March 2017


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The Meli Riesling from Chile’s Maule Valley is always a favorite in our house. Made with no oak influence and fermented dry, the Meli Riesling 2016 is a notably clean, pure, fresh wine that shimmers in its pale pale gold robe and offers ethereal notes of peach, lime peel and honeysuckle buoyed on a persistent yet delicate aura of petrol and limestone. It’s very dry, crisp with chiming acidity and chiseled flint and chalk minerality, but the texture feels lithe and alluring. The finish is flush with pear, quince and crystallized ginger. 12 percent alcohol. The estate is owned by winemaker Adriana Cerda and her three adult sons, who bought the property is 2005. They make only two wines, this riesling and a carignan, both from 60-year-old vines. Ideal for picnics and porch or patio gatherings. Production was 500 cases, so mark this wine Worth a Search. Very Good+. About $14.

Imported by Global Vineyard, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

The Finger Lakes AVA is New York state’s largest wine region, comprising about 11,000 acres of vines. The area south of Lake Ontario was formed about two million years ago when glaciers scoured the geography and created long narrow bodies of water from former creeks. The Finger Lakes consist of 11 of these features, splayed out pointing roughly north to south like fingers on hands. These are among the deepest 13PinotNoirlakes in America; Cayuga is 435 feet deep, while Seneca reaches down to 618 feet. Cayuga and Seneca hold their own sub-appellations within the larger Finger Lakes AVA. The warmth stored in the lakes is released in winter and helps to moderate the climate along the shores, where most of the vineyards are planted.

Our Wine of the Day, No. 251, is the Thirsty Owl Wine Company Pinot Noir 2015, which carries a Finger Lakes designation; the winery sits on the west side of Cayuga. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-garnet; initially, it’s a light yet loamy pinot noir that offers notes of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants that open to hints of briers and raspberry leaf. The wine gains substance and heft in the glass, along with elements of leather and graphite, all nestled in a sleek, burnished, satiny texture, leading to a finish that’s bright with a wild cherry tone. With three grams of residual sugar, this pinot noir feels succulent and crunchy from mid-palate back, with a bit of candied berry around the circumference. 12.8 percent alcohol. A charming and tasty pinot noir, far different than West Coast models, as you would expect from the differences in terroir and climate. Very Good+. About $18.

A sample for review. The label image, taken from the winery website, is several vintages behind.

Here’s a purpose-built rosé wine that lovers of the classic style don’t want to miss. By “purpose-built,” I mean that the Gary Farrell 15_ROSE_PRODUCT1Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, was not made as an after-thought or a quick decision to bleed-off some juice to help concentrate another red wine. The grapes were hand-harvested, from two Dutton Ranch vineyards in the Green Valley sub-appellation, specifically for this wine, at a point to keep the acidity vibrant, whole-cluster pressed and racked off to a stainless steel tank to ferment. After a few days, 40 percent of the juice was transferred to neutral French oak barrels for two weeks. After blending, the wine spent four months in stainless steel. The result is an ethereal rosé whose delicate nature is reflected in its beautiful pale coral-petal pink hue and its ethereal scents of strawberry, peach and blood orange wreathed with lilac and watermelon. This rosé displays lovely tensile strength, while bright acidity cleaves through a texture almost talc-like in softness; no push-over on the palate, though, the wine also embodies a line of slightly dusty river rocks and limestone minerality. The whole package is clean, refreshing and delightful, all permutations of its exquisite elegance. 13.2 percent alcohol. Perfect for Spring and Summer sipping with various sorts of patio and picnic fare — fried chicken, deviled eggs, cucumber and watercress sandwiches, shrimp and chicken salad. Winemaker for Garry Farrell Vineyards & Winery is Theresa Heredia. The eponymous founder of the winery sold it in 2004; it is now owned by The Vincraft Group. Production was 393 cases. Excellent. About $32, and Worth a Search.

A sample for review.

Not that there’s anything wrong with cabernet, merlot and pinot noir, that is when they’re thoughtfully-made and well-balanced, but these admired grapes and the renowned wines made from them cannot be our be-all and end-all when it comes to beverages. Today, for the second Weekend Wines Notes in a row, I look at wines fashioned from other grapes, 12 this outing, including both 100 percent varietal wines and some interesting blends. We cover examples from various points in California, a pair from Southern Oregon, a wine from Portugal, one from Austria, an august Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany and several from Chile. As usual with this series, I forgo the details of technical matters, history and geography for the sake of incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my wine-stained notebooks, in order to pique your interest and whet your palate. Prices range from $15 to $75. Enjoy! (Moderately, of course.)

