people to a place of security and stability. Maybe it will be wine that does it, but the UN needs to move in first. Keep your fingers crossed, send your good thoughts and don’t let this area be put on the back burner, especially now that people are being killed.

By Kerry Winslow

*Map from BBC News Online.

Grapelive Lastest: Smoke on the Water…. (Monterey Bay)

s5002710.jpgWith fire in the sky, I went out to Galante Vineyards and saw huge flames rising from the last of the “Basin Complex Fire” and sipped a wonderfully crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Jack Galante had his Wine Gang day out to his beautiful and remote ranch in Carmel Valley to enjoy his estate wines and a BBQ with Chef Michael Reese, the Cajun specialist. It was hot and smoky, but a fun filled day and enjoyable tour. Jack has almost unlimited energy and skill, chatting away with his guests, pouring wine, four-wheeling to remote vineyard sites and poaching old wines from his private cellar with out coming up for air! His loyal following and team all celebrated with rose petal foot baths, spiced tri-tip, savory beans, pretty vistas and lots of Galante’s famed Cabernet Sauvignon, even a 1995 Galante Vineyards “Blackjack Pasture” to quaff on. I stayed with their bright and refreshing 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, as it was close to 90 degrees out and I was hiking around the vineyards. Over the hill the firefighters were back lighting and set a ridge a blaze with 60 foot flames, which looked terrifying, but was done to create a buffer zone and keep the fire line secure. Later in the day Jack took me up to his high elevation Pinot Noir vineyard, “Almond Flat”, and I was amazed at both the height and the danger in which I was put to get there! In the end it was a very rewarding trek as I got to s5002723.jpgsee this amazing site and view the whole valley from there. Planted to mostly Calera clone with some other modern French clones, including 777, “Almond Flat” is a special place and a site that will produce some special fruit in the years to come. The current release, the 2005 and the 2006 both are big steps for this small winery and remind me of Nuits-St. George Burgundies with intense earthy and mineral notes and brisk, tight and dark fruits. These wines need air and food to show their class as intended. The 2005 gained elegance and depth with over 24 hours of air and I think the 2006 might be a 5-year lay down. In other words, like real Burgundy!

On a drink up note, their 2006 Galante Cabernet Sauvignon “Red Rose Hill” is a smash hit, with beautiful red fruits, smooth tannins and lush textures. This is a blend change, now included are small lots of Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Malbec that give many good complexities and fill this pretty wine out. Then there is the estate Sauvignon Blanc, this being from the 2007 vintage, with lovely tangy citrus and melon flavors that are zesty and pure. Both are their Wine Gang favorites, so be sure to call them quick like to get any that remain unclaimed!
Another wonderful weekend gone, but long-lived memories forever!



alfaros.jpgLast week I ran into Richard Alfaro and his wife Mary Kay, Alfaro Family Vineyards, and I re-tasted his 2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Chardonnay “Lindsay-Page Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, and wow, I was again blown away! This is a world class Chardonnay that ranks right up there! I am not kidding you when I say it rates well against Batard-Montrachet and anything from this State for sure, in fact I had to bump it up a few points on score. I have been singing the praises of the South Santa Cruz Mountains for a few years now, mainly shouting about the Pinot Noir Like Richard’s estate, Windy Oaks and more lately Jennifer Pandol’s Pandol Pinot sourced from the Schultze Vineyard, but this Chardonnay is amazing and totally mind blowing. It is complex and lush from beginning to end with pear, apple, lemon tart and hazelnuts framed with sweet oak notes. Richard and Mary Kay Alfaro are also making some fine estate Syrah and even a Bordeaux-style estate Merlot that they are releasing soon.




galanteredrose06.jpg2006 Galante Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Red Rose Hill”, Carmel Valley Estate

