Monthly Archives: June 2019

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 20, 2019

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County -photo grapelive

2018 Sheldon Wines, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.
The Sheldon Sangiovese, their first wine to be made from this Tuscan grape, is an unbelievably gorgeous version with a seductive perfume and sensual fruit that is almost never found in California examples, this is impressive stuff that should not be missed. The 2018 vintage is proving to be an amazing year for purity, vivid fruit and heightened aromatic qualities with good acidity adding clarity and pop in the wines and Sheldon very much exploited this to great effect in their latest set of wines, especially this beautiful Sangiovese that shines with racy and transparent red fruits, spices, mineral charm, wild herbs along with its heady bouquet. Without question this wine is a special wine, considering its youth, it shows an exceptional poise and detail with an almost Grenache like set of layering of red raspberry, plum, cherry and strawberry fruits all supported by velvety almost creamy tannin structure, these sweet tannins are ripe allowing this Sangio to have a wonderful mouth feel, while still holding on to its energy and vibrancy. There are savory elements and the mentioned spicy tones, it adds pepper, pomegranate, iron/mineral, mint, framboise, anise, cigar wrapper and sanguine notes, dried lavender and rose oil that all play supporting roles to near perfection in this medium bodied red. I love this wine, it excites the senses and was a brilliant surprise in the glass with a lovely garnet/ruby hue with magenta edges and it is fantastic with food, it is very flexible and focused, going with classic pizza and pasta, plus BBQ pork, grilled meats, mushroom dishes and is great with a slight chill for out door dinning.

At first, I believed there was some Grenache, Syrah or Cabernet added, but winemaker Dylan tells me it is 100% Sangiovese from an mature, old clone, organically farmed site on volcanic soils, and I thought it might be partial whole bunches, but he adds that he de-stemmed all the grapes and did a traditional ferment. Sheldon employed a conservative approach to his first try with Sangiovese and even so it is wildly exotic and thrilling, the primary fermentation was done in stainless and only aged in a well seasoned neutral French barrique for just 5 months before an early bottling, which was done to capture the purity of this wine and hold on to that sexy nose. Sheldon racked with ultra gentle gravity and with very minimal SO2, which allows the wine’s personality to really take center stage, like you would find in Lapierre’s Morgon. This Sangiovese might be a game charger, it joins the best versions of this varietal in California, like Stolpman’s and Reeve’s examples, it fits nicely in between them and it transcends the grape itself, sadly Sheldon only did one barrel, as more people need to try this stuff. The 2018 Sheldon Sangiovese (like their Graciano) is an awesome wine, uniquely Californian, it is in league with Arnot-Roberts Trousseau, Pax’s Valdiguie or Carignan, Russell Joyce’s Gamay Noir, Jaimee Motely’s Mondeuse, Ryme’s Aglianico, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avila, Paul Gordon’s Halcon Petite Sirah and others of this new generation that are re-definning our understanding and perceptions of what California can do. This is a fabulous textured expression of Sangiovese, do not miss it, enjoy it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 19, 2019

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France photo grapelive

2017 Domaine Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, White Burgundy, France.
Tasted from magnum, the 2017 Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine is a beauty, so pure and mineral focused, I was thrilled with this vintage and as a longtime fan of Lafon’s Mâconnais project it was great to try the latest release as see that the quality seems to have even risen since I last had them. Attention to detail, using only the best grapes possible, indigenous yeasts and gentle winemaking Lafon and team, as his US importer Skurnik puts it, strive to preserve the fruit and minerality of the region by using only larger, neutral wood for the aging of the wines. This current lime blossom scented Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows precision and finesse usually reserved for wines are twice or three times the price with bright, but layered Chardonnay fruit, wet stones and a touch of leesy texture featuring lemon, peach, apple and bosc pear fruits along with a touch of clove spice and saline rich wet stone. While crisp and steely with loads of energy this year has a subtle creaminess of mouth feel hinting at its extract and underlying density, most likely from the rigorous selections, small yields and the old vine concentration. The 2017 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon Milly-Lamartine shows a remarkable form and style, this might be my favorite “Cru” in the lineup, grown on clay and limestone that isn’t all that different from Puligny, Saint-Aubin and Lafon’s loved Meursault home.

