October 2016


I prefer my chardonnays untainted by the specter of toasty new oak and creamy malolactic, and if 2014-morgan-metallico-chardonnayyou inhabit the same camp, you probably already know about Morgan Winery’s un-oaked chardonnay called Metallico. If not, here’s a chance to be introduced. The Morgan Metallico Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, derives from vineyards in the specific Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs and the broader Monterey appellation. It aged five months in stainless steel tanks, seeing no oak and no malolactic fermentation. The color is bright medium gold; bold aromas of pineapple and grapefruit, green apple and mango burst from the glass in a welter of cloves, quince and ginger and a defining limestone edge. That strain of flinty minerality continues on the palate, where the wine is animated by crisp, lively acidity and characterized by ripe, spicy (and fairly rich) citrus and stone-fruit flavors; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of jasmine and honeysuckle, with bass-tones of loam and sea-shell, all encompassed by a lithe supple texture. The alcohol content is a pleasant 13.5 percent. Drink through 2017 with all manner of fish and seafood dishes. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review.

Cantina Tramin is a cooperative of local growers in Trentino-Alto Adige that was founded in 1889 traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013and comprises a total of 575 acres among its members. The wine considered today, the Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Südtiral-Alto Adige, derives from a 43-acre vineyard whose vines range from 12 to 42 years old, lying at altitudes of 660 to 1,320 feet elevation. Winemaker for Tramin is Willi Stürz. Made completely in stainless steel, the Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015 is a superior rendition of a much abused grape. The color is very pale gold; aromas of almond and almond blossom, roasted lemon and baked pear, heather and a touch of loam are immediately evident in the attractive bouquet. A lovely, lithe and supple texture enfolds a soft talc-like element cut through and made lively by bright acidity; there’s real body and character here, with a few minutes in the glass bringing in notes of smoke and straw, spare glimmers of fresh and dried stone-fruit and an encompassing saline nature, as if the vineyards had once been buried by an inland sea, before the Alps emerged in one of our planet’s million-year convulsions. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018. Excellent. About $16, representing Great Value.

Leonardo LoCascio Selections, Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

