grapelive Reviews 2016
2015 Justin Dutraive, Beaujolais “Les Bullands” France.
The first release for Justin Dutraive, the eldest son of the famed Jean-Louis Dutraive of Fleurie, is an exciting single site wine, Les Bullands a plot of old vines just below the town of Fleurie. Justin, like his dad, uses organic grapes, cools the grapes at harvest and native ferments them with almost no sulfur, he employs a semi-carbonic style and used a semi-round glass fiber vessel to ferment and age his Beaujolais, this is an artisan premier effort and the results are a pure and juicy Gamay with refined texture and it is delightfully aromatic. There are more small lot hand-crafted wines to follow, and this is going to be a must have label to get in on from the start, both Justin and his father are followers of Jules Chauvet and believe in natural wines and purity of terroir, much the same as Lapierre just down the road in Morgon, I am looking forward to trying his upcoming Fleurie Cru Beaujolais Chapelle des Bois as well, which if this wine is anything to go by will be a stunner! The 2015 vintage is bold and rich with expressive ripeness, but Justin was able to dial back the sweet/fruity nature and allow a balanced form of place and Gamay to shine through, while still having a lush and silken mouth feel and juicy fun palate with enough acidity to brighten things up and energize the wine. The nose is delicately perfumed with wilted roses and dried violets leading to a light to medium bodied palate of raspberry, black cherry, plum and wild strawberry fruits along with hints of pepper, tart red peach, cinnamon and herbs, plus a touch of pecan husk and crisply tangy red currant. This Les Bullands is not overly complex or flamboyant, but very stylish and easy to quaff, best to serve slightly chilled and can be enjoyed with or without food, though more fun with friends and lovers, drink now.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Le Berne, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany Italy.
I’ve always been a fan of this small winery in Tuscany and their wonderful Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but this amazingly pure 2012 really lifts it to the next level with graceful layers, bright focused intensity and length making for an extraordinary Sangiovese experience. The 2012 Le Berne is about 90% Prugnolo Gentile or Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello clone) and with small parts Canaiolo Nero, which is widely inter planted through Tuscany and Mommolo the rare Etruscan grape that is in danger of going the way of the Dodo, though has found a home on Corsica, where it is know locally as Sciacarello (Sciacarellu) though thought to have been a native varietal until very recently, it was brought to Corsica by the Etruscans back in the period of 500 to 540 BC. These minor grapes certainly play there part making Vino Nobile stand apart from the varietal pureness of Brunello, but really are Sangiovese driven wines with that rich character with good acids and the Le Berne delivers that classic profile and is uncluttered by oak or extreme ripeness. While the 2011, from a hot vintage was more flamboyant and slightly more dense with a hint of pruney fruit, this 2012 only displays charm, clarity and vitality, it’s gorgeous from start to finish. The 2012 is ruby/garnet in the glass with light floral and tobacco leaf notes on the nose with plenty of red fruits following on entry with a medium full bodied palate giving raspberry, currant, plum and strawberry fruits with cedar spice, subtle earthy tones, new leather and pipe tobacco with sweet tannin allowing for impressive mouth feel, texture and structure, there is a nice mineral note and lively freshness of detail that makes this vintage of Le Berne a winner with robust cuisine. Finishing with black cherry, fig and a light mix of anise/sage, lavender, loam and spicy peppery rose oil. This is drinking lovely right now, but has potential to go for 5 to 10 years with ease, this is a lot of wine for the money. Imported by Siena Imports, the Le Berne made me long to return to Italy and especially those beautiful hill towns of Tuscan which I last visited way too many years ago, Montepulciano and Cortona were my favorites.
($34 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Kabinett Feinherb, Rudesheimer Kirchenpfad, Rheingau Germany.
The wonderfully flavorful and generous Leitz Kirchenpfad Kabinett Feinherb is a mostly dry and lightly fruity Riesling with lots of citrus and stone fruits, brisk acidity and chock full of mineral as well as rosewater and white flowers that unfold on the nose along with saline and stones. The fleshy peach and apricot compliment zesty lime and tangerine on the palate which is energetic and lively fresh with a light feel giving this wine a softly delicate mouth feel and subtle lush character, but with the vitality and verve you’d expect from Leitz. The sense of clearness and purity really carries this charming Kabinett and it’s mild hint of sweetness only adds to the overall enjoyment and doesn’t in any way distract from it’s focus, this is lovely and easy drinking wine that gives a lot for the price and is good with many food choices, I would like it with mussels in spicy broth or with a mix of Asian foods, but it will go with almost anything and will certainly provide refreshing cool and crisp companionship. Not as intense as the more slate driven wines in the lineup for 2015, but a wine of respectable quality and stylish ease to drink anytime. On my visit to Germany last month and in trade tastings this last Summer I have found the Kabinett 2015 vintage wines absolutely heavenly and they may not be the height of fashion with all the hype around the Trockens, but they are stunning values and great drinking wines, and remarkably good choices to mid-term cellar. The Leitz GG’s are out of this world, that is true, but I would not over look the Kabinett and Spatlese in 2015, keep your eyes out for them!
($21 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Big Basin Vineyards, Syrah, Rattlesnake Rock Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Bradley Brown’s Big Basin Vineyard wines are compelling and rewarding wines, especially his estate Rattlesnake Rock Syrah, which is one of the most interesting and terroir driven examples of this varietal in California! Inspired by the great wines of the Northern Rhone, the Big Basin Rattlesnake Rock Syrah is a field blend of Brown’s oldest vines on south facing slopes at about 1,400 feet above sea level set in mineral laced soils with shale, iron and sandstone at the core with lose clay and loam topsoil, it’s cool site with ocean influences, windy and a severe drop in temps at night, planted mostly to Alban clone or Cote-Rotie clone.The 225 case small production 2012 Rattlesnake Rock Syrah was fermented using organic grapes, indigenous yeasts with a tiny amount of whole cluster with about 2% Viognier with gentle hand punchdowns and a long cold soak to extract the full expression of the vineyard, then aged about two years in French oak. The wine also gets a year longer, if not two years longer in bottle than most Syrah, this adds to the integration of this beautiful wine and allows the full array of detail and aromatics to be display, 2012 was a great vintage for this region and it is full of richness, fruit layers and ripe tannin, making for a meduim/full red of depth and structure. This site produces a powerful wine, but Brown’s 2012 shows an extra level of finesse and poise to go along with the classic nature of this Syrah, it reminds me of the 2007, one of the first wines I had by Big Basin and a legendary one for those lucky enough to have had or have, it has lovely floral notes, black fruit and a wonderful mix of mineral, spice, savory elements and subtle wood shadings, firm, but gorgeous in mouth feel and length, this is seriously sensual and otherworldly stuff. Crushed violets, minty basil leaf, cracked peppercorns and creme de cassis lead the way with a core of boysenberry, loganberry, wild plum and kirsch as well as gravel, sticky lavender, cedar, clove, fig sauce, smoky vanilla and saline laced anise. Complex, textured and vibrant the 2012 Rattlesnake Rock is just beginning it’s journey toward it’s potential, it’s dark purple/black and garnet hues and opulence make for a hedonistic young wine, but given 5 to 7 years more it should really be hitting it’s stride, this is brilliant from Big Basin. It was great to catch up with Bradley at a recent tasting, I’ve been to his winery more than a few times and have been a long time admirer of his efforts, be sure to also look for his set of current releases of Pinot Noir, in particular his Alfaro Family Vineyard 2014, as well as his awesome Rhone (Syrah & Grenache) bottlings.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Mencia/Godello, Casas de Enriba, VdT Valdeorras, Spain.
This wine reinforces my initial belief and confirms the amazing talents of Laura Lorenzo as a vigneron, her gorgeous 2015’s are some of the most stunning wines of year, they are unique, authentic and soulful! This Casas de Enribe 2015 red is a lovely co-ferment of Mencia 80% and Godello 20% from rocky slopes of granite, gravel, clay, gneiss and quartz in the VdT Valdeorras zone, close to the Ribeira Sacra, it has that Cote-Rotie (Syrah & Viognier) elegance and vitality, but it certainly reminds me more of a slighter lighter and more feline version of either August Clape or Teirry Allemand Cornas, though not stem influenced, it’s utterly brilliant regardless of comparison or my attempt at relating it to you! This deeply hued and wonderfully textured wine was hand harvested, all organic, and remarkably is from young vines, it was native yeast fermented and raised 9 months in neutral 500L French oak, the addition of Godello was done to add vibrancy and acidity due to the warm of the vintage and really compliments the ripe forceful Mencia allowing for a more balanced and complex wine. The 2015 Daterra Viticultores Casas de Enribe starts with an open bouquet of floral and spicy tones with violets, dried roses, wild herb and pepper notes leading to a refined and poised palate of medium weight showing fine tannins and a cut of acidity with silken blackberry, dark cherry and fresh picked juicy plum fruits along with anise, flinty/chalky stones, mineral spice and a hint of black fig, earth, cinnamon and lingering tangy currant/blueberry. Lorenzo’s wines are raw, transparent and terroir driven wines that offer layers of pleasure to the senses with every sip, they seduce completely and are some of the finest natural wines you’ll ever taste from a region that deserves much greater attention. These absolutely beautiful and charismatic Mencia and Godello offerings, imported by Jose Pastor Selections are worth the hunt, look for all these 2015 Daterra Viticultores, drink them over the next 3 to 5 years, again these are stunning wines that really impress and have a passionate impact, do not miss!
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Feinherb, Von Der Nahe, Germany.
The wonderful and lushly textured Von Der Nahe is a slightly off dry style Riesling of great poise and vibrancy, but with opulent and rich character, it was exclusively crafted for Terry Theise by the talent Caroline Diel from all estate grown grapes. This Feinherb, which feels like it has close to Spatlese density, but with a drier tone that is less severe that the intensely crisp and brisk Trockens, this makes for a gateway wine that pleases everyone and can help expand the mind in both and dry style and the more sugar driven styles, like Spatlese and Auslese. Schlossgut Diel’s Von Der Nahe delivers that perfect combination of a lavish hedonistic tease and the verve/energy filled mineral expression that only Riesling can give, and all that at a wonderful price, especially given the quality and pedigree in this wine. While an entry level offering, this is very serious stuff from Diel and should not be over looked as a wine that be cellared either, this should be sleeper, even though it is fun and vital now, this can easily surprise and reward with 10 or 15 years of age. The 2015 vintage for Diel is dreamlike, all of Caroline’s wines are just gorgeous and stunning in detail and class, and this Von Der Nahe is no exception with bright golden pale hues in the glass and some impressive depth of character and layers on the palate of tart apple, peach, apricot and lime fruit with touches of tropical exoticness and zesty tangerine and an almost melon fleshy creaminess along with balancing acidity, saline and crunchy stones as well as liquid mineral. There is a roundness in the mouth and hint of sweetness to be sure, though overall you’d almost swear it was dry, and finish is impressive too with lingering orange, white cherry, fig, flinty spices and a touch of dusty earth and crystalized ginger. This wine hits all the right notes and has subtle complexity and refinement with just the right amount of flamboyance and flair to stand out while young plus it is extremely flexible for cuisine choices. Feinherbs are rare and interesting examples of richer bodied Rieslings that have a bit more sugar that is permitted to be called Trocken, this year there are a few real stand outs from Carl Loewen, Spreitzer, Selbach-Oster and of course this Schlossgut Diel Von Der Nahe, be sure to check them out, it’s a style that has loads of appeal for both the novice and those Riesling experienced!
($25 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 M & C Lapierre, Morgon Cru Beaujolais, France.
Expressive and outgoing, the latest Mathieu Lapierre Morgon is a beauty with glorious mouth feel and hedonistic charm and pure Gamay character. Fruity and spicy the 2015 has the same level of pleasure that the 2009 did when young, and this warm vintage benefits the house style and allows the natural acidity to feel rather more subdued, while still keeping things fresh and vibrant. This might be my favorite young Morgon yet from Lapierre in the ten years I’ve been following and buying this wine, it certainly impresses with detail, life and depth of flavors with lots of blue, black and red fruits, mineral notes and fleshy texture as well as having a nice core structure and base of silky tannin and lift. The late Marcel Lapierre inspired a new generation of natural winemakers, and his son Mathieu ( and his sister Camille) continues on his path, but adding his own flair and refinement with each vintage. The wine is made in the vineyard with all organic methods and hard work, attention to every detail and a light touch in the cellar with only native yeasts, neutral cask and very low sulfur employed. This 2015 Morgon, imported by Kermit Lynch, is the “S” cuvee, which is the lightly sulfured bottling, as opposed to the “N” cuvee that is unsulfured or non sulfur that was the only version imported in the last few years, I believe because of the higher levels of ripeness in the vintage, it has to have just a touch, and we are talking extremely low amounts to stabilize and protect this wine. Sometimes a little sulfur dulls a young wine, but not here, and while not as exotic as some vintages, this is a classic from Lapierre and it should get even better with some bottle age, this is gorgeous stuff. Beautiful violets, dark roses, blackberry, currant and anise left from the glass in this deeply hued Gamay with a palate following up on the nose with vivid plum, blueberry, walnut and strawberry as well along with a streak of blood orange, earth and tangy/savory array of pepper and flinty stones, cinnamon/nutmeg and herb tea. Lovely balance and vitality hold everything in check here with a poised energy and a seamless flow of flavors and round open mouth feel with a lengthy finish that is still a hint crisp. If you love Lapierre this is a vintage to stock up on, it still leads the way in almost all measures; pleasure, playfulness and passion in a serious field of great wines!
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Jean-Francois Ganevat, De Toute Beaute, Vin de France Rouge, France.
A crazy blend of 50% Gamay from Fleurie, Syrah from Côte Rôtie, Mondeuse from Savoie and Pinot Noir d’Alsace crafted in the Jura by Jean-Francois Ganevat from grapes source by friends in those region and from vines in the 60 to 80 year old range on a mix of granite, marl and limestone soils mostly. Native ferments and little sulfur, all organic and used casks are used for this fresh and interesting wine. Since Ganevat’s estate Jura wines are from small parcels and very low yielding vines, he never makes enough wine to supply the world’s demand, let alone his creative energies, so he does a series of fun wines that marry fruit from around France like this one, the grapes make up an exotic mix and are done in the most natural way possible, the resulting wines are fresh, lively, expressive and wonderfully playful in a lighter style. The 2014 De Toute Beaute is a bright and vibrant red that shows the 50% Gamay from Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais) as the dominate force here at this moment, though the spice and earthiness of the Mondeuse is easily picked out as well, while the Syrah from Cote-Rotie in the Northern Rhone and the Alsace Pinot Noir are hard to see and add shyly to the mix, though there is a chance they’ll shine through with more time, but overall this wild wine is a joy and pleasing in the glass. The acidity is gripping with tangy tart red berry, cherry, unripe plum and strawberry fruits leading the way with an orange zest, red peach and an impression of juicy floral elements as well as mineral tones, white pepper, loam and flinty stones all unfolding on the light and lean palate. The latest De Toute Beaute does get going a little more with air and works with food very well, though best to have with less spicy cuisine, it should prove more entertaining with holiday fare and roast chicken or turkey with a variety of sides, and cheese or salads. While nicely made and intriguing, I do prefer Ganevat’s more traditional Cotes du Jura red wines and his amazing old vine Chardonnays, drink this De Toute Beaute Nature sooner v. later, as it’s vital fresh charm is it’s most appealing quality, still it’s too cool to pass up!
($45 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling “Dragonstone” Rudesheimer, Rheingau Germany.
The 2015 lineup at Leitz is an amazing set of wines, especially pleasing is the feinherb/QbA (slightly off dry) style Dragonstone Riesling, which has a bit more body than a Kabinett, from the Rudesheimer Drachenstein with it’s quartzite and slate influence and terroir driven style, slightly drier in style in 2015. Basically the Dragonstone has tightened it’s belt and got into fine shape, but remains very quaffable, fresh and joyous. Johannes Leitz is one of the most dynamic personalities in the wine world and his wines are the standard of top quality in the Rheingau, and his vineyard manager Markus Roll has brought a new dry style approach to most of the wines even adding a few more Trockens to the lineup, this refinement has made the Dragonstone a bit more vital and vigorous, a touch less plush/sweet, without losing it’s unique charm, open/forward fruitiness and opulent nature. The grapes that go into the Dragonstone come from Premier Cru sites in the Drachenstein, this wine isn’t just about the fabulous label of marketing, it delivers way above it’s price point and walking these vines and tasting it at the winery reconfirms it. The 2015 Dragonstone has vibrant lemon/lime, tangy green melon and yellow peach fruits, mineral intensity, a hint of flinty saline as well as spiced rosewater and zesty tropical fruit. The palate is firmer than years past, but with nice depth and mouth feel, still one of my all time favorite value wines and a very lovable Riesling for all seasons and cuisines, after visiting the winery this year I’m even more impressed than ever! At 10% alcohol it is more severe and leaner in body, but still with enough RS to be generous and flexible with a wide array of cuisine options. With a sense of place and playfulness, no wine has done more to expand Riesling into the mainstream of wine drinkers over the last five years than the Leitz Dragonstone, and it continues to set standards for fun, value and quality, this 2015 is really a winner, drink now and often!
($20 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2014 Cobb, Pinot Noir, Coastlands Vineyard: 1906 Block Pommard, Sonoma Coast.
I tasted this majestic Pinot Noir with Ross Cobb at the IPOB grand finale tasting, In Pursuit of Balance, a trade group designed to promote wines from California that show finesse, old world charm and with reasonably low alcohol, led by top Somm and winemaker Raj Parr and winegrower Jasmine Hirsch, with Cobb being one of the star attractions and major players in the movement. Cobb’s wines from very cool sites on the Sonoma Coast, mostly from his family’s vines at Coastlands Vineyard as well as Rice-Spivak Vineyard, have always shown delicacy and vitality and the winemaking has been very traditional, Cobb was trained in biology and sustainable agriculture and has done winemaking stints in Burgundy as well as at top Pinot estates in California including Williams Selyem, Flowers and Hirsch. He is fine tuning his craft and talents with each vintage, but is set on making long lived, lively Pinots with low alcohol and heightened aromatics and these 2014 wines are sublime, maybe the best vintage yet for his style and vision, especially this light/medium bodied Pommard clone Pinot from from the family’s old block, where an old oak tree has a big “1906” carved in, thought to be done in remembrance of the horrible earthquake that hit San Francisco and the fires and devastation that ensued. This single block and single clone Pinot Noir is gorgeous in the glass and even more beautiful on the palate, surprising opulent and seamless for a wine that comes in at 12.5% alcohol, it shows great textures, richness and satiny form, but with vigorous vibrancy and focus, this wine is simply amazing to behold, a classic in the making. With rose petal, hints of wild flowers and mineral to start the palate reveals black raspberry, cherry, plum and tangy strawberry along with silky tannins and blueberry essence, cedary wood notes, saline and spices. Everything is alive and each layers has it’s own moment to shine, like a true great wine, I was completely captivated by this Cobb Coastlands: 1906 Block Pommard, each taste seduces and takes you to a different world and the finish is spellbindingly long and wondrous. This is one of the wines of the vintage and could prove legendary, a huge thank you to Ross for sharing this limited, mailing list offering, even better, it still is available and there are magnums to be had, drink from 2020-2027, if you can be patient!
($80 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
2014 Jean Foillard, Fleurie Cru Beaujolais, France.
The Foillard Fleurie 2014 is one of the most beautiful Gamay expressions I’ve ever tasted, I am always intrigued by Foillard’s wines and love them completely, year after year, but really this wine is humbling in it’s beauty and detail with a haunting perfume and dream like textures. The black label Fleurie by Foillard is always a rare and magical wine, it is released later and is always a bit lighter and more feline than his Morgon wines, which are gorgeous in this vintage as well, highlighting this exquisite year for Cru Beaujolais. I admit, at $50 a bottle, this might seem seriously expensive for a Beaujolais, but this is no ordinary wine here, this Fleurie has the class, grace and stylish charm of a fine Chambolle-Musigny or Morey-St.-Denis, and in many ways it’s more pleasing and exotic than Burgundy wines at twice it’s price! The Fleurie by Foillard is from 40-50 year old vines grown on a unique site with pink sandstone soils and is farmed all organic, Foillard as noted many times, sorts like a top Burgundy producer would and as a follower of Jules Chauvet uses no chemicals, no chaptalization and ferments are native and nature with almost no sulfur. The Fleurie, like his Cote du Py, is aged in ex-Burgundy barriques, rumor even has it that he gets his used oak barrels from DRC when he can, it spends about 9 months in wood, then rested unfixed and unfiltered in bottle until release, usually a year after the currant vintage of his Morgons. The 2014 is as sexy as it gets, with a deep and glorious floral attack with violets, lilacs and jasmine leading the way before entry that unfolds in heavenly layers of blackberry, plum, wild strawberry and kirsch along with silky tannins, vibrant acidity and spicy notes of pepper, anise, saline rich stones, earthy tones and walnut oil. Still very young, this lovely Gamay seduces completely even now, but this medium bodied and minerally charmer will age with grace and glory for many years to come, best to hide a few bottles away, drink from 2018 to 2026.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Ojai, Pinot Noir, Kessler-Haak Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Adam Tolmach’s The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Kessler-Haak 2014 was one of the sleepers at the final IPOB Tasting in San Francisco, and his whole lineup included some very impressive offerings in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Tolmach’s wines deserve renewed enthusiasm and attention! Tolmach was one of the first to publicly question his own wines and the trend for bigger and bigger styles to appease critics, he worried the wines were losing their soul and ability to age gracefully and severely changed his own path and methods to bring back freshness, elegance and brought his artisan wines back to the vision he originally had. Many now have followed him in this course, and in fact even the critics have followed him, after an initial push back, I’ve always been a fan of his wines, his White Hawk Syrah is a personal favorite, and admire the man greatly for his talents and humble confidence and his latest set of wines, especially his Kessler-Haak Pinot, are lovely and vibrant wines of class, focus and detail. Adam told me at IPOB that this was a new vineyard for him and that he loved the fruit and was excited about what it had become in bottle, as was I, this beautiful and opulent Pinot has layered fruit, poised richness and vigorous energy and life, showing bing cherry, raspberry, black plum and a touch of cranberry and apple skin as well as silken tannins, tea spices, cinnamon, a hint of smoke, fennel and cedar. This medium weight Pinot surprises with outstanding length and pureness and while lithe and seductively shy at first, this wine thrills the senses. At about 13% is feels clear, feline and well defined, I highly recommend this and all the Ojai 2014’s, this stuff is exciting and filled with class, drink over the next 5 to 10 years. I’ve loved what I’ve tasted from Kessler-Haak, Chad Melville’s Samsara stands out as an example, and this new Ojai is excellent, this is a vineyard to watch, awesome stuff!
($36-40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Guimaro, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra Tinto, Galicia, Spain.
Bright and juicy the latest Guimaro Vino Tinto is a very forward Mencia with the year’s warm marking this wine, but allowing classic terroir character to still show through. I love the wines of Guimaro and drink this Ribeira Sacra often, Pedro Rodriguez Perez is also one of my favorite winemakers and people, so it was with lots of excitement that I got around to tasting this 2015 version, after cherishing the 2010 through 2014 wines so much, and I was not disappointed as this dark purple/deep red wine is lovely and easily one of the best values around. With a slightly carbonic feel and grapey entry the 2015 Guimaro Mencia starts with an almost Beaujolais note before settling in on the palate to a more natural stance with crushed violets, red rose petal, mineral spice and black cherry, plum, loganberry and tart currant fruits along with cinnamon, flinty stone and a hint of porcini. At about 13% this is a ripe vintage for Pedro, though still with medium body and vibrant acidity, and I sense that there was the ability to use a few whole clusters, though mostly I understand it is usually de-stemmed, native ferments and almost no wood is used here to keep things as fresh as possible in this wine, which is almost all Mencia, but has a few other black grapes found in the vines making for a pure effort that has the profile like Syrah, Pinot, Franc and Gamay mixed together in this vintage. This stylish wine from the beautiful and remote granite, sand and schist slopes of the Ribeira Sacra joins a set of thrilling wines from Jose Pastor Selections that are just now hitting the market, without question you should pick this wine up, it will mature nicely and is right now a winner for fall foods and holiday cuisine, drink from 2016 to 2020.
($19 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Felsenberg, Grosses Gewachs, Nahe Germany.
The spicy intense Felsenberg Grand Cru dry Riesling from Donnhoff is simply out of this world, it is very different and unique the same way Bonnes Mares is to the Grand Crus of the Cote de Nuits, you know it’s special when you experience it, but it still emotionally involves you in the same way the other Crus do. When you think of Donnhoff, the Hermannshole would be La Tache or Romanee-Conti, while Felsenberg would be Bonnes Mares… or like comparing Le Montrachet (Hermannshole) and Corton-Charlemagne (Felsenberg) though I like the Bonnes Mares comparison better in poetic terms rather than in red v. white terms… As for 2015, it is an awesome vintage for Donnhoff (and Germany) and this dry Riesling is one of the best! Brilliant in a way you’d expect from such a producer, yet so nuanced and transparent, I used to be slate obsessed when it came to Riesling, so finding this volcanic or porphyry soil driven wine so magical is sometimes a surprise, giving the Felsenberg a spicy afterburner with salt and pepper kick and raw mineral character. The 2015 Felsenberg GG starts with crystalized ginger, lime blossom and remarkably a kind of dark flower essence and tangy stone fruit with a belt of brisk citrus before a full and driving palate of vibrant tangerine, flinty wet stones, sea breezes (saline) and zesty apricot in a dense and powerful form with racy, but elegant acidity, this wine shines bright with finesse and poised delicacy even in it’s youth, it’s glorious and while it’s second to the Hermannshole GG in opinion that margin is very narrow and this fantastic Riesling might tighten that gap in the years to come! This vigorous white shines a light golden hue in the glass and has layers of texture and depth, hedonistic in many ways, but still shy and blooding in others, it sneaks up on you like a leopard stalking it’s prey. Without question, in terms of the quality and focus these 2015’s from Donnhoff rival any wines, white, red and other from anyone or anywhere, especially these GG’s and dry wines, but it must be said, I loved the Kabinett, Spatlese and the amazing Auslese almost as much, don’t plan to miss any of Cornelius Donnhoff’s masterpieces in this vintage. The Felsenberg GG has at least 15 to 20 years of pure heavenly drinking ahead of it, best though I would think between 2020 and 2030, but seriously, I’d be hard pressed not to open a few as soon as I could, what a great and stylish wine from one of Germany’s best estates. Lingering peach, white cherry, basil, fleshy tropical fruit and exotic Asian spice sweep your mind away in this vital Riesling, sadly I missed Donnhoff on my recent stay in Germany, a mistake that haunts me when I relive my tasting notes from this collection of 2015 beauties I tasted with Anne Donnhoff this summer at Terry Theise’s San Francisco Germany portfolio tasting.
($65 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive
2016 Poe Wines, Pinot Noir “Pinot Nouveau” Sonoma Coast.
Let the fun begin! A great way to celebrate the latest harvest and toast Nouveau Day the 2016 Poe Pinot Nouveau is a bright and fruity fresh red that has juicy carbonic flavors, but a serious look at what the vintage has to offer, it is looking great from what I can taste! After a year in 2015 that brought a tiny fruit set with a micro amount of grapes per cluster, equals a small uneven crop, for Pinot Noir, but 2016 looks to have come roaring back with wines that might surpass 2014 in density and ripe tannin without being too heavy or alcohol laden in nature. Samantha Sheenan’s set of 2014 Pinots are gorgeous, so I had to mention them here and now, especially her Manchester Ridge from Mendocino and her potentially even better Sonoma Mountain Van der Kamp Pinot, these wines are pure class! Plus her 2014 Ferrington Chardonnay is not a wine to be overlooked either, Poe Wines is a label to discover! Like Bedrock that does a Nouveau Zinfandel, Samantha’s Poe Nouveau Pinot is a super fun project that looks to be a success in the making, at first it seems silly, but the wine is lovely and easy to quaff, with remarkably full expression and poise showing vibrant cherry, strawberry, pomegranate and red raspberry fruit, plus a tangy gentile acidity, while simple it does feel whole and has a touch of complexity with sweet herbs, mineral and spices, finishing with a crisp citrusy note and lingering sweet red berries. Medium bodied and with forward character it will partner up to mixed cuisine and or Thanksgiving fare well and it is really an enjoyable offering, it won’t be easy to find, but worth grabbing while you can, it’s a wonderful non Beaujolais Nouveau California style option to be different, drink now and often! I was thrilled and impressed with Sheenan’s efforts, she has the gift and is very talented at her craft, as I mentioned her Pinots are stunning wines, tasted recently at IPOB’s finale tasting, these Poe 2014’s were right up there with the best of show stuff!
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Drew Family Cellars, Pinot Noir, Morning Dew Ranch, Anderson Valley.
The absolutely stunning Morning Dew Ranch by Jason Drew is maybe the best wine yet from drew and gorgeous seamless expression of terroir and varietal with beautiful detail, verve and length. Tasted at the IPOB (In Pursuit of Balance) finale tasting in San Francisco, these Drew stood out along with, and along side Cobb, Littorai, Hirsch, Kutch, Big Basin, Domaine de la Cote, Poe and Wind Gap, just to name a few of the stars on display, to give you an idea of just how good these wines were! The 2014’s from Drew and the whole Anderson Valley are as good as it gets with richness and vibrancy, mineral notes, satiny tannins and an extra dose of wow factor. It is really hard to chose between the latest set of Drew Pinots, especially with his Estate bottling being so unique and intense, but I must say this Morning Dew Ranch farmed by Bert Williams really moved me, and after following Drew for more than 10 vintages now, this is an awesome wine, and it has everything you’d ever want and then some. The 2014 Drew Morning Dew starts with a nose of black fruit, wild spices, floral tones and a hint of wood leading to a plummy palate of mixed blue and red fruits with black cherry, blueberry, plum and currant as well as cinnamon, mineral/stone, forest floor and a touch of shaved vanilla. The density is impressive as is the stylish silkiness leaving a mouth coating roundness, but with lots of youthful vitality and held together with cool/crisp acidity, as well as the wine’s ability to soak up and almost completely cover any traces of oak, this is very pure and decedent Pinot Noir. With air everything unfolds gracefully and with complex seductive charm, you’ll want to find this Drew Morning Dew, and it will age well, easily going the distance, best from 2018 to 2028. Jason has crafted a great set of wines in this vintage and his new label design, which came into being completely with this vintage looks the part, his low alcohol style and Burgundy like focus really came together with this extraordinary year with each wine highlighting individual character and graces, don’t miss them.
($60 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2015 Alfredo Maestro, Rosado de Lagrima “Amanda” Castilla y Leon, Spain.
The all organic and delicately beautiful Rosado Amanda comes from 60 year old Alicante Bouschet grown at 850 meters up in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain on clay and calcareous soils. Alfredo Maestro’s small lot artisan wines are some of the most interesting in Spain and he is part of a new wave of young winemakers that are the new Spain, making terroir and traditional/historical influenced wines, his wines are playful and soulful with pure character and seriously pleasing on the palate. This vintage of Amanda Rosado by Alfredo Maestro is the best yet with it’s super pale pinkish hue and detailed finesse and charms, fermented with native yeasts with subtle skin contact and no sulfur added, this vat raised pink wine has vibrant strawberry, white and red tangy cherry and mineral notes leading the way with hints of white pepper, wet stone as well as zesty red peach and citrus, along with a whiff of rosewater and vine picked raspberry. The cool nights allow the Alicante Bouschet’s (Garnacha Tintorera as it is known in Spain) acidity to flourish and with the heat of the summer it can be picked very early for this Rose style wine. Maestro’s natural techniques have gained worldwide acclaim, there is never any additives or sulfur used, all the work is focused on the vines and preserving the freshness and true varietal core. The 2015 Amanda Rosado is a wonderful expression and a fine example of everything that Maestro is trying to capture, this is a wine that can be enjoyed all year long and in any season as well as with lots of cuisine choices, but it is perfect for our warm fall days plus it makes for a perfect starter wine for the holiday meals to come, be sure to check it out, imported by Farm Wines and Jose Pastor Selections.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Trocken, Dorsheimer Goldloch Grosses Gewachs, Nahe Germany.
A masterwork from Caroline Diel, the glorious Goldloch Grand Cru dry Riesling delivers seamless grace, underlying power and energy with depth that is hard to imagine or explain in mere words, in fact the GG’s I tasted at Diel this last trip to Germany were right up there with the best ever white wines I’ve ever tasted period, I mean they are equal to some fantastic stuff, including great vintages of Batard-Montrachet from Leflaive, Lafon Meursault, Raveneau Chablis and Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume! The thing is, especially if you’ve not ventured into these magical dry style Grosses Gewach, or Erste Lage Rieslings, they have the force and concentration usually reserved for chiseled red wines in terms of density and feel, though the acidity keeps things bracing and racy, and Diel especially has that sense and this one transcends the whole white v. red division. Caroline’s set of 2015 wines just blew me away, everyone has a sense of her style, a certain connection to her terroir and are extremely complex, elegant and wonderfully composed from her dry style offerings to her sweeter Kabinett, Spatlese and her off the charts fabulous Auslese, but without a doubt her 2015 Grosses Gewachs will go down as legend, and in my opinion, this Goldloch especially with it’s amazingly deep detail and potential perfection. Seeing the Dorsheimer Goldloch itself, you almost just know this is a shine to Riesling, it’s unbelievably steep slopes and southeast facing looks impressive and leaves you in awe of what it takes to farm and pick this site, it is composed of an ancient mix of soils a cover of clay, over bedrock and mainly gravel, with slight intrusions of quartzite, slate, volcanic and loess. Caroline loves the hard and gritty work in the vines and really gets into the dirt, she is down to earth, passionate and her wines reflect that and her precision in the cellar clearly is on display in each bottle. The Goldloch stands out as a true great wine, it doesn’t hide behind it’s youth, it shows itself in all of it’s glory even now, though of course it’s just beginning it’s journey to even greater worlds, it has a rich and regal mouth feel, a beautiful transparency and pureness of mission with golden hues and brightness, it begins with a white flower and delicate rose petal perfume, light earthy tones, talc or chalk salty essences along with vibrant citrus leading to a palate of expanding force, layered with lime, green apple, tangy apricot and tropical notes. There’s a peachy/fleshy succulent texture, soft wood notes, sweet herb, fig, lemon tea complexities along with a dominate spicy mineral streak and the extract coats your mouth, but subtle in tone and with elegant grace and the length is just stunning, this wine leaves you with an almost life changing impact, you know you’ve experienced something utterly profound and it leaves a mark! A huge thank you to everyone at Schlossgut Diel for making time for me on a busy harvest time day without much of a warning to make me feel welcome and blessing with such a set of wines, I’m forever grateful! The Schlossgut Diel wines are rare, imported by Terry Theise, and limited, so search them out and cherish them, in particular the GG’s, but don’t overlook anything from Diel! The 2015’s are special stuff, these GG’s, and Caroline’s Auslese are long term investments and should age well for 20 to 30 years!
($70 Est.) 97+ Points, grapelive
2015 Monasterio de Corias, Albarin Negro/Mencia Cangas Joven Selección “Novicio” Asturias, Spain.
There are some wines, where points and seriousness are not part of the joy of just drinking good wine and while this wine is serious and outstanding through an objective lens it is a wine I just like to drink and smile with, the Monasterio de Corias Joven Novice Albarin Negro-Mencia is absolutely a pleasure in the glass. The 2015 Novicio is wonderfully textured, no oak, juicy red wine that is pure and deeply flavorful with dark purple/garnet hues and vibrantly refreshing, though earthly complex with a lovely mix or black, blue and red fruits, loamy stoniness, lightly spicy and with a touch of savory and floral tones. A blend of the rare Albarin Negro, not relation to Albarino, and Mencia, the Monasterio de Corias Novicio is native yeast fermented in stainless, from 30 year old vines near the old Monastery where the winery gets it’s name, and raised in vat with no oak for a short time, only about 1,200 cases get made of this delightful red, when I need a pleasing everyday wine I can always trust this one to bring lots of happy contentment to my being! This lovely and easy to love quaffer, dark, but not heavy, shows blackberry, cherry, plum and blueberry fruits that are both fruity and tangy with soft tannins and bright acidity, making for a medium weighted wine of verve, playful on the palate and slightly rustic in a cool way, like a lighter Syrah with the earth and peppery spice, but fresh like Chianti can be plus elegantly poised like a fresh Pinot Noir or Bourgogne along with a touch of Jura (Trousseau) or Beaujolais (Gamay) added in! Kind of hard to put this fun and well crafted wine in a narrow box, but what is true is it’s unique and delightful nature, and it’s exceptional value! This is a brilliant wine made by wonderful people in northwest Spain, look for this food friend red, it is also a great holiday meal wine that pairs well with the classics.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Cuvee Classique, Provence, France.
The latest set of Bandol Rouge from the iconic Domaine Tempier are some of best yet from this very famous estate and show vibrant fruit, powerful tannins and focused detail, I love each and everyone of the Crus and especially this basic red, called by most the Cuvee Classique. This vintage is a blend of 75% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, 2% Carignan, no Syrah added here and is all organic, they are studying biodynamic methods, and the vines are all over 40 years old set in rocky clay and limestone, it shows the dominate Mourvedre throughout and has a deep almost black hue, this 2014 is really a classic or traditional vintage after some inconsistent years, while I adore the 2013 for it’s lighter frame and easy drinking as a young wine, it doesn’t have the feel and concentration of this 2014, and while hugely enjoyable this new wines will be 20 to 30 year wines and offer a great value for such cellar worthy reds. Impressive life force and layers intrigue in these wines, and the 2014 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge expresses lots of pure earthy/spicy fruit density along with meaty side notes, plus mineral, stony elements as well as ground pepper, fresh cut lavender, iron and dried violets. The nose gives bright floral, red berry, tar and minty herbs before leading to a gripping palate of plum, black cherry, wild berry and currant fruits with mixed spice, licorice, savory leather, loam and dust with mouth coating tannins that are not harsh, but persistent and chalky, air allows the fruit core to take back over and if you drink this Bandol young, best to decant and serve with robust cuisine, it is certainly a class act and wonderfully complete, complex and engaging. This is a gorgeous set of wines from Tempier, this is a super effort in particular, but both the Tourtine, my personal favorite and the massive Cabassaou, which is almost all Mourvdere and older vines, is almost perfection with amazing depth, flair and potential!
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Clos Ste Magdeleine, Cassis Blanc, Provence, France.
A perfect elixir and tonic for the worries of the world, this gorgeous Cassis certainly lights up any day or night, the Clos Ste Magdeleine 2014 shows a rich leesy depth to go with it’s dry crispy mineral charms and this blend of Clairette, Marsanne, Ugni Blanc and Rolle (Vermentino) really delivers class, elegance and poise in the glass, it’s lovely as can be. Bright with citrus and light applely fruits this vintage is stellar, it’s detail is charming, expressive and seriously focus with lemon/lime, nectarine, cool green melon and salty ocean mist and steely elements. This is a vibrant white that reflects it’s personality and terroir with verve and beauty, I could go for a lot more of this stuff, it opens to reveal a depth of flavors and length you might not expect, proving again and again what a great wine Cassis is! You are transported to the south of France and can see in your minds eye the warm of the days, the amazing blue of the sea and an inner peace wraps you up, I love this Clos Ste Magdeleine, it is even better with food and friends, drink this wonderful white over the next few years, best from now to 2020. One of the great wines of the world, Clos Ste Magdeleine is a fantastic producer, and Cassis, often overlooked is a remarkable region and the wines deserve repeated sampling, imported by Kermit Lynch, Clos Ste Magdeleine sells out fast, don’t miss this just released offering, it’s impressive and gloriously mind refreshing!
($30 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Ruet, Regnie Cru Beaujolais, Les Bois, France.
One of the sleepers at a recent celebration tasting of Beaujolais and Gamay, the Ruet Regnie, is a vibrant and stylish Gamay showing the richness and fruit driven nature of this flamboyant vintage in the region with wonderful delicacy and poise. A new domaine to the market place, imported by Schatzi Wines, Ruet showed some impressive efforts at Boire Beaujolais in San Francisco, a very well attended industry event with a sublime focus on Gamay, the grape, and the various styles of winemaking, with a spotlight mainly on Beaujolais and especially the 10 main Cru sites. Beaujolais is seeing a changing of the guard and with a new generation of winemakers, there is traditional carbonic fruity wines, wild natural wines and Burgundy style fermented and aged wines, along with some that mix all of the mentioned, it’s an interesting time for Beaujolais and there are many intriguing wines to discover, and in particular Domaine Ruet and this Regnie, grown on broken granite and loam, it shows fine tannins, bright acidity and graceful detail in a lighter medium bodied wine. Balanced with tangy earthy elements the Ruet Les Bois Regnie Cru Beaujolais shows classic Gamay character and purity with blackberry, cherry, strawberry and tart plum fruits, baking spices, dusty loam, zesty red peach, blood orange, walnuts and sappy saline/savory notes. This gathers a touch of density with air, but remains vigorous and fresh throughout, a great food wine, an excellent choice for the holiday meals coming this season. Duet’s Brouilly also impressed, this is a fine example of varietal and terroir, not overly complex, exotic or perfumed, but very tasty and performing well now, drink this 2015 Regnie over the next 3 to 5 years, this is well crafted wine, to enjoy in it’s youth.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Trocken, Scharlachberg Grosses Gewachs, Binger Rheinhessen, Germany.
The gorgeous and understated Grand Cu Scharlachberg Riesling from Kruger-Rumpf was one of my favorite wines of my trip to Germany in October 2016, it is a beautifully detailed and brilliant wine, elegant, graceful and full of deep intensity. I gazed on this site from across the Nahe with Georg Rumpf, as he explained that side of the river was technically in the Rheinhessen, even though the influence is much more Nahe with soil and exposure, being a steep south facing hill with old vines, and a VDP Grosses Lage site of historic terroir. This 2015 is vibrant, crisply cool and lovely with zesty mineral complexity and a shiny golden hue, Rumpf has done a masterful job of harnessing the vintage’s power and turning out wonderfully poised and vital wines, all of his GG’s are fantastic and will merit near perfection scores without exception, as both the Pittersberg and Dautenplanzer Crus look close to 98-100 points in my notes, but I loved the lightness and generous Scharlachberg as it is now, and while it seems more open, it certainly will age fantastically and has potential to gain further with time. The Kruger-Rumpf’s 2015 across the board highlight the greatness of the vintage, and Georg’s diverse set of wines seem to have risen to new heights, especially the GG’s and in particular this Schalachberg with it’s bright green apple, lime, white peach and succulent tree picked apricot fruits, wild herb, saline/liquid stone, tropical essences and tangy lemongrass and rosewater. Heavenly textured, vivid and with a haunting perfume this wine has everything you’d want in a dry Riesling, the richness and depth here, held in check by youthful acidity, is refined with remarkable delicacy and charm, this beauty lingers on and on with mixed citrus, sweet and sour notes, a hint of flinty spice, a touch of wood, wet rocks and crushed white flowers. Honestly these Grand Crus from Rumpf took me a while to process, they were so good, getting my thoughts together took some time and reflection, signs of truly great and exciting wines, these are not to be missed, drink over the next 15 to 20 years! Bravo Kruger-Rumpf, this is a winery to follow, and don’t miss their darling and appealing Scheurebe and the lightly fruity Kabinett 2015’s, these are stunning values!
($45 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2014 Jean Louis Dutraive-Domaine de la Grand Cour, Fleurie Cru Beaujolais, Clos de la Grand Cour, France.
A huge shout out to Rachel Kerswell (The Source Imports) and Hayley Johnson (Schatzi Wines) who put on the fabulous Boire Beaujolais in San Francisco, an industry event focusing on the importance and special nature of this very underrated region (and grape) that is on the rise again through a new generation of winemakers and providing a showcase into the differing style of wines, be it semi-carbonic or Burgundy/traditional. The event started with a panel discussion on the merits of Gamay and Beaujolais with a set of wines both carbonic and non-carbonic fermented, it was a serious look into how and why, it was a huge eye-opening revelation into a topic I thought I knew, bravo to panelists writer/journalist Jordan Mackay, winemaker at Oregon’s Bow & Arrow Scott Frank (producer of some of America’s best Gamay wines), Christie Default of the Culinary Academy and Raj Parr, super Somm and winemaker at Sandhi, Domaine de la Cote and Evening Land (Who always loves Gamay and helps make many different versions for himself and others). Understanding the terroir, fermentation and history of Beaujolais and it’s traditions gives great insight, and learning the story of Gamay is key to seeing this grape in a new and exciting light, even though I’ve always loved Cru Beaujolais, it was like falling in love all over again. Some of the world’s most important bio-dynamic and natural wines come from Beaujolais and this area of rare decomposed granite soils and beautiful hills, especially this Domaine de la Grand Cour Fleurie Clos de la Grand Cour, which was a favorite from the event, thanks again to Rachel Kerswell of the Source Imports for digging out of her personal cellar, and in magnum! The Domaine de la Grand Cour by Jean Louis Dutraive Fleurie 2014 is a gorgeous wine, beautiful in detail, heavenly textured with life and length that really sets it apart from most of it’s peers, as Fleurie goes no question this is the best I can remember, and I love Foillard’s so that is saying something on a personal level, this wine reaches true greatness on the same level as Grand Cru Burgundy, it’s like a delicate version of Musigny! Wonderfully perfumed, complex and emotional the 2014 Dutraive Clos de la Grand Cour Fleurie is poised, stylish and flowing with a medium body, silken tannins and vibrant acidity showing remarkable persistence with glorious mixed flowers, racy red fruits, a sexy spiciness with subtle earth, mineral and wood notes, it is seamless and pure from start to finish. Layers of satiny black cherry, mixed berry, red juicy plum, strawberry, rose petal, cinnamon stick, cedar/walnut, saline/stony elements, a hint of cran-apple and tangy currant that lingers on with dried violets, anise and bitter herb. This is wildly seductive Gamay and a rare treat, 2014 was a near perfect vintage, giving classic flavors and briskness of acidity, this should age a few decades no problem, and while this might be hard to find, it is really the Holly Grail for Fleurie, and I can’t wait for the 2015 a really ripe year, similar to Beaujolais’ great 2009 vintage, which is looking exotic and hedonistic in the few early releases, in particular wines from the Morgon side of the region. Viva la Gamay and Cru Beaujolais, there’s never been a better or more exciting time to explore this region and these wines, from basic Village level to the famed Crus of St. Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Regnie, Morgon and like this wine’s home Fleurie.
($34 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Sara Perez i Rene Barbier Venus La Universal “Dido” Montsant Tinto, Spain.
The brilliant Sara Perez Dido red is drinking wonderfully at the moment, very impressive with delicacy and fine length showing good acidity and floral details. Grown on granite soils and in dramatic conditions with tiny yields, this certainly is a terroir driven wine of force, class and vitality. 2014, a cool year highlights the savory elements and spice along with vibrant red fruits really makes this a superb wine with lovely freshness and pure fruit character. This 2014 Dido starts with flinty/mineral spice, dried violets, minty/basil and blackberry along with plum, raspberry and hints of blueberry that fills this wine out with beautiful complexity. Medium to full bodied this Montsant red, a blend of co-fermented Garnacha and Syrah along with a little Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon added too, is a killer value and should evolve nicely for many years to come. The Dido line from Sara Perez and Rene Barbier really delivers quality and style at a fair price, especially this red, but also the white, which is lively and richly flavored as well.
($22 Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive
2007 Giuseppe Quintarelli, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto Italy.
One of the most iconic wines in the world, made by the late Giuseppe Quintarelli, who passed away a few years back, the Quintarelli Amazon is legendary, ultra old school and wildly unique with it’s own character and soul that seems completely within it’s own world. This wine and the famed Alzero, a similar style wine crafted with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the rarest of rare and amazingly textured wines, I have only a few experiences with them, and this recent tasting of the whole lineup of Quintarelli was a special treat, especially this gorgeous Amarone della Valpolicella Classico with it’s amazing layers and sexy mouth feel and length. There is nothing shy here, at 16+ % and deep intensity of flavor this is a wine that demands attention, and get’s it, like Scarlett Johansson in a red dress, it draws you in! The thing is, this wine is full bodied, powerful and opulent, but still graceful and wonderfully poised, it carries it’s weight well and even refined, it’s a wine of major contrasts and it attacks the senses in waves with dark cherry, dried plums, berry compote, chocolate, golden raisins and sweet fig along with cedar, baking spices and dried flowers. It’s ripe, but earthy, complex, but easy to love, it’s everything that’s promised and more, this is what Amarone tastes like in heaven. This beautiful wine is just fantastic, it is a bucket list wine, it is a wine you should try maybe only once, though it is not a wine for every celebration or special occasion with family or friends, or to show off with, it is for selfish and romantic times and should be experienced in that way, privately and lustfully with a lover over a long meal without distractions! This wine is an exotic and erotic joy in the glass, slightly dusty and with a few unpolished edges, but undeniably pure sex, hedonistic to the core and a bottle of love potion! This Corvina and Rondinella masterpiece is almost impossible to find, but Quintarelli Amarone is a wine that you should consider for your cellar no question, plus I should mention their lovely Rosso Ca’ del Merlo, a Valpolicella style wine aged 6 years in cask and with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon added to the usual mix of Corvina, Rondinella and other grapes at Quintarelli, it’s also 2007 vintage and it’s quite fetching too, and at $90, a much easier wine on your wallet. This are wines that age at a snails pace, solid for 10, 20 or 30 years even!