These wines were samples for review.
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Apaltagua Grial Carmenere 2012, Apalta Valley, Colchagua, Chile. 14.5% alc. Very dark ruby shading to a purple rim; smoke, graphite, mint, eucalyptus and cedar; ripe and spicy red cherries and currants with a touch of plums and blueberries; a sizable wine, very dense and chewy, packed with dusty, velvety tannins and flinty minerality, feels a bit rock-ribbed and clasped by iron, clearly intended as a privileged and long-aging expression of the grape; try from 2018 or ’20 through 2030 or ’32. Very Good+ for now with Excellent Potential. About $75.
Imported by Global Vineyard, Berkeley, Calif.
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Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2014, Monterey County. 14.5% alc. 270 cases. Medium ruby hue with a pale magenta rim; raspberries and plums, hints of tar and lavender, raspberry leaf and black tea; intriguing notes of red cherry and cherry pit; an aura slightly macerated and baked, with dried fruit and spices; wood smoke and loam; swingeing acidity and spare, slightly dusty tannins. One of my favorite wines to try every year. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $48.
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Bruce Patch Wines Carraras Ranch Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Dry Creek Valley. 14.5% alc. 100 cases. A field blend With carignane, petite sirah and alicante bouschet, from vines planted in 1906. Dark ruby-purple; very ripe and spicy blackberry, black currant and blueberry, with a hint of boysenberry; notes of tapenade, fruit cake, tobacco and roasted fennel; lip-smacking acidity, tannins and loamy minerality keep it both lively and grounded; opens to touches of lavender, vanilla and cinnamon; finishes with notes of wild berries. A zinfandel that flaunts its purpose and struts its stuff but remains essentially balanced. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $40.
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Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 14% alc. Inky violet-purple; warm, ripe, spicy and fleshy; plums, currants and mulberries, woodsmoke, cedar and dried rosemary; hints of black olive and bell pepper; sleek, slippery moderately dusty tannins; something not just robust here but wild, in its deep berry flavors, its dark, vivid acidity, its precipitous graphite character. Now through 2019 or ’21. Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Excelsior Wine Co., Old Brookville, N.Y.
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concha
Concha y Toro Serie Riberas del Cachapoal Gran Riserva Carmenere 2014, Peumo, Chile. 13.5% alc. Very dark ruby color; a warm, fairly generous melange of black currants and cherries permeated by black tea, tar and loam, cloves, allspice and lavender; framed by dusty, velvety tannins, an inky wine, opening to a finish flecked with cedar, black olive and bell pepper. Very tasty. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $17.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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esporao
Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 14.5% Aragonez and alicante bouschet 40% each, syrah 20%. Inky-purple with a magenta rim; fresh and bright, notes of smoke, mint and graphite, spiced and macerated black and blue fruit; cedar, cloves, dried thyme and rosemary; robust, vibrant and juicy but stalwart with dusty, granitic tannins; pulls up green hints of olives and peppers and layers of leather and loam. Now through 2028 to ’30. Quite a performance. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Adil Wines & liquors, New Bedford, Mass.
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gaja
Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta 2011, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany. 15% alc. 100% sangiovese. Medium-hued but intense ruby color; deeply dredged from the spice cabinet; macerated red and black cherries and currants, with all the sangiovese undertow of oolong tea, orange rind, lavender and rose petals, these qualities being hints within the elements of resinous cedar, iodine and a profound factor of dusty, granular tannin and oak; lithe, supple, muscular texture, ultimately well-balance despite the alcohol level and the wood-framed bastions. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2029 to ’33. Excellent. About $75.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois
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heinrich
Heinrich Zweigelt 2014, Burgenland, Austria. 12% alc. Certified biodynamic. Medium ruby-purple shading to transparent magenta; immediate Spring-like appeal of lavender and violets, opening to spicy blackberry, currant and plum scents and flavors; a little smoky and meaty; lithe supple texture animated by bright acidity and mild tannins; dry finish brings in graphite and a hint of mulberries. Needs rabbit. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County. 14.5% alc. With 6% petite sirah, 5% barbera, 4% syrah, all from vines 50 to 103 years old. Opaque black purple with a glowing violet rim; black cherries and blueberry jam, mint, iodine, graphite and cloves; notes of lavender and bitter chocolate; very dry, enlivened by pinpoint acidity and founded on lavish, dusty tannins; a finish packed with granitic minerality, yet for all that, a classically-framed, delicious and highly drinkable zinfandel. Now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.
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AMADO-SUR-MALBEC
Trivento Amado Sur 2014, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Malbec 79%, bonarda 11%, syrah 10%. Dark ruby-purple; first, lavender and tar, then notes of blackberries and blueberries, earthy briers and brambles, raspberry leaf and graphite with a hint of iodine; a dry, fairly tannic but lively and supple wine with lots of grit and bottom to it, entirely appropriate with hearty red meat preparations and pastas, or, say, a sausage pizza or bacon-cheeseburger. Very Good. About $15.
Imported by Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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troon mt
Troon Vineyard M*T Reserve 2014, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 60.1% tannat, 39.9% malbec. 240 cases. Opaque purple center shading to transparent fuchsia; a beautifully conceived, well-knit, vibrant and vivid blend that marries mulberries and blackberries with dusty plums and brandied black cherries; plush tannins bolster firm but moderate tannins; clean acidity and graphite minerality cut through smoke and loam, mint and iodine and an overall aura of pure blueberry. Irresistible but with a slightly serious edge. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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troon tannat
Troon Vineyard Estate Tannat 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 14.4% alc. 169 cases. Dark dark ruby hue; red and black currants, cherries and plums, loaded with smoke and graphite, tobacco and blueberries, brambles and pomegranate; very intense and concentrated core of lavender, iodine, mint and bitter chocolate; dusty, iron-like tannins coat the palate, allowing for a supple velvety texture midst the granitic rigor; and for all that, a thoroughly balanced and drinkable wine appropriate for the biggest and most robust red meat preparations. Drink through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
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If you enjoy trying wines made from unusual or obscure grape varieties, this one is for you. The Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Itria, is made from 90 percent verdeca grapes, an Apulian variety that thrived in ancient times but languished for centuries until the Falvo family made a concerted effort to revive it. The other 10 percent is fiano minutolo, also not exactly a household term. The wine sees no oak and is all the better for the lack. The color is pure medium gold lightly touched with green; heather and hay characterize a bouquet that offers intense notes of roasted lemons and pears, hints of tangerine and fig and dried thyme and a definite seashore-briny element; on the palate, the wine is lively and attentive, bristling with slightly honeyed tones of spicy stone fruit flavors propelled by crisp acidity, though there’s a sense in which it tends toward lushness and exuberant presence; it’s a bit leafy, also, blithe and sunny, a golden wine minted for pleasure. 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 for accompanying grilled and roasted fish, seafood risottos or stews. Excellent. About $18 and definitely Worth a Search.

