January 2018



One of the gratifying aspects of writing about wine and receiving samples from wineries, importers and marketing companies is the occasional surprise in the form of a product made from a grape I never encountered in a career that extends now to 33 and a half years. Such a case is the Olho de Mocho Reserva 2014, a white wine fashioned from the antão vaz grape in Portugal’s province of Alentejo, more specifically, the sub-region of Vidigueira. The estate of Herdade do Rocim consists of 70 hectares — 53 to red grapes, 17 to white, a proportion that reflects the area’s general ratio of a production of 20 percent white wines. Olho de Mocho Reserva 2014 aged nine months in French oak barrels. The color is very pale gold, and indeed the wine itself seems glowing and golden; aromas of hawthorn and yellow plums are infused with quince and spiced pear, with lingering whiffs of spare minerals and oceanic elements: flint, sea-salt and marsh grass. A talc-like texture is riven by bright acidity, and the flint-limestone element comes up as a scintillating tide, all at the service of an elegant and subtle array of spiced and macerated flavors: peach, quince and mango. 13.5 percent alcohol. A revelation. A few years should lend this wine even more burnish and character; drink through 2020 or ’21 with a variety of roasted or grilled sea-creatures. Excellent. About $30, and Worth a Search.

Imported by Langdon Shiverick, Los Angeles. A sample for review.

The weather outside may be frightful, but to sip a rosé wine is still delightful. These six examples can chase the mid-winter blues, not only with their delicate and elegant character but some with their savory elements of fruit compote, spice and earthiness. As usual with the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew notations about history, geography and technical matters for the sake of quick and incisive mentions ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks. Enjoy.
These wines were samples for review.
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Apaltagua Reserva Carmenere Rosé 2016, Maul Valley, Chile. 12.5% alc. Very pale coral-pink; delicately floral, delectably fruity (peach, strawberry), a fine-spun fabric of bright acidity and a scintillating limestone element; slightly earth finish. Delightful. About $13, representing Good Value.
Global Vineyard Importers, Berkeley, Calif.
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Chateau D’Esclans Rock Angel 2016, Côtes de Provence. 13.5% alc. 85% grenache, 15% rolle (the Italian vermentino). Very pale coral-pink hue; quite fresh, spare and elegant; strawberries and red currants, seashell, chalk and flint minerality; dried Mediterranean herbs; touches of tangerine and peach; throbbing acidity for crisp liveliness. Lots of character. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $35.
Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Miramar, Fla.
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The Larsen Projekt Grenache Rosé 2016, North Coast. 14.3% alc. 140 cases. Medium salmon-coral hue; strawberry and raspberry, cloves and cinnamon, orange rind and crystallized ginger; an earthy and spicy rose, medium in body, full-throttle in intensity; very dry, opens a tide of limestone minerality; white pepper and graphite in the finish. A highly individual and quite evocative rose. Drink through 2019. Excellent. About $18, and Worth a Search.
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Onward Hawkeye Ranch Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County. 12.1% alc. 324 cases. Radiant copper-coral hue; ripe and fleshy, with blood orange, tangerine and a hint of peach; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of rose-hip tea, graphite and red currant; the epitome of delicacy and ethereal radiance, yet with a solid grounding in steely minerality. Excellent. About $22, and Worth a Search.
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Sanford Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbera County. 13% alc. Pale salmon-coral hue; blood orange, tangerine, hint of peach; redolent of dusty Mediterranean herbs and damp roof tiles; very intense yet with a silky, ethereal texture; quite dry, with burgeoning flint-like minerality; a touch of raspberry leaf in the finish. Excellent. About $23.
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Smoke Tree Rosé 2016, California. 12.5% alc. Majority grenache with an unusual blend of zinfandel, mourvedre and tempranillo. Medium onion skin-copper color; delicate and expressive; raspberry with a hint of rhubarb and pomegranate, then cherry compote takes over; notes of raspberry leaf and boxwood; opens to bright acidity and a fine flinty edge; lovely tone and presence. Excellent. About $21.
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It’s snowing in Memphis as I write this post, so let’s contemplate a summery wine. La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2015, from Spain’s Somontano region, is an absolute sweetheart of a quaffer that goes down like a golden meadow in a glass. I don’t want to oversell it; this is basically a simple and appealing wine that conveys an aura of authenticity. Aged four months in second-year French oak barrels, this garnacha blanca — what the French call grenache blanc in the Rhone Valley — offers a pale straw-yellow color and attractive aromas of bee’s-wax and lemon balm, cloves and camillia, with touches of spiced pear and heather and, just at the end, a shivery fillip of petrol. It’s sleek and silky on the palate, with flavors of yellow fruit animated by sun-bright acidity and a note of limestone minerality. If you happen to be braising cod tonight — there was a recipe in The New York Times a few days ago — La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha Blanca 2015 would be a perfect match. 14 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2018. Very Good+. About $15, representing Excellent Value.

