Columbia Valley


I launched the “Whither Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” series in October 2014 as a way of focusing on cabernet-based wines from one the the world’s best places for the grape’s production into fine wine. Or not so fine, depending on one’s point of view about over-strict oak regimen, super-ripe, jammy fruit and alcohol levels that soar to 15 percent and beyond, characteristics that occur too often. But cabernet-based wines are made not only in other regions of California but all around the world. We look today at a baker’s dozen — the superstitious way of saying “13” — of non-Napa Valley examples, mainly from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and from various spots in Chile. Some of these wines stuck me as being classic in proportion and balance, while a few leaned toward exaggeration; none, however, seemed beyond the pale, and most of the ratings are Excellent. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2012_Cad_CS
The powerful and seductive Cadaretta Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington, is a blend of 89 percent cabernet, 6 percent petit verdot and 5 percent merlot that aged 20 months in French oak, 90 percent new barrels. That’s a lot of oak by my lights, yet the wine displays very agreeable personality and character. The color is inky ruby with a slightly lighter purple rim; a dynamic wafting of iodine and iron, mint and blackberries and currants, briers and brambles, walnut shell and forest floor surges from the glass; the wine is propelled by bright acidity and granitic minerality that feels chiseled and honed, bolstered by plush, dusty, graphite-infused tannins while still offering delicious notes of ripe and spicy black fruit flavors. The essence is balance and integration of all elements. 14.8 percent alcohol. Now — with steak — through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cliff Creek Cab Sauv 2012
The 100 percent varietal Cliff Creek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Southern Oregon, sees 20 months in oak, 95 percent French barrels, five percent American. The color is deep ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; the initial impression is of its herbal nature in the form of cedar, sage and dried thyme, followed by ripe and spicy black currants and blueberries infused with lavender and graphite. Dusty, velvety tannins flow across the palate in a sleek tide, while bright black and blue fruit flavors are buoyed by vibrant acidity; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of smoked walnuts, walnut shell, loam and bittersweet chocolate, all wrapped in chiseled granitic minerality. 13.6 percent alcohol. Lots of personality. Drink through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $27, a local purchase at $26.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
domus_aurea_11_15
In every vintage that I have tried, Domus Aurea is consistently one of the best cabernet-based wines made in Chile. The Domus Aurea 2012, Upper Maipo Valley, is a blend of 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent merlot and 4 percent petit verdot that aged 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is dark, radiant ruby shading to a magenta rim; the bouquet is a finely-milled welter of black currants, iodine and graphite, licorice and lavender, cedar and tobacco, with a tinge of slightly resinous rosemary and sage and burgeoning notes of black raspberry and cherry. The wine combines sleekness and litheness of texture with a chiseled edge of graphite minerality and bright acidity to keep it lively and alluring; ripe and spicy black fruit flavors are delicious, yet subdued to the power and energy of granitic minerality and keenly etched tannins. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2026 to ’30, Excellent. About $65.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Concha y Toro’s flagship red wine always packs plenty of character into the glass. Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon don melchor 132013, Puente Alto, Chile, is 91 percent cabernet sauvignon and 9 percent cabernet franc, aged 15 months in French oak. From its opaque purple-black hue to its structural elements of walnut shell and graphite, flint and iodine, its dense, chewy dusty tannins, it’s a wine that needs a few years in the cellar. However, it blossoms beautifully with notes of black currants and raspberries, cedar and tobacco, mint and ground coriander and beguiling hints of lavender and crushed violets, and it balloons in size and scope as the moments pass, becoming, it feels, more sizable, denser, a bit shaggier in its combination of tannic, oak and minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Quite a performance for trying from 2018 or ’19 through 2030 or ’33. Excellent. About $120, though often discounted on the internet to $100 or so.
Imported by Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2013_Mariner_label_rgb
The Dry Creek Vineyards The Mariner Meritage 2013, Dry Creek Valley, is a blend of 54 percent cabernet sauvignon, 24 percent merlot, 10 petit verdot, 8 malbec and 4 cabernet franc; the wine aged 20 months in French and Hungarian oak, 45 percent new barrels. The color, if one can call such an impenetrable hue a color, is opaque ruby-black; this is all about structural elements presently, offering a welter of iodine, iron and graphite, walnut shell and cedar, rosemary and leather, couched in a dignified and authoritative fashion. It’s quite dry and displays a deep expression of lavender, bittersweet chocolate and mocha, loam and underbrush, with glimmers of slightly resinous black fruit scents and flavors shining darkly through. The embodiment of intensity and concentration; try from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. 14.5 percent alcohol. Excellent potential. About $45.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tasting through a group of cabernet-based wines at home one afternoon, the Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina, Enzo_Label clearly stood out as the best. It’s a blend of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot and 7 percent malbec, aged 10 months in 100 percent new oak barrels (80 percent French, 20 percent American) and a further two years in bottle. While there’s no denying that this is a large-framed cabernet, broad and deep in scope and dimension, it’s surprisingly light on its feet and never overwhelms the palate with oak and tannin. Oh, sure, it offers a youthful inky ruby-purple color and a whole spectrum of iodine-iron-graphite rock-robbed minerality and dusty, slightly austere tannins, but it’s also quite attractive with its scents and flavors of spiced and marinated black currants and cherries that carry hints of blueberry tart and violets. Yes, it’s very dry, and the finish remains rather demanding in its tannic and mineral nature, but overall, this is a deftly balanced and integrated red wine. 14.1 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2030 to ’34. Excellent. About $55.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Jordan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, represents a shift toward more French oak and more new oak than in previous vintages. Every one of the winery’s cabernets since the first in 1976 has been made by Rob Davis — a remarkable record for California — so he is certainly in a position to know the wine and the grape sources in 2013-Jordan-Alexander-Valley-Cabernet-Sauvignon-Label-WebThumbdepth and detail. The blend here is a carefully calibrated combination of 75.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15.5 percent merlot, 7 percent petit verdot, 1.5 percent malbec and 0.5 percent cabernet franc. The oak regimen? Twelve months at 83 percent French and 17 percent American, 43 percent new barrels, predominantly new French. How does that scale compare to recent vintages (to get all geeky about this issue). In 2012: 69 percent French, 31 percent American, 41 percent new; in 2011: 73 percent French, 27 percent American, 37 percent new; in 2010: 74 percent French, 26 percent American, 39 percent new. So, yes, this current vintage does lean more heavily on French oak barrels; the question is, how much difference does that factor make in the wine? I’ll say this right now: Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is the tightest and most unapproachable cabernet from the winery that I have tasted, founded on an oak and tannin structure that feels both vertical and horizontal. It also exudes an undeniable aura of majesty and dignity. The color is an intense dark ruby-black; initially the wine is characterized by an essence of iodine and iron, sage and loam, slightly resinous rosemary, violets and mocha, all ground in some granitic pestle; as for fruit, that aspect takes 45 minutes to an hour to assert itself, after which the wine gently opens and becomes a bit warmer and spicier, though still operating under the wood-tannin-mineral cloak of darkness. 13.8 percent alcohol. Is this change a reasonable development in the 37-year history of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon? From my perspective, what the 2013 gains in power and structure it loses in elegance and alluring nuance, always the hallmarks of these wines in the past. Try from 2018 to ’20 through 2030 to ’33. Very Good+ for now, with Excellent potential once it becomes more balanced and integrated. About $55.

I’ll add that Jordan fields what is hands-down the most informative, detailed and accessible website of any winery I have encountered in California.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2010_Marques_CS_NV
Essentially, the Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Maipo Valley, Chile, is Concha y Toro’s next-to-top-tier line of wines, more affordable than the Don Melchor mentioned above but still considered by the winery as part of its Fine Wines division. This one spent 16 months in French oak barrels and is a blend of 92 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent each merlot and syrah. The color is very dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim; aromas of black currants, cherries and raspberries are infused with dusty graphite and loam, given high tones of black olive and bell pepper, all sliding on a faintly leafy herbaceous note. Ripe and spicy black fruit flavors are couched in vivid acidity, dense and velvety tannins and granitic minerality, adding up to a fairly rigorous treatment of the wine. 14 percent alcohol. Drink from 2018 through 2024, or open tonight with a medium rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the flames. Very Good+. About $26.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
SLCS Lg Thumb
The Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, is undoubtedly well-made, yet it’s so typically Californian that I wish it took a few risks, went a bit higher and lower in tone and effect. That said, I think anyone who cottons to the style would like it. The wine aged 20 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. It presents a ruby hue so dark that it’s almost opaque, though shading to a lighter magenta rim; aromas of cedar and fresh rosemary, ripe black currants and cherries are touched with notes of lavender and mocha, graphite and violets. On the palate, this cabernet wine delivers plush velvety tannins for texture, brisk acidity for lithe liveliness, and elements of iodine and iron that bolster the somewhat austere finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2026 to ’28. Very Good+. About $50.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
stone street cab 12
The not-quite-100 percent-varietal Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley — there’s 5 percent mixed merlot and malbec — aged a decent 17 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. The vineyard from which it derives ranges from 400 to 2,400 feet, providing a spectrum of drainage, exposure and elevation that lent the grapes a full complement of detail and dimension. A very dark even unto black-ruby-purple hue, the wine offers a classic mountain-style array of sage and bay leaf, tobacco and loam, dried rosemary and a tinge of pine resin; these elements bolster notes of deeply spiced and macerated black currants, cherries and plums thoroughly permeated by dense, furry chewy tannins that coat the palate with a kind of velvet-iron-filings texture. The finish is long and chiseled and packed with granitic minerality, none of which prevents the wine from being surprisingly drinkable. Try through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $45.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
ECM320629
Stonestreet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, despite a sensible oak regimen — 18 months French oak, 37 percent new barrels — feels dominated by toasty wood from beginning to end. The color is black-purple with a glowing magenta rim, and, to be sure, there’s plenty here that indicates the wine’s fairly classic status, with its spiced and macerated black currants and cherries with a hint of baked plums, its notes of cedar, tobacco and sage, its structural elements of briers and brambles, forest floor and moderately dusty tannins; still, the smoke, charcoal, walnut shell and graphite character pulls a veil of toasty oak over the whole proceedings, and, for my palate, becomes obtrusive. Perhaps two or three years will even it out. Very Good+. About $45.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2012-Henrys-Blend
Trione Vineyards and Winery Geyserville Ranch Henry’s Blend 2012, Alexander Valley, is a Bordeaux-style blend — with a California emphasis — that combines 35 percent cabernet sauvignon, 34 percent merlot, 13 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot, and 5 percent malbec, aged 18 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. The concept of a “Bordeaux-style blend” is a bit of an idealization, of course, because very few red wines from Bordeaux employ what used to be thought of as the five “classic” Bordeaux red grapes; malbec doesn’t even enter the picture. This is a cool, inky, chiseled wine that features a dark ruby-purple hue and aromas of ripe black currants, plums and blueberries permeated by notes of cedar, tobacco and graphite, dust and loam, iodine and iron; dense, sleek and chewy, this wine displays huge reserves of acid, austere tannins and granitic minerality, all the while offering delicious black fruit flavors (with a tinge of black olive and roasted fennel) and a nicely balanced tide of burnished oak. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $54.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Trione Block Twenty One Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley, is predominantly cabernet sauvignon — 85 percent — Trione-2012-Cabernet-Sauvignonwith 9 percent merlot and 2 percent each cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec in the blend; it aged 18 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels. The color is impenetrable ruby from stem to stern; the bouquet offers an enticing melange seething with notes of cedar, violets and lavender, loam and smoke, tobacco and cigarette paper, with hints of graphite and intense, concentrated black fruit. The wine is more succulent on the palate, its ripe, spicy black currant and cherry flavors rich and beguiling, but the effect is tempered by the presence of immense, dusty, granitic tannins that produce an austere, aloof finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2029 to ’32. Excellent potential. About $67.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

These wines were samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
telegram
Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 13.9% alc. 100% mourvèdre. Production was 277 cases. Dark ruby hue with a glowing magenta rim; deep, dark, spicy and meaty, a brooding concoction of tobacco leaf, wood smoke, fruit cake and plum pudding, very ripe black currants, blueberries and blackberries; very dry, displaying tar-and-lavender tinged black fruit flavors bolstered by flaring acidity, plush, dusty tannins and a seam of granitic minerality; still, with the grace not to be ponderous or blatant. Now through 2022 to ’24 with full-flavored, big-hearty roasts and grills. Excellent. About $45.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bujanda
Viña Bujanda Crianza 2013, Rioja, Spain. 13% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Very dark black-ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; ripe and rich, bursting with blackberries, black currants and a touch of juicy plum; cloves, lavender and graphite; dusty heather, smoke and violets; very dry, with smacky acidity and tannins. Heaps of personality and flavorful appeal. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $16.
Winebow, Inc., New York.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cadaretta Syrah 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.5% alc. 82% syrah, 11% mourvèdre, 5% grenache, 2% viognier (the blend listed on the cad syrahwinery website is slightly different). 500 cases. Stygian inky purple-violet color; loam, briers and brambles; black currants, cherries and plums; an infusion of mint and iodine, smoke and roasted meat, lavender and licorice; very dry, seethes with velvety tannins, graphite and charcoal, all propelled by a tide of glittering acidity. Quite a performance, without being flamboyant. Now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $35.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
FF_Petite_Sirah_2013_EDIT
Frank Family Petite Sirah 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% petite sirah. Inky purple with a nuclear violet rim; a big, juicy petite sirah that manages not to be overwhelming, made in a sensible fashion that showcases the grape; blackberries and black plums with a flush of blueberry and — deep down — a touch of pomegranate; a structure characterized by iodine and iron, graphite and dusty, velvety tannins; woodsy elements, forest floor, dried mushrooms emerge after a few minutes in the glass, leading to a finish that’s strict and a touch austere. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $35.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
martinenga-barbaresco-docg
Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2012, Piedmont, Italy. 14% alc. 100% nebbiolo. Limpid, medium bright ruby, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting; wild berries, woodsy herbs and flowers, a touch of sour cherry, a lash of red currants and blueberries; briers and brambles and foresty elements ensconced in a welter of tar, briers and brambles, violets and rose petals; dusty, supple tannins build in the glass, along with pine and balsam notes, hints of cloves and allspice; all leading to a finish of noble dimensions in its elegance and high-toned austerity. A beautiful expression of the nebbiolo grape. Best from 2018 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $50.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
11PS_MS_FRONT-WO-ALC
Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petite Sirah 2012, Calistoga, Napa Valley. 15.4% alc. 589 cases. 100% petite sirah. Inky black-purple with an intense violet rim; this is like liquid ore from the darkest vein, with dusty plums, iodine, smoked black tea and a profound graphite-granitic mineral character; dense, velvety and succulent on the palate, very ripe black fruit but not sweet or cloying; very dry, with sleek tannins and lithe acidity; you feel an infusion of oak and alcohol on the finish, but the wine is surprisingly well-balanced. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $65.
The label image is one vintage behind.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2013-PVMS-750ml-Front_WITH-ALC-1Grgich Hills Miljenko’s Selection Yountville Petit Verdot 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. With 11% cabernet sauvignon. Dark ruby with a glowing purple rim; very intense and concentrated, with a tight focus on black currants, raspberries and blueberries permeated by lavender, black licorice and mocha; leather and loam, heaps of dusty, gravelly, graphite-infused tannins powered by lips-smacking acidity. Needs a couple of years to come together. Very Good+. About $65.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
mastro
Mastro Aglianico 2014, Campania, Italy. 12.5% alc. 100% aglianico grapes. From Mastroberardino. A radiant medium ruby color; a tarry, ferrous and sanguinary red, with deeply spicy and macerated black cherries and currants, notes of iron and violets, leather and loam; long, dusty, sinewy tannins and vibrant acidity; a finish packed with spice, black fruit and minerals. Now through 2018 with barbecue ribs, grilled pork chops with a Southwestern rub, carnitas with intense mole, your best chili. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Winebow, Inc. New York. The 2015, now available, has a totally different label.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2013-Petite-Sirah
Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah 2014, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. With 5% syrah. 488 cases. Opaque black-ruby with a purple rim; spiced, macerated and roasted plums and black currants with an intriguing resinous, balsamic edge; smoked meat, oolong tea, cloves and sandalwood; a very dry wine but juicy with ripe and spicy black and blue fruit flavors; shaggy tannins buoyed by brisk acidity; some roots-and-branches austerity in a finish drenched with fruit and granitic minerality. A beautifully balanced petite sirah that reflects the essential rustic nature of the grape. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $32.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
tasca
Tasca Regaleali Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia. 14% alc. 100% nero d’Avola grapes. Intense dark ruby shading to lighter ruby hue; uncomplicated but delicious, with black and red raspberries and currants, loam and graphite, dry, well-integrated tannins and lively acidity; it’s vibrant, spicy and appealing, so bring on a platter of spaghetti and meatballs or veal Parmesan. Very Good+. About $15.
A Leonardo LoCascio Selection, Winebow, Inc., New York.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Maryhill Winery occupies part of the site of the farming community instituted along the northern bank of the Columbia River beginning in 1907 by Sam Hill (1857-1931), a legendary settler in 2015_Rose_FrontWashington state who was an attorney, entrepreneur and advocate of good roads. One can see his visionary prowess (and eccentricity) in two monuments he was instrumental in building, the replica of Stonehenge at Maryhill, a memorial to fallen World War I soldiers from Klickitat County, and the Peace Arch that stands at the border between Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia. If we move forward in time to 1999, we find Craig and Vicki Leuthold buying property in the area, followed by the founding of the winery in 2001. And if we move forward to today, well, I’m writing this post about the Maryhill Rosé of Sangiovese 2015, Columbia Valley. The color is a bright salmon-peach hue; aromas of ripe and fleshy strawberries and raspberries are tinged with melon and peach, with hints of tomato skin, cloves and some exotic bloomy white flower. This is fairly robust for a rosé, and it reflects its grape in elements of orange zest, black tea and cranberry, all elevated by riveting acidity and the bass-notes of graphite-flecked earthiness on the finish. I don’t mean to emphasize the wine’s size and substance; this is still a rosé that abounds in freshness and immediate appeal. 12.9 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 with flavorful picnic fare. Excellent. About $16, marking Good Value.

A sample for review.

buried cane
The Buried Cane “Heartwood” Red Wine 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington, is a Rhone Valley style blend of 37 percent syrah grapes, 24 percent grenache, 19 mourvèdre, 13 cinsault, 5 counoise and 2 viognier. What’s gratifying about the wine is that while it offers no finesse — that’s not the point — it’s not rustic or roughshod, either, and in fact it practically pulses with energy and personality. The color is bright medium ruby; the wine is pungent with layered aromas of wild black currants and plums, mint, black olives and cedar and notes of briers, brambles, leather and loam, all presided over by a piquant tone of iodine. On the palate, it’s fairly dense and textured, delivering raspily raspberry-ish flavors highlighted by mulberry and blueberry, buoyed by lip-smacking acidity and smacky tannins, this panoply leading to a dry, dust-flecked, spice-and-graphite-packed finish. 15.1 percent alcohol, which does not come across as over-ripe or charged with heat. Production was 758 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with braised short ribs or veal shanks, grilled leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, you know, that sort of thing. Buried Cane is a label of Middleton Family Wines. Winemaker is Kendall Mix. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

When I posted last week’s edition of Weekend Wine Notes, devoted to catching up on reviews of pinot noir wines from California, William Allen replied on Facebook, “Lots of Pinots — time to be Rhônely.” Allen happens to make tiny quantities of wines from Rhône Valley grape varieties under the Two Shepherds label in Sonoma County. In honor of his response, today I offer brief reviews of nine wines made from such Rhône grapes as syrah, grenache and mourvedre, including one from Two Shepherds that I should have mentioned months ago, as well as several others from California, one from Washington state, two from the southern Rhône Valley and two from Australia, where the syrah grape is called shiraz. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew reams of technical, historical, geological and personnel information in favor of incisive reviews intended to pique your interest and whet your palate. With duly noted exceptions, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
beaume
Balma Venitia La Chapelle Notre Dame d’Aubune 2012, Beaumes de Venise. 14.5% alc. Grenache, syrah, cinsault. Dark ruby-purple; exuberant nose of black currants and black raspberries, violets and lavender; a wine of woodsy tendrils, filigrees and roots, with lip-smacking acidity and a savory note of grilled bread and mushrooms; an aura of clean linen snapping in a fresh breeze; fairly dense and chewy, with polished, slightly dusty tannins and a a sleek lithe texture. A joy to drink, now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $25, a local purchase.
William-Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bh14occultumbottle
Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2014, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France. 14% alc. Predominantly syrah, with grenache and carignan. Dark ruby-purple with a magenta rim; violets and loam, fresh black currants and plums with a hint of blackberry jam; lavender and licorice, smoke and graphite, notes of wet fur, tapenade and underbrush; lithe, supple and sinewy, quite tasty and refreshing but dense with dusty, slightly velvety tannins. A serious wine that also delights and charms. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $28.
An R. Shack Selection for HB Wine Merchants, New York.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Cadaretta Windthrow 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.8% alc. Syrah 56%, grenache 25%, mourvèdre 19%. 130 cadarettacases. Deep ruby-purple, motor-oil opaque, with a thermo-magenta rim; earth and loam, briers and brambles, lavender and leather and wet dog; intense and concentrated notes of blackberry, blueberry and plum; a sense of immersive and slightly austere tannins but finely honed and sifted; the oak comes up from mid-palate back providing a woodsy-spicy framework. Tremendous presence and character. Try 2017 or ’18 through 2025 to ’27. Excellent. About $ .
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
couron
Domaine de Couron 2012, Côtes du Rhône. 14.5% alc. 60% grenache, 40% syrah. Dark ruby-garnet; notes of sage and thyme, ripe and macerated black and red currants and cherries; a direct appeal of fruit and structure with pleasing heft and presence; slightly briery tannins, with a hint of leather and loam and a faint floral overtone. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $14, a local purchase.
Imported by Chloé Wines, Seattle, Wash.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Heintz_syrah
Charles Heintz Winery Roxy Syrah 2013, Sonoma Coast. 13% alc. 150 cases (or 98 cases depending on if you believe the label or the website). Very dark ruby-purple with a glowing violet rim; a beautiful bosky-meadowy bouquet of roses and wild strawberries, heather and blueberries with hints of mint, tobacco and loam; sleek, lithe, silky texture enveloped by moderate tannins and enlivened by bright acidity; develops some rasp and cut in the glass, with notes of white pepper, briers, brambles and underbrush. A blithe version of the grape. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Very Good+. About $46.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
grenache
Quivira Vineyards Wine Creek Ranch Grenache 2012, Dry Creek Valley. 14.7% alc. Certified bio-dynamic. Entrancing ruby-crimson hue with a transparent rim; cloves, orange rind, black tea; cedar and pine; raspberry and black currant with a touch of pomegranate and cranberry; lean and lithe, brambly and a little raspy; vibrant acidity that plows a furrow on the palate; lovely heft and tone, nicely meshed tannins and oak; nothing opulent here, you feel the structure as a defining principle. Now through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $35. A local purchase.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Two Shepherds Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah 2012, Russian River Valley. 13.2% alc. 60 cases. Opaque ruby-magenta with 2012_Syrah_front_COLAa pale rim; fleshy and meaty; ripe and slightly roasted blackberries, black currants and plums; cloves, fruitcake, oolong tea; firm, dusty tannins under a silky smooth texture that seduces the palate; deeply spicy black fruit flavors infused with graphite and lavender, powered by fleet acidity; the finish chiseled, sleek, polished and not austere. Truly lovely syrah, with power and elegance. Now through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $38.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
wakefield jaraman
Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2013, Clare Valley & McLaren Vale, Australia. 14.5% alc. Solid dark ruby hue; mint and iodine, black and red cherries and raspberries with a touch of thyme and tapenade; a steel thread of graphite runs through it; cloves, violets and an exotic hint of sandalwood; sleek, supple texture but slightly shaggy, dusty tannins dominate. Now through 2013 to ’25. Excellent. About $30.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
wakefield andrewsWakefield St. Andrews Shiraz 2013, Clare Valley. 14.5% alc. Very dark ruby color; black and red raspberries and currants threaded by mint and iodine, graphite and a rooty-branchy-loamy element; notes of tobacco and cedar emerge; quite flavorful, tasty ripe and slightly spicy berries, but plenty of acidity for liveliness and dusty, flint-laced tannins for structure. Now through 2020 to ’23. Very Good+. About $60.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Northstar was launched by Ste. Michelle in the early 1990s to exploit the terrain of several Washington state AVAs that seemed amenable for the merlot grape. The first vintage was 1994. Now, the winery produces a range of merlots, some vineyard and northstarAVA-specific, and at least one, today’s Wine of the Day, that carries a more general savor of western Washington. The first winemaker for Northstar was Jed Steele, since replaced by David “Merf” Merfeld. The Northstar Merlot 2011, Columbia Valley, gathered grapes from 13 vineyards in six AVAs — Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley and Red Mountain — and one non-AVA area, Floyd Slope. It’s a blend of 78 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent petit verdot. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter violet rim. This is a sleek, chiseled merlot, notable for its elements of mint, graphite and lavender and its underlying touches of iodine and iron; fruit scents and flavors fall into the blueberry, mulberry, black cherry range. The wine is quite lively, almost turbulent on the palate, deeply spicy in its tasty blue and black fruit flavors, but very architectural in its tannins etched with dust and charcoal, its burnished oak and austere finish packed with granitic minerality and rooty-underbrush qualities. 14.7 percent alcohol. There’s a lot of there here. Drink through 2020 to 2023 with steaks, game, braised meats and hearty pasta dishes. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.