Galante’s Red Rose Hill Cabernet is a soft tannin and pretty wine that ages well and offers full flavors, and this wine takes that to the next level and then some! This wine is a new blend, a Cabernet base with small lots of Malbec, Merlot and Petite Sirah, with the Malbec being new to the Galante ranch. They make a big impact here giving added color and more texture, with some savory spice notes added in too. This wine now is Galante’s homage to Chateau Margaux or Bordeaux’s left bank and I would say it is successful in giving an impression of the French classics. The wine has plenty of fruit, but not soaring alcohol levels and maintains good grip and balancing acidity making this a super wine with food and one that can age with elegance. I still would recommend drinking now as it is really good as is, even if it will fill out more in the next year or so. The fruit is red currant, plum, black cherry, raspberry and cassis with some dried rose petals, cedar, sage and spicy sweet oak shadings. ($35-40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive





2006 Alfaro Family Chardonnay Lindsay-Page Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This is a big full bore Chardonnay that is ultra rich and incredibly deep and focused with lovely flavors and a long lush finish. Hazelnuts and white flowers lead to pure pear and apple fruit, with touches of clove, mineral, honey and vanilla. This wine is still a month or so away from release, but it is well on its way to be a classic.  A little more than a hundred cases of this wine is heading to market, so get on it now! ($30 Est.) * I revisited this wine recently (July 2008) and I must say it is even better now and reminds me of a great Batard-Montrachet! This wine is stunning and I can really not say this any other way, get it and get it now if you are a Chardonnay drinker, even if you are not you’ll love this wine. (94 Points before) 95 Points, grapelive



Grapelive Latest: Teaming up with The Wine Spies

s5002772.jpgI’ve been drafted into service and I am now known as Agent Noir, and my mission will be to do guest reviews for the agency. The Wine Spies are your secret undercover deal makers and they search out some amazing wine finds! This Saturday they are going to feature one of my big favorites: Parsonage Estate Syrah, from Carmel Valley! Don’t miss out and as a bonus to my readers, The Wine Spies are offering an extra special discount to you.

Be sure to use the special Grapelive promo code on the coupon below to get an extra 10% off your orders.

Cheers, Kerry Winslow,

AKA “Agent Noir”

Grapelive Latest: The Garys’ Show, Great Vines & Wines


by Kerry Winslow, grapelive

This last week has been a blur, a real frenzy of wine and vineyards to taste and try. But, it really is the people that matter most and the friendships that have developed that move me. I have been very lucky in the last week to have seen some of the kindest and talented people based here in the Monterey Bay area, and of course try their wonderful wines and or see their amazing vineyards. My latest trek took me out to the Garys’ , Rosella’s and Pisoni Vineyards, all in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and though I’ve been out to Pisoni before, I had never been to Rosella’s and Garys’ Vineyards, so it was with a lot of excitement I went touring out there with. Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni, long time friends are partners in the Garys’ Vineyard and it is mostly planted to “Pisoni clone” Pinot Noir, and this is what it is most famous for. That said they have really turned a lot heads with their Syrah from this site and I can tell you it is fantastic, especially the 2006 sample I was lucky enough to get my hands and palate on.

Franscioni has his own vineyard too, this the Rosella’s Vineyard named after Gary’s wife Rosella, and this site is planted to Pinot Noir, Syrah & Chardonnay, all of which are top flight grapes and make wine to drool over. Rosella’s Vineyard is the coolest of the vineyards and usually picked last, and has shown to be a perfect place for well-developed Chardonnay and dark and floral Pinot Noirs. Though in recent years the Pinots have got much richer and the Syrahs are doing extremely well here too. The long hang time and multitude of clones give lots of complexity and depth as the vines age here.

