Washington


I launched the “Whither Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” series in October 2014 as a way of focusing on cabernet-based wines from one the the world’s best places for the grape’s production into fine wine. Or not so fine, depending on one’s point of view about over-strict oak regimen, super-ripe, jammy fruit and alcohol levels that soar to 15 percent and beyond, characteristics that occur too often. But cabernet-based wines are made not only in other regions of California but all around the world. We look today at a baker’s dozen — the superstitious way of saying “13” — of non-Napa Valley examples, mainly from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and from various spots in Chile. Some of these wines stuck me as being classic in proportion and balance, while a few leaned toward exaggeration; none, however, seemed beyond the pale, and most of the ratings are Excellent. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.
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2012_Cad_CS
The powerful and seductive Cadaretta Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington, is a blend of 89 percent cabernet, 6 percent petit verdot and 5 percent merlot that aged 20 months in French oak, 90 percent new barrels. That’s a lot of oak by my lights, yet the wine displays very agreeable personality and character. The color is inky ruby with a slightly lighter purple rim; a dynamic wafting of iodine and iron, mint and blackberries and currants, briers and brambles, walnut shell and forest floor surges from the glass; the wine is propelled by bright acidity and granitic minerality that feels chiseled and honed, bolstered by plush, dusty, graphite-infused tannins while still offering delicious notes of ripe and spicy black fruit flavors. The essence is balance and integration of all elements. 14.8 percent alcohol. Now — with steak — through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
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Cliff Creek Cab Sauv 2012
The 100 percent varietal Cliff Creek Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Southern Oregon, sees 20 months in oak, 95 percent French barrels, five percent American. The color is deep ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; the initial impression is of its herbal nature in the form of cedar, sage and dried thyme, followed by ripe and spicy black currants and blueberries infused with lavender and graphite. Dusty, velvety tannins flow across the palate in a sleek tide, while bright black and blue fruit flavors are buoyed by vibrant acidity; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of smoked walnuts, walnut shell, loam and bittersweet chocolate, all wrapped in chiseled granitic minerality. 13.6 percent alcohol. Lots of personality. Drink through 2019 to ’22. Excellent. About $27, a local purchase at $26.
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In every vintage that I have tried, Domus Aurea is consistently one of the best cabernet-based wines made in Chile. The Domus Aurea 2012, Upper Maipo Valley, is a blend of 85 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent merlot and 4 percent petit verdot that aged 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is dark, radiant ruby shading to a magenta rim; the bouquet is a finely-milled welter of black currants, iodine and graphite, licorice and lavender, cedar and tobacco, with a tinge of slightly resinous rosemary and sage and burgeoning notes of black raspberry and cherry. The wine combines sleekness and litheness of texture with a chiseled edge of graphite minerality and bright acidity to keep it lively and alluring; ripe and spicy black fruit flavors are delicious, yet subdued to the power and energy of granitic minerality and keenly etched tannins. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2026 to ’30, Excellent. About $65.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Concha y Toro’s flagship red wine always packs plenty of character into the glass. Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon don melchor 132013, Puente Alto, Chile, is 91 percent cabernet sauvignon and 9 percent cabernet franc, aged 15 months in French oak. From its opaque purple-black hue to its structural elements of walnut shell and graphite, flint and iodine, its dense, chewy dusty tannins, it’s a wine that needs a few years in the cellar. However, it blossoms beautifully with notes of black currants and raspberries, cedar and tobacco, mint and ground coriander and beguiling hints of lavender and crushed violets, and it balloons in size and scope as the moments pass, becoming, it feels, more sizable, denser, a bit shaggier in its combination of tannic, oak and minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Quite a performance for trying from 2018 or ’19 through 2030 or ’33. Excellent. About $120, though often discounted on the internet to $100 or so.
