Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bibi Graetz "Testamatta" Rosso Toscana 2015

Bibi Graetz "Testamatta" Rosso Toscana 2015

Ryan also brought from his cellar this Sangiovese produced by one of Tuscany’s most popular garagist cult winemakers, Bibi Graetz. With no formal training, Graetz burst on the wine scene in 2000 when he began crafting wines from his family’s ancestral castle, the Castello di Vincigliata, and its five acres of vines. Focusing on creating singular wines with their own identities separate from the traditional Brunello/Chianti DOCs or the Super Tuscans, Graetz has gained popularity making some of the most distinctive wines in Tuscany. 

He is now considered  “one of Italy's finest growers" accordingly to Antonio Galloni. This release of his flagship Testamatta 2105, 100% Sangiovese, was declared by James Suckling as “the best Testamatta ever made". He cited it the #5 Italian wine of the year (out of 3500 tasted), giving it 99 points, he said, "Tuscan artist/winemaker Bibi Graetz has helped redefine the modern super-Tuscan by crafting IGT wines of tremendous distinction in his home town of Fiesole."

This needed some tangy pasta as a proper pairing to showcase its character. A bit closed and tight, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits gave way to notes of black tea, and what Suckling called 'bark, wet soil and leather' with silky smooth tannings on a luscious finish. 

RM 92 points. 


Close out 2020 with Diamond Mtn Cabernets

Close out year with two top flight Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernets

Family gathering to close out the year, son Ryan and I pulled two diverse Diamond Mountain Cabernets to share and compare. The Diamond Mountain appellation label was Ryan and Michelle's favorite of all those served during their tasting at the Cliff Lede estate. They acquired this as part of their wine club allocation shipments. 

Cliff Lede Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Robert Parker writes that Cliff Lede Vineyards is one of the best-run wineries in Napa Valley. Cliff Lede Vineyards was established in 2002 by Canadian born Bordeaux enthusiast, Cliff Lede, when he acquired the sixty acre estate in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. 

We've visited the Cliff Lede estate on several of our Napa Valley wine trips and our wine several of our wine buddies including son Ryan source allocated wines as members of their club. 

Determined to produce optimal top rank Bordeaux varietal wines from estate vineyards, Lede tapped David Abreu, considered the best viticulturist in Napa Valley, to replant the vineyards. Lede decided to name each vineyard block after some of his favorite rock songs and albums—from “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” creating what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.”

In 2005, he built a state of the art, 25,000 square foot winery and cave system was etched into a hillside overlooking the estate vineyards. Lede spared no expense in creating a magnificent property, and assembling a top rank team to achieve his vision of top quality wines. He also sourced grapes from prime properties across Napa Valley. Winemaker Christopher Tynan crafts Cabernet Sauvignons from the flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the steep eastern hillside portion of the estate to appellation designated labels from Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, and this label from Diamond Mountain in Northwest Napa Valley. 

This Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from an exceptional, low-yielding vineyard with classic, legendary volcanic ash and gravelly loam soils in the Diamond Mountain appellation. The site is on the Mayacamas Range on the northwest side of Napa Valley above Calistoga.The sun-drenched mountain vineyard with steep hillside slope of old vines has northeastern exposure and late afternoon breezes that ripen the fruit slowly and evenly. The vineyard was planted and is farmed by David Abreu Vineyard Management.

Christopher Tynan, Winemaker writes of this release: "A deep,dark purple in color, this extraordinary mountain Cabernet offers loads of Pauillac-like aromas of graphite, cedar, cassis, and blackberry. Layered in with these classic scents area lovely array of powdered cocoa, black fig, and tobacco.The essence of terroir is echoed in the gravelly loam and pine forest notes that appear in the generous aromas and flavors. The long opulent palate tastes of liquefied minerals and possesses a voluptuous velour-like texture. Lucky imbibers of this rare elixir are privy to a wine made from a legendary site in an epic vintage.   

This is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. Production was 466 cases. 

This was dark, inky purple, full bodied, rich concentrated but elegant and polished with lush black berry and black raspberry fruits with layers of cassis, clove spice, sweet oak, black tea, mocha and vanilla bean, with smooth silky soft tannins and nicely balanced acidity on the finish. 

RM 93 points.


 Marco Di Giulio "Mark K Vineyard" Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

To compare in a side by side tasting, I brought to daughter Erin's this rare limited release Diamond Mountain vineyard private label from winemaker Marco Di Giulio. We hold a half dozen different labels of Marco Di Giulio releases from legendary vineyard sources, Mt Veeder Pym Rae, Progeny and this Diamond Mountain Mark K, all between 2001 and 2004 vintages, this 2001 being the oldest. 

Marco Di Giulio unique hand-crafted wines minimalist style wines were available under the winemakers' label and branding in limited quantities. They could be found in the boutique and specialist wine shops in Napa Valley or in the 'after market' via wine auctions. They were classic vineyard expressions of terrior, that unique expression of each vineyard's distinctive character, produced in very small quantities of 200 to 300 cases. His approach to winemaking was minimalist, letting the vineyard and each vintage speak for itself. As he says, he wants to “taste” each vineyard.

Marco produced his wines at Bin to Bottle, a high quality custom crush facility for a number of small Napa Vintners in South Napa where he is a partner.

As he writes on his Marcowines website, Marco was born and raised in San Francisco, California, shortly after his parents had emigrated from Tuscany and become successful Bay Area restaurateurs. Along with wonderful Italian meals, wine was an everyday part of their North Beach household life. As a result, Marco inherited his family's appreciation for great wine and food.

Marco developed an in-depth knowledge of winemaking and viticulture through education and experience in the industry. He graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science from the University of California at Davis in 1985.

After two years at Buena Vista Winery, Marco worked as cellar master at Pine Ridge Winery for more than four years. His next stint was as the production manager for Atlas Peak Vineyards, followed by his 1994 appointment as winemaker for Pezzi King Vineyards. Just before the 1995 harvest, he became the winemaker at Pepi Winery in Oakville. While making Pepi Wines, he also took charge of the Lokoya brand after the death of celebrated winemaker and mentor Greg Upton. It was at Lokoya that Marco's reputation for making world class Cabernet Sauvignon was first established.

Marco release his own label wines between 2001 and 2004. Today, Marco serves as consulting winemaker to many top labels and devotes attention to his personal projects: Vintage Wine Estates, Bin to Bottle, Lookout Ridge and Marco DiGiulio Wines where he strives to produce wines that reflect the rugged landscapes of the vineyard sources.  

Marco Di Giulio "Mark K Vineyard" Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Marco Di Giulio obtained the fruit for this label from Norm Kiken Cabernet Sauvignon from his Diamond Mountain Mark K Vineyard. Marco began working with the Kiken vineyards when he was the winemaker for Lokoya. Norm Kiken became renowned for his Reverie wines and collaborated with Diguilio in sharing a few tons of Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The grapes were sourced from rows that run East-West at a little over 1000 ft. above sea level on a steep south-facing slope. The soil consists of a well-drained volcanic loam and the vines are trained on a vertical trellis.

The 2001 vintage was a classic example of what Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon appellation has to offer.  The aromas that jump out of the glass are pure Diamond Mountain District with loads of cherry cough drop and black cherry fruit.  The oak adds layers of spice and a warm vanilla character. 

Giulio wrote of this release, "On the palate, the wine exhibits exceptional balance and nuanced character while still being big enough to handle anything you put it up against.  As in the nose, black cherry is the predominant fruit.  The mouthfeel is silky smooth and rich and the finish seems to go on forever.  Layers of brown spices and red fruits show themselves as the wine opens up in the glass."

On release, Di Giulio wrote of this wine, my sense is that with proper cellaring, this wine could easily continue to improve for another 8 to 12 years.

It took ninety minutes to open and reveal its true character. This was similar profile to the Lede but not as dark, rich or concentrated. There was still life left in this twenty year old, showing no signs of diminution from age.

Garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berry and black raspberry fruits with notes of cassis, black tea and hints of clove spice, oak and vanilla bean with smooth polished tannins on a lingering nicely balanced acidic finish. 

RM 91 points.