Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 6, 2021

Latest Review

2019 Ruth Lewandowski Wines, Boaz Red, Testa Vineyard – Zero, Mendocino County.
The alluring and deep colored Boaz Red is made from old vine Carignan, mostly, plus some very old vine Grenache and good dose of what Evan Lewandowski, the natural winemaker his Ruth Lewandowski Wines calls the sexiest Cabernet Sauvignon (fruit) he’s seen, all from Mendocino’s organically farmed Testa Vineyard, a real hot spot for exceptional Carignan, which drives this outstanding red blend. The Carignan is all from vines close to 100 years old and its just awesome here in this wine with loads of blue and black fruit, touches of spice, loamy earth and beautiful floral notes. The Testa Vineyard, a sixth generation family run site, has been farmed since 1912 and is close to Ukiah in the Redwood Valley area of Mendocino County, and is set on a combination of sandy loams, alluvial deposits and sedimentary (rocky) soils. This Boaz really impresses with its 76% Carignan, the 13% of Cabernet Sauvignon and its 9% Grenache all playing influential roles here, it reminds me a little of Maxime Magnon’s awesome Corbieres and even a bit of Laurent Vaillé’s famous Grange des Pere, which is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Mourvèdre, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Counoise! This Boaz goes extremely well with robust foods and simple meat dishes as well as woodsy wild mushrooms, hard cheeses and roast chicken over bitter greens.

Evan says his Boaz is from three parcels off the Testa Ranch and are picked together and co-fermented using 100% whole cluster and native yeasts without additions and or added SO2, all to produce a natural style wine, but one with a burly intensity, rich fruit density and with the nice acidity of this vintage, this is wonderfully balanced and laser focused with a structure that age. Lewandowski says to make his wines, everything is done to make them in the vineyard and concentrates on getting ripe and health grapes, so his job in the cellar can be as low intervention as possible and he adds that this is all started with healthy soils and holistic care in the vines. He is one of the most precise in his handling of the fruit, no short cuts and everything in the winemaking is clean and meticulously cared for, all of which shows in these wines, especially this robust and expressive Boaz, maybe my favorite of Evan’s lineup, certainly in this vintage it is. This wine is label Zero, as a reference to the fact that there was absolutely no added sulfites at any stage of the winemaking, nor at bottling, which was done unfined and unfiltered. If you are looking for what California natural wine can be, this one is a must, it is a killer bottle that opens nicely, when the tannins settle, with black raspberry, dark currant and kirsch along with anise, cinnamon and herbs de Provence, brilliant stuff.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 5, 2021

Latest Review

2018 Sheldon Wines, Graciano, Luc’s Vineyard, Fountaingrove AVA, Sonoma County.
Dylan and Tobe Sheldon have been exploring the rare Graciano grape since the early 2000s, an ancient and obscure varietal, found in Rioja mostly, but it is also known as Tintilla and grown as far away as the Canary Islands and in the flaky white soils of the Sherry region in Jerez, and have been making some of the most compelling versions of this varietal in California, like this gorgeous 2018, a wine I have been sitting at their advice to allow it to fully develop, which it has, making it an absolute joy in the glass. I reviewed the 2019 and loved it, but this wine, from a similar vintage, has a deeper perfume with a bouquet of peony, lavender and lilacs lifting from this dark violet/magenta and ruby colored wine along with spiced berries and subtle minty herbs before leading to a medium bodied palate of silky black fruits including vine picked forrest huckleberry, plum, strawberry and Italian cherries along with a touch of earth, dusty cinnamon, an echo of florals, a iron/mineral element and a faint cedary note. The aromatics are so captivating at this stage it is hard to keep your core away from the rim to soak in all of this beauty which compares well to a morning walk in the flower garden when the smells are completely seducing and at their most intense and the textural feel is fabulous in a wine without any heaviness, it has the sensation I sometimes and hope to find in Vosne-Romanee wines, a heavenly sense of seamless balance and lengthy after taste, this 2018 Sheldon Graciano is addictive and wildly delicious. As I noted recently, the Sheldon Graciano joins a celebration of obscurity along with Luke Nio’s Filomena St. Laurent, Arnot-Roberts’ Trousseau, Michael Cruse’s Tannat, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, to name a few fun and rare offerings from lesser known grapes in California.

