Monthly Archives: March 2014

Grapelive Special Report: The Santa Lucia Highlands

Catching up with the Santa Lucia Highlands
By Kerry Winslow

Grapes at Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands

Grapes at Pisoni Estate, Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey’s most acclaimed wine area, sits on a bench land above the Salinas River, it is a cool climate region affected by cool breezes and fog sucked down the valley from Monterey Bay. Monterey’s deep cold water canyon makes for consistent weather patterns and a long growing season in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, though an argument for Syrah continues to brew here and it’s promising results since 2004 almost eclipse the epic results for Pinot Noir. The Santa Lucia Highlands leading lights remain the Pisoni and Franscioni families vineyards, these includes the famous Pisoni Vineyard, Garys’ Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard and their newer sites Soberanes and Sierra Mar Vineyards, all of which surely could be considered Cru vineyards if not Grand Cru, as Robert Parker called Pisoni and Garys’ a few years back in his reviews in The Wine advocate. Being from just over the hills in  Carmel Valley, I certainly view the Highlands as my home team and having worked there and being involved in many insider events there I feel I have the experience to give a little insight into the currant and up coming releases from this remarkable region. At a recent trade tasting for the Santa Lucia Highlands I caught up with many friends and producers and had a chance to further my own knowledge and sample the latest set of wines.

Jeff Pisoni, Kerry Winslow & Gary Pisoni

Jeff Pisoni, Kerry Winslow & Gary Pisoni

What follows is a quick look at some terrific wines that I highly recommend and that are setting the standard for the SLH region, as per normal the Pinot Noirs lead the way, though as mentioned, Syrah is vastly underrated here and maybe the best value of the red wines. On a sobering note, I was very disappointed with the Chardonnay releases on the whole, what is going on? I will say both Roar and Lucia (Pisoni) put out suburb Chards in 2012, but most of the 20 or so from well regarded producers underwhelmed and in some cases were downright awful, there seemed to be a veggie theme or an over sweet style that repeated way to often, it was an eye opener no question. The whites as whole just didn’t excite and were way off quality wise from where I would have expected, though there was some exceptions including a few Pinot Gris wines and Rhone whites, but maybe the best of the whites was the Nacina Riesling by Tudor, this was maybe the biggest surprise, even though there has over the decades been some nice plots of Riesling found in the Santa Lucia Highlands. In summary, Pinot Noir is your go to Santa Lucia Highlands wine, but be sure to check out the Syrah, and be very selective on the Chardonnay in 2012, I hope it was just an abnormal blip and we’ll see Chardonnay again show it’s true potential again in the 2013 vintage. The Santa Lucia Highlands is remote and mysterious and sadly not all that accessible to wine enthusiasts to explore or tour, but it remains one of California’s best appellations and is close attractions like the wondrous Monterey Bay, the quaint and sleepy Carmel-by-the Sea, and the beautifully rugged Big Sur coastline, which is not too bad at all.

The latest SLH wines

Pinot Noir
The region’s star varietal and the wine that put the area on the world stage, Pinot Noir makes a richly flavored and generous style with a dark hue and density, these are full force Pinots. While they may lack the delicacy of the Sonoma Coast, these wines offer layers of fruit and still have good acidity with the best giving hedonistic pleasure and length. In recent vintages there has been a toning down of ripeness and use of new wood, but still leaving the soul of the place intact. There are a number of promising wines emerging, but I am not thrilled by the arrogant pricing, I am shocked that unheard of labels are asking over $60 for a non single vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot, and while some of these wines are interesting and well made, they don’t deserve mentioning here. Here are the wines that have star quality and or a great track record, again the Pisoni family look to be the leaders in region, though the other wines list here are wonderful examples. Others of note, Siduri continues to make some of the best SLH wines, with fruit coming from all of the Pisoni farmed sites, Adam Lee was one of the first to showcase the regions Pinot, then there is Kosta Browne and new comers Black Kite making some serious stuff.