Imported by Gonzalez Byass USA, Chicago. A sample for review.

Somontano is a small vineyard and winemaking region in northern Spain, just under the shadow of the Pyrenees; the name means “under the mountain.” The name “Secastilla” on the label refers to the seven castles that stand as a ring of sentinels around the region.

Even casual wine consumers could probably answer the question, “What are the primary red grapes grown in Chile?” with, “Oh, sure, cabernet sauvignon and that other ‘C’ grape, ‘car –‘ something.” Correct, and that would be “carmenere.” However, one of the gratifying matters in grape-growing and wine-making is the penchant of farmers and producers to push outside the boundaries of perceived limitations to plant unexpected grapes. An example is the Chilcas Single Vineyard Cinsault 2014, from Chile’s Valle del Itata. The region, originally planted to vines by the Spanish in the early 1500s, lies 500 kilometers south of Santiago, close to the Pacific Ocean, and is influenced by the mild warmth of the Humboldt Current. While Itata fell from favor through decades of churning out bulk wines, since the 1980s, producers have searched for precise variations in terroir and for old vineyards in order to make fine or at least interesting wines. The Chilcas Single Vineyard Cinsault 2014 was made from 55-year-old, dry-farmed vines and aged a brief four months in seasoned — much-used —
French oak barrels. The color — whoa! — is a dense, opaque ruby-black that shades to a transparent magenta rim; aromas of black cherries and plums are infused with notes of blueberry and pomegranate, coffee and tobacco and, after a few moments, elements of iodine and graphite. Lip-smacking acidity makes a definite impression on the palate, as does a lithe supple texture that flows in a rustic emanation of smoky, well-spiced plums, along with the accents of plum skin and cherry stem. Winemaker was Carlos Gatica. Not for the faint-of-heart, this robust, rustic and distinctive wine deserves a pairing with braised beef or veal shanks or pork chops marinated in cumin and smoked paprika. 14 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $19.

Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

For the first Wine of the Day of 2018, let’s look at the Morgan Winery Metallico Unoaked Chardonnay 2015, from Monterey County. Don’t let anyone tell you that a wine must go through a stint in oak barrels to achieve complexity and a layered quality. The Morgan Metallico ’15 spent five months in stainless steel tanks and did not go through malolactic fermentation, yet it delivers a piece of detail and dimension that wines aged in oak might envy. The color is bright medium straw-gold; heady aromas of spiced pears and roasted lemons unfurl notes of mango and lime peel, quince and candied ginger, while a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of lemon balm and heather. Sprightly acidity keeps this wine lively and engaging, and its lithe and supple texture cuts a swath on the palate; citrus and yellow stone-fruit flavors are smoky, ripe and slightly feral, and the finish is a suave emanation of glittering limestone minerality. Yep, it’s delicious. 13.5 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Sam Smith. No, not that Sam Smith, the other one. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review.