The small basket pressed Sheldon Graciano was hand harvested from the tiny Luc’s Vineyard in the Fountaingrove AVA, of Sonoma County, not far from Healdsburg, and fermented slowly in ½ ton open top bins, using whole bunches and indigenous yeasts resulting in a naturally lower alcohol, light to medium bodied red wine with heightened aromatics, plus a spicy pop and a divine textural quality. A effort was made to keep everything nicely fresh, starting with the grapes coming in ripe, but at a bit lower Brix (sugars) and the fermentation was kept cool to ensure all the striking details were preserved and no new wood was used, only well seasoned French Burgundy barrels were used in this Graciano’s elevage, which usually lasts about 12 months. This Sheldon Graciano, comes from a small home vineyard on the cool rocky hillsides between Healdsburg and the Chalk Hill district in the newly formed AVA of Fountaingrove where the Sheldon’s get small amounts of Tempranillo, Grenache and Syrah as well, all of which, especially this Graciano, are tasty and aromatic expressions that are impeccably hand made, with these 2018s being outstanding offerings. Graciano, which is usually blended with Tempranillo in Rioja wines, can be a great solo varietal and as mentioned here, has been gaining traction in California, with some newer plantings coming online in Paso Robles, where the grape thrives, even in some unlikely blends, on the westside’s limestone soils, interestingly some of these vines were a mistake, as they were supposed to be a new Monastrell clone of Mourvedre, but happily they are being embraced by the growers and winemakers there, as well as being grown in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley areas as well, notably by Verdad winery. There is a lot to love in Sheldon’s lineup these days and highly get on this micro winery’s mailing list and be sure to check out their Sangiovese, Grenache and this Graciano while they are still available!
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 4, 2021

2019 Cameron Winery, Pinot Blanc “Giannani” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Fast becoming one of my favorite white wines in Oregon, the Cameron Giovanni made exclusively from Pinot Blanc delivers smooth layers of apple driven fruits, brisk citrus, peach flesh, mineral tones, wet stone, as well as a touch of honey, herbs and white flowers. This vintage is zesty and has a bit more acidity than the last two of three versions and feels a touch lighter in style, but still very compelling and gains a nice textural form with air, it shines for its varietal character and freshness, making it a good Summer white and impeccable with a range of food and cuisine choices, including creamy soft cheeses, shell fish and herb crusted or lemon chicken dishes. As I have been saying for a while now, Pinot Blanc is becoming one of the best white grape expressions in Oregon, especially this one, as well as the very stylish versions crafted by Ken Wright and the talented Kelley Fox, both of which come from the coastal range side of the Willamette Valley, like the famed Freedom Hill Vineyard on marine sedimentary soils, while Cameron’s comes from the red hills of Dundee on the classic volcanic Jory soils, that gives a unique individual character with a touch of spice and that mineral streak.

The Cameron Pinot Bianco (Blanc) or “Giovanni” as winemaker John Paul calls it, is fermented in cool stainless steel tanks, which the winery notes, typically is from 3 different lots of estate grown grapes that are from non irrigated vines with appropriately chosen cultures of aromatic yeasts, and bottled early after a short 6 to 8 months in its exuberant youth, to preserve vitality, usually in the early Spring, after harvest. John Paul, who’s Cameron Winery is one of best known and admired Pinot Noir producers in the Dundee Hills AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, has been influenced and inspired by the winemakers of northern Italy, especially the wines of Friuli, Alto Adige and Piedmonte regions. In this case he brings a little bit of the Dolomites to us with his Giovanni, it shows the beautiful crisp details and mineral charm of some the top producers there, like Manincor and Terlano. The Italian style lineup at Cameron (what they call Cameronis) includes a fabulous Nebbiolo, that will certainly surprise and impress the Barolo and Barbaresco drinkers out there with its purity and classic Langhe personality, plus a collection of whites, including this 100% Pinot Blanc and the Friuli style Fruliano blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianc, Pinot Grigio and Auxerrois along with a small touch of Moscato, as well as the skin contact “Ramato” coppery Pinot Grigio. All of these are fantastic values and intriguing wines.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 3, 2021

