October 2017



Here’s a wine that would handily serve as your house red through the Fall and Winter, priced to buy by the case. The Shooting Star Merlot 2015, Lake County — a second label of Steele Wines — sees a sensible eight months in French and American oak barrels, lending plenty of structure without the wood unseemly obtruding. This is 100 percent varietal, the grapes grown at a cool 1,500 foot elevation. The color is opaque ruby-purple, even unto ebony; notes of ripe, spicy red and black cherries and plums are permeated by a strain of graphite and iodine, with hints of dried mountain herbs and an element of tobacco and rosemary, with a bit of the latter’s slight woodsy astringency. Dusty, velvety tannins lend both a cushiony texture and some austerity to the finish, the whole package delivering a sense of juicy black fruit flavors impelled by bright acidity. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink with braised short ribs, pasta Bolognese, sausage and mushroom pizza or a burger; you get the idea. Very Good+. About $14, marking Excellent Value.

A sample for review. The label image is one vintage behind.

Well, rats, there were supposed to be 20 wines in this post, but one seems to have disappeared. The world and its ways are so mysterious! Anyway, here’s a roster of 19 pinot noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, rated from Very Good+ to Exceptional, so, generally, I liked these wines a great deal, with quibbles here and there. With a couple of exceptions, these are from 2014. Many are produced in small quantities. As is the case with Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew all (or at least most) technical, historical, geographical and personnel information for the sake of incisive reviewers ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebook. (“Ripped” may be taken literally, since a dog narfed a number of pages of this particular notebook and tore the covers off. Bad Dog!) These wines were samples for review. Enjoy, and consume in moderation.

