Alto Adige



Need a red wine to drink with the short ribs or veal shanks you have braising atop the stove or in the oven? Truth is, there are hundreds if not thousands of candidates that could do the job. For today, however, I’ll nominate one particular wine made from a grape that deserves to be better known. Lagrein is grown in the Südtirol-Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, where it is made into a bright, vibrant red wine whose intense berry fruit and moderate tannins render it ideal for drinking with hearty fare over, say, two to six years. The Alois Lageder Lagrein 2014, Südtirol-Alto Adige, from a 52-hectare estate — about 138 acres — operated on organic and biodynamic principles, sees no oak but aged 12 months in a combination of concrete vessels and stainless steel tanks; all the better for its freshness and immediate appeal. The color is opaque black-purple with a transparent magenta rim; both in nose and on palate, this wine features ripe, fleshy black currants and blueberries touched with notes of mint, graphite and truffles, displaying a robust, rustic and somewhat rooty nature; a few moments in the glass unfurl hints of loam, bittersweet chocolate and black tea. Vibrant acidity keeps you coming back for another sip, while a briery-brambly element adds grain to a lithe, supple texture. 12.5 percent alcohol. Nicely balanced and integrated for drinking through 2019 or 2020. I can smell those short ribs now, and I’m waiting for my invitation to dinner. Excellent. About $25.

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

Some wines grow more detailed, revealing more dimension and intrigue, as the moments pass. Such a one is the Strasserhof Sylvaner 2015, from the Valle Isarco in Italy’s northeastern Alto Adige-Sudtirol region. The grapes fermented in and the wine aged seven months in 75 percent stainless steel tanks and 25 percent large oak barrels. The color is a pure light gold hue; aromas of spiced pear, quince and ginger feel slightly honeyed and earthy, while a few minutes unfurl notes of lime peel and limestone. The wine is quite lively and frisky, almost prickly on the palate, and though silky-smooth feels slightly sanded, as if a gentle hand applied strokes of delicate sandpaper. More time induces hints of peaches and jasmine, along with beguiling touches of wood-smoke and exotic spices, banana and fig; the lean, lithe finish adds spare elements of lychee, petrol and flint. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with trout sauteed in capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, seafood risottos or, taking a different approach, roasted chicken. Excellent. About $22.

Vias Imports, N.Y. A sample for review.


Sometimes a wine is so perfect for the purpose that it doesn’t matter what it is or where it came from. That was the case with the Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige. I assembled a snack yesterday, a bagatelle of hard salami, Manchego cheese, some wholewheat flatbread crackers and a dab of Dijon mustard — simple and humble — and opened this bottle of red wine about which I knew really nothing. A little research told me that the wine, from a cooperative established in 1906, is a blend of 95 percent schiava grapes with 5 percent lagrein, made in a combination of stainless steel and large old oak casks. The vines range in age from 30 to 70 years; the vineyards go up to 1,640 feet elevation. Though the wine offers a great deal in the way of personality and character, nothing here is over-extracted or unduly emphatic. The color is bright medium ruby-cherry, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting, conveying a sense of that essential timeless radiance; aromas of wild cherries and raspberries are permeated by notes of almond skin and apple peel, sage and tobacco. The wine is lean, lithe and supple on the palate, very dry and quite spare in its deployment of red berry fruit amid furrow-plowing acidity and a burgeoning element of graphite-tinged tannins and minerality, but lightly, even delicately applied. 13 percent alcohol. A reticent, completely confident wine that keeps you coming back for another sip; I could drink it every day. Excellent. About $24.

Imported by Omniwines Distributing Co., Flushing, N.Y. A sample for review.

One of the most meticulous producers in Alto Adige is Alois Lageder. Now run by the sixth generation, on biodynamic principles, the winery’s pinot blancs, pinot grigios and gewurztraminers consistently earn high marks on this blog. For 2015, a hot year in northeastern Italy, owner Alois Clemens Lageder and winemaker Jo Pfisterer fashioned a pinot grigio with a difference. The Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, is a blend of juice from grapes that were pressed immediately after picking with fruit that was left on the skins for several hours. The result is a pinot grigio that offers more body and more nuance in nose and mouth than just about any other version of the grape that I have tried. The color is very pale pink-copper-topaz, like the last hue of a fading sunset; aromas of heather and broom, spiced pear and lemongrass, almond blossom and lilac waft subtly from the glass; a few moments bring out notes of ginger and quince, with a highlight of crystallized lime zest, all of these elements etched in fine detail. The wine fills out on the palate, adding a dimension of depth and heft unusual for pinot grigio, yet retaining an almost ethereal quality; crisp with vibrant acidity and a scintillating quality of flint-like minerality, the wine invites sip after sip through to a finish distinguished by limestone, apple peel and a hint of almond skin bitterness. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19 with seafood risottos, seared or roasted fish or with a variety of fish or game terrines. Excellent. About $25.

