Chardonnay


touraine-cuvee-jm-blanc-brut-caves-monmousseau
Gadzooks, friends, only four posts remain in the current series of “The Twelve Days.” Let’s begin today with a charming sparkling wine available at a startlingly low price, especially for one spending an average of two-and-a-half years on the lees, therefore tying up capital. Coming from the Loire Valley, specifically from Touraine, the cradle of chenin blanc, the Monmousseau Cuvée JM Brut Etoile nv is a blend of 80 percent chenin blanc and 20 percent chardonnay. The color is pale gold, and the essential effervescence bodies forth as a steady stream of tiny and persistent bubbles. This sparkling wine is clean, crisp and steely, displaying nuances of lime peel and spiced pear, wisps of smoke and flint, and a burgeoning tide of limestone and shale. Yes, the finish is a bit austere, but that factor only adds to a sense of crystalline purity and transparent appeal. 12 percent alcohol. Your guests will drink this sleek little beauty all night long and thank you. Very Good+. About $15, a Terrific Deal.

USA Wine Imports, New York. Tasted at a local wine dinner.
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valle
Did I say “steely”? I’ll reiterate that adjective for our other sparkling wine today, La Valle Naturalis Extra Brut 2009, Franciacorta, from Lombardy. This is a blend of 65 percent chardonnay, 25 percent pinot noir and 10 percent pinot blanc. The wine sees no oak and no malolactic fermentation, so it goes into the bottle at its most acid-and-mineral-driven best; it rests in the bottle on the lees for 40 months. The color is palest platinum blond, and the mousse resembles an upward cascade of tiny seething, foaming beads; it’s about as exuberant as can be. The first impression is fresh, clean and enticing, with smoke and steel leading to notes of lime peel and spiced pear and a bare hint of quince and ginger. In my ledger, I wrote “wonderful texture,” by which I mean that especially pleasurable and seductive combination of creaminess and tartness, lushness and litheness, dynamism and tautness, all poised in exquisite balance. Layers of limestone and flint come up, bringing a distinct dry seashell brininess and savory quality, though the final view is of lovely delicacy and elegance that grow from such power and energy. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully through 2019 to 2024. Excellent. About $55.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
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Sorry that I missed yesterday’s post, My Readers, but I was recruited to transport a puppy from Memphis to Nashville, a jaunt that sucked away most of the day. So let’s play a little catch-up, as I offer brut rose products from Alsace, California, Italy’s Franciacorta region and Champagne.
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dorpf
The 100 percent pinot noir Dorpf & Irion Brut Rosé nv, Cremant d’Alsace, ages 12 to 15 months in the bottle on the yeast cells. The color is pale peach, and there’s a hint of peach in the nose and on the palate, too. The bubbles are giddily, hypnotically surging upward, and while there’s a trend away from using flutes in favor of standard wine glasses for Champagne and other sparkling wines, a flute is the only way to appreciate this delightful factor. Raspberries, red currants and blood oranges dominate a bouquet that broadens to reveal notes of heather and meadows and an elusive whiff of orange liqueur. With headlong verve, this animated sparkling wine spills across the palate in a melange of citrus and red berry flavors, highlighted by layers of limestone and shale. As a plus, the whole enterprise gains in floral effect as the minutes pass. 12.5 percent alcohol. Completely delightful. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.

Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., New York. A sample for review.
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schramsberg
The Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2012, North Coast, is a true North Coast product, the grapes deriving from Sonoma (52 percent), Marin (24 percent), Napa (16 percent) and Mendocino (8 percent) counties. The blend is 76 pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay. In the traditional method, it aged about two years in bottle on the yeast. The color is pale salmon-copper, and the tiny bubbles are fervently effervescent. Distinct aromas of orange rind and orange blossom, fresh biscuits and cloves, a tinge of red raspberry and red currants and just a hint of orange marmalade distinguish a refreshing and attractive bouquet. A few moments in the glass tease out notes of freshly-baked biscuits and brioche. Lithe and generous at the same time, this sparkling wine is savory and saline, with a keen limestone edge and bright acidity to balance spicy but spare red fruit flavors and a cloud-like texture. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $44.

