Diamond Creek’s New 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Releases On Fire Yet Again…

Al Brounstein created Diamond Creek in 1968 with his purchase of 31 hectares in the Diamond Creek canyon. It’s a good thing the land was bought by Al because the previous owner at the time was considering turning the entire site into another golf course.

Now one of Napa’s foremost Cabernet Sauvignon focused estates, Diamond Creek continues to produce wines of exceptional character and definition and whose promise with age is simply breath-taking. The three single vineyards – Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Red Rock Terrace – are simply revered by connoisseurs the world over. 

These three distinctly different vineyards are tucked away in a sprawling hillside canyon surrounded by dense forest on the secluded Diamond Mountain. It really is a remarkable place. Even more remarkable considering that the visionary Al Brounstein had no idea what lay beneath the dense woodland when he happened to make room for vines in the late 1960s.

Tasting in London with Diamond Creek’s Phil Ross.

According to Phil Ross, the 2016 wines resemble the 2013 reds with a normal Spring then a warm June / July leading to a cooler August and September with fruit picked in nearly October, which is normal for Diamond Creek, but late for Napa Valley. The results as usual are exceptional.

Diamond Creek Red rock Terrace 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5

Red iron soils yield a rich, opulent expressive nose of blueberry, black plum, mulberry, cassis and salty black liquorice. There are also lovely exotic top notes of cinnamon and clove and vanilla wood spice. Super suave and opulent, the texture is velvety and elegant as usual for this vineyard with impressive finesse and delicacy. Flavours are seamless, focused and oh so pure, finishing with a very long, cassis and blueberry pie concentration.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5 Abv.

Gravelly sandy based soils with the lowest yields. Shows the intensity and focus of black cassis fruit and dark blueberry fruits but with a pronounced chassis of dusty graphite and crushed gravel minerality complimented by vanilla wood spice and cherry kirsch liquor notes. Beautifully polished, seamless structure with very fine grained powdery dry tannins adding persistence and shape and a fine frame on which the concentrated blue and black berry fruits can coat and caress. More mid palate weight and tension than Red Rock Terrace and a touch more muscle, power and depth. Very impressive release.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5 Abv.

Grown on course ashy volcanic sandy soils, this wine is big, bold and processes tremendous power with dense, plush, opulent grandeur loaded with lashings of blue and black berry fruit, black cherry kirsch, caramelised black currants and sweet salty black liquorice. Less perfumed fragrance and aromatic nuances than the other two cuvees, but on the palate, this is wine impressively full and textured, fleshy and broad with hints of stewed plum, sun dried black cherries, caramelised black currants and the sweetest, plushest, round powdery tannins. Delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring the Incredible New Californian Releases from the Highly Talented Paul Lato…

Paul Lato was born in Poland. He worked as a certified sommelier in one of Toronto’s most exclusive restaurants and only visited California for the first time in the early 1990s.  Jim Clendenen, the owner of ABC Winery and Clendenen Wines, was influential in finally getting Paul to pack up and move to California to take up a job at Bien Nacido Vineyards. But it was really only after a rave review after a chance encounter between Robert Parker and “the Polish sommelier making wine” that Paul’s stardom was truly sealed. 

Paul was recently in London to launch his famously sought after new releases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah which are unsurprisingly highly allocated and difficult to secure. After reviewing a large selection of Paul’s incredible 2015 whites and reds, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to taste the new 2016 releases. The intensity, purity and freshness Paul manages to capture both in his whites and his reds is truly impressive.

These are definitely wines to seek out and find a home for in your cellar. They are not necessarily cheap, but then wines of this quality and precision never are, wherever they are produced. Paul’s wines were certainly some of the most exciting wines I tasted in 2017 and his new vintages look certain to continue his phenomenal run of form.

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2011, 14.5 Abv.

Opulent, hedonistic style showing evolved aromatics of stewed quince, honied waxy lemons, stem ginger, pear purée and apple spice. The palate is very creamy, supple and plush, spreading across the mouth with great concentration and intensity. Very youthful but absolutely delicious and great integrity.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2015, 13.9 Abv.

Rich opulent nose brimming with lemon confit, intense white citrus pith and tangerine peel. Incredibly finely integrated oak melting into a creamy, textural palate of pineapple and lemon pastille with a tender kiss of salted caramel. Wow. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2016, 14.3 Abv.

Riper, youthful green melon fruits mingle with lemon blossom, notes of sweet Seville oranges and white citrus. Despite a higher Abv than the 2015, there plenty of is tension, glycerol texture and a lovely youthful woodspice finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato East of Eden Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, 14.5 Abv.

This last bottle of Paul’s first vintage of the Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay. Lovely exotic aromatics of apple pastille fruits, lemon bon bons and fresh buttered white toast. Palate is full and rich, plush and textured, showing excellent youthful crystalline purity, bright yellow citrus and the most delicious brioche and lemon biscuit finish. Very classy.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato East of Eden Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, 14.3 Abv.

Very fine, floral, pin point aromatics with incredible purity and focus. White citrus, yellow citrus pastille and custard cream pastries. Palate shows impressive tension and vibrancy, energy and freshness all wrapped in a wave of intense concentration. Great length and power but with an incredible fruit ~ minerality equilibrium.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The skin contact Batana Malvasia Bianca 2016 from Paul Lato – one of the most exciting whites I tasted from anywhere in 2018!

Paul Lato Batana Larner Vineyard Malvasia Bianca 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted exotic aromatic nose of pithy pear, baked apples, tangerine peel, marmalade, stem ginger and resinous sappy spice. Taut and fresh, mouth-wateringly vibrant and bright, brimming with cherry skin pith, crunchy quince, green apple and passion fruit sorbet. Profound purity, intensity and complexity. One of the most impressive wines I have tasted in a very long time.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Lancelot Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, 14.8 Abv.

Cool, dark, earthy broody nose of forest floor, sous bois and earthy red forest berries. 10 years old and beautifully youthful, showing a subtle lick of oak and savoury notes of peaches, red currant, loganberry and red plums. Fine minerality and complexity. Delicious now.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Suertes Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Maria Valley, 14.8 Abv.

Earthy red foresty nose with hedgerow spice, sappy red plum, pomegranate and blood oranges. Very plush and concentrated, piercing intensity and a long, fruit driven finish with crazy complexity, textural breadth and mineral nuance.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Suertes Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Maria Valley, 14.1 Abv.

Lifted perfumed nose of bramble berry, pomegranate, gun flint, graphite and black cherry spice. Beautifully fresh and pure, vibrant and intense with crystalline sappy red forest fruits, spice orange peel and macerated blood orange and graphite finish. Wow. Really beautiful, harmonious wine with artisanal character.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Atticus John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, 14.2 Abv.

Beautifully fragrant nose with a more piquant note. Plenty of cherry blossom, rose petals, lavender and sweet lilac depth that intermingles with sour red cherry, red apple and pomegranate spice. Palate is pithy and sleek, textured and spicy with classical Pinot Noir elegance, vibrantly fresh acids and a long, harmonious finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Cinematique Syrah Larner Vineyard Syrah 2008, 15 Abv.

Lovely deep, broody, savoury nose with almost Priorat style depth, bramble berry fruits, sweet red currant, freshly sliced bresaola and stewed earthy plums. There is a subtle kiss of oak, creamy foresty depth, a lovely smoky intricacy and a sweet toasty coffee bean finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2009, 15 Abv.

A wonderfully complex nose filled with wood smoke, charcoal embers, spicy black currant, cured meats and savoury graphite spice. Palate is cool and fleshy, piquant and exotic with black berry confit, coffee bean, espresso and a long, sappy, meaty, black olive finish. Drinking very well now.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2014, 15.4 Abv

Darker, more taut mineral aromatics speak of this cooler Syrah vineyard. Quite saline and mineral with cassis, black berry, graphite and sea breeze nuances. Beautifully pure and creamy, textured and mineral, embroidered by bright acids and a real energy. Very impressive expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Lunch with Paul Lato and his wines at new 1 Star Michelin restaurant Hide by Ollie Dabbous.

Paul Lato with Hide Restaurant and Hedonism Wines owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin.

Allocations available in the UK through importer Tiger Vines.

Pahlmeyer’s Hits the Ground Running with the Launch of Their Fort Ross-Seaview AVA Pinot Noir in the UK…

Produced from fruit sourced from the Wayfarer Vineyard in Sonoma Coast’s relatively newly formed Fort Ross-Seaview AVA which was only established in 2011, this 2014 Pinot Noir is the third vintage release from owner Jayson Pahlmeyer of the Napa Valley Pahlmeyer Estate. With close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, these remote coastal vineyards of Northern Sonoma are situated in one of the most beautiful parts of California with dramatic rolling hills and majestic old redwood trees peppering the landscape.

The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA is fast developing a cult following for its pristine cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and this is another wine for connoisseurs to follow. Never knowingly sold cheap, the Wayfarer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will hit the retail shelves in the UK at circa £110-£120 per bottle. Punchy prices but the allocations are small and the demand is high… so expect these to sell out fast.

Wayfarer Pinot Noir 2014 Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

Medium ruby red with a bright crystalline rim, the 2014 Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir has bold, opulent, hedonistic aromatics of sweet pomegranate fruits, sun dried cranberries, sweet red cherries and subtle spicy, sappy hemp leaf notes that mingle with lavender and cherry blossom perfume. The palate shows a sleek, concentrated fleshy fruit texture with impressive depth, savoury forest berry complexity and hints of stewed blood oranges, bright intense linear acids and a finely detailed, harmonious chalky tannin finish. Classic cool climate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that many will find irresistible. Drink now to 2022+

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Wines available in the UK from The Wine Treasury

Chardonnay Specialist Producer Ramey Cellars Introduces Their Stunning New Russian River Valley ‘Rochioli Vineyard’ Chardonnay to the Range…

There is Chardonnay and then there’s Ramey Chardonnay! After Ramey Cellars decided not to renew one of their single vineyard grower contracts, the Rochioli Vineyard was chosen to bolster their prestigious single vineyard portfolio of premium Ramey Chardonnays.

Due for release in the USA in August 2018, the 2015 Chardonnay Rochioli Blend was 85% from Mid-40 Block, clones 4 (planted 1995), and 76 (planted 1995 & 1998), with the remaining 15% being a combination of River block (clone 5 planted in 1989) and Allen Vineyard (clone 76 planted in 2001 and 2005), which the Rochioli family have farmed for many years. The soils here are Yolo sandy loam and overwash, derived from sedimentary formations in an alluvial fan.

Winter 2015 was the warmest on record, resulting in early bud break. Cooler, wetter weather in Spring months slowed development leading to a challenging extended bloom period. The resulting uneven fruit set translated into a small crop with small berries with very concentrated flavours, harvested on the 22nd to 24th August at 23.1 brix.

Ramey utilised whole cluster pressing, native yeast fermentation and full malolactic fermentation in barrel with sur lies batonnage. After 20 months in 23% new French Francois Frères barrels, this wine was lightly fined and settled in tank before bottling without filtration. Only 747 cases were produced.

Ramey Rochioli Vineyard 2015, Russian River Valley, California

Like the best Ramey wines, this Chardonnay combines delicious lemon citrus aromatics, subtle toasty oak and suductive minerality in a most complete package. Plenty of Burgundian influence, intensity and concentration make for a very, very fine Chardonnay and definitely an inspired addition to the iconic Ramey range. But I guess when you make wines as premium as the Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, any decision to add a new vineyard to the range is going to be based on supreme quality potential. This wine has such depth, bristling lemony / limey acids and a long, long finish with just the most subtle kiss of butterscotch oak. Wow, I’m bowled over by this profound, delicious beauty. Drink from release until 2035+.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – The Long Awaited Iconic 2013 Vintage is Finally Released…

A legendary wine from an iconic wine region, the long awaited Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 was released in February 2018. The Napa Valley AVA saw just 50.8cm of rain during the winter months leading up to the 2013 growing season; any meaningful precipitation ceased in December of 2012. The lack of rain and a relatively warm spring led to an early start to the growing season. Summer was remarkably mild. During critical ripening, air temperatures remained stable, creating a long, slow harvest.

The seasonal trifecta of moderate temperatures, low soil moisture and little precipitation led to a vintage that will be remembered for its structured and concentrated wines. Harvest started on September 2nd and on October 4th the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon was arriving at the winery.

The 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It was blended in early 2014 and aged for 24 months in 85% new American oak and 15% one-passage American oak barrels from Silver Oak’s own Missouri cooperage, The Oak. Early blending assured a balanced core and allowed all components to achieve greater harmony during barrel aging. It was then aged for an additional 20 months in bottle before being released in February of 2018.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California, 13.5 Abv.

