August 2015

When I was first learning about wine and tasting more wine and taking notes — back in early 1980s — Pedroncelli was a name I often saw in the local liquor stores, along with other venerable family-owned labels like Parducci, Sebastiani, Louis M. Martini, Concannon, Mirassou and Fetzer. Pedroncelli survived since 1927 by never wavering from its mission of producing well-made, though rarely ped sbexciting, wines sold at reasonable prices. I’m pretty excited, however, about the Pedroncelli East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Dry Creek Valley. I have been tasting lots of sauvignon blancs recently, or sauvignon blanc-based wines in the case of Bordeaux, and I will be composing posts about the different regions soon. I couldn’t resist, though, making this one a Wine of the Day. Made completely in stainless steel and not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, the Pedroncelli East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Dry Creek Valley, practically shimmers in the glass in its pert, tart and sassy character. The color is very pale gold, and the aromas of lime peel, spiced pear and lemongrass, just touched with mango and honeysuckle, fig and pink grapefruit, are intensely beguiling. Deep and crisp and even as the famous snow of the Balkans, this sauvignon blanc is quite dry but features a lovely almost powdery texture that delivers a piercing sense of tension and resolution among supple vibrancy, tangy limestone/chalk minerality and a bracing saline/savory nature. 13.4 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 as an appealing aperitif or with spice-rubbed salmon and swordfish and grilled shrimp. Excellent. About $15, a Raving Great Value.

A sample for review.

Valençay, a small region of the Loire Valley, received AOC status in 2003. Located on the banks of the Cher river, a tributary of the Loire, and hanging, as it were, from the southeast edge of the large Touraine appellation, Valençay is unusual for two features. It was the first AOC in France designated for two products, wine and cheese — the latter a distinctive goat’s-milk cheese dusted with charcoal and produced in the form of a small truncated pyramid. And, second, the grapes allowed to be grown and blended seem unique. An example of the second element is our Wine of the Day, No. 55, the Jean-François Roy Valençay Rosé 2014, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir, 30 percent gamay and 10 percent malbec, or côt as the grape is known in the Loire Valley, where cabernet franc is the dominant red grape. Nowhere else in France would you see such a blend, at least not one that was permitted an AOC label. The Burgundian purists are shuddering — at least those who don’t surreptitiously add a few drops of Côtes du Rhône to their pinot noir to bolster color and body. Anyway, the color of the Jean-François Roy Valençay Rosé 2014 is a very pale copper-salmon hue; pull out the cork and be greeted by a burst of orange zest and orange blossom, with hints of strawberries and raspberries and touches of pomegranate, dried red currants and damp stones. This is a subtle and charming rosé, more spare than ripe in its feeling of slightly dried red fruit flavors, and taut with bright acidity and limestone minerality, yet lovely too its modestly lush texture. 12 percent alcohol. Serve as an aperitif or with picnic fare. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.

A Steven Berardi Selection for Martinicus Wines, Beverly Hills, Fla.

Recently I posted to my Facebook page a question that asked why people, especially in public relations and marketing, will write, for example, “So-and-so currently resides in Atlanta” instead of “So-and-so lives in Atlanta.” My contention is that “currently resides” is phony formal and pretentious, an attempt to inflate a small and ordinary claim by large rhetoric. Any book on grammar and writing will tell you that the best prose is simple and direct.

One of my Facebook friends who works in PR responded to my post, saying: “Being in PR it really is the way PR people talk and write. There is a certain format we use and have been shown since day one. It might not be traditional or ideal but it is very universal in PR!!”

To which my response is that PR needs to go back to school.

If you do an internet search on “principles of good public relations,” you will come up with entries like “10 Principles of Public Relations” or “7” or “6” or a distillation down to “5 Principles of Effective Public Relations.” Interestingly enough, many of these lists don’t overlap a great deal, but the basics elements remain the same: Know your client. Tell a compelling story. Tell the truth. Know the target audience. Stay on good terms with the media. Keep it simple.