2012LuciaPNSoberanes2012 Lucia, Pinot Noir, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The newest vineyard in the Cru class is the Santa Lucia Highlands is the Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard, this site has massive potential and could even eclipse the more established sites, this is going to be exciting to follow over the next few years. The latest wines from Jeff Pisoni, the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah all look impressive, the 2012 vintage is set to match 2007 or 2009 in quality. The Soberanes is planted to the best clones and has all the history and excellence learned and proven over the last two decades, again this is a special place and the vines are already giving a peek into their future here with a great set of wines, even from these young vines, especially this Pisoni Clone Pinot Noir from Lucia. The 2012 shows more depth, density and finesse than the prior wines from this site, I think the proof is in the pudding, the Soberanes Pinot is beautiful and wonderfully detailed, refined and lush. The nose has classic Santa Lucia Highlands dark fruits, briar and floral array, leading to a palate of well defined cherry, plum and blackberry fruits with hints of mineral, gravelly stones, wild herbs, cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of smoky wood. This is really good and lavish Pinot Noir with smooth texture, a touch of vibrant acidity and underlying spiciness, there is also a hint of saline, licorice and lingering strawberry, drink over the next 4 to 6 years.
($53 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012AugustWestRosellasPN2012 August West, Pinot Noir, Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Ed Kurtzman’s latest August West Rosella’s follows in his tradition of fruit forward, unfiltered wines and reminds of his brilliant efforts in the past with Roar, and since he is no longer making Roar, this label is getting more quality attention. His 2011 scored 92 in Parker’s Wine Advocate and certainly this vintage is considerably better in all areas with rich density and deeper complexity. This is pure Rosella’s with dark fruits, spice, mineral and lush texture showing this Cru vineyard in it’s best light with black cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits, hints of savory herbs, game and sweet smoky wood. This vintage of Rosella’s is full and polished with good grip, silky ripe tannins and juicy freshness, this is a delicious effort.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2010MiuraPisoni2010 Miura, Pinot Noir, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Miura’s Emmanuel Kemiji was one of the first high profile Master Sommelier to turn vintner, now you have your Rajat Parr MS at Sandhi and Evening Land and Sarah Floyd MS with Luli, and a few others. Kemiji’s wines have always a great mix of talent and terroir, especially his Miura Pisoni and Garys’ Pinots, but he also makes a sublime set of Spanish wines and I have always loved his Syrah wines that are made under his Antiqv2s label, these also have fruit sourced from Pisoni and Garys’ Vineyards. Emmanuel Kemiji’s membership to the Court of Master Sommeliers has made him shy on wanting full flavored and rich wines, all the wines he produces are lavish and showy wines, but they are certainly balanced and in my own experience age well, I recently uncovered a few Miura and Antiqv2s wines from 2001 and 2002 in my cellar and found them extremely beautiful and vibrantly fresh. I’ve been lucky to have had Miura, and Kemiji’s other wines since he first started, and he has always had the talents of Byron Kosuge as his consulting winemaker, this consistency and the access to great fruit has always been a major plus, these are wonderful wines. Emmanuel and Siduri’s Adam Lee where two of the first clients of the famed Pisoni Vineyard and were among an elite set of vintners to get these grapes, they also helped convince Gary Pisoni to make his own wines. The Miura 2010 Pinots are both terrific and classic wines from these two Cru sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Pisoni might have the edge early, but the Garys’ is also a stunner. The Miura Pisoni starts with a heady nose of fruit, flowers, earth and mineral with violets, cassis and bramble leading to a glorious palate of blackberry, plum, raspberry and a dense core of black cherry fruit along with smoky oak notes, briar, cinnamon stick, wild herbs, anise and loamy truffle notes. This wine is deep and packed with layers of detail and flavor, still vivid, tight and lively with vitality and vigor, good acidity, silky tannins and a long hedonistic finish all make for a perfectly delicious Pinot Noir of class and distinction, in a pure Pisoni charmer, flamboyant, but without question a gorgeous wine. Drink this rewarding Pinot over the next decade, best from 2016 to 2022.
($63 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2010MiuraGarys2010 Miura, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The 2010 Miura Garys’ is more restrained, intense and brooding than the flamboyant Pisoni at this stage, but I wouldn’t bet against this one from turning the tables on it’s bother in a few years, everything is there to blossom and develop into a stunner itself. The more generous Pisoni might have it’s day now, but there is a lot to love here too, this Miura Garys’ Pinot shows darker fruit, more acidity and a slightly less ripeness, though it does open up in the glass and fills out magnificently on the palate with rich fruit and clear detail, while the nose is shy it still has plenty to offer as well with hints of rose petal, violets and tea spices along with toasty oak and mocha. The raspberry, cherry and plum fruits are lifted by acidity and silky tannins, though there is a lush and dense mouth feel that shines through and this is rich wine from start to finish. Background notes of wild strawberry, licorice, forest mushrooms and a hint of game add complexity, give another couple of years to unfold for the best rewards, I’m sure this will continue to improve and intrigue over the next 3 to 5 years, and clearly this Pinot Noir has seductive charms not to be missed now and in the future.
($63 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

2012RoarPNSLH2012 Roar, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
From select blocks of Rosella’s, Garys’ and Sierra Mar comes the pretty and easy to fall in love with Roar SLH cuvee, which is a fantastic wine and has be considered one of the best values in the region. The blend of vineyards is a plus, and of course coming from some of the most prized sites in California, let alone in the Santa Lucia Highlands, this is no ordinary entry level wine! In the past this wine has even included some Pisoni fruit and it still might, but even without it, this is great stuff. This is one of the last Roar releases that was fashioned by Ed Kurtzman, he led Roar, after Adam Lee of Siduri, from 2007 to 2012 and will be missed, though the transition to new winemaker Scott Shapley looks to have gone very smoothly and all parties are moving happily ahead. The 2012 is more plush than 2011 or 2010, but the style is very consistent with the past with beautiful silky texture, unfiltered transparency and round full flavors. The nose is graced with red fruits, mocha and spicy elements leading to a palate of raspberry, cherry and plum fruits with hints of vanilla, peppercorns, briar and anise with hints of smoke, mineral and earth. This wine is vivacious and will drink nicely for next 4 or so years.
($40 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

My dark horse grape here, these wines are really on a roll, the Lucia, Cattleya, Antiqv2s by Miura and even the Wrath show what this varietal can do, these wines are exciting, rich and throughly rewarding. This region gives color and depth as well as cool climate refinement with vibrant acidity and northern Rhone flavor profiles in most vintages. The Roar and Lucia wines from 2004 and 2006 were major breakthrough vintages for Syrah in the region, in fact I think they surpassed the Pinots those years. The top sites in the SLH are Pisoni (Susan’s Hill), Garys’, Rosella’s, Soberanes, Paraiso and KW Ranch, formerly known as Fairview Ranch. These wines are often much less than the Pinot Noir, so they make for savvy choices for those that want stylish SLH wines. Don’t forget to check out Siduri’s Novy label for super sexy SLH Syrah as well!

2012LuciaSyrahSoberanes2012 Lucia, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard, with it’s young vines, is proving a sensation, it just might be the most exciting new vineyard on the central coast, and Jeff Pisoni is taking full advantage of the quality and character found on this amazing site in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vines here are the result of knowledge gained from the now legendary Pisoni estate and from top sites that the Pisoni and Franscioni families have planted and managed, like Garys’ Vineyard, plus the experience Jeff Pisoni has gained working with Peter Michael and other estates in the Sonoma Coast area. Soberanes has huge potential and might become as famous as the original Pisoni estate in the years to come, planted here are vines that include the famous Pisoni clone Pinot Noir, much rumored to be a La Tache/suitcase clone, an Old Wente clone Chardonnay and maybe the most exciting an Alban clone Syrah which gives the Santa Lucia Highlands some better material in what has been one of the great success’ of the region, Syrah. Yes, Pinot Noir from here is still the buzz word and yes it is still fantastic, and of course Chardonnay put the region on the map in the first place, but since 2004, and even before, Syrah has produced some of the regions best reds, I honestly think Roar and Lucia have made Syrah just as good as their Pinot, I remember tasting the 2004 vintage and even rating the Syrah higher, and this Soberanes 2012 is fantastic! Jeff Pisoni has crafted a rich, meaty and complex wine here and shown a bit of the future with this dark and layered Syrah, interesting it makes for a wonderful contrast to his wife’s same vineyard and vintage version under the Cattleya label. While Bibiana’s is more floral and higher pitched, Jeff’s is more blooding and earthy, you could say the Cattleya is like Cote-Rotie and the Lucia is more Hermitage or Cornas in style, but really both are Santa Lucia stars, these are great wines from great talents. The 2012 Lucia Soberanes Syrah starts with wild game, new leather, blackberry, briar patch and wild flowers that fill the nose before the explosion of intensity on the palate with boysenberry, blueberry, black currant and spiced plum fruits along with raw meat, black olives, melted licorice, lavender oil and white pepper. There is a bit of raw tannin and vibrant acidity, this wine is still really young, but with air the wine opens to reveal a polished nature and glorious texture with hints of cassis, cedar and cigar spice with just a faint charcoal note. the finish is vivid and lingering, it re-enforces the black and blue fruits and gives a touch of magic that will certainly make you want to have more, don’t miss this excellent wine, drink from 2014-2022.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

2012CattleyaSyrah2012 Cattleya, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Bibiana Gonzales Rave is a Colombian woman winemaker, you don’t hear that too often, and she is also extremely accomplished and talented in her craft, she has made wine in Cote-Rotie and now plies her trade her in California, making her wines under her own Cattleya label. Bibiana crafts small lot Chardonnay from the Russian River, a Pinot Noir from Carneros, and this glorious Syrah from Pisoni’s Soberanes Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. I should also mention she is the wife of Jeff Pisoni, and that is how she found out about the Soberanes site, and fell in love with it’s terroir and especially it’s Syrah. Her first vintage got a huge buzz in the geeky new wine world, and I couldn’t ever seem to get my hands on a bottle, so I was very excited to finally get a chance to taste her wine, and I can tell you it was not a disappointment, her 2012 Soberanes Syrah is fantastic, she certainly gives her husband a run for his money on quality and style, and that is saying a lot, Jeff Pisoni himself is one of California’s best young winemakers. Soberanes is the Pisoni family’s newest site and is located closer to Garys’ Vineyard, but at a slightly higher point in the Santa Lucia Highlands, it offers great exposure and distressed soils, it also has their top clonal selections in the vines, including Wente Chardonnay, Pisoni Clone Pinot Noir and Alban Clone Syrah, this might make Soberanes legendary in a few years when these vines get a bit more age on them, but regardless the potential is there and the quality is already stunning. The 2012 Cattleya Syrah, hand crafted with a long maceration time, and a precision controlled fermentation, cool for the extended soak and warmed when necessary to bring out subtle complexities really shows in this beautiful and aromatic wine, the wine is full of rich density, but delicate, this is a masterful example of the varietal and highlights Bibiana’s talents. The nose starts with violets, loamy earth, hints of wild game, briar and creme de cassis lead, then there is a dark palate of blueberry, boysenberry, loganberry and plum fruits with pepper, black olives, grilled herbs, meat and mineral notes. The layers are supported by pretty smoke and vanilla from the good use of French oak, the smooth and supple tannins melt into the wine and the fruit is lifted by acidity and the wine shows a vitality and vivid nature with a nice lengthy finish that lingers with kirsch, bitter chocolate, black licorice and dusty fruit essence. This wine should gain and develop in bottle, even though it is top notch now, also it will be hard to find as it was a tiny production, hence the price, but it is worth the search and the cost, drink from 2016 to 2022.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Antiqv2s2008 Antiqv2s, Syrah, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This intensely dark Syrah still has vibrant freshness and force, but has started to really come into it’s own, with a few years of bottle age allowing it to reveal glorious detail and class. Emmanuel Kemiji’s Antiqv2s label has been an underground secret for many years, while most Pisoni fans know his Miura wines, these tend to wrongly get overlooked, these Syrah wines, one from Garys’ Vineyard and one from Pisoni, crafted by Byron Kosuge, Kemiji’s longtime winemaker, are stylish and sumptuous Syrahs that are hedonistically full, but with terroir and refinement showing throughout. Sadly it looks like 2010 will be the last vintage of the Antiqv2s, and Kemiji will focus on his Miura label domestically, while he’ll continue making his Spanish wines. Emmanuel Kemiji, master sommelier, is a busy man, a perfectionist and all around great guy and if you get a chance or can find them, I highly recommend these Antiqv2s wines, and especially now that he has dropped the original $60 price recently to about $35 retail for them, that makes for a real great value. The 2008 Pisoni Vineyard Syrah is deeply purple, flowing with lush black fruits, earthy briar, black olives, mineral and white pepper spice while there is classic boysenberry and blueberry compote as the core. This wine is deep and has nice French oak shadings which are subtle to the taste, while camphor and char add to the background notes of cassis, cedar and truffle. This Syrah is delicious and ready to rock and roll, drink now and for next couple of years.
($35-60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2011WrathSYKW2011 Wrath, Syrah, KW Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Wrath is a young label and is just starting to gain momentum, though they have been singled out by non other than Robert Parker as a winery to watch and he has graced them with some more than notable ratings, which have helped them massively I am sure. I have myself been much more skeptical and I wasn’t a huge fan at first, and I do have issues with their prices, so it was a pleasant surprise to find this Syrah, which offers top notch quality and relative value. Wrath wines are crafted by the hardworking and I must now say talented Sabrine Rodems, sorry I was late in my praise, she looks to be doing a wonderful job here. Wrath also has Byron Kosuge on their books to consult and give advice, which doesn’t hurt either. The 2011 KW Ranch Vineyard Syrah is a lovely and tasty wine, this vineyard is formerly the Fairview Ranch, a site that Big Basin used to make great Syrah in the past and it is very close to Garys’ Vineyard. The nose is perfumed with violets and dried floral notes, earthy spice, hints of meat and juicy red fruits lead the way, this pretty wine shrugs off the difficult vintage with ease, kudos to the farming and gentle winemaking here, this smooth medium weight Syrah has more than a few similarities to it’s French cousins with hints of camphor, pepper and hints of salad olives. Overall this wine oozes charm and it brightly focused, again it was a nice and welcome surprise, drink now and until 2016.
($39 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Chardonnay & Other Whites
Chardonnay is the main and most planted grape in the SLH, it accounts for the most sales and while the mainstay of budget wines, it can be exceptional when done right. Historically it was the Chardonnay that first caught people’s attention to the area, though that was before the AVA was conceived, and wines like Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow were the kings of the region. Today there are dozens of artisan producers making world class Chardonnay here, though I again must warn that from I saw from early samples, 2012 will be a vintage to be very selective in purchasing, lots of these wines showed a total lack of character, and more disappointing was the number that had ugly veggie notes, plus a few that were cloyingly sweet. Also, very worryingly there seems to be pricing madness in SLH Chard too, with lot’s of mediocre or worse wines priced at eye popping levels, but seriously there is a huge disconnect from reality and value in price for quality here. Across the board things need massive step up to on terms with the rest of the wine world. Producers like Bernardus, Morgan, Talbott and Mer Soleil as well as small artisan guys need to up their game, they have the terroir and vines to do it, let’s hope they turn it around. Exceptions were the Roar and Lucia wines, these were definitely standouts. As for other whites, the Rhone varietals are looking good with Viognier and in some cases Roussanne doing very well here. There was a good showing from Pinot Gris, with Puma Road’s off dry style being one of the best, I think it will be worth watch this grape here, and maybe someone will go for something a bit more exotic, who knows. The biggest surprise here came in the form of Riesling, once almost wiped out, it seems to be making a comeback of sorts with at least four or five decent examples to be found and one really shockingly good in a dynamic and dry style.

2012LuciaChSoberanes2012 Lucia, Chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Pisoni smiles when asked about where the old Wente Clone cuttings came from, I suggest his connections and his past experience at Peter Michael might be involved, but he winks and says nothing more, what is certain is that he has made a darling of a Chardonnay in 2012 from the youngest of the Pisoni Crus, Soberanes and that this is a Chardonnay to search out. Each vintage brings new challenges and solutions, but it also puts experience and knowledge in the bank, and with each year Jeff Pisoni brings more and more to the table, this is a talented winemaker and his wines reflect that, and he has well and truly come out from his dad’s huge shadow and is becoming a legend in his own right, his dad is unbelievably proud these days. The 2012 Soberanes Chardonnay is focused, well crafted and judged, giving depth and richness along with drive and finesse, it shows peach, white flowers, honeyed pear and zest lemon layers with a clarified cream like texture plus hints of brioche, vanilla, saline, mineral and golden fig. Only a slight tropical note and baked apple linger and the vivid acidity holds everything in check. This is a lavish and pleasing Chardonnay, best from 2014 to 2018.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

2012RoarCHSM2012 Roar, Chardonnay, Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
This vintage is showy and expressive with loads of pear and pineapple to go along with lemon curd and yellow apple fruits. Roar’s Sierra Mar like Soberanes is a work in progress just starting to mature into a Cru site. While not as classy and refined as Rosella’s can be, the latest Sierra Mar looks set to be a winner and is certainly one of the best wines so far from the vintage. Roar also does a tiny amount of Viognier that is well worth checking out, this is suburb operation fun by Gary Franscioni, with his son Adam and while Ed Kurtzman has left as winemaker there is a real excitement for the future with the young and talented Scott Shapely, who will put his mark on the wines beginning with the 2013 vintage, he worked with Adam Lee of Siduri, and Wells Gutherie (of Copain) while at Roessler. Roar’s first winemaker was Adam Lee, so there is a full circle of talents and subtle transitions happening here, which I think is a good thing and I am looking forward to seeing the up coming releases. The lush and plush 2012 Chardonnay has plenty to like and should gain over the next few years in bottle, look for butterscotch and a creamy texture to develop, but most people will drink this over the next 12 months.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2012NacinaRiesling2012 Nacina, Riesling, Tondre Grapefield, Santa Lucia Highlands. (By Tudor)
While most know and acclaimed for his Pinot Noir, Dan Tudor is now staking out a claim to be the regions best Riesling maker, and I must say the new Tondre Riesling is a stunner, it was a huge surprise and for me, by far and away the best wine ever from the Tondre site! While I’ve had some green meanie issues from Tondre Pinots, I’ll have to admit this Riesling is pretty damn good. I tasted this wine following an extensive tasting of some of the finest Rieslings from Germany, Austria and the Finger Lakes in New York State, so with a huge palate of experience and a slight prejudice I had to eat crow, I honestly found this Nacina Riesling amazingly competent and enjoyed the bracing acidity and crisp dryness. This brisk white delivers zesty citrus, loamy earth, mineral and sour green apple up front and has a layer of lime, grapefruit and melon with hints of tropical essences and verbena. One of the best California Rieslings out there, bravo, drink now.
($20 Est.) 92 points, grapelive

2013Lucy2013 Lucy, Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (Pisoni Family)
The Lucy Rose was made to give money to breast cancer research, at least one dollar for every bottle sold, that alone makes you want to get a few bottles, but the Pisoni Family Rose is, regardless of great cause, a super delicious pink wine crafted from estate grown Pinot Noir. This is one of my favorite domestic Rose wines, and this new 2013 vintage, which is soon to be released is one of the best yet, it is bright, fresh and has lots of style and energy. The 2013 Lucy shows a hint of sour cherry, sweet herbs, spice and mineral along with a touch of floral before a blast of citrus, red peach and watermelon. With a bit of air some lovely strawberry comes through and the wine settles down and tastes a bit more like a chilled Pinot Noir along with a subtle richness. This pink is a wine to drink and enjoy young, with it’s vivid flavors, vibrant color and easy to love style the Lucy is a winner all round. Drink over the next 12 months, look for it to be hitting the shelves between Feb 15 and March 2014, and don’t miss it.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 11, 2014

2012LuciaPNSoberanes2012 Lucia, Pinot Noir, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The newest vineyard in the Cru class is the Santa Lucia Highlands is the Pisoni family’s Soberanes Vineyard, this site has massive potential and could even eclipse the more established sites, this is going to be exciting to follow over the next few years. The latest wines from Jeff Pisoni, the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah all look impressive, the 2012 vintage is set to match 2007 or 2009 in quality. The Soberanes is planted to the best clones and has all the history and excellence learned and proven over the last two decades, again this is a special place and the vines are already giving a peek into their future here with a great set of wines, even from these young vines, especially this Pisoni Clone Pinot Noir from Lucia. The 2012 shows more depth, density and finesse than the prior wines from this site, I think the proof is in the pudding, the Soberanes Pinot is beautiful and wonderfully detailed, refined and lush. The nose has classic Santa Lucia Highlands dark fruits, briar and floral array, leading to a palate of well defined cherry, plum and blackberry fruits with hints of mineral, gravelly stones, wild herbs, cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of smoky wood. This is really good and lavish Pinot Noir with smooth texture, a touch of vibrant acidity and underlying spiciness, there is also a hint of saline, licorice and lingering strawberry, drink over the next 4 to 6 years.
($53 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 10, 2014

2011GononFeray2011 Pierre Gonon, Les Iles Feray, Vin de Pays de L’ Ardeche, Rhone Red, France.
Pierre Gonon’s lovely Les Iles Feray is 100% Syrah from vines in Saint-Joseph, he does a higher level Saint-Joseph as well, so maybe as not to confuse the issue he calls this one Les Iles Feray and labels it simply Vin de Pays de L’ Ardeche, but let me assure you this is not a cast of rejects or entry level plonk, this is seriously delicious Syrah from a winemaking maestro. Pierre Gonon, a vigneron from a Mauves, is making some amazing wines and is certainly a bright star on the northern Rhone wine scene, he makes a couple of incredible whites too, a deeply flavored Saint-Joseph Blanc with Marsanne and a touch of Roussanne as well as a crisp and suave Chassalass, a grape more common in the Savoie or Switzerland. I must say, having not had his wines before, Pierre Gonon is a very impressive winegrower and a talent to watch, most of his vines are on dramatic and steep slopes, in fact they have to tether their horse in a harness as to keep the poor thing from falling to it’s demise, but these tough conditions look to have paid off in quality terms, as all his wines are gorgeous. I understand that all the vines are tended to in biodynamic fashion and all the wines are produced old school with some whole cluster and native yeast fermentations and no new oak, and what I tasted in the glass this has allowed the terroir and varietal to shine through. The 2011 Les Iles Feray starts with amazing perfume of violets, rose petals and a background of bacon fat, wild truffles and cracked peppercorns with subtle cassis leading to a seductive and lively palate of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and plum fruits with mineral spice, pepper, cinnamon stick, fig paste and cherry liqueur, plus a whiff of gamey notes along with a saline and lingering anise. This is just beautiful and savvy Syrah, with a medium weight feel, great balance and heightened detail, this wine has energy and major league sex appeal, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 9, 2014

2011Carnuntum2011 Muhr-Van der Niepoort, Carnuntum, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland, Austria.
The noble varietal of Blaufrankisch, known in Germany and places in the new world as Lemberger is also known in Hungary as Kekfrankos, is a very worthy grape and one that can produce stunning wines, though mostly in Austria where is really shines, like this fabulous example from from Burgenland’s Carnuntum. This beautiful tank raised Blaufrankisch was crafted by Dirk Niepoort the famous head of the Niepoort Oporto in Portugal where he is considered one of the top Port houses and is highly regarded for his wonderfully made still wines as well. Recently in a highly viewed online rant by Robert Parker the world’s greatest wine critic where he was defending himself and pushing back against a wave of new trends in the wine world he mentioned offhandedly that he thought Blaufrankisch was a hipster fad and that the grape was insipid and over hyped, well, I can tell you this is idiotic at best and one of the very few times Mr Parker is blatantly wrong! Blaufrankisch is a historic varietal and makes for incredibly interesting wines, it is labeled the Pinot of the East, because of it’s class and distinction and has many times been critically acclaimed by well regarded wine journalists and masters of wines, as well as sommeliers in most influential markets. I think it is a graceful, flavorful and intriguing grape and have wines of merit from Hungary, Germany, Washington, Oregon, California and it’s spiritual home of Austria and I highly recommend checking it out, especially this beauty, the 2011 Carnuntum from Niepoort. The nose is perfumed with fresh and dried flowers, blackberry and mineral leading to a medium weight palate of fresh raspberry, spiced plum, licorice, strawberry/rhubarb, loam, truffle and earthy gravel notes. This is a bright and fresh, unoaked version and should be enjoyed in it’s first 3 to 5 years, don’t miss it, this is glorious stuff.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Wine of the Day March 8, 2014

2011PacaletStJacques2011 Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Lavaux Saint Jacques Premier Cru, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Lauvaux Saint Jacques 1er Cru is gorgeous and full of life and intensity, this is beautiful and exciting Pinot Noir, this is light handed, gentle winemaking at it’s finest. Pacalet, known for his natural wines techniques, his low sulfur and organic grape sourcing should really just be known for his quality product period. Pacalet’s wines are generous, spicy, brightly flavored and wonderfully clear and transparent, these have become stars in there own right, leaving behind the tagline best of the “Natural” wine in Burgundy, these wines are now among the new wave of elite without prejudice. Philippe Pacalet has been making Burgundy under his own label now since 2001, and with ten years on record, his wines have moved from novelties to proven delectables. The 2011 Lavaux Saint Jacques is a classy, elegant wine, Pacalet as always used 100% whole cluster and native yeast, with seasoned oak, ending up with a low natural alcohol at about 13% wine that shows balance, structure and alluring presence and depth. The nose is brightly fresh with earth, flowers and tangy fruits, there is mineral and zesty spices too, the layers of fruit is impressive with peppered raspberry, strawberry and plum adding to the core of morello cherry along with truffle, mint tea, dried roses in this ruby hued wine. While Pacalet is proud of the 2010 vintage, maybe his favorite, I am thinking these 2011 wines are not far off and I feel they are showing fantastic and make for great early drinking wines, though with enough stuffing and acidity to last another decade easy. If Pacalet is not on your radar and you are a serious Burgundy lover, you need to check these wines out, they will not disappoint!
($125 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive


kwPacaletsPhilippe Pacalet and his wife Monica are in the bay area this week for La Paulee, they have been busy with 10 events in 7 days for their US importer Return to Terroir, even so I got a chance to meet up and taste, and I’ve been lucky to have tasted his wines from 2008, 2009, 2010 and the currant 2011 vintages, knowing these are glorious and well crafted Burgundies. Pacalet makes about 30 different wines per vintage, all small lot stuff, mostly single vineyard, though he does a few AC or village wines too, I tasted his Nuits-St.-Georges 2011 with him, and while the premier crus are a bit more detailed, this NSG was a beauty, and his regular Gevrey-Chambertin is a stunning example as well, plus he does Meursault and one of my favorite Puligny-Montrachets, without question Philippe has the magic touch. I’ll be tasting through a further selection of his limited cuvees on March 8 and more notes will follow, La Paulee 2014 is awesome and has brought some of Burgundy’s brightest stars to San Francisco, I’m really grateful to have had the chance to pour some of these great wines and meet some wonderful people, like the Pacalets!


