France


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

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

The ancient city of Cahors lies on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the River Lot, in southwest France. It was originally an Pont_valentre_lot_1outpost for the Cadurci people, the last of the Celtic tribes to resist the invading Romans armies around 50 B.C. Divona Cadurcorum, as it was called, became a major Roman city and developed economically and culturally through the Roman period and to end of the Middle Ages. Its dark red wine was exported through the Dordogne river and up the Gironde past Bordeaux — and around Europe — when that town was still emerging from the marshes. In a region known for its quaint and charming towns and villages, Cahors is one of the most quaint and charming of them all, filled, as it is, with remnants of Roman buildings and monuments and by a density of half-timbered Medieval structures. It’s three-towered Pont Valentré (1308-1378) is among the world’s most beautiful stone bridges.

The Cahors AOC applies only to red wines, made primarily — at least 70 percent — from the malbec grape, known locally as auxerrois. The vineyards are laid out west of the city, on terraces formed by the centuries-long meanderings of the Lot. The first terrace, along the river banks, is inappropriate for cultivation, so the vineyards tend to be planted on the second, third and fourth terraces. Like Bordeaux, Cahors is heavily influenced by the climate and winds of the Atlantic Ocean; unlike Bordeaux, it also receives, mainly in September and October, influence from the Mediterranean winds. The soil is silt-clay over Kimmeridgian limestone.

The wines under consideration today were produced by Chateau Lagrezette, a property dating back to 1503 that was acquired in 1980 by Alain Dominique Perrin, whose name is a by-word in the world of luxury goods for his steering of the development of Cartier International and his creation of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Perrin poured immense sums into the restoration of the 15th Century castle at Lagrezette and the replanting and renovation of the vineyards and winery. Winemaker since 2007 has been Cedric Blanc; consulting enologist is the ubiquitous Michel Rolland.

The wines of Chateau Lagrezette are imported into the U.S.A. by Curious Cork Importers, Napa, Calif., and Denver, Colo. Image of the Pont Valentré from www.par-monts-et-par-vaux.eu. These wines were samples for review.
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lagrezette marguerite
The youngest of this quartet of malbec wines and from the youngest vines, the Chateau Lagrezette Clos Marguerite 2012 is a robust (but not rustic) wine that aged 16 months in 40 percent new oak barrels, 40 percent one-year-old and 20 percent two years old. It features a vibrant dark ruby color and pointed scents and flavors of plums, raspberries and fruitcake bolstered by fairly rigorous, dusty, graphite-laden tannins with undercurrents of lavender, licorice and bittersweet chocolate. It is, in other words, a finely balanced feat of power and poise, and a fount of gushing black and red fruit flavors nicely restrained by structure. Now through 2022 to 2026. Production was 416 cases. Very Good+. About $45.
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lagrezette dame
The Chateau Lagrezette Cuvée Dame Honneur 2011, Cahors, includes 5 percent merlot in the blend; it aged 20 months in new French oak barrels. The color is inky purple, an aspect that feels mirrored in the wine’s pungent notes of smoked plums, mint and cedar, licorice and lavender; as the moments pass, say an hour or two, the wine grows increasingly floral, in the violets, rose petals and lilac range, and takes on more depth of ripe and spicy black and red berry fruit. It’s a succulent wine, dense, silky and lithe on the palate, though any sense of luxury is strictly tempered by a profound element of graphite minerality and surging acidity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2021 to ’26. Production was 2,784 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $45.
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lagrezette 1
A true vin de garde, the Chateau Lagrezette Cru d’Exception 2009, Cahors, show every sign of aging capability through, say, 2021 to 2026 or ’30. The wine is a blend of 87 percent malbec, 12 percent merlot and 1 percent tannat, aged 18 months in new and one-year-old French oak barrels. The color is a dark but radiant ruby hue; the whole tenor of the wine resonates with ferrous and sanguinary elements of iron, iodine and beef-blood, with subsidiary notes of black tea, mint, forest floor, briers and brambles. Scents and flavors of blackberries, blueberries and mulberries feel deeply spiced and macerated, taking a cue from swingeing acidity and a profound graphite/granitic mineral quality. One feels, it seems, the limestone-laced soil upon which the vineyard lies. Drink now through 2022 to 2029. Production was 7,000 cases, obviously the most accessible of these four wines. Excellent. About $45.
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lagrezette pigeonnier
Le Pigeonnier, named for an ancient dovecote on the estate, is the flagship wine of Lagrezette. The Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, is 100 percent malbec from 35 to 40-year-old vines, aged 28 months in new French oak barrels. The color — if that word is applicable — is totally opaque, with a faint glimmer of purple at the rim; it’s a deep, ripe, rich and spicy wine in every sense, but framed by intense flinty-graphite minerality, rigorous acidity and profoundly dense, dusty tannins. It’s also, paradoxically, bright and lively and feels young at just over five years old. The blackberry-currant-blueberry aspects teem with notes of iodine and mint, cloves and allspice, lavender and licorice and bittersweet chocolate that unfurl an exotic flair of cumin and ancho chili. The finish offers a chiseled edge of limestone, and the whole package glitters darkly like earthen ore. 14.5 percent alcohol. Brilliant winemaking. Drink now through 2025 to ’30, or, you know, it could be immortal. Production was 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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If it is authenticity you’re looking for, if it is an attachment to the land and simplicity that hoist your flag, then you need to purchase tire-pea case of the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, from a property that occupies a hillside in the south of Entre-Deux-Mers, overlooking the Gironde River. The wine carries a Bordeaux designation. The estate is owned by David and Hélène Barrault, who bought the chateau, built in the 1750s, in 1997, knowing not a whit about vineyards, grape-growing or winemaking. They skated that learning curve with ease, now turning out some 3,500 to 4,200 cases of certified organic red wine annually. One wing of the chateau, really a farmhouse, has been converted into a model of the most charming, modest bed-and-breakfast establishments you can imagine. I stayed one night there in October 2011 and would go back in a flash.

Today’s wine, the Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012 is made from 100 percent merlot grapes that touch no oak at all; the wine ages eight to 10 diemmonths in concrete tanks and is bottled unfiltered. The color is dark ruby with a softer magenta rim; it’s a robust country wine, bursting with ripe black currants, mulberries and blueberries etched with briery, foresty elements bolstered on the palate by dusty, graphite-drenched tannins and lip-smacking acidity, gradually opening to floral qualities and dried fruit and spices and notes of some cedary, dried herbs nature. So, you’re saying, is that all there is to it? No, friends, because within that laconic description lies an unadorned wine of tremendous vibrancy, resonance and intensity, a wine that feels alive in the glass and the embodiment of the rows of vines and soil that gave it birth. So, there’s that. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with hearty winter fare. Excellent. About — are you ready — $12 a bottle, marking Terrific Value.

Jenny & François Selections, New York. A sample for review.

Beaujolais-Villages occupies the middle-ground between the immediate fruity appeal of regular Beaujolais and the more complicated nuances and character of the Cru Beaujolais wines, the latter of which are often capable of aging for a few years and increasing their depth and Imprimerdimension. One of the best-known producers of Beaujolais wines at every level is Georges Duboeuf, and merely because the output of his companies is enormous and ubiquitous does not merit scorn. An example of the way that Duboeuf’s people can craft well-made wines is the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015, from a vintage that was almost too perfect with a very warm summer — I suppose that “very warm” means “hot” — encouraging the gamay grapes to luscious but not overblown ripeness. Perhaps this is a case of the year making the wines and the winemakers getting out of the way. The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015 offers a radiant hue of deep purple with a blue-magenta cast; aromas of ripe and smoky blackberries and currants are permeated by notes of cloves, raspberry leaf and graphite, while the wine slides across the palate with silky aplomb. Adding to the wine’s solid personality is a real depth of foresty, briery and brambly elements and dark loamy underpinnings, though the structural qualities lent by these aspects detract not a whit from the wine’s delicious nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Super attractive and intriguingly textured for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken; rabbit, duck or pork terrines; roasted pork loin; or a variety of tapas-like appetizers. Excellent. About $13, representing Great Value.

Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

So, My Readers, here is my annual list of the Great Wine Bargains from the previous year, except that, instead of offering you 25 examples, as I usually do, I provide 30, because there are so many excellent inexpensive wines available. The prices here range from $11 to $20. and while I realize that for some people even $18 to $20 stretches what they want to pay for a bottle of wine, I believe that you will find something on this roster fit for most every taste and pocket book. This is a gratifyingly diverse group of wines, and for the first time I welcome products from Brazil, Greece and Hungary to the line-up. Many of these examples are wines to buy by the case and keep around for a year for drinking daily, though, honestly, the point of most of these wines is not to make old bones. The primary theme is: Drink Up and Enjoy. Sensibly, of course, and in moderation.
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aia
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.

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alpha
Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.

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ascevi-cerou-friulano-label
Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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furmint
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.

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15_VinGris_Domestic_750
Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, Central Coast. 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne. Excellent. About $18.

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colome-torrontes
Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
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grf140_nv_lbl
Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.

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duret
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.

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duas
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.

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csm_pinot_grigio_2005_riserva_7895065a86
Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
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illahe
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.

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Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
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2014_lff_tempranillo
Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.

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lidio
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
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msi_rose_dei_masi_btl
Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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gemma-rose
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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francois-montand-brut
Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
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morgan_label_albarino_2015_front-1
Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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m-cb
M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
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forster
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

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armador-sauvignon-blanc-2013-bottle
Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.

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pedroncelli
Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,

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puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.

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rc-temp-2013-ft
Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
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selvapiana
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
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schneider
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.

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serres-rioja
Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
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traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013-1
Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.

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cava
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
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vr-label-13-red4_front
Vina Robles Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 41 percent petite sirah, 40 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre, 9 percent grenache. Excellent. About $17.
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So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
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Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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gratien
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
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Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
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bk-chard
Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

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

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

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cdr_13pnoir-weblowres
Champ de Rêves Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $45.

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

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julienas_12_web
Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” 2014, Julienas, Beaujolais Cru. Excellent. About $22.

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cs12mcwlweb
Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. Production was under 250 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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jayson-cab-label
Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.

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

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lutum_2013_web-2-183x619
Lutum La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills. Production was 225 cases. Excellent. About $50.

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

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alsace-1
Frederic Mallo Vielles Vignes Rosacker Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru. Excellent. About $23.

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

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montelena-riesling
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.

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nerthe-2
Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $65.

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

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

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pol-roger-brut-rose-bottle
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.

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montezargues-2012-website-1
Prieure de Montezargues 2014, Tavel Rose. 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette, 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvedre, carignane and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $24.

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

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german-2
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshoff Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.

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rmw_2013_cabernetsauvignon_oakville_lowres
Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent each malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Excellent. About $60.

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2014 Romb_SB_f+b_v5
Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.

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

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sedition-bottle-of-wine2
Sedition Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 230 cases produced. Exceptional. About $75.

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

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

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

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stony-hill-chard-label
Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

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

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

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

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

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02_85432_f
Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $30.

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carignanrose15-f_ttb
Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015, Mendocino County. Production was 50 cases. Exceptional. About $22.

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

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

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windracer
WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
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zena-259
Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Production was 240 cases. Excellent. About $75.

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

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

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

Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, a division of Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. A sample for review.
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The Marie Demets Blanc de Chardonnay from a young house — they started marketing their Champagnes in 1987 — is about as charming and elegant as reasonably priced blanc de blancs gets. The website is excessively reticent about technical factors, so I can’t tell My Readers how long the wine aged on the lees, but its freshness and crisp, clean character are notable. The color is very pale gold, and the myriad bubbles stream upward in a frothing haze; notes of green apple and pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are delicately touched with lightly toasted brioche, hazelnuts and cloves with just a hint of toffee in the background. Layered with limestone, chalk and seashell minerality, this Champagne is beguiling and refreshing, bracing in the salinity and touch of grapefruit pith bitterness of its finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45, a local purchase.
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bruno_paillard_brut_premiere_cuvee
I have written about the non-vintage Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee in several contexts, but in March 2015, a version was disgorged as Extra Brut, after a minimal dosage. The Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut is a blend of 45 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 22 percent pinot meunier; the blend measures almost 33 percent reserve vintages going back to 1985, ensuring a continuity of style and character for the house. The color is medium gold-platinum, encapsulating a lovely froth of tiny silver bubbles, in an array of precious metals; aromas of spiced pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are highlighted by notes of sage and almond skin, and as it warms slightly in the glass, this Champagne unfurls hints of toffee and smoke, sea-salt and lightly buttered biscuits. It is, sensuously and beautifully, one of the most floral Champagnes I have ever encountered, though that impression — of lilacs and wisteria — fairly quickly dissolves in the face of its mineral nature. On the palate, the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut seethes with a scintillating limestone and flint quality and lip-smacking acidity, all of this edge and liveliness supporting spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pears aimed at a lithe, lean finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

This post looks at the Champagne and sparkling wine we drank half a bottle each of on New Year’s Eve — and finished today. The Loimer Extra Brut nv from Austria we sipped while watching the news last night; the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv we drank with Royal Ossetra caviar after midnight and the turn of the year. Both products were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by ruling of the Federal Trade Commission.
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loimer-x-brut
The Loimer Extra Brut, made by Fred Loimer in the Austrian region of Niederösterreich, is an unusual blend (to me) of 42 percent grüner
veltliner grapes, 33 percent zweigelt and 25 percent pinot noir, grown in vineyards farmed on biodynamic principles; it aged 12 months in bottle on the lees. This sparkling wine was, frankly, a revelation of bright, clean, crisp attractiveness married to an interesting fruit profile and a chiseled limestone structure. The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a swirling upward surge of tiny bubbles; scents of apple and pear compote, ripe and spicy, are wreathed with notes of peach, heather and camellia. It’s cool, clean, crisp and steely on the palate, and its scintillating acidity leads to a vibrant crystalline finish. 12 percent alcohol. Not merely charming, but exhibiting lovely, transparent, significant weight and presence. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.
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Champagne Egly-Ouriet is a grower house that rests in the top echelon of estates that farm and harvest their own grapes and turn them into egly_traditionChampagne. The Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv derives completely from the highest rated vineyards on the grading system used in the region. It’s a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, aged four years on the lees. The current release was disgorged in July 2016, so it’s about as fresh as a Champagne gets. The color is pure Jean Harlow, that is, platinum blond; the bubbles erupt in a tempest-like froth. The overall effect is of something elegant, elevated and austere, finely-knit and integrated; hints of roasted lemon and spiced pear open to faint but persistent notes of lilac, lemongrass and green tea; this Champagne is soft and reticent on the toasty brioche quality, focusing on crispness, a permeation of limestone-flint minerality and bracing seashell salinity, all at the mercy of an encompassing vibrant, resonant character. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully, becoming more honed and burnished, through 2020 to ’22. Winemaker was Francis Egly. Excellent. About $68, but found on the internet from $50 to $80.
Imported by North Berkeley Wines, Berkeley, Calif.
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So, My Readers, it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re on the cusp on entering the Unknown. Let’s celebrate then with three bottles of different styled Champagnes, all guaranteed to offer great pleasure and satisfaction. Remember, as you stand in some house or apartment or bar, singing that dreary “Auld Lang Syng” with a bunch of drunken strangers you actually care nothing about that this is a pivotal and symbolic moment and that you’re having fun. Whee! Also remember that if you’re opening a bottle of any kind of sparkling wine that however fraudulently festive it may seem to pop one of those corks with a tremendous explosion and frothing of bubbly foam everywhere, that the cork comes rushing from the neck of the bottle at about 60 miles per hour and that it can do real damage to objects, animals and the human eye. Let’s use caution, moderation, forethought and get home alive to enjoy another year.

Happy New Year, friends, be well, be content and do the work you were intended to do.
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The J. Lassalle Preference Premier Cru Brut is predominantly pinot meunier, with 20 percent each chardonnay and pinot lassalle_preference_nonvintage13_webnoir, from vines averaging 50 years old; the vintages in the current disgorgement are 2009 and 2010. It aged 48 months in bottle on the lees. The color is pale gold; the bubbles are tiny, energetic, flourishing. This Champagne is as crisp as a cat’s whisker and as chiseled and faceted as a geode; it’s all smoke and steel, roasted lemon and spiced pear, limestone and flint, enclosed in a bright, brisk and brilliant structure that scintillates with dynamic acidity and an undertow of clean earthiness. 12 percent alcohol. Always a favorite in our house. Excellent. About $45 to $50.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif.
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breton-roseThe Breton Fils Brut Rose is an unusual blend of 40 percent chardonnay, 42 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent vin des Coteaux Champenois, that is, still wine that is also allowed to be produced in an AOC contiguous with Champagne itself and using the same permitted grapes. It aged three years in the bottle. The color is a wholly entrancing and intense copper-salmon hue; notes of blood orange and tangerine rind are permeated by hints of macerated and slightly bruised raspberries and candied citrus, displaying just a hint of dried herbs, all of this animated by the liveliest of tiny frothing bubbles and, extending to the palate, a striking arrow of clean acidity and an edge of limestone that burgeons from mid-palate back through the spare, austere finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. I paid $60 locally, but prices around the country seem to start at about $48.
Imported Heritage LLC, Corona, Calif.
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The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is a blend of 40 percent pinot noir, 40 percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot meunier aged ch_brut_reserve_front-largethree years in the bottle on the lees. The blend contains about 40 percent reserve wines, up to 10 years old. The color is a brilliant medium gold hue, shimmering with a torrent of tiny bubbles; seamlessly layered notes of heather, honey and Granny Smith apples, fresh-baked brioche and hints of toffee and almond skin are twined with seashell and salt marsh, hay and baked pears. This is formidably dry yet rich and elegant, its stone-fruit and citrus notions buoyed by a stream of bright acidity and a coastal shelf of limestone minerality; its sense of heft and presence on the palate is fleet-footed, long-lasting and ultimately delicate without being attenuated. 12 percent alcohol. Beautifully-made and a great pleasure to drink. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa Calif. A sample for review.
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