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Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition


April 18, 2017 Issue

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Le Grand Courtage, France () Brut Rosé “Grande Cuvée” NV ($20): Here is a budget-friendly French bubbly that impresses with dry style, fresh strawberry and cherry fruit, granite minerality, fine fizz and a long zesty finish.  At this price, you can stock up for all of your 2017 celebrations.  Well done!
90 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

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Weingut Clemens Busch, Pündericher Marienburg Grosses Gewächs (Mosel, Germany) Riesling Trocken 2015 ($50, Louis/Dressner Selections): The village of Pünderich is not often listed among the Mosel’s top winegrowing villages.  A look at the map, however, reveals it shares a similar, south-facing aspect with Erden, Ürzig and Piesport.  As consumers experience the scintillating wines of Clemens Busch, we are likely to hear more about Pünderich vineyards.  This is a pure, lively, intense and dry Riesling that exemplifies the racy elegance of the Mosel.  While still very youthful, it shows a delectable range of fruit, floral and spice nuances.  Fresh scents of green apple, lime, Meyer lemon and grapefruit are enhanced by floral elements, a wet-stone freshness and lively spice.  The flavors are pure and concentrated with the luscious apple and citrus fruits interwoven with the spice and floral nuances.  This lively, complex and dry Riesling will cellar well and improve for another decade.
94 Wayne Belding Apr 18, 2017

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Alto Adige:


Cantine Terlano, Alto Adige Terlano Classico (Italy) "Nova Domus Riserva" 2013 ($58, Banville Wine Merchants): Cantina Terlano’s Nova Domus Riserva is a revelation.  Very few white wines offer the intensity, depth, texture and sheer hedonistic pleasure that this one does.  The vineyard sources for this outstanding blend (Pinot Bianco 60%, Chardonnay 30%, Sauvignon Blanc 10%) are steep, low-yielding sites from 800 to 2000 feet in elevation.  With meticulous care taken in the vineyard and winery, the result is a white of impressive power and depth.  The 2013 Nova Domus offers a full and exotic style, with aromas of peach, pear, pineapple and guava fruits backed by floral, sage and spice hints.  A cascade of rich fruits unfolds across the palate.  The seductively luscious and creamy texture gives the wine satisfying substance and great length. This profound white shows the potential of Alto Adige wines and particularly Pinot Biancos.  Delicious now, the Nova Domus Riserva has the capacity to cellar well for another decade.
96 Wayne Belding Apr 18, 2017



Vesevo, Beneventano IGP (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2009 ($16, Vin Divino): Though the 2010 vintage of this wine (which I have not yet tried) is available in some stores, plenty of others are still carrying the 2009.  It is delicious, as its tannins have softened with time in bottle, leaving a serious and forceful red that nonetheless tastes sumptuous.  Dark fruit flavors become enhanced by compelling secondary notes reminiscent of tobacco, leather, and dark chocolate.  This is serious stuff at a value price.
91 Paul Lukacs Apr 18, 2017



Vento Di Mare, Terre Siciliane IGT (Sicily, Italy) Grillo 2014 ($12, Middleton Family Wines): Bright and crisp, with savory rather than sweet fruit flavors, this wine delivers a touch of seashore on the finish, with suggestions of a slightly bitter, almost saline minerality.  It is a light hearted, easygoing wine that will fit right into a summer picnic -- if not on the beach, then certainly on your deck.
90 Marguerite Thomas Apr 18, 2017



Vignamaggio, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) Terre di Prenzano 2015 ($22, Montcalm Wine Imports): This is quintessential Chianti Classico -- remember Chianti Classico is one of the prized subzones of the Chianti region -- with bright fruitiness, a touch of herbal flavors and lip-smacking acidity that compels another sip.  The richness of the 2015 vintage is apparent, but the team at Vignamggio avoids jamminess or overripe character.  In short, this is an appealing choice for hearty pasta dish, such as linguine with putanesca sauce.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 18, 2017

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Bodegas Luna Beberide, Bierzo (Spain) Finca la Cuesta 2014 ($23, Grapes of Spain): Made with 100% Mencia grapes, this is a hearty and quite substantial red, marked as much by earthy, leathery flavors as by fruit-driven ones.  It exhibits impressive length on the palate, always evolving, even long after it’s been swallowed.  Do note that its tannins are fairly tight and astringent, making it much more of a food wine than a stand-alone sipper.
91 Paul Lukacs Apr 18, 2017

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Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2013 ($80):

The Atlas Peak district is one of the Napa Valley's most intriguing zones. It is situated along the southern tip of the valley and benefits from the cooling effect of the San Pablo Bay, but it's also on the Eastern edge of the Valley, so slightly inland with warm days to go along with its cool nights. The climate seems to have worked to perfection with this eclectic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sangiovese. The result is remarkable complexity, an array or red and black fruit aromas, spice and plenty of structure due to the cool nights. A brilliant wines that would most likely stump even an expert playing name-those-grapes. Excellent weight on the palate with great persistence and length, a wine that can be enjoyed tonight or lay down in the cellar for another eight to 12 years.
95 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Baileyana, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir “La Entrada” 2014 ($35): This set of fruit comes from the vineyard in front of the Niven Family Wines production facility, and it shows the micro-climate diversity within the Paragon Vineyard.  Planted to clone 777, it shows bright cherry and dry earth aromas, with a touch of cinnamon and other pie spice adding interest.  The palate is bright and brings all of the nose elements to bear, with racy acidity and a long, well integrated finish.  What a treat to have some of the different sites within the larger vineyard showcased!
92 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

Dutton Goldfield, Fort Ross-Seaview (California) Pinot Noir McDougall Vineyard 2014 ($62):

McDougall Vineyard has long been one of Dutton Goldfield's and it's easy to see why. The 2014 Pinot offers a suave, silky texture with refined tannins and excellent balance between fruit, acidity and alcohol (abv is a modest 13.5 percent) that delivers a creamy texture without losing the tension between fruit and acid that is critical to fine wine. Notes of cherry and raspberry dominate, with a subtle note of wood spice in the background.
95 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Dutton-Goldfield, Marin County (California) Pinot Noir Devil's Gulch Vineyard 2014 ($68): If you're a fan of what Pinot Noir fans call "forest floor" you'll love this dense, lithe wine.  Black cherry fruit and mild fall spice serve to accent the rich forested character, with a creamy texture, supple grip and a lively acid driven finish that serves to help the flavors bloom long after the liquid is gone.  I like this as a soloist, or try it with mild cheeses.
93 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Three Palms Vineyard 2013 ($95):

If you've come to expect nothing less than stunning from Duckhorn, the Three Palms Cabernet won't disappoint. A massive Cabernet from one of the Napa Valley's most celebrated vineyards, the Three Palms delivers layers of succulent, juicy black fruits, notes of wood spice, firm tannins and a finish that lingers with exceptional persistence. Not cheap, but you could certainly pay more for a Napa Valley Cabernet of similar richness, elegance and sophistication.
96 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Pinot Noir 2014 ($48):

Merry's 2014 RRV Pinot is a bold, meaty wine that shows darker fruits with a hint of black tea and firm tannins. Merry's Pinots are typically robust, and this one's no exception. Though it would benefit from an additional year or two in the cellar, it is enjoyable now. Serve this bad boy with grilled meats or hearty stews, or pungent older cheeses.
92 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Siduri, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Pinot Noir 2015 ($35):

The best deal going in high-end California Pinot Noir these days is the "appellation" series from Siduri. Best known as a single-vineyard specialist, winemaker Adam Lee also takes tremendous pride in his less expensive, more generic appellation wines. The 2015 Russian River Valley bottling is a case in point, with an enticing note of floral on the nose and bright red fruits on the palate. The wine is beautifully balanced and ready to drink now. And the price is right.
90 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Beringer Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Beringer Estates Grown 2014 ($25): A nice price for what should be a fairly easy to find Pinot Noir.  Black cherry, tea, dry earth and spice aromas lead to a palate that translates the nose well, with moderate acidity and a medium plus finish that emphasizes some of the more earthy notes.  A fine sipper.
89 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

Rodney Strong, Sonoma County (California) Malbec Reserve 2013 ($40):

Malbec may be the money grape of Argentina, but here in the United States it is typically used as a blending agent. Rodney Strong not only produces a stand-alone Malbec, it also offers a reserve. This vintage was outstanding for other red varieties in northern California, so it's no surprise it suited the Rodney Strong Malbec. This is a beautiful wine that shows layered black fruits, a note of anise, and smooth, supple tannins that complete the package. Suave and polished, this wine is a show-stopper for any occasion.
94 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Rodney Strong, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($20): A ridiculously good value in an easy to find bottling, vintage after vintage -- one that often bests blind tasting competitors that cost three to five times as much.  Smells right, tastes right and finishes long, but better than that, it's delicious.
91 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017


Sonoma-Cutrer, Rus (Sonoma County, California) Rosé of Pinot Noir “Winemaker's Release” 2016 ($25): Dry rosé is hot, hot, hot right now, and Sonoma-Cutrer joins the party in style with this bottling sourced from their Owsley Ranch vineyard.  Brilliant salmon color entices, with aromas of cherry, flowers and dry earth leading you to the palate.  Dry cherry, popping Meyer lemon and strawberry flavors flood the mouth and leave it watering and wanting more.  Stock up for the summer heat!
92 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

Presqu’ile Vineyards, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2015 ($20): An enchanting wine with pronounced strawberry flavors that rock the taste buds, this food-friendly rosé is a far cry from the vapid, overly sweet pink wines that seem to dominate the market.  With notes of minerality and refreshing acidity on the finish, this is one of the most sophisticated California rosés I’ve come across recently.
92 Marguerite Thomas Apr 18, 2017


J Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Brut Rose NV ($45):

J Vineyards is but one of a handful of U.S. producers that can pull off a brut rose sparkling wine that might be a threat to the finest, and much more expensive, brut roses from Champagne. This latest release is exquisitely balanced, with a fine bead and notes of cherry, strawberry and citrus. This one has sufficient tension between fruit and acid to make it a formidable match for everything from grilled salmon to grilled quail and even roasted pork loin.
93 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017


J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay “Arroyo Vista” 2015 ($25): J. Lohr was one of, if not the first, to embrace Arroyo Secco appellation of Monterey County when he planted vines there in 1972.  His experience has allowed him to differentiate vineyards within the appellation.  This Chardonnay from Arroyo Vista vineyard is clearly different from the one labeled October Night -- it’s not just a marketing gimmick.  This one has an appealing firmness that balances the delicate fruitiness.  Uplifting acidity in the finish keeps you coming back for more.  It’s a terrific bargain because most Chardonnays in this price range lack its elegance.
91 Michael Apstein Apr 18, 2017

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay "October Night" 2015 ($25): J. Lohr’s October Night Chardonnay is riper compared to the Arroyo Vista bottling -- but still not too ripe -- with a pronounced floral component, which would allow you to drink a glass before dinner.  But, similar to the Arroyo Vista, it, too, has vibrancy in the finish that makes it a good choice at the dinner table.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 18, 2017

Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2015 ($30): Ted Edwards knows his way around Napa Valley Chardonnay, as evidenced once again in this 2015 bottling.  Lively pineapple, spiced peach and mixed tropical fruit aromas are presented in a dry palate style, with the balance of creamy texture and crisp finish that I love in Chardonnay.  It will work in just about any situation where Chardonnay is requested, from a fine cocktail glass to a seafood or fowl accompaniment.
93 Rich Cook Apr 18, 2017

Jordan, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2015 ($32): Jordan makes just two wines, this Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon, which may help explain why they are so consistently excellent.  It also helps that they have never strayed from their style -- favoring elegance and finesse over shear power.  Their 2015 Chardonnay is one their best.  Graceful, yet explosive, it hits all the right notes: a touch of creaminess, some spice and citrus-like fruitiness.  Its seemingly endless finish just adds to its allure.
95 Michael Apstein Apr 18, 2017

Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2015 ($27): This is a nicely balanced Chardonnay that expresses both a subtle fruitiness and spice.  Bright acidity keeps it lively and fresh.  The location of the vineyards in a cooler area -- the Sonoma Coast -- helps account for the refined, not overblown, style.  Perhaps the old paradigm of oaky boisterous California Chardonnay has changed.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 18, 2017



Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($29):  Viscous, rich, and silky, with fragrant Pinot Noir aroma, elegantly styled; dark cherry flavors with high acidity.  For me, a great Pinot Noir, the best in this group when tasted together. 93 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Broadley Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($28):  Dry, fruity, and flavorful, with ripe cherry aromas and flavors.  Good acidity, made in a lighter style, which I prefer in Pinot Noirs.  An excellent value! 91 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir "Tavola" 2014 ($25):  Good depth and balance, with creamy texture.   Tart cherry and strawberry flavors.  Ripe fruit, slightly sweet, but good acidity balances it.  Will keep well, like all Ponzi Pinot Noirs. 91 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

A to Z Wineworks, Willamette Valley (Oregon) 2014 ($19):  Soft, dry, and fruity, with a good concentration of cherry and berry fruit.  Harmonious, with good acidity and a lengthy finish. 90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Adelsheim Vineyard, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($32):  Deep color, with tannin, grip, and concentrated dark cherry and berry flavors.  Fruit is emphasized , some oak in the finish, needs time. 90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Chehalem Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($32):  A big, rich Pinot Noir with ripe cherry aromas and flavors, with a touch of vanilla oak. Lots of depth and concentration, with some sweetness.  Good acidity helps the touch of over-ripeness. 90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2013 ($25):  Full-bodied, with ripe cherry aromas and concentrated, fruity flavors.  A solid wine, showing well for a 2013, not a great vintage. 90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Erath Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($19):  Dry, good depth of dark cherry flavors.  It has concentration on the finish, with good acidity. Avoids over-ripeness. Fine value!
90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

ROCO Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($30):  Tart cherry and strawberry aromas with some oak tannins a bright, lively Pinot Noir with depth of flavors. Good acidity, with an impressive finish. 90 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Anne Amie Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($25):  Candied dark cherry aromas with rich flavors.  A substantial Pinot Noir, with some tannin and a long finish. 89 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Montinore Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($28):  Rich, dry, and tannic.  Ripe cherry aromas and flavors, but its acidity counteracts the ripeness.  It will benefit from ageing. 89 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

R. Stuart & Co., Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2014 ($28):  Dry, subtle, perfumed dark cherry aromas.  Fruity and rich, with concentrated, fruity finish.   A bit on the ripe side. 89 Ed McCarthy Apr 18, 2017

Roots Wine Company, Yamhill-Carlton District (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Crosshairs Cuvée 2014 ($30): Roots Wine Company is a small producer with a winery perched on a hillside in the Yamhill-Carlton District of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Chris Berg is a talented winemaker who crafts lovely, elegantly-styled wines that evoke the best characteristics of Oregon Pinots.  His Crosshairs Cuvée is a blend of five Yamhill-Carlton District vineyards and shows a delicious style at a very attractive price.  The bouquet shows beautifully pure raspberry, cherry and blackberry fruits interwoven with floral hints and nuances of smoke and herbs.  On the palate, the pure, juicy fruit flavors reveal layers of ripe cherry and blackberry fruits underlain by a rich texture and a long, spicy finish.  2014 is a splendid vintage for Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs and the Roots Crosshairs Cuvée is worth seeking out for its lively fruit and elegant style.
91 Wayne Belding Apr 18, 2017



DeLille Cellars, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chaleur Estate Blanc 2014 ($42): I am crazy about top tier Bordeaux white wine, and in my opinion this fine offering from Oregon’s DeLille Cellars could hold its own in that company.  This wine is deliciously multifaceted, with both savory elements (chalkiness and herbal notes) and succulent fruit components (most notably summer peaches).  The texture is sublime, both creamy and waxy, and all that nuanced richness coalesces into an invigorating, long finish.  A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (75%) and Semillon (25%).
93 Marguerite Thomas Apr 18, 2017

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