October 2015

Napa Valley is best known for its wines based on the cabernet sauvignon grape, exceeded in reputation only, if not actually, by Bordeaux. The merlot grape often lives in the shadow of cabernet sauvignon, used to add “flesh and roundness,” as Michael Broadbent says, to cabernet wines. Merlot, however, can make superb wine on its own or when used in the majority, as is demonstrated by the red wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, especially in the commune of Pomerol. Whether in recognition of that cousinage or because American consumers learned how to pronounce “mair-low” back in the 1990s, producers in Napa Valley cannot resist making merlot wines that may attain a competitive level. Here are six. These wines were samples for review.
cornerstone merlot
The Cornerstone Cellars Oakville Station Merlot 2012, Napa Valley, represents one thrust in a focus on specific-site wines for Cornerstone Cellars. (Regrettably, I have no information about oak aging or other technical matters.) The color is a deep and concentrated ruby hue. Boy, you could eat this bouquet with a spoon; layers of ripe, fleshy black currants, raspberries and plums are infused with graphite, lavender and violets and notes of cassis, cedar and rosemary. The wine displays a lovely taut surface supported by dense, velvety tannins, supplemented, after a few minutes pass, by dusty, granitic minerality, underbrush and a root-like tea effect; bright acidity keeps the whole package lively and engaging, despite its sizable nature. Though the wine finishes with a touch of austerity, the fruit is gorgeous from beginning to end. 14.5 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Jeff Keene, no longer with the winery. Production was 97 cases. Drink through 2020 to 2022. Excellent. About $75.
The Flora Springs Merlot 2013, Napa Valley, contains 4 percent malbec in an otherwise pristine field of merlot. Most flora merlotof the fruit came from those districts that we think of as the heart of Napa Valley — 75 percent Rutherford, 9 percent Oakville — with 16 percent hailing from isolated Pope Valley — population 583 — east of Calistoga in the northern Napa Valley. The wine aged 15 months in 80 percent French and 20 percent American oak barrels, a combination of new and old. If opaque ruby-purple qualifies as a color, the definition is in this glass. It’s a very dark, rooty, spicy merlot, intense and concentrated yet animated and appealing. Spiced and macerated black and blue fruit scents and flavors are permeated by notes of smoke and tar, cedar and rosemary, black licorice and oolong tea; the character here is dusty and dusky, pierced by graphite-flecked tannins and keen acidity. 14.2 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Paul Steinauer. Drink now through 2020 through 2023. Excellent. About $30.
The 100 percent varietal Grgich Hills Estate Merlot 2011, Napa Valley, embraces the palate with ripe, spicy, smoky grgich merlotblack cherry, raspberry and mulberry fruit, but despite its richness, depth and density, the wine doesn’t feel opulent or overbearing. The grapes fermented with indigenous yeast; the wine aged 18 months in a combination of large and small French oak barrels, 30 percent new. It’s actually a fairly austere merlot, at least from mid-palate back through the finish, bursting with earthy notes of briers, loam, underbrush and dried porcini and bolstered by velvety, graphite-flecked tannins. The texture is taut, supple and lithe, and it flexes itself accordingly. A perfectly sensible 13.5 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Ivo Jeramaz. Drink through 2020 to 2023. Excellent. About $42.
Pahlmeyer and Jayson Wines Line Up
I try to maintain that essential sense of critical distance and discretion whatever wine I’m writing about, but then along comes a wine like the Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012, Napa Valley, and I feel myself giving in to paean and panegyric. This is a blend of 91 percent merlot, 7 percent petit verdot and 2 percent cabernet sauvignon. The grapes underwent native fermentation, and the wine aged 18 months in heavy-toast French oak, 75 percent new barrels. Friends, that’s a lot of oak, but the wine feels sleek, supple and effortless; there’s no sense of being oaky or over-played. This is a wine of unimpeachable character and presence, and you discern its confidence, depth and dimension with every sniff and sip. The color is dark to medium ruby; piercing aromas of black currants, blueberries and plums feel ripe, macerated and slightly roasted, while every molecule of the wine exudes lithic qualities of graphite and granite, iodine and iron. Rare is the wine that feels so deeply rooted in the bedrock of the vineyard. Mouth-filling? Ho-ho! Full-bodied? Are you kidding? This is a wine that caresses the palate with lithe and muscular attention even while it avoids any element of opulence or succulence; balance is all, from the purity and intensity of its start to its spice-and-mineral-packed finish. 15.2 percent alcohol. Yep, that’s high, but you feel no alcoholic heat or sweetness. Winemaker was Kale Anderson. Drink now through 2022 to 2025. Exceptional. About $85.
The Rutherford Hill Merlot 2012, Napa Valley, begins with an entrancing dark ruby hue with a hint of magenta at the hillrim. The wine is a blend of 76 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent syran and 1 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot; it aged 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, a process that lent the wine shape and suppleness. Black currants and raspberry scents are ripe and fleshy, and they offer notes of blueberries, cloves, sandalwood and graphite, with a tantalizing hint of violets. This is an open-knit and juicy merlot that stops short of being lush because of its underlying granitic rigor and dusty tannic structure; it fills the mouth with luscious fresh and dried black fruit flavors, tempered by elements of iodine and iron, giving the wine a ferrous and sanguinary effect. Above all, it offers terrific balance and personality. 13.9 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Marisa Taylor. Drink now through 2019 to 2021. Excellent. About $28.
swanson merlot
The sleek and chiseled Swanson Merlot 2011, Napa Valley, is a wine that exhibits edges and glances, as in a bright edge of iodine and mint, a deft glance at smoke, cloves and allspice. It’s not quite 100 percent merlot; there’s a bit of cabernet franc from Rutherford and Yountville and a dollop of petit verdot from Oak Knoll, south of Yountville. The color is dark ruby with a magenta rim; aromas of black currants, black cherries and plums are rooty and briery, opening to hints of ancho chile and bitter chocolate, and those other edgy, glanced at attributes. It’s a robust, vibrant merlot, with a panoply of dusty, bristly tannins, polished oak elements and clean acidity for structure and presence, though these qualities do not detract from an elegant, nuanced finish. 14.6 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to 2021. Winemaker was Chris Phelps, no longer at the winery. Excellent. About $38.

