2010 Montalbera, Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
This rare Piedmonte red is like drinking liquid roses and peppered strawberries with mountain herbs, lavender oil and tangy cherry. This once forgotten grape is enjoying an amazing re-birth of late with some fantastic vintages and wines showing up. Still only a handful of producers make Ruche, but the quality I’ve tried in the last few years has made me a believer in this varietal and especially good is this 2010 Montalbera Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, which is near to some sublime Barolo vineyards. This Montalbera really covers your senses with an overload of roses, rose petals, dried roses and rose oil and while perfumey to the extreme it works well with the savory herbs, spices and tangy fruits on the palate. This is one of the best Ruche wines I’ve tried and I recommend finding some and enjoy the lightness and unique qualities it has.
($16 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine des Comte Lafon, Monthelie-Les-Duresses Premier Cru, Red Burgundy.
I only had one bottle of this and I lost all sense of discipline when I opened it at dinner, well, lucky for me it opened up and flowed gracefully giving rapturous pleasure and smiles all round. Even if I should have kept this rare treat stashed away for many more years, the 2009 Lafon Monthelie drinks as beautiful as can be with lush round layers of silky and creamy fruit which smoothy caress the palate and linger on the finish. This lovable Premier Cru Bourgogne Rouge seems seamless and complete, but should gain in complexity over the next few years still. The Monthelie-Les-Duresses starts with a mix of wilted roses and violets with big mouth filling plum, cherry and raspberry fruit and hints of mocha and cranberry, this being the only note that gives a clue to the acidity in this plump Pinot. Of course Comte Lafon is legendary for their Meursault white Burgundy, though it is always a great catch when you find one of their amazing reds from Volnay or near by.
($55-70 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
2009 Corison, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
Cathy Corison’s 2009 Napa Cab is a stunning beautiful full of life, focus and very seductive with blueberry, cassis, licorice and black currant layers bursting from the glass. The nose starts with wild flowers, smoke and vanilla and the palate is rich, but not heavy with plum, blackberry and cherry fruit plus refined tannins and sublime detail. Complex sweet tobacco, cinnamon, mineral notes and cedar spice add interest to this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, which also should get better with age and fill out over the next few years in bottle. Corison’s 2009 is under 14% Alcohol and this does translate to a positive to the overall balance which is suburb and elegant while still being true to her style of firm structured wines. This is a wine you want from this vintage no question and a brilliant effort, don’t miss this one.
($70 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Secrets de Pignan” Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Red, France.
This fantastic Chateauneuf is utterly mind-blowingly good and while still a baby is remarkably easy to love now with layers and layers of rich, but detailed fruit. Yes, there is so much hype about the 2010 vintage in the southern Rhone, but I frankly must say it is all justified! These reds from Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape are without question the best in my lifetime and will certainly outlive me! I recommend stocking up on these wines, especially wines like this amazing Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Secrets de Pignan” which has just been released here in the USA, and is a steal for the quality and the shear pleasure it gives already. The nose is complex with a bouquet of violets, cassis and dark chocolate leading to a thickly textured palate of boysenberry, black cherry, plum and dark liqueur with licorice, lavender and pepper spices, plus stoney mineral notes and hints of game and garrigue. Nice acidity lifts the fruit and umami (saline/savory) adds interest to this wonderful wine that has a stunningly long finish.
($60 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2011 Diatom, Chardonnay “Hanna Shinobu” Sta. Rita Hills.
At 13.8% Alcohol the new “Hanna Shinobu” from Greg Brewer’s Diatom label is notably less heady as past versions of his Diatom wines, which have reached almost 16% at times and seemed rather severe, but this one really finds a nice balance. Brewer’s brave experiment in Chardonnay is impressive to taste and one can only admire his focus and commitment even if these wines are not to everyone’s taste, these pure no wood, no batonage Chardonnay’s are the ultimate extreme experience of terroir essence and a stark view of the naked grape itself. The new 2011 Diatom “Hanna Shinobu” is clear and vivid with tart green apple, lime and grapefruit zest with plenty of brisk acidity and steely minerality. The Hanna Shinobu opens with air to reveal lemon and fig notes, but stays edgy and feels razor sharp and vibrant. Best to enjoy this wine with soft cheeses and lighter seafoods plus raw Sushi grade yellow tail. Greg Brewer (Brewer-Clifton & Melville) has chosen a new path and created a new vision of Chardonnay that certainly challenges convention and is neither Burgundy/Chablis like or anything like California norms, making for an interesting choice and unique style wine that try to capture the true heart of the vineyard, a worth a try if you want something on the wild side.
($42 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
n.v. Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose, France.