A lack of label or bottle images for some of these selections is a result of winery websites not providing adequate (or any) help in that direction.
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Alloro Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.1% alc. 1,600 cases. Transparent medium mulberry-magenta hue; cloves, sandalwood and loam; smoky black cherries and currants; beetroot, rhubarb and sassafras; crush violets and lavender; dense, supple and super satiny; surging acidity like an electrical current; a lively and dynamic pinot noir that demands further sipping as you go. Now through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
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Alloro Vineyard Estate Riservata Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.1 percent alcohol. 300 cases. Medium transparent ruby; dark, rich, warm and spicy; straight from the exotic spice box; macerated and slightly roasted black and red cherries and currants; sandalwood, sassafras, hint of cumin; briers, brambles and loam, intriguing note of fennel seed; slightly sinewy tannins; dense, satiny, hefty on the palate but elegant and well-knit; lovely balance and integrity. Not through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. Lovely transparent mulberry hue; intense aromas and flavors of spiced and macerated black cherries and currants with wood smoke, heather and autumn leaves; a few moments in the glass open notes of cloves, sassafras and sandalwood; dense and satiny, rich in loam; from mid-palate back through the finish oak that had been in the background comes forward, lightly dusted and burnished, and the graphite-iodine minerality burgeons. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $28.
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Brooks Wines “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. Transparent medium ruby with a magenta tinge; opens the whole box of spices and dried fruit: cloves, sandalwood and sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, macerated black cherries and currants; delivers a real tannic and earthy presence, and you feel the oak as a subtle framing device, but a sleek, supple texture; builds a floral character as the moments pass, while the whole package feels spontaneous, individual and feral; becomes quite rooty and woodsy, with depths of iodine and iron. A spectacular performance of detail and dimension that remains true to the grape. Now through 2024 to ’28. Exceptional. About $38.
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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 13.9% alc. 520 cases. A color both transparent and intense, medium ruby-mulberry shading to cerise delicacy; an exotic pinot noir, featuring sandalwood and sassafras, smoked red and black cherries and currants, loam, lavender and lilac; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of cloves, allspice and new leather; supple, lithe and satiny, with lovely, almost weightless heft on the palate, yet gaining substance and deliberation as the moments pass; though the wine remains fresh and appealing, you feel the tug of slightly dusty oak from mid-palate back through the graphite, underbrush and iodine-infused finish. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2026 to ’28. A great achievement. Exceptional. About $42.
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Ghost Hill Cellars Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 13.5 percent alc. 141 cases. Entrancing transparent ruby-garnet with an invisible rim; a multi-layered bouquet of sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood, loam and forest floor, smoke, tobacco and cigarette paper; intense and concentrated black cherry, plum and blueberry scents; all segues seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine is supple and satiny yet feels slightly roughened, with a hint of resistance, as if lightly rubbed with fine sandpaper; as a whole, dense, tense, dynamic and pretty damned exotic. Now through 2020 to 2024. Excellent. About $55.
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Illahe Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Dark ruby graduating to a transparent mulberry rim; cranberry and pomegranate, loam, briers and an intriguing note of mint; lavender and iodine under red and black cherries; silky and supple, acidity cuts a swath; uncomplicated, with direct appeal to nose and palate. Very Good+. About $22.
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Illahe Vineyards “Percheron” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14.5% alc. 270 cases. Dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; loam, cherry pit and skin, briers and brambles, sandalwood and cloves; a blossoming compote of red and black cherries and currants loaded with violets and lilac, all with an intense graphite background; super satiny texture riven by incisive acidity that cuts a swath; a hefty, sumptuous pinot noir that brings out the oak on the spice-and-mineral flecked finish. Now through 2021 to ’24. Perhaps a bit too sizable for its own good. Very Good+. About $40.
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Lenné Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14.2% alc. 250 cases. Intense dark ruby shading to a magenta rim; plums and black currants, distinctly loamy, leathery and briery; cloves and sandalwood, rose petals and violets; very lively and alluring; dense and velvety, with dusty tannins, very brambly and brushy; gains depths of spiced and macerated black fruit; notes of moss and autumn leaves. An intriguing earthy style, quite palatable yet serious. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $45.
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Lenné Jill’s 115 Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton. 14.2% alc. 100 cases. A dark, earthy, spicy and intense wine, featuring a dark ruby color shading to a transparent mulberry rim and notes of espresso, tobacco and tar, concentrated black cherry and raspberry scents and flavors and a super-satiny texture that carries lots of heft on the palate; in its briery-brambly nature, its fairly shaggy tannins and its long loamy, mineral-laden finish, this is a pretty darned syrah-like pinot noir. From 2018 through 2022 to ’24. Very Good+. About $55.
