Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 9, 2020

2017 Hundred Suns, Grenache, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Yakima Valley, Washington State -photo grapelive

2017 Hundred Suns, Grenache, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Yakima Valley, Washington State.
Winemaker Grant Coulter, most famous for his Willamette Valley Pinot Noir(s) from top sites in the Willamette Valley, including the Sequitur Vineyard, owned by his old boss Mike Etzel (Beaux Freres) has released a Washington State Grenache, adding it to his Hundred Suns label, which at first seems out of place, until you remember he has experience with this grape from his time at Beaux Freres in Ribbon Ridge, who had an Upper Terrace plot of Grenache. That wine, which was released only in the perfect years, was an ultra cult rarity, which I am lucky to have had a couple of times, so I was excited to see what Grant would do with his new version, and I can tell you it is just an awesome wine! The dark fruited and spiced Hundred Suns Elephant Mountain Grenache is intensely flavored, deep in color and concentration, it at first reminds me of a great Gigondas, but takes on its own personality with air and flows into a complex array of unique elements that fill out on the full bodied palate with ripe and textural layering. There is a core of boysenberry, plum and pomegranate fruits that is wonderfully accented by a touch of stemmy tanginess, this crunch adds a stylish tension to wine and there’s a nice savoriness and sweet tannins giving the wine balance and raises the intrigue level significantly. Coulter captured delicacy and pretty details as well with light floral tones, mineral, roasted herbs de Provence, bitter coco and creme de cassis all integrated into the background. This wine got better and more interesting with every sip and was awesome with food, I put some challenging cuisine into the mix and this wine handled it with grace and enhanced the meal fantastically well, it was brilliant with grilled octopus, rosemary roast chicken, seared and pepper crusted Ahi (Tuna) as well as fennel, watermelon radish and sautéed endive! This wine delivers an exceptional performance, it will really turn on Grenache freaks, it is a profound version and seriously fun, those that can find it will be rewarded and it is worth searching for.

Hundred Suns is a label you should follow and these wines are as exciting as anything I’ve ever tasted, Grant Coulter and Renee Saint-Amour took a giant leap of faith to start this small winery and the results so far have been thrilling. After leaving one of the highest regarded wineries in America, Beaux Freres, Coulter has taken those experiences and took his own ideas in a new direction and led to experimentation and a winemaking freedom. Coulter’s exploring new techniques of fermentation and aging without fear because of his own experiences and the insights from his years in the cellar. They manipulate their wines as little as possible, and try hard to let the individual vineyard(s) and vintage(s) speak for themselves. The wines, Grant notes, are fermented with indigenous yeasts, native malolactic bacteria, and without the use of unnatural additives. The winemaking in this Grenache from this unique vineyard in Washington State’s Yakima Valley was inspired to say the least, Coulter explains, at harvest, they foot-stomped a small layer of fruit at the bottom of a tank and layered the remainder of the fruit on top, 100% whole cluster in a hybrid carbonic maceration. The tank was then gassed and sealed for 20 days. Once opened, the grapes in whole bunches (mostly still fully intact) were pressed and fermentation was completed with indigenous yeast, Coulter adding that, then the wine was aged in terra-cotta amphora for 12 months followed by a spell in neutral French oak for 5 additional months. After which this unique 100% Grenache was hand gravity bottled unfined and unfiltered, making for wine that takes cues from natural wine, old world/ancient tradition and new world ideas and melds them together in a seamless fashion. While I love the Hundred Suns Pinots, all of which are outstanding and the Gamay, this Grenache is a welcome addition to the collection and one I will continue to grab when I can, it is pure pleasure and joins some of my favorite wines made from this grape.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 8, 2020

2011 Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta “Bagnadore Riserva” Dossaggio Zero, Sparkling Wine, Lombardy, Italy -photo grapelive

2011 Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta “Bagnadore Riserva” Dossaggio Zero, Sparkling Wine, Lombardy, Italy.
Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Barone Pizzini’s vintage Franciacorta Riserva 2011 is a stunning bubbly as serious as serious gets in the grower fizz world, and it is a wine that clearly points to Franciacorta as Italy’s true version of Champagne, this is a wine a regal class and style. Brilliant in refinement with a luxurious mousse and outstanding vigor and dry detail, plus exciting leesy depth, it reminds me a lot of vintage Agrapart, one of my favorite Champagnes that always shows intense mineral driven vibrancy and crispness. Franciacorta, Italy’s first Sparkling DOCG is set in the hills surrounding Lake Iseo, which form a glacial carved amphitheater, and it is here in the Lombardy region where these sparkling wines have been produced and consumed as long ago as the 13th century. Barone Pizzini has crafted theirs here since 1870, and in recent times have led an organic movement, with all their 125 acres of vineyards being certified organic as well as providing support for historical causes and preserving cultural sites with respect of the land and the areas traditions. These vineyards are mostly all at least 200 meters above sea level and are set on complex soils with a mix of morainic and fluvioglacial deposits from, from what the winery calls, the many epochs of advancing and retreating glaciers, all which with the cooler almost alpine climate make for the exciting and vivid flavors in the Franciacorta wines and that lovely mineral driven character, especially in the zero dosage versions like this awesome Bagnadore Riserva.

The brisk nature and lively focus of this 2011 from Barone Pizzini is joyous and electric in the glass with its ultra cool shade of pale and tiny bubble beading make this stylish stuff very inviting along with its beautiful laying on the poised and delicate palate showing lemon, quince, racy fresh apple and orchard fruits as well as that mentioned mineral element, faint rosewater, brioche and hazelnut, gaining a deep impression with time in the glass. There is a sensational almost feline quality to this exceptional grower producer bubbly with the feeling of muscles flexing under the sleek and elegant form. In the cellars, the Barone Pizzini team use a tiny amount of partial malolactic fermentation, but usually less than 5% preferring to showcases a natural vitality and freshness. They employ barrel fermentation cellar for most of the wines, adding that as well as using some barrique-aging for the resulting base wines prior to second fermentation in the bottle, like famous Champagne producers like Krug and Vilmart. The Bagnadore, named after a flowing creek near the winery’s cellars, is sourced from a single vineyard called Roccolo and its Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes getting a careful sorting then are gently pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless and barrels, plus It is aged for six months in stainless steel tanks and French barriques, followed by 60-70 months in bottle to mature on the lees (natural yeasts) until disgorgement without any addition of a dosage. This is a classic Franciacorta that thrives with lighter and briny cuisine, perfect with oysters and other sea foods, be sure to keep an eye out for this bubbly.
($45-55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 7, 2020

2019 Sling | Stone Wines, Chardonnay, Silacci Vineyard, Monterey County -photo grapelive

2019 Sling | Stone Wines, Chardonnay, Silacci Vineyard, Monterey County.
A great new addition to the new generation wine scene in the Monterey region is Francisco “Junior” Banuelos’ Sling | Stone (or Sling & Stone) Wines label and his latest set of wines which include a couple of Pinot Noir(s), an already crucially acclaimed Syrah and this exciting Silacci Vineyard Chardonnay. This tasty Chard, that I managed to get a preview bottle of, that comes from a premier cool climate Cru site just north of the Santa Lucia Highlands is well worth getting your hands on when Banuelos releases it. Junior is one of good guys and one of the most engaging and humble winemakers you’d ever hope to meet, so it is easy to love his wines, but the wines do speak for themselves with a quiet confidence and expressive quality, and I love the not so subtle and ironic label, with Sling | Stone clearly referring to the David v. Goliath struggle young winemakers of limited means face and the determination and courage it takes to make it. This Silacci Chardonnay is ripe and plush showing lovely white blossoms and fuji apple on the nose leading to a vibrant medium to full bodied palate of peach, lemon, the mentioned apple and melon fruits along with honeysuckle, a touch of apricot preserves, clove spice, and a loamy wet stone element. This Chardonnay is young and freshly vivid, ever changing and with air it takes on a really exceptional mineral or steely form and it displays an extra level of complexity that makes you want to take another sip and share its pleasures in the glass. There was a little extra meaning and care put into this wine, which was dedicated to the late Rusti Silacci, who sadly passed last September and who is greatly missed. The Silacci Vineyard, with a tiny Chardonnay parcel, is a great site, especially for Pinot Noir, that was rumored to be Pisoni clone, is east facing, set on Chualar sandy loams and gets lots of hang time, constantly cooled by the blast of cold Pacific Ocean air, allowing full development of the grapes, while retaining plenty of juicy acidity.

