Chardonnay


We tend to know when a wine is great from the first sniff and taste, because it possesses that ineffable yet very real quality called charisma. Renewed sniffing and tasting confirm that assessment, while adding depth and character. These factors hold true whether a wine costs $19 or $350, the range represented in today’s 2015 edition of the annual “50 Great Wines” post. I wouldn’t pay $350 for a bottle of wine — though apparently some people would — but I appreciate the occasional opportunity to encounter one. Of the wines on today’s roster, 18 rate Exceptional and 32 rate Excellent. Often the dividing line between Excellent and Exceptional is fine indeed, with permutations and intimations running silent and deep in each direction, but since my inclination is toward distinctions, rankings and hierarchies — that’s what graduate school will do for you — I always include a rating for each wine reviewed on BTYH. On the other hand, I refuse to employ the famous 100-point system; I would rather leave room for some ambiguity and imagination.

A great wine satisfies every point of interest and essence that we desire from a wine, exuding a feeling of utter completion and comprehension. Each wine accomplishes this purpose in a different way, of course, and to varying degrees, necessitating different responses. Some of these wines I admire, gravely and humbly; others, I adore rather shamelessly. The ultimate test, I think, is that when we drink a bottle of great wine, our conclusion is thus: “I wouldn’t want it to be anything other than this,” a sentiment we might also share with works of art and love affairs.

Today’s roster is presented alphabetically. Where a wine is a blend of grapes, I include the percentages that compose the blend. I also mention the case production for wines released in limited quantities, of which many on this list, not surprisingly, are. I do not include alcohol levels or names of importers or technical, geographical or historical date That sort of information is available in the reviews. These wines were selected from examples that I wrote about during 2015. The preponderance were samples for review, for which I thank the wineries, importers and marketing people who sent them.

For whatever eccentricities this list of “50 Great Wines of 2015” embodies, blame them on my taste, knowledge, experience and intuition. That is all I — or any of us — have to go on.
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achaval-ferrer-CMendoza-2013
Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $25.
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valadorna 09
Arcanum Valadorna 2009, Toscana IGT, Italy. 85 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon. Exceptional. About $80.

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14537_ARG-NHRS-13-F_1
Argyle Nuthouse Riesling 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. Exceptional. About $30.
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sangioveto
Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana 2009, Toscana IGT, Italy. 100 percent sangiovese. 750 cases. Excellent. About $60.
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Benovia-2013-Russian-River-Valley-Pinot-Noir
Benovia Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $38.
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occultumlapidem2012us
Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2013, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France. 50 percent syrah, 40 percent grenache, 10 percent carignan. Excellent. About $30.
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BlackKite
Black Kite Cellars Stony Terrace Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 200 cases. Excellent. About $60. (Not exactly the correct label, but this is what they look like.)
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terras gauda
Bodegas Terras Gauda O Rosal 2014, Rias Baixas, Spain. 70 percent albariño, 15 percent loureiro, 15 percent caiño blanco. Excellent. About $24.
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Riesling
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2014, Potter Valley. Excellent, About $25.
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clemens-busch-vom-grauen-schiefer-riesling-trocken-mosel-germany-10529188
Weingut Clemens Busch Grauen Schiefer Riesling Trocken 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $30.
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Concha y Toro Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $26.
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cornerstone 11
Cornerstone Cellars The Cornerstone 2011, Napa Valley. 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot, 5 percent cabernet franc. 100 cases. About $150.
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duckhorn merlot
Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot 2012, Napa Valley. With 7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent malbec. Excellent. About $54.
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ehlers
Ehlers Estate Sylvanie Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $28.
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FEL-Logo_850x500
FEL Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 645 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Foursight Jpeg Logo
Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 224 cases. Excellent. About $46.
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FINAL 2013 ESS LABELb
Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley. 1,204 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. 485 cases. Exceptional. About $90.
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inman-rose
Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 1,500 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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iron-horse-brut-x
Iron Horse Brut “X” 2010, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. 69 percent pinot noir, 31 percent chardonnay. 500 cases. Excellent. About $50.
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jacquard
Champagne Jacquart Brut Rosé nv. 53 percent pinot noir, 35 percent chardonnay, 12 percent pinot meunier. Excellent. About $55.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. W.S. Keyes Vineyards Merlot 2010, Napa Valley. 296 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
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cuvee rose
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Brut nv. 100 percent Grand Cru pinot noir. Excellent. About $99.
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laurent 2006
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime 2006. Excellent. About $65.
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lokoya
Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $350.
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ember-site
Loomis “Ember” Red Wine 2012, Napa Valley. Syrah, grenache, mourvedre. 75 cases. Excellent. About $38.
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maggy
Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 156 cases. Exceptional. About $66.

