Issue: 33 / Sunday 22 July, 2018
Latest Releases from
The US critic, Jeb Dunnuck has released his Washington State report which is jam-packed with 600+ tasting notes. Jeb’s report focuses on the 2015s, which and to quote Jeb “is another terrific vintage for the region. Washington has been on an undeniable roll since 2012, and these newly released 2015s, and upcoming 2016s, aren’t going to break the trend”.
2015 was one of the hottest growing seasons on record however, and as Jeb wrote “Washington can handle heat and vintages are characterized more by when/how the heat is accumulated over the growing season. In the case of 2015, the season got off to an incredibly early start before being consistently hot going into the summer. Multiple heat spikes in June and July caused vines to shut down, and growers had to battle the balance between sugars and phenolic ripeness going into harvest. A cooler, more normal end to the season allowed the phenolics to catch up, but harvest and vinification decisions were critical in getting ripe tannins in the wines”.
Despite the heat and testament to great winemaking skill, Jeb believes the wines have beautiful purity of fruit yet are slightly more firm and classically styled compared to the more broad and voluptuous 2012s and 2014s. He goes on and says “I think the phenolics lag what was achieved in 2014 (and 2012) and the wines have slightly less density and mid-palate depth, with an equal amount of tannin. Nevertheless, the top wines shine for their purity of fruit, balance, and length”.
Jeb gave the nod to the Rhône varieties last year when he tasted them from barrel, but from bottle, the Bordeaux blends showed beautifully as well. It’s a strong vintage for both Rhône and Bordeaux varieties. He compares the vintage to a hypothetical mix of 2013 and 2014 last year, and that comparison holds today.
Out of the 606 tasted and ranked, we stock three wines which are listed in Jeb’s Top 10.
In third place with 99 points is Quilceda Creek’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon “100% Cabernet Sauvignon mostly from Champoux with the balance from Palengat and Wallula vineyards. Crème de cassis, graphite, black licorice, unsmoked tobacco, and hints of chocolate and emerge from this beauty and it continues to gain depth and nuance with time in the glass. Full-bodied, deep, and layered with an incredible purity and elegance on the palate, it's already accessible but has more than enough tannin, depth, and balance to evolve for two decades or more”.
£181.95 per bottle
From the excellent Gramercy Cellars comes 2015 Syrah John Lewis which received 98+ points. “Another tour de force, the 2015 Syrah John Lewis offers more lavender, violets, and minerality, as well as incredible black and blue fruits. This peppery, meaty, rich, full-bodied effort has building tannin, awesome purity, and integrated acidity, and it's certainly one of the finest Syrahs in the vintage. It's more tannic than the Lagniappe Cuvée and is going to benefit from short-term cellaring, with two decades of overall longevity. Bravo! This vintage comes from a single block in the Les Collines Vineyard, in Walla Walla, isn’t destemmed, and spends 19 months in 7% new French oak puncheons”.
£74.95 per bottle
Also available IN BOND at £355.00 per case (6x75cl)
Their 2015 Syrah Lagniappe is a close match with 98 points “Always one of my favorite releases from this estate, the 2015 Syrah Lagniappe is 100% Syrah (mostly from the Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima, with 5% from the Forgotten Hills Vineyard just south of Walla Walla). Deep ruby/plum-colored and loaded with Côte Rôtie-like (Côte Blonde?) notes of black raspberries, crushed flowers, tapenade, and crushed flowers, this beauty is medium to full-bodied, seamless, and silky on the palate, with incredible finesse and elegance. It's going to benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age and knock your socks off over the following decade or more. It’s unquestionably one of the wines of the vintage”
*Available for delivery mid-August 2018*
£51.95 per bottle
Also available IN BOND at £480.00 per case (12x75cl)
Jeb goes on and voices his opinion on the Gramercy team which and for those who have enjoyed our extensive selection will agree too. “Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss continue to keep Gramercy Cellars near the top of the hierarchy in Washington State”. We certainly agree as the only 100 point wine we have awarded goes to their incredible Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
100 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Wow what a bouquet – This is such a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon which reminds me of a top Pauillac - Château Pontet Canet / Latour come to mind. The aromas soar from the glass - Exotic, seductive with vibrant scents of cassis, black currents, graphite and cedar. I detect a little menthol in the background. The palate is rich and coats every facet. The filigree framework of tannins are seamless and support the wine beautifully. There’s a beguiling sense of purity which is something rarely seen. The finesse, poise and focus is quite extraordinary. Overall, the wine is effortless with layer upon layer of perfectly ripe fruit. The complexity builds with time in the decanter and I cannot wait to come back to this wine over the next decade or two. I cannot see how this utterly majestic wine could possibly improve therefore, I have no alternative but concede perfection and add it to my legends list...”
£94.50 per bottle
Samphire: A part of the Whitstable Restaurant Scene
Parts of the Kent coastal food scene have changed greatly over the past five years. Margate has reignited itself with the help of the Turner Gallery, Folkestone is emerging, albeit rather slowly, which to some degree is down to Mark Sargeant’s restaurant Rocksalt, which opened its doors in 2011. Whitstable has enjoyed the biggest change with property prices close to the harbour rocketing over the years. Pleasingly, Whitstable’s food scene has followed suit with many new eateries opening amongst the smart coffee shops. It’s certainly a haven for weekenders and holidaymakers alike which provides a real boost to the local community and business.
I recently visited Samphire for supper, Whitstable’s first bistro to be open all day, every day using the best Kentish produce. The interior is smart, comfortable and simple which is by design rather than cost-cutting. The menu is available on their wall mounted blackboard with a piece of paper for a wine / drinks list. The choice is small with a dozen or so white and red wines and a smattering of sparkling. Kent wines feature throughout however, I opted for a delicious bottle of Spanish albariño which was respectfully priced at around £30.00. My only criticism being the very cheap, thick glassware which is a disservice to wine.
I started with the salted cod cheeks, chorizo, peas and piquillo which was plated elegantly and ate beautifully. Robust, perfectly cooked (plump) cod cheeks which worked a treat with the chorizo. My companion opted for the tamari cured salmon with chicory & pickled ginger. We swapped a mouthful of each, as you do, and I was impressed with the whole dish.
I opted for a main of perfectly cooked sea bream. Succulent with a perfectly seasoned, crispy skin. The smoked potato and fennel gratin, which I was very much looking forward to, failed on every level. For me, a gratin is a luxurious way to serve potatoes -
I received chopped new potatoes, crudely sliced fennel swimming in a thin, tasteless creamy sauce. The ‘smoke’ aspect must have escaped through the window as there wasn’t the subtlest of hints.
My dinner guest chose the pork belly served with charred lettuce and gooseberry, which is a great accompaniment to cut through the richness of the fatty pork. The meat was tender, moist and oozed flavour however, the only reason for ordering this unctuous cut of meat, is for the crispy, salty skin which was sadly, flaccid and chewy. That deafening crunch as you bite through pillowing crispy pig skin was absent, which killed off the overall eating enjoyment of the dish.
Puddings read and looked fantastic however, we were both too full to be tempted. The bill arrived, which just came under one hundred pounds (excluding service), which and despite some negatives, I thought represented good value. The staff were friendly, attentive and the atmosphere was light and enjoyable. All-in-all, a nice place to spend a few hours, eat some well-prepared food and enjoy a decent bottle of wine which you know is not ridiculously overpriced.
My only two criticisms.
- Please change your glassware. Yes, it is unlikely they will ever break due to their sheer thickness however, they are bloody awful to drink from.
- Please serve up what you write on the tin. Deconstructing a gratin is foolish, unnecessary and simply leads to failure.
Give it a bash and let me know your thoughts.
Samphire, 4 High St,
Whitstable, Kent, CT5 1BQ
“While everyone knows of Steve Kistler’s remarkable chardonnays, I believe his pinot noir will ultimately prove
even more historic.”
Steve Kistler is universally known as one of the greatest winemakers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir chiefly under the ‘Kistler’ label however, Occidental is Steve Kistler's new (founded in 2011) Pinot Noir project with a singular focus – to make world-class Pinot Noir from unique sites. The Occidental wines are produced from vineyards on a southwest-facing ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just outside the town of Bodega. This ridge and the surrounding headlands mark the western edge of the Freestone-Occidental area and are among the coldest and latest ripening sites where pinot noir is grown in western Sonoma.
The beauty of these maritime sites and the challenging conditions these vineyards face – all of this is reflected in the Occidental wines. Stylistically, their Pinot Noirs are crystalline wines with vivid aromatics and intense red fruit flavours. They have a wonderfully chiselled quality, layered with savory and mineral characters.
The Freestone-Occidental Pinot Noir includes a blend of fruit from our Bodega Headlands, Occidental Station, and Bodega Ridge vineyards. It also shares the same winemaking techniques as their vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. Their appellation wine expresses the same energy, precision, and purity of flavour that gives all of Occidental’s wines lift and perfume, along with the deeper soil tones that contribute to its complexity.
2016 Freestone Occidental
All Occidental Pinot Noirs are made in very small quantities and are allocated exclusively to their mailing list members however, we have 36 bottles up for grabs…
The 2016 Freestone-Occidental is a vibrant, perfumed wine with a chiselled red-fruit character that is typical of the wines from our Bodega Headlands and Bodega Ridge properties. It offers a superb balance of primary red fruits and saline elements. It conveys outstanding energy, precision and lift in the mouth and finishes vibrant and long with discreet tannins.
Steve Kistler “Occidental represents the culmination of my dream to make pinot noir from the western edge of where it can be grown successfully in California. To farm the Occidental vineyards requires all our skill, experience and tenacity, while the Occidental wines need our most delicate touch. Each year we try to refine and adapt our approach to farming and winemaking to express more clearly the singular character of each site”
David Powell was the founder and MD for Torbreck Vintners since its inception in 1994 until his sudden departure back in August 2013. Dave returned in 2014, this time with son Callum as Powell & Son. Many of you share our enthusiasm for Torbreck wines which are carefully skilled and perfectly judged. The same can be said for Dave and Callum’s new wines however, their pricing policy will keep the vast majority from our cellar's doors as prices are stratospherically high - £6,000 for a dozen bottles of their
99-point Kraehe Shiraz!
Nevertheless, we have purchased the UK allocation (only 150 bottles) of one wine, their sensational Roussanne / Marsanne blend which the father and son team based on the style of the great Hermitage Blancs of the Northern Rhone. They aim for richness, minerality and hedonism however, and pleasingly, the latter goal is more subdued which sets their wine apart from many. The style is typically lower in acid and high in phenolic content, which provides richness on the palate and requisite phenolics to age.
The Roussanne component is fermented and aged in stainless steel to maintain acidity and fruit florals whilst the Marsanne is barrel fermented in half new French oak. It is lees stirred, undergoes malolactic fermentation and is matured in French oak. Aside from a minor bentonite fining, no fining or filtration is done to maintain the phenolic richness of the two varieties. They are blended together prior to bottling: the Roussanne providing the aromatic fruit profile and acid balance and the Marsanne adding palate
structure and richness.
Powell & Son 2017 Roussanne Marsanne
97+ Points Stuart McCloskey "Sharply focused, linear with a vibrancy which I wasn’t expecting. The floral character comes to the fore which compliments the nashi pear, peach, melon and suggestion of jasmine brilliantly. The palate is expansive with swathes of buttered citrus fruits underpinned with a core of minerals. I’ll be brutally honest, I was expecting a voluptuous Barossa bombshell. Instead, I received an unexpected balancing act between litheness and precision which is extremely impressive. This is one of those rare wines which floats on the palate but delivers to every millimetre. Drinking beautifully now (decant for 20 mins) but will cellar for 8-10 years."
Mike Bennie, The Wine Front “The past saw Marsanne in some new oak, the Roussanne not, and the wine a feat of blending rather than co-fermenting. Layering in the detail. The total new oak is 20% but you’d hardly know aside some textural elements that might trigger something in you. It feels like a fine wine from the get-go, is the other message. Slippery texture, a touch of grass with cool melon and ripe apple scents and flavours the mainstays. It shows sniffs and licks of nougat-halva too, a well-rolled-in seasoning of oak and lees time. Length is excellent, the wine feels like it stains the palate but finds some velocity to tighten up and go lightly-nutty-bitter to close, way-way away. Medium weight white of high interest and drinkability, is the takeaway.”
New Listing from
Marlborough’s Dog Point
Dog Point is a perfect partnership between viticulturalist Ivan Sutherland and head winemaker James Healy, both formerly of Cloudy Bay. Following their departure, the pair began making wine from fruit sourced from Sutherland’s own vineyards in the Wairau Valley, which were planted in the 1970’s & 80’s.
