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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

January 31, 2023 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

Victoria:

Red:

Yering Station, Yarra Valley (Victoria, Australia) Shiraz - Viognier 2018 ($55):  Yering Station has been making wine for a long time.  They proudly claim the first vineyard plantings in Victoria dating back to 1838.  This Shiraz - Viognier blend is a bow to the Northern Rhône Valley where these two grapes are grown, harvested, and fermented together.  If this is the Australian spin on that style, the co-fermented blend is where the similarities end.  This wine is decidedly Australian in style, with big, powerful, and borderline jammy black and blue fruit, tobacco, red licorice, and vanilla.  If you are drinking this wine anytime soon, it needs to be decanted for aeration, but it can age another ten years if you prefer a more patient approach.       
92 Vince Simmon Jan 31, 2023


CHILE

Red:

Hacienda Araucano, Colchagua Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2018 ($15):  Araucano is part of the international program of brothers Jacques and Francois Lurton whose father, Andre, is a Bordeaux icon.  Among many projects, the brothers started this Chilean venture in 1997.  Since 2012, all  Hacienda Araucano wines have been made with organically grown grapes.  With just a little airing, this Cabernet opens up to display deep dark fruit aromas, primarily blackberry but with an intriguing hint of mint.  Medium bodied, with a soft round texture, the flavors show lovely black fruit, a touch of eucalyptus and easy going velvety tannins.  Overall, the fruit is lively and the wine shows some subtlety which makes this an exceptional value.       
91 Norm Roby Jan 31, 2023

White:

Aresti, Leyda Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc “Trisquel” Gran Reserva 2022 ($13):  A sub-region of the San Antonio Valley, Leyda is one of Chile’s coolest growing zones.  And this wine displays a host of cool climate attributes.  The adjectives that come immediately to mind are assertive, flinty, chalky and minerally.  Medium bodied, it offers lively flavors of lime, lemon zest and citrus.  There is also some sliced green apple fruit flavor that leads to a pleasing crisp finish.  Stylistically, this Sauvignon falls between popular one-dimensional New Zealand and real-deal Sancerre.  It is a highly distinctive Sauvignon that begs to be served with seafood.         
92 Norm Roby Jan 31, 2023


ITALY

White:

Gradis’Ciutta, Collio DOC (Italy) Ribolla Gialla 2018 ($24, Vineyard Brands):  The grape variety Ribolla Gialla is native to the Italian wine region of Collio in northeastern Italy, sharing a border with Slovenia’s wine region, Goriska Brda.  The vintners in the area admit the possibility that some of their vines might be on the other side of the border.  I was introduced to this region several years ago and fell in love with their wines, especially those made of Ribolla Gialla.  This one comes from the Princic family who had been growing grapes to sell to local wineries until their son, Robert finished studies in Oenology and Viticulture in 1997 and decided to make wine.  In 2018 those grapes were certified organic.  This wine of the 2018 vintage is very fresh and lively with delicate lemon zest aromas and dry citrus and green apple flavors that are round in the mouth.  Citrusy acidity adds brightness to the flavors, making the wine a suitable companion for a tuna salad or Vietnamese salad rolls.    
94 Rebecca Murphy Jan 31, 2023

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Liguria:

White:

Il Monticello, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Poggio Paterno” 2020 ($27, Serendipity Wines): Brothers Alessandro and Davide Neri took over their father’s vineyards and winery in 1994, and over time have converted their vineyards to biodynamic farming.  Winemaker Nicola Tucci knows his way around white wines, since he previously made wines in Germany.  He has worked his magic on this Poggio Paterno dry Vermentino allowing the grapes two hours of skin contact before it was fermented in barriques, undergoing malolactic fermentation, a process which converts the grapes’ malic acid to lactic acid creating a softer mouthfeel.  The wine also spent additional time on the lees adding a creamy texture.   The result is a rich, complex, dry wine with lush flavors of peach, pineapple with a touch of pink grapefruit round and creamy in the mouth.   Enjoy with grilled salmon or pork tenderloin.        
93 Rebecca Murphy Jan 31, 2023

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Tuscany:

Red:

Il Macchione, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany, Italy) 2015 ($27, APS Wine & Spirits):  The Il Macchione winery has dedicated their efforts to making high quality Prugnolo Gentile, the Montepulciano name for Sangiovese.  In 2007, Simone and Leonardo Abrams ripped out their international varietals -- Merlot -- and doubled down on producing sustainably farmed Prugnolo Gentile.  This 2015 Vino Nobile is reaping the benefits of their hard work and careful wine making and farming choices.  The wine is smooth and balanced with dried tart cranberries, dried flowers, red cherry, potting soil, and hints of wet leather.  The fruit is already showing the bottle age and the wine can be enjoyed immediately after opening.  Be sure to savor the change of flavors as the wine opens in your glass.     
90 Vince Simmon Jan 31, 2023