Wonderfully dense, opulent and masculine. Where the Alexander Valley 2013 is more pretty… beauty personified, the Napa is a gladiator, full of muscle, density, broody black fruits and then a fine dollop of intrigue. All the classical components are there, dusty cassis, liquid graphite, violets, salty Victoria plums and an alluring cedary wood spice note. On the palate the black fruits melt into a dense melange of black berry confit, taut salty liquorice, graphite, cassis, blueberry pastille and muscular, intense, liquid minerality. The road map of this wine is clear. One can see exactly where this wine is going, an understanding that is integral to the impressive rating of this epic Napa release. Will it appeal fully to customers looking to drink it right now? No, maybe less so. But for pure pedigree, power, opulence and intensity, this wine is nearly unsurpassed. Buy it now and cellar it. It will never ever disappoint such is the long term track record of Silver Oak. This wine offers guaranteed drinking pleasure over 30 to 40+ years if cellared optimally.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A New World Chardonnay That Can Challenge the Best of Burgundy – Tasting the Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay…

A new wine for me but this Rhys white was just incredible, an absolute Old World styled thriller. I rated this wine in a blind tasting without any knowledge of its provenance other than “being from the New World.” It featured as one of my top 3 wines out of 16 premium Chardonnays tasted blind on the day.

Looking a little further into this producer, I see that Rhys Vineyards aspires to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California’s most unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead them to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone.

Over the last 15 years they have developed seven estate vineyards, six in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one in Anderson Valley, each of which is capable of producing uniquely compelling, distinctive, soil driven wine.

At their best, Rhys feel Santa Cruz Mountain wines offer all the key ingredients for truly fine wine… “breathtaking balance, terrific concentration, uncommon minerality, thrilling complexity and Old World age worthiness”.

Rhys Vineyards Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Santa Cruz Mountains, 13 Abv. (50cl bottle)

It has a beautifully rich, opulent nose with green gauge fruits, yellow citrus and delicious zesty pineapple and mineral Alka Zelzer notes. The palate is incredibly creamy, rich and intense but also racy, classically proportioned and quite profound. After being open some time in the glass, hints of lemon pie, mint leaf, dried herbs and salted caramel brittle develop but all very much in a subtle, complexing way combining with delicious creme brûlée notes and harmonious, sleek, savoury chalky lemon notes. An absolutely delicious wine with really impressive mineral precision. A very distinguished wine to drink now or cellar for 10 to 15 more years.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ridge Monte Bello: One of The World’s Most Legendary Red Wines – Tasting the New Release 2014…

In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30’s, but by the 1940s they were effectively abandoned. Eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960’s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.

Vintage 2014

Lack of winter rain affected both vines and cover crops, limiting available nutrients. Still, the vines carried a decent-size crop, which ripened in September. Fermentations progressed slowly; extraction was decided by careful tasting. Malolactic fermentations started in tank and finished by February. Merlot, which suffered in 2013, was strong in 2014. Petit Verdot remained challenged by drought.

Winemaking : Grapes were harvested between the 2nd and 24th of September. Fermentation on the native yeasts proceeded with grapes destemmed and 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting was followed by hand sorting. Pressed at ten days with natural malolactic fermentation taking place. In 2014, nineteen of twenty-six Monte Bello parcels were selected for blending, after which the wine was aged in oak barrels: 100% new air-dried oak, 97% American oak, 2% French oak; 1% Hungarian oak, for 17 months.

Ridge Monte Bello 2014, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, 13.5 Abv.

Always exciting to taste a new vintage of Monte Bello. It is truly one of the world’s great icon wines that never disappoints. What is so wonderful about this wine is the ultra intelligent path it treads between new world opulence and old world classical restraint. In 2014, the Monte Bello is a delicious blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. There is a wonderful Cabernet laden nose of blueberry crumble, cassis, black plum, buttered brown toast and a piquant note of cedar wood spice, walnut skins, graphite and vanilla pod spice. The palate conveys such wonderful concentration and depth yet remains so elegantly poised, harmonious and finely balanced. A multi layered wine that is supremely seamless, revealing more saline black current, blue berries, black cherry , vanilla bean, salty liquorice hints and a very long, polished finish. Certainly a very well honed, muscular athlete that is a wonder to behold. The tannins will hold this beautiful wine in pole position for many years to come but should be good to start drinking in the next 2 to 3 years and over the next 30+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)