It’s not too early to think about wines for Thanksgiving dinner, so let’s get to it. Today I’m recommending a red wine that may be off touraine-tradition-rouge-caves-monmousseauthe maps for most American consumers but really deserves their attention. The Justin Monmousseau Touraine Tradition 2012 hails from the region of Touraine in France’s central Loire Valley. The house of Monmouuseau, founded in 1886 by Alcide Monmousseau, devotes 70 percent of its production to sparkling wines from a range of Loire Valley AOCs, all made in the méthode traditionnelle, but fortunately the estate also produces still red and white wines. The Monmousseau Touraine Tradition 2012 is a blend of 69 percent côt grapes (malbec); 30 percent cabernet franc; and a bare 1 percent gamay, fermented and aged only in stainless steel vats. The result is a wine with tremendous liveliness and elevation that offers a medium ruby color shading to a violet hue and penetrating aromas of ripe, fleshy blackberries, black cherries and plums, permeated by black pepper and allspice, underbrush and loam. The wine displays a lovely, bright structure on the palate, with fruit that leans toward well-spiced blackberry and blueberry flavors and — the effect of that mere dollop of gamay — an irresistible vivacious note of wild red raspberries, with that characteristic brambly, leafy element, this generous panoply upheld by an influx of dusty tannins. NA% alcohol, but not high. Serve slightly chilled and drink up with pleasure. Very Good+. About $16.

Tasted at a private wine event.

Maggy Hawk is an interesting name for a winery. It comes from the name of a racehorse owned by Barbara Banke, chairman and proprietor maggyof Jackson Family Wines and widow of Jess Jackson, the founder of it all who died in 2011. The property lies in the remote “deep end” of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley and is one of this sub-AVA’s closest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. The property encompasses 57 acres, much of it in redwood forest, with 22.55 acres planted to vines. That acreage is divided among five vineyards, planted in 2000, that vary in size from a tiny 1.23 acres to a relatively expansive 10.03 acres. These five vineyards are named for off-spring of Maggy Hawk: Jolie, Unforgettable, Stormin’, Hawkster and Afleet, the latter a Belmont Stakes and Preakness winner. Maggy Hawk is one of the wineries that JFW counts among its Spire Collection of elite estates, though nothing fancy or luxurious there draws the Grant-Douglasvisitor. This is a place where vines, grapes and winemaking prevail over tasting rooms, winemaker dinners, tourism and wedding events. Winemaker is Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, pictured here, also the director of winemaking at La Crema, another JFW property, acquired by Jess Jackson in 1993. The soil on this hillside, where the elevation varies from 300 to 500 feet, is decomposed sandstone, offering little nutrition for the vines but terrific drainage, an ideal situation for growing excellent grapes. Morning fog, combined with warm afternoons and a wide diurnal swing in temperature, also provide salubrious conditions.

