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Posted by Robert Whitley on May 10, 2016 at 9:40 AM

MacPhail Departs Namesake Winery

 HEALDSBURG, Calif. — We've seen this act before: Richard Arrowood sells Arrowood. Gone. Gary Farrell sells Gary Farrell. Gone. Richard Sanford sells Sanford. Gone.

The latest disappearing act involves James MacPhail, the well-regarded pinot noir specialist who sold the MacPhail winery to Hess several years ago.

During a recent visit, as I tasted the latest MacPhail releases at the small winery behind his house in the Russian River Valley, James casually let drop that this month would be his last as the winemaker at MacPhail.

"The parting is amicable," he said, though he did intimate there was a disagreement over the direction of the boutique winery, which has earned a stellar reputation for often-brilliant small-lot vineyard-designate pinot noirs and chardonnays, primarily from the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations.

His life as a winemaking consultant begins almost immediately. MacPhail's first gig is with a winery currently under construction in the Sonoma Valley.

"I can't say the name at this point, but they're bringing in (renowned Napa Valley winemaker) Philippe Melka to oversee their Bordeaux program, and I will be responsible for their Burgundy program," said MacPhail.

In the meantime, he and his wife Kerry are launching their own new label, Tongue Dancer. "We chose that name because the wines we enjoy most dance on your tongue," said MacPhail.

Cloudburst, Margaret River (Western Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($250)
As I’ve said before, “Will Berliner is either a visionary or has beginner’s luck.  An American married to an Australian and settled in Western Australia’s Margaret River area, Berliner has no formal education or real background in wine.”  Yet he continues to turn out spectacular wines.  The immediate gush of aromatics from the glass predicts a dazzling wine -- and the taste confirms it.  It’s a harmonious mixture of intriguing savory and meaty notes with plump cassis-like fruitiness all buttressed by freshness and energy.  The tannins are suave, which allows for immediate enjoyment.  But what distinguishes it -- and all his wines -- is an unheard of elegance and restraint compared to most wines coming out of Australia.  And it weighs in at all of 13.5% stated alcohol, showing that you don’t need super rich grapes to produce marvelous wines.  Berliner feels that with this vintage, “you can taste my vineyard.”  I can’t attest to that, but what I taste is marvelous.  Most people don’t have $250 to spend on a bottle of wine, but if you do, consider this one.
97 Michael Apstein

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This Issue's Reviews
 
Ninety-Nine Bottles of Barolo
Michael Franz

You read that right. Not 'ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,' but ninety-nine bottles of Barolo. In a blind tasting starting at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 9, in Alba, hub of the region including northern Italy's greatest reds, Barolo and Barbaresco. On Tuesday, I shifted to Barbaresco, but the total edged up to 105. On Wednesday, back to Barolo, and up to 117 wines to taste….before noon. If you know these wines, numbers of this sort could either make you swoon with envy or cringe in fear, as these are probably the world's most punishing wines to taste when young, but certainly among the most rewarding when mature.
Two Great Champagne Houses: Gosset and Henriot
Ed McCarthy

While I was teaching--in an earlier life--I used to work part-time in a local wine shop, to feed my growing passion for wine. I quickly noticed that customers usually selected wines whose names they were familiar with; this was especially true with Champagne. In the New York metro area, Veuve Clicquot's 'Yellow Label' ruled, along with Moêt & Chandon (and its prestige cuvée, Dom Pérignon). I knew that Moêt & Chandon was by far the world's leading Champagne brand in sales, followed by Veuve Clicquot, and so I was not surprised. But I was disappointed that so many other very fine Champagne producers were apparently unknown by most consumers, and took on a personal campaign to familiarize customers with Champagne producers that I respected. Among the many producers, two of my favorite Champagne houses have always been Gosset and Henriot, both similar in style.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Lamb Burgers with Carmelized Onions and Greek Salad


On its home turf the typical 'Greek' salad is thought of as rustic and summery, dedicated to absolutely fresh tomatoes and cucumbers offset by the salty/briny twang of olives and feta cheese. In America, we tend to take it in another direction, adding lettuce as well as pepperoncini, anchovies, bell peppers, radishes and even beets. While these embellishments can certainly make for a tasty salad, in this recipe we stick to the original straightforward ingredients to best harmonize with the succulent lamb-burgers and their caramelized onion topping.
On My Table
An Impressive Chardonnay from Central Italy
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

The wine map of Italy is vivid in my mind, as it probably is for most devotees of Italian wine. When I met producers Noemia and Paolo d'Amico, and their talented winemaker Guillaume Gelly, recently, my very first issue of business was to ask, 'Where exactly is your estate?' because I couldn't quite fathom its coordinates. In short order, my confusion over location gave way to admiration for their fine wines. Their location, in a word, is Lazio, the region south of Tuscany on Italy's western coast. It is a region far better known for its major city, Rome, than for distinguished winemaking. But the d'Amico estate sits in an obscure part of Lazio, in the far north interior, where Lazio meets Umbria. It is a dramatic hilly area, overlooking deep valleys of vertical lava and tufa cliffs, a UNESCO protected area. The family property there dates back 30 years, and is situated at more than 1600 feet.