Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 13, 2018

2017 Martha Stoumen, Carignan, Venturi Vineyard, Mendocino County.
It’s super fun to see a new generation of California winemaker going about re-inventing and discovering new ways to express grapes that never had much of voice here in California, like Martha Stoumen’s new release of Venturi Vineyard Carignan with it’s bright, but dark fruit, fresh flavors and slightly raw earthiness. Carignan also known as Carignane in California, is a grape that is found throughout the Mediterranean regions of Europe with major plantings in Italy, especially on Sardinia, Spain and in France where it plays a prime spot in Corbieres wines, an AOC in the Languedoc, as well as playing a minor role in the Southern Rhone, including Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a deeply colored red grape that most plays a supporting role in old vine field blends in California, blended with Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache to great effect, though in recent years it has started too come off the shadows and become a varietal that is getting attention as a solo grape or the main focus, in particular there has been some exciting versions from Ridge Vineyards, Sandlands, Pax, The Princess and the Peasant, Skylark, Bonny Doon and Ryme Cellars to name a few. Stoumen’s 2017 Carignan is really tasty and gets even more interesting and deep with air, she uses grapes that come off the historic Venturi Ranch in Mendocino, where Cariginan thrives, this parcel was planted back in 1948 and is extremely rocky, dry farmed with a make up of this old riverbed containing veins of quartz, shale, and sandstone soils all which seems to give the wine a mineral tone, a deep hue and a ripeness of detail with lower natural alcohol, with this one coming in at about 12%, this fits Martha’s style perfectly as she prefers a lighter and lively wine. The nose takes a moment to come alive and blow off a faint funk, very much like an old world country wine, giving some floral notes and brambly spices along with crisp blackberry, earthy/dusty plum and tangy cherry fruits as well as zesty blood orange, red peach along with light herbal elements, basil leaf, pepper and a bit of bite from skin tannins. Stoumen, who worked at COS in Sicily is known for her natural methods and textured wines, she has a lovely touch with her wines and a love for Italian grapes, she does a really good Nero d’Avila, see my review here. (click here) This is a vibrant red wine that gains greatly with cuisine, it has a streak that reminds me a little of Gamay with it’s juicy nature, it’s a playful wine that shows Carignan in it’s purest or naked form, it’s a version that should fill out more as it ages, but good to go right now, drink over the next 2 to 5 years and with food and friends.
($35 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 12, 2018

2016 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
John Paul’s Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills 2016 is a beautiful youthful Pinot Noir crafted in classic Burgundian style with a dark ripe vintage backing up the slightly earthy reductive style, it impresses the palate much the same way as does Perrot-Minot’s Nuits-Saint-Georges, but with that Dundee spiciness from the Jory soils. Paul is one of the leading lights in the Deep Roots Coalition and is a firm believer in using only non irrigated (dry farmed) vines as well as striving for true sustainability and traditional methods in the cellar, his wines are authentic, dense and transmit a sense of purity. The Reserve is a special bottling, blended from lots of both of their top estate vineyards Clos Electrique and Abbey Ridge from a vintage that Cameron considers a stellar year with tiny unusually small berries and amazing concentration with incredible flavor and powerful extract of which shows in the Reserve with a deep garnet and ruby hue in the glass and youthful intensity with a tight form that leads me to believe this will age fantastically well and get’s me really excited for the winery’s single vineyard top wines, because if this one is this good, then wow, they will be off the charts! Paul uses only native ferments and longer elevage, between 18 to 24 months (in only French oak small barrels) to allow his Pinots the show their terroir and complexity without being rushed out of the cellar. There is firmness to start here, but with air things just get better and better, dropping it’s gripping graphite/smoke and gamey notes to the background while revealing an inner beauty and perfume of violets and black fruits with layers of black cherry, plum, currant and misson fig fruits pumping on the medium full palate along with a dusting of red and brown spices, cedar, stinky truffle and a touch of char. The mouth feel is impressive and fruit density gloriously presented, while sweet and velvety tannins hold things in place, plus the subtle acidity gives an exciting precision to this 2016 Reserve Pinot and the finish is long and sexy. It really is a stunning wine, just note, it has much more potential and there’s much more to come, it’s still very primal at this stage, it is a wine that should hit it’s full stride in 3 to 5 years and go 15 years with ease! It should be held a while for best results, drink this Cameron Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot from 2023 to 2029 if you can wait, if not, give it plenty of air and enjoy with serious cuisine.
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 11, 2018

