Schiava


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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Sometimes a wine is so perfect for the purpose that it doesn’t matter what it is or where it came from. That was the case with the Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige. I assembled a snack yesterday, a bagatelle of hard salami, Manchego cheese, some wholewheat flatbread crackers and a dab of Dijon mustard — simple and humble — and opened this bottle of red wine about which I knew really nothing. A little research told me that the wine, from a cooperative established in 1906, is a blend of 95 percent schiava grapes with 5 percent lagrein, made in a combination of stainless steel and large old oak casks. The vines range in age from 30 to 70 years; the vineyards go up to 1,640 feet elevation. Though the wine offers a great deal in the way of personality and character, nothing here is over-extracted or unduly emphatic. The color is bright medium ruby-cherry, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting, conveying a sense of that essential timeless radiance; aromas of wild cherries and raspberries are permeated by notes of almond skin and apple peel, sage and tobacco. The wine is lean, lithe and supple on the palate, very dry and quite spare in its deployment of red berry fruit amid furrow-plowing acidity and a burgeoning element of graphite-tinged tannins and minerality, but lightly, even delicately applied. 13 percent alcohol. A reticent, completely confident wine that keeps you coming back for another sip; I could drink it every day. Excellent. About $24.

Imported by Omniwines Distributing Co., Flushing, N.Y. A sample for review.

Never heard of the schiava grape? I’ll confess, dear readers, that I had not either until I was offered some wines made from the grape for review. Schiava grows in the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, in the mountainous area where the Italian and German languages intertwine and ancient geographical and familial relationships are more important than political borders. Also known as vernatsch, the grape makes — in my brief acquaintance — light, delicious red wines that are fairly low in tannins and high in acidity, exactly, that is, the sort of wine perfect for drinking with an eclectic variety of foods. Wines fashioned from the schiava grape make excellent transitional quaffs between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, and should even serve well into Summer with grilled fare. The grape yields generously, so it must be carefully regulated in the vineyard not to over-produce. It grows well in the mid-range altitudes, about 250 to 500 meters above sea level. When we finished our research on these wines — i.e., drinking — and one night I brought out a different red wine for dinner, LL said, “Don’t you have any more of those schiava wines?” That’s how fresh and appealing they are.

All of these wines bear a Südtirol-Alto Adige designation. The wines were samples for review.
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meran
Grapes for the Cantina Merano Graf von Meran Schnickenberg Sciava 2014 grew in vineyards that extend from 400 to 450 meters; the wine aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-cherry, an aspect somehow reflected in its spectrum of red and black cherry scents and flavors inflected with cherry skin and pit and a mild touch of cloves and violets. It’s quite dry, enlivened by lip-smacking acidity and an almost feral dusty graphite character on the finish. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $17.50.
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sallegg
The Castel Sallegg Bischofsleiten Schiava 2014 offers an absolutely beautiful transparent ruby-garnet hue and pert notes of red cherry, sour melon and raspberry, with a typical briery-brambly core. The wine aged four months in stainless steel tanks and large wooden barrels. On the palate, it’s lithe and wiry, spare but tasty in spicy red fruit elements and animated by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $19.
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We would happily have consumed a case of the Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2014, a wine of intricately layered delicacy and nuance that galeaunveils a slightly more serious focus than the others examples mentioned here. No technical information was available, so I can’t say anything about the aging process. The company is a co-op of some 140 growers, founded in 1985 by the merger of two other co-op entities. The color is a limpid medium ruby shading to faint garnet; red cherries and raspberries open to hints of cherry skin, violets and intriguing notes of mulberries and woodsy spice and flowers. The aura is light and elegant, yet the texture is silky, almost dense, buoyed by bright acidity and a nod toward slightly dusty, graphite-infused tannins. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. About $20, and definitely Worth a Search.
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bocado
The Cantina Andriano Bocado Schiava 2014 derives from vineyards lying between 260 and 500 meters above sea level; the wine fermented in stainless steel and aged in large oak casks. The color is a bright, transparent cherry red, while the fruit aspect emphasizes raspberries with their skins and stems, for a slightly astringent, raspy quality, highlighted by plums and violets. Lithe and spare on the palate, the wine is propelled by dynamic acidity and a slight edge of graphite minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Founded in 1893, Andriano was the first cooperative in Alto Adige. Very Good+. About $23.
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