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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

April 16, 2024 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Doña Paula, Gualtallary, Uco Valley (Mendoza, Argentina) “Altitude 1350” Red Wine 2019 ($25):  Part of the winery's Altitude Series, this wine is from the estate’s Alluvial Vineyard located at 1350 meters above sea level.  At this altitude, Malbec ripens early and the Cabernet Franc is the last variety harvested.  This blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Malbec and 5% Casavecchia is aged for 16 months in French oak, 20% new.  The end result is a wine that offers the ripe plum and black cherry fruit of Malbec along with subtle tobacco leaf and pepper notes contributed by Cabernet Franc.  The rich and juicy flavors are supported by a solid framework of good acidity and light tannins.  A pleasing package overall.            
92 Norm Roby Apr 16, 2024

Catena, Vista Flores (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec 2021 ($18, Winebow):  Even though this wine is value-priced, and even though we can be sympathetic with the horrible inflation Argentina is experiencing, I still wonder if Catena isn’t damaging its brand by trying to produce too many wines from a variety of places at a variety of price points.  This one has tart though vibrant red berry flavors with a murky richness and moderate tannins, yet it doesn’t seem to measure up to what one expects from a Catena wine.         
89 Roger Morris Apr 16, 2024


AUSTRALIA

Victoria:

Red:

Fowles, Strathbogie Ranges (Victoria, Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon “Farm to Table” 2019 ($18):  Cool climate Victorian Cab!  A vibrant Cabernet nose kicks things off with purity of fruit, and it seems that the later release was a wise choice to soften the wine a bit.  The palate delivers a delicious mix, with nice dried herb character that enhances the fruit.  It is dry, peppery, bright and long, and it’s a crazy value!  Contains 7% Merlot.        
92 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024


FRANCE

Burgundy:

White:

Domaine de La Garenne, Mâcon Azé (Burgundy, France) 2022 ($33):  It is worth repeating — the Mâconnais is the place to fine excellent white wines, especially from the 2022 vintage, at reasonable prices.  As more and more growers discover the beauty of this part of Burgundy, we will see wines, like this one, that provide greater specificity regarding the origin of the grapes.  Azé, a small village in the northern part of the Mâconnais, is known for producing distinctive wines, which is why you will find its name on the label as opposed to the generic, Mâcon-Villages.  Domaine de La Garenne’s stylish 2022 combines the allure of white flowers with a subtle minerality, freshness and verve.  It is a delight.      
92 Michael Apstein Apr 16, 2024

Domaine de La Garenne, Mâcon-Solutré-Pouilly (Burgundy, France) 2022 ($33):  Comparing this wine, from the southern part of the Mâconnais, to Domaine de La Garenne’s Mâcon-Azé, which is located in the north of the appellation, shows the fabulous diversity within the Mâconnais.  The bolder Mâcon-Solutré-Pouilly delivers more weight and more stoniness without losing any freshness.  Since the winemaking is identical their differences are due, presumably, to the soil, exposure, and climate — some of the elements of terroir.  To me, they are equally enjoyable, just different.         
92 Michael Apstein Apr 16, 2024

Domaine de La Garenne, Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy, France) 2022 ($50):  Tasting this Pouilly-Fuissé side-by-side with Domaine de La Garenne’s fine Mâcon wines, you easily see the differences between those two appellations, even though they abut one another in places.  Someone clearly knew where to draw the lines.  Always a popular Chardonnay-based wine in the U.S., Pouilly-Fuissé has justifiably gained status with the delineation of Premier Cru vineyards.  It’s good for the growers there because they get the accolades they deserve.  Less good for us consumers who face price increases even with the Pouilly-Fuissé village wines, let alone the Premier Cru.  Still, village Pouilly-Fuissé, especially the 2022s, from top producers, like Domaine de la Garenne, deliver lots of satisfaction for the price.  This impeccably balanced one combines a touch of creaminess with underlying minerality.  It is a fine choice for grilled swordfish this summer.             
92 Michael Apstein Apr 16, 2024

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Loire Valley:

White:

Antoine et Philippe Delaunay, Chateau Thébaud, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine (Loire Valley, France) “Nord-Ouest” 2014 ($30, Wine Traditions Ltd):  In France’s Loire Valley, the Appellation of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine produces some astounding, under-represented white wines.   The appellation has been recognized since 1936 but it wasn’t until 2011 that the sub-appellations of Cru Communaux received recognition.  Antoine Delaunay is going even further, picking specific parcels with the Cru Communaux of Chateau Thébeaud to highlight the region’s possibilities.  His Nord-Ouest is truly an elevated expression of the region with suggestions of yogurt, toasted pineapple, lychee, limestone minerality, and yellow apple.  Antoine uses glass lined subterranean tanks to age his wine “sur lie” for 60 months.  The subterranean earth naturally cools the wine during fermentation and elevage while the glass provides a clean and neutral environment, minimizing the indeed for SO2.  This is an excellent bottle to enjoy on a patio with newly-arriving spring temperatures.  
93 Vince Simmon Apr 16, 2024

Antoine et Philippe Delaunay, Chateau Thébaud, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine (Loire Valley, France) “Sud-Est” 2015 ($32, Wine Traditions Ltd):  Antoine Delaunay sources this Chateau-Thébaud from his family's 10-acres of vineyards spread throughout the Cru Communaux, a sub-region of Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine.  Sud-Est is bone dry, light-bodied, and fully flavored wine showing bright minerality, lemonade, and tropical lychee and pineapple notes.  This is an easy-to-enjoy white for tasters at any wine experience level. Winemaker Antoine Delaunay, takes a natural approach to winemaking using all native yeast and only adding SO2 at bottling to ensure preservation from the winery to your glass.  Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine has been a personal favorite and it is a great pleasure to see the distinctive styles being released by smaller, quality-conscious producers.    
92 Vince Simmon Apr 16, 2024

Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre (Loire Valley, France) “La Demoiselle” 2021 ($75, Palomar Beverage Company):  La Demoiselle translated from French is “young lady.”  From the In Mellot family, we have a “feisty young lady” grown in clay-flint soil.  It has a pale yellow color and forward, lemony, chalky aromas.  The winegrower clearly knows how to extract excellent quality from the soils in the various sites where the vines are planted.  This is round in the mouth with concentrated lemon-lime flavor and very crisp acidity.  At the table, it can easily handle a veal piccata, grilled pork chops or grilled asparagus.        
96 Rebecca Murphy Apr 16, 2024

Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre (Loire Valley, France) “Les Romains” 2021 ($66, Palomar Beverage Company): Les Romains is aptly named, since it refers to an ancient Roman road that crossed what is now a vineyard on flint and limestone soil.  The wine has concentrated tropical fruit aromas and flavors mingling with the more traditional lemon, grapefruit, and green apple with subtle flinty, chalky notes.  In 2013, in the Mellot family celebrated its 500th anniversary and nineteen generations of winegrowers.       
95 Rebecca Murphy Apr 16, 2024

Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre (Loire Valley, France) “La Moussiere” 2022 ($41, Palomar Beverage Company):  The white wines from Alphonse Mellot speak clearly of the soil from which they come.  La Moussiere is their flagship vineyard with over thirty hectares of marl and limestone soil.  This single variety Sauvignon Blanc has a very pale, yellow color, with subtle citrus aromas and flavors with dusty, chalky mineral notes.  It is surprisingly delicate and elegant in the mouth.         
95 Rebecca Murphy Apr 16, 2024


ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

San Fereolo, Dogliani Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) Dolcetto 2016 ($40, Rosenthal Wine Merchant):  Dolcetto has historically been viewed as the fruity, easy-drinking Italian answer to Beaujolais; however, the variety can exhibit serious depth and structure in the right hands.  San Fereolo does an excellent job of creating a texturally concentrated and age-worthy expression of the variety.   Only released after nearly seven years of age in both bottle and barrel, this is a truly special and unique 100% old-vine Dolcetto from the Dogliani region, an appellation located immediately south of Barolo.  Expect to encounter notes of cherry, cassis, violet, pencil lead, cedar, and dried herbs in the glass.  The palate has a slightly rustic edge, although refined tannins and vibrant acidity keep the core of the dark fruit lifted and bright.         
91 Miranda Franco Apr 16, 2024


