Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 5, 2020

Latest Review

2017 Drive Wines, Zinfandel, Puccioni Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
I was really excited to get the Drive Wines debut set of releases by winemaker John Musto, who works for Ridge Vineyards, one of my all time favorite producers and who has like me a background in vintage cars and historic motor racing, in fact he has made some of his wines in the back of a classic car garage! Drive Wines was launched last year with a single vineyard Rosé of Zinfandel, the Comstock Vineyard from Dry Creek Valley and this wonderfully delicious old vine field blend made mostly of Zinfandel from vines that were planted in 1904 at Puccioni Ranch. These 116 year old vines make for a concentrated and complex wine with good ripe flavors led by dusty raspberry and sweet plum and black cherry fruits adding hints of toasty wood, wild flowers, minty herbs, a hint of loamy earth and snappy licorice. Musto, who could be a kindered spirit, has done a super job on this nicely drinking dark garnet red Zinfandel, it feels luxurious on the full bodied palate, but it has zesty lift that gives balance and doesn’t get heavy or dull at any point, it also has a lovely aftertaste that lingers on. I have to mention, being a racing car geek, the subtle strip of famous Wabash bricks on the bottom of the label that pays tribute to the famed Brickyard, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, hence the name Drive Wines.

This studied and racy (sorry for the pun) Zin was made from hand harvested grapes that were picked at night to retain freshness and detail with ultra careful sorting and all the grapes were de-stemmed and fermented using a selected yeast to avoid any volatile acidity forming with RP-15 “Rockpile” yeast cultures being employed here and primary lasted about 10 days with good color and flavor extraction with Musto doing gentle cap management and extending the maceration after fermentation for five days. One done, the wine was racked or pressed to barrel and aged 17 months with about 35% new French oak which gives this Zinfandel a smooth textural quality and accents it nicely with that smoky vanilla and cedary spice shadings, this will really appeal to classic Zin fans and gives this wine an element of refinement and elegance. With time in bottle this will gain a darker sense I think and fill out even more, though I absolutely enjoyed it with my Forth of July range of foods and it drinks easy right now, it certainly makes for a clean and pleasant companion with BBQ and burgers, especially simple cuisine choices. Once full open the Puccioni Ranch Zinfandel, air time brings out a pretty Mure (blackberry liqueur) note, lilac and some savory sage too keeping your attention. The Drive Wines Zinfandel shows potential and impress for the price, which is very reasonable considering how limited it is, I am looking for to popping the cork on Musto’s Rosé as well, this is a fun label to keep an eye on!
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 4, 2020

2015 G.D. Vajra, Barolo, Bricco delle Viole, Piedmonte, Italy.
One of Italian’s treasures, the Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo is fast becoming a must have wine for Nebbiolo enthusiasts and while everyone is hyper focused on the 2016 vintage offers, you would be rewarded by not missing this gorgeous 2015 version, which lacks for nothing in the big league of top Barolo bottlings! I was first introduced to the Bricco delle Viole with Giuseppe Vajra’s break out vintage in 2008 and I have been a huge fan ever since, this wine and winery have blown up and are crafting a thrilling collection of offerings, they are rocking it, with a range that goes from maybe Italy’s best Riesling to this glorious Barolo, along with an intriguing Freisa, stellar Barbara and Dolcetto as well as other regional gems. Giuseppe Vajra’s rise as a winemaker might not be a surprise considering the talents of his visionary father Aldo, but it has been incredible to watch and see the Vajra family get the attention and praise they deserve with their hard work and humble personalities. The 2015 Bricco delle Viole is luxurious and has Burgundy like grace on the palate enjoying its plush and youthful fruit, but underneath there is classic structure and character with pure Nebbiolo seduction flowing across the full bodied palate with deep red berry, plum and black cherry fruit along with flashes of mulberry and strawberry as well as a subtle meatiness, anise, chalky stones, cedar and delicate rose petals. This wine, which is already drinking fabulous should continue to grown in dimension and add layers, if you can’t wait you’ll find it ever changing in the glass and certainly I would suggest building and evening and meal around exploring it.