Junior, who’s day job is being the assistant winemaker at Denis Hoey’s Odonata Winery on River Road in the Santa Lucia Highlands, took an interesting route here on his Silacci Chardonnay deciding to barrel ferment it and then age it in 100% stainless steel, but was rewarded with a wine that delivers a rich mouth feel and keeps racy and fresh. There is a real California sense about this wine with its opulence and slightly tropical nature, it doesn’t hide its pride of place and it will only get deeper as it ages. There is no doubt this set of 2018 and 2019 wines from “Junior” Banuelos are going to make Sling | Stone a name on peoples lips, these are solid efforts, these are wines that really say “I have arrived” and I’m here to stay! That is an impressive achievement for a guy that looked like had not much of chance to making it in this business only a few years ago, but fate looks to have shined on Banuelos. His start was one of those chance moments that don’t always come, he was working in his parents gas station in Gonzales, when Hoey’s winery truck came coasting to halt, out of gas and he managed to talk his way into a job! This was especially heartwarming as he had literary sent hundreds of resumes out to the wine community and had no replies until Hoey appeared out of the blue, and the rest is history. There are a few upcoming releases to watch for here with Sling | Stone about to bring out a Tondre Grapefield partial whole cluster Pinot Noir, which will likely thrill those that missed out on that awesome 40% whole cluster Syrah, that sold out, as well as this lovely succulent Chardonnay that will go great with grilled swordfish and mango chutney or Baja California (spiny) lobster dishes. Only 28 cases were made of this Silacci Chardonnay, so it will be a quick sell out when it is released, so don’t miss it, plus that Tondre Pinot, keep an eye out for them, they will be let out in the wild soon.
($N/A) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 6, 2020

2018 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Ceja Farms, Sonoma Valley -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Grenache, Ceja Farms, Sonoma Valley.
The 2018 vintage at Sheldon welcomed back the Ceja Farms Vineyard back to their lineup, as winemaker Dylan Sheldon put it, it was like a return of an old friend, with this tiny 2 acre Grenache planting on the southern and western edge of the Sonoma Valley where the cool Gap breezes make for fresh delicate wines, right up Dylan’s alley with heighten aromatics and tangy focus. This vintage, of which only one and half barrels (36 cases) were made is a stylish lighter focus version of this grape, more like the Sierra de Gredos wines that are all the rage, like those Garnachas of Daniel Landi, Comando G, 4 Monos and Alfredo Maesto or in California, more in the vein of A Tribute to Grace by Angela Osborne and or Ian Brand to name a select few. Dylan’s Grenache obsession began early and has been his main varietal since starting his own label with his wife Tobe back in 2003, and before that when his discovered, somewhat ironically, a lighter version of Grenache from Turkey Flats in Australia’s Barossa Valley and when on his honeymoon he made wine for a harvest with Louis Barruol at the famed Chateau de Saint Cosme, the legendary Gigondas producer. To say Sheldon is a Grenache freak is understatement, though his does a try collection of other wines too including his Graciano, the rare other Rioja grape, plus Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, an old vine field blend mainly of Petite Sirah as well as a fabulous Sangiovese and even a sparkling Tempranillo! In 2018 Dylan did two Grenache wines, this one from Ceja Farms and a Fountaingrove AVA Luc’s Vineyard, both of which are in the more restrained and delicate style, though this one is a few shades lighter and more delicate on the medium bodied palate.