2016 Bodega Garzón, Tannat, Reserve, Uruguay.
This deeply colored and flavored Tannat from Garzon comes from selected blocks coming from vineyards within 11 miles of the Atlantic Ocean that get plenty of warm sunshine and cool breezes that allows full ripening and balance, making for a complex and spicy wine. Done in modern, but not over done style with clean and clear detail this Garzón Tannat Reserve is full bodied and loaded with rich fruit decadence, but with a nice balance of tannin and acidity that allows a core of tar, spice and bite to offset the dense black fruits, which include black plum, currant, dusty raspberry and a touch of fig, I had this in a blind tasting and was leaning towards an ultra expensive cool climate Aussie Shiraz or maybe something with a touch of Cabernet or Mourvèdre in it, as we were doing Southern Hemisphere, but I got a huge surprise when it was revealed as pure Tannat, then it made such sense, especially after air when this wine added some leathery/earthy notes and brambly spices. This is a powerful and dark/inky wine, and it impresses for it’s unique and ever so slightly rustic character, aged in mostly used French oak and fermented in cement vats it has enough old world charm to make it thoughtful, but enough international cleanliness to please the many over the geek squad, it’s a wine I would buy no question, it also would be great with robust cuisine, as food brings out prettier elements and floral shadings. This Tannat finds the right path between international polish and the more traditional/rustic style like you’d find in a French version, say a Madiran or the Pyrenees Basque Irouleguy, you get a little bit of both and it’s the better for it, fun and impressive stuff from Uruguay, a country that deserves more attention than it gets.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 10, 2018

2016 Payten & Jones “Valley Vignerons” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.
Behn Payten and Troy Jones are the down to earth winemakers behind the Payton and Jones Yarra Valley based winery crafting an interesting set of wines in a more laid back and natural style. made with a bit of humor and Aussie honesty, they say the wines aren’t ‘squeaky clean’, they are a bit ‘edgy’, maybe even a bit ‘raw’,but always interesting, with a little soul left in. They reckon drinking these wines is like experiencing a band live, maybe in a small club, as opposed to listening to a studio recorded album, they have minimal intervention, delicious, always smashable. That’s exactly what I found experiencing their Valley Vignerons Pinot Noir, a full on whole cluster carbonic wine that is bright, almost Gamay like with expressive fruit and loaded with spice and floral tones coming off a 20 year plus vineyard in the Yarra Glen zone of the Yarra Valley set on an eastern aspect with silty loams and hardened clay soils with mud and iron stones scattered throughout the site, all of which leans itself to the carbonic maceration and adds to the nice fruity/spicy tension. This 2016 is Payten & Jones’ 10th vintage of VV Pinot and they consider it their best yet and I can see why, this is fun stuff, but a wine that can go toe to toe with much more expensive wines. The bright and tangy medium bodied palate shows pretty rose oil, minty herb (bite) and layers of racy red fruits including fresh picked cherries, wild strawberry, raspberry jam and tart plum along with hints of pepper, tea spice, dried orange peel and very subtle cotton candy/bubble gum. With air a more rustic earthy charm comes into view adding a balance and as they put it a certain “raw” sexiness, it’s wine to search out, especially for the price, it’s a tasty little thing to enjoy now.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 9, 2018