I tasted the 2012 versions of Jolie, Stormin’, Hawkster and Afleet — Unforgettable was not made in 2012 — back in March with Grant-Douglas at lunch in Sonoma and this month at home with review samples. It was interesting to observe that eight months built some weight into the now three-year-old wines as well as adding to their layering of fruit, flowers, spice and minerality. These are serious pinot noirs, thrilling to taste and drink, each a projection of the wine’s roots in the earth of a specific site. They should drink beautifully until 2020 or so.
Maggy Hawk “Hawkster” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This wine aged 14 months in French oak, 63 percent new barrels. The grapes derive from the estate’s Blocks 12, 13 and 14, adding up to 6.18 acres. The color is an uplifting transparent medium ruby hue; the complex layering of fruit, spice and minerals is beautifully knit and evocative, with notes of red and black currants, a hint of red cherry and touches of cranberry and pomegranate. Back in March, I wrote in my book that “Hawkster” was “the most spare — most slender in frame” of this quartet, though seven months have filled it out nicely, but, damn, it feels light as a feather while being supple and satiny and delivering a definite graphite-loamy edge. Sweet cherry fruit laden with cloves and smoke, briers and brambles slide across the palate with delicacy and nuance, while subtly dusty tannins and keen acidity provide support and staying power. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 268 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Jolie” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This wine comes from the steep slopes of 10.03-acre Block 7, by far the largest on the property; it aged 14 months in French oak, 64 percent new barrels. Here’s my impression from back in March: “Cloves and sassafras — spiced and slightly macerated cherries & currants — lovely fruit, loamy quality — spare, with a streak of vivid acidity.” This month, I would say: Fairly dark ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; dominant elements of ripe black and red cherries and currants are permeated by notes of cranberries, pomegranate and cloves — there’s that consistency — though this is a more full-bodied wine than its cousins, but while it flirts with a lush texture, it pulls up plenty of graphite minerality and dry tannins, and exercises power that comes close to being muscular and sinewy. On the palate, it’s characterized by deeply spicy black and red fruit flavors and electric acidity. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 312 cases. Drink now through 2020 to 2023. Excellent. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. Afleet, the smallest production of this pinot noirs from 2012, comes from the Maggy Hawk estate’s Block 4 vineyard, measuring only 1.23 acres; it aged in French oak for 14 months, 43 percent new barrels. Seven months put a little weight and depth on this wine from when I tasted it in March. Initially, I was impressed with its spareness and elegance, as well as its dusty, loamy quality and its smoky, spicy cherry and plum fruit. Presently, I was taken by a beautiful transparent medium ruby color; by its notes of red and black currants and cherries permeated by hints of cloves and pomegranate; by its deep, dark, spicy rooty character and its foundation in the earth, because this Afleet is a pinot noir that feels as if it’s still drawing nourishment from the soil and bedrock of the vineyard. The texture is almost powdery graphite and talc-like elements, though energized by (ahem) fleet acidity. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 156 cases. Drink now through 2022 to 2024. Exceptional. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Stormin'” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This Stormin’ pinot noir saw the least new oak of this foursome, meaning 41 percent, aging for the standard 14 months; the grapes derived from the estate’s 3.47-acre Block 6 vineyard, adjacent to the Jolie Block 7. Despite its lovely transparent medium ruby-magenta hue, almost an expression of lustrous fragility, the wine seethes with elements of leather and loam, with wild and briery red and black currant and cherry scents and flavors, and an array of domestic and exotic spices ranging from cloves and sassafras to allspice and sandalwood. Mainly, though, this is a resolutely vibrant and structured wine that reveals remarkable purity and intensity of the grape and its feeling for a patch of land; a few minutes in the glass bring out more delicate touches of violets and lilac and hints of tobacco and bitter chocolate. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 223 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $66.