PORTUGAL

Douro:

Red:

Dow's, Douro Valley (Portugal) 20-Year-Old Tawny Port NV ($70, Premium Port Wines):  Sandwiched between the regular releases of Dow’s 30-Year-Old and 10-Year-Old, the 20-Year-Old seems to me to be the sweet spot in the development of these tawnies – more fragrant, still-focused and yet having a great balance of fruit and barrel.  More structured through the primary passage, it becomes more diffuse and softer in flavors at its finish – overall, assertive in flavor but not in alcoholic heat.           
93 Roger Morris Apr 16, 2024

White:

Kopke, Douro Valley (Portugal) 10-Year-Old White Port NV ($110, Skurnik Wines):  Very few Port producers bother with aged white Ports, and even fewer bother using these blends as their calling card.  Except Kopke.  So when you are blending multiple vintages there evolves a house style of everything tasting similar with subtle aged-related differences.  This one seems to be optimal – recognizing the charms of even older blends – having developed a few novel herbal aromas and flavors.  It is tightly wound and quite complex with cane sugar flavors and some hints of tobacco leaf dominating.         
94 Roger Morris Apr 16, 2024


SPAIN

Rias Baixas:

White:

Mar De Envero, Rías Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño "Troupe" 2022 ($33, Sacred Thirst Selections):  Mar de Envero was founded by Miguel Ángel Moreira.  In addition to being an avid surfer, Moreira noticed while surveying a vineyard that the veraison process (when the grapes begin to change color at the onset of ripening) resembled the rhythmic progression of ocean waves.  Inspired by this observation, he coined the term "mar de envero" (sea of veraison).  Moreira's dual passions for surfing and winemaking led him to strategically acquire vineyards along the far western coast, near the Atlantic, allowing him to indulge in both pursuits simultaneously.  Moreira’s 2022 “Troupe” Albariño is a classic expression of Rías Baixas Albariño.  It is smooth yet chiseled on the palate, with abundant notes ranging from citrus, stone, ripe mango, raw almond, and yellow peach.  The salinity on the palate enhances the fruits notes and allows for a sea salt finish.   This is truly a remarkable wine to pair with anything from the sea.       
92 Miranda Franco Apr 16, 2024

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Ribera del Duero:

Red:

Isaac Fernández, Ribera del Duero Reserva (Castilla y León, Spain) 2019 ($65, Grapes of Spain / Aurelio Cabestrero):  This is terrific Tempranillo crafted by one of Spain’s more talented winemakers.  I was fortunate to spend a day tasting in multiple bodegas with Isaac Fernández, and though I’m glad to disclose that I have a friendship-in-the making with him, I’m ruthlessly objective by inclination and long experience.  This wine’s gorgeous color and very concentrated pigmentation lets you know you’re in for an exciting ride even before you get your nose above your glass.  What then hits home is beautifully balanced oak spice and expressive fruit notes recalling black cherries and dark berries.  The tannins are abundant and there’s wood tannin atop the grape tannins, so this deserves a full decade of cellaring if you can manage that, but with decanting and food with some dietary fat, it is already utterly delicious.  What I like most about this is its combination of very big flavor impact with an equally palpable sense of proportionality and class.  Very experienced tasters learn that great wines taste great at every stage of their development, and this fits that description already, and will continue to do so for a very long time.  This wine is not made in every vintage — only when conditions seem promising.  I am damned glad it was made in this vintage.          
95 Michael Franz Apr 16, 2024


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Angwin Estate, Howell Mountain - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($135):  The Angwin Estate is a small property perched atop Howell Mountain.  The wine is made by Jon Larson, a Napa native who came into winemaking only recently.  Jon's style and approach are a nod to the Napa producers who intend their wines to last for the long run.  This full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon has highly intoxicating aromas of black raspberry, blackcurrant, ripe black cherry, cedar, underbrush, and heaps of mouthwatering baking spices.  The wine is dense and brooding, yet lifted — there's energy to it, along with a very Bordeaux-esque balance of fruit and earth notes.          
93 Miranda Franco Apr 16, 2024

