Cabernet sauvignon


Because I am late with the Wine of the Week, I offer a pair of products to atone for my procrastination. These are two bargain-priced wines from Bordeaux and are definitely Worth a Search. Each, incidentally, was acquired within the past few years by Russian and Chinese companies. Imported by The Wine Trust, Mattituck, N.Y. These wines were samples for review.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chateau de Birot overlooks the Garonne River from its hillside in Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. Wine has been made on the estate for more than 200 years; the impressive chateau — the Dutch writer Hubrecht Duijker calls it “alluring” — dates from the second half of the 18th Century. Acquired by Eric and Hélène Fournier-Casteja in 1989, the estate was sold in December 2014 to the Chinese hospitality company New Century Tourism Group.

Blanc de Birot 2012, carrying a Bordeaux designation, is a blend of 65 percent sauvignon blanc grapes and 35 percent semillon; it aged 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is pale gold; speaking of “alluring,” an extraordinary bouquet of lemongrass, pineapple, fig, lime peel and jasmine teases and tantalizes the nose; on the palate, the wine is clean and fresh, tart with lemon and grapefruit flavors and scintillating with bright acidity and crushed gravel/limestone minerality. The whole effect offers gratifying balance between sassy briskness and a soft talc-like texture. 13 percent alcohol. A wine that practically gets down on its knees and begs for a platter of just-shucked oysters, though it also serves handily as aperitif. Drink through 2016. Very Good+. About $13 or $14, a Bargain of the Decade.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The red wine of this pair is Les Sources de Livran 2009, Medoc, the second label of Chateau Livran, an estate that traces its long history back to 1280, when King Edward I of England granted the right to brother knights Arnaud and Beraud de Got to build a fortress on the land, a few kilometers west of the Gironde estuary. Their more famous brother was Bertrand de Got, who served as Pope Clement V from 1305 to 1314. Nothing of that fortress remains, but the estate itself has produced wine for hundreds of years. In 1889, the property was acquired by the Englishman James L. Denman, and then in the mid-20th Century by Robert Godfren, under whose ownership the estate released what are usually described as “correct” and “adequate” wines. In 2008, however, Chateau Livran was purchased by a Russian investment firm, and if things can be turned around in a couple of harvests, that may have been the case here, because Les Sources de Livran 2009 is a lovely wine, not overly serious or weighty but delicious and satisfying, what the British call a “luncheon claret.”

This ’09 is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, aged 12 months in oak. The color is dark ruby with a touch of garnet at the rim; aromas of dried currants and plums, cloves and sandalwood, violets and potpourri dominate a bouquet that meshes with dusty, woodsy notes, dried herbs and a hint of graphite. Animated by lip-smacking acidity and featuring a firm though not tight tannic grip, the wine is spare but not austere, slightly dusty and powdery in texture and decently furnished with black and blue fruit flavors that peel back touches of dried spices and lavender; in fact, the floral element grows as the moments pass. 13 percent alcohol. Drink this wine through 2016 or into ’17 with game terrines and patés, beef stew or leg of lamb. Very Good+. About $15 to $17, another Great Value.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What could a former snowboarder and a former investment banker do but get together and make wine. Not just wine but cabernet sauvignon in Santa Ynez Valley, in the Central Coast’s southern Santa Barbara County? Jeff Tanner is the former investment banker and Rob DaFoe is the former snowboarding pro, and their enterprise is Tanner DaFoe Wines, a producer of minuscule amounts of very fine cabernet sauvignon wines first released from the 2009 vintage. I have simplified the story a great deal here, but suffice to say that the pairing of these partners was serendipitous — if you’re in the market for full-throated yet spare and lithe cabernets that cost $110 a bottle. Yes, these are luxury items, stylish and sophisticated in every sense, yet displaying none of the flamboyance, opulence and over-ripe/over-oaked character that many of California’s “cult” cabernets exhibit. Not easy to find, they’re definitely Worth a Search if you have the yen and the dollars.

