California


I love the white wines of the southern Rhone Valley, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I love the white grapes of that region — 05_55071_TAB_white_blend_15E8_750W_TTB_cropgrenache blanc, viognier, roussanne and marsanne — because they can be made into beautiful wines in other parts of the world. An example is the Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc 2015, a blend of 56 percent grenache blanc, 23 percent viognier, 12 roussanne and 9 marsanne, nurtured in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. Made all in stainless steel and fermented by native yeasts, this organically fashioned wine features a light, bright straw-gold hue and enticing aromas of honeyed peaches and golden plums, jasmine and gardenia, lemongrass, green tea and white pepper. These elements segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine is sleek and supple, spare and graceful, offering a lovely talc-like texture riven by vivid acidity; it’s quite dry but juicy in its ripe stone-fruit flavors buoyed by burgeoning chalk and flint minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. Tablas Creek is a partnership between the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands. Executive winemaker and vineyard manager is Neil Collins. Drink now through 2018 or ’19 with seafood risotto, fish stew, trout amandine and seared salmon or swordfish. Excellent. About $25. (A local purchase.)

Nothing against cabernet, merlot and pinot noir; fine wines are often made from these grapes — if they’re not allowed to get over-ripe or high in alcohol or battened and battered by oak — but they’re so ubiquitous. Let’s give some other red grapes a chance, OK? Here then is a selection of that includes mourvèdre, tempranillo, petite sirah, petit verdot, nebbiolo, syrah and aglianico. Several of the wines featured today come in quite reasonably for price, that is, about $15 or $16, while a couple of others ramp up the scale to $65. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. As usual, these Weekend Wine Notes eschew the minutiae of technical, historical and geographical matters for the sake of incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet your palate; you can wet your palate later. Enjoy, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 13.9% alc. 100% mourvèdre. Production was 277 cases. Dark ruby hue with a glowing magenta rim; deep, dark, spicy and meaty, a brooding concoction of tobacco leaf, wood smoke, fruit cake and plum pudding, very ripe black currants, blueberries and blackberries; very dry, displaying tar-and-lavender tinged black fruit flavors bolstered by flaring acidity, plush, dusty tannins and a seam of granitic minerality; still, with the grace not to be ponderous or blatant. Now through 2022 to ’24 with full-flavored, big-hearty roasts and grills. Excellent. About $45.
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Viña Bujanda Crianza 2013, Rioja, Spain. 13% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Very dark black-ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; ripe and rich, bursting with blackberries, black currants and a touch of juicy plum; cloves, lavender and graphite; dusty heather, smoke and violets; very dry, with smacky acidity and tannins. Heaps of personality and flavorful appeal. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $16.
Winebow, Inc., New York.
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Cadaretta Syrah 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.5% alc. 82% syrah, 11% mourvèdre, 5% grenache, 2% viognier (the blend listed on the cad syrahwinery website is slightly different). 500 cases. Stygian inky purple-violet color; loam, briers and brambles; black currants, cherries and plums; an infusion of mint and iodine, smoke and roasted meat, lavender and licorice; very dry, seethes with velvety tannins, graphite and charcoal, all propelled by a tide of glittering acidity. Quite a performance, without being flamboyant. Now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $35.
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Frank Family Petite Sirah 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% petite sirah. Inky purple with a nuclear violet rim; a big, juicy petite sirah that manages not to be overwhelming, made in a sensible fashion that showcases the grape; blackberries and black plums with a flush of blueberry and — deep down — a touch of pomegranate; a structure characterized by iodine and iron, graphite and dusty, velvety tannins; woodsy elements, forest floor, dried mushrooms emerge after a few minutes in the glass, leading to a finish that’s strict and a touch austere. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $35.
