Lodi


The “50 Great Wines of 2018” represent regions of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Argentina and various AVAs in California, Oregon, Washington and New York, and, of course, a wide range of grape varieties and styles of wine. Prices range from a fabulously low $15 to a pretty high $140, with plenty bottles falling into the sweet spot between about $20 and $30; a great wine does not have to be expensive. These are wines that I not only admired but loved during my reviewing last year. The roster could have been expanded by 10 or 12 wines, but I like to stick to 50 — as I have for many years — because that number forces me to be analytical as well as emotional and totally subjective. For the first time in preparing this annual list, I include snippets of the original reviews to lend My Readers some clues as to why I doted on particular wines. No technical information is included. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.

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Barton Family Wines “Holiday” Clairette Blanche 2017, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, California. 94 cases. Excellent. About $32.
“very dry, spare, elegant, yet vibrant with bright acidity …”
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Berryessa Gap Rosé 2017, Yolo County, California. Equal parts grenache, barbera and zinfandel. 225 cases. Exceptional. About $15.
“not just a great rosé but a great wine.”
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Black Kite Cellars “Stony Terrace” Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $60.
“incredibly appealing and satisfying on the sensual level but gradually reveals depths of graphite, loam and forest floor …”
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Bonny Doon Vineyards Reserve Vin Gris de Cigare 2016, Central Coast, California. 50 percent grenache, 15 percent grenache blanc, 12 percent each cinsault and mourvedre, 8 carignane, 3 roussanne. 826 cases. Excellent. About $35.
“a savory, silken rosé, fresh as sun and rain …”
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Booker Pink 2017, Paso Robles, California. 92 percent grenache, 8 percent syrah. 250 cases. Excellent. About $30.
“unusual presence and resonance for a rosé. Don’t miss this one if you can get it.”
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Brovia Ciabot del Re Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $40.
“I can’t think of a Dolcetto I have tried that was better than this one.”
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Burgess Cellars Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12 percent merlot, 11 petit verdot, 2 malbec. Excellent. About $60.
“Classic Napa Valley.”
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Champagne Bruno Paillard Grand Cru Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, nv, France. 100 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $70.
“… as steely and elegant, as refined and balletic as Champagne gets.”
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Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs 2012, Carneros, California. 100 percent chardonnay. Exceptional. About $115.
“A sparkling wine of impeccable class and sophistication.”
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Catena “La Consulta” Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $20.
“A superb example of the grape.”
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Churchill’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal. Excellent. About $80.
“A lovely evocation of earth and elegance and a joy to drink.”
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Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles Heart Arrow Ranch Zinfandel 2016, Eagle Peak, Mendocino, California. 491 cases. Excellent. About $28.
“… bright and fresh, with seductive, spice-infused black raspberry and cherry scents and flavors, but a glittering edge of graphite, too…”
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Day Wines Johan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 450 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
“Amazing tone, shape and presence.”
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DeForville San Rocco Nebbiolo d’Alba 2014, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
“… fairly seethes with spare black fruit flavors that lead to a chiseled, faceted finish.”
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Donelan Family Wines “Nancie” Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma County, California. Exceptional. About $48.
“Rich? Oh, yes. Overdone, immodestly ripe and assertive? Certainly not. The balance, in fact, is risky and thrilling.”
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Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012, Douro, Portugal. Excellent. About $24.
“A powerful expression of the LBV style.”
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Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California. 317 cases. Exceptional. About $72.
“Altogether, a remarkable marriage of power and elegance.”
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Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc 2015, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California. Excellent. About $65.
“A terrific Napa Valley interpretation of the grape.”
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Ehrhart Domaine Saint-Remy Hengst Grand Cru Riesling 2013, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $30.
“…sleek and suave, tremendous tone and presence but more spare and elegant than opulent.”
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The Farm Winery “Touchy-Feely” 2013, Adelaida District, Paso Robles. 80 percent grenache, 20 percent syrah. 241 cases. Excellent. About $60.
“… elegant and authoritative together, a silken texture emboldened by slightly sanded tannins and stirring acidity, all wrapped in a generous, chiseled, fine-spun granitic structure.”
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Chateau Faugeres 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux, France. 85 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet franc, 5 cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $45.
“Beautifully made, and perfect for a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding.”
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Fields Family Wines Delu Vineyard Vermentino 2016, Alta Mesa, Lodi County, California. Fewer than 70 cases. Exceptional. About $21.
“A truly exquisite wine … scintillates with crystalline purity and intensity.”
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Forge Cellars “Les Allies” Dry Riesling 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. 262 cases. Excellent. About $28.
“… a potent riesling notable for clarity, crispness and depth.”
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Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Yountville, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $25.
“Always one of the best.”
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Grgich Hills Fume Blanc 2016, Napa Valley, California. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Exceptional. About $31.
“… chiseled, faceted and crystalline with varietal purity and intensity and a feeling of connection to its vineyard, the sun and the wind.”
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Groth Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. 80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot. Excellent. About $65.
“… a beautifully balanced and precise cabernet sauvignon that displays admirable equilibrium.”