The Bricco delle Viole, the hill of violets, is an iconic wine and sets the tone for understanding the Vajra’s wines with Giuseppe’s dad Aldo famously saying the Bricco delle Viole is the vineyard that taught us patience and naturally guided the style of our craft and it starts with its terroir which is at what is thought to be the highest elevation site in Barolo at close to 480 meters above sea level with perfect exposures and underpinned by the region’s limestone, sand and clay soils and dramatic diuturnal temperature changes that allow for deep ripening and vibrant acidity. The Bricco delle Viole, first planted in 1949, was thought to be too cold for Barolo, but that was proved silly and its legend keeps growing, and Aldo was one of the first in Piedmonte to embrace serious organic and holistic practices which has also been seen as the way of the future for ultra quality in the region. The Bricco delle Viole is one of the last sites to be picked in Barolo and this long hang time really elevates this wine with incredible depth and there is always a Grand Cru Core d’Or feel here with a sense of minerallity and finesse. Vajra is traditional in the winemaking, taking great care in the vineyard and it the cellars with each cluster being rigorously sorts and individually berry de-stemming before a lengthy maceration and gentle handling of the wine through primary fermentation. The top Vajra Barolo sees close to 42 months in large Slavonian casks, mostly 25 and 50 hectoliters to allow this fantastic Nebbiolo to fully develop all of its beauty and stunning nuances. If this 2015 is this good, just wow, I can’t imagine what the 2016 will show! Sadly, this year I missed seeing Giuseppe Vajra at the Slow Wine in San Francisco show with Covid playing havoc with travel and trade shows, but I am always grateful for being able to try his wines, these are too good to miss!
($80 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 3, 2020

2019 Sheldon Wines, Grenache Blanc, Sperring Road Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The beautiful and structured whole cluster pressed and 100% stainless Grenache Blanc from Dylan Sheldon at Sheldon Wines bristles with energy and flows across the medium/full bodied palate with graceful smoothness, it reminds me of a top Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc with its clarity, depth and its bright golden presence in the glass. Coming from the tiny Sonoma Coast vineyard, with marine sedimentary soils on Sperring Road, the Grenache Blanc shows orange blossom, zesty fresh picked apricot, a mix of lemony citrusy fruits and white fig fruits along with fleshy melon, bitter peach pit, snappy spices, liquid stones, a faint hint of unsweetened honeycomb and creamy verbena. This is absolute fabulous stuff, highlighting the best qualities of this grape which is found in the south of France and into Spain mainly with a significant role in the mentioned Chateauneuf du Pape along with a host of other white varietals like Roussanne and Clairette Blanche and included in some white Cotes du Rhone as well in the northeast of Spain where it is also known as Garnatxa Blanca and found in white wines in Catalonia, Priorat and Terra Alta as well as being allowed in Rioja as a very minor component. After being brought seriously to California by Tablas Creek and their cuttings from Beaucastel, the Grenache Blanc wines in California have flourished, though have had some trouble finding sales success, but Randall Grahm of the Bonny Doon Vineyard and the mentioned Tablas Creek have made some thrilling wines with Grenache Blanc playing a part, though as a solo effort I think Sheldon has lifted it to another level after searching high and low to find the right vineyard source, which has taken their quest from the south in Santa Barbara to the north in Sonoma Valley and now in the Sonoma Coast region where it, especially in this vintage, looks like a homerun. Grenache Blanc is a grape that can be full of richness, but retains vital acidity, it is less oily and less aggressive than Roussanne, making nicely flexible and while great as part of a blend, it can deliver complexity and personality all on its own, as this wine proves very well.

Sheldon, known to be a Grenache (Noir) Freak, who from 2008 until 2014 focused on their Rhone inspired whites on Grenache Blanc based efforts, making Grenache Blanc as a solo effort in many of those vintages before taking a break from it and turning their attention elsewhere. Curiously enough, as Dylan notes, he has always found a strong similarity between Grenache Blanc and Vermentino both stylistically and viticulturaly, so in 2014 he produced Sheldon’s last Grenache Blanc, before this one and dedicated in the the next 4 vintages to coaxing out various personalities of Vermentino, which was gaining a strong following in California, especially with Ryme Cellars, as well as the mentioned Tablas Creek and Bonny Doon, along with Mark Chesebro in Arroyo Seco. For 2019 Sheldon returned to Grenache Blanc with this lovely 2-acre Gblanc vineyard in the cool Sonoma Coast region close to home, being based in the Santa Rosa area. Sheldon hand harvested the grapes on the 18th of October, with a fairly wide range of brix between the sunny side and shaded side of the rows, which is Dylan’s practice in his whites. He has a love for getting multiple levels of ripeness and flavor development within single varietals to provide fresh zip and to have ripe elements to enhance the flavor and textural pleasures in his whites. This Grenache Blanc was whole cluster pressed, covered with a cold CO2 blanket (dry ice) for an hour of skin contact then settled in tank over night which drops out the green and bitter phenolics, after that the Grenache Blanc is racked down to stainless barrels and sent to the cold room. This cold natural ferment lasted three weeks of cool stainless steel primary and was twice weekly had lees stirring. Sheldon racked it off the heavy lees into a single 75 gallon barrel and allowed no Malo-Lactic to keep exquisite purity and fresh details. The wine rested rest for the winter, then racked twice on new moon/low tide cycles (when there was greater gravity) then bottled unfiltered. This Sperring Road Grenache Blanc is one of the best alternative whites of the season so far, though with just 32 cases made it will not be easy to stock up on, so don’t wait and order directly and quickly!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 2, 2020