Imported by Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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The Dry Creek Vineyards The Mariner Meritage 2013, Dry Creek Valley, is a blend of 54 percent cabernet sauvignon, 24 percent merlot, 10 petit verdot, 8 malbec and 4 cabernet franc; the wine aged 20 months in French and Hungarian oak, 45 percent new barrels. The color, if one can call such an impenetrable hue a color, is opaque ruby-black; this is all about structural elements presently, offering a welter of iodine, iron and graphite, walnut shell and cedar, rosemary and leather, couched in a dignified and authoritative fashion. It’s quite dry and displays a deep expression of lavender, bittersweet chocolate and mocha, loam and underbrush, with glimmers of slightly resinous black fruit scents and flavors shining darkly through. The embodiment of intensity and concentration; try from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. 14.5 percent alcohol. Excellent potential. About $45.
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Tasting through a group of cabernet-based wines at home one afternoon, the Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina, Enzo_Label clearly stood out as the best. It’s a blend of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot and 7 percent malbec, aged 10 months in 100 percent new oak barrels (80 percent French, 20 percent American) and a further two years in bottle. While there’s no denying that this is a large-framed cabernet, broad and deep in scope and dimension, it’s surprisingly light on its feet and never overwhelms the palate with oak and tannin. Oh, sure, it offers a youthful inky ruby-purple color and a whole spectrum of iodine-iron-graphite rock-robbed minerality and dusty, slightly austere tannins, but it’s also quite attractive with its scents and flavors of spiced and marinated black currants and cherries that carry hints of blueberry tart and violets. Yes, it’s very dry, and the finish remains rather demanding in its tannic and mineral nature, but overall, this is a deftly balanced and integrated red wine. 14.1 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2030 to ’34. Excellent. About $55.
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The Jordan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, represents a shift toward more French oak and more new oak than in previous vintages. Every one of the winery’s cabernets since the first in 1976 has been made by Rob Davis — a remarkable record for California — so he is certainly in a position to know the wine and the grape sources in 2013-Jordan-Alexander-Valley-Cabernet-Sauvignon-Label-WebThumbdepth and detail. The blend here is a carefully calibrated combination of 75.5 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15.5 percent merlot, 7 percent petit verdot, 1.5 percent malbec and 0.5 percent cabernet franc. The oak regimen? Twelve months at 83 percent French and 17 percent American, 43 percent new barrels, predominantly new French. How does that scale compare to recent vintages (to get all geeky about this issue). In 2012: 69 percent French, 31 percent American, 41 percent new; in 2011: 73 percent French, 27 percent American, 37 percent new; in 2010: 74 percent French, 26 percent American, 39 percent new. So, yes, this current vintage does lean more heavily on French oak barrels; the question is, how much difference does that factor make in the wine? I’ll say this right now: Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is the tightest and most unapproachable cabernet from the winery that I have tasted, founded on an oak and tannin structure that feels both vertical and horizontal. It also exudes an undeniable aura of majesty and dignity. The color is an intense dark ruby-black; initially the wine is characterized by an essence of iodine and iron, sage and loam, slightly resinous rosemary, violets and mocha, all ground in some granitic pestle; as for fruit, that aspect takes 45 minutes to an hour to assert itself, after which the wine gently opens and becomes a bit warmer and spicier, though still operating under the wood-tannin-mineral cloak of darkness. 13.8 percent alcohol. Is this change a reasonable development in the 37-year history of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon? From my perspective, what the 2013 gains in power and structure it loses in elegance and alluring nuance, always the hallmarks of these wines in the past. Try from 2018 to ’20 through 2030 to ’33. Very Good+ for now, with Excellent potential once it becomes more balanced and integrated. About $55.