These wines were samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tanner DaFoe Rogue’s Blend 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, could be called the producer’s entry-level wine, at least in terms of price. The wine is a blend of 72 percent cabernet sauvignon and 28 percent cabernet franc; it spent 28 months in French oak barrels. The color is deep ruby shading to a mulberry-hued rim; the initial impression is striking aromas of mint and minerals, ripe and spicy black currants and raspberries, lavender and crushed violets, with back-notes of fruitcake, tapenade, cedar and rosemary and hints of ancho chili and loam; the wine projects, in other words, a clearly and cleanly delineated bouquet of great complexity and appealing fervor. This is a wine of tremendous tone and presence, dense, supple and lithe, packed with dusty tannins and graphite minerality, a large-framed wine that nonetheless profits from its poised energy and whiplash acidity and liveliness. A bit rock-ribbed presently, in its dusty, velvety oak and tannins and its lithic character, it opens as the moments elapse to offer hints of dill seed, caramelized fennel and bitter chocolate. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 96 cases. Try from 2016 or ’17 through 2024 to ’26. Excellent. About $75.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tanner DaFoe Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Santa Ynez Valley. The current release of the winery’s 100 percent cabernet sauvignon aged 28 months in French oak barrels. The color is dark ruby with a slightly lighter magenta rim; the raison d’etre here is structure and texture, with intense and concentrated but ripe and spicy cassis, blueberry and mulberry scents and flavors (with a high wild note of black cherry) deeply freighted by iron and iodine, piercing graphite minerality, lead pencil and a touch of cedar. The wine is sleek and chiseled, hewn from obsidian, it seems, supple and muscular, but for all that it offers fleshy and meaty notes of slightly roasted black and blue fruit and the animation of bright acidity. Mouth-filling and deeply savory, this 2011 feels potent, complete and confident, though it would benefit from a few years in the cellar; try from 2016 or ’18 through 2025 to ’29. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 167 cases. Excellent. About $110.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tanner DaFoe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Santa Ynez valley. The color is dark ruby with a violet rim; the first impression is of ripe, sweet, spicy black fruit aromas and flavors layered atop an incredible depth and reach of power and elegance; cassis, violets and potpourri, a trace of mint and touch of cedar, with hints of tobacco, sage and leaf smoke and back-notes of graphite, leather and underbrush characterize the seductive aromas. A supple, sinewy structure of lovely equilibrium yet stalwart framing and foundation — again, 28 months in French oak — supports juicy but understated flavors of black raspberry and blueberry; that structure includes dense, dusty, velvety tannins and potent acidity and leads to a polished finish packed with granitic minerality, exotic spices and woodsy accents. Completely gratifying weight, substance and bearing. I drank a great deal of this bottle with lamb chops rubbed with garlic and rosemary, with a smoked pimento and mint garnish; they made one of those transporting eating and drinking moments. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 141 cases. Consume now through 2025 to 2030. Exceptional. About $110.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Tanner DaFoe Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Santa Ynez Valley, was the winery’s first release, and at a bit more than five years after harvest, it’s drinking beautifully. Every element of the wine feels precisely weighted and measured, finely sifted and balanced, and it flows across the palate like a dark, powdery essence of hillside cabernet grapes, all super-velvety and elegant, yet a little spare, though that description omits its sense of feeling slightly untamed, of being an untapped source of dynamism and power, like a brilliant luxury-status automobile idling before acceleration. I have no technical information about this wine, sold-out at the winery, but as an initial release, it’s a triumph, the best first-release cabernet I have encountered since the Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Drink through 2020 to 2025. Excellent. $NA.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


If you’re looking for a hearty robust red wine to drink with burgers, braised spare ribs or grilled pork chops, slide the cork out of a bottle of the Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée 2012, Sonoma County. The venerable winery began its modern period in 1973, under Jim Bundschu, though traces its history back to 1858; that’s ancient in terms of California. Understand, we’re not talking about finesse or elegance here but about power, grip and deep flavors. The color is dark ruby-purple; the bouquet of this cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend is ripe, meaty and fleshy, bursting with notes of black and red currants and cherries, a strain of graphite and hints of cloves, crushed violets, vanilla and slightly creamy oak. A mouthful of dusty, velvety tannins serves as backdrop for black fruit flavors that offer a tinge of blue and a core of tightly wound lavender, bitter chocolate and woody spices. The whole effect is gamey and a little feral, with qualities of wild berries and forest-floor that emerge in the finish. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About $20.

A sample for review.

Any producer in Napa Valley will report that 2011 was a challenging season because of the cool weather, cloud cover and rain, all occurrences that inhibited ripening and delayed harvest until a burst of fine weather in October provided a respite. The five examples of cabernet sauvignon-based wines that I look at today came out fine, thank you very much, and yet despite marked similarities, especially in their acute mineral qualities, they also reveal distinct differences, several lying in the camp of opulence, others adhering to a more spare and elegant mode. These wines — all samples for review — are not cheap; prices range from what seems like a light-hearted $45 a bottle to a blockbuster $250. Go figure, Readers, and weigh the discrepancies of supply and demand, hubris and accountancy. This post is, as the title asserts, the sixth in a series that examines the cabernet sauvignon wines of Napa Valley, a region noted for its production, if not always for the finesse, of that grape. This is also the 10th post to BTYH of 2015.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. Jess Jackson (1930-2011), founder of Kendall-Jackson Winery, decided in 1983 that the company needed a flagship cabernet sauvignon wine to serve as a Napa Valley icon among the other well-known Napa Valley cabernets. Eventually becoming its own brand with a dedicated facility in the Oakville District, site of the old Robert Pepi winery, Cardinale indeed is a tribute to mountain-grown grapes, of which it is mainly composed, and a model of self-assurance and command. Cardinale 2011 is a blend of 89 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes and 11 percent merlot. The majority of the grapes of which it is composed — 87 percent — derive from vineyards on Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain with a bare two percent from Diamond Mountain. The wine aged 18 months in French oak, 81 percent new barrels. Winemaker is Christopher Carpenter.

Matching its nature as the embodiment of intensity and concentration, the color is opaque ruby with a tinge of magenta; the wine is boldly earthy and spicy, featuring aromas and flavors of ripe black currants, cherries and raspberries permeated by notes of briers and brambles, walnut shell and dried porcini, cloves and lavender and the slightly resinous herbal character of rosemary pared from the stalk. This is a persistent and authoritative cabernet sauvignon, framed by burnished oak and dusty, graphite-inflected tannins, all animated by penetrating acidity; as the moments pass, the fragrance deepens and expands, bringing in hints of dried fruit and flowers, and the black fruit flavors achieve a state of savory generosity, while the structure remains stalwart, tense and resonant. 14.5 percent alcohol. Try from 2016 or ’18 through 2030 to ’35. Excellent. About $250 (a bottle).
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. The website for Caymus Vineyards lists no technical information about its celebratory cabernet sauvignon for 2012, released in honor of the winery’s founding in 1972, by Charles and Lorna Wagner and their son Chuck, the present owner and winemaker. Caymus grew from modest beginnings into a bulwark of Napa Valley cabernet, with its Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon a perpetual contender for top cabernet of the vintage and a darling of collectors, even as the price climbed. Through its Wagner Family of Wines, Caymus now includes Mer Soleil, Conundrum, Belle Glos and Emmolo.

The Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 offers an inky-purple color and chastening notes of iron and iodine that expand into exotic and spicy and quite ripe scents and flavors of macerated black currants, plums and blueberry tart; hints of cloves, lavender and licorice are swathed in touches of bitter chocolate and intense graphite. The wine is ostentatiously floral, plush with dusty, velvety tannins barely reined in by a tremendous mineral element, with back-notes of vanilla and sandalwood. Despite this panoply of riches, the wine is quite dry and finishes with a line of polished oak and some briery, brushy austerity. 14.6 percent alcohol. Best from 2016 or ’17 through 2022 to ’25; it could stand to calm down a little. Excellent. About $60.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cornerstone Cellars The Cornerstone 2011, Napa Valley. The Cornerstone is the flagship cabernet of Cornerstone Cellars, produced from the winery’s Oakville Station Vineyard blocks in To-Kalon District. For 2011, the blend is 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot and 5 percent cabernet franc; the wine aged 22 months in all new French oak barrels. Winemaker is Jeff Keene. The winery is owned by two doctors in Memphis and a group of investors. General manager is Craig Camp, who has overseen Cornerstone’s expansion in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter mulberry-hued rim; aromas of spiced and macerated black currants, raspberries and plums are permeated by elements of iodine and iron — slightly feral and sanguinary — cedar and tobacco, walnut shell and underbrush, woven with notes of lavender and caramelized fennel, aged fruitcake and loam, all making for a profoundly layered and provocative bouquet. On the palate, this cabernet is dense and chewy, lithe and lithic, deeply rooted in dusty, finely-sifted oak and tannins and propelled by keen acidity; the long, vibrant finish is packed with cloves, blueberries, bitter chocolate and graphite. A cabernet of tremendous confidence and authority. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2016 through 2028 to 2030. Production was 100 cases. Excellent. About $150.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Shah Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. It’s a bold move to charge top-dollar for the initial release of a wine, but Bijal and Sinead Shah, owners of this fledgling winery, were not deterred. Shah and his wife Sinead, a pilot for United Airlines, own The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Washington, where they produce a variety of wines under the Kennedy Shah, Dussek and Darighe labels. This cabernet and its stablemate chardonnay represent the couple’s first venture south. The winemaker is Jean Claude Beck, originally from Alsace. The grapes for this 100 percent cabernet wine were grown in Caldwell’s Block 11, part of a vineyard in Coombsville, a fairly obscure AVA in southeastern Napa Valley that received official recognition in 2011. The wine aged 24 months in 100 percent new French oak barrels.

The color is deep ruby-mulberry, dark but not opaque; vivid notes of mint, eucalyptus and toasty oak, poised against a background of ferrous iodine, are meshed with ripe and very spicy black currant and cherry fruit touched with lavender and bitter chocolate; hints of dried rosemary and cedar lend a piquant earthy/herbal aspect. In the mouth, this cabernet is supple and sleek, almost chiseled in its granitic minerality and quite intense in its drenching, almost sweet black fruit flavors, woven with nuances of cloves and oolong tea. New oak intrudes somewhat on the long, spicy, mineral-flecked finish; I would recommend opening in 2016 or after; for drinking through 2022 to ’25. Production was 168 cases. Very Good+ with Excellent potential. About $150.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. The fact that brothers Charles and Stuart Smith continue to keep prices for their exemplary wines so much lower than the competition is one of those miracles and mysteries that make life interesting, and as far as I’m concerned we should not question this phenomenon. The grapes for their cabernet-based wine – for 2011 a blend of 83 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc and 7 percent merlot — are grown on steep, dry-farmed slopes at an elevation of 1,800 feet on Spring Mountain, west of the city of St. Helena. Made from 39-year-old vines, the wine aged 19 months in French oak barrels.

The color is intense, vibrant dark ruby; it’s a deeply loamy cabernet, saturated with closely focused black currant and cherry scents and flavors but infused with notes of graphite, briers and brambles, lavender and dried porcini, redolent with a sort of dusty rosemary, thyme and cedar aspect that’s slightly resiny; the kind of wine you could spend hours swirling and sniffing, an intellectual as well as a sensual exercise. It’s quite concentrated in the mouth, lithe and sinewy, but not lacking in a generous character; dense, chewy tannins are part velvet, part graphite, made lively by a flare of bright acidity and a faceted granitic quality and given depth by an almost primal, dusty, robust earthiness; you feel the elevation, the scrappiness and spareness of the soil, the mineral underpinnings where the roots dig deep for sustenance. 14.3 percent alcohol. Production was 1,070 cases. Nothing flamboyant or over-ripe here. Try from 2016 or ’17 through 2025 to 2030. Excellent. About $48, a bargain in this company.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I was jesting a few days ago when I posted my “50 Great Wines of 2014″ and urged people to get their shopping lists ready. Obviously not many consumers are going to make note of a hundred-dollar cabernet sauvignon or a strictly limited, hard to find grenache gris. Here, though, is the roster that you’ve been waiting for, the “25 Great Wine Bargains of 2014,” a list of fairly widely available, well-made wines that will not but a strain on your budget. You will notice that a wine doesn’t have to be expensive to earn an Excellent rating. Seventeen of these products, priced from $10 to $20 have Excellent ratings; the rest are Very Good+. Not a one would you regret buying, some of them by the case. Now that fact that a number of these wines are from 2011 and 2012 means that they probably ought to be consumed quickly, especially the white wines and rosés; most of the reds can go for a year or two. The point is that these are terrific over-achieving wines that offer more personality and complexity than their prices might imply. The order is descending cost. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review. This post is the seventh of 2015 on BTYH.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $20.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Joseph Cattin “Brut Cattin” Crémant d’Alsace, France. Variable blend of pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling and chardonnay. Excellent. About $19.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nieto Senetier Nicanor Blend 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 34 percent cabernet sauvignon, 33 percent malbec, 33 percent merlot. Excellent. About $19.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, nv, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. Excellent. About $18.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

