Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

 

As I begin to compose my thoughts for this letter, I remember back to that now-famous line, uttered so perfectly by Sean Connery throughout his career, as his character in the 007 series would introduce himself; “Bond, James Bond”.  I think of that phrase every time I hear that a new release of this wine is headed my way.  “ROAR, ROAR WINES.”

ROAR Pinots need absolutely zero introduction for the initiated.  They come to us from the rolling hills of the Santa Lucia Highlands region of the Central Coast – Monterey to be quite specific – and they are quite simply, as Parker so perfectly points out, “Among the finest produced in California”.  From the very first review of these tremendous and full-bodied Pinots ever offered by the Wine Advocate, the world has waited in line for a chance to purchase these singular efforts from the gracious Franscioni couple.

The wines of ROAR Vineyards – so named as to pay homage to the screaming winds that blow through the hills and valleys of this region, originating from the coast – are made by Gary and Rosella Franscioni along with their good friend and wine-maker Gary Pisoni, to bring to light the very best attributes of this part of California.  These are powerful Pinots, rightly so, and yet they retain the elegance that Pinot Noir is so famous for.  Meeting the people behind the wines will completely, as is so often the case, explain the wine you’ll find in the bottles.

What’s more, the names of the vineyards these folks are behind as farmers and proprietors are equally as famous as a source for world class wines in many other folks hands as well.  A bottle of Pinot Noir carrying the Garys’, Rosella’s, or Pisoni vineyard designations, when bottled by an ever-increasing number of fine producers in California, is as close as one can come to a guarantee of a tremendous wine.  The assistance these 3 people have offered to so many folks, in their attempts to produce world-class Pinot Noir, is truly heart-warming.

Today, we have just a small offering (minuscule, to be precise) from this tremendous estate to offer all of you.  As is the case with ROAR, the wines are consistently offered for sale — and completely sold out — before the reviews are printed by the wine writers.  If you look at the previous vintage’s notes, however, you’ll understand the reason behind the quick and consistent sell-through.

Just as a final note, here are some words from the experts on this amazing estate:

“Wow! I was blown away by these Pinot Noirs from Roar. They all reveal unbelievable complexity, richness, and the extraordinary potential that exists in the Santa Lucia Highlands for this varietal.

[It] reminds me of a beautifully ripe top vintage of Grand Cru Corton from the Cotes de Beaune.

This brilliant Pinot Noir is among the finest produced in California.”
— Robert Parker, covering several offers from ROAR

“Gary and Rosella Franscioni, third generation farmers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, are proprietors of Roar Wines, proprietors of Rosella’s Vineyard and partners with Gary Pisoni in Garys’ Vineyard.

With the Roar Pinots, they set out to capture the pure character of the Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards that they are so intimately familiar with….

The Franscionis are perfect proof that an artisan’s wines are a true reflection of the person. Like their wines, Gary and Rosella are beautiful, classy people.”                — Gregory Walter, PinotReport

 

Recently tasted 2015s confirm the unending hot streak here at ROAR…

The single vineyard Garys’ and Rosella’s Pinots were striking…

Happy Hunting…

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Lail Vineyards – A TRUE American Tale!

Lail House

Having been in the biz this long, I’m often guilty of wandering back to Europe when writing about California wines – I’ve even been called out on it…

But this is a family’s story so deeply rooted in the vinous fabric of America that even I can’t think of anywhere else but Napa when sharing their story. Follow me now; this one has a lot of forks in the road…

It all began in the late 19th century when Robin Lail’s Great Grand-Uncle Gustav Niebaum (ya’ the one and only!) built Inglenook Vineyards – talk about an American icon. By the turn of the 20th century, American wine had no rival. Niebaum’s Inglenook passed down to his Great-Nephew, John Daniel Jr. in 1936 after Prohibition, and Daniel Jr. would be the catalyst for bringing many of Niebaum’s dreams to life.

Daniel Jr., along with Robert Mondavi, made the Napa Valley appellation a reality. The sale of Inglenook in the 1960s made history, as it signified a family’s legacy in the Napa Valley.

Enter Robin Lail – John Daniel Jr.’s daughter. She inherited the Napanook Vineyard (again, ya’ the one and only!) and, after a brief hiatus, “went on to co-found Dominus in 1982 with her sister Marcia Smith and the brilliant winemaker Christian Moueix”.