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Lenné cinq élus Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton District. 14.2% alc. 100 cases. Intense ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; nothing ethereal here, but expresses the grape’s deep, dark, earthy side; cloves, sandalwood and allspice, with the latter’s hint of fragrant woody astringency; blueberry and black cherry, notes of rhubarb and pomegranate; loam, beetroot and old leather; velvety texture laced with iron, delivers real heft and substance. Try 2019 through 2025 to ’26. Excellent. About $72.
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Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13.9% alc. Medium ruby fading to a delicate rim; quite a loamy, foresty pinot noir; raspberry, cranberry and raspberry leaf, hint of black cherry; graphite and iodine, leather, dried thyme and rosemary, briery and brambly, notes of moss, wood-smoke and dried porcini; sleek and lithe, quite animated; keeps you going after another sip. Now through 2021 or ’22. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.
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Nicolas & Jay Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley. 13% alc. 2,400 cases. A collaboration between Jean-Nicolas Meo of Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Burgundy and music and media entrepreneur Jay Boberg. Beautiful deep ruby-mulberry hue shading to transparent magenta; very clean, pure and intense; black cherries and plums, sandalwood and sassafras, notes of violets, rose petals and loam; in fact, a definitive loamy character that connects the wine to the earth; with dusty, graphite-ridden tannins, yet expresses the elegance and nuance of pinot noir. Now through 2021 to ’25. Excellent. About $65.
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Vidon Vineyard 3-Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 710 cases. Transparent medium ruby hue; offers the spectrum of earthy loam, roots and autumn leaf qualities with deeply spiced raspberries and plums; texture feels like silk slightly roughened by sandalwood; vibrant acidity keeps it lively and appealing, while moderate and lightly dusted tannins provide structure. A lovely pinot noir. Now through 2019 to ’22. Very Good+. About $40.
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Vidon Vineyard Brigita Clone 777 Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 125 cases. Vibrant ruby color shading to a transparent rim; woody spices and loam; macerated and slightly roasted black cherries and blueberries, though more spicy than fruity; a firm foundation of lightly dusty tannins and oak; feels more about structure now. Try 2019 through 2014 or ’25. Very Good+. About $50.
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Vidon Vineyard Hans Clone Pommard Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 148 cases. Beguiling transparent ruby hue fading to an invisible rim; a stalwart pinot noir, the intensity, concentration and oak much in evidence; earthy and loamy; very dry; fruitcake, cloves, sandalwood, black fruit scents and flavors very deep, spiced and macerated, rooty and intense; a powerful and muscular expression of the grape. Try from 2019 through 2024 or ’25. Very Good+, with Excellent potential. About $50.
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Vidon Vineyard Mirabelle Clone 115 Pinot Noir 2014, Chehalem Mountains. 14.3% alc. 100 cases. Dark to medium ruby; spiced and macerated black and blue fruit scents and flavors; sandalwood, lavender, lilac and loam, with notes of tobacco and cumin; deeply spicy, rooty and earthy, quite dry, spare yet juicy, sleek, almost sumptuous but saved by keen acidity; tremendous presence and density. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $50.
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Youngberg Hill “Jordan” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.7% alc. 448 cases. Medium transparent cherry-red hue; loam, iodine and iron; raspberry and plum, slightly spiced and macerated; autumnal forest floor, raspberry leaf and briers; acidity cuts a swath; texture like satin slightly roughened by sandpaper; epitome of a deftly balanced earthy style of pinot noir, spare, elegant and nuanced. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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Youngberg Hill “Natasha” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 137 cases(?) The color a riveting medium mulberry-magenta hue; exotic and seductive yet rigorous on the palate; loam, rhubarb and beetroot, cloves, sandalwood and sassafras, macerated black cherries and currants; lovely, lithe satiny texture through which urgent acidity plows a furrow; shadings of dusty graphite and tannin lend darkness to the bright red and black fruit flavors. An entrancing pinot noir to drink through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
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The good news is that the Iron Horse Gratitude Brut Rosé 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, is superb. Also good news is that $5 from each bottle sold will go to The Redwood Empire Food Bank, which is providing critical supplies to evacuation centers and shelters in Sonoma County for people displaced by the recent devastating wild-fires, while working to ensure that those who needed food assistance before the fires are still able to receive help. It’s a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, resulting in an entrancing hue of very pale coral-smoky topaz, enlivened by a fervent upward surge of tiny glinting bubbles. The first impression is of pure strawberry, a notion quickly subsumed by delicate notes of macerated peaches and spiced pears, highlighted by apple skin, blood orange and seashell and limestone minerality; in the background blossoms a trace of fresh-baked brioche. The lithe dynamic mineral element dominates the palate along with crystalline acidity for raciness and verve; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of lime peel and almond skin. The whole package is dry, spare and elegant, adding up to the best brut rosé sparkling wine I have tasted this year. 13.5 percent alcohol. Proprietor of Iron Horse is Joy Sterling; winemaker is David Munksgard. Excellent. About $65.

