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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

February 12, 2019 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon "Finca Pedregal", Single Vineyard 2016 ($140, Quintessential Wines):  Connoisseurs generally look to Argentina for high quality value wines.  There’s plenty of that to go around, but a growing number of vintners in Argentina aspire to compete with the finest wines in the world, as they should given the remarkable vineyards at their disposal.  Pascual Toso’s 2016 Finca Pedregal, 80 percent Cabernet and 20 percent Malbec, is an impressive achievement.  Richly layered with dark fruits, a note of graphite and smooth, beautifully integrated tannins, it is one of the finest red wines in the world, let alone Argentina.  
97 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

Salentein, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec “Portillo” 2017 ($12, Palm Bay International):  Fresh and fruity, this tasty wine from Argentina has the good acidity and soft tannins that make it an excellent choice to serve with beef, lamb or sausage, and it also exhibits the perfect profile taste and texture profile to enhance dynamic non-meat dishes -- a hearty lentil stew for example.   The wine is lush and soft on the palate, with complex flavors and a generous finish.  
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 12, 2019

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AUSTRALIA

Barossa Valley:

Red:

Dandelion Vineyards, Barossa (Australia) Shiraz “Lionheart of the Barossa” 2017 ($28, Liberty Wines):  The heart of a lion is what’s in the glass when you pour the Lionheart of the Barossa.  From Carl Lindner’s old Barossa plantings, where some vines are over 100 years old and produce an intensity of fruit that in this example is both powerful and elegant.  Black and blue berries, a little tar, rich oak spice and a dash of proper pepper are bold and bright in this nicely reined in bottling, and this finish goes and goes.  Roast that lamb and serve it up!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Clare Valley:

White:

Wakefield / Taylors, Clare Valley (Australia) Riesling "St. Andrews", Single Vineyard 2017 ($40):  Clare Valley is home to many of Australia’s finest dry Rieslings, and I include Wakefield’s St. Andrews among them.  This vintage offers classic aromas of lime citrus and orange blossom, with a hint of minerality on the nose and mouth-watering acidity that will preserve this wine for more than a decade.  And that’s the best part.  Dry Riesling from the Clare Valley evolves over time into a wine with extraordinary complexity and allure.  Yes, you could certainly consume it now with pleasure.  But those with the patience to cellar this wine, a remarkable wine experience awaits.  
95 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

Wakefield / Taylors, Clare Valley (Australia) Chardonnay Estate 2017 ($17):  Aromas of lemon crème and spice, baked apple and pear and a smooth, creamy finish make this medium-bodied, pleasing Chardonnay a serious candidate for everyday house white wine.  
88 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

Eden Valley:

White:

Dandelion Vineyards, Eden Valley (Australia) Riesling “Wonderland of the Eden Valley” 2018 ($60, Liberty Wines):  I’ve had the pleasure of raving about this wine for several vintages now, and I am happy to oblige yet again.  So aromatically sensual, so complexly layered with classic varietal flavors, and such a burst in the finish.  This area is on the top of my dream visit list for Riesling thanks to the annual success of this bottling.  If you’re a birth year saver and have a child or grandchild that you’d like to present a bottle with at their college graduation, you can’t go wrong with this one.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Heirloom Vineyards, Eden Valley (Australia) Riesling 2018 ($30):  Crisp, correct, delightfully dry Riesling that’s long on acidity, aroma, flavor and finish, showcasing peach and citrus, wet stone and spice notes.  A crisp aperitif, a salad course pairing or mild cheese friend -- you make the call.  The region continues to show a flair for the variety, and this is another in a line of what promise to be very long-lived wines.  A platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

McLaren Vale:

Red:

Dandelion Vineyards, McLaren Vale (Australia) Shiraz-Riesling “Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale” 2017 ($28, Liberty Wines):  Delicious Shiraz that really benefits from the addition of 5% Riesling.  That small amount of white wine helps pop the aromatics open and adds a zing to the acidity.  It works like a charm here, helping to showcase ripe berry flavors, soft pepper and integrated oak spice that come across in a mouth filling texture and linger long in let’s have some more fashion.   A star from the region.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

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CHILE

Red:

Matetic EQ, Casablanca Valley (Chile) Pinot Noir 2014 ($40, Quintessential Wines):  The Casablanca Valley is east of Santiago toward the sea and thus cooler than Chile’s favored growing regions for Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.  That makes it just about perfect for Pinot Noir, which thrives in slightly cooler conditions that preserve acidity and elegance.  The Matetic EQ shows aromas of cherry and wood spice, is slightly fleshy but with firm acid and the potential for improvement in the cellar. 
91 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

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FRANCE

Beaujolais:

Red:

Domaine Rochette, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Côte du Py 2017 ($20, Wines of France – Alain Junguenet Selection):  The Crus of Beaujolais, although clearly gaining in popularity, remain one of the best bargains in the wine world.  A good example from one of the ten Cru Villages offers luscious fruit expression with impressive depth and complexity.  The Rochette family has vineyard holdings in four of the Crus and they maintain a tradition of meticulous vinegrowing and winemaking.  The Domaine Rochette Morgon Côte du Py vineyards rest on granite and schist soils on the slopes of the Beaujolais Mountains.  The 2017 Rochette Morgon Côte du Py is a beautiful example of the Beaujolais style.  It has luscious and forward aromas of raspberry, red cherry, plum, violets and cinnamon spice.  The flavors are pure, bright and lively, with layers of raspberry and cherry fruits underlain by hints of plum, earth and spice.  Delicious on its own, it’s a gulpable red wine as well as a fine choice for roasted chicken or salmon.  
92 Wayne Belding Feb 12, 2019

Burgundy:

Red:

Domaine Bryczek, Morey Saint Denis (Burgundy, France) Clos Salon 2016 ($50, AP Imports):  The 2016 vintage in Burgundy was plagued by calamitous weather causing significantly reduced yields in many locales and more than normal variability in quality throughout the region.  Some producers wound up making small amounts excellent wine, while others wound up with wines that were out of balance.  Domaine Bryczek, located in Morey St. Denis, is in the former category.  His Clos Salon, a village wine, tastes like many producers’ Premier Crus.  A glossy texture enhances the combination of dark cherry fruitiness combined with a lovely earthiness.  Showing particularly well now, I have no doubt it will develop more complexity with five to ten years in the cellar.  It sings and is a great bargain for Burgundy.  
91 Michael Apstein Feb 12, 2019

White:

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Montmain 2016 ($35, Vineyard Brands):  Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive of all Chardonnay wines.  Drawn from well-sited slopes on the famous Kimmeridgian soils of the village, Chablis combines power with a raciness not found in other Chardonnays.  Louis Michel’s excellent 2016 Montmains is from one of the best Premier Cru vineyards and 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.  Serve it with oysters or your favorite finfish or shellfish recipe.  
91 Wayne Belding Feb 12, 2019

Domaine Bouzereau-Gruère, Chassagne-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) Blanchot Dessous 2016 ($48, AP Imports):  This wine exemplifies the confusion surrounding Burgundy.  The vineyard, Blanchot, is divided into two parts, Blanchot Dessus (dessus means “upper”) and Blanchot Dessous (dessous means lower).  Blanchot Dessus is a classified as a Premier Cru, while the lower part, is just a village wine.  (Both parts of the vineyard abut Grand Cru vineyards.)  Though “just” a village wine, in hands of Domaine Bouzereau-Gruère, it tastes like a Premier Cru.  Happily, for the consumer, it’s priced as a village wine.  Creamy and stony with lively acidity that keeps it fresh -- and you coming back for more -- it’s a wine that Burgundy lovers should snap up. 
92 Michael Apstein Feb 12, 2019

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Nicolas Maillart, Champagne (France) Grand Cru Brut Rosé NV ($50):  There’s no doubt about the power emanating from this Champagne.  It just needs time to reveal it.  Initially, it’s hard, almost severe.  But give it time in the glass, or as I did, re-stopper it and try it again the next day.  Then this blend of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay blossomed with glorious red fruit aromas which followed on the palate.  The spine of acidity that seemed hard the day before gave perfect support and balance.  This impressive bottling needs a couple of years in the cellar -- the back label notes it was disgorged in July 2018 -- or haul out your Champagne stopper. 
93 Michael Apstein Feb 12, 2019

Rhône:

Red:

Bieler Père & Fils, Côtes du Rhône Villages (France) “La Jassine” 2016 ($14):  La Jassine is dark, dense and rich without being at all heavy.  Notes of plum and blackberry dominate the flavors, with hints of licorice lingering in the background.  This beautifully textured red blend, comprised of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, also rewards with a long finish.  The price for this delicious wine is beyond reasonable. 
91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 12, 2019

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Viberti, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “La Gemella” 2017 ($16, Opici Wines):  This is terrific Barbera by any standard and at any price, but at $16 - $18, it is a delightful steal as well as a wonderful partner for a very wide range of foods.  Beautiful, brilliant deep color had my mouth watering from the outset, and the fresh aromas only intensified the great start.  Fresh aromas of bright red and black berries are underlain by subtle savory scents and flavor notes, making this seem both youthfully energetic but also a wine of serious standing.  With low tannin but very bright acidity, this would be a refreshing stand-alone sipper but also excellent with moderately robust foods of many different kinds. 
92 Michael Franz Feb 12, 2019

Sicily:

Red:

Donnafugata, Etna Rosso DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Sul Vulcano” 2016 ($35, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  You can almost smell and taste the lava-infusion soil of Mount Etna in this wine.  This mid-weight red packs lots of flavor for its weight.  With a lovely firmness, it’s a wine that cries for food as opposed to a stand-alone aperitif.   Penetrating acidity in the finish amplifies its enjoyment.  Try it the next time you grill or roast salmon. 
93 Michael Apstein Feb 12, 2019

Donnafugata, Vittoria Frappato DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Bell’Assai” 2017 ($28):  Donnafugata, one of the top producers on that island, makes a floral wine from Frappato, an indigenous Sicilian variety.  Light-bodied, it exudes charm and delicacy, but finishes with an engaging touch of bitterness.  It could easily take a chill in the summer.  It would be an excellent choice for a tomato-based seafood stew. 
91 Michael Apstein Feb 12, 2019

Veneto:

White:

Balestri Valda, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2017 ($20, Sussex Wine Merchants):  Soave, when sampled at its best, is a delicious, juicy floral and attractive white wine with surprising depth and nuance.  Although much of the Soave sold today is from a broad area in the flatlands south of the town, the best Soaves -- the Classico Soaves -- retain the vibrant and distinctive style that made the village famous.  The Balestri Valda 2017 Soave Classico continues the tradition of fine Classico bottlings.  This is an exuberant white wine, with lovely scents of apple, peach, lemon, fruit blossom, and subtle herbs.  The flavors are refreshing and complex, with the panoply of citrus and peach nuances enhanced by subtle herb, floral and lemon zest nuances.  Drink this lively and refreshing wine with your favorite seafood.  
90 Wayne Belding Feb 12, 2019

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SPAIN

Galicia:

White:

Avancia, Valdeorras, Galicia (Spain) Godello Old Vines 2016 ($27, Fine Estates From Spain):  Wonderfully fleshy and flavorful, this elegant white wine from Spain is seductively aromatic, with floral elements as well as peach and citrus peel.  On the palate you’ll find notes of summer fruits and hints of citrus along with melon and a touch of slate minerality.  Refreshing acidity contributes to the generous finish.    
93 Marguerite Thomas Feb 12, 2019

Rioja:

Red:

Palacios Remondo, Rioja (Spain) “La Montesa” 2015 ($20, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Extremely versatile and indisputably delicious, this is a fresh but flavorful Rioja that tips its cap to regional tradition with a subtle whiff of vanilla and oak spice, but backs that up with lots of primary fruit to suggest a modern focus on open flavor and fun.  Red cherry is the core fruit note, with very fine-grained tannin lending grip and framing to enable this to work with anything from grilled fish to poultry to white meats. 
92 Michael Franz Feb 12, 2019