Let’s get right to it. You should buy the Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Sonoma County, by the case for drinking over the martini cabnext three or four years, in the Summer with grilled steak, pork chops and barbecue, in Winter with braised short ribs, hearty pasta dishes, burgers and pizzas. Or anytime, all year-round. Made primarily from cabernet sauvignon grapes, with dollops of merlot and petite sirah, the wine derives from vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley. It aged an unspecified amount of time in French and American oak barrels, a deviation from the philosophy of founder Louis M. Martini, who eschewed the use of any kind of oak in favor of 1,500-gallon redwood vats, employed by his son and grandson until 1989. Anyway, the color is opaque ruby-purple with a magenta rim; this is really classic Sonoma County cabernet that displays riveting aromas of ripe black currants and cherries with notes of cloves and graphite, cedar and rosemary and touches of smoke and sage. Dense and supple, this exuberant wine is supported by dusty, graphite-laden tannins and bright acidity, filling the mouth with lively black and blue fruit flavors leading to a mineral-packed finish that opens to nuances of lead pencil, black olive and bay leaf. Alcohol content is an eminently sensible 13.8 percent. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

A sample for review. The winery has been owned by E.&J. Gallo since 2002.

If asked to enumerate the world’s greatest and most noble red wines, I think that winemakers, writers, critics and sommeliers would 11_barolo_castiglione1-232x686list the reds of Bordeaux (primarily cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc grapes); Burgundy (pinot noir); Chateauneuf-du-Pape (syrah and grenache); Cote-Rotie, Cornas and Hermitage (syrah); Brunello di Montalcino (sangiovese); and Barolo and Barbaresco (nebbiolo), as well as their counterparts produced in other countries and regions, like the cabernet sauvignon wines of Napa Valley and the shiraz (syrah) from Australia’s Barossa and Clare valleys. For Wine of the Day, No. 74, we turn to one of the least known of these noble efforts, Barolo, produced in a limited geographical range of steeps hillsides southwest of the beautiful city of Alba in the province of Piedmont in northwestern Italy. Barolo, made completely from nebbiolo grapes, can be a kingly wine, not only noble but aloof and austere for a great deal of its ideally long life; it can also provide a thrilling spectrum of scents, flavors and presence on the palate.

The Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011 was made by Luca Currado, a fifth-generation owner and winemaker of his family’s estate. In fact, the vintage of 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the region’s first single-vineyard Barolo, made by Alfredo Currado in 1961. The grapes for the Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011 derived from vineyards in four sub-regions of the appellation, from vines that range from seven to 35 years old. The component wines aged two years in large oak casks — no barriques — before being blended and aged an additional eight months in stainless steel tanks. The color is a dark but not intense or opaque ruby hue shading to garnet at the rim. As for the aromas — did I say “thrilling” in the previous paragraph? This may be the bouquet of the year. A ravishing core of intensely pungent violets, tar, truffles, graphite and black licorice expands to notes of spiced and macerated black currants, cherries and plums in a display of astonishing purity and concentration; a few minutes in the glass bring in exotic hints of sandalwood, oolong tea and loam. The wine is more rigorous in the mouth, as stalwart, dusty tannins and seething acidity bring structure, but the texture of the wine, lithe, supple, silky and energized, reflects the vintage, which is not in the brooding powerhouse long-lived category that 2010 occupies. Filled with polished and tasty black fruit, with touches of dried fruit and flowers, the Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011 manages to be delicious and architectural at the same time. 14.85 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to 2025 with venison, braised short ribs, roast beef or steak or dry aged cheeses. Excellent. About $50.

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

zemmer pinot grigio
Here’s a very pleasant wine for sipping while prepping for dinner, which we did over several nights, or just sitting around on the porch or patio — wearing a sweater — or, not to neglect this aspect, for drinking with simple renditions of grilled or seared fish or seafood. The Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2014, Alto Adige-Sudtirol, is more attractive and offers more character than about 90 percent of the pinot grigio wines from northeastern Italy that I receive for review. Made all in stainless steel tanks and allowed to rest for a few months on the lees, that is, the dregs of spent yeast cells, the wine embodies the vibrancy of sheer pale gold hue and the redolence of roasted lemons and spiced pears imbued with hints of almond and almond blossom, quince and ginger, lime peel and limestone. A bracing savory and saline note of sea-breeze and marsh grass is permeated by elements of damp stone, lemon balm and ripe but not overblown lychee and mango; a bit of dried thyme and meadowy grass completes the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2016. Not to oversell this wine, but it’s really tasty and rinkable. Very Good+. About $16.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

I received over the past few weeks email press releases from The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, announcing the opening of the application process for 30 fellowships for the conference that occurs February 16 to 19 in the Napa Valley. The symposium is a symposiumcollaboration among the Napa Valley Vintners; Meadowood, the fine resort; and the Culinary Institute of America. For 2016, under a new executive director, Julia Allenby, the SPWW shifts to an all-fellowship model from a fee-based model, meaning that for those who could not previously cover the cost of the symposium registration and fees as well as air travel and car rental, there would be a chance to attend on a competitive basis.

