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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

September 16, 2014 Issue

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FRANCE

Bordeaux:

Red:

Château Simard, St. Emilion (Bordeaux, France) 2004 ($24, Wilson Daniels): Château Simard is a claret lover’s treasure.  It is rare indeed to find a red Bordeaux that is not released until nearly ten years after the vintage.  That has always been the case with Château Simard.  The blend is Merlot (70%) and Cabernet Franc (30%), and the vinification process is very unusual because the wine is not aged in oak.  It is fermented in concrete tanks and spends most of its time aging in bottle before release.  The result is a plush and smooth Bordeaux that shows the velvety aura of maturity but still has a vibrant fruit core.  The wine shows blackcurrant, plum and black cherry fruits interwoven with hints of violets, tobacco, earth and tea.  Layered and soft on the palate, it will provide great drinking for another decade.  It’s a real bargain to find a decade-old Bordeaux of this quality for this price.
90 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Lilbert-Fils, Champagne (France) Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV ($63, Vintage '59): Lilbert-Fils is a small grower in the Côte des Blancs of Champagne, producing just over 2000 case a year.  Sourced from Grand Cru vineyards in Oiry, Chouilly and Cramant, it shows the best characteristics of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes.  The bouquet shows pure, apple and lemon fruits with toasty, yeasty and creamy nuances.  On the palate, it is vivid, lively and layered with the apple and citrus tones interwoven with the creamy and yeasty elements.  The overall experience is harmonious and invigorating -- just what fine Champagne should be.  Get some while you can.
93 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

Loire Valley:

White:

Bernard Fouquet, Vouvray (Loire Valley, France) Chenin Blanc Domaine des Aubuisières “Cuvée de Silex” 2013 ($16, Weygandt): This is a pure and refreshing Vouvray that will provide many years of enjoyment.  The nose shows apple, pear, lemon and pineapple fruits backed by hints of chalk, lanolin, flowers and herbs.  On the palate, it is bright and lively with the racy acidity of Loire Chenin Blanc balanced by just a touch of sweetness.  The fruit flavors are deliciously pure and enhanced by the floral and herbal complexity.  Good Vouvray like this one can age beautifully for a decade, becoming more honeyed and rich as it ages.
89 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

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GERMANY

Pfalz:

White:

Pfeffingen, Pfalz (German) Riesling Ungsteiner Herrenberg Grosses Gewächs 2013 ($42, Rudi Wiest): This is a sensational dry Riesling!  It is bold, racy, complex, layered and absolutely delicious.  The bouquet reveals ripe apple, peach, apricot, Meyer lemon and guava fruit tones enhanced by floral elements, nutmeg and ginger spice.  Although still youthful and tightly wound, the flavors are full and concentrated with the luscious basket of fruits underlain by the spice and floral nuances.  The texture is rich and the finish is long and intriguing.  The purity and intensity of the 2013 vintage is on display here.  This rich, complex and dry Riesling will grow and improve for another decade and beyond.
95 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Beni di Batasiolo, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Sovrana” 2010 ($22, Boisset America): This is a Piedmont wine you can enjoy now while you store the 2010 Barolo for the long haul.  Warm spice, black cherry, raspberry, flowers and faint earth aromas lead to a complex palate that delivers the nose elements with style and grace.  The acid is firm, and it's got some tannic grip, but it's all working well with the fully integrated flavor profile and promises a reward with a year or two of bottle aging.
91 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Antonio Vallana, Gattinara (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($30, Skurnik): The top wine for most producers in the Novara-Vercelli hills is their Nebbiolo-based Gattinara.  Vallana’s 2005 bottling has developed nicely during its years of barrel and bottle age.  It shows the plush and velvety style of the producer but has years of growth and development ahead.  The nose shows a combination of black cherry, raspberry, and dried red cherry fruits combined with hints of licorice, dried flowers, green herbs, earth, tobacco and subtle spices.  It is rich and full on the palate, but also shows the definition of flavor and firm structure that makes Gattinara wines so admired.  Flavors of dried cherry, blackcurrant, prune and raspberry are underscored by tea, mint, anise, potpourri and tobacco.  Fully enjoyable now, it has the structure and complexity to provide great enjoyment for ten more years.
93 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

Sicily:

White:

Tasca d’Almerita, Sicilia IGT (Italy) “Leone d’Almerita” 2012 ($16, Winebow): This is a fragrant and attractive white from Sicily, blended from Catarratto (50%), Pinot Bianco (27%), Sauvignon Blanc (19%), and Gewurztraminer (4%).  Catarratto is a grape that was once grown for Marsala production.  With fading Marsala sales, more is thankfully being made into dry wines like this.  The lively nose displays a wide range of fruit characteristics.  Lemon, tangerine, peach, mango and pineapple tones are underlain by a subtle, creamy texture and nuances of flowers, herbs and spices.  Delicious on its own, it would be a fine match for fresh seafoods, pasta salads, or your favorite grilled chicken recipe.
91 Wayne Belding Sep 16, 2014

Veneto:

Sparkling:

Mionetto, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) NV ($12, Mionetto USA): There's a lot to like in this package.  Sexy bottle shape, postmodern silk screened label art, easy opening crown cap…oh, and the wine's good, too!  Very refreshing, just off-dry, lime, lemon zest, balanced acidity and a long finish that holds its flavor mix up nicely.  All that for twelve bucks?  I'm in!
88 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Mionetto, Prosecco DOC Treviso (Veneto, Italy) Organic Extra Dry NV ($16, Mionetto USA): This Prosecco will win over most of your beer only drinkers to the enlightened side of the beverage world.  It's got a sudsy vibe, with crisp acidity and bright apple and pear flavors that remain bright thanks to just a touch of residual sugar.  The finish is cleansing, and invites another sip.  This will pair well with simple appetizers -- try it with jalapeño poppers 87 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