I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. Many of these models I would recommend for buying by the case to enjoy in the months ahead, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent cabernet franc. Excellent. About $19.

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Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosado 2016, Bierzo, Spain. Rosé of 100 percent mencia grapes. Excellent. About $13.

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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 70 percent loureiro grapes, 30 percent alvarinho. Very Good+. About $7-$10.

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Averaen Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $20.
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Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinette 2015, Rheinhessen. Excellent. About $14.

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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 100 percent hondurrabi zuri grapes. Excellent. About $16.
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Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $19.

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Contrade Negroamaro 2015, Puglia, Italy. Very Good+. About $10.

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Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon, 10 percent muscadelle. Very Good+. About $13.
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Maquis Gran Reserva Carménère 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $20.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Istria, Apulia, Italy. 90 percent verdeca grapes, 10 percent fiano minutolo. Excellent. About $18.

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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 504 cases. Excellent. About $18.

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Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015. Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 percent merlot, 14 percent petit verdot, 10 percent grenache, 2 percent carignane. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Excellent. About $16.
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Olema Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. Second label of Amici Cellars. Excellent. About $20.

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Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna. Excellent. About $15.

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Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” 2016, Beaujolais, France. Excellent. About $15.

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Principe de Viana Garnacha Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain. Very Good+. About $11.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County, California. With 6 percent petit sirah, 5 percent barbera, 4 percent syrah. 50-to-103-year-old vines. Excellent. About $20.
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The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, South Africa. Very Good+. About $11.

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Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
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St. Urbans-Hof Nik Seis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, Saar Valley, Germany. Excellent. About $18.
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Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi 2014, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. Excellent. About $19.
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Serra Lor Rosato 2016, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardenia. An unusual rosé blend of 50 percent cannonau, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County, California. Excellent. About $19.
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Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, Bordeaux. 100 percent merlot, no oak. Excellent. About $12.

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Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Viognier White Bland 2015, Sonoma County. 85 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent viognier. Excellent. About $18.
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Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne Brut nv, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $20.

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So here we are, friends, the last post in the 11th edition of “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine.” It’s Twelfth Night, traditionally a time of revels and misadventure, though of course I devoutly hope that no misadventure befalls you. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany, a word that means “made manifest” but which we nowadays think of as implying some sort of revelation, as in “When I was watching ‘The Big Sick’ last night I had an epiphany about the meaning of life.” Well, in any case, good luck with that. Today I offer four sparkling wines, an actual and true Champagne and examples from Bordeaux, South Africa and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I hope, as always, that this series is entertaining and educational, and I wish you all a Happy New Year and prosperous 2018. Peace and love will triumph yet. Maybe.

