Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 19, 2018

2013 G.D. Vajra, Barolo, Bricco delle Viole, Piedmonte, Italy.
One of the modern world’s great wines, Giuseppe Vajra’s signature Bricco delle Viole has taken the world by storm, I first discovered this wine, along with most Americans and the wine press, in the 2008 vintage and have been lucky enough to have tasted with Vajra on three occasions in recent years in San Francisco, and this last time I got to try his latest 2013 version, which is a truly stunning Barolo. The beautiful 2013 Bricco delle Viole is a deep and textured wine, highlighting both vintage markers and terroir crafted in Vajra’s clear and transparent style, there’s just layer after layer of purity and natural complexity with a medium/full palate and gorgeous length, it starts with floral tones and delicate spices before revealing it’s fruit density and textural roundness. With faint tarry intensity that hints at an underlying power, this 2013 Bricco delle Viole Barolo turns on it’s charm with air showing refined, but structured tannins that frame everything to near perfection, it gives black cherry, damson plum, strawberry reduction and tangy currant fruits along with a touch of earth, cedar, anise and an array of spice, incense and wild herbs. This is some serious Nebbiolo, no question, but it drinks amazingly well in it’s youth, maybe less concentrated than the 2010 it is not far off in overall quality and I think it will provide long term aging rewards as well. There’s an inner brightness and the acidity adds an extra pop that some riper vintages lack, this might be explained by Bricco delle Viole being a high-altitude site, set in Vergne in Barolo, standing at between 400-500 meters above see level, with some vines being in the 60 year old range, it is also one of the highest in the region with hardened clay/marl soils allowing for satiny balanced wines, as this one is. Vajra employs mostly traditional winemaking methods, though some new techniques, such as temperature controlled fermentation are used to showcase elegant and perfumed wines. In most vintages the Bricco is fermented in stainless with lengthy cool ferments which last about 3 weeks with gentile pump overs before resting in large Slovenian oak barrels for up to 42 months. This 2013 is impressive in complete detail and focus, Giuseppe Vajra is an amazing talent and this wine is absolutely a must for the Barolo enthusiasts, like a Grand Cru Burgundy it delivers a sense of place and is a magical seduction of the senses, I must say this vintage might be a sleeper, don’t be fooled by it’s ripe silkiness, there’s real substance here, it’s one of my favorite wines of the year, drink from 2022 to 2032.
($90 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 18, 2018

2017 Drew Family Cellars, Albarino “The Suitcase” Valenti Ranch, Mendocino Ridge.
The Drew “The Suitcase” Albarino is one of the rarest wines in their lineup, it is the Morgadio clone, a Rias Baixas suitcase field selection cutting, making for a wonderful Summer white that shows crisp acidity and leesy textures. Grown on the Valenti Ranch, that Jason (Drew) grafted in a small block at Valenti (Ranch) back in 2006, and with this site’s ultra cool marine climate and high elevation it might just be the most unique expression of Albarino in the new world. Sitting between 1,300 to 1,400 feet, and within 6 miles of the Pacific and set on oceanic sedimentary and gravelly loam soils, Valenti is a place where this Galician varietal can thrive and show it’s intensity with an impressive mineral character. Drew used an all native yeast fermentation, with 100% malolactic for his Albarino while employing 75% stainless and 25% neutral French oak for it’s raising, all of which gives this wine it’s Cru class personality and charm. The fruit is refined and subtle with a more stony edge showing pretty white flowers, snappy apple, dense green melon, citrus and tangy white peach along with wet rock, almond oil, creamy citron, saline and hints of spice. While steely and brisk there is a soothing sensation of mouth filling textural pleasure as well, making it a great white with an array of sea foods, especially briny dishes and or fatty fish, it reminds me of a lovely Cassis Blanc in style, and it will be a beautiful wine to have around beach picnics this Summer.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 17, 2018