2017 Domaine Paul Jaboulet Anie, Crozes-Hermintage Rouge “Domaine de Thalabert” Northern Rhone, France.
Drinking more like a great Cote-Rotie than a Crores-Hermitage, the 2017 Domaine de Thalabert Crores Rouge by Caroline Frey and Jaboulet is a profound effect considering the searing heat of the vintage with an intense inky color and beautifully elegant detailing, this is a stunning pure Syrah wine that thrills the palate. This black/purple hued Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine Croze-Hermitage “Domaine de Thalabert” starts with some flair and flamboyance highlighted by crushed violets, creme de cassis and espresso roast before classic flavors unfold on the full bodied palate with boysenberry, damson plum, kirsch, blueberry compote and loganberry coulis as well as black licorice, grilled herbs de Provence, a touch of earth, peppercorns, tapenade and sweet cedar notes along with a faint mocha element. While heady, this wine is wonderfully drinkable with a very stylish and balanced form, it comes in at about 13.5% natural alcohol, so it can be enjoyed without any oppressive heat showing, or aggressive tannins, making it easy to enjoy in its youth and sublime with food, especially roast meats, savory mushroom dishes and rustic cuisine, it has enough sweet fruit to go with Turkish lamb or Korean BBQ Pork, meals I would love to try with this gorgeous Syrah. Air brings out a fuller expression of the succulent dark fruits as well as allowing hints of camphor/graphite and delicate mineral tones and this wine lingers on and on heavenly in the glass, this is a Syrah to spend some time with to enjoy it in its complete performance, it is truly excellent until the last drop leaves the bottle.

The Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, now owned by the Frey family, led by the talented winemaking tigress Caroline Frey, has been an iconic estate in the Northern Rhone and one of the big three in the region along with Guigal and Chapoutier, most known for their fabled La Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage, Syrah’s most holy site! There’s been wines made here since pre-Roman times, but it was Antoine Jaboulet’s plantings in 1834 and focus on quality which really started to establish the area as one of the major wine producing appellations of the world, after he past the land was passed on to his two sons Henri and Paul, who’s name became company label. The Frey family, who bought the fade glory Jaboulet in 2006, have become big time players in premium French wine production having serious quality properties in Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, which includes Chateau La Lagune in Haut-Medoc and Château de Corton André in the Cote de Beaune. Caroline, who studied in Bordeaux is one of France’s rising stars and has her hand in many projects, with even a biodynamic high elevation vineyard in Switzerland under her care and I hear these wines are stunning as well as her efforts here at Jaboulet, which have certainly brought this estate back to the elite status it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s. The Thalabert parcel, a special terroir, is located in Croze’s pebble-strewn granite soiled lieu-dit of Les Chassis, which has owned by Jaboulet since its founding back in 1834 and is regarded as maybe the greatest set of vines in the Crores-Hermitage AOC, all organic and biodynamic. Frey uses partial whole bunches and well judged use of new wood, really putting the focus on the vintage and trying for transparency and luxurious texture in her recent releases especially and this 2017 is proving to be a very tasty version, maybe not as serious as 2015 and 2016 for the cellar, this is one to drink up and offers a stunning value.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day July 1, 2020

