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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 20, 2019 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

White:

Ver Sacrum, Uco Valley (Mendoza, Argentina) “Geisha de Jade” 2017 ($20, Brazos Wine Imports):  This 50/50 blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, sourced from vines grown at 3600 feet elevation in Los Chacayes in the Uco Valley, is an unusual and delicious Argentine wine.  Ver Sacrum’s stated goal is to produce wines from Rhône variety grapes that are relatively low in alcohol (13% in this case).  The estate’s grapes are hand harvested, most are foot crushed, and the winery uses no filtration or pump-overs.  Geisha de Jade is one of those wines whose charms may not be fully appreciated with a mere sip or two, but if you savor it slowly and completely (preferably with food) you’ll realize that this wine is something special.  
93 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019


FRANCE

Bordeaux:

White:

Chateau Plessis, Entre-Deux Mers (Bordeaux, France) Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($20):  Lemon creme and melon aromas lead to a bright tart lemon palate with a creamy entry and a laser focused acidic finish that lasts.  Simple in profile, but perfectly delivered.  
90 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

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Burgundy:

Red:

Maison Louis Latour, Côteaux Bourguignons (Burgundy, France) Pinot Noir “Les Pierres Dorées” 2017 ($26, Louis Latour, USA):  Côteaux Bourguignons is a relatively new appellation, replacing Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, an appellation I’ve never seen in the U.S., perhaps because a “grand ordinary” wine is hard to sell.  Grapes for this appellation can come from anywhere in Burgundy, from Beaujolais in the south to Irancy in the north.  Pinot Noir and Gamay are the two chief grapes allowed for red or rosé, though less-well known ones, such as César, are also allowed.  From a practical point of view, it allows Beaujolais producers to now label their wines as Côteaux Bourguignons to take advantage of the cachet of Bourgogne.  To what extent they will do it remains to be seen.  In any case, Maison Louis Latour, one of Burgundy’s star producers, is using the appellation for their new project, planting Pinot Noir in Beaujolais.  Latour has been making Valmoissine -- a stylish Pinot Noir-based wine outside of Burgundy in the south of France -- for decades.  Now, they show it can be done in southern Beaujolais, the part known as Pierres Dorées, named for the golden color of the limestone rocks.  The soil there is closer in composition to that found in the Côte d’Or as opposed to the granite that is common in the cru of Beaujolais.  Earthy nuances complement juicy flavors in this mid-weight wine. The barest hint of tannic bitterness in the finish is a welcome component.  It’s a perfect choice for a simple take-out or oven-roasted chicken. 
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

White:

William Fevre, Saint-Bris (Burgundy, France) 2018 ($25, Maison Marques et Domaines): Saint-Bris, formerly known as Sauvignon de Saint Bris before it was elevated to appellation d’origine controllée (AOC) status, is curious and unique in Burgundy.  Located in the far north, near Chablis and covering a mere 200 acres, it requires the use of Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay, for its wines.  A quick look at the map might explain why.  It is barely 80 miles from Sancerre, home to Sauvignon Blanc-based wines. Producers insist that the same Kimmeridgian limestone of the nearby Chablis area imparts a lovely mineral component to the wine.  That is certainly apparent is this one from William Fevre, one of Chablis’ top producers.   They have crafted a stunning example of Saint-Bris.  Tightly wound, it delivers its cutting stony character after sitting in the glass for 15 minutes.  A subtle bite of Sauvignon Blanc reminds you of the grape, but the overall impression is one of minerals, not grassiness.  
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

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Rhône:

Red:

Domaine Georges Vernay, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Blonde du Seigneur” 2016 ($100):  A gorgeous, graceful wine, this doesn’t push too hard in any respect, but is so beautifully proportioned and complex that it comes off ultimately as effortlessly impressive.  Wonderfully perfumed, this is really only medium-bodied, but that’s hardly a knock on the wine, which offers a host of expressive flavors with floral notes, tastefully ripe fruit, alluring spices and light toast all working to leave a fully satisfying impression at the end of a long finish.  Complete and convincing in every respect.  
96 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Lieu-Dit Bonnivière” 2017 ($80):  A couple of Cuilleron’s releases from Côte-Rôtie were “just” good in their 2017 renditions (“Bassenon” and “Madinière,” both checking in at 92 points), but this was fantastic, showing extremely expressive aromatics and then backing them up with concentrated fruit and plenty of spicy wood.  A powerful wine that really lives up to the intense profile of the vintage, yet retains the magical charm of Côte-Rôtie on account of its lovely perfume and overall balance and proportionality.  Powerful but still amazingly pure, this is a great accomplishment. 
96 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Côte Rozier” 2017 ($70):  A terrific wine with impressive density and depth of flavor, this is a powerful wine with wood to match, yet it wears its oak effortlessly, and already seems to be absorbing it into the fruit.  The “Le Rochains” bottling in this vintage is nearly as good in 2017, so don’t hesitate to try that if you can, but Côte Rozier is the pick of the litter in this amazing vintage.  
95 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Domaine Pierre Jean Villa, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Carmina” 2016 ($85, Vintage ’59 Imports):  This young domaine is only a decade old, but the wines are very fine and entirely worth a search.  This is the lighter of two excellent Côte-Rôtie bottlings, though “lighter” is certainly no knock on the wine, as Côte-Rôtie’s claim to worldwide greatness is all about complexity and grace (like Burgundy unlike Hermitage).  Made from two plots of vines averaging roughly 60 and 10 years of age, 60% of this was made from whole clusters, though the grape and stem tannins are exceptionally well managed and there’s virtually no sensory evidence of stem tannins at all.  The aromas are wonderfully expressive, with vivid floral notes giving way to very pure fruit scents.  Medium-bodied, with fresh acidity and very pure fruit flavors firmed by ultra-fine tannins, this is a beauty that shows why Villa loves the vintage.  When I first met him in April of 2017, long before this was bottled, he told me that 2016 would be extraordinary on account of a perfect end to the growing season.  Moderate daytime heat, cool nights and no threat of rain meant that he could pick all of his plots exactly when he thought the grapes were optimally mature.  His sense of optimal maturity has certainly borne out.  
93 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019


ITALY

Sparkling:

Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, Pignoletto Spumante DOC (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) “1502" 2018 ($20):  Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, a large Tuscan-based cooperative, makes this delightful sparkling wine from the Pignoletto grape, not one that is widely known outside of central Italy.  Its inherently high acidity makes it a good choice for bubbly because growers can let it ripen, allowing its exuberant floral and fruity character to shine, without it becoming sappy or flabby.  This one is charming and fruity, with just enough structure to make it a perfect patio aperitivo on a humid summer’s day.  
88 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

Moser, Trento DOC (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) “51,151" Brut NV ($23, Divino International Wine and Spirit):  The name of the wine, "51,151", refers to a cycling record that Francesco Moser set in Mexico City in 1984, according to their website.  This 100 percent Chardonnay base bubbly is, indeed, racy (pun intended), but the elegance imparted by that grape shows, making for a lovely balance.  Its clean and crisp character makes it an excellent aperitive, while its sturdy spine allows you to enjoy it with a meal, with grilled swordfish for example.   
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

White:

Foradori, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) Manzoni Bianco “Fontanasanta" 2017 ($38, Louis Dressner Selections):  Manzoni Bianco is one of Italy’s botanical “crosses," in this case a cross of Riesling and Chardonnay, made by Luigi Manzoni in the 1920s and 30s, according to Ian D’Agata (Native Wine Grapes of Italy, University of California Press, 2014).  Though this grape is difficult to grow, some producers, thankfully, persevere with it.  Foradori’s is simply captivating.  One whiff and the initial taste pulls you in because its spicy salinity is deliciously refreshing.  Not monotonous, it delivers floral aromas and a white pepper-like bite.  Though this wine will cut through most any food, it is not aggressive -- just enlivening.   
94 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

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Alto Adige:

White:

Strasserhof, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Kerner 2017 ($24):  Kerner has an unusual parentage, coming from the red Trollinger grape and Riesling.  It was first cultivated in 1969, the hope being that it would stand up to climates where Riesling is subject to rot.  This example has a nose that is very Riesling like, with clear sweet stone fruit, white flowers and lemon lime aromas.  On the palate a dry, biting surprise is delivered, with bold presentation of the fragrance profile as flavor, lingering very long and bright.  Delightful!  
94 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

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Campania:

White:

Terredora Di Paolo, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2018 ($16, Vias imports):  A Mastroberardino family son split off from the family winery and started this venture with some of the family vineyards.  Vibrant acidity drives stony minerality and herbs over tart lemon and grapefruit flavors.  The acid mellows a little in the finish, helping the flavors to integrate and linger pleasantly and allowing a faint banana note to poke out.  A solid food wine with backbone.  
90 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Nativ, Greco di Tufo DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2018 ($24, Montcalm Wine Importers):  The deep yellow-gold color is itself a come-on, and the palate is likewise enticing.  Equally compelling are the fruity flavors balanced by salty minerality and finishing with racy acidity.  Worth noting, perhaps, is that the word “Tufo” comes from the name of the region’s volcanic soil, which may be what produces that appetizing salinity.   
92 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019

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Piedmont:

Red:

Comm. G.B. Burlotto, Verduno Pelaverga DOC (Piedmont, Italy) 2017 ($25, Vineyard Brands):  A historic estate founded in the mid-18th century by Giovan Battista Burlotto, Comm. G. B. Burlotto remains one of Piedmont’s top and most reliable producers.  (The Comm. stands for il Commandatore.)  The grape is Pelaverga Piccolo (a.k.a. Pelaverga di Verduno) because it is almost exclusive to the commune of Verduno, according to Ian D’Agata (Native Wine Grapes of Italy, University of California Press, 2014). Almost extinct with only 7.5 acres planted in 1987, Pelaverga is now planted on a whopping 30 acres, according to D’Agata.  After tasting and then drinking this wine, I’m hoping for more.  This light to mid-weight red combines delicate red berry-like fruitiness with an all-spice kick.  The relative absence of tannins makes it perfect for summertime drinking, even chilled, to accompany a light pasta dish or a grilled veal chop.   
92 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

White:

Broglia, Gavi di Gavi (Piedmont, Italy) Cortese “La Meirana” 2018 ($18):  Popping lemon / lime on the nose, with linear delivery as palate flavors over searing acidity that carries the finish well into the distance.  There’s a creamy character to the midpalate that’s very attractive -- I find myself holding it in for a while to enjoy the texture and absorb the flavors.  
93 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

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Veneto:

White:

Pieropan, Soave Classico DOC (Veneto, Italy) "Calvarino" 2016 ($29, E&J Gallo):  Calvarino is one of the great vineyard sites of Soave.  It is quite literally a classic -- a wine that sets the standard -- a benchmark by which the Soave Classico appellation’s best wines are measured.  The Pieropan family has been making high quality wines for decades and their 2016 Soave Classico Calvarino continues the tradition.  This is a pure and exuberant white wine, with lovely scents of lemon, tangerine, ripe apple, flowers, and subtle herbs.  The flavors are layered and complex, with the delicious tangerine, Meyer lemon and apple elements enhanced by nuances of marjoram and lemon zest.  The superior quality of the wine is most evident in its rich, layered texture that lingers well at the finish.  Try it, it’s truly a Classico.  
92 Wayne Belding Aug 20, 2019


MEXICO

White:

Monte Xanic, Valle de Guadalupe (Baja California, Mexico) Sauvignon Blanc “Viña Kristel” 2018 ($17):  One of the Valle de Guadalupe’s heritage winery properties brings us this easy drinking, dry, mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc that shows gentle acidity and lemon lime aromas and flavors.  Pair it with something subtle as to not overwhelm the wine. 
88 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Brancott Estate, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc “Ben Craven” Limited Edition 2018 ($12):  A classic New Zealand profile, with full throttle aromas and flavors of grapefruit, gooseberry, grassy herbs and stone that deliver as refreshing as lemonade on a hot summer day.  A cooling sipper or a great green salad accompaniment.  An interesting side note -- this flips a bit between the above notes and a peach pie sort of vibe.  Lots going on here!  
90 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019


PORTUGAL

White:

Vinhos Azevedo, Vinho Verde (Minho, Portugal) Louriero - Alvarinho 2018 ($13, Evaton Inc. (Sogrape)):  Few Vinhos Verdes sold in the US show much more than a simple and refreshing style.  The Azevedo Loureiro-Alvarinho is much more than that.  The overlooked Loureiro grape variety adds richness and complexity when it is included in a Vinho Verde blend.  The aromas of the Azevedo 2018 vintage Vinho Verde are forward and attractive with a lovely floral freshness followed by a range of lemon, orange, pear and apple fruits.  The flavors are zesty and lively, as good Vinho Verde should be, but with far more depth and interest than most.  The pure green apple and lemon fruit is underlain by a surprisingly rich texture plus floral, herb and spice tones.  This is a marvelously fragrant and complex wine that shows the promise of the Loureiro grape.  The blend is 70% Loureiro and 30% Alvarinho. 
90 Wayne Belding Aug 20, 2019


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Flora Springs, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2016 ($35):  There are few wineries in California, or even the broader United States, with a better track record for consistency than Flora Springs.  The secret to the Flora Springs success is, as the cliché goes, in the vineyards.  In the case of Flora Springs, the cliché is the reality, with extensive vineyard holdings (more than 1000 acres) in the Napa Valley.  That allows Flora Springs to produce exceptional wine year after year despite fairly significant volume.  The 2016 Merlot delivers ripe red-fruited aromas with just a caress of sweet oak and supple tannins.   
90 Robert Whitley Aug 20, 2019