2014 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Red Blend, Swartland, South Africa.
Badenhorst is one of the top wineries in South Africa and their top label, A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, is all from old vine parcels in the Paardeberg zone of Swartland, it’s an area known for Rhone style wines, especially those made from Syrah and Cinsault, both which feature here in the 2014 Badenhorst red blend. Cousins from Constantia, Hein and Adi Badenhorst started this project, with Adi being recognized as one of South Africa’s great winemaking talents, by restoring an ancient farm and a cellar that had gone neglected back in the 1930’s focusing on Grenache, Chenin Blanc and local favorite Cinsault grown on the farm’s granite soils. All of the wines come from their Kalmoesfontein farm in the Swartland appellation of South Africa, though they do buy a bit of fruit from selected grape growers in the region to fill out the final blends, with their old bush vines, Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Chenin all planted in the 50s and 60s are grown in the Siebritskloof part of the Paardeberg mountain, and they use dry farming and mostly organic methods, calling their wines natural wines crafted in the traditional manner, I would say they are modern old school wines. Badenhorst uses concrete and old casks to make their wines, he’s all about keeping it simple and showing the wines soul and place, after completing his studies at Elsenburg, South Africa’s best wine college, Adi worked a few harvests at Chateau Angelus, as well as with Alain Graillot in the north Rhone, France, and Wither Hills in New Zealand, plus he did stints at local cellars including Simonsig, Steenberg and Groote Post, finishing by spending nine years as the winemaker at the esteemed Stellenbosch estate of Rustenberg. Adi’s 2014 is made from Shiraz 56%, Grenache 17%, Cinsault 17% and a touch of the Portuguese varietal Tinta Barocca 10%, all made whole cluster (he does the same with his white too) with foot treading and twice daily pigeage with primary fermentation in conical oak and concrete vats before going into closed cement vats with 6 months on the skins before pressing, and then the wine is raised in a combination of old casks and giant 4,000L foundres. Badenhorst has varied exposures and the vines are on three distinct types of granite(s) that are found here each providing personality and unique character to the wines, they include Paardeberg, Lammershoek and Lemoenfontein types (soils) plus some different sub-surface geology with a touch clay and some serious shale(s). Think of this A. A. Badenhorst red as a South African Chateauneuf du Pape hybrid with loads of earthy spicy charm and warm fruit with layers of plum, blueberry, poached cherries and boysenberry as well as peppercorns, minty herbs, licorice, lavender oil and flinty stones. With air this wine builds in presence on the medium/full palate gaining a beautiful sense of texture and depth, while still retaining a fresh core and sweet tannin that supplies a gripping mouth feel, providing proof of this wines seriousness and subtle earthy tones add to the mix making this stuff irresistible. This is a wine that simply entertaining, but has real complexity and class, it’s a wine that has a 5 to 10 year future at least, it’s drinking gloriously in this moment, be sure to check out this one, and Badenhorst’s single vineyard 2016 limited edition 100% Cinsault, as both are terroir driven awesome offerings!
($45 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 8, 2018

2014 Baxter, Pinot Noir, Valenti Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The beautiful and pure Baxter Valenti Pinot Noir from the cool climate site in the western end of the Anderson Valley in the Mendocino Ridge zone is a lovely and elegant wine that showcases both the stylish, though restrained winemaking and a sense of place. Baxter has risen to notoriety in recent years and are best known for their Pinot Noir(s), though they do a few other interesting interesting things including a Nebbiolo, the winery is a father & son partnership between Phil L Baxter and Phil T G Baxter, conceived to produce handcrafted single vineyard wines focusing on the Anderson Valley and surrounding Mendocino appellations with the pair combining more than fifty years of experience. Phillip Baxter the younger is becoming the face of winery and is part of the Anderson Valley generation that has made this region one of the best in the world, and like Jason Drew’s Drew Family Cellars bottlings, the Baxter wines are highly sought after and very limited, also Baxter trained in Burgundy with Pascal Marchand at Domaine de la Vougeraie and has put that to good use, as I noted when I reviewed his 2012 whole cluster Oppenlander a few years ago. The Valenti family originally started farming grapes on their homestead over 100 years ago, and the site is now farmed to organic practices by the mentioned Jason Drew. This Cru vineyard sits high upon Greenwood Ridge in the Mendocino Ridge appellation, according to Baxter, Valenti is nick-named ‘Islands in the Clouds’, because these ridge-top vineyards appear like islands peeking out from the maritime fog above the valley set on Gold Ridge loams, well-drained ancient oceanic soils with decomposed sandstone and with a high iron content and It is just a mere five miles from the Pacific Ocean, a stone’s throw from Baxter Winery. The Mendocino Ridge zone appellation (AVA) is special as it consists only of the coastal Mendocino ridge-top areas above 1200ft, and Valenti is one of the star vineyards as it shows clearly in this 2014 Baxter version with it’s layers of black cherry, plum and racy currant fruits along with wonderfully refined underlying acidity that keeps every detail brilliant and fresh on the rich medium bodied palate, additional notes of mineral, wild herbs, spice and subtle oak that flows in the mouth in a round and seamless fashion. Baxter usually works with native fermentation and per normal with his Pinots it looks like they use some whole cluster, though maybe not a high percentage on this 2014?, once pressed, the wine spent 18 months in a mix of neutral French oak barrels and small bit in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered, and aged a further six months prior to release. The aftertaste gets better and longer with each sip and air adding rose petals, blood orange, a touch of vanilla and raspberry cream, this is silky stuff, I think it shows off lots of potential and it could age another 5 to 7 years with ease, but it is drinking fabulously right now, impressive and delicious!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 7, 2018

2015 Le Miccine, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
One of Chianti’s rising stars, Le Miccine is crafting some impressive wines and the current Chianti Classico 2015, a Tre Bicchieri winner, is an absolute perfect example of what these Tuscany hillside vineyards are capable of producing with ripe warm fruit, exceptional purity and bright acidity, and with an authentic class. Paula Papini-Cook the highly regarded French Canadian winemaker with Italian grandparents is the one woman show here at Le Miccine, an amazing historic estate in the Gaiole Classico zone and her latest efforts show her gifted touch and finesse with Sangiovese especially though like Castello di Ama, Le Miccine does a single parcel Merlot too, and it’s riveting. Le Miccine follows organic viticultural practices as much as possible, which increases the biodiversity and allows the vines to increase their natural defenses against harmful elements, they are looking for a balance that gives optimum grape quality and respecting the nature of their place. The estate vineyards in this Chianti Classico include the native Sangiovese, of which there are 6 different clones along with Malvasia Nera and Colorino that make up a minor part in the blend, but adds to the depth and complexity in the wine. The crisply fresh Classico is fermented completely in stainless steel tanks with the wine being raised in mostly large cask to highlight the natural vibrancy and transparency, it’s a combination that works great in warm vintages, like this 2015, it gives a vigor and focus to this easy to love and understand Tuscan red. Beautiful detail and precision make this wine awesome with food, it shows a medium bodied palate with layers of plum, tangy cherry, blackberry and cranberry fruits along with minty herbs, mineral tones, cedary spice, anise, tobacco leaf and delicate earthiness. Things get a bit more lush with air adding a creamy feel, while still being well structured and held firm by soft tannins, again, this Chianti Classico from Gaiole in Chianti is best with food, be it rustic or robust cuisine, the meal will allow a deeper personality to show through and it will bring out a touch of floral beauty to the Le Miccine, making it even more impressive, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 6, 2018

2017 Quinta do Regueiro, Trajadura/Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal.
The beautifully mineral driven and zesty fresh Quinta do Regueiro Trajadura and Alvarinho from Portugal’s Minho DOC is a wonderful almost Riesling like white that offers a lot for the modest price. Regueiro, founded in 1988, is one of the best estate’s in the region and has some amazing old vine parcels, and is especially known for their single varietal Alvarinho/Albarino, the wines offer and step up in complexity and depth from the more basic Vinho Verde, while retaining the low alcohol and freshness you’d expect from this style of wine. This Trajadura led vintage adds an intriguing additional dimension which seemingly gives this wine a bit more substance as well as a slightly more expanded profile, it’s detail is certainly impressive and it’s acidity is vibrant though turns refined and almost rounded with air. The light/medium palate displays apricot, lime, green apple and honeydew melon as well as aromatic florals and delicate steely tones. While not as dense as the lees reserve Alvarinho, this wine for the price is an absolute steal, and it rivals much more expensive offers from it’s Spanish neighbors in the Ribeiro zone, it’s a beauty and goes great with fresh seafoods, especially clams, oysters and sardines. At under 12% this Trajadura and Alvarinho blend is perfect to drink with picnics and meant to be enjoyed in it’s youth, while Regueiro isn’t easy to find, it is worth searching out, drink up!
($15 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 5, 2018