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Wine of the Day March 7, 2014

2012DeForvilleLanghe2012 De Forville, Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
This delicious Nebbiolo is crafted from young vines in the Barbaresco Crus of Rabaja and Loreto from great terroirs, this is a steal and delightful youthful wine that delivers top quality and style for a nice price. There is a way to go here before saying you are getting a full fledged Cru Barbaresco for $24, but it certainly is an appealing Nebbiolo that goes a bit further than most Langhe Nebbioli in this price class, and all of De Forville’s wines offer a great honest value from their refined Langhe Chardonnay to their to Barbaresco Cru selections. I have always adored their basic Barbaresco, but this 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo really does impress, especially being so young and from a difficult vintage, it gives plenty of fruit upfront and intriguing classic characteristics to keep you thinking, and begs to be enjoyed now. With blackberry, spiced damson plum and raspberry flavors to go with a core of cherry fruit the 2012 De Forville Langhe Nebbiolo shows well in the glass, along with salted licorice, soy, briar and wilted rose petals, as well as some earthy tones and hints of leather, truffle and dusty chalk. This bright and fresh style Nebbiolo should entertain for a number of years, best between 2014 and 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive


avail at ($22.95)

Wine of the Day March 6, 2014

2012HirschChard2012 Hirsch, Chardonnay, Hirsch Vineyard Estate, Sonoma Coast.
Beautifully pure and detailed, the new Hirsch Chardonnay is a wonderful and vibrant wine, done in a sleek, crystalline and lean style. Ross Cobb, winemaker and Jasmine Hirsch have teamed up to producer another winner to go along with the latest Pinots, everything I’ve tasted from Hirsch lately has been a huge success and each wine has been remarkable, I was impressed with the depth they managed to achieve in 2011 with their San Andreas Pinot, and this lovely Chardonnay, coming in at about 13.3% alcohol, is really worth checking out as well. The 2012 Hirsch Chard starts with vivid lemon, apple and white peach with a sense on mineral, fig, river stones, plus hints of white flowers, hazelnuts and bosc pear. The soul of this wine is it’s vigor and acidity, but there is depth, richness and length too, much like a fine Chassagne-Montrachet, and I would expect some nice bottle development to come as well. There latest from Hirsch points to a great future for this Cru vineyard in the wilds of the Sonoma Coast and while people will gravitate to their Pinot Noir, with good reason, don’t overlook their Chardonnay, like Peay, it is a very classy and stylish wine, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


avail at ($64.95)

Wine of the Day March 5, 2014

2006Rovellotti2006 Rovellotti, Ghemme DOCG “Chioso del Pomi” Piedmonte, Italy.
Rovellotti is a new and exciting find for me, I’m very geeky about Nebbiolo, I just love the stuff when it is good and well crafted, so discovering this unique and interesting version was especially gratifying. From the wilds of northern Piedmonte, this Nebbiolo (known as Spanna locally) with a tiny amount of Vespolina added is a lovely and complex wine that shows rich Barolo like character and detailed beauty like this wonderful varietal can, and certainly the Rovellotti is a well crafted wine. It is nice to taste a new release of Nebbiolo from 2006, with this amount of time on it, it is really showing all the typical and classic notes that one hopes for, if this was a real Barolo or Barbaresco no one would blink an eye if it was over $100, this Ghemme is a stunning effort with deep layers, transparent flavors, firm tannins and bright acidity along with mineral and earthy touches, this is lengthy and focused Nebbiolo at the top of it’s game. In case you hadn’t heard of the Ghemme DOCG, it granted DOC in 1969 and finally it’s DOCG in 1997, this tiny area of Piedmonte, in Colli Novaresi, I thought it was in Lambardy, but checking the internet corrected my error! The DOCG requires the wine stay in cask (wood) for 20 months and held in bottle at least 9 months, but needs to be aged 3 full years, like Brunello in Tuscany, before release, and some producers wait even longer. The 2006 Rovellotti Ghemme is classic in hue with orange edges showing around a garnet core in the glass, pretty perfume of tried flowers and herbs rises from the nose leading to a full and vigorous palate of spiced damson plum, balsamic dipped strawberries and black cherry with a touch of raspberry and lots of mineral as well as truffle, soy/iodyne, tar and black salted licorice. There is flashes of mint tea and hints of game as well, but the savory notes never take away from the beautiful fruit, this is elegant and alluring Nebbiolo, drink now and for the coming decade.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


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Grapelive Special Report: Riesling 2013 Preview

Grapelive German Riesling 2013 Preview
By Kerry Winslow

Terry Theise, Johannes Selbach and Kerry Winslow-Jan 2014

Terry Theise, Johannes Selbach and Kerry Winslow

This winter I had a chance to try some barrel/tank samples from some of Germany’s top Riesling producers, they were showing some young 2013 wines, to get a gauge on the vintage. All these wines were presented by Riesling importer Terry Theise, maybe the foremost Riesling expert and fanatic in the USA, his enthusiasm and insight has inspired thousands to enjoy this noble grape, myself included. The good news is the wines are showing well with amazing clarity and heighten aromatics, the bad news is there will be only tiny amounts available later this year and or next, as the crop was greatly reduced due to severe growing conditions in 2013. The German wine scene is hot, the home market is extremely good and even emerging markets are discovering the joy of Riesling, so that means even less wine for the rest of us, especially here in the US, where there seems to be a re-awakening to Riesling, and to German red wines like the fabulous Pinot Noirs coming out of the Ahr. The dry “Trocken” wines again seem to be the center of attention with a real awareness of Grosses Gewachs taking hold, plus non  cru dry wines which offer a great value. The sweet wines don’t deserve to be overlooked as they are as beautiful as ever, even as they become a bit less in favor, but seriously the Mosel Spatlese are some of the greatest wines available and can be drunk as table wines and with many cuisine options. Germany is going through classification pains and each governance seems uniquely club like and traditional QbA, Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, BA, TBA and Eiswein still confuses some people, as does the VDP’s Cru labeling, but regardless the best producers in Germany’s top regions are making sublime wines and honestly some of the greatest period in the wine world, this is without doubt a golden era of German wine. Here’s a quick look at what’s in store from the 2013 vintage.


Cornelius Donnhoff & Kerry Winslow (photo taken by Terry Theise)

Cornelius Donnhoff & Kerry Winslow (photo taken by Terry Theise)

The Donnhoff estate needs no introduction, they are one of the world’s great wineries and this sample of 2013 wines are just stunning. Cornelius Donnhoff’s estate wines are a huge success in this difficult year. The yields were exceptionally low and the grapes came in with great extract and intensity. I think the wines will be a cross between the high acid and extract of 2008, but with the pretty aromas and generous fruit of 2007 or 2011. It will be hard to beat 2012 for overall perfection, but 2013 certainly will not be lagging too far behind in terms of quality or intreats, there just won’t be much on offer, and that is a shame, especially as these Donnhoff wines are very tasty, so be sure to fill out your pre arrival requests early, these will be gone in a flash.

