Syrah


Willis Mercer moved west and settled in the new town of Prosser in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. The family succeeded at shepherding and then brought in cattle and planted wheat. Irrigation was introduced to Mercer Ranches in 1968, and in 1972, the first grapes were planted, though the family didn’t start making wine until 2005, the year that Horse Heaven Hills was granted status as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The expansive region — 570,000 acres, with slightly more than 6,000 acres of vines — lies in southeastern Washington, within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Our Wine of the Day is the Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015, Horse Heaven Hills, an interesting blend of 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 merlot, 14 petit verdot, 10 grenache and 2 percent carignane, making a sort of Bordeaux-Rhone hybrid. The wine aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Winemaker was Jeremy Santo. The vintage produced the hottest Summer on record in the region, followed by a moderate period of warm days and cool nights. The result was heady ripeness balanced by bright acidity. The color, if that’s the word, is opaque ebony-purple shading, if that’s the word, to a magenta rim; the immediate impression is of penetrating aromas of graphite and iodine, lavender and violets and bittersweet chocolate serving as gloss to intense and concentrated notes of black cherries, raspberries and plums. On the palate, the wine is rich, dusty, dynamic and deeply flavorful; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of sage and rosemary, cloves and just a tinge of vanilla, all these elements bound by velvety tannins and acidity taut as a bow-string; the finish is both generous and chiseled. 14.8 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with roasted pork, braised lamb shanks or short ribs and other hearty fare. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

Syrah is not the red grape that leaps to mind when we think of Oregon; that would be pinot noir. Still, a surprising number of wineries produce syrah in the Beaver State, and among the best is Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, also known, of course, for its excellent pinot noir wines. The Penner-Ash Syrah 2015, carrying a general Oregon designation, derived from six vineyards. The wine aged 17 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels, 35 percent one-year-old, 15 percent two-year old and 20 percent neutral. The result is a syrah that displays plenty of power and energy without being overwhelmed by a tide of oak, the influence of which remains steady but suave and subtle. The color is unimpeachable motor oil black-purple that devolves to a narrow, gleaming magenta rim; aromas of spiced and macerated black cherries, currants and plums are permeated by penetrating beams of iodine and iron, a characteristic graphite-granitic quality that drives the wine from initial sniff and sip through the spice-and-mineral-packed finish. Velvety, grainy tannins provide a bolster for the lip-smacking acidity that helps animate the wine, while a few minutes in the glass unfurl an intense core of lavender and violets, loam and bittersweet chocolate. 14.9 percent alcohol. A classy, well-knit syrah for drinking with hearty fare through 2021 to ’23. Production was 495 cases. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

In referring to the French, the term “arrogant frog” is redundant, n’est-ce pas? Ha ha, just a little joke to introduce the Wine of the Day, the Arrogant Frog Rosé 2016, Pay d’Oc (nicknamed “Lily Pad Pink”), made from 100 percent syrah grapes for the Côté Mas label of Domaine Paul Mas. It’s interesting how grapes, like syrah and mourvèdre, that tend to produce big-hearted, two-fisted red wines, can also, in rosé mode, be fashioned into beverages of the utmost delicacy and subtlety. This one offers a lovely pale copper-pink hue and nuanced aromas of strawberries and raspberries with a hint of melon and notes of rose petals and floral-herbal meadowy elements. On the palate, a bit of peach comes into play, but this is mainly about ineffable red fruits and berries enlivened by brisk acidity and a touch of limestone minerality that comes to dominate the finish. Very refreshing and appealing and perfect for picnics and other outdoor adventures. Very Good+. About $10, a Verifiable Bargain.

Imported by Esprit du Vin, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.

I don’t typically recommend rosé wines from two vintages ago. I mean the point of rosé is its freshness and immediate appeal, n’est-ce pas? Some rosé wines, however, are made of slightly sterner stuff than the usual ethereal, instantly accessible, quaffable models that so delight us and can age for a year or two beyond the Summer after harvest. Such is the case with the two rosé wines from the South of France that I mention today. I encountered these examples at a trade tasting at which rosés from 2015 and ’16 were offered, and while most of the ’15s were fading, if not falling apart, this pair drank with splendid panache, zeal and deliciousness. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Le Caillou Rosé 2015, Côtes du Rhône, is an unusual blend of 85 percent counoise and 15 percent mourvedre grapes, and I CAILLOU_rose_websay “unusual” because counoise, not so easy to grow and late ripening, typically finds itself in a minority position in red wines of the southern Rhone Valley, if it shows up at all. In this very pale pink-coral hued wine, it provides scintillating acidity that runs through the structure like an electric wire, as well as a lovely hint of red plum, behind notes of strawberry and orange rind. The domaine, by the way, was founded in 1956 but the estate, surrounded by the Chateaunuef-du-Pape appellation, has a long history of grape-growing and winemaking; the vineyards are certified organic and maintained by biodynamic methods. Winemaker is Bruno Gaspard. This is a dry, taut, crisp rosé that delivers a dusty, almost powdery texture supported by lithe, chiseled flint-like minerality; the finish brings in hints of heather, sea-salt and just a ghost of melon. Drink through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $25.
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The history at Chateau Mattes-Sabran goes back a thousand years in Languedoc-Roussillon. The estate was once the seat MATTES_narbonne_rose-228x300of the Dukes of Narbonne and was well-known in the 12th and 13th centuries as a center for troubadours and the elevation of courtly love. The city itself, as distinct from the commune, dates back to Roman times and was once an important seaport. Winemaking on the estate commenced in 1733. Though made from 100 percent syrah grapes, the Mattes-Sabran Rosé 2015, Pays d’Oc — winemaker was Jean-Luc Brouillat — is unusually delicate and elegant, though possessing tensile strength that feels almost steely; the color is extremely pale watermelon-coral pink, and aromas of slightly spiced and macerated red currants and raspberries testify to its origin in the syrah grape. An aura of pink grapefruit and blood orange is allied to the wine’s crisp citric acidity, while a few moments in the glass bring out notes of dusty limestone, rose petals and dried thyme. Bring on the rabbit and duck terrine, the cucumber sandwiches, the shrimp salad! Now through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $19.
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minuty
Here’s a splendid classic dry rosé from Côtes de Provence in the South of France. A blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah, M de Minuty Rosé 2016 displays a very (very) pale hue that’s like the faintest coral-pink of a baby’s fingernail; ethereal notes of raspberries and rhubarb, with a hint of peach, are spare and delicate, though the wine’s freshness and elegance are buoyed by a taut spine of acidity and a foundation of chiseled, crystalline limestone. Despite its initial ephemeral impression, this rosé offers surprising heft on the palate, along with the herbal earthiness of dried Mediterranean herbs (“garrigue”); a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and talc, orange rind and white pepper. 13 percent alcohol. A superior rosé, one of the best I have encountered this year. Excellent. About $19.

Imported by Treasury Wine Estates. A sample for review.

This survey of 12 rosé wines began as a Weekend Wine Notes post, but here it is, Wednesday, hardy the weekend at all, so I’m keeping the usual Weekend Wine Notes format but dropping that designation. We touch many styles of rosé wine amid this roster as well as many far-flung geographical regions. The grapes involved are also of broad variety, including merlot, pinot noir, tempranillo, grenache, syrah and even cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. While a few of these rosés could tolerate aging beyond this calendar year, all are really intended for immediate appeal and consumption, whether your choice of venue is the porch, the patio, by poolside or on a picnic or just standing around the kitchen while someone prepares a light Spring or Summer meal. Prices range from about $10 to $28, so nothing outlandlish. The point is to enjoy, while consuming in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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Ang_rose_2016_web
Angeline Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, California. 12.5% alc. A lovely pink-melon-coral hue; notes of slightly candied strawberry and raspberry with a hint of pomegranate; a kind of chalk-warm, dusty roof-tiles minerality; just a touch of dried herbs. Simple, direct and tasty; a crowd-pleaser for sure. Very Good. About $13.
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Les+vignes+de+Bila-Haut+Rosé+2015+HB+WINE
Domaine Bila-Haut Les Vignes Rosé 2016, Pays d’Oc. 13% alc. 78% grenache, 14% cinsault, 8% syrah. Lovely pale pink hue with a slight coral cast; very delicate notes of strawberry and blood orange, cloves and seashell; undertones of red currants, meadow flowers and heather, buoyed on a lithe crisp texture that’s silky smooth and a chiseled foundation of chalk and flint; the finish brings in a touch of peach. One could happily drink this throughout the Summer. Excellent. About $15, marking Great Value.
Sera Wine Imports, New York.
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Bridge Lane Rosé 2016, New York State. A label from Long Island’s Lieb Cellars. 11.9% alc. 49% cabernet franc, 29% merlot, 16% malbec, 4% pinot noir, 2% petit verdot. Very pale onion skin hue; quite dry and spare, with nuances of strawberry and melon, peach and pink grapefruit; crisp acidity keeps it lively and appealing, over an undercurrent of clean limestone minerality. Very Good. About $18. Also available in 3-liter boxes and 20-liter kegs, so party on, rascals.
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campuget
Chateau de Campuget Tradition Rosé 2016, Costières de Nîmes. 13% alc. 70% syrah, 30% grenache. Very pale copper-onion skin hue; delicately touched with red currants and raspberries, a hint of orange zest and rose petals; quite dry but pleasingly ripe, slightly stony, like warm roof tiles, brisk acidity for crispness and animation, grapefruit and limestone finish. Very Good+. A Steal at about $10.
Imported by Dreyfus & Ashby, New York.
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grgich rose
Grgich Hills Estate Rosé 2016, Napa Valley. 13.1% alc. The first rosé from this venerable winery. 45% merlot, 31% cabernet sauvignon, 9% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot, to which Bordeaux grape varieties are blended 8% zinfandel and 1% gewurztraminer. A riveting deep salmon-magenta hue; strawberry, tomato skin, rose petals and raspberry leaf; spicy and savory, with lip-smacking crystalline acidity and an intriguing warm brick-damp dust sense of minerality; blood orange, Earl Gray tea and heather dominate from mid-palate through the finish. A terrific and highly individual initial effort. Excellent. About $25.
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illahe rose
Illahe Vineyards Tempranillo Rosé 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 12% alc. 500 cases. Very very pale onion skin hue; very clean and dry, crisp and spare; delicate, indeed, ephemeral notes of strawberry and raspberry, something citrus, like orange rind and lime peel; notes of pomegranate and rhubarb; quite sleek and subtle, propelled by crisp acidity and a chiseled limestone-flint edge. Very Good+. About $17.
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P0004970_Maculan_Costadolio_Rosato
Maculan Costadolio 2016, Breganza Rosato. 12.5% alc. 100% merlot. Production was 1,000 cases. Pale coral-onion skin hue; very spare and delicate, animated by spanking-clean acidity; hints of dried red raspberries and currants, with a note of melon and dried herbs; a little brushy and heather-ish; crisp limestone and flint minerality, slightly saline finish. Super attractive without being pushy. Very Good+. About $15.
A Leonardo LoCascio Selection for Winebow Inc., New York
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Martin Ray Winery Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 13.2% alc. Very pale copper-salmon color; strawberry, raspberry and orange rind; a brushing of dried thyme, a light touch of dust and graphite; ripe and tasty but spare and reticent; attractive lithe supple texture. Very Good+. About $25.
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Stewart Cellars Rosé 2016, Sonoma Mountain. 13.5% alc. 100% pinot noir. Very pale watermelon pink; really delicate and ethereal notes of Stewart_Logo (1)raspberry, rose petal, pink grapefruit and blood orange; undertones of watermelon, cloves and Earl Gray tea; quite dry, spare yet, paradoxically and delightfully, lush on the palate, animated by crisp acidity and dusty seashell minerality; elegant, charming, beautifully structured. A superior rosé. Excellent. About $28.
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Summer-in-Bottle-Rose-2016_9094
Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle Rosé Table Wine 2016, Long Island, N.Y. 12.2% alc. A unique blend of 54% merlot, 24% chardonnay, 11% cabernet franc, 6% gewürztraminer, 4% riesling and 1% vignoles. Onion skin hue with a light copper tinge; sprightly, spicy and slightly peppery, with ineffable layers of smoke, melon, raspberry and grapefruit; super fresh and refreshing, with heft and body that flow blithely on the palate. Delicious. Excellent. About $24.
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tongue dancer rose'
Tongue Dancer Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Putnam Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. 14.5% alc. Production was 90 cases. Bright copper-coral color; an unusually savory and fleshy rose, lithe and supple on the palate, with scents and flavors of strawberries and raspberries, melon and cloves, pomegranate and wild thyme; a filigreed background of limestone and flint minerality and bracing salinity. A superior rosé. Excellent. About $25.
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angel
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel 2016,
Côtes de Provence. 13% alc. Grenache, rolle (vermentino) and cinsault. Whispering, indeed, from its very pale onion skin color, to its delicate hints of orange rind, strawberries and cloves, to its dry, spare, elegant texture: a rose of nods and nuances, except that all aspects are bound and energized by taut, vivid acidity and a limestone structure of lacy transparency; flows across the palate like ethereal peach nectar. Excellent. About $22.
Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Miramar, Fla.
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Roussillon lies within the great curve where the French Mediterranean coastline aims south at Spain. Technically part of the vast Languedoc-Roussillon region that stretches from Provence in the east to the Pyrenees in the west, Roussillon nestles within a rugged languedocamphitheater of dry hills that do not detract from the charm of the landscape and its isolated villages. This is primarily red wine territory, though rose wines and vins doux naturels are well-known; there is little white wine. Vines were first planted some 3,000 years ago by Greek sailors, who did so much to bring wine and civilization to the distant shores of the inland sea. The harsh terrain and uncompromising sunny Mediterranean climate, spurred by the northwest wind called Tramontane, make this ideal territory for Rhone Valley red grapes like grenache and mourvedre, especially in the valley of the Agly river and in the small enclave called La Tour de France. Roussillon has had to overcome a reputation as a hotbed for cheap, acidic wines fostered by overproduction and plantations in inappropriate climats, but the past 30 years or so, with the influx of a new generation of winemakers and more thoughtful vineyard methods, has brought great success. I find it interesting that among the five wines considered today, the use of new oak is negligible, while even aging in barrels at all is kept to a minimum. The result is wines that express the spirit of the grapes from which they are made, though in a couple of these examples, high alcohol mutes the effect. These wines were samples for review.
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saint-roch
Chateau Saint-Roch “Kerbuccio” 2014, Maury sec, is a blend of 60 percent grenache and 20 percent each syrah and mourvedre that aged no more than nine months in 70 percent concrete vats, 30 percent 500-liter barrels, that is, about twice the size of a standard barrique. The color, if that’s the right word, is as opaque as motor oil, shading, if that’s the right word, to a violet rim; the wine bursts with notes of ripe blackberries and currants, with a touch of juicy plums and a hint of blueberry tart, all permeated by lavender and graphite, leather and tar. It’s fairly plush with dusty, velvety tannins riven by bright acidity devolving to a keen mineral edge, these elements comfortably supporting delicious spicy black and blue fruit flavors. 15 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $18.
Imported by Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, N.C.
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Domaine La Tour Vieille “La Pinede” 2014, Collioure, is a blend of 70 percent grenache with a mixed 30 percent mourvedre and carignan, collioure
according to the back label, OR 75 percent grenache and 25 percent carignan, according to the technical material I received. The wine received very traditional treatment, with hard-harvesting and destemming and foot treading; it saw no oak, only concrete vats. The color is glowing medium ruby; notes of red cherries and currants are darkened by hints of cherry pits and skins and touches of cloves, briers and brambles. The wine is spare, lithe and dry, yet displays, beyond those basic virtues, a riveting personality of earthy, foresty qualities, graphite minerality, dried fruit and spices, leather and vivid acidity that it seems an epitome of a style and place. When we finished this bottle, LL said, “Do you have a case of it?” Alas, no. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $21.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Calif.
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I am not privy to the percentages of the blend for the Bila-Haut “L’esquerda” 2013, Cotes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde — even the bilahautlesquerda2013frontimporter’s website doesn’t reveal this information –but not surprisingly the grapes involved are syrah, grenache and carignan. The wine ages 90 percent in cement vats, 10 percent in oak barrels. The color is an almost eerie glowing dark ruby with a nuclear violet rim, while the bouquet seethes with notes of cloves, allspice and sandalwood, woven through floral-tinged aromas of very ripe blackberry, currant and plum; this is very dry red wine, solid and robust, stuffed with dust and graphite and revealing touches of tar and forest floor in the depths, all sustained by bright acidity. 14% alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $21.
An R. Shack Selection for HB Wine Merchants, New York.
