Wine of the Week: Chanin Los Alamos Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011


Chanin Los Alamos Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011:  Ruby with dark shadings.  A stunningly pure black cherry, mineral, and earth melange both on the nose and on the palate.  On the attack, this starts out delicate, then slowly builds up, stone by stone, into a precise, augmented mineral wonder of California Pinot Noir.  Medium-bodied, with the dark berry fruit flavors, mild acidity, gentle tannins, and underlying tilled earth components in total equillibrium.  I am reluctant to use the “B” word, but this is rather Volnay 1er Cru-esque.  13.6% alc.  Drink now-2016.   (92+)

Wine of the Week: Chateau L’Isle Fort Bordeaux Superieur 2009


Chateau L’Isle Fort Bordeaux Superieur 2009: Red ruby.  Exhibits a tantalizing aromatic blend of plums and violets.  On the palate, this velvety, medium-bodied offering shows delicious dark plum fruits, with a hint of chocolate and cassis.  A blend of 58% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Lovely for its balance and ripe fruit purity, that is pleasantly devoid of new wood or over-extraction.  A smashing value for $18 per bottle that captures the greatness of the 2009 vintage. Consider this the steal of the vintage.  Drink now-2018.  (92)

Wine of the Week: Bonny Doon Bien Nacido “X-Block” Santa Maria Valley Syrah 2008


Bonny Doon Bien Nacido “X-Block” Santa Maria Valley Syrah 2008:  Gloria in excelsius Syrah!  The phenomal Bonny Doon Bien Nacido “X-Block” Santa Maria Valley Syrah 2008 captures the most delicious attributes of this variety, and is a must find for all Syrah lovers.  Dark ruby with a brilliant sheen.  Broadcasts enticing aromas of blackberries, black cherries, fur, grilled beef, cookie dough, iodine, eucalyptus and freshly shredded mint, white pepper, and soil.  With aeration, the nose becomes meatier and more sauvage, and turns resolutely towards the umami end of the spectrum (think toasted sesame seeds, iodine, and dried seaweed).  Exquisitely balanced, with soft tannins that belie the grip on the palate, this mid-weight effort improves in the fridge over the course of four days.  A stunner of a Syrah that is drinking exceedingly well at present, and is pleasantly devoid of any reductive elements.  One of my favorite Syrahs tasted in 2011, from anywhere in the world, this is surely a wine to purchase by the case.  13.9% alc.  $42  Drink now-2018.  (93) 

Wine of the Week: DuMOL Finn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009


DuMOL Finn Russian Rivery Valley Pinot Noir 2009:  This is a lesson in master blending.  It is rare to find a Pinot Noir comprised of grapes grown in three different vineyards that offers such complexity and flavor in a harmonious package.  The key is finding compatible fruit sources that are grown in similar (but not identical) conditions, and which play separate roles in the blend.  The DuMOL Finn 2009 bottling is comprised of a mix of Calera, Swan, and Martini Pinot selections, along with Dijon clones 943, 115 and 777, which were sourced from DuMOL’s Estate Vineyard and the Hanna Vineyard, both of which are off of Occidental Road, as well as the more northerly O’Connell Vineyard.  Each of these vineyards are located within a 10-minutes’ drive from each other in a hallowed Russian River Valley “Pinot Noir Triangle,” which runs from the corner of River Road and Laguna Road, south to Occidental Road, and as far east as Piezzi Road.  The DuMOL Estate Vineyard is the only one of the three that also technically resides in the more verdant Green Valley sub-appellation of the Russian River AVA, and the grapes from the home site provide a fresh, dark-fruit scented complement to the savory red-fruited notes attributed to the O’Connell Vineyard and the crisp, tangy notes from the Hanna fruit.  Translucent purple-ruby.  The aromatics are a divine bouquet of iris, lily, fruit blossoms, and black and red berries.  Refreshing on the attack, with lively berry fruits and a round, smooth texture.  Medium- to full-bodied, with a generous expression of richness on the midpalate and finish.  14.4% alc.  Drink now-2025.  (97+)