2018 Arnot-Roberts, Gamay Noir, El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills.
The 2018 true Gamay Noir from Arnot-Roberts is bright and juicy with its granite soils providing a nice mineral character and the natural acidity makes for a nice balance in this medium bodied and smooth wine that caresses the palate, but still has a tart tanginess and snappy personality with loads of dark berry fruits, a touch of spice and a bite of dried herbs. This is a very interesting version and an expressive Gamay, though I must admit to loving their lighter and more delicately nuanced Trousseau, a wine that quite honestly made this stellar winery famous, that said I am of a fan of everything they do, including this Sierra Foothills grown Gamay and its easy drinking pleasures. Arnot-Roberts was founded in back in 2001 by childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, both Napa natives committed to crafting small lots of transparent wines with a focus on special terroir driven vineyards, especially old and dry-farmed sites and they broke through by not being afraid of exploring the lighter style and unique varietals, like the Trousseau mentioned above, but also with a Gruner Veltliner and even a fantastic Rosé of Touriga Nacional, as well as doing old world inspired versions of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and in particular Chardonnay, with their version of Trout Gulch Vineyard from the south Santa Cruz Mountains being absolutely spectacular. The grapes, sourced from two vineyard sites, Barsotti and Witters vineyards, both near Placerville are brought into the winery and made in separate lots, with the whole bunches put into steel fermentation tanks and sealed up for several days to start carbonic maceration, traditional in many Cru Beaujolais, allowing the berries to start the fermentation process from the inside out, then aged in a combination of tank and used French oak, with a large Foudre being employed, similar to Foillard’s famous Corcelette bottling.

Duncan and Nathan, first got into Gamay with their collaboration with star sommelier Raj Parr, but have really now have made this wine their own and folding it into their studied and prized collection of wines. The Gamay certainly was influenced by Steve Edmonds, of Edmonds St. John, who was the first to really express this Beaujolais varietal in any meaningful way in California, and who found it here in the Sierra Foothills and was one of the first successful micro urban wineries in the state. Arnot-Roberts’ mission is to seek out vineyards (throughout) Northern California that offer historic quality or unique flavors and now their set includes incredible sites in Napa Valley, the Sonoma Coast, the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as the Santa Rita Hills, a vineyard in Clearlake and the Sierra Foothills as expressed here in their deep garnet and ruby hued Gamay. All of their single-vineyard series wines sell out pretty fast on their direct to the consumer mailing list, but the regional set of wines can be found at some restaurants and specialized wine merchants, where I luckily found their latest releases of Gamay, Trousseau and the noted Rosé, a dry and exciting pink wine that has always been a secret favorite of mine! This Gamay that unfolds with bramble berry, plum, cherry and cranberry fruits is fun, quaffable and expressive, best at cool temps, it gains from the chill and allows for a more refreshing experience and sharper in detail. This high elevation Gamay is a wine that is appealing and should be on the list for this grape’s ever increasing fans in California and in Oregon, it joins a star studded list of winemakers, like at Pax, Joyce, Jolie-Laide, also from this region and vines, Brick House, one of the first to make a true Gamay, Hundred Suns and others, that have found love and passion in this once maligned varietal, that was in fact once banned from the top vineyards in Burgundy!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 30, 2020

2018 Theopolis Vineyards, Rosé of Petite Sirah, Estate Grown, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
The pretty magenta hued Rosato style Rosé from Theopolis Vineyards is made from 100% Saignée of Petite Sirah that was fermented and aged in 100% neutral French oak barrels for 6 months. This robust dry pink has loads of flavor and structure with a profile characterized by crushed tangy raspberries and a spicy kick along with a touch of minty herbs, lavender, orange peel, strawberry, watermelon and sour cherry notes. This wine stays surprisingly crispy fresh and not at all clunky or sweet at 13.3% natural alcohol in a Saignée (bleed from the ripe red grapes) style is notable, making it much more quaffable than you’d expect, it does feel like an Italian version and is really at its best with food. The darker color will appeal to those that usually don’t drink Rosé or want something more bold, but still want refreshment from a warm days of Summer, as this Petite Sirah does well, it certainly has the stuffing to go with BBQ and or pulled pork as well as your favorite beach food basket of items from cheese to cold cut sandwiches. Theopois Vineyards latest set of offerings include the outstanding Estate Grown Petite Sirah, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, a Yorkville Highlands Pinot, plus this juicy Estate Grown Rosé of Petite Sirah and a fruity off dry white wine made from a hybrid grape called Symphony, which is a crossing of Grenache Gris and Muscat that is also grown on the estate. I was glad I saved this bottle for a long sunny day, it deliver all that was expected and it put a comforting cool smile on my face, it was a good choice for the moment.