($360 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2014 Piedrasassi, Syrah “PS” Santa Barbara County.
Sashi Moorman’s Piedrasassi PS Syrah 2014 is outstanding. Period. True Story. I mean, wow, this is beautiful and seductive wine that if was labeled Cote-Rotie or Cornas no one would blink an eye if told it was $75 or $100 a bottle, the fact is this stuff sells for under $25 a bottle! Only 1,200 cases of this sexy and intriguing Syrah were made, and it will sell out fast, and with good reason, this is dark, perfumed and texturally layered and wonderfully spicy showing great length and detail. The deep blue and black fruits, richly flavored boysenberry, black currant, wild plum, blueberry and kirsch unfold on the palate with a background of violets, peppercorns, graphite/mineral tones, black olives, anise, cedar, clove and chalky/loamy pebbles. Impressively dense without being flabby, vibrant and complex, but seductively opulent and pleasing this Syrah delivers loads of pleasure and while structured, it drinks wonderfully now with it’s sweet tannin and youthful fruit added to the charms. It was stunning with grilled street tacos, and is lovely enough to admire on it’s own, this is a stellar example of California Syrah from a studied and talented winemaker on top of his game, all the current releases Moorman crafts are seriously good efforts from Stolpman to Evening Land and of course the partnership wines with Raj Parr at Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi as well, but be sure to look for his own label Piedrasassi, and in particular this PS Syrah, drink this over the next few years, best from 2017 to 2024.
($22 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Godello, Alto de Olaia, Valdeorras, Galicia Spain.
I was so excited by Laura Lorenzo’s red recently, I just could not help myself and had to open and the review her white as soon as I could, and her Godello from Valdeorras is a stunning and vibrant white, easily matching my expectations! As mentioned prior Laura is just getting her own wines out there after almost 10 years at Dominio do Bibei, and her current set of releases are amazing, with her attention to detail and organic/natural methods these wines show a fantastic inner energy and class, this white especially has a real white Burgundy feel and style about it, but still shines as pure terroir expression of Godello, Lorenzo is a huge talent on the rise! The granite, gravel and sand in the soils really allow expressive character to show in the Alto de Olaia and at 680 meters above sea level it is a cool climate, which allows the lively acidity to flourish, tiny yields and obvious careful sorting results in vibrant layers of concentration and remarkable texture, this is gorgeous stuff and a very worthy prey to hunt down. Using native yeasts and neutral casks, no fining or filtration and very low sulfur Lorenzo’s handcrafted wines are transparent and unadorned, in particular this Godello, which starts with white flowers, lemon zest, hints of saline, verbena and lime creme, it opens nicely on the palate to reveal green apple, kiwi, white peach and more bitter citrus notes, it fills out and has a generous mouth feel, almost opulent, but mineral driven with wet flinty stones and zesty spice, it reminds me of a fine Premier Chablis in style, though with it’s Galician soul intact! You need to add Laura Lorenzo and her Daterra Viticultores label to a short, but ever growing list of must try wines from this region, with her wines imported by Jose Pastor Selections. Lorenzo joins Luis Rodriguez, Nanclares, Guimaro and Vina Mein in an elite group of artisan producers that are making awesome world class wines from this north west corner of Spain, this might be the most exciting area in Europe right now! Drink this lovely Godello Alto de Olaia over the next 3 to 5 years, with another year in bottle it should get deeper and more luxurious, but I love it right now fresh and vivid, and don’t forget her Mencia based reds.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Carl Loewen, Riesling Feinherb, Maximin Herrenberg “1896” Mosel, Germany.
A truly spectacular white wine, the Loewen 1896 Feinherb Riesling, is special bottling from what are believed to be the oldest Riesling vines in Germany at Maximin Herrenberg, planted as the label says in 1896, this is a gorgeous dry Riesling with intense concentration and like a burning sun brightness that shines through in this mineral infused beauty. While the wine is listed legally as Feinherb, it drinks like a Grosses Gewachs, tasting it blind, you’d never know it wasn’t and those few extra grams of sugar are easily swallowed up by the wines vivid acidity, saline notes and spicy blue slate infusion, this is awesome stuff. Weingut Carl Loewen has always been a reliable source for fine Rieslings in the Mosel, and Carl’s traditional methods and poised winemaking have always caressed fine detail and transparent terroir character into the wines. With his son Christopher in the cellar and his own signature adding to the mix has really given the latest set of wines an extra sense of grace and seductive beauty, they used native yeasts and gravity flow with old cask aging with long lees contact, which gives these wines their finesse, structure and wonderful textures, while still having dense extract and vibrancy. Christopher has done winemaking at the famed Von Schubert Maximin Grauhaus as well as Felton Road in New Zealand and is very talented young winemaker, his touch has brought huge rewards in these 2015 wines. The 2015’s are all damn near perfect in form and class, they really stand out and impress with this great vintage, especially the drier wines with the Herrenberg Trocken and Ritsch GG really looking good, but this wine with it’s special label and wax capsule stole my heart and blew me away! The Loewen 2015 Riesling Feinherb 1896, imported by Terry Theise, a super limited bottling, is likely a wine I never experience again sadly, though I hold out hope I do, it is amazingly complex and alluring for such a baby with a sublime palate of tantalizing flavors, purity and vigor with layers of citrus, apricot, tropical essences, lime blossoms, white cherry, spicy shale, grey sea salt and wet flint set in a medium bodied, liquid mineral driven wine of opulence and delicacy. There is a real wow factor here, and now I’ve tried this fantastic wine twice, everything is confirmed, it should get even better in the next 10 to 20 years or more, it has a firm grip and takes some air to awaken, but it’s massive potential already shows, this wine can become legendary, it is a unique, timeless and historic expression of time and place. This is brilliant Riesling, bravo to father and son Loewen on a masterpiece!
($80 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive
2007 Gravner, Bianco Breg, Venezia Giulia, Italy.
The wines of Josko Gravner are legendary and some of the most intriguing wines in Italy, coming from the borderlands of Venezia Giulia where the vineyards sweep into Slovenia, and where the wines seem to dip into then ancient past, this is the home of the modern Italian Orange wine. These long aging skin contact wines, sometimes considered or called hipster juice, are unique expressions of an ancient craft, very natural and savory in flavor, they can be either gloriously textured and beguiling, or the they can be bizarre or seriously flawed with funky/stinky volatile. The Gravner wines are beautifully made and seriously lovely, now fermented in Amphora exclusively on the skins, his Amphorae come from Georgia and are the big beeswax lined vessels that are sunk into the earth, Josko was one of the first modern area winemakers to employ them in the region. The Gravner estate extends about 60% into Slovenia, this allowed him to more easily travel to Georgia back in Soviet times to investigate the use of Amphora, it wasn’t easy to get these big clay/terracota vessels to Italy safely, in fact it was a decade of trying and heartbreak before a enough of them could be used to make the wines he envisioned. Gravner’s wines take 7 years from harvest to market at least, white or red, he believes this is the perfect amount of time, and I tasted the current releases of the 2007 whites and two of the reds, a 2001 Merlot, non amphora and 2004 Pignolo, again non amphora, as the reds made in amphorae didn’t get going until 2006. The reds were stunningly pure, elegant and freshly detailed, impressive and very eye opening, since I have mainly only heard of the more famous Orange white wines from Gravner! The 2007 Bianco Berg was drinking beautifully open and aromatic, it was my favorite of the orange/whites on the day, just a bit more expressive than the fine Ribolla, it showed a wonderful depth of detail and dry richness that made it excellent with food, it shouldn’t be served too cold either, more like a red wine, it’s golden/peachy hue shines in the glass, it is a blend of varietals including Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay that come from terraced plots of the estate and are fermented separately, each picked when ripe, Gravner picks later and this wine is 14.5% which I believe adds to the pleasure and seductive character, fermentation in amphora on the skins and malos, then aged a further six years in old casks before bottling. The 2007 is still bright, vital and non oxidized with an array of citrus, stone fruits and topical fruit with a balance between savory and fruity elements with earthy tones, chalk and mineral as well as jasmine, lime and dried apricot. These wines were presented to us by Mateja Gravner, Josko’s daughter, who wowed us with the history of Gravner, the region which still is haunted by the two World Wars, and her passion was infectious and made the experience that much more meaningful, these are wines that expand the senses and are worthy of exploration. Gravner has just joined Rosenthal (importer) and should be more available on the US market in January, be sure to look out for them!
($89 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Trocken, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Grosses Gewachs, Rheingau Germany.
The beautiful Leitz plots at Berg Roseneck face south and slightly east, giving a wonderful exposure to this steep vineyard site above the hamlet of Rudesheim, every time I walk this place I am more in awe, my recent trip allowed me more time to enjoy this special place and some of the great wines made here, and in fact I was able to taste Leitz’s GG Roseneck, GG Schlossberg and GG Kaisersteinfels in their own vineyards, an amazing moment! All three of these gorgeous young dry Rieslings are stunning Grosse Lage bottlings, picking the best of them is almost pointless, though they are very unique to themselves with different soils and slopes, they are all tight and firm, all need time to fill out and develop, so if I was going to drink one of three young it might be the more generous and earthy Roseneck GG, though I personally love the Kaisersteinfels and Schlossberg Ehrenfels and think they might get closer to perfection over time, my notes rate them 96-98 easy, and they might be the best dry Rudesheimer Bergs of the vintage, if not ever! Still, the Roseneck GG is charming, nervy and serious, cooly crisp steely with powerful extract and sharply detailed with brisk and forceful intensity, the slate really shines through, but it’s earthy richness seduces the palate with primal green apple, white plum, lime and tart tree picked apricot fruits, loamy and flinty stones, wet salty shale, mineral spice and lingering tropical notes, verbena tea, white cherries and peach pit. This tangy and zesty Riesling is just beginning to awaken and has lots more to come in the next 5 to 10 years, light rose perfume, white flowers and citrus leaf barely lift from the glass, even with air, but add a heavenly dreamy feel to this fantastic wine. A huge thanks to Johannes, Markus and Jan of Leitz for the amazing tour of the winery, plus the vines, an awesome tasting of these wines and especially the friendship, this was one of my greatest experiences in the wine business, this terroir has touched my soul, and the 2015 Leitz wines are must have wines, certainly some of the best and most compelling Rieslings from this region, don’t miss them.
($56 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2015 Bow & Arrow, Gamay, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow focus on Loire Valley style wines and grapes, including this Gamay Noir, but they also do Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Melon, the grape of Muscadet, all of which they take serious and craft into vibrant and tangy fresh wines. The 2015 Gamay from Oregon’s Willamette valley is not your typical carbonic fruity style offering, it is vivid and savory with tart cherry, plum and tangy currant fruits along with crunchy stones, zesty acidity and earthy tannin. Hints of mineral spice, blood orange, red peach and raspberry also make an appearance along with a trace of walnut and loam, making for a ripe, but austere example of Gamay, it certainly pleases, though it really gets better and better with food. This is a very dark, intensely purple/black, deep and blooding red at the moment, more Touraine than Fleurie, and will be quite a shock for those that are used to light Beaujolais, but given time and cuisine, I enjoyed it with cheese burgers, everything unfolds here into a medium full brightly flavored Gamay that has plenty of pop and structure. This is one of best vintages to date of this wine and I think it should age fantastically well, it should develop nicely for another couple of years and cellar beautifully for a decade, best from 2018 to 2025. This is impressive stuff from Bow & Arrow, it really has their own style imprinted on it, it joins Brick House and Salem Wine Co. in my top top three Oregon Gamays!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Portela do Vento Red, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
This Mencia based red from Laura Lorenzo is strikingly beautiful and seductive, absolutely one of the best new discoveries of the year! Lorenzo, after making highly acclaimed wines at Dominio do Bibei for almost ten years, has started her own projects and she might be compared to Arianna Occhipinti and or Elisabetta Foradori in some ways, focusing on organic farming and natural wines, creating pure expressions of terroir and letting her personality shine through in her wines, from everything I can tell this Spanish woman with dreadlocks is a badass winegrower. She herself is a great story, but certainly her wine is amazing too and this 2015 Daterra Viticultores Portela do Vento is gorgeously stunning with fresh detail, layers of fruit, mineral and spice with amazing purity and length. This is 90% Mencia and 10% Garnacha Tintorera that has been fermented with native/wild yeasts in concrete vats and raised unfined and unfiltered in used/neutral Franch oak hogsheads, it sees extremely low sulfur or SO2, the grapes, mostly de-stemmed, all organic come from steep terraces of south facing granite and sandy soils in the Ribeira Sacra, a narrow valley in Galicia originally discovered by the Romans to be ideal for wine production about 2,000 years ago. Galicia is now one of the world’s great spots for intriguing wines, both red and white with these Mencia reds and Godello based whites really standing out, they are filled with unique character and elegance, they rival Burgundy for complexity and beauty, with the Mencia based stuff having medium full bodies and vibrant acidity, reminding us of both the Cote de Nuits and the northern Rhone (think Saint-Joseph or even Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage) and what you get in quality terms is a remarkable value. This Laura Lorenzo Daterra Viticultores Portela do Vento 2015 starts with liquid violets, black rose petal, wild green, red and black peppercorns, cinnamon stick with blueberry, plum, black cherry and racy currant fruits forming a core as well as flinty stones and mineral, plus black salted licorice, lavender oil and loamy earth. This wine is decadently elegant, opulent and vivid, but has just 12.5% alcohol, and it has silken textures with ripe tannins and a lingering finish. A tiny 225 case production makes this a rare wine, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, this Laura Lorenzo Mencia is a worthy pursuit, drink from 2016 to 2024, this is awesomely sexy stuff!
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Georg Breuer, Riesling, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Rheingau Germany.
Another wine tasted while in Germany was the Breuer 2012 Roseneck, a earthy and stylish old school wine from Theresa Breuer, who has turned this estate around and who has gone all organic in her plots in Roseneck and in fact all of her vineyards. I missed Theresa while I was in Ruedesheim, she was busy with the grapes and harvest, it was a particularly difficult year to do all organic work in the Rheingau with so much rain in July as well as hot and cold weather pattens in the Fall, but the grapes were looking pretty good, I did get to see and taste with her mother and see grapes come into the winery in small lots, with everything going well, and I enjoyed a private tour of the old cellar as well. Breuer plans to expand at the old town site in Rudesheim, to be able to house all the operation there will make it easier and while they get lots of visitors, it will make for an even more impressive center and attraction when completed. The 2012 Breuer Roseneck, is a trocken style non VDP, so it can’t say Grosses Gewachs or “Grand Cru” though no one who’s had Breuer will care about the labeling, this is a full and delightful wine of terroir and raw transparency with a core of earthy/mineral and loamy stoniness with rustic edges and purity showing apple, apricot, white cherry, baked peach, orange tea and passionfruit with subtle tart/tangy acidity and bite along with a elegant mouth feel and emerging maturity. The 2012 vintage was rich and opulent in character and it shows in the ripe flavor and length, it is drinking really well now, but it has enough extract and stuffing in reserve to last a long time, in fact it might get a little better in 5 to 10 years. All of the wines here are promising, I tasted a few of the 2015’s and while the 2012, 2013 and even the 2014’s all are pleasing, these 15’s stand out and will impress when ready, the 2015 Rudesheim Estate Trocken was my favorite, along with this 2012 Roseneck. While Riesling is the heart and soul here, Georg Breuer also does a fine Pinot Now and uniquely a Pinot Noir Port style wine, not my thing, but it has a huge following and a hit in their tasting room, which filled up the afternoon I was there like a subway train in rush hour! Good things are happening at Breuer, I’ve tasted and had Breuer since the nineties and I look forward to seeing where Theresa takes this winery in the next decade, watch this space.
($42 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2015 Favaro, Erbaluce di Caluso, La Chiusure, Piedmonte Italy.
The father and son team of Benito and Camillo Favaro make some fantastic wines, especially their heart and soul wine made from the rare, indigenous grape Erbaluce, a varietal that almost went extinct and that has been brought back to life in part by the Favaros, along with Ferrando. Erbaluce has a long history in these parts, dated back to the 1600’s, and it was recently given full DOCG status in the area and known as Erbaluce di Caluso in northern Piedmonte. It just maybe Piedmonte’s most interesting white native grape and wine, far more complex and complete than Cortese, found in Gavi, and better than most Arneis, though there are a few like Brovia that reach greatness, but Erbaluce is special and more unique in character and rarity, in particular Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso from their estate hillside vines in the tiny town of Piverone. The 2015 is the best vintage I’ve had of Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso, it is brilliant, crisp and deep in flavor and vitality with white flowers, wet stones, straw and melon notes leading the way along with quince, lemon/lime, white peach and brisk acidity, white tea and saline chalkiness. Medium weighted, vibrant and steely the latest Favaro is lovely and full of their artisan spirit, it lingers with ripe apple and sappy herbs and is gorgeous with most food choices and cuisine options, though best with light pastas and sea food, especially claims and mussels in mildly spicy broths and rustic bread. This dry white is class and balance in the glass, drink this all estate Favaro Erbaluce di Caluso La Chiusure over the next 2 or 3 years, I love Erbaluce as fresh as possible, though it seems to fill out and develop nicely with dried honey, baked pear and earthy tones coming through over time which can be intriguing as well if you wanted to cellar a few bottles, me I’m drinking it pretty much right now!
($23 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Red Blend, Coastal Region, South Africa.
The 2013 Badenhorst Family Red is a unique South African wine from near Swaartland in the Coastal Region and it is crafted from most old vine Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsault and a little Tinta Barocca. This vintage shows terroir, cooling southern ocean influence and rocky bush vine landscapes mark this wonderful wine, giving vitality and life force with a cascade of red, black and blue fruits, sage/peppercorn spiciness and earthy/loamy stony notes, it is bright and well defined, but has plenty of density and mouth feel to please and intrigue the palate leading with spiced plum, black raspberry, kirsch and boysenberry fruits along with lavender salt, peppery rosemary, mineral infused rock and a touch of game and anise seed. Well balanced and deep, it is a charming Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas like red that delivers wonderful layers of flavor in a hedonistic way and rewards further with food, especially more rustic and robust cuisine choices, from lamb to moussaka. The fruit is opulent and it has sweet tannin, but the spice is tangy/fiery and the savory elements give poise and contrast, this so far is favorite Badenhorst wine, even though I like the Chenin based offerings too, imported to the US by Broadbent Selections, I highly recommend checking it out, as well as the whites and lower end wines too, they are great values and interesting wines also. Drink this beautiful Family Red by Badenhorst over the next 3 to 5 years, there are a lot of new and thrilling wines coming out of South Africa these days, and this one is a great place to start!
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
nv Weingut Brundlmayer, Extra Brut Sekt, Sparkling White, Kamptal Austria.
It’s not a secret, but truthfully the Brundlmayer Sekt(s) are some of the world’s great bubbly with amazing depth of flavor, complexity and class, with the latest releases reaching even new heights for style and character, especially their Rose and this gorgeous Extra Brut. The Brundlmayer Extra Brut is mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but it is rumored to have some Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc as well, it is usually on it’s lees between 18 and 36 months and the grapes are picked exclusively for sparkling wine and are on more chalky soils to give purity and vibrant fresh mineral detail. It’s fermented super dry in stainless and does go through malo to give richness and raised in big Austrian oak casks. The Brundlmayer Extra Brut Sekt is brisk and bone dry, but loaded with decadence and layers of elegance and complex fruit, mineral tones and is wonderfully long. This vital bubbly really is heavenly with a silken mousse and sublime mouth feel showing concentration and restraint with apple, almond, quince, golden fig, yeasty brioche, white cherry and wet stones along with citrus and white flowers. If you are a grower Champagne lover you’ll admire the excellent terroir influence in found in this Austrian fizz and the remarkable artisan soul and fine balance, this is an awesome expression of place and house style. For the same price as most generic Champagne, this is much more intriguing and glorious choice for the brave and those in the know! Drink as much as you can get, and with it’s Extra Brut dry side and lavish opulence it is perfect as a celebration aperitif, but even better as the main meal wine as it is compelling and deep enough to go with almost any and all cuisine, this is brilliant stuff from Vincent Brundlmayer!
($46 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Arianna Occhipinti, Il Frappato, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
The new Il Frappato from Arianna Occhipinti is a pure and elegant example of her style and passion of place, her fans will adore it and it will certainly appeal to a whole new set of wine enthusiasts with it’s beautiful layers of silky fruit, natural earthy character and charmingly unique in detail. Arianna is one of Sicily’s leading lights, her organic and natural approach has been widely followed and her wines have a rabid following, she has become a world class talent, her wines really reflect her personality, hard work and love of place, in particular this Il Frappato, her signature wine, captures her essence perfectly. The latest set of wines, including this one and Arianna’s SP68 Rosso a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, are complete, complex and exciting wines with graceful mouth feel and compelling length, especially this Il Frappato with it’s richer profile and intriguing strawberry and tangy red berry fruit, exotic spiciness and lovely transparency. The 2014 starts with hints of reduction, so decant if possible, though this will be of no issue as the wine ages a bit longer in bottle, before revealing floral notes, mineral and loam with a pretty ruby/garnet hue in the glass and a silky smooth texture on the palate with subtle pepper, Asian spices, mulberry/lingon berry and an amaro note. The wine is fruity with sweet tannin, but is well balanced with savory/earthy and stony elements, it is controlled with bright acidity and was raised in neutral oak that has refined this poised medium/full Frappato. The wine really gets into a rhythm with air, drinking with purpose and flair, lingering with cinnamon, traces of guava jelly, red peach, saline, truffle and back to wild strawberry. This is one of my favorite Occhipinti wines to date, exceptional stuff, joyous with cuisine and with the potential to develop further with time, I’d say it should need another year or two to fully find itself, best from 2017 to 2022.
($39 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
nv Contadi Castaldi, Brut, Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy.
The lovely and vital Contadi Castaldi Brut shows the finesse and elegance of the Franciacorta region and the style that has made it a world famous spot for Champagne class bubbly. This remote and beautiful spot in Italy Lombardy region has a terroir that excels in producing acid rich and mineral laced grapes perfect for great sparkling wines, and uniquely French in character with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the main varietals, they also allow Pinot Blanc as well, very different from the native grape you find in Prosecco, and while there are some fantastic Prosecco wines, nothing in Italy compares to the top Franciacorta wines, especially the long aged vintage wines, like the gorgeous offerings from Berlucchi, Ca’ del Bosco and Bellavista craft, but certainly for the price the Contadi Castaldi delivers a great bubbly. I love the fresh vibrant detail in the Contadi Castaldi Brut and subtle richness of the lees, it shows refinement and decadence with brioche, vivid citrus notes, touches of steely mineral, golden fig, apple and hazelnut add complexity in a brisk dry frame. The climate and sandy/chalky soils of the famed Lake district of Italy comes through in each beautiful sip, this is a fine and excellent sparkler to enjoy anytime and the price for what you get is remarkable as well, great with seafood cuisines, especially lobster, perfect for celebrating and or just because you want a glass of bubbles.
($27 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Eduardo Torres Acosta, Nerello Mascalese, Versante Nord, Terre Siciliane, Italy.
Eduardo Torres Acosta is a young winemaker that has been in Sicily since 2012, coming from the Canary Islands and working with Arianna Occhipinti, one of Sicily’s most dynamic talents, and now has released his first solo effort from Mount Etna, and it’s an outstanding Etna Rosso with natural/earthy sex appeal and old world charm. Because Eduardo is making his wines at Arianna Occhipinti’s estate, he can’t call the wine an Etna Rosso DOC, but is all volcanic Nerello Mascalese that comes from choice leased plots. The young Spaniard got the attention of famed Etna producer Passopisciaro and is now working there as an enologist, after his apprenticeship with Ms. Occhipinti, and even though an outsider in a new place he has flourished and become part of this tight island community quickly and his wines will certainly gain him much wider attention as well. The deeply hued 2014 Versante Nord is slightly funky and reduced as many natural wines are at first, it reminds me a little of an old Domaine Maume or a young Henri Gouge Burgundy in that way, but once decanted and aired out gorgeous pure Nerello Mascalese details coming out with trufflely notes mixed with floral character, cinnamon stick, dried roses, flinty spices with dusty plum, strawberry and black cherry fruits as well as shale stone, dried currants, minty lavender and blueberry skins. This is really good and exciting wine, from a region that is getting a lot of buzz right now, it has everything you’d want, and even with the funkiness the beautiful mouth feel and vitality will win you over, this is a classic Etna, a rustic/raw terroir driven beauty! It needs plenty of air and should be paired with food to show it’s true potential and textures, but it is an impressive first effort and is very stylish and rewarding, this is a label to search out and keep an eye on, well made and well priced too, imported by Farm Wines and Louis Dressner, same as Occhipinti.
($30 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Cascina Val del Prete, Roero Nebbiolo, Vigna di Lino, Piedmonte, Italy.
Classic and timeless in style the latest release from Cascina Val del Prete is a wonderful and concentrated Nebbiolo with layers upon layers of terroir and varietal purity with exquisite detail, power and length. The 2012 Roero Vigna di Lino starts with tar, dried rose petal, spicy lavender, poached plum, loamy earth, game and tangy red currants building on the palate with mulberry, cedar, black salted licorice and kirsch soaked violets. This is a rich, intense and full bodied Nebbiolo that is stunningly almost Barolo like in impact and attention grabbing form, but with fine balance, firm tannins, highlighting the vintage with vibrant, almost juicy, acidity and mineral laced charms. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many wines for this traditional producer, especially their awesome Barbera wines that can age with gorgeous effect for 10 to 15 years, but I think they’ve reached a new level with this 2012 Roero Vigna di Lino, this is a beauty and certainly a must have wine for Nebbiolo fans! This impressive an earthy Nebbiolo has amazing potential for mid to long term development, and even though it is taught and tight with youthful vigor it can be enjoyed even now, though it will need decanting and robust cuisine to bring out it’s glorious best, drink from 2020 to 2032, this is an impressive wine!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Stolpman Vineyards, Syrah, Estate Grown, Ballard Canyon.
The latest set of Stolpman releases are all exciting wines, beautifully made and vibrant and expressive in detail and richness of fruit, especially their 2014 Estate Grown Syrah, which is a tremendous wine of class and character. It was great to taste the wines with Jessica Stolpman, Pete’s wife and hear in detail how each wine was made and hear the struggles of an all organic estate and dry famed vineyard, as well as the care and passion brought to the wines through winemaker Sashi Moorman and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano, who himself, is becoming a star for his big heart and the amazing grapes he brings into the cellar. Tom Stolpman is an almost heroic figure in the California wine scene, planting in the little known Santa Ynez Valley and focusing on Syrah, when the world was going crazy for Pinot Noir, making incredible wines and raising the world’s attention the terroir here, and almost single-handedly creating the Ballard Canyon AVA, a small strip of hillsides on limestone that makes for some of the best Syrah in California. Now Peter, Tom’s son, is taking the reins and leading the winery to even more acclaim with his efforts to promote this place and these awesome wines. The 2014 Estate Syrah is an electrically charged and vigorous red with a flow of spicy, powerful black and blue fruit that fills the palate and sensationally drinks like a classic northern Rhone with blackberry, boysenberry, plum and blueberry fruit along with vital acidity, ripe tannins and cool climate complexity showing chalky stones, peppercorns, black olives, hints of violets, cassis, anise, black fig, camphor and lavender oil. This is brilliant stuff, fermented in concrete with 50% whole cluster, it is one of the best values around for the absolute pleasure, style and quality in the bottle! Deep intensity of color and layers of flavors are hallmarks of Stolpman Syrah and the 2014 has it all and more, it is superb with cuisine and opens up and gets seductively decedent with air, it should age nicely too, best from 2018 to 2028. Stolpman has lots of other interesting wines out as well, while I was quite taken by the 2014 Estate, the 2013 Originals old vine Syrah is fabulous too with even more grip and power, but is in need of extra bottle age to deliver it’s best, the Croce 2013 a co-fermented Syrah and Sangiovese masterpiece of the exotic, wildly sexy and intriguing, and the very entertaining Syrah and Petit Vedot non estate Para Maria 2015 Red “de los tecolotes” that Ruben sources fruit for, with proceeds shared with the vineyard crew, and named for Maria, Stolpman’s harvest forewoman! Look for all the Stolpman offerings, in particular the reds from 2013, 2014 and 2015, this was a great showing and these wines deserve your attention.
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Alberto Nanclares, Albarino, Soverribas, La Vina del Mochuelo, Rias Baixas, Spain.
The Nanclares Albarino(s) are some of the most intellectual and beautiful artisan crafted white wines in Spain, and are some of most stunning examples of varietal and terroir you can find. These transparent and lovely whites show intensity, clarity and vitality with amazing depth and grace, bursting with vigorous acidity, mineral expression and vibrant fruit, even the basic Albarino is gorgeous, but this Soverribas is a single vineyard wine and it has it’s own stamp of character and salty freshness that sets it apart, it’s vivid, briny and has a touch of green that contrasts well against it’s bitter apple and citrus core. Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto make the wines here and have converted to mostly all biodynamic practices and organic methods, and in this marine influenced region of Galicia, that was a huge undertaking and makes for seriously hard work in the vines, but it has it’s rewards and their wines show their passion and grit, these are special wines of remarkable purity and grace. The 2014 vintage Soverribas la Vina del Mochuelo Albarino shines in the glass with a bright pale golden hue and brisk start to the palate, it reminds me of a leesy Muscadet, but with the intense pop of super dry Riesling, while being truly unique to it’s self and pure Albarino with lemon/lime, white peach, wet river stones, saline and steely green melon. Added details emerge with air and the lees give a hint of smoke and body to this zesty medium bodied white along with traces of seashore, chalk, dried herb and flinty spice. This tangy and austere Albarino has a very restrained, super dry, youthfulness, like a Chablis, but really turns on the charm with food, especially mussels, oysters and fish dishes, I love it, and highly recommend searching these Nanclares wines out, these handcrafted and small production wines are imported by Jose Pastor Selections. This Soverribas is an authentic and honest wine that has a sense of place and vintage, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Arnot-Roberts, Trousseau, North Coast.
The hauntingly pale and delicate 2015 Arnot-Roberts Trousseau looks more rose than red, but is full of flavor and depth with finesse and lingering intensity. Because of a disastrous fruit set for Trousseau in their new Sonoma Coast vineyards, the 2015 is all from their original plot at Luchsinger Vineyard in Lake County, this site with it’s iron rich volcanic soils and rocky terroir makes for a light colored red, with almost no pigment, but with lots of extract, and it’s totally unique in character with beautiful mouth feel and complexity, yet in a light format and low alcohol wine, this vintage is just about 12%, and the wine shows fine balance, satiny textures and vitality. Nathan Roberts and Duncan Meyers handcraft each wine, in this case they use native ferments and aged the Trousseau Noir in neutral oak, using as the label says, 1 Foudre, 5 Puncheons and 6 Barrels. The results are a light red with tree picked cherry, wild strawberry and tart plum fruits with hints of mineral, fennel, subtle earth and savory elements, finishing with a juicy spiced raspberry tea note. This is a ripe vintage and the fruit is quite forward and succulent, but you can still taste it’s historical connection to the old world wines of the Jura region in France in the background, it reminds me of the Jean-Francois Ganevat wines a lot, this is really fun stuff and it’s cult like following is justified. All of the Arnot-Roberts 2015 wines are worth searching out, and while there will be rush to grab every last bottle of this Trousseau, you should also look for their stunning set of Chardonnays, the new 2015 Trout Gulch in particular is gorgeous, as well is their deep and beautiful 2015 North Coast Syrah. Also it recent years they have made some impressive Pinot Noir, but their new 2015’s take it up a notch with exciting detailed fruit and Burgundy like silky/earthy layers. The new set of Arnot-Roberts wines are star quality, sadly hard to find, and this Trousseau 2015 is a thrill, drink it over the next 3 to 5 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Riesling, Piedmonte, Italy.
The new 2014 Vajra Riesling is brilliant, fresh, detailed and briskly dry with good vigor and intensity, it is a charming and character filled white, and it’s my all time favorite Italian white wine and certainly the best Riesling in Italy, in my opinion of course. Giuseppe Vajra has led the way with Riesling in the Langhe, and while it looks like there are almost 20 producers now making this varietal there, his wines are a step ahead, and rival some fine efforts from Germany and Austria! The 2014 vintage was none too easy in Piedmonte, so this wine’s remarkable poise, vitality and deliciousness makes it even more special, and style wise it reminds me somewhat of Muller-Catoir, of the Pfalz in Germany and or Knoll in Austria with it’s dry and zesty nature and elegant delicacy. The 2014 G.D. Vajra Langhe Riesling starts with orange blossom, lime, white rose and lemongrass leading to a light to medium palate of tangy green apple, lemon/lime, wet stones, steely peach, a hint of tart herb, saline and verbena. This vintage is not overt or as dense as the 2011 or 2013, but it is exceptionally graceful and beautiful, wonderfully crafted and with a vibrant array of flavor, it should age well and gather a bit more width over the next few years and take on a more earthy and spicy depth that it only hints at now. This crunchy and taught dry Riesling is lovely and sharply focused, it makes for an intriguing wine, one that you could easily substitute for a Premier Chablis and or a Cru Sancerre once in a while with thrilling results, this is world class stuff from Vajra, as I was just in Germany tasting outstanding Riesling added perspective and shows how impressive this wine really is, be sure to look for it and don’t miss his fantastic 2012 Barolo/Nebbiolo offerings either, both under his G.D. Vajra label and the Baudana lineup, great and inspired wines all!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Keever Vineyards, Inspirado, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
The beautiful, seriously intense and richly flavored Keever Vineyards Inspirado red wine is a classic Bordeaux style Cabernet based wine in the same league as the Napa greats, like the Joseph Phelps Insignia and or Opus One, and since it is about half the price and made by the extremely talented Celia Welch, I’d highly recommend this Keever, it’s a rocking good California wine! A small vineyard near Yountville, sitting on the hillside with well drained rocky/loamy soils, makes Keever a gem to discover, with small production and a star winemaker, this is a label to follow, Keever has been around about 10 years now and each vintage seems to be getting better and better, and this 2012 Inspirado Red is one of the best of their impressive efforts to date, it has a mix of about 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 6% Malbec, a combo that is similar to what you’d find in Margaux or St. Estephe on the left bank of Bordeaux, and it’s a full bodied and powerful wine with a certain flair you often find in wines by Celia Welch, known for her own label Corra, as well as having made wines at Scarecrow and Staglin, to name a few. The 2012 Inspired delivers a seamless flow of dark fruits, floral tones and ripe tannins along with complexity and elegance, with loads of blackberry, creme de cassis, cedar, sweet tobacco leaf, graphite, hints of acacia flower, smoky vanilla/mocha and black licorice. Lengthy and thick on the palate, this blend doesn’t go over the top, it tastes of balanced wine with great mouth feel and expansion, but not heavy or porty. The Cabernet Sauvignon dominates here and if you are a Napa Cabernet lover, you’ll be wonderfully reward by this Keever Inspirado! This wine just gets better with air, opening up and intrigues with every sip, this is fabulous stuff, one of the best 2012 values out there with class, depth and lots of sex appeal, drink over the next 5 to 15 years, if this 2012 is this good, wow, I can’t wait for the 2013 and 2014 vintages!
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
1966 Kloster Eberbach, Riesling Spatlese, Rudesheimer Hinterhaus, Rheingau Germany.
What a massive treat to taste this old and stylish Riesling from a single plot of vines from where the slopes of Rudesheimer Berg meets the hamlet of Ruedesheim itself, literally behind the houses “Hinterhaus” or backyard in German. Johannes Leitz now has the exclusive lease on this site, and he was gracious enough to really show me the potential of this site by opening up this beautiful 1966 Hinterhaus Spatlese, since I had been thrilled by the grapes on these vines during my recent visit there. 50 years apart, I took a picture of the 2016 just before Leitz’s crew picked the grapes, which Johannes enjoyed enough to put on his Facebook page, my professional photog fees were waived as I had ate way too many of his grapes while touring his vines! So, the 1966 vintage, I understand it was difficult to the point where in many of the parts of Rudesheimer Berg that it was snowing while harvest was in full swing, and not for icewine, Johannes says his mom told him the grapes came in like slushies! But still the Riesling turned out fantastic, as was the case here in the now with this Kloster Eberbach which shows a remarkable clear youthful hue in the glass, I had guessed it was from the mid to late eighties, such was the form and detail, this drinks wonderfully and vibrantly with a drier tone now that it is fully mature as does Spatlese with age, the sweetness dulls and everything else comes forward with layers of complexity and texture. The Hinterhaus is a warmer site that is protected from the winds and is really it’s own micro terroir and climate with mineral rich soils, some slate and with lots of broken stones, it is a special site, technically part of the Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Cru, but certainly unique and giving of it’s own expression. Kloster Eberbach founded in 1136, one of the oldest wineries in the Rheingau, for centuries one of the leading monastery wineries in Germany and now a heritage site with historic and glorious past, still makes wine today. With layers of stony apricot, grilled orange, butterscotch, clove and dried ginger the 1966 Hinterhaus impresses on the palate with lively acidity and flinty spicy mineral notes adding a contrast to the lush mouth feel and lingering apple butter, tangerine, saline and earthiness. Only a touch of autumn leaves and a slight fading of edges hint at decay and age here, and I can’t help but think there’s another 10 years or so left here, even though I’d say this is a great spot for this Riesling, maybe now at it’s ultimate peak. The balance and weight are just brilliant and it had no problem dealing with the tables choices of cuisine from chicken and pork to beef as well as a tray of mixed starters including trout salad and local cheese, easily this fine Riesling kept pace and added joyous comfort through out. Enjoying this wine with Markus Roll, vineyard manager at Weingut Leitz, who toured me around the vineyards and Johannes Leitz made for an extra special night, I can’t wait to taste the Leitz version of Hinterhaus 2016 in a few years time!
($N/A) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Littorai, Pinot Noir, Mays Canyon, Sonoma Coast.
With gravel and loamy soils, cool ocean influence and a near perfect year for Pinot Noir, the Littorai Mays Canyon shows deep color and rich detail in 2014 with sublime layered texture and healthy, but satiny tannins along with a depth of dark fruits, spice and wood notes, Ted Lemon’s Littorai Pinots never fail to impress and intrigue! This new release highlights the vintage’s potential and certainly it’s greatest for beautifyul wines, less sharp than 2012 and 2013, which were lovely wines themselves, it just seems the 2014’s go father and have that something extra special about them, I can’t wait to see what they do in 10 years! The firm, complex and dense 2014 Littorai Mays Canyon starts with hints of violets and rose petal, polished walnut, cinnamon stick and racy red fruits leading to a palate of black cherry, cola bean, velvety plum, fig and tangy red currant as well as light/subtle smoke, sweet wild mushroom, cedar and raspberry tea. These details come alive with air, but it takes time to unfold and there is plenty of acidity to give vibrant highlights and verve, this is a wine to enjoy with food over an evening, serious, mysterious, lengthy and robust, while still being very alluring and round, if you are lucky enough to have it, be patient, the rewards will be joyous in a few years. This is another smash hit from Ted Lemon, be sure to look for his 2014’s, and also keep an eye out for his New Zealand star Pinot Burn Cottage as well, it is wonderfully sexy stuff too. Lemon’s Burgundy trained touch and biodynamic methods are becoming legend and his latest set of wines only reinforce the truth in his talents, stunning and graceful wines, drink this Mays Canyon 2014 from 2018 to 2026.
($74-105 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Combe, Trousseau, Stolpman Vineyards, Ballard Canyon.
The latest Stolpman Trousseau Noir Combe 2015 is a light ruby hued, Jura inspired red, with tasty delicacy and a dusting of spices. Vibrant and playful on the palate the Combe Trousseau is a lovely wine, refreshing and detailed with red currant, distilled raspberry and strawberry fruits with some earthy mineral/stony notes, baking spice and tangy acidity. This medium light style red makes for an easy to quaff wine with some unique charm and character, it almost reminds me a bit of a Frappato or Cru Beaujolais, and can be served a little chilled, with some lively cherry, and a tart kiss red peach. With it’s own personality, this is a very interesting wine, vivid and transparent, fun and with pleasing textures, if not overly complex has some flair, I certainly will chase down a few more bottles myself, and I do love everything Stolpman does, especially their Syrah based wines, but this rare Trousseau Noir and their Sparkling Trousseau Pet-Nat are intriguing too, though harder to get, you should look for them, along with their carbonic Sangiovese! There are not many US versions of Trousseau around, with Arnot-Roberts being the best one over the last 3 or 4 vintages, so it’s nice to see the Combe becoming such a nice offering, but Trousseau Noir and it’s sister the Trousseau Gris, a more white grape, have been in California a long time, inter-planted in some of Sonoma Valley’s heritage sites, used in field blends mostly, and there are some great examples of these varietals, though in very limited availability, Wind Gap by Pax Mahle makes a wonderful Trousseau Gris from the Sonoma area, and of course the mentioned Arnot-Roberts Trousseau Noir which is a big hit. Keep an eye on Stolpman’s Combe, this project they started with Raj Parr, is really starting to impress, drink the 2015 Stolpman Combe Trousseau over the next 2 or 3 years, but maybe best now and often as possible!
($30 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Auslese, Pittermannchen, Nahe Germany.
The absolutely stunning and lavishly detailed Pittermannchen Auslese, was one of the top highlights of my recent visit to Germany, this is a phenomenal wine of richness and elegance with a thick and velvety texture and sweet, but not cloying layers of fruit. There is a hint of honey, but seems to be without noble rot influence, it’s more about purity and terroir than one might expect in such a decedent wine, in fact the class and style in this gorgeous example make it a wine to enjoy with food, a meal as a contrast to briny or savory cuisines. This is a wine that doesn’t need or want dessert to match, nor do you need to think of it as an after dinner specialty, you might enjoy it more pre food in truth or even with oysters to wet your appetite, though admittedly it would be best for a special occasion. This is a wine for the ages, with structure, brilliance and length, it’s only a glimpse of it’s future self at this stage, it’s only going to get better and better over the next 20 or so years, maybe 50 or more if cellared well, and when using that perspective, it is a wonderful value and one that will offer great rewards on the investment. The Pittermannchen is a unique Grand Cru site with slate, quartz and gravel on steep south facing slopes, this gives the wine mineral tones, power and exotic flavors with a cascade of sexy yellow and white fruits, tropical notes and spicy/mineral tones with apricot, apple butter, pineapple, quince, creme brûlée and hints of orange marmalade with wet stones, flinty elements and honeyed peaches and lemon curd. With a unique lime flower, rose petal and nectarine lift, this Diel Auslese is a masterpiece of balance and depth, again this is only the raw shadow of what this beautiful wine will become, patience is a virtue, especially with a wine such as this. Caroline Diel’s 2015 Rieslings are all rock stars, with her GG’s and Trockens leading the way, but this is one that should not be overlooked, think of it’s sweetness as richness and mouth feel, it will win over even the most dry wine only fanatic, especially with some age, and Diel is not the only Nahe producer to kill it with Auslese in 2015, Kruger-Rumpf and Donnhoff too made mind-blowing sweet Spatlese and Auslese wines! This is a timeless classic, proving judging a wine on must weight or sugar alone is insane, this is fantastic stuff!
($40 Est. 375ml.) 97 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Kabinett, Oestricher Lenchen, Rheingau Germany.
A visit to Spreitzer isn’t complete without tasting the fabulous Oestricher Lenchen Kabinett, maybe my quilt free favorite of Andi’s wines, this fruity Riesling is rich and opulent with fresh detail and nice balance of sweet and tangy with lush layers and vibrant acidity. Not far from Spreitzer is the famed Kloster Eberbach founded in 1136, the famous monastery where they filmed the “Name of the Rose” from Umberto Eco’s novel with Sean Connery, local winemakers are have said to have gotten Sean very drunk, and he returned the favor on a return visit to the region with a case of single malt! And also more importantly where for centuries the monks made some of the world’s most sought after wines from the upper Rheingau, and their top wine was Kabinett level Riesling, it in fact had it’s own holy cellar room, which you can still visit today in the museum tour. Markus Roll, Weingut Leitz’s vineyard manager took me there, showed me the Cabinet Room (Kabinett) and told me the story, a local legend, later repeated by Andreas Spritzer to me, of the lazy horseman, each year the monks would send a rider to the bishop to get his blessing to pick the grapes, after which when the horseman got back harvest would begin, but one year the horseman, much rumored to have been fond of drink and women took ages to return, and when he did the grapes were way beyond Kabinett level, and were picked extremely late, hence the term Spatlese (late picked) coming into being, well the short story is that the bishop liked the sweet stuff even better, and from then on Spatlese became the higher ranked wine, Johannisberg even has a statue of the horseman in front of their winery, as they were maybe a bit better at the sweeter wines! But, Kabinett, even getting the shaft by the lazy horseman, still remains a mainstay wine and Spreitzer’s Oestricher Lenchen is an outstanding version. The 2015 vintage is just delicious with plenty of apple, wild peach, tangerine and cool apricot fruits from the Loess and loamy soils close to the Rhein, which in this area is almost like having lake effect, as the Rhein is at it’s widest point here, it’s an early ripening site which give forward fruit and nice polished acidity. The 2015 is one of the best vintages I’ve had of Spreitzer, and the lush detail and refined character make it very pleasing, but it has good extract and vibrancy to not feel heavy, it is a wine to enjoy now, but should age well to, and it’s a steal, the complexity and mineral undertones hint at it’s long drinking window. Notes of white tea, pineapple, lime blossom and saline along with white plum, earthy stones all add to the whole of this classy Riesling, and the mouth feel hints at the leesy style that Spreitzer employes, enjoy now or later, best from 2016 to 2026.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Spatlese, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Rheingau Germany.
This outstanding and classic Riesling defies jaded classification and being boxed into a closed mind, while a true and traditional Spatlese it goes beyond perception to a beautiful place where you can just admire pure beauty with lush detail and bright mineral character this is a stunning wine. This wine has always been one of my favorite wines in the world, and it may have been the wine that sparked my love for Johannes Leitz’s wines, and over the years, while I drink more of his other offerings, this wine has a place in my heart, and it reveals the soul of it’s own terroir with grace, pleasure and relish, this is a wine to cherish and celebrate place. Certainly there has been a strong current to drier wine styles, especially in German, and there is logic and reason to this, but it does leave behind a few special wines that deserve much more attention and merit, like this one, and while it seems much cooler to ask for or order the Trockens, don’t be a blind follower of fashion and trend in this case, this balanced and gorgeous Spatlese will win a place in your heart and earn a place in your cellar, especially this remarkable 2015 vintage of Johannes’ “Rosie” Roseneck with it’s exception focus, intense, but poised power and depth, this wine rocks! The nose is bright with flinty spice, light floral notes and tropical fruits leading to a lavish palate of layers fruit, an almost creamy sensation that is held nicely in check with vibrant acidity and a long lingering finish, showing lime blossom, peach, apricot, green apple, mango, pineapple and tangerine sorbet as well as a touch of tea spice, saline/stoniness and crystalline brilliance throughout. Johannes over the years has refined his winemaking style and now does everything to clear the juice and do long cool fermentations in mostly stainless, but with his best offerings doing time in old large “Stueck” in his cellar, this leads to much clear and refined flavors that dance on the palate. This stunning Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck comes from amazingly well tended sites in the vineyard on steep slate slopes that give this wine it’s core of vitality and depth of concentration and extract, it’s fine sweetness and seductive charm are wonderfully hedonistic and harmonious in this Riesling, plus the lower alcohol will help justify enjoying the second bottle! Drink this baby “Rosie” over the next decade at least, and be sure to check out of the Leitz 2015 Rieslings, both dry and fruity, they are sensational and some of best yet for this great Rheingau winery.
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Trocken, Burg Layen, Nahe Germany.
Anyone with any doubts about the quality of dry Riesling and or the vintage 2015 in Germany need only to try the wines of Caroline Diel at Schlossgut Diel in the Nahe to become a believer, these are fantastic wines of delicacy, grace and layers with subtle fruit and loads of mineral charm. A recent visit to Diel enlightened me further still, the unique character of each site is profound at Diel, and Caroline is a master at capturing each site’s essence in the bottle, this goes for all of her wines from the base level estate Riesling all the way to her top Grosses Gewachs and of course her majestic Pinot Noir, oh and by the way, if you ever get a chance to try her bubbly Riesling Brut Sekt Goldloch, do not miss this opportunity, it’s as good as any top grower producer Champagne, in fact I like it better than 90% of them! Back to style, Diel has also been a leader in taste and was hugely maverick in promoting dry Riesling to the world, and tasting through the Diel wines, you can see why, these 2015’s especially are ultra wondrous and gorgeous examples, even though I really dig their off dry offerings like the Terry Theise inspired “Von Der Nahe” QbA and the stunning Dorsheimer Goldloch Kabinett, and the richly dense and not too sweet Pittermannchen Spatlese, these are lovely wines too. Kind of a sleeper in the lineup was this sublime Trocken Burg Layen, named after the famed Schloss, which comes from the steep Burg Berg vineyard that is a mix of clay, gravel and broken slate, it has a zesty mix of flavors and is really a gateway wine into the GG’s at Diel and carries the soul of the winery and Caroline’s feline like style, silken and lengthy, but with underlying force and vitality, the Burg Bayen Trocken is spiced, perfumed and vibrant with white flowers, lime and green apple along with a hint of pineapple and apricot as well as glistening wet rock, spicy flint, earth/loamy, rosewater and a touch of salted verbena. This fine and focused example is classy, pure and pleasure filled with enough vigorous acidity to keep the acid heads in rapture, but with the vintage’s generous mouth feel, this screams Diel throughout, beautiful and spine tingling, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, though as with all the Diel wines it certainly will age well, there’s almost no limit, great stuff and thoroughly entertaining.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Trocken, Abtei, Nahe Germany.