Founded by Meursault legend, Dominique Lafon, in 1999 the Mâconnais based Héritiers du Comte Lafon is an all organic and biodynamic estate that crafts exceptional Chardonnay from this lesser appreciated region where he found treasured old vine parcels and excellent terroirs. The wines are now, since 2006, made by the hugely talented Caroline Gon, who was Lafon’s apprentice for many years, so there is a amazing chemistry and clearly a linage of quality. Lafon, one of best known Cote de Beaune winemakers, was one of the first to see the potential of the Mâconnais for its hidden magic and his success has brought on a wave of Cote d’Or producers to the region, looking for a less expensive place to source premium Chardonnay grapes, and now Saint-Veran, Vire-Clesse and all the various sub zones of Mâcon are all the rage. Historically, the Mâconnais was known for industrially farmed, volume driven wines usually just labeled Mâcon-Villages, sort of generic and sadly un-inspiring, but now thrilling wines are being handcrafted here, like those of Robert-Denogent, Domaine de la Sarazinière and Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon are as highly regarded as the more famous Beaune addresses! As mentioned repeatedly in my many prior reviews, if you want a truly fabulous White Burgundy at a fair price, this is a label to invest in and or search out.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 18, 2019

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon -photo grapelive

2017 Flaneur Wines, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The expressive and dynamic Flaneur Willamette Valley Pinot has that crunchy, semi carbonic like fruit intensity and exotic spices with layers of racy red cherry, briar laced raspberry, pomegranate, plum and strawberry fruits along with cinnamon, cola bean, tea and peppery herbs, plus a juicy Moro orange note, along with a faint wood shading. Flaneur hasn’t been on the scene very long, but if they continue with wines like this they are heading in the right direction and should pick up a serious following within a short time. I find this one to have a more Cru Beaujolais character at first and it reminds me of some great Fleurie and Morgon, but given air its Pinot fruit comes through and it gets very stylish. The color is bright ruby and garnet and the nose is ever changing with rose petal, earth, mineral and red berries all playing a role in the glass. This vintage, which typically is a bit more muted that the riper 2015 and 2016 is no wallflower and is bursting with flavor, with partial bunches and stems adding exuberant vitality and grip on the medium bodied palate, again air allows the true sense of this beautiful wine to come through with silken mouth feel and length on the finish. It also gets even better with food, especially slightly more complex stuff and it can stand up to some fun Asian dishes as well, plus it can be enjoyed, with a thrill, slightly chilled and with picnics or warm evening dinning. This 2017 Willamette Valley cuvee by Flaneur is youthfully flamboyant and vibrant, but there’s a lot to come here, and for the price I highly recommend getting a few to enjoy now and some to age.

One of the under the radar, but great values in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Flaneur Wines, made by Grant Coulter, who recently moved on from being winemaker at the famous Beaux Freres Vineyard, and maker of his own label Hundred Suns, his overseeing the vineyards and hand crafting these wines for Flaneur gives them instant street cred. Grant, a Monterey native, is one of many new generation winemakers from this region to be getting their due, along with Scott Shapely of Roar, Eric Hamacher of Hamacher, also in Oregon, Grant’s friends Cory (who told be to check this wine out) and Mike Waller of Eden Rift and Calera respectively as well as Jeff Pisoni of Fort Ross and his family’s wines, as well as Russell Joyce, to name just a few, all of which are making some world class Pinots. As a Monterey native myself I am proud of these guys and thrilled with their wines, especially Coulter’s stuff and I love this 2017 Flaneur. I first met Grant in 2008 at Beaux Freres, while visiting the vineyard and tasting through the wines and have been following his wines ever since, his time with Mike Etzel was time well spent and his has taken a lot with him, he looks to work organic and biodynamic where he can as well as using natural methods with native yeast fermentations and less new oak, with this Flaneur seeing only about 11% new French oak, all to preserve clarity, purity and freshness. This year saw 68% of the grapes sourced from La Belle Promenade and 32% from the Flanerie vineyard and ended up being about 36% whole cluster, the finished alcohol came it at 13.7%, though it feels less and it is a wonderfully balanced wine. I love it as is, but it will be a wine to follow for the next 3 to 5 years when it hits its sweet spot.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 17, 2019

