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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

June 21, 2016 Issue

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FRANCE

Red:

Jean-Grancois Mérieau , Touraine (France) Gamay ”Le Bois Jacou” 2012 ($15, European Cellars): Very rustic and oh so French, this Loire Valley Gamay tastes earthy as well as meaty.  It has just enough fruit to remain focused, but probably should be drunk in the near-term.  Not a wine for lovers of big, fruity New World reds, it will delight you if you prefer wines that taste literally of the vineyard.
89 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

Alsace:

Sparkling:

Lucien Albrecht, Cremant d'Alsace (France) Brut Rosé NV ($18, Pasternak Wine Imports): Bubbly from Alsace seems to be getting better and better.  No, it’s not nuanced and biscuity like Champagne, but then neither is it sappy (like most Proseccos), lacking in fruit (like most Cavas), or one-dimensional (like most sparklers from the Loire).  You can buy more complex and compelling fizz, but doing so will cost you at least twice as much as this wine.  Its crisp apple flavors and long, toasty finish prove delightful -- and it’s affordable to boot.
90 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

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HUNGARY

White:

Count Károlyi, Pannon (Hungary) Grüner Veltliner 2014 ($13, Quintessential Wines): A lovely, light-bodied Grüner Veltminer from Hungary, this wine is a great bargain.  Perfect for warm weather sipping, it offers nuanced fruit flavors enhanced by vivid acidity and a touch of minerality.  Few wines can provide so much pleasure for such little money.
90 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

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ITALY

White:

Inama, Soave Classico (Italy) 2014 ($14, Dalla Terra/ Inama USA): Crisp and refreshing, with autumnal fruit flavors and echoes of steel or minerals in the finish, this is a wine to sip in order to counteract summer heat and humidity.  Its firm acidic backbone gives it the structure that in turn provides satisfaction. 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

Piedmont:

Red:

Boroli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Villero” 2011 ($60): An admirably light, fresh and restrained rendition of Barolo from the vintage, this shows nice acidity and delicate floral topnotes that are rare from 2011.  A bit of an outlier, but in a good way.
93 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monforte d’Alba “Sori Ginestra” 2011 ($80, Empson, USA): Conterno Fantino almost always treats wines from this top Monforte d’Alba site to a lot of new wood, and consequently they can take years to loosen up and show the wonderful appeal they often achieve in their maturity.  However, the 2011 is very quick out of the starting blocks, with some topnotes of smoke and toast that indicate the wood treatment, but then a lovely swath of ripe fruit that dominated the mid-palate and over-rides the tannins in the finish.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Giovanni Rosso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Ceretta” 2011 ($80): This is a multi-dimensional winner from Serralunga that succeeds on the strength of restrained winemaking that permits prolonged interplay between ripe, sweet fruit and interesting savory undertones.  Rich but relatively soft, this is already completely delicious, but is structured adequately for another five years of positive development.  As an aside, this was no fluke, as Giovanni Rosso’s “Serra” bottling is every bit as good as the “Ceretta.”
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Serra” 2011 ($70, Empson, USA): This is an unusual wine for the vintage, with a feminine, graceful, silky profile that seems out of keeping for the year but very much in the mold of what Marcarini tends to coax from this site.  Sweet aromatics recalling cola and pressed flowers are quite lovely, and soft texture with gentle tannins make this seem very harmonious in all respects.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Mario Gagliasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche dell’ Annunziata” 2011 ($65, Kysela): This producer flashed onto my radar with a terrific wine from this site in La Morra in 2008, and has remained impressive with every release since then.  The 2011 from the small Torriglione vineyard earned the same score as this Rocche, and is actually a little bigger and more expressive, but also shows the heat of the year with some noticeable alcohol.  The Rocche is the one to buy if offered both from 2011, as this shows lovely cola and spice notes on a sweet, soft core of fruit.  Although this is a quite modern-looking cellar with new-ish cooperage, the wines often show tinges of volatile acidity and brettanomyces, which is not a reason to avoid them, but is a reason to drink them relatively young.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Cavalier Bartolomeo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Altenasso” 2011 ($50): Rich, warm, soft and deep, this offering from Castiglione Falletto is certainly a wine of the vintage, with low acidity and very notable sweetness.  It shows the barest hint of heat, but this is certainly not problematic, as the sheer generosity of the sweet fruit sweeps away all of the tannin and leaves a deeply satisfying impression.
93 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

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NEW ZEALAND

White:

Matua, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($13):  This typical Marlborough sauvignon shows intense aromas of citrus and tropical fruit along with a stony minerality that is inherent in most sauvignons from this cool region at the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island. Crisp, fresh and refreshing, it's a perfect complement to shellfish and raw oysters.
88 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) Syrah 2013 ($34): A bit riper than previous vintages, this Syrah shows a bold fruit forward nose, with mixed berry fruit joined by notes of meat, pepper and damp earth.  It's plush and sexy, with nice acidity for this much palate weight, and brings some orange zest and pepper up in finish.  This will find plenty of fans.
91 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Angel Hawk" 2013 ($85): Another big score for a 2013 Pinot by Jeff Gaffner.  This one really gets at what makes the Anderson Valley such a special place for the grape.  Lively cherry fruit, with cinnamon spice, mild damp earth and duff, cool climate acidity rounded off by a rich texture in the mid palate, then popping up in the long finish that leaves you with an elegant mix of cherry and spice.  Plenty of age-worthy structure here as well.  Well done!
96 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2013 ($120): Goldeneye's estate vineyard blend is always a great one, and this vintage is no exception.  Bright cherry fruit with touches of raspberry, powder, fall spice, leaf and moderate oak toast are artfully blended, with a kiss of charred oak joining damp earth and fruit in the long finish.  I would cellar this for 5 years to let the char integrate to get the full elegance that's promised.
95 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Ghost Pine, California (United States) Zinfandel “Winemaker's Blend” 2014 ($20): This pleasant Zinfandel is a blend of fruit from three counties -- San Joaquin, Sonoma and Lake. I've seen this in a few Zins over the past year, and it seems to be a good play. Ripe brambly fruit from San Joaquin, where it's crazy hot, pepper and structure from Sonoma, where it's cooler, and some spice and cherry from Lake.  Put them all together and you get a complex yet approachable Zinfandel that will work with summer grilled meats or moderate strength cheeses.  It helps that it's widely distributed as well.
89 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Our Daily Red, California (United States) 2015 ($9): A pleasant drinking red that's organic and has no detectable sulfites -- if that's important to you.  If it's not, it's just an easy quaffer at a nice price, showing raspberry and blueberry fruit and soft oak spice, with low alcohol to boot.  One of the better sulfite-free wines I've tasted.
87 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Signature' 2013 ($60): The Donn Chappellet 'Signature' Cabernet is one of those rare expensive wines that qualifies as a value. The 2013 vintage carries a suggested retail price of $60, but this wine is surely as fine as many Napa Valley Cabs that top $100. It has always been thus, for Chappellet is one of Napa's most formidable Cabernet producers, consistently making Cabs that can improve in the cellar for 20 years or more. The 2013 is layered and rich, showing notes of cassis and wood spice, with bright acidity that will carry the wine for decades.
95 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

VENN, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($50): This bottle is the maiden voyage for the label, made by Young Inglewood Vineyards of St. Helena.  It's a dialed in "drink me now" style that shows classic Napa style in its forward fruit, balanced spice and faint dried herb flavors, finishing long and pleasantly integrated.  A fine drink while you wait for your brawny Napa wines to cellar into the zone.  Contains 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.
92 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Q Collection, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($19): It's not often you find this price and this appellation together on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but here we are in this unpretentious, fruit driven red that shows blackberry and black cherry fruit joined by notes of vanilla, cedar chest and mild earth.  It's a fine foil for burgers or grilled steaks.
88 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Kukkula, Paso Robles (California) 'Sisu' 2012 ($45):  Fans of muscular Paso reds will embrace this meaty, sturdy red Rhone-style blend from Kukkula. The proprietary name, Sisu, is the Finnish word for perseverance or stamina and the name absolutely fits the wine. A blend of syrah (52 percent) and grenache and mourvedre, it is richly layered and darkly colored, with firm tannins and notes of black fruits and spice.
90 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

MacRostie Winery and Vineyard, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($42): Another winner from MacRostie.  Aromas and flavors of black cherry, cola, leaf and moderate oak toast are carried on bright acidity and finish long -- I'd give this a little bottle age to fully integrate the oak load and let the fruit speak its full argument.
90 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Byron, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County) Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard 2013 ($45):  This earthy beauty from Byron's Nielson Vineyard shows notes of forest floor and cola, with dark fruits and spice and enough grip on the back end to suggest it will benefit from additional cellaring.
92 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Jenkins Ranch 2014 ($60): Patz & Hall comes out swinging with the 2014 Pinot Noirs after two stellar vintages in a row.  The 2014 Jenkins Ranch shows cherry, damp earth, raspberry and fall spice, with lively acidity and a kiss of sweet oak, finishing long and well integrated at this early stage.  It's worthy of some cellar time, and will pair nicely with a peppered sirloin of beef or a spicy salmon dish.
94 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Q Collection, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($19): Looking for a Pinot Noir that makes a fine everyday drinker for less than twenty dollars?  Here's a ready to go, cherries and spice, silky textured and sweet oak finished wine that you should be able to find for around 15 bucks.  Nothing wrong with that.
89 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Kenwood, Sonoma Mountain (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Jack London Vineyard 2013 ($35): The Jack London Vineyard Cabernet is famed for its rustic style and mountain tannins, and this vintage delivers as expected, with bold black cherry, cassis and mint flavors and aromas, and a touch of baker's chocolate adding interest.  It's a chewy glass, so pair it with something with a bit of fat content to help manage the structure.  I would call this a California legacy wine after its long track record.
93 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Rosé:

Presqu'ile, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County) Pinot Noir Rose 2015 ($20):  This rose from Presqu'ile is 100 percent pinot noir that was cultivated with rose in mind. It was picked at lower levels of ripeness, which tamps down the alcohol at the same time it yields gentle strawberry and cherry nuance accompanied by mouth-watering acidity and freshness.
89 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

White:

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2014 ($35):  Chappellet's 2014 Chardonnay offers the richness and layered complexity that is typical for the Napa Valley, though with a welcome modicum of restraint and judicious use of oak. On the palate the wine shows aromas of lemon oil and pear, with notes of wood spice and vanillin. The wine is generous of body, but finishes with fresh fruit lift that will keep you coming back for another sip.
90 Robert Whitley Jun 21, 2016

Virginia:

White:

Horton, Orange County (Virginia) Viognier 2014 ($17): Dennis Horton was a Virginia fine wine pioneer some twenty-five years ago.  His eponymous winery’s production has been matched and sometimes surpassed by others since then, but the wine that put him on the proverbial map remains as strong as ever.  Horton’s Viognier is rich and succulent, with a floral bouquet reminiscent of honeysuckle, and fruit flavors that resemble peaches and apricots.  It outperforms virtually all West Coast renditions of this finicky grape variety, and can hold its own with many northern Rhône ones.  One caveat:  It can lose its charm quickly, so drink it rather than cellaring it.
90 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

Washington:

Red:

BEAST, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Wildebeast” 2013 ($25): BEAST is the experimental project of Walla Walla's Buty Winery -- a way to try out some different blend combinations.  The 2013 Wildebeast succeeds in delivering mixed berries, allspice, pepper and a subtle meaty note that will please your nose and palate.  Contains 59% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, 7% Grenache and 1% Merlot.
90 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

White:

Buty Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay Conner Lee Vineyard 2014 ($40): This is a lovely wine -- my preference for partial malolactic fermentation shows itself well here, with a creamy feel and a crisp, complex finish.  Think lemon meringue pie, with additional tart apple, white flower and faint herb notes.  It's quite elegant and will reward further bottle aging. Well done!
92 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

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