Latest Review

2018 Hundred Suns, Grenache, Elephant Mountain Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington State.
Grant Coulter and Rene Saint-Amour’s Hundred Suns winery, based in McMinnville, is one of the most exciting labels in Oregon these days and while Grant’s experience with Beaux Freres, as head winemaker, makes him a top gun in Pinot Noir, he also made their rare estate Grenache, which I was lucky enough to have tasted and had bottles of when I first met him at Beaux Freres back in 2008, so it was exciting to see his new take on Grenache with his own Hundred Suns, which is sourced from Elephant Mountain in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. This 2018 is a thrill ride of unique layers of energy filled red fruits and a feral earthy/savory edginess, it reminds me of the first time I tasted Christophe Barron’s Cayuse, No Girls and Horsepower Grenache wines, it is really an amazing wine with a full bodied palate and is texturally sublime, all accented by a racy array of spices, floral details and tangy herbs. There is a cascade of black plum, pomegranate, loads of strawberry and brambly raspberry fruits along with touches of briar, pepper, shaved cinnamon stick, kirsch, minty notes, cedar and warm roof tiles. Grenache freaks will go absolutely orgasmic for this dark ruby hued wine, it is an incredible version of this grape that will appeal to those that love some of rarities, it is more like what you would find in the Sierra de Gredos, rather that in the Rhone Valley, but with its own intriguing twist of character and with a singular charm.

This Hundred Suns Grenache comes from the Warden silty loam soils of Yakima’s Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills, set at good elevation and seeing a big swing in day and night temps here, allowing for beautiful fruit density and ripeness, but with good natural acidity and freshness, which Coulter really achieved here in his 2018 vintage, a long and cooler than average growing cycle. This stuff has 14.2% natural alcohol and feels wonderfully balanced with a pleasure inducing warm mouth feel that is elegantly silken without losing its vivid and lively personality. Grant took great care and put a lot of thought into this Grenache and he went with 100% whole cluster and a hybrid carbonic maceration in a sealed small fermentor, then after 20 days the still intact berries and clusters are pressed and allows to go through spontaneous indigenous (yeast) fermentation, after which it saw 12 months in terra-cotta amphora and then another five months in neutral french oak before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. All of this pain staking hand crafted technique pays off in the way this complex wine shows off in the glass and gives this impressive Grenache its distinction and makes it ever more alluring and seductive, it is especially good with food, where it deepens and gains a more profound impact and fruit truly excels. Sadly this 2018 Grenache is hard wine to find, I certainly wished I had bought a few more bottles, a mistake I didn’t make on their extremely limited Space Cat Rosé. The latest set of Hundred Suns is an impeccable collection of wines, with the Pinots and the Gamay from the 2019 vintage being unmissable and remarkable values, in particular the Old Eight Cut and the single vineyard Sequitur and Shea offerings!
($40 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 2, 2021

2019 Nanclares y Prieto, Albarino, Dandelion, Rias Baixas DO, Galicia, Spain.
Always a treat and a tasty one, the Nanclares Albarino Dandelion 2019 delivers a vibrant crisp apple led light bodied palate with zesty lime and light spritz, making so good with briny sea foods like sardines and or mackerel as well as oysters and claims too. There is a hint of saline, crushed wet rock and steely mineral, all of which give this vintage a nice contrast and it is very compelling, though less densely complex as the upper end Crus and the estate bottling that see more lees aging. That said, this little wine delivers everything it promises and is a fantastic value. As I have mentioned many times, Alberto Nanclares, based in the Cambados, started in the mid nineties just tending a vineyard in his semi retirement home as a hobby is now one of the greatest producers of fine Albariño in Galicia’s famous Rias Baixas region crafting an awesome set of single vineyard versions as well as his regional Dandelion cuvee and this outstanding example, known as the “Alberto Nanclares” or sometimes referred to as the “Estate” with the grapes all coming from the Val do Salnés sub zone. Nanclares brought the talented Silvia Prieto on board a few years ago now and has gone from strength to strength with her energy and commitment helping lift this label to new heights and expanding the range of wines with the additions of a few red wines, including an elegant and complex Mencia from grapes coming from the Ribeira Sacra.