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley -photo grapelive

1972 Freemark Abbey, Petite Sirah, Napa Valley.
A wine that seems forgotten in time, I’d bet the winery doesn’t know much about it either, the garnet and dark brick hued 1972 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah proved a delight at a recent dinner event, in fact it was an incredible bottle with Bordeaux like class and character with a sweet fruited medium bodied palate and only the slightest hint of true age, even after many hours it was still holding on with pretty flavors and wonderful length. This was a surprisingly impressive display, I have to believe this wine, which Freemark Abbey don’t even seem to make anymore, was made from old vines that either they don’t source from or re-planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, since that is there main focus and has been for many decades now. Not that I was shocked really, because I’ve had remarkable bottles of California wines that should have been long dead that weren’t, like old Zinfandel, Barbera and Petite Sirah, AKA Durif. Petite Sirah (or Durif) is a black-skinned grape variety that was developed by Dr. Durif, a French nurseryman living in the southwest of France in the late 1800’s. He created this new variety by crossing the Syrah grape with the little known Peloursin grape, with Petite Sirah being its North and South American name, and according to Patrick Comiskey, author of American Rhone, Durif took the name for a completely different variety (thought to be a clone of Syrah) in the early 1900s, and that’s why it can also be spelled Petite Syrah as well. In the rest of the world, like in Australia where it has become quite popular, it is generally known as Durif, as mentioned, named after its discoverer, Dr. Francois Durif himself. Tasting this Petite, is quite literally tasting history, and it is still astonishingly fresh wine with layers of only slightly faded blackberry, dusty cherry, dried violets, minty herbs, tobacco leaf as well as the mentioned below, mulberry and currant fruits along with a hint of earthy mushroom, gravelly loam, autumn leaves, a faint whiff of soy/balsamic and cedar.

Though the grape was never highly regarded in France, and is a rarity there, it makes for a inky dark wine of great tannic intensity with blue fruits and chocolatey element when in its youth, developing a more refined character with age, often losing the sense of jammy fruit and taking on, as this 1972 Freemark Abbey has a secondary, almost like a Cabernet Sauvignon personality taking on currants and earthy mulberries. Freemark Abbey, in St. Helena, which was first founded in 1886, as noted by the winery, by Josephine Tychson, a Victorian widow, built and operated the original redwood cellar on our estate, cultivated the land, and became the first female winemaker on record in Napa Valley. This was short lived, as in 1898, Antonio Forni, a good friend of Josephine’s, purchased the winery and renamed it as Lombarda Cellars, after his birthplace in Italy, he also build the winery structure which still survives today. Just before the US entered WWII, in 1939 three southern California businessmen purchased Lombarda Cellars, combining their names, Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster and Albert “Abbey” Ahern into the name, we know today, Freemark Abbey. Interestingly, Freemark Abbey was one of the first wineries in Napa to open a tasting room and visitors center back in 1949, and in 1967 a new partnership took over and into the 1970s they focused almost exclusively on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a few Bordeaux blends, including their Bosché Vineyard Cabernet, their signature wine, and one of the first single vineyard labeled bottlings in California. Freemark Abbey, one of the original twelve wineries to be included in the Judgement of Paris tastings, along with the likes of Chateau Montelena, Ridge Vineyards and others, and while I can’t find out much on this Petite Sirah, the winery does have an intriguing history that is worth remembering. What an experience, honestly, if tasted blind I might have said Napa Cab, but it does have a left bank charm, I wish I had a few more bottles!
($ N/A) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 16, 2019

2017 I. Brand & Family, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch, Paicines, San Benito County -photo grapelive