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

I don’t think you’ll find a better gewürztraminer at the price, so look for this model diligently — that is, if you like the grape variety. Not everyone does, because it can be assertively floral and spicy, but I’ve been a fan for 30 years and more; the Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol/Alto Adige, would be a good place to start if you’re not familiar with the grape. The wine hails from that part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire where borders between countries may be marked by road signs and lines on maps, but the ties of language, culture, families and agricultural practices are more important on the local level. In fact, many wines from this area of northeastern Italy bear labels with indications in Italian and German, and the appellation is listed, as you see, as both Südtirol and Alto Adige. The Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, made all in stainless steel, offers a riveting nose of an unabashed floral nature, through it’s never cloying or overwhelming. Notes of jasmine, rose petal and lilac are wreathed with hints of lime peel, lemongrass, damp flint and heather in a heady, seductive amalgam. Also unabashed is the vital stream of bright acidity that lends the wine terrific appeal and drinkability, though the texture is not only crisp and lively but almost soothingly talc-like, both elements poised in exciting balance; subtle flavors of spicy, baked stone fruit (with a slightly exotic touch of lychee) continue through a finish that’s sleek with chiseled limestone minerality. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20 with roasted pork shoulder or charcuterie, with seafood stews or risottos. A remarkably pure and intense gewürztraminer for the price. Excellent. About $16.

Weygandt-Metzler Importing, Rhinecliff, N.Y. A sample for review.

Never heard of the schiava grape? I’ll confess, dear readers, that I had not either until I was offered some wines made from the grape for review. Schiava grows in the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, in the mountainous area where the Italian and German languages intertwine and ancient geographical and familial relationships are more important than political borders. Also known as vernatsch, the grape makes — in my brief acquaintance — light, delicious red wines that are fairly low in tannins and high in acidity, exactly, that is, the sort of wine perfect for drinking with an eclectic variety of foods. Wines fashioned from the schiava grape make excellent transitional quaffs between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, and should even serve well into Summer with grilled fare. The grape yields generously, so it must be carefully regulated in the vineyard not to over-produce. It grows well in the mid-range altitudes, about 250 to 500 meters above sea level. When we finished our research on these wines — i.e., drinking — and one night I brought out a different red wine for dinner, LL said, “Don’t you have any more of those schiava wines?” That’s how fresh and appealing they are.

All of these wines bear a Südtirol-Alto Adige designation. The wines were samples for review.
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meran
Grapes for the Cantina Merano Graf von Meran Schnickenberg Sciava 2014 grew in vineyards that extend from 400 to 450 meters; the wine aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-cherry, an aspect somehow reflected in its spectrum of red and black cherry scents and flavors inflected with cherry skin and pit and a mild touch of cloves and violets. It’s quite dry, enlivened by lip-smacking acidity and an almost feral dusty graphite character on the finish. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $17.50.
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sallegg
The Castel Sallegg Bischofsleiten Schiava 2014 offers an absolutely beautiful transparent ruby-garnet hue and pert notes of red cherry, sour melon and raspberry, with a typical briery-brambly core. The wine aged four months in stainless steel tanks and large wooden barrels. On the palate, it’s lithe and wiry, spare but tasty in spicy red fruit elements and animated by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $19.
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We would happily have consumed a case of the Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2014, a wine of intricately layered delicacy and nuance that galeaunveils a slightly more serious focus than the others examples mentioned here. No technical information was available, so I can’t say anything about the aging process. The company is a co-op of some 140 growers, founded in 1985 by the merger of two other co-op entities. The color is a limpid medium ruby shading to faint garnet; red cherries and raspberries open to hints of cherry skin, violets and intriguing notes of mulberries and woodsy spice and flowers. The aura is light and elegant, yet the texture is silky, almost dense, buoyed by bright acidity and a nod toward slightly dusty, graphite-infused tannins. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. About $20, and definitely Worth a Search.
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bocado
The Cantina Andriano Bocado Schiava 2014 derives from vineyards lying between 260 and 500 meters above sea level; the wine fermented in stainless steel and aged in large oak casks. The color is a bright, transparent cherry red, while the fruit aspect emphasizes raspberries with their skins and stems, for a slightly astringent, raspy quality, highlighted by plums and violets. Lithe and spare on the palate, the wine is propelled by dynamic acidity and a slight edge of graphite minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Founded in 1893, Andriano was the first cooperative in Alto Adige. Very Good+. About $23.
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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.
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aia
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.

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alpha
Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.

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ascevi-cerou-friulano-label
Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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furmint
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.

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15_VinGris_Domestic_750
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.

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colome-torrontes
Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
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grf140_nv_lbl
Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.

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duret
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.

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duas
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.

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csm_pinot_grigio_2005_riserva_7895065a86
Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
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illahe
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.

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beaujolais_village_btl_535px
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
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2014_lff_tempranillo
Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.

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lidio
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
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msi_rose_dei_masi_btl
Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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gemma-rose
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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francois-montand-brut
Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
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morgan_label_albarino_2015_front-1
Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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m-cb
M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
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forster
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

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armador-sauvignon-blanc-2013-bottle
Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.

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pedroncelli
Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,

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puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.

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rc-temp-2013-ft
Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
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selvapiana
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
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schneider
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.

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serres-rioja
Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
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traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013-1
Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.

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cava
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
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vr-label-13-red4_front
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.
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Cantina Tramin is a cooperative of local growers in Trentino-Alto Adige that was founded in 1889 traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013and comprises a total of 575 acres among its members. The wine considered today, the Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Südtiral-Alto Adige, derives from a 43-acre vineyard whose vines range from 12 to 42 years old, lying at altitudes of 660 to 1,320 feet elevation. Winemaker for Tramin is Willi Stürz. Made completely in stainless steel, the Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015 is a superior rendition of a much abused grape. The color is very pale gold; aromas of almond and almond blossom, roasted lemon and baked pear, heather and a touch of loam are immediately evident in the attractive bouquet. A lovely, lithe and supple texture enfolds a soft talc-like element cut through and made lively by bright acidity; there’s real body and character here, with a few minutes in the glass bringing in notes of smoke and straw, spare glimmers of fresh and dried stone-fruit and an encompassing saline nature, as if the vineyards had once been buried by an inland sea, before the Alps emerged in one of our planet’s million-year convulsions. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018. Excellent. About $16, representing Great Value.

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

Inexorably we drift from Spring into Summer, so in honor of this transitional state I offer a dozen savory, zesty white wines. The grapes range from the familiar — sauvignon blanc, riesling — to the unfamiliar and exotic — grillo, gouveio, while the geography takes us all over the place. Prices rise from about $12 to $28, giving space for some real bargains and great values. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew all technical, historical, geological and personal data — as interesting as those items may be — for the sake of quick and incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebook, and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Unless otherwise noted, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
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haberle_label
Alois Lagerder Haberle Pinot Blanc 2013, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy. 13% alc. Production was 1,125 cases. Very pale straw hue; ripe, spice, macerated and lightly roasted stone-fruit with a halo of white flowers; notes of dried thyme and fennel; lithe and supple texture, offering vivid acid cut and limestone dimensions of structure; very dry but juicy with peach, pear and yellow plum flavors; real personality and character. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $23.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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erste-neue
Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto-Adige. 14% alc. Pale gold color; very appealing, with notes of green apple, pear and lemon balm, heather and meadow grass; heady and floral; lovely silken texture; quite dry, with pert acidity and shimmering limestone minerality; nothing complicated, just altogether irresistible. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by T Edward Wines, New York.
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assobio
Esporao Assobio 2014, Douro, Portugal. 13% alc. 40% viosinho grapes, 30% gouveio, 20% verdelho, 10% arinto. Pale straw color; pear and acacia, heather and thyme; a bracing aura of sea-breeze and salt-marsh; very dry, with pert acidity, layers of damp flint and shale minerality; an exotic spicy-herbal flare; lean and supple. Now through 2017 to ’18. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.
Imported by Aidil Wines, New York.
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semillon
Esporao Private Selection Semillon 2013, Alentejano, Portugal. 14% alc. Medium gold hue; elevating aromas of quince and ginger, spiced pear, lemon oil and orange rind; slightly honeyed in aspect but quite dry and spare; a fragile infusion of tropical fruit and flowers with a hint of fig; lovely silky texture, moderately lush but honed by limestone. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $28.
Impoted by Aidil Wines, New York.
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Gewurz
Lazy Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 14.2% alc. Production was, alas, only 65 cases. Pale straw color; classic notes of lychee, pear, jasmine and rubber eraser, with hints of cloves and ginger; lithe texture, with crystalline clarity, acidity and limestone drive, great vibrancy and appeal; the limestone-flint minerality builds through the dynamic finish; grapefruit finish with a touch of bracing bitterness. A terrific example of the grape. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $22.
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Matetic EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13.5% alc. Pale straw color; Matetic EQ Coastal SB 14 Ftgrapefruit, lilac, greengage; celery seed and fennel with back-notes of lime peel, quince and ginger; crisp and lively, with riveting acidity and a plangent limestone element; a lithe, almost sinewy texture with depths of fruit, spice and minerality bolstering a scintillating, transparent finish. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa Calif. The label image is one vintage behind.
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puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché Franc 2014, Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Pale straw-gold hue; assertive notes of dill and celery seed, caraway and lime peel, with pink grapefruit and ethereal back-notes of melon and apple skin; just a lovely wine in every way: slightly powdery texture, stone-fruit and citrus scents and flavors, bright acidity and limestone minerality; sleek, chiseled finish. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $15, a Real Bargain.
Imported by Twins America. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
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plotzner
St. Pauls Plotzner Weissburgunder 2015, Südtirol Alto Adige. 13.5% alc. Very pale straw color; spice pear and roasted lemon, hay and autumn meadows, chalk and flint; a little earthy, as if its toes were still in the vineyard; clean and incisive acidity and chiseled limestone minerality. An exhilarating pinot blanc for drinking through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20.
Importer N/A.
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Tascate Buonora 2014, Sicilia. 12% alc. 100% carricante grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; a rich, Stampagolden wine, with spiced pears and yellow plums, sage and thyme, green tea, quince and acacia; scintillating limestone and flint minerality; sea-salt and meadow; spicy and savory. A great deal of charm. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $20.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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blanc
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. Pale straw-gold hue; peach, pear and quince, bee’s-wax, dried thyme and sage; apple skin and pear nectar; lilac and acacia; yellow plums and a bare hint of mango; all these elements inextricably encompassed in a package that feels irrevocably vital, vibrant, real, bound to the earth yet ethereally delicate and delicious. An extraordinary wine. Exceptional. About $30.
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grillo
Vento di Mare Grillo 2014, Terre Siciliana IGT. 12.5% alc. Made from organic grillo grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; savory and saline, with yellow plum and roasted lemon scents and flavors, notes of heather, dried thyme and sea-grass, clean-cut acidity and limestone minerality and a chalk-flinty element that increases through the herb-and-spice laden finish. Drink up. Very Good+. About $12, an Amazing Bargain.
Imported by Middleton Family Wines, Shandon, Calif.
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wakefield riesling
Wakefield Riesling 2015, Clare Valley, Australia. 12% alc. Pale straw gold color; peach and pear, lychee and jasmine, with a hint of zesty grapefruit and its pith; very dry, with a burgeoning limestone and chalk element, all wrapped in delightful vitality. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $17.
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The Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2014, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, is to most pinot grigio wines as porer_labela Maserati is to a Ford Focus. Made from Demeter-certified biodynamic vineyards, the wine aged five months in a mixture of large old wooden casks and stainless steel tanks. The result is a pale gold-colored wine that exudes lovely aromas of spiced pear and roasted lemon, straw and heather, acacia and dried thyme, a wine of yellow flowers and yellow fruit, ripe and fleshy. On the palate, this is dry, spare, saline and savory, feeling as if it draws power from the limestone hillside sites where the vineyards lie and chiseled from chalk and flint. For all that, though, the wine does not neglect its complement of juicy, spice-inflected stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 with fresh oysters, grilled mussels, seafood risottos, many sorts of grilled or roasted fish. Excellent. About $25.

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

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