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

The last time I posted an entry in this series was October 10, 2016, and, coincidentally, that post involved the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate sarahChardonnay 2014 and Estate Pinot Noir 2014, from Santa Clara Valley, 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. Today it’s the turn of the winery’s straight-forward Santa Clara Valley offerings from 2014, a pair that is less expensive than the estate wines and produced in fairly larger quantities. This line was previously called the “Central Coast Series,” and still carries a Central Coast appellation. Owner and winemaker Tim Slater, who acquired the winery from founders Marilyn Clark and John Otterman in 2001, practices minimal intervention, especially in the barrel program, where new oak is kept strictly in the minority position.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers at the bidding of the Federal Trade Commission. This injunction does not apply to print writers, because they obviously are more trustworthy than bloggers.
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Aged 11 months in primarily neutral French oak barrels, the pure medium gold-colored Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Chardonnay 2014 is effusive in its classic pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors that feel slightly baked, a little crisp around the edges in its crystalline clarity and purpose; notes of white flowers, cloves and a hint of mango flesh out the effect. A very subtle oak patina bolsters the richness on the palate, while bright acidity and an element of limestone minerality keep the wine on an even keel, allowing a lovely tension between juicy flavors and dryness. The finish opens to touches of ginger and quince and a coastal shelf of flint. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 or ’19. Production was 459 cases. Excellent. About $20, marking Good Value.
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The Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Pinot Noir 2014 aged 11 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an entrancing limpid medium ruby hue, transparent at the rim; the wine is both woodsy and meadowy, by which I mean that it partakes of elements of forest floor and dried mushrooms as well as heather and potpourri, these aspects winsomely supporting notes of black and red cherries and currants infused with cloves, sandalwood and sassafras. This pinot noir is supple, lithe and sinewy on the palate, animated by acidity that cuts a swath and a clean mineral edge under tasty cherry flavors opening to notes of cranberry and pomegranate. The finish is spare and elegant. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Production was 1,211 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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It’s well-known that the principle grapes of Alsace, the most Germanic region of France, are riesling and gewurztraminer, but the area also produces, in an achievement of brilliant rarity, wine from all three “pinot” grapes: pinot blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir. That line-up could be reproduced, perhaps, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and other cool regions, but the microclimates would have to be fairly specific. Anyway, here are reviews of a pinot blanc, a pinot gris and a pinot noir, made by a trio of venerable estates in Alsace. Very interesting is the oak regimen, because there’s scarcely any oak here, especially not new oak, and certainly none was needed. These products, each 100 percent varietal, are delicious and appealing transition wines from Winter into Spring, marrying the savor of the chilly months to the delicacy of the vernal equinox.

These wines were samples for review.
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blanck blanc
Domaine Paul Blanck dates back to the 17th century. The vineyards are tended by organic principles and see no chemicals. The estate’s entry in this roster, the Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2015, Alsace, was made all in stainless steel. The color is shimmering pale gold; what a lovely amalgam of fruit, flowers and spice this is, displaying notes of pear and quince, golden raspberries and yellow plums, green apple, apple blossom and cloves, in a seamless relationship flowing between nose and palate. The texture is lithe and lively, buoyed by bright acidity and a gently burgeoning element of limestone minerality. Really pretty. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.
Imported by Skurnick Wines, New York.
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Many wineries boast about the age of their vineyards, saying, for example, that such and such a wine came from 40-year-old vines. In the case of the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace, the wine aged in 40-year-old barrels, for eight months. I would like to see those esteemed elders among oak barrels; can you imagine the great wines they nurtured over the decades? Anyway, this estate’s origins lie in 1620; it is now operated on biodynamic principles. This whole effort feels purely golden, from its attractive burnished gold hue to its scents and flavors of slightly baked peaches and pears and quince, accented by ginger and cloves; though a completely dry wine, it feels a bit honeyed in its juicy richness and a bit smoky, but remains spare and elegant overall, enlivened by bright acidity and given just a hint of a limestone edge on the finish. A beautiful wine. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’24, if the wine is stored well and undisturbed. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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The Schlumberger family purchased this estate in 1810; it is now operated by the sixth and seventh generations. The Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Noir 2014, Alsace, aged eight months in old wooden foudres, being large barrels of variable capacities but often 500 hectoliters or more, which is to say, about 13,200 gallons. Don’t look for a dark, rich Burgundian style pinot noir from this effort. The color is a transfixing transparent ruby-garnet; delicate aromas of red raspberries and cherries, lightly spiced, open to notes of potpourri and violets, dried currants and sandalwood; it’s an Audrey Hepburn of a wine that exhibits fine bones, a dry, lean and spare texture, a slightly resinous aura and a finish awash with hints of graphite, smoke and underbrush. Consumed with pork schnitzel and cucumber salad, we loved it. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA, Oakland, Calif.
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Whether you’re dropping a leg of lamb, studded with garlic and rosemary, on the grill or a batch of burgers, here’s a wine suited to all maquis carmenerethings roasted, grilled and charred, and I wouldn’t be surprised if myriad of the population living between the shining seas unlimbers their Webers this week. The Maquis Gran Reserva Carmenere 2014, from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, offers exactly the deep, spicy, smoky, earthy presence that we want with grilled lamb and beef, pork chops and ribs. Aged 10 months mainly in French oak, with a minority interest in stainless steel tanks, and containing a dollop of cabernet franc, the wine displays a striking dark black-purple hue that shades to a glowing fuschia rim; it’s an intense, concentrated and vigorous red wine, bursting with notes of cedar and mint, black olives and bell pepper, black currants, cherries and dusty plums. Plush, velvety tannins are infused with briers, brambles and underbrush, boldly framed by iodine and iron and bright acidity; fortunately, the wine is also downright juicy with black and blue fruit flavors, all of these elements devolving to a finish packed with graphite, lavender and bitter chocolate. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

On February 22, for Wine of the Day No. 236, I wrote about the Pratsch Gruner Veltliner 2015 from Austria. Today, I nominate that wine’s zweigelt
stablemate, the Pratsch Zweigelt 2013, Niederösterreich, a wine, composed of Austria’s signature red grape, that at three years old is as fresh as a daisy and as breezy as, well, a Spring zephyr. Made from organic grapes and aged eight months in stainless steel and large oak casks, the wine offers a vivid transparent ruby hue that shades to a bright magenta rim; aromas and flavors of ripe and spicy black and red cherries, plums and mulberries are permeated by notes of smoke and loam, while on the palate pinpoint acidity and graphite minerality lend it liveliness and allure. The wine gains in depth and structure in the glass, building a surprising foundation of moderately dusty tannins. Mainly, though, this is tasty, attractive and highly quaffable. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $14, for a one-liter bottle, perfect for buying by the case as your casual house red.

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

Domaine Jessiaume must be unique in Burgundy. Its owner, Keith Murray, is a Scot. Its director, Megan McClure, is American. And the cote de beaunewinemaker is a Frenchman with a Belgian surname, William Waterkeyn. The domaine, headquartered in Santenay (population 836), consists of 9 hectares of Premier Cru and Village vineyard– slightly more than 22 acres — located in Santenay, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Auxey-Duresses, all in the Côte de Beaune region. Côte de Beaune is the southern half of the narrow ridge that is Burgundy, the northern part being the Côte de Nuits. Because the soil of the Côte de Beaune is more varied, more white wine is made there than in the Côte de Nuits, which is about 90 percent red. The grapes, of course, are chardonnay and pinot noir. The Murray family acquired Domaine Jessiaume from the seventh generation of its founders in 2007. The work to improve the estate includes eliminating the negociant arm and gradually shifting into total organic farming. Only native yeasts are employed, and new oak is held to a minimum. These three wines — samples for review — represent what I love most about the pinot noirs of Burgundy, a sense of delicacy married to purity of fruit and intensity of structure. The prices are irresistible. When many Premier Cru wines, admittedly from illustrious appellations, now cost $75 to $200, these models can be had for $42 and $45. They are more than worth the prices. The wines of Domaine Jessiaume are imported to this country by MS Walker, Norwood Mass.
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Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru La Comme 2014 aged 12 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels, followed by 3 months in santenaystainless steel tanks. It displays an absolutely beautiful limpid, transparent medium ruby hue and scents and flavors of red cherries and currants; it’s quite dry but juicy with spice-inflected red fruit and enticing with an ethereal presence that does not discount a burgeoning tide of brambly-foresty tannins and fleet acidity that cuts a swath through the lithe, supple texture. The balance is lovely, with an emphasis on spareness and elegance. 13 percent alcohol. Production was 73 cases. Now through 2021 to’24. Excellent. About $42.
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Slightly less oak goes into making the Domaine Jessiaume Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Ecussaux 2014 than was used in the previous auxeywine, that is, 12 months, 29 percent new French barrels, following by three months in stainless steel. The color is a totally transparent medium ruby hue; the wine features notes of red and black cherries and currants, lightly inflected with cloves, briers and brambles and a hint of loam. The wine is bright and lively, offering pert black and red fruit highlighted by touches of melon and sour cherry in a lithe, sinewy, vibrant structure. The sense is of innate energy and dimension held in check by the limitless powers of charm and delicacy. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’22. Production was 174 cases. Very Good+. About $42.
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For three more dollars, you get, in the Domaine Jessiaume Beaune Premier Cru Les Cent Vignes 2014, a wine that I consider the epitome of beaunethe Burgundian style. Nothing over-extracted here, nothing emphatic, fat or fleshy or overdone, but the perfection of balance between power and elegance, between the ethereal and the earthy. The wine spent 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, followed by two months in stainless steel. The color is a ravishing, ephemeral ruby-mulberry hue; red and black cherries and currants feel permeated by notes of briers, brambles and loam, with a hint of cloves and a touch of ground cumin that lends an air of intrigue. The wine is lithe, sinewy and silky smooth on the palate, where acidity cuts a swath and it flirts with a ferrous-sanguinary character. A sense of the granitic vineyard pulses through the wine, giving it a quality of precisely measured and honed dynamism that animates the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. I could drink this one every night, but only 300 cases were produced. Best from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $45.
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