2017 I. Brand & Family, Cabernet Franc, Bayly Ranch, Paicines, San Benito County.
The beautiful Bourgueil like dark garnet and ruby Bayly Ranch Cab Franc from Ian Brand is maybe the best Loire style version for the money in California and the 2017 vintage is the best yet with warm ripe details and some classic pyrazines (bell pepper) in the background as well as gorgeous floral notes and earthy intensity. Ian Brand, maker of the fun Le P’Tit Paysan line and the La Marea Albarino, does an amazing set of small lot signature single vineyard wines under his I. Brand & Family label, and these limited bottlings are fabulous terroir wines that highlight some underrated areas and vineyard sites, I call him a Vineyard Whisperer, and his latest set of wines are wonderfully compelling, especially this Paicines, Bayly Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Franc. Bayly Ranch is in the San Benito AVA and within the Paicines zone, which is near the Tres Pinos Creek and the San Andreas Fault. The soils here consist of a stony mix including ancient alluvial deposits with an array of geologic structures in this warm climate that refreshed by cool nights, making it a sublime place for Cabernet Franc. This Franc, the Loire inspired one joins the denser and more Bordeaux like Bates Ranch in Brand’s collection, he really has a great feeling and touch with this varietal, both are exciting examples and make a great pair of bookends!

Crafted using traditional methods, the Bayly Ranch was vinified using whole berry grapes that were picked at moderate sugars, usually with selected yeasts, with a cool two week maceration, then raised for just under a year neutral (well seasoned) French oak, all to highlight vitality and keep natural acidity, while the vintage speaks clearly of expressive fruit richness. Old world Franc lovers will absolutely love this wine, as mentioned it has the nature of a fine Bourgueil, like Catherine and Pierre Breton’s in France’s Loire Valley, though there is plenty of California fruit to keep the natives happy. The 2017 I. Brand & Family Cabernet Franc Bayly Ranch starts with an intriguing nose of racy violets, rose petals, cinnamon and earhy tones that leads to a medium/full palate that feels seamless and round, but with a lively pop of red fruits including plum, cherry, raspberry and currant along with a hint of leather, pepper, weathered cedar, anise, loamy stones and wild chanterelles. It truly is hard to imagine a better Franc for the price, and it is outstanding with gamey and or robust country cuisine, it’s sweet tannins melt away with food and the seductive long finish, echoing each element is stunning. Of Brand’s latest set, look for his interesting amber colored “Orange” skin contact Pinot Gris from Eden Rift vines, also in San Benito County, the fine and textured Escolle Chardonnay, the vineyard yeast ferment Alt Cut Albarino and this Bayly Cab Franc, all very unique and delicious stuff.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 15, 2019

2012 Cantine I Favati, Aglianico “Cretarossa” Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC, Campania, Italy -photo grapelive

2012 Cantine I Favati, Aglianico “Cretarossa” Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC, Campania, Italy.
The beautifully integrated and textured I Favati Cretarossa, made from 100% Aglianico, is very Nebbiolo like in character and this vintage is really coming together nicely with layered fruit, spice, earth and soft woody notes. This is medium/full bodied stuff and while tannic by nature, this has a stylish and poised form with lovely mouth feel without losing the slightly raw and rustic charm that comes with this grape, sometime referred to as the Barolo of the south. I love the wines from Cantine I Favati, especially their gorgeous Fiano di Avellino, which along with Marisa Cuomo’s whites are some of my favorites, as well as this value priced Aglianico, these are polished examples, clean and focused, but with a sense of place and without pretense. This pretty and subtly robust Aglianico is from the Irpinia Campi Taurasini zone of Campania set on Hilly terrain with mostly hardened clay and mineral rich soils. The I Favati team is small and is a tightly run ship with Giancarlo Favati, Managing Director, Piersabino Favati, who is Vineyard Manager, Rosanna Petrozziello, wife of Giancarlo, who is a professional sommelier and knows her stuff, I enjoyed learning from her very much on one of her visits to San Francisco, she is also the marketing manager for the I Favati brand worldwide. Carmine Valentino is the winemaker is the winemaker and cellar master for Cantine I Favati and when you taste these wines, you can taste the talent here and the finesse he coaxes out of these grapes.