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Eponymous, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($60):   I’ve been a fan of the Eponymous wines since the 2003 vintage.  They always show great finesse, richness and class, without going over the top in any way.  This vintage fall right in line, showing great structure and weight, yet not feeling overtly plush or ponderous.  Straight up Cabernet aromas and flavors, with a supple grip and a long finish that is oak forward just a bit a present, but will come together beautifully over the next several years.  I tasted this alongside the 2004 vintage, and this is headed in the same direction.  Bravo!  
94 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Groth Vineyards & Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 ($140):  The previous vintage of reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Groth was a stunning wine and the 2015 is as good if not better.  This vintage is robust and muscular, showing layered notes of blackberry and cassis, a hint of graphite and firm tannins.  Still tight at this stage, another five to seven years in the cellar would be optimum before serving this wine, though it is certainly drinkable now.  
96 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

Two Angels, Red Hills, Lake County (California) Petite Sirah 2016 ($27):  Winemaker Robert Pepi has had an affinity for this grape from this region for some time now, bouncing the sourcing from High Valley to Red Hills and back, and always achieving something worth drinking.  The 2016 is classic Petite Sirah on the nose and in the mouth, with a fleshy texture, supple tannic structure, black and blue fruit, easy black pepper, soft spice and a long, rich finish that goes on and on.  My kind of Petite Sirah! 
93 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Two Angels, Red Hills, Lake County (California) Petite Sirah 2017 ($27): A dark side expression of Petite Sirah, which is dark to begin with, of course.  The key here is the avoidance of the extreme end of the tannin profile that often shows itself in young examples.  Using inner stave techniques that allow for pinpoint control of oak spice, winemaker Robert Pepi achieves balance of fruit, oak char and pepper notes that makes for a very attractive wine.  It’s young, and will certainly benefit from some time in the bottle, but it’s great right now as a pair for a pepper steak or roast wild boar.  
91 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Seaglass, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($14):  Tantalizingly light and graceful, SeaGlass Pinot Noir offers delicate strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors.  Seasoned with a touch of oak and teeming with lively acidity, this wine is a welcome alternative to all those dark, heavy Pinot Noirs that seem to scream rather than whisper.    
89 Marguerite Thomas Feb 12, 2019

Rosé:

Tongue Dancer, Sonoma Coast (California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017 ($25):  A portion of the proceeds from sales of this wine go to dog rescue services in honor of Zuni, the MacPhail family dog who passed away last year.   It’s a wine made by the saignée method that presents floral and soft on the nose, with racy acidity and bright strawberry, bay leaf, spice on the palate and a long finish with a zesty bite on the end.   It captures the Pinot Noir essence nicely, and is ready for green salads and warm days.  
91 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Sparkling:

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Brut Rosé NV ($45):  Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes the gorgeous J Brut Rosé,consistently among the finest sparkling Rosé wines produced in the USA.  This beauty offers succulent aromas of strawberry and spice, a fine mousse, creamy palate and impressive length on the finish.  
94 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

White:

Two Angels, High Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($17):  The highly regarded winemaking consultant Bob Pepi has made this wine since its inception compiled an impressive track record over more than a decade.  This vintage shows a bit of Bordeaux blanc character with aromas of white peach and citrus, excellent balance and length.  
90 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

Tongue Dancer, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard 2015 ($50):  Winemaker James MacPhail gives the lowdown on this delightful Chardonnay:  “Whole cluster pressed, and went to barrel ‘dirty’ with all the lees, where I watched for issues, achieved full malolactic fermentation and aged sur lie for 15 months.”   The resulting wine shows great acidity that sings straight through the creamy texture, delivering great peach, pear and spice notes along with apple and citrus, and a long zesty finish.  The whole cluster really gives some added depth and spice character.  This is a great solo glass!  
93 Rich Cook Feb 12, 2019

Washington:

Red:

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Horse Heaven Hills (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon Canoe Ridge Estate 2015 ($30):  While the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon may be a tad more opulent than previous vintages, this remains an elegant and refined wine.  The dark cherry flavors are concentrated, the tannins soft, the oak spicy but discreet, and there is enough acidity to balance the wine’s overall dense, ripe, round character.  
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 12, 2019

Seven Hills, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) Merlot 2016 ($25):  One of the Washington wine industry’s best-kept secrets is Seven Hills.  Its wines are beautifully balanced and impeccably made across the board.  The 2016 Merlot is another home run, showing notes of black cherry and red currant with a fleshy palate, hints of wood spice and supple tannins.  A steal at the price.   
93 Robert Whitley Feb 12, 2019

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