Monthly Archives: January 2021

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 31, 2021

2019 Monte Rio Cellars, Primitivo, Lodi, California.
A delightfully easy, fun and deliciously quaffable this new Monte Rio Cellars Lodi Primitivo from the all organic Shergill Vineyard is made from 10 year old Primitivo Clone (of Zinfandel) vines in this region famous for its Zinfandel wines, but with this one being of a new generation in style, with a lighter, low alcohol, natural and fresher manner about it and is a great addition to the re-imagining of California wines. This vintage perfectly captures the best of this kind of wine with lovely ripe fruit, bright acidity and loads of drinking pleasure with pure Zin crushed raspberry, pomegranate, fresh picked plum and tangy red peach fleshiness along with whole cluster pop with racy cinnamon, peppery notes, a touch of stemmy bite and delicate floral details, as well as some dusty tannins, lavender, earthy cedar and minty herbs. In recent years we’ve seen some very interesting versions of Zin with Monte Rio’s being an excellent counter culture example, coming in at just 12.5% natural alcohol and very low SO2, it joins another old world or old school inspired offering from Martha Stoumen, who’s Mendocino Zinfandel is similarly rustic and vibrantly charming, this are wines not to over think, but made to be enjoyed young with friends and every day meals. This 2019 Monte Rio Primitivo opens nicely and delivers a fine performance on the medium bodied, with a carbonic fermentation softness and showing playfully zesty edginess, perfect with Pizza and or BBQ chicken.

Monte Rio Cellars is owned by famous Sommelier Patrick Cappiello, who along with his friend and famed Syrah maker Pax Mahle produce a series of ultra small production, hand crafted and naturally made wines, most of which are Zinfandel, though they have started exploring rare varietals, including a bottling of Mission grape (also known as Pais or Listen) and a California hybrid known as Rubired. The wines, like this one are done using 100% whole cluster and see a Carbonic Maceration for 9 days in stainless steel, then are pressed into a concrete tank for 8 days, with no sulfur (sulphates) used in the winemaking, all with just indigenous yeast fermentation(s). This Primitivo was then aged 10 months in old wood barrels, with everything done to enhance transparency and intentional rawness of form to make these wines feel authentic in their profiles. I am really getting into these Monte Rio wines, they take an attitude adjustment and an openness of mind to understand and give yourself to their nakedness of spirit and character. Pax also does a lineup of wines that usually just go to their wine club that are in the same vein, with an interesting array of varietals from Trousseau Gris to Charbono, which may have been influenced by the Monte Rio’s success. The 2019s from Monte Rio Cellars are a significant step up and I highly recommend checking them out!
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 30, 2021

2018 Desire Lines Wine Co., Cabernet Sauvignon, Lichau Hill Vineyard, Petaluma Gap AVA, Sonoma County.
Cody Rasmussen’s Desire Lines Wines Co. label is certainly one of the coolest and best new wineries to emerge in the last few years and his latest set of wines are absolute gems with his Syrah bottlings being some of the best in the state, but I just discovered his Cabernet Sauvignon and it is also a killer wine, especially interesting coming from this unlikely place, its dark and pure flavors a joy on a cold January night. The Lichau Cabernet Sauvignon is deeply saturated with an almost opaque black/purple and garnet tinted color which is ultra compelling and the nose is a classic mix of black fruit, floral notes, a light wood toast and chaparral that leads to a very youthful, but surprisingly supple tannined full, bodied palate that comes through in dense layers of blackberries, creme de cassis, plum and cherry fruits along with licorice, cedar, minty herb, a touch of vanilla and with some earthy loam and graphite. The vintage, long and somewhat cool, allowed for a smoothing of the structural elements, fresh detailing and gave well developed ripe fruit complexity, all adding up to a powerful and graceful example of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers a top notch performance in the glass and making for an exceptional value for this grape and it is just beginning its evolution and should only get better and better over the next few years or the decade head. With some air and food the 2018 Desire Lines Wine Co. Lichau Cabernet behaves impeccably and its raw grip fades into a luxurious richness, much the same way you’d expect and want from a big red wine and there is a lot to admire here, especially the constant play between hedonistic fruit and savory notes and a lingering sensation of acacia flowers and blueberry. Fans of Mountain California Cabernet will love the rustic and or old school style, but it is still a quite polished and pretty really and am reminded of wines like Mount Eden and Chappellet, which is a good thing.