The Nanclares y Prieto winery is now all organic and has added some biodynamiques to their practices, even employing compost from collect seaweed from the near by Atlantic Ocean, all which proves their dedication, in this humid region that is terribly difficult to farm without convention methods. But, the wines have really benefited from this extraordinary effort and they are unbelievably compelling wines, especially this one which saw natural winemaking in the cellar with only a tiny dose of sulfur and native yeast fermentation with no malos and 90% stainless steel and 10% used French oak cask being used here. The Dandelion cuvee, as noted in my prior reviews, is the freshest and most fruit forward of Nanclares’ Albarino(s) coming from 30 to 60 year old vines near Val do Salnés grown on sand and granite soils, right at sea level with locally historic pergola training. The organic grown Dandelion is fermented with native yeast, naturally, in stainless steel with no malo and bottled unfined and unfiltered allowing the complete capture of every nuance and terroir elements. Nanclares y Prieto, led by the humble and hard working Alberto Nanclares and his youthful and talented partner Silvia Prieto are one of best producers and super stars from the Cambados area of the Rias Baixas region. The Nanclares wines are all made from organic grapes and show the cool Atlantic influences. If you’ve not had these Nanclares y Prieto wines, you need really should, they are some of the most delicious being made in the Rias Baixas!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day May 1, 2021

2018 Felsina, Chianti Classico DOCG, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Tuscany, Italy.
Sitting in between the amazing 2016 and the pretty and fresh 2017 vintages in style, the 2018 Felsina Chianti Classico is a solid effort with many attractive features and is lovely with food with classic Felsina Sangiovese density and purity, it shows a ripe smooth palate of red berry fruits, spice, dried flowers, a subtle earthiness and lingering kirsch notes. This vintage gives plenty for the money, but just doesn’t excite the senses as much as the last two versions, though its still very charming, again especially with a meal, it won’t take center stage or draw a lot of attention, it is more a companion, rather than a stand out. The 2018 gets better with air and ends on a high note with layers of plum, raspberry, strawberry and mulberry coming through along with grainy tobacco leaf, silky tannins, mocha/toffee, minty herb, licorice and a faint cedary note. This invitingly deeply crimson/garnet hued wine, always a favorite and a go to when I want some Tuscany or Sangiovese in my life, usually when I make pasta, as I did last night, it reminds me of driving through Chianti Classico’s beautiful hillsides with its old growth forrest, castles and sloping vines that capture the amazing light that makes this place so remarkable, it is like a magical kingdom, from Florence to Siena.

The Felsina Chianti Classico, 100% Sangiovese, was fermented and macerated in stainless steel tanks for almost two weeks with pneumatic (programmed) punchdowns and daily pump-overs. Once primary fermentation was complete the wine went into medium-size Slavonian oak barrels, and a small percentage into twice and thrice used oak barrels for 12 months of elevage, after which the final blend was chosen, or put together, and then bottled. As noted here many times, this wine comes from vineyards, as the winery notes, that are all located in the Castelnuovo Berardenga commune, in the southeastern part of the Chianti Classico appellation, as noted, to the southeast of Siena. Almost without exception, these vines are exclusively with a southwestern exposure, that delivers full ripeness, they sprawl across hilly slopes at an altitude ranging from 320-420 meters above sea level that allows a night time chill even in the heat of Summer, making for balanced and expressive Sangiovese. Geologically, again as the winery adds, these vineyards have distinct and individual underpinnings with an array of soils, with the higher parts seeing predominantly quartz and calcareous alberese mixed with alluvial pebbles as well as strataform sandstone and loams that add to the overall quality and complexity in Felsina’s lineup. I high recommend grabbing all the 2016s from Felsina you can find, this wine, plus the top Crus, Rancia and the Fontalloro and the Riserva Black label, that said, this 2018 won’t disappoint either.
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 30, 2021

