Mon 23 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Italy
, Nero d'Avola
, Sicily No Comments
Last night I made a chili — or call it a soup — of chickpeas, chard, bacon, adobo, onions, garlic, tomatoes. It was pretty quick and easy and turned out even more delicious than I anticipated. Some heat from the chili adobo caused me to speculate about what wine to serve or if we should go with beer, but the Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Lamùri Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia DOC, did the trick quite satisfactorily, thank you very much. You don’t have to look too hard to find plenty of rustic, rough-shod examples of Sicily’s signature red grape, but this is not one of those. Cultivated in vineyards that range from 1,476 to 2,460 feet elevation — this is in the hills southeast of Palermo — the wine received 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new, the rest in barrels of second or third passage. The color is dark ruby with a purple-magenta rim; aromas of mint, iodine and smoked plums open to notes of black currants, blueberries and mulberries, with undertones of graphite, flint and loam. It’s a robust wine, bursting with energy and sizable aplomb; part of its attraction is the paradoxical juxtaposition of winsome elements like apple peel, black cherries and white pepper with deeper qualities of tar and dusty tannins, all melded by bright acidity. Some time in the glass brings in more graphite minerality as well as an expansion of a distinctly wild floral/berry nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.
A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
Sun 22 Jan 2017
Limoux is a wine region in Languedoc, lying about 40 miles south of the walled city of Carcassonne, in the foothills of the French Pyrénées. It encompasses four AOCs, three for sparkling wine and one, more recently defined, for red wine made predominantly from merlot. The major white grape of the area is the indigenous mauzac, followed by chenin blanc and chardonnay. Apparently, Limoux is the site of the first sparkling wines fashioned by second fermentation in the bottle, precisely dated, by historians, to 1531 and therefore preceding its discovery in Champagne. Whatever the case, Limoux is a source for delightful sparkling wines generally available at reasonable prices. Such a one is the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 15 percent chenin blanc, 10 percent mauzac and 5 percent pinot noir. Why “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson”? Because when that most Francophile of American presidents died, the only sparkling wines found in his cellar were from — guess! — Limoux. The color is pale straw-gold, somewhat like Rapunzel’s hair, I should guess. A pretty and persistent surge of tiny bubbles animates the proceedings, while aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm and baked pear entice the nose; a few moments is the glass unfold notes of jasmine and almond skin and touches of hay and heather. These elements segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine displays a flinty notion of limestone minerality as edgy yet fragile as a seashell, an example of vivid tensile power married to thoughtful delicacy. O.K., let’s not overplay this; what I chiefly mean is that the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, is a real charmer that offers a lithe and scintillating scale of mineral-and-acid texture and structure. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. Prices around the country run from about $16 to $21.
Imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review from the local distributor.
Sat 21 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Cahors
, Malbec No Comments
The ancient city of Cahors lies on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the River Lot, in southwest France. It was originally an outpost for the Cadurci people, the last of the Celtic tribes to resist the invading Romans armies around 50 B.C. Divona Cadurcorum, as it was called, became a major Roman city and developed economically and culturally through the Roman period and to end of the Middle Ages. Its dark red wine was exported through the Dordogne river and up the Gironde past Bordeaux — and around Europe — when that town was still emerging from the marshes. In a region known for its quaint and charming towns and villages, Cahors is one of the most quaint and charming of them all, filled, as it is, with remnants of Roman buildings and monuments and by a density of half-timbered Medieval structures. It’s three-towered Pont Valentré (1308-1378) is among the world’s most beautiful stone bridges.
The Cahors AOC applies only to red wines, made primarily — at least 70 percent — from the malbec grape, known locally as auxerrois. The vineyards are laid out west of the city, on terraces formed by the centuries-long meanderings of the Lot. The first terrace, along the river banks, is inappropriate for cultivation, so the vineyards tend to be planted on the second, third and fourth terraces. Like Bordeaux, Cahors is heavily influenced by the climate and winds of the Atlantic Ocean; unlike Bordeaux, it also receives, mainly in September and October, influence from the Mediterranean winds. The soil is silt-clay over Kimmeridgian limestone.
The wines under consideration today were produced by Chateau Lagrezette, a property dating back to 1503 that was acquired in 1980 by Alain Dominique Perrin, whose name is a by-word in the world of luxury goods for his steering of the development of Cartier International and his creation of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Perrin poured immense sums into the restoration of the 15th Century castle at Lagrezette and the replanting and renovation of the vineyards and winery. Winemaker since 2007 has been Cedric Blanc; consulting enologist is the ubiquitous Michel Rolland.