It is nice when a classic gets even better, and that is my reaction to the latest release from Billecart of their famous delicately pink bubbly. The was a time a few years ago when I was not to thrilled by Billecart, it had seemed to become a tad tame and somewhat over priced, but the quality is back and the Brut Rose has more life and vibrancy, making for a very sleek and stylish sparkler. The Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose is vivid and fresh with tangy sour cherry, citrus and light strawberry notes with lots of mineral and doughy brioche. This version is playful and elegant with lots of brightness and vigor that dances on the palate with serious joy and hedonism. While not a bargain by any means, it is a pure and focused Champagne that pleases completely. The Billecart-Salmon Rose is made almost entirely of Chardonnay with the color, a pretty light salmon/pink hue, is from the addiction of still wine make exclusively Pinot Noir. This explains the richer details that come through on this well made Champagne and while I might not go for this sparker every time out it is great to know it is so good and it will be a good choice to consider for special occasions no question, Billy Rose is back in the game.
($85 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($68.95 Sale)
2009 Colleoni, Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscan Red, Italy.
Kermit Lynch’s prized new Italian producer from Montalcino is really living up to the hype and are proving to be the great new find for Brunello, but their “Baby Brunello” Rosso di Montalcino is a wonderfully rich and complex wine in it’s own right and deserves almost equal attention. At a recent Tuscan tasting, this Colleoni Rosso (Sangiovese Grossso, Montalcino) and the Montevertine (Mostly Sangiovese, from Radda in Chianti) stood out, and the level of concentration and depth on this 2009 Colleoni Rosso di Montalcino was utterly mind-blowing, as was the Burgundy like complexity and earthy nose. The Colleoni Rosso is full and creamy on the palate with vivid black cherry, plum and wild strawberry notes with cedar, blonde sweet tobacco leaf, truffle and anise plus a burst of acidity, mineral and herbal tea spiciness. This wine shows super refined tannins and lavish texture with a long finish that lingers with dried flowers and red currant fruit.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($42.95)
n.v. Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut “Sous Bois” France.
Billecart’s fantastic and dazzling “Sous Bois” Champagne is a special cuvee that is crafted like Krug and Vilmart with wood fermentation and raised in oak barrel giving much more depth and texture with an exotic appeal. The artisan touch on this sparkler shows with deft balance and vivid flavors that lean on apple and lemon fruits, toasty brioche and mineral notes. This blend of vintages, and blend of mostly Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and a little Pinot Meunier adds complexity and while it looks like you could age this beauty, it is a classy and decadent Champagne you can enjoy now. Without question this is great bubbly, and though I love their classic Brut Rose this is my favorite non-vintage Billecart by a wide margin.
($90 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2008 Domaine Meo-Camuzet, Vosne-Romanne AC, Red Burgundy, France.
One of my all time favorite producers, Meo-Camuzet, makes richly flavored, powerful Burgundy and I adore the classic earthy and darkly fruited wines even if I can’t hardly afford or find them very often, but I try to secure a few bottles for special occasions every year and this Vosne-Romanee is such a bottle. Opened to celebrate my mum’s birthday weekend, this 2008 Meo Vosne proved a fantastic choice and surprisingly graceful and silky all the way through, and this bottle has survived a few long car trips and bounces too, so it was all that much more remarkable as to have great it is tasting. The nose is ripe, intensely truffled and leads to a blackberry and dark cherry layered palate with lush smooth texture and lifted acidity that is much more subtle in the mouth than most 2008 Burgs and the finish is long and seductive as only a true Burgundy can be sometimes, especially a Cote de Nuits wine from this village. Meo’s Vosne-Romanee is forceful and vigorous on the palate with added touches of mineral rockiness, forest floor senates and saline savory spiciness as well as plum fruit and rose petals that come out with air. This is a stunning and joyful Pinot Noir that shines now and will give pleasure for another 4 to 6 years easy.
($N/A) 94 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Georges Vernay, Syrah “Fleur de Mai” Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhone Red, France.
Christine Vernay is one of the brightest stars in the Northern Rhone, she makes some of the greatest Condrieu there is and her Syrah based wines are a hit too. In recent years her fame has grown, and she has been consulting far and wide, including at the d’ Alessandro winery in Cortona Italy, but it is her beautiful home grown wine that I wish to tell you about, especially this amazing and textured Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes “Fleurs de Mai” from Syrah vines near Condrieu, coming off rocky hillside vines. The 2010 Fleur de Mai is beautifully detailed, perfumey and lush with vibrant fruit and elegant balance with good smooth tannins, acidity and mineral essence, while complex earthy truffle, black olive and game notes speak of terroir. The layers of blueberry, cherry and boysenberry fruits flow seamlessly across the palate with hints of licorice, meat, garrigue and lavender as well. You could compare this jewel to many Cote-Rotie or Saint-Joseph wines at two or three times the price. Search this one out if you love Syrah, it is a true classic and one to enjoy young, and often!
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive