Hie thee, friends, to a retail store and buy by the case the Vega del Castillo Garnacha Cepas Viejas 2015, from the Spanish region of Navarra. Am I talking here about a profound wine with tremendous depth and dimension? No, I’m referring to very inexpensive wine that satisfies the palate and just about any occasion with admirable personality and economy. The cooperative whence the wine derived dates back to 1910, though it has seen many changes in the past 117 years, as so would you, Dear Reader. Winemaker was Charo Moriones. The color of this 100 percent varietal wine — garnacha, or grenache — is a penetrating black-ruby with a glowing violet rim; arresting aromas and flavors of blackberries, black currants and plums are infused with notes of loam, tar, leather and oolong tea, while a few minutes in the glass bring up touches of cloves, bitter chocolate and graphite. The texture is silken and supple, supported by bright acidity and slightly dusty, velvety tannins. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2018 with any dish of a creature-like nature, be it beast or fowl, especially prepared on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet. Very Good+. About — ready? — $8 a bottle, marking a Super Freak-Ass Bargain.

Importer unknown. A sample for review.

The question we have to ask about the grape variety kerner, is why anyone would want to create a hybrid between the noble riesling and the no-count trollinger. This crossing was accomplished in Germany in 1969, and producers being what they are, kerner was embraced for its character of high sugar content and high yields. It is found primarily in Pfalz and Rheinhessen. A careful winemaker with an eye to the proper soil, climate and vineyard practices can fashion a delightful and engaging wine, though, and such a winemaker is David Ramey, who started the Sidebar brand as a project to explore grapes not typically exploited under his well-known Ramey Cellars label. The Sidebar Kerner 2016 derives from the grape’s only planting in California, the Mokelumne Glen Vineyards in the Mokelumne River AVA in Lodi. The grapes ferment on natural yeasts, malolactic is supressed, and the wine rests three months sur lies in stainless steel. The color is pale straw-gold; this is crisp as a freshly-picked apple, offering notes of apple skin, lemon rind, spiced pear and lemon balm, with undertones of almond blossom, dried thyme, hay and hot stones. It feels, in other words, more like a Mediterranean manifestation than a Teutonic expression of the grape. Limestone minerality dominates the lithe, supple texture from mid-palate back through a bracing, spicy finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 with light fish and seafood preparations, more delicate pasta and vegetarian dishes or as a charming and refreshing aperitif. Production was 193 cases, so mark this wine Worth a Search. Excellent. About $25.

A sample for review.

Doubtless white Burgundies of more profound depth and dimension are produced in the great appellations of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune, but you would be hard-pressed to find one that offers a more beautiful expression of the chardonnay grape than the Domaine Marc Roy “Les Champs Perdrix” Marsannay 2015. The interesting point here is that Marsannay is the northernmost of Burgundy’s appellations, lying only 6 to 8 kilometers southwest of the city of Dijon. This is primarily red wine — that is to say, pinot noir — territory, as is true of the Côte de Nuits down past the city of Beaune. Chardonnay is a distinct minority in Marsannay — interestingly, pinot blanc is allowed — which is also the only appellation in Burgundy with its own designation for rosé. Domaine Marc Roy owns only four hectares of vines, just under 10 acres, which is minuscule even by Burgundian standards. Most of these are in Gevrey-Chambertin — no Grand Cru or Premier Cru vines — with a slim portion for the chardonnay in Marsannay; the estate is headquartered in Gevrey. Winemaker is fourth generation Alexandrine Roy. Grapes are hand-harvested; the wines ferment by natural yeasts and are given a very conservative oak regimen, this “Champs Perdrix” seeing only 10 percent new oak. The chardonnay vines are 40 years old.

The color is pale gold; at first, the wine delivers pure lemon in every respect, gradually adding an infusion of lime peel and heather, a hint of grapefruit, a touch of seashell; a lovely talc-like texture is riven by bright acidity that adds a keynote of crisp liveliness. The wine is quite dry, but juicy with slightly spiced and macerated pineapple and grapefruit flavors that take on a depth of loamy-damp ash earthiness and limestone-flint minerality; a few moments in the glass unfurl ethereal elements of jasmine, lilac and orange rind. 13 percent alcohol. We drank this bottle last night with seared salmon marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce and given a coffee rub-urfa-and-maresh crust. The pairing was absolutely right. A beguiling and seductive model of varietal purity and intensity. Drink through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $50.

Production was seven barrels, about 175 cases, so mark this one Worth a Search. Purchased recently at Le Dû’s Wines in New York. The label image is one vintage behind. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.


We think of the cabernet franc grape as a fairly robust fellow, but the Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé
turns it into something delicate and elegant. Made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle, this sparkling wine offers an entrancing, limpid pale salmon-copper hue animated by a steady stream of lively effervescence and subtle, beguiling aromas of strawberries and raspberries, rose petals and heather; on the palate, this is crisp, lithe and refreshing, unfurling notes of limestone minerality and seashell salinity under hints of dried currants, orange zest and lime peel; a slightly creamy texture balances the bright acidity and mineral element. 12 percent alcohol. A truly lovely, straightforward quaffer of a sparkling wine, made for immediate consumption as you relax on the porch or patio or lounge about the kitchen. I could drink this all Summer long. Very Good+. About $15, marking Good Value.

MW Imports, White Plains, N.Y. A sample for review.

Of the 55,000 acres planted to the gamay grape in Beaujolais, 15,000 — a hair over 27 percent — are dedicated to the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. The idea is that the wines at the peak of the Beaujolais pyramid, the Cru wines louis-jadot-beaujolais-villages-combe-aux-jacques-beaujolais-france-10731842derived from 10 villages allowed to attach their names to the label, are the most exclusive and the smallest production. The vast areas devoted to the regular Beaujolais designation, the pyramid’s broad base, are the most common. Our wine of the day is the proprietary Louis Jadot “Combe aux Jacques” Beaujolais-Villages 2015. A portion of the grapes derive from a vineyard in Régnié, one of the 10 Cru villages; another portion is purchased wine; and the third portion is from purchased grapes, all in the spirit of making a balanced, dependable, enjoyable wine. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; the bouquet delivers the signature Beaujolais aromas of blackberries, currants and mulberries permeated by touches of loam, cloves and oolong tea. The wine is juicy and refreshing on the palate, satiny in texture, bolstered by bright acidity and heightened by notes of graphite and blueberries, leading to a clean, chiseled, fruit-and-mineral-laced finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink with just about anything through the end of this year. Excellent. About $13, a local purchase, on sale from $16, representing Good Value.

Imported by Kobrand Wine and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.

“Orange wine” became a category, a trend, an obsession in certain small circles 10 or 15 years ago. The concept of troonfermenting white grapes on the skins — hence the pale orange color — runs contrary to the usual practice, in which the juice and skins are whisked away from each other, so the wine takes on the familiar hues of pale or medium straw or gold. Fermenting white grapes on the skins, about which a great deal of ink was spilled or keyboards mangled for a fervent period of time, seems to have lost its controversial and partisan allure, so winemakers can decide to make an orange wine without subscribing to a list of demands or pledging allegiance to a philosophy laid down by fanatical critics. For those consumers who have never tried an orange wine, I offer today the Troon Vineyard Whole Grape Ferment Riesling 2016, from Oregon’s Applegate Valley appellation. Foot-trod, fermented with native yeasts, the wine — Troon’s first venture into orangeness — spent a bare three months in neutral French oak barrels. It’s unlike any riesling you ever encountered. The color is a kind of pale copper-topaz hue; at first, the wine is pure apples and in fact smells rather like cider; then it expands with notes of orange rind and spiced pear and a sherry-like tendency toward cloves and roasted/salted almonds. The wine is quite dry, animated by brisk acidity, and organized around a structure that while delicate and lithe feels almost tannic. From mid-palate back through the finish, it’s dominated by elements of quince marmalade infused with ginger, candied grapefruit rind and a touch of green olive. 12 percent alcohol. Not intended to make old bones, this unique wine should be consumed by the end of 2017. Winemaker was Steve Hall. Try with tapas and other salty and savory appetizers. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

Why shouldn’t Merrie Old England produce world-class sparkling wines? In some spots the climate and soil seem perfect gusbornefor the job. One of those places is Kent, the county that starts at the outskirts of Greater London and spreads southeast to encompass that area of the scepter’d isle closest to France, just across the Channel. The grounding here is chalk — think white cliffs of Dover — and the climate maritime. I’ll confess that the Gusborne Brut Reserve 2013 is the first sparkling wine from England that I have tried, and to say that I’m impressed would be understatement. I could imbibe these bubbles all day long. The blend is 55 percent pinot noir, 27 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent chardonnay; the base wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with a small percentage in old oak barriques. This sparkling wine aged a minimum of 36 months on the lees. The color is very pale gold, animated by a frothing shimmer of tiny glinting bubbles; beguiling aromas of fresh apples, lemons and back-notes of macerated red berries are strung on a steel thread; hints of lemon drop and spare grapefruit bitterness bolster a palate characterized by chalk, flint and seashell salinity and bright, incisive acidity. Altogether elegant, approachable and delightful. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Charlie Holland. Drink through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $40, a local purchase.

Imported by Broadbent Selections, Richmond, Va.

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No kissy-face little princess of complacency, here’s a pinot gris from New Zealand that will make you take it and yourself seriously. It’s also quite delicious. The Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris 2015, North Canterbury, fermented and aged in a combination of old oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, producing a pale pale gold wine that deftly balances an appealing almost lush, talc-like texture with the litheness and fleet crispness of bright acidity. Aromas of heather and hay, roasted lemon and lemon balm, lime peel and grapefruit get a big assist from burgeoning notes of damp flint and limestone, with an ineffable wafting of lilac and graphite. On the palate, structure is the main event, fashioned along the lines of bracing salinity and seashell-chalk-limestone minerality; while squaring your shoulders for that admittedly supple onslaught — and this is a shatteringly dry wine — enjoy the tasty and attractive flavors of fresh apples and spiced pears, all aimed toward a finish of cloves, steel and grapefruit rind. The slight tension between texture and structure keeps the wine lively and exciting. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21 with grilled fish, seafood risotto or, a favorite at our house, cod stew with leeks, potatoes and chorizo. Production was 1,450 cases. Excellent. About $19.

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

Sonoma-based Siduri Wines specializes in an array of single-vineyard pinot noirs from the range of West Coast regions. Winemaker and founder (in 1994) Adam Lee also produces pinot in broader appellation bottlings, which are the wines represented in today’s post, from Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County), Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County) and Yamhill-Carlton in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The wines are finished unfined and unfiltered and topped with screw-caps for ease of opening. Lee and his wife and fellow-winemaker Dianna Novy Lee sold the winery to Jackson Family Wines in January 2015, though he remains as winemaker. These wines, which I found extremely pleasurable, were samples for review.
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The Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, derives from some of the appellation’s most distinguished vineyards, including Rosella’s, Garys’, Pisoni and Soberanes. The wine aged 15 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. The robe is a warm, rich medium ruby, shading to a slightly lighter rim; this is a dark, earthy, spicy, loamy pinot noir, bursting with notes of black cherry and plum compote etched with hints of cloves and beetroot, cranberry and graphite. It flows with lovely weight and heft on the palate, though keen acidity cuts a swath and lends the wine excitement and refreshing qualities. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.
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The regimen for the Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, was 16 months in French oak, but only 10 percent new barrels. The wine offers a beautiful totally transparent ruby hue, you could read a magazine through it, and lovely, limpid notes of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and pomegranate, sandalwood and loam, cloves and rhubarb; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of beetroot and blueberry. This pinot is the most succulent, the most dense and satiny of the trio under review here, a tad dusty and freighted with velvety tannins, yet paradoxically elegant and ethereal. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.
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We move up to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for the Siduri Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, a wine that rested in French oak, 30 percent new barrels, for 16 months. The color is a fairly transparent medium ruby that shades to an almost invisible magenta rim; the wine is an entrancing blend of ripe black and blue fruit, dried herbs and flowers and exotic spices, so call it cherries and plums, sage, heather and violets, sandalwood and cloves. For all its sensual appeal, there’s some rigor to the wine’s structure, a strain of graphite-briery-foresty character that lifts both texture and depth to the fore. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $36.
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I don’t typically recommend rosé wines from two vintages ago. I mean the point of rosé is its freshness and immediate appeal, n’est-ce pas? Some rosé wines, however, are made of slightly sterner stuff than the usual ethereal, instantly accessible, quaffable models that so delight us and can age for a year or two beyond the Summer after harvest. Such is the case with the two rosé wines from the South of France that I mention today. I encountered these examples at a trade tasting at which rosés from 2015 and ’16 were offered, and while most of the ’15s were fading, if not falling apart, this pair drank with splendid panache, zeal and deliciousness. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Le Caillou Rosé 2015, Côtes du Rhône, is an unusual blend of 85 percent counoise and 15 percent mourvedre grapes, and I CAILLOU_rose_websay “unusual” because counoise, not so easy to grow and late ripening, typically finds itself in a minority position in red wines of the southern Rhone Valley, if it shows up at all. In this very pale pink-coral hued wine, it provides scintillating acidity that runs through the structure like an electric wire, as well as a lovely hint of red plum, behind notes of strawberry and orange rind. The domaine, by the way, was founded in 1956 but the estate, surrounded by the Chateaunuef-du-Pape appellation, has a long history of grape-growing and winemaking; the vineyards are certified organic and maintained by biodynamic methods. Winemaker is Bruno Gaspard. This is a dry, taut, crisp rosé that delivers a dusty, almost powdery texture supported by lithe, chiseled flint-like minerality; the finish brings in hints of heather, sea-salt and just a ghost of melon. Drink through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $25.
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The history at Chateau Mattes-Sabran goes back a thousand years in Languedoc-Roussillon. The estate was once the seat MATTES_narbonne_rose-228x300of the Dukes of Narbonne and was well-known in the 12th and 13th centuries as a center for troubadours and the elevation of courtly love. The city itself, as distinct from the commune, dates back to Roman times and was once an important seaport. Winemaking on the estate commenced in 1733. Though made from 100 percent syrah grapes, the Mattes-Sabran Rosé 2015, Pays d’Oc — winemaker was Jean-Luc Brouillat — is unusually delicate and elegant, though possessing tensile strength that feels almost steely; the color is extremely pale watermelon-coral pink, and aromas of slightly spiced and macerated red currants and raspberries testify to its origin in the syrah grape. An aura of pink grapefruit and blood orange is allied to the wine’s crisp citric acidity, while a few moments in the glass bring out notes of dusty limestone, rose petals and dried thyme. Bring on the rabbit and duck terrine, the cucumber sandwiches, the shrimp salad! Now through the end of 2017. Excellent. About $19.
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