Wine of the Week

Italian families like Parducci, Pedroncelli and Sebastiani added immeasurably to the development of the California wine industry, particularly in Sonoma County. (And of course Mondavi in Napa Valley.) Today’s Wine of the Week comes from Pedroncelli, family-owned since 1927; ; winemaker is John Pedroncelli. Over the course of its existence, the winery has been noted for red wines, of which the Pedroncelli “Mother Clone” Zinfandel 2011, Dry Creek Valley, is a delicious example. “Mother Clone” refers to the winery’s home vineyard, replanted in the 1970s using original budwood and featuring grapes from some of the vines remaining from 1904. The wine spent a year aging in American oak barrels and includes 10 percent petite sirah grapes. The color is dark ruby with a mulberry tinge at the rim. The bouquet is exactly as racy, as briery, brambly and peppery as you want from a well-proportioned zinfandel that includes notes of wild blueberries, black currants and plums; the wine is gently but persuasively framed by oak and slightly chewy tannins and enlivened by brisk acidity and clean graphite minerality, all going to support tasty, spicy blackberry and black currant flavors touched by hints of lavender and licorice. 14.8 percent alcohol. We drank this wine with a hearty pizza; it would also be appropriate with roasted or braised meat dishes, pork chops with a Southwestern rub or burgers and steaks. Now through 2015 or ’16. Very Good+. About $17, representing Excellent Value.

A sample for review.

The Artesa Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros, hails from a winery founded in the late 1980s by the Raventos family, owners of the giant Codorniu sparkling wine producer in Spain. Originally, the winery turned out a range of sparkling wines, but by the late 1990s, the intention shifted to still wine, particularly chardonnay and pinot noir, yes, natural components in sparkling wine and Champagne, as well as cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The winery’s name was changed to Artesa — “handmade,” as in artisan; it has not abandoned bubbles entirely, offering a Codorniu Napa Grand Reserve sparkling wine. Director of winemaking at Artesa is Mark Beringer, whose pedigree includes being the great great grandson of Jacob Beringer, a founder of the venerable winery that bears his name, and a long, successful stint as winemaker at Duckhorn. The Artesa Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros, aged nine months in French oak barrels, 30 percent of which were new, and that seems just right to me. The color is brilliant ruby-magenta, neither too dark nor too light. Enticing aromas of cloves, cinnamon and sassafras, spiced and macerated black cherries and plums, and notes of leather, loam and graphite waft from the glass. The texture is both sinewy and satiny, with brisk acidity cutting a swath on the palate, highlighting ripe and slightly exotic-tasting black cherry, mulberry and plum flavors; oak offers a rounded, buffed shape to the wine, while staying discreetly in the background. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review. Image from

Perhaps you seared a fillet of salmon or tuna crusted with pepper for a simple dinner, served (again perhaps) with rice, a green vegetable and lemon wedges for squeezing over all. Here’s a terrific inexpensive accompaniment, the Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc 2012, Sonoma County. David Stare founded the winery in 1972, a few years after Robert Mondavi created the name Fumé Blanc, modeled on the Loire Valley’s Pouilly-Fumé region where the sauvignon blanc grape reigns supreme. Sauvignon blanc wasn’t selling as a varietal wine in the United States, and Mondavi thought that “fumé blanc” might entice consumers to try it. He was right. One finds both names in California, with some producers, including Dry Creek Vineyard, making a fumé blanc and a varietally-labeled sauvignon blanc. There was a tendency, in those days, to make a fumé blanc wine — “smoky white” — in a supposed Loire Valley style, while sauvignon blanc wines were made in a supposed white Bordeaux fashion, often with some semillon blended in and a bit of oak-aging; those modes even extended to the bottle shape, but such distinctions disappeared years ago. Anyway, the Dry Creek Valley Fumé Blanc 2012, made all in stainless steel, offers a pale straw-gold color and fresh clean aromas of lemongrass and celery seed, lime peel and grapefruit pith, with notes of green pea and thyme and hints of lilac and lavender. Pretty attractive stuff. Lemon and grapefruit flavors are highlighted by touches of mown grass, caraway and limestone in a bright thread that travels down a line of vibrant acidity. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2014. Very Good+. About $14, representing Great Value.

A sample for review.

You know how the synergy thing goes: great food, the wine that turns out to be perfect…Bingo! Such a moment occurred last Saturday on Pizza-and-Movie Night, as with a terrific guanciale-green olive-basil-and-radicchio pizza I opened a bottle of the Teunta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi Ripasso 2010, Valpolicella Superiore, from the Veneto region in northeast Italy. “Monti Garbi” is the Castagnedi family’s estate vineyard. The wine is composed of 70 percent corvina and corvione grapes, 20 percent rodinella and 10 percent croatina and oseleta, all traditional grapes of the Valpolicella area. “Ripasso” refers to the technique of refermenting the young wine on the pomace of the previous year’s more full-bodied and typically higher alcohol Amarone. Aging — usually 15 or 16 months for this wine — is accomplished in 500-liter tonneaux barrels, about twice the size of the standard French barrique; 30 percent of the barrels are new. What’s the result? A robust red wine of medium ruby color and a seductive bouquet of dried spice, dried flowers and dried black and red fruit, with notes of pomegranate and plums; try to imagine a pomander with potpourri, your grandmother’s spice box, macerated black and red cherries and a dose of smoky oolong tea and you get some idea of what I mean. Matters turn a bit more serious, mouth-wise, as the wine exercises its dry, slightly chewy tannins, its swingeing acidity — which contributes liveliness, buoyancy and freshness — and its graphite-tinged minerality, none of which detract from juicy ripe dark cherry and plum flavors (with a hint of sour cherry and orange rind) and rollicking spice. 14 percent alcohol. This was great with the pizza and would also be a treat with hearty pasta dishes and grilled or braised meat or a lunch of salami, olives and dry cheeses. Now through 2017 to 2020. Very Good+. About $19.

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

When I first started trying a lot of wines in the early 1980s, among the most impressive were zinfandels and petite sirah wines from Fetzer Vineyards, launched when Barney Fetzer, who bought acreage in Mendocino County, released a zinfandel and a cabernet sauvignon from the 1968 vintage. Fetzer expanded hugely over the years and was in the forefront of several movements, for example, organic farming on the one hand, white zinfandel on the other. The family sold the winery and its brands to Brown-Forman in 1992; that company sold Fetzer and related labels to Vina Concha y Toro, the large Chilean producer, in 2011 for a reported $238 million. The wine under consideration today is the Five Rivers Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Barbara County; Five Rivers is a Fetzer brand that was created in the early 2000s. I will say right here that the Five Rivers Pinot Noir 2012 is one of those wines that performs above its station in life. The color is dark ruby with a magenta rim; enticing aromas of black cherries and plums, pomegranate and cola are woven with hints of cranberry and sassafras and traces of smoke, leather and loam. The texture is lovely, lithe and supple and handily supports real presence and personality; vivid black and red fruit flavors are highlighted by touches of cloves and cinnamon, lively acidity and a moderate element of graphite minerality. It’s true that this wine falls a tad short in the finish, but in every other respect it’s worthy of My Readers’ attention. You could sell the hell out of this wine in restaurant by-the-glass programs. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015. Very Good+. About $15, representing Great Value.

A sample for review.

Let’s keep it sparkling, shall we? For today’s post in the “Wine of the Week” category, let’s sashay off to Alsace, in northeastern France, where the sparkling wines termed Crémant d’Alsace, made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle, tend to be lively, tasty and fairly inexpensive. Such a one is the Clément Klur Brut, nv, Crémant d’Alsace, a blend of pinot blanc and pinot auxerrois grapes. The color is pale but radiant gold, and a steady stream of fine bubbles rises from the bottom of the glass. Notes of apples and pears are highlighted by hints of roasted lemon and lemon balm, with a touch of lime peel for emphasis; a shivery limestone element and chiming acidity lent this sparkling wine vibrancy and resonance, while a touch of chalk grounds it in the earth. Citrus flavors are permeated by ginger and quince, the wine is taut yet juicy and altogether nicely balanced and integrated. 12 percent alcohol. The Clement Klur estate has been completely organic since 1999. The strikingly graphic label is an anomaly in Alsace, where bottle art tends to be conservative and traditional. Very Good+. About $19.

Imported by A.I. Selections, New York. A sample for review.

Chardonnay gets all the glory, but if I had my druthers, sauvignon blanc would get the love, especially sauvignon blanc wines made in the vast curve where the Loire River makes a left-turn from the south and starts its long westward journey to the Atlantic. In that geography lie the regions of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and several lesser known areas where sauvignon blanc is the dominate grape. Today’s featured wine is the Chateau de Sancerre 2011, and while the 2012 rendition is presently on the market, the 2011 is drinking beautifully now, and it looks online as if plenty is available. Chateau de Sancerre is owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle family, perhaps more widely recognized for their proprietorship of the ubiquitous liqueur Grand Marnier and the Lapostolle winery in Chile, but this estate in Sancerre, which they have owned since 1919, is something of a jewel. Made in stainless steel, Chateau de Sancerre 2011 offers a medium gold color and penetrating aromas of chalk, limestone and earth, with herbal notes of meadow and lemongrass and elements of roasted lemon, ginger and quince; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of jasmine and camellia. The wine is taut with bracing and cleansing acidity, and it resonates with scintillating limestone minerality, but not at the expense of deeply spicy lemon and grapefruit flavors with undercurrents of spiced stone-fruit. The finish builds to a kind of mushroom-like earthiness and a fresh clean mineral character. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. Prices around the country range from about $20 to $26.

Terlato Wines International. A sample for review.

It took the insight of Argentine winemaker Nicolas Catena to understand that chardonnay vineyards could be planted at high altitudes and produce excellent grapes. From the Andean areas of Lujan de Cuyo and Tupungato, grape-growing regions of Mendoza, and family vineyards at heights ranging from about 3,100 to 4,700 feet, comes the Catena High Mountain Vines Chardonnay 2012, from Bodega Catena Zapata, a wine that spent 10 months in French oak barrels, 35 percent of which were new. The color is radiant medium gold. Aromas of ripe pineapple and grapefruit, with a hint of peach and mango, are wreathed with cloves, lime peel, wet stones and a touch of buttered toast; a few moments in the glass bring out notes of jasmine and lilac. This chardonnay is distinguished by its deeply spicy nature and a lovely, seductive texture that perfectly balances the muscle and bone of limestone minerality and bright acidity with an almost cloud-like, talc-y softness. The wine picks up sinew as it goes, with a close to tannic effect, and builds to a conclusion of tremendous presence, tone and character. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 or ’16. Winemaker was Alejandro Vigil. Excellent. About $20, a Bargain to Shiver Your Timbers.

Imported by Winebow, Inc., New York. A sample for review.

The Ricardo Santos Semillon is consistently one of my favorite white wines and one of the world’s great wine bargains. Made from 70-year-old vines, the wine delivers wonderful character for the price, actually performing far above its scale, and without the benefit (or detriment) of oak aging. Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2013, Mendoza, Argentina, offers a medium gold color and beguiling aromas of fig, roasted lemon and greengage plum with hints of fennel, cloves and a touch of dusty talc. A lovely supple texture and fleet acidity support lemon and grapefruit flavors highlighted with notes of bay leaf and dried thyme, a sunny leafy element with a hint of grass and a background of wet stones. The whole package is savory and saline, deeply spicy, bright, lively and delicious. 14 percent alcohol. Production was 850 cases, so call around and order a case. Drink now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $16.

Imported by Global Vineyards, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

Because the Wine of the Week is a couple of days late, here’s a twofer, a red and a white. These wines were samples for review.

The white is the Jekel Vineyards Riesling 2012, Monterey, a medium gold-colored wine that exudes winsome notes of golden apples, grapefruit and lime peel with touches of mango, lychee and candied orange rind; there’s just enough mineral action going on, in the form of a scintillating limestone element, and bright acidity, to keep it on the straight-and-narrow path. Faintly sweet on entry, with spiced peach and grapefruit flavors, the wine turns bone-dry through the finish. 13 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Charlie Gilmore. Drink now through 2014. Quite charming. Very Good+. About $16.

For the bonus wine, we’ll go with the Noble Vines 1 Red Blend 2011, carrying a California designation. This well-made amalgam of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel is a product of DFV Wines, that is to say, the umbrella of the Indelicato family for a wide range of labels. Their legacy in Monterey goes back to 1924 and vines planted by Italian immigrant Gaspare Indelicato. The color is medium ruby with a magenta tinge; scents of black raspberries, black currants and plums include notes of graphite, lavender and blueberry tart. Tasty and spicy black and blue fruit flavors are ably supported by moderately dusty, chewy tannins, a clean mineral element and bright acidity. Lots of verve and personality. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015. Very Good+. About $15.

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