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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

July 26, 2016 Issue

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

White:

Maison Chanzy, Mercurey 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos du Roy 2014 ($35, Martin Scott): White Burgundies from the 2014 vintage are superb.  For me, the vintage ranks with 2008 and 2010, producing excellent wines across appellations.  The quality at the lower prestige appellations is especially welcome news for consumers as the price of Côte d’Or wines has made them unaffordable for most.   Mercurey, a village in the Côte Chalonnaise well known for its red wines, is also home to distinctive whites, such as this one.  Bracingly alive, it conveys just enough fruitiness to balance its stony and firm essence.  This long and precise wine would be a good choice for grilled swordfish this summer.
91 Michael Apstein Jul 26, 2016

Rhône:

Rosé:

Domaine de la Mordorée, Côtes du Rhône (Rhône Valley, France) 2015 ($17, Kysela Wines): The 2015 Domaine de la Mordorée Côtes du Rhône Rosé is a lovely example of this exciting Rhône Valley wine.  A vibrant pink in color, it has a bouquet of ripe cherries and strawberries followed by hints of wildflowers, sun-baked herbs and anise.  The flavors are pure and juicy with strawberry and red cherry fruit enhanced by the classic dried herb and spice character of southern French rosés.  Good rosés are versatile food companions and especially nice on a hot summer day. The Mordorée Rosé will impress you with its rich and satisfying texture as well as its vibrant fruit.  Blended from  Grenache (40%), Syrah (30%), Cinsault (15%), Carignan (10%) and Mourvèdre (5%).
92 Wayne Belding Jul 26, 2016

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Aurelio Settimo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2012 ($60): The spectacular success of the Rocche Dell’Annunziata cru in the village of La Morra extended so broadly that even producers who have escaped my notice in past years -- such as Settimo -- were able to make fabulous wines.  Never again will I fail to check on wines flowing from this estate, as this wine is almost magical in its combination of power and earthiness on one hand, along with freshness and purity on the other.  The style is definitely traditional, with some faintly rustic and animal notes suggesting larger, older oak may have been involved in the vinification and/or ageing processes, but these are accents that enhance the overall complexity of the wine, rather than indications of a rogue element like brettanomyces that could threaten to overtake the wine’s character.  An absolutely terrific wine, and one that I will buy immediately if I see it offered in the USA.  Other wines from Rocche Dell’Annunziata to watch for:  Rocche Costamagna (which I’ve already purchased), Andrea Oberto and Trediberri.
95 Michael Franz Jul 26, 2016

Mauro Velgio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2012 ($70): The Rocche Dell’Annunziata cru in La Morra was apparently perfectly attuned to weather and growing conditions in 2012, as these wines totally stood out as a group when tasted blind.  Veglio’s rendering of Rocche is just a little oakier than the other most successful wines, but it has more than enough concentrated, sweet fruit to counterbalance the wood, and is already delicious.  Firm but still fleshy, this will be terrific in just a year or two, and will surely improve for a full decade.
95 Michael Franz Jul 26, 2016

Tuscany:

Red:

Piccini, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) Riserva 2011 ($21, Foley Family Wines): Spot on Chianti Classico, with cherry, sage, mild wood influence and popping acidity that make for a fine food accompaniment.  This will work with a wide range of saucy pasta dishes.  Contains 10% Merlot.
91 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Avignonesi, Rosso Di Montepulciano (Tuscany, Italy) Sangiovese 2014 ($19, Tabaccaia USA): With cherries and red berries galore, plus soft floral elements and a whisper of summery sage, this Tuscan wine shimmers brightly on the palate and finishes with just the right amount of palate cleansing tannins.  Classy and beautifully balanced, this Italian gem delivers a lot of value for its relatively low price.
90 Marguerite Thomas Jul 26, 2016

Piccini, Toscana Rosso IGT (Italy) Poggio Alto, Governor All'Uso Toscano 2014 ($21, Foley Family Wines): Here is a wine to woo your domestic drinking friends over to the Italian side.  It's a very interesting blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it's made in a traditional Tuscan method that involves a second fermentation caused by the addition of some dried grapes after the initial ferment.  The result is a very fruit forward, intensely concentrated wine that is similar in style to a California Zinfandel, but with more acid structure.  Bright cherry and raspberry fruit with fall spice and orange zest make for a fine solo drink, or a pairing for grilled meats -- you pick the animal.
91 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Umbria:

White:

Arnaldo Caprai, Colli Martani DOC (Umbria, Italy) Grechetto 2015 ($20): Colli Martani is located between Assisi and Spoleto in central Umbria.  This 100% Grechetto shows vibrant nose of peach, lychee, white flowers and faint herbs that translate beautifully to palate flavors, with a persistent stony mineral driven finish that cleanses. This is made for seafood.
91 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Veneto:

Sparkling:

Torresella, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) Extra Dry NV ($16, Santa Margherita USA): A cut above most Extra Dry Prosecco of this designation, featuring bright mixed citrus, a creamy feel and a crisp finish with no beery aftertaste, just clean and bright all the way.  This can run the table from aperitif to light dessert -- a perfect outdoor summer dinner companion.
90 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

White:

Suavia, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2014 ($16, Winebow): With honeyed aromas and melt-in-your-mouth peach and lemon zest flavors, this bright and gauzy Soave shines as an aperitif, and it is so beautifully structured that it can provide great pleasure at the dinner table as well.  If you generally think of Soave as a simple white wine lacking character you haven’t tried Suavia’s version.  Made with 100% Garganega grapes, with no Chardonnay or Trebbiano blended in (as is often the case), this is a uniquely versatile and delicious wine.
91 Marguerite Thomas Jul 26, 2016

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SOUTH AFRICA

White:

Alheit, Western Cape (South Africa) “Cartology" 2014 ($45, Broadbent): Cartology is a blend of Chenin Blanc (88%) and Semillon (12%) drawn from several old-vine plots in the Western Cape of South Africa.  This is a lovely, pure, multilayered and exciting white that confirms the potential of South Africa’s old Chenin Blanc (and Semillon) vineyards.  The blending of these stellar lots has yielded a wine of impressive depth and nuance.  The nose is intriguing and complex, with aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, ripe peach, Rainier cherries and lemon zest.  The flavors are layered and appealing with the luscious peach, cherry, lemon and tropical fruits underscored by hints of marjoram and cream.  Its rich texture reflects the high quality of the fruit sources and defines the Alheit style.  Enjoy it with most anything off the grill or full-flavored seafood, pork and chicken recipes.
94 Wayne Belding Jul 26, 2016

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SPAIN

Rias Baixas:

White:

Columna, Rías Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albarino 2015 ($14, Ole Imports): The 2015 Columna Albariño is a delicious summertime sipping white.  Rías Baixas lies in northwestern Spain’s Galicia region.  Buffeted by winds off the Atlantic, Rías Baixas vineyards yield wines with a fresh, lively style.  Columna’s grapes are from 35+ year old pergola-trained vines in the Condado de Tea subdistrict.  The 2015 Albariño is a delight!  It shows pure, fresh melon, tangerine and lemon fruit scents backed by hints of honeysuckle and fresh herbs.  On the palate, it is brisk and lively with the citrus fruits enhanced by the floral and herbal tones.  Fresh seafood is the cuisine in coastal Galicia and the Columna Albariño will be a superb match for your favorite summer seafood dishes.
91 Wayne Belding Jul 26, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Kendall Jackson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Jackson Estate Series 2014 ($32): This Pinot Noir will suit fans of a bold, ripe, drink me now style.  Anderson Valley shows through in the spicy cherry fruit, and the plush texture is sure to please as a cocktail red.
89 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Cycles Gladiator, Central Coast (California) Merlot 2014 ($11): Winemaker Adam LaZarre is back at the helm of the label he helped create, and that's a good thing.  He's a champion of this variety, and that he can bring this kind of character to an eleven dollar wine is a testament to his Mer-love.  Juicy black fruit, cedar spice and a very faint tomato leaf note make for a satisfying quaff, and the price makes it a party by the case.  Bravo!
90 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley (California) "Maestro" 2013 ($50): Imagine trying to make a bottle worthy of a Napa Valley legend, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of what is perhaps THE iconic Napa Valley winery, and making 18,000 cases of it and keeping the price reasonable, considering the source.  Have no fear -- winemaker Genevieve Janssens proves more than up to the task of paying proper tribute to the visionary winery namesake with this Right Bank inspired blend.  Delivering lush black fruit, cardamom spice, tea, dried herbs, supple fine grained tannins, and a long finish that is already well integrated, it promises to increase its enjoyment factor with extended aging.  Cheers to the Maestro!
96 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Levendi, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Sweetwater" 2013 ($60): Levendi means "celebrate life" and this is the kind of bottle that will help you do just that over the next several years.  Solidly built on firm mountain tannins, it shows bright black cherry and blackberry fruit, with notes of dusty pepper and underbrush.  Made by Alison Doran, who studied with the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. It's clearly built for food, and will sit beautifully alongside your best roast beef dish.  That's what I call celebrating!
94 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Migration, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch 2013 ($68): This single vineyard bottling is a giant step up in complexity -- and price -- from Migration’s Russian River Valley blend.  Though it has the same suave and supple texture as that wine, it shows more of the earthy leafy side of Pinot  Noir.  It really unfolds in the glass, so savor it -- don’t rush through it, as hard as that might be.  It’s a far more sophisticated wine, delivering the ying and yang of Pinot Noir -- an ideal balance of sweet fruit and savory accents. King salmon is in season; need I say more?
94 Michael Apstein Jul 26, 2016

MacRostie, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($42): MacRostie has the ability to do more than 70 small fermentations with their Pinot Noir, which makes for a huge palette to select from when blending their appellation bottling.  This vintage features just four lots in the final blend, and it shows tart cherry and blackberry fruit alongside notes of tea and dry earth minerality, with bright acidity making it a fine mate for herb crusted salmon or pork.
90 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Migration, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($38): Migration, formerly the second label of Decoy, the Anderson Valley outpost of Duckhorn specializing in Pinot Noir from there, has moved on (migrated, so to speak) south to Sonoma County.  It is now a full-fledged member of the Duckhorn family, with its own winemaker, and focused on Pinot Noir from Sonoma.  This one, a blend from several vineyards, emphasizes the fruity, rather than savory, aspect of the grape.  That said, some herbal qualities emerge with time.  Suave and supple, it’s ideal for current consumption.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 26, 2016

Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($38): Fruit carries the tune here, with a faint background chorus of spice and earthiness.  It’s a friendly and flavorful California Pinot Noir with generous, plump textures and enough backbone to accompany grilled meats and ragú based pasta dishes.
90 Marguerite Thomas Jul 26, 2016

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Double L Vineyard 2014 ($60): Morgan's own Double L Vineyard is on the northern end of the appellation, and it's always a top flight example of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.  This vintage strikes a great aroma balance of black cherry, damp earth, faint herbs and spices, and they linger long as flavors on the palate, with refreshing acidity keeping all the elements in play.  Elegant, full throttle Pinot.
92 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Twelve Clones 2014 ($34): The Twelve Clones bottling is a success story for Morgan -- each vintage I've tasted has been well above average. The 2014 shows ripe black cherry, mild dried herbs, moderate oak toast and acidity to balance the rich feel and extend the well knit together finish.  It will stand up to bold fish or poultry as well as roast beef.
91 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard 2014 ($70): To emphasize their focus on single vineyard wines, Patz & Hall proclaims the vineyard’s name proudly on the front label, relegating the appellation -- Sonoma Coast -- to the back label.  It’s clear why they trumpet this vineyard:  The wine is gorgeous, another in their stunning stable of vineyard-based Pinot Noir.  Powerful, yet not overdone, it has a long savory -- “not just fruit” -- component to it.  It shows a Janus-like duality of ripe fruit flavors and dark earthy ones.  Invigorating acidity, presumably from the vineyard’s location on the cool Sonoma Coast, keeps it lively.
94 Michael Apstein Jul 26, 2016

White:

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Muscat Blanc "Dry" 2015 ($20): Winemaker Jim Klein is a master when it comes to getting all the aromatics out of Navarro's white wines, and he does so again to great effect in this stellar bottling.  The nose is all about white flowers and sweet tangerine, leading you to a palate that surprises with its bone dry character, with racy acidity delivering the nose elements and adding a solid stone mineral streak.  The finish is long and mouthwatering, bringing you back again and again to the glass.  Over several vintages, this is a national treasure.  That said, serve it like they do in Alsace, with spargel.  And use it to turn on your sweet wine loving friends to a food friendly way of doing Muscat.  Encore!
96 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay Arroyo Vista 2014 ($25): J. Lohr doesn't skip a beat in changing over their white wine staff leadership.  Kristin Barnhisel brings us this bottling that plays well above its modest price tag, showing a lively mix of citrus and tropical fruit, with notes of moderate oak toast, vanilla and an acidic structure that says some bottle aging will reward the patient.  You'll pay more than double for this kind of quality elsewhere.
93 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Shafer Vineyards, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch 2014 ($52): Shafer is becoming as well known for this wine as for their heralded Hillside Select.  It's loaded with complexity, showing a mix of melon, soft pineapple, stone fruit, white flowers and struck rock aromas, all translating to flavors and lingering long.  An elegant texture and just the right acidity leave you with a blossoming impression.  A model Chardonnay.
94 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Patz & Hall, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard 2014 ($55): Chardonnay master James Hall strikes again with this 10th vintage from Hudson Vineyard, and it's a testament to Lee Hudson's confidence in Hall's deft hand with the variety.  The '14 delivers apple, pear, grilled peach pineapple, nut and toasty oak aromas and flavors, with great integration of flavors over lively acidity and finishing long with an emphasis on the pineapple and peach.  Bravo!
93 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Edna Valley Vineyard, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay "Heritage" 2013 ($30): For lovers of the fleshy, oak driven style that keeps the fruit in balance.  Vibrant apple and nectarine with faint tropical notes ride right next to spicy toasted oak notes in a bold cocktail style Chardonnay.  It's good that while the trend is away from this style at present, there is still a wine like this to keep a significant fan base satisfied.
90 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

Washington:

White:

Buried Cane, Columbia Valley (Washington) Chardonnay 2014 ($14): If you’re looking for a fairly priced and very likable white wine Buried Cane’s Chardonnay may hit just the right spot.  While the wine is dry, it delivers a juicy mouthful of fresh fruity flavors.  It is texturally soft and soothing, with a mellow finish, and it pairs nicely with many spicy foods (guilty pleasure: it’s also pretty darn good with popcorn).
89 Marguerite Thomas Jul 26, 2016

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