Oregon


Dedicated to one grape, Archery Summit, in the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley region, has amassed an enviable reputation for pinot noir wines of impressive substance, tone and purity, at the same time as they seem to reflect the character of their single vineyards while projecting a somewhat heightened sense of stylish individuality. The winery was founded in 1993 by Gary Andrus and partners of Pine Ridge Winery in Napa Valley. The winery building, with its aging caves underneath, was finished in 1995. Winemaker is Anna Matzinger. Archery Summit pinots are built to impress, with prices to match, yet they tend to offer a wide range of subtlety and nuance along with their broad and deep dimensions. It was a pleasure to try them. These were samples for review.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir 2009, Willamette Valley. The grapes for Archery Summit’s entry level pinot noir derive from five vineyards, including the producer’s top Arcus Estate, Red Hills Estate and Archery Summit Estate acreage. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 46 percent new barrels. My first note is : “How lovely.” There’s real authority, authenticity and integrity here; the wine seethes with notes of black cherry, cola and cranberry layered over hints of rhubarb and cloves and a growing presence of briers and brambles. Flavors of black currants and plums, smoky oolong tea and mulberries harbor burgeoning earthiness and shale-like minerality, all ensconced in a luscious satiny texture balanced by bright acidity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2014 or ’15. Excellent. About $45.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Archery Summit Looney Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley. Ribbon Ridge is Oregon’s smallest American Viticultural Area, encompassing 3,350 acres of which 500 acres are planted to vines; the region, awarded AVA status in 2005, lies within the Chehalem Mountain AVA, which in turn lies within the broader Willamette Valley AVA. The Archery Summit Looney Vineyard Pinot Noir ’09 aged 11 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels. Elevating aromas of red and black currants and plums with undertones of cranberry and blueberry are deeply infused with hints of cloves and cola, rhubarb, briers and slate. A haze of exotic, woody spices and sweet floral notes informs flavors of black and blue fruit flavors cushioned by silky tannins and a vibrant acid structure that gains more density as the moments pass. An authentic marriage of power and elegance. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2015 to ’17. Excellent. About $85.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The 12-acre Renegade Ridge Vineyard, farmed by biodynamic methods since 2004, stands next to the Archery Summit Estate Vineyard in Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills. The Archery Summit Renegade Ridge Pinot Noir 2009, Dundee Hills, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50 percent new, while, interestingly, 1/3 of it aged an additional 4 months. Does that process account for the wine’s unusually robust character and deep spicy elements, for this is a strapping, brawling pinot noir that one recognizes as pinot noir (one would not mistake it for syrah), but it exacts a price, subtracting some shades of meaning as it were, for its stalwart qualities. Do not look here for pinot’s fabled elegance and nuance, though this example certainly delivers an impressive snootful of powdered roses and violets, intense and concentrated black and red currants and plums and the whole redolent spice box of exoticism. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Very Good+. About $85.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fermented in traditional open-top wood vats and aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 56 percent new, the Archery Summit Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, is a deep, rich, savory pinot with intimations of iron and iodine and higher notes of sassafras and beet-root and rhubarb, cloves and licorice and spiced and macerated red and black currants and plums. Give the wine a few minutes in the glass, and it pulls up tons of brambles and briers and underbrush, giving it a firm, earthy (and then slate-like) dimension that cannot conceal a spirit of finesse and elegance; this is the sort of paradox that makes great wines infinitely expressive and interesting. To intensify the paradox, building from these aspects of dimension and detail, the wine concludes with a powerful, slightly woody and austere finish. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $85.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pure raspberry, black cherry and blueberry scents waft from a glass of the Archery Summit Arcus Estate 2009, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley. The wine fermented in a combination of open-top wood and stainless steel tanks and aged nine months in French oak, 70 percent new barrels. To that heady amalgam of bright fruit aromas are added notes of sour cherry and melon ball, cranberry and rhubarb, sweet Asian spices, mocha and rose petals. In terms of texture and structure, this is a robust, vibrant pinot noir that stops just shy of being syrah-like in opulence and earthy, graphite-tinged minerality, yet it never crosses the line, instead finding essential equilibrium in its seamless alliance of power and elegance; even the finish, for a large-framed wine, is supple and harmonious. Now through 2016 to ’19. Excellent. About $100.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Archery Summit Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, is a black and blue wine, by which I mean that the color is darkly radiant ruby/black with a violet tinge and the range of fruit scents and flavors is black cherry, black plum and blueberry, highlighted by rhubarb (o.k., rhubarb is neither black nor blue), licorice and pepper. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 63 percent new barrels, and then an additional five months in older barrels. It’s broad and generous, a bit fleshy and macerated, yet firmly, almost rigorously structured by firm tannins, vibrant acidity and an undercurrent of graphite-like minerality; there’s an intriguing rooty, slightly vegetative component. This pinot was made in a fairly individual style, and while it’s more substantial than the pinots I adore — with that ineffable lightness of being wedded to essential earthiness — it’s quite remarkable for the manner in which it takes the grape to a singular stance, brooding yet selfless, of purity and intensity. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $150.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Mixed reds and whites today, with some great wines, some good wines and some clunkers. Geography and prices are all over the map; this is how it gets done. Arrangement is by ascending outlay of shekels. Unless otherwise indicated, these were samples for review. As is the case with this “Friday Wine Sips” series, inaugurated last week, these brief reviews do not go into the more technical aspects of winemaking, history or geography.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Un4seen Red Wine 2009, California (though Lodi & Clarksburg). 13.9% alc. A blend of zinfandel, malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Nothing offensive but even inexpensive wine needs more personality than this example of the bland leading the bland. Good. About $11.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Much better is the un4seen White Wine 2010, California (again, Lodi & Clarksburg). 13.5% alc. A blend of chardonnay, semillon, moscato & viognier. Pale straw color with faint green tinge; fresh apple and peach, slightly leafy and floral, touch of fig; very dry and crisp, very nice texture, almost lush, vibrant, spicy; hint of grapefruit on the finish. Charming; drink up. Very Good. About $11, A Bargain.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Villa Antinori 2010, Toscana I.G.T., Bianco. 12% alc. 50% trebbiano & malvasia, 35% pinot bianco & pinot grigio, 15% riesling. Dry, crisp, lively; apples and pears, hint of thyme and tarragon, touch of almond and almond blossom; scintillating limestone gradually insinuates itself (say that three times fast); quite pleasant and engaging, nice balance between bright acidity, clean and spicy citrus flavors and a modestly lush texture. Drink through Summer 2012. Very Good+. About $12, Great Value.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo 2009, Salento I.G.T. 14% alc. Heaps of black pepper and cloves, forest, graphite, smoky black currants and plums; robust, plummy, juicy, chewy, dense with soft, grainy tannins and mineral elements; unusually well-balanced and integrated for primitivo; great with pizza, burgers, braised meats. Drink through 2013. Very Good+. About $17.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Concannon Conservancy “Crimson & Clover” Red Wine 2009, Livermore Valley. 13.7% alc. Blend of 50% petite sirah, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 15% syrah, 10% zinfandel. Lacks oomph, stuffing, character; we speak of chemistry to describe the energy and magnetism of movie couples, but the grapes in this blend don’t provide that “chemistry.” Pleasant enough, but we deserve more for the price. Good. About $18.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2010, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.5% alc. Ponzi’s “entry-level” pinot. Entrancing medium ruby color with blue-black depths; smoky, spicy, earthy, wild; black cherry and mulberry edged by cranberry and rhubarb; super-satiny, dense, verges on chewy; graphite-like minerality, leather, brambles. Pure pinot with an untamed heart. Now through 2013. Excellent. About $25.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chateau Gombaude-Guillot 1996, Pomerol, Bordeaux. 13% alc. This is typically about 65% merlot and 30% cabernet franc with a dollop of malbec. Lovely balance and maturity, sweet spices, dried black and red fruit and flowers, undertones of cedar, tobacco and potpourri, mild earthiness and hints of leather. A real treat. I bought this to accompany our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of standing rib roast, Brussels sprouts in brown butter, roasted potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. Excellent. About $99.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Oregon’s Torii Mor Vineyard and Winery is owned by Donald Olson, a doctor, and his wife Margie, pictured here. They founded the estate in 1993, gradually working its production up to 15,000 cases a year, primarily of vineyard-designated pinot noir. Located in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills AVA, the winery’s estate vineyard is 39 years old, one of the oldest in Dundee Hills. The winery facility was completed in 2007; it is certified LEED Gold, while the vineyard is certified by LIVE (Low Input Viticulture & Enology, Inc). Today’s Wines of the Week are a pinot gris and the winery’s “black label,” entry-level pinot noir. These wines were tasted at a local wholesaler’s trade event.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ My first note on the Torii Mor Pinot Gris, 2010, Willamette Valley, is “so lovely.” Made all in stainless steel and undergoing no malolactic fermentation, the wine is crisp, fresh and lively and subtly woven from nuances of almond, almond blossom and honeysuckle, cloves and ginger, peach and pear and wisps of roasted lemon and lemon balm; yes, it’s as delightful as it sounds and delicate rather than overwhelmingly floral. Vibrant with quenching acidity and resonant with some limestone-like minerality on the finish, the wine features flavors of spicy lemon and tangerine with a hint of pear; the finish picks up a bit of dry grapefruit bitterness. Quite charming and tasty, and a perfect porch, patio, pool and picnic wine. A sensible and safe 12.2 percent alcohol. Production was 1,800 cases. Very Good+. About $17-$18.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The Torii More “Black Label” Pinot Noir 2008. Willamette Valley, represents the winery’s entry-level pinot noir, composed as it is of grapes from 17 vineyards. The oak regimen is fascinating: the wine ages 10 months in mostly French oak, with “a few” Hungarian oak barrels, 19 percent new barrels; 25 percent one-year-old; 23 percent two-years-old; 33 percent older neutral barrels. The result is very subtle oak influence, a gentle shaping of wood and slightly woody spice that bolsters and cushions the wine’s fruit and structure without imposing a woody character or dominating in any way; this is how thoughtful all oak maturing in the winery — any and every winery — should be. The color is a very Burgundian light to medium ruby; a bouquet of smoky black cherry, raspberries and plums is infused with cloves and cinnamon and touches of cola and cranberry. Spicy black cherry and plum flavors are lean and sinewy with palate-plowing acidity, yet plumped out with a texture that’s more velvety than classically satiny; from midway back, elements of briers and brambles and other foresty qualities lend the wine a requisite brush of earthiness. A completely reasonable 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $22.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

On April 25, I made the Carlton Cellars Cannon Beach Pinot Gris 2010, Willamette Valley the Wine of the Week. Now let’s look at three of the small winery’s pinot noirs, the variety for which it is best known. I tasted these wines with co-owner, grower and winemaker Dave Grooters when he was in town at the end of April, and, after trying these pinots, I was surprised when he said, “I like big fat fruit bombs,” because these wines are anything but “big fat fruit bombs.” Big in structure, perhaps, especially the Cape Lookout and the Roads End, but fruit is well-shaped and expressive without being over-ripe, flamboyant or opulent.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Seven Devils Pinot Noir 2009, Willamette Valley, is Carlton Cellars’ entry-level pinot. About 50 percent of the grapes derive from the winery’s Russell-Grooters Vineyard on Savannah Ridge in the Yamhill-Carlton appellation with the rest coming from various other Willamette vineyards. The wine ages 10 months in French barrels but sees no new oak; it’s all second-, third- and fourth-use. The color is medium ruby with a hint of magenta-pink at the rim. Aromas of black cherry and black and red currants are spicy with notes of cloves and cinnamon and quite ripe, meaty and fleshy; the immediately appealing fragrance is heady and seductive. Matters calm down considerably in the mouth, where the wine offers straightforward black and red fruit flavors permeated by baking spice, touches of underbrush and moderately dense but fairly muscular tannins, all leading to a dry, minerally — in the finely-milled graphite sense — finish. Quite enjoyable, though I was a bit surprised by the tannins. Drink through 2014. Production was 950 cases. 14.3 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $22.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Considerably more character comes from the Cape Lookout Pinot Noir 2008, which carries an Oregon designation, though the grape’s all come from the winery’s Russell-Grooters estate vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton. The wine ages 10 months in French oak, 50 percent new barrels. This is classic stuff, with penetrating notes of pure, intense and spicy black cherry, cranberry and cola layered over the Willamette Valley’s signature quality of clean earthiness rooted in briers and brambles. Oak gives the wine suppleness and shapeliness and indeed begins to dominate from mid-palate back after a few minutes pass; another year in the bottle will smooth it out more. Still, there’s deep flavor galore here wedded to vibrant acidity and firm, almost plush tannins, though a sinewy texture lends the wine some edge. Russell-Grooters was planted in 2003, so these are young vines that won’t truly come into their own for another three to five years; it’s a vineyard to watch as the vines mature. Production was 576 cases. 13.4 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Top of the line at Carlton Cellars is the Roads End Pinot Noir 2008, 40 percent of the grapes coming from Russell-Grooters, the rest from a vineyard in the McMinnville AVA and another vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA. The oak regimen is the same as for the Cape Lookout Pinot Noir 2008, that is, 10 months in French barrels, 50 percent new oak. Boy, you feel the difference, though, in this wine’s engagement and heft, in its increased level of spice, its fine and rich details of blueberry, cranberry, rhubarb and cola, its veritable darkness of intention and effect. The Roads End 08 is a lithe and muscular wine, and if ever a pinot noir exemplified the notion of a pent animal awaiting release, brother, this is it. No, this is not a pinot for fans of the delicate and elegant style, which, I confess, I find more appealing and authentic, but it would be difficult to deny the authority and confidence this model embodies. 288 cases were produced. 13.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2014 to ’15. Excellent. About $45.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Forgive me for waxing rhapsodic (for the billionth time), but the Carlton Cellars Cannon Beach Pinot Gris 2010, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, falls certainly within the top handful of wines made from that grape in the United States of America. The winery is owned by Dave Grooters and Robin Russell; Grooters, former owner of a software company on Philadelphia, takes the duties of grower and winemaker. Though the Willamette Valley is indisputably inland, all the wines from Carlton Cellars feature magnificent artwork — this one from a photograph by Chip Phillips — and the names of sites along the Oregon coast, hence Cannon Beach. About halfway through my notes on the Carlton Cellars Cannon Beach Pinot Gris 2010, I wrote the word “ravishing.” Now this term is meant in complimentary fashion, but it could also signify faint dispraise, as if the wine were merely superficially pretty — “Pretty is as pretty does,” my late mother used to say — or spectacularly yet narrowly appealing. We have all had such wines, or met such people, however, no worries in this case. The seductive bouquet teems with notes of lime peel, apple and pear, with high tones of jasmine and acacia (with its slightly astringent complexity) and deeper whiffs of dusty limestone and flint; give the wine a few moments in the glass, and whimsical hints of dried tarragon and thyme emerge. Spicy citrus flavors, abetted by touches of roasted lemon and peach, are enveloped in a deeply satisfying texture that’s almost talc-like in cloud-buffed softness, yet the wine never lapses into mindless luxury because it’s ardently animated by scintillating acidity and glittering limestone-like minerality, the whole package being lively, vibrant and resonant. Now through 2012 or ’13. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Production was 600 cases. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value. (Interestingly, for local readers, in Memphis this wine is offered at $16.)

A sample for review.

I needed to taste the Nickel and Nickel Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay 2008, Carneros, and it happened that I was about to serve dinner, the cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo, and while it didn’t occur to me beforehand that the wine and the gumbo would make a great (or even appropriate) match, together they actually formed one of those slightly edgy BINGO! moments. The zingy cumin- and chili powder-inflected gumbo, for which I concocted a moderately-dark roux, did not make a dent in the wine’s immense elan. This chardonnay is barrel-fermented and ages nine months in French oak, 48 percent new, but does not go through malolactic “fermentation,” the transformative shift that turns crisp malic (apple-like) acidity into creamy lactic (milk-like) acidity. The wine is a radiant medium gold color; it’s rich, spicy and generous, with notes of lemon drop and quince, mango and guava backed by a sprightly piquancy of ginger and clove. Boy, this is vibrant and resonant, a real mouthful of chardonnay, a Girl of the Golden West; it is, however, quite dry, amidst the delicious pineapple and grapefruit flavors (tinged with fig and pear), and your palate feels the tug of oak and woody spice pulling you into the long, dense yet filigreed finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 1,484 cases. Excellent. About $45.
Winemaker is Darice Spinelli
A sample for review.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I squeezed a little lime juice and dribbled a bit of soy sauce on two swordfish steaks and then patted into the surface a handful of an Asian-style rub. For the cooking process, LL heated olive oil in a cast-iron skillet until it was smoking and dropped the fish in and seared the steaks for a couple of minutes on each side. That was it. They were rare and juicy and filled with flavor. I opened a bottle of Highflyer Grenache Blanc 2008, Napa valley, a wine made 95 percent in stainless steel with five percent aged six months in new French oak. The grapes derive from a 2.7-acre block of the Somerston Vineyard, in the hills east of Rutherford at 1,100-feet elevation. The wine offers lovely balance and integration, beautifully combining spare elegance of structure with rich flavors of lemon drop, Bit o’ Honey (remember those?), pear and quince with a hint of ripe peach. While the wine is dry, crisp and lively, that five percent French oak provides a hint of spice in the background and some suppleness to the silken texture. This was delicious with the swordfish, with a great flavor-to-flavor profile and some keen acidity to cut the richness of the fish. Production was 720 cases. Alcohol content is 13.9 percent. Excellent. About $17, a Raving Bargain.
Craig Becker is owner and winemaker. Back in December, I reviewed the Highflyer Centerline 2007, a red wine blend.
A sample for review.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I was nibbling, for lunch, an excellent dry, nutty “clothbound” Cheddar cheese, with a few fig and hazelnut flatbreads, and I opened a bottle of the Renaissance Mediterranean Red 2006, Sierra Foothills, North Yuba. (The winery is about 70 miles north of Sacramento in Oregon House.) ’06 is the current vintage for this wine, which is a blend of 47 percent mourvedre grapes, 27 percent syrah and 25 percent grenache. It ages 36 months — yep, that’s three years — in a combination of one- to six-year-old oak barrels and large puncheons The color is dense ruby-red with a hint of magenta at the rim. This is a deeply spicy and savory wine, with scents and flavors of red and black currants and slightly macerated and stewed plums thoroughly imbued with briery-brambly forest-like elements, smoke and ash, dried flowers and spices and a burgeoning ripe, fleshy, meaty character. The Southern Rhone or “Mediterranean” nature of the wine is evident in its expressiveness and intensity married to a sense of delicacy and decorum. Drink through 2012 or ’13. Production was 244 cases. 14.1 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.
Winemaker at Renaissance is Gideon Beinstock. A sample for review.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We went to dine at Bari, the restaurant that features the cuisine of southeastern Italy. As usual, to start we ordered two glasses of the always delightful Vietti Rorero Arneis 2009, from Piedmont — the wine list is all Italian and so is the extensive menu of cheeses — and after a while I asked our waiter to open the bottle I brought to the restaurant. This was the Colognole Riserva del Don 2004, Chianti Rufina, produced at an estate in the historically highly-regarded Rufina region northeast of Florence; in fact, Rufina shares no border with the other Chianti areas and has a very different terrain. The property is owned by Contessa Gabriella Spalletti Coda Nunziante, a fact that almost dares the wine not to be great. At a little more than six years old, Colognole Riserva del Don 2004 is wonderfully smooth and mellow and seamless, with its characteristic sangiovese traits of red currants and red plums, moss and black tea, orange zest and potpourri thoroughly amalgamated with a modicum of woody spice and gently assertive, finely-milled tannins. A real treat and particularly good with our cheese course. Excellent. I paid $35 for this wine, though the national average is more like $30.
Imported by VinDiVino, Chicago.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We didn’t finish the cheeses, so we brought them home, and the next day I made the Grandfather of All Cheese Toast, which included a truffled gorgonzola, Piave Vecchio, a pecorino, something unknown, grated Parmesan, Urfa pepper, mapuche spice and a dribble of good olive oil. Perhaps paradoxically, I opened a bottle of pinot noir, this being the Angela Pinot Noir 2008, Oregon, though the grapes are from the Clawson Creek Vineyard on Savannah Ridge in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 57 percent new, and you feel that reticence (materially and philosophically) in the wine’s ineffable blending of suppleness and sinuosity, in its elegant spareness matched with a seductive satiny texture. The color is medium ruby shading somewhat darker at the center; aromas of red currants with a touch of cranberry and cola are fleshed out with a bit of smoke, briery and mossy earthiness, rose petals and just a hint of cedar and sandalwood. In the mouth, this pinot noir offers some sweet ripeness of black and red fruit, but it’s not opulent or pushy or showy; again, all is breeding and grace, poise and harmony. Just a freakin’ lovely pinot noir that emits authenticity and integrity. When LL got home from work, I gave her a glass and said, “Try this Oregon pinot.” She sniffed and sipped, thought for a moment, and said, “This tastes like a pinot made by Ken Wright.” And by golly, she was correct. Production was 821 cases. 13 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.
A sample for review.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What could be more straightforward than that? Not that all lists aren’t arbitrary in some degree, but after going through all the posts from 2010 on this blog several times and doing some cogitating and sighing and reluctant winnowing, here they are, The 50 Best Wines of 2010, as experienced by me and written about last year. Wines that I tasted in 2010 but haven’t written about yet will not show up on this list, nor will older vintages that I was lucky enough to taste, which I do damned little enough anyway. The order is wines I rated Exceptional, alphabetically, followed by wines I rated Excellent, alphabetically. Where I think such factors might be helpful, I list percentages of grapes and, for limited edition wines, the case production, if I know it. Prices begin at about $25 and go up to $200, with most, however, in the $30s, $40s and $50s.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
<>Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Sonoma Valley. Richard Arrowood’s new label. 996 cases. Exceptional. About $80.

<>Catena Alta Adrianna Chardonnay 2008, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $35. (Winebow, New York)

<>Joseph Drouhin Chablis-Vaudésir Grand Cru 2007, Chablis, France. 130 six-bottle cases imported. Exceptional. About $72. (Dreydus, Ashby & Sons, New York)

<>Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili 2007, Piedmont, Italy. Exceptional. About $150, though prices around the country range up to $225. (Winebow, New York)

<>Vincent Girardin Corton Renardes Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes 2007, Burgundy, France. Exceptional. About $70. (Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala.)

<>Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, Australia. Exceptional. About $38. (USA Wine West, Sausalito, Cal., for The Australian Premium Wine Collection)

<>Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Syrah 2007, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 75 cases. Exceptional. About $40.

<>Nickel & Nickel Darien Vineyard Syrah 2007, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 974 cases. Exceptional. About $48.

<>Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2008, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

<>Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley. 275 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

<>Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 1,200 cases. Exceptional. About $60.

<>Tudal Family Winery Clift Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley. 490 cases. Exceptional. About $40.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
<>Alma Negra Misterio 2007, Mendoza, Argentina. The red grapes in this blend are never revealed, but count on malbec, cabernet franc and bonarda. Excellent. About $30-$33. (Winbow, New York)

<>Benovia Bella Una Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 195 cases. Excellent. About $58.

<>Francois Billion Grand Cru Cuvée de Reserve Brut Cépage Chardonnay (nonvintage), Champagne, France. Excellent. About $60. (William-Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.)

<>Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65. (Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill.)

<>Brovia Sorí del Drago Barbera d’Asti 2007, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. $20-$28. (Neal Rosenthal, New York)

<>Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $35.

<>Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouches (blanc) 2007, Burgundy, France. 600 cases imported. Excellent. $100-$110. (Dreyfus, Ashby & Sons, New York)

<>Easton Old Vines Zinfandel 2006, Fiddletown, Amador County. “Old Vines” meaning back to 1865. Excellent. About $28.

<>Egly-Ouriet Brut “Les Vignes de Vrigny” (nonvintage). Champagne, France. Made, unusually, from all pinot meunier grapes. Excellent. About $70. (North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Cal.)

<>En Route “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 1,993 cases. Excellent. About $50.

<>Bodegas Fariña Gran Dama de Toro 2004, Toro, Spain. Tempranillo with six percent garnacha. Excellent. About $45. (Specialty Cellars, Santa Fe Springs, Cal.)

<>Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse 2008, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $30. (Kobrand, New York)

<>Champagne Rosé Premier Cru de Veuve Fourny Brut (nonvintage), Champagne, France. Pinot noir with a dollop of chardonnay. Excellent. About $55. (Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Cal.)

<>Foursight Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 407 cases. Excellent. About $46.

<>Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2006, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. $45-$55. (Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Cal.)

<>Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel 2007, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $35.

<>Haton et Fils “Cuvée Rene Haton” Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (nonvintage), Champagne, France. Excellent. About $62. (William-Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.)

<>Heller Estate Pinot Noir 2007, Carmel Valley, Monterey County. 154 cases. Excellent. About $50.

<>Domaine Huet Brut Vouvray Petillant 2002, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $30-$35. (Robert Chadderdon Selections, New York)

<>Iron Horse Brut Rosé 2005, Green Valley, Sonoma County. 81 percent pinot noir/19 percent chardonnay. 950 cases. Excellent. About $50.

<>Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. With 19.5 percent merlot, 4.5 percent petit verdot, 1 percent malbec. Excellent. About $52.

<>Kruger-Rumf Munsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett 2008, Nahe, Germany. Excellent. About $22-$25. (Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, New York.)

<>Margerum Rosé 2009, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County. 100 cases. Excellent. About $21.

<>Mendel Semillon 2009, Mendoza, Argentina, Excellent. About $25. (Vine Connection, Sausalito, Cal.)

<>Misty Oaks Jones Road Cabernet Franc 2008, Umpqua Valley, Oregon. 75 cases. Excellent. About $28.

<>Oakville Ranch Robert’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2005, Napa Valley. With 10 percent cabernet sauvignon. 393 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $90.

<>Joseph Phelps Insignia 2006, Napa Valley. Excellent. about $200.

<>Renaissance Late Harvest Riesling 1992, Sierra Foothills, North Yuba. Renaissance holds wines longer than any other winery; this dessert wine was released in 2008. Production was 364 cases of half-bottles. Excellent. About $35.

<>Renaissance Vin de Terroir Roussanne 2006, Sierra Foothills, North Yuba. 63 cases. Excellent. About $45.

<>Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys 2008, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $22.

<>St. Urban-Hof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Piesling Auslese 2007, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Excellent. About $55. (HB Wine Merchants, New York)

<>Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir 2007, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $42.

<>Talbott Logan Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $25.

<>Tardieu-Laurent Les Becs Fins 2008, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France. 50 percent syrah/50 percent grenache. 1,008 cases imported. Excellent. About $22. (Wilson-Daniels, St. Helena, Cal.)

<>Chateau Tour de Farges Vin Doux Natural 2006, Muscat de Lunel, France. Excellent. About $24. (Martine’s Wines, Novato, Cal.)

<>V. Sattui Black-Sears Vineyard Zinfandel 2007, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley. 400 cases. Available at the winery or mail order. Excellent. About $40.

<>Yangarra Estate Mourvèdre 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia. 500 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $29. (Sovereign Wine Imports, Santa Rosa, Cal.)
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Coming Next: 25 Fantastic Wine Bargains.

A white and a red from Ponzi Vineyards, founded in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1970, which for the region makes the winery venerable indeed. Both closed with screw-caps. These wines were samples for review.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Well, this is a winsome thing. The Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2009, Willamette Valley, is utterly fresh and clean, brisk and crisp — say that 10 times fast — with a beguiling bouquet of green apple, roasted lemon, quince and lime and overtones of jasmine and camellia. The texture is deft and pointed with pert acidity, yet that fleetness is balanced by a portion of moderate lushness that perhaps reflects 25 percent of the wine briefly aged in neutral — that is, several times used — oak barrels. Flavors of honeyed pears, a touched of spiced peach and a bit of melon feel ripe and rich, yet the wine is totally dry and finishes with a rush of limestone and grapefruit peel. Production was 1,038 cases. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012. Very Good+. The press material I received quoted a price of $15, but the winery’s website says $17. In any case, the wine represents Great Value.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2009, Willamette Valley, is an entry-level pinot from this producer, by which I mean that the wine is a blend of pinot noir grapes not only from seven of Ponzi’s vineyards but from other vineyards in the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola Hills appellations. The focus, therefore, is not on a specific vineyard or area but on providing a wine characterized by a broad notion of regional and varietal quality. From that standpoint, the Ponzi Tavola 2009 succeeds admirably. This is a lovely, smooth, silky pinot noir, whose 11 months in French oak (25 percent new barrels) deliver a supple texture and subtly spicy elements. The color is a radiant medium ruby; smoky and slightly macerated black cherries are permeated by touches of rhubarb and cola, with hints of cloves and sandalwood. Black cherry and red currant flavors offer nuances of the typical Willamette Valley briery-brambly nature, while the finish cements the wine’s essential balance and integration with a final fillip of oak. Seductively drinkable with a slight edge of tannic austerity around the circumference. Terrific with roasted chicken. Production was 6,423 cases. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012. Excellent. About $25.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Yesterday was inadvertently a turkey day at our house. I finished the turkey, barley and mushroom soup for lunch, and for dinner, we just microwaved the leftovers and basically had Thanksgiving dinner again, while watching the (melodramatic) spy thriller The Eye of the Needle (1981) with Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan, and whatever happened to her? With both meals, I opened a pinot noir wine, and I’m not really comparing the two, I was being fastidious, I mean facetious about that; the situation was utter coincidence.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
With the hearty, flavorful turkey, barley and mushroom soup, I tried the Wakefield Pinot Noir 2009, from Australia’s Adelaide Hills, a wine that provides an intriguing interpretation of the grape. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and ages about 12 months in one- to two-year-old French oak hogsheads, meaning large barrels; in other words, the oak influence is very subtle, a gentle shaping rather than an overt or intrusive force. The beguiling bouquet weaves bright strands of rhubarb, cranberry and cola with a persistent high note of mint and undertones of briers and brambles. In the mouth, the wine is a supple, silky and smoky amalgam of red and black currants and black cherry with a touch of cloves and a slightly exotic hint of sandalwood. This is all quite charming, tasty and drinkable, now through 2012 or ’13. Alcohol content is 14 percent. Very Good+. About $17, representing Good Value.

Imported by American Wine Distributors, South San Francisco. A sample for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I had picked up a bottle of the Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir 2007, Willamette Valley, to sip with the actual Thanksgiving dinner, but stayed with the other wines on that occasion (Trefethen Dry Riesling 2008, Ridge Three Valleys 2008) and left the pinot noir on the sideboard. Last night, perhaps closing the book on the Thanksgiving leftovers, I thought, “Oh what the hey,” and brought it along. The Yamhill Cuvee is, in a sense, Domaine Serene’s entry level wine, and certainly its price, about $42 at the winery, is a bit less daunting than the costs of the limited edition pinots like its Evenstad Reserve ($58), Jerusalem Hill Vineyard ($70) and Mark Bradford Vineyard ($90). The Yamhill Cuvee is made from grapes derived from Domaine Serene’s estate vineyards in the Eola Hills and the Dundee Hills; it ages 10 months in French oak, 43 percent new barrels. The bouquet is unmistakable for the producer and the Willamette Valley: pungent, almost homey aromas of briers and brambles and moss, smoked black cherries and red currants and deep strains of cloves, cinnamon and sassafras. These elements assert themselves throughout one’s experience of the wine, adding notes of leather and violets and forest floor to the medley. The texture is ultimate satin, a suitably suave and elegant cocoon for flavors of spiced and macerated black cherries and plums with a plangent note of wild berry, all of this singing, in alto range, above a bass-line of rich, clean earthiness and damp shale. Yeah, I freakin’ love this wine! 13.8 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012 to ’14. Excellent. I paid $47.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________


And being Thanksgiving, these are the wines I’ll be serving at the festive groaning board on Thursday. These are the same wines I have been offering, but at different vintages and prices, since our first Thanksgiving in this house in 2005. These are American wines, two from California, one from Oregon. I wish I could have some wines from Virginia, Michigan and New York too, but those are hard to come by in what’s called the Mid-South, this corner where West Tennessee, North Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas meet at the banks of Ol’ Man River. (You understand — Geography Alert! — that Tennessee and Mississippi are east of the river, and Arkansas is on the other side.) Anyway. I bought these wines a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of the annual feast.

Trefethen Dry Riesling 2008 & 2007, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley. Trefethen’s Dry Riesling is consistently one of the best rieslings produced in the Golden State. It’s quite a versatile wine, matching with a variety of foods, from the Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings to a dish we made recently, a Catalan cannellini bean and radicchio soup that was supposed to be vegan, but I cheated and unapologetically used bacon. Boy, it was great! When I said to LL that I was going to look for an appropriate wine, she said, “The Thanksgiving riesling,” and she was absolutely right. About $24. I bought one each of the 2008 and the 07, just to see how the latter is doing since I last tasted it. Here’s a link to the New York Times website with the recipe.

The Ridge Three Vineyards 2008, Sonoma County, is a blend of 74 percent zinfandel, 11 percent petite sirah, 5 percent carignan, 4 percent of mataro (more often called mourvedre or, in Spain, monastrell), and 3 percent each syrah and grenache. I like drinking zinfandel with Thanksgiving dinner, especially in a rendition that brings in a few other grapes like the 15 percent Rhone Valley varieties in this wine. Ridge’s Three Valley, while supple and spicy and flavorful is never over-ripe or over-alcoholic, making it a terrific pairing with the myriad and sometimes contradictory sensations that the Thanksgiving dinner affords. About $25. I bought two bottles of this wine.

Finally, I like to have a bottle of the Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, on hand. The vintage available in my town is the 2007. The pinot noirs from Domaine Serene to me comprise the perfect balance of power and elegance that’s the hallmark of great pinot. You may ask, “Does pinot noir belong on the Thanksgiving table?” To which I reply, “Hey, it’s my table.” About $47 in my neck of the woods, $42 on the winery’s website. I bought a single bottle of this one.

My plan is to drink one glass of each of these wines, in the order in which I mentioned them here. I like to see how each reacts with the turkey and gravy, the potatoes, the sweet potatoes and so forth.

Whatever wines you choose to serve at Thanksgiving don’t really matter because the meal, being what it is, draws almost any wine close to its heart. That’s why people who write about wine seem to provide such contradictory advice at this time of year; mainly we fall back on our favorites. So go for it, do your thing, be happy, and have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

« Previous PageNext Page »