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Estates "Hideaway" 2021 ($175):  Full throttle is really just a starting point to describe this wine — in fact, I would say take the proprietary name’s advice and “hideaway” for a good while.  Not to dissuade you from going in early if you like things geared at redline, but if you’re like me, you may prefer to bask in the coasting glory of a well earned victory lap.  This is classic Pritchard Hill, from a great vintage and a fine pedigree, so if you roll in this price tier, don’t hesitate.        
97 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

Whitehall Lane Winery, Napa Valley (California) “Tre Leoni” Red Blend 2019 ($35):  The “Tre Leoni” (3 lions) name pays tribute to the three generations of Leonardinis now involved with the family winery.   The 2019 is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel.  The blend is assembled by winemaker Jason Moulton after the components have been fermented and aged separately for 18 months in a combination of French and American oak casks.  Dark in color with effusive ripe black cherry, plum and spice in the aroma, it is a rich, mouth-filling wine with loads of ripe fruit, hints of oak, and dusty tannins.  Quite muscular yet well-structured, it is the ultimate pizza wine and a fine partner for hearty dishes.          
91 Norm Roby Apr 16, 2024

Booker Wines, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “My Favorite Neighbor” 2021 ($55):  This Cabernet is a big, juicy crowd pleaser at first sniff and sip, but there is more than just a casual attraction here.  Some rich earth character presents itself midpalate, and bright acidity knits it together with the big blackberry and currant fruit, and they finish with good integration that promises to continue over the next five to ten years.  Don’t be fooled by the cheeky proprietary name — this is serious stuff.      
94 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

Dutton Estate Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Syrah Cherry Ridge Vineyard 2021 ($58):  Clone 877 shows beautifully in this bright Syrah, one that leans toward cassis in both aroma and flavor profiles, and while that may be unusual for the variety, it is an outlier that succeeds thanks to bright acidity, sturdy wood spice and notes of pepper that temper the fruit forward nature just the right amount.  It is no secret that I am a fan of Syrah that favors finesse over bombast, so this lands nicely in my zone.            
93 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

Davis Bynum, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2021 ($45):  A legacy brand if no longer a legacy producer, Bynum remains a middle-of-the road label which produces good but not superior wines.  This Pinot Noir is quite light in flavors with fleeting tastes of ripe cherries, though it does have a surprising degree of minerality, however achieved, with good tannins and acidity in the finish.         
89 Roger Morris Apr 16, 2024

Three Sticks Wines, Sonoma County (California) Pinot Noir “Monarch” 2022 ($75):  The Chardonnays and Pinots from Three Sticks are only sold direct to consumers from the winery, so I don’t have a lot of experience with them.  However, what experience I do have has been very positive, and that’s certainly true for this bottling.  It is assembled from all six of the producer’s estate vineyards in different locations across Sonoma County, yet it does not seem at all like bottom-of-barrel leavings that were dumped into a blending tank.  On the contrary, when the cork is pulled, it seems like high-end Burgundy from a top Côte de Beaune site in Volnay, with lots of taut acidity and fine-grained tannin that structures ultra-pure but tightly coiled fruit.  As the wine uncoils a bit, it shows bright notes recalling un-sugared red pie cherries and cranberries that become sweeter and more generous every half hour as the wine opens in contact with oxygen.  Noting this positive development, I simply left the opened bottle uncorked on my tasting bench for 24 hours, and when returning to it, it was vastly better for its “day off” rather than showing any negative oxidation.  The fruit notes had filled in with suggestions of Bing cherries, and savory notes akin to fresh, cleaned mushrooms lent additional complexity.  This is absolutely a wine for the cellar, and by that I mean a minimum of five years.  Hands off, you fool!  Talking to myself there, but to you, too:  This is marvelous wine that completely belies the notion that most of Sonoma has just gotten too hot to make lean, stylish, age-worthy Pinot.  I have little doubt that my score will seem low after 7 to 10 years, but knowing how few buyers can wait that long, I need to score conservatively.  But this is flat-out fantastic Pinot.          
95 Michael Franz Apr 16, 2024

Three Sticks Wines, Sonoma Mountain (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir One Sky Vineyard 2021 ($85):  Three Sticks 2021 One Sky Vineyard Pinot Noir is a very enjoyable and very rich without being ponderous – moderate body, black raspberry fruit with enough acidity but yet not overpowering.  It is a very good food wine, one that profits from a little airing.  Three Sticks is a very good winery and one that seems to be getting even better.                 
92 Roger Morris Apr 16, 2024

Rosé:

Lucy Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2023 ($24):  This Rosé of Pinot Noir is another fine vintage of the originator of the Pisoni Family’s Lucy brand.  It is a Rosé with some heft to it, meaning it is full-bodied in all the right places.  Bold ripe cherry and strawberry fruit show drive and length, and a zesty kiss of citrus with a dash of dried herb finish things off, though you won’t be finished yet – you will keep coming back for more.  Delicious!        
93 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

White:

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) White Riesling "Bay Mist" 2023 ($13):  I will start with my usual Riesling disclaimer — I love Riesling, and I want you to love it too, as one of the most versatile wines on the planet.  This off dry example hits all the right marks, teeming with white flowers, stone fruit and spice aromas and stone fruit flavors that ride a streak of acidity through a finish that just keeps you coming back for more.  To find this at such a price is cause for rejoicing.  Throw in the fact that it is beautifully packaged for gifting, and you have got everything you could want.          
91 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

J. Lohr, Monterey County (California) Sauvignon Blanc “Flume Crossing” 2023 ($14):  The first of the 2023 whites from California are crossing my desk now, and so far things are quite promising.  This bottle is always a winner, and is so again with richness and finesse.  I would go so far as to say this wine has achieved a house style that is all its own.  Don’t miss it!  A wine taken this seriously in the winery and then offered at this price is a very rare thing — kudos to Jerry Lohr and his team for sticking to their guns and offering a whole line of bang for your buck wines.       
92 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

Brandlin Estate, Mount Veeder - Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2022 ($50):   Very subtle aromatics kick things off here — melon, white flowers, wet stone -- and the wine literally shocks to life on the palate, with bright lemon, melon and mellow herb character that pulses with acidity.  I would age this a little while for further aromatic development, but it is a treat at present regardless.         
93 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

Smith-Madrone, Spring Mountain District - Napa Valley (California) Riesling 2019 ($40):  What to say that hasn’t already been said about the Smith brothers’ Riesling commitment?  Many thought they should have been “committed” (likely more than once) for not grafting it over to something more market friendly — but thank your lucky stars that they persevered, as I do every time I open one.   This continues a long line of age-worthy, drink any time over the next 20 years or so wines that you need to have in your cellar.  I say this not as a seller, just as a fellow aficionado that wants to make sure you  don’t miss out on one of California’s greats.           
96 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2024

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Oregon:

Red:

La Ferme de la Forêt, Columbia Gorge (Oregon) Grenache Noir 2021 ($62):  East of Portland, the Columbia Gorge AVA straddles the Oregon and Washington border.  Columbia Gorge is known for its excellent and diverse soils brought in from the Missoula Floods over 15,000 years ago.  It is known less for its Grenache Noir but perhaps this Forest Farm — the direct translation from La Ferme de la Forêt — is onto something.  The wine’s is earthy and shows true-to-Oregon terroir with aromatic notes recalling wet leaves, dried cranberries, fig, and prunes.  The flavors offer an entirely different adventure with almost-candied freshness including cranberry, leather, red cherry, strawberry, and a touch of minerality.  The transition between the aromas and flavors is exciting and something that keeps me engaged with each sip of the wine.  Grenache Noir is much more popular on Washington’s side of the border but clearly a worthwhile expedition for Oregon winemakers.         
93 Vince Simmon Apr 16, 2024

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