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hecht
The flaw in the Hecht & Bannier Cotes du Roussillon Village 2011 is that it feels more Californian in size and depth than its origins in the south of France would dictate. The wine is a blend of 65 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah and 10 percent each mourvedre and carignan; it aged in oak demi-muids of 500 liters (40 percent), barriques (30 percent) and cement vats (30 percent). In the glass, the wine is an opaque black-purple with a lighter purple rim; boy, this one pours out the rich, spicy, macerated black fruit scents and flavors, with notes of roasted plums, lavender, toasted herbs and bitter chocolate. Tannins are plush and chewy, while a lithe supple texture paves the way for a graphite-packed finish. 15 percent alcohol. It’s all a bit too much. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Very Good+. About $22.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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The Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussillon 2010 — the current vintage on the market — is a collaboration between Michel Chapoutier, owner of agly B 10the well-known Rhone producer M. Chapoutier, and Ron Laughton, owner of Jasper Hill of Victoria, Australia. (Chapoutier also owns the Bila-Haut estate mentioned above.) The wine is composed of one-third each carignan, grenache and syrah grapes cultivated on bio-dynamic principles; it fermented in cement vats and aged 16 to 20 months in French oak, one to three years old. This is one of those wines that feels unusual, individual and special from the first sniff and sip. It’s an opaque black-purple hue that lightens a bit to a glowing magenta rim; the initial impression is of a wine permeated by ripe, roasted, fleshy and meaty elements of spiced and macerated black currants, blueberries and plums; a few minutes in the glass bring out exotic notes of potpourri and violets, licorice and sandalwood, tobacco leaf and wood smoke; an arrow of profound graphite minerality and vibrant acidity penetrates the wine from beginning to end, bolstering the presence of dusty, velvety tannins and a rigorous underbrush and forest character. You feel the alcohol a bit on the finish; that’s the only flaw in an otherwise stylish, impeccable and impressive performance. 15.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $40.
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Well, freakin’ BRRR, it got cold, and there’s even a chance of snow tonight, here in Memphis and elsewhere around the country. Morgan_label_Double_L_Syrah_2014_frontTime to break out a hearty, flavorful red wine for your dinner. How about the Morgan Winery Double L Vineyard Syrah 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands — that’s in Monterey County, an east-facing ridge on the west side of the Salinas Valley. The vineyard is certified organic; the wine fermented with native yeasts and aged 14 months in French oak, 42 percent new barrels. The color is dark ruby with a glowing purple rim, like royal raiment; the wine is ripe and juicy, intense and concentrated, offering notes of black cherries and plums permeated by leather and licorice, wood smoke, white pepper and violets. A burgeoning foresty-underbrush character lends support to sleek dusty tannins, and while the texture is lithe and supple, there’s a bit of velvety graphite resistance on the palate, a sense of the wine not giving in too easily to being consumed. Lovely stuff, with a serious slightly chiseled mineral edge. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 241 cases. Winemaker was Sam Smith. Now through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $42.

A sample for review.

Nothing against cabernet, merlot and pinot noir; fine wines are often made from these grapes — if they’re not allowed to get over-ripe or high in alcohol or battened and battered by oak — but they’re so ubiquitous. Let’s give some other red grapes a chance, OK? Here then is a selection of that includes mourvèdre, tempranillo, petite sirah, petit verdot, nebbiolo, syrah and aglianico. Several of the wines featured today come in quite reasonably for price, that is, about $15 or $16, while a couple of others ramp up the scale to $65. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. As usual, these Weekend Wine Notes eschew the minutiae of technical, historical and geographical matters for the sake of incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet your palate; you can wet your palate later. Enjoy, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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telegram
Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 13.9% alc. 100% mourvèdre. Production was 277 cases. Dark ruby hue with a glowing magenta rim; deep, dark, spicy and meaty, a brooding concoction of tobacco leaf, wood smoke, fruit cake and plum pudding, very ripe black currants, blueberries and blackberries; very dry, displaying tar-and-lavender tinged black fruit flavors bolstered by flaring acidity, plush, dusty tannins and a seam of granitic minerality; still, with the grace not to be ponderous or blatant. Now through 2022 to ’24 with full-flavored, big-hearty roasts and grills. Excellent. About $45.
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bujanda
Viña Bujanda Crianza 2013, Rioja, Spain. 13% alc. 100% tempranillo grapes. Very dark black-ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; ripe and rich, bursting with blackberries, black currants and a touch of juicy plum; cloves, lavender and graphite; dusty heather, smoke and violets; very dry, with smacky acidity and tannins. Heaps of personality and flavorful appeal. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $16.
Winebow, Inc., New York.
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Cadaretta Syrah 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.5% alc. 82% syrah, 11% mourvèdre, 5% grenache, 2% viognier (the blend listed on the cad syrahwinery website is slightly different). 500 cases. Stygian inky purple-violet color; loam, briers and brambles; black currants, cherries and plums; an infusion of mint and iodine, smoke and roasted meat, lavender and licorice; very dry, seethes with velvety tannins, graphite and charcoal, all propelled by a tide of glittering acidity. Quite a performance, without being flamboyant. Now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $35.
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Frank Family Petite Sirah 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% petite sirah. Inky purple with a nuclear violet rim; a big, juicy petite sirah that manages not to be overwhelming, made in a sensible fashion that showcases the grape; blackberries and black plums with a flush of blueberry and — deep down — a touch of pomegranate; a structure characterized by iodine and iron, graphite and dusty, velvety tannins; woodsy elements, forest floor, dried mushrooms emerge after a few minutes in the glass, leading to a finish that’s strict and a touch austere. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $35.
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martinenga-barbaresco-docg
Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2012, Piedmont, Italy. 14% alc. 100% nebbiolo. Limpid, medium bright ruby, like a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting; wild berries, woodsy herbs and flowers, a touch of sour cherry, a lash of red currants and blueberries; briers and brambles and foresty elements ensconced in a welter of tar, briers and brambles, violets and rose petals; dusty, supple tannins build in the glass, along with pine and balsam notes, hints of cloves and allspice; all leading to a finish of noble dimensions in its elegance and high-toned austerity. A beautiful expression of the nebbiolo grape. Best from 2018 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $50.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petite Sirah 2012, Calistoga, Napa Valley. 15.4% alc. 589 cases. 100% petite sirah. Inky black-purple with an intense violet rim; this is like liquid ore from the darkest vein, with dusty plums, iodine, smoked black tea and a profound graphite-granitic mineral character; dense, velvety and succulent on the palate, very ripe black fruit but not sweet or cloying; very dry, with sleek tannins and lithe acidity; you feel an infusion of oak and alcohol on the finish, but the wine is surprisingly well-balanced. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $65.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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2013-PVMS-750ml-Front_WITH-ALC-1Grgich Hills Miljenko’s Selection Yountville Petit Verdot 2013, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. With 11% cabernet sauvignon. Dark ruby with a glowing purple rim; very intense and concentrated, with a tight focus on black currants, raspberries and blueberries permeated by lavender, black licorice and mocha; leather and loam, heaps of dusty, gravelly, graphite-infused tannins powered by lips-smacking acidity. Needs a couple of years to come together. Very Good+. About $65.
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mastro
Mastro Aglianico 2014, Campania, Italy. 12.5% alc. 100% aglianico grapes. From Mastroberardino. A radiant medium ruby color; a tarry, ferrous and sanguinary red, with deeply spicy and macerated black cherries and currants, notes of iron and violets, leather and loam; long, dusty, sinewy tannins and vibrant acidity; a finish packed with spice, black fruit and minerals. Now through 2018 with barbecue ribs, grilled pork chops with a Southwestern rub, carnitas with intense mole, your best chili. Very Good+. About $15.
Imported by Winebow, Inc. New York. The 2015, now available, has a totally different label.
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2013-Petite-Sirah
Peachy Canyon Petite Sirah 2014, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. With 5% syrah. 488 cases. Opaque black-ruby with a purple rim; spiced, macerated and roasted plums and black currants with an intriguing resinous, balsamic edge; smoked meat, oolong tea, cloves and sandalwood; a very dry wine but juicy with ripe and spicy black and blue fruit flavors; shaggy tannins buoyed by brisk acidity; some roots-and-branches austerity in a finish drenched with fruit and granitic minerality. A beautifully balanced petite sirah that reflects the essential rustic nature of the grape. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $32.
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tasca
Tasca Regaleali Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia. 14% alc. 100% nero d’Avola grapes. Intense dark ruby shading to lighter ruby hue; uncomplicated but delicious, with black and red raspberries and currants, loam and graphite, dry, well-integrated tannins and lively acidity; it’s vibrant, spicy and appealing, so bring on a platter of spaghetti and meatballs or veal Parmesan. Very Good+. About $15.
A Leonardo LoCascio Selection, Winebow, Inc., New York.
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So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
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acorn-2013-heritage-vines-zinfandel-rgb-72dpi
Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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gratien
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
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Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
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Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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