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Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 27, 2021

2018 Nikkal Wines, Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.
The elegant, cool climate influenced, though slightly reductive Nikkal Pinot Noir is a barrel selection of Pinot Noir from three vineyard sites which, Nikkal Wines believes, truly captures the essence of the Yarra Valley region, an area of cool climate diversity and one of Australia’s best regions for Pinot Noir, as this tasty version shows with bright fruit intensity, silky texture and accented with delicate earthiness, spice and floral notes. This wonderfully expressive Pinot is luminous and vividly ruby in color with an array of red fruits on the satiny medium bodied palate, it starts with plenty of black cherry, garden picked strawberries, tart plum, cranberry and blood orange fruits, a light dusting of baking spices, aromatic tea leaf and herbs, along with a kiss of sweet toast from the French oak. The vigor and vitality is welcome, this Nikkal’s energy keeps everything flowing and racy, it stays fresh and entertaining in glass making it very easy to enjoy with many food choices, it takes on a deeper level of excitement with matching cuisine, it went especially well with grilled salmon and a salad. The reductive graphite and underbrush fades away with air, best to let this Pinot open for a short period of time to allow this to blow off and or decant, much in the same way you would with a young Burgundy, which this wine is not unlike.

This was my first try of a Nikkal Pinot and I was happily impressed with the quality and value, the packaging is also quite nice and I’d definitely enjoy this one again in the future, especially as I’m a fan of the Yarra Valley, which is not far from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is also Victoria’s oldest wine region, dating back to 1838, it is one of the wine regions of the world that is on my bucket list to visit and explore much more in depth and in person. The Nikkal Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2018 was sourced from three distinct vineyards, Upper Ngumby, at Steels Creek, Gist in the Christmas Hills, and the Willowlake in Gladysdale, they all play a significant role in making this wine more balanced and complex, giving this wine a core of structure as well as a sense of place. Winemaker Kate Goodman uses whole clusters and native yeast fermentation on her Nikkal Pinot, which adds to the thrill here with hints of pomegranate and its heightened bouquet. Each vineyard parcel of fruit for the Nikkal Yarra Valley Pinot is kept separate in the winery before and after fermentation with each lot done in small bins with each wine being matured in barrel for six months before the blending starts here. Then the final version settles in tank and then bottled, the faily short elevage is to promote its vibrancy of flavors, which shows in this 2018. There is a lot to like in this Nikkal Pinot and it is great way to start exploring the Yarra, this is a solid choice and the price here in the states makes it even more attractive.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 26, 2021

Latest Review

2019 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Contra Costa County.
I’ve been a fan of the Sandlands Carignane since I very first tried it and in fact it was the first Sandlands wine I got to taste, and I’ve been chasing bottles of it ever since, it is one of my favorites, though hard to get as the production is tiny and the demand for these wines always out strips supply. This grape, which doesn’t get the respect it certainly deserves, really excels here in the 2019 vintage, a smaller yielding year with a mostly long and cool growing season that allows for excellent flavor development and retaining an awesome freshness of detail with lively natural acidity as well as lower alcohols, similar in style, though maybe even better, to the fabulous 2018s that Tegan Passalacqua made here at Sandlands. The deep purple opaque old vine Carignane is at first crisply dry, tartly fresh and vibrant with a mix of zesty juiciness and savory crunchy elements with a medium bodied palate of crushed berries, plum, cherry and grilled orange fruits along with a nice mix of generous florals, spice and snappy herbs de Provence with just a kiss of cedary wood. As the wine opens, a more elegant and opulent side emerges and especially when matched with food it gains a beautiful roundness and textural quality, which is a common grace in these Sandlands wines, which are exceptionally well balanced and tasty efforts. The fruit really deepness with simple and or rustic cuisine, it matches well with BBQ, pasta dishes and wild mushrooms, at just 12.6% natural alcohol, it is a fun wine to enjoy with a slight chill, in much the same way you’d do with a Cru Beaujolais and the Sandlands Carignane is perfect for Spring and Summer outdoor dining. Carignane (or Carignan) is the main grape in the Corbieres region in France’s Languedoc, where you can find it in hearty reds and as a component in Rosé as well, it has a long history here in California, where it has long been part of field blends, usually picked and co-fermted with mixed blacks and as a part of heritage Zin blends.

As noted here in my reviews, and from the winery, Sandlands is the personal project of Turley Cellars head winemaker and vineyard manager Tegan and his wife Olivia Passalacqua. The line-up of Sandlands, as the Passalaqua’s add, encompasses many the forgotten classic California varieties, like this Carignane, plus Cinsault, Chenin Blanc, which is making a huge comeback and the extremely rare Mission grape, that are primarily grown on California’s decomposed granite (sand), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations, but have somehow, as Tegan puts it, remained the outliers of California viticulture. These vines are primarily old gnarly head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted, with the vineyards Sandlands work with being sites that take us back to California’s roots. The wines here highlight the hardworking farmers of yesteryear and the honest and authentic wines of a different era, they pay tribute to the state’s fascinating history of rugged viniculture. Tegan Passalaqua’s Sandlands 2019 Contra Costa County Carignane, only 5 barrels produced was sourced from an old vine vineyard that was planted back in the 1920s in one of California’s most unique terroirs, it is set on what is classified as Dehli blow sand, that is made up of decomposed granite that has been deposited here by wind and water. Made using classic old school methods with lots of whole bunches, native yeast fermentation(s), with lots of gentle hands and feet being employed and aging or elevage being done in well seasoned (used) oak barrels. I know, these are unicorn wines and incredibly hard to get, but search them out, get on the mailing list and never miss a chance to enjoy them with friends, they are worth it! Carignane is a really compelling grape and I have been really thrilled by what this new generation of winemakers are doing with this grape here in California, especially in the wines of Ridge Vineyards, Broc Cellars, Liocco, Martha Stoumen, Desire Lines Wine Co., and in particularly here at Sandlands, keep an eye out for these tasty versions.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 25, 2021

2015 Lindes de Remelluri, Vindeos de Labastida, Rioja DO, Spain.
When it comes to value in hand crafted small lot Rioja, the non estate Lindes de Remelluri bottlings by Telmo Rodriguez at his family’s Remelluri are top of my list and this particular offering is my absolute favorite and my go to wine. This 2015 version of the Lindes de Remelluri Vindeos de Labastida is wonderfully pure, deep in ripe flavors and gorgeous in the glass with its dark opaque purple/garnet color, it is incredibly inviting and seductive with impeccable layering of seamless Tempranillo led fruit, showing dense, but elegant blackberry, mulberry, plum and kirsch along with subtle earth, anise, chalky stones, cedar, plus pretty mineral and floral notes all in a taut full bodied wine that impressively lingers for minutes in the aftertaste. This wine way over delivers for the price, it is truly stunning from start to finish and is loaded with pleasure and damn near perfect Rioja in every respect, highlighting the massive talent that is Telmo Rodriguez, one of Spain’s leading lights and one of the world’s great winemakers. This wine was was fermented using all native yeasts in cool stainless steel tanks and then raised in barrel, 100% French oak for 12 months before bottling, then once in bottle it is rested a good amount of time in the cellar to mature as well. There’s a lot to process here as this beautiful Labastida opens up, it adds finer points and sensuality to its opulent profile with hints of pencil lead, minty herb, lilacs and delicate spices with the warm vintage giving a sweet tannin, allowing this wine to drink fabulously well right now, though I suspect it will continue to develop in intriguing ways for many more years.