Grenache, in California, is very much the in thing these days and it ranges in style from the massive and full throttle Saxum and ultra cult bottlings from Manfred Krankl at Sine Qua Non to the more nuanced or lighter wines of the mentioned A Tribute to Grace, McPrice Meyers, Birichino and Ian Brand, plus the famous Bonny Doon versions by the original Rhone Ranger Randall Grahm, who has said to me that Grenache is what California Pinot lovers really should be drinking! Sheldon’s latest Ceja Farms is wonderfully expressive with lovely aromatics and it is a wine that rushes at you with a red floral array on the nose as well as fresh crushed raspberry, plum, pomegranate, sweet strawberry and candied cherry fruits coming into vivid focus on the medium bodied palate along with a light dusting of spices and shrub/herbs, plus Turkish delights confectionery or Jolly Rancher, lavender and anise. Sheldon really brought the density of fruit out here, but kept everything vibrant and bright without any heaviness, it like the other beautiful offerings from this vintage in their lineup really excels in the glass and struts its stuff with pride and is very well balanced. The winemaking in this Grenache was as per normal at Sheldon with native fermentation, usually with a good portion of whole bunches, set of by the spent lees from an earlier fermentation and aged in neutral French oak, with a basket pressing. Sheldon, as always, notes that no new oak was harmed in the making of this wine. I can see the influenced of all the wines Sheldon has made and all the wines he admires in this one, it is one of his best to date! This Ceja Farms absolutely and with some flamboyance performs impeccably and with loads of stylish personality, it will get your attention and seduce you, enjoy it with a rustic meal and lots of laughter!
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 5, 2020

2016 Larkmead, Cabernet Sauvignon, Solari, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

2016 Larkmead, Cabernet Sauvignon, Solari, Napa Valley.
Catching up on one of the great and historic wineries and one of Napa’s top winemakers in Napa Valley, which I did at this years Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco, turned into a otherworldly experience tasting the 2016 vintage of Larkmead. Larkmead has made some awesome wines in this wildly acclaimed year, far better than I would have even expected, these are serious cellar worthy Cabernets that have incredible depth of flavor already. These are fantastical hued wines in the glass with a inky purple/black color, perfume and gripping intensity, they reveal very Chateau Latour like character, especially the Solari, one of the signature wines. The Larkmead Solari is 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon grown on a unique combination of Cortina gravels over Pleasanton loam, which is clay based soils that keeps a sense of coolness and while the wine is deeply fruited it is also less alcohol than many of its contemporaries making it an excellent micro expression of terroir and varietal, and this 2016 is a gorgeous wine that winemaker Dan Petroski calls Solari muscular, both on the nose and on the palate, but, for me, while powerful like a great Pauillac still shows an elegance and a supper long finish. The concentrated and seductively dark 2016 Solari was crafted with 21 MONTHS in barrel, allowing some of the firm tannins to sweeten up with Petroski using his favored Darnajou and giving it about 70% new oak, he says that the 2016 Solari has swagger, I agree this is awesome stuff that is showing why it’s one of Napa’s best bottles. In Larkmead’s 2016’s you find the same power, sensational textural quality and finesse you usually find in Cathy Corison’s wines with the regular Napa bottling, priced at just north of a Franklin, being no slouch either, these are an elite collection of age worthy wines, certainly worthy the prices when compared to what is the current field of rival offerings.

