Wine of the Week


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.

Sometimes you encounter a wine that gets everything right, in terms of impression, quality and price. Such a wine is the Flora Springs Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley. The winery was founded in 1978 on the site of an abandoned 19th Century “ghost winery” by Jerry and Flora Komes, though the real work of establishing the facility and vineyards went to their children John Komes and his wife Carrie and Julie Garvey and her husband Pat Garvey; now the third generation is poised to take command. Winemaker is Paul Steinauer. The Flora Springs Chardonnay 2012 aged in a thoughtful regimen of 34 percent French oak barrels, 33 percent larger oak “ovals” and 33 percent stainless steel. The color is pale straw-gold; the wine is fresh and clean, floral in the jasmine-honeysuckle range with notes of cloves; classic pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors are full-blown yet not over-ripe; everything is poised in a model of balance and elegance. A supple and moderately lush texture envelopes slightly candied citrus flavors — add a tinge of quince and ginger — with deeper layers of limestone and flint minerality and crystalline acidity; the finish brings in a note of earthiness. This is winemaking at its most shimmering and jewel-like, the result a chardonnay of exquisite purity and intensity. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 or ’17 with grilled or sauteed salmon or swordfish, with grilled shrimp, with tuna salad. Excellent. About $20, representing Terrific Value.

A sample for review.

Domaine de la Bastide occupies the sort of compound and possesses the kind of history that make American Francophiles swoon. Built as a fortified farmhouse by the Knights Templar in the 12th or 13th Century, it became, after the suppression of the Templars by Philip IV in 1307, first a Benedictine and then a Dominican monastery. Defrocked, as it were, during the French Revolution, the ancient property passed through various hands, until it came under ownership of the Boyer family. The estate, lying in the heart of the Southern Rhone Valley about 34 miles north of Avignon, is run today by Vincent and Stephanie Boyer. This domaine is not properly a bastide. Those “new towns” were built in southwestern France in the 13th and 14th centuries to help repopulate the area after the devastation of the Albigensian Crusade (or the Slaughter of the Cathars, if you believe that the gentle sect should have been left in peace). If you visit Bordeaux, for example, the landscape, especially in Entre-Deux-Mers, is filled with these medieval market towns, laid out in a distinctive grid, their commercial squares surrounded by arcades.

Anyway, the Domaine de la Bastide “Figue” 2013, Côtes du Rhône Rosé, is an interesting example of the genre because it’s made from white grapes: viognier, grenache blanc and clairette. (The wine’s nickname derives from the many old fig trees on the property.) The ethereal pale onion skin hue is the result of skin contact, even though the skins of white grapes contain very little pigment. The wine is a congeries of delicate nuance, tissues of hints and nods: A scent of slightly overblown Summer roses precedes subtle notes of green apple, red currants, faint peach and a touch of melon; a few moments in the glass bring out a wisp of dried thyme. This fresh and refined rose offers a surprisingly lush and vibrant texture buoyed by pert acidity and a scintillating limestone element; lilac comes into the mix, a touch of talc, a tinge of sour melon and lemon drop. In a sense, one could call this a white wine gently disguised as rosé. 13 percent alcohol. A lovely wine for drinking through 2014. Very Good+ and a Bargain at about $14.

Bonhomie Wine Imports, South Orange, N.J. A sample for review.

CVNE — Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana — was founded in Rioja in 1879 by brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asúa and is still family-owned and operated by the brothers’ direct descendants, Victor and Maria Urrutia. Today’s entry in the Wine of the Week series is the company’s Monopole 2013, Rioja Blanco, made from 100 percent viura grapes. The color is very pale straw-gold, as I imagine Rapunzel’s hair, and the bouquet offers tempting notes of lemons and yellow plums, lime peel and grapefruit, bay leaf and sage. The whole package is savory and saline, crisp, lively and spicy. The wine is quite dry, packed with limestone and seashell elements, delivers tremendous body and presence for the price — hell, for any price — and wraps its virtues in a texture of almost talc-like vibrancy; lovely balance all around. 13 percent alcohol. This will be perfect during the Summer with grilled shrimp, mussels, deviled eggs, paella, watercress sandwiches, you name it. I’ll call it Very Good+ edging close to Excellent. About $15, a Bargain of the Ages.

Imported by Europvin USA, Van Nuys, Calif. A sample for review.

Last night we made the classic Sicilian dish of spaghetti with sardines, raisins, pine nuts and fennel, and behold it was a good thing that we did, and we drank almost the whole bottle of the pert and tart Aia Vecchio Vermentino 2013, Toscana. The color is pale pale gold, a ghost of gold. Made all in stainless steel tanks (and with five percent viognier grapes), the wine is crisp and refreshing, savory and saline, bursting with notes of roasted lemon, ginger and quince and hints of peach and yellow plum. Very dry almost does not describe how dry this vermentino is; it’s packed with limestone, flint and seashell elements, and the whole package is sleek, lithe and supple, buoyed by crystalline acidity and a touch of grapefruit bitterness on the finish. It was perfect with the sardine pasta and would be great with all sorts of Summer fare, grilled shrimp, say, or chicken salad. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2015. Very Good+. About — gasp! — $12, a Freaking Bargain.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

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