2015 Domaine Saint-Damien, Gigondas “Les Souteyrades” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
One of the Southern Rhone’s most trusted traditional producers, Joel Saurel’s Domaine Saint-Damien is a top estate in Gigondas offering amazing old vine wines classical crafted by Joel’s son, Romain who now is becoming more and more involved in the winemaking at this famous winery. Saint-Damien, named after an early Christian saint (martyred in the year 287 A.D.), considered the patron saint of doctors, who’s memorial chapel is not far from the vineyards of Gigondas, has many old vine cuvees as well as a lovely Cotes du Rhone bottinng as well as a Gigondas Rosé that is high demand. The Vieilles Vignes Gigondas lieu-dit “Souteyrades” which sits on a small hill is a blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre from a plot of 67 year old Grenache Noir vines planted in 1948 and 38 year old Mourvèdre on an outcropping of pure grey clay soil with a few stones scattered over, it makes for deep fruit intensity and concentration, I believe this is their most powerful cuvee and this is extremely apparent in this 2015, a rich and ripe vintage. The “Les Souteyrades” vinification is old school with maceration lasting for 6 to 8 weeks in concrete vats before moving to large oak foudres for about a year all from organic grapes that are carefully hand picked and sorted. This earthy and extremely dark Gigondas starts with melted black licorice, leather and deep berries, it’s seriously dense and concentrated with lots of heady weight and texture, gaining a ripe tone with extended air, and wonderful length showing layers of black raspberry, boysenberry, plum and grenadine on the full bodied palate along with that anise, floral incense, baked cherry, chalky stones and pepper spices. This Gigondas has a more of an old school Chateauneuf du Pape like presence in the glass, it’s still way too young to be rewarding yet, but decanting and swirling really helps, it will really unfold in the coming years, be patient, a few bottles hiding for a decade will be wonderful treasures, best from 2022 to 2030.
($36 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 16, 2018

2015 Markus Molitor, Riesling Kabinett, Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel Germany.
One of the Mosel legends, Markus Molitor is one of Germany’s elite and classic wineries along with the likes Willi Schaefer, Fritz Haag, Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster, Robert Eymael’s Monchhof and J. J. Prum, it’s a standard barer traditional Riesling house and a wine you should never pass up a chance on drinking. The Molitor family has been producing wine in the Mosel for more than 8 generations with Markus Molitor, who took over in 1984, is the proprietor and winemaker, he has a wonderful set of parcels, with 22 hectares of vineyard sites, some of the best in the region, including holdings in the famed areas of Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Ürziger Würzgarten, Graacher Himmelreich and Bernkasteler Badstube. His substantial holding in Zeltinger Sonnenuhr is Markus’ prize plot and known as his prime time spot, much the same as Johannes Selbach. Though all the wines are terrific, I have a soft spot for the unique and sexy Ürziger Würzgarten bottlings, especially Molitor’s Spatlese and this amazing Kabinett from the “Spice Garden” and it’s intriguing red iron rich volcanic soils with an under pinning of broken slates that are strikingly different from the more pure weathered slate sites that make up on bulk of the wineries vineyards. The slope here is dramaticly red and insanely steep, the Ürziger Würzgarten is remarkably picturesque and set in an amphitheater formed by a tight bend in the Mosel river at Ürzig. The wines from here are yellow fruited, tropical and utterly exotic, spicy aromas and with complex earthiness, with Molitor’s studied 2015 being one of the best examples, a great vintage expressing a astonishing sense of place. The Molitor Kabinett Ürziger Würzgarten 2015 is almost startling dry in feel with an austere nose with hints of orchid fruits and quince coming through in a cool and crisp personality before opening on the palate with an array of spice, stones and vibrant tropical fruit. The steely mineral core makes this wine seem tightly coiled and classic Riesling elements come through in time with air, this is really serious stuff, not as generous as one might expect, this is a wine that has a decade or more to go before everything is more easy to understand. Layers of green apple, white peach, citron, chamomile tea, dried pineapple, white pepper and flinty wet rock all add to the complexity in this fine and reserved Riesling, it’s a wine that will benefit from a willing patience as it has entered a shy stage at this point, I would give an opinion that it needs 2 to 3 years before it fully expresses itself and that it has a rewarding future.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 15, 2018

