Chardonnay


The last time I posted an entry in this series was October 10, 2016, and, coincidentally, that post involved the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate sarahChardonnay 2014 and Estate Pinot Noir 2014, from Santa Clara Valley, 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. Today it’s the turn of the winery’s straight-forward Santa Clara Valley offerings from 2014, a pair that is less expensive than the estate wines and produced in fairly larger quantities. This line was previously called the “Central Coast Series,” and still carries a Central Coast appellation. Owner and winemaker Tim Slater, who acquired the winery from founders Marilyn Clark and John Otterman in 2001, practices minimal intervention, especially in the barrel program, where new oak is kept strictly in the minority position.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers at the bidding of the Federal Trade Commission. This injunction does not apply to print writers, because they obviously are more trustworthy than bloggers.
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Aged 11 months in primarily neutral French oak barrels, the pure medium gold-colored Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Chardonnay 2014 is effusive in its classic pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors that feel slightly baked, a little crisp around the edges in its crystalline clarity and purpose; notes of white flowers, cloves and a hint of mango flesh out the effect. A very subtle oak patina bolsters the richness on the palate, while bright acidity and an element of limestone minerality keep the wine on an even keel, allowing a lovely tension between juicy flavors and dryness. The finish opens to touches of ginger and quince and a coastal shelf of flint. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 or ’19. Production was 459 cases. Excellent. About $20, marking Good Value.
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The Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Pinot Noir 2014 aged 11 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an entrancing limpid medium ruby hue, transparent at the rim; the wine is both woodsy and meadowy, by which I mean that it partakes of elements of forest floor and dried mushrooms as well as heather and potpourri, these aspects winsomely supporting notes of black and red cherries and currants infused with cloves, sandalwood and sassafras. This pinot noir is supple, lithe and sinewy on the palate, animated by acidity that cuts a swath and a clean mineral edge under tasty cherry flavors opening to notes of cranberry and pomegranate. The finish is spare and elegant. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Production was 1,211 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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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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The sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne may be made from any of the grape varieties allowed in Burgundy, meaning predominantly chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir, but including gamay and pinot blanc. The product must be fashioned in the “Champagne method” of second fermentation cremant de bourgogne mapin the bottle it’s sold in. The Crémant de Bourgogne appellation is extensive, reaching from Chablis down through Burgundy proper, Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais and encompassing 365 communes in four départménts. Grapes intended for Crémant de Bourgogne are generally cultivated separately from grapes that go into the great village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines of Burgundy and Chablis; that land is too precious and those grapes too expensive to sideline into sparkling wine, though that was often the practice at great estates before 1975, when the appellation regulations were laid down. Until 1975, the product was known as Borgogne Mousseux. A great deal of Crémant de Bourgogne is produced by cooperatives or by estates that specialize in effervescence; on the other hand, some of Burgundy’s best-known domaines, such as Yves Boyer-Martenot, Duc de Magenta and Jean-Noel Gagnard, still engage in the practice. In truth, many domaines are so small that they don’t have room for producing Crémant.

The house we look at today is Domaine Louis Picamelot, founded in 1926 in Rully, a village — population about 600 — in the Côte Chalonnaise. The domaine is still in family hands, in the third generation, but run by sons-in-law. Picamelot draws chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir grapes from its own 10 hectares of vineyards in Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune but also from vineyards under long-term contracts reaching from Beaujolais to Chatillonnais, a region (not an appellation) lying between Chablis and the Côte d’Or that contributes heavily to Crémant de Bourgogne. I found the four examples from Picamelot reviewed here to be beautifully made, very sophisticated and mostly worthy of giving lower-priced Champagne — or higher-priced, for that matter — a run for its money. The sparkling wines of Domaine Louis Picamelot are imported by Ansonia Wines, Newton, Massachusetts. These wines were samples for review. Map of Crémant de Bourgogne from bourgogne-wines.com, a very informative website.
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The medium straw-gold Louis Picamelot Le Terroirs Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 57 percent pinot noir, 32 percent chardonnay and 11 percent aligoté, aged at least 12 months on the lees. Elements of limestone and seashell surround notes of baked lemons and pears that open to stone-fruit compote, cloves, heather and toffee; it’s surprisingly dense and viscous on the palate, gathering an array of mineral-tinged textural elements and glimpses of yellow fruit that neatly balance bright acidity with a slightly creamy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $24.
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Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, the Louis Picamelot Les Terroirs Brut Rosé, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, aged at least 12 months in the bottle on the lees; the grapes came from vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise. The color is pale salmon-copper; energetic bubbles stream upward in a steady surge. Aromas of raspberry, peach and orange peel open to hints of raspberry leaf and cinnamon bread, over a limestone and steel character; on the palate, this is fine-boned and tensile, slightly briery, clean and elegant while offering a dynamic veracity of bright acid and a scintillating mineral element. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24.
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The Louis Picamelot Terroir de Chazot Blanc de Noir Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is also 100 percent pinot noir, this from a designated vineyard situated on the higher hillsides of St. Aubin in the Côte de Beaune. It aged at least 18 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is very pale straw-gold, while the persistent stream of tiny bubbles is satisfying and exhilarating. Notes of roasted lemon and pear nectar open to hints of tangerine and lime peel, almond skin and lightly buttered cinnamon toast and a sort of fragile seashell-limestone element of chiseled minerality. That honed and hewn quality persists on the palate, where its chalk and flint character defines a spare, elegant package of lovely nuance and subtlety. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
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The Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard Brut 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 77 percent chardonnay and 23 percent aligoté, qualifying as a blanc de blancs. A pale gold hue is animated by a teeming torrent of frothing bubbles; it’s a clean, spare, elegant sparkling wine that features notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears with undertones of quince and ginger, chalk and lightly toasted brioche. This builds character and substance in the glass, layering pertinent limestone minerality with brisk acidity and hints of baked stone-fruit flavors, all wrapped in a lively effervescent nature that doesn’t emphasize any element unduly; balanced yet exciting. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $38.
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tellus
Tellus is a label from the Falesco estate in Umbria, founded by brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella in 1979. The brand explores international grape varieties produced to sell inexpensively. The Tellus Chardonnay 2015, Umbria, was made all in stainless steel; it proclaims its freshness and immediate appeal with subtlety and delicacy. The color is very pale straw-gold, and the aromas express an essence of ripe and slightly honeyed pineapple and grapefruit, touched with nutmeg and acacia, quince and ginger, with hints of limestone and flint. This chardonnay flows across the palate in a sleek, lithe and supple manner, boosted by crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. Yes, it’s quite dry and spare, yet deeply imbued with charming elements of deftly spiced citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Perfect with lighter fish and seafood appetizers and main dishes. Production was 2,000 cases. Very Good+. About $16.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

Limoux is a wine region in Languedoc, lying about 40 miles south of the walled city of Carcassonne, in the foothills of the French Pyrénées. It encompasses four AOCs, three for sparkling wine and one, more recently defined, for red wine made predominantly from merlot. The major white grape of the area is the indigenous mauzac, followed by chenin blanc and chardonnay. Apparently, Limoux bertrandis the site of the first sparkling wines fashioned by second fermentation in the bottle, precisely dated, by historians, to 1531 and therefore preceding its discovery in Champagne. Whatever the case, Limoux is a source for delightful sparkling wines generally available at reasonable prices. Such a one is the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 15 percent chenin blanc, 10 percent mauzac and 5 percent pinot noir. Why “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson”? Because when that most Francophile of American presidents died, the only sparkling wines found in his cellar were from — guess! — Limoux. The color is pale straw-gold, somewhat like Rapunzel’s hair, I should guess. A pretty and persistent surge of tiny bubbles animates the proceedings, while aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm and baked pear entice the nose; a few moments is the glass unfold notes of jasmine and almond skin and touches of hay and heather. These elements segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine displays a flinty notion of limestone minerality as edgy yet fragile as a seashell, an example of vivid tensile power married to thoughtful delicacy. O.K., let’s not overplay this; what I chiefly mean is that the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, is a real charmer that offers a lithe and scintillating scale of mineral-and-acid texture and structure. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. Prices around the country run from about $16 to $21.

Imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review from the local distributor.

So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
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Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
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Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
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Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

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R. Buoncristiani Vineyard Orentano Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 305 cases made. Excellent. About $40.

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Les Cadrans de Lassegue 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux. Merlot and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $35.

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Champ de Rêves Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $45.

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Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008, Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $65 to $80.

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Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” 2014, Julienas, Beaujolais Cru. Excellent. About $22.

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Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. Production was under 250 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

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Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $50.

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Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills. Exceptional, About $45.

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Eve’s Cidery Essence Ice Cider, Finger Lakes, New York. 390 cases produced. Exceptional. About $28.

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Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Lodi. 250 cases made. Excellent. About $28.

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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Tenute Cisa Asinari Marchesi di Grésy Martinenga Camp Gros Riserva Barbaresco 2010, Piedmont, Italy. Exceptional. About $106.

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Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $73.

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Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.

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Luscher-Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 200 cases produced. Excellent. About $80.

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Lutum La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills. Production was 225 cases. Excellent. About $50.

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MacPhail Wightman House Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $55.

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Frederic Mallo Vielles Vignes Rosacker Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru. Excellent. About $23.

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Merisi Wines Denner Vineyard Petite Sirah 2013, Lake County. 100 cases produced. About $35.

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Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.

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Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $65.

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Patz & Hall Vineyard Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros-Napa Valley. Excellent. About $70.

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Pine Ridge Le Petit Clos Chardonnay 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $75.

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Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.

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Prieure de Montezargues 2014, Tavel Rose. 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette, 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvedre, carignane and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $24.

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Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York. About $24.

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Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshoff Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.

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Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent each malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Excellent. About $60.

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Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.

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Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. Fewer than 100 cases. Exceptional. About $48.

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Sedition Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 230 cases produced. Exceptional. About $75.

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The Seed Malbec 2014, Altamira District, Uco Valley, Argentina. 59 cases made. Excellent. About $60.

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Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Production was 806 cases. Exceptional. About $32.

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Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.

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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

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Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 585 cases produced. Exceptional. About $65.

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Tongue Dancer Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Production was 125 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

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Troon Vineyards Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 80 percent vermentino, 20 percent sauvignon blanc. 176 cases produced. Excellent. About $24.

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Two Shepherds Catie’s Corner Viognier 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Production was 75 cases. Exceptional. About $26.

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Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $30.

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Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015, Mendocino County. Production was 50 cases. Exceptional. About $22.

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Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $55.

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Guillaume Sorbe “Les Poëte” 2014, Quincy, Loire Valley, France. Sauvignon blanc. Exceptional. About $30.

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WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
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Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Production was 240 cases. Excellent. About $75.

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Well, you know that the 12th Day of Christmas was yesterday, January 5, y-clepted Twelfth Night and marking the end of the merry Yuletide season, but somehow I didn’t manage to complete this final post in the present (the 10th) series “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine” until this morning, January 6. So be it, and in any case, I offer today two examples of Spanish Cava, a very charming brut rose from Piedmont and a Champagne that seems to be new to the American market, at least in our neck o’ the woods. Enjoy!
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Traditionally, the Spanish sparkling wine called Cava was made from these indigenous grape varieties: macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada. More juverecently, manufacturers began including chardonnay grapes, in an effort to “improve” the product, which, because of its make-up, has always seemed unique. It’s the same misguided principle that led producers in Tuscany to believe that Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva would be “better” wines if they contained cabernet sauvignon or merlot grapes and aged in French barriques. In fact, there has been a bit of a backlash against employing chardonnay in Cava merely for the sake of innovation and a laudable impulse toward using only the traditional grapes. In that spirit, I offer the Juve & Camps “Essential” Xarel-lo Reserva 2013, Penedes, a sparkling wine that exploits the possibility of a single-variety Cava aged at least 15 months on the lees in the bottle (required for a Reserva designation). The color is pale gold, enlivened by an animated stream of small bubbles; the woodsy, leafy aromas that waft from the glass are unlike any other sparking wine’s, and they’re infused by touches of lime peel and tangerine, lilac and iodine, with back-notes of dried thyme and celery seed. This is all quite subtle on the nose, of course, though a somewhat rustic body makes it, for me, a sort of countrified sparkling wine, really suitable for quaffing while you munch on an array of savory tapas while sitting out on the terrace of a rural bodega. It’s very dry, bright with crunchy acidity and a keen limestone edge, and it finishes with an intriguing bitter note. 12 percent alcohol. Drink up. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.

Imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
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O.K., here’s another Cava, highly suitable, in tastiness and price, for serving at your next huge party. The Segura Viudas Brut Rose nv, Penedes, is predominently trepat grapes with 10 percent garnacha, aged 12 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is pale copper-salmon — much lighter and prettier than the color in the accompanying image — and the bubbles are more a steady upward drift than a surge or froth. Notes of pure strawberry and raspberry emerge from the glass, with hints of heather and dried Mediterranean herbs and a touch of darker-hued and burnished melon. This Cava is crisp and lively, featuring lip-smacking acidity and a snap of limestone minerality for backbone. No great depth, but immensely appealing. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $10 and seen on the Internet as low as $8. A Bargain Ripe for the Picking.

Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. A sample from the local distributor.
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The Cuvee Aurora Brut Rose 2011, from Piedmont’s Alta Langa region, south of the beautiful city of Alba, is made completely from pinot cuvee_aurora_label-21-300x155noir grapes — with 10 percent from the previous vintage elevated in French barriques — and aged two years on the yeast in the bottle. This is an incredibly charming and elegant sparkling wine. The color is lightly tarnished copper over silver salmon scale; the foaming surge of tiny glinting bubbles is hypnotic. First one sniffs smoke, red raspberry and dried red currants; then come orange rind, a touch of lime sherbet, melon ball and a slight yeasty, bready element. The wine is crisp, dry, lively, clean and fresh, a tissue of delicacies that add up to a supple, engaging structure — close to pert yet almost creamy — buoyed by an increasingly prominent limestone minerality. The finish brings in hints of cloves and pomegranate and a smooth conjunction where limestone turns into damp shale; do I imagine a beguiling whiff of rose and lilac, pear and meadowy elements? No, it’s there. Completely delightful but not at all frivolous. 11.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.

Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, a division of Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. A sample for review.
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The Marie Demets Blanc de Chardonnay from a young house — they started marketing their Champagnes in 1987 — is about as charming and elegant as reasonably priced blanc de blancs gets. The website is excessively reticent about technical factors, so I can’t tell My Readers how long the wine aged on the lees, but its freshness and crisp, clean character are notable. The color is very pale gold, and the myriad bubbles stream upward in a frothing haze; notes of green apple and pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are delicately touched with lightly toasted brioche, hazelnuts and cloves with just a hint of toffee in the background. Layered with limestone, chalk and seashell minerality, this Champagne is beguiling and refreshing, bracing in the salinity and touch of grapefruit pith bitterness of its finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45, a local purchase.
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brutzero
The Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011, from the Robertson district of the Western Cape in South Africa, was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes and spent five years in bottle on the lees; it was disgorged in April 2016. This sparkling wine displays a pale gold color and a steady upward drift of glinting bubbles; it’s deeply spicy, savory and saline, with a foundation of limestone and seashell buoying notes of roasted lemons and pears, almond skin and grapefruit pith, jasmine and just a hint of peach. Lean and lithe on the palate, it features pleasing weight and presence and dynamic acidity to keep it flowing smartly across the tongue; some moments in the glass bring out elusive touches quince and cloves. All told, though, this is a sparkling wine planted firmly in the smoky, sinewy, steely camp. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective, San Francisco. A sample for review.

bruno_paillard_brut_premiere_cuvee
I have written about the non-vintage Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee in several contexts, but in March 2015, a version was disgorged as Extra Brut, after a minimal dosage. The Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut is a blend of 45 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 22 percent pinot meunier; the blend measures almost 33 percent reserve vintages going back to 1985, ensuring a continuity of style and character for the house. The color is medium gold-platinum, encapsulating a lovely froth of tiny silver bubbles, in an array of precious metals; aromas of spiced pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are highlighted by notes of sage and almond skin, and as it warms slightly in the glass, this Champagne unfurls hints of toffee and smoke, sea-salt and lightly buttered biscuits. It is, sensuously and beautifully, one of the most floral Champagnes I have ever encountered, though that impression — of lilacs and wisteria — fairly quickly dissolves in the face of its mineral nature. On the palate, the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut seethes with a scintillating limestone and flint quality and lip-smacking acidity, all of this edge and liveliness supporting spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pears aimed at a lithe, lean finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

This post looks at the Champagne and sparkling wine we drank half a bottle each of on New Year’s Eve — and finished today. The Loimer Extra Brut nv from Austria we sipped while watching the news last night; the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv we drank with Royal Ossetra caviar after midnight and the turn of the year. Both products were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by ruling of the Federal Trade Commission.
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loimer-x-brut
The Loimer Extra Brut, made by Fred Loimer in the Austrian region of Niederösterreich, is an unusual blend (to me) of 42 percent grüner
veltliner grapes, 33 percent zweigelt and 25 percent pinot noir, grown in vineyards farmed on biodynamic principles; it aged 12 months in bottle on the lees. This sparkling wine was, frankly, a revelation of bright, clean, crisp attractiveness married to an interesting fruit profile and a chiseled limestone structure. The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a swirling upward surge of tiny bubbles; scents of apple and pear compote, ripe and spicy, are wreathed with notes of peach, heather and camellia. It’s cool, clean, crisp and steely on the palate, and its scintillating acidity leads to a vibrant crystalline finish. 12 percent alcohol. Not merely charming, but exhibiting lovely, transparent, significant weight and presence. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.
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Champagne Egly-Ouriet is a grower house that rests in the top echelon of estates that farm and harvest their own grapes and turn them into egly_traditionChampagne. The Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv derives completely from the highest rated vineyards on the grading system used in the region. It’s a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, aged four years on the lees. The current release was disgorged in July 2016, so it’s about as fresh as a Champagne gets. The color is pure Jean Harlow, that is, platinum blond; the bubbles erupt in a tempest-like froth. The overall effect is of something elegant, elevated and austere, finely-knit and integrated; hints of roasted lemon and spiced pear open to faint but persistent notes of lilac, lemongrass and green tea; this Champagne is soft and reticent on the toasty brioche quality, focusing on crispness, a permeation of limestone-flint minerality and bracing seashell salinity, all at the mercy of an encompassing vibrant, resonant character. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully, becoming more honed and burnished, through 2020 to ’22. Winemaker was Francis Egly. Excellent. About $68, but found on the internet from $50 to $80.
Imported by North Berkeley Wines, Berkeley, Calif.
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