HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

THE GRAPEVINE

Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline.com on Twitter

Critics Challenge International Wine Competition

Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition

Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition

THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

May 24, 2016 Issue

Printable Version

Wine Search

AUSTRALIA

Western Australia:

Red:

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 May 24, 2016

Back to Top


FRANCE

Rhône:

Red:

Domaine Vincent Paris, Saint-Joseph (Rhone Valley, France) “Les Côtes” 2014 ($26): A lighter Saint-Joseph than most from this appellation, this pure Syrah tastes as much of fried bacon and animal fat as of fruit.  Its smoky character will not appeal to everyone, but for fans of this sort of rustic, regional style, it promises to deliver abundant pleasure.
90 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2016

Back to Top


ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Ca’ Rome’, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rio Sordo” 2012 ($70, Empson, USA): Ca’ Rome’ is a terrific producer of both Barolo and Barbaresco (as well as Dolcetto and Barbera), and made in absolutely immaculate conditions in a gorgeous little winery located in the Barbaresco district.  It you find yourself anywhere in the neighborhood, this will prove to be one of the sweetest winery visits you’ll ever enjoy.  As for this particular wine, it shows highly distinctive scents of menthol and peppermint get this wine off to a striking start, and the flavors really follow through with a rich, open sweetness that perfectly offsets the high-toned aromatics.  If you’ll permit an audiophile analogy, this has perfect balance between treble and bass.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Castello di Verduno, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rabajà” 2012 ($48): Completely successful in terms of aromatics and flavor, this is very showy from start to finish.  There’s almost no hint of wood influence, which makes the wine’s performance even more impressive, as it seems entirely based on the quality of the fruit.  The flavors are sweet, soft, savory and succulent, and yet the wine remains fresh, which is an uncanny but delightful combination.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Orlando Abrigo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Montersino” 2012 ($49): I love this producer’s wines consistently, though I fluctuate somewhat between favoring this bottling or the one from “Meruzzano” from year to year.  In 2012, this won by a nose, thanks to a slightly more complex and layered character.  But make no mistake:  Both of these are wines to buy, based on their exemplary combination of richness and purity.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sori Paitin” 2012 ($43): Much the bigger and bolder of two excellent 2012s from Paitin, this shows the slightest flaw as the finish is just a bit hot, yet sheer richness and depth and breadth of the wine’s fruit make it immensely appealing.  There’s an old cliché by which Barolo is supposed to be masculine and Barbaresco feminine, but this wine apparently didn’t get that memo.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Pertinace, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Marcarini” 2012 ($45): I was totally enthralled with all three 2012 Barbarescos that I taste from Pertinace, and though I had the slightest preference for this bottling, I’d also buy the “Castellizzano” or the “Nervo” in a heartbeat.  This one gets the nod for offering just a bit more in the way of sheer generosity, with mouth-coating flavors that prove amazingly persistent and won’t let the wine’s tannins impose any hint of astringency.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Poderi Elia, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serracapelli” 2012 ($50): I’ve never taken particular note of any wine from this producer before, but this one took me by the collar and demanded my attention.  Ripe and juicy on the nose as well as the palate, it offers fabulous breadth and depth of flavor, but without seeming over-ripe, over-extracted, or over-anything.  There are no signs of cellar tricks or bolstering from wood here, just perfect Nebbiolo fruit.  Fabulous.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Moccagatta, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin” 2012 ($42): This is impressive for depth of color and degree of concentration, and the winemaker was apparently emboldened by the seriousness of the material to apply a pretty serious dose of wood.  That isn’t generally to my taste in Barbaresco, but the wine is an undeniable success, with very ripe fruit soaking up the tannins and providing a balanced finish for a wine with a lot more punch than one would expect from this appellation.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Montaribaldi, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Palazzina” 2012 ($45): This wine always seems excellent to me (often rivaling this producer’s flagship bottling from the Sori Montaribaldi vineyard), but in 2012 it was so outstanding that I had to re-taste it even after learning its identity.  It is irresistibly alluring in aromatic terms, with scents of sweet fruit and dried flowers, and the palate is even more engaging, with remarkable depth and length.  Given that it shows no overt wood and not the slightest whiff of alcoholic heat, this comes across as a wine of great class as well as great power, which is an exceedingly rare combination.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serra” 2012 ($33): The Barbaresco bottlings from Paitin appeal to me at a very high level almost every year, and the pricing in the USA is always quite reasonable, so they are well worth a search.  This was on the lighter side of the best wines from 2012, but it proves quite winning thanks to expressive aromas and excellent balance and integration.  A subtle swath of sweetness across the midpalate holds everything together and provides softness to the finish.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Tuscany:

Red:

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore (Tuscany, Italy) Ornellaia 2013 ($225, Folio Fine Wines): Ornellaia is truly an iconic Super Tuscan that shows that Bordeaux does not have a monopoly on making great wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The 2013 growing season in Bolgheri was cooler than usual, producing less opulent, but to my mind no less enjoyable, wines.  There’s a higher proportion of Merlot in the blend of the 2013, which adds to its appeal.  Indeed, the 2013 Ornellaia stands out for its elegance and complexity rather than sheer power.  It unfolds in the glass, revealing a plethora of savory, mineral-y flavors with each sip.  This is a wine to savor because it speaks to you without shouting at you.  Not surprisingly, it has the hallmark suave texture of all of the wines made by Alex Heinz, their winemaker.  Drink it now and savor its charms or cellar it for a decade to enjoy even more savory elements.
93 Michael Apstein May 24, 2016

White:

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT (Italy) “Poggio alle Gazze” 2014 ($65, Folio Fine Wines): Ornellaia’s white wines fly under the radar because their red wines are so outstanding.  That situation won’t last for long.  Poggio alle Gazze is an unconventional blend of roughly two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc with Vermentino, Verdicchio and Viognier.  It’s less biting and more floral than the typical Sauvignon Blanc and would be a perfect match for a rich seafood dish, such as lobster risotto.
93 Michael Apstein May 24, 2016

Back to Top


PORTUGAL

White:

Quinta das Arcas, Arca Nova (Minho, Portugal) Alvarinho 2015 ($15, Frontier Wine Imports): A superior example of this particular grape variety (Alvarinho is the same as Albariño), this extremely appealing summertime white offers fresh citrus flavors in a vivacious so refreshing style.  At the same time, it has a supple texture, so never seems thin or insubstantial, and will be able to perform well at the table in addition to as an aperitif.  Stock up as temperatures rise!
92 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2016

Douro:

Red:

Esporão, Douro (Portugal) Quinta dos Murças Reserva 2011 ($30, Aidil Wines): A “Grande Ouro” (or super gold) medal winner at the recent ViniPortugal wine competition, this Douro beauty is filled with rich, ripe fruit as well as subtle notes resembling chocolate, coffee, and dried tobacco.  It’s compelling on account of its wonderfully complex, and provides ample evidence that the Douro is now home to dry red wines that can compete with the world’s very best.  This is a wine to seek out and buy by the case.  It should age effortlessly, and outperforms a great many wines that cost significantly more.
95 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2016

Back to Top


SPAIN

Navarra:

White:

Hacienda De Arinzano, Pago de Arinzano DOP (Navarra, Spain) Chardonnay 2014 ($20, Stoli Group USA): I tasted this wine at an aroma seminar at the 2016 Chardonnay Symposium, and it comes from an area not exactly known for the variety.  Found between Rioja and Navarra, Arinzano is the first Pago in northern Spain, a Pago being a designation similar to a Cru in France, one that takes a ten year application process to achieve.  It's a single clone offering, and it's a delicious surprise.  Lemon, pineapple, stony minerality and honey aromas translate well on the palate, with soft oak notes and a long, zesty finish.  This is serious quality for the price.
90 Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Arinzano, Pago de Arinzano DOP (Navarra, Spain) Chardonnay "Gran Vino" 2010 ($79, Stoli Group USA): A boffo score on a Chardonnay from Spain?  Do they grow Chardonnay in Spain?  Yes, they do, and it's likely you'll be hearing more about it if this is the kind of wine that is possible there.  The Arinzano property is divided by the Ega River near Navarra, and the fruit for this expressive wine comes from the highest elevation on the site at about 1500 feet.  It's amazingly complex and age-worthy, and most recently was awarded the SOMM's CHOICE award at the 2016 Chardonnay Symposium in a blind competition of 5 top flight wines.  It has great depth of aroma and flavor, showcasing lemon creme, stony mineral and bread dough, with concentration and palate weight, racy acidity and an incredibly long finish.  Slide this into a tasting of top white Burgundy and California examples -- you and your fellow tasters will be wowed.
Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Ribera del Duero:

Red:

Bodegas Emilio Moro, Ribera del Duero (Spain) “Malleolus” 2011 ($45, Moro Brothers Inc.): A smoky powerhouse, with echoes of roast meat, dark chocolate, and toast intermingled with dark red fruit, this Tempranillo is ready to drink now but may become even more compelling with a few years of cellaring.  A beautiful partner for grilled foods, it is hearty but at the same time harmonious.
92 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2016

Back to Top


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 'Angel Hawk' Reserve 2013 ($85):  In the vast universe of Black Kite pinot noir, the Angel Hawk Reserve is the most elegant. It is a pinot structured for the long haul, with firm tannins and bright acidity that lend gravitas, while the palate shows alluring layers of raspberry, strawberry and black cherry, complemented by a touch of wood spice. You won't go wrong if you pop the cork and enjoy now, but another five to seven years in a good cellar will reward the patient. Easily one of winemaker Jeff Gaffner's finest pinots to date.
97 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Stephen Ross, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Stone Corral Vineyard Estate 2013 ($52): One of the best Pinot Noir offerings I've tasted this year, and a clear standout in a blind flight of several excellent wines.  It just keeps coming on in the glass, with layered aromas of flowers, damp and dried earth, black cherry, ripe strawberry, leaf and a touch of raspberry, all of which translate directly to palate flavors, delivered in a dry, elegant style with fine grained tannins and a supple grip that adds length to the finish where a rhubarb note joins in.  Judicious oak spice deepens complexity without competing -- can you tell that I'm wild about this one?  Spectacular!  Contains 80% clone 2A and 20% clone 777.
96 Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Miner, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Family’s Cuvée” 2013 ($50): This big and bold Napa Cabernet is surprisingly harmonious and not over the top.  Full-bodied and robust, it remains balanced with a texture that alternates between chewy and suave.  There’s a captivating savoriness and a lush, but not sweet, finish.  This is a wonderful “steakhouse” kind of wine because it’s hard to resist now. 94 Michael Apstein May 24, 2016

VENN, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($50):  This second-label wine from Young Inglewood in St. Helena could easily stand as the first wine at most properties. Sourced primarily from the Young's own estate, the 2013 VENN is an alluring wine that shows richness and depth, layers of blackberry and cassis fruit, with integrated tannins and notes of oak vanillin, mocha and fall spice. An impressive effort from a very young winery and its family winemakers, Scott and Jacky Young.
94 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($60): Somewhat retrograde given the trend towards ever softer Cabernets in Napa, this wine shows a firm tannic backbone along with plenty of rich dark fruit flavor.  Not only does this render it age-worthy, it also makes it much more versatile at the dinner table.  Nothing will overwhelm it, and plenty of dishes will mesh quite gracefully with it -- both now and in the future.
92 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2016

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir Jenkins Vineyard 2014 ($60):  Dark and inky and firmly structured, the Jenkins Vineyard pinot from James Hall in 2014 is a stunner that has a bright future even though it's easy to drink at this stage. The nose shows notes of cola and earthy forest floor, with a hint of wood spice and layered red fruits. On the palate it shows firm grip, but with the promise of soft, voluptuous notes to come.
94 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Kendall-Jackson, Sonoma County (California) Merlot Grand Reserve 2013 ($26):  K-J has made a habit over the past three decades of delivering more bang for the buck than most of its competitors. That's as true today as it was 25 years ago. The Grand Reserve is a perfect example. At $26, the 2013 vintage would do well in blind tastings with merlot costing as much as $40. It shows excellent richness and weight on the palate, seductive blueberry and plum fruit, and supple tannins for a smooth ride. Notes of oak spice and wood smoke are restrained and well judged.
91 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Kenwood, Sonoma Mountain (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Jack London Ranch 2013 ($35): Kenwood is more or less a cabernet sauvignon house, though it excels throughout the lineup. The Jack London Ranch cabernet is one of Kenwood's most consistently outstanding wines and the 2013 is another in a distinguished chain. It offers impressive richness and weight, layers of dark fruits and an unmistakable note of eucalyptus as a signature high note. On the palate the Jack London delivers that rare combination of elegance and power, with firm but nicely integrated tannins and a long, spicy finish.
94 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

White:

Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Dry Chenin Blanc Wilson Ranch 2015 ($13): Even though the grape variety is Chenin Blanc, Dry Creek Vineyard labels it as Dry Chenin Blanc for emphasis, which is appropriate.  Fresh and vibrant, it’s a blissful harmony of fruit and zing.  Think sushi or poolside.  Buy it by the case for the summer.
90 Michael Apstein May 24, 2016

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18):  The previous vintage of this classic Sonoma County sauvignon was a stunner. The new vintage, 2015, may well be better. From the nose, which shows white flower and spice, to the mouth-watering palate that offers aromas of ripe white peach and citrus, this is a memorable sauvignon blanc that rivals the finest California has to offer. Serve it with freshly shucked oysters, steamed shellfish or summery pasta dishes, or simply sit back and enjoy this exceptional sauvignon on its own.
95 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Verdad, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Albarino Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2015 ($25): Verdad wines are made by Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, with this bottle coming from her estate vineyard in this still under-valued region.  The fruit was harvested quite early by current California standards, and it was a fortuitous choice for this fresh and lively Albariño.  Stony mineral, lime and citrus flower dominate the complex nose, with singing acidity carrying bright sweet lemon and lime zest flavors through a long finish that is crisp and stony, leaving a lasting citrus impression.  For my geeky friends -- when's the last time you saw a total acidity number of 9.1 on a finished wine from California?  A great oyster pairing!
92 Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Kelsey See Canyon, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Albarino 2013 ($24): Winemaker Jac Jacobs brings us a lively, crisp refresher that's built for seafood -- it even has a touch of sea spray to complement its pineapple and citrus mix of aromas and flavors.  For all its freshness, it's got a full texture and will lend itself well to roast chicken as well as saucier fish preparations.  Nice!  Contains 2% Chardonnay.
89 Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Route Stock, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 29 2015 ($17):  Route Stock's Napa Valley sauvignon blanc, cleverly dubbed for Highway 29, which runs through the Napa Valley, delivers a splash of ripe grapefruit aroma and mouth-watering acidity, a perfect combination for a warm summer day.
87 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Patz & Hall, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch 2014 ($44):  Dutton is no doubt one of the finest Chardonnay vineyards in America, so grapes from Dutton in the hands of the brilliant winemaker James Hall stand a fair chance of making something quite sensational. So it is with the 2014 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from Patz & Hall, an exquisite Chardonnay that delivers firm acid backbone to balance the richness of the fruit. This vintage exhibits notes of lemon creme, pear and fall spices with a hint of tropical fruit on the finish.
94 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Back to Top