The I Favati winery is located today in Cesinale, a town and surrounding hilly area in the heart of Irpinia, east of Naples, in the, as mentioned, region of Campania. The wines currently produced at I Favati are, as noted, a fabulous set of Fiano di Avellino D.O.C.G.(s), a very savvy Greco di Tufo D.O.C.G. and this Aglianico d’Irpinia DOC, plus a lighter I.G.T. Aglianico. The Cretarossa, which is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless vat/tank, sees one year of aging in small oak barrels, and after the 12 months in wood it is racked back to tank for another 3 months of aging/settling before bottling. The finished wine comes in at around 14% and punches way above its weight with a studied form and complexity that usually come from wines twice the price. The grapes come Favati’s Cretarossa Vineyard in Venticano, San Mango in the province of Avelllino at between 1,480-1640 feet above sea level, which helps retain fresh detail and acidity. The mouth is layered, in this crimson/garnet and dark brick hued wine, with dried violets, sticky lavender, iron ore, brandied cherry, plum, minty/menthol, anise and tar all wrapped around a core of dusty raspberry and plum fruit that dominates the palate along with a nice mineral streak, saline, cassis and a hint of cedar. The earthy nature and sanguine (blood) events have faded into the background allowing the fruit to shine and while evident, the tannin is ripe and easy to deal with, as with most Italian reds, food is most welcome and this one really turns on the style with robust cuisine, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, it is very impressive, in particular for the price.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 14, 2019

2013 Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, Volnay, Les Mitans, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France -photo grapelive

2013 Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, Volnay Mitans, Premier Cru Red Burgundy, France.
The delightfully nuanced, graceful and pure in Pinot fruit Bitouzet-Prieur Volnay Mitans 2013 was a standout out in a recent Burgundy panel tasting, its pale ruby hue in the glass belying the depth and treasures it possesses. Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur, one of my favorite Cote de Beaune producers, is a historical Domaine that was the union of two old vigneron families from Volnay and Meursault. Their wines are all hand crafted efforts from some of the best “Crus” in the region, coming from their fabulous 1er Crus vineyards in Volnay and Meursault, with serious and seductive qualities that tend to be better with some age like this 2013 Volnay Les Mitans, which is showing lovely form right now. As noted by Bitouzet-Prieur’s importer Rosenthal Wine Merchant, the Bitouzet family’s ancestral roots in Burgundy has covered the better part of two centuries. Francois Bitouzet, who is now running the Domaine, having taken over from his father Vincent, who’s great-great grandfather, M. Gillotte, arrived in Auxey Duresses back in around 1800 and even was mayor of the village, before they soon settled in Volnay, where the cellars are today. According to Rosenthal, the Bitouzets were one of the first small family wineries in Volnay to bottle their wines. Vincent’s grandfather had already garnered medals for his winemaking talents back in 1860, putting their efforts on the world stage. Vincent’s wife, Annie Prieur, and Francois’ mom has equally distinguished ancestors, with her family (both Prieurs and Perronnets) were well regarded in Meursault and Ladoix. The resulting “merger” of the Bitouzet and Prieur family holdings has created a domaine of distinction and breadth, added Rosenthal, and my personal experience with their wines since the 2005 vintage has been very fruitful with some stunning wines, both red and white, impressing me greatly.

Known for being a classicist or traditional minded house, the Bitouzet offerings always show a delicate touch in the cellar and deliver age worthy structures, in particular the Volnay(s) Taillepieds Premier Cru and this Mitans Premier Cru, Red Burgundies as well as the usually tightly reduced Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres White Burgundy. Interestingly enough, 2005 was the first vintage of Bitouzet-Prieur Les Mitans, from vines that date back to 1991, but it has proven to be a great source of fine Pinot and the 2013 is incredibly charming and elegant. While if given the choice, I might opt for their Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chenes and or the Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets for longer term cellaring, but for drinking now, this Les Mitans is an awesome Burgundy value, pedigreed and with a backbone, and amazingly enough only about three barrels are made. The bouquet is inviting with equal parts rose petal and feral earthiness with a palate that has finesse, pretty fruit, but with energy, tension and a savory dimension all within a medium weight palate that shows wild strawberry, red plum, beat root and cranberry wrapped around a core of black cherry fruit as well as mineral, leather, tangy herbal notes, chalky stones and a touch of baking spice. Like a baby Pommard, the 2013 Bitouzet-Prieur Les Mtans hits all the right cords and puts in a solid performance in an uneven vintage, drink over the next 5 to 10 years. Sometimes you crave the old world, and for me this scratched the inch to near perfection at a reasonable price, it’s a well made under the radar Burg, one that I will go back to a few times I’m sure.
($52 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 13, 2019