2019 Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie “Cuvee Tardive” Cru Beaujolais, France.
One of Beaujolais’ most classic producers, the Clos de la Roilette in Fleurie, run by Alain and Alexis Coudert, is a small estate that made traditional wines of old vine concentration, texture and complexity, but that are always wonderfully delicious with a bit of raw earthiness along with the granite influenced mineral tones. This 2019 Cuvee Tardive is beautifully round and silken with pretty floral detail, dark berry fruit and hints of spice, leather and walnut wood, the opulent and ripe medium bodied palate delivers crushed blackberry, plum, strawberry and kirsch as well as touches of cinnamon, anise, rose oil and orange tea. I loved the depth of fruit and ease of drinkability here, this is a fine example of elegant and pure Gamay from Fleurie, though these vines in particular are close to Moulin A Vent and have that Cru’s influence and muscle tone, it is really enthralling now, but looks to have substance and structure to age with studied evolution and grace. The deep garnet and ruby hued Tradive is really appealing and gets more and more interesting in the glass with its pure Gamay charm bringing many happy smiles, it is a tasty treat and a top value still in a world of ever increasing demand for these Fleurie and Cru Beaujolais wines and rising prices.

The Clos de la Roillette, is in fact not a “Clos” or walled vineyard (estate) and this Cuvee Tardive, is not a later picked wine, so the label is a bit misleading, though neither takes away from the pleasure in the bottle! This wine, the Cuvée Tardive, is always crafted using the estate’s oldest vines, which are now 80 plus years old, set on the heavy clay and granite soils, again just inside the Fleurie zone with a cooler northeast exposures, which allows this wine to preserve its fresh and lively acidity. The domaine Clos de la Roilette got its name from the prior owner’s prized race horse Roilette and the iconic yellow horse label remains a big part of this estate’s identity. Clos de la Roilette has been around more than a hundred years, but it was in serious decline and most of the vines had gone feral when the Couderts took it over in 1967, and after a lot of hardwork, they turned things around and have especially flourished under the guidance of Alain, who after joining the winegrowing team in 1984 turned the property into one of the region’s most admired producers. The Cuvee Tardive is 100% whole cluster with a spontaneous native yeast primary fermentation, it is done in open-top, neutral wood vats with, as the winery notes, the cap submerged for an extended maceration, that lasts for Tardive about 18 days. The aging or elevage is on the lees in old foudres, typically it is raised about 9 months in the wood before bottling with low SO2. These Clos de la Roilette wines are very authentic and joyful offerings, and these 2019s are exceptional, especially this attractive Cuvee Tardive.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 29, 2021

2020 Pax Wines, Charbono, Lushsinger Vineyard, Lake County.
The fresh new Luchsinger Vineyard Charbono is vividly electric purple and tangy on the palate, made with 100% whole cluster and indigenous yeasts, it is a semi carbonic easy drinking red wine that shows a fun mix of bright blackberry, açaí and tart plum fruits and crunchy savory elements, mineral tones, floral detail, wild herbs and zesty acidity. This Glou Glou (quaffable) low alcohol Charbono was aged for just 5 months in large, well seasoned, French 500L puncheons to allow for a bit of leesy texture, but to preserve all of the vibrantl youthful form, it is like a California Cru Beaujolais and fans of Valdiguie will love this stuff that clocks in at about 12% natural alcohol, it is best enjoyed with a slight chill and simple foods. As the winery notes, Charbono, as it is known as in California is also known as Bonarda in Argentina, and thought to be originally from northern Italy, plus Douce Noire in France’s high alpine region of Savoie. This rare varietal has been here since at least just before WWII and was once highly planted in Napa Valley, and Pax says Charbono has a storied place in the history of California wine with styles over the years that have ranged from medium-bodied and snappy, as his version is done to richly extracted, almost Zinfandel like, and aged in flashy new oak barrels, as done by Toffanelli, one of the last to make in Napa from old vines in the Calistoga area. My first experience with Charbono came about by ancient, when I grabbed a bottle of Turley Charbono (ages ago now) thinking it was one of their Zins, and wow, I had to get more and went on a Charbono finding mission, finding a disappointing amount of options, but tasty ones, like Summers, at the time in the remote area between Napa and Knights Valley, so I was glad when Pax turned his talents to this remarkable grape a few years ago.