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Halter Ranch Vineyard Grenache Blanc 2015, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, California. 80 percent grenache blanc, 14 percent picpoul, 4 roussanne, 2 viognier. Excellent. About $28.
“Well, this is just beautiful.”
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Highlands Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California. 350 cases. Excellent. About $75.
“… remarkably fresh, exact, dynamic and compelling.”
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Schloss Johannisberger “Gelblack” Riesling Feinherb 2014, Rheingau, Germany. Excellent. About $25.
“… a lovely, golden, savory riesling, fresh and appealing…”
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Jordan Vineyard and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Alexander Valley, California. 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13.7 percent merlot, 5.8 percent petit verdot, 1.2 percent malbec and 0.3 percent cabernet franc. Exceptional. About $56.
“… an intriguing marriage of power and elegance, finishing with faceted and chiseled granitic minerality.”
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Jordan Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Russian River Valley, California. Exceptional. About $33.
“… a chardonnay of shimmering purity and intensity that satisfies on every level.”
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Kreck Wines Del Barba Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2016, Contra Costa County, California. 45 cases. Excellent. About $42.
“… a surprising elegant and lithe structure that it feels as if it emits a special lightness of being.”
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Lafond Winery and Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Sta. Rita Hills, California. Exceptional. About $27.
“… a dense and chewy pinot noir that delivers considerable presence and power on the palate and an uplift of bright acidity.”
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Champagne Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée, nv, France. 55 percent chardonnay, 45 percent pinot noir, seven years on the lees in bottle. Exceptional. About $140.
“… amazing presence on the palate, lovely, impressive, regal. ‘Grand,’ indeed.”
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Maryhill Proprietor’s Reserve Albariño 2017, Columbia Valley, Washington. 719 cases. Exceptional. About $20.
“… the finest albariño wine I have tasted… An extraordinary performance.”
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Pfendler Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast, California. 400 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
“… lovely, almost sensual weight and heft on the palate with an elegant and refined feeling of weightlessness.”
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Onward Wines Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California. 139 cases. Exceptional. About $58.
“… combines the qualities of being elegant and ethereal with incisiveness and a definitely rigorous structure… Remarkable tone and presence.”
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Domaine Ostertag Muenchberg Riesling 2014, Alsace Grand Cru. Exceptional. About $42.
“… a golden wine that feels like liquid money on the tongue… A marvel of resonant personality and varietal character.”
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Ravenswood Old Hill Vineyard Zinfandel 2015, Sonoma Valley, California. 96.8 percent zinfandel, 3.2 percent mixed black grapes. 900 cases. About $60.
“… plenty of depth and dimension and a hint of an untamed quality, but the emphasis is on exquisitely poised proportion.”
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Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast, California. Exceptional About $25.
“My reaction … was, short of weeping, just to fall in love.”
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Roar Wines Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California. 449 cases. Excellent. About $60.
“… lovely purity and intensity, gaining dimension in the glass even as it offers ethereal elements of talc, violets and rose petals…”
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Sanford Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills, California. Exceptional. About $35.
“… feels as impeccable as anyone could ask for.”
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Domaine Savary Premier Cru Vaillon 2017, Chablis, France. Excellent. About $35.
“For all that focus on structure, however, the wine projects innate delicacy and elegance.”
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Scheid Vineyards Gruner Veltliner 2016, Monterey County. 133 cases, Excellent. About $24.
“A fabulously attractive texture feels almost powdery on the palate, yet it remains light, lissome and elegant.”
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Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California. 850 cases. Exceptional. About $34.
“… amazing purity and intensity … crystalline tone and chiseled presence.”
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Tres Sabores Rutherford Zinfandel 2014, Napa Valley. California. 500 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
“… a remarkable, incisive, decisive wine of impeccable presence, integrity and allure.”
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Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Blanc 2017, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 52 percent marsanne, 48 percent viognier. Excellent. About $25.
“An extraordinary wine, sleek with personality and character.”
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Wrath Wines Alta Loma Vineyard Grenache 2015, Monterey County. 82 cases. Exceptional. About $39.
“… you feel as if you’re drinking the vineyard.”
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Wrath Wines Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, California. 249 cases. Exceptional. About $49.
“… delivers gratifying depth and breadth in a package that feels wholly complete.”
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Yount Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $38.
“Just lovely.”
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For today’s Weekend Wine Notes, I offer a diverse group of 12 wines — six white, six red — arranged according to ascending price within each color, the range altogether being $11 to $32, so nothing to make the credit card groan. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something here for every taste and palate, including some unusual selections; we (mostly) aim to please at BTYH. As usual with the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew technical, historical and geographical data — much as we might dote on those details — for the sake of quick, incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and intended to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy — in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by authority of the Federal Trade Commission.
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Marco Felluga “Montgris” Riserva Pinot Grigio 2017, Collio, Friuli. NA% alc. Light straw-gold color; lemon and lemon balm, hints of heather, tangerine and dried thyme; a touch of some astringent but highly fragrant white flower; spare notes of quince and pear; very dry, with lots of tone and presence on the palate; resonant acidity supports peach and grapefruit flavors through to a finish packed with limestone and chalk. A superior pinot grigio. Excellent. About $18.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa Calif.
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EX Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Monterey. 13% alc. EX is the new manifestation of the old Ex Anima label, a second line for Wrath Wines. Very pale straw-gold color; lime peel, grapefruit, lemongrass; lilac, celery leaf and bay; notes of pea shoot and gooseberry; pert acidity and snappy limestone minerality; very dry but an appealing texture that balances talc-like intensity with spare, sinewy elegance. An intriguing and highly individual sauvignon blanc. Now through 2020. Certified by SIP: Sustainability in Practice. Excellent. About $19.
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Sidebar Cellars Kerner 2017, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 14.1 %alc. 100% kerner grapes, a cross between riesling and trollinger. 87 cases. Bright medium straw-gold hue; spiced pear and lemongrass, acacia and damp stones; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of sea-salt, marsh grass and wood-smoke; quite herbal and savory, lots of vitality and energy, taut and vibrant; a finish of limestone minerality and grapefruit bitterness. A unique and gratifying experience. Excellent. About $25.
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Ferzo Pecorino 2017, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo. 13% alc. 100% pecorino grapes. Medium gold hue; lemon, quince, apple skin and green tea; hint of lemongrass; spicy and lively on the palate, savory and saline; bracing notes of sea breeze and brambles; tense, vibrant acidity, lovely clarity and expression. Now through 2020, maybe 2021. Excellent. About $26.
Leonardo LoCascio Selection, Winebow, New York.
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Garofoli Podium 2015, Verdiccio dei Castelli de Jesi Classico Superiore. 14% alc. Pale gold hue with faint green highlights; lemon, pineapple and a touch of candied quince; thyme, little white spring flowers, almond skin; a spare, well-knit white wine, grounded in a touch of loamy, flint-like minerality; feels bright and golden, lively and alluring, yet finishes with bracing salinity. Try with fresh seafood risottos and fish stews. Through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $26.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
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Barton Family Wines “Holiday” Clairette Blanche 2017, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles. 13.4% alc. Production was 94 cases. Radiant pale straw-gold hue; lemon, lemon balm and a hint of dusty preserved lemon, balanced by notes of dried thyme and rosemary, with hints of lanolin and bee’s-wax; greengage and quince, touch of candied grapefruit peel; very dry, spare, elegant, yet vibrant with bright acidity; finish brings in almond skin, baked pear and a strain of flint-like minerality. Now through 2021 to ’23. A beautiful, alluring wine. Excellent. About $32.
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Veramonte Carmenere 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 14% alc. Opaque black-purple with a violet rim; graphite and loam, intense notes of black currants and cherries; hints of cloves, cedar and dried thyme; moderate tannins and bright acidity for structure; pleasing presence and depth for a wine of this price, also quite tasty. Drink up with pizzas, burgers, meat loaf and so on. Very Good+. About $11, marking Excellent Value.
Gonzalez Byass USA, Chicago.
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Frescobaldi Castiglione Chianti 2016, Tuscany. 13% alc. Sangiovese with some merlot. Transparent medium ruby color; black and red currants and cherries, notes of orange rind and oolong tea; hint of violets; supple, lively, quite dry; flows on lithe acidity; some loam and graphite on the finish. Drink through 2020 on Pizza Night. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Shaw-Ross International, Miramar, Fla.
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French Bar Petite Sirah 2015, California. 13.9% alc. Opaque black-purple with a transparent violet rim; intense, concentrated and potent; ripe, fleshy and meaty; Damson plums, blueberries and raspberries, powerfully spicy; ink and iodine, sage, rosemary and wood smoke; the fruit macerated and slightly baked; vibrant acidity and dry, polished tannins; quite robust without being overpowering. Through 2020 or ’21; grilled pork chops with a cumin-chili powder crust, smoked beef or pork ribs, rack of venison. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 13.5% alc. Transparent medium ruby color; cloves, loam, smoke, touch of bacon fat; ripe and fleshy black cherries and plums; intense and succulent, tempered by chiming acidity and a distinct flint-graphite mineral element; lively and engaging, with a dark core of spice, lavender and licorice; the finish adds notes of pomegranate and cranberry. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $25.
Mt. Beautiful USA, Benecia, Calif.
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Chalk Hill Red Wine 2016, Sonoma County. 14.8% alc. 86% cabernet sauvignon, 9% malbec, 3% zinfandel, 2% merlot. Impenetrable black-purple with a vivid magenta-violet rim; intense and concentrated, with loam, briers and brambles, cedar and dried rosemary; black currants, cherries and plums; lip-smacking acidity tempers ripe and succulent black fruit flavors supported by dusty, velvety tannins; dense, dry, robust, almost chewy in texture; the oak framework rises in the finish. Now through 2024 to ’26. Excellent. About $25.
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Troon Vineyard Cuvée Côt Malbec 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 13.4% alc. Côt is the name of the malbec grape in France’s Dordogne region. Dark ruby color shading to magenta; ferrous and sanguinary, with tremendous purity and intensity, as well as real presence on the palate; deeply spiced and macerated raspberries and blueberries; cloves and a pinch of grated nutmeg; a layer of loam and a precise, chiseled element of flint-like minerality; dry, dusty, graphite-infused tannins that manage to be light and nimble; hints of black olive and violets; a wine that feels as if you’re tasting the earth that nurtured the grapes. Fans of the malbec grape should not miss this one. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $35.
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Not a snowball’s chance in Hell that you’ll be able to find this wine, except by getting in touch with the winery, but I want My Readers to be aware that wines like this are being made in California. The Fields Family Wines Delu Vineyard Vermentino 2016 was made from vines grown in depleted soils in Lodi’s Alta Mesa AVA, and what that means is that the roots have to search for nutrients and the vines get a little stressed. As is often the case with human beings, a little stress helps build character. Fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts and given a five-month pass in neutral French oak barrels with no malolactic, the wine scintillates with crystalline purity and intensity. The almost invisible hue is very pale straw-gold; beguiling aromas of lemon balm and pear, lilac, heather and talc open, on the palate, to touches of fig and green leafiness and a hint of honeydew melon; a few moments in the glass bring in the barest nuance of tropical fruit. From midpoint back, the wine develops layers of flint and bracing salinity for a chiseled, elegant finish that rings with chiming acidity and citric brightness. 12 percent alcohol. A truly exquisite wine, for drinking through 2019. Production was fewer than 70 cases. Winemaker was Ryan Sherman. Exceptional. About $21, a Ridiculously Fair Price.

A sample for review. Edited imaged from terroirreview.com.

What you will not find in today’s roster of 14 red wines is a mention of cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. There is life, as you well know, beyond that dominate triumvirate. Even the 14 grape varieties featured here don’t begin to explore the manifold possibilities that exist in the world of red grapes. This, however, is a reasonable start. We’re fairly eclectic and ecumenical for this version of Weekend Wine Notes, touching various regions of California, the states of Oregon and Washington, Piedmont and Alto Adige in Italy and the upper reaches of Argentina’s Mendoza, in the Salta area. As usual in the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the typical technical, historical and geographical data of which I am so fond for the sake of incisive reviews, ripped from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy … in moderation, please.
These wines were samples for review.
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Giornata Wines French Camp Vineyard Aglianico 2015, Paso Robles. 13.8% alc. 100% aglianico. 100 cases. Dark ruby-magenta shading to a transparent rim; boldly aromatic: ripe and slightly roasted black currants and plums, smoke, loam and espresso; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of black tea, tar and rosemary; lithe and supple as a black panther, with unleashed acidity, all bolstered by deep and velvety tannins. An attractive and well-built red wine. Now through 2021 to ’23. Excellent. About $30.
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Shooting Star Blue Franc 2014, Washington State. 13.5% alc. 100% blaufrankisch, also known as lemberger. A label from Steele Wines. Dark to medium ruby color; blueberries and cherries, then drenched with raspberry; touches of raspberry leaf and sour cherry; quite dry but juicy with blue fruit flavors, slightly resinous with a balsamic note; a nice combination of brooding and liveliness; moderate tannins for structure. One of my favorite inexpensive reds. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.
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Steele Wines Cabernet Franc 2015, Lake County. 13.8% alc. Dark purple-magenta color; cherries and raspberries with a touch of blueberry; mint and mocha, high notes of violet; furry tannins and dusty graphite, but more robust than rustic; a bit woodsy but clean and bright, all elements strung along vivid acidity; some oak on the finish lends depth and seriousness. A very attractive mouthful of wine, now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $19.
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Scheid Vineyards Riverview Vineyard Dolcetto 2016, Monterey County. 14.5% alc. 100 cases. Dark ruby hue with a vivid magenta rim; a muscular, loamy interpretation of the grape; deep and generous scents and flavors of red and black cherries with a core of lavender, graphite and toast; very dry, enlivened by vibrant acidity, bolstered by lithe, dusty tannins, all concluding in a spice-and-mineral-packed finish. Now through 2022 to ’24. Very Good+. About $34.
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The Farm Winery Touchy-Feely 2013, Adelaida District, Paso Robles. 14.9% alc. 80% grenache, 20% syrah. 241 cases. Very dark ruby fading to a delicate, invisible rim; cherries and raspberries in the nose, notes of lavender and leather, graphite and loam and a plangent hint of floral tea; elegant and authoritative together, a silken texture emboldened by slightly sanded tannins and stirring acidity, all wrapped in a generous, chiseled, fine-spun granitic structure. A real pleasure to drink. Now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $60.
Image from lucas.store.com.
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Amalaya Malbec 2016, Salta, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.9% alc. With 10% tannat, 5% petit verdot. Blue-black opaque with a faint blue-purple rim; spiced, marinated and slightly baked plums, currants and cherries, notes of black olives and rosemary, wood-smoke, cloves and sandalwood; this is rich, intense and juicy, with real grip and traction and an incisive mineral edge honed with iodine and graphite. Very impressive for the price. Excellent. About $16, representing Fine Value.
Imported by The Hess Collection, Napa, Calif.
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Troon Vineyards Kubli Bench Montepulciano 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 11.5% alc. 146 cases. Deep purple with a transparent violet rim; a dark, feral, ferrous and sanguinary rendition of the grape, bursting with notes of spiced and macerated red currants and mulberries with high tones of lilac and lavender and a throb of graphite; tremendously lively and vivid with brisk acidity that arrows through moderately mineral-laced tannins; finish is slightly bitter, as with cherry stems, pits and skins. Quite a performance. Excellent. About $25.
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Bel Colle Barbaresco 2012, Piedmont, Italy. 14.5% alc. 100% nebbiolo. Medium ruby-garnet hue; a deep, gritty, slightly rustic version of Barbaresco, offering notes of red cherries and currants, cloves and allspice, smoke and black tea, loam and violets; acid cuts a swath on the palate; moderate but robust tannins are dusty and silky, while a lovely overtone of black and red fruit compote lingers. Drink through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $50.
Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif.
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Scheid Vineyards Hames Valley Vineyard Petite Sirah 2015, Monterey County. 14.9% alc. Opaque inky-purple color; a deep, dense brooding wine; blue plums, black cherries and currants wreathed with iodine, graphite, espresso and bacon fat; very dry, boundless acidity and granitic tannins; black and blue fruit flavors very dark, spiced and macerated; a sleek chiseled finish that brings in boysenberry, black tea and a touch of vanilla. Now through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $36.
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Troon Vineyards Kulbi Bench Sangiovese 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 12.5% alc. Light, transparent ruby-garnet shading lighter; red cherries and currants, cloves and sandalwood, lavender and dusty graphite; slightly rustic tannins support layers of autumn leaves, loam and tobacco; some rooty black tea and a buzz of mint and iodine round out the finish. An intriguing interpretation of the grape. Excellent. About $25.
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J. Hofstatter Kolbenhofer Schiava 2016, Alto Adige-Sudtirol, Italy. 12.5% alc. Totally transparent ruby-brick red; sweet-tart red cherries and raspberries with a bit of raspberry leaf rasp and slightly bitter currants and cherry pit; notes of thyme and rosemary, with some of the latter’s slightly woody resinous quality; vivid acidity plows a furrow on the palate; a perfect wine for cutting through the fat of braised red meats. Very Good+. About $20.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. The label image is one vintage behind.
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Morgan Winery G17 Syrah 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. 14.4% alc. With 9% grenache, 4% tempranillo. Opaque black-ruby color; intense and concentrated yet highly perfumed with notes of black currants, plums and wild raspberries, violets and lavender, leather and loam; a sleek, lithe and supple syrah that offers real grip and traction on the palate and depths of foresty elements that partake of robust tannins; a chiseled, faceted mineral-driven finish. A stylish and very drinkable syrah, through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $22.
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Fields Family Wines Lot 13 Vineyard Tempranillo 2014, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 14.5% alc. 100 cases. Dark ruby-magenta hue; ripe, spicy mulberries and raspberries, notes of coffee and violets, mountain herbs and wildflowers; quite dry, briers, brambles and raspberry leaf, hints of tar and graphite; lively acidity and a solid tannic framework that doesn’t obscure delicious black fruit flavors. Now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $28.
Image from isaacjamesbaker.blogspot.com.
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Paul Dolan Vineyards Zinfandel 2015, Mendocino County. 15% alc. Dark to medium ruby-magenta shading to a transparent rim; very spicy and macerated blueberries and boysenberries with notes of blackberry jam, lavender, licorice and graphite; quite dense and chewy, slick and chiseled, pretty damned smacky acidity and sanded tannins; the finish is dry and fairly austere. A big, bold zinfandel that’s a good representative of the style. Now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $17, marking Real Value.
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“Winsome” is not an adjective I typically apply to cabernet sauvignon, but it certainly applies to the Toad Hollow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, from California’s Lodi AVA. One hundred percent varietal and seeing a short time in French and American oak barrels, the wine offers a vivid dark ruby hue shading to transparent magenta; bright notes of ripe black cherries and currants are lightly dusted with graphite and iodine; the wine, though quite dry, is agile on the palate and light on its feet, and plum sweetness is tempered by a mulberry tang and brisk acidity; a few moments in the glass bring in hints of wood smoke and sandalwood, lavender and lilac, every element in appealing balance. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 or ’20, with burgers, pizzas and spaghetti with marinara. Very Good+. About $17, representing Excellent Value.

A sample for review.

The weather in the United States of America has been extremely contradictory over the month of March. I mean the real weather, not politics! Well, politics, too, of course! But back to the climate and the reams of ice and snow that have assailed the Northeast and Atlantic Seaboard and the wind and rain that have battered the West Coast, and even in our neck o’ the woods, in what’s called the Mid-South, we have seen erratic temperature extremes and lots of precipitation. And Spring came around just two days ago! To lift your spirits, if such is possible, I offer 12 light-hearted and delicious wines in this edition of Weekend Wine Notes, issued a day early. We’re pretty damned eclectic here, with two rosé wines, a precise and vividly etched red that would fare well with picnic food, and nine whites. We touch Arizona, California, Oregon, Germany, Australia and Chile and a variety of grape types. As usual, in these Weekend Wine Notes, I avoid technical, geographical and personnel data for the sake of quick and incisive reviews ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks. Find the wines; drink up; be refreshed and emboldened to survive the countdown to April. Enjoy … in moderation, of course.

These wines were either samples for review or local purchases; one was tasted at a wholesaler trade event. Do you care? Of course not, but the Federal Trade Commission does. Image from WTOP.com.
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Aridus Wine Company Rosé 2016, Arizona. 13.3% alc. 68% mourvedre, 32% grenache. Bright copper-salmon hue; macerated red currants and strawberries; orange rind and tomato skin, with a touch of melon; very dry and stony/minerally but ripe red berry flavors and zinging acidity keep lively and appealing; a little florid, with a dusty aftermath. Excellent. About $30.
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Calcu Reserva Especial Rosé 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 12% alc. 90% malbec, 10% petit verdot. Very pale coral-pink; notes of peach and tangerine, lime peel and macerated raspberries; talc, herbes de Provence and cut grain; damp roof tiles; quite crisp and dry, with a dusty flint finish. Lovely taut yet seductive character. Excellent. About $13, a Raving Great Bargain.
Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewurztraminer 2016, Monterey. 12% alc. Radiant medium straw-gold color; hints of lychee, peach and rose petal, slightly honeyed apricot, all melded on the tongue with a touch of spritz and integrated medium sweetness; lively, golden, moderately lush texture cut by lithe acidity; seashell delicacy to the limestone and flint minerality; not much transition mid-palate, leading to a dry, bracing grapefruit finish. Very Good+. About $11, representing Good Value.
The winery celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
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Fields Family Wines Delu Vineyards Grenache Blanc 2016, Alta Mesa, Lodi. 13.5% alc. Fewer than 65 cases. Very pale gold; lemon balm and heather, baked pears, acacia and dusty Mediterranean herbs; sleek, suave and elegant and quite dry; animated by lip-smacking acidity and a burgeoning limestone element; a few minutes in the glass bring in subtle notes of cloves and nutmeg and an ethereal leafy quality; exquisitely framed and structured. Excellent. About $24, and definitely Worth a Search.
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Four Graces Pinot Gris 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. NA% alc. My first note on this wine is “Wow, the best!” Limpid, pale straw-gold; roasted lemon and lemon balm, freshly cut green apple and grapefruit; winsome hints of jasmine and camellia; taut acidity and scintillating limestone provide superb structure for stone fruit flavors lightly touched by lime and tangerine; slightly earthy bit of green tea and lemongrass; a glittering faceted finish. Current release is the 2016, but look for this nicely burnished version from ’15. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $24.
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Geil Bechtheimer Scheurebe Kabinett 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany. 9.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; an ethereal and breezy white wine, delicate notes of peaches, pears and quince with damp gravel in the background; a slightly sweet entry balanced by scintillating acidity and limestone minerality; fresh with pink grapefruit, slightly earthy with heather, crystalline as the tinkling of wind chimes. Don’t overthink this one; just enjoy. Very Good+. About $15.
A Terry Theise Estate Selection for Skurnik Wines.
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Grochau Cellars Melon d’Bourgogne 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 13% alc. 175 cases. Melon de Bourgogne is the grape of the Loire Valley’s Muscadet region. Medium straw-gold color; golden-yellow fruit and flowers: peach, pear and roasted lemon; jasmine and honeysuckle, heather and its blossom; a touch of bee’s-wax and lanolin, but all quite spare, fleet and elegant; ripping acidity plows a furrow; the limestone and flint minerality build toward the chiseled finish. Drink through the end of this year. Current release is the 2016. Excellent. About $18, and Worth a Search.
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Hewitson “Gun Metal” Riesling 2017, Eden Valley, Australia. 12.5% alc. Light gold hue with faint green highlights; peach, pear and lychee, with a deepening focus on spice and herbal notes as well as layers of flint and talc; with a few minutes in the glass, a whiff of petrol and an intense aura of lime peel; terrific varietal purity and concentration, vibrancy and resonance; musky and leafy, iodine and steel. Now through 2022 to ’25. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.
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Hess Select Pinot Gris 2017, California. 14% alc. Pale straw-gold; fresh, clean and bright, with notes of spiced pear and roasted lemon, almond blossom, boxwood and dried thyme; after a few minutes, touches of quince and preserved lemon; a pleasing round and lively texture with an undertow of limestone. Very Good+. About $13, marking Good Value.
The inaugural release of this wine.
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Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling 2016, Eden Valley, Australia. 12.5% alc. Very pale gold hue; penetrating aromas of green apple and lime peel, lychee and flint with a whiff of petrol; intense notes of jasmine, lilac and talc; quite dry, with piercing acidity and a chiseled structure of limestone and seashells, finishing with lively elements of grapefruit and poached pears; wonderful tone and presence. Excellent. About $18.
Imported by Negociants USA.
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Rainstorm Wines Pinot Gris 2016, Oregon. 13% alc. Light hue of tarnished greeny-gold; peach and pear with hints of lychee and apricot nectar; notes of celery leaf and dried thyme with an undercurrent of boxwood and dried rosemary; a strain of some astringent little white flower; a spare yet charming interpretation of the grape that benefits from the liveliness of bright acidity and a crystalline limestone finish. Very Good+. About $16.
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Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan 2015, Mendocino. 12.5% alc. 125 cases. Lovely transparent cerise hue; an ethereally earthy wine that’s light on its feet but firmly structured; raspberry and lilac, beetroot and cigarette paper, briers and brambles; a bracing touch of iodine, notes of cranberry and melon; exquisite balance among fruit, acid and a lithe, quartz-like mineral quality; very refreshing and perfect for a picnic or patio luncheon. Excellent. About $28.
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The ZAP conference held in San Francisco in January — that’s Zinfandel Advocates & Producers — gave me the chance to discover terrific wineries I had not encountered before and become reacquainted with some old favorites, to taste several phenomenal older zinfandels and, sadly, to try a few examples that exemplify everything that can go wrong with the grape. C’est la vie. I’ll post to the blog on all these categories eventually, but today and coming up soon, I’ll celebrate 10 wineries that are doing everything right. Of necessity, these notations are brief, reflecting the quick nature of the tasting situations.
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Winemaker for Berryessa Gap is Nicole Salengo, whose principle is to produce balanced 100-percent varietal zinfandels that are not overly bold or over-ripe. Grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and hand-punched down three times a day during fermentation. Aging is in used and neutral French oak barrels. The vineyard and winery are in the town of Winters, in western Yolo County. The winery is named for a gap in the coastal range, created by Lake Berryessa, a man-made lake in northeastern Napa County, through which strong winds flow at night to cool the region. I tasted the Berryessa Gap Reserve Zinfandel 2013, Salengo’s first vintage, and the Berryessa Gap Zinfandel 2016. Both of these wines display gratifying tone, presence and traction on the palate, with the ’16 revealing a persistent edge of graphite and flint that’s softening a bit in the ’13. They’re distinguished by lovely purity of loamy blackberry and black currant scents and flavors with a background of blueberry and pomegranate; by their lithe and sinewy textures; and by fine-grained tannins the define the wines from mid-palate through the mineral-packed finish; vibrant acidity cuts a refreshing swath. Alcohol content of the ’13 is 14.7 percent; for the ’16 it’s 14.6 percent. Both of these wines rate Excellent. Price for the ’16 is $22, representing Great Value. With a production of 600 cases, it’s certainly Worth a Search.
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Jeremy Kreck is winemaker and vineyard manager for Mill Creek Winery and Vineyards, established by his family in Dry Creek Valley in 1965. As a sideline, he runs Kreck Wines, of which the two first offerings are the Kreck Wines Teldeschi Vineyard Zinfandel 2016, Dry Creek Valley, and the Kreck Wines Del Barba Vineyard 2016, Contra Costa County, both very limited in production. These are wines for which the often amorphous term “old vines” is exactly correct. The Teldeschi Vineyard is recorded as planted in 1915, but local tradition puts its origin in the 1880s; the Del Barba Vineyard is 130 years old. I was floored by these impressively precise and incisive zinfandels, each aged 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels. You feel the effect of the gnarly old vines and the depth at which their roots delve for water and nutrients in the wines’ immense mineral qualities and in their deeply spicy, macerated and roasted black and red fruit character. The Teldeschi ’16 displays hints of blackberry and plum, fruitcake and espresso, while the Del Barba ’16, leaning toward the red character of raspberries and currants, delivers such a surprising elegant and lithe structure that it feels as if it emits a special lightness of being. I was stunned, after tasting the wines, to see that the alcohol content is 15.5 percent for Teldeschi and 15.7 percent for Del Barba; the balance is so perfect that neither reveals the slightest note of over-ripeness, sweetness or high alcohol heat on the finish. Miraculous! Each rates Excellent; each costs about $42. As for availability, I almost have to say, Don’t Bother. Kreck produced 45 cases of each wine. If you’ve a hankering, better go to the website and call the winery right now.
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You know how it is when you taste a wine and recognize immediately that you’re in the presence of greatness? (The same experience applies, of course, to poems, novels, music, art, dance and so on.) That’s how I felt tasting the Tres Sabores Rutherford Zinfandel 2014, a remarkable, incisive, decisive wine of impeccable presence, integrity and allure. You get the point, right? Owner and winemaker of Tres Sabores is Julie Johnson, who, in 1981, with husband John Williams and their friend Larry Turley, founded Frog’s Leap Winery. In 1987, Johnson and Williams purchased the Tres Sabores property in Napa Valley’s Rutherford district, at the top of the bench just under the Mayacamas range. The grapes grown in that 30-acre vineyard went to Frog’s Leap. In 1999, after the couple divorced, Julie Johnson began making her own wine from Tres Sabores. The estate is certified organic. The Tres Sabores Rutherford Zinfandel 2014 is a cool wine, scintillating with chiseled granitic minerality and vibrant with intense and focused blue and black fruit scents and flavors; briers, brambles and loam fill in the dark foundation, which seems to extend fathoms deep. Paradoxically, though, the wine is as fleet and elegant as great zinfandel gets. What’s the alcohol level? 13.9 percent! Production was 500 cases. I rate this one Exceptional, and at $38, it feels like a bargain.
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While some of the wineries in this survey may be new to My Readers, the name Ridge Vineyards will of course be familiar. Producing its first vintage in 1962, Ridge is one of the iconic old-school wineries in California, a pioneer of single-vineyard wines and home of the Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the best cabernet wines in the world. Paul Draper, who shaped the meticulous winemaking philosophy at Ridge, was winemaker from 1971 to 2016. The winery fashions a dizzying array of single-vineyard zinfandel field blends, a few of which I’ll mention elsewhere, but let’s focus on the Ridge Lytton Springs 2015, Dry Creek Valley, an approximate blend of 74 percent zinfandel, 16 percent petite sirah, 8 percent carignane and 2 percent mataro (mourvedre). The wine aged 14 months in American oak barrels, 15 percent new; 45 percent 1-,2- and 3-years-old; 40 percent 4 and 5 years old. “Ripeness is all,” said Prince Hamlet, neglecting to add that balance is all too, and structure and acid, the point being that Ridge Lytton Springs ’15 offers integrity and integration in poise that’s awesome both for its total sense of being present and its complete lack of obviousness. It’s a sleek, lithe, faceted zinfandel blend that feels chiseled from obsidian, yet despite the scrupulous nature of its making also projects wild generosity. The alcohol level is a comfortable and typical 14.5 percent. Excellent. About $40.
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I was happy to see Michael McCay at the ZAP tastings because I admire the restraint he brings to his zinfandels, a notable characteristic considering that the vineyards he works with are in Lodi, a haven of high-alcohol wines. McCay started making wine in Lodi in 1994 and launched his label in 2007. His emphasis is on natural fermentation, minimal use of oak, as low an alcohol component as he can manage and fidelity to the vineyard; the result is an unusual sense of elegance and follow-through. The McCay Cellars Faith Lot 13 Zinfandel 2013, for example, is a dark and beautifully fashioned wine so deftly balanced that it feels weightless, yet if offers plenty of heft and traction on the palate, delivering a seamless melange of blue fruit, espresso, midnight flowers and fruitcake. 14.4 percent alcohol; 379 cases. The light ruby-hued McCay Cellars Jupiter 2013, on the other hand, begins with one of the most expressive and effusive bouquets of exotic, woodsy spices, red fruit and dried flowers I have encountered in a zinfandel; it flows across the palate in a supple and resonant tide of bright acidity, slightly sanded graphite infused tannins and a flint-like mineral quality that powers the fruit through to the finish. 14.5 percent alcohol; 229 cases. Third in this trio is the McCay Cellars TruLux Zinfandel 2014, an elegant and slightly brooding melange of smoke, black tea, mocha, black cherry and currant fruit and a loamy character that opens to granitic minerality. 14.6 percent alcohol. 479 cases. Each rates Excellent. The Faith Lot 13 is $28; the Jupiter and TruLux each $32.
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The Oak Farm Vineyards Tievoli Red Blend 2016, Lodi, is a combination of zinfandel, primitivo, barbera and petite
sirah grapes. Only in California would you see such a blend. The name looks Italian, but it actually spells “I love it” backwards. Information on the oak regimen is not available, even on the winery website. The color is dark ruby that shades to a glowing magenta rim; it’s a black and blue wine, by which I mean blackberries, black currants and blueberries predominate in the nose and on the palate, these elements infused by notes of graphite, licorice, loam and bittersweet chocolate, with just a hint of dried meadow herbs and flowers. The wine is quite dry, but juicy and tasty on the palate, this effect borne by bright acidity and foresty tannins; the finish brings in more of the flinty mineral character. 14.5 percent alcohol. This one is a definite advantage paired with burgers and steaks, red sauce pastas and pizzas, meat loaf and pork chops. Drink through 2019 or ’20. Very Good+. About $18.

Tasted at the ZAP conference in San Francisco last week. That’s Zinfandel Advocates and Producers.

The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as well as a sense of individuality and, if possible, a connection to a region or, in more rarefied examples, to a vineyard. Not all wines, even great ones, display this spectrum of virtues completely; winemaking is too intuitive a craft to allow for cookie-cutter sameness. Often, it’s the differences among wines from vintage to vintage that make them intriguing and exciting. I hope the wines listed here pique your interest and that you have a chance to try some of them. Many of them are entrancing and beautiful, and we could all stand a little enchantment and beauty in our lives.
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Alois Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $25.
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Bonny Doon Vineyard Old Telegram 2014, Contra Costa County. 100 percent mourvedre. 277 cases. Excellent. About $45.
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Brooks Wine “Janus” Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $38.

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Capofaro Didyme Malvasia 2016, Salina, Sicily. Excellent. About $25.

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Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $35.
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Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $98.

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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut Tradition nv, Champagne, France. 70 percent pinot noir, 30 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $68.

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Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016, St. Helena, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $32.

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Enzo Bianchi Red Wine 2012, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent petit verdot, 7 percent malbec. Excellent. About $55.

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Esporão Private Selection 2011, Garrafeira, Alentjo, Portugal. 40 percent each aragonez and alicante boschet, 20 percent syrah. Excellent. About $65.
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Fathers & Daughters Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 110 cases. Exceptional. About $42.
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Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Yountville, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

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Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley. 393 cases. Excellent. About $32.

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Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Yamhill-Carlton district, Willamette Valley. Exceptional. About $42.

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Grgich Hills Estate 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $50.

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Grgich Hills Estate Miljenko’s Selection “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 646 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
The label vintage date is one year behind.
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Grgich Hills Estate Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. 942 cases. Exceptional. About $94.

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Heitlinger Tiefenbacher Schellenbrunnen Trocken Riesling 2014, Baden, Germany. Exceptional. About $30.

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Inman Family Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 672 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée 2012, Green Valley of Russian River Valley. A brut rosé, 76 percent pinot noir 24 percent chardonnay. 300 cases. Excellent. About $65.
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Domaine Jessiaume Les Cent Vignes Beaune Premier Cru 2014, Beaune, Burgundy. 300 cases. Excellent. About $45.

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Jordan Vineyards Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $32.

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Cantina Kaltern Pfarrhof “Kalterersee” Classico Superiore 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. 95 percent schiava. 5 percent lagrein. Excellent. About $24.
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Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, New York. Exceptional. About $15.
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Chateau Lagrezette Le Pigeonnier 2011, Cahors, France. 100 percent malbec. 1,070 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. About $250.
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La Jota Vineyard Co. Howell Mountain Merlot 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $85.

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Lioco “Sativa” Carignan 2014, Mendocino. 650 cases. Excellent. About $30.
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Louis Picamelot Cuvée Jean Baptiste Chautard 2012, Crémant de Bourgogne. 77 percent chardonnay, 23 percent aligote. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Marc Roy Les Champs Perdrix 2015, Marsannay, Burgundy. 100 percent chardonnay. 175 cases. Excellent. About $50.
The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Mayacamas Vineyards The Terraces Special Bottling Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $95.
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Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet Sauvigono 2013, Calistoga, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $160.

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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 45 cases. Exceptional. About $60.
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Onward Wines Capp-Inn Vineyard Skin-Fermented Malvasia Bianca 2015, Suisun Valley, Solano County. Exceptional. About $28.
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Paul Blanck Scholssberg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Alsace. Excellent. About $34.
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Penner Ash Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley. 915 cases. Exceptional. About $65.

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Chateau Peybonhomme-les-Tours “Le Blanc Bonhomme” 2016, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux. 50 percent each sauvignon blanc and semillon. Excellent. About $22.

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Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc 2014, Oakville District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Sidebar Kerner 2016, Mokelumne River, Lodi. 193 cases. Excellent. About $25.

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Siduri Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Excellent. About $35.

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Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc and 6 percent merlot. Excellent. About $50.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2014, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 1,551 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Stewart Cellars Beckstoffer Las Piedes Vineyard “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. 180 cases. Exceptional. About $175.
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Stony Hill Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $48.

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Tongue Dancer Wines “Pinot de Ville” Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 125 cases. Excellent. About $65.

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Troon Kubli Bench Blanc 2016, Applegate Valley, Oregon. 55 percent marsanne, 45 percent viognier. 180 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2013, Alsace. Exceptional. About $40.
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Yount Ridge Cellars Epic Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $250.

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Yount Ridge Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. 160 cases. Exceptional. About $35.

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ZD Winery Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2013, Carneos. 800 cases. Exceptional. About $75.
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Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

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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.

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