A sample for review.
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pizzini rose
I have increasingly high regard for the traditional method sparkling wines of Franciacorta, in Italy’s Lombardy region, which can attain, I think, world-class status. Here’s a superb example. The Barone Pizzini Brut Rosé 2011, Franciacorta, consists of 100 percent pinot noir grapes; the initial wine ages six months in year-old French barriques and then an average of three years in the bottle on the lees. The color is bright pink-cerise, and the bubbles are abundant, lively and persistent. First come notes of brioche with raspberry jam and lightly buttered toast, followed by hints of spiced and macerated raspberries and strawberries infused by red currants, cloves, candied orange peel and rose petals; a fillip of pomegranate adds intrigue. This sparkling wine is deep and supple, vibrant with acidity and a scintillating limestone element, yet it offers, as well as sophistication and elegance, a sense of whimsy and gaiety. 12.9 percent alcohol. It will easily drink well and invitingly through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $45.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow, Inc., New York. A sample for review.
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pol roger brut rose bottle
The Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rosé 2004 begins in delicate, elegant manner and gains weight and dimension in the glass, becoming a brut rosé of dignity, majesty and purpose. The blend is 50 percent pinot noir and 35 percent chardonnay grapes, all from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, and 15 percent pinot noir made “en rouge” and added to the final blend before going into the bottle. The color is a pale copper-topaz hue, enlivened by a constant stream of upward swirling bubbles. The first impression is of something fine-boned and chiseled, dry, crisp, fresh and clean, drawing up hints of dried raspberries and strawberries, lime peel and damp limestone and flint. It’s expansive and expressive on the palate, yet taut, supple and dynamic; a bit of time brings in notes of brioche and lightly buttered cinnamon toast, roasted hazelnuts and almond skin, but always with a flush of red fruit and a wash of burgeoning minerality and keen acidity. The finish is increasingly stone-inflected and austere. 12.5 percent alcohol. This bottle should drink beautifully through 2018 to 2022. Excellent. About $80 to $100 nationally.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
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While the trend today is for what’s called “grower Champagne” or sometimes “artisanal” or “farmhouse” Champagne, with implications of a hands-on family approach from vineyard through final disgorgement, don’t forget that the grande marques, the Big Houses, so to speak, which obtain most of their grapes on long-term contract, can still clicquot roseprovide sublime drinking experiences. The Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé 2004 — an online purchase — may not convey the sense of individuality, intimacy and terroir beloved by foodies, hipsters and others of the obsessive ilk, but damn, it’s a honey of a Champagne that displays gratifying depth and breadth of character and a heap of pleasure. A blend of 62 percent pinot noir, 15 percent chardonnay, 8 percent pinot meunier and 15 percent “red wine,” the Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé 2004 offers a beguiling robe of smoky topaz flushed with a blaze of light copper and a foaming upward-swirling procession of tiny glinting bubbles; you could stare at this panoply for hours. First come notes of fresh strawberries and raspberries, imbued with hints of orange rind, quince and ginger and touches of dried currants, almond skin and — very quietly — orange blossom. There’s some element of fresh biscuits and lightly-buttered cinnamon toast, but the dominant theme on the palate is played by steel and limestone; the texture is sleek, lithe and lively, with moderate and transparent density. The result is a graceful and elegant brut rosé that reveals innate power and energy. The bottle I bought was disgorged in May 2013, so the Champagne rested on the lees in bottle for about eight years. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 to ’22. Excellent. Look for national prices ranging, realistically, from $90 to $100, though a handful of retail outlets have this product drastically reduced, I mean as low as $65.

Imported by Moet Hennessy USA, New York. Only one product today instead of the usual two. I’ll get caught up soon.
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Well, actually, in this post I’m going to omit Champagne — of which we have seen superb examples in the past four days — for the sake of two less expensive products, both from France, both brut rosés.
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Maison Jaffelin dates back to 1816 and is one of the few estates that still makes wine in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart and nerve-center of Burgundy. The estate’s facility occupies a 12th Century edifice and cremant_de_bourgogne_brut_rosecellars, where they utilize the traditional vertical press and oval wooden vats. We look today not at the company’s red and white still wines from various villages and vineyards but at a delightful sparkling wine, the Jaffelin Brut Rosé nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, composed of chardonnay grapes, gamay and pinot noir and allowed to rest a minimum of 12 months on the lees in the bottle; yes, Crémant de Bourgogne is made in the methode traditionelle. The entrancing color is a pale salmon-copper hue with a faint gold overlay; the essential bubbles are finely-beaded, delicate yet exuberant. You get a lot of elegance and even a bit of hauteur from this acid-steel-and-flint-propelled sparkler, though it allows for a whisper of orange rind, a wisp of sour cherry and a snippet of melon; deep inside, it offers a bare hint of candied quince and kumquat, a vivid touch in this super clean, crisp and mineral-inflected effort. 12.5 percent alcohol. (A local purchase.) Very Good+. The average price nationally is about $18.