McCay Cellars Rosé 2013, Lodi. Old vine carignane with some grenache. Production was 253 cases. Excellent. About $18.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand. Excellent. About $18.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jean Ginglinger Cuvée George Pinot Blanc 2011, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $17.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Livon Pinot Grigio 2013, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $17.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J Pinot Gris 2013, California. Excellent. About $16.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prazo de Roriz 2010, Douro, Portugal. Tinta barroca 37%, “old vines” 18%, touriga nacional 16%, touriga franca 15%, tinta amarela 7%, tinta cao 7%. Excellent. About $16.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2012, Dolomiti, Italy. Excellent. About $15.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

CVNE Monopole 2013, Rioja Blanco, Spain. 100 percent viura grapes. Very Good+ verging on Excellent. About $15.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fratelli Chianti 2011, Toscana, Italy. 100% sangiovese. Very Good+. About $15.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine Les Aphillanthes Rosé 2013, Côtes du Rhône, France. Cinsault, grenache, counoise, mourvèdre. Excellent. About $14.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2011, Western Cape, South Africa. Excellent. About $14.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dry Creek Fumé Blanc 2013, Sonoma County. Very Good+. About $14.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Palacios de Bornos Verdejo 2013, Rueda, Spain. 100 percent verdejo grapes. Excellent. About $14.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Stemmari Dalila 2012, Bianco Terre Siciliane, Italy. 80 percent grillo grapes, 20 percent viognier, Excellent. About $14.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wolfberger Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $14.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2013, Toscana, Italy. With 5 percent viognier grapes. Very Good+. About $12.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pedroncelli Signature Selection Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Li Veli Passamante 2012, Salice Salentino, Italy. 100% negroamaro grapes. Very Good+. About $12.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Trim Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California. With 15 percent merlot, 3 percent malbec. Very Good+. About $11.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mandolin Chardonnay 2012, Monterey County. Very Good+. About $10.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tres Ojos Garnacha 2011, Calatayud, Spain. 85 percent grenache, 7 percent each cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo, 1 percent syrah. Very Good+. About $10.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Unbate your breath, My Readers, today I present the annual “50 Great Wines” entry, this edition for 2014. I posted to BiggerThanYourHead 135 times in 2014 and reviewed 582 wines. These 50 Great Wines represent 8.6 percent of the wines I reviewed last year. How do I choose the 50 wines for this honor? First, any wine that I rated Exceptional automatically gets a berth in the roster. After that, the selection process involves going back over every post, looking at the reviews of the wines that received an Excellent rating, reading the notes again and looking for the words or phrases signifying that I felt a wine was exciting, provocative, intriguing, highly individual. You can be sure that this list probably isn’t definitive; how could such a selection of wines be? I cut from the field many wines that could easily have been included, but the limit is 50 and they had to be sacrificed. Even as I clicked on the “Publish” button on WordPress I thought, “Oh no, how could I leave out ……?”

Going through these wines, many of My Readers may cry “Foul!” because some of them were produced in severely limited quantities, but that’s often the case with great wines. Think of the situation as a challenge wherein you face a sort of scavenger hunt in tracking such wines down. Some of these wines were made by well-known winemakers for prominent wineries or estates; others are far more obscure, but I enjoy bringing attention to young, small, family-owned and -operated properties that otherwise might not receive the exposure they deserve. The usual suspect grapes are included, of course — chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir — but you will also find on this list proponents of trousseau gris and grenache gris, carignane and cinsault, crafted by brave pioneers of the unusual, even rare grapes. With one exception — the Dolce 2005 — these products are the current releases from their wineries, or close to it. I think all of them were samples for review or were tasted at the property. I hope this list of 50 Great Wines inspires you to look for the ones that capture your interest and to try wines you never encountered before. Prices, by the way, range from about $22 to $120. Coming in a few days will be my annual list of 25 Great Bargain Wines $20 and Under.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Sonoma Valley. With 7 percent petit verdot. 1,475 cases. Exceptional. About $70.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Elevation 950 Feet Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Knights Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $75.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Animo Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. With 17 percent petit verdot. From Michael Mondavi. Excellent. About $85.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

d’Arenberg The Other Side Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. 14% alc. 96-year-old vines. 200 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $85.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

d’Arenberg Tyche’s Mustard Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. 14% alc. 200 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $85.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Battenfeld Spanier Mölsheim Riesling 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany. Exceptional. About $23.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Blair Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 481 cases. Excellent. About $35.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2013, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 55% roussanne, 26% grenache blanc, 19% picpoul. 1,965 cases. Exceptional. About $28.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2012, Monterey County. 593 cases. Excellent. About $48.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cade Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $28.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2010, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $120.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cenyth 2009, Sonoma County. 14.5% alc. 47% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 10% cabernet franc, 8% petit verdot, 7% malbec. The debut release from this collaboration between Julia Jackson, daughter of the late Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, and Helene Seillan, daughter of Pierre Seillan, winemaker of Verité. Exceptional. About $60.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chêne Bleu Aliot 2010, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, France. 65 percent roussanne, 30 percent grenache blanc, 5 percent marsanne and some smidgeon of viognier. Exceptional. About $85.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Clos Saron Out of the Blue, 2013, Sierra Foothills. 90 percent cinsault, 5 percent syrah, 5 percent graciano. (The cinsault vines planted in 1885.) 170 cases. Excellent. About $30.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. 14.7% alc. With 10% merlot. 470 cases. Exceptional. About $80.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Napa Valley. 361 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dolce 2005, Napa Valley. 90 percent semillon, 10 percent sauvignon blanc. A majestic dessert wine. Exceptional. About $85 for a half-bottle.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Elena Walch Kastelaz Gewürztraminer 2012, Alto Adige, Italy. Exceptional. About $32.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Reserve Pinot Gris 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 261 cases. Exceptional. About $33.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FEL Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $38.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2011, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 200 cases. Excellent. About $24.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gallegos Boekenoogen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 250 cases. Excellent. About $42.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc 2012, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $30.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Idlewild Grenache Gris 2013, Mendocino County. 230 cases. Excellent. About $22.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Inama Vigneto du Lot 2011, Soave Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $30.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Inman Family “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $25.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Inwood Estates Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, Dallas County, Texas. Excellent. About $40.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J. Christopher Wines Lumière Pinot Noir 2011, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 756 cases. Excellent. About $35.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley. With nine percent malbec. Exceptional. About $90.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tenutae Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2012, Sudtirol, Alto adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

McCay Cellars Carignane 2011, Lodi, 218 cases. Excellent. About $32.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Newton “The Puzzle” 2010, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. This proprietary wine is a blend of 60 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, 18 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot and 4 percent malbec. Exceptional. About $100.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. With 3 percent petit verdot, 1 percent each malbec and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $100.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pfendler Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. 14.4% alc. 230 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phifer Pavitt Date Night Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 588 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

La Pitchoune Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. 279 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pittnauer Rosenberg St. Laurent 2010, Burgenland, Austria. Excellent. About $27.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Quinta do Vallado 20 Years Old Tawny Porto. 83 cases. Exceptional. About $80 for a 500-milliliter bottle..
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Respite Reichel Vineyard Indulgence 2010, Alexander valley, Sonoma County. A proprietary blend of 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 22 percent malbec and 13 percent cabernet franc. 77 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

La Rochelle Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2010. Russian River Valley. 14.2% alc. 429 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $48.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,302 cases. Excellent. About $45.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Steven Kent Winery Merrellie Chardonnay 2012, Livermore Valley. 504 cases. Excellent. About $34.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Origin Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma Valley. 266 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Sonoma Coast. 170 cases. Exceptional. About $65.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tin Barn Coryelle Fields Syrah 2009, Sonoma Coast. 123 cases. Excellent. About $25.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris 2012, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley. 25 cases. Exceptional. About $25.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

