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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

May 23, 2017 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) “Magdalena Toso” 2013 ($130, Quintessential): Consultant Paul Hobbs selected 23 barrels of Malbec to make this special blend, which features 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that serves to tame the ripe richness of the Malbec and add structure to what comes across as a full throttle red fruit and spice expression.  It's a great solo glass that you won't want to put down until it’s time to refill.  A sexy beast!
97 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) Syrah Barrancas Vineyards Alta 2014 ($50, Quintessential): If you like your Syrah on the spicy side, this is a wine for you.  Big pepper, cardamom and clove ride atop the blackberry fruit, with notes of dill and meat adding interest.  It's firm on a pop and pour, so give it a good decant before serving with richer meats -- lamb or duck will sing harmoniously.
94 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec Barrancas Vineyards Reserva 2015 ($25, Quintessential): A ripe yet restrained Malbec featuring red plum, cherry, cedar chest and dry earth aromas that translate well on the palate, with moderate grip extending the well integrated finish.  It's ready for grilled beef simply seasoned.
90 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Viña Cobos, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Felino” 2015 ($20, Paul Hobbs Selections): Demonstrating why Argentinean Malbec has become so wildly popular, “Felino” offers ripe primary fruit, sexy secondary notes resembling chocolate and vanilla, and a seductively lush texture.  Though its tannins are pliable and soft, it nonetheless seems well-structured, so never turns flabby or hollow.
90 Paul Lukacs May 23, 2017

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

Red:

Château des Jacques, Fleurie (Burgundy, France) 2015 ($28, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This Fleurie comes from two sites within the village.  (Jadot has yet to make a single vineyard wine from Fleurie.)  One site is at a higher elevation and cooler, which Cyril Chirouze, Château des Jacques’ winemaker, says provides grapes that impart elegance to the wine, while the other warmer site provides power.  His explanation is readily apparent after just one sip -- though it’s impossible to stop after one sip. Floral and polished, this Fleurie delivers both seductively charming power and finesse.  This is not “Beaujolais” as you know it -- it’s Fleurie.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

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ITALY

Rosé:

Attems, Venezia Giulia IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Ramato” 2015 ($18, Folio Fine Wine Partners): At first blush -- no pun intended -- you’d think this wine was a marketing genius, encompassing two very hot wine categories:  Pinot Grigio and Rosé.  But no, the pink -- actually copper hue -- of the wine comes from the light red color of the skins of the Pinot Grigio grape.  Indeed, you taste and feel the skin contact because there’s a subtle and welcome bitterness in the finish emanating from the tannins in the skin.  It’s a good foil for the crisp strawberry-like fruitiness.  This is a long and substantial wine, a perfect choice for grilled rare tuna.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Tuscany:

Red:

Luce, Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) 2012 ($110, Folio Wine Imports): Luce della Vite, usually referred to as “Luce,” initially was a joint venture of the Mondavi and Frescobaldi families but is now owned solely by Frescobaldi.  A Super Tuscan blend of roughly equal parts Sangiovese and Merlot grown in the Montalcino area, it does not conform to Italian winemaking regulations and therefore carries the IGT designation.  In 2003, Frescobaldi started making a Brunello di Montalcino from the Sangiovese on the Luce property.  (Luce Brunello was, and still is, distinct from Frescobaldi’s other very fine Brunello di Montalcino, Castelgiocando.)  So therein lies the potential for confusion when speaking of Luce.  Are you referring to the short hand of Luce della Vite or the Brunello di Montalcino?  While both are easy to recommend, they are very different wines because the Merlot adds fleshiness to the more austere Sangiovese.  The 2012 Luce Brunello di Montalcino shows why Sangiovese by itself, grown in the right place -- Montalcino -- is revered.  Floral aromatics give way to an elegant, sleek and racy wine with a dark mineral-infused core.  Tightly wound at this stage, it has incredible energy, like a horse in the starting gate.  Polished -- it is a Frescobaldi wine -- it should evolve beautifully over the next decade.
95 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Baileyana, Edna Valley (California) Pinot Noir 'Firepeak' 2014 ($30): Located close to the ocean in the cool Edna Valley, Baileyana’s Firepeak Vineyard consistently delivers high class fruit that winemaker Christian Roguenant turns into brilliant wine. The 2014 Firepeak Pinot Noir (there’s also an outstanding Chardonnay from the same vineyard) offers bright red-fruit aromas, dark cherry and spice and a silky palate with impressive length. This wine won a gold medal at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Robert Whitley May 23, 2017

Rombauer, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Diamond Collection” 2013 ($80): Rombauer made Cabernet Sauvignon before they made Chardonnay, and the experience gained from nearly forty years invested coupled with fruit from vineyards in Stag's Leap, Atlas Peak, St. Helena and Rutherford shows beautifully in this wine.  It's the definition of rustic elegance, showing classic varietal character great acidity, mid palate richness and a firm grip that extends the finish. There's already great integration of all the expected aromas and flavors, but you can expect this wine to deepen as it softens with time.  Trophy cellar alert.
97 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Villa San Juliette, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) “Chorum” 2013 ($25): Here is a fine value in an easy drinking, plush red and black fruit drink me now red wine that has bright pepper and spice adding interest to the fruit mix.  It's quite stylish for a "kitchen sink" blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet.  All together now!
90 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch 2014 ($66): Merry is the queen of California Pinot Noir. Long live the queen. The 2014 Klopp Ranch is a stunning wine that shows the remarkable ability of Edwards to make an elegant wine with muscle. That’s a rare combination. The Klopp is firm, with impressive depth, expressive raspberry and cherry fruit, and hints of earthy forest floor.
95 Robert Whitley May 23, 2017

Etude, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot Noir North Canyon Vineyard 2014 ($45): If you’re looking for a sweet, juicy California style Pinot Noir you’ve come to the wrong place. The 2014 Etude North Canyon is dry and savory, with notes of dark cherry and black tea, firm tannins and the potential to improve in the cellar over the next four to six years.
88 Robert Whitley May 23, 2017

Kendall-Jackson, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Vintner’s Reserve” 2013 ($24): A delightful surprise, this ubiquitous red wine tastes far more serious and compelling than I expected.  It offers classic Cabernet flavor, with an impressive structure and excellent balance.  People sometimes dismiss Kendall-Jackson’s “Vintner’s Reserves” as supermarket wines lacking character.  This particular one suggests that we should all take another look -- or taste.
90 Paul Lukacs May 23, 2017

Rosé:

Paraduxx, California (United States) Rosé 2016 ($32): This is about as good as dry Rosé gets, and you know I drink a fair amount of pink.  Crisp, bright and fresh in both aroma and flavor, delivering strawberry, citrus, white pepper, granite minerality and a lip smacking finish that hangs in long with full integration of all the elements.  A great wine from a Duckhorn label -- no surprise here.  Contains 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache.
93 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Decoy, California (United States) Rosé 2016 ($20): A great summer quaff that features strawberry, watermelon, citrus, faint pepper and a mouthwatering finish.  This is a first foray into the pink zone for the Decoy label, and you can bet it won't be the last.  Contains 58% Syrah and 42% Pinot Noir.
90 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Stewart Cellars, Sonoma Mountain (Sonoma County, California) Rosé 2016 ($28): As regular WineReviewOnline readers know, I’d usually prefer a chilled light red wine to the vast majorities of innocuous rosé on the market.  Here’s an exception -- perhaps because it tastes like a light red because of a touch of tannin in finish. A masterful blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, this rosé is both fresh and substantial.  Try it with grilled salmon this summer. That Stewart Cellars can produce a “hat trick” of 90-point wines means it’s a producer worth watching.
90 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

White:

Dutton Goldfield, Green Valley of the Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch-Walker Hill Vineyard 2014 ($50): The name alone, including the vineyard designates and the appellation, is quite a mouthful. So is the wine. From the cool Green Valley at the westernmost end of the Russian River Valley, this vintage is a well-crafted Chardonnay that finds that elusive synergy between richness and structure that lift all of the finest Chardonnays. This one shows complex aromas of pear, lemon oil, tropical fruit and crunchy apple, with a subtle note of wood spice.
94 Robert Whitley May 23, 2017

Shooting Star, Lake County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($14): Renowned California winemaker Jed Steele is behind the Shooting Star.  Steele buys grapes and wines from others, blends, ages and bottles them under this label.  His talents at blending shine in this well-priced Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s a nicely balanced compromise combining the lively bite of Sauvignon Blanc with the barest hint of fleshiness, which tames the potentially aggressive nature of the grape.   Many Sauvignon Blanc at this price are tropical and flabby.  Not this one.  It has verve and life.  It’s an outstanding buy.
88 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Shooting Star, Mendocino County (California) Chardonnay 2015 ($14): Consumers looking for wines that over deliver for the price should embrace Jed Steele’s Shooting Star label.  Steele, known for nuance rather than over the top opulence in his Chardonnay, maintains that style with this one.  A hint of pineapple-like tropical fruit flavors are kept in check and balanced by wonderfully racy acidity.  This is a modern and racy California Chardonnay, not a heavy ponderous one.  It’s a steal.
88 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25): Who knew that Freemark Abbey made excellent Sauvignon Blanc?  Of course, they are an iconic producer of Cabernet Sauvignon and some incredibly lush sweet wines.  It’s crisp and laser-like, with a snappy bite that is not aggressive.  Plenty of body and depth balances its knife-like cutting edginess.  It has none of the tropical fruit-like over ripeness that can plaque so many Sauvignon Blanc from Napa.  Try it this summer before it fades with grilled fish, shellfish, or frankly, anything.
91 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Decoy, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($20): Another delicious value from Duckhorn's everyday drinking lineup.  It's crisp and fresh, with racy acidity carrying flavors of sweet citrus and stone fruit, finishing clean with faint grassy notes joining the fruit and lingering long.  It's got wide distribution, so go get some!
90 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Stewart Cellars, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25): Founded in only 2000, Stewart Cellars buys grapes from growers they respect.  This Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Stanly Ranch Vineyard in Napa Valley.  A judicious use of oak imparts a hint of creaminess that balances the bite of Sauvignon Blanc without eviscerating it. It’s a hard line to walk, but they have done it admirably.  It would be a good choice this summer for steamed clams and other shellfish.
90 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Barr Estate, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Albarino 2014 ($16): With fruit grown in the Geneseo District, Barr Estate brings us a very different expression of this growing in popularity variety.  There's a pleasant sea spray and smoke character to this wine, with softer fruit than most California examples. Grilled peach and faint spice join the ocean breeze in a subtle way, and the finish is well integrated.  Very stylized.
89 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Glunz Family, Santa Barbara County (California) Viognier White Hawk Vineyard 2016 ($20): Here's a gorgeous, full-bodied yet restrained Viognier from a great source.  The nose shows honeysuckle, peach, and spice that all translate to palate flavors, with some sweet lemon added to the spiced peach.  This is a serious bargain.
93 Rich Cook May 23, 2017

Stewart Cellars, Sonoma Mountain (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2015 ($40): I had no familiarity with Stewart Cellars until I tasted this Chardonnay.  The winery is clearly now on my radar screen.  It should be on yours.  This is a show-stopping Chardonnay -- not because of its power, but because of its stylish elegance.  A combination of flinty smokiness intertwined with a delicate creaminess enlivens the palate in waves.  Fresh and alive, its subtle complexity makes each sip a joy.  It is beautifully balanced and refined.  You feel the effect of oak without tasting a hint of wood.  It finishes with an uplifting citrus tang.  I hate to say it, but it’s a steal at $40.
95 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Washington:

White:

Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) "SBS" 2015 ($23): Cadaretta has consistently excelled with their SBS bottling, using the initials of the grapes to name this wine.  A Bordeaux-like blend of Sauvignon Blanc (90%) and Semillon, it’s a balanced, harmonious wine.  The addition of Semillon adds a lanolin-like texture and depth without eviscerating the pleasant pungency of Sauvignon Blanc.  Crisp and long, it screams for summertime fare.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

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