A Steven Bernardi Selection for Martinicus Wine, Beverly Hills, Fla.
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The date 1531 that you see at the bottom of the accompanying label does not refer to the vintage — “How fresh and bubbly after 484 years!” — but to the year in which, supposedly, the inhabitants of the town of Limoux discovered that a natural second bubble-inducing fermentation would occur in their white wines during the cool Spring. Limoux is an appellation directly west of Corbières in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, in extreme cote massouthwestern France, hard by the foothills of the Pyrenees. In other words, what came to be known as Blanquette de Limoux was a sparkling wine before the legendary Dom Perignon noticed the same sort of occurrence in Champagne. So, “Hahaha, you snobs in Champagne, we were there first!” is the motto of Limoux. Blanquette is traditionally made from the indigenous mauzac grape, but a far more recent appellation, Crémant de Limoux, is comprised of a total of at least 90 percent chenin blanc and chardonnay, with the addition of pinot noir or the old stand-by mauzac. Let’s, then, look at the Cote Mas Brut nv, Crémant de Limoux, produced by the firm of Jean-Claude Mas. It’s a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 20 percent chenin blanc and 10 percent pinot noir, which in terms of this sparkler’s character seems just about perfect. Looking for a sparkling wine that’s the epitome of delight? This is it. The color is smoky light salmon-topaz, gracefully animated by a stream of tiny bubbles. Notes of rose petals and orange rind are augmented by hints of peach and spiced pear, with a snap of ginger and touches of pink bubblegum and chenin blanc’s heather and hay nature. The wine is dry yet juicy and appealing, and it captures a tone of damp limestone and flint for structure. 12 percent alcohol. Charming and whimsical. Very Good+. About $16, an Attractive Value.

Imported by Esprit du Vin, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.
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The principle of this series, now in its ninth Yuletide season, is that a specific product can never be repeated, but I can write about different offerings from the same Champagne house or estate in Alsace or winery in California or whatever. You get the idea, I’m sure. Today, for example, we discuss the Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2006; I have included other releases from Laurent-Perrier in this series, but never one bearing a laurent 2006vintage date. High time, I say!

What would become the house of Laurent-Perrier was founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot, a former cooper and bottler turned negociant. His son, Alphonse Pierlot, succeeded him and, having no heirs, eventually bequeathed the estate to his cellar master, Eugène Laurent. When the latter died in an accident in 1887, his widow, Mathilde Emilie Perrier, took the reins of the house and renamed it Veuve Laurent-Perrier. A woman of formidable character, she ran the estate until her death in 1925, when her daughter, Eugénie-Hortense Laurent, succeeded her. Hard-hit by the economic crisis between the Wars and heavily in debt, Eugénie-Hortense sold the estate to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt in 1939.

At the conclusion of World War II, Bernard de Nonancourt returned to his home and underwent an apprenticeship to teach him every aspect of the making and business of Champagne. In October 1948, aged 28, he was appointed chairman and chief executive of Laurent-Perrier. Bernard de Nonancourt died in 2010, and the house is now operated by his daughters, Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt and Stéphanie Meneux de Nonancourt. Cellar master of Laurent-Perrier is Michel Fauconnet, who started with the company in 1974 and took his current post in 2004. This narrative seems to be a homage to loyalty, patience, longevity and imagination.

The Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2006 is a half-and-half blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, all grapes coming from Grand Cru villages. It spent eight years in the bottle, resting on the lees. The color is a very pale golden hue energized by a shimmer of tiny gleaming bubbles so prolific and mesmerizing that it’s almost erotic. This vintage Champagne opens with notes of acacia and heather, expanding to touches of spiced pear, quince and ginger and toasted hazelnuts, all wrapped in a lightly toasty biscuity aspect over a foundation of chalk and limestone. It’s close to viscous in texture, with hints of juicy citrus and stone-fruit flavors subdued by a tremendous limestone and flint structure and the nervous vivacity of bright, crisp acidity. The finish leans toward glacial austerity and chilly hauteur; tis a brave person that will broach this fine-boned elegance, but the gratification will be worth the effort. 12 percent alcohol. Consume through 2018 to ’20, properly stored. Excellent. About $65.