The wines of Chateau Lagrezette are imported into the U.S.A. by Curious Cork Importers, Napa, Calif., and Denver, Colo. Image of the Pont Valentré from www.par-monts-et-par-vaux.eu. These wines were samples for review.
The youngest of this quartet of malbec wines and from the youngest vines, the Chateau Lagrezette Clos Marguerite 2012 is a robust (but not rustic) wine that aged 16 months in 40 percent new oak barrels, 40 percent one-year-old and 20 percent two years old. It features a vibrant dark ruby color and pointed scents and flavors of plums, raspberries and fruitcake bolstered by fairly rigorous, dusty, graphite-laden tannins with undercurrents of lavender, licorice and bittersweet chocolate. It is, in other words, a finely balanced feat of power and poise, and a fount of gushing black and red fruit flavors nicely restrained by structure. Now through 2022 to 2026. Production was 416 cases. Very Good+. About $45.
The Chateau Lagrezette Cuvée Dame Honneur 2011, Cahors, includes 5 percent merlot in the blend; it aged 20 months in new French oak barrels. The color is inky purple, an aspect that feels mirrored in the wine’s pungent notes of smoked plums, mint and cedar, licorice and lavender; as the moments pass, say an hour or two, the wine grows increasingly floral, in the violets, rose petals and lilac range, and takes on more depth of ripe and spicy black and red berry fruit. It’s a succulent wine, dense, silky and lithe on the palate, though any sense of luxury is strictly tempered by a profound element of graphite minerality and surging acidity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2021 to ’26. Production was 2,784 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $45.
A true vin de garde, the Chateau Lagrezette Cru d’Exception 2009, Cahors, show every sign of aging capability through, say, 2021 to 2026 or ’30. The wine is a blend of 87 percent malbec, 12 percent merlot and 1 percent tannat, aged 18 months in new and one-year-old French oak barrels. The color is a dark but radiant ruby hue; the whole tenor of the wine resonates with ferrous and sanguinary elements of iron, iodine and beef-blood, with subsidiary notes of black tea, mint, forest floor, briers and brambles. Scents and flavors of blackberries, blueberries and mulberries feel deeply spiced and macerated, taking a cue from swingeing acidity and a profound graphite/granitic mineral quality. One feels, it seems, the limestone-laced soil upon which the vineyard lies. Drink now through 2022 to 2029. Production was 7,000 cases, obviously the most accessible of these four wines. Excellent. About $45.
Le Pigeonnier, named for an ancient dovecote on the estate, is the flagship wine of Lagrezette. The Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, is 100 percent malbec from 35 to 40-year-old vines, aged 28 months in new French oak barrels. The color — if that word is applicable — is totally opaque, with a faint glimmer of purple at the rim; it’s a deep, ripe, rich and spicy wine in every sense, but framed by intense flinty-graphite minerality, rigorous acidity and profoundly dense, dusty tannins. It’s also, paradoxically, bright and lively and feels young at just over five years old. The blackberry-currant-blueberry aspects teem with notes of iodine and mint, cloves and allspice, lavender and licorice and bittersweet chocolate that unfurl an exotic flair of cumin and ancho chili. The finish offers a chiseled edge of limestone, and the whole package glitters darkly like earthen ore. 14.5 percent alcohol. Brilliant winemaking. Drink now through 2025 to ’30, or, you know, it could be immortal. Production was 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
Tue 17 Jan 2017
To honor the Year of the Rooster, to be celebrated on January 28 at Chinese New Year’s, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyard crafted a special, limited production sparkling wine that bears a vivid red and gold label you can’t miss. The Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley — that’s the AVA — is a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, aged en tirage (on the lees in the bottle) for four years. The color is pale straw-gold, energized by a swirling tempest of tiny glinting bubbles; I mean, it’s hypnotic. Aromas of spiced pears, pound cake and baked apples unfurl to notes of lemon balm and lemongrass, heather and damp hay and a hint of something uniquely tropical, star-fruit, perhaps, or guava, just a bell-tone. These elements — all nuances; nothing obvious — in turn are layered over limestone and shale minerality of the profoundest order, so on the palate this sparkling wine is lithe, chiseled and honed, quite dry of course, and with a finish notable for elegance and austerity, all twined with utmost fine-boned delicacy. 13.5 percent alcohol. One of my favorite sparkling wines of the past two months of tasting brigades of bottles. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Production was 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
A sample for review.