Cody Rasmussen and his wife Emily started this micro (family) winery in 2014 when they made their first wine, a Mendocino Syrah from the Eagle Point Vineyard, before creating a more wide set of wines over the next few vintages, which include a fabulous Griffin’s Lair Syrah, an expressive dry Riesling from Cole Ranch, a juicy Carignan blend from old wines in Contra Costa County, a pure Mourvedre and another gorgeous and opulent Syrah from the much heralded Shake Rigde Vineyard in the Amador County, as well as this impressive single vineyard offering. Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under the guidance of Morgan Twain-Peterson MW and one of the great wine minds of California, and has a fantastic selection of top vineyard sites to work from. His own label wines have the quality and refinement that you see in the highly regarded Bedrock wines, but still have a unique distinction and show his own personality as well as the individual terroir characteristics, which is clearly on display on this wine. Rasmussen says he didn’t intend to make a Cabernet when we started Desire Lines, but just by chance along a hiking trail, the Lichau Hill appeared to him and he was intrigued by this remote vineyard. So in 2018, he followed up on his instincts and got grapes from Lichau, which is set on Sonoma Mountain’s western side with a southwest facing and a mix of rocky soils, along with a slightly cooler coastal influence. The Lichau Vineyard, as Cody notes is thoroughly singular, it has the only Cabernet Sauvignon planted within the Petaluma Gap AVA, and at a good elevation, it misses most of fog and gets warm enough to fully ripen the Cab grapes, proven here beautifully in this 2018 version. Rasmussen fully de-stemmed the Cab clusters, but he did not crush the berries, fermenting them on the skins for thirty days in tank, and then he aged the Lichau for about 15 months in 225L French oak barriques with 40% new oak. This is a wonderful effort and a great addition to the Desire Lines stellar lineup, I highly recommend it and all of the wines, this is winery to watch.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 29, 2021

2018 Flaneur, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
One of the new labels in the Willamette Valley has has impressed me in recent years, Flaneur, based in Carlton, is an up and coming winery that has some exciting wines to discover and this beautiful and dark, black and blue fruited basic Willamette Valley cuvee is definitely one to search out, it offers a lot of quality and value for the price. Flaneur Wines was founded by the ambitious Marty Doerschlag who has amazingly, and quickly made his winery a force to be reckoned with and his team looks to be an all star cast, including winemaker and vineyard manager Grant Coulter, who I’m known since 2008 when I visited Beaux Freres and have been following ever since, the ex Beaux Freres man was drawn to this winery by the mission to produce small lot hand crafted wines all coming from organic and sustainable vineyard site as well as putting his artistic stamp on the wines. The 2018 Flaneur Pinot starts with English rose, red berries and cedary spices and opens up with beautiful detail on the smooth and silken medium bodied palate with rich layers of briar laced raspberry, plum, red currant and a deep core of black cherry fruit that everything revolves around with touches of tea spices, cinnamon, mineral tones, snapping herbs and a hint of toasty wood. The 2018 was native yeast fermented and saw just about 5% new French oak, with the balance being aged in well seasoned used barrel and got a gentle cool maceration to preserve purity, freshness and aromatic quality.

This 2018 vintage has lots of elegance and energy on display and they have a graceful sensibility with this Flaneur showcasing the year’s best characteristics and delivers its flavors with a exciting flourish, especially after opening up and getting air, it is joyous to experience even in its youth and can be enjoyed now and it should provide pleasure for another 3 to 5 years with ease. The Flaneur winemaker, Grant Coulter has really become one of Oregon’s top guns and as noted in my reviews, his own label Hundred Suns Wines is one of my big favorites, especially his whole cluster style Pinots and his awesome Gamay, which I highly recommend to anyone reading this and his offerings here at Flaneur are just as stylish and desirable. Grant, who is originally from Monterey County, has worked for Eric Hamacher, another California talent to move to Oregon as well as for the legendary Mike Etzel, where Coulter rose up to be head winemaker at the famed Beaux Freres, where he made some profound wines. Flaneur also does Chardonnay, which I hope to dig into in the near future as well as a grower producer style Champagne method sparkling wine, again I can’t wait to try it, especially since it is an Extra Brut with an ultra dry style, which is my kind of bubbly. This deeply colored dark ruby/garnet 2018 Flaneur Willamette Valley Pinot, that was sourced from a variety of cool climate sites with a mixture of the region’s zones and a combination of soils, is easy to love and a great value, be sure to keep an eye out for it and getting onto their mailing list to see their more limited offerings.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 28, 2021

