September 2015

As with so many estates in European wine regions, Weingut Leitz has an interesting story. Though official records place the Leitz family in the winemaking industry of the Rheingau as far back as 1744, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that Josef Leitz rebuilt a leitzwinery damaged by Allied bombing near the end of World War II. His grandson, Johannes Leitz, took over the estate in 1985, turning the family’s interests primarily to the reisling grape. Starting with the 2.9 hectares the family owned — 7.16 acres — Johannes expanded the Leitz holdings to 43 hectares — about 106 acres — in 2014. Of that quantity, spread over a dozen individual vineyards, the area that produced the wine under review today, the Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken 2013, Rheingau, measures exactly 1.17 hectares. The slope of Berg Schlossberg is 58 degrees, meaning that tending the vines and harvesting grapes can be extremely taxing, if not downright hazardous. The soil that supports (if that’s the word) this vineyard is a very hard and rocky red slate clay with quartzite mixed in, meaning that the vines have to struggle to root downward and find water and nutrients. The stress causes the vines to reduce the size and number of grapes, but those grapes exhibit great aromas, body and character. The Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken 2013 offers a very pale gold hue and enticing scents of lemon balm, lime peel and peach that open to notes of quince and crystallized ginger; touches of cloves and talc add to the perfume. You must prepare yourself for what happens next, because this is a wine of palate-shattering acidity and scintillating chalk and limestone minerality; the words lively and crisp scarcely begin to describe the shimmering vibrancy that animates this exceptionally dry riesling. If that were all there was to it, we could take our puckery mouths and go elsewhere, but fortunately the wine also embodies touches of stone-fruit flavors, hints of baking spice and slightly candied flowers and an almost subliminal breeze of fresh seacoast salinity. The alcohol content is an eminently manageable 12.5 percent. Drink now through 2020 to 2025. We had this wine with swordfish seared in a cast-iron skillet in a coffee rub with urfa and maresh peppers. Excellent. About $20, an Amazing Value.

Imported by Schatzi Wines, Milan, N.Y. A sample for review.

While no one would try to assign a date to when vineyards were first planted in Tuscany or Burgundy, Rheinhessen or Bordeaux, it’s a pretty safe assertion that grape-growing in the Willamette Valley began in 1966, when David Lett came from California to Oregon and planted pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley, specifically in the Red Hills of Dundee. Lett was followed two years later by Dick Erath, who also planted pinor noir in the Red Hills. (Lett had planted pinot noir vines further south, near Corvallis, in 1965, and transplanted them the next year.) Both of the pioneering wineries they launched — Eyrie Vineyard and Erath Vineyards (originally Knudsen-Erath) — thrive today, as well as about 400 more. Willamette Valley, lying between the Oregon Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, stretches from just north of Portland to south of Eugene and is influenced by Pacific winds that flow through gaps of the coastal mountain ranges. Few of the wineries, mostly family-owned, produce more than 20,000 cases a year, with many releasing numbers well below that, facts that contribute to the general feeling in the region that they’re more authentic and artisanal and less greedy than their counterparts in California. The primary red grape, by far, is pinot noir. Chardonnay was widely planted in the 1960s and ’70s, usually in the wrong sites, and was replaced by pinot gris and riesling, though chardonnay is making something of a comeback, more carefully sited.

In addition to the broad Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), approved by the federal government in 1983, the region encompasses six smaller and more geologically and geographically focused AVAs: Yamhill-Carlton (approved in 2005), Ribbon Ridge (2005), McMinnville (2005), Dundee Hills (2005), Chehalem Mountains (2006) and Eola-Amity Hills (2006), all north of Salem. Of the nine wines considered in this post, seven carry Willamette Valley designations and two more specific AVAs. All display, to greater or lesser degree, an element that to me is a constant and essential feature of Willamette Valley pinot noirs, and that is a vein of deeply rich brambly loaminess that ties the wines to the earth whence they came.

I received these wines as review samples in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of David Lett’s first planting of pinot noir vines, a bold and visionary act that launched an industry.
The grapes for the Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn 70 percent from eight Printestate vineyards, with the remaining 30 percent coming from selected vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 31 percent new. The color is medium ruby with a magenta-mulberry tinge. At first, the impression is of something delicate and ethereal, tissues of nuances; as moments pass, however, the wine takes on weight and character, deepening and broadening its appeal with elements of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants and notes of smoke and loam, cloves and sandalwood and some exotic rooty tea. This sense of dimension and detail is shot through with vibrant and fairly tart acidity that keeps the wine lively and alluring, while moderately dense graphite-laced tannins contribute to overall structure. …. percent alcohol. Production was 2,261 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. The winery produced its first vintage in 1978. Winemaker is Dave Paige. Excellent. About $60.
The Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley offers a radiant transparent medium ruby hue and shape- broadley-vineyardsshifting scents of underbrush and loam, cranberries and raspberries and hints of black tea, sassafras and cloves. The wine aged nine or 10 months in neutral French oak barrels, meaning that the barrels had been used during enough wine-making cycles that the wood influence is not just minimal but subliminal, a sculpting rather than a dominating influence. This is a lean and lithe (and tasty) pinot noir in which acidity cuts a swathe on the palate and mineral elements build through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 3,000 cases. I think that this is a terrific pinot noir, and the price makes it irresistible for drinking through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $20, so Buy It by the Case.
The winery was founded in 1982 by Craig and Claudia Broadley. Winemaker is their son, Morgan Broadley.
The Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Ribbon Ridge, brings out the exuberant and forceful aspect of chehalemthe grape. The wine aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 39 percent new, 39 percent 1-year-old and the rest, uh, older, I guess. The color is dark ruby-mulberry with a lighter magenta rim; this is all loam-infused black and red cherries permeated by cloves and black pepper, touches of sandalwood and lavender and a potent edge of graphite. The wine is very dry, intensely smoky, woodsy and mossy, with a super satiny, supple texture that doesn’t conceal a thoughtful interpretation of pinot noir’s robust and powerful side. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or 2020. Production was 440 cases. First vintage was 1990. Winemaker is Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Excellent. About $50.
The Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, made from organic and biodynamic grapes, displays a brilliant deep ruby hue shifting to mulberry-purple. The wine aged in French oak, 32 percent new barrels for an unspecified amount of time. It’s a very — perhaps even excessively — dark, rooty, loamy and spicy pinot noir that sacrifices nuance and finesse for earthy power, feeling a bit too syrah-like for its own good. A year or two of aging may bring this wine to rights. Production was 2,800 cases. Winemaker was Gilles de Domingo. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Very Good. About $28.
The Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, spent 11 months in neutral oak lange labelbarrels, so the focus is on the grape’s purity and intensity, which this wine possesses in spades. The color is dark ruby shading to transparent magenta at the rim; notes of cloves, sandalwood and sassafras permeate elements of black cherries and plums that feel slightly macerated and roasted, while a few moments in the glass bring in hints of loam, mocha, tobacco and tea leaf. This is one of those pinot noirs that so dexterously melds delicacy, elegance and power — luxury married to spareness — that you wish it would take up residence in your mouth forever, though you have to spit it out or swallow eventually. Paradoxically, despite this sensual appeal, the wine is quite dry, fairly bristling with touches of rooty, mossy underbrush and bright acidity. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Winemaker was Jesse Lange. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Excellent. About $35.

Founded in 1974, Ponzi Vineyards is one of Willamette Valley’s stalwart pioneers. Grapes for the Ponzi Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn from sustainably farmed estate vineyards as well as a number of other sustainable vineyards in the region. The wine aged 11 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. Winemaker is Luisa Ponzi. The color is dark ruby with a mulberry-magenta cast; the first impression is of an exotic amalgam of cloves, sandalwood and sassafrass, pomegranate and rhubarb, all supporting high, bright scents of red and black fruit etched with slightly dusty graphite. The wine is fairly substantial on the palate, delivering a sleek, satiny texture that’s almost plush, while quite engaging and animated by clean acidity; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of briers, brambles and underbrush, leading to a finish pretty dense with roots and leather, though the wine is never less than deft and dexterous, but more untamed than elegant. The alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Production was 8,000 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $40.
rex hill
Gratifying largess and dimension characterize the Rex Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, though there’s also pinpoint focus on detail that feels chiseled in stone. The color is a beguiling transparent medium to light ruby — nothing extracted here — while the wine practically smolders in the glass in embers of lavender, loam, sandalwood and spiced and macerated red and black cherries and plums; it’s all quite fleshy and meaty, almost feral in its primal dynamic, its piercing elements of briers and brambles and graphite-tinged tannins, yet in that lovely equilibrium of the best pinot noirs, it displays a balancing sense of delicacy and filigree, all this in a wine that aged 14 months in French oak, 28 percent new barrels. 14 percent alcohol. Production was 9,518 cases, so there’s plenty to go around. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Rex Hill’s first release was from the 1983 vintage. Winemaker is Michael Davies. Excellent. About $35.
Let’s say upfront that the Saint Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, is a great pinot innocentnoir wine that delivers all the power and elegance, the earthiness and airiness that we expect from Willamette Valley in an excellent year. The color is medium transparent ruby; first come the loam and underbrush, deeply rooted, then more frangible layers of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants imbued with notes of moss, lavender and graphite. This is a lovely, lively, lithe and highly structural expression of a grape and vineyard that offers something essentially piney and and briery, as well as a fairly tannic element burnished with dusty graphite. It’s neither dense nor chewy, however, as the presence of tannins often implies, being, instead, dynamic and light on its feet. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 948 cases. Drink now through 2020 to 2022. A delightfully detailed wine worthy of meditation. Winemaker was Mark Vlossak. Exceptional. About $42.
When I read that a pinor noir wine underwent 16 months aging — as it happens in 40 percent new French oak — my heart sinks and the words “uh-oh” form in the thought-cloud above my head. Readers, that’s a lot of wood. However, the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, managed to absorb that oak influence and emerge superbly sleek, satiny and supple. The color is a radiant, transparent light ruby hue; notes of cloves, sassafras and rhubarb are woven with elements of red cherries and raspberries, briers, moss and loam, the latter earthy qualities burgeoning in nose and mouth as the minutes pass. Despite the sleek and suave texture, this is a wine that offers a rigorously structured character and a demanding finish that seem to require some time to become more balanced and integrated, so try from the end of 2016 or into 2017 through 2021 through ’23. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 800 cases. Excellent potential. About $38.
The Sokol Blosser family planted five acres of grapes in 1971 and produced its first wine in 1977. The second generation operates the winery today, with Alex Sokol Blosser as winemaker.

I appreciated the style of this pinor noir wine from Australia’s Adelaide Hills appellation. In contrast to pinot noirs from various wakefield pinotregions of California and Oregon, which can be immodestly plush, luxuriously spicy and thoroughly oaked to a fare-thee-well — no, not every one all the time — the Wakefield Pinot Noir 2014 offers a spare, lean and lithe interpretation of the grape that satisfies the minimalist in me. The color is medium ruby; initially aromas of mint, tobacco and slightly resinous rosemary dominate the bouquet, followed by delicately spiced and macerated black and red currants and cherries that open to hints of cranberry and pomegranate. The wine aged in one-and two-year-old French hogshead barrels, a size generally (or sort of) agreed upon to equal about 63 U.S. gallons, slightly larger than the standard 59-gallon barrique in Bordeaux. (That’s your Fact of the Day.) The briery-brambly-underbrush elements come up quickly, and acid plows a furrow on the palate, all making for a pinot noir of essential liveliness and gradually burgeoning earthy dimension that doesn’t neglect pert currant and cranberry flavors. The texture is satiny and supple without being opulent or blatant, and the finish concludes on a tart, chiseled, minerally note. 14.4 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 into 2017. very Good+. About $17, representing True Value.

Imported by AW Direct, Novato, Calif. A sample for review.

Here’s a savory Spanish white wine to mark the transition from Summer to Fall. The Bodegas Terras Gauda O Rosal 2014, Rias Baixas, terras gaudacomes from Galicia, the country’s northwestern-most province that borders Portugal on the south and faces the Atlantic Ocean on the west and north. A blend of 70 percent albariño grapes with 15 percent each loureiro and caiño blanco, the wine was fermented with native yeasts and made entirely in stainless steel tanks for freshness and immediate appeal. The color is brilliant yellow-gold; aromas of hay, spiced pears and quince are bolstered by notes of bees’-wax, lanolin, dried thyme and figs; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of honeysuckle, almond blossom and orange zest. Practically shimmering with vibrant acidity, O Rosal 2014 offers a lovely, lithe texture infused by stone-fruit flavors and a bracing, lively presence framed by sea-breeze salinity and heaps of limestone minerality. The alcohol content is 12.5 percent. Drink through 2017 or ’18 with fresh or grilled seafood or mildly spicy Thai or Vietnamese dishes. Excellent. About $24.

Imported by Aveníu Brands, Baltimore, Maryland. A sample for review.

Readers, today’s Wine of the Day — after somewhat of an unintended hiatus — is not a great wine, but it is a great value. The rocks“Rocks!” label comes from Cornerstone Cellars, preeminently a producer of high-toned and powerful Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon wines as well as a second label, Stepping Stone, for a wider range of less expensive products. Rocks! is the bargain tier, offering now a white, a red and a rosé. Let’s look at the Rocks! White Wine 2014, California, a secret blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and orange muscat. The latter two grapes don’t require a high percentage of physical presence to make an impact, and you feel them in the wine’s aura of honeysuckle, honeydew melon, bee’s-wax, spiced pear and fig and in the element of sweetness that’s fortunately balanced on the palate by a spine of clean bracing acidity. The wine offers notes of freshly mowed hay and lemongrass with fillips of lime peel and kumquat (with that peculiar bitter sharply citrus quality), while the finish is quite dry and accented by a savory and saline hit of cloves, grapefruit and limestone. The alcohol content is 12.5 percent. Drink up. Served quite chilled with fairly spicy Thai food, grilled shrimp or chicken salad. Very Good+. About $15.

A sample for review.

You know how we wine taster-writer-bloggers are, always scurrying around trying to find cool, excellent expressive wines that nobody has ever heard of, so we say recommend as Wine of the Day or whatever some product fashioned from a totally obscure grape by an 2014-Fume_304x773ancient family in an isolated valley in the foothills of an undiscovered mountain range in eastern France where normally grapes aren’t even grown and 100 cases are imported by a company in Minnesota with no national distribution and we can say: “Definitely Worth a Search!” And it costs $85 a bottle. Well, today I’m not doing that. In fact, I’m recommending a wine that is so well-known and widely available and so ubiquitous on restaurant wine lists of a certain order that you may fall down laughing, so boo-hoo-hoo to you. The wine is the Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2014, Sonoma County, produced in the amount of 85,000 cases and as tasty and reliable a sauvignon blanc as you will encounter on a daily basis. This is thoughtfully made, 60 percent in stainless steel and 40 percent in older French oak barrels, so the wood influence is subtle, almost subliminal, and acts as a shaping rather than a dominating factor. (Winemaker is Sarah Quider.) The color is pale gold; aromas of honeysuckle, lime peel, spiced pear and lemongrass are infused with notes of fig, fennel and dried thyme. The wine is quite lively on the palate, with bracing acidity and a scintillating limestone and flint element, and it asserts its dry yet delicious presence with an effect that’s both authoritative and tender. A lithe and supple texture leads to a finish drenched in grapefruit, mango and attentive salinity. 13.8 percent alcohol. Profound? Multi-dimensional? Revelatory? Of course not. Savory? Appealing? Satisfying? Absolutely. Very Good+. About $14, representing Terrific Value.

A sample for review.

Looking for a pinot noir that takes an approach more intense and brooding than elegant and elusive? While I am extremely fond of the pncc13 front proofelegant and elusive manner, I’ll offer a candidate for the intense and brooding position in the CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Hobbs is well-known as a producer of pretty intense wines across the range for his eponymous label. CrossBarn is a distinct label with separate vineyard sources and a different winemaker — Greg Urmini — and is no slouch in the intensity category either. The CrossBarn Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast — there’s a cousin pinot noir from Anderson Valley — aged 10 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is a beautiful deep ruby-mulberry hue, entrancing as a glass of red wine in a Dutch still-life painting. Aromas of spiced and macerated black and red currants and plums are infused with notes of cloves and sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, and after a few minutes elements of loam, oolong tea and new leather rise like a dark tide. Not surprisingly, this pinot noir is firm and dense on the palate, suoer-satiny and supple in texture and riven by incisive acidity and an underbrush quality; tannins feel etched by dusty graphite under the spare blandishment of tasty though subdued black cherry, currant and plum flavors. All in all, perfectly balanced and integrated for the earthy, thoughtful style. 14.1 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