I’ll add that Jordan fields what is hands-down the most informative, detailed and accessible website of any winery I have encountered in California.
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2010_Marques_CS_NV
Essentially, the Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Maipo Valley, Chile, is Concha y Toro’s next-to-top-tier line of wines, more affordable than the Don Melchor mentioned above but still considered by the winery as part of its Fine Wines division. This one spent 16 months in French oak barrels and is a blend of 92 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent each merlot and syrah. The color is very dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim; aromas of black currants, cherries and raspberries are infused with dusty graphite and loam, given high tones of black olive and bell pepper, all sliding on a faintly leafy herbaceous note. Ripe and spicy black fruit flavors are couched in vivid acidity, dense and velvety tannins and granitic minerality, adding up to a fairly rigorous treatment of the wine. 14 percent alcohol. Drink from 2018 through 2024, or open tonight with a medium rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the flames. Very Good+. About $26.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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The Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, is undoubtedly well-made, yet it’s so typically Californian that I wish it took a few risks, went a bit higher and lower in tone and effect. That said, I think anyone who cottons to the style would like it. The wine aged 20 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. It presents a ruby hue so dark that it’s almost opaque, though shading to a lighter magenta rim; aromas of cedar and fresh rosemary, ripe black currants and cherries are touched with notes of lavender and mocha, graphite and violets. On the palate, this cabernet wine delivers plush velvety tannins for texture, brisk acidity for lithe liveliness, and elements of iodine and iron that bolster the somewhat austere finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2026 to ’28. Very Good+. About $50.
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stone street cab 12
The not-quite-100 percent-varietal Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley — there’s 5 percent mixed merlot and malbec — aged a decent 17 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. The vineyard from which it derives ranges from 400 to 2,400 feet, providing a spectrum of drainage, exposure and elevation that lent the grapes a full complement of detail and dimension. A very dark even unto black-ruby-purple hue, the wine offers a classic mountain-style array of sage and bay leaf, tobacco and loam, dried rosemary and a tinge of pine resin; these elements bolster notes of deeply spiced and macerated black currants, cherries and plums thoroughly permeated by dense, furry chewy tannins that coat the palate with a kind of velvet-iron-filings texture. The finish is long and chiseled and packed with granitic minerality, none of which prevents the wine from being surprisingly drinkable. Try through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $45.
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ECM320629
Stonestreet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, despite a sensible oak regimen — 18 months French oak, 37 percent new barrels — feels dominated by toasty wood from beginning to end. The color is black-purple with a glowing magenta rim, and, to be sure, there’s plenty here that indicates the wine’s fairly classic status, with its spiced and macerated black currants and cherries with a hint of baked plums, its notes of cedar, tobacco and sage, its structural elements of briers and brambles, forest floor and moderately dusty tannins; still, the smoke, charcoal, walnut shell and graphite character pulls a veil of toasty oak over the whole proceedings, and, for my palate, becomes obtrusive. Perhaps two or three years will even it out. Very Good+. About $45.
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2012-Henrys-Blend
Trione Vineyards and Winery Geyserville Ranch Henry’s Blend 2012, Alexander Valley, is a Bordeaux-style blend — with a California emphasis — that combines 35 percent cabernet sauvignon, 34 percent merlot, 13 percent each cabernet franc and petit verdot, and 5 percent malbec, aged 18 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. The concept of a “Bordeaux-style blend” is a bit of an idealization, of course, because very few red wines from Bordeaux employ what used to be thought of as the five “classic” Bordeaux red grapes; malbec doesn’t even enter the picture. This is a cool, inky, chiseled wine that features a dark ruby-purple hue and aromas of ripe black currants, plums and blueberries permeated by notes of cedar, tobacco and graphite, dust and loam, iodine and iron; dense, sleek and chewy, this wine displays huge reserves of acid, austere tannins and granitic minerality, all the while offering delicious black fruit flavors (with a tinge of black olive and roasted fennel) and a nicely balanced tide of burnished oak. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $54.
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Trione Block Twenty One Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley, is predominantly cabernet sauvignon — 85 percent — Trione-2012-Cabernet-Sauvignonwith 9 percent merlot and 2 percent each cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec in the blend; it aged 18 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels. The color is impenetrable ruby from stem to stern; the bouquet offers an enticing melange seething with notes of cedar, violets and lavender, loam and smoke, tobacco and cigarette paper, with hints of graphite and intense, concentrated black fruit. The wine is more succulent on the palate, its ripe, spicy black currant and cherry flavors rich and beguiling, but the effect is tempered by the presence of immense, dusty, granitic tannins that produce an austere, aloof finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2018 or ’19 through 2029 to ’32. Excellent potential. About $67.
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Shooting Star is the second label of Steele Wines, both under the watchful eye of the ubiquitous Jed Steele, who has been a leading blue francfigure in the California wine industry since the late 1960s. I’ll have more to say about Steele Wines and different selections from Shooting Star in the next few weeks, but today I want to feature a particular bottle as Wine of the Day. The Shooting Star Blue Franc 2013, Washington State, is made from the blaufrankisch grape that is indigenous to areas of Austria, is found in Germany under the names lemburger and limburger, and for some reason in small quantities in Washington State, where it generally carries the Lemburger name. Perhaps the marketing is not ideal, since that’s also the name of a very stinky cheese. Jed Steele, for his bottling, referred back to the Austrian name, trading on verbal and visual puns at several levels, and came up with the name Blue Franc. Though the grapes derive from the well-known Horse Heaven Hills vineyard in the Destiny Ridge AVA, the wine carries the general Washington State designation. It sees no oak aging. The color is dark ruby-mulberry; pungent aromas of cloves and lavender, macerated black currants, blueberries and plums, are permeated by notes of oolong tea and orange rind, tar and loam. Vigorous acidity and dusty tannins laced with graphite minerality form the foundation for tasty black and blue fruit flavors keenly etched with wild cherry, dried thyme and black pepper. It’s a robust and rustic wine in the best sense, wholly satisfying as accompaniment to all sorts of grilled fare — ribs, pork chops, steaks, burgers — as well as hearty pizzas and pasta dishes. Now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $14, representing Great Value.

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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11PS_MS_FRONT-WO-ALC
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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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.

Maryhill Winery occupies part of the site of the farming community instituted along the northern bank of the Columbia River beginning in 1907 by Sam Hill (1857-1931), a legendary settler in 2015_Rose_FrontWashington state who was an attorney, entrepreneur and advocate of good roads. One can see his visionary prowess (and eccentricity) in two monuments he was instrumental in building, the replica of Stonehenge at Maryhill, a memorial to fallen World War I soldiers from Klickitat County, and the Peace Arch that stands at the border between Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia. If we move forward in time to 1999, we find Craig and Vicki Leuthold buying property in the area, followed by the founding of the winery in 2001. And if we move forward to today, well, I’m writing this post about the Maryhill Rosé of Sangiovese 2015, Columbia Valley. The color is a bright salmon-peach hue; aromas of ripe and fleshy strawberries and raspberries are tinged with melon and peach, with hints of tomato skin, cloves and some exotic bloomy white flower. This is fairly robust for a rosé, and it reflects its grape in elements of orange zest, black tea and cranberry, all elevated by riveting acidity and the bass-notes of graphite-flecked earthiness on the finish. I don’t mean to emphasize the wine’s size and substance; this is still a rosé that abounds in freshness and immediate appeal. 12.9 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 with flavorful picnic fare. Excellent. About $16, marking Good Value.

A sample for review.

buried cane
The Buried Cane “Heartwood” Red Wine 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington, is a Rhone Valley style blend of 37 percent syrah grapes, 24 percent grenache, 19 mourvèdre, 13 cinsault, 5 counoise and 2 viognier. What’s gratifying about the wine is that while it offers no finesse — that’s not the point — it’s not rustic or roughshod, either, and in fact it practically pulses with energy and personality. The color is bright medium ruby; the wine is pungent with layered aromas of wild black currants and plums, mint, black olives and cedar and notes of briers, brambles, leather and loam, all presided over by a piquant tone of iodine. On the palate, it’s fairly dense and textured, delivering raspily raspberry-ish flavors highlighted by mulberry and blueberry, buoyed by lip-smacking acidity and smacky tannins, this panoply leading to a dry, dust-flecked, spice-and-graphite-packed finish. 15.1 percent alcohol, which does not come across as over-ripe or charged with heat. Production was 758 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with braised short ribs or veal shanks, grilled leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, you know, that sort of thing. Buried Cane is a label of Middleton Family Wines. Winemaker is Kendall Mix. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Northstar was launched by Ste. Michelle in the early 1990s to exploit the terrain of several Washington state AVAs that seemed amenable for the merlot grape. The first vintage was 1994. Now, the winery produces a range of merlots, some vineyard and northstarAVA-specific, and at least one, today’s Wine of the Day, that carries a more general savor of western Washington. The first winemaker for Northstar was Jed Steele, since replaced by David “Merf” Merfeld. The Northstar Merlot 2011, Columbia Valley, gathered grapes from 13 vineyards in six AVAs — Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley and Red Mountain — and one non-AVA area, Floyd Slope. It’s a blend of 78 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent petit verdot. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter violet rim. This is a sleek, chiseled merlot, notable for its elements of mint, graphite and lavender and its underlying touches of iodine and iron; fruit scents and flavors fall into the blueberry, mulberry, black cherry range. The wine is quite lively, almost turbulent on the palate, deeply spicy in its tasty blue and black fruit flavors, but very architectural in its tannins etched with dust and charcoal, its burnished oak and austere finish packed with granitic minerality and rooty-underbrush qualities. 14.7 percent alcohol. There’s a lot of there here. Drink through 2020 to 2023 with steaks, game, braised meats and hearty pasta dishes. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

The Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard Cuvée Marcel Dupont 2012, Washington state, boasts an Old World label and an Old World attitude in this 100 percent syrah wine that spent 14 months in French and American oak, 30 percent new barrels. There’s a lot of info on this label, but only on the back do we find a hint that the wine originates from Hedges Family Estate. The winery was instrumental in the application of Red Mountain for AVA status, supported by Kiona Vineyards, Blackwood Canyon Vintners, Sandhill Winery, Seth Ryan Winery and Terra Blanca Winery, granted by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in 2001. Red Mountain, not so much a mountain as a steep, long southwest-facing slope of deep gravelly soil, lies within the Yakima Valley AVA, which is part of the sprawling Columbia Valley AVA; with only about 600 acres under cultivation, Red Mountain, known for its distinctively tannic and minerally cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, wines of grain and substance, is the smallest of Washington state’s grape-growing regions. The wine’s name derives from the family names of Anne-Marie Hedges — Liegeois and Dupont — who is from the Champagne region and married Tom Hedges in 1976. The vineyard on Red Mountain is Les Gosses and the cuvée is named for Anne-Marie Hedges’ grandfather, a noted bon vivant (as my grand-children will say about me).

As for the wine, the color is dark ruby-purple with a slightly lighter magenta rim; aromas of dried blackberries, cherries and currants are permeated by notes of leather and loam, oolong tea and some heady rooty elixir; there’s a sense of dried mountain flowers, potpourri and heather, as well as a provocatively ripe, earthy, funky aspect. All of these qualities segue handily onto the palate, where they are buoyed by riveting acidity and profoundly deep, dense and dusty tannins and graphite minerality that assert a kind of Old World rusticity and structure. Nonetheless, there’s nothing rude or plodding about this wine, which, rather, displays a fleet-footed feeling of animation and vigor, as opposed to many New World syrahs that trade on succulence and opulence and high alcohol. 14 percent alcohol. Production was 2,902 cases. Drink through 2018 to ’22 with game birds, grilled leg of lamb, veal chops seared in a cast-iron skillet with garlic and rosemary. Excellent. About $27.

A sample for review.

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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Need I say more? Half-a-dozen very attractive, lively, spicy and savory — some more spicy than savory, some more savory than spicy — white wines designed to quench the thirst, caress and engage the palate, and accompany all sorts of the imaginative cuisine you’re so good at creating — or, you know, a package of fish sticks from the freezer (the only form of seafood we ate when I was a child). Anyway, quick reviews here, meant to tease your interest and whet your taste-buds. All were samples for review. Enjoy!
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Villa Robles Huerhuero Albarino 2013, Paso Robles. 14.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; jasmine and clover, roasted lemons and lemon balm,
cloves and ginger; very dry and crisp with zingy acidity but delivering a pleasing almost talc-like texture; tangerine with a note of peach and pine; juicy, saline, savory, mouth-watering. Now through 2015. Very Good+. About $18, online and tasting-room only.
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Rocca Sveva Castelerino 2012, Soave Superiore Classico, Italy. 13% alc. Very pale gold color; quite fresh and clean; pineapple, mango, lemongrass, almond blossom, lime peel, but with a spareness and savory quality married to slight astringency; lively, spicy, slightly dusty limestone effect. Now through 2015 to ’16. Very Good+. About $20.
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Jean Ginglinger Cuvee George Pinot Blanc 2011, Alsace, France. 12.5% alc. Bright medium gold color; crisp, clean, lean, blade-like but filled with notes of lychee and slightly over-ripe peaches and tangerines and hints of lime peel and little white flowers; chiseled, incisive limestone minerality and scintillating acidity; brings in touches of cloves, flint and loam on the finish. Quite a performance. Now through 2017 to ’18. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
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MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013, Russian River Valley. 14.4% alc. This Gallo label was formerly known as MacMurray Ranch. Pale gold hue; citrus and stone-fruit, spare and lean; cloves, quince and ginger; dry but juicy with a very attractive mouth-feel; bright acidity and limestone/flint minerality; a dry, spicy, slightly austere finish; fine-grained complexity on the palate. Now through 2016. Excellent. About $20.
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Cadaretta SBS 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington. 70% sauvignon blanc, 30% semillon. Very pale gold hue; melon and lime peel, lemongrass and fig, slightly grassy and hay-like, herbal in the thyme sense, musky and dusky; tantalizing hints of lavender and lilac; crisp and lively but silky smooth texture; savory, mouth-filling but limpid with crystalline purity and intensity and a limestone finish. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $23.
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Mar de Frades Albarino 2012, Rias Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. You can’t miss the cobalt-blue bottle. Pale straw-gold color; decisively saline and savory, thrilling vitality; roasted lemon and spiced pear; intensely floral with notes of jasmine, almond blossom and some wild fragrance; very dry, with a citrus tang, clean acidity and heaps of vivid limestone minerality. Now through 2015. Excellent. About $25.
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