Grown at elevation, from very old vines in the Rioja Alavesa zone, set on chalky soils, the Labastida shows wonderful depth, life from the cooler night time temps up here and the noted length, this Lindes de Remelluri is made from mostly ancient vine Tempranillo, though it likely has a good dose of Graciano and Garnacha as well, though Telmo is always coy with exact varietal content, preferring to speak only of place, rather than the grapes in the blend. Telmo is noted for making for a complex wines of sublime texture and detail, anyone not familiar with his wines should try them as soon as possible, and without question never miss the chance to taste his Remelluri Rioja Blanco, it might be the greatest white wine in Spain and truly unique, rivaling both classic white Burgundies and Hermitage Blanc. As noted in my earlier reviews, Telmo Rodriguez, one of the most iconic and best winemakers of his generation, having made wine at Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage and at a few Chateaux in Bordeaux, returned to his family’s Remelluri estate back in 2008. He has accomplished himself as a champion of terroir over varietal and employs artisan craftsmanship in the cellar, with his wines hardly ever showing overt oak or aggressive alcohol, they always show distinctive purity and a sense of place, and these secondary wines known as Lindes de Remmelluri are magnificent expressions of Rioja, they are richly flavored and soulful wines crafted from old vine purchased fruit from vineyards that prior had got into the family’s main wine. These two vineyard select wines, this Labastida and this San Vincente, which is slightly more feral and raw, sourced from vineyards that used to go into the Remelluri Reserva, but that are now separated into these two new single vineyard bottlings. I always love these Remelluri Riojas, especially this one, I will certainly get a few more for myself and highly recommend it.
($26 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 24, 2021

2018 Brick House “Clos Ladybug” Casserole Red Wine, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The delightful and elegant Clos Ladybug, by Doug Tunnell at the famed Brick House, is a unique blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and a splash of Chardonnay in what is a tribute to the rare Bourgogne Passetoutgrain (Passe-Tout-Grains), which are made from a Burgundy grown blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, these French versions are sometimes the region’s best values as well as best kept secrets, with Tunnell’s all biodynamic Willamette Valley example also being a great secret value in his beautiful collection of estate wines. This lighter and brighter Clos Ladybug is an easy to love and quaff red wine with nice acidity and silky textures with vibrant layers of tree picked tart plum, strawberry, cherry and red apple skin fruits, a light sense of cedary wood, wild herbs, delicate florals and mineral notes. The mouth feel is refined and smooth, getting nicely lush with air and while seemingly simple at first the Clos Ladybug opens up to reveal some serious depth and adds some welcome earthiness, saline stony elements and umami to the medium bodied juicy palate, making for a graceful and balanced wine that is best with a slight chill and served with less complicated meals. Founded back in 1990, Brick House continues to be one of the Willamette Valley’s most inspiring organic estates, renown for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines and one of the first to plant and make true Gamay Noir in the state.

The traditionally made Clos Ladybug – Casserole is an all estate offering with 42% Pinot Noir, 53% Gamay Noir and 5% Chardonnay from fully Demeter certified biodynamic grapes at Brick House in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, with the region’s classic marine sedimentary soils and hillside vines. According to the winery, the idea behind Clos Ladybug came about in 2017 when owner and winemaker, Doug Tunnell and his cellar team noticed that there was a few small bins of Gamay and Pinot Noir leftover and were at a loss as what to do with them, when Tunnell, a huge Burgundy enthusiat, suggested that these leftover grapes be thrown together in a single fermentor. The Clos Ladybug was thus born for the first time, in a style very similar to those Burgundian ‘passe tout grains’ which are village-level Cuvees of Gamay and Pinot Noir, which the crew then decided to add a little Chard for good measure, thinking that would add a bit of texture, and nicknamed their creation a Casserole! So this dark ruby colored 2018 Clos Ladybug Gamay/Pinot Noir, with that tiny amount of Chard, is the second vintage here, it was a co-fermented wine done with gentle winemaking techniques and aged in what tastes like mostly used French oak barrels with just a hint of toasty sweetness. This wine will certainly keep a place in the lineup and is a fun way to get to know this pioneering producer, who’s outstanding Pinot Noir bottlings are some of Oregon’s greatest ever wines.
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 23, 2021

2000 Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone Rouge, Le Gramenon, Rhone Valley, France.
Another gem from a perfect cellar, the Le Gramenon Cotes du Rhone 2000 is drinking amazing with remarkable elegance and depth of flavors with plenty of maturity, but with lovely freshness, this little Cotes du Rhone is drinking better than a lot of top Chateauneufs at this point. The Domaine Gramenon was founded back in 1979 and has been a leader of biodynamic, organic and holistic natural wines in the region ever since, making this 2000 vintage an even greater and welcome surprise, that it has aged so gracefully and with impeccable clarity is a testament to the care in the vineyard and run the cellar by the Aubèry-Laurent family. The 2000 Le Gramenon shows Syrah like essences with waxy blueberry, violets and some savory elements, which is not uncommon for wines in this part of the southern Rhone, like Saint Cosme’s Cotes du Rhone, that is made from 100% Syrah, and the palate is mineral toned, softy tannic and medium bodied at this point in its life with an array of pretty red berries, a touch of stewed plum, that is very much in line with this wine’s age, light peppery spices, a touch of iron/meatiness, dried porporri and old cedar. This dark garnet/ruby (with just a hint orange on the edges) Cotes du Rhone opens nicely and holds on, it doesn’t crash into a sous bois or balsamic mess, instead the fruit stays sweet and even pairs well with hearty foods, which I maybe unfairly chose to match it with, in fact it never lost its sense of poise throughout the few hours I was sipping it.

Domaine Gramenon, based in the Vinsobres zone, as importer, the famed Kermit Lynch explains, is the authentic embodiment of the (natural winegrowing and no additions in the cellar) philosophies that the Laurents espouse, adding that, they do not merely champion (their) organic farming, but they incorporate the concept of sustainability into their daily lives by growing their own food crops and raising their own animals. The domaine bottles an AOC Vinsobres of course, plus many single cru wines from parcels, of mainly Grenache, but with lots of Syrah too, their own Côtes-du-Rhône Appellation vines, all of which are located around the domaine and set on clay and limestone soils with some plots seeing classic galets, the large river stones that are most notable in the Chateauneuf du Pape area. Domaine Gramenon, now led by Maxime François Laurent, uses gravity-fed tanks, cement and stainless to ferment, with indigenous yeasts and no additions, with exceptionally low sulfites (SO2) and age the wines in a combination of well used (neutral) oak demi-muids and foudres. As this very old Cotes du Rhone shows the wines has exceptional purity and lasting vibrancy and anyone that loves the Rhone, will want to explore the range of wines made here at Gramenon, I recommend, especially, the 100% Syrah Sierra du Sud Cotes du Rhone and the Ceps Centenaires La Mémé, that comes from 100 plus year old Grenache vines!
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 22, 2021

2019 Lucia by The Pisoni Family, Chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
These 2019s from Pisoni are some of the most complete and complex bottlings they have ever produced, this is not a vintage to miss from them, and the Santa Lucia Highlands, with this gorgeous Soberanes Chardonnay being one of the top picks here, this profound wine is one of the best I’ve tried from the region offering amazing fruit density, fascinating textural layers, inner energy and length for days. While obviously known for their legendary estate Pinot Noir, the Pisoni Chards are now a match for the Pinots and in some vintages they are the best wines and this 2019 is a mind-blowing example with the same impact that the state’s best wines show, from Mount Eden, Littorai, Peay, Brewer-Clifton, Marcassin to the Morlet Family, Hanzell, Aubert and or Peter Michael, where Jeff Pisoni cut his teeth as a winemaker, this Soberanes rivals these elite efforts. This is a monumental version from a vineyard site that is fast becoming one of the top Crus in California, producing exciting Pinot Noir, outstanding Syrah, one of the secrets of the site, and incredible luscious Chardonnay, formed by various unique Burgundy and heritage clones, including the Old Wente Clone that adds intense concentration and depth. The Soberanes Chardonnay is beautifully bright and delicately perfumed with cascade of rich flavors on the broad and full bodied palate with orange blossoms, subtle sweet oak toast, wet stones and peach flesh revolving around a core of golden delicious apple, bosq pear and lemon curd fruits. The 2019 just keeps on going and going, it deserves a meal to enhance with it, especially something like a decedent lobster tail, and or at least a round of Époisses de Bourgogne, the famous pungent creamy cheese with its rind washed in brine and Marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy, Burgundy’s version of Cognac.

