Rhone



The estate of Ferraton Père et Fils was founded in Tain l’Hermitage, in France’s northern Rhône region, in 1946. A shift to biodynamic farming methods began in 1998, and in 2004, the ubiquitous Michel Chapoutier, who knows a good thing when he sees one, acquired the estate. The wines are made from vineyards on the property and grapes purchased from other parts of the Rhône Valley. The Ferraton Père et Fils “Samorëns” 2016, Côtes du Rhône blanc, is a blend of 35 percent roussanne grapes, 30 percent viognier, 25 percent grenache blanc and 5 percent each clairette and marsanne; the wine is made all in stainless steel, seeing no oak. The color is very pale straw-gold; subtle aromas of lemongrass and green tea, roasted lemon, gardenia and bees’-wax entice the nose, while on the palate, the wine is spare and lithe, moderately talc-like in texture and infused with a slate-and-flint strain of elemental minerality; a few moments in the glass add notes of baked pear and Mediterranean herbs. 13.5 percent alcohol. From his own estates, Chapoutier makes some of the world’s greatest and most expensive white wines from the same sort of grapes; consumers with just a normal amount of fiduciary prowess will enjoy this pretty and appealing example instead, now through the end of 2018. Very Good+. About $14, representing Excellent Value.

Sera Wine Imports, New York. 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!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
acorn-2013-heritage-vines-zinfandel-rgb-72dpi
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.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gratien
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
0000098_sauvignon-blanc
Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bk-chard
Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bns12c_bottle_180x579px
Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lescadrans_de_lassegue_bottle-2-2-232x800
Les Cadrans de Lassegue 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux. Merlot and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $35.

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
etu_12fiddlestix_pinot_nv_400x126
Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills. Exceptional, About $45.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
patz_hall_hyde_pinot_noir2_1024x1024
Patz & Hall Vineyard Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros-Napa Valley. Excellent. About $70.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you think they sell Nerthe Balls in the gift shop at Chateau La Nerthe? Hahaha, no, of course not! I was kidding! Wineries and estates in Europe, especially those that trace their history back to 1560, as La Nerthe does, see no need to follow the California model of wineries offering tasting rooms and gift shops, picnic grounds and play grounds, jazz concerts and movie series. Not that no estates in France, Italy, Germany and so on indulge in these consumer-oriented activities, but there’s a sense that the business at hand is growing the best grapes and turning them into the best wines, no need to hire a staff visitor-resources coordinator. You could spend days in Burgundy or the Rhone Valley and not see a corkscrew for sale at a winery.

Anyway, Chateau La Nerthe occupies 225 acres, certified organic since 1998, in the southern Rhone region of Chateauneuf-du-nerthe-09-1280x600Pape, named for a summer palace that Pope John XXII, one of the alternative popes, built north of Avignon in the 14th Century (not pictured here). It was somewhat like the “Heather has two mommies” situation, except that in 14th Century Europe Heather had two Papas. Wine has been produced in the southern Rhone Valley since times immemorial, or at least since the wine-swilling Romans established vineyards, but Chateauneuf-du-Pape as we know it was only codified in 1923 by Baron Le Roy of Chateau Fortia (and amended in 1936), thus setting into motion the momentum toward the organization of the French A.O.C. system. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is unique for the number of grape varieties allowed into its blended red and white wines, 13 types originally but increased to 18 in 2009 by counting black, pink and white variations of the same grapes separately. The percentage of grapes in each wine is not regulated, and red and white wines may utilize both red and white grapes, though the number of estates that cross-color grapes in now very few. Sticking to the primary (and slightly or severely diminished) varieties the red grapes are grenache — the primary grape in these vineyards — syrah, mourvedre, cinsault, counoise and the little encountered muscardin, vaccarese, picpoul and terret noir; the whites are grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, bourboulenc and picardin.

Vines at La Nerthe average 40 years old. The vineyard surrounds the winery and mansion (pictured above) and features the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape characteristic of large, round stones — galets — on the surface. Winemaker is Christian Voeux.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. These wines were samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chateau La Nerthe 2012, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is a blend of 48 percent grenache, 29 percent syrah, 22 mourvedre and a scant 1 percent nerthecinsault; no white grapes for this one. The wine aged 12 months in a combination of 63 percent barriques and 37 percent large wooden casks and vats. The color is dark ruby with a lighter, transparent rim; this is rich and ripe, pungent with scents of black cherries and currants with hints of wild berries, cloves and allspice and, after a few minutes in the glass, strains of graphite, smoke, black pepper and damp ashes. At first, the wine is quite mellow and palatable, but it builds power and structure, as the fruit flavors add macerated red berries to the black fruit and dusty, velvety tannins assert themselves; the finish feels rather chiseled and honed from the stones of the vineyard. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to 2024. Excellent. About $65.
______________________________________________________________________
Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateaunuef-du-Pape blanc, is a blend of 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette nerthe-2and bourboulenc. The wine aged in a combination of 228-liter oak foudres and 62 percent stainless steel tanks. The color is mild, medium gold; classic aromas of bee’s-wax and lanolin, yellow plums and peaches, heather, hay and camellia wreathe themselves into a beguiling bouquet; the wine is quite dry, offering plenty of body and stuffing in the way of bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality, as well as yellow fruit flavors tinged with quince preserves and crystallized ginger, yet it demonstrates a sort of Southern languor and allure, a kind of low-cut gown and tanned shoulders effect that makes it irresistible. The finish, however, is notably spare, brisk and saline, bracing with limestone minerality and grapefruit pith. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $65.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

tavel
For the 150th entry in this series, which started in May 2015 after my right arm was broken in a tussle with an extension ladder, let’s go to one of the world’s great rosé regions. Our wine is the Chateau d’Aqueria 2015, from Tavel, down in France’s southern Rhône region. Tavel, across the river from Chateauneuf-du-Pape and just north of the city of Avignon, produces only rosé wines and only blends. French wine law forbids making a rosé by blending red and white wine — except in Champagne — so estates and cooperatives in the south of France are permitted to use red and white grapes together by mixing them before fermentation. The French are so rational! The Chateau d’Acqueria 2015 is predominantly grenache, with the addition of clairette, cinsault, mourvèdre, syrah, bourboulenc and picpoul; the wine aged six months in stainless steel tanks. The color is a riveting medium copper-salmon hue; this is pure blood orange, strawberries and peaches infused with dried thyme, orange zest and a tinge of damp limestone minerality; notes of tomato skin and heather round out the picture. The package segues consistently from nose to palate, where bright acidity gives it a tang and a touch of orange marmalade deepens the effect; flint and chalk elements lend body, presence and a moderately lush and lithe texture to a wine that could age a year or two. 14 percent alcohol. Rather more substantial than most rosés, this one could accompany roasted chicken, veal piccata, rabbit fricassee and porcini risotto, as well as the typical picnic fare. Excellent. About $20.

Imported by Kobrand Corp, Purchase, N.Y. A sample for review.

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

Montezargues 2012 website
Our first rosé still wine of the year is a winner. The Prieuré de Montézargues 2014, Tavel — the only all-rosé appellation in France — is a blend of 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette and a 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvèdre, carignan and bourboulenc that ages five months in concrete tanks. Those who know about the red wines of the Southern Rhone Valley are saying at this moment, “Gosh, that’s reminiscent of a combination of grapes allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.” Indeed it is, and not surprisingly, since this superb Tavel was produced by the Richard family, owners of the highly regarded Chateauneuf-du-Pape estate Chateau La Nerthe. The color of this rosé wine is a pale copper-salmon-peach hue; immediately appealing notes of tomato skin, raspberry and peach, lilac, lavender and mint waft from the glass; a few moments bring in hints of pomegranate and rhubarb. It’s a rosé of lovely clarity, displaying a lively, vibrant character, with lip-smacking acidity and a lithe backbone of chalk and flint-like elements; on the palate, the ripe fruit flavors tend toward strawberries and red currants, highlighted by touches of sage and orange rind. 13.5 percent alcohol. A superior rosé, with real character, for drinking through the end of 2016. Try with such picnic fare as fried chicken, deviled eggs and cucumber or watercress sandwiches, with rabbit and duck terrines, with (as we did) a split-pea soup with smoked turkey. Excellent. About $24.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.

