Western Australia


If someone were making a list of the 100 best winemakers in the world — no, I’m not going to attempt that feat, thank you very much cherubino— I hope that the name Larry Cherubino would be on the roster. Working in the Margaret River appellation of the Western Australia region, this “little cherub” produces impeccably well-made and balanced wines no matter the grape or style or vintage, consistently bringing out the character of the vine, the vineyard and the vintage year after year. Though he owns a range of labels that offer wines at various prices, today I’ll look at three cabernet sauvignon wines under his Cherubino label, which he reserves for the highest expression and prices of his endeavors. You’ll notice that this winemaker does not shy away from a cabernet character that most winemakers in California seem to abhor, and that’s the hint of black olive, bell pepper and cedar that seems inherent in the grape. Such elements lend the wines lovely and authentic complexity and detail. While drinkable now, especially with roasted or grilled red meat, these Cherubino wines can age for up to 10 years from the present. For collectors of the world’s great cabernet wines, these are well-worth searching for.

Samples for review.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River, offers an intense dark ruby color and penetrating aromas of black olive and bell pepper, spiced and macerated and then slightly roasted and caramelized black currants and raspberries; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of graphite, a glint of celery seed, tinges of sandalwood, sage and lavender. There’s real depth and dimension in this dusty, lithic, rigorous red wine whose dense and squinchy tannins and bright acidity command attention and demand two or three years in the cellar. A gradual unfolding reveals a core of ripe black fruit flavors wrapped around lavender, bitter chocolate and granitic minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. Try 2016 or ’17 through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $54.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Cherubino Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River, displays a vibrant dark ruby hue and then opens out with all the generosity that dusty graphite, roasted fennel, black licorice and intense and concentrated black fruit scents and flavors can deliver. This is the exotic outlier of this trio, sporting hints of stewed fruit, burning leaves, sassafras, sandalwood and cloves; the texture is sleek, supple and lithe, making for a muscular yet elegant black panther of a cabernet; there’s plenty of structure, especially from mid-palate back through the graphite-packed finish, but the wine is beautifully balanced and integrated even while it smolders in the glass like an ember. 13.8 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $54.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Looking at the longest potential time in the cellar, the Cherubino Cowarawup Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River, blooms with an intense dark ruby-purple color and blossoms into black olive and bell pepper, cedar and rosemary, ripe and spicy black currants and cherries, with hints of dusty graphite, Nekko wafer and violets. This rich, ripe, warm and spicy panoply of sensual delights doesn’t preclude a cabernet of growing rigor and austerity, at least on the finish; yes, the texture is dense and velvety, the flavors sweetly ripe and luscious, but the acid and mineral qualities burgeon relentlessly, providing animation and vibrancy as well as bastions of structural character. 13.8 percent alcohol. Try from 2016 or ’17 through 2024 to ’26. Excellent. About $54.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ripped with white hot heat from the pages of my notebooks are these reviews of 10 pinot noir wines, primarily originating in California but including examples from Western Australia and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I avoid technical, historical or geographical data in these reviews for the sake of brevity and immediacy, hoping to pique your interest and whet your palate. With one exception, duly mentioned, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ad Lib Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir 2014, Pemberton, Western Australia. 14% alc. Medium ruby color shading to transparent magenta; pomegranate and cranberry, touch of sour cherry; sassafras and cloves; an intense core of lavender and violets; warm, spicy, satiny. Incredibly charming yet with pleasing heft and substance. Very Good+. About $17, marking Real Value.
Imported by Middleton Family Wines, Shandon, Calif.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Argyle Spirithouse Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13.5% alc. 850 cases. Lovely medium ruby-cerise color; enticing aromas of red cherries and currants, rose petals and lavender, cloves and sassafras, a hint of loam; more serious on the palate, very supple and satiny texture, deftly threads a fine line of acidity and flinty minerality, but you feel some austerity from mid-palate back through the finish, in which the oak makes itself known. Try from 2016 through 2019 or 2020. Very Good+ with Excellent potential. About $75.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley. 14.3% alc. This well-known producer, famous for its sparkling wines, was recently acquired by E&J Gallo. Translucent medium ruby hue; red and black cherries, cranberries; notes of cloves and sandalwood, mocha, tar and loam; nothing plush or opulent here, rather spare and reticent but with lively acidity and a lovely satiny drape on the palate and slightly exotic red and black fruit flavors. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $40.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
VML Wines Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley. 14.7% alc. VML is Virginia Marie Lambrix, owner and winemaker. Dark ruby-magenta hue; cranberry and pomegranate, hints of blueberry tart, cloves and cinnamon, notes of violets and rose petals; a little fleshy and meaty; quite lively and dynamic; sweet red cherries, rhubarb; loam and slightly dusty tannins; a finish of spice, sour cherry and graphite. Pinot noir as force of nature, exotic but true. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $32.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Paul Dolan Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Potter Valley, Mendocino County. 13.5% alc. Radiant and intense medium ruby color; black and red cherries and currants, touch of plum; cloves and sassafras, violets and potpourri, loam, briers and a top-note of tart cranberry; ripe and a little fleshy; quite dry, and it develops a surprising amount of tannin, becomes rather austere on the finish, with oak taking a dominant role. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $30.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Les Cousins Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13% alc. The second label of Beaux Freres Vineyard. Transparent medium ruby-garnet; macerated red currants and cherries permeated by notes of tobacco and cloves, apple peel, with undertones of cinnamon and sandalwood; supple and very satiny in the mouth, balancing the dry/juicy dichotomy with ripe and slightly roasted red fruit and clean acidity; a dry spicy finish and fillips of moss and loam. A pinot of lovely dimension and detail. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $30, a local purchase.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Reata Three County Pinot Noir 2013, Monterey 53 percent, Sonoma 31 percent, San Benito 16 percent. 14.3% alc. Bright cherry-magenta hue; black and red cherries, pert cranberry and spicy pomegranate, cloves and sassafras; briery and brambly earthiness; a woodsy pinot noir, with notes of allspice and sandalwood, moss and dried porcini; some graphite and mildly dusty tannins; lithe and slightly sinewy texture, quite dry. Now through 2018 to 2020. Very Good+. About $35.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
McIntyre Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 14.5% alc. 368 cases. Absolutely entrancing mulberry-magenta color, limpid and transparent; every element that I adore about pinot noir but both generous and intense; ripe black cherries, currants and plums, violets and lavender, notes of cloves and sassafras; a touch of graphite and hints of leather and woodsy aromas; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of tobacco and leaf smoke; a layer of briers and brambles underlies spicy and succulent black and red fruit flavors ensconced in a lithe and supple texture through which bright acidity cuts a swath; a sleek and elegant pinot but with a feral edge. Now through 2018 to 2020. Exceptional. About $42.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dolin Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Sta Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County. 14.3% alc. 485 cases. Transparent medium ruby color; smoke, cinnamon toast, rhubarb and sassafras, red currants and cranberries; underbrush and loam, vital and vibrant acidity, juicy with red and black fruit flavors yet spare, a bit chiseled; gradually unfolds notes of cloves and sandalwood, leather and slightly creamy oak, and you feel the oak influence etched along the circumference; lovely and dynamic presence and heft yet with a beguiling ephemeral quality, a bit elusive and tantalizing. Now through 2017 to ’19. Excellent. About $ .
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Kukeri Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 13.9% alc. 61 cases produced. Limpid medium ruby color; sandalwood, violets and cloves, macerated red currants and cherries with a hint of strawberries and some dried fruit in the background, notes of mint and tobacco leaf; sleek, subtle and satiny, quite dry; a few moments in the glass bring up touches of pomegranate and rhubarb, loam and old leather; an autumnal, woodsy feeling as the oak comes up through the finish. Not quite Excellent, because the oak in some measure mutes the wine’s sensual aspects; otherwise it’s quite beguiling, so, Very Good+, with final judgment withheld. About $42.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“50 Great Wines of [The Year]” is a post I look forward to, even though its production is fraught with anxiety. “Fraught with anxiety!” you exclaim. “FK, you get to taste and write about terrific wines all year long! This task should be easy!” Look, my apostrophe-addicted friend, I started with a list of 76 potentially great wines and had to eliminate 26 of them. It was painful; it hurt my brain and my spirit. Even now, going back over this post just before I click the PUBLISH button, I am wracked by indecision and regret. On the other hand, life is about choices, n’est-ce pas, and we all have to knuckle down and make those choices, difficult as the job may be.

I reviewed 624 wines in 2013, compared to, for some reason, 642 in 2012, though I suppose 18 wines is not statistically significant in that range. Or perhaps it is; I’m not a statistician. Out of 642 wines in 2012, I rated 18 wines Exceptional. In 2013, out of 624 wines, I rated 28 as Exceptional. Did I taste that many better wines in 2013, or am I getting soft as I near my 30th anniversary as a wine writer? How did I choose, for “50 Great Wines of 2013,” the 22 examples to add to the 28 rated Exceptional? By reading again every review I wrote over the past year, by weighing the description and the language, by revisiting my memory of the wine, by looking for wines that possessed that indescribable quality of charisma, that combination of personality and character that distinguish a great wine. I could expand this post to 60 or 70 or 75 wines, but I’ll leave it as is. Suffice to say that these “50 Great Wines of 2013” could include others, but for now, I’m sticking with these.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Artesa Vineyards & Winery Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Vineyard Auxerrois 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $25.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amapola Creek Jos. Belli Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 400 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Archery Summit Vireton Pinot Gris 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $24.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Belle-Pente Winery Belle-Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 785 cases. Excellent. About $35.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Black Kite Cellars Rivers Turn Pinot Noir 2010, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $52.

Image from princeofpinot.com.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Boekenoogen Chardonnay 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $35.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brooks “Ara” Riesling 2010, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $25.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Calera Wine Company Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Mount Harlan, San Benito County. 398 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Capitain-Gagnerot Bourgogne “Les Gueulottes” 2009, Hautes Côtes de Beaune. 100 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $27.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Catena Zapata Adrianna Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $120.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colgin “IX Estate” Red Wine 2009, Napa Valley. Cabernet sauvignon 69 percent, merlot 15 percent, cabernet franc 10 percent, petit verdot 6 percent. 1,200 cases. Exceptional. About $450.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $80.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Champagne David Léclapart L’Alchimiste Estate Premier Cru Extra Brut Rosé (non-vintage), Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $175.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine de Bernardins 2009, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Excellent. About $25 for a 375-milliliter half-bottle.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine Carneros Étoile Téte de Cuvée 2003. Exceptional. About $100.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Exceptional. About $65.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domus Aurea 2009, Upper Maipo Valley, Chile. Cabernet sauvignon 85 percent, merlot 7 percent, cabernet franc 5 percent, petit verdot 2 percent. Exceptional. About $60.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Drouhin Vaudon Montmains Premier Cru 2910, Chablis, France. 200 cases imported. Exceptional. About $39.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dunstan Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast. 391 cases. Exceptional. About $40.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dunstan Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast. 291 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dunstan Durell Vineyard Rosé Wine 2012, Sonoma Coast. 100 percent pinot noir. 95 cases. Excellent. About $25.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Elyse Naggiar Vineyard L’Ingénue 2011, Sierra Foothills. Roussanne 52 percent, marsanne 32 percent, viognier 11 percent, grenache blanc 5 percent. 416 cases. Excellent. About $28.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Champagne Franck Pascal Tolérance Rosé Brut (nonvintage), Champagne, France. Pinot meunier 58 percent, pinot noir 39 percent, chardonnay 3 percent. Excellent. About $55 to $65.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Frankland Estate Netley Road Vineyard Riesling 2012, Frankland River, Western Australia. Exceptional. About $28.50.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $60.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $42.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Halter Ranch Block 22 Syrah 2011, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. With 13 percent grenache and 11 percent tannat. 175 cases. Excellent. About $36.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Inman Family OGV Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 308 cases. Exceptional. About $68.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J Late Disgorged Vintage Brut 2003, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Pinot noir 49 percent, chardonnay 49 percent, pinot meunier 2 percent. 500 cases. exceptional. About $90.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. Exceptional. About $66.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

La Rochelle Donum Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Carneros. 259 six-pack cases. Excellent. About $75.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

La Rochelle McIntyre Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 112 cases. Rose of the Year. Excellent. About $24.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

L’Aventure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 425 cases. Exceptional. About $85 (winery only).
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington. Excellent. About $60.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Morgan Winery Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 375 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 95 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nickel & Nickel Darien Vineyard Syrah 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $53.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Penner-Ash Riesling 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Exceptional. About $23.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $85.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ramey Wine Cellars Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $60.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ramey Wine Cellars Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley, Carneros. Exceptional. About $60.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rombauer Zinfandel 2010, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $34.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Renaissance Vineyards and Winery Granite Crown 2005, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills. Syrah 60 percent, cabernet sauvignon 30 percent, merlot 7 percent, cabernet franc 2 percent, petit verdot 1 percent. 74 cases. Excellent. About $40.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Robert Turner Cabernet Franc 2010, Napa Valley. 50 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shirvington Shiraz 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia. Excellent. About $70.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 463 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $27.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Steven Kent Winery Ghielmetti Vineyard “Small-Lot” Cabernet Franc 2010, Livermore Valley, Alameda County. 48 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tablas Creek Vin de Paille “Quinressence” 2010, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 100 percent roussanne dessert wine. 100 cases. Exceptional. About $85 for a 375-milliliter half-bottle.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Frankland Estate was established in 1988 in Western Australia by Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam, who are now assisted by their daughter Elizabeth Smith and son Hunter Smith and a small team of workers. The aim is to produce wines that reflect location, soil and vineyard environment rather than the technical prowess of a winemaker. The winery makes admirable chardonnay and shiraz-based wines, but the rieslings, reviewed here in their versions of 2012, are particularly compelling for their purity, concentration and intensity as well as their immense pleasurable qualities. The wines have been certified organic since 2010. The wines of Frankland Estate are imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. Tasted at a trade event in Chicago on May 15, 2013. Three of the label illustrations are one vintage behind.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Frankland Estate’s entry-level riesling among new releases is the Rocky Gully Riesling 2012, a wine lovely in its varietal purity and intensity, in its scintillating limestone minerality, its hints of lemon, lime peel and yellow plum, jasmine and lychee; keen acidity flings a bright arrow from a taut bow-string (not to get carried away by metaphor, you know), while the limestone and flint elements are drawn out finely through the finish. Complicated? Multi-layered? No. Authentic and thoroughly enjoyable? Absolutely. 11 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Very Good+. About $21.
________________________________________________________________________________________________
Next up the scale in price and a different sort of wine is the Frankland Estate Smith Cullum Off Dry Riesling 2012, fermented with wild yeast in 1,000-liter French oak barrels, a bit more than four times the size of a standard barrique. The balance here is exquisite, and the wine displays tremendous energy and liveliness, great tension and litheness; it’s the sort of wine you don’t want to stop sipping because it feels so good. Delicious, too, with touches of lime peel, grapefruit and lychee, hints of rubber eraser, ripe peach and lilac; nor does it neglect the necessary crisp acidity and chiseled limestone minerality, though fruit is the raison d’etre. 10.3 percent alcohol. Now through 2017 to ’20. Excellent. About $26.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
Made from vines planted in 1966, the Frankland Estate Netley Road Riesling 2012 sees only stainless steel in its production, and one understands the motivation; why not give the 46-year-old vines and their grapes the chance to express themselves in the least manipulated manner? The wine is very clean, very bright and engaging, filled with vibrancy and animation yet surprisingly delicate and elegant. Notes of roasted lemon and lemon balm are buoyed by hints of cloves, quince and ginger and a backwash of lychee and oyster-shell; that mineral element carries through to the finish on a tide of limestone and flint and bracing salinity. Lots of power here yet beautifully elusive and ephemeral. 12 percent alcohol. Best from 2014 through 2020 or ’22. Exceptional. About $28.50.
________________________________________________________________________________________________
The Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling 2012, made completely in stainless steel, brings fruit and mineral elements into perfect balance, which is to say that it’s the most fruit-forward of this group of rieslings yet it steadfastly maintains its foundation in a rigorous structure of brisk acidity and mineral elements that feel crystalline. The wine is vibrant and vividly dynamic, almost glinting with limestone and shale qualities, and it’s quite dry, though the texture feels soft and ripe on the palate, and flavors of roasted lemon, pear, lychee and peach are downright tasty. 12 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $28.50.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

The flagship here is the Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2012, made partly in stainless steel, partly in neutral oak barrels, that is, barrels previously used to the point that the wood influence is subtle if not subliminal, which is certainly the case with this wine. This is a lovely riesling, offering wonderful appeal, resonance and elan, yet its primary state for now and perhaps the next six to eight years is of a scrupulous and definitive structure of lithe and austere limestone minerality and whiplash acidity. 11 percent alcohol. Try from 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’24. Excellent. About $35.
________________________________________________________________________________________________