1998 Domaine Gramenon, Cotes du Rhone Rouge “Sierra du Sud” Rhone Valley, France.
I was excited when I learned that a friend had acquired a perfectly cellared collection of Rhone wines, and while I couldn’t afford to grab some of the super gems and unicorn wines, I could get some under the radar and frankly some unsellable bottles that by all rights should be long dead, but so far they’ve all proved outstanding, especially this gorgeous and very much alive 1998 Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud Cotes du Rhone. This wonderful surprise from the late Philippe Laurent, who was killed in a car accident a year or so after making this wine, and his wife Michèle Aubèry-Laurent, the founders of this small organic family winery that has gained more notoriety in recent years with Michele’s talented son Maxime François Laurent continuing the traditions of the estate and bringing a spotlight to this exceptional estate. Gramenon, based in the northern zone of the southern Rhone around the new hotspot of the region Vinsobres, established in 1979, is not an old property, but the wines are very serious and impeccably made in a very natural style, the quality here was so good that famous importer Kermit Lynch, in Berkeley California took them on and has brought these humble hardworking vignerons no small about of fame and an enthusiast following in America. This 1998 Sierra du Sud was a special 100% Syrah cuvee from a selection of what was then some younger vines set on a complex series of soils with a combination of clay, limestone, along with gravel, galets roulés (large round river stones) and sand, making for deeply flavorful and fabulously textured wine that has not succumbed to age, in fact this Gramenon is fresher and drinking better than some top Chateauneuf du Pape bottlings from the same vintage! This dark garnet hued (with barely a hint of orange on the edges) Sierra du Sud shows a remarkable freshness and lively nature (for its age) and held up all night gaining mouth feel and intriguing floral aromatics as it opened, very impressive. It unfolded with pure layers of blueberry, cassis, dried violets, delicate truffle or wild porcini, a light dusting of chalky stones, peppercorns, licorice and some savory earthiness that doesn’t override the pretty fruit core, but provides a sultry and sensual appeal with just a faint whiff of sous bois or a meaty element and lingering kirsch notes. While warmer and softer in style, especially at this stage of life, this authentic and elegant wine is not far off a Cote-Rotie in class and in drinking pleasure.

The Domaine Gramonon does a vast array of unique bottlings, most are focused around their main grape Grenache, but they also do a couple of single varietal Syrah(s) with this Sierra du Sud being one, labeled as a Cotes du Rhone, similar to Chateau de Saint Cosme, the famous Gigondas producer that has vineyard holdings in Vinsobres too, and who’s basic Cotes du Rhone is also 100% Syrah, as well as Gramenon’s other Syrah Côtes-du-Rhône “Emouvante” which I haven’t yet tried, but will certainly look for. This estate is all about sustainable farming and live a holistic lifestyle, which they have, as Kermit Lynch notes, incorporated into their daily lives by growing their own food and raising their own animals, being in partnership with their land and nature. This area of Rhone is cooler and the wines are more edgy than in the southern zones which allows the Syrah to shine here and making their Grenache wines more distinct and fresh feeling, these conditions and terroir make for long lived wines, even ones that were never purposed for long term aging, like this Gramenon Sierra du Sud Cotes du Rhone. I have been a fan of Gramenon for just over a decade, after being introduced to the wines by Kermit Lynch and I have always adored this Sierra du Sud bottling, it has been a favorite from the Laurent family, along with their amazing old vine Grenache and the delightful “Il Fait Soif” by Maxime Francois Cotes du Rhone, a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Cinsault, a wine that is great place to start if you want to get into these wines. Gramenon has been farming using biodynamic practices since 2007 and have always been organic, though they finished certification in 2010 with their vines all being traditionally trained with mostly head training and dry famed with small yields that make for concentrated wines, but with crisp detailing. The winemaking at Gramenon is very old school and the wines are more made in the vineyard, rather than the rustic cellar with a minimalistic approach and with low SO2 additions, in some cases without any sulphites being added at all, even in their most prized bottlings. The Sierra du Sud was fermented with partial whole cluster and some stem inclusion with native yeasts in concrete vat with a gentle 10 to 12 day maceration before being aged in a combination of tank (cement) and old barriques for just under a year, usually about seven months. This wine, like all the wines at Gramenon was bottled unfined and unfiltered, to preserve its true personality and charm, which it continues even after more than twenty years to near perfection and utter brilliance, great cellaring (a must with low sulfur or natural wines) brings huge rewards.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 27, 2021