These are all excellent suggestions or tenets to follow, but not one of the articles I encountered mentioned these important factors, which I see violated every day: Write well. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t pontificate. Don’t condescend. And, to reiterate: Write well, not just grammatically but idiomatically correct, and don’t succumb so damned blithely to the temptation of language fads and fashions. Fowler, in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage — I’m following the 1944 edition that belonged to my former father-in-law Ed Harrison (1917-2015) that he acquired while serving in the Army Air Corp in World War II — mentions what he calls “Illiteracies” and “Illogicalities,” the negligent little blips and common mistakes in language and writing that call attention to the inexact thinking of the writer and that — more important — detract from the effectiveness and believability of the message. Yes, truly, PR and marketing persons, the medium is the message, and the more wayward, faddish, “cool,” sophomoric and hyperbolic a press release is, no matter how sincere the author, the faster I will delete it.

Tell me that your client “takes the art and alchemy of winemaking to unparalleled heights” and I will deep-six it faster than a duck on a June bug.

Tell me that your client “possesses a passion for exceeding perfection beyond all expectations,” and I will hook that press release off the stage.

Tell me that your client “literally created a nationwide buzz with this unique Moscato blend, now trending in sophisticated cocktail venues,” and you are completely out of luck in my book. I mean, please, who the hell do you think you’re talking to?

I realize that press releases are often composed by interns or recent hires at PR and marketing agencies, but age and inexperience don’t necessary demand writing like a 12-year-old. Someone needs to be responsible.

And, since the subject is wine, all you writers of press releases need to know the spelling of grape varieties and how various wines are blended and the differences among wine regions in this country and abroad, and please, for the love of god, Montresor, include the prices of the wines.

For last weekend’s Pizza and Movie Night — the film was Force Majeure — the wine I selected was the Selvapiana Vigneto Bucerchiale 2010, Chianti Rufina Riserva, a 100 percent sangiovese wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with natural yeasts and aged in small French oak barriques. Rufina is the smallest wine-producing entity of the Chianti region, but probably the best-known of the sub-zones. It is also not contiguous with the rest of Chianti or Chianti Classico, lying to the east of Florence in an area singled out for mention by Cosimo III Grand Duke of Florence in his edict of 1716 as one of the zones of superior production. Shielded by the Apennines to the north but accessible to a maritime breeze, Rufina is cooler than the areas of “regular” Chianti to the west. Its relative isolation has kept the wines of Rufina more obscure than Chianti Classico but also less expensive. The ancient estate was originally a summer retreat for the bishops of Florence and then for the families of Florentine merchants. It was purchased in 1827 by Michele Giuntini Selvapiana and is now operated by the fifth generation of his descendants. The estate’s 250 hectares include 60 hectares dedicated to vineyards, 50 to olive groves and 110 in woodland.

Selvapiana Bucerchiale 2010, Chianti Rufina Riserva, aged 15 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an intense dark ruby hue shading to medium at the rim; first out of the glass are aromas of loam and brambles, sandalwood and cloves, with touches of graphite and lavender; the bouquet gradually opens to notes of smoked oolong tea, dried red and black cherries and cranberries and an undertone of iodine and iron, all elements that segue seamlessly to the palate. The wine offers a suave surface over stellar acidity and a vibrant structure that hums like a struck tuning fork; at almost five years after harvest, this sangiovese wine feels young and vigorous, though there’s no mistaking the dry dusty tannins and the finish that embodies the power of lithic austerity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now, with hearty fare centered on roasted or grilled red meat, through 2022 to ’26. Excellent. About $35.

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

For the Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant 2011, Central Coast, owner and winemaker Randall Grahm drew grapes from eight vineyards located all the way from Contra Costa County in the north to Santa Maria Valley in the south. The blend of this Rhone Valley-inspired wine is 37 percent mourvèdre, 34 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah and nine percent cinsault. The color is a rich and radiant dark to medium ruby hue; the bouquet is a complex weaving of fresh and dried red and black raspberries and currants, with notes of mulberry, cloves, sandalwood and rosemary (with a sight touch of the herb’s resinous edge) and undertones of loam, moss, burning leaves and tobacco-leaf. The mood, then, is autumnal, earthy, almost nostalgic; you could even call this wine old-fashioned in its repudiation of plushness, opulence, alcoholic heat and super-ripeness. It is — no surprise — quite dry, riveting in its blazing acidity and dusty, graphite-infused tannins, though neither these tannins nor the subtle, supple oak halo exert undue influence; rather, the intention is to give the wine a spare, faceted structure that will age well while supporting its elegant and mildly spicy black and red fruit effects. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 2,527 cases. We drank this bottle with a medium rare flank-steak salad (tomatoes, arugula and avocado) with a shallot vinaigrette. It would also serve well with more robust fare, particularly, in the ideal of my mind’s eye, with roasted venison or pheasant, rabbit pappardelle or something English, like steak-and-kidney pie. Now through 2021 to 2024. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.

It’s not merely a matter of custom but a case of government regulation that the vineyards of Burgundy are officially measured, assessed and codified. The French love to be orderly and rational about these things, though one could argue that when it comes to classifying tiny vineyards no more distant from each other than the width of a country lane or ancient stone wall rationality has little to do with it. Still, the division of vineyards into the status of Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru and the retention of that code form the basis upon which Burgundy works its magic and cements its reputation as the origin of some of the finest chardonnay and pinot noir wines in the world. This scheme, based on the supposition of the quality of the vineyards, that is, the terroir, and the wines they produce, holds true from Marsannay at the northern end of the Côte de Nuits to Saint-Véran at the southern tip of the Maconnais. I’m sorry that the Wine of the Day, No. 52, isn’t one of those fine chardonnays or pinot noirs from the Côte de Noir or Côte de Beaune — not that I wouldn’t mind tasting a few of those, please, sir — but My Readers won’t be too sorry, since those rare wines cost many hundreds of dollars. Instead, I offer a classy, beguiling and reasonably priced chardonnay from the Mâconnais, the Albert Bichot Viré-Clessé 2013. The region was awarded its own AOC in 1999, consisting of the communes of Clessé, Laizé, Montbellet and Viré in the sprawling and irregularly shaped AOC of Mâcon-Villages. Chardonnay is the only grape permitted. The Albert Bichot Viré-Clessé 2013 was fermented 80 percent in stainless steel and 20 percent in oak barriques and then aged — depending on the demands or blessings of the vintage — 12 to 15 months in the same vessels. The color is shimmering pale gold with a faint flush of green; aromas of lightly spiced green apple, pineapple and grapefruit are infused with a sense of limestone and flint minerality and notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. The wine passes lightly and deftly over the palate, but leaves an impression of pleasing fullness and an almost talc-like texture; bright acidity, however, keeps it spanking fresh and crisp. Citrus flavors take on shadings of pear and peach, all set within the context of chiseled and scintillating limestone elements where oak places a fleeting footprint. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Now through 2017 or ’18 with appetizers and main courses centered on fish and seafood, particularly grilled trout with brown butter and capers, seared salmon or swordfish with a mildly spicy rub; ideal for picnic-and-patio drinking; nothing too rich or heavy, mirroring the delicacy and directness of the wine. You’re not looking for anything profound here, and none such will you find; the motivation is delight and deliciousness. Very Good+. About $19, a local purchase.

European Wine Imports, Cleveland, Ohio.

We needed something red to drink with a pizza that included spicy merguez lamb sausage, so after looking at a dozen or so bottles, I picked the McCay Cellars Trulux Zinfandel 2012, Lodi, because I have experienced the wine in previous vintages and because I respect owner and winemaker Mike McCay’s honest and restrained touch, as in 15 percent new oak, the rest neutral, as to give the wine shape and suppleness without overwhelming it, and 14.3 percent alcohol. Believe me, I have a shelf of zinfandels from Lodi that top the alcohol scale at 15 to 16 percent, and I wanted nothing to do with their jammy, overheated character. With the McCay Cellars Trulux Zinfandel 2012, on the other hand, alcohol content of 14.3 percent keeps the wine sensibly balanced and palatable. The color is dark ruby at the center but shades through medium to lighter cherry at the rim; the bouquet offers scents of raspberries and blueberries permeated by notes of cloves, lavender and graphite, and then, very lightly, a sort of red cherry licorice-cigarette paper element that lends a welcome sense of delicacy. The wine is quite dry but flavorful along the spiced and macerated red and black berry and plum range, and it’s powered by vibrant acidity for propulsive energy. Tannins, on the other hand, feeling carved from dusty underbrush, briers and brambles, are tranquil, deeply set and inexorable. Production was 479 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $32.