In some ways, it’s more fun to compile the “25 Great Wine Bargains” than it is to fret over the “50 Great Wines.” This present list of wines priced at $20 and under offers more geographical and varietal diversity, as well as appealing to people — most of the wine-drinkers on the face of the earth — would would rather pay $15 for a bottle of excellent wine than $150 for a bottle of exceptional wine. What’s particularly pleasing about today’s roster is that of the 25 wines included, all but two rate Excellent. The truth is that wines don’t have to be high-priced to be thoughtfully and precisely made or to embody all the characteristics of a terrific drink. An excellent sauvignon blanc for $11? Who would pass that up? These 25 Great Wine Bargains are cause for celebration, so have at it. Remember, though, that not all wines are available in every market. For bottles that can’t be found in your local retail stores, a search on the Internet may be helpful. Enjoy!

All of these selections were samples for review or were tasted at wholesaler trade events.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
kerner
Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2013, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy. Kerner is a white hybrid grape created as recently as 1969. It is found primarily in Germany but certainly performed well in this section of Alto Adige. Excellent. About $19.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
baur
Francois Baur Brut Réserve nv, Crémant d’Alsace, France. Pinot blanc, riesling, chardonnay, pinot gris. Excellent. About $18.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cattin riesling
Joseph Cattin Riesling 2013, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $14.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
chevalier_muscadet_2010_hi_res
Eric Chevalier Clos de la Butte 2013, Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu sur Lie 2013, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $16.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
arneis_le_madri_btl_535px
Michele Chiarlo Le Madri Roero Arneis 2014, Piedmont, Italy. 100 percent arneis grapes. Excellent. About $18.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
2014_Sauvignon_Blanc_label_rgb1
Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $18.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Eguia_Rosado_FT
Viña Eguía Rosado 2014, Rioja, Spain. 80 percent tempranillo, 20 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
cava
Isaac Fernandez Seleccíon Biutiful Cava Rosé nv, Penedes, Spain. Excellent. About $15.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
schloss-gobelsburg-gobelsburger-riesling-kamptal-austria-10224971
Schloss Gobelsburg “Gobelsburger” Riesling 2013, Kamptal, Austria. Excellent. About $18.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hidalgo_Fino
Emilio Hildago Fino Jerez Seco nv, Jerez, Spain. Excellent. About $14 (500 milliliter bottle).
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
leitz
Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken 2013, Rheingau, Germany. Excellent. About $20.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
martini-cab
Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $20.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
masi
Masi Campofiorin 2011, Rosso del Veronese IGT, Italy. Corvino, rondinella and molinara grapes. Excellent. About $18.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
mud-house-sauvignon-blanc-marlborough-new-zealand-10126095
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand. Excellent. About $17.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
pazo
Pazo San Mauro Albariño 2014, Rías Baixas, Spain. Excellent. About $19.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________
ped sb
Pedroncelli East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $15.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2012_domaine_perraud_macon_villages_vieilles_vignes
Domaine Perraud Vielles Vignes Mâcon-Villages 2013, Mâconnais, France. 100 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $20.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Amauta-Absoluto-Torrontes
El Porvenir de Cafayate Amauta Absoluto Torrontés 2012, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
prodigo
Prodigo Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Friuli Grave, Italy. Excellent. About $11.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
scaia-garganega
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Bianca 2014, delle Venezia IGT, Italy. The label asserts 55 percent garganega, 45 percent chardonnay grapes. Press materials and website say 50 percent garganega, 30 percent chardonnay, 20 percent trebbiano Soave. Whatever. Excellent. About $11.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
segries
Château de Ségriès Côtes-du-Rhône 2013, Rhone Valley, France. 50 percent grenache, 30 percent syrah, 10 percent each cinsault and carignane. Excellent. About $15.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
charles_thomas_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_hq_label
Charles Thomas Côtes-du-Rhône 2013, Rhone Valley, France. (Maison Jean-Baptiste Bejot) 50 percent syrah, 40 percent grenache, 10 percent mourvedre. Very Good+. About $12.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
valentina
La Valentina 2014, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Italy. Rosé of montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Very Good+. About $12.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
VR_Label_14_WHITE4_Front
Vina Robles “White 4” 2014, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County. 54 percent viognier, 22 percent vermentino, 15 verdelho, 9 sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $16.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Zemmer-Pinot_Bianco_Square
Peter Zemmer Punggl Pinot Blanc 2013, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Even for France, home of many venerable wine properties and vineyards, the domaine of Les Pallières qualifies as ancient, having been farmed by the same family since sometime in the 15th Century. Located in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail outside the village of Gigondas in the Southern Rhone valley, the estate endured hard times in the 20th Century, and in 1998, faced with extensive repairs to the property and vineyards, the Roux brothers decided to sell. Fortunately, another pair of brothers, Daniel and Frédéric Brunier, owners of Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, learned about the situation and, with Kermit Lynch, their American importer, purchased the old estate and instituted a series of improvements and innovations. Particularly important was the separation, beginning in 2007, of the various lieux-dits, previously blended into one cuvée, into two distinct wines to emphasize the attributes of the terroir. Cuvée “Terrasse du Diable,” encompasses the low-yielding vines from the higher altitudes, up to 400 meters, that express great structure and intense minerality. Cuvée “Les Racines” showcases the vineyard parcels surrounding the winery—the origin of the domaine with the oldest vines—with the emphasis on freshness and an abundance of fruit. This division does not imply that Terrasse du Diable does not possess delicious fruit nor that Les Racines lacks structure.

These two wines, in their manifestations from 2010, are what I consider today. I encountered the pair at a trade tasting for Kermit Lynch products mounted by a local wholesale house. Now the current vintage on the market apparently is 2012, but distributors often showcase older wines they still have in stock at these events, hoping to interest retail stores that may have suitable costumers.

Until 1966, the wines from Gigondas were bottled as simple Côtes du Rhône; that year, they were elevated to Côtes du Rhône-Villages, and in 1971 Gigondas was awarded its own appellation. The reds must contain up to 80 percent grenache grapes, with syrah and/or mourvèdre accounting for 15 percent (though these two wines do not have that 15 percent). The other wine is rosé; whites are not produced.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Les Pallières Terrasse du Diable 2010, Gigondas, is a blend of 90 percent grenache grapes, and five percent each mourvèdre and clairette, the latter a white grape, one of those allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The vines average 45 years old and are planted on steep one-row terraces in poor soil partly covered with rocky scree, in the northernmost area of the Gigondas appellation. The grapes were fermented in concrete and wooden vats, and the wine aged 10 months in vats and another 12 months in foudres, which is to say that these are large oak barrels; no small barriques were employed. The wine was bottled unfiltered. The color is medium ruby permeated with a mulberry hue; the first impression is of a wine that lives where the Wild Things are; it feels feral, fleshy and meaty, rich, ripe and spicy, bursting with notes of red and black currants and cherries with undertones of wild plum, graphite and lightly roasted fennel; a few moments in the glass bring up traces of violets, cloves, lavender and leather. This is weighty but not heavy on the palate, quite dry and framed by a wealth of slightly sanded and dusty tannins, as if the wine had been lightly burnished and delicately brushed with sage and thyme. Though well furnished with fresh and dried red and black fruit flavors, from mid-palate through the finish, Les Pallières Terrasse du Diable 2010 builds granitic austerity, dictating a few years aging to find poise. 14.5 percent alcohol. Best from 2016 or ’17 to 2025 or ’26. Excellent. About $45.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Les Pallières Les Racines 2010, Gigondas, does not receive as much cement and wood aging as its stablemate mentioned above does. A blend of 80 percent grenache, eight percent syrah, seven percent cinsault and five percent clairette, Les Racines — “the roots” — ferments in cement cuves and large oaken foudres and then ages 10 months in cement and seven to nine months in foudres. Perhaps for that reason and a slightly lower altitude,, Les Racines ’10 feels a bit more generous and less extracted than Terrasse du Diable ’10, though no less rich in detail and dimension. This is all about ripe black fruit — blackberries, cherries and plums — supported by finely milled tannins, bright acidity and a polished graphite presence; aromas of cloves and sandalwood, violets and lavender sift from the glass in an exotic stream, while the wine flows through the mouth in a texture that’s spare and lithe. It’s very dry but flavorful and woodsy, infused with clean notes of loam, moss and forest floor, and the finish brings all elements together is a well-knit amalgam. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $45.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chêne Bleu — “blue oak” — occupies 340 acres in a unique microclimate at elevations from 1,600 to 1,800 feet in a saddle of the Dentelles de Montmirail where four southern Rhône appellations — Gigondas, Côtes du Ventoux, Côtes du Rhône and Séguret — merge. Eighty-seven acres of the estate, called La Verrière for more than six centuries, are cultivated to vineyards; grapes have been grown in the steep, stony area for a thousand years. Xavier and Nicole Rolet purchased the isolated and long neglected property and its ancient ruined priory in 1993 and spent 10 years restoring the dilapidated buildings and shabby vineyards. The first wines were released in 2006. Viticulturalist is Xavier Rolet’s sister Bénédicte Gallucci; winemaker is her husband Jean-Louis Gallucci. The vineyards are managed in a combination of organic and biodynamic methods. The use of new oak barrels is sparing.

The winery eschews the typical appellation system, preferring to use the simpler Vin de Pays du Vaucluse designation or, as that category became a few years ago when the Vin de Pays AOC was dismantled, Vaucluse Indication Geographique Protegée, a step that allows a certain freedom in the choice of grapes they blend. Everything about this stylish, sophisticated winery and its products — and prices — indicates a desire to be considered a world-class estate, and I would not be surprised if such is not the case within the next 10 to 20 years. Greatness is not achievable in winemaking within a vintage or two; it takes time for knowledge and experience to merge perfectly with nature and terroir, though the wines under review today seem well on their way. All five — a rose from 2013, whites from 2012 and 2010 and two reds from 2007, the current releases — display remarkable individuality, personality and character.

Imported by Wilson Daniels, St. Helena, Calif. These wines were samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Chêne Bleu Rose 2013, Ventoux, is a blend of 65 percent grenache, 30 percent syrah and 5 percent cinsault, given a very cold fermentation in stainless steel for five weeks. Twenty percent of the wine aged for three months in a combination of old and new French oak barrels, mainly barrique-size, that is 228-liters or 60 gallons. As I mentioned on Facebook, if this isn’t the best rose wine I tasted this year, I can’t think immediately of what the better one is. The color is a classic pale onion skin hue; the whole impression is of a delicate, even ethereal construct that nonetheless retains a slightly earthy, loamy, smoky aspect. Aromas of dried strawberries and raspberries are wreathed with notes of tangerine, lime peel and green tea, elements that segue generously into the mouth, where they take on touches of damp and dusty limestone and flint, all energized by brisk acidity. Most memorable is the wine’s sense of tone and presence, its suave and elegance weight on the palate. 13 percent alcohol. 800 six-pack cases were imported. Drink through the end of 2015. Excellent. About $31.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Chêne Bleu Aliot 2010, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, is named for Aliot de Montvin, an artisan glassblower of noble birth who named the winery’s estate La Verrière — The Glassblowing Workshop — in 1427. The blend is 65 percent roussanne, 30 percent grenache blanc, 5 percent marsanne and some smidgeon of viognier. Cold fermentation occurred in 600-liter demi-muids — 159-gallon barrels — and the wine aged six to eight months in a combination of old and new French oak. The color is bright yellow-gold; the wine is rich and honeyed in every sense, with scents and flavors of spiced pears and peaches, candied quince and ginger and hints of papaya and mango. Rich and honeyed, yes, but both succulent and bone-dry, vibrant, crystalline, wreathed with notes of cloves and sea-salt, savory spiced and baked pineapple and grapefruit, with a contrasting touch, on the lush finish, of grapefruit bitterness, the entire package permeated by limestone and chalk minerality. 14 percent alcohol. 45 six-pack cases were imported. That’s right readers, 270 bottles for the USA, and we took one to dinner at Erling Jensen restaurant in Memphis, where the wine performed beautifully with an appetizer of crisp sweetbreads with parmesan ravioli, shiitake mushrooms and a veal jus. Drink — carefully stored — through 2018 to 2020. Exceptional. About $85.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Not quite 100 percent varietal, the Chêne Bleu Viognier 2012, contains 4 percent grenache blanc. The appellation is IGP — Indication Geographique Protegée — Vaucluse, IGP having replaced the old, familiar Vin de Pays. As with the Aliot, mentioned above, this wine was cold-fermented in 600-liter demi-muids and aged six to eight months in a combination of old and new French oak. The color is pale gold; the (to my mind) signature elements of the viognier grape quickly emerge with notes of jasmine and gardenia, cloves and mango, bee’s-wax, baked pear and dried thyme. The wine is distinctly savory, its ripe stone-fruit flavors rife with sage, sea-salt and grapefruit rind; back-notes of dried apricot, ginger and quince lend complexity to lip-smacking acidity, scintillating limestone minerality and a dense, almost chewy texture. There’s nothing heavy or opulent here though; all elements are delicately tied and buoyantly expressed. 13.5 percent alcohol. 300 cases were produced. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $41.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The blend of the Chêne Bleu Abelard 2007, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, is 90 percent grenache to 10 percent syrah, the grapes derived from vines that are 45 and more years old. The initial winemaking process involved a three-day cold maceration in wooden vats, 10 days of fermentation and then four weeks of maceration on the skins; The wine spent 11 months in a combination of old and new French oak barrels, primarily 60-gallon barriques; it is unfined and unfiltered. My advice is to decant the wine — not a difficult or scary process, just pour it into a clean glass container — and let it air out for an hour or two before drinking. The color is dark ruby; remarkably fresh for a seven-year-old grenache, this offers scents of ripe and slightly roasted blackberries and plums laden with dusty graphite minerality and notes of fruitcake, old leather, lavender and dried rosemary. Lithe and supple in texture, Abelard 2007, unlike its namesake, does not lack balls; the tannic-acid structure is forthright and more evident as time passes and you pay attention to what’s happening in the glass and bottle, but that rather stern foundation does not submerge the wine’s innate balance, integration and elegance. 14.5 percent alcohol. 800 six-pack cases were imported. Drink through 2020 to 2025. Excellent. About $100.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Chêne Bleu Heloise 2007, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, is the most complicated and intriguing of this group of wines. The winemaking regimen is the same as for its Abelard 2007 stablemate, if it’s permissible to use such a term for these celebrated lovers — or non-lovers — though this is a blend of 60 percent syrah, 37 percent grenache and 3 percent viognier. The color is dark ruby, and at first this Heloise feels more mature than the companion Abelard — sorry, my dear! — more autumnal in its scents of smoky, spiced and macerated red and black cherries and currants and undertones of loam, mushrooms and moss. Give the wine a chance, however, to build its character, either in the glass or by decanting an hour or so before consuming; let it expand with elements of fennel and pomegranate, dried rosemary and cedar and their requisite resiny notes (meaning that in the best way); allow it to gain in suppleness and the savory qualities of sage and sea-salt and depth of spicy red and black fruit flavors. And while its feet are definitely planted in the earth, Heloise 07 succeeds in maintaining an elevating, wild note at the top of its range. 15 percent alcohol. 800 six-pack cases were imported. Drink now through 2018 to 2022. Excellent. About $100.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

We can’t drink great wine all the time. Contrary to what My Readers may think, I certainly don’t. In fact, a diet of perfection would become cloying and wearisome, n’est-ce pas? Well, perhaps not, but let’s assume that most people really just want a decent bottle of wine to accompany a simple meal. Here, then, are two white wines and four reds designed to be to consumed with, say, a tuna sandwich or seafood risotto, on the one hand, or a burger or steak, on the other. Prices range from $12 to $17, with quality fairly evenly portioned along the Very Good to Very Good+ range. Will these wines — especially the reds — lodge in the memory as some of the best wine you’ve tasted? certainly not, but they get the job done, or better, at a reasonable price. If only everything in life turned out that way. Quick reviews here, intended to pique your interest and whet the palate. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Stepping Stone Rocks! White Wine 2013, North Coast, California. 13.3% alc. (Stepping Stone is the second label of Cornerstone Cellars; Rocks! is, well, the second label of Stepping Stone.) “Mystery” blend of chardonnay, viognier and muscat canelli. Very pale gold color; lilac, lemon-lime and pear, slightly grassy and herbal, hint of lemongrass; quite clean, crisp, fresh and dry, with a kind of gin-like purity and snap; taut, vibrant, lean but a pleasing, cloud-like texture; crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone minerality; slightly earthy finish. Extremely attractive white blend for short-term drinking. Very Good+. About $15, representing Excellent Value.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tomero Torrontes 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5% alc. Pale gold color; jasmine and gardenia, spiced pear and lemon balm, lime peel and a touch of grapefruit, a few minutes in the glass bring in whiffs of lavender and lilac, though this is not overwhelmingly floral, all is subtle and nuanced; pert citrus and stone fruit flavors; lovely body, crisp, lithe and lively yet imbued with an almost talc-like texture that slides across the palate like silk; hint of grapefruit bitterness on the finish. A superior torrontes for consuming over the next year. Very Good+. About $17.
Imported by Blends, Plymouth, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Mandolin Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Central Coast. 13.8% alc. Brilliant dark ruby with a flush of mulberry at the rim; unfolds layers of cedar,
thyme and black olive, black currants and plums, hint of wild berry; notes of iodine and graphite; trace of wood in the slightly leathery tannins, quite dry but juicy with herb-inflected black fruit flavors; sleek and supple texture, lively acidity; spice-and-mineral-packed finish. Now through the end of 2015. Great personality for the price. Very Good+. About $12, an Amazing Bargain.
Image from brainwines.com.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Esprit du Rhône 2013, Côtes du Rhône, France. 13.5% alc. 60% grenache, 30% syrah, 5% carignan, 5% cinsault. 1,000 cases imported. Medium-dark ruby color shading to a transparent rim; aromas of ripe blackberries, blueberries and plum with notes of cloves, briers and leather; fairly dense and robust tannins and bright acidity keep the texture forthright and lively for the sake of tasty, spicy black fruit flavors. Now through 2016. Very Good. About $12.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. Image from vivino.com.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nieto Senetiner Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Dark ruby-purple; briery and brambly blackberry and plum fruit deeply imbued with cloves, mocha and licorice; moderate and slightly chewy tannins for structure, an uplift of acidity; tasty black fruit flavors in a rustic, graphite-laden package. Now into 2015. Very Good. About $13.
Imported by Foley Family Wines, Sonoma, Calif.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tercos Bonarda 2013, Mendoza, Argentina. (From the winery of Ricardo Santos). 13.8% alc. Dark ruby hue, almost opaque; spicy and feral, blackberries and plums with notes of wild cherry, tar, graphite and licorice; heaps of rough-hewn tannins make for a sturdy mouthful of wine, though nothing heavy or ponderous to detract from ripe, delicious blackberry and blueberry flavors; loads of personality. Now through the end of 2015. Very Good. About $14.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next Page »