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July 22, 2014 Issue

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Alamos, Salta (Argentina) Torrontés 2013 ($13): Alamos’ Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white grape, has an engaging Muscat-like fragrance.  Fresh and clean, it finishes with the barest hint of sweetness, but buttressing acidity prevents it from being cloying. Grab a bottle -- or two -- this summer the next time you’re having sushi or spiced Asian fare.
87 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014

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Louis Michel, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Montmains 2011 ($32, Vineyard Brands): Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive of all Chardonnay wines.  Louis Michel’s excellent 2011 Montmains reflects a classic Chablisienne character.  The nose shows crisp apple and lemon fruits are interwoven with floral, nutty, herb, honey and spice nuances.  The flavors are bright and refreshing with the oyster-shell minerality of Chablis evident.  The apple and citrus flavors show lovely purity and the honey, nut and herb elements make this a delicious and thoroughly enjoyable Chablis.  Bring on the oysters!
90 Wayne Belding Jul 22, 2014

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Karthäuserhof Estate, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Trocken 2012 ($30, Rudi Wiest): The wines of the Ruwer river valley (a tributary of the Mosel) are among the most delicate and crystalline of all German Rieslings.  The Karthäuserhof 2012 Riesling Trocken exemplifies the filigreed Ruwer style.  The bouquet is expressive and nuanced, with lemon, apple and pineapple fruit tones enhanced by subtleties of white flowers, lime and honey.  On the palate, it has a remarkably rich texture with the profusion of fruit and floral elements underlain by a minerally clean and dry style.
91 Wayne Belding Jul 22, 2014

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Allegrini, Veronese IGT (Veneto, Italy) “Palazzo Della Torre” 2010 ($19): Allegrini is a famed Valpolicella producer and the Palazzo Della Torre bottling shows its heritage.  The bouquet is juicy and bright with cherry and raspberry fruits underlain by hints of almond, smoke and spice.  Lively and zesty on the palate, its layers of pure cherry and berry fruits are enhanced by the almond and spice tones.  This is a pure and juicy red that would be a great companion for your favorite grilled foods -- from burgers to bratwurst to salmon to zucchni.
90 Wayne Belding Jul 22, 2014

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Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud (Spain) Rosé 2013 ($14): A Rosé wine's first obligation is to be fresh. This beauty from Spain, made from Garnacha, is a beautiful example of top-notch rose that delivers mouth-watering aromas of strawberry and raspberry, freshness on the palate, and a long, lingering finish that invites another sip. 90 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Ribera del Duero:


Vina Arnaiz, Ribera del Duero (Spain) Crianza 2010 ($25, CIV USA): This latest crianza from Vina Arnaiz is everything anyone could want in a red from Ribera del Duero at a modest price. While many competitors from this part of Spain command heftier prices, Vina Arnaiz delivers a delicious expression of ripe Tempranillo with a warm, earthy nose of wood and spice and layered black fruits on the palate. 90 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

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J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (California) Pinot Noir Fog's Reach 2012 ($35): This is Pinot Noir for fans of the oak driven style.  Bright oak spice and dry earth carry the day, with notes of strawberry, tea and tobacco nicely integrated and maintaining complexity through the long finish.  I would love to taste this in a few years as the oak recedes a bit. I'm thinking of a salad with pungent mushrooms and seared tuna as a suitable pairing.
89 Rich Cook Jul 22, 2014

Robert Mondavi Winery, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($60): A beautifully floral wine that shows brilliant acidity without sacrificing mouthfeel or delicacy of flavor.  This is all about elegance, with red cherry, soft oak spice, damp earth, stony minerality and tea present in both aroma and flavor profiles, all sustained through a long mouthwatering finish.  I'd age this wine for a few years -- though it's a great pleasure now.  It's meant for the table, not as a stand alone drink.  That's what wine is for, right?  This is worthy of your finest dinners.  An herb encrusted roast of pork or beef will bring a mutual admiration society of flavors to your guests.
94 Rich Cook Jul 22, 2014

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Le Cigare Volant Reserve 2010 ($78): Price is not always a reflection of quality, and the less expensive Le Cigare Volant "normale" is certainly not a significantly lesser wine by any stretch, but the Reserve does have another gear. Foremost is the bright, spicy red-fruit flavor profile. The Reserve shows fine tannins, exceptional mouthfeel, and uncommon length and complexity on the back of the palate. This is certainly one among the finest red Rhone-style blends produced in America, an exquisite treasure at an exquisite price. 95 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Le Cigare Volant 2010 ($38): You may have noticed that Bonny Doon has upped its prices in recent vintages, but the flagship Le Cigare Volant has taken a little dip. I suspect that's because there is now a Le Cigare Volant Reserve that's priced in league with other iconic California wines. But what winemaker Randall Grahm calls his Le Cigare Volant "normale" is still an important wine in the scheme of things. This vintages exhibits earthy, black-fruit aromas, spice and exquisite balance. It's a steal at the price and certainly no comedown from past vintages of Le Cigare Volant. 92 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Talbott Vineyards, Monterey (California) Pinot Noir Kali Hart 2012 ($21): This is Talbott's "drink me now" Pinot Noir, and it's usually a solid value.  Aromas of black cherry and raspberry and cranberry are joined by notes dry earth and flowers with mild fall spice, all of which come through on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity that brings a bit of lemon into the mix.  A nice, faint stemmy note adds interest in the finish.
88 Rich Cook Jul 22, 2014

Silverado Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Merlot Mt. George Vineyard 2010 ($35): If more wineries made Merlot like this, more consumers would have a healthier respect for Merlot as a stand-alone wine rather than a blending partner with Cabernet Sauvignon. Silverado is no stranger, of course, to outstanding Merlot, so this vintage from its Mt. George Vineyard is hardly a surprise. Beautifully structured, with a gorgeous nose, juicy plum and blackberry fruit notes, and exceptional length, this is a California Merlot that will improve over the next decade or so under good cellar conditions. 94 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Cameron Hughes, Oak Knoll District (Napa Valley, California) Merlot Red Hen Ranch “Lot 410” 2012 ($18): Negociant Cameron Hughes has mostly hits (and a few misses) on his “lot” wines, with Lot 410 Merlot being a definite hit.  It is vibrant and succulent, with crisp acidity framing the black cherry and dark plum fruit and subtle notes of leather, black olive and black tea.  Uncomplicated and delicious.
90 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014

Talbott Vineyards, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2012 ($42): Talbott’s wines have improved remarkably under the direction of winemaker Dan Karlsen.  This flagship Pinot Noir from Robert Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is pure and focused, with notes of wild blackberry, dark plum, beetroot, cola and pleasant savory herbs.  Supple tannins, juicy fruit, spicy oak and a vibrant finish complete the package.
94 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014

Joseph Phelps, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards Estate Grown 2012 ($55): This Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir offers a rich, layered palate that shows a complex array of red and black fruit aromas, earthy minerality, and excellent persistence through the finish. It finishes with a bit of heat on the back end, but otherwise this is a well balanced, beautiful Pinot. 92 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County (California) Zinfandel “Heritage Vines” 2012 ($20): Budwood from Prohibition-era Zinfandel vines was grafted onto new rootstock, perpetuating the old-vine character in this Zinfandel.  It is intense without being overripe, with vibrant black raspberry and black cherry fruit, savory black olive and licorice notes, and soft, supple tannins.  A pleasure to drink.
91 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014


Etude, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Pinot Noir Rosé Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 ($28): This is the finest California Rosé I’ve tasted this year.  It has a gorgeously floral nose, focused and full-flavored cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavors, crisp acidity and a texture that is seamless from start to finish.  Precise, pretty and elegant.
94 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014

La Pitchoune Winery, Sonoma Coast (California) Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2012 ($30): "The Little One" in French, this wine is anything but.  It's a very interesting, lightly tinted Rosé from a new player in the Sonoma Coast region.  Aromas of melon, bright wet stone minerality, mixed citrus and a touch of leaf are delivered on the palate with nice acidity and a long finish that blossoms with lemon zest and some earth and cherry notes accompanying.  This will go well with salads or very mild cheeses.
90 Rich Cook Jul 22, 2014


J Vineyards & Winery, California (United States) Pinot Gris 2013 ($16): J, known best for their stellar sparkling wines, have made Pinot Gris since 1996.  Indeed, they have three bottlings -- this one, one from Russian River Valley grapes and a single vineyard one.  They’ve pretty much nailed this variety.  The “California” bottling has subtle peach-like nuances, bright acidity, and an appealing hint of bitterness in the finish.  It’s an excellent match for light summer fare.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014

Pine Ridge, California (United States) Chenin Blanc & Viognier 2013 ($15): This blend (80 percent Chenin Blanc with 20 percent Viognier) might be unconventional but it is also brilliant.  The Chenin component brings a seductive oily-like texture and high balancing acidity, while the Viognier component brings an amped-up flavor profile.  Expect to find richly floral aromas and pronounced flavors of ripe lemon and other citrus fruits, as well as peach and honey, along with medium body, a moderate note of sweetness and that terrific texture.  This is a great wine with Asian dishes, and also for summer sipping.
89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jul 22, 2014

Clos du Val, Carneros (Napa Valley) Chardonnay 2012 ($28): The talented Kristy Melton has gradually added a new dimension to this iconic Napa Valley winery's portfolio in her brief tenure as chief winemaker. Without sacrificing the balance and delicacy for which Clos du Val has been known and treasured by many, Melton has injected a bit more fruit intensity in many of the wines. One example is this latest vintage of the winery's Carneros Chardonnay, a gorgeous wine that exhibits notes of lemon creme, baked apple and butterscotch, with lively acidity and a long, clean finish. Better yet, it is modestly priced given the quality. 92 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Albariño Kristy Vineyard & Jespersen Ranch 2013 ($18): Bonny Doon has captured the enchanting essence of Albariño -- a bracing grapefruit rind bitterness and citrus zing balanced by ripeness without heaviness.  A hint of creaminess adds an unusual -- for Albariño -- luxuriousness.  It’s a masterful balance of ying and yang.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Chenin Blanc Dry 2013 ($12): This wine might very well represent the greatest value of any California white wine.  Its quality is unimpeachable and its pleasure quotient is off the charts, especially in summertime.  The price undoubtedly reflects the lack of demand for wines from the Chenin Blanc grape, compared to those from Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and even Sauvignon Blanc.  This is a dry, medium-bodied, unoaked white with lots of fruity aromas and flavors ranging from melon, orange, lemon, white peach and ripe apple, along with delicately spicy notes and a nuance of chalky minerality.  The flavors show good concentration all through the taste, right into the rich finish.  This wine has vitality, weight, richness of texture and freshness. What more can you want with your grilled prawns, prosciutto and mozzarella, or corn chowder?
90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jul 22, 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard , Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($18): There are but a handful of domestic wine producers that have mastered the Sauvignon Blanc grape, and Dry Creek Vineyard is one of them. The 2013 is fresh on the palate, with complex notes of white peach and red citrus. Well balanced and clean, with a delicate herbal note on the nose, this is one of America's greatest Sauvignons, and the price is right. 92 Robert Whitley Jul 22, 2014

Trefethen, Oak Knoll District (Napa Valley, California) Dry Riesling 2013 ($25): Trefethen’s commitment to growing Riesling where Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot would most certainly provide higher bottle prices makes this wine all that more delicious.  Ever so slightly sweet, its crackling acidity counters that to make for a dry palate impression. Floral and wet-slate aromas are followed by layers of lime, grapefruit, mandarin orange and peach, with ginger spice adding to the complexity.  If only more Napa wineries would let their hair (and wallets) down and produce Rieslings with such class and finesse.
94 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Olivet Lane 2011 ($60): Wow is the first impression after tasting this wine.  Judging from this Chardonnay, Merry Edwards is as talented with that grape as she is with her exceptional Pinot Noir.  Although she’s made small quantities of Chardonnay from the Olivet Lane vineyard for a few years, the 2011 is only the second year it’s been available outside of the tasting room.  It’s got power, grace and harmony.  It’s hard to miss its grandeur, yet it doesn’t scream at you.  It slowly unfolds in the glass and stays on your palate seemingly forever.  Wow, indeed.
95 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014



Poet's Leap, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling 2013 ($20): This has wonderful palate weight and fruit character for its low-alcohol (12.9%) frame.  Produced by Long Shadows Vintners winemaker Gilles Nicault, in collaboration with German vintner Armin Diel of Germany’s Schlossgut Diel, this off-dry Riesling has graham cracker, white peach and candied ginger aromas, and brisk, mouthwatering flavors of lime, grilled peach and baking spice.
93 Linda Murphy Jul 22, 2014

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Garzón, Uruguay () Albariño 2013 ($17, Blends Inc): Wines from Uruguay lag well behind those from Chile and Argentina in terms of visibility on the US market in large measure because the country has only about 20,000 acres under vine, compared to over 500,000 acres in neighboring Argentina. But Uruguay compensates in quality what they may lack in quantity, at least judging from this wine and others from Garzón.  This spiced-tinged Albariño is vibrant and refreshing with an enthralling hint of bitterness in the finish.  Beautifully balanced. It screams for seafood.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014

Garzón, Uruguay () Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($17, Blends Inc): Garzón’s rendition of Sauvignon Blanc is aromatic, cutting and edgy.  Its aggressive style is not for the faint of heart, but those who love chest-thumping “look at me” kind of wines will love its clean racy style and slightly bitter finish.   It’s a good choice for spicy fare.
89 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2014

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