I know the name Ernie Els and that he is a well-known golfer — I wonder why we don’t say “golf player” — mainly
big easybecause he comes up in crossword puzzles, where there is an insatiable need for three-letter words. The South African Els is not the first star golfer to create a wine label; Australian Greg Norman came first, though to my knowledge his name never crops up in crossword puzzle clues. Els’ new label, “Big Easy,” refers not to the city of New Orleans, as one might suppose, but to Ernie Els himself, so nicknamed because of his carriage and the beauty of his effortless swing (I had to look that up). The golfer launched his wine enterprise in 1999. A portion of the profits from the Big Easy wines will benefit the foundation that Els and his wife started for research into autism. If you happen to be hankering for an, ahem, easy-drinking white wine, look to the Ernie Els Big Easy Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, 100 percent varietal and made all in stainless steel. The color is very pale gold; well-integrated aromas of hay, pear, quince and jasmine open to notes of heather, bay leaf and a refreshing aura of seashell minerality and brininess. That appealing aspect of sea-breeze freshness and salinity washes over the palate, bringing subtle touches of roasted lemon, peach and spiced pear; vivid acidity keeps the wine crisp and lively, while a bracing limestone element pierces the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through the Summer of 2016. Winemaker was Louis Strydom. Very Good+. About $17.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.

On November 15, I posted a series of reviews about 18 sauvignon blanc wines made in California (here). Today, it’s the turn of 15 sauvignon blancs from other parts of the world: France, New Zealand, Chile and Italy. There’s much to like here, especially if you’re fond of the French styles of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, but there’s a big surprise from northeastern Italy at a bargain price too. As usual, in the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew technical, historical and geographical data in favor of quick incisive mentions designed to pique the interest and whet the palate. Most of these wines were samples for review; a few were tasted at distributors’ trade events.

The absence of label illustrations in the New Zealand section below is because the websites associated with the several wineries or importers were either extremely user-unfriendly, inadequate or hopelessly out of date.
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France
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jolivet sancerre
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley. 12.5% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Very pale straw-gold hue; clean, fresh, crisp and appealing; notes of roasted lemon, lemon balm and tangerine; pulls up hints of lemongrass and slightly dusty dried herbs; lithe and supple, exquisitely balanced and energized; increasingly dry and heady with limestone minerality. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $24.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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sancerre-blanc--caves-monmousseau
Domaine Justin Monmousseau Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw color; first the limestone and chalk, then a snap of gun-flint; roasted lemon and verbena, bay and thyme, with a citrus undertow; very dry, a little austere but seductive in its talc-like texture riven by scintillating acidity. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $24.
USA Wine Imports, New York
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EXEM Blanc
EXEM 2014, Bordeaux. 12% alc. 60% sauvignon blanc, 40% semillon. Very pale straw color; gooseberry, grapefruit and lime peel, notes of leafy fig, roasted lemon and currant; pert, tart and sassy; tasty citrus flavors with a hint of spiced pear; pleasing texture, part lush, part lithe. Now through 2016. Very Good+. About $13.
Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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esprit bordeaux blanc
Esprit Saint-Sulpice 2014, Bordeaux Blanc. 12.5% alc. Sauvignon blanc 80%, semillon 20%. Pale gold hue; very clean, fresh and bright; green apple, lemons and orange blossom, just a hint of grass and dried herbs, and touches of lime peel and mango; lovely powdery texture but lively with crisp acidity; quite dry, finishes with a tide of damp limestone. Truly charming. Very Good+. About $17.
Fredric Wildman & Sons, New York.
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hauts de smith
Les Hauts de Smith 2011, Pessac-Leognan. 13% alc. Medium straw-gold hue; spiced pear, quince and ginger, whiffs of honeysuckle and acacia, fennel and lavender; quite dry but juicy with grapefruit and peach flavors hinting at a sunny leafy fig character and a bell-tone of black currant; layers of limestone and flint minerality lead to a fairly austere finish animated by brisk acidity; overall impression is of substance balanced by elegance and transparency. Now through 2020 to 2022. Excellent. About $45.
Joanne Bordeaux, Jersey City, N.J.
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tour
Chateau Tour Leognan 2013, Pessac-Leognan Blanc. 12.5% alc. 70% sauvignon blanc, 30% semillon. Fairly NZ-like for a Bordeaux blanc, with snappy pea-shoot, lime peel and grapefruit qualities, crisp and lively, featuring jazzed-up acidity and loads of limestone and flint; very fresh, charming and appealing, good balance and presence. Now through 2016 into 2017. Very Good+. About $22.
Monsieur Touton Selections, New York.
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chateau-villa-bel-air-graves-france-10213716
Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2013, Graves. 13% alc. 65% sauvignon blanc, 35% semillon. Very pale gold color; clean, crisp, delicate; honeysuckle, cloves and fennel, notes of grapefruit and candied orange rind, quince and ginger and a lingering after-glow of lychee and something faintly resiny; lovely shape and tone, set chiming with keen acidity and limestone minerality. Now through 2017 to ’18. Excellent. About $25.
Verity Wine Partners, New York
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New Zealand
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Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Very pale straw color; a winsome and layered bouquet of grapefruit, pea-shoot, tangerine and lime peel, with notes of new-mown grass, timothy and thyme, gooseberry and a tinge of currant; a top-note of jasmine; smooth segue into the mouth, very dry with an almost powdery texture shot with fleet acidity; cleansing limestone and chalk minerality. Totally charming. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $17.
Imported by Accolade Wines North America, Napa, Calif.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2014, North Canterbury. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-yellow; lime peel and pea-shoot, notes of grapefruit, lychee and greengage; lively and ebullient but not flamboyant; lovely talc-like texture buoyed by bright acidity; very dry, lots of limestone and flint, a fairly austere finish. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.
Mt. Beautiful USA, Bernecia, Calif.
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Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12.5% alc. Pale gold color; pea-shoot, pear, lime peel and grapefruit; celery seed and caraway; crisp and lively with taut acidity; permeated by elements of damp limestone and shale, especially from mid-palate through the finish; direct and appealing, with a lovely texture. Rink up. Very Good+. About $13.
Constellation Imports, Madera, Calif.
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Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-gold; very clean, fresh, pure and vibrant; a distinctly meadowy sauvignon blanc, with notes of celery seed and caraway, grapefruit and lime peel, pea-shoot and fig; an attractively leafy, grassy and citrusy wine, quite dry and tart and finishing with grapefruit pith and limestone. Lots of character and personality. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $20.
Constellation Imports, Gonzales, Calif.
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Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough. 12.5% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. A Gallo label. Very pale gold; defines what we think of as the Oz style in sauvignon blanc: lime peel, gooseberry, grapefruit, pea-shoot, kiwi and lychee; snappy, tart and pungent; shimmering limestone element. Drink up. Very Good. About $15.
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Italy
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Prodigo Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Friuli Grave. 12% alc. 100% sauvignon blanc. Pale straw-gold; restrained and prodigodelicate, yet intense and penetrating; blooming with jasmine and almond blossom; mint and heather, tarragon and pea shoot, roasted lemon and lime peel; utterly beguiling and seductive; keen acidity powering limestone and flint minerality. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $11, a Bargain of the Century.
Imported by Winesellers Ltd., Niles, Ill.
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Chile
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Concha y Toro Ribera del Rapel Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Colchagua Valley. 13% alc. 100% sauvignon Gran_Reserva_Sauvignon_Blanc_Label_NV-300x259blanc. Pale straw hue; grapefruit, yellow plum, fennel and celery seed, notes of gooseberry, thyme and tarragon; taut, lithe and crisp, with tons of presence and tone; a full complement of limestone and flint minerality, energized by vibrant acidity; terrific balance and integration. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $17, representing Great Value.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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Concha y Toro Costa Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley. 13% alc. 100% Terrunyo_Sauvignon_Blanc_Front_Label-300x218sauvignon blanc. Pale gold color; smoke and steel; celery seed, fennel, tarragon; grapefruit and lime peel; very dry, crisp and dynamic, with deep reserves of limestone and chalk; focuses on spiced pear and peach flavors, off-set by slightly astringent herbal elements; one of the best sauvignon blanc wines I have tasted from Chile. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $26, and Worth It.
Excelsior Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y.
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The color of the Mud House Pinot Noir 2013, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, is such a lovely, limpid, transparent ruby hue that mud houseyou could be forgiven for wanting just to gaze upon it for a while, as one might be mesmerized by a glass of red wine in a Dutch still-life painting. Take a sniff, though, to encounter the wine’s winsome notes of cloves and sassafras, red cherry and raspberry, slightly roughened by touches of briery-brambly elements. This pinot noir ages briefly in a combination of French oak barriques and stainless steel tanks, so it retains appealing freshness as well as a light cloak of spicy wood influence. The wine’s delicate nature meshes with its marked purity and intensity of character, in a balance that posits bright acidity with delicious red fruit flavors and a mere hint of dusty tannic resonance. A real treat. Winemaker was Nadine Worley. Drink now through 2016 into 2017. Very Good+. About $17.

Imported by Accolade Wines North America, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Named for — let’s not toss this word around too loosely — legendary winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, long-time director of Grgich mikeHills Estate, in Napa Valley’s Rutherford district, the Miljenko’s Selection labels indicate a level of quality and limited quantity fully worthy of the man and his heritage. While the 92-year-old veteran of 50 or more harvests turned over winemaking duties to his nephew Ivo Jeramaz years ago, the wines from the estate, all organically produced, bear Mike Grgich’s influential and benign thumbprint, and he personally selected the vineyards from which they derive. These wines ferment by indigenous yeast; the oak regimen is carefully tempered to the grapes in question and to the outcome at the end of aging. The goal is a fine balance between elegance and power, and rarely is that goal not accomplished. These are, admittedly, wines for collectors and enthusiasts, and they are available to the winery’s club patrons and at the tasting room. If any happen to come your way, don’t hesitate, if you can manage, to acquire a bottle or two or even twist someone’s arm to give you a taste. Such wines raise beacons of purity and intensity for others to follow.

Samples for review.
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The color of the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Napa Valley, is very pale straw-gold; FINAL 2013 ESS LABELbbeguiling aromas of lemongrass and lime peel, quince and ginger are animated by an undertow of graphite and limestone. These elements segue seamlessly to the palate, where the wine’s dense, talc-like texture is riven by keen acidity and that shimmering stony minerality, lending a sense of both delicacy and durability. A few moments in the glass bring in notes of heather, fig and jasmine. 14.1 percent alcohol. A sauvignon blanc of piercing purity and intensity, beautiful in every aspect. The wine spent nine months in large French oak casts. Production was 1,204 cases. Now through 2019 to 2022. Exceptional. About $55.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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Hailing from Carneros, Napa Valley, the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Chardonnay 2013 delivers loads of bright, bold 2012 CHCN, MSrichness handled with infinitely deft balance and nuance. The color is pale straw-gold; the bouquet blossoms in layers of classic pineapple-grapefruit scents infused with quince jam, hints of peach and spiced pear and notes of crushed gravel and damp flint. In the mouth, the wine is characterized by lovely expressiveness and vibrancy, a true marriage of power and elegance; citrus and stone-fruit flavors are lightly touched by cloves and allspice and bear a light cloak of slightly burnished oak, all encompassed by resonant limestone minerality. 14.1 percent alcohol. The wine spent 11 months in 900-gallon French oak casks. Production was 1,265 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2023. Excellent. About $60.
The label image is one vintage behind.
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I haven’t seen a petite sirah wine that measured under 14 percent alcohol in years, and not many under 15 percent, but the Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petite Sirah 2011, Napa Valley, performs very nicely at 13.9 percent, thank you very much. It’s a rollicking ripe and spicy wine, whose dark ruby-purple color presages aromas of deeply scented, dusty and macerated black cherries and blue plums opening to notes of lavender, black pepper and graphite; a few minutes in the glass bring out hints of blueberry, mulberry and violets. The impression on the palate is of wonderful freshness, brightness and appeal of red and black fruit, but give the wine an hour or so and bulwarks of stalwart chiseled tannins begin to assert themselves. The wine spent a whopping 32 months in wood, half large oak casks, half small neutral barriques. Production was 503 cases. We drank this with a medium-rare strip steak, crusted with my secret multi-pepper mixture. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $65.
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The Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Petit Verdot 2012, Yountville, with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, is a deep, geological wine that seems to draw strength and power from the strata of the earth and recesses of glittering granite. The color is inky ruby-purple, and the chief quality of the wine is — not to be repetitious — a piercing minerality entangled with tannins that crowd the palate like dusty antique velvet. Fruit makes an appearance in the guise of black currents and cherries with notes of wild blueberries and cranberries, but this is primarily a wine that will center on structure for years to come. The wine aged 21 months in French oak casks. Try from 2017 or ’18 through 2022 to ’25. 14.7 percent alcohol. Production was 493 cases. Excellent potential. About $65.
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Devotees of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon wines — particularly from the west-central area of the region — who possess the necessary fiduciary prowess will want to snap up a case of the 100 percent varietal Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Rutherford. This is the real stuff, from a great vintage. The color is opaque ruby-purple with a tinge of magenta at the rim; at first, the wine emits scents of mint and eucalyptus, cedar and thyme, gradually unveiling notes of spiced, macerated and slightly roasted black and red currants and cherries, backed by graphite, lavender and bitter chocolate, all melded with purposeful integration. It’s a dry, vigorous wine, ruled by laser-beam minerality, ferocious acidity and burnished and polished tannins; despite this profound nature, the wine is not ponderous or obvious, rather it carries its scintillating lithic character with grace and dignity. One feels, after a few minutes airing, the famous or elusive Rutherford dusty, loamy influence, adding touches of espresso and ancho chili. 14.5 percent alcohol. The wine spent 18 months in French oak barrels, 80 percent new. Production was 485 cases. Try from 2017 or ’18 through 2028 to ’30. Exceptional. About $90.
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I like the bonarda grape. Left pretty much to itself in the winery, given a minimum of oak exposure, it makes decent, direct and full-bodied wines suited to, you know, decent, direct and full-bodied food. As is the case with even the most unpretentious grapes, Argento Bonarda 2012 Blends USA front_0bonarda, grown principally now in Argentina, possesses a rather nebulous or even confusing history and sports a range of synonyms. It shares DNA with the douce noir grape that originated in France’s Savoie region and is the same as the charbono, once a cult grape in California and now much diminished in plantings, meaning down to about 88 acres. (I tasted charbono wines made by Inglenook from the 1970s and ’80s, years ago, and they were superb.) Anyway, this Wine of the Day is the Argento Bonarda 2013, from Argentina’s Mendoza region. It spent four months in American oak barrels, just enough time to firm up the structure and lend the wine a spicy, cedary background. The color is opaque black-purple with a faint ruby-red rim; the wine is ripe, fleshy and meaty, both dense and elevated by black currant and cherry and blueberry scents and flavors permeated by notes of bell pepper, dried thyme and lavender. Robust, certainly, dry and dusty with tannins but overall sleek and chiseled in structure. A few moments in the glass bring up a distinctly graphite and granitic mineral element. 13.5 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Silvia Corti. Drink now through 2017 with burgers, steaks, braised shanks and short ribs, or, what the hell, cheese toast. Very Good+. About $14, representing Real Value.

Imported by Blends, Plymouth, Calif. A sample for review.

Though the estate was founded in 1811 by Sebastian Alois Prüm, records attest that the family had been growing grapes in the Mosel prum_luminance_lab_smsince 1156. Since 1971, the 40-acre property has been run by S.A. Prüm’s grandson Raimond and his daughter Saskia Andrea, who is positioned to take over complete operations. Today, I offer for your simple enjoyment the S.A. Prüm Luminance Riesling 2013, Mosel, a delightful wine that will not set you back on your heels in wonderment nor deal your wallet a death-blow. Made from 100 percent riesling grapes, all in stainless steel tanks, the wine exudes freshness and exuberance. The color is pale straw-gold; aromas of lightly spiced peaches and pears open to notes of lychee and heather, with just a hint of the grape’s petrol nature. The label says “dry,” though I would describe the wine as “mostly dry-ish,” primarily because of the gushing ripeness of its stone-fruit flavors, neatly held in check by a rather luminous limestone and slate minerality and scintillating acidity. The charming finish brings in touches of tangerine and jasmine. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the Spring of 2016 as aperitif or with light fish and seafood dishes or even a veal roast. Very Good+. About $15, a Sweet Deal.

Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Fla. A sample for review.

The Spire Collection comprises the top products in the expansive stable of Jackson Family Wines. These are limited edition wines, generally from specific AVAs, carefully made, aged with primarily new French oak barrels and priced accordingly. The Spire Collection labels are Anakota (Knights Valley); Arcanum (Tuscany); Capensis (Western Cape, South Africa); Capture (Sonoma County); Cardinale (Napa Valley); Cyneth (Napa Valley); Chateau Lessegue (Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux); Chateau Vignot (Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux); Galerie carpenter(Napa Valley); Hickinbotham (McLaren Vale, South Australia); La Jota Vineyard (Napa Valley); Lokoya (Napa Valley); Maggy Hawk (Mendocino County); Mt. Brave (Napa Valley); Verite (Sonoma County);Windracer (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County). Today we look at red wines from La Jota, Lokoya and Mt. Brave, made by Chris Carpenter, pictured at right. He is also the winemaker for Cardinale, the 2011 version of which I reviewed back in January (here) and Hickinbotham, whose wines I will save for a later post; I mean, Australia is so far away from Napa Valley, and I want to stick to a theme.

The wines of La Jota, Lokoya and Mt. Brave, products of mountainside vineyards, are true vins de garde, that is, wines intended for long aging, in the case of some of these from 10 to 15 years or more, yet they are — conforming to the California ideal — accessible at a fairly young age too. They are wines of character, serious and highly structured but not ponderous, dignified but not aloof. With prices ranging from $75 to $350 a bottle, a legitimate question is, who buys these wines? Who even cares that they exist, in their limited quantities? Loyoka doesn’t even have an online function to purchase its wines; the best one can hope for is to add your name to an allocation list.

The desirability of these wines is not merely an effect of their price and rarity, however. These are great — to use a subjective term — wines that deserve to be in the cellars of anyone who collects such products. As for the rest of us, well, I wouldn’t have access to them either if I weren’t a veteran wine-writer, and I don’t hesitate to say that I enjoyed the hell out of them.

These notes are a combination of tasting samples for review at home and tasting wines in Napa Valley in March this year.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. dates back to 1898, when Swiss immigrant Frederick Hess purchased 327 acres of George Yount’s Rancho La Jota land grant on Howell Mountain. (The jota is a Spanish folk-dance, in 3/4 or 6/8 time, that achieved broad popularity in the mid 18th Century.) Within a few years, La Jota wines were winning awards at national and international competitions. Phylloxera and Prohibition put an end to the winery’s accomplishments, and the estate did not see a revival until 1974, when the original stone winery and 40 surrounding acres were bought by former oilman Bill Smith and his wife Joan. They planted new vines and added acreage, developed several new varieties and were instrumental in persuading what was then the BATF to declare Howell Mountain a separate American Viticultural Area within Napa Valley. In 2001, Smith sold La Jota to Markham Vineyards and its parent company Mercian Corp. The late Jesse Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke acquired La Jota in 2005.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. W.S. Keyes Vineyard Merlot 2010, Napa Valley. 14.2% alc. 82% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon. 19 months French oak, 85% new barrels. W.S. Keyes Vineyard, planted in 1888, lies at 1,825 feet elevation on Howell Mountain. Very dark ruby hue with a slightly lighter rim; first note: “just beautiful”; quite rich, ripe and intense but without being opulent or overpowering; cloves and sandalwood, black cherries, currants and raspberries with a wild flash of blueberries; bitter chocolate, cedar, tobacco and mocha; wonderful balance and integration of all elements: dusty, supple tannins, spicy fruit, burnished wood, bright acidity and graphite-tinged minerality, all poised with real depth and precision. Drink now through 2020 to ’24. Production was 296 cases. Exceptional. About $150.
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La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot 2011, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 95% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon. 19 months French oak, 97% new barrels. Dark ruby with a magenta rim; laser beam concentration of ripe black cherry, current and raspberry scents and flavors; bitter chocolate and lavender, cloves and graphite; bright acidity with tremendous resonance and pinpoint balance; finish packed with granitic minerals, walnut-shell and dusty tannins. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc 2011, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 96% cabernet franc, 4% cabernet sauvignon. 19 months French oak, 96% new barrels. Opaque ruby-purple hue; cedar and tobacco leaf, rosemary and pine resin; intense black currant with wild notes of blueberry and raspberry; opens to hints of black olive, oolong tea, white pepper and allspice; dense, dusty tannins, lithe, sinewy texture that’s tight but doesn’t stint on generosity. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 82% cabernet sauvignon, 8% merlot, 6% cabernet franc, 4% petit verdot. 19 months in French oak, 91% new barrels. Dark ruby with a magenta rim; graphite and granite, iodine and iron; traces of lavender and violet, bitter chocolate and dusty sage; tannin treads the fine line where strict rigor dissolves into dusty velvet; gradually adds ripe black currants, raspberries and blueberries; austere finish needs time to mellow, though it would be tremendous now with a medium rare strip steak. Try through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc 2012, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% cabernet franc. 20 months French oak, 81% new barrels. Dark ruby with a vivid magenta rim; bushy and brushy black and red currants, touches of plums, blueberries, notes of cedar, black olives and cloves; lithic structure, plenty of graphite; tannins feel dusty, polished, slightly sanded; also plenty of oak but well-balanced and integrated; robust without being rustic, packs a lot of power into a vibrant package. Drink through 2020 or ’24. Excellent. About $75.
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La Jota Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 77% cabernet sauvignon, 11% cabernet franc, 8% petit verdot, 4% merlot. 20 months French oak, 89% new barrels. Dark ruby with a violet rim; walnut shell, wheatmeal and graphite, focus on structure but firmness etched with deeply spicy black currants, raspberries and plums; notes of lavender, mocha and bitter chocolate; briery and brambly on the one hand, sleek and chiseled on the other, dry and granitic, with fissures of black olive and bell pepper; heaps of presence and energy. Try 2017 or ’18 through 2025 to ’30. Excellent. About $75.
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Mt. Brave, named for the Wappo Indians — “the brave ones” — who inhabited the area, was founded in 2007 to exploit the terroir of the former 30-plus-acre Chateau Potelle property that Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke purchased that year.
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Mt. Brave Merlot 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 80% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon. 19 months in French oak, 80% new barrels. Deep ruby-purple color; a dusty, dusky, lithic rooty wine, offering heaps of graphite and a distinctive earthy quality; also layers of ripe black cherry and plum fruit with notes of spicy pomegranate and blueberry; blossoms with a generous wafting of perfume — violets and lavender, incense and heather; lithe and supple texture supported by velvety tannins and vibrant acidity; a long, dense, slightly austere finish. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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Mt. Brave Malbec 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% malbec. 19 months French oak, 70% new barrels. Lustrous black as motor oil with a purple-violet sheen; a darkly gorgeous malbec, seething with notes of blueberry and boysenberry, though not over-ripe or cloying; deeply infused with structural elements of graphite, wheatmeal and walnut shell; opens to hints of black cherry and plum, iodine and iron, cloves and violets, a touch of cherry tart; tannins are dense and chewy, robust, and acidity cuts a path on the palate. Quite a performance. Now through 2021 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 94% cabernet sauvignon, 3% each merlot and cabernet frnac. 19 months French oak, 91% new barrels. All right, this is the Big One, very dark and inky in every respect; you sense the mountain roots, the chthonic stirrings in its depths of brushy, briery tannins, fleet acidity and grantic minerality; yet — there’s always a yet — the wine also feels like classic Napa Valley cabernet, sleek, chiseled, almost elegant in its presentation and delicious with a wide-ranging complement of cassis, black cherry and blueberry scents and flavors, with notes of cedar, tobacco, mocha and lavender. Another great package. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $75.
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Lokoya was founded in 1995. The wines are 100 percent cabernet sauvignon and originate in high-altitude vineyards in the Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain District and Spring Mountain District AVAs. I have tasted only the Mount Veeder version.
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lokoya
Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. 14.5% alc. 100% cabernet sauvignon. Oak regimen was 21 months in French oak, 99% new barrels, a tad finicky perhaps — what difference would one more percent make? — but this winemaker knows what he’s doing. Very dark ruby-mulberry hue; incredible purity and intensity, deep focus and concentration; dusty graphite and granitic qualities that reach far into the depths but allow for the burgeoning of floral notes — lavender and violets — coffee and mocha, black current and blueberry fruit with a wild, high trace of black cherry; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of cloves and sandalwood; the finish — as expected — long, dense, sleek and a bit austere. Tremendous presence, dimension, power and resonance. Now through 2025 to ’30. Exceptional. About $350.
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Let’s utter a cheer or two for wines that require no contemplation or furrowed brows, just a requirement for pleasure and enjoyment. Such a one is the Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2014, from an area so deep into southwest France that if you bhrouge14front stumble over a rock, you’ll fall into Spain. The steep, stony property, a refuge for the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages, was acquired in 1999 by Michel Chapoutier, who needs no introduction to fans of profound wines from the Rhone Valley, pretty far east along the great curve of the Mediterranean coastline. The Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2014 is dominated by the syrah grape, with dollops of grenache and carignan; the wine has no oak contact, fermenting and aging in concrete vats. The color is a brilliant medium ruby with a trace of violet; the bouquet is bright and engaging, offering a florid display of black and red currants and plums with notes of ripe blackberry, briers and brambles, dried thyme and sage. Moderate tannins provide support for voluptuously ripe and spicy black and red fruit flavors, held in check by keen acidity and an essential graphite-tinged mineral element. The emphasis is on deliciousness and savor. 14 percent alcohol. We happily drank this bottle with a pizza made at home, with toppings of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, black olives and Italian parsley. Very Good+. About $15, representing Fine Value.

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

Founded by a consortium of families in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards is operated by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, whose present winemaker is Renee Ary. Deciding early on to focus on the merlot grape, Duckhorn is a leader in high-quality production, centered on single- vineyard releases of merlot, such as the famous Three Palms Vineyard. The winery also makes highly-rated sauvignon blanc and cabernet duckhorn merlotsauvignon. Today’s Wine of the Day is Duckhorn’s “basic” merlot, which draws from a variety of vineyards and carries a Napa Valley designation. The blend of the Duckhorn Merlot 2012, Napa Valley, is 88 percent merlot, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent each petit verdot and cabernet franc and 1 percent malbec; the wine aged 16 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, 75 percent once-used. The color is a radiant dark ruby-purple. Aromas of black currants, blueberries and mulberries are inflected with notes of cloves, allspice and a bit of plum jam, opening, after some airing, to intriguing hints of bell pepper and black olive, cedar and sage. It’s an intense and concentrated wine, wild and loamy, briery and brambly, a little gnarly even, yet lithe, polished, powered by bold acidity and dusty, bristly tannins. It’s deep and spicy, seething with ebon-like fruit flavors; if a beverage could feel inky, this would be it, and yet, there’s a paradoxical sense of sweet balance and elegance on the graphite-infused finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. Loads of presence and personality. Drink through 2018 to 2020 with steak, game, braised red meat. Excellent. About $54.

A sample for review.

If a winery is named Mt. Beautiful, then the wines had better be pretty damned beautiful themselves. No fear! The Mt. Beautiful Pinot beautiful pinot grisGris 2014, from New Zealand’s North Canterbury region, is as gorgeous as a wine could be while still maintaining the requisite backbone for some healthy structure. This is a fairly new estate, offering its first wines from 2007. The concentration, appropriate for New Zealand, is on white wines plus pinot noir. Winemaker is Sam Weaver. The Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris 2014, North Canterbury, was made in a combination of old oak barrels and stainless steel. The result is a pale straw-gold wine whose bright aromas of lime peel, jasmine and gardenia, peach and apple skin, straw, heather and mint go beyond seductive to a state of delirious amplitude. This pinot gris is sprightly on the palate, displaying taut, lithe energy and generous proportions in support of delicious spicy stone-fruit flavors with a crisp citrus edge; a pleasingly talc-like texture is riven by a scintillating limestone element. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 1,500 cases. Drink this extraordinarily beautiful pinot gris through 2017. Exceptional. About $19, a Raving Great Value.

Imported by Mt. Beautiful USA, Benecia, Calif. A sample for review.

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