2013DonnhoffTrocken2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Always a treat and cooly dry the Estate Trocken by Donnhoff is one of the great values in wine, remarkable clarity, mineral driven Riesling of outstanding quality. It will be hard for the 2013 to compare to the 2012 which is still getting better in the bottle as I speak, but it certainly will be a fun companion and it is impeccably well made. I almost compare this bottling to Premier Cru Chablis, but honesty I might rather drink this given the choice 8 out of 10 times, this is just sizzlingly good and vibrant to the core. I’d say buy as much 2012 as you can, but don’t miss out on the 2013 it will be a worthy purchase, and I do adore the heightened aromatics of this vintage. The nose is fresh with lime, white flowers and chalk dust leading to a tangy palate of brisk dryness that includes grapefruit, lime again, unripe green apple and sour tarts. There is vivid steeliness and wet stones along with earthy sea salts, melon and white tea spices adding complexity, look for the extract to expand and roundness in the future when released late spring/summer of 2014, drink from 2014-2018.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

2013DonnhoffEstate2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling, Estate, Nahe Germany.
The semi dry Estate bottling is going to be a winner too, I found it juicy off dry with hints of sweet and sour, it is well defined, balanced and flexible. Again it is hard to match the 2012, but it is pretty darned close, and there will be far less available anyway, so as mentioned it would be wise to stock up on 2012, though I will certainly be getting a few of these myself, the touch of sweetness really makes this a grand summer sipper. The 2013 starts with a tropical note, floral charm and orange leading to a peach and sour apple infused palate with hints of lime, more stone fruit and kiwi, plus hints of mango, mint and river stones. This is pure and easy, super with Asian cuisine and is priced well, especially for the quality. I look forward to seeing what evolves in the bottle, drink 2014 to 2018.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

2013DonnhoffSpatKN2013 Dönnhoff, Riesling “Norheimer Kirschheck” Spätlese, Nahe Germany.
This 2013 Norheimer Kirschheck is serious stuff, already a heady and well defined Riesling, incredible really considering this is a tank sample, Donnhoff has crafted a beauty here. This lovely and caressing white has creamy sweetness, plenty of firm extract and deep layers of flavor and there is much more to come given time. This super impressive 2013 Spatlese looks set to have a long and pleasure filled life, I have put it on my own personal wish list, no doubt it will provide amazing drinking enjoyment over the coming decade. I can’t wait to try more of Cornelius Donnhoff’s 2013, hopefully this summer I’ll get that chance, and for sure I am planning to visit the winery in the Nahe when I get an opportunity, maybe later in the year or next year, if plans come together. The 2013 Norheimer Kirschheck Spatlese leads with rocky mineral, white flowers, tropical essences and layered textures with tangerine, apricot, white peach and passionfruit all playing roles as well as green apple and more mixed citrus. There is a touch of density starting to come through, but the fresh acidity holds things in balanced harmony, this pretty Spatlese feels juicy and vibrant even though there is delightful sweetness and fleshiness throughout. Mineral notes and exotic flavors are there in the background, everything is looking good here, I believe this to be a brilliant and excellent Riesling that will continue to impress for a decade or more, drink from 2016 to 2028.
($44 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


Johannes Leitz and Kerry Winslow Jan 2014

Johannes Leitz and Kerry Winslow Jan 2014

I think the Rheingau will be a big hit for 2013, the wines I tried all offered up beautiful bouquets, crisp mineral notes and impressive depth of fruit. They might develop even more exotic characteristics as time goes by, these were very early samples, but things are looking really good. The leading light of these were the Leitz wines, from his QbA Dragonstone to his Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese, Johannes Leitz crafted some magical wines. After tasting his samples of 2013, I started day dreaming of returning to Rudesheim and hiking these glorious vineyards above the Rhein, this place is still one of my greatest ever wine region visits, it keeps me checking on flight times to Frankfurt! Like the Donnhoff wines from the Nahe, the Leitz wines from 2013 show intense and powerful aromatics with the classic flinty/spice of the slate and the peachy character of the quartzite in the differing soils make of the Rudesheim and Rheingau area. It is hard to imagine a week or so to go by with having a bottle of Leitz Riesling, these wines are so compelling and delicious.

2013LeitzDragonstone2013 Leitz “Dragonstone” Riesling, Rudesheim, Rheingau Germany.
The Drachenstein Rudesheim Riesling 2013 is perfumed and vibrantly peachy, it looks set to be another success, I almost like it as much as the currant 2012, which is high praise, I adore the “Dragonstone” this is massively appealing wine, there is always richness and finessed detail to be found in this Riesling, the must weight is usually quite high, this is not a wimpy afterthought, this is serious and deep wine from Riesling grown high up on quarzite soils. I believe this wine is way under priced for the quality. This is terroir and craftsmanship on show, making for a mostly dry feel, but with a hint of sweetness and a full and juicy mouth feel. This 2013 shows exceptional floral character, maybe unique to this small yielding vintage, it is richly flavored with yellow peaches, pineapple, basil notes, flinty mineral and tangy citrus. This entertaining Riesling has star quality at a more than fair price and I love the extract, acidity and creamy length, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($19-22 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive

2013LeitzKl2013 Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer “Klosterlay” Kabinett, Rheingau Germany.
Another great value from Johannes Leitz is the flavorful and elegant Klosterlay Kabinett which would be a great dessert island wine, you could survive on this no problem, if there was only one choice, especially as it is well suited to be enjoyed with warm weather, tropical cuisine and seafood! I am impressed to see the 2013 showing so well, it really is right up there with the dynamic and gorgeous 2012’s produced by Rheingau favorite Johannes Leitz. Rudesheim’s terroir and exposure is historic, this is a perfect winegrowing area and it’s little wonder it is Meursault’s sister city, this is wine country at it’s best and these wines are as good as any made anywhere. The Klosterlay is honeyed pear, lime, tangerine and peach driven with a hint of sweetness, spice and stony, everything is beautifully detailed and weighted artistically. This fine expression should drink well over the next 3 to 5 years, but there is enough stuffing to last a decade, this is nice juice, drink from 2014 to 2018.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