Pride of ownership beckoned (obviously) and after a successful run with Bill Harlan, Robin sold her portion of Dominus and Merryvale, hooked up with rock-star wine-maker Philippe Melka in 1998, and gave the world Lail Vineyards!Lail Logo

 

A Jewel in Chateauneuf – Bosquet des Papes Cuvee “A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere”

Captivating Chateauneuf

Captivating Chateauneuf

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape – the place, the wine, and everything about its history and local quirks (a municipal decree in ’54 banned the overhead flying, landing or taking off of flying saucers). The wines are beyond unique. For those who have spent time studying the world’s finest vinous treasures (I’ve been at it three decades plus) it usually comes down to a choice between Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf – in terms of selecting a favorite wine from France. Sure, there are fabulous wines made by a handful of superlative growers sprinkled throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, Loire Valley, and such, but overwhelming majorities of truly phenomenal wines are most often concentrated in the aforementioned Big 3. Burgundy tugs at my heart, but a glance at my collection clearly indicates my adoration for Chateauneuf.

And when it comes to selecting some of my favorites, consistency across vintages is part of my criteria. Nicolas Boiron and family – Les Bosquet des Papes – immediately come to mind. In this century alone, across all of their various cuvees and vintages, I can think of at least 20 individual bottlings worthy of the “outstanding” descriptor. These are wines of extremely high caliber, wines which scream of their cepage and terroir, and which may be identified from one another across vintages; they are not homogenous, uniqueness is their calling card.

At the top of the list for me is their pure Grenache cuvee, which honors current winemaker Nicolas Boiron’s predecessor. Grown in the Gardiole lieu-dit (sandy soils; which seem to produce a lot of my top choices) and fermented 50% whole cluster, Nicolas Boiron and family introduced this mind-bending offering in 1998. Parker has consistently lauded the wine, rendering the tiny production all the more difficult to acquire. Moreover, Jeb Dunnuck recently pegged it as a “Best of Chateauneuf” selection in his 2014 report (may not ever find another bottle, now).

Simply put, in the words of Parker,

“Consumers should be looking out for this domaine’s wines as the quality has soared even higher than it already was.”

 

2012 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere

The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted, the inky 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grandpere comes from old-vine Grand PereGrenache vines planted in mostly sandy soils of the Gardiole lieu-dit. Aged in a combination of concrete tank and older, larger barrels, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012 that reveals tons of sweet red and black fruits, lavender, pepper, licorice and hints of garrigue. Beautifully concentrated, seamless and textured, with extraordinary elegance and polish to its tannin, it’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage and will have two decades or more of longevity.

97 points – (JD) Wine Advocate

This may take some special effort to locate (at a price that’s not outrageous), but it’s a truly special bottle from a truly gifted estate…

 

Xavier Vins Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme – One of the Best & Latest Released 2007s

Xavier

Xavier, the man behind the late released, phenomenal “Cuvee Anonyme”

Along with Henri Bonneau and his notoriously difficult to acquire, always last to market Reserve des Celestins, Xavier Vignon’s Cuvee “Anonyme” requires immeasurable patience on the part of passionate Chateauneuf lovers. This stuff is legendary – for those lucky few to have tasted it. The 2007 vintage was (and remains) the greatest vintage for the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape in generations. Parker declared it was “the vintage of a lifetime.” Following up with his in-bottle summary, “this is a truly historic and profoundly great vintage.” (emphasis his)

Taking full advantage of the bounty set before him, Xavier Vignon patiently nurtured his top cuvee for a full 36 months, allowing the elevage to take place in a combination of demi-muids and seasoned, small oak casks. So complex is the cuvee for “Anonyme” that Xavier prefers to discuss the cuvee by parcels – no less than 120 individual plots contribute to the blend; many vines from the best sites have seen their 100th birthday. This is very truly and without exaggeration one of the most unique, difficult to acquire and staggeringly exotic wines ever made in Chateauneuf.

It’s no wonder Xavier is as famous and in demand as Cambie. Some of the most famous wines in the village would not be what they are today without Xavier – Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Usseglio, Beaurenard – all these domaines utilize Xavier’s direction as consulting winemaker. Once the 2007 “Anonyme” caresses your palate, it will all make sense…

Except for Henri Bonneau’s 2007 Reserve des Celestins (which is still in barrel), the last 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape to be released will be Xavier Vignon’s Anonyme. This sensational wine spent three years in a combination of demi-muids and small oak. It boasts an inky/purple color along with a sweet nose of underbrush, garrigue, licorice, blackberries and black currants. Full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant, this stunning 2007 should drink well for another 15-20 years.

96 points – Robert ParkerAnonyme

This may require a special effort to acquire; I’ve got mine, you should have yours…

Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle 2013 Riesling Grosses Gewachs – Monumental Riesling, Monumental Vintage

WA95pt “Vintage’s Finest” Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Riesling

WA95pt “Vintage’s Finest” Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Riesling

Possibly the first piece I’ve published to the blog on this subject, yet I’ve consumed dozens of the greatest Rieslings across every known QmP and beyond. Find these 2013s… Make Hermann Dönnhoff tops on that list…

Two hundred years ago the Dönnhoff family landed in Germany’s Nahe region, beginning life as humble farmers, evolving into the most prominent wine makers in the region.

Their holdings are classified Erste Lage – Grand Cru to you and I – and are the equivalent to Burgundy’s Le Montrachet, Batard and Chevalier Montrachet; when you’re standing in a Dönnhoff-owned parcel of Riesling-planted ground, you’re standing on hallowed dirt. The most grand of their Grand Cru holdings is the slate and volcanic sedimentary rock covered Nahe masterpiece, Hermannshöhle.

For more than a century, Hermannshöhle has retained its classification; simply put: no other Nahe vineyard yields such uncompromising Riesling beauties. Named for cave (or mine) in the center of the hill – Höhle – this mountain in Nahe also bears the name of the ancient Greek Messenger Hermes – altered here to Hermann – indicating by some accounts this may have once been a mountain of worship.

For all its history, today – in the hands of Dönnhoff – Riesling from this treasured Grand Cru of Hermannshöhle is a beverage to behold!

Stephan Reinhardt has quickly become one of my favorites over at Parker’s Wine Advocate:

The 2013 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewachs is breathtakingly clear, piquant and flinty on the nose, highly deep and complex but bright, with lime and grapefruit flavors. The palate is powerful, rich, dense, juicy and piquant, very salty, like melting minerals or stones, tension-full. A great dry Riesling, a monument.

95 points – (SR) Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Might be a tough one to find, and be very certain that you get PRECISELY the correct label…

Chateauneufs & More from the Incomparable Jaume Brothers – Tops in 2012!

Alain Jaume et Fils

The modern-day Jaume facilities

On one my early trips to the region back in the 1990s, I encountered the wines of Grand Veneur in Chateauneuf du Pape. M. Alain Jaume was still very much in charge, but his sons – Sebastien and Christophe – were eagerly in training. I’ll never forget that day, as it confirmed them as being among the elite of Chateauneuf and the Rhone.

By the early 2000s, I heard that the brothers had taken more control of things, adding their now-famous Lirac, “Clos de Sixte”. A wine which can easily out “Chateauneuf” many CDPs, the debut of that wine added an exclamation point to a history of superb wines.

Originally established in the early 1800s, Grand Veneur was singled out by Parker as

One of the most brilliant estates in Chateauneuf du Pape,”

for their killer track-record.

Along with such overachievers as Janasse, Marcoux, Clos Saint Jean and CGrand Veneur VVlos des Papes, Grand Veneur consistently tops the charts – vintage in, vintage out – with gorgeous and exciting wines.

For 2012, I bought the range. From their Lirac “Clos de Sixte”, to the “Les Origines” (a selection of the best barrels), to the VV, each wine is here for you to explore. And if there was ever a vintage worth exploring to the max, 2012 is the one…

Available here:Jaume Clos Sixte

http://www.b-21.com/searchwine.asp

(search producer: Grand Veneur)

2009 Pintia |Vega Sicilia’s “Very Cool” Toro | 94 Points Wine Advocate

Vega Sicilia

A lot has been made of the famous Vega Sicilia. The name itself is undoubtedly the most recognized in Spanish wine loving circles. It holds its own – in more ways than one – alongside the most revered in wine. Its history is legendary.

I wonder, though how many know that Vega Sicilia was once sold as Rioja. Or that the original owner – Senor Lecanda – returning from Bordeaux with 18,000 vines to be planted at what is now called Vega Sicilia, would have the harvest distilled for Brandy.

My, how the world has changed.

Turn the page and meet the real forward thinkers, the Alvarez family, in charge since 1982. What they have done here is nothing short of miraculous. Expanding while perfecting, they have added estates across Spain, including Pintia in Toro, acqPintia 2009uired in 1997.

I asked about the name.

“Short, sweet, cool and easy to remember…” says Pablo.

They’ve tamed the once wild and belligerent Tempranillo of Toro, too. In Pablo’s cellars, deftly controlled by wine-maker Xavier Ausas, this is Toro with no equal. Very cool, very hip, totally unmatched.

The Vega Sicilia of Toro? You nailed it!

Track it down here