One of the oldest family-owned and run estates in Napa Valley, Larkmead, which was originally founded back in 1895, is now under the care of Cam and Kate Solari Baker, who have revived the property and guided it to the very top of league table. Hurt by depression, prohibition and World Wars over the years, the winery needed some love and care and that first came when Kate’s parents, Larry and Polly Solari, purchased Larkmead in 1948 and gained great respect of their peers over the years. Set between St. Helena and Calistoga on the Silverado side of the Napa Valley the Larkmead property is a unique contiguous, sustainably farmed, 110-acre vineyard with so much diversity including seven soil profiles to, what the winery calls its topography and the presence of colluvial fans makes Larkmead a rare site and a prize for their gifted winemaker. Petroski, who is also well known for his own label Massican, which focuses on the bright style of Mediterranean white wines, using an intriguing selection of grapes like Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio and Greco, has really made Larkmead a blue chip collector label in recent years. I admit to being blown away by Dan’s latest set of wines with this Solari showing outrageously well with its layers of blackberry coulis, creme de cassis, plum and black cherry fruitiness and ripe tannins along with sweet toast oak accents that never intrude on the purity as well as touches of minty herb, savory tones, anise, sandalwood, spicy tobacco, sage and floral incense. This brilliant Solari (black label) Cabernet will stand up to the test of time, it looks set to be a Napa legend in the making, if you have patience of course and a fat wallet, look for its best window to open in another 5 to 10 years and it should go past 2046! Save up and splurge on these 16s if you can, the rewards should be thrilling.
($224.95 Est.) 97-99 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 4, 2020

2018 Val de Mer, Chablis AOC, White Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2018 Val de Mer, Chablis AOC, White Burgundy, France.
The flinty and stylish 2018 Val de Mer has more palate depth and length you’d normally expect in a basic cuvee making it a real solid value and a tasty Chablis to stock up on. Val de Mer is a partnership between François Moutard of Moutard Champagne, who bought an old winery and vineyards near Chablis and star winemaker Patrick Piuze, who’s own label is taking off in the wine world and who has spent the last decade making wines in Chablis for serious estates includes the likes of Olivier Leflaive, Verget, and Jean‐Marc Brocard. The lineup of Val de Mer includes a great selection of sparkling and still wines with exceptional entry level bottlings, like this one, as well as some fine Premier Crus, plus a very limited Grand Cru offering, with the non dosage Brut being a favorite of mine. The Chablis AOC is 100% Chardonnay and all stainless tank fermented and aged using sustainable and mostly organic methods in the vines with Piuze saying the location and vines at Val de Mer give these wines their own personality and this vintage shows a a ripe profile and a lovely textural or supple feel while still being deliciously fresh and vibrant. This is a no brainer for those looking for a bargain in Chablis, it is sublime with food and very nice as an aperitif, providing steely comfort.

I love all of Patrick’s wines and have done so for a few vintages now, but missed out on some the still wines at Val de Mer until recently so getting to enjoy this new release was a good reminder not to miss them. Made exclusively for the US market these Val de Mer offer a ton of quality for the price and are easier to find than the rare self label Piuze stuff and then there is the fabulous bubbly too, all of the Chablis show fantastic purity and expressive mineral driven character. These terroir focused wines, especially the Petit Chablis and the Chablis AOC have traditional zingy acidity and are great expressions of the ancient limestone soils with the mentioned flinty notes, oyster shells and stony elements with the Chablis AOC getting a richer and more expanded palate. The layers in this Chablis by Piuze and Val de Mer, which comes from three parcels, Des Couverts (village of Chablis), Prehy (near Courgis), and Lignorelles, include meyer lemon, green apple, Asian pear and tart, but fleshy peach (stone fruit and pit) fruits that mingle perfectly with the flavor accents above as noted, along with a touch of saline, and the Val de Mer performs with joyous precision in the glass. Be sure to get some of this well crafted Chablis, it is sure to put a smile on your face, drink up.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 3, 2020