Emeritus, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Hallberg Ranch 2015 ($44):  Brice Cutrer Jones’ project in the western reaches of Russian River Valley brings us another fine bottle of Pinot Noir.  This vintage of Hallberg Ranch shows its racy acidity as a structured bed for black cherry, and there’s nice tension between the elements here.  A bit of bottle aging will continue to meld them together.  Expertly crafted by winemaker David Lattin.   
93 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Presqu’ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot Noir Presqu’ile Vineyard 2016 ($62):  Swan, Mt. Eden and Pommard clones are the base elements of the blend, and 13% alcohol clues you into the cool climate aspect of the vineyard.  No need for any whole cluster fermentation here, with the cool climate, small yield vibe evident in the glass.  There’s great energy and tension, and though it’s a style that’s not for everyone, it’s certainly able to stand on its own merits.  Pulsating aromas of cherry, cranberry, rhubarb translate well on the palate, with lively acidity and moderate grip pushing a long finish that’s at the front of its integration path.  Try this with food -- a roast bird of just about any type will do.  
93 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Presqu’ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Syrah Presqu’ile Vineyard 2016 ($45):  Probably one of the coldest Syrah sites in the state brings us this gorgeous wine, one focused on white pepper, soft cedar spice, black and blueberry fruit, food friendly acidity and proper grip.  Like all Syrah should be in California.  Is anyone listening?   I’d serve this with grilled sausage, lamb, boar, steak -- Anything meaty will work.   
93 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Kendall-Jackson, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Grand Reserve" 2014 ($28):  Over the past decade or so Kendall-Jackson has moved into uber-premium California wines in a big way, yet the concept of value hasn’t been completely abandoned.  The 2014 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point.  This is a superb Sonoma County Cabernet that delivers in a big way but at a price well below the competition.  Richly layered with notes of blackberry and cassis, a splash of wood spice and beautifully integrated tannins, it’s a stunning California Cabernet at less than $30 a bottle.
93 Robert Whitley Aug 20, 2019

Rosé:

Etude, Carneros (California) Pinot Noir Grace Benoit Ranch Rosé, Estate Grown 2018 ($34): Etude’s estate vineyard brings us this crisp, expressive Rosé that shows a distinct apple note over red berry fruit, zesty citrus and faint dried herbs that take the fun into the discussion zone.   More than a casual sipper, you can pair it with salads to white fish or roast chicken with herb-driven sauces.   
94 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Tenshen, Central Coast (California) Rosé 2018 ($36):  If the word “meh” is what comes to mind when you hear the word “rosé,” Tenshen could make you reconsider. This is no pale pink elixir -- on the contrary, Tenshen is deeply pink-verging-on-red in color, and its aromas and flavors are boldly fruity rather than subtle.  A kick-ass blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Roussanne, the wine was aged entirely in stainless steel.  The handsome label design looks like a maze, and just in case it’s important, I should mention that the second “e” in Tenshen is upside down on but I don’t know how to make my keyboard do that. 
89 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019

Minus Tide, Mendocino (California) Carignane Feliz Creek Vineyard Rosé 2018 ($24):   New player Minus Tide is off to a great start -- this second introduction features ripe white peach aromas offset by light floral notes.  The palate is steely dry, with touches of sea spray and herbs dancing with citrus, tart peach and strawberry around a pole of stony minerality.  Light and refreshing, yet with some depth and character.  Salute!   
92 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

White:

Rombauer Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25):  This is another nice bright Sauvignon Blanc from Rombauer Vineyards, with vibrant acidity rounded off just right with a little neutral oak.  Citrus, melon, fresh herbs and stony minerality are nicely knit together and finish long and lively.  Pair it with salads or seafood, or enjoy it solo -- you can’t go wrong here.   
92 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

St. Supéry, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc Dollarhide Estate Vineyard 2017 ($35):  The character of this very aromatic New World Sauvignon Blanc points more towards California than New Zealand, with pink grapefruit, nectarine and toasty oak dominating the aromatic and flavor profiles.  The texture is relatively lush and the finish is pleasingly long and refreshing. 
90 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Wildcat Mountain Vineyard 2015 ($46):  This is a classy Chardonnay from California's Sonoma Coast that offers both robust structure, elegant flavors and bright, appetizing textures.  With its rich fruity tang highlighted by oak spice, the wine is beautifully balanced with just the right amount of acidity. 
93 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2017 ($25):   Yet another cool climate beauty from MacRostie's winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen.   This Chardonnay is one where tropical fruit aromas penetrate the palate and turn to bright citrus through the bursting finish, completed by rising subtle oak influence.  I’m a big fan! 
93 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

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New York:

White:

Paumanok Vineyards, North Fork of Long Island (New York) Chenin Blanc 2018 ($25):  Under the leadership of winemaker Kareem Massoud and his father Charles, before for him, Paumanok Vineyards has made consistently stunning dry Chenin Blanc.  The emphasis is on dry, because consumers often avoid Chenin Blanc because they can’t predict what’s in the bottle since the grapes can make a diverse range of wines from dry to gloriously sweet.  Their 2018, like its predecessors, is dry, crisp and cutting with a hint of flintiness. Though it’s mouth-cleansing acidity makes it a refreshing choice in the waning days of summer, don’t forget about it for the Thanksgiving table.    
92 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

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