These products were samples for review.
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Crémant de Bordeaux must be one of the least known products of that august region. A good introduction to this genre is the Celene Brut, nv, Crémant de Bordeaux, a blend of 50 percent semillon, 30 percent muscadelle and 20 percent cabernet franc, made in the traditional method of aging in the bottle on the lees. It’s very clean, fresh and crisp, displaying a pale blonde hue and an excellent array of tiny bubbles; it’s all lemon and limestone with a trace of peach and grapefruit, quite delicate and charming in its plangent effervescence, very dry in its chalk-flinty minerality, a bit austere and high-toned on the finish. 12 percent alcohol. Perfectly appropriate for sipping while cooking dinner or watching the “News Hour” on PBS. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Superb Wines International, Pensacola, Fla.
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The Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, is a blend of 48 percent chardonnay, 49 percent pinot noir and 3 percent pinot meunier; information about time aging in bottle (en tirage) was not available. The color is pale gold with tarnished silver highlights enlivened by myriad tiny glinting bubbles; notes of green apples and roasted lemon unfold to spiced pear and flint; a sort of seashell brininess frames the palate with pert limestone minerality, while crisp acidity adds verve and drive, leading to a citrus and stone-fruit finish. 12.6 percent alcohol. Lots of charm. Very Good+, edging close to Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Champagne Gremillet Brut, nv, is a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, derived from four or five vintages and using 20 percent reserve wines; it aged 22 months in the bottle on the lees. It’s as pale platinum blond as Jean Harlow’s hair, with effervescent both notable and refined; this is all smoke and steel, an elegant and fine-boned Champagne that unfurls hints of pear and quince, acacia and heather and a chiseled line of flint-and-chalk minerality; it’s crisp and vibrant, exhibiting high-toned nerve and presence on the palate, and a sleek, glacial finish. It’s the refreshing and bracing Champagne you take a glass of before meeting your opponent on the dueling ground at dawn. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $40.
Imported by Esprit du Vin, Syosset, N.Y.
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Gran Moraine Brut Rosé, nv, Yamhill-Carlton District, comes from a Jackson Family Wines property in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a blend of 53 percent chardonnay and 47 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the lees for two years. It displays a very pale coral-salmon hue and a dynamic array of tiny bubbles; notes of orange zest and lime peel are woven with hints of macerated raspberries and touches of red currant and almond skin. It’s dry, crisp and lively on the palate, offering the energy of acid and a scintillating limestone element, yet overall embodies elegance and delicacy. It is, in fact, delightful. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.
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The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as well as a sense of individuality and, if possible, a connection to a region or, in more rarefied examples, to a vineyard. Not all wines, even great ones, display this spectrum of virtues completely; winemaking is too intuitive a craft to allow for cookie-cutter sameness. Often, it’s the differences among wines from vintage to vintage that make them intriguing and exciting. I hope the wines listed here pique your interest and that you have a chance to try some of them. Many of them are entrancing and beautiful, and we could all stand a little enchantment and beauty in our lives.
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Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Vineyard Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 100 percent mourvedre. 277 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wine “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $38.

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Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, Sicily. Excellent. About $25.

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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $35.
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Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $98.

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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition nv, Champagne, France. 70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $68.

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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

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Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot, 7 percent malbec. Excellent. About $55.

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Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 40 percent each aragonez and alicante boschet, 20 percent syrah. Excellent. About $65.
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Fathers & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 393 cases. Excellent. About $32.

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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton district, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $42.

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Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $50.

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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 646 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
The label vintage date is one year behind.
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Grgich Hills Estate Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. 942 cases. Exceptional. About $94.

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Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Trocken Riesling 2014, Baden, Germany. Exceptional. About $30.

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Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 672 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. A brut rosé, 76 percent pinot noir 24 percent chardonnay. 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Domaine Jessiaume Les Cent Vignes Beaune Premier Cru 2014, Beaune, Burgundy. 300 cases. Excellent. About $45.

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Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $32.

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Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. 95 percent schiava. 5 percent lagrein. Excellent. About $24.
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. Exceptional. About $15.
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Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, France. 100 percent malbec. 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. Howell Mountain Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.

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Lioco “Sativa” Carignan 2014, Mendocino. 650 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne. 77 percent chardonnay, 23 percent aligote. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Marc Roy Les Champs Perdrix 2015, Marsannay, Burgundy. 100 percent chardonnay. 175 cases. Excellent. About $50.
The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Mayacamas Vineyards The Terraces Special Bottling Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $95.
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Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet Sauvigono 2013, Calistoga, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $160.

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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 45 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin-Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley, Solano County. Exceptional. About $28.
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Paul Blanck Scholssberg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Alsace. Excellent. About $34.
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Penner Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley. 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.

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Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux. 50 percent each sauvignon blanc and semillon. Excellent. About $22.

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Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Sidebar Kerner 2016, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 193 cases. Excellent. About $25.

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Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $35.

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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc and 6 percent merlot. Excellent. About $50.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Stewart Cellars Beckstoffer Las Piedes Vineyard “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. 180 cases. Exceptional. About $175.
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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $48.

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Tongue Dancer Wines “Pinot de Ville” Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 125 cases. Excellent. About $65.

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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 55 percent marsanne, 45 percent viognier. 180 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2013, Alsace. Exceptional. About $40.
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Yount Ridge Cellars Epic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $250.

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Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

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ZD Winery Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2013, Carneos. 800 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

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Pricing is power, but sometimes producers get ahead of themselves in terms of ambitious tariffs. These examples today illustrate how makers of sparkling wine in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank, rather than in the individual bottle, as in Champagne and other regions, over-reached and did a disservice to consumers.

These wines were samples for review.
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Le Grand Courtage sparkling wines are made in Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy but have nothing to do with that great appellation and its 27 Premier Cru vineyards. Le Grand Courtage “Grand Cuvée” Blanc de Blancs, nv, for example, is a blend of chardonnay, ugni blanc, colombard and chenin blanc; of that quartet of grapes, only chardonnay is permitted in Burgundy, which is why the Grand Courtage wines — there’s also a brut rosé — carry the broadest possible designation: France. Nothing in the material associated with the products indicates the fashion of production, so I assume that the mode is Charmat rather than méthode traditionelle, and there’s not a thing wrong with that, depending on the quality and the price. This blanc de blancs offers a very pale straw-gold hue and a satisfying, steady tide of bubbles; there’s green apple and lime peel and hints of cinnamon toast and limestone in the nose with sprightly acidity and a slightly steely/flint element for structure, all rounded by diminishing notes of roasted lemon and pear. 11.5 percent alcohol. Innocuous and tasty and appropriate for large parties and receptions. Very Good. About $18, a price that bothers me; it would be more fairly priced at about $15 or less.
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Sterling Vineyards has released what is called its first sparkling wines, though in 2016 I was sent a Sterling Vineyards Brut 2012, Carneros, that I rated Excellent (about $50); perhaps that product was so anomalous that everyone concerned forgot about it. Anyway, the samples in question here are the Sterling Sparkling Rosé 2016, California, and the Sterling Blanc de Blancs 2016, Napa Valley. The first is a blend of 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent pinot noir, the second is 100 percent chardonnay. These are made in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tanks instead of in bottle. Both are very enjoyable and engaging sparklers. The Rose offers a pretty salmon-coral color, with notes of raspberry and blood orange, apple blossom and almond skin, with a background of lime peel and grapefruit, all jazzed by bright acidity. The Blanc de Blancs is a very pale platinum blonde hue, with hints of smoke and steel, spiced pear and almond skin, quite crisp and lively and close to elegant. So, these are pleasant and attractively packaged sparkling wines that feel good to sip while preparing dinner, and I’m happy to rate them Very Good+. The problem is that the suggested retail price is $28, and if you understand anything about the world of sparkling wine, then you know that you can buy what are among the best of Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Loire or many of the fine sparkling wines from California for the same price or often much less, and I mean models made in the méthode champenoise. I think Sterling overpriced itself here.
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Established in 1691, Domaine Valentin Zusslin is run now by the 13th generation, brother and sister Marie Zusslin and Jean Paul Zusslin. The 16-hectare estate (about 39 acres) converted to biodynamic principles in 1997 and is certified by Ecocert and Demeter. The Valentin Zusslin Brut Zero Cremant d’Alsace, nv, is a blend of 95 percent auxerrois with dollops of chardonnay and riesling made in the traditional method of aging in the bottle on the lees. It is finished without sulfur or an additional dosage. A very pale straw hue is animated by an exhilarating upward rush of tiny bubbles; this is an incredibly fresh and appealing Cremant d’Alsace, offering notes of spiced pear, lime peel, orange blossom and almond skin in a dry, lithe package powered by bright acidity, scintillating limestone minerality and a bracing saline finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Loaded with flair, integrity and a sense of authenticity. Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Avant Garde Wine and Spirits, New York. A sample for review.
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