2017 Littorai, Pinot Noir, The Haven Vineyard, Sonoma Coast -photo grapelive

2017 Littorai, Pinot Noir, The Haven Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ted Lemon’s Littorai is one of the great wines (wineries) of California and while not an easy wine to find, like Aubert and Marcassin, these are worthy challenges in finding them and I highly recommend getting on their list if you are a Pinot Noir fan, but if you can find them I would snag what you grab, especially this gorgeous 2017 The Haven Vineyard, which is absolutely divine. The most compelling aspect of these Littorai wines is their subtlety and a sensation of lightness, but this grace does not diminish their depth and complexity at all, these are wines with that Pinot magic, which we all crave and admire. Lemon, who is a Burgundy veteran, having been the first American winemaker in the famous region at Roulot, Dujac, Roumier and Bruno Clair has been crafting fabulous American Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from cool climate sites on the true Sonoma Coast since 1993. Ted is committed to organic and biodynamic farming and along with his wife Heidi grows and prepares all of the biodynamic preps used in the vineyards on their farm and they even use sheep and other animals to maintain cover crops, these natural practices ensure everything is as sustainable as possible and add to the energies and quality of their grapes. Littorai’s are almost exclusively wines that are bottled from unique terroir driven single-vineyards from the most western of California’s vineyards, set on mainly marine sedimentary soils, in Sonoma and western Mendocino Counties. Littorai itself comes from the Latin word for “coasts” and Lemon has a gift with these Pacific Ocean influenced vineyards and this The Haven Vineyard, Lemon’s first estate vineyard, highlights his talent and the sense of place with beautiful detailing and fresh mineral tones with satiny layers of black cherry, plum, brambly raspberry and lingering strawberry fruits along with zesty blood orange, teas spices, crushed stones, a light cedary (wood) note as well as a touch of cranberry, baking spices and rose petals.

Littorai’s selection of vineyards are selected for the exacting attention to detail and methods to ensure each site is represented in all its own glory and of which individual personality shows through, Lemon is incredibly passion about small yields and even ripening to give complexity of flavors and lower natural alcohols, he is ever searching for transparency and what we all call balance, which all of the Littorai wines have. These wines are really made in the vineyard and Lemon is diligent in his picking and like top domaines in Burgundy, which has influenced his winemaking, the grape and cluster sorting happens in the vines at the harvest and again in the cellar where everything is intensely inspected for perfection, nothing gets through on the line here, only the best fruit is vinified. All of Lemon’s Pinots are cold soaked for a slow maceration and natural fermentation in a combination of stainless steel and wood fermenters with indigenous yeasts and then gently pressed to French oak for a lengthy elevage and allowed to go through natural malolactic, this aging has a soft touch when it comes to new barriques with each vintage and vineyard getting their own treatment, with about 20% new and at least 16 months on the lees. Also, in most years there is about 30% whole cluster employed, though this is also dependent on the vintage and this The Haven Vineyard has some exotic pomegranate and lifting stem inclusion showing adding a wonderful touch of tension, silken tannin and tangy herbs on the medium bodied and textural palate. This is unbelievably delicious Pinot Noir, and as a long time fan of Ted Lemon’s wines, both Littorai and his New Zealand Burn Cottage label from biodynamic vines in Central Otago, it was great to catch up with the new releases at the Slow Wine tasting recently, these are pure class, especially this one.
($100-150 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 2, 2020

2017 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc Trocken, II, Pfalz Germany -photo grapelive

2017 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc Trocken, II, Pfalz Germany.
While the outstanding Von Winning estate in Germany’s Pfalz region is mostly known for their amazing dry Rieslings, especially their magnificent Grosses Gewachs versions that rival top white Burgundy, it should not be overlooked for their stunning lineup of Sauvignon Blancs, which are some of the finest examples I’ve ever had from this grape, these are gorgeous wines, like this Sauvignon Blanc II, that is bursting with pure fruit and vibrancy. The Von Winning Sauvignon Blancs come from multiple vineyards in Deidesheim, mostly Paradiesgarten, but, as the winery notes, there is also fruit sourced too from Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker and Kallstadter Steinacker, giving a complex array of flavors from the sites and the mix of sandy loam, red sandstone, basalt, & löss soils. The series of Sauvignon Blanc offerings from Von Winning is an exceptional collection that ranges from light and brightly fresh to the serious wood aged Sauvignon Blanc 500, named after the 500mL French barrels it is fermented and aged in, which I have reviewed many times and consider maybe the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world, or at least right up there with Dagueneau’s famous Pouilly-Fume, Gerard Boulay’s Sancerre Cru, Terlano’s Quarz (from Alto Adige) and Haut Brion Blanc! The 2017 was a ripe and plush vintage, but this wine delivers a zesty performance and gives a solid showing of natural acidity and salinity to balance out the vivid fruit, it is a class act.

The Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc II is an expressive white with fresh citrus and orchard fruits with a medium bodied and tangy palate of lemon/lime, quince, white peach, a touch of grapefruit and melon fruits along with crushed stones, white blossoms, tropical essences, clove spices and stylish mineral tones. This is a zippy Sauvignon Blanc, but still with some fleshy density and extract making it great with food, I love this wine with white fish, goat cheeses and especially grilled shrimp or prawns as it provides racy refreshment. The Von Winning estate really takes extra care in their vineyards and is now fully organic and they sort the fruit coming into the cellar with severe and focused selections only making the cut here, this is a team that is committed to extreme quality and everything that goes into the bottle is absolutely world class. This wine is fermented and lees aged entirely in stainless steel to showcase the terroir and grapes in their most naked or transparent form, and it is hard not to see the dedication and soulful bounty in this well crafted Sauvignon Blanc, it delivers everything as promised and is a top value. Importer, Terry Theise notes Von Winning uses just a gentle clarification, along with natural and spontaneous fermentation and the abandonment of fining agents, (to) create wines that show a distinctive indigenous and very elegant style, which I agree with, but couldn’t say better, this is a winery to follow across the range, go in for the outstanding Rieslings, but don’t miss out on the SB’s.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 1, 2020

2015 Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, Anjou Rouge Villages, L’Ancrie, Loire Valley, France -photo grapelive

2015 Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, Anjou Rouge Villages, L’ Ancrie, Loire Valley, France.
Jean-François Vaillant, vigneron at the Domaine Les Grandes Vignes in the Loire Valley, is crafting a large selection of small lot wines including a few sparkling Pet-Nat’s, a Rosé, some fine Chenin Blancs, both dry and sweet versions and a host of Cabernet Franc based wines, including this L’ Ancrie Anjou Rouge, which I tried for the first time this week and of which I was very impressed, especially with food. Part of Poppy Hall’s eclectic new collection of offerings this Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, Anjou Rouge Villages, L’ Ancrie was perfect with their duck breast and their quail dish, as well as their short ribs all of which were amazing dishes at this Pacific Grove bistro that leans on comfort food, but with a stylish twist on American cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. The small tasty menu and the tight fun list that usually promotes small family producers that make organic and or natural wines makes Poppy Hall a must try restaurant for locals and Monterey visitors and this 2015 Domaine Les Grandes Vignes Anjou Cabernet Franc L’ Ancrie, an under the radar choice proved to be a excellent companion to the menu. The dark and earthy character, ripe fruit and nice natural acidity really excited the palate and lifted the food to the next level with classic layers of black cherry, blackberry, mulberry, plum and cranberry fruits along with a faint trace of bell pepper, leather, dried violets, anise, mineral tones, Greek olive and cedary notes, lingering on with earthy currants, tobacco/spicy elements and echos of kirsch.

Vaillant, who from what I’ve read, seems to be incredibly focused on his vines, revealing in his enthusiastic explanations of Biodynamic treatments, cover crops, and pied-de-cuves, as well as his low and no sulfur wines, humbly suggesting the vineyards make the wines and you can tell he puts in the hard work himself in the 100 acres that he farms. This Loire estate, I learned, was first established by the Vaillant family back in the 17th century, and has continued as a family estate to this day, run by the enthusiastic Jean-Francois. The Domaine Les Grandes Vignes vines in Anjou and Bonnezeaux are farmed without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or insecticides, and are all certified organic and Biodynamic. The Cabernet Franc bottlings come from complex soils that range from grey and green schist, phtanite, quartz, and ‘falun coquillé,’ to various gravelly and sandy types, of which add to the flavor profile and most of the reds here are vinified without the addition of SO2 (sulfur) to enhance the freshness and purity, but thankfully this 2015, which has some age on it, shows no off putting flaws, mousy notes or funk. This, while earthy, shows solid fruit dimension and is a solid value for the quality, I look forward to trying newer vintages of Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, as this offering provided a lot of pleasure with the meal, plus I am curious about the Sparkling and the Glou Glou (quaffable) Grolleau. The short maceration followed by aging in 2-3 year-old barrels for less than a year belie the concentration and depth here, this was impressive, be sure to keep an eye out for it if you are a Cab Franc fan, drink now.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 29, 2020