2018 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The satiny, beautifully dark ruby hued and opulent 2018 Trout Gulch Pinot Noir is a classically styled version with rich layers of dark fruit, light spices, subtle earth notes and impeccably well judged use of oak, giving this wine its soft and luxurious framing, all of which highlights the quality of the grapes from this vineyard and the precise winemaking by Richard Alfaro at his Alfaro Family Vineyards. These 2018s are incredible for their depth and vibrancy with this Trout Gulch Pinot being a stand out in Alfaro’s lineup with a complex array of flavors and textural pleasure, it delivers in all areas and is an outstanding value in a collection of great values, these are without a doubt some of the best efforts to date from this small family estate winery. This vintage shows a freshness of detail that is very compelling with black cherries, plum, fig and red berry fruits leading the way on the exciting medium to full bodied palate that is lifted by vital natural acidity as well as tea spices, blood orange, a nice floral element, a touch of sweet toasty oak, mineral tones and loam. This wine feels polished and excels with food, especially good with salmon, pork and wild mushroom dishes. Alfaro has really made this vineyard sing since he took over the farming here, with the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir vines thriving and producing stunning wines, you can see why these grapes are so coveted, with the Chardonnay grapes finding their way into some of the most sought after wines in state, like the fabulous single vineyard bottlings by Arnot-Roberts, Kutch and Ceritas. I’ve been following Richard’s wines since the early to mid 2000s and have been thrilled with the evolution of the style and the maturity of the vines, that these wines their unique personality. With his reputation as a grower now cemented, I still find it amazing that Alfaro’s wine are such bargains, even now this estate remains under the radar with some real gems to discover here, especially his estate Chards, which are some of my all time favorites!

The Alfaro Family Vineyards Trout Gulch Pinot Noir was hand crafted using traditional winemaking methods, seeing a gentle handing of the grapes and a cool temperature maceration and primary fermentation in mostly stainless steel and then aged 10 months in 27% new French oak, in this vintage, with just 275 cases made. The Alfaro estate began back in 1997 when Richard Alfaro, a famous local baker, and his wife Mary Kay bought this property in Corralitos in the southern most zone of the Santa Cruz Mountains and planted their own vineyards. Richard, along with his son Ryan, who has completed internships in New Zealand and most recently with the iconic Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards are focused on mostly estate grown terroir driven Chardonnay and Pinot offerings that they farm to sustainable and mostly organic methods, plus a selection of unique rarities including their awesome estate grown Gruner Veltliner, a new estate 100% Malbec, a Merlot and a peppery cool climate Syrah, as well as a few small lot wines from non estate vines, like their Garys’ Vineyard Pinot, their Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot and a Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, to name a few top choices. The Trout Gulch Vineyard, planted back in 1980, is a 16 acre dry-farmed vineyard that is nestled on a coastal hillside and surrounded by redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Aptos only about four miles from the cold Pacific Ocean. The site, as the winery notes, sits at 750 to 800 feet above sea level and has well-draining sandy loam soils with a touch of clay that adds to the fruit density, while the morning fog and cool air makes for a long growing season and allows for racy acidity. Alfaro has twelve acres at the Trout Gulch Vineyard that is planted to the Robert Young clone of Chardonnay and just four acres planted to Pinot Noir with a heritage set of vines, that has a mix of the Mt. Eden, Pommard and Martini clones. These Monterey Bay influenced Trout Gulch wines are absolutely delicious, in particular this one, which is just one of Alfaro’s latest set of solid new releases, all of which, that I highly recommend. Now that the stay at home order has been lifted I look forward to visiting the Alfaro’s tasting room and picturesque vineyard soon.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 26, 2021