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Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2012, Piedmont, Italy. 14% alc. 100% nebbiolo. Limpid, medium bright ruby, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting; wild berries, woodsy herbs and flowers, a touch of sour cherry, a lash of red currants and blueberries; briers and brambles and foresty elements ensconced in a welter of tar, briers and brambles, violets and rose petals; dusty, supple tannins build in the glass, along with pine and balsam notes, hints of cloves and allspice; all leading to a finish of noble dimensions in its elegance and high-toned austerity. A beautiful expression of the nebbiolo grape. Best from 2018 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $50.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petite Sirah 2012, Calistoga, Napa Valley. 15.4% alc. 589 cases. 100% petite sirah. Inky black-purple with an intense violet rim; this is like liquid ore from the darkest vein, with dusty plums, iodine, smoked black tea and a profound graphite-granitic mineral character; dense, velvety and succulent on the palate, very ripe black fruit but not sweet or cloying; very dry, with sleek tannins and lithe acidity; you feel an infusion of oak and alcohol on the finish, but the wine is surprisingly well-balanced. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $65.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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2013-PVMS-750ml-Front_WITH-ALC-1Grgich Hills Miljenko’s Selection Yountville Petit Verdot 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. With 11% cabernet sauvignon. Dark ruby with a glowing purple rim; very intense and concentrated, with a tight focus on black currants, raspberries and blueberries permeated by lavender, black licorice and mocha; leather and loam, heaps of dusty, gravelly, graphite-infused tannins powered by lips-smacking acidity. Needs a couple of years to come together. Very Good+. About $65.
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mastro
Mastro Aglianico 2014, Campania, Italy. 12.5% alc. 100% aglianico grapes. From Mastroberardino. A radiant medium ruby color; a tarry, ferrous and sanguinary red, with deeply spicy and macerated black cherries and currants, notes of iron and violets, leather and loam; long, dusty, sinewy tannins and vibrant acidity; a finish packed with spice, black fruit and minerals. Now through 2018 with barbecue ribs, grilled pork chops with a Southwestern rub, carnitas with intense mole, your best chili. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Winebow, Inc. New York. The 2015, now available, has a totally different label.
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Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah 2014, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. With 5% syrah. 488 cases. Opaque black-ruby with a purple rim; spiced, macerated and roasted plums and black currants with an intriguing resinous, balsamic edge; smoked meat, oolong tea, cloves and sandalwood; a very dry wine but juicy with ripe and spicy black and blue fruit flavors; shaggy tannins buoyed by brisk acidity; some roots-and-branches austerity in a finish drenched with fruit and granitic minerality. A beautifully balanced petite sirah that reflects the essential rustic nature of the grape. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $32.
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tasca
Tasca Regaleali Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia. 14% alc. 100% nero d’Avola grapes. Intense dark ruby shading to lighter ruby hue; uncomplicated but delicious, with black and red raspberries and currants, loam and graphite, dry, well-integrated tannins and lively acidity; it’s vibrant, spicy and appealing, so bring on a platter of spaghetti and meatballs or veal Parmesan. Very Good+. About $15.
A Leonardo LoCascio Selection, Winebow, Inc., New York.
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Celia Welch may be the most important winemaker that you’ve never heard of in Napa Valley, though devotees of high-quality boutique yount sb labelwineries know her work well. Welch is a consulting winemaker for Barbour Vineyards, Hollywood & Vine Cellars, J. Davies Winery, Keever Vineyards and Winery and Scarecrow Wines. She is the winemaker for Lindstrom Wines and owner and winemaker of Corra Wines. Despite her busy involvement in these producers, Welch has a new project called Yount Ridge, one of whose wines is our Wine of the Day No. 240. This is a limited edition bottling that My Readers will have to use their wiles to search out, but I know you’re up to the challenge. Grapes for the Yount Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, derived from an organically-farmed vineyard in the Oakville District AVA; the wine matured a brief four months in a combination of 70 percent stainless steel tanks and 30 percent new French oak, a judicious employment of wood, if you ask me. The color is pale straw-gold; a glorious, green, leafy bouquet encompasses notes of caraway and toasted hazelnuts, lemongrass and figs, smoked pears, thyme and tarragon. The wine is lively and spicy on the palate, animated by bright acidity coursing through a lovely talc-like texture bolstered by an edge of limestone minerality; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of white pepper and chives, lime peel and tangerine. The grapefruit-tinged finish is spare and elegant, chiseled from chalk, sea salt and flint. 14.2 percent alcohol. A beautifully-wrought sauvignon blanc for drinking through 2018 to 2020. Production was 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

A sample for review.

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If you can find a well-made, delicious and authentic Sonoma County pinot noir for $20, clasp it to thy bosom with gratitude and fervor. Such a one -tah-dah! — is the Olema Pinot Noir 2014, from Sonoma County but with generous contribution s from the more specific and pinot-friendly AVAs of Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Olema is the second, less expensive label of Amici Cellars. The wine aged 12 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. The color is a lovely, transparent medium ruby hue with a delicate, almost invisible rim; this is a clean and fresh pinot noir that offers an essential loamy underpinning as support for notes of rhubarb and sassafras, red cherries and smoky plums and just a hint of shy forest flowers. On the palate, the Olema Pinot Noir 2014 feels warm, spicy and inviting, dry, to be sure, but juicy with red and black fruit flavors highlighted by new leather, cloves and black pepper. The wine builds subtle layers in the glass, so after a few minutes, you notice elements of briers and brambles and graphite, all fixed in place by bright acidity and nuanced, slightly dusty minerality. 14.2 percent. A truly engaging pinot noir for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken or coq au vin, smoked turkey, game birds and grilled leg of lamb. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

A rosé wine can be made in one of three ways. First, mix red and white wine, just a touch of red. Voila, it’s pink! Generally, this method is avoided in making still rosés, and in fact is primarily used in the production of brut rosé Champagne and sparkling wines. Second, and endless crushmost common, is maceration, in which the skins of red grapes macerate with the juice for a brief period, usually two to 20 hours, and then the juice is removed from the vats when the desired lightness or depth of hue and flavor is reached. (The color of red wine, whether medium ruby or motor-oil purple, derives from the skins; grape juice itself has no or little color.) Third is saignée, a French term meaning “to bleed.” The process involves siphoning or “bleeding off” some of the juice from the macerating tanks before it becomes too dark, a step that helps concentrate the “real” wine as well as produce a rosé. The rosé wine considered today was made by maceration of grapes grown especially for this wine, not as an after-thought or coincidental product bled off from a more important wine. The Inman Family “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, was made from organic grapes grown in the winery’s Olivet Grange vineyard and picked in August last year. After a few months in stainless steel tanks, the wine was bottled on December 7, making it all of about six months old. The color is very pale petal pink; oh, this is a delicate and ethereal wreathing of strawberries, red currants and watermelon that opens to a fine web of honeysuckle and lilac, orange rind and grapefruit, all encompassed by a slightly earthy undertone of damp and slightly dusty tiles and river stones. Tensile strength emerges with the wine’s bright, lip-smacking acidity and mouth-watering juiciness and the contrast between its crisp nature and an almost lush texture. 11.9 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017. Production was 672 cases, and it goes fast. A superior rosé wine that feels like a kiss from Spring and a caress from Summer. Exceptional. About $35.

A sample for review.

The limited edition “Miljenko’s Selections” wines from Grgich Hills Estate are named for the winery’s co-founder and longtime winemaker 2014-ESS-FRONT-WITHOUT-ALCMiljenko “Mike” Grgich, and the label is a fitting tribute to this Napa Valley pioneer. (Present winemaker is Ivo Jeramaz.) Our Wine of the Day is the superb Grgich Hills Miljenko’s Selection Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, a sauvignon blanc of riveting purity and intensity. The wine fermented with natural yeasts and aged nine months in large oak casks, so any wood influence is subtle, almost subliminal. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of lime peel, lemongrass and gooseberry are heightened by notes of jasmine and lilac and a kind of sunny, leafy fig suggestion. The texture is both soft and talc-like and boldly crisp with assertive acidity; flavors take on a wisp of stone-fruit rounded by a tangerine edge, all finishing with grapefruit rind, seashell and limestone scintillation. The energy and elegance of this sauvignon blanc cannot be overstated, nor can its poignant, piercing minerality or its lovely sense of presence; it is one of the most sheerly beautiful examples of the grape I have encountered. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 646 cases. Drink now through 20 to ’22. Exceptional. About $55.

A sample for review. The label image is one vintage behind; 2015 has not made it onto the winery’s website.

Valentine’s, the most fraught day of the year, when everybody in America is going to be as romantic as hell or die trying, and what’s more loveromantic than that? In case you — meaning any person of whatever gender fluidity, age, religion, political stance, food preference or IQ — forgot to lay in a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, here is a brief roster of examples, all Brut Rosés, that register at various levels of delectability on the palate and dent-free on the pocketbook; in other words, delicious and not too expensive. (I understand that “expensive” is a relative concept.) Though actual Champagne is not included here, that is, bubbly made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, these models are produced in the famed “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle, the same bottle it will be sold in, after some length of time resting on the lees in said bottle before being finished with the cork and wire. The process is a tad more complicated, of course, but I’m into simplification today so I can get a bottle of sparkling wine into your hands before it’s too late. Two of these selections are from France — Loire Valley and Burgundy — and two from California — Russian River and Napa-Carneros. So, drink up, have fun, dance a step or two and give him or her or him/her a smooch for me.

Credit: Leslie Barron, Big Love, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 24 by 48 inches. Courtesy of L Ross Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee.
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De Chanceny Brut Rosé nv, Crémant de Loire, is a product of Alliance Loire, a cooperative founded in 2002 to take advantage of vineyard 17385--de-chanceny-cremant-de-loire-rose-brut-label-1426983098connections that range from Muscadet in the west to the appellations of Touraine in the center. This is 100 percent cabernet franc, aged on the lees at least 12 months. The color is an attractive pale copper-salmon hue, enlivened by a steady stream of tiny bubbles. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry are touched with the slight astringency of mulberry, fleshed out by orange zest and a hint of cloves. This Crémant de Loire is dry, crisp and lively, animated by pert acidity and a deft limestone edge. 12.5 percent alcohol. Truly charming. Very Good+. I paid $15 locally, but prices around the country vary from about $13 to $19; don’t pay that much, My Readers.

Signature Imports, Mansfield, Mass.
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Founded in 1831, Domaine Albert Bichot produces Burgundy wines that encompass the complete geographical and hierarchical aspects of the region. Today, however, we look not at any of the domaine’s Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines but at its quite satisfying non-vintage Albert Bichot Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne, composed of chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay grapes. The color is pale copper-pink, the essential bubbles active and energetic. Notes of blood orange, cloves, tangerine and red cherry are given a serious touch by an element of limestone minerality. It’s quite dry but displays lovely bones and a deceptive quality of tensile strength. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.

European Wine Imports, Cleveland, Ohio. A sample for review.
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The J Vineyard Brut Rosé nv, Russian River Valley, is a blend of 66 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 1 percent pinot meunier; it aged two years en tirage, that is, on the lees in the bottle. This is all flushes, blushes and nuances, from its very pale copper-sunset hue, to its slightly fleshy, subtly ripe notes of orange zest, raspberry and lemon rind touched with almond skin, to its steely, chiseled structure. The bubbles, however, are nothing discrete, being a dynamic upward surge like a fountain. This sparkling wine is elegant and fine-boned, finishing with an intriguing hint of grapefruit bitterness. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.
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The Frank Family Vineyard Brut Rosé 2012, Napa Valley-Carneros, a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, offers a pale copper hue flushed with rose-petal pink; the tiny bubbles teem like a glinting tempest in the glass. This is a focused and intense sparkling wine that displays burnished notes of blood orange and tangerine, red raspberries and currants wrapped in a package of lightly toasted brioche and limestone steeliness, managing to be both generous and austere. Lip-smacking acidity and effervescence and scintillating minerality keep it appealing and dynamic, while innate elegance makes it lithe and attractive. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.

A sample for review.
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It’s interesting that these two gewurztraminer wines, made in regions thousands of miles and a hemisphere apart, received such similar treatment in the winery, that is to say, mostly stainless steel with a judicious amount of wood. Drink these with charcuterie, pork chops smothered in apples and white wine, seafood soups and stews, grilled mussels, moderately spicy Southeast Asian cuisine.

These wines were samples for review.
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First, the Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014, Sonoma Coast, produced from vineyards where the vines are 10 years old and 2014-GBW-gewurztraminer-f40 years old, fermented and aged in 90 percent stainless steel tanks and 10 percent neutral French oak barrels; in addition, and even more interesting, 15 percent of the grapes were frozen before being pressed. What’s the result of this process? A clean, fresh and spare gewurztraminer that displays a very pale straw-gold hue and arresting aromas of lime peel and grapefruit, lychee, gardenia and jasmine, with following hints of green tea and lemongrass and an overall sheen of petrol and limestone. It’s pretty heady stuff, all right. On the palate, the wine is pithy, crisp with essential acidity, and lively with a kind of flinty nervosity, these elements providing a keen edge to the lovely, ripe, talc-like stone-fruit and citrus flavors, culminating in a finish flush with grapefruit bitterness. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22, as time should burnish this to a state of pure golden minerality. Excellent. About $22.50.
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lawson gewuart
Grapes for the Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand, derive from vineyards planted in 1981. The regimen is six months in 80 hectoliter tanks — 2,113.37 gallons — and standard French barriques. This is a truly lovely wine, from its shimmer of pale gold hue to his intriguing scents of lychee and gardenia, grapefruit and mango, with notes of petrol and honeysuckle, to its exquisite tension among spicy flavors of figs, quince and ginger; scintillating limestone minerality; and bright acidity that cuts a furrow on the palate. The essence here is a briery, loamy, heather and woodsy character under succulent yellow fruit, leading to a typical stony finish freighted with grapefruit rind bitterness. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $19.

Imported by The Country Vintner, Ashland, Va., a division of Winebow Inc.
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You may think I’m wayward and quixotic for recommending a rosé wine on February 9, a day of storms, wind, snow and ice for much of the nation, but yesterday I drank a glass (or two) of this wine while sitting on the back porch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And then the toad hollowtemperature dropped precipitously, so we had a very cold night, a chilly but sunny today, and tomorrow we’re back in the 70s. Who can live with this whiplash approach to mid-Winter? The wine is the Toad Hollow Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, designated Sonoma County, though the grapes derived from the marine climate of Carneros. The wine’s name — “Dry Rosé” — indicates that at one time and perhaps even now American consumers considered rosé wines sweet, though the great majority of them are bone-dry. While made completely from pinot noir grapes — no grenache, cinsault, counoise, no syrah or mourvèdre — this rosé thoroughly partakes of the spirit of its counterparts in Provence. The color is an entrancing pale onion skin hue — what used to be called “eye of the partridge” — and the aromas of orange zest, peach and strawberry are subtle and delicate, bolstered by a hint of wet stones and dried thyme; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of watermelon and lilac. On the palate, this charming rosé wine is a little gingery, featuring peach and raspberry flavors enlivened by crisp acidity and a burgeoning limestone and flint element. “Charming,” yes, but quite spare, slightly honed and chiseled, nothing gushing or abundant; I call it classic and graceful. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through the end of 2017. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

A sample for review.

Jackson Family Wines acquired Siduri Wines, the cult producer of single-vineyard pinot noirs, in January 2015. Smart purchase for a company ECM316759heavily into pinpointing exclusive wineries and producers of pinot noir in California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Founder Adam Lee remains as winemaker. The wine considered today, however, is not a single-vineyard effort but a wine that seeks to be the embodiment of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a noted powerhouse of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. The Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, derives from seven vineyards throughout the diverse landscape and micro-climates of Russian River Valley and a variety of clones. This one is for fans of big-hearted pinot noirs that wear their gushing fruity attributes and underpinnings on their sleeves. Not particularly my style — I prefer more nuance — but it’s obviously so well-made that I can’t resist offering it as another Wine of the Day. The color is a striking deep ruby-purple with a glowing violet-magenta rim; it’s a dark and intense pinot noir that features scents and flavors of smoked and macerated black and red cherries and currants touched with iodine and iron and notes of rhubarb, allspice, sandalwood and sassafras. Silky smooth is the texture, running like satin ribbons over the palate, while bright acidity lends liveliness and firm, graphite-tinged tannins give grit and verve. Loam and leather come up, as well as some foresty asperity in the depths, more smoke and a blithe hint of wild cherry. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22 with roasted chicken or game birds, pork tenderloin or veal. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

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