2018 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Feinherb, Von der Nahe, Nahe Germany -photo grapelive

2018 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Feinherb, Von der Nahe, Nahe Germany.
It is with great joy and admiration that I send my congratulations to winemaker Caroline Diel, who was just named Winemaker of the Year, by Falstaff, in Germany, I truly cannot agree more, this is truly deserved for an incredible vigneron and a remarkable person. I love her wines and visiting her cellar during the 2016 harvest was a wonderful experience as well as being able to get an up close view of her vineyard sites, which are breathtaking in their steepness and their historic majestic presence, this winery in Germany’s Nahe region is really one of the world’s greats. Caroline, who even had a stint at the fabled Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, since taking the reins at Schlossgut Diel has proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with, taking the estate’s offerings to the next level, she makes some of finest dry wines in all of Europe with her stunning Grosses Gewachs being stars, but she also crafts the best sparkling wine I’ve ever had, yes, even better than vintage Krug! Plus she does a fantastic Pinot Noir and even her more basic bottlings, like this gorgeous dryish Feinherb Von der Nahe, a special cuvee made for Terry Theise and the American market, are total class and insane values. If you’ve not discovered Schlossgut Diel, it is past time you do so, Caroline is absolutely killing it and these last 3 or 4 vintages have been simply awesome. Diel, who took over the estate in 2012 after joining the cellar team in 2006 also had internships at renowned spots while at school including Château Pichon-Lalande in Bordeaux and prestigious German vineyards such as Robert Weil, Toni Jost and Dr. Deinhard/Von Winning, adding experience, as the winery notes during her wine-growing studies at the famous Geisenheim University in the Rheingau.

The Von der Nahe is a dry style, but not classified as a trocken, having just enough residual sugar to allow for a more generous nature, giving it a flexible purpose making it great with food and sublime in freshness it shows classic Nahe flavors, a crystalline mineral focus and delicate floral aromatics. As has been noted before, Armin Diel, Caroline’s father, has been a champion of German Riesling around the world, promoting Schlossgut Diel, and was one of the pioneers of dry Rieslings, which are crafted with incredible precision in large oak barrels, plus some concrete and in this case mostly in stainless steel tanks, with a nod to tradition and focus on purity. Diel has a complex variety of soils to work with from slate to gravel, as well as areas of sandstone and quartz, all providing the detailing on these terroir wines. The Von der Nahe Riesling comes from estate vines with these vineyards being on steep, south-facing slopes, which gives it its ripe expression with high proportions of slate that delivers a flinty spiciness. The 2018 vintage wine was spontaneously fermented with indigenous yeasts in traditional (large oak) barrels with extended lees aging in stainless steel tanks, allowing a slightly richer character to develop, while preserving exceptional clarity. White peach, green apple and mixed citrus fruits lead the way along with snappy ginger, verbena, rosewater and salty wet stones show in this lovely almost entry level wine, it is quality and elegance all the way, enjoy it for the next 3 to 5 years with anything you feel like eating with it, it goes great with everything from smoked ham to spicy tuna sushi. Bravo Caroline and Schlossgut Diel! I can’t wait to visit the winery again, in the meantime I’ll be sipping on this wine, plus their offer hand crafted brilliant bottlings, including the Kabinett wines that should not be overlooked either!
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive