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THE GRAPEVINE

Wine & Roses Charity Wine Tasting June 1, 2014

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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

April 22, 2014 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

South Australia:

Red:

Peter Lehmann, Barossa (South Australia) Portrait Shiraz 2011 ($16): This spicy Shiraz from the Australian heartland is a huge mouthful of wine for the price. It shows layered aromas of black fruits, supple tannins and outstanding persistence of flavor through a long, inviting finish. Well balanced, delicious and great value.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Stone House Vineyard, Barossa Valley (South Australia) Shiraz Old Vine Reserve 2009 ($45): Among this wine’s many virtues, soaring aromatics figure very prominently, as scents of ripe red and black berries are remarkably expressive, with lovely accents of saddle leather and wild mushrooms following hard on the heels of the fruit notes.  Full-bodied but really not heavy or syrupy, this is a wonderfully drinkable wine rather than a powerhouse that can be admired but not really enjoyed in a sustained way.  Although this has had enough time in bottle to develop tertiary characters that show atop the primary fruit and secondary oak, but all three layers are really in evidence simultaneously, making this one of the most complex of all the top wines shown at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.  Bloody impressive juice.
96 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

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FRANCE

White:

Louis Jadot, Chablis AOC (Burgundy, France) 2012 ($26, Kobrand): Shows an inviting floral component on the nose, with a nuance of minerals and green fruits on the palate. Quite good for a simple village Chablis. 91 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Bordeaux:

Red:

Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc (Bordeaux, France) 2011 ($35): Château La Tour Carnet has an 8+ century history of producing fine wine.  Tucked in behind St. Julien, it was classified as a Fourth Growth in the 1855 classification of the Médoc.  Under the direction of Bernard Magrez in recent vintages, it has become a best buy for those seeking fine claret on a budget.  The 2011 is lovely example of Haut-Médoc style.  Black currant, black cherry and plum fruits are interwoven with hints of vanilla and baking spices plus subtleties of mint and earth.  It is impressive for the purity of its fruit and layering of flavors.  It’s a truly fine Bordeaux that can be enjoyed now or cellared for a decade.
91 Wayne Belding Apr 22, 2014

White:

Château Guiraud, Sauternes (Bordeaux, France) 2011 ($64): Keep your eyes out for this one if you are a Sauternes fan.  It is a marvelously opulent and intriguing dessert wine.  Golden in color, the aroma is astonishingly complex and attractive.  Baked apple and pear tones are infused with elements of apricot, honey, ginger, mango, golden raisin, vanilla and exotic spices.  Unctuous but still refreshing on the palate, it is a decadent treat with the apricot, apple and tropical fruit notes underscored by a rich texture of spiced ginger cream.  This is a compelling Sauternes with layers of flavor, a fine balance and a long finish.  Lovely now, it will grow in complexity for another 10+ years.
96 Wayne Belding Apr 22, 2014

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Sparkling:

Banfi, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) Rosa Regale 2013 ($20): This is a delightful sparkler that makes a dessert on its own or pairs beautifully with berries and cream.  It's all about the raspberries on the nose and in the mouth, with added notes of clove and bramblebush.  Nice bright acid balance and a long finish that's not cloying, but lingers very long keeps you coming back for more.  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Sicily:

Red:

Feudi del Pisciotto, Sicilia IGT (Sicily, Italy) Frappato “Carolina Marengo” 2011 ($30, Vias Imports): The beauty of Sicily’s indigenous Frappato grape is evidenced here.  Aged in both new and used barrels, it’s a delicious combination of floral, fruit and spice elements.  Pure cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruits are enlivened by hints of fresh roses, cinnamon and vanilla.  Its refined and sleek style is underlain by subtleties of wild herbs and a smoky, cured-meat nuance -- the rugged Sicilian heritage showing through.  Enjoy it with flavorful Mediterranean recipes or most anything off the grill.
92 Wayne Belding Apr 22, 2014

Tuscany:

White:

Castello Banfi, Toscana IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio San Angelo 2013 ($17): How much better can Pinot Grigio get?  A bright citrus mix contrasted with stony minerality and leafy herb notes make for a wine that's more than an easy quaffer, demanding your attention to the point that you might stop the conversation about the car pool and start talking about the wine's merits.  A very enjoyable accompaniment to summer salads or fish in simple preparations.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Veneto:

Sparkling:

Astoria, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) "Lounge" NV ($13): This indisputably delicious Prosecco shows very expressive fruit recalling fresh stone fruit notes akin to peaches and apricots, with very pleasant sweetness that seems to flow directly from the fruit flavors rather than sugar.  The effervescence is delicate in texture but still sufficiently energetic to lift the wine’s notable sweetness, inviting sip after sip.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Cult X, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage 2011 ($56): A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec and 10% Merlot, this shows very impressive intensity and drive without coming off as over-extracted or over-bearing.  The fruit notes are all about dark berries, and blackberries come first to mind, with plenty of oak bracing that never gets in the way of the fruit notes.  Acidity is atypically high for an Alexander Valley red, but it is quite nicely integrated with the wine’s other components, lending freshness without seeming at all awkward, and presaging at least five years of future improvement.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
91 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (Sierra Foothills) Zinfandel Masoni Ranch 2012 ($24): With a bright, red-fruited nose and a strong whiff of oak vanillin, this pretty Zin is inviting from the moment it hits the glass. On the palate it is smooth and supple, with briary berry aromas and a delicious spicy note, no doubt from the splash of Petite Sirah in the final blend. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Avant 2012 ($20): Merlot is the money grape in this delicious blend of Rhone Valley and Bordeaux inspired wines. And it's lovely, rich, ripe plum that delivers the inviting nose, followed by a layered palate of black and red fruits and supple tannins. The finish is long and inviting. This is a serious crowd-pleaser at a modest price. Besides Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carignan and Syrah complete the blend. 94 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Purple Moon, California (United States) Shiraz 2012 ($5): A dynamite effort in this price range, the Purple Moon Shiraz exhibits concentrated dark-fruit aromas, a core of sweet black-fruited flavor, and sweet, supple tannins that make this bargain wine go down smoothly and easily.   Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
90 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Laurier Vineyards, Los Carneros (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($20): This shows impressive balance between dark-toned fruit notes and savory accents, lending a very impressive degree of complexity for such a young wine at such a reasonable price.  The acidity is unusually prominent for a Carneros Pinot, but shows itself in a very welcome way, providing lots of energy to the wine and impressive persistence to its finish.  I suspect that many blind tasters would have difficulty guessing whether this is a New- or Old-World Pinot, which in my view is high praise for a young California wine.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino (California) Syrah "ASV" 2012 ($45): As a vineyard, the Alder Springs property in remote, northern Mendocino County is a gem of a site whose grapes are used by dozens of top wineries such as Arnot-Roberts, Patz & Hall, Rhys Vineyard, to name just a few.  Since 2006, owner Stuart Bewley has produced a small quantity of wine from his vineyards, mainly for friends and family but also available direct from the winery.  This 2012 Syrah is a textbook expression of cool-climate Syrah with its full body, firm tannin, delineated structure and complexity of fresh aromas and flavors. You’ll find delicate floral notes, dark berry fruit, spicy black pepper, and a meaty note, all showing terrific concentration and purity.  This wine is young and although it is energetic and exciting now, it should benefit from a year or two of additional bottle age.
91 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Apr 22, 2014

Swanson Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Alexis" 2010 ($75): This flagship bottling from Swanson has really dialed in classic old school Napa Valley character.  By old school, I mean that it's got serious backbone and is built for aging, and doesn't cross into the overripe zone.  Blackberry, cassis, dusty minerality, dried herbs, mild fall spice and touch of mint are present in both aroma and flavor profiles, and a firm grip keeps the flavors lively through a long finish.  This is a long term cellar treasure.  Contains 10% Merlot.  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Mariposa, Paso Robles (California) Tempranillo 2011 ($23): Domestic food friendly Tempranillo of this quality is tough to find.  This wine shows bright cherry fruit, vanilla, dill, lemon zest and baking spices on the nose and in the mouth, with nice grip and a long finish that will go nicely while you're grilling and with what you take off of the grill and put on a plate, even if it's not red meat.  I'd try it with rotisserie chicken.  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Peachy Canyon, Paso Robles (California) Incredible Red 2011 ($12): This Zinfandel-based red is from the Zin specialist Peachy Canyon and the price is right. It shows jammy red-fruit character, loads of spice and a long, lingering finish. For the price, a steal. 90 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Windsor Oaks, Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($45): This wine gets off to a great start with delicate, understated aromas that foreshadow all of the flavors in a telling and proportional way.  The fruit notes recall dried red cherries and pie filling, with very subtle spice notes and beautifully integrated acidity accenting the pure, bright fruit character.  The wood signature is so restrained as to be nearly undetectable, which is again quite in keeping with the overall character of the wine, which fresh, pure and penetrating without any hint of heaviness.  A terrific young Pinot that is already absolutely delicious but sure to become even more complex and compelling with additional time in bottle.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Rosé:

Uptick Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Hilda's Rose 2012 ($22): This delicate rose from California's Russian River Valley has the pale, onion-skin patina of Provence. On the palate the wine shows fresh strawberry and a hint of dried herbs. All that's missing is the picnic.   Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Sparkling:

Korbel Champagne Cellars, California (United States) Brut NV ($13): Another excellent value from Korbel, showing bright lemon, baked apple and crisp acidity wrapped together in a refreshing aperitif style with just a touch of residual sugar keeping the acid in check.  Serve this one for any occasion!  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine  Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Gloria Ferrer, Carneros (California) Carneros Cuvee 2003 ($70): Ever since its debut, Gloria Ferrer's Carneros Cuvee has been a rousing success, a testimonial to the proposition that extended aging on the lees (in this case about a decade) can deliver the complexity and toasty notes that might enable a California bubbly to give fine Champagne a run for the money. Of course, it's a bit more than that, and Gloria Ferrer's vineyards situated in the cool Carneros region are no insignificant footnote. This vintage of Carneros Cuvee is dramatic and dynamic, with serious complexity and length. Bravo, once again.   Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

White:

Sutter Home, California (United States) Gewurztraminer 2012 ($6): This is a terrific over-achiever that shows big-time aromatics and follows them up with lots of juicy flavor.  Floral scents lead to soft, succulent fruit flavors with notable sweetness that never turns cloying thanks to counterbalancing acidity.  Very well done.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
89 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Barefoot Cellars, California (United States) Riesling NV ($7): Good luck finding a wine that proves as crowd-pleasing as this one for $7.  It shows nice floral aromas followed by luscious sweetness, with sufficient acidity to keep the wine focused through the finish.  Yum.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
88 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Clos du Val, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay 2012 ($28): This is a rather unusually toasty, spicy Chardonnay from Clos du Val, but there’s no doubt that the oak notes are both very appealing and very nicely tuned to the weight and assertiveness of the fruit.  The fruit notes recall peaches and baked apples, with good depth of flavor and medium-plus body.  Generous without turning ponderous, this is very successful and a great choice for scallops or swordfish.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Rancho De Philo, Cucamonga Valley (California) Triple Cream Sherry NV ($35): One winery, one product, won medals everywhere, sells out in a couple of days, so why write about it? Because it's amazing, that's why!  If you like sweet sherry, this is one of the best in the world.  If you don't like sweet sherry, you should give this a swirl sometime. Big nutty, spicy sweetness is balanced with great acid, and nice charred oak notes and a finish that you'll taste in the morning if you forget to brush.  Use it where you might use a Marsala, or just enjoy it all by itself.  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Lava Cap Winery, El Dorado (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($16): Lava Cap is one of my favorite El Dorado producers, making great red wines over the years. I can't remember ever tasting a Sauvignon Blanc from them, and I hope I haven't missed out on previous vintages after tasting this bottling.  It's got a lot going on -- mixed citrus, stony minerality, and a bright perfume note with a touch of leaf and white pepper adding interest, and solid acidity keeping things lively.  This is my kind of hot weather drink.  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Flora Springs, Oakville (Napa Valley, California) Sauvignon Blanc Soliloquy Vineyard 2012 ($25): This wine will perhaps not satisfy admirers of enamel-stripping renditions of Sauvignon Blanc from the coolest regions in which this variety is planted around the world, but I find it difficult to believe that anyone could be so doctrinaire as to contest its sheer deliciousness.  The aromas are quite expressive, with ripe, sweet scents of white melon fruit and also a very pleasant floral accent, which is definitely not of the herbal/grassy type, but is extremely appealing nevertheless.  There’s plenty of acidity to counterbalance the wine’s generous, medium-bodied fruit, but the overall impression is still rounded and soft.  Extremely promising for food-pairing purposes.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Michigan:

White:

Tabor Hill Winery, Lake Michigan Shore (Michigan) Valvin Muscat 2012 ($14): This appellation is producing some interesting white wines, including this variety of Muscat (there are hundreds of different types.)  This is a soft, easy quaffer that will pair nicely with mild fish dishes or fresh fruit. It brings aromas of white flowers and subtle stonefruit, with the palate emphasizing mild peach and pear flavors.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
89 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

New Mexico:

White:

McPherson Cellars, New Mexico (United States) French Colombard "Chansa" 2013 ($15): So, a Platinum Medal for French Colombard from…um…New Mexico?  Believe it.  This shows nice aromatics recalling melons, nut meats, and hay, with medium body and absolutely terrific acidity that energizes the mid-palate and rides along with the fruit through the impressively persistent finish.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Texas:

White:

Arche, Texas High Plains (Texas) Roussanne Oswald Vineyard 2012 ($24): Texas is showing signs of upping its game in the premium wine arena with wines of quality like this becoming more frequent.  It's textbook Roussanne that delights with a vivid caramel almond aroma profile that translates directly to flavors on the palate, with great acidity balancing the grape's typical oily viscosity.  It's long and quite elegant on the finish.  Nice work!  Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 22, 2014

Washington:

Red:

Buty Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) Merlot & Cabernet Franc Conner Lee Vineyard 2011 ($45): This blend of Merlot (67 percent) and Cabernet Franc is a very elegant wine -- in other words, a wine of smoothness and balance, not excessively big or powerful but quite lovely.  The wine shows admirable ripeness of fruit and flavor for the very cool 2011 vintage.  Its flavors suggest blueberry -- apparently from the unusually dominant Cabernet Franc component -- with dark berry jam, and the flavors carry long into the finish.
90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Apr 22, 2014

Buty Winery, Horse Heaven Hills (Washington) Phinney Hill Vineyard “Columbia Rediviva” 2010 ($50): A blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Syrah from the cool 2010 vintage, this is a fascinating wine that delivers the fleshy texture and full body of ripe fruit, and yet the freshness and brightness of flavor from its cool vintage.  It has the mouth-watering character of elevated acidity side-by-side with concentrated fruit flavors of black cherry and fresh berries, as well as smooth, velvety texture from ripe tannins.  Twenty percent of the wine aged in American oak, and the balance in French oak.  This wine is thoroughly delicious and accessible now, but its acidity argues for ageability.
91 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Apr 22, 2014

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