2014 Poe Wines, Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, Sonoma County.
The Poe Rosé Methode Champenoise Sparkling Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, crafted from vines at Van der Kamp Vineyard, high on Sonoma Mountain using grapes that were picked on August 30th of 2014, and fermented in barrel with native yeast and rested sur lie, it’s a remarkable example of California bubbles, maybe one of the best I’ve had! Samantha Sheehan of Poe Wines is an exceptional talent and her lineup is beyond noteworthy, her wines are some of the most intriguing you are going to find, and this Meunier driven sparkler is out of this world with vivid details and class, she allowed the wine finish primary then in January of 2016, she bottled the wine for another fermentation in bottle, as is done in Champagne, and then allowed it to age on the lees until March of 2018 when it was disgorged. Van der Kamp, planted in the early 1950’s, it is possibly the oldest planting of Pinot Noir in the state, and that Pinot adds structure and yeasty form to this lusty Rosé, while the Meunier gives that wonderful purity of fruit and I believe a streak of minerallity, this stuff is full of personality and charm it in fact reminds me of some of my favorite Champagnes like those of Christophe Mignon and Aurélien Laherte, both of which make exciting grower fizz. This Poe sparkler joins a few ultra premium California producers of fine bubbly, this one in particular is in league with the likes of Michael Cruse marker of Ultramarine, which is one of the hardest wines to get in California, Lichen by Dan Rivin and Monterey’s Caraccioli Cellars. As noted in my prior reviews on Poe, Samantha Sheehan founded POE in 2009 after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne, and she is fulfilling her dream and her potential in making terroir driven wines in California, I keep getting blown away with every new set of her wines, and this is something special, it takes it’s place along side Samantha’s fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and in recent years she has become a champion of Pinot Meunier both in Sparkling and still wines. This 2014 vintage Rosé has stunning vitality to match the Krug like barrel ferment textural richness and depth with sexy layering of flavors on the palate with a creamy, but perky mousse, it shows tangy cherry, strawberry, raspberry water, wet stone, brioche/toast, citrus and a hint of rosewater, it’s leesy decedent bubbly that thrills from start to finish. If you want something fun, but ultra serious in quality, you won’t want to miss this stylish Sparkling Rosé from Poe Wines, it’s pretty limited so if you want it for the Holiday season or because you love fine bubbly, you better not wait. Note meant to be an after thought, Sheenan’s Sparkling Rosé is even better with cuisine, it sings with food, it certainly is not just for rare celebrations, it deserves more attention than that, it is truly magnificent.
($42 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 4, 2018

2013 Tenimenti d’Alessandro, Syrah “Il Bosco” Cortona DOC, Tuscany Italy.
This Italian Syrah is unmistakably Italian in it’s soul, but in many ways it reminds me of Penfolds Grange with it’s opulence that is matched by intensity and structure with ripe layers of fruit, spice and wood tones, it’s without question of sublime quality and shows this warm vintage and terroir to near perfection. Massimo d’Alessandro’s Il Bosco Syrah from Cortona, in Tuscany, is one of the most exciting versions in Italy and is a world class wine and this 2013 does not disappoint expressing it’s warm vintage with class and ripe density, it’s a truly unique and impressive wine. Syrah first came to this old ex Etruscan enclave in Val di Chiana back in 1988 when Milan professor Attillio Scienza planted an experimental 10 acre plot using selected Rhone clones, and within 11 years the area was given DOC status for the Syrah, a truly remarkable accomplishment with Tenimenti d’Alessandro being one of the regions biggest successes. The Il Bosco is produced from 100% Syrah grapes selected from the three oldest hillside vineyards, with the Il Bosco (the forest in Italian) plots were planted between 1988 and 1995 and the wine is aged 24 months in oak, mostly French, 30% new and raised in a combination of barriques and bigger wooden casks, plus it gets an extra 12 months of bottle aging before release, similar to what you see in Brunello and Barolo, highlighting the serious nature of this wine. The Palate feels dense and chewy, but refined as well, showing copious amounts of cassis, plum and blackberry along with melted black licorice, a hint of menthol, mocha and lovely mix of dried herb, spice and floral elements with touches of lavender, lilacs and vanillin. There is a Guigal level of regal decadence here and this vintage is exceptional for d’Alessandro, making for an impressive performance, a potential 20 year wine in the offing.
($40-50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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