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.

The property known as Chateau Teyssier, in Bordeaux’s Saint Emilion region, dates back to 1714, though until the middle of the 19th Century it was tended as a traditional farm rather than vineyards. The estate, with a somewhat tarnished reputation for its wines and practices, was purchased in 1994 by Englishman Jonathan Maltus, who earned a reputation on Bordeaux’s Right Bank as a maverick, buying and expanding properties, creating estates where none had existed and Teyssier-Chateau-300x234generally improving methods in the vineyards and wineries. The refurbished and dignified little chateau (pictured here) stands in the midst of 6.23 hectares of vines — almost 17 acres — planted between 1965 and 1980.

The year 2012, with its small, late harvest, was a challenging vintage in Bordeaux, with Autumn rains making it difficult to bring in fully ripe cabernet sauvignon. The early ripening merlot fared better in spots. As with every year, in every wine region, thoughtfulness, thoroughness and care in the vineyard produced the best wines.

The Chateau Teyssier 2012, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, is a blend of 85 percent merlot and 15 teyssier percent cabernet franc. It aged in French barriques — well, of course — 1/3 new oak barrels. The color is dark ruby with a faint magenta rim; lovely aromas of cassis, cloves, violets and lavender, with undertones of tobacco, dried rosemary, walnut shell and plums, characterize an irresistible bouquet. This is a sleek, supple, fairly lithe merlot that flows across the palate in a silky display of tasty black fruit flavors that doesn’t conceal the foundation of slightly dusty tannins and chiseled graphite minerality, all enlivened by bright acidity. 12 percent alcohol. This won’t make old bones, as the British say, but drink now through 2020 to ’22 with steaks, prime rib, grilled veal chops. Excellent. About $25 to $28.

Imported by Twins America. Tasted at a wholesaler trade event.

The Zaca Mesa Viognier 2014, Santa Ynez Valley, contains 2.5 percent grenache blanc; it aged six Viognier 14 Front - 05-36337 COR viognier 14US 750Z_TTB_f months in neutral oak barrels, all eight years and more old. Winemaker is Kristin Bryden; director of winemaking and vineyard operations is Eric Mohseni. (Founded in 1973, Zaca Mesa is the third-oldest winery in Santa Barbara County.) The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of camellias and lilac are twined with notes of bee’s-wax and lanolin, peach and golden plum, all rounded by a slightly smoky and honeyed aura. These elements are delicate and refined; there’s nothing flamboyant here, no feather boas or rhinestone sneakers. A silky-smooth texture is riven by bright acidity, buoying subtle stone-fruit flavors that grow spicier through a talc-like finish that reveals a panoply of spare, honed mineral effects. 14.1 percent alcohol. A winsome aperitif, but the real motivation is as accompaniment to mild fish and seafood dishes. Excellent. About $18.

A sample for review.

Jordan Winery’s decision, all these years, to maintain a focus on only two wines — chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon — is one that I wish more producers would follow. Often I feel that Jordan-Winery-Russian-River-Valley-Chardonnay-2014-WebDetailwineries try to be all things to all consumers, dividing their attention and efforts into too many products at myriad levels of intent and price. That said, winemaker Rob Davis made a change in how the Jordan Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley, was treated in the winery. While the 2013 version, for example, aged six months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels, and only 18 percent of the wine went through “malo” — the so-called malolactic fermentation that transforms sharp malic (“apple-like”) acid to creamier lactic (“milk-like”) acid — this present release was barrel-fermented 60 percent in stainless steel tanks and 40 percent in new French oak, aged five and a half months in all new French oak and went through 30 percent ML. The result is a wine that is moderately richer and more full-bodied than the chardonnays from Jordan that I tasted in the past, while it retains the emphasis on elegance, purity and intensity. The color is brilliant medium straw-gold; classic aromas of slightly caramelized pineapple and grapefruit open to bare hints of mango, quince and ginger and, after a few minutes airing, to beguiling scents of honeysuckle and lilac. Supple and lithe, staying on the safe side of lushness, the wine displays a structure defined by bright acidity and a vibrant limestone element, resulting in very attractive heft and substance on the palate, all while delivering tasty and spicy citrus and stone-fruit flavors; a whiff of gun-flint and lavender emerges, as the finish concludes with a teasing sense of crystalline minerality. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22 with seared salmon or swordfish, grilled trout with capers and brown butter or seafood risottos. Excellent. About $32.

A sample for review.

I am fond of pinot noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, particularly for what I perceive to be a general feature of such wines, a thread of rich, damp loamy character that bolsters the other qualities of fruit, acidity and minerality. I love this sensation that feels like a grounding in the earth, this evidence of things unseen under the vineyard. The Willamette Valley AVA was approved in 1984, and over the years was divided into six sub-AVAs as variations in micro-climate and soil were identified. The smaller AVAs are Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. What’s interesting about the last region is that only grapes grown in vineyards from 200 to 1,000-feet elevation are entitled to the appellation; the federal government is typically not so fastidious about such matters. The wines under review today originate from the general Willamette AVA and from three of the sub-AVAs. The vintages run from 2011 to 2014, but are mainly 2012 and ’13, both excellent years for the area. As usual in the Weekend Wine Notes posts, I eschew details of technical, historical, geographical and personality elements for the sake for incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. With two exceptions, duly noted, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
Argyle Nuthouse Lone Star Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills. 13.5% alc. Beguiling 15112_ARG-NHPN-13-F_1transparent medium ruby hue; a complex and seamless layering of iodine, plums and graphite, sassafras, rhubarb and pomegranate, with plenty of smoked black cherries as highlights; supple, light and racy but offering pleasing depth and dimension in texture and structure; almost succulent in its tasty ripeness but honed by bright acidity; some time in the glass brings in hints of leather and loam. Pretty much a masterpiece, for drinking through 2020 to 2023. Excellent. About $50.
David Hill Vineyards and Winery Black Jack Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley. 13.8% alc. This pinot noir spent two years in new and used French oak, a device that contributes both to its superficial exoticism and to a general flattening and muting of varietal character. Very Good. About $55.
Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette valley. 13.1% alc. Medium ruby color with a brick-red rim; cloves and sandalwood, violets and lavender, graphite and loam; spiced and macerated red and black currants and cherries with a background of plums; displays the profound structure and presence that a reserve wine should evince, but not without elegance and finesse; a deep foresty element with a glossy iodine and iron sheen. Now through 2023 to ’25. Excellent. About $75. (A local purchase, about $85.)
Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills. 13.5% alc. Limpid medium ruby color; first come exotic notes of cloves, sandalwood and rose petals, followed by red cherries and currants, leather and loam, briers and brambles; a lithe and sinewy interpretation of the grape, with acid that plows a furrow on the palate and a background of graphite minerality; soft, slightly talc-like tannins take on more rigor as the moments pass, serving as framework for red berries seemingly steeped in some rooty black tea. Elemental. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyards Pinot Noir Blanc 2013, Yamhill-carlton. 13.5% alc. I ghostfind the white pinot noir phenomenon inexplicable, though this example is appealing enough, with laudable delicacy and elegance. Brilliant topaz-light copper hue; orange zest and peaches, notes of red cherries and currants; slightly loamy, a touch meadowy; bright acidity but still, the wine is curiously characterless. Drink up. Very Good. About $25.
Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills. 14.1% alc. Transparent medium ruby-garnet; earthy grochau-cellars-logoand spicy, with loam, briers and brambles, cloves and allspice; macerated red and black cherries with a hint of cranberry; spare and sinewy, with acidity that plows a furrow; very dry, a lovely texture, but a fairly rigorous and demanding pinot noir (which I like). Now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $33.
Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir 2012, Eola-Amity. 14.1% alc. Slightly darker ruby color with a tinge grochau-cellars-logoof magenta; red currants and cherries with a note of pomegranate; dense, spicy; graphite-edged tannins and a lithe, supple texture; you feel the earth, the leather, some root-like tea and smoke-etched autumn leaves; grows loamier and spicier as the moments pass, while the hints of dried red berries circulate. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $33.
Lenne Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Yamhill-Carlton. 14.5% alc. 586 cases. A delicate medium ruby hue; red and black cherries, pomegranate and cranberry, cloves, sassafras and white pepper; just a lovely, lithe, graceful pinot noir that gradually pulls up elements of loam, sour cherry and melon, briers and brambles; it gets denser and more intense as the moments pass, but never loses its foothold in elegance and an eloquent expression of the grape. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $45.
Lenne Estate Kill Hill Pinot Noir 2013, Yamhill-Carlton. 13.5% alc. 75 cases. Transcendent medium ruby hue shading to magenta; cloves and sassafras, black cherries and currants freighted by a seam of loam, briers and brambles; a sort of talc-like powderiness about the texture cut by bright acidity; a finish of leather, loam and graphite and a high note of cranberry. Beguiling marriage of elegance and energy. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.
The label image is one vintage behind.
Patricia Green Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 14% alc. Medium ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants, iodine and mint, loam and licorice; quite lively and engaging, with resonant acidity and scintillating graphite minerality, these elements bolstering a compote of red and black berry flavors whose hints of dried spices and herbs — cloves, sage, thyme — serve to point up the wine’s purity and intensity. Try from 2017 through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $25. (A local purchase, $28.)
Ponzi Vineyards Tavola Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. 13.7% alc. Medium transparent ponzi logoruby-magenta color; smoky and spicy black cherries, opens to cloves, sandalwood and rose petals; lots of energy and presence and a definite tannic structure; super-satiny texture laves the palate; the loamy aspects burgeon; terrific substance but at the expense of elegance and finesse. Now through 2020 to ’22. Very Good+. About $27.
Vidon Vineyard 3 Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Chehalem mountain. 14.3% alc. 480 cases. Medium transparent ruby color; bright, fresh and vital, with red cherries and raspberries and a hint of cranberry, notes of cloves, rhubarb and beetroot; incisive acidity cuts a swath; quite graceful, nothing obvious or opulent; pulls up more spice and a slightly dusty tannic element; touches of melon, sour cherry and apple skin on the elegant finish. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $40.
Vidon Vineyard 3 Clones Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Chehalem Mountain. 13.9% alc. 518 cases. Medium Ruby-garnet hue; heady aromas of mint and sassafras, cranberry, pomegranate and cloves, dried cherries and currants; almost supernaturally sleek, supple and satiny in texture, with a chiseled arrow of acidity that lends spareness to a fairly rigorous structure; a few minutes in the glass bring up notes of underbrush and loam. A beautifully constructed pinot noir, now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $40.
Youngberg Hill Jordan Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley. 12% alc. It’s interesting that I wrote 2012-Jordan-PN-300x207about the 2012 versions of these Youngberg Hill wines a year ago but received the 2011s for review later; here’s a link to those reviews. A lovely limpid light ruby color; lean and incisive, with elevating aromas of cranberry and cloves, sassafras, a hint of rhubarb and pomegranate, red raspberries and currants; beautifully-wrought, with acidity that carves a path through tasty red berry flavors and a haze of leafy-herbal notes; the spice element expands through the graphite-laden finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $50.
Youngberg Hill Natasha Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette valley. 11.5% alc. Entrancing transparent 13_NatashaPinotNoir-300x210ruby hue; first come earth and leather, loam and briers, presaging a pinot noir focused on structure; smolders with smoke and graphite, buoying ripe, dark and spicy red cherries and raspberries, permeated by dried sage and heather; the texture is silky, lithe, spare; acidity cuts a path through the foresty-underbrush elements; a few minutes in the glass unfold whiffs of tobacco and cigarette paper. Now through 2017 to ’19. Excellent. About $50.
As you can see, these label images are for later vintages of the wines mentioned here.

March seems to be making its egress in lamb-like fashion in our neck o’ the woods, after a month of torrential rain. The weather is balmy, the dogwoods are pushing out their bone-colored 2015RoseFrontblossoms, the birds are tweeting — even lacking opposable thumbs! — and the tree-frogs are tuning their lugubrious bagpipes. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to open a bottle of rosé wine and allow gratitude to flourish. Today I mention the Toad Hollow Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma County — the grapes from Carneros — though since we rarely see sweet rosés any more, I wonder about the necessity of the qualifier “dry” in the wine’s title. As stated, then, this is indeed a dry rosé, lively, lithe and tasty. The color is medium salmon-copper; pert aromas of lightly spiced and macerated strawberries and raspberries carry notes of watermelon and pomegranate, with an undertone of flint. The texture offers some of the satiny quality of pinot noir, though enlivened by crisp acidity and burgeoning limestone minerality. The emphasis, however, is on ripe but spare red berry flavors that on the finish encompass hints of peach and almond skin. 11.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2016 as a charming aperitif or with such picnic fare as cold fried chicken, deviled eggs and cucumber sandwiches or with a duck and rabbit terrine, crusty bread and a wedge of cheddar cheese. Very Good+. About $14, marking Decent Value.

A sample for review.

We drank the Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013, Sicilia, with Saturday’s pizza of sweet peppers and Ghiaia Nera 2013 FRONTtomatoes, basil and radicchio, hickory-smoked bacon, mozzarella, parmesan and pecorino. The wine is composed of nerello mascalese grapes grown on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, at just under 2,000 feet elevation. The vines are fairly young, planted in 2004 and 2007. The wine aged 12 months in 60-hectoliter oak barrels, that is barrels of a capacity of 1,585 gallons, considerably larger than the standard 59-gallon French barrique. Nothing elegant here, nor would we expect such from the grape, but rather an expression of directness, of the countryside and the year’s hot, dry summer. The Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013 is robust without being bumptious and rustic without being rough-shod. The radiant transparent ruby hue is attractive, as are the aromas of ripe black and red cherries and raspberries permeated by notes of briers and brambles, pine resin and hints of mint and garrigue, that well-nigh indefinable aura of meadowy Mediterranean wild grasses, herbs and flowers. On the palate, the wine is juicy with black fruit flavors but quite dry, lively, lithe, bristly, turning shades darker with dusty tannins and graphite minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19 with grilled pork chops, roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, braised short ribs or hearty pasta dishes. Very Good+. About $20.

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

The Foris Vineyard Pinot Gris 2014, Southern Oregon, might be exactly the wine you’re looking 88014 14 FB_15377_Prooffor in terms of freshness and immediate appeal and in the realm of price. Great as an aperitif or with — in my recent experience — moderately spicy Chinese stir-fry, the wine displays a light straw-gold color with a pale green tinge and lovely aromas of green apple and pear, a wisp of grapefruit and deeper tones of quince and mango; a few minutes in the glass bring out notes of heather, honeysuckle and lilac. The attractive texture has a pleasing talc-like feeling on the palate, as well as crisp acidity and a touch of limestone in the finish, all at the service of tasty yellow stone-fruit flavors. 13.9 percent alcohol. An uncomplicated but luminous, crystalline wine, fashioned by Foris winemaker Bryan Wilson. Now through the end of 2016. Very Good+. About $14. A local purchase; I paid $13.

The Southern Oregon AVA is about as large as its name implies, encompassing a hair over 2 million acres in the southwest part of the state. While the typical direction is for the TTB to approve smaller entities within larger AVAs, the reverse movement occurred in 2004, when Southern Oregon was approved to include the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley AVAs and several sub-AVAs within them.

Does Randall Grahm need four rosé wines among his current releases from Bonny Doon roseVineyard? One would have to take a dusky stroll through the shadowy, convoluted corridors of Grahm’s imagination to find an answer to that question. Sufficient to our task is the presence of these products — samples for review — not all of which are as straightforward as the term rosé would indicate. Two of these wines are based on Rhone Valley grape varieties, not a surprise since Bonny Doon specializes in wines made from such grapes, but another was made from ciliegiolo grapes, a distaff cousin or bastard child, as it were, to sangiovese, while the last is composed of grapes from France’s southwest region, tannat and cabernet franc. One of the wines produced from Rhone-style grapes aged in glass containers outside for nine months, a process that drained color from the wine and added a slightly oxidized, sherry-like character. Whatever the case, I guarantee that you will be intrigued and fascinated, if not delighted by these wines, which are arranged in order of hue from left to right, as indicated by the image above.
The Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare is always a favorite rosé in our 15_VinGris_Domestic_750house, and the version for 2015, carrying a Central Coast designation, is no different. A blend of 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne, the wine offers a hue of the most ineffable pale pink, like the blush on a nymph’s thigh, and delicate, breezy aromas of watermelon, raspberry, strawberry, thyme and wet flint. Crisp acidity keeps this rosé keen and lively, while its macerated red berry flavors make it delicious and easy to drink; a background of limestone provides structure. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through the end of 2016. Exquisite poise, balance and freshness. Excellent. About $18.
Tuile is the French word for the curved roof-tiles ubiquitous in the South of France 14_SunWine_082415(and also the term for the curved cookies that resemble them). The pale orange-brick color of the Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris Tuilé 2013, Central Coast, resembles the hue of those roofs, to some extent, but also refers to a relatively obscure practice of leaving young wine exposed to the elements to mature. Composed of 55 percent grenache grapes, 23 percent mourvèdre, 10 roussanne, 7 cinsaut, 3 carignane, 2 grenache blanc, this wine was left al fresco for nine months in glass demijohns or carboys; the result is a sherry-like wine that displays fresh and appealing aromas of almonds and orange peel, spiced tea, smoke and cloves. True to the red grapes from which it primarily originated — the grenache, mourvedre, cinsaut and carignane — the wine displays a rooty, foresty element that bolsters notes of spiced pear, hibiscus and apricot and an aura that’s altogether savory and saline. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Intriguing and ephemeral, but with real spine. Production was 192 cases. Excellent. About $26.
Tracy Hills is a small AVA, approved in 2006 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, that straddles San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties about 55 miles south-southeast of San Francisco in the Central Valley. The Bonny Doon Il Ciliegiolo Rosato 2015, Mt. Oso Vineyard, Tracy Hills, marks the first time I have seen this AVA on a label. The ciliegiolo grape, from the Italian for “cherry,” is related to sangiovese, but whether as a parent or off-spring is a matter of dispute. Made from 100 percent ciliegiolo grapes, this rosé exhibits a bright cerise hue and aromas of cherries, cherries, cherries in every form — fresh, dried, spiced and macerated — with notes of wild strawberries and raspberries, a flush of rhubarb and pomegranate, a hint of tomato skin. It’s a woodsy rosé, sun-drenched, a bit dusty, quite dry and delivering some graphite-tinged tannins from mid-palate through the finish. 12.4 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018. One of the more interesting and complex rosés I have encountered. Production was 442 cases. Excellent. About $24. (A release for the winery’s DEWN Club.)
The Bonny Doon A Proper Pink 2015, California, joins the roster of the winery’s “Proper” brand, and while the wines are serious, the back-label verbiage is strictly faux-British tongue-in-cheek — and rather long-winded, old boy. Composed, unusually, of 61 percent tannat grapes and 39 percent cabernet franc, the wine offers a provocative cherry-red color shading to salmon; it’s a warm, sunny, fleshy rosé that features aromas of spiced and macerated raspberries and strawberries and notes of tomato leaf and almond skin; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of briers, orange rind and sour melon candy. A lip-smacking texture is leavened by lively acidity and a dusty quality like damp roof tiles. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.

strong cab
The Sonoma County designation indicates the basic level of wine for Rodney Strong Vineyards, with the hierarchy, we’ll call it, rising through sub-AVAs like Russian River Valley and Knights Valley up to the powerful single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons. At the Sonoma County range, the wines tend to be well-made, tasty and mainly more solidly varietal than exciting, though I’m happy to make an exception for the Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Sonoma County, a product that bartenders and waiters could sell the hell out of in restaurant by-the-glass programs. Not to say that consumers wouldn’t enjoy it at home with a burger or steak or hearty pasta dish. The wine aged 15 months in American oak barrels (80 percent) with the balance in French oak. The color is a vibrant dark ruby-purple with a magenta cast; it’s a warm and spicy cabernet, bursting with aromas of black currants and raspberries, an inky aspect of iodine and iron, and notes of cedar, sage and tobacco. Lots of presence and heft here, ordered in terms both broad and elegant, with lively and spicy black fruit flavors highlighted by dusty tannins, a feeling of slightly chiseled graphite minerality and coursing acidity. 13.5 percent alcohol. Winemakers were Rick Sayre and Justin Seidenfeld. Drink now — I’m thinking grilled pork chops with a cumin-chili powder glaze — through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $20.

A sample for review.

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