Theopolis Vineyards, known for their outstanding and unique terroir driven and terraced Petite Sirah grapes and vines is owned by the impressive Theodora R. Lee, also known lovingly by her fans as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards, is renown Texan (and San Francisco) trial lawyer and one of a handful of women of color that owner winegrowers in California. Theopolis Vineyards is a small family winery making hand-crafted wines located in California’s high elevation and schist soiled Yorkville Highlands above the Anderson Valley along Highway 128 in the southeastern corner Mendocino County, that Theodora founded in 2003 and has seen an amazing rise in attention in such a short time. Lee’s wines, especially her Petite Sirah which is world class stuff are all very tasty as this Rosé proves are certainly wines to search out and along with the help of consultant Ed Kurtzman, the ex Roar and Freeman winemaker has helped fill out the Theopolis lineup the expressive set of Pinots. Ms. Lee, who studied at UC Davis’ wine school, is a dynamic activist for good, she is the Co-Board Chairperson of the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper, one of the oldest Black Newspapers in North Texas. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Board Development Committee for the Board of Directors of the YMCA of San Francisco and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Legal Aid. There is a lot to admire here, in particular the quality of the vines, wines and the person. Theopolis has some of the earlier vintages still available direct from their cellar, many of which I have reviewed at grapelive, with the exceptional 2015, 2016 and the current 2017 Petite Sirah(s) online, all of which are delicious and outstanding values.
($25 Est.) 87 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 29, 2020

2018 Poe Wines, Pinot Meunier, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain.
I was very excited to try this vintage of Poe’s Meunier with the long cool growing conditions and the unique terroir of Sonoma Mountain offed all the material for tasty goodness and that hope was fulfilled with this delicious medium bodied red, made from this Champagne grape. I am a fan of Poe Wines and the latest set of releases are really good, especially the incredible sparkling wines, like her Brut Rosé and the Blanc de Noirs, both of which are stunning examples of California bubbly. Winemaker, Samantha Sheehan, who founded her own label Poe Wines in 2009 and known for her beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, also produces the mentioned traditional Champagne method sparkling wines, a still Rosé, a Nouveau Pinot Noir, as well as this very cool Pinot Meunier, which comes from the historic Van der Kamp Vineyard. The 2018 Van der Kamp Pinot Meunier drinks with an elegance usually reserved for a Pinot Noir and it flows seamlessly across the palate with satiny grace with tangy red fruits, red spices and soft wood accents, lingering on with a touch of dark florals, zesty acidity and tart cherry fruit. This is a wine that goes beautifully with summer meals and like a Foillard Morgon it benefits from a slight chill, but still a serious wine with surprising depth and complexity with plum, cranberry, strawberry and forest bramble berry and the noted cherry fruits, a bit of herbal snap and light cedar notes, plus a pleasing creamy mouth feel. Poe’s version of Meunier was fermented in two vessels – one was 100% whole cluster, while the other was entirely de-stemmed, which gives this wine its personality and complexity. The grapes all hand picked in the cool of night, as Sheehan explains, were not sulfured, and thus (the) fermentation occurred naturally with native yeast. She and her team gently foot tread the tanks, during maceration and primary, two to three times per day for two weeks. Then the Meunier was then pressed into barrel and aged on the lees for 12 months, with this year seeing about 10% new French oak and 90% neutral well seasoned French oak.

Meunier accounts for a third of the vines planted in the Champagne region, though incredibly rare here in California still, and serves the purpose of providing early ripening fruitiness and mouthfeel to the wines of that famed sparkling wine region that sometimes suffers from poor weather, though in recent years Meunier has become geeky cool and some of the best grower producers are using it to craft awesome fizz. Sheehan is a fan of this grape and might its best champion in California, sourcing it from the Van der Kamp Vineyard that lies at the very top of the eastern side of Sonoma Mountain. Rising up to a 1,400 foot elevation and looking down on the town of Glen Ellen to the east and Bennett Valley to the northwest this is a special micro climate that can produce some fabulous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with Sheehan using this site to great effect. Sonoma Mountain, Sheehan notes, was once part of the Pacific Ocean floor that gives a patchwork of diverse soils, from Speckles loam, Volcanic Tuff and a decomposed stream bed provides for rocky soils littered with many sized stones. Van der Kamp was first planted in 1953, making it one of the oldest Pinot Noir vines (still producing) in California, again according to Sheehan, who is great friends with the Van der Kamp family that farm this awesome property not far from the fabled Hanzell winery. The 2.7 acre block of Pinot Meunier was planted in the early 1990s, with Samantha getting most of it, if not every single cluster, which she divides between her still Rosé, sparkling Pinot Meunier Brut Rosé (which is made in a Champagne method) and this still red wine, that is made only in a miniscule amount. This lush Meunier by Poe Wines is one of my favorites and this 2018 is fun and lively, perfect for what you’d want in a medium bodied alternative red wine, even on day two this wine thrills the senses and adds more whole cluster crunch and some cinnamon and sage notes become more noticeable, though the fruit stays expressive, it should drink nicely for 3 to 5 years.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 28, 2020

