Semillon


In The Bordeaux Atlas and Encyclopedia of Chateaux (St. Martin’s Press, 1997), Hubrecht Duijker and Michael Broadbent write that Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “can be recognized from afar by its two towers” — les tours — “a round crenellated keep and a detached square tower with embrasures, dating from Huguenot times.” The Huguenot era in France would be the mid- to late- 17th Century. In the old postcard image reproduced here, one of those towers is visible, with beyond it a classic mid-18th Century chartreuse structure that features a large, two-story central hall with a wing on each side containing rooms that open into each other. Beyond that is a 19th Century addition and, farthest from the viewer, the estate’s chapel. The 58-hectare property (153 acres) stands on the right bank of the Gironde river in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours — certified organic and biodynamic — is owned by Catherine and Jean-Luc Hubert; she is the fifth generation of her family to farm the vineyards, with the help of her husband and their son Guillaume. The family also owns Chateau La Grolet in nearby Côtes de Bourg. Red wine is made at Peybonhomme-les-Tours, but my intention today is to introduce My Readers to the estate’s white wine, in this case the Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, a half-and-half blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes. We were thoroughly charmed by this delightful and thoughtfully-made wine. The color is very pale straw-gold; aromas of green apple and pear, tangerine and damp slate, lilac and camellia are immediately attractive, while a few minutes in the glass add notes of quince and ginger, heather and celery leaf. It’s a white wine of crystalline purity and intensity, taut with bright acidity yet offering a lithe, slightly talc-like texture; subtle stone-fruit flavors are sustained by a scintillating limestone component and a wafting of an almost subliminal grassy-herbal element; the finish seems to partake of the salt-bearing sea-breeze blowing down the river from the Atlantic. Lovely balance and integration. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $22, signifying Remarkable Value. A great choice for buying by the case as your house white wine or for restaurant by-the-glass programs.

Imported by Fruit of the Vines, New York. A sample for review.
Postcard image from candidwines.com.

At a mere 450 hectares — about 1,100 acres — Côtes de Francs is Bordeaux’s smallest appellation, occupying the highest slopes overlooking the Dordogne river 10 kilometers east of Saint- Emilion. It was granted AOC status in 1967, largely because of the influence of the Thienpont family, which bought Chateau Puygueraud there in 1946 and worked unceasingly to improve the estate, not producing a wine until 1983. In 1988, Nicolas Thienpont and his brothers bought Les Charmes-Godard, a property of 6.5 hectares — slightly more than 16 acres — that makes red, white and sweet wines. Our Wine of the Day is Chateau Les Charmes-Godard 2014, Côtes de Francs, a white wine composed of 50 percent semillon grapes, 35 percent sauvignon gris and 15 percent sauvignon blanc. (The appellation is noted for the predominance of semillon in its white wines.) The estate keeps new oak to a minimum of 25 percent and does not put the white wines through malolactic. What a bargain-priced beauty this one is, and drinking perfectly at three years old. The color is mild straw-gold; aromas of red apple skin, lemongrass, lime peel and roasted lemon unfold scents of lemon balm and spiced pear; bright acidity lends the wine a fleet-footed air, cutting through a lovely talc-like but lithe and supple texture. A few minutes in the glass bring in hints of hay and green leafiness, with just a touch of fig in the limestone swathed finish. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20, properly stored. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

Imported by Fruit of the Vine, New York. A sample for review.

A passel of sauvignon blanc wines today, most from California, but one from New York, a pair from Chile and one from New Zealand are included. With three exceptions, these are from vintage 2016. Prices range from about $14 to $50, and a number of real bargains can be found. As is typical with the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew most technical, historical, geological/geographical and personnel data for the sake of quick and incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and stimulate the palate. Enjoy! And always consume in moderation.

These wines were samples for review.
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Amici Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 14.2% alc. 1,700 cases. Pale straw-gold hue; grapefruit and lime peel, fennel and pea-shoot, touch of pear; highlights of grass, hay and dried thyme; balances silky talc-like texture with bright crispness and liveliness; lilac and limestone, with a slightly bracing grapefruit finish. Lovely stuff. Excellent. About $25.
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Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2016, New York State. 12.9% alc. 1,100 cases. Second label of Lieb Cellars. Fresh as a daisy and clean as a whistle; lime peel, lilac, grapefruit and flint, and a touch of melon; a delicate sauvignon blanc of wisps and hints, with bright, lively acidity. Nothing profound, tasty for beach or patio parties. Drink up. Very Good. About $16. Also available in 3-liter boxes and 20-liter kegs, so party down.
Image from pullthatcork.com.
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Concha y Toro Ribera del Rapel Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 13% alc. Light straw-gold with a faint green cast; very bright, fresh and clean, with pert notes of lime zest and gooseberry, lemongrass and fennel, spearmint and jasmine; a fairly individual sauvignon blanc, lean, lithe and chiseled, with heaps of limestone and damp flint minerality, but also generous and expansive; the finish features more spice and dried herbal elements. Excellent. About $17, marking Good Value.
