WINE REVIEWS

July 16, 2019 Issue

FRANCE

Beaujolais:

Red:

Piron & Lameloise, Chénas (Beaujolais, France) “Quartz” 2016 ($23):  The Lameloise family, whose name is synonymous with fine dining because of their Michelin 3-star restaurant in nearby Chagny, owns the vineyard in Chénas, the smallest of the 10 crus of Beaujolais, while Dominique Piron makes the wines.  Floral and elegant, it’s a graceful wine that dances on the palate.  Its charming juiciness reminds you it’s Beaujolais, but it has the Burgundian sensibility of flavor without weight.  Beautiful now.  
93 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Domaine Ruet, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) 2017 ($23, Schatzi Wines):  I recently tasted six Beaujolais from this producer, one made without added sulfur, from three different vintages, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  They were stunning across the board and demonstrated the enormous talent at the domaine. They have just under 3 acres on the slopes of Côte de Brouilly, one of the 10 crus of Beaujolais.  The soil of this small mountain that emerges from the surrounding Brouilly is a distinctive blue stone, which growers there insist imparts a firmness to the wines.  Ruet’s 2017 Côte de Brouilly is stunning, with a firm, but not hard, backbone.  Luscious black fruit flavors balance the seeming austerity lending an exciting ying-yang to the wine.  It will change your image of Beaujolais.  
94 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

P. Ferraud & Fils, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Les Charmes 2018 ($20):  Ferraud, though lacking a U.S. importer now, had been in this market for decades and is a well-established name with a proven track record.  Yves-Dominique Ferraud told me he thought the 2018 vintage in Beaujolais was a combination of the ripeness of 2015 and the raciness of 2016. Judging from the few I tasted so far, including this one, I agree with that assessment.  Les Charmes, another climat in Morgan, is home to less forceful wines -- dare I say, charming -- than those from Côte du Py. Ferraud’s 2018 certainly is.  Bursting with fruit, paradoxically, it is not “fruity,” because of its structure and energy.  Long and elegant, this is a fabulous Morgon.  For us consumers, I hope he finds an importer, soon.   
94 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Dominique Piron, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Côte du Py 2017 ($30):  The Côte du Py is arguably the most famous climat or vineyard in Morgon and possibly all of Beaujolais.  Composed of back stone, it can be home to power and dense wines that need considerable age before revealing their charms.  But, as is always the case, the producer plays an enormous role in the style of the wine.  With Piron’s 2017 Côte de Py there’s an engaging floral component to the wine that complements its firmness.  Less powerful than many, this mineral-y infused wine is fine to open now.   
91 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Domaine Bel Avenir, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, France) En Mortperay 2017 ($25):  Growers in Moulin-à-Vent, the most robust of the 10 crus of Beaujolais, have embraced the concept of making wines from specific sites, just as in the Côte d’Or, their more famous neighbor in Burgundy to the north.  En Mortperay is one such site, situated on the edge of the appellation, bordering Fleurie.  More floral and elegant than you might expect for a Moulin-à-Vent at this youthful stage, it still conveys plenty of power.  Its impeccable balance, interplay of flavors, and lingering finish make it a very serious wine and hard to resist now.  
93 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Provence:

Rosé:

Chateau Gassier, Côte de Provence (Provence, France) “Esprit Gassier” Rosé 2018 ($19, Wilson Daniels):  This delicious and sophisticated rosé smells like a dreamy strawberry and peach shortcake (fresh fruits, cream, biscuits, a touch of spice).  Made from 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault and 5% Rolle, the wine is perfectly dry, with a little nudge of acid and a good, firm finish.  Chateau Gassier lies in Cézanne’s beautiful Mont Sainte Victoire landscape, and the Gassier family has been making wine here since the late 19th century.  
92 Marguerite Thomas Jul 16, 2019


ITALY

Sardinia:

White:

Sella & Mosca, Alghero Torbato DOC (Sardinia, Italy) "Terre Bianche Cuvée 161" 2017 ($20):  Torbato is an obscure but deliciously aromatic and flavorful grape variety that yields especially fine wines on the island of Sardinia.  The grapes for Sella & Mosca’s 2017 Torbato were grown on the western part of the island and fermented at a cool temperature to enhance the fruit character of the wine.  Partial barrel aging adds nuance and complexity to the finished wine.  It has a bouquet of peach, pear, ripe apple and lemon with floral, herb and subtle baking spice hints.  On the palate, it shows rich peach and pear fruits underlain by a full texture and elements of herbs, vanilla and lime zest.  It’s a perfect choice for seafood recipes or other flavorful summertime fare.  
93 Wayne Belding Jul 16, 2019


SOUTH AFRICA

White:

MAN Family Wines, Coastal Region (South Africa) Chenin Blanc "Free-Run Steen" 2018 ($9, Vineyard Brands): The MAN Chenin Blanc affirms that South Africa is a fantastic source of affordable and delicious Chenin.  Sourced from dry-farmed bush vines in the Agter-Paarl area, the 2018 “Free-Run Steen” bottling continues a string of successes for this wine.  Fresh and fragrant, the bouquet is replete with scents of honeysuckle, pear, green apple, lemon and tropical fruits.  The flavors are pure, bright and lively, with pear, lemon, guava and green apple fruits underlain by delectable floral and spice tones.  Year in and year out, the MAN Chenin Blanc ranks among the best white wine values in the world.  It’s a perfect summer sipper. 
90 Wayne Belding Jul 16, 2019


SPAIN

Rioja:

Rosé:

Ostatu, Rioja (Spain) Rosado 2018 ($16, De Maison Selections):  The best way to enjoy the vivid and fresh style of a fine rosé is to slake your thirst on a warm summer day with a wine like this one.  The 2018 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Rosado is a beautiful and fresh example of Spanish style.  A vibrant pink in color, it has a bouquet of ripe strawberries and cherries followed by hints of wildflowers, sun-baked herbs and a touch of white pepper.  The flavors are pure and juicy, with strawberry and red cherry fruit enhanced by the classic dried herb and spice character of its component grapes (Tempranillo 70%, Garnacha 27% and Viura 3%).  Add some zest to your next summertime soirée -- try this delicious rosé.  
90 Wayne Belding Jul 16, 2019

Valencia:

Red:

Dominio de la Vega, Utiel-Requena (Valencia, Spain) Bobal Finca La Beata 2014 ($38):  Anyone who doubts that Bobal can make great wine should taste this, which will bring an abrupt end to the argument.  A single-site wine from a 1.5 acre plot that was panted between 1913 and 1920 (prior to the arrival of phylloxera), this was fermented in open-top wood fermenters prior to aging in new Allier barriques for 18 months.  That new oak shows on both the nose and palate, but it is enveloped by gorgeous fruit benefits from the spiciness and grip lent by the wood without ever yielding center stage.  The fruit shows a striking sappy sweetness but no hint of over-ripeness and the acidity is excellent, lending freshness and lift.  The aforementioned sweetness has nothing to do with residual sugar, which is low at 2.5 grams per liter, just enough to help counterbalance the wood and tannin in the finish, which are simply swept away in sensory terms, though they still lend structure to the flavors and, presumably, age-worthiness to the wine.  I tasted this at a lunch in a limestone cave with no internet connectivity, and the first thing I did upon emerging was attempt to order it, which is possible in multiple countries in Europe but not at any retailer I could find in the USA.  The producer claimed it is being sold for $60 in Texas, so of course I’ll be planning a trip to Texas.   
95 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019

Dominio de la Vega, Utiel-Requena (Valencia, Spain) Bobal Paraje Tornel 2012 ($24):  The 2016 vintage of this wine is also worth a search, but is pretty tight on account of ample acidity and wood at this point, whereas this 2012 is just singing at the moment.  It shows very expressive dark-toned fruit with alluring accents of lavender and garrigue, along with a nice little whiff of oak spice.  Mature but not yet leathery or showing any signs of fatigue, this is terrific Bobal at a very attractive price.  
92 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019

Sierra Norte, Utiel-Requena (Valencia, Spain) “Bercial Ladera Los Cantos” 2015 ($32):  This is a big, serious wine crafted from 63% Bobal and 37% Cabernet Sauvignon made from old vines (60 and 40 years for the two varieties, respectively) and aged for more than a year in French Oak.  That oak isn’t shy, but neither is it excessive, as the layered fruit is more than up to the task of counter-balancing it.  Layered and long, this shows mostly black fruit tones with a topnote of oak spice and an undertone of cocoa powder.  Medium-plus body will make this quite versatile at the table, and there’s no doubt it can benefit from a good five years of cellaring.   
92 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019

Chozas Carrascal, Utiel-Requena / Vinos de Pago (Valencia, Spain) "Las Ocho" 2016 ($38):  Even a linguistic ignoramus like me knows enough Spanish to know that “Ocho” means eight, which raises the question, Which eight?  The answer is, Bobal, Monastrell, Garnacha Tinta, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot.  My next question when tasting this at the (gorgeous) winery was, how much does it cost, and where can I buy it?  My indication of a $38 price here is a world-wide average, as I haven’t yet found this sold at retail in the USA.  Which has me kicking myself for not buying it at the winery, which I didn’t do solely to keep from checking a bag on my return flight.  Stupid!  This is a fabulously tasteful, skillful blend that is really only medium-bodied but very expressive in aroma and flavor, with a mélange of red and black fruit notes, interesting savory undertones, perfectly integrated acidity and wood, super-fine tannin and a wonderfully symmetrical finish.  Generally, new-ish, ultra-fancy wineries tend to make overblown “statement” wines, but this is a terrific exception to the rule.  Some savvy US importer will start bringing this bodega’s wines into the USA before long, and when they do, I’ll be able to stop kicking myself.   
94 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019

Rosé:

Sierra Norte, Utiel-Requena (Valencia, Spain) “Pasión de Bobal” Rosé 2018 ($13):  This is excellent rosé demonstrating that Bobal can serve very well indeed as the base grape for this product category.  The aromas and flavors show straightforward red cherry notes up front, with cranberry also suggested, though that’s perhaps a suggestion deriving as much from the wine’s outstanding acidity as much as the fruit tone.  Picked at just the right point to achieve maximum freshness without any excessive tartness, this shows very good work in the vineyard and fine handling in the winery.  
91 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019

White:

Chozas Carrascal, Utiel-Requena / Vinos de Pago (Valencia, Spain) "Las Tres" 2017 ($22):  This blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura) was barrel fermented and then aged for six months in French oak, with no malolactic fermentation.  But enough regarding technical matters:  This is flat-out delicious and extremely well made, showing very restrained oak and superb integration.  The citrusy notes of Sauvignon are most prominent in the bouquet, but the wine certainly doesn’t taste or seem generally like a varietal Sauvignon Blanc; rather, this is its own, unique thing, and a beautiful thing at that.  The wine has a reputation for aging extremely well (I’m told that the 2013 is still being poured in a two-star Michelin restaurant and is very much alive), and I find that entirely easy to believe.  Bloody terrific wine.  
92 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2019


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35):  Calling this the “middle wine” of the Martini signature series doesn’t do it justice.  Though it sits between its stable mates in price and appellation, it’s a beautiful counterpoint to them, which of course is the point in having a series.  Here the focus is on red fruit, dried herbs, eucalyptus and a firm structure that suggests some further aging will enhance everything.  
92 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Cosentino, Lodi (California) Zinfandel "The Zin" 2015 ($22):  A lush texture and opulent aromas and flavors are among this Zin’s attractions.  You’ll find berries, chocolate, black pepper and baking spices here. While the wine is big, it isn’t really a bruiser.  Yes, it’s great with burgers and ribs, but it’ll also be a pleasurable partner for most interpretations of pork, lamb, lentils, and it rocks with chorizo burritos and many other Mexican foods. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Jul 16, 2019

Morgan Winery, Monterey (California) "Cotes du Crow’s" 2017 ($20):  This easy drinking red blend from Morgan has been a consistent winner since its inception and the 2017 follows in those impressive footsteps.  Traditionally a Rhone-style blend, the 2017 comes with a twist.  Tempranillo, the money grape of Spain, has been added to the more traditional Grenache-Syrah cuvee.  The result is a beautiful expression of red-fruited character, with a charming spice note and soft tannins. Bravo!   
90 Robert Whitley Jul 16, 2019

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Hideaway Vineyard, Chappellet Estate "Mountain Estates" 2016 ($125):  A new bottling for the winery, and one worthy of being separated from the pack -- Hideway Vineyard -- and it’s a wine for the cellar.  Firm tannins propping up rich black and red fruit, brown spice, earthy minerality and carefully selected oak lots that give a layered toastiness that will fold in with some cellaring.   
96 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2016 ($45):  This Merlot leans hard into the cherry side of the variety, with a layered bouquet moving from bright Bing notes to kirsch.  On the palate, the cherry comes off on the darker side, with rich oak spice and a supple tannin structure that extends the finish.  The oak is slightly forward now, but will integrate well with a couple years in the cellar.  Nicely done!   
94 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Experience, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($30):  This is a nicely priced Napa Cabernet that will please fans of a little American oak with their blackberry and spice -- the wood imparts a subtle dill character here that sets the fruit off very effectively.  You’ll want something bold and beefy as a pairing partner here, and a Santa Maria style tri-tip would fit the bill well.     
90 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

LaZarre Wines, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Merlot 2016 ($48):  Adam LaZarre’s continued commitment to Merlot is based on love, and it shows in this bottle that might just be designed to woo you out of your misplaced disdain for the variety.  Sourced from Santa Margarita Ranch in the southern reaches of Paso Robles, it’s a mix of plush cherry and berry fruit, structured tannins, layered oak spice and some baker’s chocolate.  It’s great now, and will continue to integrate and deepen with some cellar time.  Don’t fret about that though -- I bet he’ll make a few more vintages.  
93 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Chappellet, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Bateman Vineyard “Grower Collection", Two Blocks 2017 ($60):  A gorgeous glass of black cherry, damp earth and Asian spice aromas, with a little savory note adding interest.  The palate delivers on the promise, with good integration and a nicely proportional pickup of the savory note.  A very long finish rounds things off -- at least until you go back for another sip.  An auspicious debut for the Growers Collection!  
95 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

YNOT, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($28):  This is Flying Goat’s “declassified” blend of lots that don’t make it into the vineyard designate Pinot Noir program -- and it’s a wine that shows that Norm Yost is pretty particular about what he classifies.  Translation?  This is very tasty wine that will please a crowd -- and a crowd that includes Pinot snobs at that.  Fleshy, bright and fun, with lively acidity and a long black cherry driven finish.  If there’s a Pinot porch pounder that I’d drink, this is it.  
90 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Louis M. Martini, Sonoma Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso Vineyard 2015 ($85):  Newly released, this iteration of Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is wildly spice focused at present, with bright clove and cinnamon over typically ripe fruit that showcases the site’s black and red fruit mix.  Plush and delicious, it’s a full pleasure cruise already, but could still benefit from up to ten years of cellaring.  
94 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Flying Goat Cellars, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir Rio Vista Vineyard "Dijon" 2013 ($48):  A blend of the three Dijon clones that succeed in California, specifically, 667, 777 and 115.  Winemaker Norm Yost treats the 667 as the foundation, for its juicy sweetness, and the 115 and 777 are the walls that secure the package’s structure, adding dusty spice and soft powdery tannins.  The appellation’s famed cool climate acidity glitters in this wine, carrying the fruit and spice into the distance.  Another beauty!  
93 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Flying Goat Cellars, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard 2013 ($48):  A tiny berry selection of clones 667 and 777 blended to a bold, bright expression of cherry and spice, focused on the 667’s lively redness.  The vineyard is on the north side of Highway 246, and shows a little more ripeness that the Rio Vista Vineyard on the south side.  It continues a clear philosophy of letting each vineyard speak clearly and offer something for everyone.  I’m fully on board!  
92 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Sparkling:

Goat Bubbles, Santa Barbara County (California) Brut Cuvée 2014 ($42):  A bold, very dry, fruit-driven bubbly that’s long on lively citrus, a hint of cherry, nice complementary toast, great acidity and a very long finish.  Norm Yost “preconditions” the base wine in neutral barrels as opposed to long term bottle aging after the second fermentation, and the effect is a creamy midpalate and a slight autolysis that adds depth and interest to the pear and apple flavors.  I just tasted the 2015 as well, and I would score it the same though it comes off a bit drier.  Contains 85% Pinot Noir from Rio Vista Vineyard, and 15% Chardonnay from Sierra Madre Vineyard.  
95 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

White:

Chappellet, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard “Grower Collection", One Block 2017 ($45):  This Sangiacomo Vineyard release brings a third angle into Chappellet’s Chardonnay portfolio, featuring aromas and flavors of quince, bay leaf, wet stone and a little more oak spice than the other two releases.  It’s very well knit together, with no particular element trying to dominate center stage, and the finish stays together and waters the mouth.  I’d go with roasted, herb encrusted fowl for full enjoyment.
93 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

LaZarre Wines, Edna Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Albarino 2018 ($28):  Winemaker Adam LaZarre touts the 2018 Central Coast vintage with this Albariño, perhaps the best that he’s produced to date.  Fresh and floral up front, with vibrant lime and melon hanging close by.  It all comes together on the palate, where a creamy entry gives way to crisp acidity, and finishes with complete refreshment of the palate and a long, integrated impression.  This won’t last long. 
94 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

New York:

White:

Keuka Lake Vineyards, Finger Lakes (New York) Dry Riesling Estate Bottled 2017 ($21):  Finger Lakes Riesling is a treat when it is as well-made as this one.  Keuka Lake Vineyards is on the west shore of Keuka Lake -- the historic winegrowing center of the Finger Lakes.  Their 2017 Estate Dry Riesling is emblematic of the quality to be found among modern Finger Lakes producers.  It has a forward and attractive bouquet of fresh flowers, peaches, green apples and subtle spice.  The flavors reveal a delicious layering of lemon, apple and peach fruit tones backed by floral and spice hints.  The finish is clean, dry and refreshing.  This is a racy style of Riesling that captures the essence of the grape.  Try it this season with your favorite shellfish or fin fish recipe.   
91 Wayne Belding Jul 16, 2019