The Soberanes Vineyard, set high up on the SLH bench, which again was farming partnership between Pisoni and Franscioni families, bears the family name of José María Soberanes, who marched from Mexico to Monterey Bay with the famed Portolá expedition, and his son Feliciano, who, as the Pisoni’s note, acquired the 8,900-acre land grant (here in the what became the Santa Lucia Highlands) as repayment for his loan of forty horses, fifty head of cattle, four oxen and some sheep for the journey. Cooled by the near by Pacific Ocean and the deep cold water of the Monterey Bay, and sitting adjacent to famous Garys’ Vineyard, the Soberanes Vineyard is set on the classic sandy loams, with soils, as the winery adds, that boast significant sub-soil boulders layered into the alluvial fan with a complex array of mineral deposits as well, all of which provides the vines everything they need to deliver absolute world class quality. The 2019, like the majestic 2018s, were formed by the long col growing conditions here allowing the deep flavor development and still having refreshing acidity, with the ’19s having maybe a slight edge with smaller yields and fabulous structure. Jeff Pisoni, the family’s hugely talented winemaker, hand crafts these wines from his state of the art facility in Sonoma, where is is still one of the most sought after consultants, using the best selection of the family’s grapes, which are also some of the best farmed in California. These hand picked Chardonnay grapes come in cool to the winery and are gently treated with only gravity flow of the juice with Pisoni using 100% native yeast barrel fermentations employing about 40% new French oak and with the wine being raised for close to 15 months before bottling. This wine shows its lees aging and really opens up with air with additional dimension coming out, it just awesome with a light hazelnut, lavish mouth feel and its brilliant vitality, this is stunning stuff.
($65 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 21, 2021

2018 Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez, Ultreia, Saint Jacques, Valtuille de Abajo, Bierzo DO, Spain.
Raul Perez’s 2018 Ultreia Mencia based Saint Jacques from the Beizo region of Spain is wonderfully fresh and vibrant, perfect with a big bowl of spicy steamed mussels and pomme frites, showing bright dark berry fruits, nice acidity and mineral notes. I am a big fan of this bottling, which is juicy and easy to enjoy in its youth, somewhere between a Cru Beaujolais and a Crozes-Hermitage in style with blackberry, dark cherry and plum fruits along with a hint of dried flowers, cinnamon, anise and chalky stones. Some of the bigger wines from this area can take on a more dense, Cab Franc like character, but Perez’s wines are less heavy and give a more authentic Mencia profile with some rustic edges, but with an over abundance of charm. These Raul Perez wines, all made from organic grapes, are stylish efforts that showcase this region’s soils and climate, which is moderate and continental, a bit drier and warmer than the more coastal Ribeira Sacra and with more limestone and clay that gives the rich textural and deeper flavors. This medium bodied wine has loads of energy and fine tannins, making it wonderful with all kinds of foods, though it goes gracefully or better with more simple dishes, it is a nice companion to a range of hard cheeses, like Basque Idiazábal and or aged Manchego.

As noted in my prior reviews, the Raul Perez Ultreia Saint Jacques (mostly old vine Mencia) is multi vineyard old vine field blend style red from Bierzo’s Valtuille zone comes from vineyard plots ranging in age from 80 to 120 years old shows Mencia in a richer form than say the Ribeira Sacra, but includes inter-planted other varietals, including a small bit of Bastardo (believed to be Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet). As noted in my reviews and from what Perez has noted, he uses lots of whole bunches that keeps things well balanced and the fruit is contrasted by earthy, savory notes, bright spices and (crunchy) mineral elements. Raul Perez is a grand master of Mencia and the godfather of the Bierzo region with a huge impact on how this wine is seen world wide, clearly defining what it is and should be. His influence and generous guidance to young winemakers has launched a whole generation of Spanish talents with many on their way to super stardom. This Ulteia Saint Jacques is one of Perez’s entry level bottlings, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything lacking here, though his upper end cru stuff is out of this world. The Saint Jacques was about 80% whole cluster and fermented with indigenous yeasts in large wooden vats with maceration(s) lasting between two and five months, which is a long cool period, which adds to the dimension in this beautiful Tinto. The wine, after primary is then rack to an assortment of vessels to age with a combination of French casks including 225L, 500L, foudre and with some of the wine seeing its elevage in cement cuve, after which the Saint Jacques was bottled unfined and unfiltered. This vintage seems a touch lighter than the 2015, 2016 and 2017, but has a elegant roundness that is highly compelling, I recommend enjoying over the next 2 to 3 years.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 20, 2021

