Verdeca_13
If you enjoy trying wines made from unusual or obscure grape varieties, this one is for you. The Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Itria, is made from 90 percent verdeca grapes, an Apulian variety that thrived in ancient times but languished for centuries until the Falvo family made a concerted effort to revive it. The other 10 percent is fiano minutolo, also not exactly a household term. The wine sees no oak and is all the better for the lack. The color is pure medium gold lightly touched with green; heather and hay characterize a bouquet that offers intense notes of roasted lemons and pears, hints of tangerine and fig and dried thyme and a definite seashore-briny element; on the palate, the wine is lively and attentive, bristling with slightly honeyed tones of spicy stone fruit flavors propelled by crisp acidity, though there’s a sense in which it tends toward lushness and exuberant presence; it’s a bit leafy, also, blithe and sunny, a golden wine minted for pleasure. 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 for accompanying grilled and roasted fish, seafood risottos or stews. Excellent. About $18 and definitely Worth a Search.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

The last time I posted an entry in this series was October 10, 2016, and, coincidentally, that post involved the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate sarahChardonnay 2014 and Estate Pinot Noir 2014, from Santa Clara Valley, 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. Today it’s the turn of the winery’s straight-forward Santa Clara Valley offerings from 2014, a pair that is less expensive than the estate wines and produced in fairly larger quantities. This line was previously called the “Central Coast Series,” and still carries a Central Coast appellation. Owner and winemaker Tim Slater, who acquired the winery from founders Marilyn Clark and John Otterman in 2001, practices minimal intervention, especially in the barrel program, where new oak is kept strictly in the minority position.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers at the bidding of the Federal Trade Commission. This injunction does not apply to print writers, because they obviously are more trustworthy than bloggers.
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Aged 11 months in primarily neutral French oak barrels, the pure medium gold-colored Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Chardonnay 2014 is effusive in its classic pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors that feel slightly baked, a little crisp around the edges in its crystalline clarity and purpose; notes of white flowers, cloves and a hint of mango flesh out the effect. A very subtle oak patina bolsters the richness on the palate, while bright acidity and an element of limestone minerality keep the wine on an even keel, allowing a lovely tension between juicy flavors and dryness. The finish opens to touches of ginger and quince and a coastal shelf of flint. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 or ’19. Production was 459 cases. Excellent. About $20, marking Good Value.
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The Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Pinot Noir 2014 aged 11 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an entrancing limpid medium ruby hue, transparent at the rim; the wine is both woodsy and meadowy, by which I mean that it partakes of elements of forest floor and dried mushrooms as well as heather and potpourri, these aspects winsomely supporting notes of black and red cherries and currants infused with cloves, sandalwood and sassafras. This pinot noir is supple, lithe and sinewy on the palate, animated by acidity that cuts a swath and a clean mineral edge under tasty cherry flavors opening to notes of cranberry and pomegranate. The finish is spare and elegant. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Production was 1,211 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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It’s well-known that the principle grapes of Alsace, the most Germanic region of France, are riesling and gewurztraminer, but the area also produces, in an achievement of brilliant rarity, wine from all three “pinot” grapes: pinot blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir. That line-up could be reproduced, perhaps, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and other cool regions, but the microclimates would have to be fairly specific. Anyway, here are reviews of a pinot blanc, a pinot gris and a pinot noir, made by a trio of venerable estates in Alsace. Very interesting is the oak regimen, because there’s scarcely any oak here, especially not new oak, and certainly none was needed. These products, each 100 percent varietal, are delicious and appealing transition wines from Winter into Spring, marrying the savor of the chilly months to the delicacy of the vernal equinox.

