Let’s face it, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs, bastardoyou don’t want to drink a fine red wine that sings of the earth and the sky, of rain and sun, soil and bedrock, a wine that embodies a vineyard, place, a life, a wine that is both typical and individual. No, friends, when you sit down to a pepperoni pizza or a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs what you want is a well-made, decent quaff that sits well with the food and doesn’t get in the way. Such a one is today’s selection, Il Bastardo Sangiovese 2015, Rosso di Toscana. The wine is 100 percent varietal, made in stainless steel and serves as a sort of cadet version of Chianti. In fact the maker of Il Bastardo is Renzo Masi, a third-generation Chianti producer in the Rufina district east of Florence. The color is dark ruby-garnet shading to lighter ruby; aromas of dried fruit and flowers mixed with dusty graphite segue to sweet black currants and red cherries touched with hints of oolong tea and orange rind. The wine is quite dry, animated by clean acidity, and it finishes not with a bang but a whisper of cherry pit and exotic spices. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 and just enjoy it. Very Good. About $9, a Great Value.

R. Shack Selection, imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Dan Morgan Lee and his wife Donna founded Morgan Winery in 1982, the first production being 2,000 cases of chardonnay from Monterey County. In the intervening 34 years, the winery has grown exponentially, while the roster of wines and labels has expanded, decreased, altered radically and undergone intense focus. Morgan, centered in Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands, specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir, both at the AVA and single-vineyard levels, but also produces notable sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling and syrah. A more personal project is Lee Family Farm, launched in 2005 and specializing in Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties. Except for the AVA-based wines, most of these products are made in limited quantities, though all are priced fairly. Today we look at the Morgan Albarino 2015 and the Lee Family Farm Tempranillo 2014. Winemaker for Morgan is Sam Smith.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey, fermented in stainless steel and then aged a brief five morgan_label_albarino_2015_frontmonths in French oak, a scant 10 percent new barrels. The result is a fresh, crisp and lively wine whose medium straw-gold hue leads to abundantly floral aromas of acacia, jasmine and lilac, with hints of spiced pear and lemon balm. This is a lustrous albarino offering a lithe and supple texture that embodies a sort of Platonic juicy peach and pear element bolstered by an almost prodigious amount of damp limestone and flint minerality and a keen acid edge. It’s quite dry, a bit spare through the finish, yet seductively attractive. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with seafood risottos, roasted fish or with tapas. Production was 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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The Lee Family Farm Tempranillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, is a beautiful, vibrant expression of the 2014_lff_tempranillogrape. The Arroyo Seco AVA lies in central Monterey County; it’s a roughly triangular shaped region whose longer, slightly curved angle fits against the eastern foothills of the coastal range. Arroyo Seco is cooled by the breeze from Monterey Bay which brings in morning fog. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 50 percent new barrels. The color is inky ruby-purple; aromas of ripe blackberries and plums are touched with notes of blueberry and pomegranate, cloves and just a hint of vanilla and hints of violets and rose petals. Animated by bright acidity, the wine is fleet on the palate yet distinguished by pleasing weight and heft; black fruit flavors reveal a slightly roasted, sun-baked quality. with a bit of fruitcake in the background. Moderate tannins are brushy and velvety, picking up high-toned rigor and dusty graphite on the way to the finish. 13.8 percent alcohol. Certainly one of the best tempranillo wines made in California, alas, in only 53 cases. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with steaks and chops or braised shanks of various kinds. Excellent. About $20.
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You won’t believe the price on today’s selection, and I mean that in the best way. I have been alsaceenjoying Alsace single-vineyard Grand Cru rieslings lately, and this example is one of the best. The Frédéric Mallo Vieilles Vignes Riesling Rosacker 2010, Alsace Grand Cru, offers a color of entrancing medium gold and arresting aromas of ripe peaches, mangoes and pears shot through with honeysuckle and the grape’s signature petrol element, all wrapped around notes of almond blossom and almond skin, cloves and dusty heather. Yep, it’s pretty damned heady stuff, all right. The entry is sweet and ripe, almost lush in its spiced peach and melon fanfare, but it slides across the palate going increasingly dry until reaching a finish of bright scintillating acidity and pure limestone and flint minerality. In fact, the wine displays quite a bit of tension in the poised equilibrium between sweetness and dryness, a tautness that provides energy and dynamism. From mid-palate back, it becomes more savory and saline, more chiseled and lithe. 13 percent alcohol. “Vieilles vignes,” in this case, means vines that are more than 50 years old. Drink through 2020 to ’24 with mildly spicy Asian fare or with a roasted pork tenderloin festooned with leeks and prunes or a roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and rosemary. Excellent. About $23, a Remarkable Value.

USA Wine Imports, New York. A sample for review.

Buy the Carlos Serres Crianza Rioja 2012 by the case, for drinking over the next year or two. A serres-riojablend of 85 percent tempranillo grapes and 15 percent garnacha, it embodies what seems to me are the primary characteristics of the tempranillo grape, a combination of slightly dried black and blue fruit, new leather, dried herbs and iodine-washed minerality; the garanacha lends a lift of red cherries and currants and bright acidity. The wine aged 14 months in French and American oak barrels, followed by six months of bottle aging. The color is medium ruby shading to a delicate transparent rim; black cherries, currants and a touch of blueberry are permeated by notes of smoke, ground cumin and sandalwood. The wine is fresh and lively, briery and peppery, dry and mildly tannic, and it goes down with lithe ease and suppleness. 13 percent alcohol. I consumed a glass or two of this wine with an egg scrambled with bits of diced red onion, yellow bell pepper, tomato and borsellino salami. Very Good+. About $12, a Terrific Bargain.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, Illinois. A sample for review.

I wrote about the 2012 version of today’s selection about two years ago, but now it’s the turn for the Pfeffingen Dry Riesling 2013, from Germany’s bucolic Pfalz region, which extends 53 miles in a 301 Labellong peninsular shape south from Rheinhessen to the French border. In 2012, a chilly wet Summer in Germany was succeeded by warmth in September and October, allowing grapes to ripen nicely and providing many excellent wines. The opposite case prevailed in 2013, when a mild Summer yielded to rain in September and October, the bane of growers and winemakers. The result in this case is a very dry riesling that focuses on acidity and mineral elements rather than the forwardness of succulent fruit. Still, the medium gold-hued Pfeffingen Dry Riesling 2013, the basic offering from this estate that traces its origin to 1622, delivers plenty of advantages, if not charm. Initial (and quite pretty) aromas of jasmine, heather and honeydew melon, peach and lychee, lime peel and lemongrass open to the rigorous nature of burgeoning limestone and flint minerality that extends all the way down through the wine’s framework and foundation. Bright scintillating acid leads to a fairly bracing damp stone, sea-salt and grapefruit-pith finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. An essential accompaniment to fresh oysters and grilled shrimp or mussels, though we drank a glass or two with salmon, marinated simply in olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper, and seared in the cast-iron skillet. Now through 2018 or ’19. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.

Sarah’s Vineyard traces its history to the late 1970s, when Marilyn Clark and John Otterman 13-pinotnoir-estate-thumbnailbought a 10-acre property in the Santa Clara Valley, about 30 miles south of Santa Cruz. They produced their first wines in 1983. They sold the winery to polymath Tim Slater in 2001. The estate occupies 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. I cannot offer details about winemaking and the oak regimen for this Chardonnay 2014 and Pinot Noir 2014 because the winery website is several vintages behind on information. I will say that if you love pinot noir, this one is Worth a Search.

These wines were samples for review.
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The color of the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2014, Santa Clara Valley, is bright medium gold, and, in fact, that adjective “bright” applies to every aspect of this slightly too florid chardonnay. It’s a bold and spicy wine, golden with baked pineapple and grapefruit flavors elevated by notes of cloves, quince and ginger and touched with a hint of wood smoke and dried mountain herbs. Bright acidity provides an even keel for the richness of the macerated stone-fruit flavors emboldened by a limestone and oak structure that burgeons through the drying finish. 14.3 percent alcohol. Production was 198 cases. I would give this chardonnay another year in bottle to achieve balance and integration. Very Good+. About $32.
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I have no such caveats about the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Clara Valley. The color is perfect, a medium ruby hue shading to a transparent garnet rim; aromas of rhubarb and sassafras, black and red cherries and plums, cloves and sandalwood are beautifully balanced and integrated, as is, in truth, every element of the wine. While it’s ripe and delicious, even tending toward succulent, on the palate, this pinot noir pulls up loamy and briery qualities, along with foresty touches of moss and dry leaves, all of which animate a texture that’s both satiny and a little muscular. My final note was , “Lordy, how beautiful!” 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Production was 415 cases. Excellent. About $40.
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Cadaretta is the upper-level label of Middleton Family Wines, a business that includes the cadaretta-sbClayhouse (Paso Robles) and Adobe (Central Coast) brands from California; Buried Cane (Washington State); and the imports Ad Lib (Larry Cherubino’s label from Western Australia) and MFW Wines of Italy. Wine of the Day, No. 192, is the Cararetta SBS 2015, from Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. This is a blend of 89 percent sauvignon blanc and 11 percent semillon made entirely in stainless steel. The color is very pale straw-gold; the fresh, clean, many-layered and frankly beautiful bouquet peels back notes of lime peel, roasted lemon and spiced pear; grapefruit, lemongrass and green tea; caraway and melon; dried thyme and tarragon. Pretty darned heady stuff, all right, yet subtle, too, not extravagant or flamboyant. A lovely svelte, lithe texture is riven by star-bright acidity and bolstered by a distinct limestone and flint edge, all at the service of tasty elements of stone-fruit, fig and heather. 13.5 percent alcohol. A tremendously appealing expression of the grape, for drinking through the Summer of 2017. Excellent. About $23.

A sample for review.

Before Sonoma Mountain was approved as an American Viticultural Area in 1985, Patrick Campbell was producing excellent cabernet sauvignon wines from a vineyard 2,000 feet up the mountainside. lg_12_cp_beauty_webAfter 30 vintages, Campbell sold the winery and vineyards in 2011 to a group led by Bettina Sichel; Campbell still works as a consultant with a team that includes winemaker Randall Watkins and legendary California grower Phil Coturri and winemaker David Ramey. As is the case with many wineries, Laurel Glen offers several levels of products to make its wines more accessible, the instance here being its Counterpoint label. The Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Sonoma Mountain, is a blend of 90 percent cabernet and 10 percent merlot, sourced primarily from the winery’s organic estate vineyard as well as fruit from two other vineyards in the AVA. The wine aged 16 months in French oak (and a bit of American oak), 40 percent new barrels. The color is very dark ruby-magenta, basically opaque at the center; ravishing aromas of ripe and spicy black currants, cherries and blueberries shift to graphite and ink, iodine and iron that admit notes of lavender and licorice, loam and leather. Readers, you could eat it with a spoon. You feel the dense chewy structure on the palate, the bold, dust-inflected, finely-grained tannins; the bright and lively acidity; the suppleness of burnished oak; also, thank goodness, the deliciousness of black fruit flavors swathed in cloves, allspice and bittersweet chocolate, all driving toward a sturdy, mineral-packed finish. 14.4 percent alcohol. This is a beautifully crafted and balanced cabernet seemingly influenced by its slightly austere mountain roots, for drinking tonight with a medium rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the grill, or through 2024. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review. The bottle image is two vintages behind the wine reviewed here.

Trying to be a good sport about this Merlot Month thing, so here’s a dependable example from PrintNapa Valley. The Flora Springs Merlot 2014, Napa Valley, derives from sustainable cultivated vineyards in Napa valley generally and from the St. Helena and Rutherford sub-AVAs. The wine aged 16 months in new and used French oak barrels. The color is a very dark ruby-purple that hews closely to the concept of ebony; those looking for a sensuous and seductive bouquet need look no farther than these aromas of rich and ripe black currants, cherries and plums infused with notes of cedar and mint, iodine and thyme, lavished with hints of licorice, lavender and violets and exotic woody spices. Lip-smacking acidity plows through the succulent black fruit flavors — abetted by a strain of blueberry — and long, lithe dusty tannins provide ballast and balance, all given freight by a load of penetrating graphite that gives the finish a slightly hard edge. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’22 with steaks and chops, braised short ribs and veal or lamb shanks. Winemaker was Paul Steinauer. Excellent. About $30.

A sample for review.

A perfect choice with last night’s pizza that featured pork shoulder barbecue as the meat, the qupe-central-coast-syrah-nv-800px1Qupé Syrah 2013, Central Coast, is a feisty red with spicy red and black fruit flavors and a vibrant structure. A bare two percent to the 98 percent syrah contains dollops of grenache, mourvèdre and tempranillo grapes; the wine aged 18 months in neutral French oak barrels. For the total geek, the wine is comprised 63 percent of grapes from cool vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Edna Valley (in San Luis Obispo County) and 37 percent from warmer vineyards in Paso Robles (also in SLO County), resulting in a pleasing sense of tension and balance in what is essentially a very appealing and palatable wine. The color is a glowing medium ruby hue; aromas of black and red currants and cherries are permeated with notes of dried thyme, leather and black olives, with a few moments in the glass bringing in hints of tobacco leaf, iodine and mint. All of these qualities segue seamlessly and deliciously into the mouth, where bright acidity gives the wine a keen edge that cuts through dusty, graphite infused tannins. The alcohol content is a moderate 13.5 percent. Drink now through 2018 with chops and burgers and hearty pastas and pizzas. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

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