A sample for review.

Those who want to drink a wine that offers the aura of authority and authenticity need look no further than the riveting Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes Côte-de-Brouilly 2015, a Cru Beaujolais made by Nicole Chanrion from her 8.75-acre sustainably-farmed vineyard. When I write “made by,” I mean that Chanrion does everything herself, from plowing to pruning and other vineyard activities to carefully fashioning the wine in the chai. “Fashioning” is probably too strict a term to refer to Chanrion’s method; basically, she nurtures the wine and allows the gamay grapes and the vineyard to speak for themselves. The 50-year-old vines lie over blue schist stone and volcanic rock, and if ever a wine reflected the character of its geology, this one is it. Chanrion produces only 2,500 cases annually, divided between this one and a sparkling gamay. The domaine was founded in 1861. The grapes for the Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes Côte-de-Brouilly 2015 fermented by means of native yeasts, and the wine aged nine months in large oak foudres. The color is an intense purple-violet; evocative aromas of blackberries and currants, smoke, iodine and graphite are twined with hints of leather and bacon fat, with a back-note of mulberry. The wine is silky smooth and supple on the palate, energized by bright acidity that animates ripe, fervent and slightly exotic compote of black fruit permeated by dusty tannins and a touch of loam and ash. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. A Côte-de-Brouilly of gratifying personality and character. Excellent. Prices around the country range from about $19 to $22, representing Extraordinary Value.

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review. Label image from cellartracker.com.

Jed Steele is assured a place in the annals of the California wine industry — and in the chronicle of American consumer taste — because he formulated the character of the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, a ripe, slightly florid and slightly sweet chardonnay that tickled American palates to the tune of millions of cases. The wine was introduced in 1982, when proprietor Jess Jackson was getting started in the business. Steele had worked at Stony Hill and Edmeades and brought a wealth of knowledge, as well as instinct and intuition, to Kendall-Jackson, an ever expanding winery for which he worked until 1991, when Jackson fired Steele amid contentious accusations leading to suits and counter-suits. Jackson asserted that the “formula” for the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay was a trade secret owned by the company, not by the man who created the wine. Surprisingly, a court agreed with Jackson. Water under the bridge, right. That year, the winemaker started Steele Wines, based in Lake County but drawing grapes from the breadth of California’s wine regions. While he makes a dizzying array of wines from multiple grape varieties, Steele produces several pinot noirs, both on a regional basis and from the single-vineyard standpoint. In today’s post, we look at an inexpensive and approachable example from Lake County, under the Shooting Star label; models from 2013 and ’14 from Santa Barbara County and Carneros; and a single-vineyard offering from the well-known Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara. No one would mistake these wines for anything other than pinot noir, yet Jed Steele imprints his individuality on each one, allowing the grape to express itself while keeping to his vision of what the grape can be.