2018 Bucklin, Zinfandel, Bambino Field Blend, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
The Bucklin Bambino is a wonderful Zinfandel based red that way over delivers for the price with this gorgeous 2018 being one of the best versions to date with layers of lively, but deep black fruits on the nicely balanced full bodied palate that leads with classic black raspberry, touches of spice, light floral notes and youthful vigorous energy. This vintage, longer and cooler than most in the Sonoma Valley really made this wine stand out for the excitement and depth of flavors, it is wonderfully layered and softly tannic, making it fabulous with food and easy to love as a young wine, even by itself and or with basque or artisan cheeses. Will Bucklin, owner and winemaker at Bucklin, sells his Old Hill Ranch grapes to some outstanding producers, like Bedrock Wine Co. and others, makes just a limited amount of wines under his own label with his Ancient Field Blend, coming from the historic heritage vines and this Bambino Zinfandel blend, coming from a young parcel, being his main two offerings. Will Bucklin and his wife Lizanne live on, and farm, the Old Hill Ranch, which his family purchased in 1980 and have been wonderful guardians of this special site that is one of California’s most treasured vineyards that was originally planted in 1852 and has arguably the oldest Zinfandel vines in the state if not the world. Located near Glen Ellen, Old Hill Ranch was founded by the name sake William McPherson Hill and who is credited with planting the first non-mission grapes in Sonoma, choosing an eccentric array of European varietals that he inter-planted at his property, these included a section of vines planted in 1856 of a mysterious black grape that was known at the time as “Black St. Peters,” which of course we know now as Zinfandel. This 2018 vintage Bambino Zinfandel, was hand crafted from vines planted between 1998 and 2000, using the same percentages of each varietal as the original Ancient blocks with 75% Zinfandel being used, but it is also co-fermented with some Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet as well as, maybe, a few other grapes, which adds to the complexity, as well as giving the wine its deep purple/garnet color.

Will Bucklin, who studied enology at UC Davis, has quietly become an influential winegrower in the Sonoma Valley and has some very worldly experience in his past, making wine around the world and here on the west coast. After his graduation Bucklin traveled to France for an internship at Chateau Lafite Rothschild, then he worked in Australia at Thomas Hardy and Sons, before coming home and taking a position at Navarro winery in the remote Anderson Valley, where he was, as he notes, infected with the Pinot Noir bug. So with Pinot on his mind he packed up and moved up to Oregon to become winemaker for King Estate, where he fine tuned his skills. After which, he was persuaded to take over the family estate, where he manages all aspects of the Ranch’s grape production and in 2000 he started his Bucklin label. Old Hill Ranch has more than 30 different grapes in the old vine section, and Bucklin’s Ancient Field Blend includes them all, with Zinfandel being the main one, but also has Grenache, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Grand Noir, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvedre to name a few, along with some white grapes too. Bucklin interestingly has Cabernet Sauvignon, that parcel, which dates back to 1983, is separate and goes into a very limited solo varietal wine. The Bucklin’s have had some rough times in recent years with both the major fires causing significant damage to the ranch and their home, though most all the old vines, to our great joy and relief have survived, so it is a great time to support this winery as they look to recover and the wines are a rewarding bonus. I love this version of Bambino with its array dark fruits, with, the mentioned brambly black raspberry, as well as plum, currant and kirsch that are accented by hints of wild sage, cinnamon, roasted herbs, cedar and cassis. This vintage is exceptionally pure and there is not a trance of overt oak, it feels well rounded and has a cool toned presence and at 14.2% natural alcohol it doesn’t get heavy or ponderous, while still being impactful, ripe and full of pleasure, these 2018s are really good, in particular I highly recommend this Bambino, its almost guilt free for your wallet, it will drink well for many years too.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 25, 2021

2016 Wilson Foreigner, Valdiguie, Rancho Chimiles, Napa Valley.
Wonderfully easy to quaff, simple in a good way and fun the Wilson Foreigner Rancho Chimiles Valdiguie offers plenty of tangy blueberry and tart cherry fruit, even though this bottle is two vintages behind the current release, it was nicely fresh and showed extremely well, especially with the light meal I enjoyed it with. Valdiguie is a grape that was once mistaken for Gamay here in California and is sometimes still called Napa Gamay, but is not related to that Beaujolais varietal, it originally came from the Southwest of France and is almost totally unknown in France these days.making it now a firmly California grape, somewhat similar to Zinfandel (Tribidrag) and more like Petite Sirah (Durif), both of which had mysterious origins and are now part of the fabric of California wine. I have been a long time fan of this grape, even when I thought it was Gamay and I have really enjoyed its rise over the last decade, in particular the wines made by Rochioli, Broc, Cruse and even J. Lohr, so it was interesting to finally open this bottle from Wilson Foreigner, a small husband and wife micro winery based in Petaluma, in Sonoma County, as I had not tried their wines and this version of Valdiguie. The 2016 vintage has a more true Valdiguie sense about it, less Gamay or carbonic like in style with good ripe flavors, but zesty acidity, savory notes and no bubble gum or cotton candy (overt fruity tooty) elements, in fact it is finely balanced and a touch Italian like in style, think Dolcetto or entry level Chianti with a good play between dark berry fruit and light earthiness. This is not a wine to over think obviously and its light body not too different from Pinot Noir is not going to make it a blockbuster or give a profound experience, but it is rustic charms, delicate florals and weightless mouth feel make it a delightful and playful wine worthy of your attention. This dark garnet wine is nicely rounded with the mentioned blueberry, plum and cherry fruits and accented by a touch of loamy earth, bay leaf, lilac, mineral and peppery spices, it is crisply detailed and supported by a touch tannin and vibrant acidity all pretty much as expected of this grape and its 12.7% alcohol is just about perfect for a wine of this style.