2017 Bedrock Wine Co. Lorenzo’s Heritage, Dry Creek Valley -photo grapelive

2017 Bedrock Wine Co. Lorenzo’s Heritage, Dry Creek Valley.
The beautiful and complex Lorenzo’s Heritage by Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock Wine Co. is from historic vines in the Dry Creek Valley, farmed by John Teldeschi, from a family with a long tradition of growing in the region. Made from old vines, the 2017 is roughly 46% Zinfandel, 35% Petite Sirah and 14% Carignan, along with the small amounts of Alicante Bouschet, Cinsault, Peloursin and a few vines of Vaccarese, a rare Chateauneuf du Pape grape. Bedrock’s Lorenzo’s Heritage red field blend comes from the beautifully drained, gravelly clay soils of the western bench of Dry Creek Valley, which Twain-Peterson notes that these are some of the best soils for producing Zinfandel, Carignan and Petite Sirah in the state. Bedrock crafts their wines to provide a platform a stage for the vines to showcase their sense of place and history, and while known as a Zinfandel expert, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who is one of American’s very few Master of Wine, has done heroic work in preserving California’s Historic Vineyard sites that include a range of inter-planted varietals, some that were planted back in the late 1800s, like his own Bedrock Vineyard.

The 2017 Lorenzo’s shows a deep color and has a nose of black fruit and deep floral intensity that leads to a full bodied palate that radiates with raspberry, black plum, mission fig, cherry and a racy burst of blueberry all in a dense form that is hedonistic and textural in the mouth, but in a vivid and pure fashion. There is a ton going just under the surface with spicy tones, dried herbs, mocha, cedar and licorice. Impressive in feel and complexity this is a fabulous vintage it is a warm and ripe wine that is lifted by natural acidity and luxurious, velvety tannins, this is a red that has maybe 20 years of great drinking ahead of it. The structure is enhanced by that 35% of Petite Sirah, plus the juicy fruit of the Zin and lively old vine Carignan at it’s core with the other grapes adding background intrigue, this wine reminds me of some of the great Ridge Lytton Springs in it’s transparent style. Bedrock’s latest set are some of the best yet from Morgan and his team, and they look like California legends in the making.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 12, 2019

2018 Morgan Winery, Dry Riesling, Double L Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands -photo grapelive

2018 Morgan Winery, Dry Riesling, Double L Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
The incredible limited bone dry version of Morgan Winery’s Double L Vineyard Riesling is deeply perfumed, vibrant and mineral driven, reminding me of some great Pfalz Trockens by Mueller-Catoir, Von Buhl, Rebholz, Bassermann-Jordan and the unoaked versions from Von Winning, as well as a few top Alsace versions! I love the main, slightly off-dry edition and I am highly impressed with all of Morgan’s 2018 wines, these are all next level wines, owner Dan Lee and winemaker Sam Smith have raised the game here and this two barrel Dry Double L Vineyard is an absolutely gorgeous wine. The organic Double L Vineyard, as noted by the winery, is at the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands where the ultra-cool climate and porous, mountainside soils provide ideal conditions for growing world-class Riesling, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Northern Rhone style Syrah. Like the “Kabinett” style fruiter Double L Riesling, this Dry edition was from, as Smith notes, grapes that were foot stomped and left on the skins for 18 hours, then whole-cluster pressed, which adds extract and intensity, preserving freshness and bright fruit character, with a cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks, after which Smith racked some of the juice to just two neutral French oak barrels to finish fermentation. That final bit in barrel lasted about a month, just getting the wine to dry, reducing any remaining residual sugar and then bottled before any malos, to retain bright and vivid acidity, while allowing the wine to gain a textural charm, and the results are amazing in glass. This thrilling Riesling is drinking great, already a class act, but I am going to put a bottle or two away for a few years, I think it will age a decade or more with huge potential for further intrigue.

