Grenache gris is a rare gray-skinned manifestation of the grenache grape, somewhere between “regular” dark grenache and the green grenache blanc. William Allen makes his Two Shepherds Gibson Ranch Grenache Gris 2013 from a 105-year-old vineyard in Mendocino County. It is fermented and aged nine months in neutral French oak, meaning that there’s no interference of toasty new oak with the wine’s purity and intensity, rather a contributing factor of shapeliness and subtlety. The color is pale but radiant gold with a tinge of topaz; an intoxicating bouquet of lilac and camellia, peach and spiced pear, quince and crystallized ginger is wreathed with notes of lemongrass and lime peel. The wine is vital and vivid on the palate, yet spare, delicate and elegant; on the other hand, it’s remarkably intense, displaying real presence without being heavy or obvious; it’s engaging, not obtrusive. Flavors are yellow and green fruit — citrus and stone-fruit and a touch of yellow plum — highlighted by a leafy, bracing savory, saline quality and a finish that brings in touches of grapefruit rind and almond skin. 13.2 percent alcohol. Only 90 cases produced, so mark this one Worth a Search. Drink through 2016 with grilled shrimp, seafood risotto, grilled trout with capers. Excellent. About $28.

A sample for review.

The Abella family has been growing grapes in Spain’s Priorat region since the 15th Century, which means, yes, since before Columbus sailed off to find India and instead stumbled upon the New World, “new,” that is, to some people but not to those who already lived there. The family didn’t actually go into the business of founding a formal estate and making wine until early in the 20th Century, which still puts them pretty early in the game. The vineyards are steeply sloped and lie at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,300 feet above sea level. The Marco Abella Loidana 2010, Priorat, blends 60 percent garnacha (grenache) grapes, 25 percent carignan and 15 percent cabernet sauvignon to make a wine that displays a vibrant deep ruby color and vivid aromas of cedar and dried thyme, red and black currants, cherries and plums and notes of cloves, lavender and bitter chocolate. The red and black fruit flavors are framed by chewy tannins brushed with dust and graphite and incisive acidity that lends liveliness and a thirst-quenching quality; dense and full-bodied, the wine offers a full complement of loamy and lithic elements, finishing with broad dimensions of peppery, spicy flavors, iron and iodine. 14.5 percent alcohol. A wine of real character, almost nobility, yet one that’s approachable and enjoyable, especially, I would say, with grilled leg of lamb adorned with garlic and rosemary or a medium rare rib-eye steak crusted with black and green peppercorns. Drink now through 2020 or so. Excellent. About $30.

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

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in the nose and on the palate, and if you’re looking for a wine that fulfills those criteria for a reasonable price, stray no more but attach yourself to the Peter Zemmer Punggl Pinot Bianco 2013, from Italy’s far northeastern Alto Adige region, also known as Südtirol, “south Tirol,” for its proximity to Austria. Indeed, surnames and place-names are amorphous in these foothills and ranges where political affiliations and boundaries, which have shifted over many centuries, can be less important than family ties and reputations. Made completely from pinot blanc grapes and aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and large oak casks, the Peter Zemmer Punggl — that’s not misspelled — Pinot Bianco 2013 offers a pale gold color and intriguing notes of straw, dried thyme, orange blossom, grapefruit and spiced pear, all impeccably and delicately woven and tied off with touches of lime peel and flint. In the mouth, this sleek lovely wine is dry, lean, crisp and racy, with depths of limestone minerality to support its juicy, spicy yet elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavors that bear, at the heart, a tincture, a bell-tone, of wild red currant. Sunny, leafy, with personality to spare, this is one to drink all Summer long and into the Fall as a charming aperitif or with roasted or grilled fish or, perhaps paradoxically, with charcuterie or veal Milanese. 13.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $18.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants, New York. A sample for review.

Fellow toilers in the fields of wine-writing, blogging and journalism will understand that sometimes bottles get forgotten in the mounting backlog of samples. Such was the case with the Hestan Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, San Francisco Bay. On the other hand, the winery’s current release chardonnay, according to its website, is the 2011, so there’s not much of a lag. Obviously proprietors Stanley and Helen Cheng like to hold their chardonnays a bit longer than most producers do, evidenced by the fact that most California chardonnays on the market now are from 2012 and ’13. Winemaker for Hestan is Thomas Rivers Brown, who invests the estate’s cabernets and chardonnays with plenty of heart, size, structure and flavor. Though the winery’s principle vineyards lie up-valley, the chardonnay grapes come from a 2.5-acre site near the mouth of the Napa River, hence the San Francisco Bay appellation, approved as an AVA in 1999, amended in 2006. The Hestan Chardonnay 2010 displays a bright medium gold hue with a slight greenish cast; aromas of peach and baked pineapple are imbued with notes of cloves, bay leaf, heather and touches of peach-pit woodiness and pine; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of quince and crystallized ginger. This is a strapping chardonnay, supple, lithe and silky, almost muscular; despite the ripeness of its citrus and stone-fruit flavors, it’s quite dry, alight with blazing acidity and anchored by prominent limestone minerality, two qualities that save it from opulence and flamboyance. Also blessedly absent are any traces of the tropical, the creamy and the buttery. 14.8 percent alcohol. Production was 350 cases, so mark this Worth a Search. Drink now through 2018 or ’20. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

If a pinot noir wine doesn’t touch both the sublime of the ephemeral and the profundity of the chthonic, it is, to me, perhaps not a failure but a gravely lost opportunity in allowing the grape’s complicated and paradoxical virtues to express themselves. Greg Bjornstad, winemaker for Pfendler Vineyards, employs the panoply of craft, art and intuition to make pinot noirs that satisfy my desire for the broad range of the grape’s character and dimension. The winery is owned by Kimberly Pfendler, pictured here. The Pfendler Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50 percent new. The color is a fairly opaque ruby shading to transparent magenta at the rim; what a seductive procession of black cherries and cranberries, with notes of cloves and sassafras, pomegranate, potpourri and sandalwood, emerges from the glass! The texture offers a lovely, dense, satiny drape that flows with lithe and lissome engagement on the palate, while a few moment’s pause for swirling, sniffing and sipping lend the wine hints of smoke and tobacco leaf, rose petals and rhubarb. Earthy, leathery elements burgeon, and the wine takes on more loamy, underbrushy qualities as it leans toward the power of slightly dusty tannins and a flinty mineral structure. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Production was 350 cases. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.

If your weekend includes such activities as lying out in the sun by the pool, lounging on the patio, making merry at a woodland picnic, then I have a wine suitable for these lazy, early Summer occasions. Or, you might live in Texas, in which case, never mind. The product I offer today is the Monopole 2014, a delightful, refreshing white wine from the CVNE estate in Spain’s Rioja region, made entirely from viura grapes in stainless steel; never did a wine less require a “kiss of oak.” The color is pale straw-gold with a tinge of green; the bouquet — appropriate term — wreathes notes of jasmine and honeysuckle with hints of green grapes, yellow plums and spiced pears, not ostentatiously but with lovely subtlety and nuance. Nor is the wine’s texture or structure ostentatious, rather exhibiting juicy yellow and stone-fruit flavors with bright, engaging acidity and a scintillating limestone element in perfect, spare balance; the finish is enlivened with slightly bitter touches of grapefruit and almond skin. Above all, this is a wine outfitted for pure pleasure, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it, just sip contentedly and let the weekend do its work. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $15, representing a Real Bargain.

Imported by Europvin USA, Van Nuys, Calif. A sample for review.


I was supposed to receive a sample of the Bedell Cellars “Taste” Rosé 2014, North Fork of Long Island, but the vintage instead was 2012. Generally, we want the most recent year of a rosé wine, for its fresh quality and immediate appeal, but I thought, “What the hell, let’s try it anyway.” Reader: It was great. For 2012 — the blend changes every year — this is an interesting combination of 70 percent merlot, 25 percent cabernet franc, 3 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent syrah, and it touches the authenticity points of sustainably grown estate fruit, whole cluster pressing and indigenous yeast. The color is a slightly darker than usual onion skin infused with light copper; a core of dried sage and thyme and crushed rose petals unfolds notes of slightly candied orange peel, pomander, and dried strawberries with touches of rhubarb and pomegranate. The finish is crisp, clean and savory, accented by hints of flint, grapefruit rind and sour melon. It could easily age another year or two. 11 percent alcohol. Drink with pizza, pates and terrines — rabbit and duck — or such picnic fare as fried chicken, shrimp salad and deviled eggs. Excellent. About $25.


Michael McCay uses a light touch to make small quantities of impeccable wines at his McCay Cellars facility in Lodi. He is probably best-known for a series of single-vineyard zinfandels, but he produces versions of more out-of-the-way grapes too. An example is the McCay Cellars Cinsault 2013, derived from the Bechthold Vineyard planted in 1886. This cherry-red wine, fermented on native yeasts and seeing only 23 percent new French oak, sings with purity and intensity. Aromas and flavors of ripe cherries and raspberries are permeated by notes of cloves and allspice, briers, brambles and loam and wild tones of cranberry and rose petals. A flinty graphite edge hones the palate, while bright acidity cuts a swath and lends pert liveliness; the finish gathers touches of cherry-berry, apple peel and a modicum of dry, dusty tannins. Thankfully, there’s nothing opulent here; you feel this wine’s spare virtues and savory attractions strung on a line of limpid and uncontested structural depth. 13.8 percent alcohol. Fewer than 200 cases produced, so mark this Worth a Search. Excellent. About $39.

A sample for review.


From an estate that traces its origin in Italy’s Marche region to 1871 — pronounced “MAR-kay” — comes the Garofoli Macrina 2013, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, made all in stainless steel from 100 percent verdicchio grapes. This is a versatile and appealing white wine that offers a pale gold color and enticing aromas and flavors of roasted lemon and yellow plum infused with notes of dried thyme, almond skin and verbena. The whole effect is spare, savory, saline and bracing, as fleet acidity and a scintillating limestone element lend essential vibrancy and energy. It feels coastal and wind-swept. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2015 with grilled shrimp, seafood risottos, fish stews or as an attractive aperitif. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.

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


That odor of grills firing up all over the land and wafting scents of steaks, chickens, sausages, pork chops, ribs and legs of lamb roasting over hickory coals puts me in mind of zinfandel, a versatile wine for pairing with red meat that sports savor and spice and a piquant charry-minerally edge. Of course the grape can be made — too often by my reckoning — into over-ripe, hot, unbalanced, high alcohol fruit bombs, but today I offer a more poised version that promises to behave itself while not letting go entirely of its dark, juicy feral side. This is the Quivira Vineyards and Winery Zinfandel 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, a blend of 89 percent zinfandel, 10 percent petite sirah and 1 percent carignane grapes, drawn from the winery’s three estate vineyards as well as smaller portions sourced from other DCV growers. The wine aged for an undisclosed amount of time in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is dark ruby with a magenta rim; magnetic aromas and flavors of blackberries, black currants and plums are permeated by notes of cloves, black pepper and lavender, while a dense, velvety texture is off-set by a chiseled lithic character and a depth of dusty flint-laced tannins, the whole package lent vibrancy and resonance by bright acidity. The finish adds a fillip of pomegranate and wild cherry. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now, with the aforementioned grilled meats or a dish of pasta Bolognese, through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $26.

A sample for review.

« Previous PageNext Page »