2018 Cullen Wines, Dancing in the Sun, White Wine, Margaret River, Western Australia.
The light and fresh Dancing in the Sun white wine by the famed Cullen Wines in the Margaret River is an all organic and unique blend of of 54% Semillon, 43% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Verdelho, it is an Aussie white Bordeaux like hybrid that is a delightful Summer quaffer. This is the first time tasting this blend, while I’ve loved their Sem/Sauv’s in the past, this Dancing in the Sun shows loads of bright lemony flavors and vibrant acidity with layers of citrus, tangy white peach, gooseberry and wild herbs along with wet stones, a touch of waxy apple and lingering lemon curd. The 2018 Cullen Wines Dancing in the Sun is vivid still and light to medium bodied with a nice balance of tart fruit and subtle textural creaminess that is starting to develop, it is more serious than the first impression and a wine that goes great with a range of cuisine, especially with lighter sea food dishes and goat cheese, as well as roast chicken breast. Vanya Cullen, who has been winemaking at her family’s Wilyabrup estate since 1983, and was appointed to Chief Winemaker in 1989, after which the world discovered just how good these Cullen Wines are. As Managing Director, which she rose to back in 1999, Vanya is a Bordeaux style specialist, crafting awesome Cabernet based wines as well as her white blends and if you haven’t tried these wines you really should.

One of the first premium estates of Margaret River area of Western Australia, Cullen Wines was established when the Cullen’s, Kevin and Diana, first planted vines in 1971 in the unique Wilyabrup area with its red ochre soils and up river Ocean influence. All of Cullen’s vines are certified biodynamic and were pioneers in this region with holistic farming and are even carbon negative, they are ultra sustainable and great stewards of their environment, all of which shows in their beautiful wines, especially the Bordeaux style reds and this lovely white. Wilybrup is a very noteworthy region in its own right, as evidenced in the Cullen efforts, all terroir driven with distinct flavors and its own climate, this place has been recognized as a world class zone, and notably when in 1999 Cullen Wines and Moss Wood, other fantastic estate here, held a sub region tasting event to celebrate the long history here and with a look to the future of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grown here, which predicted the greatnesses of the wines that have emerged since then. This Dancing in the Sun white wine with its Semillon, Sauvignon and Verdelho is a fun offering with beautiful crisp details, delicate florals and coastal saline, it delivers everything you’d want want in a white wine of this price, making it a wonderful value and shows off a region that is little known in the States.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 19, 2021

2019 I. Brand & Family Winery, Melon de Bourgogne, Graff Family Vineyard, Chalone AVA, Monterey County.
The unique quince, bitter melon, saline and stony, mineral laced Melon de Bourgogne by Ian Brand is an austere and low alcohol white wine that pays homage to the Atlantic influenced wines of Muscadet in the western Loire, but with a modern twist and flourish, in a wine that transforms into a real beauty with food, especially briny dishes, perking up the aromatics, the fruit and softening the racy acidity. As a Muscadet fan, especially the wines of Frederic Niger at Domaine de L’Ecu, which are tasty with classic oysters and soft cheeses, they are salty fresh and leesy, so it was interesting to see how Ian would approach this wine, clearly he did his magic here and this is delicious stuff. Brand, who was one of the first to realize that what we once thought was Pinot Blanc here at Chalone was actually Melon de Bourgogne, the grape of Muscadet fame, and while some chose to continue to label it as Pinot Blanc, others chose to embrace the true identity and take wine winemaking steps to exploit the grape’s natural character, with a few nicknaming it Melon de Chalone, which I think is most fitting as these vines (and wines from here) are certainly distinctly their own and terroir driven. As this crisply detailed white gets air through it it stubbornly gains its leesy, skin contact texture and reveals tart peach, lemony citrus, wet stone and chalk from the classic limestone soils, as well as a touch of sour herbs, almond oil and verbena. This is non overt wine, serious with a purpose and a wine that will gain a select following with the wine geek crowd and it is going to be more compelling for the anti-Chardonnayers. When asked about his Melon de Bourgogne, Ian, with his dry humor says “ I think it worked out…” That it did and now I might have get a few more bottles for oyster slurping!