After Georg Rumpf picked me up at the Bingen ferry, the first place he showed was Kruger-Rumpf’s latest Riesling vineyard, this plot Abtei is amazingly steep with stony/quartz soils and faces south, it is nearly perfect for intense wines and small yields. Georg jokingly calls it maybe a hobby vineyard, because they might not make much profit with the cost of working this one, but it is beautiful and the wine from here that he showed me later shows real promise and was one of my favorites. This vineyard right on the edge of Bingen gives a wonderful mix of flavors, and even though this was the first year and grapes Kruger-Rumpf vinified from Abtei, it is surprisingly refined and fits nicely with the other wines of this superb vintage and with Rumpf style. The 2015 Abtei is vigorous and briskly dry with steely mineral, medium weight on the palate and all the finesse and length you’d expect from this winery, showing high quality detail and joyous pleasure in fruit and mouth feel. The expression of classic Riesling green apple, dried apricot, lime and hints of exotic tropical notes are poised and vibrant along with a lush leesy decadence as well as saline, earthy spices and flinty rock, which adds balance and complexity. The latest set of 2015 wines from Kruger-Rumpf all show wonderfully, especially the fantastic Grosses Gewachs with the Im Pittersberg GG, Scharlachberg GG, Dorsheim Burgberg GG and the Munsterer Dautenplanzer GG making an incredible impact, but along with this gorgeous Abtei Trocken, there are some hugely successful secrets in the lineup too, with the Sheurebe Spatlese, the Dorsheim Trocken, all of the Binger Scharlachberg, dry and sweet/fruity wines, and the Munsterer Kapellenberg Kabinett. It was awesome to visit the Nahe and meet up with Georg and Stefan Rumpf at their old winery in Bingen, tour their wines and I’m grateful for their time, especially as I showed up in the middle of harvest! Their Abtei is a lovely wine, and the site I think has great potential, I think the grapes on the vines now almost ready for harvest were fantastic, so 2016 looks good too, this might be a hard wine to find, but if you were to get it, enjoy it over the next 5 to 10 years.
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling Rüdesheimer Trocken, Magic Mountain, Rheingau Germany.
This might be the best under $20 dry white wine in the world! After spending 4 days in the region and walking the steep slopes of Rudesheimer Berg where this gorgeous Riesling comes from, first thing you notice is how fantastic Leitz vines are tended, and how the grapes in his Cru blocks are some of the best on the hill, as well as having seen the attention to detail in the cellar, this is without question one of the most passionate vignerons in Germany, Johannes Leitz and his crew have raised the game to an incredible high level here, and while he could get snobby and offer only top wines, with his reputation and marketing prowess, but they continue to turn out amazingly beautiful value wines, especially this Magic Mountain, from three Grosses Gewachs crus in Rudesheimer Berg! Each site adds to the intrigue and excitement in the Magic Mountain, with Kaisersteinfels the highest site and home to the historic terranessen, Schlossberg near the ruins of the Ehrenfels castle closest to the Rhein and Roseneck in the heart of the Rudesheimer Berg, these are pure class and give the wine it’s nobility and depth, the soils here are a fine mix of slate, quartz and mineral rich top soil with pebbles, broken slate and big stones, the resulting wine is charming with spicy elements, mouthwatering saline and steely tones, less fruity and plumb than the upper Rheingau with more verve and driving energy, and if you crave the flinty and crisp wines of Chablis, you’ll love the Magic Mountain that has similar qualities, but at a much nicer price. The vitality and brisk mineral austere nature highlights the wines serious intentions, it’s transparent and super clear with laser like focus, but as with all of Johannes’ wine there is a playful, ease that shines through, making for a pleasure security blanket, you can’t seem to get enough of his wines! The light rosewater, apricot and green apple notes lead the way on the vigorous palate with lime blossom, tangerine, green melon and a hint of tropical essences giving the 2015 it’s exotic side along with salty flint, earth, savory tones, wet shale/stones and white tart cherry contrast well with the more lush nature of the near perfect vintage. I’ve been drinking Leitz for 15 years or more, and with each vintage I fall in love with the wines all over again, and it gets more personal as well, as I don’t think you can find a better person than Josi Leitz, his kindness radiates all over the world, he is truly one of the best guys around and his wines reflect his commitment and soul, he believes his wines are happy wines made by happy people, and I can say, after spending time with his team, this is true, and everyone at Leitz loves their job and give 120% to Johannes. The Magic Mountain Riesling is a brilliant wine, and a good sibling to Leitz’s famous and fruitier Dragonstone, With the natural acidity and intensity, you should also try the fantastic 2015 Kabinett and Spatlese too, forget your prejudice and sugar level, these are wonderfully balanced wines that don’t feel overly sweet, but offer terrific depth and lavish mouth feel, and of course if you want Grand Cru the GG’s are out of this world, but still too young to uncork, give them time, but if you want a glimpse of what they promise get the Magic Mountain! Bravo team Leitz, and thank you for allowing me to tag along during a stressful and busy harvest, I had access to every each of the winery and vineyards, and giving me such an excellent education on the Rheingau!
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Spreitzer, Riesling Trocken, Hallgartener Hendelberg “Alte Reben” Rheingau Germany.
Spreitzer’s Hallgartener 2015 is everything you want in a rich style Riesling from this sexy vintage, and the best part is that it is drinking rich and full bodied almost with great intensity and mineral clarity showcasing what the year has to offer, which is firm and nervy wines, but with lavish and seductive detail, depth and length. Andreas Spreitzer showing me around the vineyards and explained the different soils and terroirs, stretching from the clay/loam/limestone area closest to the big river to the pebbly quartz, loess and red slate influenced high elevation of Hallgartener that is high up and near a dense forest, amazingly beautiful old world area with ancient farms, grand homes, Klosters (monasteries) and rustic villages. Most of this area near Oestrich-Winkel is rolling hills, like Burgundy I guess, it is also home to Schloss Vollrads, Kloster Eberbach and Robert Weil, it is a historic region all on it’s own, they’ve been making wine here since at least the 12 century, with it’s loess and loamy terroirs making for delicate and fruity wines historically know for off dry Kabinett styles wines, but a place where great dry wines can thrive, wines especially like this one. There was so many interesting elements to the upper Rheingau to absorb I can get a bit off track as I process my thoughts on this interesting place, but back to Spreitzer’s seriously brilliant 2015 wines, some of the finest to date from this old family winery that started way back in 1641, this is a winery that is raising it’s game with almost every new set of releases, and a winery that honors it’s family, every detail of the cellar, the tasting room and offices show this love and respect of family, it is a place of warmth and pride, welcoming and with a sense of purpose, all of which shows in the wines. This decedent Trocken Hallgartener Hendelberg Alte Reben, old vine, shines in the glass with pale gold tints and flows across the palate with succulent extract and texture, this wine goes much deeper and offers more than the lighter 2014, which losing it’s subtlety and grace with the elegant detail coming through with time in the glass, there’s so much to love here with green apple, quince, tropical notes, wild herb, lime blossom and white cherry notes as well as earthy wet stones and a touch of leesy roundness and well judged wood. This is a top dry Riesling from this great vintage that you can really enjoy young, especially as the fantastic Spreitzer GG’s (Grand Crus) will benefit from years in the bottle. This is a wine that never puts a foot wrong and it should gain even more elegance with time, though it might be hard to be patient, lovely tangy apricot, lemon, saline, clove spice and tangerine along with sweet brioche linger on and on, drink over the next 10 years, and be sure to keep an eye out for these Spreitzer 2015’s, in particular in the states, the Grosses Gewachs Jesuitengarten, the Oestricher Lenchen Kabinett and the flamboyant “303” Spatlese!
($33 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Pinot Noir, C “Cuvee Caroline” Nahe Germany.
This wine absolutely blew me away, and considering the difficult nature of the vintage, it is truly amazing wine with delicacy and texture with layers above layers of subtle and caressing fruit, spice, mineral and silken tannins, it’s gorgeous from every angle without being overt or shy, one of the best German Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted, and even better to taste in their home at Schlossgut Diel. A huge thank you to family Diel for taking me in last minute, durning harvest, to taste through the wines, especially Sylvain Taurisson, Caroline’s charming husband, he took time to show me vineyards, locate rare bottles and all the while cooking for the cellar/harvest team, as well as telling me wonderful family stories, making for a an another awesome experience for my memory chips! All the 2015 Rieslings here were out of this world, both dry and fruity styles with the GG’s tight with extract and Grand Cru class, for the potential 100 Point quality if you can be patient! As I was tasting through, including some of Diel’s mastic long lees time bubbly of which I’ve never tried, I saw that Sylvain had the Cuvee Caroline Pinot 2014, and while I had the broad shouldered 2013 this summer, the 2014 was a preview, that was opened the day before for Stephan Reinhardt of Robert Parker, who had toured the Nahe the day before I got their and made my trips that much better as the wineries, Diel and Kruger-Rumpf had opened some extra special bottles that I’m sure I would have not otherwise been able to taste, so I am very grateful to Stephan, cheers buddy! The 2014 Diel Caroline Pinot is majestic and detailed with an array of rose petal, exotic spices, stones/minerals and lifted fruit essences that dreamy on the palate, this wine in every way seduces and pleases in a way not many but the finest Burgundies can, it shows lively black cherry, crushed strawberries, minty tangy, cinnamon stick, flinty spices and light cedar notes as well as hints of briar, saline, forest floor and smoke. This wine, maybe a touch lighter in style than the average from this winery, is remarkable in poise and length, the finish and impression goes on forever, and I am luck to that it had time to really open up and expand, before I tasted it, I can easily believe it will continue to develop and fill out over the coming 5 to 10 years, this is another wine that words on the page cannot do justice for. It was also fantastic to meet up with winemaker Caroline Diel briefly on her way back from her vines and see her 2016 Pinot Noir coming into the winery, where I watch them hand sort almost each berry! Caroline worked a harvest at Romanee-Conti and she takes that approach of severe hand sorting very seriously, and it shows in her wines, each of her wines show unique personalities, and the soils each add to their distinction, with gravel, slate, quartz and volcanic all adding to the mix. The top wines here rank among the world’s best, and while the prices reflect that, there are some sublime bargains in Caroline’s range, especially noteworthy in the 2015 vintage are the under $30/bt Rieslings: Von der Nahe, a fruity/easy style, and the two base Trockens, the Estate and the Dorsheim, plus her Kabinett from Goldloch is explosive in flavor and has incredible focus and depth. This was a spellbinding experience, and sitting with these wines, at their cellar, and in particular this lovely Pinot Noir was truly awesome!
($107 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Riesling, Rüdesheimer Drachenstein VDP Erste Lage, Rheingau Germany.
I must say first and foremost, tasting with Leitz and sampling some of the GG’s in their own vineyard terroirs was one of the most incredible wine experiences I’ve had, even now I can hardly contain myself and words cannot really explain my feelings of joy! The 2015 vintage in Germany is without question proving to be a great one, and the Leitz 2015’s are monumental and emotional wines for the ages, they will need time to fully evolve and unfold, they are youthful, expressive and powerful Rieslings, especial the 3 Grand Cru, Grosses Gewachs, I tasted among the vines above Rudesheim overlooking the beautiful Rhein. One of the wines that really stood out and that deserves mention is the fantastic 2015 Rudesheimer Drachenstein 1er Cru, or VDP Erste Lage, or as will call it “The Rude Dragon” it is a beauty with gorgeous fruit and detail, a full on Trocken with stunning crystal clear mineral and terroir driven energy and vitality. This is as good as it gets, and it should be a steal when or if we can get it in the States, and those of us that love the Dragonstone QbA will be delighted with it’s more serious and drier sibling, without losing it’s unique character and charm from the quartiz of it’s soil. The nose is shy at first, but opens to yellow roses, hints of wet stones, saltiness and citrus before filling the palate with sublime detail, which includes peach, tangerine, minty/lime, a touch of apple and flinty/mineral spice. Tight and vibrant, this wine explodes with vigor and brightness, it will be amazing for decades to come and stunning with meals, this wine is full of class and focus, transparent and long, fans of top Premier Cru Chablis will absolutely spell bound by this Leitz Erste Lage Drachenstein, it is almost a quilt free wine, quality and will the ability to be enjoyed anytime. This and the Rudesheimer “Magic Mountain” are the wines from Johannes Leitz you should stock up on, they are wines that way over perform for the price, and for the cellar the GG’s Kaisersteinfels, Schlossberg and Rottlands are out of this world! Drink the Rude Dargon, Rudesheimer Drachenstein Erste Lage from 2018 to 2028, though I will myself be hard pressed not to open a few immediately, this is tasty Riesling!
($N/A) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Kruger-Rumpf, Scheurebe, Spatlese, Nahe Germany.
I’m currently visiting Germany and the Rheingau, but have dug up some of my summer notes, and from down the Nahe, which I plan to visit is Kruger-Rumpf where Georg Rumpf and family are making some amazing wines and have been for generations, one of my favorites is their brilliant Scheurebe. The 2015 Kruger-Rumpf Scheurebe Spatlese is a gorgeous and flexible white with lots of soul and pleasure showing bright peachy fruit and subtle acidity, though a Spatlese it is not overly sweet on the palate, it’s rich and textured with wonderful balance. While Scheurebe tends to be less vigorous and intense, Kruger-Rumpf’s version is above most and gives an array of detail, charm and complexity to impress anyone. The 2015 vintage in Germany is especially noteworthy and with good reason, the wines are fresh and lively, but with wonderful extract and depth, and this Kruger-Rumpf Scheurebe shines in this vintage with layers of dried honey, mineral, green apple, white plum and tangerine fruits, wet stones and hints of jasmine, lemon oil, saline and ginger. The finish is lightly sweet and dependent with juicy pineapple and nectarine. Again, while not dry, this opulent and seductive wine can pair with many cuisine options including smoked ham, cheeses, Asian fare and would be great with holiday menus. Love this wine, and the new packaging is a major change here and I like it as well. This artisan producer uses native yeasts, good time on the lees and goes for shorter fermentation(s), which they believe adds to the freshness and energy you find in their wines, these are hand crafted and elegant wines, this and all their 2015’s are highly recommended! Drink this Spatlese Sceurebe over the course of the next 3 to 5 years, though it is certainly capable of aging 10 to 15 years.
($24 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
n.v. De Sousa, Brut Grand Cru Champagne “Mycorhize” Avize, France.
A beautiful and intense hand crafted Champagne, all organic and horse plowed as depicted on the label, the De Sousa Mycorhize is all from the 2012 vintage, 100% Chardonnay and 3 years on the lees, it’s a stunning example of purity and finesse with a great attention to detail and vibrancy. The soft mousse and bright fruit add to the charms in this Grand Cru Brut that shows class and length, I was highly impressed with the whole lineup of De Sousa Champagne, from the Tradition Brut to this very special cuvee and the remarkable 2008 vintage, this is a Champagne house to discover, they are imported by Charles Neal Selections, each of their offerings are terroir driven in nature and full of excitement. This Mycorhize Grand Cru Brut delivers exceptional vitality and inner energy with a poised and refined character with decedent layers of citrus, apple and tropical fruit, brioche/yeasty richness and length along with mineral tones, hazelnut, ginger zest and white flowers, this is lively and gorgeous Champagne! It’s very hard not to love this bubbly, it has grower producer intrigue and wonderful lavish elegance.
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Francois Legros, Vougeot 1er Cru Les Cras, Red Burgundy, France.
The Francois Legros Voguent 1er Cru feels dense and powerful with Grand Cru mouth feel and deep fruit intensity, making for a stunning Burgundy that has a wealth of richness, vitality and impressive length, but with polished finesse and fine detailing. With old vines and hand crafted charms the Legros wines are really a tasty find in Burgundy, these offerings are an amazing set of values, made in a clear and beautiful style with balance, harmony and elegance, without losing the terroir essence of individual site, especially this one in particular the Vougeot 1er Cru Les Cras, which is a standout. Dark berry and cherry fruit flow across the palate along with firm ripe tannins, smoke, mineral tones and layers of plum, raspberry, tea spice, vanilla and cedar, this is a showy Pinot Noir with a lavish flair, but with a tight focus and inner beauty, it should benefit from 3 to 5 years in bottle, even if it is expressive and wonderfully textured now. Of all the 2014’s I tried this one has the most impact, I can imagine it gaining even more complexity and sex appeal over time. This really shows the best of Cote de Nuits character, vigorous and with opulence, this is a domaine to follow!
($78 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
n.v. Henriet-Bazin, Brut Rose Grand Cru Champagne, France.
The maison Henriet-Bazin is an old Champagne house having started back in 1890, but is very new to the grower producer seen and are way under the radar, producing some very fine Grand Cru cuvees that are crafted using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with their Grand Cru Brut Rose being a stand out. Importer Charles Neal, after tasting through their lineup asked if they could bottle a special version with a lower dosage (7 grams) ad the results are stunning and a great value in top fizz! This ultra tasty Rose is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, with all grapes coming from Verzy and Verzenay with lots of chalky/gravel soil, as well as the addition of their still wine, which the family vinifies making up 20% of the final blend, of which was based 70% on 2012 vintage, with the rest being a reserve solera of wines from 1968 to 2009. This rich, vibrant and elegant Brut Rose shows lots of vitality, brioche yeastiness, mineral tones and delicate fruity layers with rose petal, tiny strawberry, apple and appleskin, tart cherry and citrus along with a decedent mousse and serious mouth feel, this is luxurious and rich Champagne that will impress, it lingers with leesy opulence that makes it very seductive. A classy wine from Henriet-Bazin, this and their other two export wines a vintage 2008 and an all Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs aged 4 years sur lie are lovely as well, very intriguing bubbly all round and a producer to follow.
($45 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
Since Ridge will be using some new plantings from the 2015 vintages going forward, the 2014 Ridge Pagani looks like the last 100% Old Vine Zinfandel, and what an amazing wine to finish off with, this is just gorgeous wine with 17% Alicante Bouschet and 3% Petite Sirah this Zin delivers a knock combination of hedonistic fruit and lovely detailed spiciness. This 2014 Pagani looks to go down as a classic with oodles of dark plum, black raspberry and tangy currant fruits along with distinct wild sage, framboise and kirsch, briar and a hint of sweet and cedary oak. Light floral tones, mineral and red pepper add to the mix in a lush, forward Zinfandel that at 14+ % Alcohol never feels over the top or heavy, while still pleasing all the senses, stunning now, it should age wonderfully, I’d love to taste this one again in 5, 10 and 15 years, I bet it will be fantastic at each stage, hats off the Ridge gang in putting such a great lineup out of 2014 Zin blends, these are some of my favorite ever, especially this Pagani and Lytton. I tasted this along side the 2013 Ridge Monte Bello, but rather than get lost behind such a majestic wine, it showed just how damn good this wine is, and that Zinfandel can create just as much magic in the glass! 2014 Ridge Pagani, a Zin to stock up on, drink from 2016 to 2026 at least!
($40 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley.
Beautifully textured, weighty and deeply layered comes Cliff Lede’s wonderful full bodied Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, this is top drawer stuff! In fact all the latest Cliff Lede, and his new, ex-Breggo Anderson Valley, Fel wines are all brilliant offerings to look for. I really was impressed with the stylish and luxurious 2013 Cabernet, this is an elite wine of richness, class and opulence without being over the top or woody with blackberry, creme de cassis, cedar, sweet tobacco and blueberry compote. There’s mild anise and smoky vanilla to add to the depth of flavors with sweet ripe tannins and lavish mouth feel, this was a far more interesting wine and rewarding than many Napa wines that sell for almost twice the price, does it make it a bargain? No, but certainly it gives value for the money, and I can see it aging at least 10 to 15 years. The plummy black fruit is jammy, but forward and this is a serious Cabernet Sauvignon that is hard to resist, young, bold and lovable, again this is a slick very polished effort from a winery on a roll.
($80 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2013 Clusel-Roch, Cote-Rotie, Vialliere, Rhone Red, France.
The 2013 Cote-Rotie’s from Domaine Clusel-Roch are a set of excellent and elegant Syrah wines, very beautiful, textured and vital offerings that will lend themselves to early drinking pleasure and reward those with a lack of patience! The vibrantly intense Vialliere Cru, from almost impossibly steep granite slopes and small yielding hand farmed and picked vines, is lovely with a deep almost inky hue of garnet, purple and ruby which leads to a fine palate of classic terroir driven character and layers with ripe tannin and less whole cluster influence than you’d expect from this organic Domaine, unlike the stemy 2011’s and or the lighter tangy/tart 2012’s the Clusel-Roch 2013’s are on a whole new level of balance, focus and rich majesty. The profile of this gorgeous Vialliere comes through with boysenberry, mulberry, crushed violets, peppercorns, graphite/camphor, Greek olive, earth/briar, salted black licorice as well as blueberry, creme de cassis and lingering damson plum, kirsch and lavender oil. While there is a hint of cedar wood it is sublimely subtle and everything here feels silken and pure, one of the most refined and lifting Cote-Rotie bottlings I can remember from Clusel-Roch, hats off to Guillaume and his mum Bridgette and dad Gilbert, this is a stunning example and a great wine. The dial back in this vintage of whole cluster or the vintage itself adds a new dimension and sense of grace, without taking away anything from the wine as a whole or changing the house style, I was left very impressed and with a huge smile on my face, and while I adored the 2011’s and still do, these 2013’s are very special, I would think they will continue to improve and fill out over the next 3 to 5 years, though as mentioned, they will offer lots of fun and seductive charm even young. I can easily see my own score rise a few points on this Vialliere, and you should check out the basic cuvee that delivers a performance that is almost on this level and the top cuvee Les Grandes Places that is certainly the most densely packed, chewy and powerful, that will make it more attractive to cellar, honestly they all rock!
($90 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Francois Legros, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Perrieres, Red Burgundy, France.
Bravo to importer Charles Neal for one of the best Burgundy discoveries of the year! The Domaine Francois Legros 2014’s are a quite stunning and fetching wines with richness of palates, fine details and elegance, especially wonderful in this line up was the Vougeot 1er Cru Les Cras, maybe the best young Premier Cru Vougeot I’ve ever tasted, right up there with de Vogue, and this glorious Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Perrieres that just flows with gorgeous floral notes, earth, spice and tantalizing fruit essences! Francois and his daughter Charlotte are crafting beautiful, but concentrated wines from their small cellar in Nuits-Saint-Georges, all of their plots are at least 40 years old and are worked by hand with sustainable methods and great care, they ferment with native yeasts and age for about 18 months in barrel, some new, which adds to the decadent feel, their wines fall somewhere between Robert Chevillon and Meo-Camuzet in a polished, though extracted style. The 2014 Nuits-Saint-George 1er Cru Les Perrieres bursts from the glass which a stream of rose petals and crushed violets, loamy sweet earth, baking spices and black cherry fruit in a deep ruby hue, as well as tiny wild strawberries, briar notes, flinty mineral and some round creamy wood shading. While the Vougeot grabs you and stuns you with power and velvety length, this Les Perrieres seduces with class, mystery and intrigue, it is hauntingly beautiful with subtle depth and lingering with an array of black, blue and red fruits, raspberry, currant, plum and tangy blueberry along with hint of vanilla, blood orange tea and chalky saline. Refined tannin, vital acidity and density of fruit/body provide sound structure on this lovely terroir influenced effort, giving promise of age worthiness, which I suspect would be solid for midterm drinking, best from 2018 to 2025, but the best thing of all, is that this open knit and opulent red Burg can be enjoyed now! Though it should develop nicely in bottle, it can already give lots of pleasure and is a thrilling and impressive Pinot Noir, be sure to look for this Domaine!
($75 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Flywheel, Pinot Noir, Brosseau Vineyard, Chalone, Monterey County.
Scott Shapley’s Flywheel label is a wine to search out, only tiny amounts of wine crafted from the Chalone appellation make this exciting new offering a tough get, but Roar’s winemaker has made a great set of 2013 wines that you should find, especially this fantastic Pinot Noir and his Chardonnay, though both the Grenache and Mourvedre (My fav of his Rhone style wines, made from only two rows of vines!) are interesting wines as well. These hand made bottlings only add up to about 250 cases, that’s really only 12 barrels in total, and if I heard correctly the Pinot was only 3 or 4 barrels, so these are rare indeed, but oh so good! The 2013 Pinot Noir shows an inner energy and drive that is fascinating, but it’s amazing perfume and striking mineral and chalky/stone tones set it apart, it starts with dusty dry river rocks, crushed violets and rose petals, tangy red currant and baking spices before forming a medium weight palate of black cherry, wild plum and raspberry along with subtle forest floor, ceps, tea spice, soft vanilla and saline. There is a touch of tannin and vibrancy from nicely polished acidity that give a sense of firmness and structure, though the mouth feel is excellent, graceful and lingers with silky sex appeal, this is lovely Pinot Noir from a talented guy, be sure to look for these wines as well as the fabulous wines he does at Roar. The Flywheel Brosseau Vineyard Pinot is drinking well right now, though I suspect considering it’s terroir, quality and style, it should be able to cellar 5 to 10 years with ease, this is an impressive new effort with focus, detail and finesse, there’s lots to admire here!
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez, Ribeiro Tinto A Torna Dos Pasas “Escolma” Galicia Spain.
Hand-crafted from a field blend of Brancellao, Caino, and Ferrol, all old native grapes, the fantastic 2011 Luis Rodriguez Escola Ribeiro red, a special selection of lots, is the top wine of this small estate that has become the pride of the region, these are wine that people in know are coveting and speaking about in the same league as the some of the best Burgundy wines. The whites without question from Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez have the drive and texture of Meursault, but with the flinty mineral zing of Premier Cru, if not Grand Cru Chablis, and the reds to have similar qualities to Cote de Nuits, though are even more unique as they feature details that also remind you of Barbaresco and Cote-Rotie, especially this A Torna Dos Pasas Escoma Tinto which sees time in French oak and is held longer before release, it’s deep in color, spicy and wonderfully layered with gorgeous mouth feel. The Atlantic climate, cool and wet, adds brisk acidity, saline and this wines almost never get to 13% alcohol, making for elegant, though richly detailed and densely flavored, grown on granite with areas of sand, schist, slate and clay these wines highlight this special terroir through their soil and micro climate. Luis Rodriguez’s wines are made using natural yeasts and see stainless and neutral wood during fermentations and then raised in French cask, some new depending on vintage, he is not stuck on a formula or dogma, mostly he makes each wine from feel, or an intuitive sense, and the results are simply heavenly. The 2011 Escolma Tinto really seduces the senses with rose oil, crushed violets, tar, black licorice, earth and white pepper unfolding along with black cherry, plum, blueberry and mulberry fruits, at first you think things are Pinotesque with bright focus, but things take on a deeper note as the wine opens and the cascade of flinty spice/mineral, fig paste, lavender, huckleberry and savory elements gather on the medium weight palate that certainly take on that Nebbiolo meets Syrah sensation. With sweet opulent blue and black fruits coming to the front and center this wine is ever changing in the glass, fascinating and undeniably sexy this Ribeiro is lengthy and unnervingly alluring, additive and thrilling, and while the 2010 was a bit more structured and age worthy, this is not far behind and is more open knit at this stage. One of my most pleasurable experiences in Spanish wine was meeting Luis and tasting his wines, in fact I got a preview of some of his awesome wine last year along with Pedro Rodriguez (no relation) the winemaker of Guimaro, another of my favorites, and even got to enjoy some from magnums with tapas, an evening I won’t forget anytime soon! All of the latest wines from Luis A. Rodriguez, imported by Jose Pastor Selections, are lovely wines, some of Spain’s best, this is a winery to check out, and the region of northwest Spain, including this area Ribeiro, but also the Ribeira Sacra and Rias Baixas with wines of producers like Nanclares, Guimaro and Vina Mein really standing out, just to name a few! Galicia is one of the most exciting wine regions in Europe right now, and right near the top is Luis Rodriguez, I’m completely in love with these wines and the people behind them, they are passionate and humble to a fault with great soul and a rustic elegance, full of charm and life, don’t miss them!
($60 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Bodegas Monasterio de Corias, Albarin Blanco “Vina Grandiella” VDT Cangas, Asturias Spain.
Jaun Redondo’s Monasterio de Corias is one of my favorite wineries, I love the guy and his wines, they are pure country wines with life and style grown on steep slopes and on broken slate soils that give great mineral tones and spicy character, and while I usually go for his red no oak Joven Albarin Negro/Mencia blend, I also love this rare old vine Albarin Blanco! No relation to Albarino, Albarin Blanco is a historical local white grape from this ancient, but almost forgotten wine region in the Asturias region of Galicia, and while Albarin Blanco, also found in Leon, is sometimes referred to as Pais Blanco and maybe related to the white Mission grape, but regardless of the lost history or mystery surrounding it’s origins, here at Corias in the small area of Cangas it is a low alcohol, cool climate wine with it’s own unique persona with zesty acidity, medium body and crisp/steely detail. Mostly natural in fermentation and raised in stainless steel vats with only about 3 months on it’s lees, the Bodegas Monasterio de Corias, named after the old local Monastery that first grew grapes in the region, Vina Grandiella 2015 Albarin Blanco shines in the glass with a bright pale golden color and is wonderfully fresh on the palate with green melon, lime blossoms, apple and lemon/lime citrus flavors along with flinty spice, saline and almond paste adding complexity along with zippy acidity and light brine and herb notes. This is tasty and fun wine, worth checking out as are all of Jaun’s intriguing reds, all the wines here are meant to be enjoyed with food and quaffed young it their first couple of years, though I’ve found the reds to be fairly serious and well structured, thinking they could surprise with some age on them. Imported by Jose Pastor Selections.
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Senses, Pinot Noir, Tanuda Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
One of the up and coming stars of the Sonoma Coast is Senses Wines, with superstar winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown crafting this small production artisan wines, it is amazing set of 2014 wines they’ve put out, especially as the owners are a group of three school friends in their early thirties! I met up with Chris Strieter, who has been involved a few wine projects and shared his experiences and tasted me through his lineup of stunning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, all from top sites in the real west and ultra cool Sonoma Coast, they have taken a big portion of the famed B.A. Thieriot Vineyard as well, you’d know this prized Chardonnay vineyard if you’d had Littorai version! The Senses Chards are lovely, I especially admired the basic Sonoma Coast, but the huge potential lies in their mentioned Thieriot and the blockbuster Charles Heintz Vineyards offerings, though my favorite wine of the 2014 Senses was their gorgeous Tanuda Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir, this was a wine that stopped me in my tracks with it’s incredible focus and elegance, it is complex, yet wonderfully easy to fall in love with! The 2014 Tanuda starts with dark fruit, wild spices, pretty and sultry smoky elements with hints of rosewater and violets leading to a vivid and transparent palate of layered cherry, plum, black raspberry and a bright fruit bowl background with red peach, candied blood orange and tart currants along with cinnamon stick, cedar, anise and tea spices. The wood is perfect melded in and everything is taught and vital throughout. This is lavish and sexy Pinot Noir, though lifted and vibrant with lacy acidity and silky textures, this Pinot should drink great for the next 6 to 8 years without question, Thomas Rivers Brown of Schrader and Rivers-Marie (his own label) has done a masterful job with these wines, I recommend chasing them down, as they are still under the radar, though not for long I suspect! I was skeptical when I first heard of these guys, but this wine blew me away, if this is what the youth of today is working on now, the future looks even better and is in good hands.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine de L’Ecu, Vin de France Rouge “Ange” Loire Valley, France.
From the cool Atlantic influenced Muscadet region of the Loire Valley, the beautiful Ange from Domaine de L’Ecu is an intriguing wine with an ancient tradition flare with gorgeous texture, length, stylish and delicately nuanced fruit. Crafted from 100% Pinot Noir, all biodynamic, native yeast fermented and raised in amphora the Ange by Domaine de L’Ecu is one of the most unique expressions of this varietal I’ve tasted and loved! This all natural, pure and direct Pinot Noir is wonderfully graceful and stunning in fine detail with lovely strawberry, plum, red berry and dark cherry fruits on the light to medium weight palate with vibrant brightness, rich mouth feel and interesting savory elements and spice with chalky/stony earthiness and a hint of earth. The first impression is of spring roses, wilted petals, warm roof terra-cotta tiles as well as mineral tones and raw cinnamon on the nose and entry, before giving way to the mentioned array of silky flavors and velvety tannin. At 12% and from an ultra cool climate, this is an energy filled Pinot Noir that shows loads of character, finesse and charm, I must admit to be utterly seduced by this elegant expression of grape and place, it really is a new spin on Pinot Noir and it’s lingering red currant, lavender spice and subtle loaminess is captivating! Domaine de L’Ecu is most known for their terroir driven plots of old vine Melon and wonderful soil marked Muscadets, but they have been exploring Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir in amphora in recent years with longer skin contact with impressive results, this is a winery to watch, and this vintage 2015 looks set to really up their game to the next level, this is amazing stuff!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Cattleya, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Deep and dense with amazing layers of black and blue fruits the 2013 Cattleya Syrah is one of the best Rhone style California wines out there! Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni, the Colombian winemaker and vineyard consultant, is making some stunning wines, her stints in at some of the world’s great estates, including Stephane Ogier in Cote-Rotie, has helped her develop her love of place and to get the best out of each terroir, it shows in her work at Pahlmeyer with her Wayfarer Pinot Noirs from the Seaview/Sonoma Coast as well as the wines she does under her own label Cattleya, in particular her gorgeous Alban clone Syrah from her husband’s (Jeff Pisoni) family vines at Soberanes. I firmly believe, and have mentioned time after time, since 2004 the Pisoni’s and Franscioni’s have farmed some of the best Syrah in the state and that in most vintages the Pisoni/Lucia and Roar Syrah offerings have been just as good if not better than the more noticed Pinot Noir! And certainly if you get a chance to taste this rare Cattleya 2013 Soberanes Syrah you most likely will agree and then some. Soberanes is Pisoni’s youngest vineyard, but it maybe the most impressive, it is extremely rocky and was daunting to plant, Mark Pisoni and his crew deserve a lot of credit getting this special site up and running, they picked the best clones of Pinot (Pisoni clone) as well as old Wente clone for the Chardonnay and chose the Alban clone for the Syrah vines, and now with some meaningful age these vines are delivering on their promise in a big way, like the Pisoni Estate, if you see Soberanes Vineyard on a label, you can also guarantee sublime quality in the bottle, especially true here in Bibiana’s gorgeous Syrah. The 2012 was great, but the texture and length on the 2013 might give it the edge, it shows loads of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and plum fruit along with wonderful spice, mineral and brambly earthy complexity with stony detail and hints of game, cedar, licorice, creme de cassis and black olive notes. Violets, cinnamon, camphor and clove also play in the nose and on the background of this purple/black Syrah, there is truly an ode to Cote-Rotie in this beautiful wine, but without question it is Soberanes that gives this wine it’s voice and sexy charms, this is an opulent and seductive Syrah with ripe/firm tannins, nice lifting acidity that was impeccably hand crafted a fantastic winemaker, if you can find it, get it, drink over the next 10 years! By the way, her husband’s version is worth checking out too, wow, what a talented family this is… I have be drinking the Lucia and Roar Syrahs since the first public releases back in 2000, they are stylish and age worthy wines to this day, and this Cattleya takes them to another level, look for it, it deserves to be among the state’s elite set and is!
($70 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
2014 Pisoni Estate, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.
It’s always a thrill to see the Pisoni family, in this case catch up with Mark Pisoni, who is the director of operations and the head of farming at Pisoni/Lucia Vineyards, who with only a couple of hours sleep after a another long night of picking grapes was smiling and charming, happy with this years harvest, not that is is every easy, it was more controlled as there have been some cool/mild days that have allowed a more relaxed pick. Also making an appearance at a special Chardonnay and Pinot Noir celebration in San Francisco was the man himself Gary Pisoni, coming back from seeing his grandson and engaging in son’s Jeff, the winemaker for Lucia Vineyards and the Pisoni Estate wines, crush 2016, it is always awe inspiring to see Gary, for his passion for wine, his achievements, his stories, like his bringing of La Tache cuttings home in his socks, but most of all to experience his love of family and this carries outward into the world around him, everyone that likes his wine is now family in a small way. His enthusiasm lights up the room, you can’t help but to love the man, for his style and humble grace wrapped up in an extroverted personality, much like the Pisoni Estate wines taste! I will forever be a huge and biased fan of this family and winery, that said, this 2014 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir just might be the best and most impressive wine to date, in recent years I have found myself secretly loving the Lucia Syrah more than the Pinot Noirs, I know is not following the party line at all, but the upcoming Pisoni Estate release has brought me back, it is an amazingly elegant and detailed Pinot Noir with more delicacy and subtle layering that I can ever remember, though with still the tannin and brambly dark fruit that you’d expect from the Pisoni! Jeff Pisoni, not to sound like a broken record, keeps getting better and more stylish as a winemaker, and this 2014 Pisoni Estate will be a hard to beat masterpiece, it shows beautiful color, dark ruby with purple hints, a sexy mix of spice, briar, sweet smoke and wilted roses on the nose and a seamless palate of black and red fruits that unfold with Grand Cru class and power, with a sublime mouth feel and texture, black raspberry, cherry, plum and currant fruits seduce the senses along with mineral/loam, anise, a hint of black tea, cedar, cinnamon stick, light vanilla/espresso bean and a dusting of chalky stones. Wonderfully balanced, poised with an extra level of refinement and depth and it is ultra long, this is gorgeous stuff, serious and thought provoking, but like true great wines it can be enjoyed now and will certainly drink fantastic over the coming decade, if not for 15 to 20 years! The Pisoni legend looks set to continue for generations, these are great people making great wines from a very special place, these wines are the heart and soul of the Santa Lucia Highlands.
($90 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive
2014 Elian Da Ros, Abouriou, Cotes du Marmandais, Southwest France.
Elian Da Ros is almost single handedly re-creating this remote region, south of Bordeaux, into a must have hot spot for interesting terroir wines, especially good is this fresh and intriguing red made from the native Abouriou grape. The 2014 Elian Da Ros Abouriou Cotes du Marmandais is somewhat Gamay like, but deeper in garnet color, Tim Gaiser MS, in fact, told me he found it close to Lagrein (A dark Syrah like varietal found in Italy’s Alto Adige region) in some ways, it shows dark berry, plum, red currant and blueberry layers, vibrant and a touch tart/tangy with red peach, basil/herb as well as some earthy/loamy elements and good juicy acids. The Abouriou is ripe and pleasing on the palate with just enough savory tones, spice and texture to keep it interesting without being too serious or overly complex. This is a wonderful example of a country wine that is pure, well made and great with food, what’s not to love? And it is a rare native grape that speaks of place, made by a winemaker deeply and passionately moved by his sense of place, and shows through in his wines. This Abouriou and Elian Da Ros’ Cabernet Franc based reds are wines to seek out, these are perfect for the Fall season and rustic meals, I’d also recommend the lighter and fruitier Abouriou for Thanksgiving and or holiday dinners. Drink the Elian Da Ros Abouriou Cotes du Marmandais anytime, it should be enjoyed young and I found it even better with a slight chill on it, best over the next 2 to 3 years.
($23 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Cave Caloz, Humagne Rouge “La Mourziere” Les Coteaux de Sierre, Valais, Switzerland.
The Humagne grape, also known as Conalin d’Aoste in Italy, is a dark red varietal that is very rare and oh so good with a deep garnet/ruby color and full mouth feel it is a thrilling wine, especially in this case made by Conrad Caloz, the king of the mountain, a small organic producer in the Valais AOC of Switzerland. All of the Cave Caloz wines are brilliant and are the result of extreme hard work and passion, and vintage I try of these wines leaves me more and more impressed, imported by Neil Rosenthal, I very much recommend wine lovers take the leap of imagination and try them, in particular the reds, this one is my favorite year after year, but also the extremely rare white Caloz Heida-Paien (Same grape as Savagnin, as found in the Jura) “Les Bernunes” that reminds me a bit of Hermitage Blanc, but with a little less weighty detail. The Caloz 2014 La Mourziere Humagne Rouge starts with a touch of beautiful florals, mineral spice and red tree fruit with a medium full palate of black cherry, loganberry, mulberry and racy plum fruits as well as a gravel/stony quality, alpine herbs, sweet tannin and lively acidity, but with air it fills out, expands and lengthens with tangy currant, white pepper, cedar and fleshy red peach elements unfolding. Like most great wines, it is ever changing in the glass, intriguing and full of pleasure and complexity, this Caloz really is majestic and gorgeous wine, well crafted and wonderfully balanced. It is also a bargain when you consider the exchange rate with the Swiss Franc and the sublime nature (or soul) of this wine and when you compare what you get for fifty dollars from other regions! Conrad and wife Anne-Carole farm by hand steep terraces in the dramatic and rocky landscape in the high elevation Coteaux de Sierre, an area steeped in history and prized by the Romans, the Dukes of Burgundy and the House of Savoy for the mountain wines made here, famous also for the near by Matterhorn, and set between the source of the Rhone River and the cool waters of Lake Geneva, this is a special terroir and these Caloz are special wines!
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Jean Chauvenet, Vosne-Romanee, Red Burgundy, France.
These 2013 red Burgundies don’t get enough credit, in fact some are vastly underrated, especially this wondrous Vosne-Romanee village wine from Jean Chauvenet, it is simply ravishing and is a wine to enjoy now, though it should age well too! I had to go back to this wine at the recent Rosenthal imports tasting, just to be sure I read the label right, yup 2013, yup just a plain wrapper Vosne-Romanee, wow, okay then, this is beautiful, vibrant and vigorous Pinot Noir from an under the radar Domaine, you should find some of this if you are a Burgundy fiend! This gorgeous Vosne-Romanee is terroir driven with heady violets, wild herbs, mineral spice and deep red, blue and black fruits showing blueberry, tree picked plum, loads of cherry and forest berry layers with a background of rose oil, minty anise, tea spice and cedar notes as well as hints of cinnamon, iron, tart currant and earth. This medium bodied Burg is graceful throughout, but with superb density and mouth feel, as you’d expect from a Vosne-Romanee, it is playful on the palate, though seriously thought provoking and lingering. This is well crafted wine, detailed and textured, I’d have really thought it was a Premier Cru at least, and at this price it is a steal, this is certainly a producer in fine form and one to follow. The Chauvenet Vosne-Romanee, I understand was 100% de-stemed fruit, gently macerated including a short cold soak with a cool and lengthy fermentation, then put in barrel to finish malo, and then aged for a year and a half in barrique with about 25% new wood. This is a beautiful and exciting Burgundy, fresh and perfumed with lushness and packed with intrigue, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, this pretty and pure red delivers nothing but class and pleasure!
($65 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 MacPhail, Pinot Noir, Wightman House Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
I got and sneak peek of the up coming release of MacPhail and I can tell you, it will be a stunner, this 2014 MacPhail Wightman House is gorgeously luxurious with deep color and fruit intensity wrapped in a subtle and soft robe of ripe tannin and lifting acidity. Only 5 barrels were crafted from this tiny two-acre site, planted to the heritage Martini clone, the same old California clone you know and love in Riverblock Rochioli classics! MacPhail used about 60% new French oak on this Anderson Valley wine, but while it adds a smoky sweetness and give a lush creamy feel, it doesn’t take away from this beautiful Pinot and by the time it is released officially next month, the oak should have faded further into the background, though now it doesn’t show any ill effects, in fact this is pretty sexy stuff. Incredibly darkly hued garnet and ruby in color, the Wightman House starts with loads of blue fruit, sweet rose petal, light vanilla and walnut leading to a richly packed palate of blackberry, cherry and plum fruits along with a touch of wild mushroom, mission fig, anise, mineral, tea spices, sandalwood and a hint saline and stones. The finish is sweet and succulent, lingering with mocha, kirsch and cassis, look for lots of developing nuances to emerge over the next 3 to 5 years in bottle as this brilliant wine unveils itself more fully, this is impressive stuff, it reminds me a little of Beaux Freres and that is a high compliment, if you drink it young you;ll be seduced by opulence, and if you are patient you’ll be rewarded with complexity and glorious detail, I’d love to re-visit this Pinot in 7 to 10 years, I believe it should have a great and long drinking window, at 13.8% and with the sublime and lavish fruit, this should drink fantastic from release to 2027 easy.
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Clos Troteligotte, Cahors “K-Pot” France.
I just tasted through Emmanuel Rybinski’s lineup of Cahors Malbec for the first time, and I was wowed by the finesse and beautiful detail I found in these wines, his Clos Troteligotte organic wines are lovely, fresh and very exciting, especially good was his Clos Troteligotte Malbec “K-Pot” Cahors with no sulfur added, which is bursting with vitality and flavor. Made in a similar style to Lapierre’s non sulfur cuvee N Morgon, this pure Malbec has blueberry, mulberry, black raspberry and red peach fruits up front with some plum, currant and kirsch notes as well with hints of sweet herbs, pipe tobacco, mineral and earthy detail. This vibrant and really fresh red delivers a fruity pleasing array of layers along with a fine textured mouth feel, this is certainly one of the most intriguing Cahors wines out there, as a reference point, since I’ve never had these Clos Troteligotte Malbecs, is Fabien Jouves, who is also making more natural style Cahors wines with his Mas del Perie, and though they are different characters they share a certain class and elegance and are leaders in this region most known for a more rustic style. Emmanuel’s lineup is very impressive, the “K-2” his top cuvee is brilliant and more dense a wine that will age and needs time to fully be appreciated, and the low sulfur “K-Or” which is fantastic and a great value, though just a bit less expressive when tasted next to this gorgeous “K-Pot” these are wines to search out, limited and highly prized they will not be easy gets, but worth it. Beautiful and lingering with nice acidity and ripe tannins this 2015 Clos Troteligotte Cahors “K-Pot” Malbec if cellared well should prove a hit, with no added sulfur it will rely on gentle handling and will be sensitive to temp changes, give it some TLC and you’ll be thrilled by what comes out of the bottle, this is charming and very pretty stuff, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Guillaume Gilles, Cornas “La Combe de Chaillot” Rhone, France.
The La Combe de Chaillot 2013 is pure Cornas heaven with beauty, detail, intensity and is stylishly spicy with 100% whole cluster Syrah from the bottom portion of the famed Chaillot vineyard. Guillaume Gilles is right up there with Clape and Allemand, these are amazing wines, I have tasted his regular/top Cornas cuvee, which comes from old vine plots in the upper part of Chaillot, many times and it remains one of my all time favorites, but this was my first experience with his second wine, La Combe de Chaillot, and I adore it as well, plus I was able to try the rare 100 year old vine Cotes du Rhone Les Peyrouses that maybe the first vineyard planted post Phylloxera in the Cornas region, though not in the AOC, hence the Cotes du Rhone tag, a 100% old vine Syrah that is worth looking of as well. The exciting wines of Guillaume Gilles offer an amazing thrill for the money and this 2013 La Combe de Chaillot really stood out with layers of stem infused goodness showing blueberry, wild lavender, minty black licorice, damson plum, raw meat/game and camphor along with plenty of cracked pepper, cinnamon, cedar and kirsch. With air the palate unfolds with sappy herbs, boysenberry fruit, flinty mineral notes, violets and black olive as well as allowing a beautiful texture to shine through, the tannins add a firmness that adds to the feeling of vigor and control while nice acidity makes every pop, this is a naturally balanced and graceful Syrah with deep color and a wonderful play of ripe black and blue fruit along with the earthy/savory counterweight that can only be from the northern Rhone terroir. Rosenthal’s Northern Rhone guys, Lionnet, Levet and Guillaume Gilles, just to name a few are making some killer wines and offer solid choices other than Kermit Lynch’s stars, Allemand, Clape, Perret and Faury, and for me Guillaume Gilles is the guy to look for. Check out these 2013 Gilles, both Cornas will continue to develop over the next 5 to 7 years, but can be admired even now!
($56 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2012 Harmand-Geoffroy VV Gevrey Chambertin is an absolutely beautiful Burgundy with wonderful perfume, texture, vibrancy and length, it is a stunning example of purity and elegance. The 2012 was 100% de-stemed with a cold maceration and a two week cuvaison, capturing every detail the vintage had to offer and aged 16 months in 30% new French barriques, the grapes themselves came from three old vine plots, just below the Premier Cru Les Champeaux and all are sites that are between 50 and 80 years old, making for a serious village wine. One of the best 2012 Gevrey’s I’ve tried no question, the Harmand-Geoffroy shows a gorgeous floral array on the nose with wilted rose petal, violets and spring flowers that seductively entice and lead to a poised and vital palate of black currant, plum and dark cherry with hints of black raspberry, a touch of basil/mint, subtle stones and earth, cinnamon, tea spice with supple textures and mineral tones along with light cedar and smoky vanilla. While full and expressive it never loses it’s focus and class, I tasted it along side their Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2009, which was bigger and a touch lengthier, but was not any more lovely or pleasing, I had to sneak in another taste of this fine Gevrey. A big thanks to importer Rosenthal Wine Merchant and their San Francisco crew for putting on a great portfolio tasting, certainly one of the most impressive of the season! My first experience with Harmand-Geoffroy started with a few of their 2005’s and they’ve impressed me every vintage since, but this 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes is one of the best to date with such personality, depth and beauty, be sure to look for it and drink it, while it will live a long and happy life, best from 2018-2028, it is very intriguing even right now! This is a wine that reminded me why Burgundy is so magical, it hits all the right notes and gracefully seduces the senses!
($79 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Combier, Crozes-Hermitage Rouge, Rhone, France.
The latest Domaine Combier Crozes is mineral and spice driven with a heady mix of succulent and savory layers with crushed violets, peppercorns, black olive, flinty stones adding complexity to blueberry, boysenberry, plum and kirsch fruit. This is a Domaine on the move with lots of energy and the wines are getting better each vintage, much of Combier’s rise can be seen in Maurice’s son and new winemaker Laurent Combier, he has revamped the program here, expanded the Chai and brought youthful passion into the winery and it shows in the wines here and the small lots he does under his own label, these are noteworthy wines in the same league as Alain and Maxime Graillot, pure Crozes-Hermitage goodness. Laurent, at Domaine Combier, ferments the Syrah in stainless, temp. controlled vats and then ages in used oak barrels, everything here is de-stemed. Note, Laurent’s own cuvees are now done in concrete eggs and he is also doing a special single site wine that sees 25% new wood. The sites for the Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage are mostly with light granite influence, some sandy soils and clay/silt, this mix gives plush fruit, mineral tones and hints of game. The 2014 is medium weight, lengthy on the palate with nice vigor and intensity, it has a juicy nature and lingers with a touch of creme de cassis, black licorice and loamy earth notes. Maybe not as thrilling as Cornas or as pretty as Saint-Joseph, this is a lovely Syrah that is finely crafted, well balanced and a joy to drink, it should develop over the next 3 to 5 years nicely, but it will not ever become overly serious, enjoy young.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Albatross Ridge, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Vivienne, Estate Grown, Carmel Valley, Monterey County.
Garrett Bowlus and his label Albatross Ridge in Carmel Valley continue to impress with lovely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, it was interesting to follow up the brilliant 2012 with the 2013 vintage wines, these are maybe even better with greater texture and mouth feel, especially the Cuvee Vivianne Pinot. Lush detail and beautiful length mark the 2013 wines, both the Chardonnay and Pinot show wonderful fruit and purity with medium bodies and good density, almost creamy, it was hard to chose between them, but the Pinot might have won out in the end, though I still have the Sparkling Rose of Pinoit Noir, a Pet-Nat, to look forward to and review soon. The 2013 Cuvee Vivianne Pinot Noir is less edgy than the 2012 with more refined tannins and supple and opulent red fruits, it starts with wilted roses, dusty plum, loamy earth and hint of vanilla and cedar leading to a palate of creamy red cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit, touches of mineral, wild herbs, cinnamon, chalky stone and tart currant. This is very pleasing wine with elegant polish and poise, but still excites with vibrancy and subtle acidity giving life and harmony, these 2013’s are the best overall set I’ve tasted from Albatross Ridge, I highly recommend checking them out.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Lacuna, Proprietary Red, California.
The intriguing Syrah based Lacuna, made by Bedrock’s Morgan Twain-Peterson, is a savvy and stylish red with cool climate and old vine influence with a real unique personality showing dark and savory fruit, mineral, spice and earthy layers. This seductive red is made from about 75% Sonoma Coast Syrah from top vineyard sites, along with seriously old vine Sonoma Valley black grapes that include Carignan, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, as well as a touch of Viognier, all co-fermented, whole cluster. This is a lovely wine with fine detail and character with supple and generous fruit, but with savory notes and well judged tannins, the 2013 Lacuna shows refined blue and black fruits, violets and minty herb upfront with a textured palate of blackberry, boysenberry, sweet cherry and dusty plum with hints of cassis, sage, peppercorns, cinnamon, anise seed, olive notes, red pepper flakes (stemy goodness), crushed stones, game, bitter coco, camphor as well as a touch of cedary/smoky sweet French oak. This focused red blend finishes with length and class, but with just enough raw/pure rustic charm to keep things interesting, only about 28 barrels were made, of which about 20% were new, and the price is right for this level of quality and pedigree, if you’ve had the Bedrock wines, you’ll notice a familiar theme and enjoy it’s likeness, but it still has it’s own persona and place, very impressive, be sure to get this and get on their list, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($32 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Fred Loimer, Gruner Veltliner, Lois, Kamptal Austria.
This crisp bright and lighter expression of Gruner by Fred Loimer is a wonderful everyday wine with tangy refreshment and zesty fruit. Brilliantly clear with greenish/gold hues in the glass the Loimer Lois is zingy fresh with vibrant acidity and charming character, all stainless fermented and aged this Gruner comes from grapes grown around the town of Langenlois, hence the name Lois, small yields from contract growers that are leaning towards organic practices help make this an impressive and expressive entry level Gruner Veltliner to be enjoyed young. The 2015 vintages looks set to match the critically acclaimed 2013 in terms of style, quality and pleasure and this wine gives a glimpse of what’s to follow with the more serious stuff that is coming. This dry and refreshing Gruner shows lime, among oil, mineral notes and a hint of stony earth as well as saline, bitter herb and white peach. The vigorous citrus elements drive the light and lean palate, great for the Indian summer season and perfect with shellfish, especially mussels and or raw oysters, at about 12% alcohol it a very sane and easy to quaff white. Be sure to check out all of Fred’s offering in this vintage and if you see his Pinot Noir Langenlois or Riesling Kamptal Langenlois grab them they are always stunners, I’ve always been a fan of Loimer and his wines never disappoint, drink the Lois GruVe over the next 6 months to a year!
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Christophe et Fils, Chablis, White Burgundy, France.
The secret is out now, this Christophe Chablis is killer and maybe one of the best deals for white Burgundy you’ll find, and while it’s going to be hard to find, you should search high and low to get as much as you can! The 2015 Petite Chablis, from the family’s original vines is absolutely gorgeous as well, but the regular Chablis AC is at another level, it is vital and pure as can be without adornment or frills, but stunning in detail and precision! With a holistic view to farming and a very gentile touch in the cellar these Chablis are true and terroir driven wines, vibrant and expressive, if you want something affordable and brilliant this is your wine, we can’t all score Raveneau and Dauvissat, so if you want something on that level without busting the bank I suggest you find Christophe and while 2015 is a mixed year for white Burgundy and Chablis, these Christophe’s are fabulous and dynamic wines. The 2015 Christophe et Fils Chablis starts with white flowers, wet stones, bright citrus oil, green apple and steely mineral with a slight salty essence leading to a laser sharp palate of lime, flinty spice adding to the layers of crisp and cool flavors. There is a hint of body and with air it puts on some texture, but stays vigorous and zesty throughout, this is lovely Chardonnay. Lingering lemon and fine chalk remind you again of what this is and where it comes from, if this basic Chablis is this good, I can’t wait to try the Premier Crus! Imported by The Source Imports, Christophe et Fils Chablis are wines to get, wonderful stuff, shout out to Raj Parr for suggesting Christophe to me a few years back, very grateful to have finally had a chance to taste through and get some wine for myself! Certainly look for any of the 2014’s if you can, but without question be greedy if you see these 2015’s, it’s hard to beat this kind of quality for the price!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Salem Wine Co. Rose of Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Fathered out of the Evening Land project, the Salem Wine Co. label is a line up of Oregon wines crafted by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr and focused on Gamay and Pinot Noir as well as this stunning Rose, one of the best Oregon pinks of the vintage! Bright and full of mineral driven character the Salem Wine Co. Rose of Pinot Noir shows tangy fruit, steely crispness and hints of pretty floral charm with a brisk palate that gives cherry, rosewater, watermelon and light strawberry essence along with zingy citrus notes. Light, but full of flavor this is a lovely summer wine that refreshes and excites, with some vibrant spiciness and savory chalkiness adding to the complexity and allowing the Salem Wine Co. Rose to be taken seriously as a complete and focused wine. The Gamay Noir offering too is exceptional and well made stuff, Parr and Moorman deserve a lot of credit for these wines, especially for this tasty Rose, this is without question a label to search out for unique options from Oregon and the quality/value factor is high. Drink this lovely Pink Pinot Noir over the next year, not much was made so it would be all that easy to locate, but worth the effort!
($23 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill Vineyard, Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley.
Long before there was Opus One, Dominus, Far Niente, Harlan, Colgin, Bryant Family or Screaming Eagle there was Diamond Creek, making great “Cult” Cabernet, in fact Diamond Creek made the very first labeled single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 1968 by Boots and the late Al Brounstein, Diamond Creek continues to produce one of California’s top wines, crafted by long time winemaker Phil Steinschreiber, these Cabernets are amazingly age worthy and pure, the three main wines are Gravelly Meadow, Red Rock Terrace and Volcanic Hill, plus they do an ultra micro production Lake Vineyard, which is extremely rare and one of the historic holy grails of California wine. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few hours with the late Al Brounstein and his wife Boots and have heard some great stories from this remarkably couple and seen their passion, which even after losing Al a few years back, has not diminished in Boots who along with her son Phil Ross runs the winery with pride, humility and focus. I have tasted over the years many Diamond Creek vintages, even a few early 70’s, and most recently an ’81 which blew my mind, so it was a pleasure to taste through the up coming releases from the 2013 vintage. While all three of the main wines were outstanding, for me, the 2013 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill stood out, though I’m sure after 20 to 30 years they will all be remembered as classics much in the same way we look back at 1974 or 1985! The all Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill starts with lead pencil, acacia flower, black plum and flinty spices along with a deep garnet/purple hue, right away you know you are on to something really special, I have this same sensation when I taste a vintage left bank Bordeaux like Chateau Latour or Haut Brion, a Ridge Monte Bello, Shafer Hillside or Cathy Corison’s Kronos, and the palate of this Diamond Creek 2013 is filled with glorious richness and tannin, which is surprisingly supple, though you know it with hold this beauty together for 3 decades if not more! Beautiful detail and vitality make this Cabernet a classic with black currant, blackberry, sweet tobacco leaf, black licorice, hints of shale/stones, creme de cassis and opulent textures as well as polish and refined French oak, this is stunning stuff. Full bodied and dense with spectacular length this Diamond Creek Volcanic hill is a thrill ride of a wine that highlights the near perfect vintage Napa enjoyed in 2013. In a world where you have wineries selling wines that have no history or pedigree selling for over $300, Diamond Creek seems a bargain, I hope I get to re-visit this wine in many years when it is fully developed, I’m pretty sure it will then reach a near 100 Point score, the potential is clearly there, best from 2023 to 2050!
($175 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2014 Purple Hands, Pinot Noir, Holstein Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Like the Etzel kids, Cody Wright is one of the next generation in Oregon wines, the son of Ken Wright, he is now one of the hot young winemakers to look for with his Purple Hands label, and he has reached a new level with the release of his 2014 single vineyard Pinots! After tasting through his awesome lineup, I was hard pressed to pick the best wine, honestly each and everyone of these 2014’s were beautifully detailed and exciting wines, especially this Holstein Vineyard from the red hills of Dundee, and the Latchkey Vineyard, also from Dundee fruit, but you need to check them all out, including the Shea, Freedom Hill, Stoller and the Barron-Wahl! I maybe chose to focus on the Holstein, because it was a touch more open and exotic with expressive fruit and gorgeous layered textures, but the Latchkey was not too far behind, these are rocking good wines that show the vintage’s glory to perfection. The Holstein starts with a mix of wilted rose, violet and flinty mineral along with racy red fruits as well as a sexy spicy presence, leading to a dense palate of red and black berry and cherry fruit as well as strawberry, dusty plum and tangy black currant. Young and fresh with vibrant vitality the Holstein Vineyard is all about the pure fruit, but the background notes of cedar, cinnamon, anise, minty herb and iron hint at the progressive future in store, this is going to be a complex and intriguing wine to watch over the next 15 to 20 years, it has everything in place to age well, balance, velvety, but firm tannins, a core of acidity behind the impressive rich fruit density, this is not a Pinot to miss, nor is this vintage in Oregon, it is beyond classic! After years helping his dad, Cody has picked out his own ideas and style, and he is crafting some very fine wines, Purple Hands should be on your radar.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard Alfaro’s Chardonnays are some of the very best wines for the money in California, and his latest set are gorgeous as can be, I’m going to write about all of them separately, because they all deserve individual attention, starting with his 2014 Trout Gulch Vineyard, from an own rooted old vine site above Aptos. The 2014 Alfaro Trout Gulch Chardonnay from heritage Chardonnay clone set into loamy, coastal soils with some clay like subsurface and sandy/dusty chalky top soil is a bright and elegant wine, fermented and aged mostly in stainless with some lots in neutral or used French barrels using native yeasts, it shows this cool climate vineyard’s Monterey Bay sea influence with plenty of saline and tangy acidity and crisp layers. This fresh and graceful Chardonnay gives an amazing amount of pleasure and class for the buck, medium weighted, lengthy and detailed this is an old school wine, coming in at about 13.5% it is neither hot or too lean, almost perfect in focus and complexity with green apple, lemon, white peach, white flowers and subtle pineapple with a hint of key lime along with steely mineral, wet stones, brine, clove, golden fig and a touch of brioche and hazelnut. This is very entertaining and stylish stuff, on par with Premier Cru Chablis and with enough richness and mouth feel to please any Chardonnay lover, with air it takes on a more creamy note, but stays lively and vibrant, very impressive stuff, you can see why other top winemaker’s are asking Richard for fruit from this vineyard, this 2014 should drink great for another 3 to 5 years!
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 G.D. Vajra, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
While I’m a sucker for Giuseppe Vajra’s Nebbiolo wines and his amazing Riesling, I also adore the Barbera, and this 2013 is a flavorful and stylish example of this varietal and a wine that shines light on this terroir. Pure and to the point the 2013 Vajra Babera d’Alba is deeply colored in the glass with red/black garnet at the core with hints purple and ruby edges, it is lively on the palate with a certain brightness of character, but rich and pleasing with a wonderful mouth feel, the main thrust is blackberry and cherry fruit with a touch of plum and fig, along with anise and mineral spice. This clean and charming Barbera flirts with lush details, though remains about medium weight and balanced throughout, it is gorgeous with food and with easily pair with a variety of cuisine options. 2013 has turned out well for Barbera, and this is one of the best out there, along with the wines of Giovanni Rosso and La Spinetta, it looks like a good vintage to stock up on as 2014 looks a touch flat and light for Barbera, and the 2013’s have a solid life ahead for at least 5 to 6 years. Vajra’s Barbera d’Alba gets a bit lost behind his Barolo offerings, but it’s not a wine to pass up with plenty of layers of dark fruit, spice and subtle earthiness it’s a worthy prize. For your cellar, get all the Vajra and Luigi Baudana (by G.D. Vajra) Barolo 2012 you can afford, but don’t forget about this impressive Barbera to drink now!
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Quinta do Ameal, Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal.
What an amazing vintage for this region, these 2015 whites from Vinho Verde and Moncao are wildly expressive and vivid with exotic flourish and vigorous extract and bright acidity, especially sexy and vital is the Quinta do Ameal, one of Portugal’s great and organic estates. Quinta do Ameal’s lovely Vinho Verde Loureiro dry white is one of the best of vintage with wonderful layers of citrus and tropical fruit, lifting acidity and seductive detail and sensual textures. The 2015 starts with a blast of passion fruit, mango and fresh picked peach and apricot along with a Condrieu like perfume and mineral seriousness, this is without question a gorgeous and special wine, it has honeysuckle and wild jasmine, wet stones and an array of lemon/lime, kiwi and orange/melon in the background. With a bit of swirling in the glass there is a subtle leesy richness, but also a balancing saline quality keeping things from getting too heady, this as good as it gets for this famous region, usually known for it’s crispy light quaffing whites that are almost watery like, ultra pale, spritzy and delicate, but not this one, this is a wine of substance, with a compelling body and raw sex appeal while still graceful and harmonious from start to finish, intriguing and refreshing, drink over the next year or two, fantastic stuff.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
nv Bodegas La Cigarrera, Manzanilla Pasada Sherry, Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain.
Ninth generation sherry master Ignacio Hidalgo at Bodegas La Cigarrera, the oldest continuous sherry producer to live under one roof, has crafted a special Manzanilla from the family’s scared lot of aged Manzanilla, it is one of the finest I’ve ever tasted with the latest release of La Cigarrera Manzanilla Pasada. This small Bodega in the sea town of Sanlucar de Barrameda is very much influenced by the sea and tradition, as made fine Manzanilla since 1758, but it has only been since 1997 that these small Bodegas could in fact bottle their own from their own small lots, basically allowing for the craft sherry revolution to slowly take place, and today we are finally getting a glimpse of what that means with amazing barrel selection sherry getting the world’s attention in recent years with offerings from innovative sherry masters like Alvear, Equipo Navazos, El Maestro Sierra, Grant, Cesar Florido, Lustau and La Cigarrera leading the way. Why did it take so long? Well, the best and most unique sherries are the ones that are aged 20, 30 or 40 years at least, and that things are generally slow here in this remote area of Spain, it’s conservative and based on very traditional techniques, but what is being released these days is truly amazing, especially this gorgeous La Cigarrera Manzanilla Pasada crafted from 100% Palomino, a family heirloom lot of 20 plus year solera, that was even kept separate in the family’s Sacrista! This beautiful and textured dry and tangy/salty Manzanilla shows burnt orange, almond oil, zesty citrus and a unique wine like finesse and mouth feel, the Manzanilla Pasada is a rare style of sherry, it’s an older Manazilla that has it’s Flor, the yeast that covers it starting to fade off, allowing for richer and nuttier detail as in this stunning example. With layers of hazelnut, pecan, tropical and light floral notes, poached peach, sea salt/briny savoriness as well as nectarine, baked apricot and lemon/lime, but crisply zingy still, this is truly awesome stuff, served chilled and with impressive depth and length it is wonderful with olives and little salty fish, spicy dishes, cheeses and cured meats like Jamon Serrano, and while most Manzanilla Pasada is sold at 7 to 8 years, this La Cigarrera really stands out for it’s age, density and focus, this is a remarkable, rare and sexy dry medium bodied sherry to covet!
($44 Est. 375ml) 95 Points, grapelive
2012 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo, Del Comune di Serralunga d’Alba, Piedmonte, Italy.
The new 2012 Barolo Serralunga by Davide Rosso is pure and exquisitely detailed with energy and poise, and it seems funny that 2012 doesn’t get much hype, these are gorgeous wines with fine tannin structure, brilliant acidity and flowing/full with pretty fruit. So far the wines of Chiara Boschis-E. Pira, G.D. Varja and Luigi Baudana, as well as these Giovanni Rosso 2012’s have knocked my socks off, and I rate them right up there with 2010, in terms of beauty and class they might be even better in some cases! They might even better better from a pleasure point of view, they are remarkably sexy Nebbiolo, and Davide Rosso of Giovanni Rosso has made some elegant examples and while his Carretta and La Serra might be the ones to covet and put in the cellar, they are masterpieces no question, I adore the basic Serralunga, now called Del Commune di Serralunga d’Alba, it is amazingly drinkable and seductive in it’s youth and offers up a full array of classic Nebbiolo charm in the glass with glorious depth and length, in fact I’m not sure I shouldn’t rate it higher! The 2012 Giovanni Rosso Barolo Del Comune di Serralunga d’Abla starts with wilted roses, red cherry, minty herbs, clear mineral notes and hints of earth and stone leading to a palate of lively red raspberry, dusty plum, strawberry and sweet and savory currant fruits with touches of ceps, distilled violets, black licorice, kirsch and cedar. The tannins are there, firmly controlling things, but gracefully and the brightness of flavors and freshness is stunning, this is a enjoyable Nebbiolo that hit all the right notes, harmonious and focused with that something extra, if you are bargain hunting Barolo this wine should be on your wish list! This set of Giovanni Rosso releases are wonderful from the 2014 Barbera and 2013 Langhe Nebbiolo to the majestic 2012 La Serra Barolo, and in particular this addictive 2012 Serralunga Barolo, which should provide excellent drinking for a decade!
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Ser Winery, Rose of Nebbiolo, Olof Vineyard, Lake County.
Ser Winery is a artisan Santa Cruz based winery that sources single vineyard fruit to craft unique terroir expensive wines, it is the solo project of Nicole Walsh, ex Bonny Doon winemaker, and her latest set wines are all worth searching out, especially her lovely Rose of Nebbiolo. The 2015 Ser Rose of Nebbiolo busts from the glass with a pretty color and lots of tart cherry, the varietal’s natural acidity giving plenty of energy and laser like focus, but it is refined and charmingly juicy/fresh on the palate with mineral tones and subtle spices. There are layers of red peach, bright citrus, plum water, watermelon, red apple skin and strawberry as well as a hint of bitter herb, wet stones and rosewater. This is cool and crisp in mouth and has a nice dry feel without being too austere, everything is well judged and balanced. This is something out of the ordinary and really fun, this is a groovy California pink made from an Italian grape with French sensibilities, I really like it, and Nicole’s other new wines include a Dry Orange Muscat, very different, and a great set of Coastview Vineyard, Monterey, offerings, a Chardonnay, maybe the best of her wines in this vintage, a lovely earthy Pinot Noir and a fine meaty and spicy Syrah, plus a wonderful Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir and a wild Cabernet Pfeffer from old head trained wines in Cienega Valley, that tastes a bit like rustic Negrette and Loire Franc! This is winery to keep an eye on, and for the moment grab this superb Rose of Nebbiolo, sourced from Lake County and it’s mineral rich mixed volcanic soils, it’s highly pleasing and refreshing, impressive stuff from Ser!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Jean-Francois Ganevat, Cotes du Jura Chardonnay “Le Montceau” Jura, France.
Jean-Francois Ganevat can’t make enough wine to satisfy the world’s overwhelming thirst for his lovely and intriguing Jura wines, his tiny estate vineyard holdings only allows about 1,700 cases to be produceed, so he is exploring his options by buying fruit and making some Vin de France wines to bump up the numbers, some of which are really fun wines, but it is his estate, biodynamic stuff that has the world’s attention, especially his amazing Chardonnays, that can be compared to the best in Burgundy! People, including myself, have said these wines remind them of Raveneau or Jobard in intensity and style, and without question this are marvelous hand crafted wines with mineral intensity, dynamic acidity and have gripping leesy depth. The non oxidative stuff is just plain gorgeous, in particular look for the 2012, 2013 and the new 2014 wines, like this beautiful and crisp 2014 Le Montceau Cotes du Jura Chardonnay, grown on ancient Marl (limestone) and native yeast fermented, it has that vitality and vigor you dream about in white Burgundy, but with Ganevat’s touch and the terroir influence that is making even the Burgundian’s jealous these days! In this modern world with the reality of demand and climate change, these old vine Chardonnay plots in the Jura are going to be highly sought after and prized Crus for the long run and small artisan producers like Ganevat are all ready superstars, and wines like this show why, even though many worry traditional and old school Jura styles may fade away or lose their place. This concern is well worth considering, but we also need to celebrate those that manage a balance of styles and craft passionate wines, like Ganevat, these are honest wines of the nature and they have a seductive charm and flair that even importer Kermit Lynch couldn’t pass up, these rare goodies from the Jura are some of the hottest wines in his portfolio! The Le Montceau starts with zesty citrus, chalk, white flowers and cool mineral tones with a palate of vibrant lemon, lime blossom, wet stones and flinty spice along with hints of clove, pear and yellow fig. With air things fill out a bit with apple, hazelnut and earthy notes, though always brisk and steely. Magic with food, seafood, cheeses, especially Comte, this vivid Chardonnay is lovely and joyous, it should drink wonderfully over the coming decade. All the current Ganevat offerings are stunning, be sure to search these wines out, the Savagnins and Chardonnays are awesome, but so too our the traditional Jura stuff including the Macvin and Vin Jaune!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Kabinett, Oberhauser Leistenberg, Nahe Germany.
The delicate and slate influenced Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett should not be overlooked in Donnhoff’s amazing 2015 Rieslings, it is not as showy as the super sexy Spatlese and Auslese offerings or as vital and intense as the Trockens, but it is an awesome wine and seriously one of the great values in the wine world. Finding words for the Donnhoff 2015’s is rather more difficult than you’d imagine, these exceptional Riesling are some of the finest wines I’ve tasted in my lifetime, period, and they should go on to be legendary in the years to come! To get an idea on just how good and fine these wines really are at this young stage you need not look father than this gorgeous Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett with it’s beautiful detailing and finesse highlighting the quality of vintage and terroir, it is loaded with fresh fruit, mineral and persistent acidity and depth of extract, but does it with grace and lithe, almost feline instill if you can grasp my meaning. The classically slightly off dry Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett starts with a light and magical perfume of white flowers, flinty spice, tropical notes, a hint of earthy brine and clove with a sense of green fruit before a lovely seamless energy filled palate races toward your senses with green apple, tangerine, lime blossom, apricot and pineapple along with liquid mineral, distilled rose petals, wet stones, minty herbs, dried ginger and creamy melon sorbet. You can feel the density, though not heavy, with faint sweetness perfectly matched by acid and saline with glorious length, but it’s vibrancy and lightness of touch makes for an elegance that is rarely reached in a wine in the this price class, though more and more common in Donnhoff’s wines! This is a pleasure filled joy to drink, even now, and it should age 10 to 15 years with ease, for quilt free quaffing, you should stock up on this Kabinett while it’s still available, and for serious cellaring do not miss the Brucke, Kirschheck and Krotenpfuhl Spatlese and Auslese, as well as any and all Trockens from the Estate to the Grosses Gewachs from Felsenberg, Dellchen and of course the Hermannshole! Everything Donnhoff is thrilling in this vintage 2015, do not miss any, and for a bargain and balanced complexity be sure to find some of this Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett!
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Bibich, Debit, Dalmatian White, Croatia.
One of the summer’s most fun and refreshing wines comes from Croatian superstar winemaker Alen Bibic of the Bibich winery in Skradin, not far from the beautiful port city of Sibenk on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia. This winery founded over a hundred years ago, in 1906, is making some of the best Mediterranean influenced wines around and is a must try winery, and while Alen’s reds are legendary, I was surprised to find just how much joy was to be had in his whites, especially his Debit, a local grape that makes for an intriguing white wine with a fine cut of acidity and bright mineral laced character with a light to medium body. The stainless steel fermented and aged Debit comes from rocky dry farmed and head trained vines, the warm days and sea cooled nights gives this wine it’s poise and flavor filled vitality it bursts from the glass with citrus, white flowers and tropical notes with a hint of flinty spice and wet stones. Bright tangerine, melon and peach lead the way along with mango, lemon/lime, basil leaf and a nice dry saltiness. This is a pleasing crisp wine with a nice balance of juicy fruit and brisk elements, great with sea food, salads and just plain summer sipping! Debit is an interesting grape, it hasn’t been studied, though some claim it might be related to Italy’s Trebbiano, I find it more similar to Pecorino, and it drinks a little like a fine Soave, though less floral, the terroir influence makes it unique and clearly Bibich has it nailed, this is lovely stuff.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Louis Barruol’s Chateau de Saint Cosme is one of the great wineries in the southern rhone and produce some of the most sought after Gigondas out there! His little Cotes-du-Rhone though, made of almost entirely Syrah, is one of the region’s best value wines, and this 2015 is stunningly delicious and full of flavor. It always seems odd such a major player in top Grenache based wines like Barruol uses so much Syrah in his Cotes-du-Rhone, but then again so does Chave and Clape too, somehow it all works and the wine is deep in color and character and detailed with dark fruits, a plush mid palate and spicy length. The 2015 was 100% Syrah from Vinsobres and Gard with the grapes partially de-stemmed, with fermenting and aging in tank only, this makes for a fresh style and with just enough tannin to age, though complex enough and plush enough to thrill in it’s youth, and this 2015 does just that and with style! The palate is filled with layers of black and blue fruits, blackberry, boysenberry, juicy plum, fig and a touch of cassis along with cracked peppercorns, olive, lavender oil, violets, camphor, porcini, anise and mineral/stony notes. Round and textured the Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone reaches a full-bodied weight, though still poised and vibrant, this is a class act, especially in this price range, I’ve been a fan of this wine for at least 10 years, I just love it, drink in over the next 3 to 5 years, this 2015 is one of the best yet!
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Epoch Estate, White, Paso Robles.
The gorgeous and stylish White from Epoch Estate comes from estate vineyards, Catapult and Paderewski, in the western/cooler Willow Creek District, and is formed of about equal parts Viognier and Grenache Blanc and is a near perfect ying and yang of northern and southern Rhone styles with the result being a true west side Paso wine with flair and substance. Jordan Fiorentini, a major superstar winemaking talent in the California wine world, has crafted a beautiful white with this 2014, it is richly full and expressive on the succulent palate, but remains fresh and lively, she did some unique stuff here, this is a no malo wine, aged in a combination of concrete, both French eggs and Italian tulips were used, plus stainless and neutral French oak, and had a portion of the Viognier macerated on it’s skins for 24 hours, and it got 5 months of lees or Sur Lie. Not only an interesting approach, but a fine tuned blended wine that delivers maximum pleasure and detail with supple and elegant textures and length with an array of honeysuckle, white peach, apricot and vibrant mixed citrus, tropical notes, dusty ginger and clove spices, chalky/salty elements along with clarified cream, pepper, distilled white rose and jasmine, finishing with an almost tangerine/passion fruit sorbet note, while still briskly dry and vital. Fiorentini went to great lengths to get the best out of the Viognier without adding sickly perfume or cloying sweetness, this is a wonderful wine and shows what can be done with white wine in this region, it is not too surprising though as I can honestly say, I have many times thought Tablas Creek’s Chateauneuf inspired Esprit Blanc was their best wine in certain vintages, but Epoch really has done a masterful job here, and while the reds are sublime at this winery, I’ll be keeping an eye on this sexy white too!
($32 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Once & Future, Petite Sirah, Palisades Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa Valley.
Joel Peterson, the founder of California’s iconic Zinfandel house Ravenswood, has started a new project that takes him back to a simpler time and back to his signature style of winemaking with his new label Once & Future, it was great to catch up with him and taste his latest wines. The cask samples of 2015 Zinfandel were amazing wines, but it was the current 2014 Petite Sirah from Casitoga and the famed Palisades Vineyard, a historic site on the east side of the valley that is perfect for this dark heritage varietal, that caught my attention. Joel broke out his redwood open top fermenter saved from his earlier days and crafted an amazing wine, a pure and balanced Petite Sirah, one of the best I’ve had in years in fact and one that should age wonderfully with deep fruit, spice and stunning length. At about 14.5% alcohol, this is neither wimpy or full blown, it’s a gorgeous example of class and varietal with lovely textures and detail showing blackberry, cassis, cedar/wood spice, anise, blueberry and a mix of black cherries and currants, along with an array of pepper, cinnamon, sage, mulberry and smoky/stony mineral, with sweet tannins and decedent form. This is a brilliant wine, almost subtle, but gloriously seductive, I tasted this along side Joel’s 1992 Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel, from his recently rescued wine library, and what a classic gorgeous old wine, in perfect shape and beautifully mature, it shows his prowess and the ability of Zinfandel (and Petite Sirah) to age and become almost Bordeaux like at a certain point, and you can see how and where the Once & Future Petite Sirah will go in time, if you can wait of course, because this 2014 is drinking fantastic right now! It looks to be legendary and shows Joel still has lots of life left in himself too, this project, made at his son’s winery, Bedrock Wine Co. is tiny, but allows him to do things the way he always wanted and express California’s rich history in Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, this hand-crafted wines are well worth searching out!
($55 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Rose of Pinot Noir-Zweigelt, Sommerwein “Angel’s Kiss” Weinviertel Austria.
The Groiss Rose is fast becoming one of my favorite pinks and joins an elite set of Austrian Rose, especially from this 2015 vintage, wines from Prieler, Nigl, Knoll and Brundlmayer, plus this beautiful Groiss Rose, all excelled in this great year, and have really lifted the lid off and let these marvelous out and show that Austria makes some fantastic Rose wines. The Groiss “Angel’s Kiss” is finely focused, delicate, lovely textured and vibrant, showing off the class of the Pinot Noir and the spicy flair that the Zweigelt brings, it shines with a gorgeous pinkish/orange hue in the glass and it is refreshingly stylish on the palate with pretty fruit and mineral detailing. Fresh citrus, red peach, sour cherry and strawberry notes lead the way along with steely and stony elements, hints of basil/herb, peppered watermelon and rosewater add to the complexity of this wonderful dry and brisk wine. Nice fruity vs. savory tension adds vitality and vigor to what is an impressive effort again from Weinviertel’s talented Ingrid Groiss, this is a winery to look for, especially her Gruner Veltliner, Roter Veltliner, Riesling Reserve and her glorious field blend white Gemischter Satz. All of her wines sell out fast and are hard to get, so you’ll need to put in some work to find them, but they are well worth the time and trouble, in particular you’ll need to act fast to get the Rose Sommerwein “Angel’s Kiss” it’s not a wine to miss for these late days of Summer.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Casa Nuestra, Dry Chenin Blanc, Saint Helena, Napa Valley.
One of the last remaining secrets of Napa Valley, Casa Nuestra’s gloriously brisk and vibrant dry Chenin, a wine that defies perceptions and shows old Napa still exists! Gene Kirkham’s Casa Nuestra is a must visit winery, nestled in Saint Helena’s east side on the Silverado Trail, this is not the modern Napa mansion of castle, this is an old rustic farm house with a unique charm and eccentric flourish with goats and sheep near their tree shaded patio and a 50’s and 60’s vibe in the tasting room with odes to Elvis and memorabilia from Kirkland’s career as a civil rights lawyer, this is a fun visit and the wines are unique and vastly different than you’ll find at the neighbors! Kirkham’s love of Loire grapes, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc has even led him to be honored by the Knight’s of Chinon, and these wines are usually the wines that sell out fast, Casa Nuestra sells only direct to their wine club and list and what little is left sells in the tasting room. I try to visit every year to score the Chenin Blanc, though timing is very important, so I was thrilled to see it available when I visited this August, and found the 2015 vintage to buy and taste! As well as that, they just so happened to have a open bottle of their 1989 to sample, which considering the wet year and age was remarkably fresh and lovely though showing a graceful maturity and it’s fading decay with class. This was a special experience, and while the old wine intrigued, the latest release thrilled with focus and clarity, bone dry, dusty and mineral edged the 2015 Casa Nuestra Chenin Blanc is still ripe and has medium weight on the palate with citrus layers, peach notes and crunchy wet stones along with hints of bees wax, verbena, unsweet honey and wild herbs. Steely lemon/lime and orange blossom persist along with a loamy earthy quality in this fine and well crafted effort, this is a wine to enjoy in every stage, it pleases with it’s refreshing almost bitter crisp youthfulness, but you can already sense it with age and be fun in a decade or more, in California Chenin Blanc is seeing a revival and you’ll see awesome examples from top wineries hitting the shelfs soon, look for Sandlands, Littorai, Pax and Broc Cellars in particular, but also search out old time classics like Chalone, Daniel Gehrs, Chappellet and certainly this Casa Nuestra!
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs, Proprietary Red, Dry Creek Valley.
The stylish and sophisticated 2014 Lytton Springs has an almost subtle appeal in it’s youthful stage, but with classic Zinfandel charm and detail, this is glorious stuff with balance, life and length, one of the most impressive all around Lytton Springs I can remember! Of the latest set of Zinfandel based releases this one is the least flamboyant or overtly fruity by Ridge this vintage, though it it might just have the most going on and certainly it has everything it needs to have to please and age well, while the 2014 old vine Pagani Ranch has lavish extravagance and is a blockbuster now, they both will be great in a decades time, the 2014 Ridge Lytton Springs is less showy and billowing, though still wonderfully seductive and sensual on the palate with black raspberry, boysenberry, cherry and dusty plum fruits leading the way with anise, wild sage, mineral notes as well as cedar, pepper and baking spices. As it opens up the latest Lytton gives a dense mouth feel and lingers with currant, a touch of floral Dimension and red berry along with ripe tannins, a lift of acidity and creamy/smoky mocha. The 2014 Lytton Springs with 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignane and 2% Mourvedre (or Mataro as Ridge calls it) and comes in at a well judged 14.4% Alcohol, from old vines, some dated back to 1902, all added together makes for a historic and impressive showing, this is without question a great wine and a wine that has a real and honest sense of place, it has the allure, sex appeal and spice of a Chateauneuf-du-Page and structured form of a right bank Bordeaux! All the Ridge offerings are gorgeous this Fall, leading the way is 2013 Monte Bello, but the Zin blends from this 2014 vintage are stunning California stars, especially this Lytton Springs, as well as the mentioned Pagani, Ponzo and don’t forget the earlier released Geyserville, they all should drink fantastic for the next 10 to 15 years easy!
($36 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Ingrid Groiss, Gemischter Satz, Braitenpuechtorff, Weinviertel, Austria.
Ingrid Groiss has really taken the wine world by storm in recent years and it is always a rare treat to sample her authentic and passion filled wines, especially what maybe her signature offering, the white field blend, Gemischter Satz, which is Austria’s white version of a heritage wine. In California, our oldest and most treasured vineyards were the ones that were planted with many different varietals inter-planted together, like Old Hill Ranch and Bedrock in Sonoma where they had originally had something like 19 different kinds of grapes all mixed into the sites, well Austrian traditionally did the same with whites, the resulting wine is the Gemischter Satz and Ingrid’s version has an amazing array of varietals in it including Chardonnay, Müller Thurgau, Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Grauburgunder, Pinot Blanc, Frühroter Veltliner, Neuburger, Zierfandler, Rotgipfler, Sämling, Roter Veltliner, Grauer Vöslauer, Hietl Rote, Weiße Vöslauer and Silberweiße! Many I’ve never heard of before and certainly can’t pronounce! All the grapes here grow together and are harvested together, it is a pure terroir expression and makes for an intriguing wine, this 2015 is brisk and electric on the palate, feeling like a Txakolina with zesty lime, white peach, green apple, unripe pear along with light mango, lemon and tangerine bouncing around in the zesty cascade of flavors plus mineral tones, minty herbs, white flowers and wet stones adding to the complexity of this light, bright and steely refreshing white. With air and time in the glass this invigorating white gains a serious/austere presence, but always stays vibrant, dry and cooly crisp. This winery in Breitenwaida, in the Weinviertel DAC, north of Vienna, is one of Austria’s rising stars and Ingrid has a gift, this is a lovely and dynamic wine, be sure to look for her wines, this lady is a true talent and her wines reflect that, I love her Rose of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt and her Gruners are Rieslings as well, these are focused and unique wines of great detail and character, with 2015 looking like another fine year, not quite to the heights of 2013, but worth stocking up on!
($25 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2013 Guimaro, Mencia, Finca Meixeman, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
Galicia’s Pedro Rodriguez makes some of the most thrilling wines in Spain, his Guimaro Mencia reds are something special and they get better and better with each vintage, based in the Ribeira Sacra his small winery is on a roll. Pedro has been greatly influenced by Raúl Pérez of Bierzo, one of Spain leading winemakers and one of the true unique characters in wine, who has leant young Pedro Rodriguez a guiding hand, helping Guitar become one of the most sought after Mencias in the region, Rodriguez employs ancient and mostly natural methods traditional to this old region that was even highly regarded during Roman times, wild yeast, low sulphur, used oak or no wood and some stem inclusion winemaking is employed, while the grapes are organic and from some of the most dramatic vineyard sites imaginable, the Ribeira Sacra looks like the Mosel region of Germany with a little of France’s Cote-Rotie thrown in! The slate and granite schist soils, steep terraces and cooler western climate help make these wines some of the most stunning medium weight wines in the world with gorgeous flavors the bounce from the Loire to Burgundy in style with maybe a touch of the Jura as well, but remaining uniquely terroir driven and speak in Gallego, the language of Galicia! The 2013 Guimaro Finca Meixeman is a single field blend, based on and mainly Mencia, it also has native varietals that include Caiño, Merenzao (Trousseau), Souson and others, it was fermented with 40% whole clusters from 70 years old vines in the family’s original vineyard at over 400 meters up the slope, it shows vigorous intensity and depth with earthy notes, striking mineral and flinty spices. The palate is firm and shows the cool climate acidity, and 2013 was cool, making for some scary late picking in October, but that long hang-time has paid off with complexity and depth in this very dark Mencia, it shows black currant, vibrant cherry, wild plum, dried violets, peppery spice and hints of game, basil and cedar. This Finca Meixeman is quite tight and tannic to start and needs time to wake up in the glass, but when it does it really takes off, amazing length and layering comes through with sexy florals, blue fruits and textures. The 2013 Meixeman is a classic vintage with Atlantic influences shinning through, maybe not as exotic as 2011 was, but certainly one that will endure and gain with time in the cellar, best from 2018 to 2028, another beautiful and stylish wine from Guimaro, be sure to search this one out, only about 300 cases were made!
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 G.D. Vajra, Barolo “Ravera” Piedmonte, Italy.
These 2012’s are turning out to be much better than anyone could have hoped in Barolo, in fact I think, especially as young Barolo they are as good if not more pleasing than the 2010’s! My first reaction when tasting this new, coming in November, Vajra Ravera 2012 was “Wow Giuseppe!” and after tasting through the latest releases of Vajra, I am even more impressed, the talent of Giuseppe Vajra and these vineyards are something truly magical, these are thrilling wines and true expressions of place, and in particular this glorious 2012 Ravera, this is as good as Nebbiolo gets and then some! It is worth noting that both Vajra’s top Cru Barolo, this one and his Bricco delle Viole are gorgeous wines, and in fact with a bit more time in bottle the Viole might just surpass this Ravera, it is slightly less intense at this stage, but oh my it is silky sexy! I opted to focus on Ravera, because it showed a bit more blunt force and earthy tannin behind it’s heavenly deep and layered fruit, at this point it has more gravitas and if you were comparing each to Grand Cru Burgundy, and I do for all the right reasons, you’d say Ravera was a bit more Chambertin to Bricco delle Viole’s Musigny! The 2012 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera Cru starts with a bang, black and red fruits, spice, earth, hints of game, ceps and mixed floral notes and minty herbs led by dried roses, distilled violet, lavender oil, tar, salted black licorice, stony mineral, porcini, new leather and cedar all playing backing parts to black cherry, damson plum, balsamic strawberry and tangy currants on the firmly controlled palate. Everything is seamless and focused, good exciting acidity, polished textures, gripping tannin and perfectly weighted and expressive fruit, detailed complexity, what an amazing Nebbiolo that is both classic and pure, but also hauntingly exotic and sensual, another stunner from Vajra, this wonderful wine looks to be a must have, make sure you are first in line to get some and be greedy! The drinking window looks to be wider and longer than 2009, 2010 and 2011, a while a masterpiece like this is great even now, you’ll be rewarded by putting some away, best from 2020 to 2035!
($75 Est.) 96+ Points, grapelive
2015 Brianne Day, Rose of Tannat/Cot “Babycheeks” Applegate Valley, Oregon.
The brilliant and serious cool Brianne day Rose Babycheeks is from vineyards in southern Oregon in Applegate and is an intriguing blend of co-fermented Tannat, a French Basque grape found in southwest France and used in Irouleguy and Cot (Malbec) the grape of Cahors and found in the Loire Valley where it is known as Cot. Brianne fermented the grapes together whole cluster, racked off the lightly colored juice off into neutral wood and after fermentation it was cold stored in stainless to settle and keep vibrantly fresh. Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon also features Tannat in a pink wine, but this might be the first time I’ve heard of Malbec and Tannat together in a Rose, though I imagine it might have happened in South America? and it works well! The 2015 Babycheeks is vivid pinkish orange and has some zesty flavors a hint of tannin and drinks wonderfully with sour cherry, watermelon, crisp red citrus and light strawberry notes along with mineral tones, wet stones, wild rosemary, minty herb and rosewater. Brisk and frisky with just enough body and substance to make it textured, but with solid acidity driving the wine, superb on it’s own with savor/tanginess and great with food. Brian Day’s whole lineup is impressive, leaning to a natural side of things, her Willamette Pinots are lovely wines, though I noticed a bit of sediment and cloudiness that might challenge some people’s taste, but they are likely to improve nicely and clear up over time, they are 2014’s so I imagine with good cellaring they will be magic in a few years time, her other reds from Applegate are even better, with her 2014 Running Bare Mae’s Vineyard which is Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Cot (Malbec) being my favorite at this stage, and of course this Rose.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Corsion, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
One of California’s top Cabernets and a winery you must visit, Corison is where it’s at with a gorgeous lineup of savvy and pure wines, I was lucky enough to taste through on a recent day trip to Napa as everyone in the valley was rushing to get things in order for the fast approaching harvest 2016. Sadly I missed Cathy Corison herself, but the wines spoke elegantly for her and told an amazing story of her passion and hard work, from California’s first woman winemaker/vineyard/winery owner, she has made historic wines under her own label since the late 80’s and at Chappellet before that! While her Kronos Vineyard is her pride and joy, a wine that needs no introduction, I also love her Helios Sun Basket Cabernet Franc and her Anderson Valley dry Gewürztraminer, done in a vital Alsace like style, but I couldn’t not pick her main wine and currant offering the 2013 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as my pick of the day, it’s a beauty and has the potential to be nearly perfect, loaded with deep fruit, complexity and graceful in balance and length. Corison like Ridge (Monte Bello) are fantastically Californian in style and purity, but they also have souls like First Growth Bordeaux, especially when you taste older vintages, certainly when tasting Cathy’s 1999 Napa along side you were transported to Pauillac, and this 2013 is like a young Latour, but much more giving and drinkable even this young, this is a classic in the making. The 2013 Napa highlights a forward vintage, but a wine with extraordinary detail and gripping focus, you can feel the underlying power and depth, this vintage starts with classic smoky violets, black fruits and creme de cassis and has a full bodied rich texture and a palate played with dusty plums, blackberry, mocha, licorice, sweet tobacco leaf, cinnamon/vanilla and mild loamy earth. Somewhat old school, like Dunn, the Corison Cabernet is not a fruit bomb or like chocolate fudge in the glass, this is wine not sexed up for scores, but made in a style that evokes the magic of place and has everything you’d ever want in a wine, and in particular a wine that will be for a special moment in the future, as great as it is now for a young wine, it will be so much better in 10 or 15 years, hopefully I’ll be around and have the chance to taste this wine again in 20 years! For a winery on the famous HWY 29, Corison is tiny and reflects personal commitment to quality, you should get on her list and be sure to visit, even for a long time wine pro, this was one of the best Napa experiences I’ve had, I have total admiration for Cathy and her wines, some of best there is, plus her staff, especially Silas who gave a gatecrasher like me such a great tasting, it was truly awe inspiring, and each wine was a marvel, this 2013 Cabernet, the 1999 Cabernet, the 2013 Helios Franc, the vibrant Gewurz, and the holy cow masterpiece that was the 2012 Kronos! A special place, a special day and wonderful people, wow, so look for the current 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and put some away, it’s a treasure, drink from 2018 to 2035.
($90 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2013 Domaines Minchin, La Claux Delorme, Touraine Rouge “Franc du Cot-Lie” Loire Valley, France.
This deeply colored and richly intense red from Domaines Minchin’s La Claux Delorme is a stunner, it was crafted using hand picked and rigorously sorted Cabernet Franc and Cot (Malbec) from vineyards within then Touraine area of the Loire Valley. The Franc du Cot-Lie is fermented, after careful de-stemming, in cone shaped vats and aged in barrique, spending at least a year in the oak, which is no surprise as this is a powerful and structured red with tannin to tame. 70% Malbec gives this wine a dense character and blueberry/black currant core along with violets, bitter coco, minty herb, anise and plum, but you can sense the Franc as well with classic mineral, earth, cherry/kirsch and faint bell pepper taking it’s place in the background. This is serious stuff for the money and vintage, very impressive and seductive juice with layered black fruits, spice, earth and mineral with lingering cinnamon, mocha and mulberry. At 12.5% alcohol you’d think medium weight or lighter in style is on offer here, but you’d be wrong, this is full bodied stuff with a big kick and density, you’ll want to have food and more robust cuisine at that to match it up, duck, rabbit, boar all come to mind, though grilled steak and or lamb would do nicely here. This was a special treat from Domaines Minchin, this is a rare and limited offering worthy of the hunt, and Minchin’s La Claux Delorme Blanc and Rouge 2015’s from Valencay are both lovely too, drink the Franc du Cot-Lie Touraine Rouge between 2016 and 2021.
($18 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Michel & Stephane Ogier, Syrah, La Rosine, Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhone, France.
The lovely and serious Syrah La Rosine Collines Rhodaniennes comes from a plot of vines next to Condrieu and granite rich soils making this entry level Syrah a worthy stepping stone to the famous Cote-Rotie offering from this top line estate in the northern Rhone. This clear and precise example from Stephane Ogier was cold fermented in stainless with native/indigenous yeast from 100% de-stemmed grapes and aged a year in neutral/used barrels, it is classic in profile and exceptional in value, this is a wine to indulge in and cherish the quality! Beautiful violets, black olives, earthy spices and detailed mineral and black fruits lead the way with blueberry, black raspberry and subtle cassis unfold on the lively palate along with fresh peppercorns, kirsch, flinty stones, bay leaf, anise and lingering plum. This is supple, medium weight, invigorating and dynamic Syrah with delicate tannins, good acidity, mild alcohol at 12.5% and it explores beauty and grace very well, in the 90’s it was Rostang, Guigal and Colombo, now it is Ogier, Chave and Clape are the northern Rhones you must have! This was a rare treat to taste this wine, and I only hope I can get to find more, viva la Syrah! Drink this over the next 3 to 5 years and never pass up the chance to get the Cote-Rotie from Ogier either!