Excelsior Wine Company, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Dry Creek Valley. 14.5% alc. Pale straw-gold hue; a honed and faceted sauvignon blanc that gleams like crystal; dominated by sassy gooseberry, lime peel, grapefruit and fennel qualities, opening to notes of tangerine and intriguing hints of white pepper and paper whites; zesty acidity and a well-tuned limestone element give it class and vibrancy. Excellent. About $20.
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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. 13.2% alc. Very pale straw color; lemongrass, lime peel and grapefruit, etched with some astringent mountainside blossoms and herbs; like biting into a fresh Granny Smith apple but also meadowy and heathery; crisp as new currency, lively and electric; spare, lean and lithe, with a wafting of lilac and almond blossom and a finish layered with grapefruit pith, limestone and almond skin. Very impressive. Exceptional. About $32.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. 13.1% alc. Pale straw-gold color; lime peel, lemongrass, gooseberry; pea-shoot, spiced pear, tarragon, grapefruit rind and pith, the latter especially from mid-palate back through a slightly bitter finish; texture poised excitingly between soft lushness and lithe crispness; bright acidity plows a furrow through burgeoning limestone minerality; entrancing body and presence; the considerable oak brought to the making of this wine is supple and subtle, a shaping but not dominating force. Consistently one of the best sauvignon blancs made in Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25, a True Bargain.
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Illumination Sauvignon Blanc 2015, 58% Napa County, 42% Sonoma County. 14.2% alc. With 13% semillon grapes. From Huneeus Vintners. Pale gold in hue; clean, fresh, leafy and spicy, slightly honeyed, with a note of bee’s-wax; fig, roasted lemon and fennel, lemongrass, chalk and flint; quite crisp and lively, slightly raspy and bitter with grapefruit pith; very dry, scintillating acidity and limestone minerality. Excellent. About $50.
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Kunde Family Winery Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Sonoma Valley. 13.8% alc. Pale straw-gold; spiced pear, lemongrass and lime peel; slightly herbal and grassy, with a lovely greenness, like celery and fennel; honeysuckle and jasmine with a note of damp hay; very crisp and vibrant, slightly earthy, with flint-like minerality and a touch of seashell salinity on the finish. Excellent. About $17, marking Great Value.
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Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Russian River Valley. 13.5% alc. Pale straw-gold with faint green highlights; a green and leafy sauvignon blanc, notable for its lemon balm and fig character, its pert notes of lime peel, lemongrass and grapefruit, with a background of fennel and licorice, limestone and preserved lemon; a pleasing talc-like texture riven by bristling, lip-smacking acidity. Excellent. About $20.
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Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Sonoma County. 13.6% alc. With 4% semillon grapes. Very pale gold hue; lime and tangerine, fennel and lemon drop, with hints of lemon balm and jasmine, ginger and thyme; quite dry and tart, like a distillation of damp limestone and flint electrified by bright acidity. Very attractive. Very Good+. About $15.
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Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Alexander Valley. 13.5% alc. With 7% semillon. Medium straw-gold color; Granny Smith apples and Key limes, pink grapefruit and white pepper; broader dimension than its stablemate mentioned above but also more subdued and elegant; soft and more supple but still quite crisp and taut, with a dry powdery texture; heaps of limestone minerality from mid-palate back. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 14.1% alc. Pale gold; lime zest and green bean, grapefruit and pea-shoot, gooseberry and roasted fennel, with penetrating notes of iodine and seashell; a pert, tart and sassy sauvignon blanc that tickles the palate with an herbal edge and bright acidity; a bracing, saline finish. Rich with nuance and not exaggerated. Excellent. About $16, a Great Bargain.
Imported by Mt Beautiful USA, Benecia, Calif. The label image is one vintage behind.
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Pedroncelli East Side Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Dry Creek Valley. 13.5% alc. Very pale straw-gold; lime zest, peach and grapefruit, with a tropical note of guava; a bit green and leafy; hints of jasmine and lemongrass with a limestone background; snappy acidity, real pizzazz; quite dry but juicy and engaging, heaps of limestone and flint from mid-palate back through a finish that brings in fennel and lavender. Very Good+. About $17.
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Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Lake County. 13.5% alc. The second label of Steele Wines. Very very pale, almost colorless; lemongrass, lime peel, grapefruit; heather, thyme and flint; quite crisp and vibrant and offering surprising density and texture for the price. Quite enjoyable. Very Good+. About $14, representing Great Value.
The bottle image is one vintage behind.
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Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13% alc. From Concha y Toro. Shimmering pale gold color; pure celery seed and celery leaf, pea-shoot, lime peel and grapefruit; caraway seed and fennel; crisp and lively, with a supple, lithe structure bolstered by vibrant limestone minerality. Real personality and character. Excellent. About $26.
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chateau-la-freynelle-blanc-bordeaux-france-10597961
Here’s a bargain in a Bordeaux blanc, a category in which sauvignon blanc grapes are usually blended with semillon and muscadelle and in whatever degree the terroir, the vintage and the winemaker decide, though muscadelle is often omitted. The winemaker in this case is Véronique Barthe, whose family has owned the property in Entre-Deux-Mers since 1789, that fateful year in French history. Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux, is a blend of 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon and 10 percent muscadelle. The wine displays a pale straw-gold hue and offers pert aromas of lime peel, grapefruit, pea shoot and gooseberry, with notes of lilac and violets gradually and genially emerging; hints of lemon balm and a slight waxy quality increase the attractive powers. It’s very clean, bright and fresh on the palate, and the combination of stone-fruit and citrus flavors — think delicate peach and tangerine — are heightened by a leafy-figgy aspect and a lovely talc-like texture, the whole package enlivened by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017 with oysters just shucked from the shell, grilled mussels, shrimp or chicken salad; it would serve as a terrific picnic wine when the weather permits. Very Good+. About $13, though prices around the country range from about $11 to $15.

Imported by Aquitaine Wines USA, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

Cadaretta is the upper-level label of Middleton Family Wines, a business that includes the cadaretta-sbClayhouse (Paso Robles) and Adobe (Central Coast) brands from California; Buried Cane (Washington State); and the imports Ad Lib (Larry Cherubino’s label from Western Australia) and MFW Wines of Italy. Wine of the Day, No. 192, is the Cararetta SBS 2015, from Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. This is a blend of 89 percent sauvignon blanc and 11 percent semillon made entirely in stainless steel. The color is very pale straw-gold; the fresh, clean, many-layered and frankly beautiful bouquet peels back notes of lime peel, roasted lemon and spiced pear; grapefruit, lemongrass and green tea; caraway and melon; dried thyme and tarragon. Pretty darned heady stuff, all right, yet subtle, too, not extravagant or flamboyant. A lovely svelte, lithe texture is riven by star-bright acidity and bolstered by a distinct limestone and flint edge, all at the service of tasty elements of stone-fruit, fig and heather. 13.5 percent alcohol. A tremendously appealing expression of the grape, for drinking through the Summer of 2017. Excellent. About $23.

A sample for review.

Inexorably we drift from Spring into Summer, so in honor of this transitional state I offer a dozen savory, zesty white wines. The grapes range from the familiar — sauvignon blanc, riesling — to the unfamiliar and exotic — grillo, gouveio, while the geography takes us all over the place. Prices rise from about $12 to $28, giving space for some real bargains and great values. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew all technical, historical, geological and personal data — as interesting as those items may be — for the sake of quick and incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebook, and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Unless otherwise noted, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
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haberle_label
Alois Lagerder Haberle Pinot Blanc 2013, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy. 13% alc. Production was 1,125 cases. Very pale straw hue; ripe, spice, macerated and lightly roasted stone-fruit with a halo of white flowers; notes of dried thyme and fennel; lithe and supple texture, offering vivid acid cut and limestone dimensions of structure; very dry but juicy with peach, pear and yellow plum flavors; real personality and character. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $23.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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erste-neue
Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto-Adige. 14% alc. Pale gold color; very appealing, with notes of green apple, pear and lemon balm, heather and meadow grass; heady and floral; lovely silken texture; quite dry, with pert acidity and shimmering limestone minerality; nothing complicated, just altogether irresistible. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by T Edward Wines, New York.
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assobio
Esporao Assobio 2014, Douro, Portugal. 13% alc. 40% viosinho grapes, 30% gouveio, 20% verdelho, 10% arinto. Pale straw color; pear and acacia, heather and thyme; a bracing aura of sea-breeze and salt-marsh; very dry, with pert acidity, layers of damp flint and shale minerality; an exotic spicy-herbal flare; lean and supple. Now through 2017 to ’18. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.
Imported by Aidil Wines, New York.
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semillon
Esporao Private Selection Semillon 2013, Alentejano, Portugal. 14% alc. Medium gold hue; elevating aromas of quince and ginger, spiced pear, lemon oil and orange rind; slightly honeyed in aspect but quite dry and spare; a fragile infusion of tropical fruit and flowers with a hint of fig; lovely silky texture, moderately lush but honed by limestone. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $28.
Impoted by Aidil Wines, New York.
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Gewurz
Lazy Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 14.2% alc. Production was, alas, only 65 cases. Pale straw color; classic notes of lychee, pear, jasmine and rubber eraser, with hints of cloves and ginger; lithe texture, with crystalline clarity, acidity and limestone drive, great vibrancy and appeal; the limestone-flint minerality builds through the dynamic finish; grapefruit finish with a touch of bracing bitterness. A terrific example of the grape. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $22.
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Matetic EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13.5% alc. Pale straw color; Matetic EQ Coastal SB 14 Ftgrapefruit, lilac, greengage; celery seed and fennel with back-notes of lime peel, quince and ginger; crisp and lively, with riveting acidity and a plangent limestone element; a lithe, almost sinewy texture with depths of fruit, spice and minerality bolstering a scintillating, transparent finish. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa Calif. The label image is one vintage behind.
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puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché Franc 2014, Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Pale straw-gold hue; assertive notes of dill and celery seed, caraway and lime peel, with pink grapefruit and ethereal back-notes of melon and apple skin; just a lovely wine in every way: slightly powdery texture, stone-fruit and citrus scents and flavors, bright acidity and limestone minerality; sleek, chiseled finish. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $15, a Real Bargain.
Imported by Twins America. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
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plotzner
St. Pauls Plotzner Weissburgunder 2015, Südtirol Alto Adige. 13.5% alc. Very pale straw color; spice pear and roasted lemon, hay and autumn meadows, chalk and flint; a little earthy, as if its toes were still in the vineyard; clean and incisive acidity and chiseled limestone minerality. An exhilarating pinot blanc for drinking through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20.
Importer N/A.
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Tascate Buonora 2014, Sicilia. 12% alc. 100% carricante grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; a rich, Stampagolden wine, with spiced pears and yellow plums, sage and thyme, green tea, quince and acacia; scintillating limestone and flint minerality; sea-salt and meadow; spicy and savory. A great deal of charm. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $20.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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blanc
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. Pale straw-gold hue; peach, pear and quince, bee’s-wax, dried thyme and sage; apple skin and pear nectar; lilac and acacia; yellow plums and a bare hint of mango; all these elements inextricably encompassed in a package that feels irrevocably vital, vibrant, real, bound to the earth yet ethereally delicate and delicious. An extraordinary wine. Exceptional. About $30.
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grillo
Vento di Mare Grillo 2014, Terre Siciliana IGT. 12.5% alc. Made from organic grillo grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; savory and saline, with yellow plum and roasted lemon scents and flavors, notes of heather, dried thyme and sea-grass, clean-cut acidity and limestone minerality and a chalk-flinty element that increases through the herb-and-spice laden finish. Drink up. Very Good+. About $12, an Amazing Bargain.
Imported by Middleton Family Wines, Shandon, Calif.
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wakefield riesling
Wakefield Riesling 2015, Clare Valley, Australia. 12% alc. Pale straw gold color; peach and pear, lychee and jasmine, with a hint of zesty grapefruit and its pith; very dry, with a burgeoning limestone and chalk element, all wrapped in delightful vitality. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $17.
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On November 15, I posted a series of reviews about 18 sauvignon blanc wines made in California (here). Today, it’s the turn of 15 sauvignon blancs from other parts of the world: France, New Zealand, Chile and Italy. There’s much to like here, especially if you’re fond of the French styles of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, but there’s a big surprise from northeastern Italy at a bargain price too. As usual, in the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew technical, historical and geographical data in favor of quick incisive mentions designed to pique the interest and whet the palate. Most of these wines were samples for review; a few were tasted at distributors’ trade events.

The absence of label illustrations in the New Zealand section below is because the websites associated with the several wineries or importers were either extremely user-unfriendly, inadequate or hopelessly out of date.
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France
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jolivet sancerre
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley. 12.5% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Very pale straw-gold hue; clean, fresh, crisp and appealing; notes of roasted lemon, lemon balm and tangerine; pulls up hints of lemongrass and slightly dusty dried herbs; lithe and supple, exquisitely balanced and energized; increasingly dry and heady with limestone minerality. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $24.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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sancerre-blanc--caves-monmousseau
Domaine Justin Monmousseau Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw color; first the limestone and chalk, then a snap of gun-flint; roasted lemon and verbena, bay and thyme, with a citrus undertow; very dry, a little austere but seductive in its talc-like texture riven by scintillating acidity. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $24.
USA Wine Imports, New York
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EXEM Blanc
EXEM 2014, Bordeaux. 12% alc. 60% sauvignon blanc, 40% semillon. Very pale straw color; gooseberry, grapefruit and lime peel, notes of leafy fig, roasted lemon and currant; pert, tart and sassy; tasty citrus flavors with a hint of spiced pear; pleasing texture, part lush, part lithe. Now through 2016. Very Good+. About $13.
Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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esprit bordeaux blanc
Esprit Saint-Sulpice 2014, Bordeaux Blanc. 12.5% alc. Sauvignon blanc 80%, semillon 20%. Pale gold hue; very clean, fresh and bright; green apple, lemons and orange blossom, just a hint of grass and dried herbs, and touches of lime peel and mango; lovely powdery texture but lively with crisp acidity; quite dry, finishes with a tide of damp limestone. Truly charming. Very Good+. About $17.
Fredric Wildman & Sons, New York.
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hauts de smith
Les Hauts de Smith 2011, Pessac-Leognan. 13% alc. Medium straw-gold hue; spiced pear, quince and ginger, whiffs of honeysuckle and acacia, fennel and lavender; quite dry but juicy with grapefruit and peach flavors hinting at a sunny leafy fig character and a bell-tone of black currant; layers of limestone and flint minerality lead to a fairly austere finish animated by brisk acidity; overall impression is of substance balanced by elegance and transparency. Now through 2020 to 2022. Excellent. About $45.
Joanne Bordeaux, Jersey City, N.J.
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tour
Chateau Tour Leognan 2013, Pessac-Leognan Blanc. 12.5% alc. 70% sauvignon blanc, 30% semillon. Fairly NZ-like for a Bordeaux blanc, with snappy pea-shoot, lime peel and grapefruit qualities, crisp and lively, featuring jazzed-up acidity and loads of limestone and flint; very fresh, charming and appealing, good balance and presence. Now through 2016 into 2017. Very Good+. About $22.
Monsieur Touton Selections, New York.
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chateau-villa-bel-air-graves-france-10213716
Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2013, Graves. 13% alc. 65% sauvignon blanc, 35% semillon. Very pale gold color; clean, crisp, delicate; honeysuckle, cloves and fennel, notes of grapefruit and candied orange rind, quince and ginger and a lingering after-glow of lychee and something faintly resiny; lovely shape and tone, set chiming with keen acidity and limestone minerality. Now through 2017 to ’18. Excellent. About $25.
Verity Wine Partners, New York
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New Zealand
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Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Very pale straw color; a winsome and layered bouquet of grapefruit, pea-shoot, tangerine and lime peel, with notes of new-mown grass, timothy and thyme, gooseberry and a tinge of currant; a top-note of jasmine; smooth segue into the mouth, very dry with an almost powdery texture shot with fleet acidity; cleansing limestone and chalk minerality. Totally charming. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $17.
Imported by Accolade Wines North America, Napa, Calif.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2014, North Canterbury. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-yellow; lime peel and pea-shoot, notes of grapefruit, lychee and greengage; lively and ebullient but not flamboyant; lovely talc-like texture buoyed by bright acidity; very dry, lots of limestone and flint, a fairly austere finish. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.
Mt. Beautiful USA, Bernecia, Calif.
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Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12.5% alc. Pale gold color; pea-shoot, pear, lime peel and grapefruit; celery seed and caraway; crisp and lively with taut acidity; permeated by elements of damp limestone and shale, especially from mid-palate through the finish; direct and appealing, with a lovely texture. Rink up. Very Good+. About $13.
Constellation Imports, Madera, Calif.
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Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-gold; very clean, fresh, pure and vibrant; a distinctly meadowy sauvignon blanc, with notes of celery seed and caraway, grapefruit and lime peel, pea-shoot and fig; an attractively leafy, grassy and citrusy wine, quite dry and tart and finishing with grapefruit pith and limestone. Lots of character and personality. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $20.
Constellation Imports, Gonzales, Calif.
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Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12.5% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. A Gallo label. Very pale gold; defines what we think of as the Oz style in sauvignon blanc: lime peel, gooseberry, grapefruit, pea-shoot, kiwi and lychee; snappy, tart and pungent; shimmering limestone element. Drink up. Very Good. About $15.
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Italy
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Prodigo Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Friuli Grave. 12% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-gold; restrained and prodigodelicate, yet intense and penetrating; blooming with jasmine and almond blossom; mint and heather, tarragon and pea shoot, roasted lemon and lime peel; utterly beguiling and seductive; keen acidity powering limestone and flint minerality. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $11, a Bargain of the Century.
Imported by Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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Chile
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Concha y Toro Ribera del Rapel Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Colchagua Valley. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon Gran_Reserva_Sauvignon_Blanc_Label_NV-300x259blanc. Pale straw hue; grapefruit, yellow plum, fennel and celery seed, notes of gooseberry, thyme and tarragon; taut, lithe and crisp, with tons of presence and tone; a full complement of limestone and flint minerality, energized by vibrant acidity; terrific balance and integration. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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Concha y Toro Costa Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley. 13% alc. 100% Terrunyo_Sauvignon_Blanc_Front_Label-300x218sauvignon blanc. Pale gold color; smoke and steel; celery seed, fennel, tarragon; grapefruit and lime peel; very dry, crisp and dynamic, with deep reserves of limestone and chalk; focuses on spiced pear and peach flavors, off-set by slightly astringent herbal elements; one of the best sauvignon blanc wines I have tasted from Chile. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $26, and Worth It.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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Sometimes all we require from a white wine is that it be clean, fresh, cold and tasty and that it goes down like a sea-breeze. Other times, however, we desire a white wine with more weight, with more character and savor, especially that latter quality. So today I offer 10 such white wines, produced from many wine regions and from a variety of grapes, a couple rather unusual. These are the white wines that stimulate the palate as well as refresh the spirit. As usual with these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew a recital of technical detail, historical perspective and geographical data — all of which I adore — to present quick and incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet the old taste-buds. These wines, all rated Excellent except for one Exceptional, were either samples for review or were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event. Enjoy, but with good sense and moderation.
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Abbazia di Novacella Kerner 2013, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% alc. (You may add kerner to your list of obscure grapes.) Medium straw-gold hue with a faint green cast; roasted lemon, notes of quince and ginger, thyme and pine resin, touch of peach and a tantalizing hint of iris and lilac; slightly dusty and buoyant texture, focus on bright acidity and clean limestone minerality; spiced pear and yellow plum flavors with a saline edge. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $19, marking Good Value.
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Alois Lageder Haberle Pinot Bianco 2013, Sudtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13% alc. Pale gold color; every aspect of lemon: lemon peel, lemon balm, lemon curd, with hints of green apple, peach and grapefruit, a whiff of almond blossom and rosemary; a savory and saline pinot blanc, trussed by limestone and flint minerality that devolves to a bracing finish featuring a bite of grapefruit bitterness. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $23.
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Éric Chevalier Clos de la Butte 2013, Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu Sur Lie, Loire Valley, France. 11.5% alc. 100% melon de Bourgogne grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; unusually sizable and savory for Muscadet, with a lithe, sinewy structure based on fleet acidity and glittering limestone and flint minerality; pert and redolent with lemon and lime peel and a hint of almond blossom; notes of pear and apple; overall, glistening and glassy, delicate and finely-knit but with impressive heft. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $16, a Real Bargain.
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Clemens Busch Grauen Schiefer Riesling Trocken 2012, Mosel, Germany. 12% alc. Shimmering pale gold color; distinct aromas of lychee and rubber eraser, cloves, lime peel and grapefruit and a pert gingery quality, touch of jasmine; blazing acidity and scintillating limestone minerality; quite dry but with inherent citrus and stone-fruit ripeness; lovely lithe texture with elegant heft; a hint of loamy earthiness in the finish. A brilliant riesling. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $30.
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Etre Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma County. (Saxon Brown’s unoaked chardonnay.) 13.5% alc. 447 cases. Medium straw-gold color; ripe and spicy pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors; an intriguing whiff of toasted oats; cloves and orange rind; all ensconced in lime peel and limestone minerality; bare hint of honeysuckle and mango; notes of spiced pear and roasted lemon; lively but not crunchy acidity; seductively lush texture but nothing opulent or obvious. Why would this need oak? Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $28.
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Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. 14.1% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc grapes. Certified organic. Pale gold hue; lime peel and lemongrass, grapefruit and jasmine, mint and heather, a touch of guava, all seamlessly wreathed with a sort of breathless ease; lime and a note of peach in the mouth, a hint of thyme and timothy, lovely supple refined structure, a golden core of quince and ginger; finish is all flint, limestone and grapefruit rind. Now through 2017 or ’18. Exceptional. About $30.
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Kennedy Shah Dubrut Vineyard Reserve Riesling 2012, Yakima Valley, Washington. 13.3% alc. Pale gold color; penetrating and provocative aromas of petrol, lychee, peach and spiced pear, top-notes of lemongrass and lime peel; crushed gravel and shale; very dry but luminously fruit-filled and animated by bright acidity and a vibrant limestone presence; notes of lime pith and grapefruit bitterness on the finish. A chiseled, multi-faceted riesling with plenty of appeal. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $25 .
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André & Michel Quenard Les Abymes 2013, Savoie, France. 11% alc. 100% jacquere grapes (to be added to your roster of obscure grapes). Very pale gold color; cloves, cedar and mint, roasted lemon and spiced pear; vibrant acidity with a crisp edge, and more steel than limestone; clean and refreshing but with a woodsy aura and a touch of mossy earthiness on the finish. Drink through 2016. Excellent. About $20.
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Saxon Brown Fighting Brothers Cuvee Semillon 2012, Sonoma County. 13.5% alc. 334 cases. Pale gold hue; beeswax, fig, quince and ginger; slightly leafy and herbal; candied orange peel, hint of mango; back-notes of spiced and brandied stone-fruit; wonderful sleek, silken texture, slides across the tongue like money; quite spicy and savory on the palate, with lip-smacking acidity and a wisp of limestone minerality. Pretty damned irresistible. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $28.
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Schloss Schonborn Riesling Trocken 2010, Rheingau, Germany. 11.5% alc. Crystalline and transparent in every sense, with marked purity and intensity; very pale gold color; winsome jasmine and honeysuckle, ripe and spicy pear, peach and lychee; hints of lemon balm and lemon curd; incisive acidity and decisive limestone and flint elements; slightly candied lime and grapefruit peel, cloves and ginger; the finish is all hewn limestone, a little austere and aloof. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $18, representing Great Value.
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Because I am late with the Wine of the Week, I offer a pair of products to atone for my procrastination. These are two bargain-priced wines from Bordeaux and are definitely Worth a Search. Each, incidentally, was acquired within the past few years by Russian and Chinese companies. Imported by The Wine Trust, Mattituck, N.Y. These wines were samples for review.
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Chateau de Birot overlooks the Garonne River from its hillside in Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. Wine has been made on the estate for more than 200 years; the impressive chateau — the Dutch writer Hubrecht Duijker calls it “alluring” — dates from the second half of the 18th Century. Acquired by Eric and Hélène Fournier-Casteja in 1989, the estate was sold in December 2014 to the Chinese hospitality company New Century Tourism Group.

Blanc de Birot 2012, carrying a Bordeaux designation, is a blend of 65 percent sauvignon blanc grapes and 35 percent semillon; it aged 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is pale gold; speaking of “alluring,” an extraordinary bouquet of lemongrass, pineapple, fig, lime peel and jasmine teases and tantalizes the nose; on the palate, the wine is clean and fresh, tart with lemon and grapefruit flavors and scintillating with bright acidity and crushed gravel/limestone minerality. The whole effect offers gratifying balance between sassy briskness and a soft talc-like texture. 13 percent alcohol. A wine that practically gets down on its knees and begs for a platter of just-shucked oysters, though it also serves handily as aperitif. Drink through 2016. Very Good+. About $13 or $14, a Bargain of the Decade.
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The red wine of this pair is Les Sources de Livran 2009, Medoc, the second label of Chateau Livran, an estate that traces its long history back to 1280, when King Edward I of England granted the right to brother knights Arnaud and Beraud de Got to build a fortress on the land, a few kilometers west of the Gironde estuary. Their more famous brother was Bertrand de Got, who served as Pope Clement V from 1305 to 1314. Nothing of that fortress remains, but the estate itself has produced wine for hundreds of years. In 1889, the property was acquired by the Englishman James L. Denman, and then in the mid-20th Century by Robert Godfren, under whose ownership the estate released what are usually described as “correct” and “adequate” wines. In 2008, however, Chateau Livran was purchased by a Russian investment firm, and if things can be turned around in a couple of harvests, that may have been the case here, because Les Sources de Livran 2009 is a lovely wine, not overly serious or weighty but delicious and satisfying, what the British call a “luncheon claret.”

This ’09 is a 50/50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, aged 12 months in oak. The color is dark ruby with a touch of garnet at the rim; aromas of dried currants and plums, cloves and sandalwood, violets and potpourri dominate a bouquet that meshes with dusty, woodsy notes, dried herbs and a hint of graphite. Animated by lip-smacking acidity and featuring a firm though not tight tannic grip, the wine is spare but not austere, slightly dusty and powdery in texture and decently furnished with black and blue fruit flavors that peel back touches of dried spices and lavender; in fact, the floral element grows as the moments pass. 13 percent alcohol. Drink this wine through 2016 or into ’17 with game terrines and patés, beef stew or leg of lamb. Very Good+. About $15 to $17, another Great Value.
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Unbate your breath, My Readers, today I present the annual “50 Great Wines” entry, this edition for 2014. I posted to BiggerThanYourHead 135 times in 2014 and reviewed 582 wines. These 50 Great Wines represent 8.6 percent of the wines I reviewed last year. How do I choose the 50 wines for this honor? First, any wine that I rated Exceptional automatically gets a berth in the roster. After that, the selection process involves going back over every post, looking at the reviews of the wines that received an Excellent rating, reading the notes again and looking for the words or phrases signifying that I felt a wine was exciting, provocative, intriguing, highly individual. You can be sure that this list probably isn’t definitive; how could such a selection of wines be? I cut from the field many wines that could easily have been included, but the limit is 50 and they had to be sacrificed. Even as I clicked on the “Publish” button on WordPress I thought, “Oh no, how could I leave out ……?”

Going through these wines, many of My Readers may cry “Foul!” because some of them were produced in severely limited quantities, but that’s often the case with great wines. Think of the situation as a challenge wherein you face a sort of scavenger hunt in tracking such wines down. Some of these wines were made by well-known winemakers for prominent wineries or estates; others are far more obscure, but I enjoy bringing attention to young, small, family-owned and -operated properties that otherwise might not receive the exposure they deserve. The usual suspect grapes are included, of course — chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir — but you will also find on this list proponents of trousseau gris and grenache gris, carignane and cinsault, crafted by brave pioneers of the unusual, even rare grapes. With one exception — the Dolce 2005 — these products are the current releases from their wineries, or close to it. I think all of them were samples for review or were tasted at the property. I hope this list of 50 Great Wines inspires you to look for the ones that capture your interest and to try wines you never encountered before. Prices, by the way, range from about $22 to $120. Coming in a few days will be my annual list of 25 Great Bargain Wines $20 and Under.
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Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Sonoma Valley. With 7 percent petit verdot. 1,475 cases. Exceptional. About $70.
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Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Elevation 950 Feet Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Knights Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $75.
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Animo Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. With 17 percent petit verdot. From Michael Mondavi. Excellent. About $85.
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d’Arenberg The Other Side Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. 14% alc. 96-year-old vines. 200 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $85.
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d’Arenberg Tyche’s Mustard Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. 14% alc. 200 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $85.
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Battenfeld Spanier Mölsheim Riesling 2012, Rheinhessen, Germany. Exceptional. About $23.
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Blair Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 481 cases. Excellent. About $35.
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Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2013, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 55% roussanne, 26% grenache blanc, 19% picpoul. 1,965 cases. Exceptional. About $28.
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Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2012, Monterey County. 593 cases. Excellent. About $48.
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Cade Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $28.
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Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2010, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $120.
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Cenyth 2009, Sonoma County. 14.5% alc. 47% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 10% cabernet franc, 8% petit verdot, 7% malbec. The debut release from this collaboration between Julia Jackson, daughter of the late Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, and Helene Seillan, daughter of Pierre Seillan, winemaker of Verité. Exceptional. About $60.
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Chêne Bleu Aliot 2010, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, France. 65 percent roussanne, 30 percent grenache blanc, 5 percent marsanne and some smidgeon of viognier. Exceptional. About $85.
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Clos Saron Out of the Blue, 2013, Sierra Foothills. 90 percent cinsault, 5 percent syrah, 5 percent graciano. (The cinsault vines planted in 1885.) 170 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. 14.7% alc. With 10% merlot. 470 cases. Exceptional. About $80.
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Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Napa Valley. 361 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Dolce 2005, Napa Valley. 90 percent semillon, 10 percent sauvignon blanc. A majestic dessert wine. Exceptional. About $85 for a half-bottle.
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Elena Walch Kastelaz Gewürztraminer 2012, Alto Adige, Italy. Exceptional. About $32.
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The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Reserve Pinot Gris 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 261 cases. Exceptional. About $33.
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FEL Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $38.
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Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2011, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 200 cases. Excellent. About $24.
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Gallegos Boekenoogen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 250 cases. Excellent. About $42.
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Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc 2012, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $30.
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Idlewild Grenache Gris 2013, Mendocino County. 230 cases. Excellent. About $22.
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Inama Vigneto du Lot 2011, Soave Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $30.
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Inman Family “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $25.
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Inwood Estates Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, Dallas County, Texas. Excellent. About $40.
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J. Christopher Wines Lumière Pinot Noir 2011, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 756 cases. Excellent. About $35.
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J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Diamond Mountain District, Napa Valley. With nine percent malbec. Exceptional. About $90.
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Tenutae Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2012, Sudtirol, Alto adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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McCay Cellars Carignane 2011, Lodi, 218 cases. Excellent. About $32.
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Newton “The Puzzle” 2010, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. This proprietary wine is a blend of 60 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, 18 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot and 4 percent malbec. Exceptional. About $100.
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Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. With 3 percent petit verdot, 1 percent each malbec and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $100.
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Pfendler Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. 14.4% alc. 230 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
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Phifer Pavitt Date Night Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 588 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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La Pitchoune Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. 279 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Pittnauer Rosenberg St. Laurent 2010, Burgenland, Austria. Excellent. About $27.
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Quinta do Vallado 20 Years Old Tawny Porto. 83 cases. Exceptional. About $80 for a 500-milliliter bottle..
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Respite Reichel Vineyard Indulgence 2010, Alexander valley, Sonoma County. A proprietary blend of 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 22 percent malbec and 13 percent cabernet franc. 77 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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La Rochelle Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2010. Russian River Valley. 14.2% alc. 429 six-pack cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,302 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Steven Kent Winery Merrellie Chardonnay 2012, Livermore Valley. 504 cases. Excellent. About $34.
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Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Origin Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma Valley. 266 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Sonoma Coast. 170 cases. Exceptional. About $65.
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Tin Barn Coryelle Fields Syrah 2009, Sonoma Coast. 123 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Two Shepherds Trousseau Gris 2012, Fanucchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley. 25 cases. Exceptional. About $25.
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VML Blanc de Noirs 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $50.
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Volta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $60.
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Wakefield St. Andrews Single Vineyard Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Clare Valley, Australia. 250 cases imported. Excellent. About $60.
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Weltner Rödelseer Küchenmeister Trocken Sylvaner 2012, Franken, Germany. Excellent. About $27.
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