The Wilson Foreigner Valdiguie was, I believe, fermented in concrete, aged in neutral French oak, with the winery noting, that this wine shows the qualities that made this once common and widely planted grape a staple of the Napa Valley decades ago. That was before everyone in the Valley started ripping out the rarity vines and replacing them with the more commercially profitable grapes, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon. Wilson Foreigner is finding their our niche and their goal, as owner as David Wilson and his wife Christine say, is to create unique wines with minimal intervention that truly represent the individual vineyards from which they are sourced. David, who grew up on the family ranch in Rancho Chimiles, near to where these Valdiguie grapes are grown, studied fruit science with an emphasis on wine and viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as well as traveling the world to expand his experience in wine and landed in South Africa, where he met Chris Alheit, who is a rising star now in his homeland and where he and his wife Suzaan have their own Alheit Vineyards, which they founded in 2011 and are based in the Western Cape. Now the two couples work together on these Wilson Foreigner wines, as the seasons are different which allows Chris and Suzaan to be consulting winemakers, sort of on the side, while David and Christine do the year round day to day work watching over the wines and checking in on the vines. Wilson Foreigner does three wines, this Rancho Chimiles Valdiguie, plus a Zinfandel from old vines in Contra Costa’s Del Barba Vineyard and a Sierra Foothills Albarino from the Rorick Vineyard and are currently selling the 2018s, which should be even better if you want to explore their wines. The 2016 Valdiguie which saw limited whole cluster, somewhere close to 30%, and native yeast fermentation before seeing a brief period in the well used barrels to promote transparency in the final product and allow the Valdiguie to show its true expression. I’m glad I got a chance to try this one and am excited to try the new releases, on a side note I really enjoyed the Alheit Cartology South African white blend, which I reviewed last year at grapelive.com, that was crafted from 87% Chenin Blanc and 13% Semillon and sourced from old bush vines.
($34 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 24, 2021

2018 Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay, Red Burgundy, France.
The basic home village and maybe signature wine from Sylvain Pataille is his fine Marsannay Rouge which in the 2018 is absolutely lovely delivering ripe Pinot purity and a crisp mineral focus along with beautiful delicate floral tones, a dark ruby color, a silken mouth feel and a purring underlying energy. I have been a fan and reviewed a few of this exceptional producer’s wines over the last few years, I only wish they were more easy to find, as Pataille is insanely popular with Burgundy enthusiasts and with only a small amount available it makes sense they are tough gets, but I cannot recommend more highly this winery and getting a few bottles of Sylvain’s Marsannay, especially this one and or his Clos de Roy. The 2018 Marsannay is outstanding and while not an obviously showy or flashy wine, it is a gorgeous wine that slowly comes into full bloom in the glass, gaining depth with every sip, this vintage allows early drinking pleasure as well as having potential to age another decade and maybe a bit longer, though no one could be that patient surely. The layering in Sylvain Pataille’s Marsannay includes black cherry, dark earthy currant, strawberry and plum fruits as well as touches of rose petals, stony loam, sassafras, cedar and a mix of faint baking spices on its well structured medium bodied palate that oozes confidence and class. Pataille, who is a widely admired consultant and vigneron, hand crafts about a dozen cuvées, including red, white and rosé offerings of Marsannay, with Marsannay, it should be noted being the only appellation in the Côte d’Or allowing an AC Rosé label, plus Pataille also does a distinct Aligoté, a Passetoutgrain, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay and regional bottlings of Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge, many from old vines and single Lieu Dits that make them more interesting than the label would suggest.

