2010 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato IGT Sicily.
Arianna’s flagship wine, the Il Frappato is everything you could ever want or expect in this 2010 vintage, it is more serious and blooding than the last two vintages and deeper, but with all the charms and vibrancy it is famous for. This looks to be a step up for Occhipinti, and a pure pleasure for her many fans around the world that have been eagerly waiting for this release. The nose shows mountain herbs, crushed mixed berries, floral tones and a touch of brine and briar, leading to a lush palate of lingonberry, cherries, plum sauce and wild strawberry while sweet herbs, truffle, tea spices, grenadine and balsamic notes make for an interesting mix of complexities. There is a slight firmness of tannins and nice acidity holding things together, though everything gets much more refined and smooth in the glass with air. Touches of mineral and boysenberry come through on the finish along with subtle earthy notes though the lasting impression is one of bright red fruits. The color seems a bit darker this year and the modest 12.5% alcohol is very welcome as it is a wine that is hard not to have a second or third glass of. Enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years, if you can save any, as I plan to drink mine up pretty quick. This is a fine and wonderful wine, again kudos to Arianna for meeting all expectations and exceeding them.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
Avail at www.sfwtc.com ($36.95)
2011 Luli, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Another stunning effort from Sarah Floyd and winemaker Jeff Pisoni on this new 2011 Luli Pinot Noir, which is sourced from selected sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands region near Monterey. This bright, ripe and tasty Pinot has all the right stuff and should drink well for 3 to 5 years, but is made to enjoy now, which I’m sure I will do myself after tasting it recently. The classic SLH dark fruits, good acidity and smooth oak influence make this young wine a really winner with hints of rose petals, strawberries and lots of cherry fruit to start opening up to a richer plum and zesty mountain berry layer while hints of mineral, tea spice and baking spices play in the background. A touch of earth, pepper and vanilla round out the layers and the crisp youthful finish has a burst of red cherry cola and red peach notes. This is a classy and fun Pinot that is always a steal for the quality, I recommend grabbing some as soon as you can, it should be available by August 1, 2012.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Robert & Bernard Plageoles, Le Duras, Gaillac, France.
There is an amazing long history of winemaking and native grapes in Gaillac, in southwest France, it was first recorded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, though the region is somewhat a mystery. The Duras grape is a red variety that was recently DNA tested and found to have some related history with Petit Verdot and Trousseau, most likely being a parent grape to both. It is extremely rare now, as most of the old native grapes were lost to phylloxera in the 1800’s and then to fashion, as better know grapes were planted, but Duras survived and is championed by a tiny few vignerons in the Gaillac region. Robert Plageoles and Bernard his son, are making a 100% Duras wine, an all natural red in the new wave style of natural wine, and it is truly unique and seriously good with interesting rustic textures and spicy. Robert is also a local vine historian and has even written a huge volume of local Gaillac wine through the 2,000 years, including a catalog of all the know types of grapes that were originally found in the region. The 2010 Plageoles, Le Duras, Gaillac is darkly colored and rich in ripe fruit and savory spices with hints of dried flowers, lavender, red berries, plum sauce and red pepper. This wine proved to be the most interesting of three I tried of Plageoles recently and I am glad it will be available in the US soon, it is being imported by Charles Neal. This is a most for any wine geek and natural wine lover, and for the curious few that are looking for something outrageously different and fun.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Hilberg-Pasquero, Barbera D’ Alba DOC, Piedmonte, Italy.
Michele Pasquero’s unique expression of Barbera is gaining him praise and making his Hilberg label a hot item these days, and I finally got a chance to try his wine and I was not disappointed at all, this is a brilliant Barbera. The 2009 Hilberg-Pasquero, Barbera D’ Alba is a stylish wine with an artisan touch, with a nose that is full of roses, herbs, mineral spice and dried currants leads to a sweet and savory palate that features an almost Nebbiolo like structure and with a briar and tarry essence. The mouth is full of red fruits, lavender oil, licorice and plum sauce notes, it gains in fruit as it opens with blackberry and cherry coming forward, but it stays refined, vibrant and elegant all the way to the zesty and spicy finish. This is not a dark purplely Barbera, it is more subtle and wily in its charms, without question a very intriguing wine from a passionate and talented winemaker. I am a huge Barbera fan and love Altare, La Spinetta, Grosso and Vietti versions to name a few, but this Hilberg is right up there and one I’ll be re-visiting often I’m sure.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine Daulny, Sancerre “Le Clos de Chauden” Loire Valley, France.
Etienne Daulny’s Sancerre “Le Clos de Chauden” is an impressive and stunning Sauvignon Blanc that merits lots of attention and high praise with almost Dagueneau like complexities and better still is the price and ease of drinking right now. The is a lovely richness to this wine that makes it stand out, but still has plenty of fresh tension and acidic backbone to thrill anyone with outstanding mineral and chalky layers that fit sublimely with the laser sharp citrus fruit. The nose has a wet stone and floral expression leading to a crisp palate of lemon/lime, gooseberry and tropical essences while that stoney mineral streak shows throughout with notes of grapefruit and apple linger on. This Sancerre is pure and vibrant with classic intensity and energy, this is a great Loire white that I highly recommend looking for. Another brilliant wine discovered by Charles Neal, importer, who is on a roll these days with a great lineup of estate made European wines by artisan winemakers.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2010 Domaine des Coteaux des Travers, Rasteau, Reserve, Cotes du Rhone Villages (Robert Charavin) France.