The main partnership vineyard, the Garys’ is regarded as Grand Cru class and it is very prized among the select winemakers that can get any fruit here. Franscioni and Pisoni have about 20 or so clients that take grapes, all must be friends, make good (great) wine, and of course pay on time! It is almost a license to print money, as almost every Pinot made from Garys’ fruit is a sell out! Honestly, can you think of a bad Garys’ Pinot Noir? Not easy, and I recently went crazy for the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard and remarked it may be the best yet from them, and I can say that Franscioni’s own label Roar, now made by Ed Kurtzman, is getting even better, especially these 2006 vintages. 2006 was a tough year and for the most part the Pinot Noirs have been lighter in color and in some cases in flavors, but not from these guys’ vineyards! Both the Roar (Gary Franscioni) and the Lucia (Pisoni Family) are intensely rich and darkly colored wines with well developed aromatics and lush textures. Then there is the Syrahs, and they are super impressive with purple/black color and loads of black fruit, violets and white pepper with great length and long finishes. Oh, and I should also mention, just in case you don’t take my word on this, Robert Parker rated the Garys’ and Susan’s Hill (Pisoni Vineyard) Syrah’s between 93 and 95 Points for the new 2006 releases! These are due out in late September or October 2008, so get on both the Lucia and Roar websites and sign up to receive their offers, and get your pre-release order in as soon as possible.

gpisoni08.jpgThen there is the magic place, the vineyard that made Monterey known for world class Pinot Noir and really put us on the map, I’m talking about the Pisoni Vineyard. We locally cannot argue about that, Gary Pisoni deserves all his success and fame, and I will always tell him so, every time I see him! This place is our Romanee-Conti, a sacred place, and a place where Monterey’s fortunes turned around. Pisoni Vineyard has to be the most famous if not the most sublime site in California for powerful and mind blowing Pinot Noir. It took Gary Pisoni awhile to showcase his vision, and he had many doubters, but he perused his dream and won everyone over in the end with these grapes. His son Jeff makes their own wines under the Pisoni and Lucia labels, and his talents are now also well known and highly respected. Mark Pisoni the other son, wears many hats, he gets to run all the vineyards and do most of the business and public relations work, including helping Gary Franscioni over at Garys’ and Rosella’s. Now, getting back to my point earlier, it is all about the people, these very hard working and in demand people. They deserve all their successes and many more too, as they are some of the nicest and kindest people you’ll ever meet, and not just in the wine business either, I mean it, these are special souls with huge hearts. It makes drinking their wine all that much more special. Pisoni’s 2006 Estate Pinot is coming out this fall too, and look for it to be one of the best yet, but make sure you get your favorite wine merchant to line some up early or at least get your name on the Pisoni list. I was lucky and got a sneak peak at a few versions and came away very, very impressed. The 2006 Roar Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard was awesome with lovely fruit and sweet smoky goodness, and is all ready a star, drinking great now and even though Gary Franscioni likes them really young himself, it should get even better with a year or so in bottle and age well for 5-7 years. These guys are good!

bottle_splash.jpg2006 Roar Pinot Noir “Pisoni Vineyard”, Santa Lucia Highlands

Gary Franscioni’s Roar wines are now made by the talented Ed Kurtzman, who is taking over from Adam Lee (Siduri), and he is really taking these wonderful wines to the next level and allowing the vineyard sites to really show themselves. This is my favorite version of this wine so far. This unfiltered and rich Pinot Noir has a more cloudy appearance, with a pretty ruby and garnet hue. The fruit is fresh and leans on raspberry, dark cherry and plum, though there is some red currant and cranberry as well. This wine has great depth and “Pisoni” style structure and boldness with lush textures and complexity. There is a smoky sweet vanilla oak note, but it fits perfectly and this is a very focused and balanced wine that has it all right from nose to finish. This Pinot has great fruit, good savory spices, nice florals and lavish oak shadings and will be released this fall! Kudos to Gary and Ed for making a great wine even better and for letting this magical vineyard show itself and again showcase its Grand Cru statis.  ($55-65 Est.)

95 Points, grapelive (by Kerry Winslow)


gv-syrah-2005-label.jpg2006 Lucia Syrah “Garys’ Vineyard”, Santa Lucia Highlands

The Franscioni and Pisoni families have really done it again, after creating world class Pinot fruit and getting the Santa Lucia Highlands regarded as a great Pinot Noir region, they now have done the same with Syrah! This Lucia Syrah is without a bit of doubt has reached greatness and Jeff Pisoni must certainly be very proud with this amazing wine. This Syrah from Garys’ Vineyard is dark purple with lovely violets and wild flowers on the nose with white pepper and lavender notes up front and on the palate. There is power and elegance in this wine that reminds me of the Northern Rhone and with the complex flavors and full body make it a super Syrah that will be great on release and will age beautifully for 5-8 years. The fruit is mostly black in nature with mountain berries, plum and cassis filling the mouth, with some tangy blueberry, mocha, currant, cherry liqueur, smoky game and subtle wood notes. The finish still shows tannins and acidity, giving strength and freshness to the fruit, but remains long and with some creamy vanilla that lingers. This is a very young wine, though it is easy to love now, and should be released in late September. ($40-45 Est.)