A sample for review.

A sort of milestone, I suppose, the 50th post in a series, and on this momentous occasion I offer for your delectation and edification the Amici Cellars Pinot Noir 2013, from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a trove of fine pinot noir and chardonnay if they’re not messed about with excessively in the winery. This one was not. Winemaker for these friends is Joel Aiken, who spend almost 30 years as winemaker for Beaulieu Vineyards and now has his own brand as well as making the wines for Amici. The Amici Pinot Noir 2013 has the deft touch of a veteran all over it. The wine, which is “cellared” rather than “produced,” derives from a number of vineyards in Russian River Valley — in other words, very simply put, it’s not an estate wine — and aged 12 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. The color is medium ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; an enticing bouquet of black and red cherries and raspberries is suffused with subtle notes of cloves and sandalwood, blueberries and rhubarb and a tantalizing hint of cocoa powder. This pinot noir is super satiny and supple on the palate, mixing ripe, spicy and moderately juicy black and red berry flavors with undertones of loam, briers and brambles and a touch of heather. While moving through the mouth with sensual allure, this pinot noir is neither opulent or obvious, letting its energy — propelled by brisk acidity and slightly dusty tannins — dictate a more delicate, elegant and nuanced approach. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 1,650 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with a roasted chicken, seared magret of duck or a veal chop grilled with rosemary. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

There’s a movement afoot to make rosé wines darker, more substantial, more complex — and more expensive. I say Fie to these efforts to transform what is essentially delightful, charming and evanescent, representing both the languor and the vitality of Summer, into something serious and weighty. An example of what I believe a rosé wine should be is the Baudry-Dutour Cuvée Marie-Justine 2014, from the Chinon appellation of France’s Loire Valley. Made completely from cabernet franc grapes, this lovely rosé offers a pale shimmering salmon-peach hue and delicate aromas of strawberries and raspberries permeated by notes of wild berries, dried thyme, rose hips and heather, all sketched in a rather dry meadowy palette. The wine is finely sculpted by bright acidity and flint-like minerality, lending it a slightly saline-seashell crispness and dryness, though it’s quite tasty with juicy yet subdued red fruit flavors; the ethereal finish is both taut and a bit talc-like in texture. What more could you ask for in a rosé? 12.5 percent alcohol. I happily drank a glass of this wine for lunch yesterday with an omelet stuffed with cherry tomatoes, radicchio and a bit of diced Vidalia onion; it would be splendidly appropriate with fried chicken, deviled eggs and other picnic fare or a rabbit and duck terrine. Excellent. About $20, a local purchase.

William Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.

Here’s a nifty red wine to quaff while chowing down on pizza, burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, nachos and other fare that’s terrifically satisfying and not so good for you — but the red wine cancels out the bad parts! Finca Resalso 2014, from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region, composed of 100 percent tempranillo grapes, is the youngest wine to issue from Bodegas Emilio Moro, made from vines five to 15 years old. It ages four months — a few heartbeats in the life of a more substantial wine — in French and American oak. Fresh, clean and ripe, the Finca Resalso 2014 offers a dark ruby-violet hue and gripping aromas of black and red currants and plums, with undertones of blueberry, cloves and lavender over a base of graphite. The wine is moderately full-bodied, tasty with its red and black fruit flavors and nicely firm in its slightly dusty branchy tannins, all elements tied together by bright acidity; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of black tea and orange zest, all ensconced in a finish that feels lively and a bit feral. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2016 or ’17 and don’t worry your pretty little heads about it. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

Imported by Moro Brothers Inc., New York. A sample for review.

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