These wines were samples for review.
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blanck blanc
Domaine Paul Blanck dates back to the 17th century. The vineyards are tended by organic principles and see no chemicals. The estate’s entry in this roster, the Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2015, Alsace, was made all in stainless steel. The color is shimmering pale gold; what a lovely amalgam of fruit, flowers and spice this is, displaying notes of pear and quince, golden raspberries and yellow plums, green apple, apple blossom and cloves, in a seamless relationship flowing between nose and palate. The texture is lithe and lively, buoyed by bright acidity and a gently burgeoning element of limestone minerality. Really pretty. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.
Imported by Skurnick Wines, New York.
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Many wineries boast about the age of their vineyards, saying, for example, that such and such a wine came from 40-year-old vines. In the case of the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace, the wine aged in 40-year-old barrels, for eight months. I would like to see those esteemed elders among oak barrels; can you imagine the great wines they nurtured over the decades? Anyway, this estate’s origins lie in 1620; it is now operated on biodynamic principles. This whole effort feels purely golden, from its attractive burnished gold hue to its scents and flavors of slightly baked peaches and pears and quince, accented by ginger and cloves; though a completely dry wine, it feels a bit honeyed in its juicy richness and a bit smoky, but remains spare and elegant overall, enlivened by bright acidity and given just a hint of a limestone edge on the finish. A beautiful wine. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’24, if the wine is stored well and undisturbed. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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The Schlumberger family purchased this estate in 1810; it is now operated by the sixth and seventh generations. The Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Noir 2014, Alsace, aged eight months in old wooden foudres, being large barrels of variable capacities but often 500 hectoliters or more, which is to say, about 13,200 gallons. Don’t look for a dark, rich Burgundian style pinot noir from this effort. The color is a transfixing transparent ruby-garnet; delicate aromas of red raspberries and cherries, lightly spiced, open to notes of potpourri and violets, dried currants and sandalwood; it’s an Audrey Hepburn of a wine that exhibits fine bones, a dry, lean and spare texture, a slightly resinous aura and a finish awash with hints of graphite, smoke and underbrush. Consumed with pork schnitzel and cucumber salad, we loved it. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA, Oakland, Calif.
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Whether you’re dropping a leg of lamb, studded with garlic and rosemary, on the grill or a batch of burgers, here’s a wine suited to all maquis carmenerethings roasted, grilled and charred, and I wouldn’t be surprised if myriad of the population living between the shining seas unlimbers their Webers this week. The Maquis Gran Reserva Carmenere 2014, from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, offers exactly the deep, spicy, smoky, earthy presence that we want with grilled lamb and beef, pork chops and ribs. Aged 10 months mainly in French oak, with a minority interest in stainless steel tanks, and containing a dollop of cabernet franc, the wine displays a striking dark black-purple hue that shades to a glowing fuschia rim; it’s an intense, concentrated and vigorous red wine, bursting with notes of cedar and mint, black olives and bell pepper, black currants, cherries and dusty plums. Plush, velvety tannins are infused with briers, brambles and underbrush, boldly framed by iodine and iron and bright acidity; fortunately, the wine is also downright juicy with black and blue fruit flavors, all of these elements devolving to a finish packed with graphite, lavender and bitter chocolate. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

On February 22, for Wine of the Day No. 236, I wrote about the Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2015 from Austria. Today, I nominate that wine’s zweigelt
stablemate, the Pratsch Zweigelt 2013, Niederösterreich, a wine, composed of Austria’s signature red grape, that at three years old is as fresh as a daisy and as breezy as, well, a Spring zephyr. Made from organic grapes and aged eight months in stainless steel and large oak casks, the wine offers a vivid transparent ruby hue that shades to a bright magenta rim; aromas and flavors of ripe and spicy black and red cherries, plums and mulberries are permeated by notes of smoke and loam, while on the palate pinpoint acidity and graphite minerality lend it liveliness and allure. The wine gains in depth and structure in the glass, building a surprising foundation of moderately dusty tannins. Mainly, though, this is tasty, attractive and highly quaffable. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $14, for a one-liter bottle, perfect for buying by the case as your casual house red.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, Illinois. A sample for review.

Domaine Jessiaume must be unique in Burgundy. Its owner, Keith Murray, is a Scot. Its director, Megan McClure, is American. And the cote de beaunewinemaker is a Frenchman with a Belgian surname, William Waterkeyn. The domaine, headquartered in Santenay (population 836), consists of 9 hectares of Premier Cru and Village vineyard– slightly more than 22 acres — located in Santenay, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Auxey-Duresses, all in the Côte de Beaune region. Côte de Beaune is the southern half of the narrow ridge that is Burgundy, the northern part being the Côte de Nuits. Because the soil of the Côte de Beaune is more varied, more white wine is made there than in the Côte de Nuits, which is about 90 percent red. The grapes, of course, are chardonnay and pinot noir. The Murray family acquired Domaine Jessiaume from the seventh generation of its founders in 2007. The work to improve the estate includes eliminating the negociant arm and gradually shifting into total organic farming. Only native yeasts are employed, and new oak is held to a minimum. These three wines — samples for review — represent what I love most about the pinot noirs of Burgundy, a sense of delicacy married to purity of fruit and intensity of structure. The prices are irresistible. When many Premier Cru wines, admittedly from illustrious appellations, now cost $75 to $200, these models can be had for $42 and $45. They are more than worth the prices. The wines of Domaine Jessiaume are imported to this country by MS Walker, Norwood Mass.
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Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru La Comme 2014 aged 12 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels, followed by 3 months in santenaystainless steel tanks. It displays an absolutely beautiful limpid, transparent medium ruby hue and scents and flavors of red cherries and currants; it’s quite dry but juicy with spice-inflected red fruit and enticing with an ethereal presence that does not discount a burgeoning tide of brambly-foresty tannins and fleet acidity that cuts a swath through the lithe, supple texture. The balance is lovely, with an emphasis on spareness and elegance. 13 percent alcohol. Production was 73 cases. Now through 2021 to’24. Excellent. About $42.
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Slightly less oak goes into making the Domaine Jessiaume Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Ecussaux 2014 than was used in the previous auxeywine, that is, 12 months, 29 percent new French barrels, following by three months in stainless steel. The color is a totally transparent medium ruby hue; the wine features notes of red and black cherries and currants, lightly inflected with cloves, briers and brambles and a hint of loam. The wine is bright and lively, offering pert black and red fruit highlighted by touches of melon and sour cherry in a lithe, sinewy, vibrant structure. The sense is of innate energy and dimension held in check by the limitless powers of charm and delicacy. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’22. Production was 174 cases. Very Good+. About $42.
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For three more dollars, you get, in the Domaine Jessiaume Beaune Premier Cru Les Cent Vignes 2014, a wine that I consider the epitome of beaunethe Burgundian style. Nothing over-extracted here, nothing emphatic, fat or fleshy or overdone, but the perfection of balance between power and elegance, between the ethereal and the earthy. The wine spent 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, followed by two months in stainless steel. The color is a ravishing, ephemeral ruby-mulberry hue; red and black cherries and currants feel permeated by notes of briers, brambles and loam, with a hint of cloves and a touch of ground cumin that lends an air of intrigue. The wine is lithe, sinewy and silky smooth on the palate, where acidity cuts a swath and it flirts with a ferrous-sanguinary character. A sense of the granitic vineyard pulses through the wine, giving it a quality of precisely measured and honed dynamism that animates the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. I could drink this one every night, but only 300 cases were produced. Best from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $45.
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The Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, made by Charles and Stuart Smith high in Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District, is a wine of smlabel_lr_ries_14unimpeachable authority and integrity. Fashioned from 42-year-old vines grown on steep slopes, the wine features piercing limestone and flint minerality, softened by notes of jasmine and honeysuckle, lime peel and lychee, gently spiced pears and lightly roasted peaches, all encompassed by the grape’s signature element of petrol or rubber eraser. Incisive acidity, like some energy source from deep in the earth, animates and etches the wine, keeping it brisk and lively in the mouth, though the texture embodies an ineffable and fabulously appealing talc-like softness; the tension between the chiseled nature of its mineral and acid components and the ripeness and allure of its fruit and mouth-feel is exquisite. This quite dry wine concludes in a finish that glitters with limestone and crystallized yellow fruit. 12.8 percent alcohol. If you know of a better riesling made in California, tell me (or send it to me). Drink now through 2020 to ’24, though I suspect that the wine’s tensile structure will sustain it to 2030. Production was 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.

A sample for review.

Roussillon lies within the great curve where the French Mediterranean coastline aims south at Spain. Technically part of the vast Languedoc-Roussillon region that stretches from Provence in the east to the Pyrenees in the west, Roussillon nestles within a rugged languedocamphitheater of dry hills that do not detract from the charm of the landscape and its isolated villages. This is primarily red wine territory, though rose wines and vins doux naturels are well-known; there is little white wine. Vines were first planted some 3,000 years ago by Greek sailors, who did so much to bring wine and civilization to the distant shores of the inland sea. The harsh terrain and uncompromising sunny Mediterranean climate, spurred by the northwest wind called Tramontane, make this ideal territory for Rhone Valley red grapes like grenache and mourvedre, especially in the valley of the Agly river and in the small enclave called La Tour de France. Roussillon has had to overcome a reputation as a hotbed for cheap, acidic wines fostered by overproduction and plantations in inappropriate climats, but the past 30 years or so, with the influx of a new generation of winemakers and more thoughtful vineyard methods, has brought great success. I find it interesting that among the five wines considered today, the use of new oak is negligible, while even aging in barrels at all is kept to a minimum. The result is wines that express the spirit of the grapes from which they are made, though in a couple of these examples, high alcohol mutes the effect. These wines were samples for review.
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saint-roch
Chateau Saint-Roch “Kerbuccio” 2014, Maury sec, is a blend of 60 percent grenache and 20 percent each syrah and mourvedre that aged no more than nine months in 70 percent concrete vats, 30 percent 500-liter barrels, that is, about twice the size of a standard barrique. The color, if that’s the right word, is as opaque as motor oil, shading, if that’s the right word, to a violet rim; the wine bursts with notes of ripe blackberries and currants, with a touch of juicy plums and a hint of blueberry tart, all permeated by lavender and graphite, leather and tar. It’s fairly plush with dusty, velvety tannins riven by bright acidity devolving to a keen mineral edge, these elements comfortably supporting delicious spicy black and blue fruit flavors. 15 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $18.
Imported by Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, N.C.
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Domaine La Tour Vieille “La Pinede” 2014, Collioure, is a blend of 70 percent grenache with a mixed 30 percent mourvedre and carignan, collioure
according to the back label, OR 75 percent grenache and 25 percent carignan, according to the technical material I received. The wine received very traditional treatment, with hard-harvesting and destemming and foot treading; it saw no oak, only concrete vats. The color is glowing medium ruby; notes of red cherries and currants are darkened by hints of cherry pits and skins and touches of cloves, briers and brambles. The wine is spare, lithe and dry, yet displays, beyond those basic virtues, a riveting personality of earthy, foresty qualities, graphite minerality, dried fruit and spices, leather and vivid acidity that it seems an epitome of a style and place. When we finished this bottle, LL said, “Do you have a case of it?” Alas, no. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $21.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Calif.
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I am not privy to the percentages of the blend for the Bila-Haut “L’esquerda” 2013, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde — even the bilahautlesquerda2013frontimporter’s website doesn’t reveal this information –but not surprisingly the grapes involved are syrah, grenache and carignan. The wine ages 90 percent in cement vats, 10 percent in oak barrels. The color is an almost eerie glowing dark ruby with a nuclear violet rim, while the bouquet seethes with notes of cloves, allspice and sandalwood, woven through floral-tinged aromas of very ripe blackberry, currant and plum; this is very dry red wine, solid and robust, stuffed with dust and graphite and revealing touches of tar and forest floor in the depths, all sustained by bright acidity. 14% alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $21.
An R. Shack Selection for HB Wine Merchants, New York.
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hecht
The flaw in the Hecht & Bannier Cotes du Roussillon Village 2011 is that it feels more Californian in size and depth than its origins in the south of France would dictate. The wine is a blend of 65 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah and 10 percent each mourvedre and carignan; it aged in oak demi-muids of 500 liters (40 percent), barriques (30 percent) and cement vats (30 percent). In the glass, the wine is an opaque black-purple with a lighter purple rim; boy, this one pours out the rich, spicy, macerated black fruit scents and flavors, with notes of roasted plums, lavender, toasted herbs and bitter chocolate. Tannins are plush and chewy, while a lithe supple texture paves the way for a graphite-packed finish. 15 percent alcohol. It’s all a bit too much. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Very Good+. About $22.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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The Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussillon 2010 — the current vintage on the market — is a collaboration between Michel Chapoutier, owner of agly B 10the well-known Rhone producer M. Chapoutier, and Ron Laughton, owner of Jasper Hill of Victoria, Australia. (Chapoutier also owns the Bila-Haut estate mentioned above.) The wine is composed of one-third each carignan, grenache and syrah grapes cultivated on bio-dynamic principles; it fermented in cement vats and aged 16 to 20 months in French oak, one to three years old. This is one of those wines that feels unusual, individual and special from the first sniff and sip. It’s an opaque black-purple hue that lightens a bit to a glowing magenta rim; the initial impression is of a wine permeated by ripe, roasted, fleshy and meaty elements of spiced and macerated black currants, blueberries and plums; a few minutes in the glass bring out exotic notes of potpourri and violets, licorice and sandalwood, tobacco leaf and wood smoke; an arrow of profound graphite minerality and vibrant acidity penetrates the wine from beginning to end, bolstering the presence of dusty, velvety tannins and a rigorous underbrush and forest character. You feel the alcohol a bit on the finish; that’s the only flaw in an otherwise stylish, impeccable and impressive performance. 15.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $40.
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Maremma is the southwestern area of Tuscany that runs along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Once a swampy backwater known mostly for CHI La Mora Vermentinocattle-herding and particular breeds of horses ridden by the local “cowboys,” Maremma was drained in the 1930s under Mussolini’s Battle for the Land program. It’s a great region for beaches and resorts and increasingly for wine at every level of production, from everyday quaffs to the finest of long-aging red wines designed to compete with the best of Bordeaux and California. Our Wine of the Day does not fall into the second category, but it’s certainly an unusual interpretation of the vermentino grape. Typically, vermentino produces a fresh, lively, tasty, slightly waxy and savory white wine intended for immediate pleasure, enjoyed and forgotten. The Cecchi La Mora Vermentino 2014, Maremma Toscana, however, is the most complex example of the grape I have encountered. Made all in stainless steel, the wine offers a color that’s like the bright golden haze on the meadow, an appropriate reference, since the wine’s initial impression is of meadowy flowers and herbs, with hints of hay and heather; it’s quite ripe and juicy, but dry, savory and a bit briny; scents and flavors of slightly honeyed peaches and quince open to a seductive and crystalline element of apricots and mangoes glazed with ginger and tumeric, no, I’m not kidding, the effect is subtle yet right there, and it lends the wine a depth of character and exoticism I have not seen from the vermentino grape. The finish adds a spare tinge of sea salt and marsh grass, etched into limestone minerality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink this fascinating and highly individual wine through 2018 or ’19 with seafood risottos, grilled octopus, marinated red shrimp. Excellent. About $20, representing Real Value for the quality.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.

Well, freakin’ BRRR, it got cold, and there’s even a chance of snow tonight, here in Memphis and elsewhere around the country. Morgan_label_Double_L_Syrah_2014_frontTime to break out a hearty, flavorful red wine for your dinner. How about the Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Syrah 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands — that’s in Monterey County, an east-facing ridge on the west side of the Salinas Valley. The vineyard is certified organic; the wine fermented with native yeasts and aged 14 months in French oak, 42 percent new barrels. The color is dark ruby with a glowing purple rim, like royal raiment; the wine is ripe and juicy, intense and concentrated, offering notes of black cherries and plums permeated by leather and licorice, wood smoke, white pepper and violets. A burgeoning foresty-underbrush character lends support to sleek dusty tannins, and while the texture is lithe and supple, there’s a bit of velvety graphite resistance on the palate, a sense of the wine not giving in too easily to being consumed. Lovely stuff, with a serious slightly chiseled mineral edge. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 241 cases. Winemaker was Sam Smith. Now through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $42.

A sample for review.

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