Known for his exceptional work with Grenache and Mourvedre, Ian Brand is a noted vineyard whisperer, finding and rejuvenating some lesser known or forgotten gems on the Central Coast, preferring out of the way and remote places to source his grapes, making a fabulous collection of no nonsense wines that offer tremendous value and rarity, with his Enz Vineyard Mourvedre being a huge standout. Ian is mostly thought of as a red wine wine guy, but I have always liked a few of his whites, in particular his versions of Albarino, which his sells under his La Marea label, which under he does his Spanish influenced wines, including two Albarinos (one with partial skin contact) and his Sierra de Gredos inspired Garnacha like Central Coast Grenache. Recently Ian added a classy Escolle Chardonnay and this Graff Family Vineyard Melon de Bourgogne to his top lineup of I. Brand & Family wines, both very worthy of your attention. The Graff Family Vineyards label wines were in later years were made by Ian, but now have been folded into Ian’s signature collection with a 100% Syrah, and Rhone Red Blend and this Melon all finding a good home here in the latest lineup. The Graff Family Vineyard, run by Phil Woodward, who was a partner in the famous Chalone winery along with the late Richard Graff, one of California’s historic figures and was set up to provide a trust to Graff’s children with proceeds still going to the family. I collect Ian’s Grenache and Mourvedre, but I must say I am falling for his Loire inspired Melon, which its 11.2% natural alcohol zestiness and his Chinon like Bayly Ranch Cabernet Franc, with its earthy intense palate, don’t miss these! There is a lot to like in Brand’s wines from the playful Le P’tit Paysan line, with the Rosé and Chateaneuf blend delivering bang for the buck to his Bordeaux like Bates Ranch Cab Franc and Montebello Road Cabernet Sauvignon leading his top offers, it is a good time check out these tasty efforts.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 18, 2021

2016 Domaine Chambeyron, Cote-Rotie “La Chavarine” Northern Rhone, France.
The beautifully inky and elegantly textured La Chavarine by Chambeyron is a regal and luxurious Cote-Rotie with stunning Syrah purity, this is an outstanding wine that drinks amazing for being so youthful with supple tannins and remarkable depth of flavor. The Ampuis based Domaine Chambeyron, a solid performer in the appellation, really put everything together in their 2016s and this one really stands out with exceptional fruit density, mouth feel and a super long aftertaste with layers of blackberry, blueberry compote, damson plum, kirsch and creme de cassis which is nicely supported by subtle floral dimension, light peppercorn, fig paste and anise along with a touch of tapenade, cedar and a mineral/graphite note.

Offering some great value this Domaine does a tight collection of small production wines from Cote-Rotie as well as a Condrieu, plus a couple of entry level Cotes du Rhone bottlings, which I’m excited to try in the future, especially after tasting this gorgeous La Chavarine. The Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine is a special cuvee coming off estate parcels in two of the best sites, it is sourced from the decomposed granite soils of the two famous vineyards of La Chavaroche in the Côte Brune and Lancement in the Côte Blonde, both with a combined average age of 50 years. The La Chavarine is whole cluster pressed and fermented in cement vats with indigenous yeasts in Chambeyron’s gravity fed cellars where it was handled with extreme care, with a small basket press and was then raised in large 400L casks. This is deep purple/black, heady and lush Cote-Rotie that is a stunning value too, drink this gem over the next decade!
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive