2012 Quarticello “Neromaestri” Lambrusco Emilia I.G.T. Frizzante, Emilia Romagna, Italy.
Roberto Maestri’s Quarticello Meromaestri Lambrusco Emilia is a dry and tannic Lambrusco that is made from Lambrusco Maestri 50%, Lambrusco Grasparossa 30%, Malbo Gentile 10%, Ancellotta 10% and it perfect for serious Secco Lambrusco lovers, it has a severe and austere style, meaty/sanguine with a beautiful blue/black hue. This bold Lambrusco is not fruity or sweet at all, in fact it is a bit shocking at first with crisp mineral toned coolness, with intense dark fruits a light mousse and plenty of grip. This has some rustic charm with hints of leather, horse and earth adding some bite and savory vigor, though there is detailed and pretty layers as well with roasted herbs, floral notes, bitter coco, anise and lots of blackberry and cherry fruit, this is a food wine first and for most and it will be seriously good with grilled meats, cold cuts, cheeses and I loved it with a mound of pasta. With air and cuisine this sparkling red turns on the class and shows why Roberto Maestri is the talent he is, this gains delicacy and everything becomes heightened and focused, while dusty dry in style it really is a fantastic wine. Look for black fig, plum and cedar to linger here and I highly recommend taking a look at the Quarticello line from Roberto Maestri, especially this darkly fantasyic Neromaestri, drink this anytime, and over the next year or so, another stunning effort.
($19 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Mas de Daumas Gassac, Haut Vallee du Gassac Blanc, L’ Herault Languedoc White, France.
This has become an iconic wine of the the south of France with an exotic blend of varietals that make it totally unique in character. The lovely and stylish Gassac Blanc is a blend of Chardonnay 25%, Viognier 25%, Petite Manseng 25% and Chenin Blanc 25% which add up to a white that has mix of flavors that take you from Condrieu to Chassagne and to Montlouis in the Loire with a bit of Jurancon thrown in! This layered wine, about 13% alcohol, starts with white flowers, hazelnut, clarified cream, brioche and wild peach with tangerine and lemon bursting through on the mid palate. The core opens to apple, pear, tropical essence, dried honey and apricot with liquid mineral, chalk and toasty notes that flow seamlessly and fill the mouth with refined textural feel and class, without question this is gorgeous wine. While expensive and a touch annoyingly arrogant, I can’t help but love the Mas de Daumas Gassac “Grand Cru of the Languedoc” wines, both this one and their Cabernet based red, though this 2013 Blanc might be the best offering to date and should drink well for a decade, best from 2015 to 2022, it is pretty damn good!
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Mas Grand Plagniol, Costieres de Nimes, Rhone Red, France.
The 2014 Plagniol Rouge, a fine light to medium bodied effort is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache from the old vines around Nimes in the Gard, and while this is typically thought of as in the greater Languedoc, the wines are officially Rhone Appellation d’Orgine Controlee (AOC) and have been since 1986. This is lovely, easy and delightful stuff, the Mas Grand Plagniol Rouge Costieres de Nimes is vibrant, spicy and has just a just of game and earth, but with nice bright dark fruits, it drinks well with almost any food choices and is a go to party or bistro style red. I adore the juicy nature and quaff factor, there’s no pretense and while not overly serious or complex, it does everything well with hints of violets, white pepper, warm stones and garrique to go along with blackberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry fruits. Ripe tannins and a nice cut of acidity keep this from feeling weighty, and it certainly doesn’t pack an alcoholic punch, this is just a fun Rhone blend to have a few smiles and laughs with, it should take to much thought or ask anything of you. I’ve been a fan and customer of this wine since around 2000, it has always been a great value, and the white blend it also a savvy choice as well, both are no quilt wines that deliver quality and stylish lighthearted drinking, best from 2015 to 2017.
($12 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel DAC, Austria.