N.V. Domaine de L’Écu,”La Divina” Brut, Sparkling Wine, Loire Valley, France.
Domaine de L’Ecu’s lovely sparkling wine La Divina is a favorite bubbly of mine from the Loire’s Muscadet region, it shows a fine mousse and has a decedent mouth feel with nice brioche richness, but lifted detailing. Fred Niger’s La Divina is done using traditional or Champagne method, with no dosage that gives this Brut it’s studied dryness, though with a generous personality and class. This bottling is all from the 2012 vintage, is crafted using a majority of Chardonnay along with some Folle Blanche, a rare white grape that is more commonly found in fine Armagnac(s) making for an intriguing sparkling wine. The Chardonnay focus gives this La Divina a presence in the glass and has a heady density of form without being heavy and it makes an impact that is quite grower producer Champagne like, showing a real inner brightness and beauty with layers of apple, pear and peach, along with hazelnut, bread dough and toasty/yeasty notes. This all biodynamic sparkler has a hint of floralness with white flowers, wet stones, fig and citrus notes adding to the subtle complexity and overall completeness found here in Domaine de L’Ecu’s well crafted Loire fizz. It matched perfectly some ultra fresh sashimi, Spanish mackerel “saba” and tuna roll sushi as well as a thin sliced marinated octopus and cucumber salad at my favorite Carmel Japanese restaurant Akaoni, a no nonsense place that is a quiet temple of non endowed freshness and purity of flavors. This was a wonderful experience, and Fred Niger’s wines at Domaine de L’Ecu are some of the Loire’s great wines, and this one continues to be a unique and graceful sparkling wine that way over delivers for the price.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 14, 2018

2016 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch Vineyard, Paicines AVA, San Benito County.
Ian Brand’s gorgeous and freshly focused 2016 Bayly Ranch Cab Franc is heavenly in the glass with easy tannins and fine delicacy and detail, it’s a more Loire style version with minimal oak presence and mineral charms. Brand and team sourced these grapes from a south facing sloped parcel in the Paicines zone near the Tres Pinos Creek and the San Andreas Fault. The soils here consist of a stony mix including ancient alluvial deposits with an array of geologic structures in this the fault area. Ian picks this site at moderate sugar levels to allow freshness and balance, and he vinified whole berry, with selected yeasts in this vintage, with a cool 18 day maceration, then this Cabernet Franc was raised for just under a year neutral (well seasoned) French oak. While the 2015 was denser and earthier with a intense Chinon like presence, this 2016 is a tough lighter in weight, but more expressively pretty in the glass with stunning varietal purity and lovely length and a vivid red fruited personality, it’s lacy and refined, while still full of purpose and depth of flavor. The Paicines AVA is located in San Benito County, It is part of the larger San Benito AVA, and is located near the central part of the county, it’s warm region, but with cool nights, perfect for Cabernet Franc, and made that much more interesting because of the unique subsoils and rocky terroir here, it’s been been well known for years as a secret spot for high quality grapes, with Williams Selyem sourcing their central coast Pinot from the Vista Verde Vineyard, as well as having spots with Arneis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah as well as Bayly Ranch’s Cabernet Franc. Ian, being the vineyard whisperer he is has found a gem here, and his 2016 revels in layers of blackberry, plum and cherry fruits along with minty herb, subtle red bell pepper, dusty spices and tangy dark currants all in a graceful form that is dynamic and vibrant. Filling out with air and adding a hint of leather, cedar, warm chalk and floral tones this single vineyard Brand Family Franc is an absolute joyous old world inspired red that delivers on it’s promise, it great juice, especially for the Loire style enthusiast, I am excited to see where this beauty goes, I have high expectations for a rewarding cellar sweet spot for this one, I think it’s potential is awesome, I look forward to a 5 to 10 year sweet spot. I put away some of both 2015 and 2016 to see which impresses most over time, but this 2016 is drinking so well it will be hard to keep my hands off it! Ian Brand’s signature set of wines are outstanding, don’t miss this new one, as well as his wonderfully mineral driven 2016 Escolle Vineyard Chard, which are just released, but don’t forget his Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello Road, the Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc and Ian’s Enz Vineyard Mourvèdre!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 13, 2018