($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Denis Carre, Bourgogne Rouge Hautes Cotes de Beaune “La Perriere” France.
These 2014 Burgundies are really turning out to be lovely and textured wines and in some cases like these new offerings by Denis Carre they are awesome values! Imported by Charles Neal Selections, the Domaine Denis Carre wines are pretty new to the market, but while his 2013 were pleasant and enjoyable, the 2014 wines are way up on the next level and they will become favorites for those searching out old school and old world values, these Cotes de Beaune Pinots offer a great array of vibrant red fruit, bramble/spice and chalky mineral intensity with the Pommard and Savigny-Les-Beaune being the ones to take that much more seriously, while this wonderful basic La Perriere Bourgogne Rouge Hauta Cotes de Beaune is more of the right now quaffer with pure Burgundy character, feel and pleasure. Carre is based in Meloise, this is directly west of Pommard and Volnay, north of Saint-Romain and sits on classic clay and limestone, he makes his wines in a clean and clear style, practicing mostly organic and hand vineyard work, he employs native yeast ferments and cold soaks in the cellar, aging the reds in mostly used barrique and tank. The 2014 Hautes-Cotes-de-Beaune Rouge is lively and playful with a mix of cherry, rose petal, wild herb and dusty stones leading the way in this light to medium weight Pinot, at first you admire the grace and subtle flavors, but the richness builds on the palate revealing a stylish confident and persistent wine with layers of black cherry, plum and strawberry fruit, mineral spice, loamy notes, a hint of cedar, game/earthy elements, briar tanginess and a trace of tea, anise and cinnamon/nutmeg. This noise ruby hued Burgundy is very attractive from start to finish, easy to and eager to please, it can be drunk young and has enough substance and vitality to go on a few years in the cellar as well, it is especially brilliant for the price, best from 2017 to 2022.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine du Grand Montmirail, Vacqueyras, Le Soleil de Rosalie, Rhone Red, France.
The 2014 Domaine du Grand Montmirail Vacqueryras is a gorgeous and surprising haunting Rhone with real terroir expression and amazing life and character with the Syrah really shinning through at this stage with black and blue fruits bursting from the glass with peppercorns, lavender/sage and violets adding incredible dynamics. No question here, Yves Cheron, winemaker here at Domaine du Grand Montmirail, has made a special wine in 2014 from his hillside vines in Vacqueryras and while known more for his Gigondas, this vintage of Vacqueryras is the star, made from 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah and about 10% Mourvedre, it was de-stemmed, and fermented with native yeasts in cement, all temp controlled to keep maximum freshness, and aged without any oak all in enamel lined vats that sit under ground to keep cool. The Cheron family came from Burgundy, and Yves studied there and has that kind of pursuit of elegance in his winemaking, he certainly allows the vineyards to speak in their true voice and I can say, this 2014 is about the best example of Vacqueryras I can ever remember and especially for the price!This is a southern Rhone with the unique qualities of a northern Rhone, it’s like you took a nice Nuits-St.-Georges, a St.-Joseph and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and added a rosemary twig, it’s seductively graceful, dark fruited and has lovely spiciness and earthy notes with fine textures! The nose is gorgeously pure with natural garrigue and violets, deep color in the glass and copious black raspberry, boysenberry, tangy currant, damson plum and a blueberry/strawberry compote along with a mixed array of spices, herbs, hints of olive, licorice and a peppery thrill. Sweet tannins, vibrant acidity and lingering liqueur notes add to the joyousness of this medium weight, almost full, Rhone red, it’s everything you’d want and expect with an extra bit of wow factor, I’m totally hooked here, this is vividly clear, mysterious with remote beauty, very sexy stuff!
($22 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Favia, Cerro Sur, Proprietary Red, Napa Valley.
One of the greatest California wines that you may not have heard of, the Favia Cerro Sur red, made from Napa Valley Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Combesville area is an awesome example of Bordeaux style wine, crafted by ex-Screaming Eagle and Staglin winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife Annie Favia. The 2012 Cerro Sur by Favia is rich and densely pack with opulent fruit, ripe sweet fine/firm tannins and gorgeous detail and class, putting in the same league as Ridge Monte Bello, one of my favorite all time wines, and maybe similar to Dalla Valle Maya, as it too is a wine with lots of Cabernet Franc, this is wine that is right up there with the world’s best and would certainly easily be one of the elite of California (in this vintage) and against the fine reds of Europe it is on the same level as Sassicaia, Cheval Blanc, Pontet Canet and Valbuena by Vega Sicilia! The deep garnet/purple color and silken lush mouth feel seduce completely with acacia/violet perfume, hints of exotic spice and sexy well managed oak framing set the stage for beautiful blackberry, cassis/currant, black cherry and plum fruit along with a spark of flinty stones and mineral elements with a touch of cigar wrapper, graphite, anise, cedar and vanilla. This is a wonderfully poised offering without heaviness or hard edges, one of the more brilliant wines of the vintage with great character, balance and unique sex appeal, this is really stunning stuff. The body is full and lavish, but with an elegant grace and never ending finish, this is a super impressive Cabernet Franc lead wine, it has plenty of depth, extract and life making it a wine that may go another 25 plus years, but still glorious to admire even now, it has what you might call controlled underlying power, like a leopard, gorgeous and satiny but with inner strength and with pure muscle underneath that outer beauty. Erickson has made some amazing wines in his career, but strangely his own label still flies under the radar, and while not cheap, they are well worth the prices.
($150 Est.) 96 Points, grapelive
2015 Motta, Ciliegiolo, Giove,Toscana Rosso, Italy.
Alberto Motta’s Giove Ciliegiolo is a wonderful expression of varietal and place, Motta is in the Morellino di Scansano zone of southern coastal Tuscany near the town of Grosseto, these wines are lovely, natural and with detail and energy, they are also some of the best values in all of Tuscany! The Motta Ciliegiolo was fermented 60% carbonic and 40% traditionally giving lots of forward fruit, but with plenty of vitality and subtle tannin, the vines are between 10 and 50 years old and worked organically, the sandy coastal soils are perfect for making elegant and fresh wines. The 2015 shows fine detail, and without oak everything is lively and vibrant highlighting the purity with fresh dark berry, strawberry, tangy cherry and plum fruits in this medium bodied Tuscan red, it’s lovely ruby with purple glint color in the glass is compelling and the palate is focused with subtle complexities such as minty herb, dried flowers, hints of spice, earth and mineral. Ciliegiolo has been gaining traction with the wine world, once almost forgotten and only found in blends, it has become the new Tuscan darling and has it’s own admiration society and has exploded in popularity, mainly because it is maybe a bit more like Pinot Noir than Sangiovese. The 2015 Motta is a complete example and easy to love with it’s supple texture, light earthy character and almost bittersweet tart notes making it very fun with not too heavy cuisine, even with a slight chill, for the richer and more powerful style of red try Motta’s Morellino di Scansano too. Drink the Ciliegiolo over the course of the next year or so, best young and fresh it is a bright quaffing pleasure.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Brooks basic Willamette cuvee is one of the best deals in Pinot, period, and the 2014 especially is a great value and a stylish terroir driven wine, this is one to stock up on! Showing the vintage, the Brooks 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has richness of fruit, but is so perfectly balanced it screams vitality and has wonderful inner energy with black and red fruits, vibrant acidity, Asian spices and crushed oyster shells lending a stony/earthy brine in the background along with faint wood notes, tea spice and mineral tones. This lithe Pinot fills out with air and has satiny tannins providing a youthful grip, though not aggressively so, this is a classic Brooks style wine that feels Cote de Beaune, but remains true to it’s own sense of place. Janie Brooks Heuk, the sister of the late Jimi Brooks the founder of Brooks Wine, and winemaker Chris Williams has really taken Brooks to the next level in recent vintages, these are exciting wines and their focus on terroir driven Rieslings is awesome and adventurous, look for the 2014 and 2015 wines the are something really special. The Brooks Pinots are natural and raw when young, this are not over polished or flashy wines, nor should they be or need to be, they are honest, pure and vigorous, they have their own virtues and charms, but 2014 is one of the best yet here with plum, black cherry and bramble berry fruit layers, gravelly loam, minty herb, anise, briar and light cedar elements adding to the complexity of form here along with a peek of dark currant, blueberry skins and chalk. Look for impressive results in bottle here, I’m sure there is a lot more to come and at this price it will pay off to put some away for another 5 to 10 years, I’m pretty it will be a sublime reward for those with patience. In short term this wine is medium weight, lean and is very pleasing, so not a crime to enjoy now, though I like it’s potential!
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine de Marquiliani-Anne Amalric, Rosé Gris de Marquiliani, Vin de Corse, France.
Anne Amalric’s Domaine de Marquiliani is one of the most stylish wineries on Corsica and this gorgeous and pale Rosé Gris is a delicate, but flavor filled pink made of Sciaccarellu with a tiny amount of Syrah. In year of great Rosé, this really stands out for it’s class and detail, and on an island where there is a huge focus on Rosé this is among the elite stable of wines along with Abbatucci, Canarelli and Leccia, this is thrilling stuff. The 2015, while extremely pale and maybe even lighter in the glass than 2014 is riper and more complex with more texture and length while still retaining it’s main character of mineral intensity, vibrancy and terroir charms. The Rosé Gris de Marquiliani 2015 starts with crisp citrus, white flowers, liquid stones, mild herbs and rosewater leading to a building palate of watermelon, lavender, flint with a hint of distilled peach and white plum notes. Not as flashy as the Domaine Comte Abbatucci offerings, but it doesn’t need or want to be, both sublime in their own way, these are leading the way on high-end pinks on the island, imported by Kermit Lynch, who dominates the wines from Corsica scene and who could sell two or three times his haul of goodies with Domaine des Marquiliani being one of the shinning stars of the portfolio, these wines sell out fast, but to get on them quick. I recently taste a new bottling of Rouge from Marquiliani that was stunning, so look for that as well, it is brand new wine, and it should be at a shop that carries Kermit Lynch wines soon. This bright, vivid and transparent Sciaccarellu based Rosé is ultra cool, bursting with energy and finesse and subtle, it whispers sexy and haunts you with a knowing smile, look for this graceful and lovely wine, drink it over the next half a year or so, sadly there’s never a lot around. Sciaccarellu is to Corsica as Trousseau is to the Jura, a geeky medium weight, spicy red grape that has a mysterious history and glorious future, originally from the Etruscans and still found in parts of Tuscany, where it is known as Mammolo, it has made Corsica and it’s granite/schist soils home and where it is much more notable and expressive, especially in Marquiliani’s and Abbatucci’s wines!
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 POE, Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The talented Samantha Sheehan’s POE wines are beautifully and artfully crafted wines from expressive cool climate sites, most in and around Anderson Valley and Mendocino County, except for her powerful Van der Camp Vineyard from Sonoma Mountain, her focus is classic Burgundy style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Her 2014 wines offer everything that is lovely and graceful about these varietals, they are richly flavored, layered with poise, silky tannins and vibrant acidity, these pure and mineral driven wines make it hard to pick a favorite in the lineup, but I decided to highlight this gorgeous Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot from Mendocino Ridge, just because, honestly all of them are great, this is a label to get into! The nose has flinty spices, wonderful rose petal florals and red fruit, it shows a pure ruby and garnet hue in the glass and the satiny medium body gives the mouth a sublime textural feel without heaviness, while still being alive and full of energy, this is a top drawer effort from Sheehan. Black cherry, tangy plum and a hint of blueberry flow across the palate with dusty/chalky stones, rose hip tea spice, hints of cedar and a touch of cinnamon and smoky vanilla linger with wild raspberry and tart currant on the lengthy finish. This pretty Pinot Noir is a real charmer and seduces completely with stylish and classic detail, it should prove a winner in the cellar too, and while I think the firmer Van der Camp might go longer in distance, this beauty will gain with age, drink from, well, now until 2029 at least!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Southold Farm & Cellar, Chasing Moonlight, Estate Sparkling Lagrein, N. Fork of Long Island, New York.
When we Californian’s think of east coast wines, especially New York we think of the Finger Lakes and Cabernet Franc and or Riesling, but there is an explosion of young winemakers doing new things all over and I recently discovered an amazing set of wines from Long Island by a talented new winemaker Regan Meador, who with his wife craft some beautiful wines at their Southold Farm & Cellar. The set includes a lovely Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, but it was the Alto Adige grapes that that thrilled me with his Teroldego and Lagrein making a compelling case for these Italian varietals there, but my favorite of all was his deep and dark sparkling Lagrein “Chasing Moonlight” it rivals any dry sparkling red I’ve ever tried including the fabulous Charles Melton sparkling Shiraz! The 2015 Chasing Moonlight is purple/black and garnet with a fine mousse and intense crisp energy leading with blackberry, plum and spiced concord grape with hints of mineral, wild herbs, as well as tangy minty and zesty elements, gorgeous style and mouth feel. This fruit forward red sparkler is a rewarding surprise and just so fun, not quite as rustic as Lambrusco can be, but not sweet either, this really hits the spot and is one of the coolest wines I’ve had all year. This impressive bubbly red Lagrein is lush, vibrant and full-bodied with a mix of black fruits and tight detail that make it refreshing and great with robust cuisine. Certainly this one is hard to express or explain, but a wonderful experience, the other bubbly wines from Southold Farm & Cellar are world trying too, a delightful Petillant-Naturale Rose and an earthy and powerful red sparkling Petit Verdot are all worth searching out!
($29 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Wind Gap, Soif Red Wine, North Coast.
The 2015 Wind Gap is a creative kitchen sink old vine carbonic red made for pure drinking pleasure with low alcohol at 12.4% and juicy deeply dark grapey joy in the glass! Pax Mahle, known for his amazing Northern Rhone styled Syrah wines, crafts beautiful cool climate wines under the Wind Gap label and like Arnot-Roberts has found success with little known varietals just as much as the classics, he makes a fine set of Pinot Noirs, Grenaches and Syrahs, but also unlikely heros such as Trousseau Gris white and this wine, which is made mostly from old vine Valdiguie, a rare Southwest French grape that used to thought of as Gamay Noir in parts of California. The Soif Red by Pax is about 35% Valdiguie blended with Zinfandel, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Dolcetto, Negromaro and Mourvedre, all from vines planted between 1881 and 1975, all the grapes were fermented very much as Beaujolais and some Rhone wines are with whole berry carbonic maceration giving a forward and fruity wine with light tannins, using cement and neutral cask aged only about 4 months. This delightful and easy to love red jumps from the glass with fresh crushed blackberries, mountain raspberry and farm-stand bing cherries along with tangy sweet and savory spices and herbs, think cinnamon, sage, peppery elements and anise, plus strawberry/blueberry pie fillings. Vibrant and zesty this red begs to be quaffed, slightly chilled, it’s zippy acidity, easy medium body and raw sex appeal make it a mouth-watering treat, it’s super fun and joyous, but don’t sell it short, there’s a real serious quality to be found here, much like the iconic Sean Thackrey Pleiades, this is thrilling stuff, be sure to check out the latest set of Wind Gap offerings, these are some of the coolest wines in California right now!
($29 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Champ DiVin, Cremant du Jura “Zero Dosage” Sparkling Wine, France.
The Closset’s have crafted a beauty in this gorgeous and hedonistic bubbly from their small Champ DiVin vineyard in the Jura, it possesses fabulous detail, richness of character and a pleasing textural mousse with all the biodynamic glory and energy you’d expect from a zero dosage, ripe, but bone dry sparkler. The Closset’s used about 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir in this sexy Cremant du Jura and it shows in it’s precise focus and stunning layers, this is right up there with top grower fizz! Bright with plenty of sizzle and mineral notes the Champ DiVin Zero Dosage gets the party started with a golden straw hue, white flowers, hints of chalk dust, green apple, clove, zesty lemon, brioche/yeasty notes and light hazelnut and steely white melon and subtle wet stones and orange blossom. The mouth feel is excellent and persistent with extra brut like intensity, lively tiny bubbles and density on the lavish palate, this was sublimely crafted and full of sensual and seductive charm, this really stands up to much more famous Champagne and Franciacorta, this is outrageously fun and serious vintage Cremant du Jura, stylish sex in a flute, do not miss! This is a label to watch, they produce a fine selection of classic Jura wines as well as this one, imported by Sacred Thirst.
($28 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Martinelli, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
This is no wimpy pink, this Martinelli has a full flavored mouth feel and at 14.9% is not lean, but remarkably fresh and vibrant, even if you’d want to be sure to drink it before the end of the year to be sure you catch it in it’s most vivid frame. The Martinelli’s are some of the hardest working and nice people in the wine business, I have nothing but great things to say about them and their wines and I think the wines have maintained their style and quality, even after the retirement of long time consultant Helen Turley. On a recent pop in visit I was treated to a smart and tasty lineup of wines, I admit it is hard to drink the 16% plus alcohol wines these days, though non were lacking in style and detail, maybe Martinelli is just more truthful in their percent of alcohol on the label than many would have you believe! The Rosé of Pinot Noir from west of the west Sonoma Coast fruit bursts from the glass with a really gorgeous hue and fresh strawberry, with bright citrusy focus and rhubarb tangy tartness along with pink grapefruit, wet stones, wild herbs, kirsch water, rosewater and juicy watermelon. I bought two bottles, really, it is so fun and lively I couldn’t resist and I bought a new Zinfandel, the Vigneto di Evo, a lower alcohol, I mean under 15%, entry level (red label) Zin that really stood out! The service and grace at Martinelli makes it a great place to visit in the Russian River, and of course the wines, and as a bonus, they poured a couple of 2009 Syrah bottlings, of which I was really impressed with the sexy and earthy complex Zio Tony Ranch “Gianna Marie” that showed black olive, game, spice and deep blueberry/cassis density. I usually grab a few bottles of Rochioli Rosé, this year I didn’t get them, but I’m thrilled to have found the Martinelli Rosé and will be drinking these up quick in the August heat!
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2009 Jerome Chezeaux, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Chaumes, Red Burgundy, France.
The 2009 Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee Les Chaumes Premier cru is a lovely and stylish wine just hitting it’s stride with detailed fruit, earthy notes and floral expressions that are just awakening in this silken Burgundy. Jerome Chezeaux one of the many stars in Rosenthal’s wonderful portfolio of old world producers really impresses me with the inner beauty and elegance that shine through, much of this is the vineyards in the Cote de Nuits of which he has, like this Les Chaumes, which shows deep fruit character with layers of loamy, mineral, spice and satiny density without a heavy feel to compliment blackberry, currant and kirsch. This wine from a warm vintage has ripe tannins, hints of graphite, dried violets, wilted roses, light cedar and smoke along with a touch of poached plum and a mix of baking spices, anise and an iron rich gamey trace. This is drinking well now, though it has a fast maturing feel and changes dramatically in the glass, opening up sensually then tightening up again, but while a little fickle this Pinot Noir pleases the senses and thrills the mind at points making for a glorious moment or two. I’d guess it can’t decide to sleep a bit longer or be great! So, rather than be disappointed, I’d risk drinking in the next 3 to 5 years, as even now it has plenty of pleasure to give, but with food especially, I’m sure some bottles of this wine in the near future will be fantastic, lucky those that have it and catch it in a glorious space. The 2008 Chezeaux’s were more delicate and wildly good, these 2009 look a touch more sexy and textural, tough to chose between them, but be sure to look for the 2010 and 2012 vintages as both were big steps up!
($80-100 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis AC, White Burgundy, France.
Even from an irregular vintage the Dauvissat Chablis is a beauty with searing lime, wet stones and graceful mineral tones, it will be a drink young and often wine for the purists. The 2013 Chablis AC shows a lot of classic character, though after air and warming it fills out with an almost creamy texture emerging, this is not maybe normal for this wine and certainly it is not as laser focus as the 2014, nor is it unwelcome in this enjoyable Chardonnay. The first blast of acidity and vitality really sets the mood and I would keep this wine a bit more chilled than one usually would to keep it’s freshness at peak performance, it starts with lime flowers, river stones, green apple and bitter herb notes with flinty/steely vigor, adding some straw, clarified cream and lemon tones before the chalky finish. Always a treat to drink Dauvissat, though less intense than Raveneau in style, these are gorgeous Chablis, and this 2013 with it’s unique year markers and earthy old world charm is a smile maker. Best to drink these 2013 wines earlier and cellar the 2014’s, the 2014 Forest Premier Cru from Dauvissat is ultra sexy and vibrant with powerful extract and forceful acidity making a thrilling wine, but I wouldn’t miss this 2013 regular/basic Dauvissat AC if you get the chance!
($60-70 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Banshee, Cabernet Franc, Algeria Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
This is a single vineyard expression of unique qualities that makes it a very intriguing wine of place, it doesn’t show pure varietal character or classic flavors, but it is so good you have to drop your own expectations and just enjoy it for it’s own style! A 100% Cabernet Franc from Algeria Vineyard in the Russian River that shows bright blueberry, lavender and dried roses to start, leading to more of same on the medium/full palate that is neither Loire or Bordeaux, but maybe a very different terroir altogether with black cherry, cinnamon, bramble berry, raspberry/framboise, cedar as well as earthy spiced plum. The vibrant flavors are sexy and seductive and with air there is enough loamy notes and traces of savory herbs to keep everything interesting, this is really fun stuff from Banshee. Tasted at their downtown Healdsburg tasting room with classic rock n’ roll vinyl playing in the background and spot on customer service, along with Zalto glasses made for a fantastic tasting experience, and with Ross Cobb and Katy Wilson overseeing much of the winemaking and blending many of the wines you have something very special going on here, especially the rare single vineyard and unique blends they have available at the tasting room. The Algeria Vineyard Cabernet Franc is lovely and tasty stuff, but also be sure to look for the Morning Light and Marine Layer Pinots as well as the new 2014 Heintz Chardonnay all of which were stunning on the day, if you are a fan of LaRue and Cobb, you’ll love these latest Banshee offerings.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine du Prieure, Bourgogne Rouge, France.
Jean-Michel Maurice’s basic Bourgogne is from a plot in Savigny les Beaune and it’s carefully crafted to be an easy drinking beautiful Pinot Noir with pretty detail and soft tannins. Maurice fermented in small open top vats and then employed long cool ferments to ensure freshness and clear flavors, it spent about a year in used oak, this 2013 is light and floral with an elegant lengthy finish to go with classic Cote de Beaune red fruits and briar/spiciness. This Domaine du Prieure is an excellent value, and while Jean-Michel’s to Savigny-les-Beaune bottling are more structured, rich and forceful this little Bourgogne over delivers in it’s price class, in fact it really is a stylish Burgundy with impressive cherry, raspberry and plum layers, hints of anise, tea spice and mineral notes shine through in the glass, lively with gentile acidity, as well as having sweet rose petal, chalky earth and cedar on the nose. With it’s light to medium body and graceful form this Pinot Noir has a nice dreamy quality, though it picks up depth with air and adds complexity and traces of tangy black currant, it’s a pleasing wine that will not break the bank, for those looking for pure silky Burgundy on a budget should search this one out, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($22 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Amido, Rosé Tavel “Les Amandines” Rhone Valley, France.
The 2015 Tavel from Domaine Amido is a deeply hued and flavor filled pink that delivers rich detail and refreshing vibrancy with some dense texture and tangy spiciness. The fruit is bright, but almost medium-bodied with lush watermelon, wild strawberry, distilled raspberry and red citrus with hints of pomegranate and rosewater as well as mineral tones and peppery lavender. This is expressive stuff from Amido and very true to the classic Tavel Rosé style with more concentration than the Provence wines, but what it lacks in delicacy it makes up for in hedonistic pleasure and flamboyance, this is superbly seductive and will get great with late summer and fall weather, warm nights and sunsets. Flexible with many cuisine options make this Grenache based pink a joy for grilling outdoors and a great pick for brunch. Domaine Amido, imported by San Francisco’s own Charles Neal, is a small family run estate, it is now in the hands of the late Christian Amido’s daughter Nathalie and grand-daughter Amandine, for which the Tavel is named, and her husband winemaker Antoine Berhaud, they have build a strong following for their Lirac and Cotes du Rhone which are lovely and value priced. The Tavel was made up of about 65% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 10% Syrah and 5% Clairette, it was soaked for 36 hours, hence the color, fermented from the bleed off, slowly and with low temps to preserve fresh detail, it’s a tasty treat on a hot day. The soils are schist, clay and have galets much like Chateauneuf-du-Pape making for very expressive wines and intense fruit, be sure to look for Domaine Amido’s saignee Tavel Rosé.
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny Rouge “Tuffe” Loire Valley, France.
This is a heck of a wine for $16! The Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny is a beautiful terroir inspired dark hued Cabernet Franc with layers of perfumed floral tones and soft spicy notes to go along with classic plum, black raspberry, cherry and cranberry fruits. Hints of cinnamon, crushed violets, mineral and bell pepper complete the picture of the Chateau du Hureau “Tuffe” cuvee, it comes from many small plots both with young and old vines grown on the local ancient limestone, a white chalky soil that gives the wine it’s name and character. The 2012 vintage is full of juicy almost Pinot Noir/Burgundy like class with fine satiny tannins and good acidity, with it’s light/medium body making it beautiful to drink right now, really showing well and hitting all the key points this detailed Franc is such a bargain, you should certainly check it out. What this wine may lack in intensity and or power, it more than makes up for with grace, sex appeal and pleasure, there is a lovely finish with tangy blue fruits and lingering earthiness that drives home it’s compelling nature and purity. Imported on the west coast by Charles Neal, this historic Chateau on the Loire River is showing impressive form and has a savvy smooth style, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, this Hureau Tuffe is absolutely spot on.
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Pinson, Chablis, White Burgundy, France.
The 2014 Pinson Chablis AC is brilliant and shinning with vibrancy and racy style with some rustic austerity and laser like sharp detail. This Chardonnay is like drinking steely liquid rock! The 2014 Pinson gleams cool and with a hint of greenish intensity in the glass with flinty mineral spice, light green apple, wet shale, chalk and forceful lemony citrus with subtle white flowers, lime and clove. This zesty and tangy crisp Chablis is severely dry, earthy and brisk, almost dusty with lovely terroir purity and class, it may lack for outright fruit character and depth, but this lean white is vivid and expressive in it’s own way with refreshing vitality and it turns on the charm with cuisine, raw fish, oysters, mussels and soft cheeses especially. I enjoyed it with gusto just sipping on the warm evening I was presented with, this is a fine and focused effort, I don’t know why Pinson kind of gets forgotten at times, these Chablis are beautiful and classic, and though the Premier Crus offer more density and richness, this basic Chablis is hard to pass up, it does what it’s supposed to do and more.
($26 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
1978 Ridge Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon “Monte Bello” Santa Cruz Mountains.
A huge thank you going out to Ridge, they again produced an amazing lineup of wines to taste with seriously awesome customer service and humble grace, it is a true pleasure to go to Ridge and taste their wines, especially as I did yesterday, visit Lytton Springs on a warm Monday in the summer and find this gorgeous 1978 Monte Bello available to sample! This historic wine from Ridge’s cellar is still lively and full of flavor with only a hint of decay, surprising since it was a drought year and the vines were really under a lot of stress, that’s why this wine was almost all Cabernet Sauvignon at 94% with 6% Merlot, this 1978 now has similar qualities to the 1970 Chateau Latour, it really shows class and vitality with a mix of dark fruits, cedar spice, loamy earth and pipe tobacco. The vintage Monte Bello, tasted along side the 2003 and 2013 held it’s own in complexity and certainly in length and detail, there is something special about old Monte Bello, they give pleasure on a scale you’d normally see in Grand Cru Burgundy, it’s emotional and sensual and this 1978 is seductive and beautiful well on it’s way to 40 years old! The nose takes time, we tasted from a fresh un-decanted bottle, but once open it gives a sexy mix of floral notes, dried violets, roses and acacia, tea spice, sandalwood and lightly stewy plums leading to a medium/full palate that still shows a bit of nervy tannin at first before allowing a silky texture coat the mouth, subtle mineral tones, sweet cherries and savory currant to go along with fading blackberry and almost strawberry. This maybe could have been a wine to drink about 10 years ago, but it really shinned in the glass and didn’t disappoint in any way, it could survive another 5 or 7 years, but a decade more and I think it might lose it’s charm, so if you are holding this, I’d say drink it up you luck dog! The 1978 Monte Bello was big in it’s early years, and at 13.6% it was one of the most powerful, highlighting the drought years, but age has graced it with stunning balance and finesse without losing it’s sense of history or place, lingering blueberry, sage and anise add to the joy. What a glorious and fantastic treat, I’m grateful to Ridge’s Lytton team for this rare experience!
($350 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Tina Marie Vineyard, Russian River Valley.
The latest Anthill Pinot from the cool climate Green Valley’s Tina Marie Vineyard, part the greater Russian River Valley AVA, is a bright and focused wine with beautiful light garnet and ruby hues in the glass and vivid fruit throughout, this is very pure Pinot Noir with style and substance with potential to get even better. There’s a lot to admire here with soft silky textures lifted with nice acidity and fine tannins that compliment the rich cherry, raspberry, plum and cranberry fruit layers. Subtle wood spice, cinnamon, dried roses, violets and blueberry skin add to the complexity, be sure to give this young wine time to unveil it’s true and full nature as it takes a few minutes at this stage to start going with shy and youthful character and some tart edges that really smooth out with air. Again, Anthony Filiberti and the gang at Anthill Farms have put together an amazing set of wines in the 2014 vintage, these very hard to get offerings are outstanding and well worth the time, energy and money to search out, so far my favorites have been this Tina Marie and the Baker Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, but all of them will impress. The Tina Marie is like an expressive Cote de Beaune leading with tangy red fruits, bramble and rustic charm, subtle mineral, earthy loam and oak all well judged behind the outgoing Russian River fruit, and at about 13% it is a poised and elegant example of high end Pinot. While not overtly sexy or flamboyant, this Tina Marie is still a thrill and should get more exotic and seductive with another few years in bottle, be patient and be rewarded, this is lovely stuff.
($57 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Chalone Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Estate Grown Heritage Vines, Chalone, Monterey County.
Chalone’s 2014 Heritage Vines Chenin is a true classic and a stunning dry white wine, it is intensely mineral driven, steely and chalky with tight citrus, white peach and a faint trace of dried honey. Without question this is one of the top Chenin Blancs in the new world, I bet this beauty with age 30 years! This wine is a throw back to some of the 1970’s Chalone wines that really put Monterey on the wine world map, this place oozes history and it has a real sense of terroir. The 2014 Chalone Chenin was crafted from old vines on ancient seabed soils by Chalone winemaker Robert Cook, it’s a masterpiece of elegance and detail. The unique limestone, granite and clay soils, cool nights, elevation in the Gavilan range near the Pinnacles and shear remoteness really show up in the details of Chalone’s wines, especially true in their limited production whites like this Chenin and in their Pinot Blanc, the rare offerings are worth searching out, I’ve been lucky in the past to try older vintages of them and they can be mind-blowing even at 15 or 20 years old, as is their Chardonnay, which has real similarities to Burgundy when aged. Chalone’s Chenin Blanc comes from a plot originally planted in 1919, just after WW1, it is old school head trained and is very small yielding which adds to the extract and vitality, it takes a bit of time to flesh out on the palate, but is serious stuff with lime, lemon, wet river stones, rosewater, quince and hints of tropical notes to go along with that core of white peach and crisp mineral essence. Look for beeswax, verbena and honeyed pear over the the next decade to unfold, but it’s thrilling and expressively vigorous now, it would be gorgeous with oysters, chèvre, white fish and or mussels in it’s youth. It was fermented in 60% neutral French barrels and 40% in stainless tank, then aged about 6 months in cask before bottling, it has hidden richness and is vibrantly fresh, this is simply rocking good dry Chenin!
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2012 Clusel-Roch, Cote Rôtie “Classique” Rhone, France.
After having some of the 2011 recently, the 2012 Closel-Roch seems leaner, lighter and more tart, but that being said, it is a fine effort with deep garnet/purple color and very pleasing, especially with air and food. The Domaine Clusel-Roch Cote Rotie is all organic and comes from the Cote Brun, an area with schist and dark mica soils, these wines are rustic for the region and while usually almost 100% Syrah, there is an inter planting of about 4% Viognier which is co-fermented and thrown in as well with native yeasts and lots of stems, everything here is holistic in approach and the wines tend to take time to show well. The 2012 is meaty to start, though not big, with layers of bacon, earthy notes, blueberry, tart plum, cherry/kirsch and boysenberry leading the way, taught on the palate, with extra moments in the glass there is mineral and floral dimension with flinty stones, violets and spicing lavender, all of this is backed up with peppercorns and black olive along with light cedar, cinnamon and cassis/currant. This vintage is a bit tight, lighter in body and racy still with stem tannin and a touch of greeness, though I think it will fill out some and drink better, more complex and complete in a few years, so if you have the 2009 or 2011 versions, drink them now, and this 2012 in maybe 3 to 5 years time, it will never be a blockbuster, but there is plenty of beauty inside to surprise and reward the patient Rhone enthusiast. I love the wines of Clusel-Roch, these are soulful terroir wines and have old world charm, from their Galets Gamay to their top Cote Rotie and Condrieu these are lovely offerings.
($60+ Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive
2013 Lagier Meredith, Malbec, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith’s mountain Malbec is a lovely rich wine with deep fruit, brambly spices and a lingering finish, it is neither a copy of a Cahors or an Argentine style wine, it is a red that they have made their own, and certainly one of the best and most compelling examples of this grape to be found in California. I would say this Malbec has more of a Bordeaux quality about it, almost Cabernet like in style with blackberry, dark currants (cassis notes), cherry and sweet plum along with cedar, briar, lavender spice and cigar wrapper leading on the full palate, and while this is a big mouthful of wine it doesn’t feel heavy, it reminds me a little of Ridge Monte Bello in it’s character and finesse, this is wonderfully crafted stuff. I adore this current set of wines from Lagier Meredith, and usually I would love the Syrah best, but this vintage I might just go for the Malbec! The Tribidrag a.k.a Zinfandel too really stands out, this is a winery to check out in a big way, these beautiful and textured mountain wines from up high on Mount Veeder offer a lot and are unique, especially this tasty and gripping Malbec. The tannins are firm, but refined giving plenty of structure and control without being aggressive and there’s enough acidity to lift the dense fruit, air and time in the glass reveals violets, white pepper, hints of vanilla and blueberry, this wine and the Lagier Meredith Mondeuse are very interesting Napa reds that deserve a little searching out, drink this 2013 Malbec over the next 3 to 5 years, it is an impressive wine!
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Costal, Chablis, Premier Cru Vaillons, White Burgundy, France.
With the Collet’s and Raveneau consulting, the Domaine Costal Chablis have a lot of talent going into them, and of course the savvy of Kermit Lynch behind the project almost puts it over the top, but they deliver, especially for the price, and this 2014 Vaillons in particular is a beauty with good depth of flavor and mineral steely character. Over the last 5 to 10 years Kermit has developed many value priced labels to help ease the pain of skyrocketing prices in top Burgundy, two of those that have continued to attract bargain hunters are Savary and Costal in Chablis, they are no longer well kept secrets, so you’ll need to get on it early to secure them, with many of the 2014’s selling out. With all the bad news coming out of the region and Chablis especially, hail and frost damage is going to make it hard to keep prices down, the vintage 2014 is a must grab year, before the lean amounts of wine really starts to get severe. For the good news, this 2014 Vaillons from Domaine Costal is a recent release and you should be able to get it, again you should not wait, it is a brilliant effort with striking citrus, white flowers, brisk acidity and solid extract showing lemon, green apple, liquid mineral, river stones and hints of straw, honey and zesty lime. This vigorous Premier Cru fills out on the palate, but stays nice and tension filled with balance and an appealingly pure Chardonnay soul/core throughout with Chablis terroir markers, like flinty spice and tangy crisp detail, light clove, fig and hazelnut play almost out of reach in the background. This well crafted white has control and finesse to really please the hardcore Chablis nuts, it is an alluring wine with a hint of austerity and old fashioned charm, sublime with cuisine and makes for a fine summer sipper. Drink over the next 3 to 5 years, the Domaine Costal Premier Cru Vaillons is a very complete and lovely wine, with very little buyers remorse to worry about!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Sciaccarellu, Rouge Frais Imperial, Corsica.
The young and lush Rouge Frais Imperial from Domaine Comte Abbatucci is an all biodynamic wine made from 100% Sciaccarellu, a native grape that originally came from Tuscany where it is still found though rare, known as Mammolo it was once in many Chiantis and in Vin Nobile and was thought to have been brought to Corsica by the Etruscans, along with the more famous Sangiovese that has now become Niellucciu. The new Abbatucci Rouge Frais Imperial is bright with red fruits, hints of violets and balanced with savory mineral, spice and earth notes to contrast with red cherry, plum and mountain berry fruits that fill the medium-full palate. This pure Sciaccarellu certainly delivers fine drinking pleasure with silken texture, ripe tannins and nice fresh acidity, it has everything for your needs in a fairly direct red that provides enjoyment of terroir and does not need much in the way of time or air to get going in a fun way. This wine can deal with lots of food options and cuisine, it’s focus makes it happy with meat, spicy dishes and hard cheeses, especially sheep cheese, it would make an excellent choice with outdoor meals, BBQ’s and grilling on the deck. You could even put a slight chill on it for warm afternoon picnics. Domaine Comte Abbatucci has a stunning array of wines, and they seem to get better and more complex as I taste each vintage, sometimes I get a bit concerned with the pricing, but the quality is always there throughout the range, especially in this red and the Rose bottlings. Kermit Lynch’s collection of Corsican wines are the elite of the Island with Abbatucci, Leccia and Canarelli leading the way, you should continue to explore these wines or start to, as they really are intriguing examples.
($28 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Domaine Laurent Combier, Cap Nord, Saint-Joseph Rouge, Rhone, France.
The Cap Nord Saint-Joseph Syrah from Laurent Combier is an organic red made from 20 Year Old vines on north-eastern exposure, hence the name “Cap Nord” and it is a lovely expression of varietal and terroir with it’s granite soils giving mineral complexity and floral notes to go with a pure juicy nature. The 2012 Cap Nord shows cool climate bright acidity with dark fruit and medium weight, fermented using native yeast and aged in large cask highlights the true character of the grape and place with flinty/pepper spice, violets, black raspberry, sweet plum and tart blueberry. Imported by Charles Neal, the Domaine Combier wines are great values and interesting wines with Laurent Combier really coming into his own as a winemaker, be sure sure to also check out his Crozes-Hermitage as well, it is really a bargain, not costing much more than a Cotes du Rhone, but this Cap Nord is in particular a beautiful wine with graceful tannins and easy textures. I enjoy this 2012 Cap Nord a lot and it was especially distinct with cuisine and it really hit the spot for my Syrah craving, I’ll be drink more of this no question and I’ll be following it over the next vintages as well.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2009 Domaine Henri Gouges, Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru, Clos des Porrets St.-Georges, Monopole, Red Burgundy, France.
The Gouges wines are always a class act, and this 2009 surprises for it’s reserved and elegant character in such a warm vintage, I had expected a bit more weight and fruit, but it was remarkably fine and detailed with stunning mineral tones and subtle layers, it was almost crisp and delicate, while still providing depth and lingering grace. This 2009 Clos des Porrets St.-Georges Monopole is a beauty, a friend and client opened it from their collection of under $100 Burgundies to see where the vintage was going and shared it among a few curious souls, it’s refinement and balance were admired greatly and while not a blockbuster, it impressed and it certainly looks set for a long life, with solid tannins, good acidity and dark fruit intensity. It is as with all Gouges, a bit shy at first, slow to reveal much with an earthy punch to start with, opening to rose petals, graphite, ceps, gravelly loam and bright mineral before a core of black cherry, wild plum and steely currant fruit emerges. Solid, but light to medium weight showing, this is at a stage prior to it gaining back some weight and richness, though still exciting to drink, a nice size glass allows thought and pleasure to unfold, there is a heavenly silkiness that develops and an array of spice, floral tones and light cedar that adds complexity to this Burgundy. Lots of promise to be found here, if you own this bottle, you’ll be very happily rewarded by it’s glorious nature, it’s all Gouges, but be patient, I think another 5 to 10 years will be an ideal waiting period, maybe longer, but who has the time? The Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges offerings are rock solid choices in Burgundy, and remain excellent values, and I’m happy to see my experience with them re-enforces that opinion, this was a real treat and a thrill.
($80+ Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Fazenda Pradio, Mencia, Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
Xabi and Martina Pradio run this small all natural winery in Galicia’s Ribeiro Sacra as well as a guest house and restaurant that highlight their family traditions and respect for their land, the history and terroir. Xabi farms and makes the wines organically, no chemicals or additions are ever used, and like Lapierre in Morgon, Beaujolais, he is using almost no sulphur. The Mencia is fresh, vibrant and alive with flavor and fruit with spice, mineral and lifting acidity, this 2014 especially is an impressive effort with dark fruit at the core and rich medium weight, this is a textured wine that gives a lot for the price. Not as out-right beautiful as Guimaro, but certainly a wonderful expression of this grape and place, you’ll want to find Fazenda Pradio and enjoy the wines. The 2014 Tinto/Red is all Mencia, stainless steel fermented with native yeasts and without any added sulphur, finishing at just above 12% alcohol, this is vivid and expressive Mencia with subtle floral and earth tones that folds into dark cherry, black plum and wild berry on the palate with hints of flinty stones, lavender, pepper and blood orange. Nice bright acidity and satiny tannins hold things in place with traces of anise, strawberry and savory elements adding complexity to this stylish offering from Pradio, drink over the next couple of years, but right now is a great time to enjoy this Mencia.
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Nigl, Gruner Veltliner “Freiheit” Niederösterreich, Austria.
Nigel’s 2015 Freiheit Gruner is bright, fresh and steely crisp with light body and mineral charms, while not as exotic or extract filled like the 2013, it certainly surpasses the 2014 in pure quality and is a damn good drinker. Followers of Austrian wines are all trying to find the magic again after the highs of the amazing 2013 vintage, and while 2014 was terrible, it was a big let down in comparison, so the pressure was on when it was time to taste the 2015 wines, and expectations were sky high, so look for first reviews to be a bit flat, though the offerings are very good, it is a vintage to buy and enjoy, the wines have solid flavors and concentration with nice ripe tones, they should make for short and mid term agers as well, in some cases they get close to 2013’s, but there is nothing to hold you back from being very happy with them, especially Nigl’s base Gruner Veltliner Freiheit, this is a wonderfully focused and clear style with brisk acidity and zesty citrus layers, perfect for summer and everyday pleasures. The Nigl 2015 starts with lemon, white flowers almond oil and liquid mineral leading to a transparent palate of lime, white peach, light green apple and wet stones. This dry white come alive with food, while feeling slightly severe on it’s own with austere tangy character and traces of earthy loam. Not overly complex in it’s make up, it still holds your attention and does everything asked of it, drink over the next year or two, it has potential to gain a point with a little bottle time, but it is not supposed to be that serious, enjoy and quaff it up young.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Schlossgut Diel, Rose de Diel, Nahe Germany.
The Diel Rose de Diel, Rose of Pinot Noir, is a beautiful pink wine that is dry and mineral crisp with wonderful bright flavors and surprising depth, in fact all these 2015 vintage Schlossgut Diel offerings are stunning. Caroline Diel’s latest set of wines show gorgeous detail, life and extract with her dry Rieslings really standing out, but don’t miss a chance to try her Pinot Noir red and this Rose. This Nahe estate is one of the regions best and they have long focused on drier style wines, it has a great sense of place with a unique mix of soils to work with that includes spicy slate, gravel, clay and quartz that gives plenty of ripe character along with mineral essences that lends elegance and length to these wines. The 2015 Rose de Diel is lovely with a start that shows liquid roses, pink citrus, sour cherry and distilled strawberry along with wet stones, flinty spice, fine sweet herbs and hints of blueberry and tart plum. While flavor filled this Rose is vivid, vibrant and crisply delicate and hauntingly lingering, this is one of my personal favorites of the season, those that have been long time Diel fans will find the 2015 Rose de Diel a very special expression, those that have never tried Diel will want to find this rare offering! Other wines to look for by Diel include the “Caroline” Pinot Noir 2013, all the Trocken Rieslings, especially the Pittermannchen Grosses Gewachs and the Dorsheim Trocken, as well as the more fruity Feinherb “Von der Nahe” a special cuvee requested by Terry Theise. Also, 2015 Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese offerings fro Schlossgut Diel should not be missed, they will gain from years in not decades of cellaring! For sooner joy, get this Rose de Diel and drink it over the next year or so, it is a great example of German Rose.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2014 Foradori, Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy.
The beautiful and pure Manzoni, a crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, is a perfect summer white with plenty of complexity and fascinating character along with sizzling acidity and mineral tones going well with cool stone fruit. This steely edged wine is ultra fine and crisply elegant with subtle savory elements, it was fermented on it’s skins in cement vats and aged in acacia wood casks, the use of acacia rather than oak is usually to impart less flavor and allow the wine to speak truly of place as is the case here. Elizabetta Foradori’s estate is one of the best in the Alto Adige and her wines have become an inspiration and motivation for a new generation of winemakers and enthusiasts alike, these natural wines made with respect to the land and tradition are some of the greatest in world let alone the Alto Adige, proving real natural wines have a place at the table with the world’s best. Dedicated to organic farming, no chemicals and low or no sulfur the Foradori wines capture the soul and essence of the hillside terroir above Trentino both in her whites like this one, and of course her main red wines made from the native Teroldego grape and expressed in many ways, be in French oak, Amphora (clay) or stainless. The 2014 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco is lovely with delicate floral and citrus leading the way with pretty apricot, peach and lemon/lime coming through on the palate with an earthy note, orange rind and quince layer along with a dusting of spices, alpine herb and chalky stones. At first very light and shy, it opens with air to about medium weight, but held firm with acidity and a bit of skin extract, there is a sense of power and nobility in this white that is both alluring and sexy, even though it is very young and stand offish! Lingering tangerine, pear, wet river rocks and melon add to the joyous depth in this beauty, it is at it’s best with cuisine, even though it is vibrant and refreshing on it’s own, it shows more personality with food, especially mountain cheeses, seafood and or cured ham. Like trocken Riesling and Gruner Veltliner this Manzoni can age well, drink over the next 3 to 7 years, this feels like a special vintage of this wine, so I’d certainly search out a few bottles why you can.
($34 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2011 Domaine des Coteaux des Travers, Rasteau Reserve, Rhone Red, France.
Here’s a great Grenache based red that can be a go to wine for the next two or three years, it has lovely rich fruit, stony elements and spicy bramble making it a hedonistic and stylish value, very much in the Gigondas class at about half the price. Domaine des Coteaux des Travers have seen their two main wines go from Cotes du Rhone Villages to classified AOC’s, as both Rasteau and Cairanne becoming their own unique AOC, with Cairanne most recent, just last year getting the nod, as the quality of the regions and the wines meriting the upgrade, especially wines like this one making an impact, these areas are no longer the ugly step-sisters to Gigondas or Vacqueyras! The 2011 vintage Domaine des Coteaux des Travers Rasteau Reserve is full bodied with loads of black and red fruits with black cherry, plum and boysenberry leading the way with chalky stones, peppercorns, black salted licorice, lavender and creme de cassis adding to the pleasure, the fruit is ripe and the tannins are sweet and the wine feels tremendous on the palate, while still being focused and firm around the edges. Robert Charavin’s signature wine also hints at earthiness and has subtle floral perfume, this is a very lovely and fun effort, made from about 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourverde, a classic GSM, and it was fermented and aged mostly in cement vats with some lots in neutral oak cask, it is a fleshy wine that is really starting to come into it’s own right now, losing a bit of flamboyant baby fat and gaining in detail and length, it is impressive and easy to love at this stage. Imported by Charles Neal and available still it is a solid buy and should go another 5 to 7 years with no problem, though who wants to wait? Drink with cheeses, grilled meats and rustic cuisine for best results, but even just a glass on it’s very compelling.
($17 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Sean Thackrey, Pinot Noir, Andromeda, Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Marin County.
The nose is wildly pure Thackrey, it is full of alpine herbs, amaro like, and with minty eucalyptus notes with rose oil and red berry, this can be no other wine. Sean Thackrey is an icon of weird, but lovable wines, they are more about personality than terroir and while this wine instantly makes itself known to be a Thackrey wine it is gorgeous texturally and the palate is pure silky Pinot in character showing rich cherry, raspberry and plum fruit and balanced detail with a lingering exotic finish. Getting past the aromatics and intriguing mix of spices with be tough for some, but Thackrey fans will swoon and be heaven sent over this Devil’s Gulch Ranch Andromeda 2013, it has similar qualities to his Pleaides Old Vine Red, I was smiling with every sip and swirl, it is very interesting wine and somewhat addictive, even though it will be a bit of a shock at first and certainly it is not for everyone. Pleasing and with a lot of flair, the latest Andromeda fits nicely into Thackrey’s lineup along side Orion and the mentioned Pleaides, and just like France has it’s Jura weirdness we in California have our Thackrey weirdness, both admired for being true to themselves and for the uniqueness they celebrate. Devil’s Gulch Ranch set into the wilds of West Marin, somewhere between Fairfax and Point Reyes is an extremely cool climate site and is surrounded by a dense forest of coastal pine and redwoods, not far from Sean Thackrey’s home base in Bolinas. If you know and love Thackrey, you’ll want this curious Pinot Noir and cherish it’s complexities and graces, while I may not encourage the masses to rush out and explore it, but I cherish it’s difference and again it’s mouth feel is a thing of beauty with smooth layers and a solid core of fruit along with cedar, cinnamon, pepper, lavender/sage and a touch of framboise adding to it’s array, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years.