Dog Point produces four low volume, hand-picked, super-high-quality wines which we are enormous fans of. We believe they have no New Zealand rival for their Sauvignon Blanc’s and their Pinot Noir is unmatched for quality versus price.
They produce wines under an organic biogro programme, which is an initiative established to promote the production of premium quality wine utilising environmentally friendly and responsible practices. One of their initiatives they carry out as part of their organic regime is the turning of vine pruning’s and winery waste into mulch to create a healthy organic compost for use on plantings throughout the property.
They also collect leachate from this process and apply it to the vineyards as a fertiliser to help conserve moisture and improve the soil structure.
In spring, they plant cover crop such as buckwheat and phacelia between the vines to encourage beneficial insects for biological control of insect pests. And over the winter months, 2,500 sheep and 25 steers are brought onto the property to keep the grass and weeds down, and to add organic matter to the soil.
We have added their 2015 Chardonnay to our collection which stands (qualitatively speaking) alongside Kumeu River’s single vineyard range. All the Chardonnay is hand-picked from their home vineyard vines dating back to 1981. The fruit is whole bunch pressed and transferred directly to French oak barrels (15% new) and left to undergo indigenous primary and secondary malolactic fermentations for 18 months in barrel. Bottled without fining and with only minimal filtration.
2015 Dog Point chardonnay
95 Points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
What a wonderful Chardonnay. White peach and grapefruit, oatmeal and struck match, tight tracks of gleaming acidity, and a bullet of juicy but restrained flavour racing down them. A little flintiness. Some cashew creaminess. A tight and mouth-watering limey finish that makes you eye the level of the glass too often, and fret over it. You’d be mad not to.
We are running desperately low on their
stunning 2015 Pinot Noir…
2015 Dog Point Pinot Noir
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "What a welcome back after a three-vintage absence (for me, not the wine!). Waves of plums, mulberries, black cherries and hints of blood orange wash effortlessly across your palate. There is an intense core of rich dark fruits perfectly framed by fine tannins which is impossible not to admire. Certainly, an intriguing Pinot Noir which straddles styles and certainly would not be out of place with some of Sonoma’s ‘top’ Pinot Noirs. Utterly joyful and quite honestly soars above many of its New Zealand peers. Served in a Zalto Burgundy glass but I do feel a little unkind with my score – Perhaps another point (98+) if I had the patience to decant which I would highly recommend."
The ‘BEST’ oaked New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in our opinion which Jancis MW is a fan of too….
2015 Dog Point Section 94
97 Points Stuart McCloskey "Dog Point's Section 94 has always been a favourite of mine and can, in correct cellaring conditions, mature wonderfully over a decade. This is another example of a medium to full-bodied, textural style of Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes for Section 94 come from a single, low cropping vineyard parcel first planted in 1992. The fruit is hand-picked, whole bunch pressed and aged in older French oak barrels for 18 months. Every vintage has a funky edge which you either love or not. Those seeking simplistic Kiwi fruit pops should avoid at all costs as this is a serious, large scale wine that deserves a little respect. The aromas are taut, tightly wound with the ‘funk’ reducing with 20/30 minutes in a decanter (highly recommended). Tropical no - Yellow stone fruits in abundance with a vein of minerality appearing mid-palate. There’s a real intensity which is exceptional and rarely found with the majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The finish is endless… In short, brilliant!"
17 Points – Jancis Robinson "Smell as though there is some light oak influence here. Dense and thrilling. This is a wine to convert me to Marlborough Sauvignon! Much more concentrated than the regular 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. Tense and rich at the same time but not particularly mineral. Reminds me a bit of PHI in the Yarra Valley. Impressively long."
Finally, to the best value Sauvignon Blanc
in our entire portfolio
2017 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc
James Suckling says this wine “Really takes sauvignon to another place for Marlborough, exposing the edgy, exciting and minerally possibilities whilst embracing the rampant intensity of fruit. Great acid, mouth-watering from front to back”
We say “A wonderfully deep and mineral nose with white and yellow stone fruits with a tinge of herbs. The palate is positively electric with stone fruits and minerals. Extremely pure, shows finesse and elegance as well as a touch of sweetness, but the overall balance is perfect. A wine which straddles New Zealand and the Loire, which is most pleasing as many Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc are too overtly pungent and unappealing. An exceptional Sauvignon Blanc for the price and an utter joy when the sun shines…”