Pinot noir


Domaine Jessiaume must be unique in Burgundy. Its owner, Keith Murray, is a Scot. Its director, Megan McClure, is American. And the cote de beaunewinemaker is a Frenchman with a Belgian surname, William Waterkeyn. The domaine, headquartered in Santenay (population 836), consists of 9 hectares of Premier Cru and Village vineyard– slightly more than 22 acres — located in Santenay, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Auxey-Duresses, all in the Côte de Beaune region. Côte de Beaune is the southern half of the narrow ridge that is Burgundy, the northern part being the Côte de Nuits. Because the soil of the Côte de Beaune is more varied, more white wine is made there than in the Côte de Nuits, which is about 90 percent red. The grapes, of course, are chardonnay and pinot noir. The Murray family acquired Domaine Jessiaume from the seventh generation of its founders in 2007. The work to improve the estate includes eliminating the negociant arm and gradually shifting into total organic farming. Only native yeasts are employed, and new oak is held to a minimum. These three wines — samples for review — represent what I love most about the pinot noirs of Burgundy, a sense of delicacy married to purity of fruit and intensity of structure. The prices are irresistible. When many Premier Cru wines, admittedly from illustrious appellations, now cost $75 to $200, these models can be had for $42 and $45. They are more than worth the prices. The wines of Domaine Jessiaume are imported to this country by MS Walker, Norwood Mass.
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Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru La Comme 2014 aged 12 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels, followed by 3 months in santenaystainless steel tanks. It displays an absolutely beautiful limpid, transparent medium ruby hue and scents and flavors of red cherries and currants; it’s quite dry but juicy with spice-inflected red fruit and enticing with an ethereal presence that does not discount a burgeoning tide of brambly-foresty tannins and fleet acidity that cuts a swath through the lithe, supple texture. The balance is lovely, with an emphasis on spareness and elegance. 13 percent alcohol. Production was 73 cases. Now through 2021 to’24. Excellent. About $42.
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Slightly less oak goes into making the Domaine Jessiaume Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Ecussaux 2014 than was used in the previous auxeywine, that is, 12 months, 29 percent new French barrels, following by three months in stainless steel. The color is a totally transparent medium ruby hue; the wine features notes of red and black cherries and currants, lightly inflected with cloves, briers and brambles and a hint of loam. The wine is bright and lively, offering pert black and red fruit highlighted by touches of melon and sour cherry in a lithe, sinewy, vibrant structure. The sense is of innate energy and dimension held in check by the limitless powers of charm and delicacy. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’22. Production was 174 cases. Very Good+. About $42.
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For three more dollars, you get, in the Domaine Jessiaume Beaune Premier Cru Les Cent Vignes 2014, a wine that I consider the epitome of beaunethe Burgundian style. Nothing over-extracted here, nothing emphatic, fat or fleshy or overdone, but the perfection of balance between power and elegance, between the ethereal and the earthy. The wine spent 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, followed by two months in stainless steel. The color is a ravishing, ephemeral ruby-mulberry hue; red and black cherries and currants feel permeated by notes of briers, brambles and loam, with a hint of cloves and a touch of ground cumin that lends an air of intrigue. The wine is lithe, sinewy and silky smooth on the palate, where acidity cuts a swath and it flirts with a ferrous-sanguinary character. A sense of the granitic vineyard pulses through the wine, giving it a quality of precisely measured and honed dynamism that animates the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. I could drink this one every night, but only 300 cases were produced. Best from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $45.
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If you can find a well-made, delicious and authentic Sonoma County pinot noir for $20, clasp it to thy bosom with gratitude and fervor. Such a one -tah-dah! — is the Olema Pinot Noir 2014, from Sonoma County but with generous contribution s from the more specific and pinot-friendly AVAs of Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Olema is the second, less expensive label of Amici Cellars. The wine aged 12 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. The color is a lovely, transparent medium ruby hue with a delicate, almost invisible rim; this is a clean and fresh pinot noir that offers an essential loamy underpinning as support for notes of rhubarb and sassafras, red cherries and smoky plums and just a hint of shy forest flowers. On the palate, the Olema Pinot Noir 2014 feels warm, spicy and inviting, dry, to be sure, but juicy with red and black fruit flavors highlighted by new leather, cloves and black pepper. The wine builds subtle layers in the glass, so after a few minutes, you notice elements of briers and brambles and graphite, all fixed in place by bright acidity and nuanced, slightly dusty minerality. 14.2 percent. A truly engaging pinot noir for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken or coq au vin, smoked turkey, game birds and grilled leg of lamb. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

A rosé wine can be made in one of three ways. First, mix red and white wine, just a touch of red. Voila, it’s pink! Generally, this method is avoided in making still rosés, and in fact is primarily used in the production of brut rosé Champagne and sparkling wines. Second, and endless crushmost common, is maceration, in which the skins of red grapes macerate with the juice for a brief period, usually two to 20 hours, and then the juice is removed from the vats when the desired lightness or depth of hue and flavor is reached. (The color of red wine, whether medium ruby or motor-oil purple, derives from the skins; grape juice itself has no or little color.) Third is saignée, a French term meaning “to bleed.” The process involves siphoning or “bleeding off” some of the juice from the macerating tanks before it becomes too dark, a step that helps concentrate the “real” wine as well as produce a rosé. The rosé wine considered today was made by maceration of grapes grown especially for this wine, not as an after-thought or coincidental product bled off from a more important wine. The Inman Family “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, was made from organic grapes grown in the winery’s Olivet Grange vineyard and picked in August last year. After a few months in stainless steel tanks, the wine was bottled on December 7, making it all of about six months old. The color is very pale petal pink; oh, this is a delicate and ethereal wreathing of strawberries, red currants and watermelon that opens to a fine web of honeysuckle and lilac, orange rind and grapefruit, all encompassed by a slightly earthy undertone of damp and slightly dusty tiles and river stones. Tensile strength emerges with the wine’s bright, lip-smacking acidity and mouth-watering juiciness and the contrast between its crisp nature and an almost lush texture. 11.9 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017. Production was 672 cases, and it goes fast. A superior rosé wine that feels like a kiss from Spring and a caress from Summer. Exceptional. About $35.

A sample for review.

Valentine’s, the most fraught day of the year, when everybody in America is going to be as romantic as hell or die trying, and what’s more loveromantic than that? In case you — meaning any person of whatever gender fluidity, age, religion, political stance, food preference or IQ — forgot to lay in a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, here is a brief roster of examples, all Brut Rosés, that register at various levels of delectability on the palate and dent-free on the pocketbook; in other words, delicious and not too expensive. (I understand that “expensive” is a relative concept.) Though actual Champagne is not included here, that is, bubbly made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, these models are produced in the famed “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle, the same bottle it will be sold in, after some length of time resting on the lees in said bottle before being finished with the cork and wire. The process is a tad more complicated, of course, but I’m into simplification today so I can get a bottle of sparkling wine into your hands before it’s too late. Two of these selections are from France — Loire Valley and Burgundy — and two from California — Russian River and Napa-Carneros. So, drink up, have fun, dance a step or two and give him or her or him/her a smooch for me.

Credit: Leslie Barron, Big Love, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 24 by 48 inches. Courtesy of L Ross Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee.
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De Chanceny Brut Rosé nv, Crémant de Loire, is a product of Alliance Loire, a cooperative founded in 2002 to take advantage of vineyard 17385--de-chanceny-cremant-de-loire-rose-brut-label-1426983098connections that range from Muscadet in the west to the appellations of Touraine in the center. This is 100 percent cabernet franc, aged on the lees at least 12 months. The color is an attractive pale copper-salmon hue, enlivened by a steady stream of tiny bubbles. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry are touched with the slight astringency of mulberry, fleshed out by orange zest and a hint of cloves. This Crémant de Loire is dry, crisp and lively, animated by pert acidity and a deft limestone edge. 12.5 percent alcohol. Truly charming. Very Good+. I paid $15 locally, but prices around the country vary from about $13 to $19; don’t pay that much, My Readers.

Signature Imports, Mansfield, Mass.
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Founded in 1831, Domaine Albert Bichot produces Burgundy wines that encompass the complete geographical and hierarchical aspects of the region. Today, however, we look not at any of the domaine’s Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines but at its quite satisfying non-vintage Albert Bichot Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne, composed of chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay grapes. The color is pale copper-pink, the essential bubbles active and energetic. Notes of blood orange, cloves, tangerine and red cherry are given a serious touch by an element of limestone minerality. It’s quite dry but displays lovely bones and a deceptive quality of tensile strength. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.

European Wine Imports, Cleveland, Ohio. A sample for review.
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The J Vineyard Brut Rosé nv, Russian River Valley, is a blend of 66 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 1 percent pinot meunier; it aged two years en tirage, that is, on the lees in the bottle. This is all flushes, blushes and nuances, from its very pale copper-sunset hue, to its slightly fleshy, subtly ripe notes of orange zest, raspberry and lemon rind touched with almond skin, to its steely, chiseled structure. The bubbles, however, are nothing discrete, being a dynamic upward surge like a fountain. This sparkling wine is elegant and fine-boned, finishing with an intriguing hint of grapefruit bitterness. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.
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The Frank Family Vineyard Brut Rosé 2012, Napa Valley-Carneros, a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, offers a pale copper hue flushed with rose-petal pink; the tiny bubbles teem like a glinting tempest in the glass. This is a focused and intense sparkling wine that displays burnished notes of blood orange and tangerine, red raspberries and currants wrapped in a package of lightly toasted brioche and limestone steeliness, managing to be both generous and austere. Lip-smacking acidity and effervescence and scintillating minerality keep it appealing and dynamic, while innate elegance makes it lithe and attractive. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.

A sample for review.
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You may think I’m wayward and quixotic for recommending a rosé wine on February 9, a day of storms, wind, snow and ice for much of the nation, but yesterday I drank a glass (or two) of this wine while sitting on the back porch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And then the toad hollowtemperature dropped precipitously, so we had a very cold night, a chilly but sunny today, and tomorrow we’re back in the 70s. Who can live with this whiplash approach to mid-Winter? The wine is the Toad Hollow Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, designated Sonoma County, though the grapes derived from the marine climate of Carneros. The wine’s name — “Dry Rosé” — indicates that at one time and perhaps even now American consumers considered rosé wines sweet, though the great majority of them are bone-dry. While made completely from pinot noir grapes — no grenache, cinsault, counoise, no syrah or mourvèdre — this rosé thoroughly partakes of the spirit of its counterparts in Provence. The color is an entrancing pale onion skin hue — what used to be called “eye of the partridge” — and the aromas of orange zest, peach and strawberry are subtle and delicate, bolstered by a hint of wet stones and dried thyme; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of watermelon and lilac. On the palate, this charming rosé wine is a little gingery, featuring peach and raspberry flavors enlivened by crisp acidity and a burgeoning limestone and flint element. “Charming,” yes, but quite spare, slightly honed and chiseled, nothing gushing or abundant; I call it classic and graceful. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through the end of 2017. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

A sample for review.

The sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne may be made from any of the grape varieties allowed in Burgundy, meaning predominantly chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir, but including gamay and pinot blanc. The product must be fashioned in the “Champagne method” of second fermentation cremant de bourgogne mapin the bottle it’s sold in. The Crémant de Bourgogne appellation is extensive, reaching from Chablis down through Burgundy proper, Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais and encompassing 365 communes in four départménts. Grapes intended for Crémant de Bourgogne are generally cultivated separately from grapes that go into the great village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines of Burgundy and Chablis; that land is too precious and those grapes too expensive to sideline into sparkling wine, though that was often the practice at great estates before 1975, when the appellation regulations were laid down. Until 1975, the product was known as Borgogne Mousseux. A great deal of Crémant de Bourgogne is produced by cooperatives or by estates that specialize in effervescence; on the other hand, some of Burgundy’s best-known domaines, such as Yves Boyer-Martenot, Duc de Magenta and Jean-Noel Gagnard, still engage in the practice. In truth, many domaines are so small that they don’t have room for producing Crémant.

The house we look at today is Domaine Louis Picamelot, founded in 1926 in Rully, a village — population about 600 — in the Côte Chalonnaise. The domaine is still in family hands, in the third generation, but run by sons-in-law. Picamelot draws chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir grapes from its own 10 hectares of vineyards in Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune but also from vineyards under long-term contracts reaching from Beaujolais to Chatillonnais, a region (not an appellation) lying between Chablis and the Côte d’Or that contributes heavily to Crémant de Bourgogne. I found the four examples from Picamelot reviewed here to be beautifully made, very sophisticated and mostly worthy of giving lower-priced Champagne — or higher-priced, for that matter — a run for its money. The sparkling wines of Domaine Louis Picamelot are imported by Ansonia Wines, Newton, Massachusetts. These wines were samples for review. Map of Crémant de Bourgogne from bourgogne-wines.com, a very informative website.
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The medium straw-gold Louis Picamelot Le Terroirs Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 57 percent pinot noir, 32 percent chardonnay and 11 percent aligoté, aged at least 12 months on the lees. Elements of limestone and seashell surround notes of baked lemons and pears that open to stone-fruit compote, cloves, heather and toffee; it’s surprisingly dense and viscous on the palate, gathering an array of mineral-tinged textural elements and glimpses of yellow fruit that neatly balance bright acidity with a slightly creamy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $24.
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Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, the Louis Picamelot Les Terroirs Brut Rosé, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, aged at least 12 months in the bottle on the lees; the grapes came from vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise. The color is pale salmon-copper; energetic bubbles stream upward in a steady surge. Aromas of raspberry, peach and orange peel open to hints of raspberry leaf and cinnamon bread, over a limestone and steel character; on the palate, this is fine-boned and tensile, slightly briery, clean and elegant while offering a dynamic veracity of bright acid and a scintillating mineral element. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24.
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The Louis Picamelot Terroir de Chazot Blanc de Noir Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is also 100 percent pinot noir, this from a designated vineyard situated on the higher hillsides of St. Aubin in the Côte de Beaune. It aged at least 18 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is very pale straw-gold, while the persistent stream of tiny bubbles is satisfying and exhilarating. Notes of roasted lemon and pear nectar open to hints of tangerine and lime peel, almond skin and lightly buttered cinnamon toast and a sort of fragile seashell-limestone element of chiseled minerality. That honed and hewn quality persists on the palate, where its chalk and flint character defines a spare, elegant package of lovely nuance and subtlety. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
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The Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard Brut 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 77 percent chardonnay and 23 percent aligoté, qualifying as a blanc de blancs. A pale gold hue is animated by a teeming torrent of frothing bubbles; it’s a clean, spare, elegant sparkling wine that features notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears with undertones of quince and ginger, chalk and lightly toasted brioche. This builds character and substance in the glass, layering pertinent limestone minerality with brisk acidity and hints of baked stone-fruit flavors, all wrapped in a lively effervescent nature that doesn’t emphasize any element unduly; balanced yet exciting. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $38.
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Jackson Family Wines acquired Siduri Wines, the cult producer of single-vineyard pinot noirs, in January 2015. Smart purchase for a company ECM316759heavily into pinpointing exclusive wineries and producers of pinot noir in California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Founder Adam Lee remains as winemaker. The wine considered today, however, is not a single-vineyard effort but a wine that seeks to be the embodiment of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a noted powerhouse of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. The Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, derives from seven vineyards throughout the diverse landscape and micro-climates of Russian River Valley and a variety of clones. This one is for fans of big-hearted pinot noirs that wear their gushing fruity attributes and underpinnings on their sleeves. Not particularly my style — I prefer more nuance — but it’s obviously so well-made that I can’t resist offering it as another Wine of the Day. The color is a striking deep ruby-purple with a glowing violet-magenta rim; it’s a dark and intense pinot noir that features scents and flavors of smoked and macerated black and red cherries and currants touched with iodine and iron and notes of rhubarb, allspice, sandalwood and sassafras. Silky smooth is the texture, running like satin ribbons over the palate, while bright acidity lends liveliness and firm, graphite-tinged tannins give grit and verve. Loam and leather come up, as well as some foresty asperity in the depths, more smoke and a blithe hint of wild cherry. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22 with roasted chicken or game birds, pork tenderloin or veal. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

To honor the Year of the Rooster, to be celebrated on January 28 at Chinese New Year’s, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyard crafted a iron horsespecial, limited production sparkling wine that bears a vivid red and gold label you can’t miss. The Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley — that’s the AVA — is a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, aged en tirage (on the lees in the bottle) for four years. The color is pale straw-gold, energized by a swirling tempest of tiny glinting bubbles; I mean, it’s hypnotic. Aromas of spiced pears, pound cake and baked apples unfurl to notes of lemon balm and lemongrass, heather and damp hay and a hint of something uniquely tropical, star-fruit, perhaps, or guava, just a bell-tone. These elements — all nuances; nothing obvious — in turn are layered over limestone and shale minerality of the profoundest order, so on the palate this sparkling wine is lithe, chiseled and honed, quite dry of course, and with a finish notable for elegance and austerity, all twined with utmost fine-boned delicacy. 13.5 percent alcohol. One of my favorite sparkling wines of the past two months of tasting brigades of bottles. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Production was 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.

A sample for review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.

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

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

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

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

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

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Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.

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

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Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.

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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 Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York. About $24.

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

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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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Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.

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

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

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

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

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

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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
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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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