The brilliant clarity of form of this 2018 Dry Riesling is stunning, you will marvel at it’s pale hue with only the slightest of green and gold tint in the glass and be blown away with the depth of flavors and impact on the medium bodied palate, it has the feel of a bigger wine and its dry extract will appeal to red wine lovers. In recent years California Riesling has truly come of age and competes well with any old world regions with many world class bottlings, by producers like Tatomer, Cobb, Reeve, Joyce, Desire Lines, Stirm, Union Sacre and Scribe to name a few as well as long time quality stalwarts Stony Hill, Casa Nuestra, Chateau Montelena and Smith-Madrone. This Morgan dry Double L is crisp and tangy with Condrieu like aromatics with vivid floral elements like honeysuckle, jasmine and lime blossom leading the way to a saline and stony palate that opens to green apple, tart apricot, brisk lime and bitter melon fruits, along with wet chalk, minty herbs, citron/verbena, rosewater and peach pit. Sadly there is not going to be a lot of this outrageously good wine available, and you’ll have to contact Morgan directly to get this, as it is not even listed on their web store, but trust me it will be worth it, but also grab the regular off-dry offering, which I have reviewed earlier. Morgan is one of Monterey’s best family owned wineries and has a long history of crating pure regional wines, but with the addition of Sam Smith, these bottlings have taken a big step up, be sure to check the 2017 and 2018 vintages, especially the estate Double L Vineyard offerings from the Lee family’s SLH property, like their limited Pommard Clone Pinot, Clone 15 Chardonnay as well as there G17 Syrah, one of their best values, and certainly these Rieslings.
($25 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day June 11, 2019

2017 Cattleya, Chardonnay, Cuvee Number Five, Sonoma Coast -photo grapelive

2017 Cattleya, Chardonnay, Cuvee Number Five, Sonoma Coast.
The thrilling Cuvee Number Five Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni and her personal Cattleya label is one of the white wines of the vintage, it is gorgeous in depth and expressive in flavors with wonderful balance. Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni, the Colombian native who’s travelled the world to learn and make wine, is one of California’s hottest talents and part of a serious power couple with husband Jeff Pisoni of the Pisoni Estate and former winemaker at Peter Michael. Bibiana started her journey in wine at University in Cognac getting her first degree there in 2001, before moving on to Bordeaux and achieving a higher degree with honors in enology, all of which led her to winemaking stints at some famous Chateaux and small domaines including Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Leognan as well as with Domaine Stéphane Ogier in Côte-Rôtie along with small family estates in Alsace, Burgundy and far away in South Africa. With her impressive resume, she made a quick splash here in California and has made the state her home fitting in perfectly with the vines of the Sonoma Coast as well as her husbands family vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands and in recent years she has been named winemaker of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and crafting the amazing wines at Pahlmeyer’s Wayfarer. Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni started her own label Cattleya in late 2011, Cattleya means Orchid in Spanish and it is the national flower of her beloved home country of Colombia.

The Cattleya Cuvee Number Five is composed of different vineyards that are influenced by the cooling effect of the coastal fog, marine sedimentary soils and multiple clones of Chardonnay to preserve intensity and still have palate impact and richness. Bibiana notes that, she has been waiting for a while, to produce a blend with Sonoma Coast fruit that would capture the essence of the cooling influence of the ocean proximity, which highlights the terroir and sense of place, she adds she wants her wines to reveal complexity, acidity, minerality and longevity, this is especially delivered in her 2017 Chardonnay. Crafted from small lots from two vineyard sites using a selection Old Wente, 78 and 15 clones, Bibiana gently bladder pressed the grapes letting the juice settle overnight in very cool stainless tanks before being racked to French oak for barrel fermentation and aging. The Cattleya Chardonnay saw about 40% new oak with the rest being in neutral casks to allow the grapes purity to thrive, it spent just about a year in barrel before bottling. The nose starts with stunning aromatics with citrus blossoms, stone fruit and a light toasty note that leads to a full bodied palate, which is slightly exotic, almost like a Hermitage Blanc, with layers of brilliant and detailed fruit including peach, apple, pear, kumquat and lemon curd as well as mineral tones, a creamy brioche/creme brûlée, subtle hazelnut, golden fig, saline, wet rock and just a touch of vanilla. This is right up there with the elite Chardonnay producers with its class showing from start to finish, this is a wine that shows its confidence, strutting its stuff, but without any pretense or gaudy glitz, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive