Riesling


The Saarstein Riesling 2013, Mosel, falls into the Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) category of German wines, meaning “quality wine from a specified region,” in this case, the Mosel, as indicated on the label. The grapes for this wine derive from younger vines, and at this level, the names of vineyards and villages are not listed. And yet what a shining, golden riesling this example is, drinking beautifully at about four years old and certainly with several years of pleasure left to impart. The color is pale, shimmering light gold; aromas of ripe peaches, pears and quince are infused with a strain of apricot nectar, opening to notes of lychee, jasmine and honeysuckle. Slightly honeyed stone-fruit flavors are carried by a texture that’s half lush, half lithe, and brightly animated by brisk acidity; modestly sweet and juicy on the entry, the wine slips into dry mode from mid-palate back through a finish dominated by flinty minerality and a touch of bracing salinity. 9.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’21. We happily drank this bottle with swordfish marinated in lime juice, soy sauce and olive oil with a minced ginger-garlic rub, seared in a cast-iron skillet. Excellent. About $16, representing Fine Value.

Imported by Valckenberg International, Tulsa, Okla. A sample for review.

I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. Many of these models I would recommend for buying by the case to enjoy in the months ahead, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent cabernet franc. Excellent. About $19.

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Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosado 2016, Bierzo, Spain. Rosé of 100 percent mencia grapes. Excellent. About $13.

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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 70 percent loureiro grapes, 30 percent alvarinho. Very Good+. About $7-$10.

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Averaen Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $20.
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Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinette 2015, Rheinhessen. Excellent. About $14.

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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 100 percent hondurrabi zuri grapes. Excellent. About $16.
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Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $19.

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Contrade Negroamaro 2015, Puglia, Italy. Very Good+. About $10.

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Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon, 10 percent muscadelle. Very Good+. About $13.
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Maquis Gran Reserva Carménère 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $20.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Istria, Apulia, Italy. 90 percent verdeca grapes, 10 percent fiano minutolo. Excellent. About $18.

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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 504 cases. Excellent. About $18.

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Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015. Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 percent merlot, 14 percent petit verdot, 10 percent grenache, 2 percent carignane. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Excellent. About $16.
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Olema Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. Second label of Amici Cellars. Excellent. About $20.

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Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna. Excellent. About $15.

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Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” 2016, Beaujolais, France. Excellent. About $15.

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Principe de Viana Garnacha Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain. Very Good+. About $11.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County, California. With 6 percent petit sirah, 5 percent barbera, 4 percent syrah. 50-to-103-year-old vines. Excellent. About $20.
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The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, South Africa. Very Good+. About $11.

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Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
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St. Urbans-Hof Nik Seis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, Saar Valley, Germany. Excellent. About $18.
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Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi 2014, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. Excellent. About $19.
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Serra Lor Rosato 2016, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardenia. An unusual rosé blend of 50 percent cannonau, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County, California. Excellent. About $19.
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Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, Bordeaux. 100 percent merlot, no oak. Excellent. About $12.

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Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Viognier White Bland 2015, Sonoma County. 85 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent viognier. Excellent. About $18.
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Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne Brut nv, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $20.

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The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as well as a sense of individuality and, if possible, a connection to a region or, in more rarefied examples, to a vineyard. Not all wines, even great ones, display this spectrum of virtues completely; winemaking is too intuitive a craft to allow for cookie-cutter sameness. Often, it’s the differences among wines from vintage to vintage that make them intriguing and exciting. I hope the wines listed here pique your interest and that you have a chance to try some of them. Many of them are entrancing and beautiful, and we could all stand a little enchantment and beauty in our lives.
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Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Vineyard Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 100 percent mourvedre. 277 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wine “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $38.

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Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, Sicily. Excellent. About $25.

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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $35.
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Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $98.

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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition nv, Champagne, France. 70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $68.

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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

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Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot, 7 percent malbec. Excellent. About $55.

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Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 40 percent each aragonez and alicante boschet, 20 percent syrah. Excellent. About $65.
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Fathers & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 393 cases. Excellent. About $32.

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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton district, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $42.

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Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $50.

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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 646 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
The label vintage date is one year behind.
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Grgich Hills Estate Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. 942 cases. Exceptional. About $94.

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Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Trocken Riesling 2014, Baden, Germany. Exceptional. About $30.

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Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 672 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. A brut rosé, 76 percent pinot noir 24 percent chardonnay. 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Domaine Jessiaume Les Cent Vignes Beaune Premier Cru 2014, Beaune, Burgundy. 300 cases. Excellent. About $45.

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Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $32.

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Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. 95 percent schiava. 5 percent lagrein. Excellent. About $24.
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. Exceptional. About $15.
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Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, France. 100 percent malbec. 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. Howell Mountain Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.

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Lioco “Sativa” Carignan 2014, Mendocino. 650 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne. 77 percent chardonnay, 23 percent aligote. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Marc Roy Les Champs Perdrix 2015, Marsannay, Burgundy. 100 percent chardonnay. 175 cases. Excellent. About $50.
The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Mayacamas Vineyards The Terraces Special Bottling Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $95.
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Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet Sauvigono 2013, Calistoga, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $160.

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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 45 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin-Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley, Solano County. Exceptional. About $28.
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Paul Blanck Scholssberg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Alsace. Excellent. About $34.
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Penner Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley. 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.

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Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux. 50 percent each sauvignon blanc and semillon. Excellent. About $22.

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Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Sidebar Kerner 2016, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 193 cases. Excellent. About $25.

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Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $35.

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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc and 6 percent merlot. Excellent. About $50.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Stewart Cellars Beckstoffer Las Piedes Vineyard “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. 180 cases. Exceptional. About $175.
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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $48.

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Tongue Dancer Wines “Pinot de Ville” Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 125 cases. Excellent. About $65.

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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 55 percent marsanne, 45 percent viognier. 180 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2013, Alsace. Exceptional. About $40.
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Yount Ridge Cellars Epic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $250.

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Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

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ZD Winery Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2013, Carneos. 800 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

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Here’s a lovely riesling for the Christmas goose. The Wakefield “St. Andrews” Riesling 2016, hails from Australia’s Clare Valley, a superb region for the grape. The color is very pale straw-gold; seeing no oak, it’s a wine of crystalline clarity and structure, tremendously vibrant and present on the palate; aromas of green apple, lychee and pear are infused with pungent notes of petrol — or call it rubber eraser — and lime peel, with an undertone of ripe mango; quickly, a seam of limestone and flint emerges in the mouth to provide a scintillating factor, which, added to the wine’s bright acidity, provides wonderful refreshment and tone. The flavor profile balances citrus with stone-fruit elements that surge toward a vibrant, mineral-packed finish. 12.7 percent alcohol. Wholly satisfying now, but suitable for drinking as it matures through, say, 2026 to ’30, properly stored. Excellent. About $40.

Seaview Imports, New York. A sample for review.

Technically, these three pinot noir wines (and one riesling) from Penner-Ash Wine Cellar’s 2015 vintage are not products of Jackson Family Wines, because that ever-expanding entity didn’t purchase Penner-Ash until April 2016. Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash founded the winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1998, launched with 125 cases, developing over the years to about 12,000 cases annually. The winery specializes in single-vineyard pinot noirs, made by Lynn Penner-Ash, of which I look at three today. She’s a meticulous winemaker, as you can see by the carefully calibrated oak regimens these wines are given, none exactly alike, and she will remain on board in that position under JFW’s regime. These are impressive wines, fine in detail, deep in dimension, and they will benefit from several years aging.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Penner-Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, aged 10 months in French oak, 31 percent new barrels, 33 percent one-year-old, 23 percent two-years-old, 13 percent neutral. The color is dark ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; it’s a pinot noir of blazing purity and intensity, featuring spiced and macerated black cherries, currants and plums permeated by cloves and ground cumin, hints of sandalwood and sassafras and a touch of pomegranate; the super-satiny texture drapes the tongue in a dense, almost chewy enfolding, though kept dynamic through elemental bright acidity; the wine becomes increasingly loamy and foresty through the intense and concentrated finish. 13.7 percent alcohol. One of the best pinot noirs I tasted this year. Drink through 2022 to ’25. Production was 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.
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The color of the Penner-Ash Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, is very dark ruby shading to a transparent rim; it’s a wine formidable in size and dimension, starting with its potent elements of loam and graphite minerality, its heady and intense aromas of lilacs and rose petals, its deeply spicy scents and flavors of black and red cherry and currant compote; dense, chewy and succulent, it’s a powerful and muscular expression of the grape, its texture equal parts talc and flint, its electric acid strain seemingly chiseled from granite. 14.1 percent alcohol. The oak regimen was 10 months in French barrels, 27 percent new, 35 percent one-year-old, 27 percent two-years-old, 11 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2025 to ’28. Production was 1,000 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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The Penner-Ash Zena Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Eola-Amity Hills, reveals a large-framed, intense and concentrated wine animated by penetrating graphite minerality and vibrant acidity while unfolding lovely details of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants infused with pomegranate and cranberry, sandalwood and sassafras; as with its stablemates mentioned above, texture and structure are fused by the power of its slightly dusty, velvety tannins — it’s the most tannic of this trio — leading to a sleek finish packed with cedar and tobacco, flint and juicy black fruit. 14.5 percent alcohol. Wood regimen was 10 months in oak, 30 percent new barrels, 46 percent one-year-old, 12 percent two-years-old, 12 percent neutral. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2028 to ’30. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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By the way, don’t miss the Penner-Ash Hyland Vineyard Old Vine Riesling 2015, McMinnville, a true classic of a pale, dry riesling that makes a powerful expression of petrol, heather, peaches, lime peel and intense aromas of jasmine and gardenia, its lithe texture wrapped in vibrant and vigorous acidity and a scintillating limestone element. Excellent. About $35.
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So, today is Thanksgiving + One, and all the fuss about what the hell are we going to drink with the Feast of Abundance and Gratitude is over, done, finito. I will, however, describe what we drank. We happen to like riesling with this gargantuan and multi-diverse meal, and looking through the wine fridge, I found what turned out to be a wonderful choice, the Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2013, from one of the most distinguished estates in Alsace, originally founded by Capuchin monks in 1612 but operated since 1898 by the Faller family. The color is pale straw-gold; arresting aromas of peach, pear and mango are permeated by notes of cloves, honey and hay, acacia, green apple and almond skin, with a background of slate and flint. The wine features superb definition and dimension, framed by incisive, crystalline acidity and profound limestone-and-flint minerality that bolster spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pear with a paradoxical hint of lemon curd for a sly element of richness; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and lime peel. Silky smooth, it’s quite dry on the palate and finishes with a boldly austere impression of august limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. We were quite happy last night with this wine’s ability to bridge the often contradictory sensations that the Thanksgiving meal affords, as well as with the fairly glorious wine itself. Half a glass remained, which I finished this morning. Exceptional. About $40.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. A sample for review.


Sometimes a sweet wine is called for, and that’s just the way it is. For example, yesterday for lunch I had a pasta dish — the pasta was farfalle — that features caramelized cabbage with anchovy-sage-garlic bread crumbs. Plenty savory, all right, but the caramelized cabbage gave the dish a depth of sweetness that suggested drinking a sweet riesling with it. I opened the Brooks Wines “Sweet P” Riesling 2016, from Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The grapes grow in a dry-farmed, biodynamic method vineyard on 42-year-old vines; native yeast starts the fermentation, and only stainless steel tanks are used, no oak. How sweet is the wine? The back label indicates a point between medium dry and medium sweet, and I would say that’s an accurate assessment. The color is pale straw-gold; at first the wine is all fresh green apple and apple skin; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of spiced pear and lychee and a hint of apricot, unfolding elusive hints of jasmine and honeysuckle. On the palate, the sweetness assumes the form of ripe and slightly honeyed peaches and apricots balanced by bright acidity and a fairly glittering element of limestone minerality; the latter qualities provide a tension between softness and crispness, between sweet and dry that gives the wine excitement and allure. 11.9 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $24.

A sample for review.

At just under three years old, the Helfrich Riesling 2014, from Alsace, is drinking beautifully, with promise of increasing its burnished character for four to six more years or so — such estimates are always inexact, though based on knowledge, experience and intuition. Fashioned all in stainless steel, the wine offers a very pale straw-gold hue and sprightly aromas of green apples, ginger and quince, with notes of petrol, heather and hay and more subtle hints of lychee and mango; as the moments pass, the floral element of honeysuckle and jasmine burgeons and blossoms. The entire effect is of a crystalline, chiseled substance, equal parts limestone and steel, propelled by scintillating acidity and buoyant flavors of spiced pear and lime zest. The finish delivers a bracing hit of apple peel, almond skin and pure shimmering minerality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink with fresh oysters, grilled trout with capers and brown butter, pike quenelles, or, as we did last night, miso soup. Excellent. About $16, representing a Top Value.

Imported by Advantage International Distributors, Miami, Fla. A sample for review.

Here’s a German riesling for true lovers of German rieslings. The Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Riesling Trocken 2014, Baden, hails from the town of Tiefenbach; the vineyard is Schellenbrunnen, designated Grosses Gewachs, something akin to a Grand Cru in Burgundy or First Growth in Bordeaux. This classification is indicated on the label by the “GG” emblem. The color is very pale, a shimmering light straw-gold hue; aromas of green apples and spiced pears are highlighted by penetrating notes of limestone, petrol and gunflint, this heady amalgam unfurling hints of peach and lychee, heather and hay. At slightly more than two-and-a-half years old, this tense, taut and vibrant riesling has attained a state of pure minerality on the palate, where it defines the notion of “bone-dry”; in fact, there’s something bony about its structure, in the sense, for example, that we consider high cheekbones — especially in women — a sign of elegance and breeding, yet the texture delivers a touch of talc-like softness that keeps the whole project from being forbidding; austere it is, yes, particularly on the whip-lash, chiseled finish, but not characterized by Olympian detachment. A few minutes in the glass free up scents of jasmine, honeysuckle and lemongrass. This is, in other words, a captivating, even thrilling riesling that delivers pinpoint and crystalline virtues at every level of its varietal nature. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Exceptional. About $30.

Imported by WineWise, Oakland, Calif. A sample for review.

“Orange wine” became a category, a trend, an obsession in certain small circles 10 or 15 years ago. The concept of troonfermenting white grapes on the skins — hence the pale orange color — runs contrary to the usual practice, in which the juice and skins are whisked away from each other, so the wine takes on the familiar hues of pale or medium straw or gold. Fermenting white grapes on the skins, about which a great deal of ink was spilled or keyboards mangled for a fervent period of time, seems to have lost its controversial and partisan allure, so winemakers can decide to make an orange wine without subscribing to a list of demands or pledging allegiance to a philosophy laid down by fanatical critics. For those consumers who have never tried an orange wine, I offer today the Troon Vineyard Whole Grape Ferment Riesling 2016, from Oregon’s Applegate Valley appellation. Foot-trod, fermented with native yeasts, the wine — Troon’s first venture into orangeness — spent a bare three months in neutral French oak barrels. It’s unlike any riesling you ever encountered. The color is a kind of pale copper-topaz hue; at first, the wine is pure apples and in fact smells rather like cider; then it expands with notes of orange rind and spiced pear and a sherry-like tendency toward cloves and roasted/salted almonds. The wine is quite dry, animated by brisk acidity, and organized around a structure that while delicate and lithe feels almost tannic. From mid-palate back through the finish, it’s dominated by elements of quince marmalade infused with ginger, candied grapefruit rind and a touch of green olive. 12 percent alcohol. Not intended to make old bones, this unique wine should be consumed by the end of 2017. Winemaker was Steve Hall. Try with tapas and other salty and savory appetizers. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

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