Part of the portfolio of Jackson Family Wines, Carmel Road was founded in 1997 to exploit the possibilities for pinot noir in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA in the Salinas Valley, where the 415-acre Panorama Vineyard perches on the east side under the Pinnacles. The valley is subjected to the fogs and chilly winds of the Blue Grand Canyon, a stupendous geological formation and weather-generator under Monterey Bay that encompasses 60 miles in length and 10,00 feet in depth. Winemaker at Carmel Road is Kris Kato, who brings to the fashioning of these wines a light touch with new oak and what seems to be a profound understanding of the pinot noir grape. I enjoyed these wines a great deal, a feeling reflected, I’m sure, in the notes that follow.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Carmel Road Pinot Noir 2015, Monterey County, aged 9 months in French oak, only 16 percent new barrels, resulting in an oak influence that’s almost subliminal in its shaping factor. The color is transparent medium ruby fading to an invisible rim; pert aromas and flavors of black and red cherries and currants are touched with notes of pomegranate and plum highlighted by hints of black tea, loam and sassafras. The wine is satiny smooth on the palate but enlivened by bright acidity that cuts a swath through to a finish lightly wrapped in graphite-tinged tannin. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Attractive and expressive. Very Good+. About $25.
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As one would expect for a single-vineyard wine, the Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, received more wood treatment than did its more generalized stablemate, in this case 13 months in French oak, 24 percent new barrels. The color is a hypnotic limpid medium ruby of utter transparency; the bouquet is an irresistible amalgam of black and red cherry compote heightened by notes of sandalwood, cloves and sassafras, rhubarb and pomegranate, with high tones of smoke, loam and cigarette paper. The wine is lithe, sleek and supple on the palate, spare, muscular and moderately tannic, those tannins folded around dusty velvet. The whole package is deftly balanced and integrated. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $35, marking Good Value.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “First Row” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, received 13 months aging in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. A wholly transparent medium ruby hue with an ephemeral rim leads to a heady melange of cloves and sandalwood, rose petals and crushed violets, red and black cherries and currants with notes of cranberry and pomegranate, cola, loam and cherry pit; the wine is sleek and suave on the palate, with satiny drape on the tongue and delicious berry fruit for the taste-buds, all energized by bracing acidity and a hint of flinty minerality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $55.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “North Crest” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, offers a muscular rendition of the grape, though the color, a lucent medium ruby-magenta with an diaphanous rim, might suggest otherwise. Yes, the same 13 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. Vivacious and fleshy notes of black currants and cherries with a red undertone unfold hints of loam, beetroot and rhubarb, cloves, sandalwood and ground cumin; a few minutes in the glass unfurl touches of pomegranate and cranberry. This is dense and chewy and fairly intense, and its silky texture feels slightly roughened, as if by very fine sandpaper; it gets increasingly loamy as the moments pass, though keen acidity keeps it dynamic and enticing. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $55.
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The Carmel Road Panorama Vineyard “South Crest” Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco, is a bit more opulent than its cousins also reviewed in this post, and since it received the same oak treatment — 13 months, 20 percent new French oak — I would attribute the difference to the location of these blocks in the vineyard. A totally limpid and transparent medium ruby hue precedes a wine richly laved with loam and exotic spices, crushed and macerated black and red currants and cherries with a hint of plum; a few moments in the glass add notes of cranberry and pomegranate, sour cherry and cherry pit, with a background of briers and brambles. In this wine, you feel the luxury of which the pinot noir grape is capable, though leavened by coursing acidity and a bit of cheeky tartness. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $55.
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I don’t often feature chardonnays in this Wine of the Day series, but when I find a
chardonnay that’s well-made, accessible and inexpensive, well, I have to go with it. Olema is the second label of Amici Cellars, a specialist in single-vineyard wines. The Olema Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma County, however, offers a more general interpretation of a Sonoma wine, derived 90 percent from vineyards in Russian River Valley and 10 percent from vineyards in the wide-spread Sonoma Coast region. The wine was fashioned in a deft combination of 50 percent stainless steel tanks and 50 percent French oak, 30 percent new barrels. (Winemaker was Jesse Fox.) The color is pale straw-gold; clean and fresh aromas of apple and quince, ginger and grapefruit are immediately appealing, while hints of mango, orange blossom and smoke add intrigue. A damp stone background and bright acidity cut through a moderately lush texture, providing support for slightly roasted pineapple and grapefruit flavors, the entire package displaying lovely vitality and poise. 13.8 percent alcohol. Now through 2018. Very Good+. About $15.

A sample for review.

At a mere 450 hectares — about 1,100 acres — Côtes de Francs is Bordeaux’s smallest appellation, occupying the highest slopes overlooking the Dordogne river 10 kilometers east of Saint- Emilion. It was granted AOC status in 1967, largely because of the influence of the Thienpont family, which bought Chateau Puygueraud there in 1946 and worked unceasingly to improve the estate, not producing a wine until 1983. In 1988, Nicolas Thienpont and his brothers bought Les Charmes-Godard, a property of 6.5 hectares — slightly more than 16 acres — that makes red, white and sweet wines. Our Wine of the Day is Chateau Les Charmes-Godard 2014, Côtes de Francs, a white wine composed of 50 percent semillon grapes, 35 percent sauvignon gris and 15 percent sauvignon blanc. (The appellation is noted for the predominance of semillon in its white wines.) The estate keeps new oak to a minimum of 25 percent and does not put the white wines through malolactic. What a bargain-priced beauty this one is, and drinking perfectly at three years old. The color is mild straw-gold; aromas of red apple skin, lemongrass, lime peel and roasted lemon unfold scents of lemon balm and spiced pear; bright acidity lends the wine a fleet-footed air, cutting through a lovely talc-like but lithe and supple texture. A few minutes in the glass bring in hints of hay and green leafiness, with just a touch of fig in the limestone swathed finish. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20, properly stored. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

Imported by Fruit of the Vine, New York. A sample for review.

Cadaretta is a label of Middleton Family Wines. The family started in the lumber business in Washington state in 1898, gradually expanding to table and wine grapes and finally wine. While the winery produces a sauvignon blanc, the focus is on intense and concentrated red wines, either cabernet sauvignon-based or syrah. These are not subtle, nuanced or elegant wines, but neither are they overbearing, unreasonably stiff with oak and tannin, too high in alcohol or cloyingly ripe. At this point, when five of these six flagship wines are three years old and one is four years old, the emphasis may be on structure, but fine details of fruit and spice and other aspects are perfectly evident in varying degrees, affording the consumer a great deal of pleasure as well as anticipation. In other words, the necessary balance is present. Such limited-production wines are intended for the cellar, probably benefiting from two or three years aging or more and drinking well through 2028 to, in at least one case, 2030.

These wines were samples for review.
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One of two syrah-based wines in this group, the Cadaretta Windthrow 2014, Columbia Valley, is a blend of 76 percent syrah, 15 percent mourvedre and 9 percent grenache, aged 22 months half in new Hungarian oak, 40 percent in new French and 10 percent in used French barrels. A dark ruby-mulberry hue, the wine offers notes of ripe blackberries, blueberries and red cherries infused with dusty graphite and leather, as well as classic hints of wet dog, a slightly green herbal quality and touches of dried thyme and rosemary, with a bit of the latter’s woodsy-resinous quality. It’s quite dry, dense and chewy on the palate, inky and tarry; a few minutes in the glass add intriguing details of violets and lavender, bittersweet chocolate, licorice and tobacco. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 259 cases. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
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Only two-tenths of a percent viognier keeps the Cadaretta Syrah 2014, Columbia Valley, from being 100 percent varietal. The wine aged 21 months in 60 percent new French oak, 36 percent already used French oak, and 4 percent new Hungarian oak barrels. The color is inky purple with a glowing violet rim; if a large-framed, robust, earthy and somewhat rustic syrah is what you’re after, look no further — this one delivers plenty of loam, moss, wet dog and underbrush elements, with ripe and fleshy, even rather meaty, blackberries and blueberries with a touch of boysenberry; the wine offers real substance without being overwhelming, kept lively by riotous acidity and dusty, shaggy tannins that cannot conceal a briery-brambly character. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 642 cases. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Very Good+. About $35.
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If by some spell “purple” possessed a smell and taste, then I think that such a notion is distilled in the black-purple hued Cadaretta Southwind Red Blend 2014, Walla Walla Valley. The blend is 37 percent each malbed and petit verdot, with 26 percent cabernet sauvignon, aged 23 months in French oak, 60 percent new barrels. The wine is intense and concentrated (as all of these examples are) but offers a panoply of spiced and macerated effects with black and blue fruit scents and flavors, like a compote of black cherries and currants and blue plums permeated by iodine and iron, briers, brambles and lavender; it’s powered by lip-smacking acidity and bolstered by lithe, supple and slightly dusty-loamy tannins, a dry, rock-hewn but very ripe and delicious red wine that feels generous and abundant on the palate — like royalty, I suppose. 14.6 percent alcohol. Production was a meager 82 cases. Drink now through 2024 to ’28. Excellent. About $75.
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The blend in the Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Columbia Valley, is 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent petit verdot, 6 merlot and 5 malbec; the grapes derive almost equally from the Walla Walla Valley and Red Mountain AVAs. The oak treatment is 22 months, primarily French oak barrels. Opaque black-ruby with a faint purple rim; this is all ink and graphite, iodine and iron, cedar, lead pencil and rosemary, with a touch of mint and balsam, these elements at the service of cassis, black raspberry and plum scents and flavors. Deep, velvety tannins and granitic minerality reign over a slightly roughened, sanded texture animated by bright acidity that plows a furrow; the finish is dense, chewy, laden with exotic spices, glittering minerals and, at the conclusion, a fillip of pomegranate and smoke. 14.8 percent alcohol. Production was 2,050 cases, by far the largest of these six limited edition wines. Drink through 2024 to ’26. Excellent. About $45.
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The Cadaretta Southwind Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Walla Walla Valley, is a blend of 90 percent cabernet sauvignon with 5 percent each malbec and petit verdot, aged 23 months in French oak, 60 percent new barrels. The color is opaque black-ruby-purple; the nose is a seamless tissue of lead pencil, iodine and graphite, lavender and violets, and very intense and concentrated notes of black currants, blueberries and plums; the whole dynamic package seethes in a welter of briers and brambles, underbrush and loam, with hints of dried porcini and woodsy herbs and flowers. Piercing minerality and dusty tannins lead to a finish packed with spice, fruitcake, dried berries and more graphite. A chiseled and muscular cabernet in every sense. 14.8 percent alcohol. Production was 46 cases. Drink from 2019 or ’20 through 2030 to ’35. Excellent. About $75.
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Also cabernet-based is the Cadaretta Springboard 2014, Columbia Valley, whose blend of 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent malbec and 9 percent petit verdot aged in 60 percent new French oak barrels with the rest second- and third-fill. Again, the totally opaque black-purple hue shading, if that’s the word, to a magenta rim; again, the intensity and concentration of spiced and macerated black and blue fruit compote with hints of loam, graphite and cedar, sandalwood and tapenade, crushed violets and bittersweet chocolate; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of sage and dried rosemary. While a ripe and fleshy wine, it’s dense and weighty on the palate, freighted by stern, dusty granitic tannins and polished oak that you feel increasingly from mid-palate back through the austere finish. 13.9 percent alcohol. Production was 249 cases. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2029 to ’32. Excellent. About $50.
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So, today is Thanksgiving + One, and all the fuss about what the hell are we going to drink with the Feast of Abundance and Gratitude is over, done, finito. I will, however, describe what we drank. We happen to like riesling with this gargantuan and multi-diverse meal, and looking through the wine fridge, I found what turned out to be a wonderful choice, the Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2013, from one of the most distinguished estates in Alsace, originally founded by Capuchin monks in 1612 but operated since 1898 by the Faller family. The color is pale straw-gold; arresting aromas of peach, pear and mango are permeated by notes of cloves, honey and hay, acacia, green apple and almond skin, with a background of slate and flint. The wine features superb definition and dimension, framed by incisive, crystalline acidity and profound limestone-and-flint minerality that bolster spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pear with a paradoxical hint of lemon curd for a sly element of richness; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and lime peel. Silky smooth, it’s quite dry on the palate and finishes with a boldly austere impression of august limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. We were quite happy last night with this wine’s ability to bridge the often contradictory sensations that the Thanksgiving meal affords, as well as with the fairly glorious wine itself. Half a glass remained, which I finished this morning. Exceptional. About $40.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. A sample for review.

… and it’s Beaujolais again. Looks as if I have a theme going here, but I promise that the sequence is coincidental. The Wine of the Day for this post is the Paul Durdilly et Fils “Les Grandes Coasses” Beaujolais 2016, the designation indicating the basic level in Beaujolais — under Beaujolais-Villages and the 10 cru Beaujolais — but belying that position in its intense and generous expression of the gamay grape. In fact, this example will make you rethink your evaluation of this basic category. The estate’s 30 acres of vines grow on limestone; the vineyards — 40 to 80 years old — are tended using sustainable practices. The grapes ferment with native yeast, and the wine ages in a combination of steel tanks and old large oak foudres. The color is bright purple-magenta shading to a transparent rim; the wine is fresh and appealing, lively and engaging; it features a compote of ripe and spicy blackberries and currants permeated by notes of violets and lavender and graphite, with undertones of smoke and tar. The wine is sleek, lithe, supple and quite delicious on the palate, animated by vigorous acidity and driven by a coalition of briers and brambles over a fleet-footed foundation of deft granitic minerality and slightly dusty tannins, all the while never losing sight of its focus on the principle of pure, ripe, drinkable pleasure. 12.5 percent alcohol. Astonishing detail and dimension for its class and price. Excellent. Prices range from about $11 to $15, making this wine an Amazing Freak-Ass Bargain.

North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review from the local distributor.

You know what I mean by “alternative white wines.” Not chardonnay or riesling or sauvignon blanc. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Big Three, except when chardonnay is sodden and strident with oak, as happens too often in California, but dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of grapes for what we call white wine exist in the world’s multifarious wine regions. In today’s edition, we look at nine examples. As usual in these posts, I omit details of history, geography, method and personality to offer quick and incisive snapshots of a wine’s character. I will mention at the outset that two of these wines, from Onward Wines and Stinson Vineyards are so-called “orange wines,” meaning that they’re produced from white grapes that ferment on the skins, not the typical process for whites. A lot of pleasure is to be gleaned from this selection, which is designed to introduce consumers to a range of products available beyond the usual choices. Enjoy — in moderation, of course.
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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 9.5% alc. 70% loureiro grapes, 30% alvarinho. Very pale gold color; quite fresh and clean, slightly frizzante; apples and limes, hint of “greenness,” like sunny leaves and crushed herbs; crisp and vibrant with a stony spine. The definition of quaffable and charming. Very Good+ About $7 to $10, buy it by the case and enjoy.
Aveleda Inc., Pawtucket, R.I.
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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 11% alc. 100% hondurrabi zuri grapes. Pale gold with a green tinge; hay and heather, green apple and lime peel, dried thyme and almond skin; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of melon and gooseberry; mineral element runs to a dusty roof tiles effect; slightly frizzante; quite dry but lively and engaging; limestone and bracing salinity in the finish. Loads of personality. Excellent. About $16, representing Fine Value.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Godeval Godello 2015, Valdeorras, Spain. 13.5% alc. Medium gold; enticing scents of mint, thyme and lemon, hints of cloves and cumin; very dry, fairly austere with limestone and flint minerality but enlivened by brisk acidity; certainly a savory white. Very Good+. About $15.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Höpler Grüner Veltliner 2015, Burgenland, Austria. 13% alc. Pale straw-gold with a delicate green tint; hay and quince, yellow plums and golden raspberries; very clean and crisp, a bit saline, with a savory background; a lime peel, lilac and gunflint finish. Charming and delightful. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.
USA Wine Imports, New York.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley. 12.8% alc. Pale gold hue; glorious bouquet of jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and ginger, poached apple and pear; hints of mint, candied orange rind, iodine and graphite; very dry, resonant and animated; woodsy spices and meadowy flowers; lip-smacking acidity and a dry, elegant, almost austere finish. Brilliant winemaking. Exceptional. About $28, representing Extraordinary Value.
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Pazo Cilleiro Albarino 2015, Rías Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. Straw-yellow with faint green highlights; a ripe, fleshy yet chiseled albarino; lime peel, pears and roasted lemon; riveting acidity and a filigree of scintillating limestone; hints of dried mountain herbs and a spare network of white flowers. Really charming. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County. 13.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; roasted lemons and spiced pears, lime peel and grapefruit, white tropical flowers, backnotes of hay, heather and dried thyme; all knit with spareness and a delicate touch; very dry and crisp, heaps of limestone and flint minerality. Really lovely. Excellent. About $19.
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Stinson Vineyards Wildkat 2015, Monticello, Virginia. 10.5% alc. 100% rkatsiteli grapes. 75 cases. Very pale coral-gold; red apple and tomato skin, roasted almonds, cloves and a touch of honey; crisp, delicate, lively, well-balanced; very dry, with a light dusting of fine loam. Very Good+. About $28.
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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. 55% marsanne, 45% viognier. 180 cases. Pale gold, practically shimmers in the glass; roasted lemon and spiced pear, bees’-wax and camellia, dried thyme, ginger and quince; an intriguing whiff of ground cumin; spare and sinewy on the palate, with bright, lithe acidity and a glittering limestone and flint quality. Beautifully made. Excellent. About $25.
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No limp, wimpy red wine here, the Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Merlot 2015, Napa Valley-Carneros, sings of its character is full-throated ease, with rippling muscles and lithe structure, like the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym. If you drive along Highway 29, the central thoroughfare in Napa Valley, Clos Pegase is unmistakable. Designed by well-known architect Michael Graves, the winery, founded in 1984 just south of Calistoga, resembles a post-modern rendition of a Mayan temple. Owner Jan Strem, also an active collector of contemporary art, sold the winery (but not the art) to Vintage Wine Estates in 2013. The vineyard in Carneos was named for Strem’s wife. The wine is a blend of 90 percent merlot and five percent each petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon; it aged 16 months in French oak, 32 percent new barrels. It’s as opaque a black-ruby hue as a wine can be, alleviated by a glowing purple rim; the wine’s aromas of crushed black currants and cherries are permeated by notes of iodine and loam, smoke and graphite, with high-tones of lavender and licorice, dried thyme and rosemary (with some of the latter’s hint of woodsy astringency). Oh, it’s a brawny one all right, but sleek and polished and deeply flavorful, borne on a strain of arrowing acidity and dusty, velvety tannins. The finish is all briers and brambles and granitic minerality. 14.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2023 to ’25 with a medium-rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the coals. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review from the local distributor.

The Côtes de Gascogne vineyard region lies in — guess where? — Gascony, in southwest France, home of Armagnac and d’Artagnan and known as Aquitaine, the much-contested property of England from 1137 to 1453, that year marking the end of the Hundred Years’ War. Our Wine of the Day is a tasty quaffer, the Domaine La Salette Gascogne Blanc 2016, a blend of 80 percent colombard grapes, 10 percent gros manseng and 10 percent ugni blanc, made all in stainless steel. The color is very pale straw-gold, but there’s nothing pale or shy about the wine’s abundant aromas of hay and heather, thyme and lilac, lime peel, lemon and licorice. This is notably crisp, dry, vibrant and thirst-quenching, delivering bright acidity that drives expressive citrus and stone-fruit flavors through to a finish of limestone and seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. I don’t want to oversell this little beauty, but you should buy it by the case. Very Good+. Prices around the country range from $11 to $14, representing an Irresistible Value.

Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va. A sample for review from the local distributor.

Willis Mercer moved west and settled in the new town of Prosser in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. The family succeeded at shepherding and then brought in cattle and planted wheat. Irrigation was introduced to Mercer Ranches in 1968, and in 1972, the first grapes were planted, though the family didn’t start making wine until 2005, the year that Horse Heaven Hills was granted status as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The expansive region — 570,000 acres, with slightly more than 6,000 acres of vines — lies in southeastern Washington, within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Our Wine of the Day is the Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015, Horse Heaven Hills, an interesting blend of 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 merlot, 14 petit verdot, 10 grenache and 2 percent carignane, making a sort of Bordeaux-Rhone hybrid. The wine aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Winemaker was Jeremy Santo. The vintage produced the hottest Summer on record in the region, followed by a moderate period of warm days and cool nights. The result was heady ripeness balanced by bright acidity. The color, if that’s the word, is opaque ebony-purple shading, if that’s the word, to a magenta rim; the immediate impression is of penetrating aromas of graphite and iodine, lavender and violets and bittersweet chocolate serving as gloss to intense and concentrated notes of black cherries, raspberries and plums. On the palate, the wine is rich, dusty, dynamic and deeply flavorful; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of sage and rosemary, cloves and just a tinge of vanilla, all these elements bound by velvety tannins and acidity taut as a bow-string; the finish is both generous and chiseled. 14.8 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with roasted pork, braised lamb shanks or short ribs and other hearty fare. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

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