HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

THE GRAPEVINE

Follow WineReviewOnline on Twitter

Wine Columns

Wine Competitions

Wine Reviews



THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 19, 2014 Issue

Printable Version

Wine Search

FRANCE

Burgundy:

White:

René Bouvier, Marsannay (Burgundy, France) “Le Clos” 2010 ($30, Sherbrooke Cellars Selection): Marsannay, the northern most appellation of the Côte d’Or and practically a suburb of Dijon, is one of the last outposts of the “golden slope” where the consumer can find authentic Burgundy at reasonable prices.  Most Marsannay is red, but 15 percent of the vineyards are planted to Chardonnay, making it one of the rare white wines from the Côtes de Nuits.  With this single vineyard bottling, René Bouvier, one of the village’s top producers, has combined the firm stoniness of the Côte de Nuits, with a hint of creaminess you’d expect from a Côte de Beaune white.   With the vivacity characteristic of the vintage, it would transform a simple weekday night roast chicken into a celebration. This is a tremendous buy given the current exorbitant prices of Burgundy.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Provence:

Rosé:

Château Beaulieu, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence (France) 2013 ($12, Opici Wines): This lacey, light salmon-colored wine could convince any skeptic of the charms of rosé.  Dry with a hint of wild strawberries, the 2013 Château Beaulieu has an incredibly refreshing mouth-tingling crisp acidity.  With a hint of spice and surprising -- for rosé -- complexity, it’s a great choice (and a great buy) for the waning days of summer.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


GERMANY

Nahe:

White:

Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe (Germany) Dry Riesling 2013 ($20): This is an exciting harbinger of wines to come from the 2013 harvest in Germany.  The nose reveals vibrant fruit aromas of lemon, green apple and pineapple with hints of violets, ginger and mint.  The flavors are pure and invigorating -- electric in their vitality.  The apple, citrus and tropical fruit elements are underlain by the enchanting gingery spice plus subtle floral and herb hints.  The texture is rich and the finish is long.  The purity and depth of flavor is emblematic of the 2013 vintage.  Riesling lovers will revel in the bounty of this harvest.
91 Wayne Belding Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


ITALY

Tuscany:

Red:

Castello Banfi, Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) Poggio alle Mura 2008 ($72): As much as I like Banfi’s Rosso from the Poggio alle Mura vineyard, their Brunello from that vineyard shows why Brunello is one of Italy’s great wine.  The 2008 vintage, an excellent one for Brunello, was cooler producing structured racy wines.  Producers in the southern part of the zone, such as Banfi, were particularly successful, as this wine shows, because the extra warmth harmonized beautifully with the overall verve of the vintage.  This Brunello is extraordinary -- layered simultaneously with dark earthy essence, cherry-like fruitiness, and spice.  Though each sip reveals new flavors, the balance and harmony of the wine is constant.  Not an overtly fruity wine, its beauty lies in a deep dark minerality.  It’s long and intense yet not flamboyant.  Replete with polished tannins, I’d still give this wine at least another five years of cellaring to develop even more complexity and refinement
96 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Castello Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) Poggio alle Mura 2011 ($32): The best Rosso di Montalcino, such as this one, can truly be considered “baby” Brunello.  Though they lack the complexity of Brunello, they are ready to drink sooner, provide a hint of the grandeur of the bigger brother, and are far easier on the wallet.  Banfi has always produced a fine Rossi di Montalcino.  This one, a result of their decades of research on which clones of Sangiovese grow best in Montalcino and the establishment of their Poggio alle Mura vineyard, is a cut above their regular one.  Indeed, it’s a cut above most everyone’s Rosso.  The 2011 Poggio alle Mura Rosso is only Banfi’s second vintage and is the first one imported into the U.S.  We should all be happy it’s finally reached out shores.  This Rosso has Banfi’s hallmark polish and class, but most importantly, it gives you an introduction to the beauty of Brunello -- at half the price -- with a combination of cherry-like fruit from Sangiovese and dark earthy minerality from Montalcino.  A serious wine, you can enjoy it now with a hearty pasta dish or a grilled veal chop.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Venezia Giulia:

White:

Attems, Venezia Giulia IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio "Ramato" 2012 ($18, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Despite its copper hue, Attems’ Pinot Grigio is not a rosé. Indeed, it is among the few renditions of Pinot Grigio that have an ever-so-slightly rusty pink color to them because the grape itself is pink skinned.  During fermentation a hint of color seeps into these wines, and, in this instance, its name, Ramato (Italian for copper colored).  Along with the color, the slight skin contact imparts more than the usual intensity and concentration expected from Pinot Grigio.  Freshness and length completes the balancing act.  Drink it as an aperitif or with summery salads.  It’s hefty enough to hold up to grilled swordfish.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


NEW ZEALAND

Red:

Villa Maria, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir Taylors Pass Vineyard 2010 ($42, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates): Villa Maria has managed to capture both the sweet fruitiness and the savory aspect of Pinot Noir in this single vineyard bottling.  Paradoxically, even the savory elements have a purity about them.  The fine tannins provide needed backbone without being intrusive.  Bright acidity keeps it fresh throughout a meal, making it a good choice for a grilled tuna or salmon steak.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

White:

Kumeu River, Auckland (New Zealand) Chardonnay Hunting Hill 2011 ($45, Wilson Daniels): I admit it -- I am an unabashed fan of Kumeu River’s Chardonnays, which I think are the best overall coming out of New Zealand.  Surprisingly, they’re in Auckland -- the wine region, not the city -- one of the country’s smallest wine areas, responsible for a whopping 0.2 percent of the country’s wine production, and most of that is red.  It’s as though Domaine Leflaive was producing their wines in an unknown tiny appellation in France instead of Burgundy.  Kumeu River makes a stunning array of Chardonnay.  This one, from one of their vineyards, is more linear than opulent, with lots of lemon-lime character.  It’s a racy, vibrant style of Chardonnay with lots of character and electricity, somewhat reminiscent of a fine Chablis.  It screams for seafood.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


SOUTH AFRICA

White:

Fleur Du Cap, Western Cape (South Africa) Bergklder Selection, Noble Late Harvest 2011 ($15, Maisons Marques & Domaines): For all you sticky fans, here's a delightful botrytised wine composed of 76% Chenin Blanc, 13% Sauvignon Blanc and 11% Chardonnay, at a super value price. Scents of peaches, dried apricots and raisins and that great noble rot aroma entice you, leading to a sweet but balanced palate that's bright, with a clean finish that manages to leave you salivating for more despite its 22% residual sugar, and adds a touch of ginger for interest. Serve this as an unaccompanied dessert, or dazzle your guests with it as a contrast to an artisan stinky cheese plate -- and skip dessert!
93 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Alheit, Western Cape (South Africa) “Cartology” 2013 ($40, Broadbent Selections): This is a lovely, pure and exciting white that shows the potential of South Africa’s wide-ranging Chenin Blanc vineyards.  Owners Chris and Suzaan Alheit have found great sources of Chenin in mature, dry-farmed bush vine vineyards.  The result is a wine of impressive depth and nuance, with 12% Semillon blended in with the Chenin.  It has forward aromas of honeysuckle, ripe peach, Rainier cherries, lemon zest and mango.  The flavors are layered and complex, with the luscious peach, cherry, citrus and tropical fruits underscored by hints of tarragon and cream.  Its rich texture reflects the high quality of the fruit sources and makes it a versatile companion for full-flavored seafood and chicken recipes.
92 Wayne Belding Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


SPAIN

Aragon:

Red:

Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud (Aragon, Spain) Garnacha 2011 ($14): Here is another good choice when you need a robust red to go with burgers, skirt steak or even lamb cooked on the grill.  A touch of spice in the finish complements the otherwise bright ripe fruit flavors.  Suave tannins add support but not astringency.  In short, it delivers more than the price suggests. 88 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “La Coupelle” 2012 ($60): This is usually the big boy of Laetitia's three single vineyard wines.  I have yet to taste the La Colline or the Les Galets from 2012, but based on past experience it's a good bet that this one is the biggest.  This vintage brings a very ripe nose of plum, cherry and smoky oak tones with big fall spice that doesn't overpower the fruit and helps bring out the earthiness.  It's very rich and long, yet shows the balance that Laetitia has become known for.  It's pricey, but costs less than most California Pinots made in this style.  Well done!
93 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Whole Cluster” 2012 ($40): Winemaker Eric Hickey calls this wine the "black sheep" of the family, explaining that it breaks from their normal practice of de-stemming the grapes prior to fermentation.  This bottling included 45% whole clusters in the fermenter, and it adds another unique wine to Laetitia's impressive lineup of Pinot Noir offerings.  Aromas and flavors of damp earth, stems, tobacco, black cherry and black tea are presented over food friendly acidity and carry through a long complex finish.  Very nicely made.
92 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Reserve Du Domaine” 2012 ($40): It's nice to have a big palette of fruit to select from when creating a wine that showcases the winemaker's blending talent.  Eric Hickey uses a bit of almost everything here, using Dijon 115, 667, 459, 828, Wadensville 2A and Martini clones to make a beautiful wine that features bright cedary spice, black cherry, white pepper and mild earthiness on the nose and in the mouth, with a long, mouth watering finish that brings you back.  Another solid choice from a great lineup.
92 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Clone 459" 2012 ($32): An elegant aromatic mix of cherry, rhubarb, mild roasted coffee and dry earth is delivered, along with fresh and lively flavors, plus a long finish that knits the fruit and earth elements together with depth and finesse.  It's got unusual complexity for a single clone bottling.  Delicious!
91 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Clone 2A – Wadensville” 2012 ($32): Another single clone bottling from a winery that's not afraid to release something under a name that might put some people off.  If they like it, they call it what it is and let the taster decide if they like it.  I do!  It's a ripe style, showing black cherry, plum, deep fall spice, tobacco and berry pie notes.  Full throttle Pinot Noir in the mouth, with big weight and richness, and a pleasant touch of pepper showing up in the finish.  This will have fans among the "Pinot Noir as cocktail" set.
90 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir Estate 2012 ($25): This entry level wine in Laetitia's stable of Pinot Noir bottlings features a ripe nose of plum, black cherry, dry earth, and a touch of rhubarb and Asian spice.  On the palate, it's quite dry, with very bright acidity, good balance and a complex mix of flavors that reflect the aroma profile.  It's showing some oak at present, but it will integrate seamlessly over the next couple of years.  A mild stemmy note add interest to the sustained finish.  A great value at this price.
89 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Edna Valley Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($15): Edna Valley Vineyard has hit the bull’s eye with their 2012 Cabernet.  Concentrated without being aggressive or overdone, it conveys both fruit and savory notes.  It has the complexity -- not just fruit flavors -- that makes Cabernet Sauvignon so revered.  Plush tannins mean you can enjoy it tonight with a streak.  The finishing note is slightly bitter, as it should be, not sweet.  I was surprised at the elegance, sophistication and pure enjoyment this $15 wine provided.   Usually you spend twice as much to find those elements.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

VIE, Los Carneros (Sonoma County) Syrah Las Madres Vineyard 2011 ($39): If there is hope for California Syrah as a viable commodity in the wine marketplace, it is likely in the small, hand-crafted batches made by dedicated winemakers who happen to love this grape. VIE's latest vineyard-designate from the Las Madres Vineyard in Carneros is a distinctive, rich, spicy black-fruited example of cool-climate California Syrah done right. 92 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Robert Craig, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Affinity' 2011 ($55): Robert Craig is easily among the most underrated producers in the Napa Valley. A good reason for that escapes me. The wines of Robert Craig seldom disappoint, and in off years, such as 2011, they often downright sparkle. This Cab from the woebegone 2011 growing season is meaty and complex, with chewy grape tannins and black fruits and savory notes and excellent balance. 90 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Ancient Peaks, Paso Robles (California) Zinfandel 2012 ($17): This dry Zinfandel shows beautiful aromatic development without going into the sweet zone. Raspberry, dried red berries and spice box with a light leafy note come through on the nose and in the mouth, with complementary charred oak and pepper added to the dry palate. A nice meaty note and a bit of dill come forward in the finish. This is a match for your end of summer grilling. 89 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Davis Bynum, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Jane's Vineyard 2012 ($35): Davis Bynum was a visionary in the Russian River Valley when, in 1973, he was the first to bottle a single vineyard Pinot Noir.  Forty years later, the winery is still focused on and making excellent Pinot Noir there.  Though pure clean red fruit flavors is the initial message from the 2012 Jane’s Vineyard bottling, lovely herbal nuances appear over time, creating a harmonious wine.  This mid-weight Pinot Noir shows the delicacy, rather than the power, inherent to the grape, making it a very appealing choice for grilled salmon.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 19, 2014

Fog Crest Vineyard, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Pinot Noir Estate 2012 ($55): Fog Crest is a new player on the Russian River Pinot scene and judging from this effort a reasonable Pinot lover would have to say the husband and wife team, James and Rosalind Manoogian, are off to a good start. The 2012 takes the high road of finesse over power, but doesn't lack for flavor, exhibiting an intense red-fruited palate with good balance and a touch of grip on the finish. The future for this small producer (they have 10 acres) would appear to be very bright. 91 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Roth Estate, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($28): The trend recently has been to make Pinot Noir more accessible, aka less expensive. The tricky part is making Pinot that people want to drink at prices they can more easily digest. Roth has done that with this perfectly solid Sonoma Coast Pinot that retails for $28. Although light in body, it delivers pleasing earthiness and and delicate red-fruited aromas. 88 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

White:

J Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Gris 2013 ($16): J Vineyard's Pinot Gris is consistent and solid vintage after vintage, and the 2013 is no exception. Bright and fresh, it shows enticing tropical fruit aromas and a hint of red citrus. With good acidity and a clean finish, this is the sort of well-balanced white that's both quaffable yet serious enough to pair with interesting Asian or otherwise spicy dishes. 88 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Edna Valley Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($15): Clean and crisp, this is a refreshing Sauvignon at a modest price and a sure winner either as a warm-weather picnic wine or served with steamed or raw shellfish. It exhibits ripe stone fruit and citrus aromas, a hint of lemon grass and a lean finish that begs another sip. 88 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Dutton Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Gewurztraminer Dutton Ranch-Green Valley Vineyard 2013 ($30): If there were an award for best Gewurztraminer in America, this one from Dutton Goldfield would get my vote more often than not. It's a dry gewurz, for starters, which automatically separates it from the crowd. This vintage shows outstanding intensity and weight on the palate, with exotic floral notes, a hint of honeycomb and spice. I could drink it all day, and sometimes do. 93 Robert Whitley Aug 19, 2014

Ancient Peaks, Paso Robles (California) Blanco 2013 ($16): What a liar! After promising you a delightful off-dry wine by showing vibrant aromas of lime, tangerine, peach, lychee and spice, it smacks you in the salivator with a bone-dry palate with scouring acidity, yet brings all of the fruit tones that the nose told you you'd get. I love wines that do this -- you can sniff this all afternoon, and you won't tire of sipping it across that time span either. The winery suggests a pairing with ceviche -- I'd say they hit it right on the nose. Well done! Contains 66% Muscat and 34% Chardonnay. 91 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Ancient Peaks, Paso Robles (California) Pinot Noir Margarita Vineyard 'Blanc de Noir' 2013 ($21): Wait a minute -- what's a Pinot Noir doing in the white wine zone? And what's it doing with a sparkling wine name? Well, when you take Pinot Noir off the vine early and off the skins right away, you get white wine! Of course, this is true of most red grapes, but most won't succeed in making an interesting wine to drink. Think of this wine as a bright, citrus driven bubbly with no bubbles. Bracing acidity and a mixed citrus profile with a light touch of strawberry fruit make for a refreshing aperitif that will cleanse your palate of summer appetizer samplers, so you can feel their full impact. Very interesting. 90 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Washington:

Red:

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard 2011 ($35): Year in and year out, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Cold Creek Cabernet delivers impressive depth and complexity at an amazing price for this level of quality.  The 2011 continues the tradition.  The nose shows plump, ripe blackberry, black cherry and blackcurrant fruits backed by hints of herbs, cocoa, cedar, vanilla, clove and cinnamon.  Plush and velvety on the palate, it offers layers of lusciously ripe -- but not overripe -- black fruits plus toasty oak, vanilla, cocoa and spice elements.  It’s a beautiful combination of richness and refreshment that will age well for another decade.
92 Wayne Belding Aug 19, 2014

Back to Top