94 Points, grapelive (by Kerry Winslow)


Grapelive: Wine of the Week

s5002661.jpg2006 Fritz Haag Riesling “ Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr” Spatlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
This beautiful and delicate Riesling will make any day seem special, and will especially enchant on brilliant summer days with its perfume of yellow roses, exotic spices and fresh stone fruits. This is a wonderful Mosel that shows the terroir perfectly and highlights Riesling’s true nature, as a world-class white wine, but with stunningly low alcohol. At about 7.5 %, that makes it easy to enjoy anytime and at half the percentage of any decent California white, so you can have a full bottle over lunch without any side effects! The palate is packed with apricot, white peach, tropical fruits, sweet flowers and mineral notes. This semi-dry wine has lush sweetness, but remains balanced, focused and totally refreshing. ($36-40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

(by Kerry Winslow)

Dee Vine Wines

Grapelive Lastest

Happy Fourth of July from Grapelive

by Kerry Winslow

s5002569.jpgTo celebrate the Fourth of July and the American Dream I’m going to give a quick nod to some great American Pinots I tried at Pinot Days last weekend in San Francisco. This was my first Pinot Days event at Fort Mason, and it was awesome with lots of fantastic wines and many winemakers and winery owners on hand to tell their stories and share their visions of Pinot Noir and the vineyards where it is grown. For me the event was a success in everyway and I enjoyed meeting so many new people and finding even more exciting wines, plus catching up with old friends which makes it just that much more special.
The big surprise was the amazing showing of Oregon Pinots; this fun little rivalry between California and Oregon was the real highlight of the Pinot Days event. I was not just me that noticed these super Oregon Pinots, I was walking the show with a California Pinot Noir winemaker and we both agreed that the Oregon wines came out on top on this day. To be fair most of the Pinots came from the 2006 Vintage, which flatters the big rich, vintage from Oregon, which is not typical and for which California is more known for and that had a slightly lighter vintage in 2006 by comparison. Still even in a tough year like 2005, Oregon still produced some real gems and a few were shown at Pinot Days to good effect.
The California stand outs included some sublime wines, here are a few from my mental notes that stuck out from the crowd; the 2006 Bjornstad Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, the 2006 Freeman Pinot Noir, Russian River, the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Deer Park Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2007 Auteur Pinot Noir, Sonoma Stage *Barrel sample, and the 2006 August West Pinot Noir Graham Vineyard, Russian River. All of which are between $35 and $50 each and offer lots of bang for the buck, especially the Martin Alfaro Deer Park. The humble and friendly Joe Martin was pouring the beautiful 2006 Martin Alfaro Deer Park, which was competing nicely against the hundreds of other top Pinots on display and again tells me that there is a spot for the South Santa Cruz Mountains in the list of great Pinot Noir Terroirs!
Now for the Oregon Pinots that stole the show, they included; the 2006 Auteur Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon *Maybe my wine of the day, the 2005 & 2006 Vidon Pinot Noirs, the 2005 & 2006 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noirs, and the 2006 Lachini Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Again it was a surprise to find that even the tough vintage 2005 wines showed so well, but there is no doubt the 2006 Oregon vintage is a blockbuster year and I recommend trying and buying them up before they sell out. Beyond the Pinot Days event, I can say find the 2006 Bergstrom Pinot Noirs, the 2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noirs and any 2006 Shea Vineyard Oregon Pinot, as they are some of the greatest Pinots I’ve tasted this year.


Highlights of Pinot Days


noir_jv_061.gif2006 Stoller Pinot Noir JR, Willamette Valley, Oregon
This is the entry level Stoller, but don’t let that fool you, this is a super wine that delivers with rich and interesting flavors and is a steal at $25! It starts fresh with bright raspberry and strawberry notes, but gets deeper with air and brings a core of cherry and plum fruit to the surface. This lovely little Pinot is a ready to drink darling that has some good depth and focus with touches of rose petal, spice, vanilla and sweet tea. ($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive


label_05_vdk_pinot.jpg2006 Bjornstad Pinot Noir  “Van der Kamp Vineyard”, Sonoma Mountain
This serious and intense Pinot is loaded with dark fruits and amazing depth, really this is a great wine. Greg Bjornstad has created a wonderful Pinot, though that is nothing new as he was one of the Gregs’ behind the highly rated Tandem wines, but I think I like this one even more than those Tandems! This wine has layers of complexity and the flavors are powerful and rich without being sweet or over blown. The dark berry and black plum fruits come at you first then you get a classic Pinot burst of cherry that fills the palate. There is some smoke, truffle, currant, mineral and vanilla cream all mixed in perfectly and with good balance and focus. Congrats to Greg on his own label and a very successful start and a great wine here! ($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive Lastest

kwjune2008b.jpgSummertime Wines
This summer has started out with long lazy days leading into long easy nights with warmth and beautiful wines playing a key role in the laughter and pleasure that I’m reflecting on. I feel lucky and am filled with gratitude for these times and for the wines that helped them be so special. Lately I’ve dropped my jaded edge and become addicted to Tempier’s amazing Bandol Rose, for me is still the best pink wine in the world, especially the 2007 vintage! This amazing and vibrant Rose is just plain a great wine, refreshing enough to have with breakfast and rich and complex enough to do the whole menu at dinner. With melon, red citrus, cherry and a teasing array of spices Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose is almost darn near perfect anytime, anywhere and goes sublimely well on day dreamy summer days. Another great summer passion is fresh and minerally Riesling that not only quenches the thirst with low alcohol and a hint of good sweetness, it also matches up wonderfully with summer menus of greens, fish and cheeses. Last weekend I dove into a glorious petrol fumed and slate infused 2004 August Kesseler Spatlese from the Rheingau, this weekend was a delicate and tropical dry 2006 Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg, which was very shy and easy, not the normally intense and full-bodied wine of recent vintages, but lovely all the same. To get into late evenings I’ve mostly opted for slightly chilled Pinot Noirs, but there have been some other gems too, like the 2004 La Spinetta Sezzana Sangiovese from their estate in Tuscany. With it’s perfume of sweet herbs and licorice and full smooth body this is a wine to be savored, and this vintage has to be one of the finest produced by this estate. Big rich red berry and cherry fruit, hints of strawberry and nice violet like flower notes reminds of a great Brunello and makes me remember how good Sangiovese can be. As for the Pinots, I am still moved by the power, richness and elegance of the 2006 Oregon wines, with Cristom, Bergstrom, Beaux Freres and Penner-Ash all vying for best of class honors. Then there are my favorites from the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Santa Cruz Mountains all played a part so far this summer, but you can never overlook the magic of Burgundy for moving and remarkable wines. This months’ winner is reviewed below, it is the stunning 2003 Domaine de Montille Pommard, trust me this is an awesome wine.

Grapelive Wine of the Month

s5002625.jpg2003 Domaine de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru “Les Pezerolles”, Red Burgundy, France
This sexy and complex Pinot will make anyone a Burgundy believer and or lover with rich, lush and robust flavors and textures. This layered and seamless Pommard shows depth and style way beyond what you’d normally find in this unrated village, this is way up there with the top Grand Cru’s, and again proves the talents of this producer. This wine opens with smoke, wild flowers, red currants and a hint of game, before taking you on a pleasure trip with dark and red fruits that unfold in vivid detail. There is a beautiful cherry and plum core with raspberry, rose petals and woodsy notes in the background along with touches of liqueur and truffle. The finish is immense and lingering with sweet spices and subtle fine oak notes framing the fruit perfectly. This is an outstanding wine that is fantastic now and will give much joy for years to come. (Est. $99-150) 96 Points, grapelive

*Imported by Beaune Imports

Italy Scores, Not Just At The Euro 2008!

s5002576_2.jpgItaly are world champions in soccer and just knocked the French out of the Euro 2008 tourney!