2018 Weingut Keller, Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany.
The baby wine in Keller’s magical collection of dry Rieslings is the entry level Rheinhessen Trocken, but don’t let that fool you, this is outstanding stuff that is totally guilt free, when compared to ultra expressive single Cru offering here! Klaus-Peter Keller, who took charge of Weingut Keller about 20 years in 2001 is one of Germany’s Riesling gurus and best winemakers and his G-Max cuvée is the world’s most expensive dry Riesling on release. This 2018 Trocken is like drinking liquid rock showing the pure limestone terroir with chiseled stony detail and excellent dry fruit extract, showing lime, muskmelon, tangerine, tart nectarine (peachiness) with exciting citrus blossoms delicately hiding in the background It’s well reported and not new that Keller is one of gems of the Rheinhessen along with Weingut Wittmann and that Klaus-Peter, who trained abroad in South Africa and in Burgundy at Domaines Hubert Lignier and the famed Armand Rousseau prior to taking his degree in oenology and viticulture in Geisenheim brought this experience to his father’s little known estate that had been around since 1789 and turned into one of the most coveted in Europe. Much of the credit, Klaus-Peter claims comes from hard work in the vineyards and allowing the vines to make these great wines, but Keller has employed a special regime in the cellar with barrel fermentation, and uniquely Klaus-Peter has adopted a program allowing the grapes to macerate on their skins for thirty or forty hours prior to pressing the juice to fuder for fermentation.

While the basic bottling of the white wines are fermented at slightly lower temperatures than the Grosses Gewächs, and bottled earlier they are meant for youthful enjoyment rather than being aged as his top cuvees were designed to be. Keller’s top wines have been compared to Montrachet by famed English Master of Wine Jancis Robinson and I can see why and though I haven’t had many of the upper end stuff, this Trocken is absolutely fabulous. This part of the Rheinhessen is influenced by its limestone soils and warmer climate, where the wines have more generosity and richness than other areas, hence the greatest in the drier style Rieslings that are found here and of course, especially those of Keller, which show incredible depth, density and stony personality. Keller’s main holdings have always been in the famous Dalsheimer Hubacker, and if you get a chance to have a Hubacker Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) don’t pass it up, it will probably change your life! Look for Keller’s RR and Kirchspiel, as well as Klaus-Peter’s Riesling “Von der Fels” as they tend to still be reasonably priced for the ethereal quality they deliver, but to get started on Keller this is a great value priced option and I’m glad I got some. Again, this 2018 basic Trocken is steely delicious and really opens up nicely with air adding depth, texture and a seductive earthy character, giving even more to enjoy here, this is a Riesling that you can admire in isolation, but certainly it will be much more fun with matching cuisine, also I state, this is a Riesling for Chablis lovers.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 27, 2020

2018 Laura Lorenzo – Daterra Viticultores, Tabernario Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Galicia Spain.
One of my favorites and a heroic winegrower, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, based in the remote Ribeira Sacra, which means “Sacred Banks” in Gallego, the local Galician dialect, is making some amazing wines and her 2018s look set to take her fame to the next level, like her latest Tabernario Tinto with its beautiful texture, bright flavors and mineral details that make it drink as fine as a Premier Cru Burgundy. Made from old vine parcels of 60% Mencía, 30% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Palomino, the white grape that is co-fermented into this wine, not all that different than traditional Cote-Rotie, all sourced from Lorenzo’s organic vines in Amandi and Val do Bibei, both sleep river valley locations set on primarily granite soils with a covering of sand and some loams. The Tabernario was only bottling I haven’t tried yet from Laura since she started her own label in 2014 and I was thrilled with the transparent dark fruited profile with layers of Mencia led characteristics showing black cherry, wild plum, cranberry and tart currant fruits, fresh garden herbs, star anise, crushed stones, a touch of leathery earth and light cedar as well as delicate floral tones. The Ribeira Sacra, a favorite of the Romans, who came to this green, northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula more than 2,000 years ago and were the first to plant and terrace the slopes to grape vines, almost forgotten in modern times due to the harsh working conditions this place is now one of the wine world’s most exciting places.

