Pinot noir


So, what is “pet-nat”? Besides being a cute nickname. These of-the-moment sparkling wines, the darlings of astute somms — pétillant-naturel in French — exist at the basic level of making sparkling wine, less complicated than the méthode champenoise, more rustic in effect, yet often delicious and appealing. An added factor is that they seem the epitome of naturalness in winemaking. Simply stated: Wine is bottled before fermentation is complete, so that fermentation continues in the bottle (because of the residual sugar) and carbon dioxide forms: i.e, bubbles. The result is a light sparkling wine, often but not always slightly sweet, that tends to leave sediment as a mark of its down-to-earth character.

Today, we look at two examples of single-vineyard pét-nat sparklers from Onward Wines, fashioned in small quantities by winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. These examples are bone-dry, spare and subtle, not as robust or complex as Champagne yet delivering very satisfying character of their own, with an unmistakable quality of authenticity and integrity.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Onward Wines Sparkling Rose of Pinot Noir 2016, Redwood Valley, offers a pale coral-onion skin hue and delicate scents of blood orange and watermelon, sea foam and heather; mild effervescence keeps the wine gently but persistently animated. Traces of fresh, yeasty bread and lime peel highlight the nose and the palate, where lithe acidity drives through notes of dried red currants and the slight bitterness of grapefruit rind, all of these elements expressed with spare elegance, lovely balance and a touch of reticence. 12.1 percent alcohol. Production was 174 cases. Excellent. About $30.

Redwood Valley is a small American Viticultural Area (AVA), approved in 1996, in northern Mendocino County.
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The color of the Onward Wines Sparkling Malvasia Bianca 2016, Suisun Valley, is pale platinum blond, a Jean Harlow hue, made lively by a steady stream of tiny bubbles; it’s made 100 percent from malvasia bianca grapes, which lend the wine notes of green apple, apple peel, almond skin and a slightly foxy greenness. This is very dry, almost austere, but delivers fresh and ripe touches of lemongrass and melon, cinnamon toast and orange blossom, energized by bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. 12.6 percent alcohol Production was 350 cases. Excellent. About $24.

Suisun Valley, approved as an AVA in 1982, lies east of Napa Valley in Solano County, bounded by Howell Mountain on the west and the Vaca Range on the east.
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I’ll say right here, at the beginning of this post, that the result of tasting a short roster of chardonnay and pinot noir wines from the acclaimed Patz & Hall Wines was a conclusion too common in this series: I loved the pinot noirs, abhorred the chardonnays. The former I found exciting, multi-layered and slightly unpredictable, replete with pinot noir character yet each creating its own sense of detail and dimension. The chardonnays were entirely too predictable in the line of the dominant California style: too ripe and sweet with baked fruit qualities, too spicy, too oaky and intrinsically unbalanced. Those who disagree with me about these chardonnays and consider them and others like them some sort of epitome are, I know, manifold, and they are entitled to their opinion. The factors involved and of most importance for this blog are my nose and palate, and I can do naught else but follow their dictates.

Donald Patz and James Hall, who met while working for Flora Springs Winery, founded their enterprise, with their partners, in 1988. The winery owns no vineyards but makes wine on long-term contracts from highly acclaimed vineyards, primarily in Sonoma County. They sold the company to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in April 2016.

These wines were samples for review.
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The color of the Patz & Hall Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast, is dark ruby fading to a transparent and then ethereal magenta rim. The wine aged in 40 percent new French oak barrels. This is a pure, bright, intriguing pinot noir, whose scents of red, black and blue fruit compote are spiked with notes of beetroot and rose petals, sandalwood and lavender; the wine is lithe, lean and supple on the palate, taut and spicy, and a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of wood smoke and autumn leaves, along with hints of pomegranate and cranberry. This is a cuvee blended from a roster of top Sonoma Coast vineyards, including Chenoweth, Dutton and Gap’s Crown. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $48.
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The Patz & Hall Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast, aged in 50 percent new French oak barrels. The color is a beautiful dark mulberry shading to a lighter magenta rim; concentrated aromas of black cherries, currants and plums feel dredged in dried baking spices and hints of rose petals and sassafras, fig and braised fennel. The wine displays a loamy, untamed character, framed by moderately dusty tannins and a burnished, slightly sanded texture, through which bright acidity cuts a swath; macerated and lightly roasted red and black fruit flavors open notes of smoke and damp ash, leading to a finish both generous and chiseled. 14.6 percent alcohol. Production was 650 cases. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $60.
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The chardonnays in question are the Patz & Hall Chardonnay 2015, Sonoma Coast ($40); Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley ($44); Patz & Hall Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Mendocino ($60). These are bold and assertive wines in every respect: super-ripe fruit with baked apple and roasted pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors, dense textures, no-holds-barred spiciness and drenching oak. I understand that many critics and consumers adore chardonnays fashioned in this manner, but I find them to be ruinous to the potential purity and crystalline clarity of which the chardonnay grape is wonderfully capable. The Alder Springs I found to be particularly egregious in its stiff and drying oak influence. If these rich, glossy and exaggerated examples mark your favorite style of chardonnay, go for them by all means. For me and my palate, I find them unpleasant, strident and undrinkable, either on their own or with food.
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Winemaker Chris Williams produces an array of pinot noirs for Brooks Wines every year, but today we looks at his basic or entry-level model, the Brooks Runaway Red Pinot Noir 2015, derived from nine vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Yes, that’s a depiction of Leon Trotsky on the label. The wine fermented by native yeast and aged 10 months in French oak barrels. The color is a beguiling transparent medium ruby-magenta hue; elevating aromas of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants take on, after a few moments in the glass, a cast of ripe raspberry and the slight rasp of raspberry leaf and stem; all of these immensely pleasing elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where they expand into notes of woodsmoke, tobacco and balsam. Plenty of loamy, rooty qualities betoken a grasp of the vineyards and their underlying strata, all upheld by incisive acidity and a finish lightly tinged by iodine and graphite. 13.6 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 through 2022. Excellent. About $23.

A sample for review.

Here’s a beautiful pinot noir for lovers of the style that toes a line between lush and lovely, on one hand, and sinewy and dynamic, on the other. What I’m saying is that the FEL Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley (in Mendocino County), strikes a perfect balance in nose and palate in terms of the elegant, the ethereal, and the powerful. The wine, made by Ryan Hodgins, aged 16 months in French oak, 34 percent new barrels. The color is an alluring dark ruby that shades to an utterly transparent magenta rim; ripe and spicy black and red cherries and currants are permeated by notes of cloves and sassafras, rhubarb and cranberry, while a few minutes in the glass bring out hints of lilac and rose petals and subtle undertones of loam and oolong tea. Lip-smacking density is riven by persistent acidity that enlivens flavors of black and blue fruit leaning toward plum and mulberry, all set in a compelling, lithe, satiny texture; a tide of slightly dusty, velvety tannins brings a sense of framing and foundation that joins with a wisp of oak and all that dark, spicy fruit compote for a succulent finish. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21 with a roasted chicken, seared duck magret, pork tenderloin. Anderson Valley’s FEL Wines is an adjunct of Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa Valley. Excellent. About $38.

A sample for review.


It’s not easy to produce an inexpensive pinot noir, one that expresses real varietal character in an easy-to-drink package, but Toad Hollow Vineyards seems to succeed every year with its offering from Monterey County. Don’t look to the bright and totally transparent ruby-cranberry hued Toad Hollow Pinot Noir 2016, Monterey County, for great depth and dimension. Find satisfaction and pleasure, instead, in its scents of smoky and slightly fleshy red and black cherries imbued with cloves, rhubarb and mulberries; its super satiny and supple texture; its sleek, fine-boned structure; and its delicious and darkly-spiced flavors of black cherries and currants animated by clean acidity and, from mid-palate back, a nicely chiseled mineral quality that gains some heft as the moments pass. 14.2 percent alcohol. This pinot noir would sell like crazy in wine-by-the-glass programs at bars and restaurants. Now through 2019. Very Good+. About $17, representing Real Value.

A sample for review.

Fathers & Daughters Cellars only made its first wine in 2015, though the family, longtime owners of the Ferrington Vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, for many years sold primarily pinot noir grapes to such highly regarded labels as Williams-Selyam, Flowers and Arista. The winery represents a collaborative and multi-generational effort of the “fathers and daughters” in the family: Patriarch Kurt Schoeneman, his daughter Sarah, Sarah’s husband Guy Pacurar, their daughter, Ella, and Guy’s older daughter, Taylor. Winemaker is Phillip Baxter. I was mightily and sort of incrementally impressed with the trio of wines reviewed on this page today, particularly the limited production Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, which any devotee of West Coast pinot noirs should search for diligently.

These wines were samples for review.
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First, a sort of jeu d’esprit of a lightly effervescent sparkling wine, the Fathers & Daughters Cellars Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles 2016, Anderson Valley. With no second fermentation in the bottle as is the case with most sparkling wines, including Champagne (or in tank, in the Charmat process), this delightful and intriguing wine is made in what in parts of France is called the methode ancestrale or methode rurale, that is, a young wine is bottled before all the residual sugar has transformed into alcohol, so the fermentation that continues in the bottle produces carbon dioxide, hence: bubbles. For this wine, the initial fermentation was in all neutral French oak barrels. Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles ’16 was made completely from chardonnay grapes, being, in reality, a blanc de blancs. The color is pale yellow-gold, animated by a steady but narrow stream of tiny, foaming bubbles; the bouquet is characterized by freshly cut lemons, ginger, cloves and seashell salinity; the whole effect is of light, delicate brightness, garden freshness, but exhibiting a touch of muscat’s foxy petrol nature and hints of peach, heather and chalk. 13.9 percent alcohol. Could be an essential Summer quaff, except that production was 100 cases. Contact the winery to see if the tasting room can ship you a few bottles. Very Good+. About $19.
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A blend of sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer and chardonnay, the Father’s & Daughters “The Dance” 2016, Anderson Valley, is a perfect wine for Summer sipping. Fresh as a daisy, with a sort of fruit cocktail-pear compote quality, the wine offers a pale straw-gold color and a light, delicately sweet apple character touched by a broad floral nature and hints of straw and meadowy herbs and flowers. It’s a bit musky — the gewurztraminer speaking — and very dry from mid-palate back through the finish blithely furnished with notes of spiced peaches, quince, lemongrass and limestone minerality. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018. This one really grew on me. Excellent. About $28.
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All right, the previously mentioned wines were attractive, interesting and entertaining, certainly worthy of attention. The Father’s & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, however, is something else, as in among the very best pinot noirs I have tasted this year, a wine of profound yet ineffable elegance and power. The grapes were hand-harvested, and fermentation was accomplished by native yeasts; the wine saw no new oak but aged 18 months in 30 percent once-used French barrels and 70 percent neutral barrels. The color is lovely limpid cherry shading to a delicate invisible rim; aromas of ripe black and red currants are permeated by notes of cloves and rose petals, cranberry and loam, beetroot and rhubarb. The wine is beautifully balanced and integrated, lithe, supple and satiny on the palate but pulling up a burgeoning tide of iodine and graphite, briers and brambles and a touch of flinty austerity; a few moments in the glass unfold elements of sandalwood and cherry compote. Energized by bright acidity, the wine delivers a long follow-through for the finish. 13.8 percent alcohol. Drink through 2020 to ’22. Production was 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Why shouldn’t Merrie Old England produce world-class sparkling wines? In some spots the climate and soil seem perfect gusbornefor the job. One of those places is Kent, the county that starts at the outskirts of Greater London and spreads southeast to encompass that area of the scepter’d isle closest to France, just across the Channel. The grounding here is chalk — think white cliffs of Dover — and the climate maritime. I’ll confess that the Gusborne Brut Reserve 2013 is the first sparkling wine from England that I have tried, and to say that I’m impressed would be understatement. I could imbibe these bubbles all day long. The blend is 55 percent pinot noir, 27 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent chardonnay; the base wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with a small percentage in old oak barriques. This sparkling wine aged a minimum of 36 months on the lees. The color is very pale gold, animated by a frothing shimmer of tiny glinting bubbles; beguiling aromas of fresh apples, lemons and back-notes of macerated red berries are strung on a steel thread; hints of lemon drop and spare grapefruit bitterness bolster a palate characterized by chalk, flint and seashell salinity and bright, incisive acidity. Altogether elegant, approachable and delightful. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Charlie Holland. Drink through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $40, a local purchase.

Imported by Broadbent Selections, Richmond, Va.

Sonoma-based Siduri Wines specializes in an array of single-vineyard pinot noirs from the range of West Coast regions. Winemaker and founder (in 1994) Adam Lee also produces pinot in broader appellation bottlings, which are the wines represented in today’s post, from Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County), Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County) and Yamhill-Carlton in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The wines are finished unfined and unfiltered and topped with screw-caps for ease of opening. Lee and his wife and fellow-winemaker Dianna Novy Lee sold the winery to Jackson Family Wines in January 2015, though he remains as winemaker. These wines, which I found extremely pleasurable, were samples for review.
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The Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, derives from some of the appellation’s most distinguished vineyards, including Rosella’s, Garys’, Pisoni and Soberanes. The wine aged 15 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. The robe is a warm, rich medium ruby, shading to a slightly lighter rim; this is a dark, earthy, spicy, loamy pinot noir, bursting with notes of black cherry and plum compote etched with hints of cloves and beetroot, cranberry and graphite. It flows with lovely weight and heft on the palate, though keen acidity cuts a swath and lends the wine excitement and refreshing qualities. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.
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The regimen for the Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, was 16 months in French oak, but only 10 percent new barrels. The wine offers a beautiful totally transparent ruby hue, you could read a magazine through it, and lovely, limpid notes of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and pomegranate, sandalwood and loam, cloves and rhubarb; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of beetroot and blueberry. This pinot is the most succulent, the most dense and satiny of the trio under review here, a tad dusty and freighted with velvety tannins, yet paradoxically elegant and ethereal. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.
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We move up to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for the Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, a wine that rested in French oak, 30 percent new barrels, for 16 months. The color is a fairly transparent medium ruby that shades to an almost invisible magenta rim; the wine is an entrancing blend of ripe black and blue fruit, dried herbs and flowers and exotic spices, so call it cherries and plums, sage, heather and violets, sandalwood and cloves. For all its sensual appeal, there’s some rigor to the wine’s structure, a strain of graphite-briery-foresty character that lifts both texture and depth to the fore. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $36.
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This survey of 12 rosé wines began as a Weekend Wine Notes post, but here it is, Wednesday, hardy the weekend at all, so I’m keeping the usual Weekend Wine Notes format but dropping that designation. We touch many styles of rosé wine amid this roster as well as many far-flung geographical regions. The grapes involved are also of broad variety, including merlot, pinot noir, tempranillo, grenache, syrah and even cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. While a few of these rosés could tolerate aging beyond this calendar year, all are really intended for immediate appeal and consumption, whether your choice of venue is the porch, the patio, by poolside or on a picnic or just standing around the kitchen while someone prepares a light Spring or Summer meal. Prices range from about $10 to $28, so nothing outlandlish. The point is to enjoy, while consuming in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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Angeline Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, California. 12.5% alc. A lovely pink-melon-coral hue; notes of slightly candied strawberry and raspberry with a hint of pomegranate; a kind of chalk-warm, dusty roof-tiles minerality; just a touch of dried herbs. Simple, direct and tasty; a crowd-pleaser for sure. Very Good. About $13.
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Domaine Bila-Haut Les Vignes Rosé 2016, Pays d’Oc. 13% alc. 78% grenache, 14% cinsault, 8% syrah. Lovely pale pink hue with a slight coral cast; very delicate notes of strawberry and blood orange, cloves and seashell; undertones of red currants, meadow flowers and heather, buoyed on a lithe crisp texture that’s silky smooth and a chiseled foundation of chalk and flint; the finish brings in a touch of peach. One could happily drink this throughout the Summer. Excellent. About $15, marking Great Value.
Sera Wine Imports, New York.
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Bridge Lane Rosé 2016, New York State. A label from Long Island’s Lieb Cellars. 11.9% alc. 49% cabernet franc, 29% merlot, 16% malbec, 4% pinot noir, 2% petit verdot. Very pale onion skin hue; quite dry and spare, with nuances of strawberry and melon, peach and pink grapefruit; crisp acidity keeps it lively and appealing, over an undercurrent of clean limestone minerality. Very Good. About $18. Also available in 3-liter boxes and 20-liter kegs, so party on, rascals.
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campuget
Chateau de Campuget Tradition Rosé 2016, Costières de Nîmes. 13% alc. 70% syrah, 30% grenache. Very pale copper-onion skin hue; delicately touched with red currants and raspberries, a hint of orange zest and rose petals; quite dry but pleasingly ripe, slightly stony, like warm roof tiles, brisk acidity for crispness and animation, grapefruit and limestone finish. Very Good+. A Steal at about $10.
Imported by Dreyfus & Ashby, New York.
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grgich rose
Grgich Hills Estate Rosé 2016, Napa Valley. 13.1% alc. The first rosé from this venerable winery. 45% merlot, 31% cabernet sauvignon, 9% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot, to which Bordeaux grape varieties are blended 8% zinfandel and 1% gewurztraminer. A riveting deep salmon-magenta hue; strawberry, tomato skin, rose petals and raspberry leaf; spicy and savory, with lip-smacking crystalline acidity and an intriguing warm brick-damp dust sense of minerality; blood orange, Earl Gray tea and heather dominate from mid-palate through the finish. A terrific and highly individual initial effort. Excellent. About $25.
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illahe rose
Illahe Vineyards Tempranillo Rosé 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 12% alc. 500 cases. Very very pale onion skin hue; very clean and dry, crisp and spare; delicate, indeed, ephemeral notes of strawberry and raspberry, something citrus, like orange rind and lime peel; notes of pomegranate and rhubarb; quite sleek and subtle, propelled by crisp acidity and a chiseled limestone-flint edge. Very Good+. About $17.
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Maculan Costadolio 2016, Breganza Rosato. 12.5% alc. 100% merlot. Production was 1,000 cases. Pale coral-onion skin hue; very spare and delicate, animated by spanking-clean acidity; hints of dried red raspberries and currants, with a note of melon and dried herbs; a little brushy and heather-ish; crisp limestone and flint minerality, slightly saline finish. Super attractive without being pushy. Very Good+. About $15.
A Leonardo LoCascio Selection for Winebow Inc., New York
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Martin Ray Winery Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 13.2% alc. Very pale copper-salmon color; strawberry, raspberry and orange rind; a brushing of dried thyme, a light touch of dust and graphite; ripe and tasty but spare and reticent; attractive lithe supple texture. Very Good+. About $25.
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Stewart Cellars Rosé 2016, Sonoma Mountain. 13.5% alc. 100% pinot noir. Very pale watermelon pink; really delicate and ethereal notes of Stewart_Logo (1)raspberry, rose petal, pink grapefruit and blood orange; undertones of watermelon, cloves and Earl Gray tea; quite dry, spare yet, paradoxically and delightfully, lush on the palate, animated by crisp acidity and dusty seashell minerality; elegant, charming, beautifully structured. A superior rosé. Excellent. About $28.
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Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle Rosé Table Wine 2016, Long Island, N.Y. 12.2% alc. A unique blend of 54% merlot, 24% chardonnay, 11% cabernet franc, 6% gewürztraminer, 4% riesling and 1% vignoles. Onion skin hue with a light copper tinge; sprightly, spicy and slightly peppery, with ineffable layers of smoke, melon, raspberry and grapefruit; super fresh and refreshing, with heft and body that flow blithely on the palate. Delicious. Excellent. About $24.
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tongue dancer rose'
Tongue Dancer Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Putnam Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. 14.5% alc. Production was 90 cases. Bright copper-coral color; an unusually savory and fleshy rose, lithe and supple on the palate, with scents and flavors of strawberries and raspberries, melon and cloves, pomegranate and wild thyme; a filigreed background of limestone and flint minerality and bracing salinity. A superior rosé. Excellent. About $25.
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angel
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel 2016,
Côtes de Provence. 13% alc. Grenache, rolle (vermentino) and cinsault. Whispering, indeed, from its very pale onion skin color, to its delicate hints of orange rind, strawberries and cloves, to its dry, spare, elegant texture: a rose of nods and nuances, except that all aspects are bound and energized by taut, vivid acidity and a limestone structure of lacy transparency; flows across the palate like ethereal peach nectar. Excellent. About $22.
Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Miramar, Fla.
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leyda rose
Winemaker Viviana Navarette fashions the Leyda Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, from Chile’s cool seacoast Leyda Valley, from purpose-grown and -harvested grapes lightly pressed and fermented in stainless steel, where the wine remains on fine lees for seven months. The attractive light cherry-watermelon hue somehow embodies the scent and flavor profile of this fairly savory rosé, because cherry and watermelon characterize its effects in nose and on the palate. There’s more, of course; notes of orange glaze and cloves, a slightly tea-like and fleshy aura, with a hint of tomato skin and dried strawberry; a few moments in the glass produce aromas of lilac and heather. Weekly stirring during aging lends this rosé an almost creamy texture, though that aspect is more than balanced by bright crisp acidity and a burgeoning and vivid edge of chalk and flint minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. A very satisfying rosé that I would not hesitate to sip with duck and rabbit terrine, fried chicken, cheese toast and popcorn. Now into 2018. Excellent. About $16, representing Real Value.

Imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

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