2016 Satyre Wines, Amalthea Rosé, Russian River Valley.
The face of Satyre Wines, Nicole Kosta, a fiercely proud Aussie, was an organic chemistry graduate of the University of Adelaide before coming to the US to pursue a science career, before being bit by the wine bug and going down the Sommelier route. She being mentored by by the first US female Master Sommelier, Madeline Triffon, later becoming the wine director of the esteemed Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco, where I first became where of her, she was well known figure and talent in the Somm and wine tasting scene in the City. Along, with her partner in wine, winemaker Ted Weisser, an Alabama native that followed his wine dreams to California in 2011, she started their own label Satyre Wines. It was after leaving the Mandarin and looking for the less stressful wine country lifestyle she joined Dan Goldfield and Steve Dutton at Dutton-Goldfield Winery using her skills in wine education, hospitality, direct to consumer sales and business development. Satyre, pron. {suh – tîr}, is all about small lot wines, the name Satyre, as explained by Nicole, comes from the mythical woodland creature the Satyr, half human & half goat, who indulged in the great vice’s of the world, namely and mostly in wine, as well as dancing and music, they were also companions to Dionysis, the God of Wine. They first did a Pinot Noir, and while that remains a focus of Satyre, especially being where they are, they added a Los Carneros Vermentino, a Chardonnay, and more recently a Mourvedre from Yolo County, but maybe most interesting is this Rosé, which is a unique wine, and one that sets this young label apart. The Satyre 2016 Amalthea Rosé is crafted from mostly Pinot Noir, Rolle (The French term for Vermentino) and a dash of Mourvedre, it’s an intriguing Rosé varietally, but also because it’s barrel fermented and barrel aged for 22 months sur lie in cask, with 10% new French oak. Satyre was going for some added complexity and mouthfeel, which they very much succeeded in. While in the cellar it was treated more like a Chardonnay with lees stirring twice a month that adds to this Rosé’s glycerin and gives rich texture, which somehow retains a fresh intensity and life in the glass. Helped out by ex-Merry Edwards hand, Jeff Restel, their consultant, who is now winemaker at Dutton-Goldfield, looks to have had a good influence on the lineup, especially the Pinot, these are wines to check out, their Russian River Valley Pinot is as you’d want and expect from the region with loads of deep fruit, it was sourced from two vineyards from the Dutton Ranch in the western part of the Russian River Valley. The cool vineyard sites retain Pinot’s beautiful natural brightness (acid) while the sandy Goldridge soils make the vines stress and go deep for water, concentrating and intensifying the beautiful almost candied cherry and red fruit flavors. This is an all American Pinot Noir showing lots of up front fruit, smoky sweet French oak and a curvy body, but there’s more to meet the eye here and the complexity fights through the cola and black raspberry adding layers of dried Provencal herbs, rose petals and a surprising lift of acidity that keeps things in check with hints of anise and Asian spices. Getting back to the Amalthea Rosé, it reminds me somewhat of the lees aged Provence wines and it flows with a distinct set of flavors that includes a juicy cantaloupe or muskmelon, some strawberry, light kirsch and creamy orange/tangerine citrus with hints of vanilla, yeasty notes and a touch of guava. Dry and crisp at first this Amalthea Rosé gains some weight and density with air, making it great with more robust food choices and an array of cuisines, it is surprisingly quaffable and refreshing, showing some talent and thoughtfulness and making for a singularly California expression. Both this extraordinary pink wine, and the Aristaeus Pinot Noir, stand out in Satyre’s set of current releases, and they are welcome additions to the new generation of Sonoma boutique wineries.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 12, 2018

2013 Socre, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2013 Socre Barbaresco is a pure and ripe Nebbiolo with striking profile and rich character, it fermented in tank and is raised for 18 months in used 225-liter French oak barrels, then It continues its aging in concrete vats and it is bottled after another six months at least, making for an expressive textual wine that wonderfully fruit driven on the palate. Socre’s Barbaresco comes from estate vines, in the sub zone of Roncaglie, that form the heart and soul of the winery, the soils are formed by 50 million year old deposits of alluvial material, with a composition that is a majority clay, with a limestone base derived from the ancient seabed. I’ve always admired what I’ve tasted from Socre and this 2013 does not disappoint with the vintage’s open knit palate and sweet tannin, it’s a great value to for such pleasing Barbaresco, this winery near the tiny hamlet Tre Stelle, which is a the village of Barbaresco, not far from the historic town of Alba, is a label to discover if you’ve not done so. Heady on the nose and richly opulent in the mouth this Barbaresco leads with classic earth, flowers, cedar and minty herbs along with it’s deep cherry, damson plum and distilled strawberry fruits adding a touch of tar, anise and mineral with air, and while 14% natural alcohol, it remains lively and sharply detailed delivering everything in seductive layers and with plenty of charm and vigor. The Socre 2013 is an impressive wine and a real winner for the price, it can be enjoyed now and certainly will be rewarding Nebbiolo for another 5 to 10 years easy.
($36 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 11, 2018