This product was a new twist to me, Cava Rosé, made from 100 percent garnacha (grenache) grapes, in the region south of Barcelona. The cavaIsaac Fernandez Selección Biutiful Brut Rosé, nv, was made — as Cava is supposed to be — in the traditional Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle; it rested 12 months on the lees before being disgorged and re-corked in the same bottle. The color is a lovely coral-copper hue that’s animated by a froth of glinting, upward surging bubbles. I was surprised and pleased at the quality of this Cava, especially at the price; this is no kissy-face little pushover. Notes of strawberries, raspberries and orange zest are wreathed with hints of apple skin, almond blossom and lime peel that devolve to a pronounced aroma of damp limestone and flint. Those mineral aspects dominate the palate, where this sparking wine is delicate, elegant and a little austere, but spare flavors of slightly spiced and macerated red fruit are not neglected. The finish is sleek, saline and chiseled, lithe but generous, and delivers a full component of limestone and chalk minerality. I could drink this stuff all day, metaphorically speaking, of course, but you know what I mean. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $14 to $16, a Freaking Terrific Value.

Imported by Grapes of Spain, Lorton, Va. A sample for review.

Sherry remains the great bargain among the world’s wines, with even fine examples costing no more than a trade paperback book, but it’s a hard sell. A few years ago, we had people over for dinner, and I served as first course a chilled pea soup with a glass of fino sherry to accompany it, actually a classic pairing. Our guests were not only not amused, they took one sip and wouldn’t go back to the well; they just didn’t get it. Despite that experience, however, I’ll breast the tide and offer as Wine of the Day, No. 58, the Fino Jerez Seco from the firm of Emilo Hildago, founded in 1874 and operated now by the family’s fifth generation. How much Hidalgo_Finoabout sherry needs explanation? Probably everything, so here goes.

Sherry is made only in the arid region around the seacoast city of Cadiz in far southern Spain, on the Atlantic side, west of Gibraltar. The combination of grapes varieties, the chalky soil, proximity to the ocean, the close to drought-like climate — annual rainfall is 19 inches — and the unique solera process result in a wine that at its best rivals the great wines of Europe’s other famous winemaking regions. The corollary is that lots of anonymous, generic, mediocre sherry is also produced.

Sherry is a fortified wine made principally from the palomino grape with some estates still cultivating minuscule amounts of Muscat of Alexandria and Pedro Ximenez, the latter for dessert wines that can attain legendary qualities. After fermentation, the wines are fortified with grape spirit to 15 or 15.5 percent (for elegant fino sherry) up to 18 or 19 percent for richer oloroso style sherry. The lower alcohol content in fino sherry does not inhibit the growth of the flor, the natural yeast the grows across the surface of the wine in the barrel and contributes to fino sherry its typical and unforgettable light mossy-nutty character. The sherry houses are situated in three towns, Jerez de la Frontera — “sherry” is an English corruption of “jerez” — Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria; though geographically not too distant from each other, the three locations impart different qualities to the fino sherries that originate in them.

The solera system is a method of blending in which some of the oldest wine is withdraw from its barrel and topped up with the next oldest and on down the line to the youngest wines that entered the solera after fermentation and fortifying. The constant process of topping off in this manner keeps refreshing the older wines and ensures a steady house style year by year. Some houses run complicated systems of as many as 20 different solera to satisfy the demands of the different types of sherry that they produce, which we won’t get into except to say that fino is the lightest, driest and most delicate of the categories and perfect for drinking with a variety of dishes, including fresh seafood, sushi and — the traditional match — thin slices of Iberico ham.

The Emilio Hildago Fino Jerez Seco, made from 100 percent palomino grapes, offers a pale gold color and aromas that would indicate the sort of snacks or tapas you might want to nibble while sipping it: toasted almonds, green olives, fried capers with hints of thyme and sage; after a few moments in the glass, it evinces a subtle and elusive floral element. All of these elements are woven with utmost nuance and delicacy. On the palate, this fino sherry is nutty and slightly mossy, savory and saline and imbued with a sense of ethereal energy, vibrancy and structure. 15 percent alcohol. The barrels this fino sherry were aged in, by the way, are 80 to 100 years old and made from American oak. Winemaker was Manuel Jesus Nieves. Fino sherry should be served thoroughly chilled and then stored, recorked or with a stopper, back in the refrigerator, never out on a shelf or sideboard. Serve with smoked or roasted almonds, green olives, Serrano or Iberico ham, roasted peppers, calamari or fritto misto. Also my famous chilled pea soup. Excellent. About $14 for a 500 milliliter bottle, representing Great Value.

Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York. A sample for review.

You know what they say about the miracle of turning water into wine? Well, Ron Rubin turned water into tea and tea into wine. Rubin, pictured below, ron-rubin-240x300went to work for his family’s wholesale wine and liquor business in Illinois in 1972, putting in 22 years managing distribution to 48 counties. In 1990, he started New Age Beverages, a company that was the master licensee for Clearly Canadian Sparkling Water in a 10-state area of the Southeast. Four years later, he sold the wholesale concern and bought The Republic of Tea, a young company based in Novato, Calif. The rest, as they say, is history, because you can find those distinctive cans of herbal, floral, black and green teas all across America — in tea bags and loose — to the tune of more than 200 products. Rubin studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis and in 2011 purchased the River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, in the Green Valley appellation of Russian River Valley. (In May, Rubin passed the reins of the company to his son Todd B. Rubin, now president of The Republic of Tea; Ron Rubin remains as executive chairman and Minister of Tea.) Hence, the two wines under review today. Winemaker for The Rubin Family of Wines is Joe Freeman. I’m sorry to say that what occurs today, as we pick up this series after quite a hiatus, is what often — too often — happens in tasting chardonnay and pinot noir wines from the same producer: I like, even dote upon, the pinot noir and dislike the chardonnay. That’s the case here. These wines were samples for review.
The Ron Rubin Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, went through a gentle oak regimen of eight months in small French barriques, only Rubin_RRV_Pinot_FACE15 percent of which were new barrels. The wine is composed of grapes from estate vineyards plus grapes from five other vineyards in Russian River Valley. The color is a lovely transparent medium ruby-cranberry hue; scents of red currants and black cherries are permeated by gradually unfolding notes of cranberries and pomegranate, sassafras and sandalwood, briers and brambles and loam, all encompassed in an aura that feels deeply spiced and macerated yet fleet-footed, delicate and elegant. Super-satiny on the palate, this pinot noir displays surprising weight and texture for the finely-wrought nature of its bouquet; in fact, it’s saved from being sumptuous by a clean line of bright acidity and a fair amount of dusty tannic rigor, giving the wine a stones-and-bones structure upon which to drape delicious black cherry and plum flavors. The whole enterprise gains shading and darkness after some time in the glass, say, 30 minutes, lending an air of strangely graceful and somewhat enigmatic earthiness. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with a roasted chicken, grilled lamb or veal chops. Excellent. About $25, a Remarkable Price for the quality, the depth and dimension.
I’m sorry that I cannot be as enthusiastic about the Ron Rubin Chardonnay 2013, Russian River Valley, as I am about its pinot noir Rubin_RRV_Chard_FACEstablemate. Like its cousin, this chardonnay was produced from estate vineyards and a selection of other vineyards in the Russian River appellation. It underwent 66 percent barrel-fermentation, in 15 percent new French oak barrels, and also saw complete malolactic or secondary fermentation; the other 34 percent was fermented in stainless steel tanks. Somehow that combination did not make a balanced or integrated chardonnay. The color is pale gold; aromas of roasted lemon and spiced pear, with hints of mango, clove and quince and high notes of lime peel, grapefruit and limestone, culminate in touches of jasmine and camellia; eminently attractive, yes, and so far so good, but a dried baking spice/spiced tea quality burgeons in the mouth and brings an element of stridency to a very dry, dense texture that feels hollowed out at mid-palate and leads to a grapefruit pith finish. 13.7 percent alcohol. Perhaps this imbalance will resolve itself in a year or two, but I wouldn’t take the risk, even at the price of $20.

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