VML Blanc de Noirs 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $50.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Volta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $60.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wakefield St. Andrews Single Vineyard Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Clare Valley, Australia. 250 cases imported. Excellent. About $60.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Weltner Rödelseer Küchenmeister Trocken Sylvaner 2012, Franken, Germany. Excellent. About $27.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s shaking out like this way South of the Border: Malbec and cabernet sauvignon in Argentina; cabernet sauvignon in Chile, where carmenere, once touted as the coming thing, makes a nice wine but nothing approaching greatness. The red wines from these countries, with a few exceptions, tend toward fullness and power rather than elegance and finesse, but we can accept those qualities, especially when the wines are paired with hearty fare such as animals roasted over open fires or, distilled to our own kitchens, braised and grilled red meat. I offer today 16 examples of cabernet- and malbec-based wines, among them some excellent values, also among them a couple of misfires, but those are the breaks. Nothing much in the way of technical, historical or geographical info here, because these Weekend Wine Notes are intended to be quick, incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy! (In moderation and always using common sense.) These wines were samples for review.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Alamos Red Blend 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.9% alc. Primarily malbec, with dollops of bonarda and tempranillo. Dark to medium ruby color; spicy, briery and brambly black and red currants and cherries with a note of blueberry; pleasant and drinkable, enough tannin and acid for support and vibrancy; quite dry with a touch of dusty, mineral-like austerity on the finish. Drink up, with burgers and pizza. Very Good. About $13.
Imported by Alamos USA, Hayward, Calif.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Alamos “Seleccion” Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.9% alc. Dark ruby hue with a tinge of magenta; slightly woody spices and herbs; ripe and macerated black currants and plums with a hint of blueberry, fleshy and meaty; velvety texture set in sleek, dusty tannins and graphite minerality; fairly dense and chewy, touches of walnut shell and dried porcini; really demands a steak or braised veal shanks. Now through 2016. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Alamos USA, Hayward, Calif.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Apaltagua Reserva Malbec 2013, Maule Valley, Chile. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a magenta rim; clean, fresh and ripe, with notes of cedar, tobacco and thyme highlighting brambly and fairly intense black currant and plum scents and flavors; sleek and velvety, bolstered by dusty tannins, deep elements of spice and dried flowers, all leading to a slightly austere mineral-packed finish. Now through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About $13, a Terrific Bargain.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chakras Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Dark ruby with a garnet rim; black currants and raspberries permeated by notes of cloves, briers and brambles, black pepper, cedar and tobacco; with hints of thyme and black olive; lithe and supple, dense and chewy with leathery tannins and dusty graphite minerality but buoyed by vibrant acidity and tasty black fruit flavors. This could go through 2016 or ’17. Great personality for the price. very Good+. About $13, making a Terrific Value.
Imported by Winesource International, Hilton Head island, S.C.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cousino-Macul Antiquas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile. 14.5 alc. Dark ruby with a garnet tinge at the rim; ripe and fleshy red and black currants and cherries, hints of iodine and iron, lots of high notes balanced by loamy earth tones and grainy tannins that coat the mouth; a piercing line of graphite minerality. Now through 2016 to ’18. Very Good+. About $18.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Upper Maipo Valley, Chile. 14% alc. With 9% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot, 2% merlot. Dark ruby hue with a slightly lighter rim; beautifully complicated and integrated bouquet, with ripe, fleshy and macerated black and red currants and cherries, permeated by notes of cloves, cedar and menthol, some wheatmeal, walnut shell and graphite, hints of lavender and violets; dense and stalwart tannins, but supple and finely-sifted, sleek and burnished oak influence; resonant acidity keeps it lively, while the whole package is supremely balance, a true marriage of power and elegance. Consistently one of the best cabernet sauvignon wines made in South America. Now through 2020 to ’25. Excellent. About $60.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 13.5% alc. Dark ruby-purple hue; clean and fresh but quite intense and concentrated, with riveting notes of iodine and iron, black truffles, leather and loam; bright and spicy black currants and cherries infused with very intense elements of potpourri and bitter chocolate; lip-smacking density and acidity; dry, dusty tannins, walnut shell, wheatmeal; austerity takes over from mid-palate through the finish. A bit inchoate now, try from 2016 through 2020 to ’25. Very Good+ with Excellent potential. About $20.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Maquis Lien Red Wine 2010, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 13.4% alc. Cabernet franc 42%, syrah 32%, carmenere 23%, petit verdot 3%. Intense ruby-purple color; an unusual and felicitous blend; briers and brambles, wheatmeal, wood smoke, walnut shell; intense and concentrated scents and flavors of black currants, cherries and plums; cedar, rosemary, black olive; robust and a little wild; dusty graphite, dense, intense tannins, rip-roaring acidity and granitic minerality; quite dry leaning toward austerity. Try from 2016 or ’17 through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $30.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Puente Alto, Chile. 14% alc. Intense dark ruby with a magenta rim; black fruit with a trace of blue; fig and fruitcake, caramelized fennel, black olive, oolong tea; ripe wild berry; well-balanced structure of dense tannins and bright acidity, but the tannins grow in power, coating the palate with a dry, dusty, well-honed effect; you feel the spicy, burnished oak on the finish. Give this from 2016 or ’17 through 2022 to ’26. Excellent. About $20, another Fine Value.
Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Old Brookville, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Nieto Senetier Don Nicanor Blend 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% alc. 34% cabernet sauvignon, 33% malbec, 33% merlot. Opaque ruby, almost black, with a violet rim; iodine and iron, ripe and fleshy black currants, cherries and plums; very intense amalgam of graphite, lavender, licorice, potpourri and bitter chocolate, with notes of truffles and loam, all quite heady and seductive; fills the mouth with soft supple tannins and graphite minerality; tasty and deeply spicy black and blue fruit flavors riven by keen acidity; long mineral-and-spice-packed finish. Loads of personality. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $19, marking Great Value.
Imported by Foley Family Wines, Sonoma, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Nieto Senetier Terroir Blend Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% alc. Elevation is the important point to this wine, so here are the details: 34% comes from a vineyard at 3,120-foot elevation; 33% from 3,450 feet; 33% from 3,780 feet. Very dark ruby-purple; mint, iodine, lavender and violets, ripe, spicy and slightly fleshy black and blue fruit scents and flavors, a little sanguinary; beautifully balanced and super attractive but with plenty of dusty tannic structure; sleek, lithe and lithic, dense all the way through, energized by coiled acidity; long powerful finish. Real personality and character. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $30.
Foley Family Wines, Sonoma, Calif.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Peñalolen Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Maipo Valley, Chile. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a tinge of garnet; sleek and suave cabernet; mint, cedar and tobacco; black currants, blackberry and hints of blueberry and wild cherry; deeply savory, with notes of tapenade and fruitcake — spice, candied peel, nuts — ; dense, intense, almost chewy; very dry and formidable slightly austere tannins require some time to relax; try from 2016 or ’17 through 2022 through ’26. Or have it with a steak tonight. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
El Gran Malbec de Ricardo Santos 2009, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% alc. 500 cases. Deep ruby-purple color with a magenta rim; mint eucalyptus, brandied cherries and raspberries; feral and woodsy, briers and brambles, a hint of wheatmeal; a touch over-ripe and jammy, like port-infused blackberry and blueberry marmalade; grippy tannins and graphite minerality; very dry, austere on the finish. Generally I’m a fan of the Ricardo Santos label, but I find this example essentially unbalanced. Good only. About $35.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tomero Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 15% alc. Dark ruby-purple; spiced and mentholated black cherries and plums; cedar, black tea, tobacco, all quite ripe and intense, a little plummy-jammy; well-balanced as to tannin and acidity and a mineral tang on the finish, but you feel the sweetness and heat from the alcohol. Good+. About $13.
Imported by Blends Inc, Plymouth, Calif.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a slightly purplish rim; sleek, lithe, supple; intense and a little fleshy black currants and cherries, hint of blueberry; a note of toasty oak; finely-meshed and slightly dusty tannins and graphite minerality; a spice-and-mineral inflected finish. Well-made and enjoyable, through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About $18.
Universal Wine Network, Livermore, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% alc. Deep ruby-purple color; ripe blackberry, currant and plum permeated by notes of wheatmeal, fennel, thyme and graphite; a few minutes in the glass bring up hints of cloves and sandalwood, lavender and licorice, all slightly toasty; finely sifted tannins and granitic minerals and tasty black and blue fruit flavors are supported by bright acidity, every element nicely balanced and integrated. Now through 2016 or ’18. Very Good+. About $21.
Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Old Brookville, N.Y.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The wines of Bordeaux that receive all the attention and hype and that command high prices at retail and auction probably number fewer than 150. The estates that produce these august wines are located primarily in the Left Bank communes of Margaux, Pauillac, St-Julien, St-Estephe, Graves and Pessac-Leognan and the Right Bank communes of St-Emilion and Pomerol. The region of Bordeaux, however, has many more appellations than these celebrated areas — 54 altogether — and something like 8,000 chateaux or estates, though those concepts may be applied rather loosely and in terms of actual architecture range from palatial to humble. The point is that while you may have to pay hundreds of dollars or in the four figures to acquire a bottle of wine from a top-rated chateau, plenty of options exist for enjoyable, drinkable authentic wines available at reasonable prices. Let’s consider two examples from 2011, each of which would be worth buying by the case to serve as your house red wine. These wines were samples for review.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Many estates in Bordeaux carry the name “Bellevue,” either by itself or in a hyphenated arrangement with another name. This particular Chateau Bellevue 2011 falls under the Bordeaux Superieur designation and is owned by Vicomte Bruno de Ponton d’Amecourt, whose family acquired the 17th Century property in 1973. The wine is a blend of 60 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent malbec. The color is dark ruby; aromas of black currants and cherries with a tinge of blueberry are permeated by notes of cedar and cloves and an undertone of graphite; a few moments in the glass bring up touches of coffee and tobacco. This is a quite tasty and drinkable wine, its dry character and ripe, spicy black fruit flavors animated by vibrant acidity; moderately rustic tannins lend structure (and grow more prominent the minutes elapse). 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 to 19. Very Good+. About $15 to $19.
Imported by Esprit du Vin, Port Washington, N.Y.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chateau d’Aiguilhe — the name means “needle” and refers to a nearby rocky outcropping — lies in the commune of Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux, designated as such in 2009, east of the city of Bordeaux on the bank of the Dordogne river. The ancient estate, whose chateau dates back to the 13th Century, was purchased in 1993 by Comte Stephan von Neipperg, whose family also owns the important properties of La Mondotte, Clos de l’Oratoire, Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere and Chateau Peyreau in St-Emilion and the Sauternes estate Chateau Guiraud. The grape proportion at Chateau d’Aiguilhe 2011 is 80 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc. The effort here is toward balance and elegance; the color is dark ruby; the bouquet features ripe cassis and black raspberry scents infused with cedar, loam and dried thyme and a tantalizing hint of black olive. The wine is firm and supple on the palate, with a lithe muscular feeling supported by mildly dusty tannins and bright acidity. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $22 to $29.
Importer unknown.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

No, not the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County but the historic Santa Rita estate in Chile. Or estates, because the winery, founded in 1880 by Domingo Fernandez in the Maipo Valley, just south of Santiago, owns vineyards in most of the narrow country’s prime grape-growing areas. Its age makes Santa Rita one of Chile’s most venerable wineries, but it really began producing important wines after it was purchased, in 1980, by Ricardo Claro, owner of the diversified Grupo Claro. (He died in 2008.) Winemaker is Andrés Ilabaca. There’s little argument with the notion that Chile’s most prominent red grapes are cabernet sauvignon and carménère, the latter long thought to be merlot until extensive DNA testing in the 1990s proved that most of the country’s merlot was actually carmenere, Bordeaux’s forgotten grape. Santa Rita treats both varieties with the respect they deserve, though what is lacking, as is the case with much of Chile’s red wines, are grace and elegance, qualities sacrificed for structure and power. Still, these red wines from Santa Rita merit attention for their highly individual approach and for their dauntless longevity. They are imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla. These wines were samples for review.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The color of the Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carménère 2008, Colchagua Valley, Chile, is opaque, dark ruby; distinct aromas of mint, tomato skin and black olive are given exotic sway by notes of cinnamon bark and sandalwood, all at the service of heady and intensely ripe, spiced and macerated blackberries, black cherries and blueberries; quite a performance there. This wild and winsome character, however, translates on the palate to a dense chewy texture and a structure freighted with dry grainy tannins that coat the mouth and lip-smacking acidity. Fruit is an afterthought that requires another couple of years to find eloquent expression, though I would not hesitate to recommend this wine with steaks, full-flavored and hearty braised dishes and rich pastas. Made from 70-year-old vines, the wine aged 10 months in French oak casks. 14.1 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to 2020. Very Good+. About $20.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The previous wine aged in oak casks, a word that implies larger barrels — though the terminology is vague — than the term “barrel” itself, which generally means the French 59-gallon barrique. The Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Maipo Valley, Chile, aged 12 months in those smaller barrels, lending the wine a spicy nature and a supple quality. The color is dark ruby; the bouquet is piquant and woodsy, with notes of mint and moss, heather and heath, along with spiced and macerated black and red currants and cherries; in the mouth, the wine is tightly-knit, dense with silken tannins, quite dry and a little austere, though if you stick with it long enough, it softens a bit in the glass and becomes more approachable. As with the previous wine, if you’re going to one of those giant meat-fests with fire-roasted beef, pigs, lambs and goats that prevail in the Southern Hemisphere, you can pop the cork on this baby. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to 2022. Very Good+. About $20.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I like the idea behind the Santa Rita Triple C Red Wine 2008, Maipo Valley, Chile. The point is that in consists of three grape varieties that begin with the letter “C”: cabernet franc (65 percent); cabernet sauvignon (30 percent); carménère (5 percent). The possibilities are endless; Triple P, for example, with petit verdot, petite sirah and pinot noir. Or, to go white, Triple M, with marsanne, melon de bourgogne and muscat of Alexandria. Well, ha ha, enough levity, because the “C” blend of this wine works to its advantage. The color is dark ruby, opaque, almost smoldering, at the center; a highly individual bouquet features notes of cedar and tobacco, black olives and oolong tea, hints of thyme and bell pepper, and elements of macerated and slightly roasted blackberries, blueberries and black currants, with a back-tone of eucalyptus; it’s all rather dream-like and unforgettable. The wine is fresh and clean in the mouth, energized by blazing acidity and characterized by a huge structure of massive dry, grainy tannins and scintillating graphite minerality; not a lot of room for spicy black and blue fruit flavors, but they manage to endure the onslaught of size and austerity and persist in announcing their presence. 14.5 percent alcohol. I would love to pair this wine with a medium-rare, dry-aged rib-eye steak, hot and crusty from the grill. Or let it rest for a couple of years and drink through 2020 to 2024. Excellent (potential). About $40.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ I’ll say at the outset that the Santa Rita Pehuén Carménère 2007, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile, is one of the best wines made from this variety that I have encountered. (It’s 95 percent carménère, 5 percent cabernet sauvignon.) The color is dark ruby with a subtle magenta cast; the complex bouquet offers a seamless layering of mint and eucalyptus, loam and graphite, cedar, tobacco and rosemary (with the latter’s hint of piny resinous quality), cloves and sandalwood and, finally, depths of black and red currants, cherries and plums. In the mouth, well, expect truckloads of dusty, palate-coating tannins granitic minerality and palate-cleansing acidity, along with brushings of briers, brambles, undergrowth and dried porcini. This is, in other words, at seven years old, still largely about structure; give it until 2016 or ’17 and drink through 2020 to 2024 or so. Alcohol content is 14 percent. Excellent (potential). About $70.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We can’t drink great wine all the time. Contrary to what My Readers may think, I certainly don’t. In fact, a diet of perfection would become cloying and wearisome, n’est-ce pas? Well, perhaps not, but let’s assume that most people really just want a decent bottle of wine to accompany a simple meal. Here, then, are two white wines and four reds designed to be to consumed with, say, a tuna sandwich or seafood risotto, on the one hand, or a burger or steak, on the other. Prices range from $12 to $17, with quality fairly evenly portioned along the Very Good to Very Good+ range. Will these wines — especially the reds — lodge in the memory as some of the best wine you’ve tasted? certainly not, but they get the job done, or better, at a reasonable price. If only everything in life turned out that way. Quick reviews here, intended to pique your interest and whet the palate. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Stepping Stone Rocks! White Wine 2013, North Coast, California. 13.3% alc. (Stepping Stone is the second label of Cornerstone Cellars; Rocks! is, well, the second label of Stepping Stone.) “Mystery” blend of chardonnay, viognier and muscat canelli. Very pale gold color; lilac, lemon-lime and pear, slightly grassy and herbal, hint of lemongrass; quite clean, crisp, fresh and dry, with a kind of gin-like purity and snap; taut, vibrant, lean but a pleasing, cloud-like texture; crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone minerality; slightly earthy finish. Extremely attractive white blend for short-term drinking. Very Good+. About $15, representing Excellent Value.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tomero Torrontes 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Pale gold color; jasmine and gardenia, spiced pear and lemon balm, lime peel and a touch of grapefruit, a few minutes in the glass bring in whiffs of lavender and lilac, though this is not overwhelmingly floral, all is subtle and nuanced; pert citrus and stone fruit flavors; lovely body, crisp, lithe and lively yet imbued with an almost talc-like texture that slides across the palate like silk; hint of grapefruit bitterness on the finish. A superior torrontes for consuming over the next year. Very Good+. About $17.
Imported by Blends, Plymouth, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Mandolin Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Central Coast. 13.8% alc. Brilliant dark ruby with a flush of mulberry at the rim; unfolds layers of cedar,
thyme and black olive, black currants and plums, hint of wild berry; notes of iodine and graphite; trace of wood in the slightly leathery tannins, quite dry but juicy with herb-inflected black fruit flavors; sleek and supple texture, lively acidity; spice-and-mineral-packed finish. Now through the end of 2015. Great personality for the price. Very Good+. About $12, an Amazing Bargain.
Image from brainwines.com.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Esprit du Rhône 2013, Côtes du Rhône, France. 13.5% alc. 60% grenache, 30% syrah, 5% carignan, 5% cinsault. 1,000 cases imported. Medium-dark ruby color shading to a transparent rim; aromas of ripe blackberries, blueberries and plum with notes of cloves, briers and leather; fairly dense and robust tannins and bright acidity keep the texture forthright and lively for the sake of tasty, spicy black fruit flavors. Now through 2016. Very Good. About $12.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. Image from vivino.com.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nieto Senetiner Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Dark ruby-purple; briery and brambly blackberry and plum fruit deeply imbued with cloves, mocha and licorice; moderate and slightly chewy tannins for structure, an uplift of acidity; tasty black fruit flavors in a rustic, graphite-laden package. Now into 2015. Very Good. About $13.
Imported by Foley Family Wines, Sonoma, Calif.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tercos Bonarda 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. (From the winery of Ricardo Santos). 13.8% alc. Dark ruby hue, almost opaque; spicy and feral, blackberries and plums with notes of wild cherry, tar, graphite and licorice; heaps of rough-hewn tannins make for a sturdy mouthful of wine, though nothing heavy or ponderous to detract from ripe, delicious blackberry and blueberry flavors; loads of personality. Now through the end of 2015. Very Good. About $14.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next Page »