Pax Wines was founded back in 2000 by Pax and Pamela Mahle, this small California winery made a name for themselves with a stellar lineup of truly profound Syrah bottlings and helped start a wave of modern Rhone wines along side Copain, Big Basin and Drew to name a few and inspired many young winemakers, now Pax focuses on Syrah (still) and Gamay Noir from cool, coastal sites, as well as a selection of esoteric varieties, like this Charbono, Trousseau, Trousseau Gris and the Mission grape that showcase, as he puts it, the great diversity of California wine. From the vineyard to the cellar, Pax has become a proponent of natural wines and uses a holistic style of winemaking. This, Pax adds, means that all the fruit is grown using organic, sustainable, or biodynamic methods and no unnatural additions are applied in the winery, which all adds up to transparency and purity in the wines, which are more raw, much less polished than mainstream wines and they filled with their own personality, as his latest set of releases shows. This Pax Charbono is one of the first 2020 red California wines I’ve tried, and while nervous about smoke taint, this one shows no ill effects and is enjoyable I wish I had bought a lot more, and I’m really excited to try the rest of new wines, especially a brand new single varietal Freisa, the rare Piedmonte grape that smells and tastes of fresh picked strawberries and made famous in recent years by G.D. Vajra, who make one of the most impactful examples I’ve ever tried. After tasting Jolie-Laide’s version, I look forward to comparing it to Pax’s and of course I am equally geared up to try the latest Syrah and Gamay offerings as well, in these last few vintages there is so much to be thrilled about from this Sebastopol based winery and it is a great time to stock up, and or join Pax’s wine club, as they get first shot at these, moon phase label, value priced rarities!
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 28, 2021

2018 René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Northern Rhone, France.
The deeply purple and fresh 2018 edition of René-Jean Dard’s and François Ribo’s iconic natural wine styled Crozes-Hermitage is another no pretense and rawly delicious Syrah, it is always a wine to be thrilled to drink, and this vintage is everything fans of this small producer enjoy, it shows a pure and transparent medium bodied palate of classic earthy character with crushed violets, dark boysenberry, damson plum, black currant and kirsch fruits along with tapenade, peppercorns, a light Syrah funk, damp earth, flinty camphor, cedar and tarry black licorice. Not as dense in form as the warmer and ripe 2015, 2016 and 2017s, this 2018 is an energetic, fun and easy quaffer that might be a more entertaining wine in its youth, while the fruit is vibrant and nicely juicy still before the rougher edges, rustic details and a hint volatile acidity get more pronounced, these elements are well integrated now and add to the Dard and Ribo Crozes’ charm and complexity in their current state. This is a wonderfully delicious Syrah that absolutely could not be from anywhere else, it wears its terroir as a badge of honor and I wouldn’t change a thing here, it is a wine I could literally could drink almost everyday. Dard and Ribo have become one of the labels I covet and have become one of my rotation from the Northern Rhone along with Alain and Maxime Graillot, G. Gilles, Lionnet, Yves Cuilleron and Louis Barruol’s Sant-Joseph and Crozes Saint-Cosme bottlings, to name a few.

René-Jean Dard and François Ribo, who produce some of the most sought after natural Syrahs, are famously media shy and hermit like vignerons from Mercurol, north of Valence, founded their tiny Northern Rhone estate in 1984 with a small cellar and micro parcels of vines and a focus on non intervention wines. These humble winemakers, that have adult like following, are mostly known for the their reasonably priced Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph reds, also do a micro bottling of their “unicorn” Hermitage, which I have never seen available in California, as well as a nouveau style early release C’est le Printemps Crozes-Hermitage, a wine I reviewed at the beginning of the Covid lockdown last March, and not too far off the quality of its bigger brother, plus a Blanc made from Marsanne and Roussanne. As reported in my earlier reviews, the Dard and Ribo Crozes-Hermitage vines are all from organic plots, farmed without chemicals, mostly hillside, set on iron rich red clay soils with gravel and alluvial stones scattered throughout the vines, which give these wines true terroir character and this 2018 vintage shows the classic markers that this region is known for. Made with native yeasts and whole bunches with minimal intervention, Dard and Ribo commonly don’t use any sulphites (added sulfur) at all, although they are not driven by extreme dogma and really just want to make wines they themselves would enjoy without doing anything or thought toward anyone else’s expectations. With the following they have these Dard and Ribo wines take a bit of chasing, but the hunt is well worth it and rewarding.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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