($60 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Selbach-Oster, Riesling Trocken “Bomer” Schlossberg, Mosel Germany.
Johannes Selbach’s new wine, the Bomer, is a dry, but lush Riesling from a single parcel of steep old vines in Schlossberg, that looks down on the church (and the Mosel) and is formed from the slate and reflected light. This pure Mosel is a stunning wine with crisp and crunchy mineral tones, flinty spices and gripping and focused fruit, balanced by almost creamy textural mouth feel, for such a young Riesling it has such grace and class, it will move you, this is glorious wine. The Bomer is not as dense or weighty as Schmitt, Rotlay or Anrecht, but my God is it good and sexy in way only Riesling can be sometimes, it gives all those tingly sensations of the acidity, though the extract makes you smile inside the same way you find you do when you have a great red Burgundy! Usually when tasting Selbach, you just don’t care whether there is sugar or lots of sugar, such is the fine balance and finesse it doesn’t matter at all, but here it does make a difference, this is a special case, this is a vintage that really delivers an impact in the Trocken (dry) wines and in this one it highlights that nature, it looks set to be a legend in this style for this winery. The nose is still shy, though perfume emerges with liquid rose petal, citrus blossom and spiced white fig? A hint of orange, key-lime and dried pineapple helping set a palate of mineral laced white and yellow fruits with wet shale, mango/passion fruit and zesty unripe green apple. With air you get classical apricot, tangy lime, tangerine sorbet and white anise/jasmine tea. This charming and steely Riesling floods your senses with flavors, but remains tightly wound and firmly under control, this wine is really a steal at the pre-offer price that is available, you’ll want to get your hands on this one, trust me, and while 2015 is looking like a great vintage for dry Riesling, look also for Selbach’s Graacher Alte Reben and the Sonnenuhr Ur Alte Reben, but do NOT miss your chance to get your hands on Selbach-Oster’s Spatlese and Auslese, especially the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese, which I will review soon as well, it’s spectacular as well, Johannes gave a little wink when I tasted these two with him, so I’m pretty sure he thinks they were something just that little bit more special in a gorgeous lineup of proudly made wines! The 2015 Bomer doesn’t need much in the way of patience, though it should be very rewarding to put a few bottles away for 5 to 10 years, this beauty easily could be my desert island wine, drink over the next decade!
($29 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Francois Chidaine, Touraine Rose of Grolleau, Pinot Noir & Gamay, Loire Valley, France.
Bright, fresh and easy with juicy/fruity character and a lovely brisk mineral streak the new Francois Chidaine Touraine Rose is a super fun and light summer wine. Low alcohol and crisply compelling from start to finish with tangy mixed berries, tart cherry and peachy stone fruits leading the way with citrus infused acidity and steely watermelon the Chidaine Rose of Grolleau, Pinot Noir and Gamay delivers a load of refreshment on the palate, but in a very delicate and lacy way with a bit of earth, spice and wet shale adding subtle and savory complexity. Organic and well made this little Rose is not a pink that thrills or lingers in memory, but still gives plenty of verve and is pleasing, great for summer sipping, light and fruity enough for breakfast, brunch, lunch and pre dinner, though maybe falling short to go with a main meal, better with lighter snacks and casual bites. Best very chilled and quaffed freely, this is just unique enough to be appealing and charming, not the most serious of Roses, it is still well worth your time to locate a few bottles. Drink this Chidaine pink as soon as possible, with gusto and without thought, this is simple vibrant wine made to be downed young, best with BBQed oysters or the Sunday newspaper on a warm morning!
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Tournelle-Evelyne et Pascal Clairet, Trousseau des Corvees, Vins du Jura a Arbois Rouge, France.
The Clairet’s, both consulting winemakers in their own right, created Domaine de la Tournelle in 1991 and have followed the path of biodynamic and natural wines at their tiny estate in Arbois, making classic Jura offerings from native varietals using massale selections. These wines almost always have no added sulfur to showcase the absolute purity of their Jura terroir, the vines are all hand tended on ancient soils, mostly clay, grey Marl and limestone, and while they make a semi-oxidized Savagnin and Vin Jaune, they focus on fresher and vibrant wines from Ploussard, Chardonnay, Savagnin and this glorious and wonderfully detailed Trousseau. The 2014 Trousseau des Corvees shows bright intensity with ruby hues and a delicate mix of earth, spice and floral notes on the nose with tart cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruits filling out on the medium weight palate, it is darker than the ultra pale Ploussard and has more richness of mouth feel, even though both of the Domaine de la Tournelle reds are excellent and worth exploring, I found the Trousseau more interesting and entertaining, it has many layers to enjoy and gives an array of subtle elements in the background that includes touches of lavender, dried roses, basil/herbs, gravel and loamy forest floor. Evelyne and Pascal Clairet are a talented pair to be certain and you should search out their wines, these wines speak of the region with grace, texture and highlight the unique character of this place, in particular this Trousseau is a lovely expression, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, and maybe longer!
($38 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Clos Marie, Metairies du Clos, Vielles Vignes, Pic Saint Loup Rouge, Languedoc-Roussillon France.
Christophe Peyrus is one of the Languedoc’s finest winemakers and the all biodynamic Clos Marie is his estate in Pic Saint Loup, these are fantastic wines with depth of character, terroir and soul, especially good in the 2013 vintage is the Metairies du Clos. Made from mostly 60-100 year old vines, it is comprised of about 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Cinsault making the Metairies du Clos a richly flavored and dark red with lots of brooding black fruit, firm tannins and spice. A third of the wine was aged in large cask with the main lot aged in used barrel, and while the oak helps smooth out the wine and adds nice textural feel, it imparts almost no influence in the taste leaving a dense and pure red upon which to admire, this is seriously sexy and powerful stuff! The color is intensely deep with a black/purple core and bright garnet edges, and the nose is full of violets, black fruit, mineral and peppery lavender leading to an impressive and full bodied palate showing bramble berry, black raspberry, plum, currant/cassis and kirsch along with black dusty licorice, flinty stones, minty garrigue with traces of peppercorns, cedar and blueberry skins. The Metairies du Clos has even more potential to improve in bottle, but it would be hard not to drink it now, best from 2017-2029, this is stunning wine, detailed, opulent and gripping, and it really comes alive with rustic and hearty cuisine!
($35 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Von Winning, Sauvignon Blanc II, Pfalz Germany.
Even the entry level 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from Von Winning is beyond expectations, and those were high, and this mostly stainless steel version truly makes you wonder why you’d drink Sauvignon Blanc from anywhere else! Honestly, I’d rather have this 2015 Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc II Trocken than almost any New Zealand or California wine, especially in this price class, nothing comes close, not Cloudy Bay, and certainly not Duckhorn or Cakebread, which taste awful in comparison! It getting tougher when you get to the Loire Valley or even Alto Adige, but again at this price, the Von Winning prevails, it’s just that much more interesting and complex, it’s simply much more the compelling wine. Grown following biodynamic (organic) principles in high density vines on the sandstone, limestone and clay in the Pfalz, the Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc II shows bright floral tones, a pale sunrise in the glass and intense gooseberry and a burst of lemon/lime to start with a fleshy and forward palate adding white peach and subtle tropical notes with striking mineral, wet stones and a crisp dusty chalky character. A hint of herb, pink grapefruit and tangy marmalade add to the complexity, and while brisk with juicy acidity this light bodied white gains texture and has wonderful and detailed mouth feel and heavenly delicacy. Von Winning is on a roll and 2015 takes things to the next level, you’ll want to get any and every Riesling they make in this glorious vintage, but do not overlook the Sauvignon Blancs, these are mind blowing wines, they might have made me fall in love with this varietal all over again, and in particular this 2015 Sauvignon Blanc II, in my book it’s the best Sauvignon Blanc for the money you can buy, period, end of story! Drink this vibrant beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, drink it alone as a pure summer sipper or really get the best out of it with cuisine, be that cheeses or white fish as well as lemon chicken or sushi even, just don’t miss this wine!
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Bonny Doon Vineyards, Grenache, The Wine Formerly Known as Clos de Gilroy, Monterey County.
Randall Grahm’s earthy and spicy dark Grenache is a delightful and intriguing wine, at first juicy with bright red fruit, but as it unwinds in the glass it takes on a deeper, much more intense presence with layers of blackberry, boysenberry, wild plum and strawberry fruits along with peppercorns, meaty notes and porcini earthiness. There is a fine textural feel and a certain amount of Grenache hedonism that makes you more comfortable and it shows a sense of varietal purity and charm, it leans toward a Vacqueyras in style, and it grows on you into the second and third tastes with hints of anise, floral notes, dusty stones and kirsch all coming through in a delayed addition. There is good balance and detail in The Wine Formerly Known as Clos de Gilroy and it’s lively acidity helps keep it fresh and the natural tannins cut some of the riper notes, overall there is a solid core of fruit and structure, making for a wine that really deserves your full attention, but is helped greatly by cuisine, this is a much more serious effort than it’s label or price would suggest, this is complex and impressive stuff. Best to enjoy this 89% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre and 2% Syrah with grilled meats, robust mushroom dishes and or Turkish lamb kabob. Most of the grapes for this wine comes from a cooler site near Greenfield with mixed soils, lots of sunny days, cool breezes and cold nights equals a damn good expression of Grenache and this one will surprise your Rhone loving friends, drink over the next 2 to 5 years.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Tiberio, Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGP, Abruzzo Italy.
The beautiful and vivid Tiberio Pecorino 2014 is bursting with vibrant flavors and brightness with subtle richness of texture. This is certainly one of the finest examples of this varietal available, Pecorino is a small berried grape mostly found in the hillsides of parts of Abruzzo and the Marche, it’s a small yields has not made it a fan favorite among growers, but it’s quality has seen it’s fortunes rise in recent years with many winemakers making wonderful expressions of it, like this one from Tiberio. Fresh with tangy citrus, melon, white peach and spicy herbs along with chalky stone, light mineral notes and white flower aromas make Tiberio’s 2014 Pecorino a real joy in the glass and great with seafood, cheeses and poultry. With air a hint of oily glycerin comes through, giving a feel similar to that of Roussanne but with more zesty acidity and without heaviness. Tiberio makes a superb lineup of wines with this Pecorino being my personal favorite, though I also love Cristiana Tiberio’s other wines as well, including her full bodied Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo rosato. Tiberio is heading towards biodynamic and Cristiana’s resume has an impressive list of top producers on it, including Joly, Selosse, Egon Muller, as well as making wines in Chablis and in Australia. This is a label to watch and these 2014’s look to be a breakthrough vintage, drink this Pecorino over the next 3 to 5 years, though I enjoy it right now and think it shows it’s finest character as it is, though it should gather mouth feel and deeper fruit over time, maybe including golden apple and fig, regardless this is well made and inspiring wine, enjoy.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Onward, Pétillant-Naturel, Malvasia Bianca Sparkling Wine, Suisun Valley.
One of the best California Pet-Nats, Onward’s Malvasia Bianca sparkling white is intensely dry and vibrant with a racy mouse and fine aromatics. Faith Armstrong-Foster, winemaker, crafts some lovely wines, her Pinots are her signature wines, they are lighter and fresh in style with loads of cool climate charm and character, but for pure fun and zesty enjoyment you’ll want to find her Petillant-Naturel, a bubbles that is from high acid early picked grapes and fermented with natural yeasts, no additives or sugar used and the wine finishes in bottle with lots of fine lees, which adds to the complexity, though leaves a slightly clouded appearance, which I find more interesting. This crown cap finished, pop-top, sparkler has lots of zing with pretty jasmine flowers, minty basil, green apple and a core of lime fruit along with white pepper, melon and white licorice. The mousse gives a touch of creaminess, but this is severely dry and crisp with a low alcohol feel, making for a refreshing experience. You’ll want to enjoy this Pet-Nat all day long, but don’t forget to try it with cuisine, it is gorgeous with sushi, oysters and especially cool with light seafood pasta. This is additive stuff that you’ll find reasons to open, it is perfect for everyday use and for weekend fun, it’s great for starting an evening or meal and any casual celebration. I’ve tried a few vintages now, but this 2015 is the best yet from Onward, drink over the next year or so.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Azienda Santa Barbara, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marche, Italy.
This stainless steel fermented and aged crisp light Verdicchio is a pure and bright white that without any bells or whistles really pleases and is a refreshing comfort wine for summer time and seafood or picnics. This Verdicchio is rises above the mediocre and highlights it’s Marche terroir, grown on sandy tuff, white chalky dust, this vibrant white gives plenty of classic zingy citrus and unripe apple along with green almond, mineral spice and lime flower. This 2015 is vivid with good ripeness avoiding the harsh bitter elements that can be found in this grape and giving a certain roundness on the palate without taking away from the pop of acidity and hint of spritz. This particular cuvee is an exclusive for importer Kermit Lynch and has it’s own label for the American market made from 30 year old vines in the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi zone, and is a remarkable value, Azienda Santa Barbara really nailed this one and it shines with fine detail and quality in an understated package. This zesty little white gets even better with clams and or oysters, either alone or with pasta and like Gruner Veltliner is very pleasant with mixed greens and or cheeses. This is well worth the price and is easy to quaff, it will leave you dreaming of the Adriatic and the ancient hill top towns along Italy’s north eastern coast, brilliant and simple stuff, drink now.
($13 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Envinate, Albahra, Vinos Mediterraneos, Almansa, Spain.
Grown at high elevation above the town of Albacete this red from arid southern Spain is made by the Envinate (make wine by yourself) team, a group of four college friends that are from many different regions of Spain, but wanted to make wine together, so they created Envinate to explore crafting small lots of wine from their home regions. The group includes one of my favorite winemakers from the Canary Islands, Roberto Santana of Suertes del Marques along with his talented friends Alfonso Torrente of Ribeira Sacra, Laura Ramos of Murcia and from the home of this Albahra, Jose Martinez of Almansa. The 2014 Envinate Albahra is a pure Alicante Bouchet, also known as Garnacha Tintorera, this dark grape is one of the few varietals that has red pulp and juice, it was fermented and aged in cement vats, no wood was used or needed, with about 50% whole cluster and native yeasts, it is a lovely and earthy fresh red with loads of character and detail. The grapes are from a single vineyard of 30 year old vines on chalky soils mixed with clay and ancient seabed, the 800 meters elevation helps with natural cooling and allows for a balanced wine with the swing in daytime and nighttime temps keeping a sense of vibrancy and gentile winemaking and short maceration helps soften tannins and make for a wine that is fresh and easy to quaff. The 2014 Albahra shows blackberry, cherry and dusty plum fruits, with peppery spices, crushed flowers, anise, hints of mineral, wild mushroom and sticky lavender in a medium weight wine that has texture and flair, but is also not complicated or fussy in style, it is Cotes du Rhone like, though maybe a bit more exotic, great with a slight chill on it and perfect with paella and or BBQ’s. This wine is the super value in the Envinate lineup, but if you want some rare stuff, be sure to check out their Canary Islands and the Mencia wines of the Ribeira Sacra in Galicia, these are great winemakers and amazing wines!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling Trocken, Hermannshohle Grosses Gewachs, Nahe Germany.
Donnhoff’s Niederhauser Hermannshohle vineyard set on steep grey slate looking over the Nahe just might be the single greatest vineyard site in the world right now, and the Hermannshohle Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) Riesling could possibly be the best dry white wine I’ve ever had, it has certainly over taken Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet in my personal esteem, these are amazingly detailed, transparent and complex wines with terroir, vitality and stunning mineral purity. Terry Theise, the evangelical importer of profound Rieslings has said of Hermannshohle that no single wine in the entire wine world is as complex as Donnhoff’s best from Hermanshohle, and after a dozen vintages of tasting these wines I couldn’t agree more! Donnhoff is one of the greatest producers on earth, one of the top estates in the world and these wines throughout the range are fantastic values and some of the most sought after wines there are anywhere, and watch out, because these 2015’s take to another level! I tasted through a wide selection of 2015’s with Anne Donnhoff recently, and her humble charm couldn’t hide her pride in these gorgeous wines, I’m grateful for her patience and kindness, as I wanted to savor every moment I could with these Rieslings! The potential of this wine, the Hermannshohle GG, is off the charts, it could easily merit 100 Points, in fact it is beyond perfection, it makes a rating seem silly or boring even, but I wanted to give a bit of room for it’s evolution and development, because as thrilling as it is now, it will only get better, seriously it is full to the max with depth, glowing pristine in the glass it signs a siren’s song with delicate perfume, salty mineral, flinty stones and layer upon layer of white cherry, apricot, tangerine, dense quince, mango and vivid lime fruits. This baby of a dry Riesling opens with white blossoms, rose petal, sea shore brine, wet shale and green apple with a powerful mouth feel and underlying extract with chalky grip and racy acidity, this is intensely brisk, vibrant and tangy crisp with incredible focus. Haunting lingering spice, anise, white peach, lemon peel and tropical essences just add to the glorious experience, if you want an absolute blue chip for your cellar, beg, cheat and steal, as the expression goes, to get this wine, without question it is the best dry white wine for the money you can get, especially when you consider the prices of Raveneau Les Clos or Roulot, Jobard, Coche and company! In a few years the 2015 Donnhoff Hermannshohle Grosses Gewachs is going to be a unicorn wine, a legend and this review is not even going to come close to expressing just how fantastic this wine is, it just might break the 100 Point system! Even if you miss this one, the other Donnhoff’s are not far behind, and while these dry Rieslings are really special, the Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese levels are spectacular too. The 2015 Hermannshohle GG is a wine for the ages, and patience will be rewarded, 5 to 10 years looks to be a good starting point, honestly this is mind blowing awe inspiring stuff, enough said!
($75 Est.) 97+ Points, grapelive
2014 Descendientes de J. Palacios, Petalos, Mencia, Bierzo Spain.
The latest Petalos del Bierzo from Jose Palacios is a deep and spicy Mencia that has all the rich detail you’d expect and a bit more flamboyant nature, making it a stand out for this region and varietal. Beautiful floral tones and shale/stone mineral spice lead the way with dark fruits opening up on the lush and forwardly ripe palate with satiny black cherry, plum and tangy currant along with mixed flowers with rose petal, violet and herbal lavender notes as well as flinty pepper and Loire like green pepper and savory earth. This is really a knockout Bierzo, though heady and almost full bodied it remains poised and well under control with a nice cut of acidity to lift the sweet fruit, it has a pure Mencia from Bierzo character, which if you’ve never had a Mencia reminds you of a blend of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir in some ways, though very much it’s own noble grape and terroir. A few years back all you saw in the States was oaked up versions, more Saint-Emillon in style than pure Mencia, luckily that has changed with more traditional styles and winemaking allowing us to really explore this wonderful grape and discover it’s true personality, and while the Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos is a more toward the international style it still is a gorgeous example, with lots of sexy flair and stylish craftsmanship. Lingering blueberry, strawberry compote, zesty basil, cedar and rose hips add to the pleasure and appeal, it is also a great value, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($25 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Doqi, Kisi Qvervi, Kakheti, Republic of Georgia.
Recent finds and historical evidence puts Georgia at the heart of the birth of the wine trade, it is believed now that Georgian wine dates back 8,000 years, making it the oldest wine region. Truth be told, borders were not drawn as they are now and whether it was present day Georgia or Armenia or what is now Turkey may never be truly certain, but it looks as it was here, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The Qvervi, a clay vessel used to ferment and store wine, is a Georgian invention that is now on the UNESCO World heritage list of cultural items and is an iconic symbol of ancient winemaking, not just in the past, but it is now finding a home in Western and modern winemaking from Europe to Oregon, and California along with it’s little brother the terracotta Amphora, though in Georgia the Amphora is used only to transport the finished wine, not make it, the Qvervi, which is buried in the earth, is Georgia’s tool of choice. Also, for a long time we though of Georgia as a red wine making country, though in fact, something that I learned recent at a brilliant seminar given by Lisa Granik MW, it is white wine which is most made/grown in Georgia, with grapes like this Kisi, and Mtsvane, as well as the most widely planted varietal Rkatsiteli. The Doqi Kisi Qvervi is a skin contact white with lovely aromatics and fine texture with tannic vibrancy and slightly cloudy showing a light pink/yellow tint, it is an “Orange” wine, though not as savory or as wildly funky as some, this would be a great way to start your exploration into Georgian traditional wine, Doqi also does the same wine without Qvervi, fermented in stainless, both lovely and fresh with the stainless much clearer and much more delicately crisp and mineral driven, but I adored the Qvervi with it’s exotic nature and spicy herb/anise bite. Green tea, minty fruit with lime, tangerine, white flowers, quince and stone fruits lead the way on the crunchy palate with hints of peach, dried orange rind and flinty stones make for an interesting wine with structure and racy/edgy character. It will take time to understand or get a handle of Georgian wines, Kekheti is the main growing region and it is very difficult to really tour or explore still with many places only accessible by foot, or 4X4 if you are lucky, there are many zones and terroirs, plus dozens of native varietals, as well as European grapes, study is on going. Importer Blue Danube brings in the Doqi wines, all of which are quality made and worth checking out, especially this Kisi made in Qvervi and both the Qvervi and oak aged red Saperavi wines, as well as the stainless (these whites taste more like Gruner Veltliner and or Albarino) and Qvervi Rkatsiteli. Georgia is a poor country, especially outside the cities, so every sold bottle counts, and the country is still rebuilding it’s wine industry from Soviet times and wars, both civil and with Russia in 2008, it will be intriguing to see what happens in the next 5 to 10 years, but even so it’s influence is spreading, whether it is in the “Natural Wine” moment or the use of Qvervi, you can see it in wines like COS in Sicily and Foradori in the Alto Adige, both owing their style to Georgian traditions. Look for the Doqi wines, they are a glimpse of the origins of wine and they are wines you can enjoy for their quality and pleasure.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Hobo Wine Company “Camp” Chardonnay, Sonoma County.
Winemaker Kenny LikItprakong created the Camp line of wines in 2013 to highlight value in Sonoma County and craft interesting varietal wines, and he makes Zinfandel, Cabernet and this pristine and lovely Chardonnay. This fresh styled Chardonnay is 98% pure Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley Chardonnay and 2% Viognier, it was natural yeast fermented in stainless steel then transferred to neutral, well seasoned, French barrels to finish Malo, which ended up at about 10 weeks, everything done was designed to preserve freshness and purity of detail. All the vineyards sourced were (are) organic or sustainably farmed and the results are not only a success, but make for an impressive Chardonnay with class and vibrancy, this may not go down as a legendary wine, but it is a brilliantly drinking Chardonnay that tastes for more distinct than many in the $50 range! At a wonderfully low alcohol of just 12.6% and with bright mineral tones this Camp Chardonnay is vibrantly refreshing, and has many similar qualities to a fine Chablis, but remains a true California example with lively apple, pear, wild peach and lemony fruits with hints of cream, golden fig, clove spice, key lime and subtle tropical elements. The acidity is fine and smooth and subtle brine and stoniness help balance it all out, you won’t need to think to much, this is a beautiful quaffer to enjoy with friends and cuisine, even those that usually pass on Chardonnay will be intrigued, and those that do will love this even more. Drink this clear and well made wine over the next year or so, one of the best under $20 Chardonnays I’ve tried, along with Signal Ridge Vineyard of Mendocino, well worth exploring!
($15-18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 G.D. Vajra, Barolo “Albe” Piedmote, Italy.
I often I get quizzed on what I think the best world class red wines are that sell for under $50, without question it seems to be getting harder to chose, not for the lack of options, but because there are so many, you just need to think outside the box a bit, away from Napa Cabernet, some Pinots and Burgundy, with Italy and Spain being great places to explore, and in particular this G.D. Vajra Albe Barolo stands out. Here you get a tremendous value in quality Nebbiolo from a top winemaker, Giuseppe Vajra, and this 2011 is perfectly happy to opened right away, though structured enough to age well for a decade with lovely ripe fruit, mineral, spice, beautiful detail and a solid soul of terroir along with nice sensual magnetism. All of Vajra’s wines have a raw sex appeal and are gloriously lovely to drink with texture, delicacy and life and this 2011 flows with vibrant flavors starting with dark berries, mixed floral tones, a bit of earth, game and stones along with a light touch of wood and classic Nebbiolo markers through out and lengthy finish, while less intense and deep than his Cru bottlings, you certainly can see the class and talent in this wine. I must say, this wine might make my top five or for sure top ten red wines under $50, that I would buy, along with Remelluri Rioja, Jean Foillard Morgon, Salvo Foti Etna Rosso and St. Innocent Oregon Pinot Noir, plus Lucia (Pisoni Family) Syrah, Stolpman Syrah, Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains and Guimaro Mencia Ribera Sacra! Just a few awesome choices, though I left a hundred great wines out! So, if you need to bring something special with exceptional pedigree and with the lust factor, without breaking the bank check out Vajra’s Albe Barolo and it’s layers of black cherry, damson plum, hoisin, melted black licorice, crushed violets, cedary spice and lingering distilled strawberry and framboise notes, it has satiny ripe tannins and smooth acidity, making it very charming and graceful, though much more rewarding when matched with friends and cuisine, this is another brilliant offering from Giuseppe Vajra and team, best from 2018 to 2024.
($45 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Willi Schaefer, Riesling Spatlese, Gaacher Himmelreich, Mosel Germany.
There is something everyone in the wine world agrees upon, and that is Willi Schaefer Riesling, and especially the Gaacher wines, are some of the greatest wines on earth! From famed Riesling/German importer Terry Theise to Robert Parker, there is no question Shaefer is one of the top estates in the world, these wines have a cult, or religious like following, it is almost impossible to find them on the shelves of a wine merchant, in fact it is almost a rule of life if you ever see a bottle, you buy it, regardless of why you entered the shop in the first place, you never even look at the price, and walk away with a cat like grin on your face, these wines are treasures, no matter the vintage or vineyard, no matter the sweetness level. The 2015 is a vintage to cherish and covet, so being able to preview a Willi Schaefer Spatlese Gaacher Himmelreich was a prized treat and a rare gift, huge gratitude to Terry Theise and Wine Wise for having a sample of this glorious nectar, it is always a thrill to taste these wines and this Gaacher Himmelrich did not disappoint! One of my most cherished wine moments is drinking a Shaefer Auslese, it was so amazingly poised it didn’t feel heavy and it’s silky complexity so divine you can’t imagine the joy, it almost brought tears to my eyes, and this 2015 Spatlese has that kind of wow factor! From the steep slate of the Mosel this fine and delicate example hides it’s extract and power behind layers of lacy acidity, flinty mineral and heavenly creamy textures, this is a case where the must weight and sugar doesn’t translate into overt sweetness or density on the palate as such, this wine is purity and refinement with subtle richness and graceful lines, it is truly feminine and feline with exotic charms and velvet muscles supporting everything in sleek and beautiful fashion. The highlights are balanced savory notes against hedonistic and pleasing layers of rose petals, tangerine sorbet, fresh orchard picked apple and apricot, lime and delightful tropical array to contrast against cool wet shale/stones, minty herb, saline and tangy ginger. This wine seduces completely with youthful raw sexy appeal, but certainly she will age with glorious rewards, when something is this gorgeous it will be insanely difficult to wait, that is why patience is a virtue! There is much more to come in this stunning wine, no doubt it will become legendary, it is well advised to lock a few bottles up, I can imagine a window of 12 to 30 years of age to peak enjoyment for this traditional Mosel classic, best from 2025 to 2040!
($40 Est.) 94-96 Points, grapelive
2015 Unti Vineyards, Rosé, Dry Creek Valley.
One of California’s most coveted and sought after Rosés, the Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County is a beautiful pink made from about 55% Grenache and 45% Mourvedre. Mick Unti picks early to keep vital acidity and vibrant character, this is a bright and mineral focused example of fine Rosé that sings in the glass with a pale salmon/pink hue and zesty tart cherry, red citrus, watermelon and steely mineral as well as wet stones, chalk and rosewater. This is really good stuff with lingering flavors and crisp detail, with air it fills out and feels expansive, but still brisk and structured, this is a Rosé that excels with cuisine especially, but that can also be wonderful for warm day patio sipping, modeled after modern Bandol and Cotes de Provence wines the Unti is slightly lower in natural alcohol that one might expect from a warm climate Rosé and is crafted with finesse and passion for complex Rosé. Unit’s lineup this summer is impressive and full of depth, Mick’s white are stunning, especially his Vermentino and Cuvee Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Picpoul, while his reds, from the 2013 vintage are showing sexy aromatics and deep black fruits, be sure to check out Unti’s Zinfandel, Grenache and Montepulciano! All the Unti Vineyards wines remind me of a cross between Tablas Creek and Ridge, high praise indeed in my book, drink the lovely and fresh Unti Grenache/Mourvedre Rosé over the course of the summer, but hurry to get some, it sells out fast!
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Lagier Meredith, Tribidrag, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith are making some fantastic wines from their estate high up on Mount Veeder in Napa’s Mayacamas, the western mountains that separate the Napa Valley from the Sonoma side, and their Zinfandel a.k.a Tribidrag it’s original Croatian varietal name, is a stunner, fast becoming one of my absolute favorite Napa reds. Their Syrah is already legendary, but I adore this Tribidrag almost as much, it has lively mountain fruit and tannins with brambly spices and unique terroir charms that make it wonderfully intriguing and entertaining. While ripe and hedonistic with opulence and succulent dark fruit it has vital acidity, mineral notes and plenty of savory character with blackberry, plum, wild raspberry and blueberry fruits, flinty stones, briar notes, hints of cedar, anise and fresh cracked peppercorns. With air, floral essences emerge with violets and spring flowers, as well as earthy currant, fig and sage come through on the medium full palate that feels delightfully old school and lighter than the alcohol would suggest, in fact this is a sublime and elegant wine with lots to admire. If you want a rare expression of Zinfandel, you’re hard pressed to find a better or more fun wine, this wine has joined the elites of California’s top Zins, along with Bedrock, Ridge, Turley, Brown and Biale, be sure to look out for it and the rest of Steve and Carole’s lineup, the mentioned Syrah, and their Malbec are excellent as well, don’t miss them!
($48 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Johan Vineyards “Farmlands” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Dag J. Sundby makes some compelling wines, from Norway Sundby has hit the Oregon wine scene like he’s always been a part of it, and in a short time made a big name for himself, along with his winegrower Dan J. Rinke, all the wines are from organic grapes with all of the Johan estate being farmed biodynamic. The main estate Pinot Noir and his Gruner Veltliner are the signature wines, but be sure to check out his fabulous Pet-Nat Sparkling Pinot Noir and maybe the best deal in American wine, the Farmlands Pinot Noir! The 2015 Johan Vineyards “Farmlands” Pinot Noir is made from all biodynamic estate grown grapes, native yeast fermented and spends 9 months in French oak, inspired by the wines of Burgundy and the natural wine movement, it is an unfiltered, unfined Pinot without any additives, no egg whites, no cooper sulfate and no enzymes just natural and pure as can be. The 2015 is rich and detailed with low 13.3% alcohol a beautiful deep color and layers of dark fruit with mineral and spice as well as gentle wood notes, this is impressive stuff and as mentioned one of the best deals in American wine, let alone classy Oregon Pinot Noir with real depth of terroir and character. The layers of plum, black cherry, tangy currant and blackberry fruits dance on the palate in youthful harmony with ripe/sweet silky tannins, bright acidity, a medium body and good length with hints of fennel, cedar, dusty stones and flinty pepper. The smooth textures show the grace and finesse of the winemaking and without question highlights the pleasures of the vintage, which is in many ways similar to the 2014 with it’s forward style, drink over the next 2 to 5 years, it’s a beauty.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad, Pfalz Germany.
the 2015’s from Germany are gorgeous and powerful wines, you are are going to want these for the hedonistic youthful pleasures and for long term cellar aging, this is a vintage to love from day one until even past your own mortal lifetime! From the Mosel, Ahr, Rheingau to the Pfalz and beyond Riesling excelled producing vibrant, concentrated and aromatic wines with loads of extract, mineral intensity and vigorous acidity, it is especially exceptional in regards to dry and medium sweet styles, you might have to search a bit harder for TBA and Eiswein, though a few stickies were made they are not finished fermenting, as some are from grapes picked in mid January! In the case of the Pfalz, Von Winning has made one of the greatest set of dry wines you’ll ever encounter, and while the Grosses Gewachs haven’t even been bottled yet, the cask samples are amazing, something heavenly beyond mere words, one of the stars and in finished bottle was the glorious Reiterpfad Trocken, this is a dry Riesling so good, I even blurted out it was better than Raveneau! I had recent enjoyed a stunning bottle of Raveneau Montee and it was still fresh on my mind, and I can tell you, this Von Winning (Ruppertsberger) Reiterpfad Trocken is right up there with it, this is freakishly good stuff with wonderful steely mineral tones, lush textures and stylish length, it is crystalline, vivid, rich, but crisp and sharply focused. Native yeast, and fermented in cask, the Reiterpfad feels like a Premier Cru Chablis, but with pure Riesling soul and terroir character with lime blossom, tangerine, green apple, quince, lemony marmalade, peach/stone fruit along with sea salt, white tea, briny notes, wet stone and verbena. There’s exotic leesy density, hints of tropical essences that contrast well against the vigor, bright acids and tangy chalkiness in this stunning Riesling. Big thanks to Terry Theise the importer for introducing me to von Winning, and turning me on to their mind-blowing Sauvignon Blancs, and to Andreas Hutwohl of Von Winning’s talented team for showing me his wines and letting me take this Reiterpfad home to study! The brilliant Von Winning 2015’s are without a doubt, along with Donnhoff, Schaefer, Selbach and Loewen, are must haves, do not miss, in particular this fantastic Reiterpfad Trocken.
($37 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2013 Tenute Rubino, Negramaro “Marmorelle Rosso” Salento, Italy.
From Primitive to Spumante, Tenute Rubino makes wonderfully crafted modern wines in the Salento region of southern Italy, and this juicy Negramaro is great example with depth of fruit, balance and textural harmony, showing dark fruits, spice and ripe satiny tannins. Tenute Rubino offers some of the best wine for the money, with traditional grapes and sharp packaging, Li Veli and Tenute Rubino are making Salento a very worthy for specialized wine tourism, reviving account varietals like Susumaniello as well as highlighting, in Tenute Rubino’s case, Brindisi terroir. The 2013 Negramaro Marmorelle Rosso IGT Salento with a touch of Black Malvasia to add a bit more flourish and aromatic complexity sees only a short spell in wood to give richness of detail while remaining fun, lively and pure, it displays lush plum, black cherry, raspberry and concord grape fruits with hints of cedar, pepper and mild lavender, lilac and sweet herb notes. This is a great party or house wine, super with outdoor cuisine, can even be served with a slight chill for BBQ’s in the summer months and full enough to stand up to robust foods, it’s a solid and pleasing red to quaff over the next year or so, simple, but worth your attention. Be sure to check out Tenute Rubino’s much more serious Punta Aquila Primitivo, it’s a wildly entertaining red that offers more intrigue and layers, very old vine Zin like in style, this is an impressive winery to look for.
($15 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Ryme “Crackling Carignane” Pétillant-Naturel Sparkling Red Wine, Testa Vineyard, Mendocino.
Ryme Cellars is the husband and wife project by Ryan and Megan Glaab, both immensely talented winemakers with an amazing background in wine, even at such young ages and Ryme reflects that it’s a young winery with an old soul, tasting their wines is a thrilling experience. They make a wide range of wines with no dogma or fashionable pretense, from Aglianico to “His” and “Hers” versions of Vermentino, these are wines of the earth, organic, natural and made with love of California terroir, but of old world (ancient) character, in other words they are a modern throwback with native yeasts, low sulfur, well used seasoned wood (neutral French) and without fining or filtration, with many of the reds fermented whole cluster and with stems and some of the whites seeing skin contact. That brings us to this wonderfully sensual and earthy old vine Carignane Pét-Nat sparkling red wine, a wine that has similarities to a robust Lambrusco, but deeper and more textural with vibrant tiny bubbles and zesty fizz, this is one of the most serious and impressive Pét-Nats I’ve every tasted, Megan explained that they left the dark Carignane on it’s lees for two years, which certainly added the complexity and depth, and while most opt for light and charming in Pét-Nat, Ryme is more like a cross of rustic Lambrusco from Emilia in Italy and Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, though the style is unique, highlighting the varietal and California origins. Dark berries, woodsy mushrooms, dried flowers and crisp spices lead away in this robust food craving sparkling red, it even has a meaty layer to go with plum, blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruits. Lingering currant, anise, porcini and pepper notes shine through and are lifted by the natural acidity and the soft bubbly mouse. This brilliant and joyous dry Crackling Carignane Pét-Nat should be served with an intense range of food, a spicy charcuterie plate, Turkish lamb or grilled meats and friends, especially as it is only available in pop-top big bottles!
($60 Magnum Only) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Brick House, Gamay Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The latest Gamay from Brick House rocks! Without question one of the most beautiful and complex Gamay wines in America, and it really comes close to Foillard and Lapierre level of enjoyment, this is a blockbuster vintage for this wine. The Willamette Valley with it’s maritime and volcanic soils create a special terroir for Gamay and this Brick House 2014 drinks wonderfully with silky Pinot Noir like texture and detail with delicate perfume, mineral spice and a mix of cool blue fruit and bright red fruit all coming together in a gorgeous example of this varietal. Doug Tunnell’s estate Gamay now includes a secret new Cru Beaujolais clone in the mix along with his heritage Gamay Noir old vines, which they say is giving added layers, but regardless this is sleek and stylish stuff with just enough earth tones and savory notes to balance the ripe fruit core, this is a class act from start to finish. The start is a bit flamboyant, as you’d expect from a near perfect vintage, with sweet florals and vivid fruit and a sexy ruby hue glittering in the glass leading to a lengthy and refined palate with satiny tannins, poised acidity and deep flavors including black cherry, strawberry, dusty plum and blueberry along with a hint of porcini, flinty pepper, walnut/cedar and zesty anise/fennel. This will not be an easy find, but worth the search and every penny, this is lovely and highly seductive wine, Gamay has well and truly lost any stigma and has been complete released from it’s chains of perception to take it’s place as one of the great grapes of the world, free at last, drink this gorgeous Brick House 2014 over the next 3 to 10 years!
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Brundlmayer, Langenloiser Rosé of Zweigelt, Austria.
It’s the season of Rosé and here’s another must have pink for summer, the Brundlmayer Rosé from near Kamptal on the Danube is a bright and focused wine that offers stylistic pleasures and is unique. The 2015 Langenloiser Rosé starts with delicate rosewater, lavender and distilled raspberry essences leading to a vibrant and fresh palate of sour cherry, summer melon and strawberry fruits lifted by mineral, wet stone, chalk and a wave of mixed citrus including ruby grapefruit as well as pithy stone fruit. This light and zesty Rosé is wonderfully refreshing and tangy with austere charm and is just easy to quaff, showing an understated confidence and Brundlmayer refinement. Vincent Brundlmayer is one of the leading lights in Austria’s youth movement and his wines are some of the finest in Europe, the Gruners and Rieslings are stunning, as are Brundlmayer’s glorious sparkling wines, especially the Brut Rosé, which ranks way up there with top grower producer fizz, plus Vincent does an intriguing Cabernet Franc and a gorgeous old school Pinot Noir. Brundlmayer is a winery to search out, and this Rosé is great place to start!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken Estate, Deidesheim Pfalz, Grermany.
The basic Von Winning Trocken is one of the best kept secrets in the wine world, this intense un-adorned pure Riesling is a killer wine with power, tangy freshness and Von Winning class, you’ll want to stock up on this wine, especially the highly charming 2014. While the Cru wines here are utterly awe inspiring and among the finest wines from Germany, this Estate Trocken has a more more raw and vibrant personality with tangy/bitter stone fruit, vivacious citrus and steely Chablis like minerality leaning on zesty lime, spiced pear, hints of chalky earth, river stones, green melon, mango and white tea. This is saline rich and almost violently dry, but oh so good with plenty of extract and inner perfume with wild roses, white flowers and lemon oil adding to the complexity in this brisk white. For those looking for a bit of sugar or creaminess, this is not your wine, this wine is really Trocken and hits like an electric fence! For a bit more fruity you should check out Von Winning’s slightly off dry “Winnings” Riesling, also a stunning value with a softer impression, but those that dig on serve with love this Estate Trocken, it is so bright and vivid, I almost crave it, a must have for summer. The Von Winning estate Trocken is a great starting point to understanding the dry style Rieslings and is the entry into the glorious world of Pfalz sandstone terroir!
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Baker Ranch Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
The absolutely beautiful 2013 Anthill Farms Baker Ranch Pinot is one of my favorite of the vintage with everything you could ask for in a medium bodied vibrant wine with heady perfume, energy, lacy fruit and stylish grace. While the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages were solid performers, this 2013 takes it to another level with gorgeous underlying texture and silky long length, while still being vital and vigorously complex with highly entertaining layer after layer, definitely one of the best yet from Anthony Filiberti and the team at Anthill Farms. On a side note, it will be intriguing to see how Filiberti does at Hirsch Vineyards after he gets settled in there, and if you can’t get get enough of Anthill Farms, be sure to check out Anthony’s Knez wines, they are very compelling as well. The Baker ranch 2013, from a plot of sandstone on a steep grade not far from Philo, starts with alluring wilted roses, raspberry and delicate mineral tones with light slightly clouded ruby hue in the glass and deep black cherry, plum, strawberry and tangy red currant fruit around which revolves hints of cinnamon, dusty earth, spiced tea with juicy acidity keeping everything fresh and light on the palate. This is fresh, lower alcohol style, and exciting Pinot Noir is crafted with care and talent using native yeast and mostly used french barrels, it also shows touches of blood orange, red peach, cedar, wild anise and just a trace of toast/vanilla that adds to the whole balanced feel, everything flows with focus and finesse, gaining a real presence and depth with air. This is very impressive and seductively lovely now, but should be even more rewarding in 3 to 5 years time, best from 2018 to 2026.
($56 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Umathum “Rosa” Rosé, Burgenland, Austria.
Most known for his deep reds and aromatic whites, Herr Umathum one of Austria’s most cherished producers also crafts his Rosa (Rosé) from a saignée of all organic Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch and Sankt Laurent. The Umathum Rosa is surprisingly vibrant and vivid with a burst of pink grapefruit, tart cherry, watermelon, rosewater, spices, lovely mineral notes and a hint of river stone. The color from the bleed off is pretty with a rich hue which is bright and shiny in the glass, while the wine itself stays vital, charmingly delicate and tangy fresh. This is an impressive showing for this wine and set of grapes, right up there with Brundlmayer, Groiss and Prieler for my favorite Austrian Pinks! Umathum is making a great set of wines, I highly recommend any and all of his collection, especially charming, biodynamic and stylish is the Traminer, one of the best examples of this in Europe, it is wonderfully complex, perfumed and rich with a crisp/dry intensity that is riveting as well as some of the most sought after Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch which are old school, deep and earthy. That all said, I love the Rosa and hope to enjoy more than a few bottles of this Umathum Rosé this summer, it’s full of life, pleasure and is glorious with food, it really hit the spot at a recent lunch at the famed Slanted Door in San Francisco, going perfectly with an assortment of exotic dishes! Drink the Umathum Rosa over the coming 6 months to a year, it will be at it’s best young and briskly fresh.
($20 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive
2013 Lucia Vineyards by Pisoni, Syrah, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Jeff Pisoni’s 2013 Lucia Soberness Syrah is gorgeous and full bodied red from the family’s youngest vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, set over the next ridge from Garys’ Vineyard, but higher up, on a sandy loamy hillside with an almost constant cool breeze. Soberanes just might be the most exciting plot in the Santa Lucia Highlands right now and this Lucia Syrah shows why, it’s a cool site that allows for long hang time and planted with an excellent set of clones, like Alban clone for Syrah, Pisoni clone for Pinot Noir and Wente Clone for Chardonnay, and with more vine age the results look set to be even more spectacular! The 2013 Soberanes Syrah displays a deep intense color, blackish purple with dark garnet edges and reveals a heady perfume of crushed violets and lilacs, smoky embers, black fruits and vivid spices before a palate of dense blackberry, loganberry, creme de cassis/currant and sweet plum fruit along with mocha, minty anise, cracked pepper, cedar, black olive and game. Impressively dense and with glorious mouth feel the Lucia Soberanes Syrah has plenty to admire and graces the senses with elements of Cote-Rotie like class, this is opulent wine, but is has great detail, nice acidity and polished tannins, highlighting it’s well crafted nature and balance, it certainly re-enforces my personal belief that Syrah here is equal to Pinot Noir in quality. With air, nice brambly (stems?) notes, boysenberry, blueberry, lavender and subtle oak linger on the lengthy finish, Pisoni just gets better and more finessed with every vintage, also check out Cattleya, made by Jeff’s wife Bibiana Gonzalez Rave-Pisoni and Sandlands by Turley’s winemaker Tegan Passalacqua for comparison, these are some of the best Syrahs in California, both also from Soberanes! Recently I tasted this Lucia 2013 Soberanes Syrah next to the same vintage of Clape Cornas and it held it’s own and was nearly on par with it’s old world rival, impressive, drink this complex and pleasing wine over the next 3 to 7 years.
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Carl Loewen, Riesling Kabinett, Klostergarten, Mosel Germany.
The transition from father to son at Weingut Carl Loewen is going smoothly and with seamless precision, in fact the 2014 wines might be the best set from this estate, so the future with Christoph Loewen making the wine here in this Mosel estate looks fantastic. Looking back a few years to 2012, a wine overseen by Karl-Josef the father, from the grey slate of Klostergarten, the Kabinett level Riesling crafted from organic vines, it’s a showy vintage and a gorgeous wine with loads of complex fruit and minerality in a ripe, but balanced wine. Rich flavors of golden apple, lemon/lime, apricot, dried honey, rosewater and peaches in syrup play perfectly with vibrant acidity, flinty spices and smoked meat notes in a smart and seriously judged Riesling with exotic dried ginger, tropical essences, white flowers and liquid stones adding to the complexity. While very open and lush the Loewen Klostergarten Kabinett has a core of vigorous extract and power, the sweetness adds grace without being cloying, making this Riesling fantastic with food even dishes you’d want a red wine with! While the 2014’s show more detailed finesse and inner perfume, this 2012 is a more dense and sober style that is just beginning to show it’s impressive layers, this is a winery to watch and look for the 2015’s that should be hitting the market soon, they should be even better still. Drink this 2012 over the next 5 to 7 years, it is great with spicy curry, Thai beef and baked ham, it has subtle and seductive charms with classic Mosel terroir character.
($18-22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Luigi Baudana, Langhe Bianco Chardonnay “Dragon” Piedmonte, Italy.
The Luigi Baudana Dragon Langhe Chardonnay by Giuseppe Vajra is a crisp and delicate expression of place rather than pure varietal wine, given the secret that there’s some Riesling blended in here and that it has more elegance than you’d expect from a Piedmonte Chardonnay with wonderfully mineral driven finesse. I love the beautiful and light detail and graceful focus and vitality in this 2013 Dragon, this is just gorgeous with faint floral tones, wet stones and vibrant citrus and stone fruits, it flows across the palate like a ballet dancer, filtered like a watercolor painting, agile and precise with transparency and style, it keeps your attention and never puts a foot wrong. The nose has orange blossom and steely tones with green apple and a touch of tropical fruit along with a trace of hazelnut before a palate of white peach, pear and lemon/lime framed by lifting acidity and light lessy notes. This light bodied white seduces with it’s elegance and clarity, complexity comes in the form of seashells, golden fig and summer crisp melon with a bit of brine and earth, it does fill out with air, but stays contently subtle and Chablis like, I think it is a terrific value and that the Riesling really makes it more intriguing overall, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years, bravo Mr Vajra, this is enticing stuff!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba, Maturana Tinta, Rioja, Spain.
The incredibly rich and dark Vina Ijalba Maturana Rioja is a very hedonistic red that would not be out of place in a top flight of Napa Cabernets! Matron Tinta is a rare native varietal in Rioja and is almost never made as a single varietal wine, the grape has little information of it’s origins, though it is believed to be a distant relation to Cabernet Sauvignon, which when you taste it seems almost certain to be true. Vina Ijalba is know for crafting wonderful value wine and have a glorious array of wines, especially noteworthy are their beautiful Graciano Rioja offerings, but this 2011, a warm and decedent vintage, Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba Maturana Tinta is a standout and is the most powerful and dense wine I’ve ever had from this winery. This thickly textured and opulent red starts with deep creme de cassis, violets and minty dark chocolate with a black cored purple hue in the glass, this is serious stuff, very Ribera del Duero in style with blackberry, plum sauce, sweet smoky vanilla and a mix of anise, coconut oil, sage and tangy dill. At first the wood and sweetness of flavor and ripe tannin hit you hard, but with air and food this wine turns on the charm, it is very seductive, sexy and aggressively pleasing with a lengthy finish that lingers with mocha, tobacco leaf and blueberry compote. Not terribly subtle, but a great wine for the price, it is a perfect wine get a big WOW effect around the table and wonderful with a big steak or with rosemary roasted lamb, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($25 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2014 Succes Vinicola, Trepat Conca de Barbera “La Cuca de Llum” Spain.