Here’s how the conference describes itself on its website:

The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, founded by Meadowood Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners trade association and The Culinary Institute of America, draws top wine book authors and editors, wine magazine writers and critics, newspaper wine columnists, bloggers and other editorial wine content creators to Napa Valley to speak, listen, debate, explore themes prevalent in contemporary wine writing and network with their peers for four days. A combination of lectures, panel discussions, group and individual writing sessions, wine tasting and fine dining make the symposium an unmatched career enrichment opportunity for editorial wine, wine-food, and wine-travel writers.

The keynote address for next year’s event will be delivered by legendary author, the venerable Hugh Johnson. Also on the faculty will be Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for The New York Times; Ray Isle, executive wine editor for Food and Wine magazine; and Jay McInerney, novelist and wine columnist for Town & Country magazine, as well as other noted writers and sommeliers.

You’re thinking: “Sounds like fun! Let’s all go!”

Not so fast, my friend. As they say in television credit card commercials and gift promotions, restrictions apply. And notice, in the paragraph quoted above, the word “editorial,” used twice. That’s important.

Here are the rules for applying for a fellowship to next year’s symposium, again, from the organization’s website:

Please note that attendance is limited to professional editorial writers and editors on wine, wine and food, and wine and travel. Public relations and marketing personnel, winery owners and employees and other non editorial people cannot complete registration. Qualified registrants must demonstrate two paid, published byline articles or similar paid writing in the 12 months prior to registering.

And: Attending writers and editors must be professionals who can demonstrate their active working status.

In other words, if you write about wine for a personal blog, you’re not professional. If you provide editorial content, as the phrase goes, submitting articles for acceptance or on assignment for print or online entities, undergo vetting by an editor or publisher and get paid for your efforts, then you are considered professional. The implication is clear. “Citizen bloggers” need not apply.

Well, perhaps that’s not completely the case.

I asked Jim Gordon, director of content for the symposium, what the relationship between the organization and bloggers was. Gordon is well-known in California and beyond as editor of the industry magazine Wines & Vines and as a contributing editor of Wine Enthusiast.

Here is his reply:

Bloggers are encouraged to apply just as self-employed writers and authors are encouraged to apply too. In the fellowship process we are emphasizing the writers’ professional status, and this will be weighed along with quality of writing submitted and letters of reference, etc. A blogger who has no revenue stream from their blog, and does not do other types of paid editorial writing won’t score very high on the professional scale, but bloggers with subscribers and/or ad revenue, etc. are professional writers in our view and very welcome to apply.

It has always been a symposium for professional wine writers, not beginners or would-be professionals. The goal going forward is to make it an even higher level forum where wine, wine-food, and wine-travel writers and editors can learn, network and discuss issues important in wine writing and publishing.

So, it seems that independent bloggers can submit applications to the SPWW, but, as Gordon candidly points out, they will be considered pretty far down the aspirational ladder. And you can’t fudge the requirement to submit “two paid, published byline articles or similar paid writing in the 12 months prior to registering.” I wonder how many bloggers derive revenue from their efforts; I certainly don’t, and I rarely write about wine or the wine industry for established editorial entities. On the other hand, I have been writing about and reviewing wine since 1984, first for a nationally distributed newspaper column as a full-time journalist — back when I was a professional! — and since 2004 online, when, apparently, I reverted back to amateur status.

Still, I encourage my colleagues in the blogging game to go to winewriterssymposium.org and give it a try. The deadline is November 1.

Maison Jaffelin dates back to 1816 and is one of the few estates that still makes wine in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart and blanc de blancsnerve-center of Burgundy. The estate’s facility occupies a 12th Century edifice and cellars, where they utilize the traditional vertical press and oval wooden vats. We look today not at the company’s red and white still wines from various villages and vineyards but at a delightful sparkling wine, the Jaffelin Blanc de Blancs Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes. The color is pale gold, shimmering with an intense stream of tiny, foaming bubbles; the bouquet is very lemony and steely but offers notes of verbena, lemon balm and spiced pear and nicely manages to be slightly saline and a bit creamy together. In the mouth, this sparkling wine is framed by vigorous acidity and rigorous limestone minerality, resulting in a high-toned and fairly austere effect from mid-palate back through the finish. At the same time, it’s exhilarating and tasty with hints of citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25, a local purchase.