Here’s another exceptional release from Groiss, and while 2013 remains the absolute star vintage in a generation the 2014 wines are really lovely and will not disappoint, especially this one. The 2014 Ingrid Groiss Guner Veltliner Weinviertel starts off earthy/cheesy, tightly wound and charmingly rustic with dusty stones, bread dough, forest floor notes and salted citrus before unfolding it’s brisk acidity and delicacy of fruit and mineral tones, it takes a while before the rush of flavors blossom, in fact I was stunned to find on day two a much more intense wine with an almost backward evolution, it shines after some air and time revealing more depth, power and extract plus it just get’s about to 2013 levels of thrill and enjoyment, even if it is slow to get there, this is very impressive stuff again from Ingrid Groiss. There is vivid lemon/lime, green melon, bitter almond, white pepper, baked clay, yeast, steely liquid mineral and zesty brine and white peach, it is more subtle at first, but this light Gruner has all the right stuffing and should prove interesting and pleasing for 3 to 5 years, it might be best to give it another 3 to 6 months if you can keep your hands off it, best from 2016 to 2020, the finish day one is crisp with wild mushroom and grapefruit, and day two there is a bit more apricot and stones. I highly recommend discovering these wines by Ingrid Groiss, the 2013’s if you can find them are mind-blowing and these new 2014’s are not far off either, her stuff is not easy to get, but well worth the search, she is my new favorite producer from Austria and a wonderful talent.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
nv Stephane Serol, Turbullent, Natural Sparkling Gamay Rose, Cote Roannaise, Loire Valley, France.
This pretty and fun Turbullent “Pet Nat” style méthode ancestrale sparkling Rosé of Gamay by Domaine Serol in the Cote Roannaise is a great summer wine with class, live and plenty of allure. This all natural and organic wine is made from 100% Gamay, hand picked and sorted, fermented in cement vats, temp controlled to keep cold until 7% then finishes fermenting in bottle to 8.5% then disgorged to remove extra material making for an elegant and refreshing bubbly Rosé with vitality and depth of flavor, it has a fruity essence, but feels wonderfully crisp and dry with a soft and vibrant mousse. The Serol Turbullent is pale pink in color with a palate of sour cherry, plum flesh, strawberry, peach and citrus fruits along with hints of yeast/brioche, mineral, rose water and an earthy/grapey note, it finishes with lift and zesty character. Finished in Champagne cork and cage, this is a stylish package without pretense, Domaine Serol is a serious winery with a stunning lineup of wines, including this Turbullent, but also a fantastic selection of old vine Gamay Noir, plus still Rosé and even a Viognier! This part of the Loire is sometimes considered the lost Cru of Beaujolais and it has very little in common with the other more well travelled areas of this region, it is more like the very upper Rhone in fact! Be sure to search out the Domaine Serol wines, they are glorious and rare offerings, and enjoy this lovely méthode ancestrale Rosé over the coming year or so, it is delicately forward and great with food, breakfast, lunch and diner as well as being a superb summer wine pre meals.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2011 Podere Le Cinciole, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
Le Cinciole from Panzano in Chianti, near historic Greve, makes a smooth and elegant style Classico with stylish flourish, especially good is their 2011 vintage, a warm year that blessed the region with ripe tannins and lush textures. Organic and rustic by nature Le Cinciole breathes tradition and charm, and this Chianti Classico 2011 is full of character, terroir and detail with a graceful density, this is a pleasing and wonderful Sangiovese that balances sweet fruit and savory earthiness to perfection. The start is dried roses, minty herbs, porcini and wild berries leading to a medium weight palate of raspberry, cherry, strawberry and dusty plum fruits along with fine cut tobacco, cedar and anise. This light ruby hued red is full of flavor and has subtle complexity that extends and expands, but allows simple enjoyment and it certainly makes for a terrific companion to food, it has 14%, but still very vibrant, focused and plays well with Italian or California cuisine. I must say, after a full Tuscan tasting including some serious Brunello and higher priced wines, this looked even better, this is not a flashy or sexy wine, but not a wallflower either, especially at this price it delivers everything you’d expect and a bit more, this is a fine estate effort that is a super value, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($22 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Chateau Soucherie, Rose de Loire “Cuvee L’ Astree” Loire Valley, France.
The Soucherie rose of Cabernet Franc from the Anjou region of the Loire is a very stylish and seductive pink, one of my favorites of the Summer and maybe my top pick for Cabernet Franc Rose for the year! I love this wine and adore it’s stunning aromatics, bright tanginess and mineral infused palate, it is wonderfully dry and refreshing in this vintage. The nose is perfumed with hints of violets, rose water and spicy lavender oil, along with a touch of rustic earth, dried herb and cirtus leading to a crisp palate that feels cooly zesty with tart cherry, watermelon, mixed citrus, red peach and a touch of strawberry with a bit of saline, celery, spice and crushed stones. The latest set from Chateau Soucherie are gorgeous wines, especially the classic Anjou Rouge and this pretty and exciting Rose de Loire, be sure to keep an eye out for them, they really are lovely. It is difficult to make Cabernet Franc Rose this complete, alluring and without “green” meanies showing up, so when you nail it like Soucherie, it should be celebrated, and I plan to enjoy many of these bottles! Drink this wonderful pink over the next 6 months, though it should prove interesting for at least a year in bottle or maybe more, though I enjoy it’s energy and verve right now.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Fiorini, Lambrusco Grasparossa “Becco Rosso” Emilia-Romagna, Red Sparkling Wine, Italy.