But, it is their wine that is stealing the stage and La Spinetta is one of the very best and beautiful. Giorgio Rivetti leads La Spinetta and has made this little Moscato D’Asti producer into a friend and rival of the likes of Gaja and Giacosa, in the Piedmonte region of Italy in the great areas of Barolo and Barbaresco. La Spinetta is one of my favorite wineries, in fact I don’t miss a vintage of their little Barbera and now they have added a Tuscan estate to their holdings and produce three wonderful Sangiovese wines from it. I recently had their Tuscan “Sezzana” IGT and loved it like a top Brunello! It was beautiful with intense dark fruit, hints of sweet herbs and licorice, all layered and balanced surberbly. There is little doubt that they will succeed in Tuscany as they have done in Piedmonte. For the greatest of the modern Italian winemakers, look no further than La Spinetta and the Rivetti’s as their wines are clean and done in small French barrels, buteven so this wines capture their terroir perfectly and are elegant complext wines. Their trio of Barbarescos all sublime examples of modern thinking and traditional love of farming in the vineyards. They go for tiny yields and use only the very best grapes, giving results that remind one of Grand Cru Burgundy, comparing Rivetti’s Crus to Romanee-Conti’s in not that far off. These are fantastic wines that say and offer a lot, they are wines of class and intensity that show the very best of their region, and of the greatness of Italy. Then there is the Barolo, La Spinetta started recently with Barolo, in 2000, and I was lucky enough to be at its unveiling in the US, and have been a believer since that first taste in San Francisco! Every vintage has met with critical aclaim from the worlds wine press, and the current releases are fantastic and powerful. Know as Campe della Spinetta, the Barolo is as the legend goes; (Barolo) Is The King of Wines!

So if you want to taste magic in a glass and feel the joy of Nebbiolo as it can be and should be, just find these rare wines and you’ll become a fan like me of La Spinetta, really it is like falling under a spell! So now that Italy is through to the finals of the Euro 2008, it is time to enjoy the beautiful game with some of the finest wines in the world, and for me that will most certainly be Giorgio’s little beauties, the hard part will be chosing which one!



2001 Campe Della Spinetta Barolo (La Spinetta) Piedmonte, Italy

This is a stunning wine of incredible depth and style with rich flavors and layers of complexity. This is a wine, a Barolo that makes you understand why Nebbiolo is a world class grape, and a wine that goes a long way to prove the historic adage “Barolo the King of Wines.” I had this wine at a wonderful wine dinner where Giorgio Rivetti, the leader of La Spinetta, presented his wines himself, and I can tell you even he was impressed with this wines showing! Fantastic in fruit and power, but giving and lush with red berry, plum, cherry fruits leading the way on the palate. There was also smoky tar, orange peel, licorice and vanilla all in perfect focus and adding complexity. Very clean and modern in style, but with intensity and vigor of a classic Barolo, this is the real deal. This is the baby of the La Spinetta line up, this wine being from only the second release proves these guys have got it right, I don’t know of many wineries that could have produced such a wonder in only their second try. Great wine, from a great region, made well by a super producer. (Est. $150) 96 Points, grapelive

*Current release 2003 Vintage.