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

I see by this morning’s weather map that most parts of the country, except for the desert Southwest, are experiencing radical (but expected) dips in temperature, and, in fact, the first frosts and snows of the season are occurring in the Upper Midwest and New VR_Label_12_Petite_Sirah_FrontEngland. Seems to me that what you’re looking for is a robust red wine to accompany the robust fare you’re doubtless cooking this week and for several months to come. I’m speaking of braised shanks of various animals, braised short ribs, hearty soups and stews and such, the sort of food that fills kitchens with redolent meaty, saucy, winy aromas. Here, then, is a prime example of this sort of wine. The Vina Robles Estate Petite Sirah 2012, Paso Robles, derives from three of the winery’s five estate vineyards. It ages a total of 20 months in oak barrels, mainly French but also American and Hungarian. I say “a total of 20 months” because the component parts age separately for eight months, and then the wine made from the blend of the vineyards ages for a year. The winery was founded in 1996 by Swiss entrepreneur Hans Nef; winemaker is Kevin Willenborg.

The Vina Robles Estate Petite Sirah 2012 offers an opaque purple-black hue that shades to a glowing magenta rim; notes of blackberries, blueberries and plums are steeped in leather and black pepper, graphite, lavender and bitter chocolate. Bold, shaggy, dusty tannins with elements of briers and brambles provide structure for very spicy flavors of roasted black and blue fruit, everything kept from being ponderous by bright acidity and a keen granitic edge. The finish is packed with spiced black tea, minerals and touches of tar and burnished oak. Alcohol content is a manageable 14.3 percent. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Nothing elegant, subtle or nuanced here, but that’s not what we want when we’re cozying up to a slow-cooked pork shank. Excellent. About $29.

A sample for review.

The word “interesting,” of course, is a double-edged sword, as when one says that someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend is interesting, meaning “What a dork!” No, I don’t mean that! I mean interesting as “of real interest to My Readers” and white wines to look out for as alternatives to chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. Not that there’s anything wrong with those grapes — well, chardonnay is too often over-made and fiddled with — and I’m distinctly fond of sauvignon blanc and especially reisling. Many more types of white wine exist, however, and it’s in that less-traveled direction that I send My Readers today. We touch many countries and regions and a variety of grapes, both single and in fascinating and somewhat exotic blends. Look particularly at the wines priced between $11 and $17; real bargains abound there. As usual, I avoid lengthy mentions of technical, historical and geographical information in this Weekend Wine Notes — though I dote on that sort of material — for the sake of quick, incisive reviews deigned to pique your, ahem, interest and whet your palates. Enjoy!