PORTUGAL

Douro:

Red:

Prats & Symington, Douro DOC (Portugal) “Prazo de Roriz” 2018 ($19, Premium Port Wines):  About ten years ago I became aware of delicious dry red wines for less than $20 from the Douro Valley in Portugal, best known for the fortified wine, Port.  I quickly became a fan.  Prats & Symington is a partnership between two legendary wine families; the Symingtons of Porto and the Prats of Bordeaux.  Prazo de Roriz comes from Quinta Roriz, one of the oldest vineyards of the Douro with an orientation that encourages cooler conditions for this dry wine.  It is a blend of traditional varieties including Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca, which are fermented in stainless steel and aged in 400 liter French oak barrels for six months.  It is a harmonious wine with intense flavors of blackberry, plum, and black cherry entwined with citrusy acidity and supported with sturdy tannins.  Perfect for grilled, stewed or roasted meat.  It will continue to develop for many more years.         
92 Rebecca Murphy Jan 31, 2023


SPAIN

Catalonia:

Red:

Vinyes Domenech, Montsant DO (Catalonia, Spain) Garnatxa / Garnacha “Obsessio” 2018 ($22, Winetones, Inc.):  The 2018 Obsessio Garnatxa (also known as Garnacha and Grenache) has a lovely magenta hue in the glass, with aromas of wild strawberry, cherry, ruby red grapefruit, underbrush, and dried rose petals.  Doused in flavors of steeped cherries, candied orange peel, plum, and red licorice, this wine is savory and smooth with superbly integrated tannins.  It has a bright fruit character supported by a lifted, mouth-watering acidity.  It's juicy, lush and delightfully easy to drink.    
91 Miranda Franco Jan 31, 2023

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Rioja:

Red:

Marqués de Riscal, Rioja Reserva (Spain) “Baron de Chirel” 2016 ($81, Shaw Ross):  I have long thought that Bordeaux lovers who could only afford lesser growths should instead invest in reds from Rioja, whose wines are similar in structure and flavors but more-reasonably priced.  It’s always been one of my favorite regions for visiting or for drinking, and Riscal’s Frank Gehry-designed hotel is a good place to do both.  This vintage has delicious flavors of blackberries blended with lovely barrel notes and lip-smacking tannins – all very satisfying.  It is an elegant wine, smooth and lightish in flavors in spite of its 15% alcohol.  A rare steak might over-power the wine, but it would go very well with after-dinner cheeses or tomato and meat pastas.         
92 Roger Morris Jan 31, 2023


SWITZERLAND

Red:

Chandra Kurt, Valais (Switzerland) Cornalin 2019 ($44, David Bowler):  Chandra Kurt is Switzerland’s foremost wine writer.  She has authored more than 20 books on wine, along with her wine magazine Weinseller Journal.  She eventually decided to try winemaking, with wines celebrating Switzerland’s most unique varieties and styles like this 2019 Cornalin, reminiscent of a cru Beaujolais.  Cornalin is indigenous to Italy’s Val d’Aosta, just over the St.-Bernard pass from the Valais.  So, while Cornalin isn’t quite indigenous to the Valais, it is perfectly adapted to the growing conditions.  The nose on the 2019 Chandra Kurt Cornalin is explosive with red cherries, raspberries, elderberries, fresh plums, violet petals, and white pepper.  The palate is deeply fruited, with bright acidity and fine-grained tannins, providing beautiful structure.           
92 Miranda Franco Jan 31, 2023


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Ultraviolet, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 ($17): Samantha Sheehan of POE Wines and Mommenpop Spirits launched the Ultraviolet line to craft quality California wines that are still affordable.  The 2021 Ultraviolet is a juicy, fresh, voluptuous wine comprised of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.  The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Red Hills AVA located east of St. Helena, at the base of a volcano.  The Cabernet Franc comes from the Coombsville, Napa AVA.  This oozes sunny California authenticity with ripe notes of blueberry compote, plums, fresh violet petals, and currant.  The palate is round with rich flavors of blackberry bramble, blueberry, and dark plums and a slight earthiness with bright acidity and velvety persistent tannin.  If you like fruity California Cabernets, this is an excellent bottle and one of the best for under $20.             
93 Miranda Franco Jan 31, 2023