1999 La Spinetta Barbaresco Valeirano Piedmonte, Italy

This beautiful red is just simply amazing now, it is near perfect and more like a Grand Cru Burgundy than not, it reminds me of a Richebourg or Grands Echezeaux for sure. Lovely floral notes come in waves, with dried roses and violets giving sweet perfume before the taste on the engaging palate. The fruit is plum, cherry and currants with added depth coming in the form of lavender, black licorice, mountain herbs, sweet smoky oak notes and truffle. This wine is just whole and balanced in a way that is special for its elegance and long finish without being too smooth or too delicate, there is a subtle vibrancy and grip that tells you that this is a great wine now and will be for many years to come. This wine is pure pleasure and was fantastic with food, and it held its own against the younger and showier 2004 version which was no mean feat I can tell you, as the 2004 is a great wine as well! If you can find this wonderful Nebbiolo, I say get it and love it now or hold it for 4-6 years. (Est. $150-175) 96 Points, grapelive

*Current Release 2004 (94-95 Points, grapelive)

Grapelive Euro 2008

euro08.jpgEvery four years the top European soccer (Football) teams play the mini World Cup and these sixteen countries due battle for the trophy as the best national side. This is war, be in no doubt about it, but it s also a big party and a great time to show your pride. Being half English, I have to pick another team to follow, as England didn’t make it into the last groups. That was not a dose of national pride, but I’m getting into it just the same. Even though my friends in Sweden and Russian might get a little mad at me, I picked Italy to win it all, and until yesterday I was feeling really good about their chances. This came to a blunt halt with a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the Dutch. So I think I’ll play out my own Euro with wine now! Lots of wine. France didn’t do so well in their first match either only managing a tie with Romania. But, I played out an Italy vs. France wine match, with La Spinetta’s Tuscan Red Sezzana against F. Magnien’s Nuits-Saint-Georges Red Burgundy. Remarkably the wines played just like their national soccer sides in many ways, though much better! The La Spinetta Sezzana has power, flair and a strong defense and the F. Magnien Burgundy has overlapping layers and puts on a real beautiful show with energy and focus. In the end my nod goes to Italy even though it was like winning on penalty kicks, it was that close.

Then there is Spain and Portugal… I can’t wait!

*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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kwjune08.jpgPinot Noir shows no signs of losing its mystic appeal

I love all wine and am in love with many other grapes, but Pinot Noir just does not get boring. I have had some wonderful other wines lately, including wines made with; Grenache, Syrah, Corvina, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Nebbiolo to name a few, but that Pinot magic still holds me. Recently, I did a little mini tasting with a Burgundy, a Oregon Pinot and an Anderson Valley Pinot, all cooler climate styles that I thought would be similar, but they were wildly different and it left me craving even more Pinot! Luck would have it though, and I soon got more Pinot Noir to try. Pinot is also flying on the shelves and the market is showing now signs of letting up, Pinot producers mailing lists are full and there are huge waiting lists to get just a few bottles. Just ask Sea Smoke, even after losing their star winemaker Kris Curran to Foley, or Kosta Browne, Rochioli, Brewer-Clifton or even the old guards like Hanzell or Williams-Selyem, all of which are selling out almost instantly. Here are my picks for Pinot Noir producers you may have not heard of and can still get in on now, Cobb, Freeman and F. Magnien (Burgundy) all of which are outstanding producers that make wonderful and compelling wines. Cobb is from the Sonoma Coast and they are the owners of the Coastlands Vineyard, made famous by Williams-Selyem, and made by Russ Cobb, who has been picked by Flowers to make their wines too. Freeman is made by Ed Kurtzman, he makes Roar and August-West as well. Then there is F. Magnien of Burgundy, this house makes some of the best values in the region, I really love their Morey-St. Denis, Chambolle-Musigny and Nuits-St.-Georges. Pinot Noir has a grip on the passionate wine drinker, it is not about to let go anytime soon, but that is a good thing for sure. I have my own personal favorites of which I have mentioned recently in my articles, scroll down and you’ll see my praises for Richard Alfaro, Alfaro Family Vineyards and Martin Alfaro, and Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks Estate, both of which just avoided the unthinkable, they both produce wines from their estates in the Santa Cruz Mountains which was in the path of a raging forest fire, known here as the “Summit Fire”. Thank goodness they were spared and I will happily celebrate that with more of their great wines soon and often. In my mini tasting, the Burgundy (F.Magnien Nuits-St.-Georges) won out, the Oregon Pinot (Cristom) came second, and the Anderson Valley Pinot (Lazy Creek) came third, this was a surprise, but then that is all just the amazing allure of Pinot, it is not predictable.

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