Our travelogue of sparkling wine begins on Christmas Day in Austria’s Burgenland region, specifically the Neusiedersee production area. The szigetiSzigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was made on an estate founded in 1990 by brothers Peter and Norbert Szigeti, the latter being the winemaker. This is 100 percent pinot noir, aged 12 months in the bottle on the spent yeast cells after the second fermentation, you know, where the bubbles are born. In other words, the Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was fashioned in the traditional Champagne method. The color is an entrancing copper-salmon with a tarnished silver overlay, and the bubbles are gentle but persistent swirling flecks. Aromas of fresh strawberries and raspberries leap from the glass and are highlighted by notes of orange rind, cloves and apple skin; hints of red cherries and limestone emerge on the palate, propelled by lively acidity, while the mineral element burgeons through the still delicate, finely-knit finish. 12 percent alcohol. A delightful quaff that we drank as aperitif over several evenings. It could go another year. Very Good+. About $25.

Imported by Winebow Group, New York. A sample for review. The label illustrated isn’t exactly correct, but it’s close.

Today’s selection was already in its (neutral) barrels when Jackson Family Farms purchased Copain Wines in May 2016 for an undisclosed Print price, but I’ll bet that it wasn’t a pittance, since Copain is a highly regarded boutique winery focusing on single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay. Under the “Tous Ensemble” designation, however, winemaker Wells Gutherie produces wines blended from a variety of vineyards in broad AVA applications. The Copain Wines Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, offers a dark ruby hue that shifts to a transparent magenta rim; aromas of spiced and macerated red and black cherries and currants open to notes of pomegranate and cranberry, with hints of underlying leather and loam and a rooty, briery element, as if the wine were steeped in some essential black tea. These aspects segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine delivers lovely shape and heft in its satiny texture and liveliness in its energetic acid structure; mildly dusty tannins lend depth and substance through the bright, graphite-flecked finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $28.

A sample for review.

Let’s say that you’re braising a passel of short ribs or lamb shanks for dinner tonight, and why wouldn’t you? It’s as cold as a witch’s 2013_old_vine_label_rgb tit in a brass brassiere in most parts of the country, and hearty fare is called for. The wine I would go for — among hundreds if not thousands of equally legitimate choices, of course — is the Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. How old are the vines? Between 95 and 100 years old, which I would say qualifies for pretty ancient on anyone’s scale. This classic zinfandel blend that contains 19 percent petite sirah and three percent carignane, the grapes dry-farmed and head-pruned, aged 16 months in French, Hungarian and American oak. The color is vibrant dark ruby with a purple rim; while nothing here is plummy or jammy or overstated, the aromas of ripe boysenberries, black cherries and blackberries, feeling steeped in cloves and allspice, lavender and violets, black tea and graphite, are heady indeed; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of iodine and iron, making for a kind of ferrous-minty-loamy quality. Mouth-filling, sleek and supple on the palate, this zinfandel flows through the mouth with confidence and poised, weighty presence, buoyed by ripe, spicy black fruit flavors and propelled by zinging acidity that drives through to a spice-and-mineral-packed finish. A sane 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $32.

A sample for review. The label illustration is laggard by one vintage.

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At three years old, the Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, from New York’s Finger Lakes region, is drinking beautifully. The grapes were harvested on October 24 that year, and about 10 percent were affected by botrytis, the mold that shrivels grapes, concentrates and dries them and renders them into tiny, intense sugar bombs. That factor lends this 100 percent riesling wine, made all in stainless steel, not so much a hint of sweetness — it barely qualifies as “off-dry” — but lovely intensity and ripeness. The color is very pale straw-gold; the wine displays crystalline clarity and character, offering aromas of lemon, green apple, lime peel and lychee highlighted by notes of quince and ginger. The feeling of utter freshness continues on the palate, where hints of bursting peaches and apricots are slightly burnished and darkened by a tantalizing tide of loam, chalk and limestone, an ethereal yet persistent element that segues through the chiseled finish. 10.6 percent alcohol. The winery was established in 1998, on the east side of Seneca Lake, by David and Debra Whiting; winemaker is Kelby James Russell. Production was 840 cases. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $24.

A sample for review.

I endured technical problems Sunday and Monday, so I was delayed in getting this edition of Weekend Wine Notes posted, which really should happen on Saturday, so I feel like a freaking failure all the way around. But everything is fine now! I bought a router and didn’t actually need it, so Best Buy better take it back, because it cost a lot! Anyway, moving along, following the last Wine of the Day, which was a sauvignon blanc, I thought it might be a good idea to visit more sauvignon blancs, so here are 14, most from California, but one from Italy and several from Chile. The vintage is predominantly 2015, and the majority of these wines ought to be consumed within the next six months or so or certainly by the end of 2017. As usual with the Weekend Wine Notes, I offer incisive and trenchant reviews based on the scribbles in my notebooks, avoiding mention of technical, historical and geographical elements for the sake of immediacy. Enjoy and consume with moderation. These wines were samples for review.
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Angeline Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Sonoma County. 13.8% alc. Pale gold with green highlights; lime peel, caraway, grapefruit, celery leaf; slightly tropical with guava and jasmine; fresh, clean, lively and delicately-wrought. A good bet for a well-made bargain sauvignon blanc. Very Good+. About $15.
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Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13% alc. From Odfjell Vineyards, certified organic. Very pale gold; fennel and celery seed, lime peel and lemongrass; quite lively, even exuberant, feels filled with sunlight and fresh air; hints of leafy fig and dried thyme; lovely lithe limpid texture. Excellent. About $14, an Amazing Bargain.
Epic Wines and Spirits, Capitola, Calif.
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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Russian River Valley. 14.8% alc. The palest of very pale gold hues; roasted lemon, lime peel and lemongrass; leafy and herbal with a touch of fig; big hit of flint and damp seashell, bracing and saline, with swingeing acidity, a prickly and briery element and a chiseled, faceted finish. Always a favorite in our house. Excellent. About $25.
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Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Dry Creek Valley. 14.5% alc. I’m going to mention the stainless steel and oak proportion here because it’s interesting: 92% stainless steel, 8% chestnut, acacia and French oak barrels; the details matter, n’est-ce pas? Very pale straw-gold; aromas of grass and hay, pea shoot and fennel, lime peel and grapefruit; very dry but a texture nicely balanced between lush and crisp; a few minutes in the glass bring in beguiling notes of fig and roasted lemon, gardenia and gunflint, spiced pear and heather; the finish is all limestone, flint and green tea. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
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Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Oakville, Napa Valley. 14.4% alc. Pale straw-gold color; polished, honed and elegant; lime peel and tangerine, hints of celery leaf and lemongrass, a warm spicy bouquet; limestone and chalk, a soothing talc-like texture riven by bright acidity; the distraction if the oak that asserts itself from mid-palate back through the finish, muting the otherwise charming character. Very Good+. About $50.
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Galerie Naissance Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 13.5% alc. Very pale, almost colorless; heady scents of lilac and gardenia, tangerine and almond skin, lime peel and lemongrass; though very dry the wine is lively and vibrant, offering a dense, talc-like powdery texture riven by keen acidity; heaps of chalk and limestone in the background, beautiful shape and elegance over a stony foundation. Both alluring and serious. Excellent. About $30.
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Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Sonoma County. 13.8% alc. Pale gold color; a verdant and meadowy sauvignon blanc, offering notes of kiwi and lime peel, celery seed and tangerine, opening to peach, lemongrass and spiced pear, all encompassed by a leafy, summery floral element; a lovely light, lithe texture jazzed by a Sancerre-like snap of gunflint and graphite; heaps of limestone in the finish are softened by a furze of dried herbs. Real class and style. Excellent. About $22.
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Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Sauvignon 2015, Collio, Italy. 13.5% alc. Very pale straw-yellow hue; fairly standard array of lime peel and lemongrass, celery seed and fennel, but presented with unusual verve and fervor, and with interesting hints of lychee and yellow plum; suave and silken texture buoyed by an increasingly element of limestone and flint. Very Good+. About $28.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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Morgan Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Monterey County. 13.5% alc. Pale gold color; green bean and gooseberry, lime peel and grapefruit, unfurls green and leafy veils of pea shoot and preserved lemon, ginger and quince and an intriguing earthy component of wet leaves and moss; lively, even pert acidity, crystalline clarity and appeal, all founded on a burgeoning element of limestone and flint minerality. Feels essential and vital in the glass. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
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Oak Farm Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Lodi. 13% alc. Very pale gold with a faint green cast; lime peel and peach, lemongrass with hints of dried grasses and herbs; quite dry, crisp and snappy; seashell-flint minerality with a hint of bracing salinity; vital, vibrant finish. Charming and eminently drinkable. 579 cases. Very Good+. About $20.
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Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Dry Creek Valley. …% alc. Pale gold hue; warm sunny figs and lemongrass, pears and lime peel with back-notes of grapefruit and yellow fruit and flowers; polished, suave and supple texture, lively and alluring but not tart or pert; a scintillating dry limestone character with overall lovely balance and presence. Excellent. About $24.
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Ritual Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 14% alc. Palest of pale gold hues; another meadowy sauvignon blanc, with notes of lemongrass and broom, heather and hay under lime peel, pea-shoot, spiced pear and celery seed; very dry, multiple layers of limestone and flint etched by bright acidity; a finish that seethes with bracing salinity and grapefruit pith. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Huneeus Vintners, Rutherford, Calif.
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Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Northern Sonoma. 13.5% alc. Pale gold color; bright, clean and fresh, taut and sinewy; lime peel, pink grapefruit, gooseberry and tangerine; slightly dense talc-like texture, soft and appealing but permeated by plangent and resonant limestone minerality; very dry; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of lilac, honeydew melon, almond blossom and chalk. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
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Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. 13.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; a leafy, meadowy sauvignon blanc manifesting notes of hay, heather and dried thyme underlying hints of gooseberry, lime peel and grapefruit, with yellow fruit and flowers; practically pulses with bright acidity and briary, briny elements; lovely texture, heft and presence, perfect poise and elegance, graceful yet dynamic; a dominant limestone and flint finish is garnished with roasted lemon and green tea. A wonderful achievement. Exceptional. About $35.
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Just because the country is held firm in the grip of a Polar Vortex or Siberian Express or, as we like to say, “a damned freaking cold deep 3774bernardus-griva-vineyard-sauvignonfreeze,” doesn’t mean that My Readers should eschew white wines. I mean, we’re still eating such fare as seafood risottos and seafood soups and we still need a better-than-decent quaff to sip while cooking. Here’s today’s candidate, the Bernardus Winery Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Arroyo Seco, a spiffy, spanking-fresh sauvignon blanc that we drank last night with a Filipino chicken and rice stew called lugaw. While Bernardus is in Carmel, the grapes for this sauvignon blanc come from a vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA, in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley. Made in stainless steel but with a dollop of oak-aged semillon, the wine offers a delicate pale gold hue and entrancing aromas of lime peel, tangerine and orange blossom, fig, talc and camellia. It’s quite dry but juicy with citrus and stone-fruit flavors that are slightly leafy and grassy and energized by bright acidity and a limestone element that burgeons from mid-palate back through the finish furnished with heather and grapefruit rind. Delicious and fun to drink. The alcohol level is an exceedingly comfortable 12.8 percent.Winemaker was Dean DeKorth. Drink now through 2017. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review from the local distributor.

Do you think they sell Nerthe Balls in the gift shop at Chateau La Nerthe? Hahaha, no, of course not! I was kidding! Wineries and estates in Europe, especially those that trace their history back to 1560, as La Nerthe does, see no need to follow the California model of wineries offering tasting rooms and gift shops, picnic grounds and play grounds, jazz concerts and movie series. Not that no estates in France, Italy, Germany and so on indulge in these consumer-oriented activities, but there’s a sense that the business at hand is growing the best grapes and turning them into the best wines, no need to hire a staff visitor-resources coordinator. You could spend days in Burgundy or the Rhone Valley and not see a corkscrew for sale at a winery.

Anyway, Chateau La Nerthe occupies 225 acres, certified organic since 1998, in the southern Rhone region of Chateauneuf-du-nerthe-09-1280x600Pape, named for a summer palace that Pope John XXII, one of the alternative popes, built north of Avignon in the 14th Century (not pictured here). It was somewhat like the “Heather has two mommies” situation, except that in 14th Century Europe Heather had two Papas. Wine has been produced in the southern Rhone Valley since times immemorial, or at least since the wine-swilling Romans established vineyards, but Chateauneuf-du-Pape as we know it was only codified in 1923 by Baron Le Roy of Chateau Fortia (and amended in 1936), thus setting into motion the momentum toward the organization of the French A.O.C. system. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is unique for the number of grape varieties allowed into its blended red and white wines, 13 types originally but increased to 18 in 2009 by counting black, pink and white variations of the same grapes separately. The percentage of grapes in each wine is not regulated, and red and white wines may utilize both red and white grapes, though the number of estates that cross-color grapes in now very few. Sticking to the primary (and slightly or severely diminished) varieties the red grapes are grenache — the primary grape in these vineyards — syrah, mourvedre, cinsault, counoise and the little encountered muscardin, vaccarese, picpoul and terret noir; the whites are grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, bourboulenc and picardin.

Vines at La Nerthe average 40 years old. The vineyard surrounds the winery and mansion (pictured above) and features the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape characteristic of large, round stones — galets — on the surface. Winemaker is Christian Voeux.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. These wines were samples for review.
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Chateau La Nerthe 2012, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is a blend of 48 percent grenache, 29 percent syrah, 22 mourvedre and a scant 1 percent nerthecinsault; no white grapes for this one. The wine aged 12 months in a combination of 63 percent barriques and 37 percent large wooden casks and vats. The color is dark ruby with a lighter, transparent rim; this is rich and ripe, pungent with scents of black cherries and currants with hints of wild berries, cloves and allspice and, after a few minutes in the glass, strains of graphite, smoke, black pepper and damp ashes. At first, the wine is quite mellow and palatable, but it builds power and structure, as the fruit flavors add macerated red berries to the black fruit and dusty, velvety tannins assert themselves; the finish feels rather chiseled and honed from the stones of the vineyard. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to 2024. Excellent. About $65.
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Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateaunuef-du-Pape blanc, is a blend of 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette nerthe-2and bourboulenc. The wine aged in a combination of 228-liter oak foudres and 62 percent stainless steel tanks. The color is mild, medium gold; classic aromas of bee’s-wax and lanolin, yellow plums and peaches, heather, hay and camellia wreathe themselves into a beguiling bouquet; the wine is quite dry, offering plenty of body and stuffing in the way of bright acidity and scintillating limestone minerality, as well as yellow fruit flavors tinged with quince preserves and crystallized ginger, yet it demonstrates a sort of Southern languor and allure, a kind of low-cut gown and tanned shoulders effect that makes it irresistible. The finish, however, is notably spare, brisk and saline, bracing with limestone minerality and grapefruit pith. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $65.
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Hahaha, Readers, it’s a trick question, the answer to which is not “yes or no” but “yes and no.” It’s a truism of the wine industry that German wine regulations are the most confounding and confusing in the world. Since 1971, when the laws were codified, revisions have occurred several times, including in 2009 under the dictates of the European Union. Every wave of alterations promises to make matters easier on consumers, but those good intentions tend to fly out the window and leave things just as muddled as they were before. My goal today is not to give My Readers a complete lesson on German wine regulations and how to read the label on a bottle of German wine but simply to clarify the points of the so-called Prädikatswein, renamed from Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) (superior quality wine) in 2007. The catch is that this category dies not guarantee the “superior quality” of the wine in the bottle but indicates the level of ripeness of the grapes and the relative time of harvest, giving consumers a rough guide to the sweetness of the wines.

Kabinett – implies fully ripened grapes from the main harvest, meaning not late-harvest, typically semi-sweet with crisp acidity, but can be dry if designated so.
Spätlese – meaning “late harvest,” typically half-dry, often (but not always) sweeter and fruitier than Kabinett. The grapes are picked at least 7 days after normal harvest, so they are riper.
Auslese – meaning “select harvest,” made from very ripe, hand selected bunches, typically semi-sweet or sweet, sometimes with some noble rot character.
Beerenauslese – meaning “select berry harvest,” made from overripe grapes individually selected from bunches and often affected by noble rot, making rich sweet dessert wines.
Eiswein (ice wine) — made from grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine, making a very concentrated and indubitably sweet wine.
Trockenbeerenauslese – meaning “select dry berry harvest” or “dry berry selection,” made from overripe shriveled grapes often affected by noble rot making extremely rich sweet wines. “Trocken” in this phrase refers to the grapes being dried on the vine rather than the resulting wine being a dry style.

So, the five wines discussed today all carry the Kabinett designation, all exhibit various levels of sweetness on the entry but slide into dryness from mid-palate back through the finish because of the sometimes exquisitely bright acidity and the presence of mitigating limestone and flint minerality.

Unless otherwise indicated, these wines were samples for review.
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Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Wehlaner Sonnenwehr Riesling Kabinett 2014, Mosel. The color, so to speak, is pale pale bergweilerephemeral gold; aromas balance green apple, peach and pear, lychee and honeysuckle. In the mouth, this hovers delicately between medium dry and medium sweet; the texture floats cloud-like softness riven by bright acidity to a dry, faceted finish laden with hints of loamy earthiness and intense limestone minerality. 8.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to 2020. Very Good+. About $22.
Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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Weingut Darting Durkheimer Hochbenn Riesling Kabinett 2014, Pfalz. The overall impression of this very pale dartinggold-hued riesling is of fine-boned delicacy and chiseled elegance; notes of peach, lychee and petrol offer petals — as it were — of lilac and jasmine, while lively acidity keeps the wine animated and flowing on the palate and nicely balanced with a tendency toward dryness. Drink up. Very Good+. About $20, a local purchase.
A Therry Theise Selection, Skurnick Wines, New York.
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Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2015, Mosel. The color is very pale straw-gold; notes of lychee and peaches are highlighted by jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and crystallized ginger, with undertones of petrol and cloves. It’s slightly honeyed, a bit over-ripe but well-balanced by chiming acidity and a dry finish etched with limestone; currents of earth keep it grounded. 8.2% alcohol. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $22.
Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen. A golden wine, vibrant in its schneiderpale gold color, rich in aromas of apples, pears and spiced peaches, jasmine and honeysuckle; yes, it’s sweet, like a nectar of honeydew and apricots, but it glides into dryness across the palate, where it funnels into a finish hewn from limestone and flint; a few moments in the glass add notes of rubber eraser, ginger and quince. It’s a lively, vibrant, irresistible wine packed with personality. 8.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’23. Excellent. About $15, an Incredible Bargain.
Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2011, Mosel. Opens with a shimmering pale gold color and continues with a nose that’s earthy and musky, distinctive with notes of green apples and spiced pears, with a burgeoning effect of ripe peaches, jasmine and a whiff of petrol; the pungency and redolence are beguiling and authoritative. A moderately sweet entry segues into total dryness, abetted by blazing acidity, from mid-palate back through the finish, where a scintillating limestone and flint element dominates. 9.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $36, a local purchase.
A Rudi Wiest Selection, Cellars International, San Marcos, Calif.
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Here’s a delightful sparkling wine from Germany’s Rheingau region, produced by the Barth family in the traditional Champagne method of barth-sektkollektion-riesling-brutsecond fermentation in the bottle. The enterprise, established in 1948, makes a full range of still and sparkling wines, the latter of which are all estate-grown and produced. The Barth Brut Riesling Sekt, non-vintage, is 100 percent varietal and spent two years in the bottle resting on the lees of spent yeast cells. The color is medium gold, highlighted by a steady upward stream of tiny golden bubbles. The bouquet, well, the bouquet smells like a melange of everything we love about apples — fresh-cut Granny Smiths, spiced and baked apples, apple cider and a touch of slightly astringent red apple skin, all abetted by notes of pears and peaches, heather and honeysuckle. This sparkler is lively and effervescent on the palate, and though there’s something a bit honeyed about its richness, like candied quince and crystallized ginger, it’s quite dry and enters the finish with an element of fleet spareness. Not your usual sparkling wine. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $28.

Imported by Truly Fine Wines Inc., San Diego, Calif. A sample for review.

Thomas George Estates specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay wines from single vineyard sites in Sonoma County’s george-pnRussian River Valley, but winemaker John Wilson also produces these varieties under a general Russian River designation. Our Wine of the Day is the pinot noir from that overall AVA, and, Readers, it’s a honey. The Thomas George Estates Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, aged 11 months in French oak, only 37 percent new barrels — in oak except for six percent in concrete. The color is transparent medium ruby that shades infinitesimally to an invisible rim; aromas of sweet black and red cherries and currants are permeated by piquant notes of pomegranate and cranberry, sassafras and sage, with tantalizing hints of tobacco and wood-smoke. It’s all just really lovely, and it gets lovelier, as some time in the glass brings in touches of red licorice and lavender, new leather and oolong tea. On the palate, this pinot noir is lithe, supple and satiny, flowing across the tongue in a manner that’s a little quiet and studied yet also animated by bright acidity; red and black fruit flavors carry a slight graphite edge that precedes a glimpse of lightly dusted and sanded tannins. Exquisitely balanced, with grace and elegance. 14.3 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. I have not tasted the single vineyard offerings from Thomas George Estates, but I cannot imagine them being any better than this. Production was 2,398 cases. Excellent. About $43.

A sample for review.

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