The Domaine Sylvain Pataille, based in Marsannay la Cote was founded in 1999, in the northernmost area of the Cote d’Or and most recent (1987) AOC of the Côte de Nuits, works in a natural way with all organic farming methods, plus he is in transition to all biodynamic certification. The domaine already uses no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers in vines and in the cellar Sylvain employs only natural yeasts, without any additions or a heavy hand in the process. The primary fermentation is done partially in fiberglass and partially in stainless steel, according to the winey, and it is relatively brief, under two weeks with cool temperatures to heighten aromatics and freshness of flavors. The red wines, like this Marsannay are then gently racked into barrique (small Burgundy medium toast oak barrels) with typically about 30% new and then, as Pataille adds, they are aged for up to two full years in the wood, with the basic Marsannay getting an elevage of about 18 months before bottling. Depending on the year or growing season there might be some whole bunches and a bit of stem inclusion, though mainly all the grapes are de-stemed, with this vintage seeing partial whole-cluster to add complexity to this transparent, vivid and delicious Marsannay Rouge. Pataille is sometimes compared to Philippe Pacalet and other artisan winemaker contemporaries that are part of generation that focuses on holistic winemaking and work in harmony with nature to more clearly show the nuances of each terroir and craft wines that are impeccable in quality, but with a bit more rawness to their efforts, as this wine proves in its performance. I hope to keep up with Sylvain’s wines in the future, and I’m grateful to have picked up a tidy amount of these 2018s, I would also suggest them to any Pinot Noir fans as well as to savvy Burgundy buyers.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 23, 2021

2019 Ryme Cellars, Sangiovese Friulano, Fox Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County.
The unique and lovable Ryme Sangiovese Friulano Rosso is a brilliantly fresh and juicy in a full flavored, but lighter red wine that goes fantastically well with a wide range of foods and can be just quaffed, it drinks so nicely it is hard to not finish the bottle. This wine is a co-fermentation of 85% of the classic Chianti red grape Sangiovese and 15% of Friulano, which is a zesty white grape most commonly found in Northeast Italy where it was once known as Tocai or Tocai Friulano in a nod to the old school Chianti wines that once saw up to 20% of white grapes including Trebbiano and Malvasia that either helped local farmers get rid of all their grapes or added acidity and or sugars to the must. This practice has almost died off these days, but Megan and Ryan Glaab of Ryme, who have made quite a name for themselves by crafting italian themed wines, have brought it back here in California with this this exceptionally delicious version. I love their Vermentino(s), their Fiano and especially their absolutely awesome Aglianico bottlings, that are true to their old world cousins and add so much to the California Italian varietal wine scene, these wines elevate Cal Itals to new heights, with this one finding a niche sitting between Rosé or Nouveau style wines and the heavier tannic rich reds. I’ve been blown away by the new world Italian varietals in recent years, it was thought California, Oregon and Washington could quite match the true Italian examples, but now, that is not the case, especially when you taste these Ryme Cellars wines, they are not trying to be carbon copies of those regional stars of Italy, they are uniquely Californian beauties with soulful Italian DNA charms. If you want proof that these wines are a match for their Italian counter parts you need to try them, look for Ryme in particular, but also Martha Stoumen, who’s signature Nero d’Avola is ultra tasty and stylish, as well as the Sheldon Sangiovese, Brian Terrizzi’s Giornata from Paso Robles, Idlewild, which sources from the Fox Hill site as well, Unti in Dry Creek, Odonata, who do a fabulous Brunello like Sangiovese as well as a cool Sparkling Sangiovese, Palmino, who really brought seriousness to California Nebbiolo, Leonetti in Walla Walla, who’s inky Sangiovese is legendary and especially John Paul’s Cameron Winery, with his set of incredible Italian inspired collection, including his Barolo like Willamette Valley Nebbiolo and his stunning white blend or Bianco.

Now back to Ryme and this very cool 2019 Sangiovese Friulano, a red wine that like Beaujolais that can be served chilled for refreshment, but still has a depth of flavors to provide enjoyment with rustic Italian cuisine and or simple country dishes as well as picnic fare or BBQ. The nose is bright with red berries, minty herbs, a light earthy note and perfumed rose petals that lead to a medium bodied and smooth carbonic like layers of raspberry, plum, strawberry and Morello cherry fruits along with subtle accents of anise, basil, shaved cinnamon, fleshy peach and a hint of mineral, sweet tobacco and lingering sweet floral aromatic notes. The luminous pale ruby color is very inviting, made more compelling with the clear, see through glass bottle, which makes it clear this one is for youthful drinking, no waiting required with its easy tannins and saliva inducing natural acidity, this Sangiovese Friulano is pure fun in the glass. Ryme notes that, the two varieties were picked together and co-fermented carbonically in tank before the wine was gently pressed and racked with soft extraction then it was aged in a neutral French Puncheon for short period the finish mallos and bottled early unfiltered and with just a minuscule sulfur. This wine is what the natural wine lovers of Europe call a Glou-Glou style wine, meaning basically it is a drink up non too serious wine that will bring lots of smiles and a mood of tranquility. At Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino, according to winemakers Megan and Ryan Glaab, the Friulano is planted next to the Sangiovese, making this wine easy to put together as the grapes can be picked and packed together to bring back to the winery. This is a winery to follow, and I suggest getting on their mailing list, but try not to miss the current releases, these are impressive and playful efforts, I would point you in the direction of Ryme’s Pet-Nats as well with their very limited Crackling Carignan and Crackling Vermentino being irresistible, along with their exciting Cabernet Francs and the Aglianico Rosé, which is part of their awesome Italian influenced lineup. The Ryme label was created by this dynamic husband and wife team back in 2007, with this talented duo having done many years of consulting and winemaking gigs having worked at wineries such as Pax Wine Cellars, Peay Vineyards, Sine Qua Non, Torbreck in Australia and at Helen Turley’s iconic Marcassin. There is a lot to love at Ryme Cellars these days, and this Sangiovese Friulano is a great place to start, check them out.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 22, 2021

2018 Grochau Cellars, Gamay Noir, Twelve Oaks Estate, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This dark and vibrant Grochau Cellars wine is a traditionally fermented Willamette Valley Gamay Noir that was sourced from Anne Amie’s Twelve Oaks Estate Vineyard close to Carlton on a newer block of vines planted in 2013 on the Laurelwood soils, which are silty loams or loess with an underpinning of a Jory (volcanic) base on the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton zone. The terroir and vintage influence adds to the intensity on this stylish and seriously natured Gamay with vigorous acidity and loads of spicy character, this is noteworthy for Gamay lovers, as this vineyard site comes into maturity with the Laurenwood series soils adding a unique profile with a dark hue and a mineral rich element, this is the shallowest of the soil series found in this area, and is often found on hillsides, like these, where the winds have gradually over time blew the thin layers into place, and while the Laurelwood series is common in Willamette Valley it is fairly rare to find Gamay on it. This wine is distinctly non carbonic, tangy fresh, and is a gripping version of Gamay Noir, more along the lines of the famous Brick House example, with its brilliant purple/garnet color and sense of power showing blackberry, mulberry, deep cherry and quieter strawberry and red peach fruits along with a touch of orange peel, damp earth, red spices, crushed gun flint, potpourri floral detail and a sense of walnut husks and wild fennel. This is a complex and every changing Gamay in the glass which starts with an edginess and bite, before slowly coming out of its shell and unfolding into a real beauty with textural quality and presence coming out with air and a significant amount of time in the glass, it ends up a very rewarding wine with a push and pull of fruit and savory tones with a pleasing medium body and a nice lingering echo of flavors on the clipped and crisply dry finish.

I’ve been following John Grochau’s Grochau Cellars for a while, but this was first time I have tried his Gamay and I’m thrilled to report on its excellence, though I’ve always enjoyed his Pinots and especially his Commuter Cuvee Pinot Noir, which is always an exceptional value. In recent years he has really filled out his collection with many single vineyard wines which now include some very tasty whites with Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Blanc, Albarino and special Brick House Chardonnay, from the legendary biodynamic Ribbon Ridge property. Grochau is still under the radar in California, but he has worked alongside the iconic Willamette Valley winemaker Doug Tunnell at the mentionedBrick House Vineyards for four years and has also spent time at Erath Winery. His first vintage as an owner and winemaker at Grochau Cellars, as he notes, was back in 2002, making it close to 20 years of doing his own thing in this region. Before wine Grochau was a professional cyclist and while touring Europe he fell in love with wine, eventually moving to Portland and took a serious interest in Oregon’s Pinot Noir, which set him on his path. Grochau works exclusively with organic and sustainably-farmed vineyards and everything is done with the old world mentality of making artisan wines that go with food, which his wines do with a flourish and he strives to allow each vineyard to tell the story of place and the year. In the cellar, Grochau employs a gentle touch and cool fermentation(s) with a light touch when it comes to his oak usage, his wines tend to be transparent, luminous and full of energy and with the substance to age gracefully for many years. This vintage of Twelve Oaks Gamay has a very soulful charm about it and while confident and well mannered, it looks to have a rewarding future and should really come into its own one the next two to five years, it’s an impressive effort.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive