Edna Valley


The title of this post needs no elaboration, but I’ll inform you that prices range from $7.50 to $20. It’s a diverse group of wines. Seven from France; 6 California; 5 Italy; 2 each Argentina, Australia, Chile and Oregon; 1 each Bulgaria, Germany, Portugal and South Africa. (Welcome, Bulgaria!) By genre or hue: 1 sparkling wine; 3 rosé; 10 red and 16 white. As a matter of fact, the 30 wines on this roster would make a great restaurant wine list. So, enjoy! In moderation, of course.

With one exception, these wines were samples for review.
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Albert Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $16.
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Amalaya Malbec 2016, Salta, Mendoza, Argentina. With 10 percent tannat, 5 petit verdot. Excellent. About $16.
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Domaine Bousquet Gaia Tupungato White Blend 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. 50 percent chardonnay, 35 pinot gris, 15 sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $18.
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Domaine Boyar Traminer 2016, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria. Very Good+. About $11.
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Calcu Reserva Especial Rosé 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 90 percent malbec, 10 percent petit verdot. Excellent. About $13.
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Canevel Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene de Cartizze, nv, Veneto, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2017, California. Very Good+. About $7.
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Fossil Point Pinot Noir 2016, Edna Valley, California. Excellent. About $20.

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Garofoli Macrina 2017, Le Marche, Italy. 100 percent verdicchio. Excellent. About $14.
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Grochau Cellars Melon d’Bourgogne 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 175 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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Heinz Eifel Riesling Kabinett 2017, Mosel, Germany. Very Good+. About $12.

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Inama Vin Soave 2017, Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy. Excellent. About $15.
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Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Coonawarra, Australia. Excellent. About $20.

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Justin Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Central Coast, California. Excellent. About $16.
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Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015, Bordeaux blanc, France. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 40 percent semillon. Excellent. About $14.
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Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine 2017, Tavel, France. Excellent. About $19.
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The Larsen Projekt Grenache Rosé 2016, North Coast, California. Excellent. About $18.

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Left Coast Cellars “The Orchard” Pinot Gris 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $18.
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Marchesi di Gresy Monte Aribaldo 2016, Dolcetto d’Alba, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Monte da Pecequina 2015, Alentejo, Portugal. 25 percent touriga nacional, 23 percent syrah, 22 aragonez, 20 alicante bouschet, 10 cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $19.
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Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2016, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $16.
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Paul Jaboulet Aîné Le Paradou 2015, Beaume-de-Venise, France. 75 percent grenache, 25 percent syrah. Excellent. About $16.
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Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling 2016, Eden Valley, Australia. Excellent. About $18.
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Poliziano Lohsa 2015, Morellino di Scansano, Italy. 85 percent sangiovese, 15 percent ciliegiolo. Excellent. About $15.
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Romain Chamiot Apremont 2016, Vin de Savoie, France. 100 percent jacquere grapes. Excellent. About $18.
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Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Excellent. About $14.

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Steele Wines Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel 2015, Mendocino, California. Excellent. About $20.
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Veramonte Carmenere 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Very Good+. About $11.
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Yves Guegniard Domaine de la Bergerie La Cerisaie 2016, Anjou, France. 80 percent cabernet franc, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $18.
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Zocker “Paragon Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner 2016, Edna Valley, California. Excellent. About $20.
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What connects these eight pinot noir wines, besides a general geographical position along California’s Central Coast from Monterey County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south, is that they are certified by SIP: Sustainability in Practice. (So, nothing north of San Francisco, no Russian River Valley, no Sonoma Coast or Anderson Valley or Carneros.) SIP is a not-for-profit organization that certifies wineries and vineyards that adhere to methods of preserving and protecting the environment and employing business practices that seek to ensure the viability of the environment for the present and the future. It is, then, a connection of philosophy and methodology rather than of actual winemaking regimen. You will see, for example, that the winemakers responsible for this roster vary widely in their use of oak barrels, from no new oak at all to a considerable amount. And obviously the terroir and climate differ markedly; Arroyo Seco is not Edna Valley, and that’s that. What is gratifying is that whatever divergences occur in the production of these wines, they all project a feeling of authenticity and integrity, a sense of faith in the grape.

These wines were samples for review.
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The Baileyana “Firepeak” Pinot Noir 2017, Edna Valley, aged eight months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. The color is an entrancing transparent medium ruby hue; The first impression is of black and red cherries infused with grated nutmeg and cloves, followed by notes of loam, sandalwood and cranberries; it’s a perfectly balanced pinot noir, subtle and nuanced, lithe and supple on the palate, with dynamic acidity that somehow seems both bright and dark; a few moments in the glass bring in touches of forest floor and heather, all leading to a blithe, elegant finish. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 through ’23. Excellent. About $30.
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The Effort Pinot Noir 2016, Edna Valley, from Center of Effort, aged 11 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. This is an intense, vibrant, almost tannic pinot noir that features a dark ruby color shading to transparent medium ruby; aromas redolent of wild raspberries and blueberries, sour cherry and raspberry leaf; acidity that brings the energy of a coursing arrow; sinewy presence on the palate; and a sense of dark graphite and loamy minerality. All for the good, of course, yet there’s a feeling of imbalance to the wine; if all great things should seem effortless, this pinot noir feels as if it’s trying too hard. On the other hand, I appreciate a wine that shows a bit of individualism. A year or two aging will probably right the equilibrium. 14.4 percent alcohol. Try from 2020 through 2025 or ’26. Production was 1,201 cases. Winemaker was Nathan Carlson. Very Good+. About $30.
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The Fossil Point Pinot Noir 2016, Edna Valley, saw no new oak, only neutral and once-used French barrels, so the wood influence is subtle, almost subliminal. The wine first offers a mesmerizing transparent medium ruby hue; aromas of black and red fruit compote are permeated by smoke, sassafras and sandalwood; it’s a large-framed and supple pinot noir, expressive on the palate, with lots of grip and traction and supple acidity; you feel the earth in this real mouthful of a chiseled wine. 13.8 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $20, marking Great Value.
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Neither the winery website nor the technical sheet included with this sample provided any useful information, so we’re on our own here. The Lafond Winery and Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Sta. Rita Hills, is a riveting ferrous and sanguinary wine that offers a dark ruby hue with a slightly lighter rim and seductive aromas of spiced and macerated black cherries and currants permeated by rhubarb and sassafras, sandalwood and cranberry. It’s a dense and chewy pinot noir that delivers considerable presence and power on the palate and an uplift of bright acidity; these elements flow on layers of briers and brambles, woodsy spice and meadowy qualities, all opening to notes of rose petals, lilac, smoke and graphite. For all that, there’s a languid quality about this one; it’s not a pinot noir in a hurry to get someplace, because it knows exactly who and where it is. Great confidence and elan. Now through 2024 to ’26. Exceptional. About $27, a Remarkable Value.
The label illustration is one vintage retrograde.
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The color of the McIntyre Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Lucia Highlands, registers as medium to light transparent ruby; the aromas come in waves: black cherry, red raspberry and raspberry leaf, loam, briers and brambles, sassafras and sage; the wine is sleek and lithe, satiny and fairly succulent on the palate, though leavened by bright acidity; a few moments in the glass add hints of sandalwood, allspice and cloves, and, in fact, this pinot noir gets pretty exotic, filling in the spaces with elements of cinnamon toast and toffee that I think do not contribute to its balance and integrity. 14.4 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’22. Very Good+. About $38.
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The Riverbench Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Maria Valley, displays a transparent medium ruby color shading to a delicate brick-red rim; wow, what a bouquet: beguiling notes of rhubarb, pomegranate and sassafras, sandalwood, black cherries and raspberries; the wine gets fleshy and riper with a few minutes airing, also bringing up notes of loam and gravel. Dense and chewy, on one hand, and lively and energetic, on the other, this pinot noir is quite spicy and supple on the palate, its black and red fruit flavors wrapped around an intense core of lavender, violets and licorice. 14.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2022 to ’24. Production was 686 cases. Excellent. About $30
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The Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015, Arroyo Seco Valley, aged 18 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. Where is this “dry canyon”? In Monterey County, 40 miles southeast of Monterey Bay, whose influence brings cooling breezes in the evening. The wine displays a perfect pinot noir color, totally transparent medium to light ruby with an invisible rim; hints of red cherry and raspberry are bolstered by sandalwood and rhubarb, cherry pit and wood-smoke, iodine and cranberry; acidity cuts a swath through a spare, sinewy structure that rests on loam and heather; a few moments in the glass bring in touches of rose petal and raspberry leaf. A beautifully knit pinot noir. 13.4 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 to ’23. Winemaker was Eric Johnson. Excellent. About $36.
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The Toloso “1772” Pinot Noir 2016, Edna Valley, conveys a lot of substance on the palate, though one feels the vitality of the structure from beginning to end. The wine aged nine months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels, an eminently sensible regimen. The color is medium cherry-ruby shading to a transparent rim; it’s a ripe and fleshy pinot noir, pungent with notes of iodine and iron and deeply spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants; a few minutes in the glass bring in hints of sandalwood and cloves, rose petals and cranberry; graphite minerality dominates the wine from mid-palate back through a finish defined by marked intensity and concentration. 14.3 percent alcohol. A great performance. Production was 902 cases. Now through 2022 to ’25. Winemaker was Frederic Delivert. Excellent. About $68.
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No tangents on the Tangent Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Edna Valley. It’s all straight-line pert, sassy and winsome. (Oh goodness, that sounds like a firm of solicitors in a Wodehouse novel.) Derived from the Niven Family Wine Estate’s Paragon Vineyard, this sauvignon blanc, which sees no oak or malolactic fermentation, offers a very pale straw-gold hue and immediately attractive notes of pink grapefruit, lime peel, celery seed and tangerine, opening gradually to hints of mango and guava, lilac and flint; tart acidity and citrus flavors power through a talc-like texture to a finish dominated by limestone and dusty lavender. 13.5 percent alcohol. Really lovely and lively. Drink now through the Summer of 2019 with fresh seafood or grilled fish or imbibe as an engaging aperitif. Niven Family Wine Estates include the Baileyana and True Myth labels. Certified by SIP: Sustainability in Practice. Edna Valley, in San Luis Obispo County, has the longest growing season of any AVA in California. Excellent. About $17.

A sample for review.

Let’s say that for dinner you’re having cod stew with leeks, potatoes and chorizo or a spicy shrimp risotto or grilled swordfish with a black pepper crust. This is not the time for a delicate, winsome little white wine and probably not even a lighter red, It’s the time for a savory white wine, earthy, bracing, saline. These are especially appropriate for these chilly Fall weeks that lead into Winter. Herein, I offer nine examples of such savory white wines, not really accommodating as aperitif quaffs, because of their assertive personalities, but certainly amenable for heartier fish and seafood dishes. Enjoy!
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The Apaltagua Reserva Pinot Gris 2017, San Antonio Valley, Chile, displays a pale straw-gold color and seductive aromas of mango and begonia, with notes of green olive and preserved lemon and a background of limestone and flint; the wine is quite lively and alluring on the palate, supple and lithe, a bit elusive and mysterious in its interesting character that balances tropical elements with spareness and bracing salinity; the finish brings in hints of grapefruit bitterness and damp limestone. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 or 2020 at a stretch. Very Good+. About $13, representing Real Value.
Global Vineyards Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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The people behind the Baker & Brain Grüner Veltliner 2016, Edna Valley, are Josh Baker and Matt Brain. From this grape, so well-known in Austria, they fashioned a wine that offers a very pale straw-gold hue and enticing aromas of heather and hay, smoke, celery leaf and lilac, with a gradual infusion of apple and pear; a few moments in the glass bring in the grape’s signature touch of white pepper with hints of loam and sage in the background; as a silky texture seduces the palate, the element of damp limestone minerality lends a crystalline effect. 13.9 percent alcohol. Production was 417 cases. Drink through 2020. Certified by SIP: Sustainability in Practice. Excellent. About $27.
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Campania, which means “fields” or “countryside,” was the granary for the Roman Empire. It’s a large, and these days fairly poor, region that spreads north, east and south from the coastal city of Naples, its primary urban area. Wine production in Campania relies heavily on indigenous grapes, of which a notable (though minority) example is the white falanghina, which has its own DOC in Falanghina del Sannio, north of Naples. The Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2017, which spent five months in stainless steel, offers a pale golden hue and enticing aromas of roasted lemons, lemon balm, greengage and dried thyme; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of bee’s-wax and jasmine; lively acidity keeps the wine flowing pertly over the palate, while traces of limestone and flint minerality lend structure; a sort of mimosa leaf/sea breeze salinity adds bracing freshness and purity. 13 percent alcohol. Delightful but with a hint of depth. Now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $23.
Imported by Terlato Wine International, Lake Bluff, Ill.
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Made from 100 percent sauvignon blanc grapes, the Grgich Hills Fume Blanc 2016, Napa Valley, was fermented 80 percent in 900-gallon oak casks, the rest in used barriques, after which the wine aged six months in neutral barrels; any oak influence is so subtle as to be almost subliminal. The color is very pale straw-gold; penetrating notes of grapefruit and lime peel, jasmine and lemon grass and green tea are highlighted by hints of iodine and limestone, with a snap of gunflint; it’s a dry wine of beautiful and alluring shape, tone and presence on the palate, with a talc-like texture riven by electric acidity and undercurrents of a sweetly earthy character: think rain on dusty roof tiles or the finest grained and sifted clay. For the rest, the wine is chiseled, faceted and crystalline with varietal purity and intensity and a feeling of connection to its vineyard, the sun and the wind. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2021 or ’22. Exceptional. About $31.
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Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” White Wine Blend 2016, Livermore Valley, combines 33 percent sauvignon blanc, 24 percent semillon, 21 percent chardonnay, 12 orange muscat and 10 viognier, fermented and aged 14 months primarily in stainless steel, with a portion of the sauvignon blanc and chardonnay barrel fermented and aged. It’s a wine of star-like intensity and freshness, offering a light straw-gold hue and bright aromas of spiced pear and roasted lemon, heather and hay, with hints of pineapple and grapefruit encompassed in a sort of leafy greenness; a few moments in the glass add notes of damp flint and limestone, all of these elements carries through with spareness and elegance to the palate; while acidity is vivid and vivacious, this is not exactly a whip-like wine, it’s much too amenable for that term. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $26.
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The Opolo Vineyards Roussanne 2017, Central Coast, feels pretty darned classic to the grape’s origin in the southern Rhone Valley. (Though the official appellation here is Central Coast, the winery’s website informs us that the grapes derive from the Willow Creek AVA of Paso Robles.) The color is very pale straw-gold; heady aromas of green apples and pears, quince and ginger are permeated by notes of jasmine and honeysuckle, bee’s-wax and lanolin. A lovely, lithe talc-like texture is enlivened by singing acidity, assisted by scintillating chalk and flint minerality; flavors of spiced and macerated yellow stone-fruit lead to a finish of smoke and grapefruit skin. 13.8 percent alcohol. Opolo is a member of SIP: Sustainability in Practice. Production was 400 cases. Excellent. About $26.
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The furmint grape is the principal variety in the production of Hungary’s traditional long-lived Tokaji dessert wines, but, in a more recent development, it can also be made into palatable and attractive dry white wines. If we take the Oremus Mandolas Furmint 2016 as an example, then the assessment is far better than merely palatable. The color is a pale but radiant gold hue that practically shimmers in the glass; it’s a pert, pithy and lip-smacking wine that features notes of spiced pear and apple skin, quince and ginger, with hints of almond blossom and heather; the equilibrium between chiming purity and clarity and a slightly resinous element is intriguing and thrilling; the finish brings in an element of dusty flint minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2020 to ’22. Oremus has been owned since 1993 by the great Spanish estate Bodegas Vega Sicilia. Excellent. About $27.
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Re Manfredi 2017, Basilicata Bianco, is an unusual blend of 70 percent Müller-Thurgau grapes and 30 percent gewürztraminer, grown in volcanic soil at an elevation of 1,000 feet. This occurs in Basilicata, the instep, one could say, of the Italian boot; not a great deal of wine is grown in this region, where the principal grape is the red aglianico. The wine was made completely in stainless steel. The color is pale straw-gold; pert aromas of lime peel and grapefruit, ginger and quince are highlighted by notes of lilac and jasmine. Gewurztraminer brings crisp acidity and flavors of slightly roasted peach and spiced pear; overall, the texture is lithe and delicate, lightly emboldened by an element of damp limestone. 13 percent alcohol. The grape is named for Dr. Herman Muller, who, though he was working in Germany, hailed from the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland. He produced this crossing of riesling with (he thought) silvaner in 1882; subsequent DNA profiling reveals the grape to be not silvaner but madeleine royale, itself an obscure hybrid created in 1845. Verily, the world of wine is filled with dark corners. Whatever, the Re Manfredi 2017, Basilicato Bianco, is attractive, tasty and appealing. Drink up. Very Good+. About $25.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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Here’s an audaciously fashioned grüner veltliner from Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County, just southeast of the town of San Luis Obispo. The Zocker “Paragon Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner 2016 draws grapes from a vineyard planted by Jack Niven in 1973, nine years before Edna Valley received AVA status from the federal government. Niven Family Wines now includes the Baileyana, Tangent, True Myth and Zocker labels. This grüner veltliner displays remarkable body and presence for a wine made only in stainless steel, that is, with no oak influence. The color is pale gold; aromas of spiced and honeyed pears and peaches are highlighted by notes of smoke and sea salt, quince and ginger; very dry on the palate, the wine delivers stunning limestone and flint minerality and acidity that sings and zings through a slightly talc-like texture to a finish of bracing seashell salinity; a few moments in the glass unfurl hints of tangerine, hay and heather. 13.5 percent alcohol. We drank this wine last night with a sweet and spicy tofu stir-fry with soba noodles, cucumbers and radishes. Try now through 2020. Excellent. About $20.
A sample for review.
Niven Family Wines is a member of SIP Certified — Sustainability in Practice — a group launched in 2008 to monitor and certify healthy and socially responsible vineyard and farming methodology. I’ll be writing about more wines in the SIP program in coming weeks.

What I mean is, here are eight wines that I tasted in the last few months of 2013 that I wish I had written about before 2013 turned to 2014. Time, of course and unfortunately, has a way of slipping away from us, so I present these wines to My Readers today, a drippy, dreary, gloomy and chilly day (as well as several other Official Dwarves) in my neck o’ the woods, as examples of wines with total appeal in terms of presence and personality, integrity and authenticity and even, in a few cases, unimpeachable charisma. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes — oops, it’s Monday! — I forsake the technical, historical, geographical data of which I am so fond for the sake of blitzkrieg reviews, ripped from the pages of my notebooks, intended to pique your interest and whet your palates. Five are from California, two from Argentina, one from Chile; prices range from $20 to $120; that’s the breaks. Enjoy!
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Morgan Double L Vineyard Riesling 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 10.5% alc. 172 cases. Pale gold color; lightly spiced peach and pear, lime peel, notes of jasmine, mango and lychee; sleek, subtle, crystalline, faceted by bright acidity and limestone minerality, contrastingly soft as a poached peach; highlights of roasted lemon and grapefruit rind. Really lovely. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $22.
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Garcia & Schwaderer “Marina” Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13.5% alc. 300 cases imported. A beautifully integrated and harmonious sauvignon blanc. Pale gold color; cool, restrained and elegant; grapefruit and pear, pea-shoot and tangerine, notes of lime peel and lemongrass; very crisp with brisk acidity and scintillating limestone element, lithe and supple; finishes with hints of thyme and green apple. Drink through 2015. Excellent. About $25.
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MacRostie Winery and Vineyards Chardonnay 2011, Sonoma Coast. 14.1% alc. Pale straw-gold color; lovely and softly ripe but lean and minerally with limestone and flint and bright acidity; clean, fresh yet earthy; apple, lemon, spiced pear; touch of mango and jasmine; deeply spicy and flavorful, especially with yellow stone fruit; elegant presentation and poise; always a favorite of mine. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $25.
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Catena Zapata White Stones Chardonnay 2010, Mendoza, Argentina. 13% alc. Limited production. A stupendous achievement. Medium gold-yellow color; roasted lemon, spiced peach, lightly buttered toast, jasmine and lilac; limestone and gunflint; amazing symmetry, power and resonance; fills the mouth and caresses the palate but not at the expense of litheness and potent acidity; juicy and flavorful but quite dry, a little smoky, with a long finely woven finish. Now through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $120.
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Catena Zapata White Bones Chardonnay 2010, Mendoza, Argentina. 13% alc. Limited production. Medium gold-yellow color; even more intense and concentrated than its White Stones stablemate mentioned above; the roasted lemon and peach but more pear here, a smokier chardonnay, with hints of jasmine and camellia, touch of caramel, quince and ginger; the kind of wine in which you feel the tension and energy of greatness and a white wine that’s almost tannic in depth and dimension; supple and creamy but balanced by chiming acidity and resonant limestone minerality. Drink through 2020 to ’22. Certainly the best chardonnay I have tasted from South America. Exceptional. About $120.
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Lee Family Farm Tempranillo 2012, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 13.5% alc. 98 cases. Vivid ruby-magenta color; black currants and blueberries with a pert touch of mulberry, intense and concentrated; batteries of spice and graphite; dense, chewy grainy tannins and vibrant acidity; deep black and blue fruit flavors infused with cedar, tobacco, black licorice and potpourri; very pure and vital, loads of personality. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $20.
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Bonny Doon Jespersen Ranch Syrah 2010, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County. A remarkable 12.7% alc. 483 cases. Deep ruby-purple color with a magenta rim; lovely, approachable; plums, lavender, violets and leather, earthy but fresh and scintillating; blackberries and blueberries, smoke, fruitcake, graphite with a touch of charcoal edge; beautifully balanced but with burgeoning regimen of tannin, oak and granitic minerality. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $40, primarily for Bonny Doon’s wine club.
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MacRostie Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast. 14.2% alc. Medium ruby color with magenta highlights; spiced and smoky black and red cherries and plums, notes of classic beetroot and pomegranate, violets and sassafras; a kind of definitively chiseled heft and structure, with acidity that cuts a swath, slightly raspy tannins and a hint of briers and brambles, but seductive balance and integration married to its more serious aspects. Another favorite. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $34.
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