The Florin Becco Rosso is a clear and most dry red Lambrusco done in the Charmat method and is a blend of at least 80% Lambrusco Grasparossa with the rest being Lancellotta, it is a real easy to love style with good detail and character, not too rustic and with a solid fruity core with a soft mousse. I really liked the latest Florin Becco Rosso and highly recommend it to those unfamiliar with Lambrusco and those that want a crowd pleasing sparkling red to go with summer BBQ and picnics, this is certainly classy and fun stuff from the hills at the base of the Appennine Mountains near Modena in Emilia-Romagna. The Becco Rosso has a creamy bubbles a good dark garnet hue and starts with dark floral tones, a hint of raw meat and crushed blackberries along with dried anise, pepper, mineral and earthy/stony elements as well as subtle cherry cola, tangy currants and plum notes. Lambrusco is a historic and traditional food wine, it pairs with every dish from Antipasto to grilled meats and pasta, as well as cheeses and cold cuts, this delight medium bodied version from Fiorini really checks off all the boxes and makes for a great Summer and Fall wine, served chilled and refreshing, while full enough and brawny enough to make even the manly group happy. Forza Lambrusco! Drink this zesty and well made example over the next year and without quilt, it is a steal at the price and a hell of a lot of fun, Ciao!
($14 Est.) 88-90 Points, grapelive
nv Sean Thackrey, Pleiades XXIV Old Vines, Red Table Wine, California.
Sean Thackrey’s old vine Pleiades is now on the 24th edition and it still as intriguing and beguiling as ever, this is truly a California inspired icon and should be celebrated for it’s success and rule breaking uniqueness, a non-vintage kitchen sink blend that is both serious and fun. The blend is as unusual as it gets with all old vine hillside grapes that include Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Mourvedre that mostly come from Sonoma County, though I think Mendocino and Marin play parts too in this savvy and sappy red. The latest release XXIV is a bit richer and deeper, bucking the recent trend going to the lighter style, it shows more to it’s original roots with black cherry, plum, balsamic dipped strawberry, tangy currant, menthol, sweet herbs, cola, dusty spice and raspberry liqueur. The Pleiades XXIV is a medium full red that comes in at 14.5%, still feels vibrant, silky and textural in the mouth without heat or heaviness and it plays well with almost any cuisine, drink over the next few years. This is a wine that will certainly appeal to Thackrey’s legion of fans and can attract a whole new adventurous crop as well, very interesting and distinctly singular in style.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Chateau Valcombe “Les Hauts de Valcombe” Ventoux Rouge, Rhone, France.
The Valcombe vines are about 75 years old and sit low on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, they are farmed organic and are used to produce traditional wines of balance and finesse, they are crafted by Luc and Cendrine Guénard, a couple that want to grow the reputation here and have a great passion for their terroir. They studied under Paul Jeune of Domaine Monpertuis, famous for his gorgeous Chateauneuf du Papes, and they have Rosenthal imports firmly behind them and championing their wines here in the states, their estate in at 1,000 Feet and covers about 28 hectares of mostly old vine Grenache with Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault for reds and as well as a collection of white grapes. The 2013 Les Hauts de Valcombe is a sappy and spicy red with great detail and vitality, it is open, but brilliantly subtle and refined with loads of charm that highlight the chalky mix of soils that include blue clay and galets, the same round stones found in Chateaneuf, and the palate is easy with red spices, dried flowers, earth and light leather notes adding complexity to the black raspberry, plum and pomegranate fruit core along with cracked pepper and red spicy cinnamon. There is a stony and stylish savory side that comes through as well as a lingering blueberry and strawberry on the finish, and the whole is a pleasing and easy to love red from one of the most underrated areas of the Rhone, where you can discover real beautiful wines that offer superb value, like this one, drink the Les Hauts de Valcombe between 2015 and 2018, it’s lovely stuff.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive