Cadaretta is a label of Middleton Family Wines. The family started in the lumber business in Washington state in 1898, gradually expanding to table and wine grapes and finally wine. While the winery produces a sauvignon blanc, the focus is on intense and concentrated red wines, either cabernet sauvignon-based or syrah. These are not subtle, nuanced or elegant wines, but neither are they overbearing, unreasonably stiff with oak and tannin, too high in alcohol or cloyingly ripe. At this point, when five of these six flagship wines are three years old and one is four years old, the emphasis may be on structure, but fine details of fruit and spice and other aspects are perfectly evident in varying degrees, affording the consumer a great deal of pleasure as well as anticipation. In other words, the necessary balance is present. Such limited-production wines are intended for the cellar, probably benefiting from two or three years aging or more and drinking well through 2028 to, in at least one case, 2030.

These wines were samples for review.
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One of two syrah-based wines in this group, the Cadaretta Windthrow 2014, Columbia Valley, is a blend of 76 percent syrah, 15 percent mourvedre and 9 percent grenache, aged 22 months half in new Hungarian oak, 40 percent in new French and 10 percent in used French barrels. A dark ruby-mulberry hue, the wine offers notes of ripe blackberries, blueberries and red cherries infused with dusty graphite and leather, as well as classic hints of wet dog, a slightly green herbal quality and touches of dried thyme and rosemary, with a bit of the latter’s woodsy-resinous quality. It’s quite dry, dense and chewy on the palate, inky and tarry; a few minutes in the glass add intriguing details of violets and lavender, bittersweet chocolate, licorice and tobacco. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 259 cases. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $50.
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Only two-tenths of a percent viognier keeps the Cadaretta Syrah 2014, Columbia Valley, from being 100 percent varietal. The wine aged 21 months in 60 percent new French oak, 36 percent already used French oak, and 4 percent new Hungarian oak barrels. The color is inky purple with a glowing violet rim; if a large-framed, robust, earthy and somewhat rustic syrah is what you’re after, look no further — this one delivers plenty of loam, moss, wet dog and underbrush elements, with ripe and fleshy, even rather meaty, blackberries and blueberries with a touch of boysenberry; the wine offers real substance without being overwhelming, kept lively by riotous acidity and dusty, shaggy tannins that cannot conceal a briery-brambly character. 14.4 percent alcohol. Production was 642 cases. Drink now through 2022 to ’25. Very Good+. About $35.
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If by some spell “purple” possessed a smell and taste, then I think that such a notion is distilled in the black-purple hued Cadaretta Southwind Red Blend 2014, Walla Walla Valley. The blend is 37 percent each malbed and petit verdot, with 26 percent cabernet sauvignon, aged 23 months in French oak, 60 percent new barrels. The wine is intense and concentrated (as all of these examples are) but offers a panoply of spiced and macerated effects with black and blue fruit scents and flavors, like a compote of black cherries and currants and blue plums permeated by iodine and iron, briers, brambles and lavender; it’s powered by lip-smacking acidity and bolstered by lithe, supple and slightly dusty-loamy tannins, a dry, rock-hewn but very ripe and delicious red wine that feels generous and abundant on the palate — like royalty, I suppose. 14.6 percent alcohol. Production was a meager 82 cases. Drink now through 2024 to ’28. Excellent. About $75.
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The blend in the Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Columbia Valley, is 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9 percent petit verdot, 6 merlot and 5 malbec; the grapes derive almost equally from the Walla Walla Valley and Red Mountain AVAs. The oak treatment is 22 months, primarily French oak barrels. Opaque black-ruby with a faint purple rim; this is all ink and graphite, iodine and iron, cedar, lead pencil and rosemary, with a touch of mint and balsam, these elements at the service of cassis, black raspberry and plum scents and flavors. Deep, velvety tannins and granitic minerality reign over a slightly roughened, sanded texture animated by bright acidity that plows a furrow; the finish is dense, chewy, laden with exotic spices, glittering minerals and, at the conclusion, a fillip of pomegranate and smoke. 14.8 percent alcohol. Production was 2,050 cases, by far the largest of these six limited edition wines. Drink through 2024 to ’26. Excellent. About $45.
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The Cadaretta Southwind Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Walla Walla Valley, is a blend of 90 percent cabernet sauvignon with 5 percent each malbec and petit verdot, aged 23 months in French oak, 60 percent new barrels. The color is opaque black-ruby-purple; the nose is a seamless tissue of lead pencil, iodine and graphite, lavender and violets, and very intense and concentrated notes of black currants, blueberries and plums; the whole dynamic package seethes in a welter of briers and brambles, underbrush and loam, with hints of dried porcini and woodsy herbs and flowers. Piercing minerality and dusty tannins lead to a finish packed with spice, fruitcake, dried berries and more graphite. A chiseled and muscular cabernet in every sense. 14.8 percent alcohol. Production was 46 cases. Drink from 2019 or ’20 through 2030 to ’35. Excellent. About $75.
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Also cabernet-based is the Cadaretta Springboard 2014, Columbia Valley, whose blend of 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent malbec and 9 percent petit verdot aged in 60 percent new French oak barrels with the rest second- and third-fill. Again, the totally opaque black-purple hue shading, if that’s the word, to a magenta rim; again, the intensity and concentration of spiced and macerated black and blue fruit compote with hints of loam, graphite and cedar, sandalwood and tapenade, crushed violets and bittersweet chocolate; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of sage and dried rosemary. While a ripe and fleshy wine, it’s dense and weighty on the palate, freighted by stern, dusty granitic tannins and polished oak that you feel increasingly from mid-palate back through the austere finish. 13.9 percent alcohol. Production was 249 cases. Try from 2019 or ’20 through 2029 to ’32. Excellent. About $50.
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So, today is Thanksgiving + One, and all the fuss about what the hell are we going to drink with the Feast of Abundance and Gratitude is over, done, finito. I will, however, describe what we drank. We happen to like riesling with this gargantuan and multi-diverse meal, and looking through the wine fridge, I found what turned out to be a wonderful choice, the Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2013, from one of the most distinguished estates in Alsace, originally founded by Capuchin monks in 1612 but operated since 1898 by the Faller family. The color is pale straw-gold; arresting aromas of peach, pear and mango are permeated by notes of cloves, honey and hay, acacia, green apple and almond skin, with a background of slate and flint. The wine features superb definition and dimension, framed by incisive, crystalline acidity and profound limestone-and-flint minerality that bolster spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pear with a paradoxical hint of lemon curd for a sly element of richness; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of lilac and lime peel. Silky smooth, it’s quite dry on the palate and finishes with a boldly austere impression of august limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. We were quite happy last night with this wine’s ability to bridge the often contradictory sensations that the Thanksgiving meal affords, as well as with the fairly glorious wine itself. Half a glass remained, which I finished this morning. Exceptional. About $40.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala. A sample for review.

… and it’s Beaujolais again. Looks as if I have a theme going here, but I promise that the sequence is coincidental. The Wine of the Day for this post is the Paul Durdilly et Fils “Les Grandes Coasses” Beaujolais 2016, the designation indicating the basic level in Beaujolais — under Beaujolais-Villages and the 10 cru Beaujolais — but belying that position in its intense and generous expression of the gamay grape. In fact, this example will make you rethink your evaluation of this basic category. The estate’s 30 acres of vines grow on limestone; the vineyards — 40 to 80 years old — are tended using sustainable practices. The grapes ferment with native yeast, and the wine ages in a combination of steel tanks and old large oak foudres. The color is bright purple-magenta shading to a transparent rim; the wine is fresh and appealing, lively and engaging; it features a compote of ripe and spicy blackberries and currants permeated by notes of violets and lavender and graphite, with undertones of smoke and tar. The wine is sleek, lithe, supple and quite delicious on the palate, animated by vigorous acidity and driven by a coalition of briers and brambles over a fleet-footed foundation of deft granitic minerality and slightly dusty tannins, all the while never losing sight of its focus on the principle of pure, ripe, drinkable pleasure. 12.5 percent alcohol. Astonishing detail and dimension for its class and price. Excellent. Prices range from about $11 to $15, making this wine an Amazing Freak-Ass Bargain.

North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. A sample for review from the local distributor.

You know what I mean by “alternative white wines.” Not chardonnay or riesling or sauvignon blanc. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Big Three, except when chardonnay is sodden and strident with oak, as happens too often in California, but dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of grapes for what we call white wine exist in the world’s multifarious wine regions. In today’s edition, we look at nine examples. As usual in these posts, I omit details of history, geography, method and personality to offer quick and incisive snapshots of a wine’s character. I will mention at the outset that two of these wines, from Onward Wines and Stinson Vineyards are so-called “orange wines,” meaning that they’re produced from white grapes that ferment on the skins, not the typical process for whites. A lot of pleasure is to be gleaned from this selection, which is designed to introduce consumers to a range of products available beyond the usual choices. Enjoy — in moderation, of course.
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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 9.5% alc. 70% loureiro grapes, 30% alvarinho. Very pale gold color; quite fresh and clean, slightly frizzante; apples and limes, hint of “greenness,” like sunny leaves and crushed herbs; crisp and vibrant with a stony spine. The definition of quaffable and charming. Very Good+ About $7 to $10, buy it by the case and enjoy.
Aveleda Inc., Pawtucket, R.I.
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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 11% alc. 100% hondurrabi zuri grapes. Pale gold with a green tinge; hay and heather, green apple and lime peel, dried thyme and almond skin; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of melon and gooseberry; mineral element runs to a dusty roof tiles effect; slightly frizzante; quite dry but lively and engaging; limestone and bracing salinity in the finish. Loads of personality. Excellent. About $16, representing Fine Value.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Godeval Godello 2015, Valdeorras, Spain. 13.5% alc. Medium gold; enticing scents of mint, thyme and lemon, hints of cloves and cumin; very dry, fairly austere with limestone and flint minerality but enlivened by brisk acidity; certainly a savory white. Very Good+. About $15.
Valkyrie Selections, Healdsburg, Calif.
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Höpler Grüner Veltliner 2015, Burgenland, Austria. 13% alc. Pale straw-gold with a delicate green tint; hay and quince, yellow plums and golden raspberries; very clean and crisp, a bit saline, with a savory background; a lime peel, lilac and gunflint finish. Charming and delightful. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.
USA Wine Imports, New York.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley. 12.8% alc. Pale gold hue; glorious bouquet of jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and ginger, poached apple and pear; hints of mint, candied orange rind, iodine and graphite; very dry, resonant and animated; woodsy spices and meadowy flowers; lip-smacking acidity and a dry, elegant, almost austere finish. Brilliant winemaking. Exceptional. About $28, representing Extraordinary Value.
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Pazo Cilleiro Albarino 2015, Rías Baixas, Spain. 12.5% alc. Straw-yellow with faint green highlights; a ripe, fleshy yet chiseled albarino; lime peel, pears and roasted lemon; riveting acidity and a filigree of scintillating limestone; hints of dried mountain herbs and a spare network of white flowers. Really charming. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County. 13.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; roasted lemons and spiced pears, lime peel and grapefruit, white tropical flowers, backnotes of hay, heather and dried thyme; all knit with spareness and a delicate touch; very dry and crisp, heaps of limestone and flint minerality. Really lovely. Excellent. About $19.
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Stinson Vineyards Wildkat 2015, Monticello, Virginia. 10.5% alc. 100% rkatsiteli grapes. 75 cases. Very pale coral-gold; red apple and tomato skin, roasted almonds, cloves and a touch of honey; crisp, delicate, lively, well-balanced; very dry, with a light dusting of fine loam. Very Good+. About $28.
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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. 55% marsanne, 45% viognier. 180 cases. Pale gold, practically shimmers in the glass; roasted lemon and spiced pear, bees’-wax and camellia, dried thyme, ginger and quince; an intriguing whiff of ground cumin; spare and sinewy on the palate, with bright, lithe acidity and a glittering limestone and flint quality. Beautifully made. Excellent. About $25.
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No limp, wimpy red wine here, the Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Merlot 2015, Napa Valley-Carneros, sings of its character is full-throated ease, with rippling muscles and lithe structure, like the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym. If you drive along Highway 29, the central thoroughfare in Napa Valley, Clos Pegase is unmistakable. Designed by well-known architect Michael Graves, the winery, founded in 1984 just south of Calistoga, resembles a post-modern rendition of a Mayan temple. Owner Jan Strem, also an active collector of contemporary art, sold the winery (but not the art) to Vintage Wine Estates in 2013. The vineyard in Carneos was named for Strem’s wife. The wine is a blend of 90 percent merlot and five percent each petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon; it aged 16 months in French oak, 32 percent new barrels. It’s as opaque a black-ruby hue as a wine can be, alleviated by a glowing purple rim; the wine’s aromas of crushed black currants and cherries are permeated by notes of iodine and loam, smoke and graphite, with high-tones of lavender and licorice, dried thyme and rosemary (with some of the latter’s hint of woodsy astringency). Oh, it’s a brawny one all right, but sleek and polished and deeply flavorful, borne on a strain of arrowing acidity and dusty, velvety tannins. The finish is all briers and brambles and granitic minerality. 14.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2023 to ’25 with a medium-rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the coals. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review from the local distributor.

The Côtes de Gascogne vineyard region lies in — guess where? — Gascony, in southwest France, home of Armagnac and d’Artagnan and known as Aquitaine, the much-contested property of England from 1137 to 1453, that year marking the end of the Hundred Years’ War. Our Wine of the Day is a tasty quaffer, the Domaine La Salette Gascogne Blanc 2016, a blend of 80 percent colombard grapes, 10 percent gros manseng and 10 percent ugni blanc, made all in stainless steel. The color is very pale straw-gold, but there’s nothing pale or shy about the wine’s abundant aromas of hay and heather, thyme and lilac, lime peel, lemon and licorice. This is notably crisp, dry, vibrant and thirst-quenching, delivering bright acidity that drives expressive citrus and stone-fruit flavors through to a finish of limestone and seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. I don’t want to oversell this little beauty, but you should buy it by the case. Very Good+. Prices around the country range from $11 to $14, representing an Irresistible Value.

Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va. A sample for review from the local distributor.

Willis Mercer moved west and settled in the new town of Prosser in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. The family succeeded at shepherding and then brought in cattle and planted wheat. Irrigation was introduced to Mercer Ranches in 1968, and in 1972, the first grapes were planted, though the family didn’t start making wine until 2005, the year that Horse Heaven Hills was granted status as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The expansive region — 570,000 acres, with slightly more than 6,000 acres of vines — lies in southeastern Washington, within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Our Wine of the Day is the Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015, Horse Heaven Hills, an interesting blend of 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 merlot, 14 petit verdot, 10 grenache and 2 percent carignane, making a sort of Bordeaux-Rhone hybrid. The wine aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Winemaker was Jeremy Santo. The vintage produced the hottest Summer on record in the region, followed by a moderate period of warm days and cool nights. The result was heady ripeness balanced by bright acidity. The color, if that’s the word, is opaque ebony-purple shading, if that’s the word, to a magenta rim; the immediate impression is of penetrating aromas of graphite and iodine, lavender and violets and bittersweet chocolate serving as gloss to intense and concentrated notes of black cherries, raspberries and plums. On the palate, the wine is rich, dusty, dynamic and deeply flavorful; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of sage and rosemary, cloves and just a tinge of vanilla, all these elements bound by velvety tannins and acidity taut as a bow-string; the finish is both generous and chiseled. 14.8 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20 with roasted pork, braised lamb shanks or short ribs and other hearty fare. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.


The grapes for the Stéphane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Chenas 2015, a cru Beaujolais wine, derive from a pre-phylloxera vineyard whose vines average 100 years old. Truly, the wine qualifies for the designation “Old Vines.” Made from 100 percent gamay grapes — there’s no blending in Beaujolais — the wine aged for 12 months in a combination of 1-year-old to 4-year-old French oak barrels, hence, no new oak. The color is dark ruby that shades to a transparent robe and magenta rim; immediately apparent are aromas of black currants, mulberries and plums, very spicy, slightly macerated and poached, or, to put the case differently, like a compote of black and blue fruit, all abetted by notes of lavender and violets, cloves and allspice, a few minutes in the glass bringing in hints of sage and bay. As befits a wine made from century-old vines, on the palate this Chenas is dense, dusty and concentrated, with plenty of appealing and suave ripe fruit flavors but also graphite-tinged tannins for structure and bright acidity for a lithe and chiseled texture. 13 percent alcohol. While drinking beautifully now, this Chenas could age a few years, say through 2022. I can see this wine snuggling right up to your Thanksgiving turkey. Excellent. About $21, representing Good Value.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. A sample for review.

I wonder why the people at Grgich Hills Estate feel it necessary to include on the label of their Fumé Blanc wines the script “Dry Sauvignon Blanc.” Is anyone out there in America worried about picking up by mistake a bottle of sweet sauvignon blanc? I seriously doubt it. Anyway, rhetorical questions aside, the Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, displays all the virtues of a wine that’s always one of my favorites and a high point in tasting the sauvignon blanc grape every year. Made from certified organic vineyards, the wine aged six months on the lees in neutral oak barrels, 20 percent in the standard 59-gallon barriques, 80 percent in large old foudres of 900-gallon capacity. It offers a pale straw-gold hue and arresting aromas of roasted lemon and lemon balm, celery seed and lemongrass, lilac, gunflint and graphite. As is typical of this wine — winemaker is Ivo Jeramaz — the texture is seductively soft and almost talc-like while being animated by vivid acidity, factors that create a lovely sense of tension and balance between lushness and crispness, all at the service of herb-inflected stone-fruit flavors. A few moments in the glass bring in notes of leafy fig and fennel seed, quince and ginger; the finish feels etched and crystalline. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine happily with a curry of mushrooms and butternut squash. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $31.

A sample for review.

I managed to squeak by Merlot Month — October — by only mentioning the grape once. Whew! I deplore these marketing gimmicks, except, of course, World Champagne Day. That one, I happily go along with. Anyway, we look in this post at three merlot wines from Duckhorn Vineyards, a producer of merlot since 1976, not merely venerable but distinguished, even archetypal, particularly from the famed Three Palms Vineyard. Renée Ary was promoted to winemaker at Duckhorn in 2014, just in time to craft the Three Palms Merlot for that vintage, a stupendous wine that rates Exceptional in the review below. The other merlot wines here are from Gundlach Bundschu (Very Good+), Chelsea Goldschmidt (Excellent and a Great Value) and Mt. Brave (Excellent).

These wines were samples for review.
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Decoy is Duckhorn’s label for (relatively) inexpensive wines. The Decoy Merlot 2015, Sonoma County, is a blend of 92 percent merlot, 4 percent cabernet franc and 2 percent each cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah. The color is dark ruby shading to a transparent violet rim; aromas of red currants, black cherry and blueberry are infused with cloves and graphite and a hint of loam; this is a briery, brambly merlot, not rustic — the texture is sleek and supple — but rooty and woodsy, the whole package kept lively by vibrant acidity; the finish is solid with dusty tannins and a hint of oak. 13.9 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $25.
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The Duckhorn Merlot 2014, Napa Valley, represents an intense and concentrated rendition of the grape; it’s a blend of 88 percent merlot, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent petit verdot and 2 percent cabernet franc, aged 16 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. A totally opaque black-ruby color presages a merlot that’s dark in intensity and effect. This one reveals an oak influence greater than its stablemates also reviewed in this section, a factor that tends to mute the elements of red and black currants and blueberries that circulate below the surface, while adding a spicy and dried herb quality that manages to feel more generous and appealing. Graphite? You bet. Granitic minerality? Uh-huh. Dusty, velvety tannins? Count on ’em. A finish that expands the oak and tannic sway through toasty woody notes? Mais oui. 14.5 percent alcohol. Give this merlot another year to settle down and find better balance, and then consume through 2024. Very Good+, with Excellent potential. About $54.
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You’ll hear not a quibble or a qualm from me about the Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. This single-vineyard wine set the standard for Napa Valley merlot decades ago and continues to handily best the competition. For 2014, the blend consists of 86 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet sauvignon, 4 percent malbec and 2 percent petit verdot; it aged 18 months in French oak, a whopping 75 percent new barrels. As often happens, however, when excellent grapes from a great vineyard meet a rigorous oak regimen, the wine soaked up that oak and turned it into a subtle, supple shaping factor rather than a dominating influence. The color, if that’s the word, is as opaque a black-ruby-purple as could be imagined; the gamut of sensations is here, but sustained, restrained and codified by the demands of immense dusty bastions of granitic-glazed tannins and a tremendous reserve of penetrating graphite minerality. While that description makes the Three Palms Merlot 14 sound as if it’s all about structure now, this wine adds intriguing and interesting detail to its dimension: black and red currants with touches of blueberry and raspberry, all slightly spiced and macerated; mocha and fruitcake, pomegranate and loam; dried porcini and woodsy herbs and flowers. This panoply is animated by bright acidity that plows a furrow through to the austere, mineral and oak infused finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. A monumental achievement, and thank god I have another bottle. Best from 2019 or ’20 through 2030 to ’34. Exceptional. About $98.
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Named for winemaker Nick Goldschmidt’s eldest daughter, the Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, is a 100 percent varietal wine that aged 12 months in 25 percent new oak, 60 percent French barrels, 20 percent each American and Hungarian. The color is deep dark black-ruby with a purple rim; aromas of cassis and black currant jam are permeated by notes of cloves and licorice, iodine and graphite, lavender and bittersweet chocolate. Chewy, gritty tannins reach fathoms into layers of granitic minerality, all enlivened by vibrant acidity and laved by tasty black and blue fruit flavors. Yeah, it’s sort of like drinking gravel, and I mean that in the best way. 14.5 percent alcohol. Best from 2019 through 2025 to ’28. Excellent. About $19, an Incredible Value for this quality.
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If you dote on juicy, jammy red wines — as I do not — this one’s for you. The Gundlach Bundschu Merlot 2014, Sonoma Valley, is a blend of 89 percent merlot, 5 percent petit verdot, 4 percent cabernet sauvignon and 1 percent each malbec and cabernet franc, thereby accommodating the five classic Bordeaux grape varieties. The wine aged 17 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. The color is inky, opaque black-purple with a magenta rim; this opens with pure blackberry jam, penetrating aromas of graphite and lavender and a deeply spicy, macerated character that includes blueberries and mulberries. It’s quite dry but ripe, juicy and succulent, very dense and chewy and energized by bright acidity that rips through dusty, velvety tannins; you feel the sweet ripeness of the 14.8 percent alcohol on the finish. Drink now through 2020 or ’22. Very Good+. About $35.
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None of these examples is a wimpy wine, as some people think of merlot, but the Mt. Brave Merlot 2014, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, pretty much takes the prize for structure. Made from grapes grown between 1,400 and 1,800 feet in elevation — it’s the old Chateau Potelle property — this 100 percent varietal wine aged 19 months in French oak, 93 percent new barrels. The wine displays another inky-black-purple hue with a violet rim; every aspect is intense and concentrated, from the tightly-wound notes of black currants, blueberries and (just a hint) boysenberry to the piercing granitic-and-graphite minerality to its rigorous tannins permeated by iodine, iron and loam. Give it a few minutes in the glass, and it calls up the dusty herbaceous quality of dried thyme and rosemary (with a touch of rosemary’s slightly astringent woodsy nature) that I associate with high-elevation red wines, all of these elements energized and bound by keen acidity; the finish feels chiseled from stone. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 532 cases. Winemaker was Chris Carpenter. This is a wine built to age; try from 2019 or ’20 through 2030 to ’34, properly stored. Excellent. About $80.
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