You may think I’m wayward and quixotic for recommending a rosé wine on February 9, a day of storms, wind, snow and ice for much of the nation, but yesterday I drank a glass (or two) of this wine while sitting on the back porch, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And then the toad hollowtemperature dropped precipitously, so we had a very cold night, a chilly but sunny today, and tomorrow we’re back in the 70s. Who can live with this whiplash approach to mid-Winter? The wine is the Toad Hollow Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, designated Sonoma County, though the grapes derived from the marine climate of Carneros. The wine’s name — “Dry Rosé” — indicates that at one time and perhaps even now American consumers considered rosé wines sweet, though the great majority of them are bone-dry. While made completely from pinot noir grapes — no grenache, cinsault, counoise, no syrah or mourvèdre — this rosé thoroughly partakes of the spirit of its counterparts in Provence. The color is an entrancing pale onion skin hue — what used to be called “eye of the partridge” — and the aromas of orange zest, peach and strawberry are subtle and delicate, bolstered by a hint of wet stones and dried thyme; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of watermelon and lilac. On the palate, this charming rosé wine is a little gingery, featuring peach and raspberry flavors enlivened by crisp acidity and a burgeoning limestone and flint element. “Charming,” yes, but quite spare, slightly honed and chiseled, nothing gushing or abundant; I call it classic and graceful. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through the end of 2017. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.

A sample for review.

The sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne may be made from any of the grape varieties allowed in Burgundy, meaning predominantly chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir, but including gamay and pinot blanc. The product must be fashioned in the “Champagne method” of second fermentation cremant de bourgogne mapin the bottle it’s sold in. The Crémant de Bourgogne appellation is extensive, reaching from Chablis down through Burgundy proper, Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais and encompassing 365 communes in four départménts. Grapes intended for Crémant de Bourgogne are generally cultivated separately from grapes that go into the great village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines of Burgundy and Chablis; that land is too precious and those grapes too expensive to sideline into sparkling wine, though that was often the practice at great estates before 1975, when the appellation regulations were laid down. Until 1975, the product was known as Borgogne Mousseux. A great deal of Crémant de Bourgogne is produced by cooperatives or by estates that specialize in effervescence; on the other hand, some of Burgundy’s best-known domaines, such as Yves Boyer-Martenot, Duc de Magenta and Jean-Noel Gagnard, still engage in the practice. In truth, many domaines are so small that they don’t have room for producing Crémant.

The house we look at today is Domaine Louis Picamelot, founded in 1926 in Rully, a village — population about 600 — in the Côte Chalonnaise. The domaine is still in family hands, in the third generation, but run by sons-in-law. Picamelot draws chardonnay, aligoté and pinot noir grapes from its own 10 hectares of vineyards in Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune but also from vineyards under long-term contracts reaching from Beaujolais to Chatillonnais, a region (not an appellation) lying between Chablis and the Côte d’Or that contributes heavily to Crémant de Bourgogne. I found the four examples from Picamelot reviewed here to be beautifully made, very sophisticated and mostly worthy of giving lower-priced Champagne — or higher-priced, for that matter — a run for its money. The sparkling wines of Domaine Louis Picamelot are imported by Ansonia Wines, Newton, Massachusetts. These wines were samples for review. Map of Crémant de Bourgogne from bourgogne-wines.com, a very informative website.
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louis-picamelot_210
The medium straw-gold Louis Picamelot Le Terroirs Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 57 percent pinot noir, 32 percent chardonnay and 11 percent aligoté, aged at least 12 months on the lees. Elements of limestone and seashell surround notes of baked lemons and pears that open to stone-fruit compote, cloves, heather and toffee; it’s surprisingly dense and viscous on the palate, gathering an array of mineral-tinged textural elements and glimpses of yellow fruit that neatly balance bright acidity with a slightly creamy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $24.
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louis-picamelot_208
Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, the Louis Picamelot Les Terroirs Brut Rosé, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, aged at least 12 months in the bottle on the lees; the grapes came from vineyards in the Côte Chalonnaise. The color is pale salmon-copper; energetic bubbles stream upward in a steady surge. Aromas of raspberry, peach and orange peel open to hints of raspberry leaf and cinnamon bread, over a limestone and steel character; on the palate, this is fine-boned and tensile, slightly briery, clean and elegant while offering a dynamic veracity of bright acid and a scintillating mineral element. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24.
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louis-picamelot_156
The Louis Picamelot Terroir de Chazot Blanc de Noir Brut, nv, Crémant de Bourgogne, is also 100 percent pinot noir, this from a designated vineyard situated on the higher hillsides of St. Aubin in the Côte de Beaune. It aged at least 18 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is very pale straw-gold, while the persistent stream of tiny bubbles is satisfying and exhilarating. Notes of roasted lemon and pear nectar open to hints of tangerine and lime peel, almond skin and lightly buttered cinnamon toast and a sort of fragile seashell-limestone element of chiseled minerality. That honed and hewn quality persists on the palate, where its chalk and flint character defines a spare, elegant package of lovely nuance and subtlety. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.
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louis-picamelot_164
The Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard Brut 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne, is a blend of 77 percent chardonnay and 23 percent aligoté, qualifying as a blanc de blancs. A pale gold hue is animated by a teeming torrent of frothing bubbles; it’s a clean, spare, elegant sparkling wine that features notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears with undertones of quince and ginger, chalk and lightly toasted brioche. This builds character and substance in the glass, layering pertinent limestone minerality with brisk acidity and hints of baked stone-fruit flavors, all wrapped in a lively effervescent nature that doesn’t emphasize any element unduly; balanced yet exciting. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $38.
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tellus
Tellus is a label from the Falesco estate in Umbria, founded by brothers Riccardo and Renzo Cotarella in 1979. The brand explores international grape varieties produced to sell inexpensively. The Tellus Chardonnay 2015, Umbria, was made all in stainless steel; it proclaims its freshness and immediate appeal with subtlety and delicacy. The color is very pale straw-gold, and the aromas express an essence of ripe and slightly honeyed pineapple and grapefruit, touched with nutmeg and acacia, quince and ginger, with hints of limestone and flint. This chardonnay flows across the palate in a sleek, lithe and supple manner, boosted by crystalline acidity and scintillating limestone minerality. Yes, it’s quite dry and spare, yet deeply imbued with charming elements of deftly spiced citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Perfect with lighter fish and seafood appetizers and main dishes. Production was 2,000 cases. Very Good+. About $16.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

It’s chilly and brisk today in what’s called the Mid-South in these here parts, putting me in mind of a hearty but not overdone or blockbusterish red wine. Such a candidate would be the Scaia Paradiso 2013, a Rosso Veronese from Tenuta Sant’Antonio, a noted producer of parrs13_art210Valpolicella and Amarone. The wine is a blend of 50 percent corvina grapes, 20 percent each corvinone and rodinella and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon. The wine undergoes a second fermentation on the skins of dried cabernet grapes for about 10 days, in the ripasso method of Valpolicella, though cabernet is unusual in this respect. The wine aged for a year in 500-liter oak casks, about 132 gallons, compared to 59 gallons for the standard French barrique. This is a gritty, loamy, smoky wine — there are three of the Dwarfs — whose dark but not over-extracted ruby-garnet color testifies to an innate transparency and lightness of being. Aromas of deeply spiced and macerated black and red cherries offer notes of cherry skin and pit, along with a foresty element of briers and brambles; a few moments in the glass bring out hints of mint and blueberry. A nicely chiseled graphite element pervades the texture, serving as backdrop for a barky and rooty quality, like some black tea concocted by monks, and a bit of Damson plum, licorice and violets, all animated by enlivening acidity and a touch of dusty tannins. None of these characteristics are unduly emphatic or dominate, the whole package being a model of balance and integration. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20 with full-flavored pasta dishes, grilled red meat or dry aged cheeses. Excellent. About $18, representing Real Value.

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

Jackson Family Wines acquired Siduri Wines, the cult producer of single-vineyard pinot noirs, in January 2015. Smart purchase for a company ECM316759heavily into pinpointing exclusive wineries and producers of pinot noir in California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Founder Adam Lee remains as winemaker. The wine considered today, however, is not a single-vineyard effort but a wine that seeks to be the embodiment of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a noted powerhouse of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. The Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, derives from seven vineyards throughout the diverse landscape and micro-climates of Russian River Valley and a variety of clones. This one is for fans of big-hearted pinot noirs that wear their gushing fruity attributes and underpinnings on their sleeves. Not particularly my style — I prefer more nuance — but it’s obviously so well-made that I can’t resist offering it as another Wine of the Day. The color is a striking deep ruby-purple with a glowing violet-magenta rim; it’s a dark and intense pinot noir that features scents and flavors of smoked and macerated black and red cherries and currants touched with iodine and iron and notes of rhubarb, allspice, sandalwood and sassafras. Silky smooth is the texture, running like satin ribbons over the palate, while bright acidity lends liveliness and firm, graphite-tinged tannins give grit and verve. Loam and leather come up, as well as some foresty asperity in the depths, more smoke and a blithe hint of wild cherry. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’22 with roasted chicken or game birds, pork tenderloin or veal. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

chateau-la-freynelle-blanc-bordeaux-france-10597961
Here’s a bargain in a Bordeaux blanc, a category in which sauvignon blanc grapes are usually blended with semillon and muscadelle and in whatever degree the terroir, the vintage and the winemaker decide, though muscadelle is often omitted. The winemaker in this case is Véronique Barthe, whose family has owned the property in Entre-Deux-Mers since 1789, that fateful year in French history. Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux, is a blend of 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon and 10 percent muscadelle. The wine displays a pale straw-gold hue and offers pert aromas of lime peel, grapefruit, pea shoot and gooseberry, with notes of lilac and violets gradually and genially emerging; hints of lemon balm and a slight waxy quality increase the attractive powers. It’s very clean, bright and fresh on the palate, and the combination of stone-fruit and citrus flavors — think delicate peach and tangerine — are heightened by a leafy-figgy aspect and a lovely talc-like texture, the whole package enlivened by brisk acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017 with oysters just shucked from the shell, grilled mussels, shrimp or chicken salad; it would serve as a terrific picnic wine when the weather permits. Very Good+. About $13, though prices around the country range from about $11 to $15.

Imported by Aquitaine Wines USA, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review.

Last night I made a chili — or call it a soup — of chickpeas, chard, bacon, adobo, onions, garlic, tomatoes. It was pretty quick and easy and turned out even more delicious than I anticipated. Some heat from the chili adobo caused me to speculate about what wine to serve or if bassa_res_Lamùri_2014 we should go with beer, but the Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Lamùri Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia DOC, did the trick quite satisfactorily, thank you very much. You don’t have to look too hard to find plenty of rustic, rough-shod examples of Sicily’s signature red grape, but this is not one of those. Cultivated in vineyards that range from 1,476 to 2,460 feet elevation — this is in the hills southeast of Palermo — the wine received 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new, the rest in barrels of second or third passage. The color is dark ruby with a purple-magenta rim; aromas of mint, iodine and smoked plums open to notes of black currants, blueberries and mulberries, with undertones of graphite, flint and loam. It’s a robust wine, bursting with energy and sizable aplomb; part of its attraction is the paradoxical juxtaposition of winsome elements like apple peel, black cherries and white pepper with deeper qualities of tar and dusty tannins, all melded by bright acidity. Some time in the glass brings in more graphite minerality as well as an expansion of a distinctly wild floral/berry nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

Limoux is a wine region in Languedoc, lying about 40 miles south of the walled city of Carcassonne, in the foothills of the French Pyrénées. It encompasses four AOCs, three for sparkling wine and one, more recently defined, for red wine made predominantly from merlot. The major white grape of the area is the indigenous mauzac, followed by chenin blanc and chardonnay. Apparently, Limoux bertrandis the site of the first sparkling wines fashioned by second fermentation in the bottle, precisely dated, by historians, to 1531 and therefore preceding its discovery in Champagne. Whatever the case, Limoux is a source for delightful sparkling wines generally available at reasonable prices. Such a one is the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 15 percent chenin blanc, 10 percent mauzac and 5 percent pinot noir. Why “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson”? Because when that most Francophile of American presidents died, the only sparkling wines found in his cellar were from — guess! — Limoux. The color is pale straw-gold, somewhat like Rapunzel’s hair, I should guess. A pretty and persistent surge of tiny bubbles animates the proceedings, while aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm and baked pear entice the nose; a few moments is the glass unfold notes of jasmine and almond skin and touches of hay and heather. These elements segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine displays a flinty notion of limestone minerality as edgy yet fragile as a seashell, an example of vivid tensile power married to thoughtful delicacy. O.K., let’s not overplay this; what I chiefly mean is that the Gérard Bertrand “Cuvée Thomas Jefferson” 2013, Crémant de Limoux, is a real charmer that offers a lithe and scintillating scale of mineral-and-acid texture and structure. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. Prices around the country run from about $16 to $21.

Imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review from the local distributor.

The ancient city of Cahors lies on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the River Lot, in southwest France. It was originally an Pont_valentre_lot_1outpost for the Cadurci people, the last of the Celtic tribes to resist the invading Romans armies around 50 B.C. Divona Cadurcorum, as it was called, became a major Roman city and developed economically and culturally through the Roman period and to end of the Middle Ages. Its dark red wine was exported through the Dordogne river and up the Gironde past Bordeaux — and around Europe — when that town was still emerging from the marshes. In a region known for its quaint and charming towns and villages, Cahors is one of the most quaint and charming of them all, filled, as it is, with remnants of Roman buildings and monuments and by a density of half-timbered Medieval structures. It’s three-towered Pont Valentré (1308-1378) is among the world’s most beautiful stone bridges.

The Cahors AOC applies only to red wines, made primarily — at least 70 percent — from the malbec grape, known locally as auxerrois. The vineyards are laid out west of the city, on terraces formed by the centuries-long meanderings of the Lot. The first terrace, along the river banks, is inappropriate for cultivation, so the vineyards tend to be planted on the second, third and fourth terraces. Like Bordeaux, Cahors is heavily influenced by the climate and winds of the Atlantic Ocean; unlike Bordeaux, it also receives, mainly in September and October, influence from the Mediterranean winds. The soil is silt-clay over Kimmeridgian limestone.

The wines under consideration today were produced by Chateau Lagrezette, a property dating back to 1503 that was acquired in 1980 by Alain Dominique Perrin, whose name is a by-word in the world of luxury goods for his steering of the development of Cartier International and his creation of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Perrin poured immense sums into the restoration of the 15th Century castle at Lagrezette and the replanting and renovation of the vineyards and winery. Winemaker since 2007 has been Cedric Blanc; consulting enologist is the ubiquitous Michel Rolland.

The wines of Chateau Lagrezette are imported into the U.S.A. by Curious Cork Importers, Napa, Calif., and Denver, Colo. Image of the Pont Valentré from www.par-monts-et-par-vaux.eu. These wines were samples for review.
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lagrezette marguerite
The youngest of this quartet of malbec wines and from the youngest vines, the Chateau Lagrezette Clos Marguerite 2012 is a robust (but not rustic) wine that aged 16 months in 40 percent new oak barrels, 40 percent one-year-old and 20 percent two years old. It features a vibrant dark ruby color and pointed scents and flavors of plums, raspberries and fruitcake bolstered by fairly rigorous, dusty, graphite-laden tannins with undercurrents of lavender, licorice and bittersweet chocolate. It is, in other words, a finely balanced feat of power and poise, and a fount of gushing black and red fruit flavors nicely restrained by structure. Now through 2022 to 2026. Production was 416 cases. Very Good+. About $45.
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lagrezette dame
The Chateau Lagrezette Cuvée Dame Honneur 2011, Cahors, includes 5 percent merlot in the blend; it aged 20 months in new French oak barrels. The color is inky purple, an aspect that feels mirrored in the wine’s pungent notes of smoked plums, mint and cedar, licorice and lavender; as the moments pass, say an hour or two, the wine grows increasingly floral, in the violets, rose petals and lilac range, and takes on more depth of ripe and spicy black and red berry fruit. It’s a succulent wine, dense, silky and lithe on the palate, though any sense of luxury is strictly tempered by a profound element of graphite minerality and surging acidity. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2021 to ’26. Production was 2,784 six-bottle cases. Excellent. About $45.
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lagrezette 1
A true vin de garde, the Chateau Lagrezette Cru d’Exception 2009, Cahors, show every sign of aging capability through, say, 2021 to 2026 or ’30. The wine is a blend of 87 percent malbec, 12 percent merlot and 1 percent tannat, aged 18 months in new and one-year-old French oak barrels. The color is a dark but radiant ruby hue; the whole tenor of the wine resonates with ferrous and sanguinary elements of iron, iodine and beef-blood, with subsidiary notes of black tea, mint, forest floor, briers and brambles. Scents and flavors of blackberries, blueberries and mulberries feel deeply spiced and macerated, taking a cue from swingeing acidity and a profound graphite/granitic mineral quality. One feels, it seems, the limestone-laced soil upon which the vineyard lies. Drink now through 2022 to 2029. Production was 7,000 cases, obviously the most accessible of these four wines. Excellent. About $45.
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lagrezette pigeonnier
Le Pigeonnier, named for an ancient dovecote on the estate, is the flagship wine of Lagrezette. The Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, is 100 percent malbec from 35 to 40-year-old vines, aged 28 months in new French oak barrels. The color — if that word is applicable — is totally opaque, with a faint glimmer of purple at the rim; it’s a deep, ripe, rich and spicy wine in every sense, but framed by intense flinty-graphite minerality, rigorous acidity and profoundly dense, dusty tannins. It’s also, paradoxically, bright and lively and feels young at just over five years old. The blackberry-currant-blueberry aspects teem with notes of iodine and mint, cloves and allspice, lavender and licorice and bittersweet chocolate that unfurl an exotic flair of cumin and ancho chili. The finish offers a chiseled edge of limestone, and the whole package glitters darkly like earthen ore. 14.5 percent alcohol. Brilliant winemaking. Drink now through 2025 to ’30, or, you know, it could be immortal. Production was 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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To honor the Year of the Rooster, to be celebrated on January 28 at Chinese New Year’s, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyard crafted a iron horsespecial, limited production sparkling wine that bears a vivid red and gold label you can’t miss. The Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley — that’s the AVA — is a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, aged en tirage (on the lees in the bottle) for four years. The color is pale straw-gold, energized by a swirling tempest of tiny glinting bubbles; I mean, it’s hypnotic. Aromas of spiced pears, pound cake and baked apples unfurl to notes of lemon balm and lemongrass, heather and damp hay and a hint of something uniquely tropical, star-fruit, perhaps, or guava, just a bell-tone. These elements — all nuances; nothing obvious — in turn are layered over limestone and shale minerality of the profoundest order, so on the palate this sparkling wine is lithe, chiseled and honed, quite dry of course, and with a finish notable for elegance and austerity, all twined with utmost fine-boned delicacy. 13.5 percent alcohol. One of my favorite sparkling wines of the past two months of tasting brigades of bottles. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Production was 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.

A sample for review.

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