Ladera Vineyards, Howell Mountain - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2019 ($179):  Ladera's Howell Mountain Reserve Cabernet is developing a solid track record, and this vintage shows a slight gain over the last, with bold but slightly less aggressive oak tone.  The rustic tannic edge that comes from the region is intact, which is part of its charm.  I suspect that some fans like this character when the wine is young.  I personally prefer to let it soften a bit with some cellar time to let a little more of the nuanced dance between the black fruit and wood to occur.    
96 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill 2019 ($325):  This iconic bottling is once again worthy of the badge, which you might expect from what has shown to be a stellar vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet.  It’s all about rich fruit reined in nicely with a barrel choice that adds a roasted coffee note that serves to deepen the fruit.  It is headed for bold elegance as the oak character melds with the deep blackberry, cassis, and violet tones.  I would hold this at least five years before going in for full enjoyment – it will be worth the wait.  Contains 5% Petit Verdot.   
96 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Kelly Fleming, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard 2011 ($200):  I think I tasted this wine when it was first released, and I remember giving it a favorable review.  It’s unusual for a library wine like this one to come available twelve years down the road, but it is a testament to the longevity possible in the Napa Valley.  This is made in the “old school” Napa style, meaning it is not afraid to show a little green character.  Here it balances the fruit nicely, and even at this age, it’s not taking over the proceedings.  If your cellar isn’t yet full of older treasures, this is a glimpse into what can be.        
94 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Cattleya, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Cuvée Number One” 2021 ($65):  This Pinot Noir shows solid structure right out of the gate, with a fine-tuned mix of black cherry and oak spice that are just starting to show their beauty.  With some time, say 2 to 3 years, the chalky grip will loosen up, and the wine will settle into a long, complex life.  That said, if you don’t mind serving up something with a little dietary fat alongside this wine you won’t notice that grip other than how it serves to cut through the fatty component of the dish, setting you up for the next delicious bite.        
93 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Ladera Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Pillow Road Vineyard 2020 ($75):   Ladera's Pillow Road Pinot Noir continues in its established stylistic vein, leaning into rich ripe fruit character, fall spice and bold but not overly heavy barrel influence.  I would imagine that the “why mess with a good thing” philosophy is in play here, and I for one am a fan.  Black cherry, fall spice, and soft damp earth notes ride a plush texture through a long finish where a nice citric kiss pulls it all together.  Well done!      
93 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir “Twelve Clones” 2020 ($38):  This bottling has been a big success for Morgan, and one only needs a moment at the rim of a glass of this vintage to see why.  Although percentages can vary from year to year when it comes to the Twelve Clones, the quality is always high.  It is very expressive, with notes of bold cherry, damp and dry earth minerality, a dash of herb and touch of oak spice, along with a citric note that gives the finish a good push.  I would rest this a bit to fully integrate the oak – one or two years will have this singing.    
92 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Cattleya, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Cuvée Number Eight” 2021 ($65):  Cattleya's “Cuvée Number Eight” Pinot Noir is yet another high energy wine from Bibiana Gonzales-Rave who showcases the vibrant vintage’s acidity and its seemingly easy ability to prop up beautifully ripe fruit.  This has a little grip from the barrel, but that will fold in nicely with a little cellar time.  Cherry, cola, cinnamon, thyme and some toasty character are present from start to finish and linger long.  I love a winemaker on a roll!     
94 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

J. Lohr, St. Helena - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Carol’s Vineyard 2019 ($60):  There is a healthy dollop of Petit Verdot in the mix here, and it accentuates the St. Helena profile by adding warm violet tones to the blackberry, cassis and spice tones that have made the Napa Valley sub-AVA one of the top sites for Cabernet Sauvignon.  It leans bold, initially, then adds spice and a little chalkiness midpalate, and finishes with a long supple grip.  It is a delight now, and will reward further cellaring.    
96 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

White:

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay “Arroyo Vista” 2021 ($25):  Arroyo Vista is almost always my favorite of the J. Lohr line of Chardonnays, and it takes the prize again with the 2021 vintage thanks to lively acidity throughout.  It supports the zesty lemon curd and moderate oak toast, and does so in style, keeping the liveliness going through the finish.  This makes for a great solo glass or a fine seafood pairing partner – again!         
93 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

J. Lohrarr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay “October Night” 2021 ($25):  The Chardonnay Dijon Clone 809 – known in some circles as the Musqué Clone is on full display in this bottling as it normally is year over year, much to the delight of its fans.  It’s edgy and spicy, with vibrant lemon oil, quince and oak spice that are bold in the midpalate with viscosity that manages to clean up in the finish in a way that makes you want more.  Fun! 
91 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

19 Crimes, California (United States) Chardonnay “Martha’s Lighter Chard” 2021 ($15):  I’ve long admired Martha for her intelligence, creativity and tenacity in the face of adversity – and prison even though she dissed me at a celebrity wine dinner decades ago when we were both in our primes.  (It was done away from the mic, and it’s possible I deserved it.)  Anyway, her teaming up with 19 Crimes seems to have gone well thus far.  This is an 8.5% alcohol wine made via reverse osmosis and – it’s pretty damn good if you take it for what it’s intended to be.  It’s juicy and spritzy with flavors of a cloves-laden apple pie, yet it is reasonably dry with good finishing acidity – quite delightful.  I would serve it very chilled as an aperitif in place of sparkling wine.           
89 Roger Morris Jan 31, 2023

Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay “Highland” 2021 ($30):  Morgan's "Highland" Chardonnay leans toward the crisp apple and tropical side, and it has enough oak influence to gird those flavors in the midpalate without trampling on them.  The combination makes for a refreshing yet complex glass that works well as a soloist or will suit salads or seafood nicely.        
91 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

Cattleya, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay “Cuvée Number Five” 2021 ($55):  Here’s a Chardonnay that seems to have a place for everything, and everything is in its place, with layered apple, lemon, and soft tropical notes on the nose that convert to palate flavors with a texture that is at once rich and bright.  It finishes long with gentle herb notes joining the zesty lemon impression.  This is built for fish – I’m in for grilled halibut.          
93 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

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Oregon:

Red:

Ken Wright Cellars, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2021 ($18):  Ken Wright is a household name in Willamette Valley.  He has dedicated his lifetime to making wine and is credited by some observers for much of Willamette’s success in the international market.  Pinot Noir is one of the more difficult grapes to grow and that difficulty is usually passed to the consumer in higher bottle prices.  I was pleasantly shocked to find this one in the under-$20 category.  While it doesn’t have the complexity that higher-end bottles can offer, it has the classic Willamette Valley character and outperforms its price point.          
90 Vince Simmon Jan 31, 2023

Sparkling:

Argyle Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) "Extended Tirage" Brut 2012 ($85):  Winemaker Nate Klostermann describes this 2012 wine as “a classic vintage, with perfect weather and ideal late-season ripening that yielded a silky sparkling wine with beautiful spice and layers of stone fruit plus lovely natural acidity.”  The wine was disgorged after aging on the lees for seven years.  Klostermann goes on to explain that aging a wine this long may be expensive and time-consuming, “but the results are extraordinary in terms of the depth and sophistication that develop with extended aging.”  Thanks to its mellow fruitiness embraced and balanced by zippy acidity the wine is refined yet imminently drinkable.  It can be enjoyed as a lovely aperitif, an accompaniment to seafood and/or a variety of vegetarian dishes, or as a celebratory way to wind down a special evening.         
95 Marguerite Thomas Jan 31, 2023

Argyle Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Vintage Brut 2018 ($30):  Sourced from both Spirit Hill Vineyard and Knudsen Vineyard during the warm, dry weather of 2018, the grapes were hand harvested then transported to the winery.  A blend of Chardonnay (52%), Pinot Noir (43%) and Pinot Meunier (5%), “Vintage Brut” was fermented in the bottle.  Framed by citrus notes, with appetizing minerality, the wine is rich and energetic.  After it coasts to a strong, bright finish one’s palate yearns for another sip of this excellent wine.     
93 Marguerite Thomas Jan 31, 2023

Argyle Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2019 ($30):  Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country is home to more than 800 vineyards.  One sip of Argyle's 2019 “Vintage Blanc de Blancs” will give you a hint as to why this is such a uniquely important viticultural region.  Fresh and energetic, this wine is deftly balanced between vibrant fruit, refreshing acidity and spicy minerality.  A subtle trace of oak adds further interest and complexity.         
93 Marguerite Thomas Jan 31, 2023

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Washington:

Red:

Greenwing, Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($30):  A few years back Duckhorn expanded their operations in to Washington State with the Canvasback line.  This Greenwing bottling is made in a drink me now style, with expected Cabernet character in both aroma and flavor profiles, a supple grip and a medium long finish.  It will last a while in the cellar as well -- up to five years is a safe bet.  Contains 17% Merlot and 5% Syrah.       
91 Rich Cook Jan 31, 2023

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