Wine of the Week: Chateau Lusseau Graves 2005


Chateau Lusseau Graves 2005: If you want to drink Bordeaux at Thanksgiving, this is your bottle. Dark ruby in color.  Possesses an enchanting bouquet of tobacco, black cherries, plums, warm stones, and freshly turned soil.  On the palate, the tannins are firm but round, and provide excellent structure.  Medium-bodied, with exquisite balance and a long, dry finish. Because the proprietors use only 10% new French oak, the dark fruit flavors demonstrate great purity.  Prior bottles tasted earlier this year needed time to settle, and I am happy to report that the wine is now fully integrated, and is ready to go!  From a blend of 45% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet France, and 5% Malbec.  Notably, this property is farmed organically.  A wine to purchase by the case.  13.5% alc. $30  Drink now-2015.  (90+)

Wine of the Week: Arnot-Roberts Clajoux Vineyard Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2008


Arnot-Roberts Clajoux Vineyard Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: Dark ruby. Offers a spicy nose of red currants, red raspberries, blackberries, and oak.  Fantastic energy and acidity on the midpalate, where the spicy red and black fruits are complemented by a hint of walnuts.  Full-bodied, with round tannins.  14.1% alc.  Drink now-2020.   (94+)     


Wine of the Week: Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010

Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010:  Light ruby robe.  Drawing from two of the finest vineyards in the Petaluma Gap (Gap’s Crown on the western edge of Sonoma Mountain, and the wind-blown Griffin’s Lair Vineyard located two miles north of San Pablo Bay), the 2010 Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is an enchanting old-school Pinot.  Fragrant notes of freshly turned soil, black and red berries, lavender spice, and a hint of the ”merde” that you sometimes get in Burgundies from more soil-driven vintages (1993, 1998, and 2001 come to mind).  On the midpalate, the flavors have an attractive umami character, with notes of bread yeast, sous bois, Ceylon cinnamon, and red fruits.  There is considerably more earth than fruit on the dry finish.  Medium-bodied, with excellent balance.  Winemaker Pax Mahle used approximately 40% whole-cluster for this wine, but all the grapes were were crushed by foot. 13% alc.  $36  Drink now-2017.  (92)

Wine of the Week: Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc Cuvee Faustine 2010


Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc Cuvée Faustine 2010:  Nearly colorless, with a gleaming hue of bone-yellow.   Mysterious and unique, this massively proportioned Corsican wine is made from 50-year old Vermintinu (Vermintino) grapevines overlooking the Mediterranean.  The wine begins with a phenolic explosion in the mouth, where the tropical flavors and fine texture attack, coat, and flitter across the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, before coalescing in the center of the palate in the vinous form of a lit sparkler.  The wine does not go through malolactic fermentation, thus preserving the incredible acidity that centers this full-bodied white.  A pleasant salty minerality and freshness persist on the long finish.  A revelatory white that must be tasted by all serious wine drinkers.  13% alc.  $36.  Drink now-2020.  (92+ points)

Wine of the Week – Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone 2010

Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone 2010:  The Pico Maccario vineyards and winery are set atop an eerily quiet and exposed hillside outside of Mombaruzzo, a small town nestled in the hills east of Alba and Asti.  But, behind the gates of this remote outpost lies 172 acres of vineyards and one of the most modern wineries in all of Piedmont.  The Maccario family’s uncompromising commitment to quality is evidenced by their investment in the study of new and old Barbera clones, the brilliantly efficient layout of their winery space, their appreciation for the most subtle details of winemaking, and of course, their delicious Barberas.  The Barbera d’Asti Lavignone 2010 features a translucent ruby robe, and starts with fresh aromas of violets, strawberries and raspberries dusted with powdered sugar, and orange pith.  With time in the glass the aromas become the essence of dried rose petals, which considering the 4,500 red rose bushes planted throughout the vineyard, is perhaps a testament to man’s ability to influence terroir.  The initial sip sparks the tongue with a perfect balance of acidity, tannin, soil tones, and deep berry flavors.  Impressively concentrated, with the intensity and spicy rose characteristics of the wine building from the midpalate through the moderately long finish.  13.5% alc.  Drink now-2015.  $17  (91 points)

Cascina Luisin Dolcetto d’Alba Bric Trifiila 2008


 Cascina Luisin Dolcetto d’Alba Bric Trifiila 2008: Dark violet robe.  An enticing, delicate display of violet and black raspberry aromas leads to a balanced mouthful of distilled violets and black berry flavors, with a hint of plum and mushroom.  Medium-bodied, with moderate acidity that beckons light pasta dishes.  13% alc.  Drink now (with decanting) through 2015.  (88 points)