These wines were samples for review.
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Let’s start with the Shooting Star Pinot Noir 2015, Lake County, under a label that’s one of Steele Wines’ subsidiary (and competitively priced) efforts. The wine aged nine months in French and Hungarian oak barrels. The color is dark ruby shading to a magenta rim; aromas and flavors of black cherries and currants are lightly spiced with sassafras and cloves, with a note of red cherry in the background. The texture is silky smooth and animated by brisk acidity; the finish brings in hints of loam and graphite. 13.8 percent alcohol. Very Good+. A Real Bargain at about $14.
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The Steele Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Barbara County, aged eight months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. The color is dark ruby, shading to a medium transparent rim; the beguiling and seductive bouquet offers notes of violets and rose petals, spiced and macerated red and black cherries and currants, with a complex weaving of sassafras, rhubarb, sandalwood and cloves and tantalizing hints of cranberry and sour cherry. The texture is supernally satiny, but make no mistake, this pinot noir delivers a real mouthful of loamy-spicy black and red fruit flavors and vivid acidity, while the finish brings in elements of new leather and graphite. 14.5 percent alcohol. An exotic and highly individual pinot noir drinking beautifully at four years; it should develop well through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $21, representing Great Value.
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Steele Wines Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Barbara County. The color is dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; this pinot noir is dense with black and red fruit and exotic spice, feeling macerated and slightly fleshy and roasted; black and red cherries and currants display a hint of plum; a ballooning floral element wreathes violets and rose petals, while a penetrating graphite quality arrows through the svelte, succulent texture; lip-smacking acidity keeps the whole package lively. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $21.
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The Steele Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Carneros, aged 10 to 12 months in French oak, 10 percent new barrels, a percentage I like. The color is medium ruby-garnet with a transparent rim; the impression is of spiced and macerated red and black cherries and currants, fairly ripe and fleshy and permeated by notes of an element slightly resinous and herbal, like fresh rosemary, and by deeper hints of cranberry and pomegranate, violets and dusty loam. The texture is irresistibly satiny-smooth. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. About $21.
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As with the other pinot noirs in this post, the Steele Wines Pinot Noir 2014, Carneros, delivers a well-modulated, almost subliminal oak presence that doesn’t interfere with its aromas — both lovely and intense — of red cherries and currants permeated by blossoming notes of violets and lavender, sassafras and sandalwood or its expansive flavors of ripe red and black fruit that after a few minutes in the glass take on hints of loam and new leather, bittersweet chocolate and graphite. The whole package is driven by acidity that cuts a path on the palate. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $21.
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The Steele Wines Bien Nacido Vineyard Block N Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Barbara County, aged 12 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. An entrancing medium transparent ruby hue shades to a delicate rim; very pure, intense yet generous black and red cherry and currant scents and flavors are permeated by pronounced elements of pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood and sassafras. On the palate, this pinot noir is lithe, supple and suave, animated by bright acidity and given a firm mineral backbone of graphite and loam. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 150 cases. Should drink beautifully through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $36.
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The chenin blanc grape doesn’t get a lot of love in America, though it is widely planted, yet it’s a grape capable of making world-class wines, fit to stand among the ranks of chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The best examples occur in the grape’s homeground of the Loire Valley, particularly in the appellations of Anjou, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux de Layon, Quarts de Chaume, Saumur, Savennieres and Vouvray. Several of these areas devote their efforts to sweet wines of awesome dimensions, while others are dry — Savennieres — or produce a full range of styles, as in Vouvray. Our featured wine today is the dry Champalou Vouvray 2015, a delightful and reasonably priced chenin blanc — usually called pineau de la Loire in the region — from a house that practices sustainable agriculture and employs native yeasts in fermentation. The wine sees no oak, but ferments in stainless steel and rests in tank on the lees for 11 months. The vines for this wine average 35 years old. The color is pale gold; aromas of hay and heather, roasted lemon and spiced pear, quince and ginger draw you in enticingly, while a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of green tea and lemongrass, with hints, almost echoes, of fennel and celery seed. This is spare and dry on the palate, yet ripe with flavors of slightly baked stone-fruit, with a background of dusty mountain herbs and damp stones; bright acidity impels the wine to a bright, lightly honeyed, buoyantly bracing finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 or ’20. We drank this with last night’s dinner: baked cod with ginger and sesame and a field-pea ragu. Excellent. Average price around the country is about $20.

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

It’s always easy to toss around the word “unique,” especially in the realm of the world’s wines, since an infinite number of grapes, blends, regions and styles exists in a dazzling and confounding array. Still, I will venture out to the tip of the twig here and assert that the Borealis non-vintage white blend, Willamette Valley, is pretty damned unique. It’s a product of Montinore Vineyards, one of whose pinot noir wines I will write about soon. It is, first, of interest because non-vintage wines are unusual from the West Coast. “Non-vintage” really means “multi-vintage,” because as a concept it allows winemakers to assemble a cuvée from several harvests in order to achieve the particular balance they’re looking for, also the basis for non-vintage Champagne and sparkling wine. Second, the blend on this Borealis is straight out of Alsace, reflecting the style called edelzwicker, in this case being a provocative combination of 38 percent müller-thurgau, 32 percent gewürztraminer, 19 percent riesling and 11 percent pinot gris. The color is very pale gold; aromas of honeysuckle and quince, peaches and spiced pears are spare and delicate and serve as introductory foil to the wine’s lip-smacking succulence jazzed by bright acidity. A few moments in the glass bring in notes of lychee, apple skin and almond blossom. This is quite dry, fine-boned and chiseled in structure, like the most fragile of china tea-cups, yet there’s tensile power too, as the racy acidity propels the wine through a finish flecked with petrol and grapefruit rind. 12.3 percent alcohol. A lovely aperitif or for drinking with mildly spicy Southeast Asian food, seafood risottos and stews, or, paradoxically, with pork roast and apples. Excellent. About $16, representing Great Value.

A sample for review.

The focus on cabernet franc nowadays aims at Argentina, where the grape is ubiquitous and too often of cookie-cutter quality. The original area where cabernet franc thrives as a single variety is France’s Loire Valley, particularly the appellations of Saumur, Bourgueil and Chinon. (The grape is also essential in Bordeaux, but as a factor in the blends, featured prominently on the Right Bank.) While the Alain de la Treille Chinon 2016, our Wine of the Day, doesn’t reach the profound heights and depths of which cabernet franc is capable in the hands of producers like Bernard Baudry, Charles Joguet and Olga Raffault, it offers true cab franc quality at a bargain price. The Alain de la Treille Chinon 2016, which sees no oak, offers a deep ruby-purple hue and penetrating aromas of blueberries, gravel and tar, with notes of raspberry and raspberry leaf, and a concentrated core of violets, black olives and bittersweet chocolate. These aspects segue smoothly into the mouth, where the wine displays plenty of silky tannins for structure, lip-smacking acidity that whets your taste-buds for another sip, and spicy black and blue fruit flavors. A few moments in the glass bring in hints of smoke, leather and rosemary, with a touch of that herb’s slightly resinous character. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with braised short ribs or veal shanks, meat pies or just good old cheeseburgers. Excellent. About $19, representing Good Value.

Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va.

With 42 DOC wines and 17 DOCG wines in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that some tiny areas and their products remain largely unknown. Such a one — and totally new to me — is a wine made from the pelaverga piccolo di Verduno grape of which the entire production derives from about 15 hectares — some 37 acres — in the Langhe region, west of the charming city of Alba. This minuscule area lies, in other words, in the midst of a sea of nebbiolo vineyards. Now, let’s be honest. Pelaverga piccolo does not make the sort of great wines of which nebbiolo is capable in the form of Barolo and Barbaresco. What it can make, on the other hand, is light, fine-grained, lively and spare red wines that are what I like to drink every day. This example, the Bel Colle Verduno Pelaverga 2015, fermented and aged six months in stainless steel tanks. The color is an utterly transparent ruby-garnet hue; aromas of red and black cherries and currants are permeated by notes of melon and sour cherry, graphite and lavender and an intriguing hint of white pepper. The wine flows lithe, lively and tasty on the palate, energized by pert acidity that dives headlong into dusty, mineral-flecked tannins doing their duty without being too obvious or domineering. The finish brings in elements of briers, brambles and lightly inflected loam, all of these aspects accomplished with fleet-footed agility. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through the end of 2018 with porcini risotto, pappardelle with rabbit, salumeria and hard cheeses, gnocchi with sage. Production was 1,600 cases. Excellent. About $30, and I’ll confess that I would be happier if this wine were priced closer to $20, though, to be fair, it is a small-production wine from a rare grape.

Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Argentina produces an ocean of wine made from the malbec grape, enough so that the country and the grape are synonymous. Standing out in that sea, like a lighthouse above perilous waters, is El Malbec de Ricardo Santos 2016, hailing from the well-known Mendoza region and La Madras Vineyard, which lies at 2,800 feet elevation. The wine aged in French and American oak barrels for six months. The color is inky-purple with a glowing purple rim; the wine gives an impression of freshness and clarity, though it’s also quite intense and concentrated with notes of black currants, blueberries and plums permeated by a strain of graphite and iodine and a lighter aspect of cloves, lavender and bittersweet chocolate. Vivid acidity cuts through a dense, almost chewy texture and velvety tannins, all serving to bolster ripe, tasty black fruit flavors; the tannins lead to a slightly austere finish. 14 percent alcohol. Drink this well-balanced and complete wine through 2021 to ’23 with burgers and hearty pizzas and pasta dishes, with steaks and pork chops. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

Global Vineyards Importers, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

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