Imported by Laurent-Perrier US Inc., Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review.
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Let’s stay in France for today’s methode traditionelle offering, in this case, the François Baur Brut Réserve a baurnon-vintage, or actually multi-vintage, Cremant d’Alsace. The Baur family was established in the village of Turckheim in 1741; the estate is now operated by the ninth generation. Since 2001, the vineyards have been managed on biodynamic principles. According to French wine regulations, Cremant d’Alsace must be made by the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. The François Baur Brut Réserve — a blend of pinot blanc, riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris — is a lively and engaging sparkling wine that offers a pale gold color and a pleasing fountain of tiny bubbles; there’s a spectrum of lemon effects, in the range of roasted lemon, lemon balm and lemon curd, with a few moments in the glass bringing out hints of jasmine, fresh bread, quince jam and spiced pear, all honed on an edge of steel and limestone. The wine is crisp and tart, quite dry with burgeoning minerality and sleek acidity, but tasty, very well-balanced, lithe and smoky. 12.5 percent alcohol. Heaps of personality with a serious mien. Excellent. About $18, a Lovely Value.

Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. A sample for review.
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The house of Diebolt-Vallois is fairly young for Champagne. Though the Vallois family had been raising vines in the village of Cuis since the 15th Century — think of the heritage that implies! — and the Diebolt family had dieboltbeen living in the village of Cramant since the end of the 19th century, it was only in 1978 that Jacques Diebolt and Nadia Vallois launched the estate that bears their combined names. Their children, Arnaud and Isabelle, work with the parents and take an increasingly active role in running the estate. The product under consideration today (an online purchase) is the non-vintage Diebolt-Vallois Prestige Brut, actually a blanc de blancs, being composed of 100 percent chardonnay grapes. Not mentioned on the label is the fact that all the grapes derive from Grand Cru-ranked villages in Champagne’s Cote des Blancs region. Gosh, this is a beautifully wrought Champagne. The color is ultra pale gold, like platinum blond, set aglow within by the constant shimmer of tiny frothing bubbles. It’s a chiseled Champagne of elegant cheekbones and slim wrists, yet possessing the strength to carry a load of limestone and chalk from first sniff to final sip; you feel the strata of minerals below the vineyards with each encounter. Bare hints of roasted lemon, apple skin, spiced pear and lime peel flesh out its character and appeal, lending beguiling fragrance and lingering but elusive taste. It’s perfectly balanced on the palate, its dense, talc-like mineral nature riven by pinpoint crystalline acidity. I could drink this all day and night, and sort of did. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. Look for prices nationally from $50 to $70.

Petit Pois Corp T/A Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, N.J.
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Here’s an interesting entry for this series, a first sparkling wine from New Zealand. Kim Crawford founded his fizzeponymous winery in 1996 and sold it to Canadian beverage giant Vincor in 2003. That concern in turn was acquired by Constellation Brands in 2006. Today we look at the Kim Crawford Small Parcels Methode Traditionelle Fizz 2009, Marlborough, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay. (Winemaker was Anthony Walkenhorst.) This is a delightful sparkling wine, clean, fresh and bright. The color is pale gold, and the tiny bubbles stream upward in a generous swirl. Notes of toasted cinnamon bread and brioche are buoys to hints of roasted lemon, spiced pear and a touch of slightly caramelized tropical fruit. The wine is quite dry and boasts an exquisite structure of oyster shell and limestone that increases its influence through a finish that’s poignant in its delicacy and transparency. Another sparkler with fine bones and interior power. 12 percent alcohol. Drink through 2017 to ’19. Very Good+. About $35.

Constellation Imports, Rutherford, Calif.
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Yes, indeed, My Readers, today launches the ninth edition of “Twelve Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine,” and I’m changing the format a bit to accommodate different genres and styles of sparkling wine. Each day of the series, I will offer two examples, one a Champagne (I hope) and the second an alternate sort of sparkling wine, though one post will be devoted to Prosecco because it’s so popular, and producers are trying to make an up-scale shift. As usual, on New Year’s Eve, I’ll offer three or four products at various prices.

So, on we go, enjoy and Merry Christmas!
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ayala
The house of Ayala was founded in 1860 by Edmond de Ayala in the village of Aÿ, which looks like the name of an exotic seductress in a science-fiction movie. The estate was operated by the family until 2005, when it was acquired by Bollinger. The Ayala Brut Majeur, nv, is a blend of 40 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir and 20 percent pinot meunier. It rests on the lees — the residue of dead yeast cells — in the bottle for an average of eight years. The color is pale gold, set a-shimmer by a frothing surge of tiny glinting bubbles. A prominent architecture of damp limestone and chalk frames beguiling notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and lightly candied quince and ginger, buoyed by a lithe and animated texture heightened by crisp acidity. From mid-palate back through the finish, the mineral element becomes more pronounced, though that influence only augments this Champagne’s essential crystalline purity and intensity. 12 percent alcohol. I loved this Champagne’s liveliness and elevation. (A local purchase.) Excellent. About $40.

Imported by Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, N.Y.
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bonny doon sparkling albarino
Rare is the occasion when I’m called upon to mention the albariño grape in the same line as sparkling wine, but leave it to Randall Grahm, the indefatigable leader of Bonny Doon Vineyard to explore such an option. Made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle — now called the “traditional method” outside of Champagne because of EU regulations — the Bonny Doon Sparkling Albariño 2010, Central Coast, offers a mild gold hue and moderate through very pretty effervescence. (This product is finished with a bottle cap, so be careful when you open it.) When first broached, this Sparkling Albariño seems delicate, a creature of soft wings and tender threads, but a few minutes in the glass bring out distinct elements of roasted lemon, baked pineapple and caramel apple, with a back-note of candied citron. It’s quite dry, slightly funky and earthy in a loamy way, and sports a finish that’s savory, bracing and saline. 12.5 percent alcohol. Production was 617 cases. If you have any of this on hand or find a bottle to purchase, by all means try it, but drink up; I think it has reached the distance of its range. Very Good+. About $36.

A sample for review.
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Named for — let’s not toss this word around too loosely — legendary winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, long-time director of Grgich mikeHills Estate, in Napa Valley’s Rutherford district, the Miljenko’s Selection labels indicate a level of quality and limited quantity fully worthy of the man and his heritage. While the 92-year-old veteran of 50 or more harvests turned over winemaking duties to his nephew Ivo Jeramaz years ago, the wines from the estate, all organically produced, bear Mike Grgich’s influential and benign thumbprint, and he personally selected the vineyards from which they derive. These wines ferment by indigenous yeast; the oak regimen is carefully tempered to the grapes in question and to the outcome at the end of aging. The goal is a fine balance between elegance and power, and rarely is that goal not accomplished. These are, admittedly, wines for collectors and enthusiasts, and they are available to the winery’s club patrons and at the tasting room. If any happen to come your way, don’t hesitate, if you can manage, to acquire a bottle or two or even twist someone’s arm to give you a taste. Such wines raise beacons of purity and intensity for others to follow.

Samples for review.
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The color of the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley, is very pale straw-gold; FINAL 2013 ESS LABELbbeguiling aromas of lemongrass and lime peel, quince and ginger are animated by an undertow of graphite and limestone. These elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where the wine’s dense, talc-like texture is riven by keen acidity and that shimmering stony minerality, lending a sense of both delicacy and durability. A few moments in the glass bring in notes of heather, fig and jasmine. 14.1 percent alcohol. A sauvignon blanc of piercing purity and intensity, beautiful in every aspect. The wine spent nine months in large French oak casts. Production was 1,204 cases. Now through 2019 to 2022. Exceptional. About $55.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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Hailing from Carneros, Napa Valley, the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Chardonnay 2013 delivers loads of bright, bold 2012 CHCN, MSrichness handled with infinitely deft balance and nuance. The color is pale straw-gold; the bouquet blossoms in layers of classic pineapple-grapefruit scents infused with quince jam, hints of peach and spiced pear and notes of crushed gravel and damp flint. In the mouth, the wine is characterized by lovely expressiveness and vibrancy, a true marriage of power and elegance; citrus and stone-fruit flavors are lightly touched by cloves and allspice and bear a light cloak of slightly burnished oak, all encompassed by resonant limestone minerality. 14.1 percent alcohol. The wine spent 11 months in 900-gallon French oak casks. Production was 1,265 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2023. Excellent. About $60.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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I haven’t seen a petite sirah wine that measured under 14 percent alcohol in years, and not many under 15 percent, but the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petite Sirah 2011, Napa Valley, performs very nicely at 13.9 percent, thank you very much. It’s a rollicking ripe and spicy wine, whose dark ruby-purple color presages aromas of deeply scented, dusty and macerated black cherries and blue plums opening to notes of lavender, black pepper and graphite; a few minutes in the glass bring out hints of blueberry, mulberry and violets. The impression on the palate is of wonderful freshness, brightness and appeal of red and black fruit, but give the wine an hour or so and bulwarks of stalwart chiseled tannins begin to assert themselves. The wine spent a whopping 32 months in wood, half large oak casks, half small neutral barriques. Production was 503 cases. We drank this with a medium-rare strip steak, crusted with my secret multi-pepper mixture. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $65.
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The Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petit Verdot 2012, Yountville, with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, is a deep, geological wine that seems to draw strength and power from the strata of the earth and recesses of glittering granite. The color is inky ruby-purple, and the chief quality of the wine is — not to be repetitious — a piercing minerality entangled with tannins that crowd the palate like dusty antique velvet. Fruit makes an appearance in the guise of black currents and cherries with notes of wild blueberries and cranberries, but this is primarily a wine that will center on structure for years to come. The wine aged 21 months in French oak casks. Try from 2017 or ’18 through 2022 to ’25. 14.7 percent alcohol. Production was 493 cases. Excellent potential. About $65.
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Devotees of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon wines — particularly from the west-central area of the region — who possess the necessary fiduciary prowess will want to snap up a case of the 100 percent varietal Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Rutherford. This is the real stuff, from a great vintage. The color is opaque ruby-purple with a tinge of magenta at the rim; at first, the wine emits scents of mint and eucalyptus, cedar and thyme, gradually unveiling notes of spiced, macerated and slightly roasted black and red currants and cherries, backed by graphite, lavender and bitter chocolate, all melded with purposeful integration. It’s a dry, vigorous wine, ruled by laser-beam minerality, ferocious acidity and burnished and polished tannins; despite this profound nature, the wine is not ponderous or obvious, rather it carries its scintillating lithic character with grace and dignity. One feels, after a few minutes airing, the famous or elusive Rutherford dusty, loamy influence, adding touches of espresso and ancho chili. 14.5 percent alcohol. The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels, 80 percent new. Production was 485 cases. Try from 2017 or ’18 through 2028 to ’30. Exceptional. About $90.
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Opening a bottle of chardonnay from California is always a tricky proposition. Will you be getting a lithe, energetic, deftly balanced amalgam of fruit, acid and minerality or a heavy concoction as cloying as a dessert selection from the cart at a third-rate Landmark_2013_Overlook_ChardSonoma_simple_sRGB_M-300x980continental restaurant? I swear, My Readers, that it boggles my mind to read the notices in the Big Wine Magazines that run something like “Rich, buttery and tropical; with notes of coconut cream pie, caramelized mango and lemon curd, against a lush background of French toast, candied pineapple and roasted marshmallows.” 93 points! High-fives all around! I mean, please, let’s not encourage America’s vast childish sweet-tooth any more than necessary with these undrinkable wines. Consumers looking for a more rational approach should pick up a bottle of the Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay 2013, a California chardonnay that for grapes draws primarily on vineyards in several Sonoma County AVAs but also reaches way down south to the well-known Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Valley. The grapes fermented with native yeast; the wine aged 10 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels. (Winemaker was Greg Stach.) This is a bright, keen and moderately rich chardonnay that avoids flamboyance through well-developed details and an impeccable dimension of lively acidity and scintillating limestone and flint minerality. The color is medium gold; fresh and ethereal aromas of green apple, grapefruit and pineapple are subtly woven with hints of cloves, heather and green tea. The wine is beautifully proportioned in the mouth, where a supple and fine-edged texture cuts a swath on the palate while providing support for flavors of lightly spiced pear and grapefruit; the chiseled finish practically glitters with limestone. 14.2 percent alcohol. If I had to choose a house chardonnay chez nous, this would be it. Drink through 2017. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Maison Jaffelin dates back to 1816 and is one of the few estates that still makes wine in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart and blanc de blancsnerve-center of Burgundy. The estate’s facility occupies a 12th Century edifice and cellars, where they utilize the traditional vertical press and oval wooden vats. We look today not at the company’s red and white still wines from various villages and vineyards but at a delightful sparkling wine, the Jaffelin Blanc de Blancs Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes. The color is pale gold, shimmering with an intense stream of tiny, foaming bubbles; the bouquet is very lemony and steely but offers notes of verbena, lemon balm and spiced pear and nicely manages to be slightly saline and a bit creamy together. In the mouth, this sparkling wine is framed by vigorous acidity and rigorous limestone minerality, resulting in a high-toned and fairly austere effect from mid-palate back through the finish. At the same time, it’s exhilarating and tasty with hints of citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25, a local purchase.

A Steven Berardi Selection for Martinicus Wines, Beverly Hills, Fla.

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