So, today I offer 10 red wines worthy of your attention and use with the hearty fare we prepare during cooler weather, if this country ever gets cooler weather. We’re running 10 to 15 degrees above normal in this neck o’ the woods. Anyway, these wines represent California; Italy’s Piedmont region; Australia’s McLaren Vale; and three sections of Spain, all featuring the tempranillo grape. The grapes and blends of grapes involved are equally diverse. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the technical, geographical and historical I tend to dote upon for the sake of quick and incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy, in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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Angeline Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2015, Mendocino County 80%, Sonoma County 20%.13.9% alc. Transparent angelinemedium ruby shading to an ethereal rim; rose petals and sandalwood, pomegranate and cranberry, a hint of loam that expands to form a foundation for the whole enterprise; satiny and supple but nicely sanded and burnished by mild graphite-tinged tannins; a few minutes in the glass being in notes of wood smoke, red cherry and raspberry; grows quite dense and chewy, almost succulent but riven by straight-arrow acidity that cuts a swath on the palate; builds in power and structure. Now through 2018 or ’19. You could sell the hell out of this pinot noir in restaurant and bar wine-by-the-glass programs. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.
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Bonny Doon A Proper Claret 2014, California. 13.2% alc. 36% cabernet sauvignon, 22% petit verdot, 22% tannat, 9% syrah, 7% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 1% petite sirah. The point of Bonny Doon’s A Proper Claret is that it is not a proper claret at all, not with the inclusion of tannat, syrah and petite sirah. Ho-ho. Medium ruby with a transparent magenta rim; untamed and exotic, with notes of dried berries, baking spices and flowers; opens to black fruit scents and flavors with a tinge of red fruit; firm, moderately dense, supported by plenty of dusty graphite-laden tannins and bright acidity; needs a steak or leg of lamb. Very Good+. About $16.
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Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise 2014, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. 77% zinfandel, 14% syrah, 8% petite sirah, 1% grenache. Medium ruby hue; a feral and flinty flurry of black currants, mulberries and plums; a hint of blueberry, with cedar and mint; warm and spicy with notes of cloves and sandalwood; a high, wild baked berry tone; very dry, quite dense and chewy, firm sinewy structure packed with dusty tannins and lively acidity. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $15.
As you can see, the label is appropriate for Halloween parties.
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Viña Eguía Tempranillo 2013, Rioja, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% tempranillo. Medium ruby hue shading to a delicate mulberry rim; violets and rose petals, blueberries and red currants, leather and smoke; an exotic dusting of cloves, sandalwood and allspice, with a hint of the latter’s woody, slightly astringent quality; though moderate in tannins, this gains weight and heft as the minutes pass, picking up a fleshy, meaty character to the macerated and baked dark fruit flavors; animated by brisk acidity. Terrific character for the price. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $14, marking Excellent Value.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Bodegas Fariña Dama de Toro Tempranillo 2014, Toro, Spain. 13.5% alc. With 5% garnacha. Medium ruby-mulberry color; loam, dust, graphite, mint, iodine; hints of red and black currants and blueberries, permeated by dried spices and flowers; very dense, dry, smoky, chewy; smacky tannins coat the palate. What it lacks in charm it makes by for in inchoate power and dynamism. Try 2018 to ’20 with pork shoulder roast slathered in salsa verde or grilled pork chops with a cumin-chili powder rub. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2014, Piedmont, Italy. 13% alc. 100% barbera grapes. Medium ruby-violet hue; an attractive bouquet of potpourri, dried baking spices and dried currants; hints of cedar, tobacco and lead pencil; clean and spare with plenty of acid cut for liveliness and lip-smacking tannins; pulls up elements of black cherries, mulberries and plums, all slightly spiced and macerated, and touches of cherry pit and skin; the finish is packed with earthy tannins and graphite minerality. Now through 2019 to ’22 with salumi, red meat pizzas and pasta dishes — especially pappardelle with rabbit — or aged hard cheeses. Excellent. About $18.
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Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel 2014, California. 14.5% alc. With 2% petite sirah. Dark ruby shading lighter to an invisible rim; notes of spicy and slightly roasted black currants, cherries and plums, a strain of wild berry and white pepper and hints of wood smoke, ground cardamom and cumin; rich on the palate but tempered by loamy and velvety tannins and clean acidity; an element of dusty graphite minerality dominates the finish. A well-made zinfandel for everyday drinking. Very Good+. About $14.
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Real Compañía de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. 13.5% alc. 100% tempranillo. Vibrant inky purple; a very deep, dark, warm, spicy loamy tempranillo with staggering, mineral and graphite-laced tannins that don’t prevent a hint of floral-inflected black currant and plum fruit and touches of heather, cedar and black olive from emerging from the ebon depths; there is, in fact, surprising elegance and finesse at play in the balance between structure, acid, fruit and oak elements. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About — I’m not kidding — $12, a Remarkable Value.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Robert Oatley GSM 2014, McLaren Vale, Australia. 13.5% alc. 48% grenache, 47% syrah, 5% oatleymourvèdre. Dark ruby with a lighter magenta rim; ripe and spicy notes of roasted plums and currants, with traces of red licorice and leather, briers and brambles; a few moments in the glass bring in alluring touches of allspice and sandalwood, dried sage and rosemary; dry, dusty and slightly austere tannins serve as foundation for lithe, supple black and red fruit flavors boosted by fleet acidity and graphite minerality. For all its structure, the wine is juicy, seductive and tasty. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, Greensboro, N.C.
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Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 14.9% alc. 41% petite sirah, 40% syrah, 10% mourvèdre, 9% grenache. Dark ruby-magenta color; redolent of macerated and slightly baked mixed berries, cloves and iodine, espresso, wood smoke and roasted fennel — heady stuff indeed; a lightly resistant dusty, velvety texture bolstered by persistent tannins packed with graphite and loam; a long expressive finish. A lot going on here for the price. Drink now through 2018. Excellent. About $17.
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Let’s face it, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs, bastardoyou don’t want to drink a fine red wine that sings of the earth and the sky, of rain and sun, soil and bedrock, a wine that embodies a vineyard, place, a life, a wine that is both typical and individual. No, friends, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs what you want is a well-made, decent quaff that sits well with the food and doesn’t get in the way. Such a one is today’s selection, Il Bastardo Sangiovese 2015, Rosso di Toscana. The wine is 100 percent varietal, made in stainless steel and serves as a sort of cadet version of Chianti. In fact the maker of Il Bastardo is Renzo Masi, a third-generation Chianti producer in the Rufina district east of Florence. The color is dark ruby-garnet shading to lighter ruby; aromas of dried fruit and flowers mixed with dusty graphite segue to sweet black currants and red cherries touched with hints of oolong tea and orange rind. The wine is quite dry, animated by clean acidity, and it finishes not with a bang but a whisper of cherry pit and exotic spices. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 and just enjoy it. Very Good. About $9, a Great Value.

R. Shack Selection, imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Dan Morgan Lee and his wife Donna founded Morgan Winery in 1982, the first production being 2,000 cases of chardonnay from Monterey County. In the intervening 34 years, the winery has grown exponentially, while the roster of wines and labels has expanded, decreased, altered radically and undergone intense focus. Morgan, centered in Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands, specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir, both at the AVA and single-vineyard levels, but also produces notable sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling and syrah. A more personal project is Lee Family Farm, launched in 2005 and specializing in Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties. Except for the AVA-based wines, most of these products are made in limited quantities, though all are priced fairly. Today we look at the Morgan Albarino 2015 and the Lee Family Farm Tempranillo 2014. Winemaker for Morgan is Sam Smith.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey, fermented in stainless steel and then aged a brief five morgan_label_albarino_2015_frontmonths in French oak, a scant 10 percent new barrels. The result is a fresh, crisp and lively wine whose medium straw-gold hue leads to abundantly floral aromas of acacia, jasmine and lilac, with hints of spiced pear and lemon balm. This is a lustrous albarino offering a lithe and supple texture that embodies a sort of Platonic juicy peach and pear element bolstered by an almost prodigious amount of damp limestone and flint minerality and a keen acid edge. It’s quite dry, a bit spare through the finish, yet seductively attractive. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with seafood risottos, roasted fish or with tapas. Production was 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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The Lee Family Farm Tempranillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, is a beautiful, vibrant expression of the 2014_lff_tempranillogrape. The Arroyo Seco AVA lies in central Monterey County; it’s a roughly triangular shaped region whose longer, slightly curved angle fits against the eastern foothills of the coastal range. Arroyo Seco is cooled by the breeze from Monterey Bay which brings in morning fog. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 50 percent new barrels. The color is inky ruby-purple; aromas of ripe blackberries and plums are touched with notes of blueberry and pomegranate, cloves and just a hint of vanilla and hints of violets and rose petals. Animated by bright acidity, the wine is fleet on the palate yet distinguished by pleasing weight and heft; black fruit flavors reveal a slightly roasted, sun-baked quality. with a bit of fruitcake in the background. Moderate tannins are brushy and velvety, picking up high-toned rigor and dusty graphite on the way to the finish. 13.8 percent alcohol. Certainly one of the best tempranillo wines made in California, alas, in only 53 cases. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with steaks and chops or braised shanks of various kinds. Excellent. About $20.
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You won’t believe the price on today’s selection, and I mean that in the best way. I have been alsaceenjoying Alsace single-vineyard Grand Cru rieslings lately, and this example is one of the best. The Frédéric Mallo Vieilles Vignes Riesling Rosacker 2010, Alsace Grand Cru, offers a color of entrancing medium gold and arresting aromas of ripe peaches, mangoes and pears shot through with honeysuckle and the grape’s signature petrol element, all wrapped around notes of almond blossom and almond skin, cloves and dusty heather. Yep, it’s pretty damned heady stuff, all right. The entry is sweet and ripe, almost lush in its spiced peach and melon fanfare, but it slides across the palate going increasingly dry until reaching a finish of bright scintillating acidity and pure limestone and flint minerality. In fact, the wine displays quite a bit of tension in the poised equilibrium between sweetness and dryness, a tautness that provides energy and dynamism. From mid-palate back, it becomes more savory and saline, more chiseled and lithe. 13 percent alcohol. “Vieilles vignes,” in this case, means vines that are more than 50 years old. Drink through 2020 to ’24 with mildly spicy Asian fare or with a roasted pork tenderloin festooned with leeks and prunes or a roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and rosemary. Excellent. About $23, a Remarkable Value.

USA Wine Imports, New York. A sample for review.

Buy the Carlos Serres Crianza Rioja 2012 by the case, for drinking over the next year or two. A serres-riojablend of 85 percent tempranillo grapes and 15 percent garnacha, it embodies what seems to me are the primary characteristics of the tempranillo grape, a combination of slightly dried black and blue fruit, new leather, dried herbs and iodine-washed minerality; the garanacha lends a lift of red cherries and currants and bright acidity. The wine aged 14 months in French and American oak barrels, followed by six months of bottle aging. The color is medium ruby shading to a delicate transparent rim; black cherries, currants and a touch of blueberry are permeated by notes of smoke, ground cumin and sandalwood. The wine is fresh and lively, briery and peppery, dry and mildly tannic, and it goes down with lithe ease and suppleness. 13 percent alcohol. I consumed a glass or two of this wine with an egg scrambled with bits of diced red onion, yellow bell pepper, tomato and borsellino salami. Very Good+. About $12, a Terrific Bargain.

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

I wrote about the 2012 version of today’s selection about two years ago, but now it’s the turn for the Pfeffingen Dry Riesling 2013, from Germany’s bucolic Pfalz region, which extends 53 miles in a 301 Labellong peninsular shape south from Rheinhessen to the French border. In 2012, a chilly wet Summer in Germany was succeeded by warmth in September and October, allowing grapes to ripen nicely and providing many excellent wines. The opposite case prevailed in 2013, when a mild Summer yielded to rain in September and October, the bane of growers and winemakers. The result in this case is a very dry riesling that focuses on acidity and mineral elements rather than the forwardness of succulent fruit. Still, the medium gold-hued Pfeffingen Dry Riesling 2013, the basic offering from this estate that traces its origin to 1622, delivers plenty of advantages, if not charm. Initial (and quite pretty) aromas of jasmine, heather and honeydew melon, peach and lychee, lime peel and lemongrass open to the rigorous nature of burgeoning limestone and flint minerality that extends all the way down through the wine’s framework and foundation. Bright scintillating acid leads to a fairly bracing damp stone, sea-salt and grapefruit-pith finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. An essential accompaniment to fresh oysters and grilled shrimp or mussels, though we drank a glass or two with salmon, marinated simply in olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper, and seared in the cast-iron skillet. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.

Sarah’s Vineyard traces its history to the late 1970s, when Marilyn Clark and John Otterman 13-pinotnoir-estate-thumbnailbought a 10-acre property in the Santa Clara Valley, about 30 miles south of Santa Cruz. They produced their first wines in 1983. They sold the winery to polymath Tim Slater in 2001. The estate occupies 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. I cannot offer details about winemaking and the oak regimen for this Chardonnay 2014 and Pinot Noir 2014 because the winery website is several vintages behind on information. I will say that if you love pinot noir, this one is Worth a Search.

These wines were samples for review.
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The color of the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2014, Santa Clara Valley, is bright medium gold, and, in fact, that adjective “bright” applies to every aspect of this slightly too florid chardonnay. It’s a bold and spicy wine, golden with baked pineapple and grapefruit flavors elevated by notes of cloves, quince and ginger and touched with a hint of wood smoke and dried mountain herbs. Bright acidity provides an even keel for the richness of the macerated stone-fruit flavors emboldened by a limestone and oak structure that burgeons through the drying finish. 14.3 percent alcohol. Production was 198 cases. I would give this chardonnay another year in bottle to achieve balance and integration. Very Good+. About $32.
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I have no such caveats about the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Clara Valley. The color is perfect, a medium ruby hue shading to a transparent garnet rim; aromas of rhubarb and sassafras, black and red cherries and plums, cloves and sandalwood are beautifully balanced and integrated, as is, in truth, every element of the wine. While it’s ripe and delicious, even tending toward succulent, on the palate, this pinot noir pulls up loamy and briery qualities, along with foresty touches of moss and dry leaves, all of which animate a texture that’s both satiny and a little muscular. My final note was , “Lordy, how beautiful!” 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Production was 415 cases. Excellent. About $40.
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Cadaretta is the upper-level label of Middleton Family Wines, a business that includes the cadaretta-sbClayhouse (Paso Robles) and Adobe (Central Coast) brands from California; Buried Cane (Washington State); and the imports Ad Lib (Larry Cherubino’s label from Western Australia) and MFW Wines of Italy. Wine of the Day, No. 192, is the Cararetta SBS 2015, from Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. This is a blend of 89 percent sauvignon blanc and 11 percent semillon made entirely in stainless steel. The color is very pale straw-gold; the fresh, clean, many-layered and frankly beautiful bouquet peels back notes of lime peel, roasted lemon and spiced pear; grapefruit, lemongrass and green tea; caraway and melon; dried thyme and tarragon. Pretty darned heady stuff, all right, yet subtle, too, not extravagant or flamboyant. A lovely svelte, lithe texture is riven by star-bright acidity and bolstered by a distinct limestone and flint edge, all at the service of tasty elements of stone-fruit, fig and heather. 13.5 percent alcohol. A tremendously appealing expression of the grape, for drinking through the Summer of 2017. Excellent. About $23.

A sample for review.

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