Mon 16 Jan 2017
Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the United States in 1951. Born in Odessa in 1899, Frank was an expert in growing vitis vinifera grapes — traditional European wine grapes — in temperatures cold enough to be thought unsuitable. He worked as a dishwasher in New York until he could afford to move his family upstate to Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station in 1953. While three centuries of growing only native American or hybrid grapes in the Finger Lakes region seemed to mitigate against Frank’s ideas and experience, the release of his first wine, a Trockenbeerenauslese Johannisberg Riesling 1962 made from botrytized grapes, pretty much settled the argument and transformed vineyard practices and winemaking in the Finger Lakes. Konstantin Frank died in 1985, by which time his winery had passed through the hands of his son Willy. In 1993, Willy’s son Fred Frank took over as president, with his sister Barbara as consulting winemaker; his daughter Meaghan recently joined the four-generation family business.
The wine selected as Wine of the Day, No. 223, is the Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, and I might as well say at the beginning that it is one of the most beautiful gewurztraminer wines I have encountered. The color is very pale straw-gold; deliriously heady aromas of lychee, peach and gardenia, almond skin and tangerine open to scents of lemon balm and pear nectar, laved over layers of flint and limestone. Made completely in stainless steel, the wine attains a state, after an hour or so, of pure scintillating minerality and glittering acidity, though these rigorous, crystalline elements do not preclude initial phases of ripe, slightly honeyed and macerated stone-fruit flavors and an ultimate sense of innate, racy liveliness and vibrancy. 12.7 percent alcohol. I’ll admit to being knocked sideways by the glamour and intensity of this wine, which still manages to sustain a quality of delicacy and intimacy. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Exceptional. And the price of this paragon? About $15, marking a Freaking Bargain of the Century.
A sample for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by the Federal Trade Commission.
Fri 13 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Bordeaux
, Cheap Wine
, Merlot No Comments
If it is authenticity you’re looking for, if it is an attachment to the land and simplicity that hoist your flag, then you need to purchase a case of the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, from a property that occupies a hillside in the south of Entre-Deux-Mers, overlooking the Gironde River. The wine carries a Bordeaux designation. The estate is owned by David and Hélène Barrault, who bought the chateau, built in the 1750s, in 1997, knowing not a whit about vineyards, grape-growing or winemaking. They skated that learning curve with ease, now turning out some 3,500 to 4,200 cases of certified organic red wine annually. One wing of the chateau, really a farmhouse, has been converted into a model of the most charming, modest bed-and-breakfast establishments you can imagine. I stayed one night there in October 2011 and would go back in a flash.
Today’s wine, the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012 is made from 100 percent merlot grapes that touch no oak at all; the wine ages eight to 10 months in concrete tanks and is bottled unfiltered. The color is dark ruby with a softer magenta rim; it’s a robust country wine, bursting with ripe black currants, mulberries and blueberries etched with briery, foresty elements bolstered on the palate by dusty, graphite-drenched tannins and lip-smacking acidity, gradually opening to floral qualities and dried fruit and spices and notes of some cedary, dried herbs nature. So, you’re saying, is that all there is to it? No, friends, because within that laconic description lies an unadorned wine of tremendous vibrancy, resonance and intensity, a wine that feels alive in the glass and the embodiment of the rows of vines and soil that gave it birth. So, there’s that. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with hearty winter fare. Excellent. About — are you ready — $12 a bottle, marking Terrific Value.
Jenny & François Selections, New York. A sample for review.
Thu 12 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Beaujolais
, Gamay No Comments
Beaujolais-Villages occupies the middle-ground between the immediate fruity appeal of regular Beaujolais and the more complicated nuances and character of the Cru Beaujolais wines, the latter of which are often capable of aging for a few years and increasing their depth and dimension. One of the best-known producers of Beaujolais wines at every level is Georges Duboeuf, and merely because the output of his companies is enormous and ubiquitous does not merit scorn. An example of the way that Duboeuf’s people can craft well-made wines is the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015, from a vintage that was almost too perfect with a very warm summer — I suppose that “very warm” means “hot” — encouraging the gamay grapes to luscious but not overblown ripeness. Perhaps this is a case of the year making the wines and the winemakers getting out of the way. The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015 offers a radiant hue of deep purple with a blue-magenta cast; aromas of ripe and smoky blackberries and currants are permeated by notes of cloves, raspberry leaf and graphite, while the wine slides across the palate with silky aplomb. Adding to the wine’s solid personality is a real depth of foresty, briery and brambly elements and dark loamy underpinnings, though the structural qualities lent by these aspects detract not a whit from the wine’s delicious nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Super attractive and intriguingly textured for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken; rabbit, duck or pork terrines; roasted pork loin; or a variety of tapas-like appetizers. Excellent. About $13, representing Great Value.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.
Wed 11 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Abruzzo
, Alto Adige
, Arroyo Seco
, Casablanca Valley
, Central Coast
, Cheap Wine
, Chenin blanc
, Dry Creek Valley
, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
, Loire Valley
, Monterey County
, Paso Robles
, Pinot gris/grigio
, Rose wines
, San Luis Obispo
, Sauvignon blanc
, Sonoma County
, Sparkling Wine
, Willamette Valley
, Zinfandel No Comments
So, My Readers, here is my annual list of the Great Wine Bargains from the previous year, except that, instead of offering you 25 examples, as I usually do, I provide 30, because there are so many excellent inexpensive wines available. The prices here range from $11 to $20. and while I realize that for some people even $18 to $20 stretches what they want to pay for a bottle of wine, I believe that you will find something on this roster fit for most every taste and pocket book. This is a gratifyingly diverse group of wines, and for the first time I welcome products from Brazil, Greece and Hungary to the line-up. Many of these examples are wines to buy by the case and keep around for a year for drinking daily, though, honestly, the point of most of these wines is not to make old bones. The primary theme is: Drink Up and Enjoy. Sensibly, of course, and in moderation.
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.
Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.
Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.
Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, Central Coast. 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne. Excellent. About $18.
Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.
Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.
Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.
Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.
Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,
Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.
Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.
Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
Vina Robles Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 41 percent petite sirah, 40 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre, 9 percent grenache. Excellent. About $17.
Mon 9 Jan 2017
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Alexander Valley
, Anderson Valley
, Cabernet franc
, Cabernet sauvignon
, Dessert wines
, Finger Lakes
, Grenache blanc
, Lake County
, Loire Valley
, Mendocino County
, Monterey County
, Napa Valley
, New York
, Oakville District
, Petite sirah
, Pinot noir
, Rose wines
, Russian River Valley
, Saint Emilion
, Santa Barbara County
, Santa Lucia Highlands
, Sauvignon blanc
, Sonoma Coast
, Sonoma County
, Spring Mountain District
, Sta. Rita Hills
, Stags Leap District
, Willamette Valley
, Zinfandel No Comments
So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.
R. Buoncristiani Vineyard Orentano Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 305 cases made. Excellent. About $40.
Les Cadrans de Lassegue 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux. Merlot and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $35.
Champ de Rêves Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $45.
Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008, Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $65 to $80.
Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” 2014, Julienas, Beaujolais Cru. Excellent. About $22.
Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. Production was under 250 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $50.
Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills. Exceptional, About $45.
Eve’s Cidery Essence Ice Cider, Finger Lakes, New York. 390 cases produced. Exceptional. About $28.
Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Lodi. 250 cases made. Excellent. About $28.
Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.
Tenute Cisa Asinari Marchesi di Grésy Martinenga Camp Gros Riserva Barbaresco 2010, Piedmont, Italy. Exceptional. About $106.
Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $73.
Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.
Luscher-Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 200 cases produced. Excellent. About $80.
Lutum La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills. Production was 225 cases. Excellent. About $50.
MacPhail Wightman House Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
Frederic Mallo Vielles Vignes Rosacker Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru. Excellent. About $23.
Merisi Wines Denner Vineyard Petite Sirah 2013, Lake County. 100 cases produced. About $35.
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.
Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $65.
Patz & Hall Vineyard Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros-Napa Valley. Excellent. About $70.
Pine Ridge Le Petit Clos Chardonnay 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $75.
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.
Prieure de Montezargues 2014, Tavel Rose. 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette, 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvedre, carignane and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $24.
Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York. About $24.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshoff Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.
Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent each malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Excellent. About $60.
Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.
Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. Fewer than 100 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
Sedition Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 230 cases produced. Exceptional. About $75.
The Seed Malbec 2014, Altamira District, Uco Valley, Argentina. 59 cases made. Excellent. About $60.
Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Production was 806 cases. Exceptional. About $32.
Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.
Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 585 cases produced. Exceptional. About $65.
Tongue Dancer Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Production was 125 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
Troon Vineyards Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 80 percent vermentino, 20 percent sauvignon blanc. 176 cases produced. Excellent. About $24.
Two Shepherds Catie’s Corner Viognier 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Production was 75 cases. Exceptional. About $26.
Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015, Mendocino County. Production was 50 cases. Exceptional. About $22.
Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $55.