2016 Waxwing Wine Cellars, Syrah, Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley.
I have been a fan of Waxwing Wine Cellars for quite a few vintages, Scot Sisemore’s tiny micro winery is making some great wines from top sites in Sonoma and the Central Coast, Sisemore, who has a B.S. in microbiology from Oregon State University and an M.S. in viticulture and enology from UC-Davis, has crafted some wonderful small batch wines from his facility South of San Francisco in Belmont California. The Dierberg Syrah is a new wine for Scott, he was offered a great block of fruit that he couldn’t refuse, from that cool site in the Santa Maria Valley, he did a midnight run in a refrigerated van to get these beautiful grapes as cool as possible, he did this full on Cornas style, 100% whole cluster with 15 days on the skins and stems, ending up at 13.9% natural alcohol and aged the Syrah in once used French oak for 15 months and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Creamy silken tannins give this away as Californian, but the profile and character is pure northern Rhone with layers of violets and black plum along with peppercorns, minty herbs, cedar and griddle bacon. The stems add a nervy green bite that keeps things thrilling from start to finish, that makes you think of Cornas, Scott did a wonderful job with this Syrah, it’s one of his best wines to date and well worth searching out! Waxwing’s Scott Sisemore has over 23 years of experience in the Northern California wine industry, having worked at Ravenswood Winery, Rosenblum Cellars and was the assistant winemaker at Pelligrini Family Vineyards before starting his indie label (Waxwing Wine Cellars) based in Belmont, just South of San Francisco. Sisemore’s new Syrah is really beguiling and offers a lot of quality and substance for the money, this and Scott’s Tondre Grapefield dry Riesling are wines to stock up on while they last. This 2016 Dierberg Syrah just gets better with air and time in the glass, it’s deep purple/black and garnet hue and wonderful perfume heavenly, this is right up there with some of California’s most sought after names in Rhone style wines, drink this one over the next 5 to 10 years.
($32 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 10, 2018

2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett, Dorsheimer Goldloch, VDP Grosse Lage, Nahe Germany.
Drier and more complex than a Kabinett should be, not that I’m complaining at all, this 2015 Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch is simply amazing with wonderful purity and a steely mineral driven form, Caroline Diel has done a masterful job of controlling the vintage’s ripeness with this one! Coming from the Grand Cru, VDP Grosse Lage site with it’s gravelly soils and steep eastern facing slopes this stuff is pedigreed Riesling at it’s best showing a more restrained fleshiness than it did in my earlier tasting notes it has developed a fine detail and vitality that is wonderfully energetic, the acidity which had once seemed muted has a brisk character that is giving fantastic class and freshness right now, hiding the sugar and extract to perfection, making this wine feel more like a Trocken or a modern Feinherb, but with food things swing back a bit and you get the generous fruitiness to match up to spicer cuisine. This wine was magic just sipping on a warm evening, and got even better with the Thai noodle take away, showing the marvelous flexibility of Diel’s Kabinett, which like Donnhoff are pure genius and spectacular values. I had the chance to most of Diel’s 2015 in pre-release samples and again at the winery itself in the fall of 2016, and I remember clearly being impressed by every example, but now here today in bottle, in 2018 they are exceptional, and in particular this Goldloch Kabinett, which is really showing the class of Diel’s winemaking and expressing the class of it’s terroir. The nose is mineral charged with lots of stony charm, subtle orchard fruit and flinty spice that leads to a light/medium bodied palate of lime, green apple, apricot and tangy mango fruits plus a touch of minty herb, creamy melon (sugar’s influence is more textural than sweet) along with kiss of dried pineapple and citron. Everything is woven together in a precise fashion and with a sense of grace, I am a huge fan and this wine is easy to love, it also has at least a decade of great drinking ahead if not more.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine Reviews, Articles & Travel