To the north of Montblanc and west of Barcelona is the small region of Conca de Barbera, named for the castle of Barbera and small historic medieval town in Catalunya where Succes Vinicola makes some intriguing wines, especially the delicate and alluring Trepat La Cuca de Llum red. Trepat is a red grape, almost forgotten except for use in Rosé Cava is now the darling of the region and is getting the same interest and attention as Trousseau and Poulsard, the lighter style reds from the Jura, get now. The Succes Vinicola Trepat 2014 shows a delicate color, similar to Pinot Noir with bright ruby at the core and pinkish edges, which leads to a tangy red fruited wine that has a mix of spice, herb, red berries and mineral tones with smooth tannins and a lift of acidity, this vintage gives raspberry, tart lingonberry, bing cherry and orchard plum along with anise, hints of spring flowers, bitters/aperol and mild earthy essences. This is a succulent red wine that was fermented with native yeasts and aged in well used big casks, it gives a light impression on the finely detailed palate and has a crisp, but lengthy finish, great with a slight chill, it feels smooth and goes great with many food choices, even including seafood or subtle meat dishes, drink this very compelling medium/light bodied red over the next 2 to 3 years. If you are fond of Cru Beaujolais or Trousseau you’ll really want this wine, imported by Trumpet Wines, it is really fun and fresh with lots of old world charm.
($17 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Domaine Gallety, Cotes du Vivarais Rouge, Vallee du Rhone, France.
Only recently discovered by Kermit Lynch, Domaine Gallety is a rising star in the little known Côtes du Vivarais making excellent Rhône reds from Syrah and Grenache, it’s called the gateway between the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône Valley and Alain and his son David-Alexandre are expressing the best of both worlds on their all organic estate to west of the Rhône above Nimes near the Ardèche close to Montélimar to the small village to the north. These hills are similar to the Côtes-du-Rhône with lots of sand and clay with mostly limestone, the climate is slightly wetter and cooler giving the grapes longer hang time and plays into style at Gallety who favors Syrah, though this Côtes du Vivarais cuvee Rouge uses it’s 50% of Grenache perfectly giving the wine a rich graceful nature. Domaine Gallety ferments in cement gravity fed cuves and aged in ex-Burgundy barrels, the ferments last about 20 or so days and the wine tastes like whole cluster, with native yeasts, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The 2013 Côtes du Vivarais Rouge is 50% Syrah, 50% Grenache as mentioned, from 40 year old vines and it shows plenty of dark fruits, wild herbs, spice and sweet floral tones starting with crushed violets, camphor/embers, creme de cassis and fresh cracked peppercorns with layers of damson plum, black cherry, boysenberry and pomegranate fruits with chalky stones, lavender, black olives and anise. This gorgeous Rhone red feels like a blend of Cornas & Gigondas with sexy flamboyance, superb detailing and a nice exotic and earthy essence, this is serious stuff, be sure to look for it, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($28 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine de l’ Abbaye-Clos Beylesse, Cotes de Provence Rosé, France.
One of the classic Rosé wines, the Clos Beylesse is easy to spot with it’s unique blue bottle (for UV protection) and distinct label, made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault it is a tasty and refreshing summer time treat. Only a few years I would hardly give attention to Rosé, now I can’t even begin to cover enough of the category, there are so many lovely wines to explore. This Clos Beylesse is serious and well crafted with plenty of stony austere and fine mineral detail to balance the Grenache juiciness, the Syrah lends some body and earthy notes and the Cinsault gives spice, floral dimension and pop to the whole, this pink has some leesy texture, but is very crisp and vibrant. The Rosé is made using Saigne with some of the juicy blessed off to get the right color and extraction, and here it was done extremely well and with great care to keep a delicate hue of pale pink with a light orange tint and just enough tannins to give grip without any harsh elements showing through, this is a graceful and stylish wine, maybe not the best or the most exciting of the season, but certainly charming and of high quality, you won’t be let down with it’s watermelon, tart cherry, mixed citrus and rosewater core or it’s sleek wet stones, lavender and feline nature. Beautiful, refreshing and transparent, and great on it’s own, the Clos Beylesse also adds enjoyment to a varied cuisine, though steamed mussels and even sushi are prime choices for this Cotes de Provence Rosé, drink over the coming year.
($27 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2015 Ameztoi, Rosé “Rubentis” Getariako Txakolina, Spain.
The wildly amusing, zesty and spritzy, Ameztoi Rosé is alive with energy and vibrant fruit, it is a beautifully dry pink that will is impossible to resist. This is an exciting wine that is light and refreshing with a pop of residual carbon that makes in tingle on the tongue without being bubbly, it is crafted with 50% Hondararribi Beltza (red) and 50% Hondarribi Zuri (white) and comes from vines grown at about 150 meters above sea-level in the coastal Basque region of Spain, the vines age between 5 and 150 years old! The red and white grapes are fermented together, the ferments are cold and slow to preserve vitality and vigor, the terroir really shines through with cool maritime influence and the clay and sandy soils lend austere character in this all stainless steel aged Rosé. This gripping wine is made by Ignacio Ameztoi, the seventh generation of this Basque winemaking family, and he is regarded as one of the premier Txakolina producers and is respected far and wide for his lovely and intense wines, especially his classic white Hondarribi Zuri from his estate not far from San Sebastian. The 2015 Ameztoi Rubentis Getariako Txakolina Rosé shows zingy fresh citrus with an underlying lime and kiwi and upfront candied cherry, liquid strawberry, rosewater and watermelon along with hints of guava, steely mineral tones, peaky acidity and light savor/bitter herbs. It’s sad not to have this in magnums, as it is hard not to pound the regular bottle in seconds, so easy and lively is this wonderful to drink, it is a great summer quaffer and it’s unimaginable that you can’t love this smile inducing pink with it’s serve dry/crispness and low alcohol pleasure, great with food and sublime at anytime day or night! This wine must be on the up near the top of your list for the summer heat this year, it’s the adult lemonade!
($23 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Rosé of Sciaccaellu “Cuvee Faustine” Vieilles Vignes, Corsica.
From the Ajaccio area of the island, Abbatucci maybe the most famous estate in Corsica and Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a direct descendant of General Jean-Charles Abbatucci a French Revolutionary hero and contemporary of fellow Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte, is one of the driving forces in Corsican wine, even with that long history Domaine Comte Abbatucci the estate winery is fairly young, being founded in 1950. Corsica has been a major player in wine since the Phocean times, dating back to the late 7th century and early 8th century, they most likely brought to the island the first main varietal vines from cuttings that were Etruscan in origin, though many in Corsica believe it may have been the Etruscans themselves, these grapes have become known locally as Sciaccarellu (Mammolo, still found in Chianti and Tuscany) and Niellucciu (Sangiovese), they are the two most common red grapes, as for whites there is the rare true native grape Biancu Gentile and Vermentinu (Vermentino) the leading grape for wine wine on the island, which may have came via neighboring Sardinia or the Italian coastal regions. Domaine Comte Abbatucci is all biodynamic and focuses purely on native grapes, it is set on mostly granite soils which gives finesse and mineral detail, Abbatucci, imported by Kermit Lynch, crafts some of the most sought after wines in Corsica along with Leccia and Clos Canarelli, these are wines that will blow your mind, especially Jean-Charles’ top red blends from field blends of vines that date back to the early 1960’s, but don’t over look his glorious Rosé of Sciaccarellu Cuvee Faustine with it’s gorgeous color and vibrancy, it’s a wine that rivals the great pink wines of Bandol with a succulent, steely crisp, dry richness and stunning length. The 2015 is full of flavor and energy with sour cherry, liquid roses, flinty spices, wet stone/shale along with juicy acidity, watermelon, strawberry and tangy red citrus. This is a sexy Rosé is made from direct pressing, no malo and a short cold soak to extract color, raised in stainless steel to keep it vital and refreshing. This is an outstanding vintage for Abbatucci, it has depth, ripeness and plenty of vigor with elegance, it’s edgy nervy nature makes it a riveting pleasure with cuisine and can be drunk with the whole meal, no matter how serious or robust the food choices. While the Corsican roses can age, it is always best to drink them in the first year.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Turasan, Emir Cappadocian White, Turkey.
From the wild landscapes of Cappadocia in central Turkey comes this vibrant and pleasing Emir white, and considering the origins, religion and politics this wine is somewhat a miracle, proof of some real passion for winemaking given the government’s open hostility to alcohol in any form! Cappadocia is a cross between a haunting moonscape and or something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel with huge rock formations that steep up from the ground and forming what they call “Fairy Chimneys” and the region has an interesting and lengthy history from early cave dwellers that caved homes from these impressive stones to being part of the Persian empire, as well as Roman and Byzantine conquests to a hiding place for Christians and Armenian settlers before Turkish clans took over the region and the rule of the Ottoman which came into being in the 15th century. Turkey produces the fourth largest amount of grapes in the world, though most never see the inside of a wine bottle in this pious country, but Anatolia’s Cappadocia is a big wine region and offers a surprising number of varietals and really good wines, especially Emir for whites and Kalecik Karasi for reds. Emir Cappadocian is a refreshing and vital white grape that makes for impressive dry whites and sparklers, though I’ve yet to sample the bubbly, from little I can gather it is a native grape and while good for early consumption it has a reputation for not being an ager or that is reacts badly when put in wood, regardless this Turasan is a lovely example and is serious fun wine that can put a smile on your face and easily please a crowd whether at a pool party, beach picnic or around a middle eastern or Turkish meal. The Turasan Emir is bright with citrus blossom, tangerine, apricot, peach and lemon/lime leading the way with hints of tropical fruit, a light zesty body, faint mineral notes and crisp dry character finishing with mayer lemon and tangy melon. Cappadocia sounds amazing and with history everywhere you look and heritage sites that are breath taking, hopefully I will visit this isolated region, in the meantime I’ll imagine it with this Emir, it is a wine well worth searching out.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
nv Christophe Mignon, Extra Brut Champagne, France.
A brilliant dry and vibrant Champagne of sublime depth and grace with a special expression of varietal purity, in this case 100% Pinot Meunier. Mignon is a tiny grower producer with small plots of Meunier spend between Le Breuil and Festigny in the Le Mesnil-le-Huttier area of Champagne not too far from Epernay, these 30 parcels are all farmed biodynamic and holistic with his vines that were planted by his grandparents. The latest Extra Brut comes from two vintages, 2011 and 2012 and was disgorged on February 7, 2015, it shows it’s lengthy lees aging and has a stylish intensity delivering wonderful vitality, depth and length with a soft, but vigorous mousse. Lemon, white cherry, apple, hints of red fruit and golden fig lead with white flowers, brioche, hazelnut and steely mineral, this is an earthy sensual sparkling wine that keeps your heart pounding and demands your full attention, this is a complex and detailed wine first and foremost, even if you wanted it just to celebrate it does that and much more, use a bigger bowled glass to experience it’s full charm and character, and I highly recommend you enjoy it with every course of your meal, gorgeous alone, but remarkable with cuisine. Meunier bubbly is all the rage, and Christophe Mignon is a great place to jump in, this is a great effort, this and his Rose are lovely, balanced and texture driven wines with finesse and seductive allure, don’t miss them!
($50 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Uriondo, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Basque White, Spain.
The bright and zesty crisp Uriondo Txakoli is a pretty and dynamic summer white showing lots of lime citrus and high toned stone fruit along with bitter herb, steely mineral and a hint of Japanese spicy ginger. This very pale and tingling acid filled Bizkaiko Txakolina is made up of mostly Hondarribi Zuri, about 70% along with Sauvignon Blanc, known locally as Mune Mahatsa plus a bit of Folle Blanche, and known by the natives as Txori Mahatsa, the wine is almost all stainless steel fermented and raised, though surprisingly the Folle Blanche is fermented by itself in used American oak cask. The Atlantic cooling influence shows throughout in this finely detailed and light white wine, the vines are planted on sandy chalk and clay soils not too far from the Basque city of Bilbao. Uriondo is not an old winery by Spanish standards, starting in 1987, but it has certainly gained a great reputation for style and quality and I’ve been a fan for about 10 vintages now and this 2015 impresses for vibrancy and pleasure, it is nearly a perfect summer wine, refreshing and easy to love with a good long tangy finish with lingering citrus and green melon. This vivid white appears simple at first, but comes to life with complexity and verve with food and is a wonderful brisk low alcohol quaffer!
($21 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Donnhoff, Riesling, Estate Trocken, Nahe Germany.
Donnhoff’s Estate Trocken is a vibrantly dry and crisp mineral driven Riesling from plots of mixed soils, mostly porphyry with some gravel, loam and small amounts of slate near the Crus of Oberhauser Felsenberg and Kieselberg. in recent vintages, especially 2014 the Estate Trocken the wine seemed shy at first or subtle with austere briskness, but 2015 will certainly break that trend, it is flamboyant and richly flavored, while still dusty mouth watering it shows a dense core of apricot, white peach, green apple, mango and quince as well as tangy lime and steely mineral spice. This wine, which is still developing with a white flower and orangey nose, I’ve been saving to write about, as I tasted it as a tank/cask sample, should be available in the states later this month (June 2016) and it is a Riesling you’ll want to stock up on, it shows the vintage in all it’s greatness, you can and should believe the hype, the 2015 wines in Germany look to be some of the best ever for dry styles in particular, but also up to Spatlese as well! There is added depth, textural sensations and heightened perfume, even in the early samples I’ve tried, and while 2013 and 2014 are turning out to be lovely wines, these 2015 are so special, pure and hedonistic you’ll want their seductive charms in your cellar. With the Estate offerings from Donnhoff, you get Cru quality at insanely fair (bargain) prices, these are both remarkable wines the Trocken with it’s power and thrilling acidity/tanginess and the Estate, which is just off dry with a juicy and almost creamy hints at sweetness without being heavy, you can imagine enjoying with spicy Asian food, I only wish they made these in Liters or Magnums! The 2015 Donnhoff Estate Trocken is balanced, vigorous and joyously balanced, it lingers with stone fruit, nice saline elements, hints of tropical essences, tangerine, rose petal and crushed wet shale. Without question this is one of the best dry Rieslings in the world for the price, and a quilt free drink young wine from this famed address in the Nahe, this is a wine to greedily hoard and savor, plus it has everything needed and exact to age well for a decade easy, don’t miss.
($22 Est.) 91-93 Points, grapelive
2014 Bodegas Menade, Verdejo, Rueda Spain.
This all organic Verdejo from near Valladolid in the Rueda region is like a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc in style and crisp/tangy on the palate with loads of fresh lemon/lime, summer melon and gooseberry fruits, bitter herb, dusty stones and a touch of green almond oil. Crafted by the sibling team of Marco, Richard and Alejandra Sanz, Menade is certainly one of the great values of the region, they are making an exciting wine with bright detail and energy, it is native yeast fermented without sulfur and aged solely in stainless, it sees time on the lees to give a bit more complexity and richness. The soils are most clay and sand with veins of minimal limestone with some round pebbles and white carbonate dust, which adds to the distinct terroir flavors. I would much rather have this brilliant Verdejo than some generic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this white shows much more character and charm. Seriously tasty, tangy and vibrant with poise and elegance, it is hard to imagine a better $10 white for summer sipping or tapas, this wine shows vitality and personality that rarely can be matched for the price, being organic and low sulfur is a bonus, this this now and often, best from 2016 to 2018, perfect for picnics with fruit and cheeses as well as a refresher on warm evenings or for party quaffing!
($10 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Pinot Noir “A” Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Alfaro Family Vineyards estate is in the south Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos, just inland from Aptos and a handful of miles south of downtown town Santa Cruz itself, with a Pacific very close by giving a cool influence. This is a great spot for Pinot Noir and Richard Alfaro hand crafts some great examples of this varietal, as well as making small lots of fabulous Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Syrah, a tiny bit of Merlot and even an Albrarino. The “A” Estate Pinot Noir by Alfaro is a blend of the varied plots and clones, it is hand picked and fermented in open top bins with long cool ferments and aged for about 10 months in mostly used French oak, with 25% new. This is the first of the 2014’s to be released and it is a stunningly pleasing expression with deep flavors and rich complexity, pure Pinot fruit and fine detail helped by a lengthy finish with rose petal, vanilla, fig and framboise. There are not too many value priced estate grown Pinot Noirs that can compare to this wine, in fact it delivers quality that punches way about it’s category and price class, as proof, it was tasted against 5 top, highly rated wines from Oregon and California all mostly in the $50 range, along with a couple $100 wines and this Alfaro “A” Estate was in most cases was the preferred wine! This bodes well for the up coming releases of Richard’s Cru wines, the Lindsay Paige and Mary Katherine Vineyards’ offerings from this same vintage! The “A” Estate 2014 starts with floral tones, blue and red fruit, smoky sweet wood and a touch of earth and spice with a lovely dark garnet/ruby hue in the glass. The palate is satiny smooth with ripe black cherry, plum and raspberry leading the way with a nice cut of acidity and silky tannins as well as notes of cedar, wild herbs, loam, savory elements, tart currant, subtle mineral and blueberry tang. This is stylish and decedent Pinot Noir that feels rather opulent and dense, while remaining poised, focused and wonderfully balanced, it youthful and fresh now, but it should age well too, best from 2016 to 2026.
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Alberto Nanclares, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain.
First, if you’ve not had these wines by Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto you are missing out on some fantastic Albariño, these two are crafting some of the greatest dry white wine under $40 period, these wines show terroir excellence and have exceptional life and intensity. The 2014 Alberto Nanclares Albariño is from vines that range from 30 to 100 years old grown on sandy granite rich soils, this cool Galician climate and the Atlantic Ocean lend influence and complexity to this dynamic acid filled and mineral driven white. Nanclares and Prieto hand harvest, in 2014 harvest was late due to the cool and wet summer, then the grapes from various plots are slow pressed whole cluster and ferments are natural with low sulfur, half the wine is raised in stainless and half in neutral French cask, they employ a no malo approach and the wine is left on the lees and unfiltered, bottled after about 8 months. The latest Albariño is profound, vital and bursting with tension, very dry Riesling, Premier Cru Chablis and Gruner like, with good depth and extract, but light/medium weight and while riveting and brisk there is a background of textural sensuality and harmony. The nose is briny with citrus, oyster shell and verbena, the color is lightly golden with yellow tints leading to an electrically charged and steely palate of lime, been apple, white peach, hints of tropical essences, flinty wet stones, bitter herbs, yellow roses and crisp melon. Salty and fresh the Alberto Nanclares Albariño is just gorgeous in detail and expression, the last three vintages have been a revelation, imported by Jose Pastor, these wines have me obsessed, search them out, especially this 2014 Alberto Nanclares Albariño bottling, it’s clarity and vigor are spellbinding, drink over the next 3 to 5 years. The Nanclares Albariño is a glorious food wine and can replace Muscadet for oysters, and it holds up to many cuisine choices, seafood of course, but also cheeses, ham and medium spicy fare, it also great as a summer refresher with just 12.5% alcohol and delicious tangy stone fruit, brilliant stuff.
($30 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 La Spinetta, Barbaresco, Starderi, Vurso, Piedmonte, Italy.
The ultra luxurious La Spinetta Starderi Cru Barbaresco is always a glorious treat to experience, it is without question one of my all time wines regardless of vintage, and this 2011 is a stunning wine that gets the heart racing and reveals the Grand Cru nature of this terroir driven Nebbiolo. Giorgio Rivetti over the years has fine tuned his set of Barbaresco and Barolo wines, using less overt oak with amazing effect, and these offerings are some of the noblest expressions of varietal and place you can find. The Starderi has a special meaning to me, some of my greatest wine experiences have been with this great Barbaresco, this Starderi Cru and Clos de la Roche Grand Cru in Burgundy might be my ultimate red wine weaknesses, both continue to haunt me and fascinate me, young or with age wines from these places speak to my soul. The 2011 La Spinetta Starderi starts a brilliant dark ruby hue, with a mix of rose petal, violet, wild herbs, baking spice and balsamic dipping red fruits leading to a remarkable light/medium bodied palate of earthy fruits with dusty plum, black cherry and red currants forming a core along with anise, mineral tones, loamy/forest notes, a whiff of vanilla, tar and flinty rock. The forward nature of the vintage is on display, but subtle tannin and lifting acidity add a bite of blood orange and hold things in a grip of velvet lined vitality and the finish is beautifully detailed and long with elements of cedar, mint and a replay of red fruits. This is sexy and seductive Nebbiolo that defines the La Spinetta style and re-enforces my love of this Cru, it’s complex hedonistic opulence and refinement with a background of sensual earthy charms is intoxicating, I admit I’m a huge fan of this wine going in, but it does not ever disappoint, even with my high expectations! Drink this Starderi Cru over the next 10 to 15 years, best from 2018 to 2028.
($147 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2014 Celler Frisach, Vernatxa Blanca “La Foradada” Terra Alta, Spain.
For over 200 years winemaker Francesc Ferre’s family has been growing organic wine grapes in the Terra Alta region of Spain in Catalunya, south west of Barcelona. This windswept high elevation area is wild and remote, perfect for Francesc to grow Grenache Blanc in ancient solidified sand dunes at about 1,200 feet, his vines are on terraces carved from layers of almost pure calcium overlooking Corbera d’Ebre, the warm days and cool nights highlight ripe flavors and great acidity with the soil giving dynamic mineral layers. Frisach is making some serious wines, especially this La Foradada Grenache Blanc that sees extra skin contact, this allows the wine to have almost no added sulfur, it’s name La Foradada is from the use of tiny round windows in the ancient buildings of this area, and of all of Francesc Ferre’s impressive offerings it is the most intriguing and expressive. The 2014 Celler Frisach La Foradada Vernatxa Blanca is vibrant and vivid with hints of white flowers and lime with a golden/yellowy hue in the glass and loads of stone fruits, spice and stylish wet slate on the palate, it has the feel of a dry Riesling with hidden extract and energy. Apricot, tangerine, lemon/lime, green melon and tangy peach all meld together along with dusty chalk, anise, peppery dried ginger, saline and mango. The texture is succulent and smooth like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, though this wine remains naturally vital with a hint of tannin and minerally crisp and nicely tart, great with food. This is wonderful terroir driven wine that shows charm, passion and fresh excitement, I highly recommend searching out this tiny producer, imported my Trumpet Wines, and drink this white over the next 2 or 3 years!
($22 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Trout Gulch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The Trout Gulch Vineyard sits above Aptos, very close to the ocean and is dry farmed, planted in 1980 it is one of the oldest plots in this area, and since coming under Richard Alfaro’s management it is now a brilliant source for dynamic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a line of top young winemakers wanting the fruit including Arnot-Roberts plus others that wish not to be named. The Alfaro Trout Gulch Chardonnay, his only non Estate Chard, is a lively and lovely wine, especially this 2013 that has an extra sex appeal with hints of exotic tropical fruit, smooth texture and bright mineral tones, it was raised in neutral cask, no new wood, and displays classic Burgundy like lemon and hazelnut around a core of bosc pear, apple and white peach fruits and subtle brioche and chalky wet stones. There is a seductive earthy element and saline influence to go with the fresh acidity that adds contrast to the opulent and glycerin filled palate. This pretty straw/gold colored Chardonnay is pure class and pleasure, with air it develops a creamy sensation, but always stays focused with lingering white flowers, melon, peanut oil and pineapple. I had this in half bottle to celebrate #ChardonnayDay, it was a perfect choice, drink this over the next 3 to 5 years, and be sure to check all of the Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery wines!
($25 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Life” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The Life Pinot Noir from Cooper Mountain Vineyards is a biodynamic natural wine without the use of sulfur or sulfites with native yeasts and a more vineyard intensive approach to achieve balance and healthy structure/stability in the wine. The 2014 Life shows the ripe and forward natural of the vintage without being too sweet fruited or heavy, it comes in at about 13% alcohol and has rich layered black and red fruits, a hint of earth and spice and nice detail with plenty of extract and textural pleasure, it has a bit of what you find in the no sulfur cuvees that you see from Cru Beaujolais, I was suggest it might be modeled after Lapierre of Morgon in style. It is very direct, not overly complex and still has an allure with blackberry, cherry, plum and fig fruits along with kick of juicy acidity, blueberry tanginess with loam, sweet herbs, a touch of cedar and baking spice. For those seeking vegan, low sulfur, organic wine that has a sense of terroir and value might want explore Cooper Mountain Vineyards, especially this Life Pinot Noir, this Demeter certified biodynamic all estate grown producer is making some solid efforts, I also liked their slightly lessy Pinot Gris, which is a bargain at about $15.
($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Whitcraft Winery, Pinot Noir, Pence Ranch, Pommard Clone, Santa Ynez Valley.
This unfined/unfiltered native yeast and whole cluster Pinot Noir from Drake Whitcraft might be the best wine I’m tried from this producer that is celebrating their 30th anniversary. The beautiful Pommard Clone Pence Ranch Pinot is alive with flavors and complex detail with a wonderful textural array on the palate and elegant lightness, it is stunningly only 12.6% alcohol, making those low alcohol zealots salivate, while making those that like a more finessed Pinot Noir that still has ripe and complete character impressed as well, numbers don’t mean anything unless there is a reward and substance in the wine, and this one delivers. The vibrancy of youth still over shadows the whole picture, but you can see the potential in this 2014 Whitcraft, it starts with floral and spicy notes on the nose and a bright ruby/garnet red hue in the glass with just a hint of cloudy unfilteredness, that clears quickly and the palate is an explosion of wild cherry, plum and pomegranate fruits with hints of mineral, chalky stones, cedar and lively pepper, red tea, cinnamon and a touch of smoke. With air a gorgeous silky sensation coats the mouth and satiny tannin and a framboise note lingers on, but lifted delicately with a peach and blood orange burst of acidity, this is a deftly crafted wine that should fill out in all the right places. This will be a fun wine to revisit in 5 to 10 years, not cheap, but very impressive, drink from 2018 to 2028.
($60 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
nv Vajra, N.S. Della Neve, Extra Brut Rose, Sparkling Wine, Piedmonte, Italy.
This is beautiful and exotic Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir made in a brisk and vibrant, ultra dry style bubbly from Giuseppe Vajra, better known for his Barolo, this handcrafted Champagne style sparkling is a stellar effort. The color is vivid and striking in the bottle and the glass and the palate is as cool and steely as some of those geeky Pinot Meunier cuvee(s) that we grower producer Champagne fans covet, if you are fans of Prevost, Savart or Bouchard you’ll want to get ahold of this beautiful bubbly, Vajra has done with Sparkling what he did with Riesling, both are wines that you would never have expected to come from Piedmont and in particular the heart of Barolo! This severe and tangy Rose is alive with intensity and energy with a dynamic mineral core, a light dusting of spices, faint florals and lots of zesty citrus along with a subtle brioche leesy feel, all perfectly set against tension filled acidity. The profile is much more refined than the hue of bright pink would lead you to believe and mousse is poised almost delicate in the mouth, the main thrust is red peach, apple skin, earthy strawberry and mandarin orange with a hint of anise, wet stones and the impression of rose oil. There is a vigorous and edgy tone that stays throughout, this brilliant Extra Brut never dulls or loses it’s lightness, this is a fantastic and intriguing wine that just plain and simple rocks!
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Sergio Mottura, Grechetto, Poggio della Costa, IGT Bianco, Lazio Italy.
The tank raised Grechetto Poggio della Costa from Sergio Mottura is a vibrant and leesy white that delivers fine detail and energy, one of the most beautiful wines made from this varietal from vines grown on volcanic soils that straddle the Umbria and Lazio regions of central Italy. Mottura also makes DOC Orvieto, also a great example of region, but this Poggio della Costa pure Grechetto is on another level with green apple, citrus blossoms, lemon/lime, summer melon, white peach and tangerine sorbet all vivid and lifted by natural acidity and terroir driven spice and saline elements from the mineral rich soils. This wine is amount medium weight and has a touch of brioche that adds texture and a sensual quality to this steely and tangy wine, it’s sublime balance and it’s hint of exotic nature make it irresistible and refreshing, drink over the next year or two. Sergio Mottura also does a Burgundy barrel aged version of Grechetto, the Latour a Civitella, named after the Louis Latour sourced French oak, this is also very much worth seeking out, it is fuller in body and seriously sexy with a Premier Cru Chablis like taste and feel, and it certainly grabs your attention, but for my tastes the Poggio della Costa Grechetto wins for it’s expressive and impressive sense of place and value.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Domaine Tempier, Bandol Rosé, Provence, France.
The steely and luxurious 2015 Domaine Tempier Rosé is a must have wine for summer, made up of a blend of 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, it shows all the style and substance that is expected of this famous Domaine. The vitality in Lulu Peyraud and winemaker Daniel Ravier’s latest Rosé highlights the organic farming and clear focus in the cellar allowing terroir and soul to show through, this Rosé was crafted 50% by saignée and 50% by direct press, which allows the wine to have power, mouth feel and still be intensely vibrant and detailed. It spent 6 months in Cuves, large neutral cask to fresh out and heighten the textural pleasure, it is not as old school funky/cool as Chateau Simone or the Tibouren based Clos Cibonne, but still has good aging potential, even though with Tempier I can’t imagine waiting too long to drink this hedonistic rite of summer. The first impression of the 2015 is one of joyous reunion, the gorgeous hue of which you can’t help smile at, pinkish/orange, it invokes warm sunset images and romance with a play of mineral, wild lavender, spiced rosewater and tangerine leading up to sour cherry, watermelon, wet stones, bright saline, red peach, zesty citrus, ruby grapefruit and very faint soft wood sensation. There is a great play of tangy/savory elements set against a lavish and lush sorbet forwardness that appeals and this tension runs the length of this fine Rosé, it’s funny too people, while complaining at the price adore this wine, though I can’t help think it is a bargain when compared to the $100 offerings from Domaine Ott or Chateau d’ Esclans, and I can’t fathom a summer without a few bottles! In a new age where there is a lot of great pink wines, Domaine Tempier is still the benchmark, don’t miss it.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 No Girls, Grenache, La Paciencia Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley.
No Girls is a spin off from Cayuse with Christophe Baron over seeing and making the wine since the first release in 2008, though his assistant Elizabeth Bourcier is now taking over the winemaking duties for this amazing project, they craft two wines, a Grenache and a Syrah from a single vineyard La Paciencia (The Patience) in the Walla Walla region. No Girls the name is a shout out to some of the town of Walla Walla’s colorful past and historic sites, the label is from a handwritten sign outside a former bordello, it was to keep the women outside from seeing what was going on inside! Forgetting the story a moment, the No Girls Grenache is a monumental wine of profound presence, this stunning example of varietal and terroir is on par with any great Grenache be it Rayas, Sadie Family or Alban, this is gorgeous, sensual and dreamy wine that seduces with purity of unoaked fruit and natural earth, spice and inner life force. It is complexly wild and dramatic while still being focused, detailed and serene, this amazingly compelling Grenache was native yeast fermented, whole cluster without using barrel or cask, but old school vat raised, and even in such a difficult vintage there is no way not to be completely seduced. The 2011 La Paciencia Grenache starts with earthy spices, wild flowers, minty herb, truffle and mixed red berries leading to a full and vigorous palate that does not feel heavy or overly ripe, there is a sensation that you get that reminds you of a Grand Cru Burgundy, a sense of thrilling, spine tingling enlightenment and pleasure, this stuff is sexy as hell with strawberry, black cherry, plum, vine picked raspberry along with black olive, loam, peppercorns, salted licorice and light gamey notes. Persistent and long lingering in the mouth and mind this No Girls seduces and takes no prisoners, like I said there is not many wines that are on this level, it really is is rare company, more open knit than it’s cousin Cayuse this is a bucket list new world wine!
($130 Est.) 95+ Points, grapelive
2015 Andrew Murray, Esperance Rose of Cinsault, Curtis Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley.
The 2015 Esperance Rose is 100% Cinsault and it shines brightly pink in the glass with crisp dry fruity character in the glass, this is vibrant and delicious Provence style Rose. Tangy with stony/mineral elements this classy pink has loads of energy, Andrew has crafted another great wine and value, this wine and his basic Syrah are stunning values and great easy to drink Rhone/Provence inspired beauties, especially this unique and flavorful Rose of Cinsault. The palate is brisk and tart with watermelon, sour cherry, citrus dipped strawberry and red nectarine as well as a mix of bitter herb, pepper, saline and sticky lavender adding complexity and contrast. Impressive for it’s presence and persistence this is a serious Rose, it certainly can be sipping cool and refreshing, but is more likely at it’s best with cuisine and it’s got got guts and is robust enough to stand up to bold flavors and meat dishes even, this is flexible and focused Rose. Andrew Murray is making some of his best wines yet, his whole current lineup from whites to reds and this pink are worth exploring, these are quality wines that have soul and poise. Drink this Rose of Cinsault over the next year, perfect for the beach, backyard and warm summer nights.
($19 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Giovanni Rosso, Barolo, Cerretta, Piedmonte, Italy.
Davide Rosso’s gorgeous and silky Cerretta Cru Barolo is a young Nebbiolo that you can enjoy even now, though it certainly can age a decade or more, the 2011 has lush almost sweet tannins that add structure, but fold beautifully into the wine with any harsh edges. This striking Barolo has deep flavor, charm and hedonistic pleasure flowing in smooth layers from start to finish, this is pure as can be, traditionally crafted and wonderfully detailed with poise and terroir infused nobility. The 2011 Cerretta is denser than the basic Serralunga with a lavish texture, but still has the vibrant intensity and style, all the Giovanni Rosso wines are sublime, especially this one with it’s Burgundy like elegance and lengthy satiny mouth fell and graceful presence in the glass. The palate of the 2011 Cerretta starts with dried roses and dark floral tones, hints of cedary spice, minty herb and a cascade of red fruits with plum, cherry and tangy vine berries leading the way along with loamy earth, tarry salted black licorice, lavender tea and a touch of game. In it’s expressive youth the fruit feels full and ripely opulent, but I can sense the overall extract and complexity is all there for some fantastic evolving over the next 5 or 7 years in bottle. It is really joyous now, and it would not be bad to celebrate it’s openess with cuisine sooner v later, it is nice to be able to buy a bottle of great Nebbiolo and pop it open and totally feel no quilt and get maximum understanding of the place and varietal, this is that wine, it’s worthy of your cellar with out a doubt. I’m a huge fan of this winery and their 2008’s and 2010’s are masterpieces, but if you want a sleeper vintage to covet these 2011’s are fantastic!
($90 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2015 Signal Ridge Vineyard “White Zin” Dry Rose of Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge.
Though the name is playful and ironic, this is serious stuff with a vibrant dry character, very removed from the sweet blush almost pancake syrup style of white Zinfandel that is made for people that hate wine! Stephanie Rivin and team at Signal Ridge Vineyard are making some really well made wines way up in the Mendocino Ridge AVA above the Anderson Valley in the wilds of Mendocino County, this family run and hand crafted producer makes a lovely set of offerings, including a great Carignane, Zinfandel, some bubbly, a crisp Chardonnay and a superb Pinot Noir. This “White Zin” Dry Rose is the latest and was done on a whim, it has turned out remarkably well and bone dry brisk. Rivin needed the grapes ripe, but with vigorous acidity and nature provided the raw material to get this fun pink done, at 13.7% it is not a wimpy Rose, but it is seriously dry and vital with a refreshing bitter/savory kick and lingering stony elements to go along with juicy citrus, watermelon, sour cherry and hints of raspberry as well as rosewater, fennel and sage. This is one of the best Zin roses I’ve tried, the steely mineral and mouth watering saline and chalky wet rock complexity sets it apart and it already has me chuckling at the thought of serving “White Zin” to my friends, this is a cool wine, look for it and drink without pretense over the next 6 months to a year, impressive again from a winery to watch!
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Paolo Scavino, Barolo, Bric del Fiasc, Piedmonte, Italy.
Scavino’s Fiasco Cru is from Castiglione Falletto, first made in 1978, though it has been in the family since 1921, it is one of the most sought after wines in Piedmont and the 2012 is lovely, elegant and textured capturing the soul of Barolo. It was an honor to meet and taste with Elisa Scavino, all of the 2012 and 2013 Nebbiolo wines were stunningly pure and detailed from the basic Langhe Nebbiolo to the gorgeous Bric del Fiasc, this was one of the best young set of Barolo I’ve tasted in years! The 2012 Bric del Fiasc starts with a deep perfume of red rose petal, mineral and subtle cedar and a mix of red and blue fruits leading to an expansive palate with amazing mouth feel and textural pleasure. The layers of black cherry, damson plum, tangy currant and lush strawberry linger for days along with sweet tannin, hints of tar, minty herb, anise and saline rich stones. A light earthiness and fresh personality highlight the energy and complex nature of this beautiful Nebbiolo that is showing remarkably gracious, but should be wonderful for decades, this is impressive wine, a world class Barolo that pleases with finesse, though has an underlying power and terroir force that drives it. The Paolo Scavino Bric del Fiasc should be coveted and cellared, it is a glorious wine, and if you want to grab a value, you should search out the Barolo normale, which is also extremely lovely and retails for $45, these 2012’s are classic styled Barolo and are incredibly seductive!
($98 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2015 Quinta do Regueiro, Alvarinho Reserva, Moncao e Melgaco, Portugal.
Paulo Rodrigues crafts an amazing 100% Alvarinho (Albarino) from a collection of small plots with some vines know to be about 150 years old, this tiny winery is one of the very few going it alone and not made by a large co-op in the Vinho Verde and Minho region. With gorgeous fresh detail and vibrant acidity this native yeast, natural white is stainless raised and has some lees aging to add complexity and depth, this is a great example of quality Alvarinho from Portugal and even rivals some of the top Spanish wines, it shows fine mineral character and very vivid and brisk. The 2015 vintage is full of personality and charm with subtle exotic tropical elements adding to it’s seductive allure, the nose displays white flowers, sea breeze, steely notes and orchard fruits leading to a zesty palate that is lean, focused and driving with tension showing green apple, white peach, mixed citrus and passion fruit. Everything is clear and persistent with eye popping vivacious grapefruit like tanginess with hints of stony chalk and sea shore pebbles, this is gripping Alvarinho, it’s natural alcohol is about 12% making for a delicately weighted wine that is still full of flavor and extract, similar to an Aussie blisteringly dry Riesling or Austrian Gruner, perfect for summer, both as an afternoon cooler or a warm evening pleaser, perfect with seafood, especially mussels, oysters and clams or fried white fish. This is a real steal and a wine lovers wine made by a small artisan winemaker with an intense passion that is also reflected in his wine and terroir, small amounts are imported by Threshold Wine Company, this is a stellar white to search out, both the 2014 and this newly released 2015 vintage are exceptional.
($19 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Jean Foillard, Morgon “Les Charmes” Cuvee Eponym, Cru Beaujolais, France.
Foulard makes Gamay wines that drink like Premier Cru Burgundy, these are exceptional wines of profound impact and personality, I’ve been in love with Jean Foillard’s Morgons since the 2005 and even lesser years like 2006 and 2007 were gorgeous, and of course the whole wine world went completely nuts for the 2009 vintage. Foillard’s main wine is the “Cote du Py” but there are rare limited other cuvees like his “3.14 cuvee Pi” and the lovely “Cuvee Corcelette” as well as the black label Fleurie, a heavenly Gamay creation from a tiny plot of Fleurie, and then there is this Cuvee Eponym “Les Charmes” a totally new one for me, and a wine I was most excited to sample! The Eponym is made from the highest elevation site in Morgon, 45 to 50 year old Gamay vines on granite, schist and manganese soils, as with all of Jean Foillard’s wines it is whole cluster, all organic and with no added SO2 during ferments, the wines are raised in used Burgundy barrels, except Corcelette which uniquely is done in one single large Foudre. The top of the hill Lieu-Dit Les Charmes gives an added intensity, in fact it is a very nervy with hard bitter shrillness that was surprising at first, but thankfully first impressions give way and this gorgeous Gamay changed it’s tune with a bit of air revealing an inner beauty of Gamay heaven, while never letting you forget it’s structure and peaky qualities. After an hour this Morgon showed it’s best side with violets, walnut oil, blackberry, tangy dark currant and sweet kirsch as well as stem tannins, savory spices, shale/stone, mixed herb, cinnamon bark, earth and tart wild strawberry. This is the most edgy of the Foillard offerings, but certainly very thought provoking, intriguing and powerful in an almost Cornas kind of way without losing any of it’s own sense of place or varietal pureness, I think over time this charmer will be even more sensational, it might just be a bit firm or tight to be fully appreciated without cuisine. Just to let you know too, this cuvee Eponym comes in with natural alcohol at 11.7% which is quite low, but again highlights terroir, artistry and passion hidden behind an icy stare, brilliant stuff, if not as wildly seductive as Foillard’s other wines.
($40 Est.) 91+ Points, grapelive
2014 Succes, Trepot, La Cuca de LLum, Conca de Barbera D.O. Spain.
The Succes La Cuca de Llum made from the rare Trepot grape is a delicate and natural red, lighter and brighter than you’d imagine a wine from the wilds of south west Catalunya would taste like, it reminds me a bit of Nerello Mascalese and Poulsard if you ever were to mix the two! These come from vines near the Montblanc region which has higher elevation, dramatic landscapes and a mix of fine terroir with soils that are mineral rich with schist and granite veins. Trepot, an ancient varietal that was almost exclusively found in Cava is making a remarkable comeback from near extinction and or obscurity to be the darling of this lesser known and rugged region. Tiny amounts of this beauty are imported by Trumpet Wines, and while almost impossible to find, you should search for these wines from Succes, the white is very good and unique too, but the Trepot, raw and transparent really is a seductive creature, vibrant, vivid and alluring with tart cherry, raspberry, exotic tea notes and dusty spices make it wildly compelling. The light ruby color, lifting acidity and earthy fruits lead the way in this intriguing light to medium bodied red with natural alcohol just over 12% (12.5% in this vintage) it also makes you think of the mineral driven reds of the Loire. Minty/lavender, spiced red peach and bitter herbs also come through on the light structured palate along with strawberry/rhubarb add tangy contrast as well as a hint of savory stone elements with lingering chalk, saline and red currants. This is a fun and interesting red to wine geek out to, drink over the next 2 to 3 years.
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2014 Drew, Pinot Noir, The Gatekeeper, Mendocino.
The beautiful and youthful new Drew Gatekeeper is a complete and detailed wine with succulent red and blue fruit and complex substance. Jason Drew crafted this beauty from sites in Anderson Valley, the Yorkville Highlands and the sea influenced and windswept Mendocino Ridge, 30%-Morning Dew Ranch, 25% Weir Vineyard, 20% Perli Vineyard, 25% Valenti Ranch, all top cool climate sites, making for a dramatic Pinot Noir expression, and if you are geeky for clones, the Gatekeeper has 828, Rochioli, 2A, 667, 777 and 115. This vintage Drew went with 20% whole cluster, giving a flamboyant and spicy personality while retaining elegance and it was native yeast fermented with a ripe, but lower natural alcohol, at 13.5% it still has plenty of lush character and pleasing textural charm, and vibrant acidity with lots of energy, and it saw just under a year in French oak, which by my own reckoning tasted like mostly neutral, well seasoned barrels, in fact no new wood was used, so the expressive nature of this wine is well preserved. The 2014 starts with a rather dark seductive color in the glass and hints of flowers, spice and stone fruit get you going, the palate is medium weighted with black cherry, wild plum, black raspberry, tangy currant and strawberry layers of fruit, as well as cinnamon stick, light cedar notes, mixed tea with fennel, loamy earth, saline and mineral tones. This bright and structured Pinot shows fine focus and balance, it should age well, but is amazingly easy to cherish even now, this is a vintage to stock up on Drew and it looks like even from this entry level offering, the Drew’s are going to be something special, impressive stuff! On a finishing note, I love the new label design on the 2014 Drew, and The Gatekeeper is great with exotic cuisine, giving depth of flavor, playing nice with an array of spices and bring a huge smile to those sharing it, great job by a talented winemaker, I can’t wait to taste his new Syrah vintage either!
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Ampeleia, Alicante, Costa Toscana IGT Rosso, Italy.
The Elisabetta Foradori natural Alicante from Ampeleia is a wonderful and vibrant example of Mediterranean influenced Grenache from the coastal site near Maremma in south western Tuscany. Most commonly found in Spain and France, there is now some provoking thoughts being given to the idea that this grape have in fact come from Sardinia, where it is known as Cannonau, though for the last few decades the wine world thought it was originally from Spain, it is called a few different names in Italy, but Alicante Nero is it’s main moniker, and is no relation the red juiced, super inky, Alicante Bouchet. The Ampeleia Alicante is grown in sandy soils with a pebbly cover, perfect for Grenache, at about 250 meters that allows for a drier/cooler nighttime, which gives freshness and health to the hanging grapes for complex and details flavors with enough acidity to balance the varietal’s sweet fruitiness. The 2014 is opulent and caressing on the palate with red plum, raspberry, loganberry, kirsch and spiced strawberry with pepper, lavender, bay leaf and dusty stones along with hint of peach flesh and anise. This ruby/garnet hued red is lush in mouth feel, but vital and lively with a medium bodied, it was fermented all natural with native yeasts, whole cluster and aged only in cement tanks for 6 months, and with ripe supple tannin smoothly layered into this intriguing organic wine. Ampeleia is a winery to check out with a sublime selection of hand crafted wines to chose from offering a great contrast to Fodadori’s home estate in Alto Adige, drink this Alicante over the next 2 or 3 years.
($34 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Bow & Arrow, Pinot Noir, Hughes Hollow Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Bow & Arrow is an underground Portland winery making natural wines from select Willamette and Oregon vineyards, owned by Scott and Dana Frank, they specialize in Gamay and Pinot Noir, as well as doing a tasty Melon de Bourgogne white inspired by Muscadet. In recent years I have fallen in love with the Bow & Arrow Gamay Noir and their Pinot & Gamay blend Rhinestones, but this 2014 Hughes Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir is awesome, bright and fresh even in such a blockbuster fruity year it retains crunchy mineral notes and lean acidity along with dark, almost blue fruit, spice and floral tones. This organic vineyard in Eola-Amity gave the base to craft this utterly charming wine, it impresses from start to finish with a nervy poise and velvet lined intensity, showing black currant, plum, tangy/sweet cherry and a hint of strawberry fruits along with a touch of walnut oil, cedar and crushed stones as well as violets, flinty peppercorns, and dried rose petals. Background complexity is in the form of baking spice, peach, blood orange and almost Gamay like earthy blueberry essence. The vibrancy and lower natural alcohol make this beautiful Pinot Noir seem lighter and tighter than is the case, it should open and fill out over the next 2 or 3 years, the whole cluster fermentation gives a ripe impression, but the stems add a contrasting bitter/savory note as well as little extra tannin that clearly puts this beauty in focus and highlights the balance. Bow & Arrow love to showcase their Loire inspiration in their wines, which I admire, but this wine is all Oregon and reflects their journey and talents, capturing a perfect moment in time and place!
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Waterkloof, Cinsault “Seriously Cool” Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Waterkloof’s Cinsault is a fresh and vibrant example of this Rhone varietal that has found a welcoming home and interesting history in South Africa. While usually used as a small time player in red blends, Consult has in recent years become a star attraction on it’s own in the Stellenbosch region. Cinsault, originally knwn as Hermitage in South Africa, and famously crossed with Pinot Noir to create Pinotage, now you know why it is called “Pinotage”, has thicker skins and is better in hot climates, it has even been planted in North Africa, Lebanon and Israel, but might be historically from the Minerois region of France, though also found in Chateauneuf du Pape plus other Rhone and Languedoc areas. Waterkloof’s Cinsault comes from 40 year old bush vines grown on stony ground made up of granite, these vines are on a cooler slope near Helderbrg and this retains the fresh acidity, allows for small yields and more intense character to show through. Waterkloof is working mostly biodynamic and the Seriously Cool Cinsault is fermented with natural/native yeasts whole cluster, with a gentile basket pressing, which makes this wine spicy and floral with a pure varietal core of tangy red fruits. Aged in neutral large French cask and unfiltered you get lots of expression from the Cinsault with subtle very faint wood traces in the form of soft tannins and a light cedar note, the main focus here is red berry, cherry, plum and huckleberry fruits along with peppercorns, exotic spices, saline infused anise, rose oil, strawberry/rhubarb, dusty lavender and a hint of green herb. A nice balanced mix of sweet, sour, savory and perfume gives this Waterkloof a very interesting and entertaining medium weight palate, as well as lingering dry tartness and framboise, with lots of life and energy, drink this pretty little thing over the next couple of years and be sure to check out more South African Cinsault, there is a lot of exciting examples to explore!
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Rimbert, Saint-Chinian “Les Travers de Marceau” Languedoc-Roussillon Red, France.