This light medium bodied Tabernario red has the charm of Cru Beaujolais, like Fleurie especially with its pretty details and a bit of northern Rhone crunchiness and game, even though as mentioned above this vintage has a satiny feel that reminds me of a Pinot. Lorenzo is committed to holistic and natural methods in the vineyards and in her cellar looking to capture the purest form of terroir and of the vineyard, she works with indigenous or wild yeast exclusively and mostly whole cluster with elevage in only used well seasoned oak casks of various sizes and does no adjustments other that the absolute minimum dose of SO2, all unfined and unfiltered. The 2018 vintage was not kind to Lorenzo and she lost a huge amount of grapes to severe weather, but she persevered and crafted a beauty with this Tabernario which was harvested by hand in early September and was 50% whole bunches and 50% de-stemmed then skin-macerated for 10 days with spontaneous fermentation in large 500L & 1000L chestnut barrels with this wine being raised for 11 months in cask before its bottling. The Ribeira Sacra is a cool Atlantic zone with granitic, schist and slate soils predominating here in a region that looks more like Germany’s river wine growing areas than most of Spain, which helps to explain Laura’s wines that have lower alcohols, this one is just 12%, and that are highly aromatic, zesty, quaffable and elegant in style. The Daterra offerings are wildly addictive and unique, I highly recommend checking them out!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 26, 2020

2018 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Kabinett, Lenchen, Rheingau Germany.
After focusing more on the old vine and dry wines at Spreitzer in my reviews, I noticed I hadn’t mentioned one of my favorite wines in their lineup, this Lenchen Kabinett, and that is an almost unforgivable oversight, as this 2018 vintage is a beauty and a fabulous Summer wine. One of the oldest family wineries in the Rheingau, Weingut Spreitzer, located in the tiny hamlet of Oestrich in the middle Rheingau is run now by Andreas and Bernd Spreitzer, who took over from their father Josef in 1997 and have really done an amazing job elevating this historic estate. One of their prize holdings, is the Lenchen Vineyard with its VDP Grosse Lage Rosengarten being the elite parcel here, it is set on mostly of loam and loess soils and not far from the Rhein and the winery itself. There are numerous underground streams here that ensure that even in dry years the vines have plenty of refreshment and a natural source of water for the roots to drink up. The Lenchen delivers a lovely concentration of flavors and the Kabinett with expressive fruity character drinks almost as impressively as a Spatlese with a serious palate impact and structure, while still feeling bright and brisk, not cloying or overtly sweet with apricot, apple, pineapple and racy citrus fruits along with touches of gingery spices, lemongrass, lime sorbet, wild mint tea and rosewater. This Kabinett has a sunny personality and makes you smile with comforting yellow fruits, but there is an underlying mineral focus and stoniness that reminds you that this terroir is very special.

I last visited the winery with Andreas in the 2016 harvest and tasted in the ancient cellars and in the modern tasting lounge, it certainly is a fantastic and beautiful place to visit when you tour the Rheingau region, it should be on your short list of paces to taste when in Germany and not far from some other famous spots like Kloster Eberbach and Schloss Vollrads, as well as being close the Geisenheim University and just up River from Rudesheim, one of the Rhein’s most picturesque villages. The Lenchen parcels overlook the widest part of the Rhein and this area gets an almost lake effect climate, warmer and moist, usually allowing for high sugars and early ripening grapes, making for flexibility in picking so the Spreitzer’s can make a wide array of styles from the Grand Cru dry Grosses Gewachs to a lush and intensely sweet Auslese, as well as this traditional Kabinett. The vines are littered here with pebbles as well as heavy tertiary, iron-containing clay marl and quartzite that adds complexity to the profile that leans toward exotic in nature. The Spreitzer team used a combination of old fuder (German oak cask) and stainless steel tanks to ferment and age the Lench Kabinett to retain fresh detail as well as give texture, which this vintage manages to convey to near perfection, making for an ideal Kabinett Riesling that is both fun and quaffable along with having complexity to thrill the senses and goes brilliantly with food, classic German dishes and especially spicy Asian cuisines like Thai.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive