Wine of the Week


The wines of the oddly named “The Furst …” label are produced in Kaysersberg — “the king’s city,” population about 2,800, birthplace of Albert Schweitzer — in Alsace. The Cave Vinicole de Kietzenheim-Kaysersberg is a small consortium of growers whose vineyards, usually three to five acres, are nestled in the foothills of the Vosges mountains. Overseen by one vineyard manager and one winemaker, the cooperative produces AOC Alsace wines from the typical grape varieties. The Furst … Pinot Blanc 2012, Vin d’Alsace, offers a pale straw-gold color and enticing aromas of roasted lemon and lemon balm, hay, jasmine, quince and ginger, with limestone and flint in the background. Though there’s a bare hint of sweetness on the palate initially, those dry mineral elements shoot to the fore and dominate the wine back through the lively finish. Nicely balanced citrus and stone-fruit flavors are animated by clean, bright acidity, while a lithe supple texture pleases the tongue. 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2015 as aperitif or with fish and other seafood dishes; fresh oysters would be perfect. Very Good+. I paid $16 in Memphis, Tennessee. Prices elsewhere start at about $12.

Imported by Eagle Eye Brands, Chicago. Image from vivino.com.


LL coated a thick swordfish steak with tapenade and seared it in the cast-iron skillet to medium rare. I pulled the cork on the Condes de Albarei Albariño 2012, Rias Baixas, and we were fit as a fiddle and ready for fun. Rias Baixas is a vineyard area in the province of Galicia, in northwest Spain. The company is a cooperative that gathers grapes from many dedicated member-growers in Val do Salnés, usually considered the region’s best area because of the essential maritime influence, and indeed the wine is a fresh and bracing as a sea-breeze. The color is very pale gold; aromas of roasted lemons and yellow plums are woven with notes of quince and ginger, lime peel and grapefruit. A racy, lacy limestone element and pert acidity keep the wine lively and energetic, with citrus and stone-fruit flavors taking on savory and saline qualities. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2015. Very Good+. About $14, representing Great Value.

Various importers. A sample for review.

Here’s a white wine from Sicily that will serve you well in a variety of functions, whether as aperitif, as a picnic quaff or with meals based on seared or roasted fish and other seafood dishes like shrimp risotto or cod stew. It’s the Stemmari Dalila 2012, Bianco Terre Siciliane, a blend of 80 percent grillo grapes, indigenous to the island that gets kicked by the toe of the Italian boot, and 20 percent viognier, occurring more usually in France’s Rhone Valley. The grillo sees only stainless steel, while the viogner is aged in new French oak barrels. The color of this engaging wine is pale gold with a slight green shimmer; there’s a burst of sea-breeze and salt marsh, bracing and enlivening, with notes of roasted lemons, spiced pears, almond blossom and dried rosemary; under all this lingers a hint of orange rind and pine. For the price — or any price — the tone and presence are lovely and impressive, with attractive poise between crisp acidity and a cloud-like texture and tasty citrus and stone-fruit flavors. A touch of limestone minerality bristles in the finish. Drink through 2015. Director of winemaking for Stemmari is Lucio Matricardi. Very Good+, edging toward Excellent. About $14, representing Great Value.

Prestige Wine Imports, New York. A sample for review. Image from isaacjamesbaker.blogspot.com.

You couldn’t ask for a more appealing quaffer in a white wine than the Bila-Haut 2013, Côtes du Roussillon Blanc, from the stable of Michel Chapoutier. Roussillon, the sunniest spot in France, nestles against the eastern slopes of the Pyrenees, just across from Spain, which nestles against the western flanks. Indeed, the region of Roussillon, ruled by the kings of Majorca and then Aragon centuries ago, shares a heritage that makes it almost more Spanish than French, including a tradition of bull-fighting. This wine is a blend of grenache blanc grapes, grenache gris, vermentino (here called rolle) and macabeo (known in Spain as viura); it offers a very pale gold color and winsome aromas of jasmine and almond blossom, spiced pear and yellow plum with a hint of peach, and notes of ginger, quince and flint. Mildly spicy stone-fruit flavors are highlighted by savory, briny qualities that balance nicely on a stream of pert acidity and a gently lush texture; a strain of limestone minerality plays out through the spare, almost elegant finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine quite happily with seared coho salmon and a mixture of sauteed bok choy and red peppers. Now through 2015. Very Good+. About $13, representing Great Value.

R. Shack Selections, HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Just six weeks ago I made the Flora Springs Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley the Wine of the Week, and, darn it, I can’t help but put the Flora Springs Soliloquy Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Oakville, in the same spot today. The grapes derive from a two-block proprietary vineyard in Napa Valley’s Oakville District AVA, and, in fact, the vineyard receives more prominent display on the label than the grape variety does. Is that device helpful to consumers? Probably not, but it makes for a very elegant and typographically balanced label, one that matches the balance and elegance of the wine. Thoughtful work by winemaker Paul Steinauer puts the wine through seven months in a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks, oak barrels and steel drums, the result being a sauvignon blanc of unusually appealing texture, subtlety and suppleness, as well as being fresh and crisp. The color is very pale gold, almost invisible; aromas of apple peel and lime peel are woven with lemon balm and lemongrass and back-notes of celery seed, hay, fennel and thyme. Brisk acidity energizes what is otherwise a sleek and suave sauvignon blanc that encompasses stone-fruit and citrus flavors enmeshed with hints of cloves, freshly-mown grass and pink grapefruit. The finish engages the palate with a touch of grapefruit bitterness and an unexpected feral tang. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 as a delightful aperitif or with grilled or roasted salmon or swordfish. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Gewurztraminer might not be as off-putting to so many people if its name were changed to Steve or Samantha, but there it is, a grape that can be made into one of the most beautiful wines in the world with a name that is almost unpronounceable. So be it. Gewurztraminer thrives in Alsace, where France nestles uneasily against Germany, and to some extent in the northeastern Italian region of Alto Adige, in the Tyrol Alps just south of Austria. There are outposts in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, and also in the states of Oregon and California, and it’s to the latter that we turn for today’s Wine of the Week, the Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2013, Sonoma Coast. The vineyard lies at a fairly low elevation in the southwestern foothills of the Mayacamas range. Ninety percent of this clean, fresh, crisp wine was made in stainless steel, the rest in neutral oak barrels. The color is very pale gold; aromas of rose petals, lychee and spiced pear are highlighted by notes of white pepper, peach and lime peel, all subtly and delicately woven. Acidity is essential to the success of gewurztraminer — as in any wine, truly — to balance the potentially overpowering floral and fruity elements, and this example has acidity in spades, a factor that contributes to its appealing liveliness and its deft poise. Citrus and stone-fruit meld seamlessly in the mouth, while the spicy, limestone-laced finish brings in a hint of grapefruit pith bitterness, savory, astringent and exciting. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’22 with — I know this is the cliche — moderately spicy Thai or Vietnamese cuisine, with grilled shrimp or mussels, with seafood risotto. Excellent. About $22.50.

A sample for review.


You’ll have to do a little searching for this beauty, My Readers, because the production is limited, but if you’re a fan of rosé wines, this is worth a phone call or visit to the winery website. The MacPhail Family Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast, offers a radiant copper-salmon color and bright aromas of dried red currants and strawberries with a hint of peaches and orange zest. The wine is clean, fresh and dry, but nor austere; an earthy, slightly brambly background encompasses notes of wild berries and cloves, over a dusty limestone element; there’s even a touch of tannic power under the vivid acidity, but this is not one of those serious rosés that neglects its higher purpose: to be delightful and pleasurable and vivacious. 14.5 percent alcohol. 400 cases. James MacPhail founded the winery in 2002; it is now part of Hess Family Estates. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review.

Grilling a piece of fish for dinner? Searing salmon or tuna? Or preparing a seafood risotto or perhaps clam linguine? Open a bottle of the Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2013, and you won’t be sorry. The wine, one of the most familiar Italian wines to American consumers, originates from a small area of the Veneto region, in the northeastern part of the country. While vineyards spread across the plains, the best Soave comes from about 2,800 acres planted on hillsides. Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2012 is composed of 100 percent garganega grapes and was made completely in stainless steel. The color is pale greeny-straw-gold; aromas of almond blossom, hay, spiced pear and yellow plums are woven with notes of acacia, grapefruit and quince, altogether quite enticing. Stone-fruit and citrus flavors highlighted by hints of cloves and lime peel are nestled in a sleek lithe structure that balances brisk acidity and limestone minerality with an almost powdery talc-like texture. The entire package is savory, saline and delicious. Alcohol content is a sensible 12.5 percent. Drink through the end of 2014. Very Good+. About $15, representing Excellent Value.

MW Imports USA, White Plains, N.Y. A sample for review.

Swiss entrepreneur Hans Nef founded Vina Robles in 1996, in northern San Luis Obispo County. Today’s Wine of the Week is the Vina Robles Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Paso Robles. The blend is 76 percent cabernet sauvignon and 24 percent petit verdot, all grapes derived from three estate vineyards; the wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels. Winemaker for Vina Robles is Kevin Willenborg. The color is dark ruby with a magenta tinge; the bouquet is ripe and fleshy, abundant with aromas of spiced and macerated red and black currants and plums touched with lavender and potpourri, walnut-shell and briers, amid a background of iodine and iron. Lots of grip here, a real mouthful of dusty velvety tannins bolstered by graphite minerality and vibrant acidity, yet ripe black fruit flavors are packed with cloves and allspice, notes of roasted fennel and black olives wrapped around a core of bitter chocolate and mocha. The texture is sleek, lithe and supple. Altogether, a cabernet of lovely complexity and nuance for drinking with steaks and grilled leg of lamb, now through 2018 to 2020. And look at the alcohol content, a sensible and flattering 13.3 percent. Excellent. About $24.

A sample for review, as I am required to inform you by the FTC.

Sliding a medium rare leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary from the grill? How about pork chops doused with olive oil and soy sauce and rubbed with cumin and chili powder? You carnivores getting hungry? How about opening a bottle of Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône 2011 to accompany these primal dishes? That would be a good idea. Texier, a nuclear engineer turned winemaker, takes a meticulous approach to his wines, whether estate-grown or made from grapes purchased on long-term contract. His methods in the vineyard are organic, his techniques in the winery traditional and minimal. This wine is a blend of about 80 percent grenache with the remainder portions of the white grapes grenache blanc, clairette and bourboulenc. Texier tends to age his reds in neutral barrels and large old futs. The color is an entrancing medium ruby hue with a tinge of violet; aromas of lightly spiced and macerated raspberries and red and black currants are woven with elements of briers and brambles and dusty graphite; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of plums, leather and lavender. This is a dry wine, a bit raspy with slightly knotty tannins, but eminently drinkable and tasty with red and black fruit flavors, all bolstered by clean, bright acidity and an underlying granitic mineral quality. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About $15.

Imported by Louis/Dressner, New York. A sample for review. Label image from hogsheadwine.

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