These wines were either samples for review or encountered at wholesaler trade events.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Bianca 2014, Delle Venezia IGT, Italy. 12% alc. 55% garganega, 45% chardonnay, according to the label; website and printed material say 50% garganega, 30% chardonnay, 20% trebbiano Soave. Medium straw-gold color; ripe, lively, crisp, bristly; brimming with notes of green apple and melon, lemon and peach; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of jasmine and gardenia, lime peel and grapefruit; very dry, zings and sings across the palate with bright acidity and tantalizing limestone elements; heaps of personality. Excellent. About $11, a Raving Amazing Bargain.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
Villa Wolf Pinot Gris 2012, Pfalz, Germany. 13% alc. 100% pinot gris grapes. Medium burnished gold hue; straw, melon and orange rind; lemongrass and ginger, jasmine and honeysuckle; saline and savory, a touch exotic in its ripe, spicy yellow fruit and yellow flower elements; quite dry, with clean acidity and a sense of fading limestone and flint minerality; quite attractive, but drink up. Very Good +. About $12, representing Real Value.
Loosen Bros. USA, Salem, Oregon.
Alamos Torrontés 2014, Salta, Argentina. 13% alc. 100% torrontés grapes. Pale straw color; jasmine and gardenia, very lemony, hints of lemongrass and figs, honeydew and greengage; a little musky; saline briskness and crisp acidity; lovely, lively silken texture. Very Good+. About $13.
Alamos USA, Haywood, Calif.
Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2014, Côtes du Roussillon, France (Michael Chapoutier). 13% alc. Grenache gris, grenache blanc, macabeu (or sometimes maccabeu). Pale straw-gold color; ripe and fleshy, apple peel and peach skin; lemon, lime peel, tangerine and yellow plum; cloves and a wisp of dried thyme; crisp and sassy, very spicy and quite dry but with spare and tasty stone-fruit flavors. Very Good+. About $13.
An R. Shack Selection, HB Wine Merchants, New York.
La Valentina Pecorino 2014, Bianco Colline Piscarese, Italy. NA% alc. 100% pecorino grapes. Pale gold hue; very fresh, clean and appealing; lemon balm, lime peel, almond skin and almond blossom; limestone and oyster shell, savory with a salt marsh-sea breeze edge of vitality; pert and lively, a burgeoning of stone-fruit and meadowy herbs; extremely charming but with a thread of seriousness. Very Good+. About $16.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa Calif.
Vina Robles “White 4” 2014, Paso Robles, California. 14.9% alc. 54% viognier, 22% vermentino, 15% verdelho, 9% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw color with faint green highlights; delicate, lightly spicy, a slight sense of sunny, leafy figs and briers; all citrus with a flush of stone-fruit; a few minutes in the glass bring in heady notes of lilac and Evening in Paris; very appealing, with a beautiful texture and structure that fill the mouth with almost powdery talc-like elements cut by bright acidity. Drink now through 2017. Excellent. About $16.
Bodega de Txakoli Tadai Berri Alleme Txakolina 2014, Getariako Txakolina. NA% alc. 100% hondarribi zuri grapes. The wine is pronounced chakoli; txakolina means “the txakoli.” The hondarribi zuri grape is primarily grown, where it is cultivated at all, in Spain’s Basque country. Very pale straw color; just faintly effervescent, as a sort of quiet, persistent tickle; white flowers and yellow fruit, let’s say, gardenia, peach and yellow plums, all quite gently expressed, with hints of almond blossom and lychee; lively, crisp, clean, caressing. Drink up as a very pleasant and unusual aperitif; these wines are not meant to last. Very Good+. About $17.
Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
ponzi pb
Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.4% alc. 1,000 cases. 100% pinot blanc grapes. Very pale straw-gold hue; roasted lemons and spiced pears, notes of quince, nectarine and ginger; subtly floral, like some tiny white slightly astringent flower; mountainy and meadowy; incisive acidity with elements of steel and limestone and a haze of smoke and talc; quite dry but immensely appealing and satisfying. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.
Amity Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13% alc. 181 cases. 100% pinot blanc. Medium straw-gold hue; lemon balm, lime peel, slightly caramelized grapefruit; intriguing notes of cedar and hay; a fresh, breezy and bracing wine, lovely purity and intensity; hints of quince, peach skin and ginger; lithe and supple on the palate with crystalline acidity and vibrant limestone minerality. Now through 2016. Excellent. About $22.
mccay viognier
McCay Cellars Viognier 2014, Lodi, California. 14.1% alc. 100% viognier grapes. Very pale gold color; peach, roasted lemon and lavender; slightly honeyed, with notes of beeswax, dried thyme and rosemary, with the latter’s hint of resiny quality; very clean, pure and intense, lovely presence and weight; more on the graceful, spare and elegant side of the grape, though a hint of caramelized fennel lends something exotic; a lingering finish that turns a bit austere with limestone and flint minerality. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $24.
Clos le Vigneau 2013, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France. (Alexandre Monmousseau). NA%alc. 100% chenin blanc grapes. Bright straw-gold hue; vouvrayhay, damp stones, jasmine; hazelnuts and almond skin; notes of peach, apricot and yellow plums; lean and lithe, chiseled limestone minerality and chiming acidity yet a soft approachable texture; a hint of sweetness on the entry but very dry from mid-palate back through the spice and mineral freighted finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $19.
Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.
anaba white
Anaba Wines Turbine White 2013, Sonoma Valley, California. 14% alc. 42% roussanne, 20% grenache blanc, 20% picpoul blanc, 18% marsanne. 354 cases. Shimmering pale gold hue; roasted lemon, dried thyme, beeswax, lanolin, lilac; notes of heather and peach and a hint of some exotic floral and pressed nut oil; bountifully presents a full-bodied, seductive texture packed with spiced and roasted peach and apricot flavors but balanced by riveting acidity and an element of damp-stone minerality. Super appealing, practically glitters in the glass. Excellent. About $28, and Worth a Search.

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