This vintage is striking for it’s detail and freshness of fruit and looks set to be the best yet from Rimbert, it’s a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault that is very much Gigondas like in style and character, but with a touch more blue fruit. This area of the Languedoc-Roussillon has been producing wines since pre Roman times and was a real serious wine region since the middle ages when Benedictine monks preserved many areas under vine and wine was produced at abbeys and monasteries. Saint-Chinian was in high demand until the end of the 17th century, but the industrial revolution, war and the rise of other wine regions left it mostly forgotten in to modern times. Rimbert fermented the grapes in a mix of cement and large neutral cask allowing for ripe tannins and smooth textures, but focus is on the terroir and pureness of flavor. The 2014 Les Travers de Marceau by Domaine Rimbert is quite forward with a juicy sweet fruit, bright vibrancy, spicy mineral tones with plum, kirsch, blueberry and black raspberry that are lush on palate as well as a savory mix of pepper, licorice, terra-cotta and earthy flinty stones. This is an impressive Rhone style red that delivers great quality for the price that will be a wonderful medium full bodied wine to enjoy with cuisine, especially outdoor grilling, drink this lovely Domaine Rimbert over the next 3 to 5 years, look for it!
($17 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2012 Becker Family, Pinot Noir, Pfalz Germany.
One of the sweetest deals in great Pinot Noir is the basic Spatburgunder Trocken from Becker, and this lovely and lush 2012 is everything you could ever want from a wine at this price. Grown in Germany’s Pfalz region on sandstone, marl and a mix of soils the Becker wines can easily match Burgundy for Pinot Noir enjoyment and style. The 2012 Becker Family with refined poise and ripe tannins showing of a pretty of dark fruits, sweet/toasty wood and stony/mineral as well as light floral tones and tea spices. The medium weight palate feel glorious with a dense silky texture and sexy layers of black cherry, fig, strawberry, poached plum and tangy currant or forest berry with hints of vanilla, anise and rose oil. The 2012 is a very satiny Pinot, less nervy than the 2010, but with a solid core of structure, I had my bottle open two full days and everything kept fresh, lively and impressive, this might not be a long term ager, but it should see some exciting drinking over the next 2 or 3 years, though why on earth would you wait on a wine so tasty? If you are looking for Pinot Noir these days, Germany just might be your best bet, I’ve enjoyed some stunning values too, this Becker, as well as the Rudolf May from Franconia, August Kesseler in the Rheingau and of course Meyer-Nakel in the AHR, check them out!
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Nicolas-Jay, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The new Meo-Camuzet Oregon project, the Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir is out, and it is a brilliant and luscious wine with deep fruit and youthful intensity, the gorgeous up front maybe hiding the wine’s subtle details, but bottle age should bring amazing rewards, this is stunner! A partnership between famed Burgundy vigneron Jean-Nicolas Meo, of Domaine Meo-Camuzet, renowned for wines like Clos de Vougeot and Vosne-Romanee, and music and media mogul Jay Boberg, who co-founded IRS Records, was president of MCA/Universal Music and now heads Isolation Networks-INgrooves. The Domaine Nicolas-Jay owns a vineyard, Bishop’s Creek and sources from top growers in the Willamette as they build this label, I would think after this first success they’ll be around a long time and have more of their own vines. The other part of this story that shouldn’t be overlooked, is the work and achievement of associate winemaker Tracy Kendall, a young winemaker on the rise, coming from a three year stint as enologist at Adelsheim Vineyard, where she really was making some great stuff before joining up with Jean-Nicolas, as well as working harvests at Vasse Felix in Western Australia, Serisin in New Zealand as well as Kiwi Pinot specialist Felton Road. As the day to day person in charge she got this wine to where it is, bravo Tracy, and everyone she keep an eye on her as well as the Domaine Nicolas-Jay, which is a wine to get on board with early. The 2014 vintage in Oregon is a blockbuster and the Nicolas-Jay takes full advantage of nature’s gift here with explosive fruit, a seductive nose of rose petal, violets and sweet smoke, a dark core and a glorious array of layers, flavors and length with blackberry, cherry, sweet plum and tangy currant fruits, mixed spice, light mineral tones, hints of cedar, blueberry/concord grape, cinnamon and delicate earthy loam. Look for lots more complexity as it unlocks hidden treasure over the coming decade. Almost full-bodied, the 2014 Nicolas-Jay is very much alive with lifting acidity, graceful silken tannins and gorgeous sexy mouth feel, a bit more flamboyant than the Ken Wright 2014’s, but with similar detail, this may have had a Burgundian touch, but it is all Oregon in character and terroir, close to what you’d expect from top producers like Beaux Freres, don’t miss a chance to get a few bottles, and while this Pinot is great now, it should be better in 5 to 10 years, this winery is off to a fantastic start!
($65 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2015 Weingut Leitz, Rose of Pinot Noir, Rheingau Germany.
Johannes Leitz’s Trocken Spatburgunder Rose is lively and full of bright mineral and vibrant summer fruit with a tangy crisp character. This vintage has more layers and length, highlighting the year’s potential to be a classic in Germany, but has even more vitality and brisk intensity, it feels almost Riesling like in it’s electric buzz of zesty dry tanginess. The nose starts with flinty stones, steely mineral and rosewater leading to a delicate cascade of sour cherry, watermelon, tangerine/citrus, strawberry essence along with wet rocks, white tea and hint of spice. This Rose shows fine tension and refreshing lip smacking acidity and is seriously fun, it’s a must have wine of the season. Leitz, in an all star year for pink wines around the world has raised his level of quality and pleasure, showing why he is one of the best producers in his era, throughout the Leitz lineup you find exceptional wines for the money and he is one of the most loved personalities in the wine world. Drink this dry Pinot Noir pink over the coming year, imported by Schatzi Wines, it’s a pink to look for!
($18 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2006 Carlo Giacosa, Barbaresco, Montefico, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Montefico block is a tiny Cru site on a very sleep slope with white dusty soils making the Carlo Giacosa Montefico a Barbaresco with vigorous intensity and robust character. I was able to meet Luca, the young Giacosa and learn of his belief and style in crafting small lots of artisan Nebbiolo in old school, traditional methods as well as hearing how they can’t use the tractor in Montefico safely as the grade is too serve and most everything needs to be done by hand. The family also has plots in Asili and Ovello, and the neighbors include the other more famous Giacosa, Bruno Giacosa and Ceretto, and while the wines of Carlo Giacosa are more tannic and rustic than most of their contemporaries when young, these wines blossom after 7 to 10 years, and especially exciting is their 2006 Montefico Barbaresco which is just now starting to reveal itself in the bottle. Like many people’s reservas the Carlo Giacosa spent 3 years in large cask, mostly neutral French 500L, then more than 2 years in bottle in the cellar before being moved to importers and merchants. The age has been exceptionally kind and allows for this beautiful Nebbiolo to show itself in all of it’s glory, sadly as is the case with the modern wine trade, most of this vintage is missing from the market, but Siena Imports, the California importer fro Luca’s wines had a few cases to show, as well as the latest release of Narin, the 2010, which is still a baby, but with glorious promise with unbelievable deep perfume and grace just starting to shine through, it’s a blend of the mentioned plots of Cru Asili and Ovello along with selected lots of Montefico, you should look for it for the cellar, but try to find this 2006, a great vintage, of Montefico, it’s pure and wonderfully pleasing right now. The nose holds dried roses, minty herb, earthy tar, mineral tones and cedar notes leading to a medium/full palate of classic poached cherries, raspberry, strawberry and damson plum fruits as well as chalky stones, truffle, crushed violets, salted licorice, balsamic elements and dusty ripe tannins. Carlo Giacosa’s wines can be sometimes overlooked, like an ugly duckling that doesn’t get much attention in it’s youth, but turns into a beautiful swan, as is the case here. This is lovely stuff and has plenty of life to live, this Barbaresco is really engaging and entertaining now, but should gain a bit over the next 5 to 10 years, best from 2016 to 2026.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Louis Barruol-Kermit Lynch, Cote Rotie, Neve, Northern Rhone, France.
The latest set of Barroul-Lynch Syrahs from Crozes-Hermitage and Cote Rotie are stunning and wines that are pure and alive with flavor and vitality, especially this Neve 2014 Cote Rotie, which shows majestic class and length. Famed for his Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas and his touch with Grenache, Louis Barruol for the last 5 vintages or so has crafted small lot Syrah based wines Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cote Rotie in partnership with Kermit Lynch, plus a bit of white, in particular a white Hermitage cru that is really worth getting your hands on, all of these wines offer something just that bit more special than you’d expect and are terrific values in their echelon. The 2014 is maybe the best yet, though 2010 and 2011 were exceptional, it is the haunting length, detail and vibrancy that sets the 2014’s apart, in the case of the Neve Cote Rotie there is no question of terroir, it could only be Cote Rotie and it’s as gorgeous as it gets with poise, finesse and rich elegance, not as nervy as Cornas or meaty as Hermitage, it shows an inner beauty and a glowing core of perfumed black fruits, flowers and a savory vein of mineral. The nose opens with dew dripping violets, subtle smoke, graphite/flint, light peppercorns and oodles of logan berry leading to the full bodied palate of this purple/black and garnet hued wine where you’ll find layers of blackberry, boysenberry, creme de cassis, mixed stones, minty/anise, tangy blueberry and way in the background a faint hint of bacon. Soft wood/cedar notes, a touch of embers/camphor and cinnamon stick notes unfold with air, and there is a sense of lightness that lifts the sweet tannins and enough acidity to make every accent show through, this is what a great wine is, it seduces completely, drink this wonderful Syrah over the next decade, this is a fabulous example of passion filled Cote Rotie, don’t miss!
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive
2015 L’ Argentier-Elisabeth & Francois Jourdan, Rose of Aramon, Vieilles Vignes, Languedoc France.
While less intense than the 2014 the Aragon Rose old vines from vignerons Elisabeth & Francois Jourdan is still an exciting and rare wine from the Languedoc with unique character. Aramon is a native ancient varietal that has gone out of favor in region, but offers plenty of flavor, even though the big berried grape is much more difficult to grow and has less of a market in the production of fine still wine, this red grape seems better suited to rose much as the case with Tibouren in Provence. The crisp Aramon has a beautiful bright pink color in the glass with tart cherry, rosewater, watermelon, red nectarine and tangy spiced citrus. From my experience with the last vintage, it is best to enjoy this delicate Rose young, unlike the leesy Tibouren that lasts years and years, the Aramon seems to lose it’s vigor and life after 6 to 8 months in bottle and turns creamy and flat, so again, best to get it now and enjoy this summer, drink every last one. The Jourdan’s used to play up the estate’s L’Argentier name, but now are looking to focus your attention on the varietal first and foremost, but regardless, this is a sappy Rose that delivers nice mineral, stone and dry fruity quality with hints of chalky spices. Imported by Wine Wise, it is well worth searching out, quaff it up quickly!
($16 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive
2013 Murdoch Hill Wines, Pinot Noir, The Single Vineyard Phaeton, Adelaide Hills, South Australia.
The small batch hand made Pinot from Oz The Phaeton by Murdoch Hills Wines is a beauty with sweet cherries and bright acidity. This expressive and detailed wine has open and silky layers along with good balance, drive and vitality, got to thanks Josiah, ex-Michael Mina Somm, at Bay Grape, a cool wine bar and store in Oakland, again, for turning me on to the Murdoch Hills The Single Vineyard Phaeton imported by Vine Street Imports in New Jersey, otherwise I wouldn’t have ever thought to check it out, this is lovely and joyous Aussie Pinot. I don’t taste many wines from Australia these days, so it was great to buy a wine off the shelf and be thrilled by it, this The Phaeton Single Vineyard bursts from the glass wrapped in a shiny ruby hue and a mix of floral, fruit and sweet cedary scents leading to a palate of zingy bing cherry, juicy plum, a hint of blueberry, light mineral tones, soft tannins and sweet and savory spices as well as pretty vanilla/smoky wood. The wine gets delightfully vigorous with air picking up cranberry and licorice notes as well as lavender and guava elements in the background, it has a nice 13.5% alcohol which makes it neither too ripe or too lean, if you are looking for an interesting artisan Australian Pinot Noir, you love this Adelaide Hills unfiltered, native yeast, 50% whole cluster example!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 La Spinetta, Il Rose di Casanova, Toscana Rosato, Italy.
The intensely vivid and vibrant La Spinetta Il Rose di Casanova is much more serious and crisp than prior vintages, making an already glorious Tuscan pink just that much more interesting and compelling, this Sangiovese 50% and Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese clone found in Brunello and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) 50% is as good as the top Rose offerings from mainland France and Corsica. Crisp and steely with lively red citrus, peach, watermelon, strawberry and rosewater all showing up on the lean and lithe palate, along with a hint of loam, wet stones, tobacco/herb adding charm and savory complexity. This vintage is riveting, less ripely flavored, but much more detailed and seductive, hats off to Giorgio Rivetti for always searching more perfection and terroir, he and Italy seem to have gone happily crazy for Rose in recent years with a number of top efforts now being available with lower alcohol and truly farmed and crafted as dry pinks. I maybe biased, because I love La Spinetta and admire Giorgio, but this seems like the best pink yet from this famed winery and their Tuscan Casanova della Spinetta, drink this beauty over the next year, I know I’ll be joining you!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, White Burgundy, France.
A full bodied and beautifully detailed white Burgundy with loads of charm and classic character the Bader-Mimeur family’s Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet Chassagne-Montrachet is a gorgeous wine. The nose takes you back to experiences with Ramonet, Niellon and Colin-Deleger with white flowers, steely flint, clove and citrus leading to a fine palate of mineral driven apple, pear and white peach along with hazelnut, saline and chalky stones. This Chassagne has vibrant acidity and firm edginess and verve, but fills the mouth with expressive richness and density, this is certainly impressive stuff from an estate that has a long history, but with the baggage of family dramas and a split of the vineyards and Chateau, before the Bader-Mimeur take over and the rise in quality. And while there is more pleasure than outright intensity in this elegant and stylish Burgundy, this is not a modern Meursault or Puligny, but it does everything well and has sublime balance, especially for a white in this vintage and it is pure Chassagne-Montrachet through and through kissing you with grace and terroir. Lingering lemon, fig, leesy brioche and cream add to the performance, the Chateau de Chassagne is a wine I’ll be enjoying over the next 3 to 5 years, imported by Charles Neal, this is a name to look for and track in coming vintages.
($49 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Denis Jamain Domaine de Reuilly, Pinot Gris, Reuilly, Loire Valley, France.
While not technically a Rose really, the skin contact Jamain Pinot Gris has a pale orange/salmon pinkish hue and is as refreshing and compelling as any serious pinks. I always look forward to this attractive organic wine and it has a cult like following making somewhat difficult to secure, imported by Kermit Lynch, this Reuilly is from the eastern Loire Valley which gained an AOC for Sauvignon Blanc back in 1937, then for Pinot Gris, Rose and Red, mostly Gamay and Pinot Noir in 1961, grown on sandy gravel with an underpinning of Kimmeridgian Marl (limestone) and clay, which adds intensity and life to the vibrant wines of the region. Vigneron Denis Jamain has resurrected the historic Domaine de Reuilly in recent years and it is now renown for it’s quality and mineral driven wines, in particular this crisp blush Pinot Gris, which gets it’s color from the natural pinkish/grey skins of this varietal, it’s a unique version, almost a yellow wine, but thought of as a Rose, though in reality neither! The mind and senses fool you into seduction here with hints of rosewater, almost summer melon, wild herb and white cherry while tangy apple and appleskin great you on the palate with steely liquid mineral, wet river stones, dry chalk and a flows of peach, zesty citrus and sea mist unfold. This is as brisk and as acid filled as you can get without being harsh or feeling like you stuck a finger in a light socket, in fact this is brilliant delicious wine, well balanced, crafted and highly entertaining and enjoyable, especially with cuisine, oysters and or sipping in the sunshine with chèvre!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Woodinville Wine Cellars, G.S.M. Columbia Valley, Washington State.
The 2013 Woodinville Wine Cellars Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre Rhone style red blend is gloriously hedonistic and is a purple/black beauty with lovely expressive fruit and dense/lush textures. This Chateauneuf inspired Washington State GSM has Leonetti star power and or the X factor, it reminds me of Charles Melton’s famous Nine Popes from Australia (One of my favorite wines from down under), Stan Barrett and winemaker Sean Boyd have Woodinville Wine Cellars banging on full throttle with this one! Richly packed and with a gorgeous full body the GSM explodes on the palate with blackberry, boysenberry, plum and cherry pie filling along with blueberry, mocha, black licorice, liquid violets, sweet tannin and smoky vanilla and camphor/graphite notes. At first everything is tight, thick and flows with creamy silkiness, but with air the wine gains poise, spice and exotic elements, changing and becoming much more veiled and alive with seductive charms, revealing pepper, lavender, mineral tones and a hint of earthy loam. This baby is really sensual and entertaining given room and time to open up and show off a bit, I can imagine a few more years in bottle bringing out even more class, delicacy of detail and Columbia Valley terroir character, though it is pretty fun now even and great with BBQ, lamb sliders and crispy duck, the finish is ripe with creme de cassis and minty herb, dark chocolate and lingering pomegranate. After tasting Woodinville Wine Cellars 2007 Syrah, I can easily say this wine has a long and rewarding life ahead of it, best from 2016 to 2028.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Niepoort, Rotulo, Dao Red, Portugal.
The latest Niepoort Dao red has to be one of the best best values in stylish European reds out there, this 2013 Rotulo Dao by Dirk Niepoort is ripe, complex and beautifully textured with superb balance and pleasing layers. The mix of Touriga Nacional, Jaen (Mencia) and Alfrocheiro is from vines grown on granite soils, similar to Saint-Joseph and Cote-Rotie, allowing for mineral rich fruit and finesse, this cuvee is aged without any wood for 22 months in cement vats, again in the style of a fine Rhone wine. This Portuguese red starts with dried flowers, flinty spice, dusty plum and basil-like herb notes leading to a medium full palate of raspberry, cherry and blueberry fruits along with pepper, black olive, lavender oil and chalky stones. This is a wine of fine density and charm with a balanced fruit character that is compelling, but not overly sweet or heavy as well as having nice energy and graceful with many food choices, this is a very good wine that deserves attention, in the same league as many Gigondas, but with a slightly more cool climate vibrancy, very impressive, especially for the price. Fine tannins, mild earthy notes and acidity allows for nice evolution in the glass and this bottling should be a good drinker for the next 3 to 5 years, be sure to check out this and the whole line of wonderful still wines and ports from Niepoort!
($16 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine Grand, Trousseau, Cotes du Jura Rouge, France.
A small estate in Chateau Chalon, Domaine Grand makes artisan lots of white, sparkling, red and Vin Jaune with Emmanuel and Nathalie Grand running the winery and the managing the vines. The young winemakers have studied and traveled extensively in their field, making wines in Chile, Italy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy, but are back running the family estate, that has been producing wine since 1692 in the Jura. Non certified, Domaine Grand is mostly organic and low sulfur with the wines showing great detail and energy, the Cremant du Jura is especially appealing as is their non oxidative Chardonnay, but in particular I was seduced by the Trousseau, both this 2014 and the gorgeous cask sample of 2015 were lovely wines. The Vin Jaune was one of the finest examples of this unique style of almost sherry like wine as well, plus Domaine Grand do a very compelling Poulsard and Pinot Noir as well, but I regress, it is the Trousseau that really got my attention. The 2014 starts with earthy rose petals, strawberry, minty herb and dusty plum with tart cherry, red peach and mixed spices along with moist gravel, mineral tones and cedar. This light medium bodied red has a ruby red color and delicate layers with a satiny texture and pleasing length. A classic example of terroir and varietal the Domaine Grand Trousseau drinks wonderfully fresh and vibrant with enough structure to age, though best from 2016 to 2022, and while this wine imported by Charles Neal is superb, the 2015, which is due late summer is richer, more exotic and sexy with a riper character and should not be missed either. Domaine Grand is a winery to watch, and the wines are expressive and full of quality, fairly priced, in fact they are really great values.
($25 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2013 Copain, Chardonnay, DuPratt Vineyard, Anderson Valley.
Wells Guthrie’s DuPratt 2013 Chardonnay is a stunning mineral driven wine that will almost leave you speechless with it’s beautiful detail and poise, this wine is in the same class as some of Burgundy’s rising stars, names like Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey and Robert-Denogent come to mind. Guthrie is part of the In Pursuit of Balance group and was one of the first wave of young winemakers to dial back alcohol levels in search of beauty, ageworthiness and fresh vitality, that brave change is now paying off in great fashion. This is gorgeous and steely DuPratt Chardonnay that has low natural alcohol, leesy complexity and textural grace and vibrant focused flavors, and while Copain Anderson Valley Pinots are wonderful, it would be foolish to overlook this fantastic Chardonnay, at a recent tasting in fact all of the selections of Copain from Rose to Syrah were world class examples of varietal and terroir, I must say this was impressive and it was one of the best showings of a California lineup I can remember! The 2013 DuPratt starts with liquid mineral, white flowers, citrus and stone fruits with a pale greenish/gold tint in the glass, this vivid and distinctive Chardonnay slows unfolds in layers of green apple, pear and white peach along with classic lemon curd, dried honey, hazelnut and wet rocks with saline, clove and toasty brioche and light vanilla. This vibrant white has everything you’d want in a fine Puligny or St. Aubin, but is all Anderson Valley, flying the California flag proudly with sublime quality, this wine is right up there with Peter Michael, Kongsgaard and Aubert on the pleasure and artisan level, it may not be as dense as some, but it sure as hell is as good, drink from 2016 to 2024. Be sure not to pass up a chance to try the Copain Chardonnay, and Guthrie’s Volnay like Kiser Vineyard En Haut Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, this are very special wines that don’t come around too often.
($47 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Rudi Schultz, Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
South Africa is going crazy with great wines, it’s an explosion of small farm production old vine wines, with Sadie Family, Badenhorst and Silwervis all making headlines around the world with amazing Syrah, Cinsault, Chenin Blanc offerings as well as Sparkling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings impressing. At the moment the Rhone style stuff is catching my attention and for price and quality I’ve been really enjoying Rudi Schultz’s Stellenbosch Syrah, it is definitely a wine that speaks of place, slightly wild but with a rich expression of fruit, body and length and at 14% it gives ripe pleasures, sweet tannin and fullness without being cumbersome or jammy. The Rudi Schultz 2011 is a joyous evolved Syrah with layers of blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry and plum fruit along with fig paste, wild game, minty black licorice, dusty gravel/stoniness, light cedar, cinnamon, pepper and olive/earthy tones. The mouth feel is decedent and age has softened the structure, but it has plenty time left, I like where this wine is at right now, and it should hold firm for another 3 to 5 years easy, this is a good bottle of wine with old world charm, it’s very exciting times for South African wines, time to explore is now!
($26 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2013 Scotto Cellars, 50 Harvests, Red Meritage, Napa Valley.
The richly flavored and medium full 50 Harvests is a really eager to please Cabernet Sauvignon based Napa Valley red wine that shows detail and elegance much in the same vein as Opus One’s Overture does, but at much nicer price. The Scotto’s brought in Napa legend Mitch Cosentino, formerly of his own Cosentino Winery and now pureCru Napa Valley to help with this flagship wine and the other Steele Canyon wines, and he and Paul Scotto have made a big difference in the textural feel and complexity of the wines, especially this 50 Harvests which is forward and chocolatey, but with graceful mouthfeel, deep layers and extremely pretty use of Cabernet Franc in the blend, which appears to have added spice and delicacy making for a superb combination, Cosentino is very well known as a master blender, he pretty much started the whole “Meritage” thing in 1986, so it is no surprise to see how stylish this wine is turning out. 2013 is looking stellar, and this 50 Harvests reflects that with a dense mouth feel, dark purple/garnet color and a parade of black and red fruits flowing across the palate with well judged oak shading, it starts with creme de cassis, loads of blackberry, plum and dark floral tones with clove, sweet tobacco leaf, minty/pepper, anise and vanilla. The tannins are very refined and natural acidity that comes through with subtle vibrancy make for a creamy smooth Meritage, it’s a wine you’ll want to enjoy young, best over the next 3 to 5 years, the wine is impressive, my only regret here would be that the label is not up to the quality in the bottle, I’d suggest an upgrade or an artist label that might change from year to year for the future bottlings for this wine.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Markus Prackwieser Gumphof, Pinot Bianco, Praesulis, Alto Adige Italy.
The Gump Praesulis Weissburgunder is a stunning Sudtirol/Dolomiti white that shows the best qualities of this varietal and region with classic mountain acidity and mineral notes along with decedent texture and age-ability. The rich detail of Gumphof’s Pinot Blanc highlights the grapes success in the Alto Adige region where the terroir markers make it so much more serious and delectable than what you find elsewhere, and while there are some lovely Pinot Blanc’s made in Alsace they rarely match the likes of Terlan, Manincor and Gumphof. In my memory, there are few Pinot Blanc of this kind of depth and class, I really enjoy Selbach-Oster’s Mosel slatey version and Chalone’s old vine Pinot Blanc(s) are almost legendary, but if you want thrilling Pinot Blanc year after year it is certainly Alto Adige that delivers the goods. The Gumphof 2014 starts with hints of white flowers, steely liquid mineral, wet stones and honeyed peach along with green apple, lemon/lime and leesy notes. The 2014 feels lush and succulent with nice density, but remains poised and balanced, this is a laser sharp example and will rival many a fine Burgundy for class and elegance, and at 13.5% it is ripe/forward enough to enjoy in it’s youth, though evolution should prove rewarding, pushing the drinking window out to a decade easily. I am really impressed by this Gump Praesulis Pinot Bianco, this is pretty stuff, great with cuisine, especially cheeses and seafood, best from 2016 to 2021.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2015 Waxwing, Rose of Counoise, Love Ranch Vineyard, Madera.
Scott Sisemore’s Waxwing Wines is a San Francisco based artisan winery making a boutique collection of small production offerings, mostly cool climate Syrah and Pinot Noir, but he does a few exotic bottling each vintage and this Spring 2016 release includes a couple of dry Rieslings and this beautiful Rose of Counoise. Sourced from foothill vines in Madera County not too far from Yosemite, at Love Ranch Vineyard, the Rose of Counoise is a crisp and intriguing pink with bright mineral rich detail and good low alcohol character, at just over 11% there is great lift, acidity and still exceptionally flavorful. Counoise is a lesser known and rare red Rhone grape, one of the Chateauneuf du Pape varietals and is almost never bottled as a single varietal wine, but along with Cinsault is gaining favor among young, and a few old timers like Randall Grahm, winemakers and it does well in Paso Robles, especially some of the Tablas Creek clone plantings. The 2015 Waxwing Counoise Rose starts with a vibrant pink/orange and salmon hue, a light perfume and a delicate array of steely elements and spices with watermelon, rosewater, tart sour cherry, unique guava and strawberry layers along with tangy citrus, dusty pepper, wild herbs and a lingering succulent plum/blueberry note. This is groovy brisk stuff with good focus and vibrant flavors, very refreshing and rewarding, be sure to check out Waxwing Wines, Scott is really turning out a fine selection of hand crafted wines, in particular this Rose of Counoise, but also his Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma Coast Pinots and Syrah are tasty and fairly priced, he sells mostly direct at www.waxwingwines.com, and through selected shops and restaurants.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2007 Woodinville Wine Cellars, Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
Stan Barrett, owner of Woodinville Wine Cellars since 2001, and Sean Boyd, winemaker, are crafting some beautiful Washington wines from four top vineyard sites, two in the Columbia Valley Ava, one in Red Mountain and one in the Yakima AVA, all of which are set into interesting terroir and have wonderful exposures to get the maximum out of the grapes. WWC does an impressive set of wines, especially intriguing are the reds with Syrah leading the way, though you wouldn’t want to miss their GSM, Malbec and Cabernet based offerings either, a huge thank you to their sales director Cara Almberg for getting some the wines in front of me, in particular this extremely dark purple/black 2007 Woodinville Wine Cellars Syrah, which is divine and shows deep fruit, maturity and classic Washington character. The 2007 Syrah leads with gorgeous and densely packed fruit, this is full bodied effort at 14.8% alcohol, but is is drinking with poise, focus and grace, it reminds me a bit of Delas Freres and Guigal Cote-Rotie(s) in it’s rich detail, complexity and ripe tannin, though purely Washington in flavor and thickness with violets, baking spices, sweet pipe tobacco, creme de cassis and minty dark chocolate along with a core of boysenberry, blueberry and black cherry fruit. lingering smoky vanilla, lavender, cedar, mocha and salted black licorice add to the smooth layers found in this wonderfully pleasing hand crafted artisan Syrah. At highly attractive release prices and with such outstanding quality, you’ll want to get on their mailing list ASAP, again thanks to Cara for letting me start with a nicely aged example of Woodinville Wine Cellars, can’t wait to get my hands on the upcoming releases, especially if they are as stunning, serious and compelling as this!
($35+ Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2014 Clos Teddi, Grande Cuvee, Patrimonio Blanc AOC Corse, France.
The 100% Vermentinu (Vermentino) Grande Cuvee is aged on it’s lees in 600L demi-muids giving this Corsican white a rich and textural mouth feel without losing any vitality or class, it certainly has more style and depth than the stainless offering from Clos Teddi. Grown on the north side of the French island on soils similar to limestone that you might find in the Loire Valley or Burgundy, all of Clos Teddi’s wine have an elegance and charm, not as rustic as the wines from the rugged west coast which are set on granite and schist. The exotic Grande Cuvee shows smooth layers of white peach, mixed citrus, green melon and a hint of tropical fruits with decedent detail and fresh acidity along with subtle floral notes, saline, spice and liquid mineral essence. The delicate wood influences add a pleasing density to this lovely medium bodied white that is an excellent cuisine wine, going great with seafood, cheeses and even more robust fare. Clos Teddi’s White, Red and Rose are very well made and offer a solid value in Corsica terroir driven wines, the regular line are nice stainless clear wines, but the Grande Cuvee offerings are a big step up in style and substance, especially in the Patrimonio Blanc and Rouge (100% Nieliuccu) with the 2014 white and 2013 rouge, both of which are outstanding, but Rose is the main wine of Corsica, making up 51% of all wine made on the island, so you must always take it seriously and Clos Teddi’s is a fine example.
($25+ Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Laporte, Sancerre Rose, Les Grandmontains, Loire Valley, France.
Another gorgeous pink, the Laporte Sancerre Rose of Pinot Noir Les Grandmontains really delivers fresh intensity and bright Pinot character with crisp mineral driven layers and lingering red fruits. Laporte hand-crafts their lovely rose from grapes grown on a core of limestone on loamy/chalky soils, hand picked and de-stemmed the Rose is fermented after 24 hours on the skins, at cool temps and aged a few 4-6 months on it’s lees, but without malo, making for a flavorful and vibrant wine. The care and detail shines through with the terroir, this is a classy and energy possessing Rose of Pinot Noir that starts with tart cherry, steely watermelon, strawberry, mixed citrus, rosewater and minty lavender as well as wet stones along lingering blueberry, red citrus and red apple skin. This brisk and wonderfully hued Rose has all the right stuff to make for a perfect summer wine, perfect for picnics, great with or without food and can easily transition from day to night with impressive flexibility and grace, be sure to keep an eye out for this one!
($22 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2015 Arnot-Roberts, Rose of Touriga Nacional, Luchsinger Vineyard, Clear Lake.
One of the most pleasing and complex pink wines of the season comes from Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts of Arnot-Roberts, their outstanding Rose of Touriga Nacional that hails from Luchsinger Vineyard in Kelseyville, Clear Lake AVA. This bright and almost leesy pink is savory and dry with crisp mineral intensity and pretty subtle fruit essences, Arnot-Roberts matched the terroir and varietal to near perfection, allowing the mix of river rock and volcanic soils as well as the hot days and cool nights of Lake County to unfold layers of complexity and charm. The nose shines with rosewater, red pepper and citrus in this pale salmon hued wine that shows serious restraint, but wonderful focus with dynamic acidity and gorgeous length with light raspberry, tart cherry, strawberry, watermelon and mixed citrus as well as liquid mineral, wet slate, grapefruit, a hint of basil/mint and faint lavender. It’s hard to imagine it getting better than this, this brisk and dusty rose gives some of those old school Provence roses a real run for their money from this unique in California Portuguese grape. Arnot-Roberts are crafting some great wines, especially this Rose, but be sure to keep an eye out for their majestic Syrah(s), the cult hit Trousseau and the amazingly beautiful Trout Gulch Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains.
($26 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2013 Tenuta Tascante-Tasca d’Almerita, Nerello Mascalese, Ghiaia Nera IGT Rosso, Sicily Italy.
Grown on the north side slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna volcano this 100% Nerello Mascalese Tascante Ghiaia Nera “Black Pebbles” is from terraced lava rock vines and a cooler site than the south exposure, making for a lovely expression of delicacy and detail in this wine. Often called the Burgundy of the volcano, or Sicily, Nerello Mascalese has silken tannins, a flavorful lighter body, ruby color and heavenly length, especially intriguing and remarkably priced for the quality is Tasca d’Almerita’s Tascante, an artisan estate making just Nerello Mascalese and a white Carricante. The 2013 Ghiaia Nera starts with flinty spice, earth and dried rose petals as well as fresh strawberry, raspberry and poached plum with satiny fruit, vibrant acidity, shale/saline and tangy lavender, peach and herb tea notes. Not as dense of deep as some of the more famous Foti influenced wines of the Mount Etna DOC, but certainly a great place to start if you want to try this mysterious varietal that drinks like a sexy Pinot Noir, but has the unique terroir character and rustic charm of the island, this is very much a winner. Drink this medium weight, low alcohol Nerello Mascalese over the next 3 to 5 years, it is an impressive package and a value!
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Liquid Farm, Chardonnay, White Hill, Sta. Rita Hills.
The latest Liquid Farm set of Chardonnay offerings are simply put, stunning, and this 2014 White Hill is mesmerizing with gorgeous detail and vitality, it might just get a place in the Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay Hall of Fame along side a few of Greg Brewer’s older Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel bottlings and some of Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman’s newer Sandhi Chards! Liquid Farm’s White Hill is their tribute to Chablis, it comes from the coolest sites on chalky soils and sees no new barrels, making a stylishly crisp dynamic and higher acid wine that captures the soul of this windswept region to the north of Santa Barbara. The nose has classic white Burgundy charms with lemon, matchstick, hazelnut and white flowers leading the way in this beautiful light golden Chardonnay with saline infused and energy filled layers of green apple, white peach, wet stones, clove and subtle tropical elements. The Liquid Farm White Hill fills out on the palate to medium weight, but retains it’s focus, cut and vibrancy throughout, this is well judged and handcrafted artisan wine at it’s most pure and lovely, and while the richer Golden Slope and La Hermana Chards are more flamboyant and dense, I just adore this vintage of White Hill with it’s Dauvissat like class, this and their Rose are my favorites of the Liquid Farm lineup, don’t miss them!
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Gramercy Cellars, The Third Man, Rhone Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington State.
Greg Harrington’s The Third Man 2012, a Washington style Chateauneuf inspired Rhone red is really hitting it’s stride with beautiful ripe fruits, texture and length, this Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is very sexy stuff, to be honest this is the kind of wine that will make you think twice, like the Charles Smith Syrahs, about paying a hundred or two hundred for a mediocre Napa Cabernet! Pardon the run-on sentence and terrible grammar, but it is a important thought these days with many Napa wines starting at almost $150, and I’m not saying many are not good or great even, but certainly the Gramercy wines look like awesome values in comparison, especially a wine like this one that has verve, alluring depth and rich mouth feel. The 2012 Gramercy Cellars The Third Man starts with a nose of vibrant red fruits, floral tones and a mix of sweet and savory spices with blackberry, boysenberry, mission fig, framboise and cherry compote un folding on the full palate along with hints of clove, pepper, black olive, anise, lavender and cedar. The tannins are sweet and the wine has a hedonistic density, but there is still a charming vitality and balance for such a pleasure filled, 14.7% alcohol (the same as most Chateauneuf du Pape and less than a lot of Napa Cabs) no question this is a bigger style wine, it will shine with lamb, steak or duck breast even. So if you are looking for serious new world Rhone wines, it’s a great time to check out Gramercy and Washington State, drink this beauty over the next 3 to 5 years.
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2014 Henry Marionnet, Touraine Rouge, Premiere Vendange, Loire Valley France.
My favorite of the set of wines made by Jean-Sebastien Marionnet of Henry Marionnet and Domaine de la Charmoise in Touraine was his wonderfully expressive all natural 100% Gamay Premiere Vendange, though all his wines deserve attention. The Premiere Vendange 2014 is made with organic grapes, no chemicals, no additions at all, native yeast and has no added sulfur as well as no oak, this is about as pure wine as you can get and it’s damn good, it picks up the terroir and is not either funky or tuti fruity with impressive detail and ripe layers. Being Gamay you’d expect a lightness or carbonic sense, but the Marionnet Touraine Premiere Vendange has a cool mineral and spice subtlety and light floral notes with hints of violets, flinty stones, black currant, plum and cherry fruits with a touch of loam and wild herb. This is really attractive Gamay that delivers a medium body, charming style and substance to be a serious dinner companion. Marionnet crafts a very worthy set of wines, mostly Gamay, but also has Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and a rare ungrafted Romorantin.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Domaine de la Bergerie, Anjou Rouge, La Cerisaie, Loire Valley, France.
Yves Guegniard’s Domaine de la Bergerie Anjou red is a beautiful example of terroir and is an exceptional value, made from 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on sandy/clay soils. The wine is vinified separately by varietal with about a third cold soaked for 3 days to extract color, the tank raised Anjou La Cerisaie is a vibrant and delivers pure Loire character with violets, spice, leather and a bit of earthy green pepper. The palate is vigorous and medium/full with a hint of raw tannin, but everything flows beautiful and the mouth feel is more luxurious than you’d expect for a wine of this price, I had to check my notes a couple of times to be sure I was on the correct wine, this is impressive stuff, and Guegniard’s Chenin and Cremant de Loire Brut were wonderful efforts too. The red berry, plum and dark currant fruits linger on in this Anjou Rouge with hints of loamy/stoney earth, tobacco leaf and tart huckleberry adding complexity. Drink this stylish effort over the next 3 to 5 years, imported by Martine’s Wines, this well priced and packaged label is one to search out.
($18 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2015 Skylark, Pink Belly, Rose of Grenache, Mendocino County.
One of the nicest California Rose wines of the new season so far is Skylark’s tasty Pink Belly, made from old vine whole cluster fermented Grenache from Mendocino, this wine was crafted just to be pink with early picked grapes and is a lovely crisp effort from Robert Perkins, Boulevard Restaurant’s ex-Somm and one of the nicest guys in the business. Tasting with Rob through the lineup of Skylark was a treat, especially exciting were his Pinot Blanc 2015, the 2013 Red Belly Carignane, Syrah and Grenache blend and this wonderful new release of Pink Belly. The light pink/salmon hue shines in the clear bottle and in the glass with light catching delicacy and it is an energy filled and mineral fresh wine on the palate with watermelon, tart cherry, tangy citrus and strawberry along with rosewater, spice, dried lavender and saline rich wet stones. This is a really sexy Rose and maybe the best yet from Skylark, don’t wait on this one, Perkins says the response has been unreal, and I can understand completely, it is should to sell out within weeks. The acidity and vitality in the Pink Belly make for a super refreshing, lighter weighted style, but no less flavorful and compelling, a pure summer sipper. Also look for Skylark’s Las Aves Priorat (Spanish) style red blend, a beautiful Cabernet, Syrah, Carignane and Grenache hybrid that for about $30 is perfect for the main course after the Pink Belly Rose runs dry!
($17 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2013 Viticoltori de Conciliis, Donnaluna Aglianico, Paestum IGT, Campania Italy.
Aglianico is sometimes referred to as the Nebbiolo of the south in Italy, and you can see the tannic and robust similarities, but Aglianico is very much it’s own grape and it has multi layered complexity and rustic charms unique to itself, and an especially poised example comes from Viticoltori de Conciliis an artisan producer in Campania. Organic and working toward biodynamic, de Conciliis respects their terroir, high elevation vines that get plenty of warm sunshine, big day to night temp changes that promotes complexity and acidity and coming from one of the poorest wine regions in Italy they factor in the human element too, paying living wages to vineyard and winery staff, trying to give them full employment, not just seasonal work. All the wines are hand-crafted with great care and they show unique personalities, de Conciliis also makes an all Aglianico sparkling wine and a succulent Passito as well as this wonderful Donnaluna Aglianico and a gorgeous lees Fiano white. The 2013 Donnaluna Aglianico is beautifully detailed and open knit with a range of flavors and aromas that includes dried flowers, iron ore (blood), anise, willd plum and new leather! Everything is polished and the power is hidden in a velvet coat with lovely rose petal, sweet raspberry, minty herbs and mineral notes leading the way. If you are looking for a way to understand Aglianico or get started on this varietal this would be a great place to start, it has a sense of purity of the grape, but is more refined in style than most, I adore this medium/full bodied vintage and was thrilled by it’s class and intensity, drink this Donnaluna over the next 5 to 7 years.
($24 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Ronchi di Cialla, Schioppettino di Cialla, Friuli Colli Orientali Sottozona Cialla, Italy.
This gorgeous red from northeast Italy is another wonderful secret of this region and while the whites still take center stage here, some of these reds like Ronchi di Cialla’s Schioppettino can be breathtaking. With seamless layers on a medium weight palate the Ronchi di Schioppettino di Cialla delivers a Premier Cru Burgundy level performance with a spine tingling and heady mix of floral notes, spice, earth and silken red fruits, this is serious terroir driven world class stuff! The perfume is fresh and dried roses, peppercorns, sticky lavender, brandy dipped cherries and subtle loam leading to red raspberry, strawberry and red peach fruits along with a hint of leather, porcini and kirsch. The finish is deceptively long and finessed with crisp acidity adding some cut to this beautiful wine, lingering cedar, dusty chalk, minty herb and plum/cranberry add to the detail and complexity, this Schioppettino is pure heaven. I was not all that experienced with Ronchi di Cialla, this is a stunning wine, but their whole lineup impresses, especially the Ribolla Gialla and Friulano make for impressive drinking and are great values at around $20/bt.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
2012 Chateau du Grand Caumont, Corbieres, Cuvee Tradition, France.
The Chateau du Grand Caumont Corbieres Rouge Cuvee Tradition is a super value red blend that delivers outstanding quality for the price, it’s primarily old vine Carignan and it shows expressive deep flavors. The Grand Caumont starts with a nose full of flowers, fruit and spices and a deep garnet red color in the glass with a vibrant purple core and it has a forward palate of red raspberry, plum, loganberry and balsamic dipped strawberry along with bright pepper, cinnamon stick, minty anise, lavender oil and dusty earth notes. The tannins are fine and satiny with just a touch of saline chalkiness and there is enough acidity to push the layers, making for a joyous Corbieres and a great alternative to Cotes du Rhone or Primitivo. Perfect with a range of cuisine from BBQ to Pizza the Chateau du Grand Caumont Corbieres Cuvee Tradition is a French Languedoc red to search out and grab by the case. Drink this wonderful everyday style wine over the next 2 or 3 years, best from 2016 to 2019.
($14 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2014 Weingut Zahel, Orange T, Orangetraube, Vienna, Austria.
Zahel is a tiny winery in Vienna that makes wine from local organic grapes and sells most through their wine garden and restaurant Heuriger. They are most famous for their version of Gemischter Satz or field blend white, but they also do a rare Orangetraube, a native grape that is similar to Pinot Gris in it’s orange/pink grey hue when ripe, it makes for a very interesting white wine that is citrusy and fresh. Orangetraube is still not a classified varietal so it can’t even be labeled Orangetraube, hence the proprietary name Orange T on Zahel’s label! Vienna has five DAC growing zones in the city, pretty much lives up to it’s name Wein (Wine), I really must visit soon. Thanks goes out to the importer, Winemonger, for showing me this lovely wine, and while not as complex or as intense as either Gruner or Riesling this Zahel Orangetraube is a stylish and vibrant wine. Weingut Zahel has been around for four generations and Richard Zahel, ex-Racing car driver, and his son Alexander run the winery, they manage/own 25 acres of vines within the city of Vienna, they only begin selling outside of the city and Austria in 1994, but now have a following around the world including Tokyo and New York. Their Wiener Gemischter Satz, a mix of four or more white grapes is their flagship wine and it shows deeper layers that the fun Orangetraube, but I just was more intrigued by the Orange T and it is utterly delightful and a wine geek oddity that I couldn’t resist. The nose is mineral rich, bright and shows lime and white flowers leading to a crisp and light palate of white peach, melon, lemon/lime and tangy tart herbs as well as saline and wet shale. This stone fruit and citrus zesty white will be a quaffer you’ll enjoy all summer long, if you can fin Zahel wines where you are I highly recommend checking them out!
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2012 Sans Liege, En Gedi, Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
Curt Schalchlin’s 100% Grenache En Gedi is a richly flavored and decedently stylish Rhone red that gives loads of hedonistic California pleasure on the palate, but still retains en echo of Chateauneuf du Pape in the background, and this 2012 is still developing and adding layers. This Sans Liege offering is one of the best for this label and is well worth searching out, Schalchlin is making some handcrafted wines that are seemingly inspired by Sine Qua Non and he has a gifted touch with Grenache, plus his whites are are also intriguing, in particular his Roussanne and Grenache Blanc Call to Arms blend stands out as well as his northern Rhone inspired Marsanne Sancha, one of the best wines made from this tricky varietal. The impressive En Gedi starts with a sweet fruit and spicy kick with mixed floral notes leading the way with juicy boysenberry, plum and racy strawberry giving a dense mouth feel with a background of wild flowers, black licorice, pepper, warm chalk rock, a hint of vanilla and cedar as well as a touch of earth and a long finish of cherry liqueur, lavender and exotic clove. This is an opulent Grenache, with ripe tannins that while firm are silken and even though it comes in at 15+% it still is overall very refined and balanced and in line with many of the modern Chateauneufs. The Sans Liege wines are all small production offerings that are exceptional values in their class, drink this En Gedi between 2016 and 2022.
($40 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2014 Clos Ste. Magdeleine, Cassis, Bel-Arme, Provence White, France.
The stylish and utterly compelling Clos Ste. Magdeleine Bel-Arme Cassic Blanc is a decedent and opulent white made from a blend of on mostly Marsanne 65% along with Clairette 15%, Ungi Blanc 15% and Bourboulenc 5% and crafted by Francois Sack, stirred on it’s lees and aged partially in concrete eggs. The 2014 is a pure and seductive example of this glorious terroir, the organic grapes come from terraced vines set into the steep limestone above the sea with a backdrop of scattered pine forests and the blinding blue of the water and sky, and this beauty is captured in this gracious white. The layers of citrus, lime blossom, white peach/nectarine and light apple tones are seamless along with subtle salty elements, clarified cream, melon flesh, wet stones, leesy richness, this is dry and vibrant wine, but there is a sensual underlying creaminess that is hard to resist, it has hidden depth of character somewhere in between a Hermitage Blanc and a Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, but remains remarkably true to itself and it’s unique sense of place. Look for this wine to develop many secondary pieces over the next 5 to 10 years, this is serious stuff, but I really like these wines young and vital, especially with seafood and or just by themselves with a warm summer day, be sure to look for this special white Cassis from Clos Ste. Magdeleine, as well as the super rare and delightful Rosé.
($50 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
2015 Bergerie de l’Hortus, Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.
Made from Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah the 2015 Bergerie de L’Hortus pink is a lovely summer sipper and is bursting with lively layers and juicy flavors of Pic St. Loup, and while this wine is usually an easy go to this vintage is one of the better to date. Pretty and vibrant with a steely nose and tangy citrus crispness this l’Horus from Yves Orliac shows nice vitality and refreshment with light cherry, strawberry and watermelon along with wet limestone, minty herbs, grapefruit and rosewater. This vintage has a more structured feel and is more like a baby Bandol rather than a more fruity Tavel or Cotes du Rhone Rosé, and it compares well with Chateau de Lascaux, making for a very savvy Rosé to enjoy over the next 6 months to a year. Don’t forget to try the latest from Domaine de l’Hortus, especially the Grand Cuvee Pic St. Loup Rouge, a really expressive and impressive example of terroir and artisan winemaking.
($16 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2011 Alfio Mozzi, Grisone Riserva, Sassella, Valtellina Superiore DOCG, Lombardy, Italy.
The beautiful and noteworthy Mozzi Grisone is a great example of mountain Nebbiolo, or as the locals call it Chiavennasca, coming from the Sassella, a village know for it’s quality, basically in Valtellina there are five Crus, Sassella, Grumello del Monte, Inferno, Valgella and Maroggia and to be a DOCG Superiore the wine must come from these villages and must be at least 90% Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) with Rossola Nera being the other red grape, believed to be an offspring of Nebbiolo itself and related to Vespolina most likely, and or Freisa. The Valtellina wines are some of the most compelling Nebbiolo wines outside of Piedmonte’s great Barolo and Barbaresco zones, and while the DOC and DOCG Valtellina offerings, like this gorgeous Mozzi 20111 Grisone Sassella, are wonderful as is, there is also the rare and delectable Valtellina Sforzato an Amarone style Nebbiolo that maybe one of the best expressions of varietal and place I’ve ever had. The 2011 Alfio Mozzi Grisone Riserva Sassella is a seductive and perfumed wine of sublime balance and character with silky ripe tannins and layers of fruit, spice, mineral and earth starting with a heady mix of rose petals, peppery lavender and black licorice leading to a medium full palate of damson plum, black cherry, balsamic dipped strawberries, dried violets, truffle, cedar and dusty stones along with lingering currant and blueberry tartness. This vibrant and alive wine highlights the region and high elevation with lovely acidity and subtle wild remoteness that shines through in the glass, the slightly warmer vintage helps make this even more enjoyable in it’s youth, this is without question a wine to look for!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive