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Khareba Winery, Kakheti (Georgia) Krakhuna 2017 ($15, Provence Wine Imports)
 Wines from Georgia — the country, not the state — are all the rage currently, in part because of their eye-catching traditional winemaking technique:  Fermenting the wine in qvevri, egg-shaped terracotta pots buried in the ground.  It turns out that not all Georgian wines are made that way.  This wine from Khareba Winery is made in a modern way — in stainless steel tanks.  And, thankfully, they’ve adopted a modern-day marketing technique of displaying a phonetic pronunciation of the grape (Crah-who-nah) on the back label.  This is a beautifully textured, mid-weight wine delivering a subtle spiced pear-like flavor and invigorating acidity.  Crisp and clean, it has a fresh saline-like finish.  It’s perfect for full-flavored seafood dishes or a roast chicken.    
92 Michael Apstein


Posted by Robert Whitley on April 1, 2020 at 12:23 AM

Winery to Watch: Oregon's WillaKenzie

The wines of Oregon's WillaKenzie Estate are priced to impress.  They're made that way, too.  

Winemaker Erik Kramer, who joined WillaKenzie after a 13-year career split between the Willamette Valley's highly regarded Adelsheim and Domaine Serene wineries, has been on a roll since arriving in January 2017.  

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kramer and taste one Chardonnay and three Pinot Noirs from his first vintage as well as a Chardonnay from the 2018 harvest.  All five wines were a brilliant reflection of Kramer's bedrock philosophy and approach to winemaking.  

For starters, they were crisp, fresh and clean with exceptional balance and a deft touch of oak.  Despite the generous use of new French oak barrels, the influence of the wood was remarkably subtle.

"Wood selection is about elevating without interfering," said Kramer. "Wine should be wine."

His philosophy came through loud and clear when I tasted the two Chardonnays, the 2018 WillaKenzie Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($40) and the 2017 WillaKenzie Estate Chardonnay, Yamhill-Carlton ($75).  The 2018 Willamette chard shows a wonderful touch of lemon creme, richness lifted by firm acidity and subtle hints of baking spice. The 2017 Estate Chardonnay, grown in a slightly warmer microclimate in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, is richer and more opulent, with complex layers of citrus, apple, pear and spice.  

Since arriving at WillaKenzie, he's scoured the 400-acre estate (100 acres under vine) for the best Chardonnay sites.  The trick, he said, is "putting Chardonnay in really lovely spots where it has the opportunity to be great."   Suffice it to say he is off to a very good start.

The three Pinot Noirs were equally stunning, including the relatively modestly priced 2017 WillaKenzie Pinot Noir, WillaKenzie Estate Vineyard/Jory Hills Estate Vineyard at $35.  This is an elegant Pinot that shows exceptional fruit purity, impressive structure and a pleasing finish with a touch of tannin on the back end.  

"I'm looking to build palate shape with good tannin," he explained.  Hallelujah.  Too many Pinot Noir producers are so afraid of tannins that they shy away and go in the other direction with soft, flabby, oft times sweet Pinot.  

The other two Pinots are part of WillaKenzie's terroir-specific program that isolates grapes from six specific sites on the estate.  I tasted the 2017 WillaKenzie "Aliette" Pinot Noir ($65) and the 2017 WillaKenzie "Kiana" Pinot Noir ($65).  The Aliette delivers a distinctive nose of cherry and spice and is light in color though big on flavor.  The beautifully perfumed Kiana, grown in a warmer microclimate, trends to the floral spectrum of aroma, with an impressive mid-palate and exceptional palate length.

I must say I can hardly wait to taste the rest of the WillaKenzie portfolio.

Connect with Robert Whitley on Twitter at @WineGuru.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Bordeaux 2017: The Sweet Spot
Robert Whitley

BORDEAUX, France - The annual primeurs event in Bordeaux, which previews the most recent vintage of Bordeaux wine for the trade and press, often proves a chore as everyone muscles through hundreds of tannic young wines in an attempt to assess their quality and potential. It may come as a surprise to some, but tasting barrel samples is work. The astringency of young red wine presents a daunting challenge to even the most experienced wine professional. Because many Bordeaux wines are sold 'en primeur,' well before their release in a couple of years, the primeurs tastings are of tremendous interest to those who sell Bordeaux wines as well as those who consume them. While I have my reservations about a number of wines from the Graves and Pessac-Leognan district in the difficult 2017 vintage, I found the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, on the Right Bank, encouraging. They were riper, fleshier and less austere than many of the wines from Pessac and Graves.
When to Open Your Wines, Now and in Brighter Days Ahead
Michael Franz

For me, the the toughest of all commonly asked consumer questions about wine is, 'How Long Should I Age This Wine?' The problem isn't that this is a dumb question. On the contrary, it is a question that every novice wine-lover should ask. After all, everybody is somewhat aware that wine is unique by comparison to spirits or beer in an important respect: Wine holds the potential to develop in a positive way after we purchase it, though it can also be degraded if held too long. When we come into possession of our first few bottles of serious wine, we're put on the spot: There's no owner's manual, and the decision of when to open the bottles is thrust upon us, and we don't want to mishandle something that rightly strikes us as a rather big deal. We want to open the wine at its apogee, or at any rate to avoid misusing a bottle that was a valued gift, or a keepsake from a memorable trip, or just a conspicuously expensive purchase.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Lentils and Rice and Spice

Bursting with favor and texturally very satisfying, this vegetarian recipe seems to please even devout meat eaters (skip the yogurt and tzatziki and it is a vegan dish). The recipe's separate elements can be made a few hours ahead of time then reheated and assembled just before serving. You could accompany it with a colorful vegetable dish, but because it is hearty and filling on its own we usually serve it with nothing more than a simple green salad. We offered tzatziki and yogurt for topping the dish and asked our tasters which they preferred. The unanimous choice was the tzatziki. Make your own tzatziki or buy it already prepared (stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for example sell excellent tzatziki). Although most of us preferred red wines with this assertively spiced dish, it was also clear that there is a place at the table for sophisticated and balanced whites that offer purity of fruit.
On My Table
Great Value from Piedmont
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

If you have ever driven from Malpensa Airport in Milan to the Barolo district of Piemonte, you would have passed the town of Canale shortly before arriving in the small city of Alba and the Barolo hills soon after. Canale lies on the opposite side of the Tanaro River from Alba and the Barolo zone, in a district known as Roero. Roero has a long history of grape growing and winemaking, and in fact Nebbiolo - the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco - is a major variety there, but the area lacks the renown of Barolo and Barbaresco, across the river. Within Roero, the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale, founded in 1878, is one of the most prominent producers. The Enrico Serafino winery is now owned by the Krause family, from the U.S. Midwest; the Krause family also owns Vietti in the Barolo zone. Although situated in Roero, the Enrico Serafino winery owns several Barolo vineyards. It is entitled to vinify the grapes in Roero, having been grandfathered in as an exception when the DOC/G regulation was enacted in 1967. In addition to Barolo, the winery produces a range of still and sparkling wines, including a white wine, Gavi di Gavi.