White:

Rocca Sveva, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2013 ($15): This crisp, refreshing Soave is the sort of white Italy is famous for. With a low 12.5 percent alcohol, it is light and easy to drink, showing lovely green apple aroma, mouth-watering acidity and a clean finish. 88 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

Rocca Sveva, Soave DOC Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2013 ($15, Mionetto USA): A very refreshing Soave that shows apple, lemon, lime, stony minerality and white flower aromas, all of which are delivered on the palate over crisp acidity.  The finish is bright, with lemon and a touch of almond coming forward.  A great end-of-summer sipper!
90 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

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SPAIN

Galicia:

White:

Mar de Frades, Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño 2012 ($19, W.J. Deutsch & Sons): This fine Albariño shows a shy stony nose, with soft white flowers and some pear at pop and pour.  With a little air time it sings varietal character -- big acid, stone, sour pear and faint herb on the palate -- leading to a long, blooming mineral driven finish that's not short on fruit and spice.  Very crisp and refreshing.  I love the balance of stone and fruit here.
91 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Casal de Arman, Ribeiro (Galicia, Spain) Treixadura 2012 ($22, Free Run LLC): Wow -- seek this wine out immediately! Flowers, pears, apple, white peach and mild toffee note entice you on the nose.  The palate is very lively and fresh -- it's viscous with a refreshing acid bite, delivering the nose with nice integration and a note of apricot added.  Top it off with a crazy long, blooming finish with emphasis on peppery spice. Delicious, and one of the best whites I've tasted this year.
93 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Gaba do Xil, Valdeorras (Galicia, Spain) Godello 2012 ($22, Vintus LLC): A very forward Godello that features macerated peach, cobbler spice, and mild stone on the nose.  It's quite full and slightly bittering on the palate in a pleasant way, with crisp acid and a long spicy finish.  Nicely done!
89 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Coroa, Valdeorras (Galicia, Spain) Godello NV ($19, De Maison Selections): Peach, pear, apple pie and stone on the nose with a slight oxidative note adding interest on the nose.  Crisp and mineral driven on the palate, with a nice lemon and herb mix with some grilled peach coming forward in the long bright finish. Slightly bitter in the finish, but very pleasant overall.
87 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Rioja:

White:

De Alto Amo, Rioja (Spain) Blanco 2012 ($10): White Rioja is a rare find in the U.S., but it's worth seeking out given the quality relative to price. This $10 bottling is a blend of the indigenous viura grape with the global grape chardonnay. It shows aromas of peach and melon and a hint of spice. Easy to drink, easy on the wallet. 86 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Dutton Goldfield, Marin County (California) Pinot Noir Azaya Ranch Vineyard 2012 ($58): Dutton Goldfield's Azaya Ranch Pinot is another excellent example of California Pinot that offers power and depth without losing the essence of delicacy that is so critical to Pinot Noir. This vintage shows a deep note of raspberry and bright red fruits, a touch of earthiness, spice and a long, sensuous finish. 92 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

Sol Rouge, Red Hills (Lake County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($32): An earthy, rich, mouth-filling Cabernet Sauvignon, this latest vintage from Sol Rouge is a steal at the price and proves, once again, that Lake County can produce some of California's most lip-smacking, tasty Cabs. 91 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

Clos du Val, Stags Leap District (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($80): This is not your typical latter day Napa Valley Cabernet. It's a throwback to an earlier time when Napa Cabs were a bit leaner and less sweet. This old school Cab is beautifully balanced, eschewing the popular trend toward monster alcohol levels, very complex and made for the long haul. It shows aromas of blackberry, currant and cassis, a touch of oak vanillin on the nose, and long, lingering finish. 94 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

White:

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Arroyo Seco (California) Sauvignon Blanc "Flume Crossing" 2013 ($14): This cool climate wine is a unique expression of Sauvignon Blanc in California, and is a fine example of an inexpensive bottle that delivers high quality.  Bracing and quite dry, it's got a great balance between fruit intensity, mineralty and herbaceous notes in aroma and flavor, with a cleansing finish that leaves you with herbs and a bit of white pepper.  A great poolside refresher or accompaniment to chilled summer vegetables with your favorite dill dip.
90 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Duckhorn Wine Company, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($29): Sauvignon Blanc seems to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts in California after a stretch of looking for a new identity, with many of the 2012's and 2013's finding my favor.  Duckhorn has wisely ignored all of the style hopping over the years, consistently producing a lovely, food friendly wine that shows harmony of aroma and flavor with each vintage.  This release features 16% Semillion and partial barrel fermentation, yet retains the bright qualities of the featured grape, delivering an interplay of melon, lemon, mild grassiness and stony minerality, adding a touch of lime zest in the finish.  I love wines that manage to be both rich and refreshing, and this one wears both descriptors well.
92 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Clos du Val, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($24): Winemaker Kristy Melton has a deft hand with Sauvignon Blanc, producing Sauvignons that are well balanced yet full of flavor, with good intensity on the mid-palate and through the finish. This vintage shows melon and citrus aromas, is refreshing and clean, and for the Napa Valley well-priced. 91 Robert Whitley Sep 16, 2014

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, St. Helena (Napa Valley, California) Sauvignon Blanc Carol's Vineyard 2013 ($24): A soft and elegant take on this grape from winemaker Jeff Meier.  Nothing is standing out in front, and in this case it's a good thing.  Pink grapefruit, mild gooseberry, light tropical fruit notes and a hint of grass share the stage equally, with a soft feel and plenty of acidity to keep things together through a long finish that keeps your attention.  Salads, creamy white sauce pasta dishes, shrimp cocktail -- lots of pairing possibilities.
90 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

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