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MFW_Rose_Face
MacPhail Family Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast. 492 cases. Exceptional. About $22.
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loidana-nueva-imagen-def_0_0
Marco Abella Loidana 2010, Priorat, Spain. 60 percent grenache, 25 percent carignane, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $30.
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mccay zin
McCay Cellars “Trulux” Zinfandel 2012, Lodi. 479 cases. Excellent. About $32.
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mcintyre
McIntyre Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 368 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Morgan_2012_Double_L_Chardonnay
Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 530 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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beautiful pinot gris
Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris 2014, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 1,500 cases. Exceptional. About $19.
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Pahlmeyer and Jayson Wines Line Up
Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.
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pfendler
Pfendler Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 350 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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post and vine
Post & Vine Testa Vineyard Old Vine Field Blend 2012, Mendocino County. 42 percent zinfandel, 37 percent carignane, 21 percent petite sirah. 143 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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quivira zin
Quivira Zinfandel 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. With 10 percent petite sirah, 1 percent carignane. Excellent. About $26.
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innocent
St. Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 948 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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sequoia grove cab
Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. With 11 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent merlot, 1 percent each petit verdot and malbec. Excellent. About $38.
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smith madrone 11
Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,070 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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tonella sb
S.R. Tonella Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Rutherford, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $29.
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2014EstateSauvBlanc
Stonestreet Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.

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tanner dafoe
Tanner Dafoe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. 141 cases. Exceptional. About $110.

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taylor
Taylor Fladgate Vargellas Vintage Porto 2012, Portugal. Exceptional. About $53.
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joon
Tin Barn “Joon” Coryelle Fields Vineyard Rosé of Syrah 2014, Sonoma Coast. 158 cases. Excellent. About $23.
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torre
Torre San Martino Vigna della Signore 2013, Colli di Faenza Bianco, Italy. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, albana grapes. Excellent. $NA.
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two shepherds logo
Two Shepherds Grenache Rosé 2014, Sonoma Coast. 90 cases. Exceptional. About $24.
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Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011, Piedmont, Italy. 100 percent nebbiolo grapes. Excellent. About $50.
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Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2013, Graves, Bordeaux. 65 percent sauvignon blanc, 35 percent semillon. Excellent. About $25.
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2012-Jordan-PN-300x207
Youngberg Hill Jordan Block Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley. 300 cases. Excellent. About $50.
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A day late, again, but I hope not a dollar short. I offer, in the last post of this series for 2015/2016, two Brut Réserve Champagnes of somewhat different nature, the first more steely and platinum, the second more substantial and dignified. “Réserve,” by the way, is not a regulated term on labels in France — just as it is not in the USA, but is regulated in Italy and Spain — so while you might think that the designation here implies a higher place on the roster of each house, the truth is that these models are the basic, entry-level products. No denigration suggested, though, because each of these Champagnes delivers a full complement of character and satisfaction.
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Champagne Palmer & Co. is a cooperative, founded in 1947, whose products are being reintroduced to the United palmerStates of America. The grapes derive primarily from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards — not entirely, you understand — and the final effort includes reserve wines from as long as 25 years ago, maybe like a drop or two. This Palmer Brut Réserve is a blend of 50 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir and 10 percent pinot meunier, aged for four years in bottle on the lees and another sixth months after disgorgement. A profound Champagne? No, but certainly a delightful and charming example that possesses the structure to promote a serious edge. The color is pale straw-gold, a nod to the ethereal, and the tiny bubbles are lively, almost hypnotic in their upward surge. Roasted lemon, spiced pear, notes of apple toasted hazelnuts; hints of fresh-baked bread and almond blossom characterize the attractive bouquet, while frangible sheaves of limestone, seashell and flint (and brisk acidity) build a fairly intense background for subtle stone-fruit flavors. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $55.

Imported by Vin Divino, Chicago, a division of Gonzales Byass. A sample for review.

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Charles-Camille Heidsieck founded his eponymous Champagne house in 1851, when he was 29 years old. A personage of natural ebullience, much like the product he touted, Heidsieck was well-known in the late 19th Century as “Champagne Charlie” and was particularly popular in America. As is the case with many firms in the region, the history of Champagne Charles Heidsieck unfurls a tangled web of marriage, success, decline, success and multiple charlesownership. Suffice to say that it and its sister house Piper-Heidsieck were acquired in 2011 by French luxury goods company EPI.

The Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve nv (a local purchase) is composed of equal parts chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, drawing 40 percent — an unusually high amount — on reserve wines that average 10 years old and resting on the lees in bottle for three years. The color is bright medium gold, and the bubbles put on a brilliant show of gratifying foaming effervescence. The first impression is of fresh-baked biscuits, cinnamon toast, brioche, toasted hazelnuts and almond skin, followed by notes of crystallized ginger and spiced pear; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of heather, delicate toffee and chestnut honey. Yes, it all makes for a wonderfully complex phenomenon. This Brut Reserve offers substance and weight on the palate but carries itself with lightness and elegance; while quite dry, and permeated by layers of limestone and shale minerality, it retains tremendous appeal and elan. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

Imported by Remy Cointreau USA, New York.
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You know how it is. A wine of some type comes along and forces you — or encourages you or persuades you — to admit that it is an archetype, an avatar, a piece of wondrous architecture. Such a one for me recently was the Champagne Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut, from the year 2008, though this fact is indicated only on the back label. The estate’s origins go back all the way to 1485, or at least to 1485, when records chartognemention Fiacre Taillet as a grower in the village of Merfy, in Champagne’s Montagne de Reims area. Chartogne-Taillet’s 27 acres of vines, divided into 13 distinct parcels, are still scattered around the environs of Merfy, located just northwest of the ancient cathedral city of Reims, where once the kings of France were crowned. Now, Champagne is king.

The Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008 (an online purchase) was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes from one of those particular parcels of vines, totally in stainless steel — the wine sees no oak — and fermented by native yeast. Disgorged in 2015, it spent some six years in the bottle on the yeast. Winemaker was Alexandre Chartogne. The color is a brilliant pure medium gold, energized by a surging spiral of tiny bubbles. It’s a fresh and bright Champagne that offers notes of brioche and lightly toasted bread, quince and baked apple, lime peel and lemongrass, all set into a scintillating background of limestone and chalk that broadens as the moments pass. It’s quite dry but enlivened by keenly-edged acidity that displays its own sense of generosity, so that the impression is of crystalline depths and an impeccable surface that embody the marriage between power and elegance. After, say, an hour, if you were sipping this Champagne while cooking dinner, it shades to darker matter, to heather, candied ginger and slightly honeyed grapefruit, to hints of toffee and pearly sea-salt, leading to a high-toned and fairly austere finish. By this time, it feels like a fathomless exploration of the transmogrified chardonnay grape in all its nuance and dimension. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 to 2022. Exceptional. Look for prices nationwide from about $65 to $80.

A Terry Theise Selection for Skurnik Wines, New York.
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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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