2013LeitzMaggie2013 Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer “Magdalenenkreuz” Spätlese, Rheingau Germany.
Coming from one of the top sites in Rudesheim the “Maggie” 2013 is a stunning young Spatlese, be sure to keep an eye out for this one, it is a sleeper. This pristine and crystalline Riesling is full of flavor, charm and elegance with layers of detail and a rich sweet core of fruit, balanced by loamy earth, spice and kicking acidity, this is terrific wine start to finish. The talents of Johannes Leitz and mother nature came up with something rather special here and the 2013 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenakreuz is a joyous Riesling of class and extravagant underpinning, I think Johanne’s Maggie is one hot ticket! The nose offers up rose petal, tropical notes and fruity character leading to a vigorous palate of sweet apple, peach, fleshy apricot and pink citrus while white plums, fresh herbs, mineral tones and saline add complex edges. There is a lot going on here, but overall everything flows smoothly and harmoniously from start to finish with a lingering sweet note, though more is certainly coming to the mix, I suspect more intrigue over the next few years, further examination will be required and happily I might add, I am really excited by these 2013 samples, I can’t wait to taste the finished product in bottle, just be sure you chase some down as they look set to be rarities even before release, drink this one from 2016-2022.
($28 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

While there wasn’t much on offer of the 2013 from the top producers, I was informed by reliable sources that here too the 2013 vintage looks set to have made some intriguing wines. I look forward to trying the likes of von Winning, Muller-Catoir and other this summer when bottle samples will likely be more readily available. The Pfalz is an exciting region with a vast array of varietals and styles to chose from, there are some amazing wines coming from here and if you’ve not stocked up on the glorious 2012 vintage you are missing out!

Ahr (not a big Riesling area, but worth mentioning)
The Ahr is one of the hottest regions for Pinot Noir on the planet, and while 2011 and 2012 might be the best vintages back to back ever seen, I will certainly be keeping an eye out for 2013, though that should be about another year or so before any real meaningful samples get offered. 2010 was pretty decent with soft pretty wines, but 2011 and 2012 are amazing for Spatburgunder, these Pinot Noirs are just starting to hit the market and should not be missed, especially the wines of Meyer-Nakel, these wines would make even the most hardcore Burgundian cry with joy. If you are looking for unique and extreme Pinot Noir, this region is one to check out.



Johannes Selbach and Kerry Winslow

famed Mosel winegrower Johannes Selbach of Selbach-Oster told me flat out the 2013 was an economic disaster with grapes and quality juice down over 60%, but even with this terrible business reality the bright spot is what little amount of wine that was made in 2013 looks super. Selbach had a new, first time Kabinett from his Saar holding for 2013 and it was delightful and already easy to drink, it will certainly be on my list of wines to grab when releases later this year. The Selbach-Oster 2012 wines continue to perform well, and in fact are quite remarkable, so while there isn’t going to be much as of way for the 2013 vintage, you should stock up on 2011 and 2012 while you can. Johannes confessed his own stocks are running extremely low on these fantastic vintages, so I headed his advise and stashed some Schlossberg Kabinett myself! Other a real happy note, I got to finally try the single block Zeltinger Himmelreich “Andrecht” 2012 which is due here in the states in May (2014) and while I’ve already posted the review, I think it is worth mentioning again this is one of the great whites of the vintage and I believe a legendary wine. I also got to re-sample the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr “Ur Alte Reben” which again blew me away, it is a Feinherb, but forget classification or RS, this is a stunning wine that too will go the way of legends, so while not many 2013’s will be coming there is still something to look forward to, these two wines could be the most under the radar collectables on the planet, if you are a Riesling fan these are must find wines, trust me, you don’t want to miss them.

2013SelbachSaarKabinett2013 Selbach, “Saar” Kabinett, Saar Germany.
The Selbach Saar Kabinett is the first of it’s kind, previously there were only Spatlese under this label, in 2013 there was an opportunity to pick twice from this section, one to make this Kabinett and again later for the Spatlese, and while quantities are tiny it is a great addition to the lineup. Johannes would have liked a normal vintage for obvious business reasons, he just shakes his head thinking about the lack of grapes in 2013, but he cannot be unhappy with the quality that is for sure. Even this little Kabinett from the Saar land is sumptuous and delicious with loads of fruit, purity and vivid character. Even though I am eagerly waiting on his more classic Mosel wines from places like Graacher and Zeltinger, this little gem is enough to tell you Selbach is going to have a nice collection of Riesling to search out in 2013, though you’ll have to fight to get them, especially if there as scare as Johannes hints at… The 2013 Saar Kabinett starts with pretty citrus blossoms, chalky stones, steely mineral and green apple with sweet pineapple, spiced peach and candied lemon rind along with tangy elements and fresh acidity. There is plenty of extract and this wine is really well defined with much more detail and focus than might be the case in an average vintage, there is plenty to love here, drink from 2014 to 2017.
($20-24 Est.) 90-92 Points, grapelive


Many thanks to Terry Theise, Hiram Simon (Wine Wise) plus Cornelius Donnhoff, Johannes Selbach and Johannes Leitz for their time, insights and kindness!

Wine of the Day March 4, 2014

image2010 Cobb, Pinot Noir, Jack Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Ross Cobb’s wines are now some of the state’s leading lights, his wines certainly are some of the finest examples of a new wave of winemaking, this is the movement to focus on balance and delicacy with his cool climate Sonoma Coast wines being some of the cream of the crop. Cobb has been on a roll, making great wines for Hirsch Vineyards and a new project with Banshee has seen some hugely successful wines, as well as his own label set of top notch Pinots, like this new 2010 Jack Hill. I’ve been a fan and have followed the evolution of the Cobb Pinots since the first vintages, these are excellent and highly prized wines. The new Jack Hill Vineyard release is a beautiful and exciting wine full of flavor and refinement, Cobb has crafted a gem here. I think these 2010 wines are starting to awaken and show their true potential and gorgeous nature, these wines look set to surpass 2009, maybe they be even better than 2007 too, this Jack Hill is really impressive. The nose starts it off with dried roses, candied orange peel, kirsch and red fruit leading to a vibrant array of flavors on the palate including cherry, damson plum, red peach flesh, saline, hints of spice, savory elements and fennel. A touch of tangy acidity, silky tannins add just the right amount of firmness and gives life and structure to this deep and classy wine. The finish is still youthful, but leaves a pleasing lingering wild strawberry note as well as a whiff of truffle, overall this is a generous and stylish Pinot Noir, while remaining lifting and with modest alcohol at 13.8%, drink from 2014 to 2019.
($72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive


avail at ($64.95)