Guillaume Sorbe “Les Poëte” 2014, Quincy, Loire Valley, France. Sauvignon blanc. Exceptional. About $30.
WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Production was 240 cases. Excellent. About $75.
Fri 6 Jan 2017
Well, you know that the 12th Day of Christmas was yesterday, January 5, y-clepted Twelfth Night and marking the end of the merry Yuletide season, but somehow I didn’t manage to complete this final post in the present (the 10th) series “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine” until this morning, January 6. So be it, and in any case, I offer today two examples of Spanish Cava, a very charming brut rose from Piedmont and a Champagne that seems to be new to the American market, at least in our neck o’ the woods. Enjoy!
Traditionally, the Spanish sparkling wine called Cava was made from these indigenous grape varieties: macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada. More recently, manufacturers began including chardonnay grapes, in an effort to “improve” the product, which, because of its make-up, has always seemed unique. It’s the same misguided principle that led producers in Tuscany to believe that Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva would be “better” wines if they contained cabernet sauvignon or merlot grapes and aged in French barriques. In fact, there has been a bit of a backlash against employing chardonnay in Cava merely for the sake of innovation and a laudable impulse toward using only the traditional grapes. In that spirit, I offer the Juve & Camps “Essential” Xarel-lo Reserva 2013, Penedes, a sparkling wine that exploits the possibility of a single-variety Cava aged at least 15 months on the lees in the bottle (required for a Reserva designation). The color is pale gold, enlivened by an animated stream of small bubbles; the woodsy, leafy aromas that waft from the glass are unlike any other sparking wine’s, and they’re infused by touches of lime peel and tangerine, lilac and iodine, with back-notes of dried thyme and celery seed. This is all quite subtle on the nose, of course, though a somewhat rustic body makes it, for me, a sort of countrified sparkling wine, really suitable for quaffing while you munch on an array of savory tapas while sitting out on the terrace of a rural bodega. It’s very dry, bright with crunchy acidity and a keen limestone edge, and it finishes with an intriguing bitter note. 12 percent alcohol. Drink up. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
O.K., here’s another Cava, highly suitable, in tastiness and price, for serving at your next huge party. The Segura Viudas Brut Rose nv, Penedes, is predominently trepat grapes with 10 percent garnacha, aged 12 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is pale copper-salmon — much lighter and prettier than the color in the accompanying image — and the bubbles are more a steady upward drift than a surge or froth. Notes of pure strawberry and raspberry emerge from the glass, with hints of heather and dried Mediterranean herbs and a touch of darker-hued and burnished melon. This Cava is crisp and lively, featuring lip-smacking acidity and a snap of limestone minerality for backbone. No great depth, but immensely appealing. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $10 and seen on the Internet as low as $8. A Bargain Ripe for the Picking.
Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. A sample from the local distributor.
The Cuvee Aurora Brut Rose 2011, from Piedmont’s Alta Langa region, south of the beautiful city of Alba, is made completely from pinot noir grapes — with 10 percent from the previous vintage elevated in French barriques — and aged two years on the yeast in the bottle. This is an incredibly charming and elegant sparkling wine. The color is lightly tarnished copper over silver salmon scale; the foaming surge of tiny glinting bubbles is hypnotic. First one sniffs smoke, red raspberry and dried red currants; then come orange rind, a touch of lime sherbet, melon ball and a slight yeasty, bready element. The wine is crisp, dry, lively, clean and fresh, a tissue of delicacies that add up to a supple, engaging structure — close to pert yet almost creamy — buoyed by an increasingly prominent limestone minerality. The finish brings in hints of cloves and pomegranate and a smooth conjunction where limestone turns into damp shale; do I imagine a beguiling whiff of rose and lilac, pear and meadowy elements? No, it’s there. Completely delightful but not at all frivolous. 11.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, a division of Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. A sample for review.
The Marie Demets Blanc de Chardonnay from a young house — they started marketing their Champagnes in 1987 — is about as charming and elegant as reasonably priced blanc de blancs gets. The website is excessively reticent about technical factors, so I can’t tell My Readers how long the wine aged on the lees, but its freshness and crisp, clean character are notable. The color is very pale gold, and the myriad bubbles stream upward in a frothing haze; notes of green apple and pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are delicately touched with lightly toasted brioche, hazelnuts and cloves with just a hint of toffee in the background. Layered with limestone, chalk and seashell minerality, this Champagne is beguiling and refreshing, bracing in the salinity and touch of grapefruit pith bitterness of its finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45, a local purchase.
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