This amazing Rasteau captures the terroir and vintage in a beautiful snapshot and is a remarkable value, drinking impressively right now. Domaine des Coteaux des Travers has been making some fantastic wines of late and this Rasteau Reserve is showing wonderfully with lively red fruits and anise that explodes across the palate while lavender, blueberry and pomegranate all add to the beauty of this Rhone red that is made up of mostly Grenache, but has a good dose of Syrah as well. The mouth is full and ripe with smooth tannins and juicy acidity providing clear vivid focus to the richness and depth. The boysenberry and melted black licorice are highlighted throughout, but really persist on the finish, making this wine really stand out. Another great find by importer Charles Neal, and one you should search out and stock up by the case full.
($16 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2008 Domaine Andre Bonhomme, Vire Clesse AC, Vieilles Vignes, White Burgundy, France.
This is a crazy good White Burgundy from the Vire Clesse and a Domaine to remember, with out question a star, as this 2008 old vine wine shows, it is easily as good as much pricier examples from Chassagne and Puligny. With new talents emerge in Burgundy, like Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Christophe Buisson and Alix de Montille there is a lot of exciting whites gaining attention these days, and I think Domaine Andre Bonhemme is a great producer, if not too new, to keep an eye on, especially as the 2010 vintage is coming into stocks, though this lovely 2008 is not a Chardonnay to miss, especially at this price. This 2008 Domaine Andre Bonhommie, Vire Clesse, Vieilles Vignes is a brilliant wine with a nose of white flowers, brioche, wet stones and apples come before a rich palate of pear, lemon and golden fig with hints of hazelnuts, kiwi and chalky minerals. A touch of matchstick and toasty oak plays a very subtle role, almost missable in fact behind the beautifully textured fruit and mineral essences, plus the citrus fresh acidity that still holds things together in a tightly knit way, but still allows good length and richness to show through. It doesn’t get much better than this, find it and drink over the next 2-3 years, imported by Charles Neal.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Cecilia, Ansonica, Elba DOC, Tuscan Island White, Italy.
This beautiful and super rare wine comes from the tiny Tuscan Island of Elba, famous for being the place of Napoleon’s exile. Ansonica is the local name for the Insolia grape, a varietal found on Sicily mostly and it makes for an exotic and flavorful wine. The Cecilia Ansonica is perfumed with tropical flowers, saline and mineral spices with hints of honeysuckle and guava before a palate of peach, apricot and tangy lemon/lime with a clear mineral streak and flowing crisp finish of pear and nectarine. Elba is a small Island and the vineyards are rugged and sparse, but these whites are in high demand and we don’t find many in the US, so it was thrilling to sample such a wine and fine example, they are pure passion in a glass.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
N.V. Barone Pizzini, Pievalta “Perlugo” Extra Brut VSQ, Sparkling, Castelli di Jesi (Verdicchio) Le Marche, Italy.
This sparkler is utterly spellbinding and rivals any top Champagne, I can not begin to tell you how good this fine bubbly really is! I had never had sparkling Verdicchio before, and wow, this is fantastic with wonderful depth, richness, life and complexities on offer, and I can tell you I’ll be drinking as much of this as I can get. Barone Pizzini has a main property in the “Champagne” region of Italy Franciacorta, but it is this amazing Le Marche estate and it’s Extra Brut Sparkling Verdicchio that has blown my mind. The Perlugo is made from biodynamic vineyards at the Pievalta estate, in heart of the Castelli di Jesi zone and is handcrafted to perfection. The chalky soils and small yields adds to the dramatic intensity and vibrancy in this elegant bubbly, and Verdicchio comes to life loaded with nutty aromas, citrus, green apples and mineral tones all of which plays well in a fine sparkling wine where these along with pretty yeast, brioche and fig notes come in too, making for a glorious wine. This has to be one of the best kept secrets of the sparkling wine world!
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2009 Az. Ag. Grillo, Schioppetino, Friuli, Italy.
This grape, Schiopettino, dates back to 1282 at least in Northeast Italy and was nearly extinct until recent years when heritage vines made a comeback in the region, it is known as “Gunshot” or little crack in Italian. I had not tried this variety before and found it charming and spicy with dark color and sexy aromatics making it all that much more appealing. The 2009 Grillo, Schiopettino starts with a violet perfume and red pepper before a lively and firm palate of plum, cherry and dried currants again with a cayenne spice and chalky mineral streak. Tannins are solid, but refined while a nice touch of acidity keeps these fresh and vibrant making for a real food friendly wine that has nice balance of fruit, spice and structure. This rare red is not going to be an easy find, but in case you happen across it, get a few bottles and enjoy them over the next few years, it is an intriguing wine that is sure to give a lot of pleasure.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive