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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

July 16, 2024 Issue

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FRANCE

Sparkling:

Famille Perrin, Vin de France (France) “La Vieille Ferme” Sparkling Rosé NV ($12, Vineyard Brands):  The Perrin Family is known for making quality wines at all price levels, and its La Vieille Ferme brand has done just that at the very affordable level as it has expanded in numbers of wines and its designations beyond the Rhône Valley.  This one is a tightly wound bubbly with intense bubbles that adds to its refreshing strawberry and citrus flavors.      
90 Roger Morris Jul 16, 2024

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Burgundy:

White:

Maison Louis Latour, Bourgogne Aligoté (Burgundy, France) 2022 ($22):  The appellation, Bourgogne Aligoté, is an anomaly in Bourgogne, the epicenter of terroir-based viticulture, because it is named for the grape, not the site.  The grapes for Bourgogne Aligoté can come from anywhere in Bourgogne, from the Côte Auxerrois in the north near Chablis to Mâcon in the south.  (The French prefer the use of the term Bourgogne, rather than Burgundy since that’s the traditional name of the region.  Plus, in French, the word burgundy can be translated as maroon or, Mon Dieu, as Bordeaux.)  Aligoté’s racy acidity and invigorating freshness makes it an ideal choice for summertime drinking.  This one from Louis Latour, a top Beaune-based domaine and négociant, combines the grape’s vivacity with the added ripeness due to climate change to produce a balanced and refreshing example.  It’s a bargain, so stock up for the summer!         
92 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2024

Domaine Servin, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Butteaux 2022 ($32):  For hockey aficionados, this wine is a hat trick:  Great producer, great vintage, great price.  For non-hockey fans, just buy this wine.  Some of it is in my cellar.  You’ll smile.  Domaine Servin, one of Chablis’ top producers, succeeded admirably with their 2022s, which is not surprising given the stature of the vintage.  Butteaux is not a commonly seen 1er Cru because wines from that site are usually sold under the more recognizable name, Montmains.  Though Butteaux and Montmains lie on the same hill, Butteaux occupies a warmer site, which imparts more muscle to its wines.  Servin combines the power of Butteaux with the racy minerality characteristic of Chablis in their 2022.  A word about pricing: according to winesearcher.com, the 2022 is available only in California and is selling for 25 percent less than previous vintages.  I suspect the pricing will change as the wine sees national distribution, so stock up now.        
94 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2024

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Rhône:

Red:

Domaine La Florane, Côtes du Rhône-Villages Saint Maurice (Rhône Valley, France) “Echevin” 2021 ($21):  The Rhône Valley provides a treasure trove of reasonably priced reds and whites, especially from the appellations with a lesser pedigree compared to the famed ones, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Hermitage.  There is a trio of appellations, Côte du Rhône, Côtes du Rhone-Villages, and Côtes du Rhône-Villages with a named village appended, such as Saint Maurice, that offer particularly good value.  There are about 20 villages that have the potential of making more distinctive wines that are entitled to link their name to the Côtes du Rhone-Villages appellation.  Over time, some of these villages will be “promoted” to Cru status on a level with Gigondas, Vacqueryas, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as authorities realize the elevated quality of the wines.  That means that many of them, such as this one from Saint Maurice, hit above their weight class now.  The really good news is that the price of these wines has not caught up with their quality — yet.  Domaine La Florane’s Saint Maurice, a mid-weight red, is ready to drink because of bright brambly fruit and mild tannins, making it a perfect choice for this summer’s BBQs.  It is also fine slightly chilled.          
91 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2024


GERMANY

Rheingau:

White:

Schloss Vollrads, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Kabinett 2021 ($34):  This great estate slipped over a period about two decades ago, but the renaissance that started a dozen years ago (or so) is clearly still running strong.  This shows fine palate weight without seeming remotely heavy, which is the weird-but-true paradox of fine Riesling.  Similarly, it is clear when tasting analytically that there’s quite a lot of residual sugar in the wine, and yet it isn’t obviously sweet because the fresh acidity balances out the sugar with great effectiveness.  Poached peaches and baked apples are descriptors conjured by the aromas and flavors, with citrus acidity cleansing the finish and encouraging another sip.          
95 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2024


ITALY

Sicily:

White:

Donnafugata, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Grillo “SurSur” 2021 ($19, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Grillo is a cross between Catarratto Bianco and Muscat of Alexandria.  The Rallo Family has created a very enjoyable dry white wine with a pale golden color.  It is ripe and juicy in the mouth with a mélange of apple, lemon, and melon flavors with a light note of fresh lemon thyme.  Serve it for a Sunday brunch, picnic, or dinner with friends.  The winery is a member of SoStain, an organization that certifies companies’ sustainability efforts including, “the fields being cultivated, worker welfare, consumer health, local communities, and natural resources.”               
91 Rebecca Murphy Jul 16, 2024

Luna Gaia, Terre Sciliane IGP (Sicily, Italy) Catarratto “Mandricardo” 2021 ($19, Serendipity Imports):  Luna Gaia wine is a joint effort by the Cantina Orsogna cooperative winery and BioGaia, a biodynamic Sicilian farmer collective.  Made from Sicily’s Catarratto grape, Mandricardo is a white wine with aromas and flavors of pineapple, citrus, and banana with notes of dried thyme and hints of dusty minerals.  It is luscious in the mouth, balanced with lively acidity.  Certified Biodynamic and Certified Organic.               
90 Rebecca Murphy Jul 16, 2024

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Tuscany:

Rosé:

La Spinetta, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Il Rosé di Casanova” 2023 ($19, Indigenous Selections):  La Spinetta has created this sophisticated wine from Tuscany with an equal measure of Sangiovese and Prugnolo Gentile, a Sangiovese clone.  It has a pale peach color, beautifully integrated aromas, with flavors of tangerine, Meyer lemon, grapefruit, strawberry, and peach with saline mineral notes.  It is dry, crisp, and refreshing, perfect for a summer meal.  Made with organic grapes.            
95 Rebecca Murphy Jul 16, 2024


NEW ZEALAND

Red:

Mt. Difficulty, Central Otago (South Island, New Zealand) Pinot Noir “Bannockburn” 2018 ($30, Foley Family Wines):  Bannockburn is an old mining town located in North-East Central Otago.  Surrounded by mountains, its elevation and geographic location make it an excellent location for Pinot Noir.   Mt. Difficulty’s Bannockburn Pinot Noir has traditional tart pomegranate and cranberry notes with iron, underbrush, and strawberry notes.  While not designated by the government, Mr. Difficulty believes the wines from this small area, just south of Kawarau River are special enough to designate on their bottles.           
92 Vince Simmon Jul 16, 2024


SOUTH AFRICA

White:

A. A. Badenhorst Family Wines, Swartland (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “The Golden Slopes” 2021 ($56, Broadbent Selections):  The 2021 Golden Slopes, crafted by Adi Badenhorst — a pivotal figure in the “Swartland Revolution” and a driving force behind the region’s development — is a structured and delicious Chenin Blanc from South Africa’s celebrated Swartland region.  It delights with saline minerality, lime blossom, and dusty yellow cherry notes.  The palate is fresh and spicy, with a vibrant finish that emphasizes its mineral character.  This versatile wine is an excellent match for a range of foods, from aged cheese to stuffed grape leaves.            
91 Miranda Franco Jul 16, 2024


SPAIN

Rueda:

White:

Beronia, Rueda (Castilla y León, Spain) Verdejo 2023 ($14, Gonzalez Byass):  The first time I visited Spain’s Rioja region over 20 years ago, Rueda was just getting a foothold in the American market as a source of white wine, even though the appellation has been around somewhat longer.  For those who are not familiar with the grape, think of a more herbal Sauvignon Blanc.  This one is good quality for the price with lots of pleasing green fruits, a touch of creaminess toward the finish and fresh herbal spiciness.        
90 Roger Morris Jul 16, 2024


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

New Clairvaux, California (United States) “Abbot’s Reserve, Thomas X. Davis” 2019 ($45):  One of the winery’s two Abbot’s Reserves, this one is 50% Syrah and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon made by winemaker Aimee Sunseri.  This Reserve also carries the California appellation and is not made entirely from the estate vineyards in Tehama County.  From the dark garnet color and initial aromas of cassis, blackberry, and spices, it has you thinking of refined Napa Cabernet.  On the palate, however, it presents flavors of dark fruit and Syrah’s earthy, slightly herbal side, but this wine is harmonious and nicely woven together.  With gentle tannins and ripe fruit, it finishes long and suggests it can age nicely.  It should be at its best around 2027-2028.       
93 Norm Roby Jul 16, 2024

Marietta Cellars, California (United States) “Old Vine Red" Lot Number 74 NV ($20):  For those of us who have been drinking California wines for almost 50 years, Old Vine Red is what we consider a legacy wine, one that we drank when we were young because we liked it and could afford it, and will still check in on from time to time.  In a time emphasizing varietal wines, it was also an early blend that wasn’t a jug wine and didn’t carry a vintage date.  This one has a lovely fruit and floral aroma, smooth cherry and berry fruits on the palate, and a lightly tart finish to complete everything.             
90 Roger Morris Jul 16, 2024

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Syrah "South Ridge" 2022 ($15):  A fresh, fruit-forward nose will entice everyone, and then palate complexity will win over the anti-Syrah snobs in your party with ease.  There is a citric edge to the acidity that brightens the red and black fruit, and proper pepper notes are intact.  For the price, as usual from this producer, this is a supreme value, and it’s great to see them continue to give this tier the same kind of attention that they give the rest of the lineup.  Contains 4% Viognier and 2% Mourvèdre.        
91 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2022 ($47):  Regardless of who owns this brand, I have always thought of the Russian River Pinot Noirs as the quintessential Sonoma Pinot, more flavorful and not as big as many more famous from the Sonoma Coast.  This is a wine you stay with vintage after vintage for consistency.  It is complex in structure as well as flavor – a blast of black raspberry fruit immediately followed by a metallic minerality and a shot of acidity.  Just delightful and at a bargain price.          
93 Roger Morris Jul 16, 2024

Tensley, Santa Barbara County (California) "All Blocks" Estate Blend 2019 ($46):  "All Blocks" is Tensley’s GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre – red blend focused on making a crowd pleaser.  The fruit is between dried and jammy with a touch of sweetness and earthy spices to provide complexity.  Tensley was launched in 1998 by Joey Tensley with a goal to explore and make excellent Santa Barbara Syrahs.  All Blocks is, in many ways, a continuation of that desire to explore wines of Santa Barbara beyond stand-alone Syrah.        
88 Vince Simmon Jul 16, 2024

Cattleya, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “The Goddess” 2022 ($125):  Part of Pinot Noir’s charm lies in its ability to bring non-fruit aromas and flavors to life in a way that will have you talking about things that you might not normally smell or eat -- damp or dry earth, talc, powder, etc.  This wine will take you on just such a discussion tack with its perfumed aroma profile, where notes of fresh turned field and sandalwood join the bright red fruit and brown spice tones.  It is deeper on the palate, and will require some cellar time to come together.  Hold 5 years or decant for a good while if going in early.      
94 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Cattleya, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Belly of the Whale” 2022 ($85):  Clones 667 and 777 make up the mix in Cattleya's 2022 “Belly of the Whale”, and they are given a dark side expression.  Black cherry fruit are offset by notes of mushroom and damp earth on the nose and in the mouth, where lively acidity gives them good push through the finish.  There is a fair amount of oak influence here that will take some time to fold all the way in, but the wait will pay dividends.        
93 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Cattleya, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2022 ($65):  This multi-clone blend begins on the dark side, with deep ruby color that has great clarity, and aromas of black cherry, fall spice and rich oak toast.  Those items carry through on the palate in bold style, with the oak forward in the finish.  This will take a good bit of additional aging to fully integrate the oak – I would hold this for a few years before diving in.  This Pinot Noir contains clones 115, 667, 77, Mt. Eden, and Swan.          
92 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Moone-Tsai, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir “Corinne Cuvée” 2022 ($120):  Outside of Napa Valley, the first full-bodied Pinot Noirs I tasted were from Sancerre – definitely Pinot flavors, but big in structure.  I thought then, what if this had been the hallmark of Pinots rather than Burgundy?  This Moone-Tsai has all those enchanting flavors and aromas of Burgundy-style Pinot – lots of raspberry, herbs, minerality, great complexity and acidity – but it also has almost 15% alcohol, which you might not notice in a Cabernet but do in a Pinot.  Nevertheless, I love this wine, but I realize purists may be turned off by its big shoulders.           
94 Roger Morris Jul 16, 2024

Rosé:

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Adelaida District - Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) “Dianthus” Rosé 2023 ($40):  This is a horse of a different color that can get you beyond the nonsense about light color making for the best Rosés.  It’s got Mourvèdre’s savory character in the front, with crisp acidity keeping the savory and herbal notes in balance with the cherry fruit.  There is a little grip that extends the finish and make this very food friendly.  Salads, roast chicken, fried chicken, chicken kabobs – you get the idea.  Contains 51% Mourvèdre, 38% Grenache, 8% Counoise and 3% Cinsaut.         
93 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) “Patelin de Tablas” Rosé 2023 ($28):  Here is a Rosé that is on the delicate side of the spectrum aromatically, with floral and soft strawberry and citrus scents.  All of that is followed by a bracing slap of flavor that will perk you right up with its tart, jazzy lemon and bay leaf flavors, bright acidity and refreshing finish that bring out the strawberry note.  If you’ve got the thirst, this will finish it off.  Contains 71% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 8% Vermentino and 1% Counoise.         
92 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

White:

Crosby Roamann, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2022 ($85):  I would like to know more about Crosby Roamann, a Napa Valley winery I am unfamiliar with, because this wine is stunning.  Sadly, I could not penetrate their website because a pop-up announcing their newsletter required an email address, which I was not inclined to leave, before proceeding.  On to the wine.  A subtle creaminess modulates the expected and enticing bite of Sauvignon Blanc.  Roamann’s Sauvignon Blanc delivers the ideal balance of energy and plushness.  Some might call it a Sauvignon Blanc for Chardonnay-lovers.  My advice to Crosby Roamann is to ditch the unnecessary wax capsule that makes opening the bottle more difficult than it need be.  And let people know about your story without forcing them to join your mailing list.  My advice to readers:  If your budget allows, buy this wine.          
93 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2024

MacRostie Winery And Vineyards, Petaluma Gap (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Nightwing Vineyard 2022 ($66):  I continue to believe, with thanks to this wine in particular, that Chardonnay is the best thing that MacRostie produces – and they produce a lot of very fine wine.  This shows the bold side of Chardonnay but does not go over the top, its opulent fruit managed by racy acidity, judicious oak choices and general food friendliness.  Keep ‘em coming!  This contains clones 72, Mt. Eden, 809, 95 and 124.     
94 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay “El Diablo” 2021 ($175):  Wow!  This is the goods and then some.  Its clonal mix would lead you to expect something great, and this does not disappoint.  Notes of deep lemon crème, Golden apple, and easy tropical aromas with moderate oak toast and spice aromas translate perfectly to flavors — all carried by taut structure and lingering into the distance.  Certainly one of the best Chardonnays that I have ever tasted.  Contains Montrachet, Robert Young and Old Wente clones.        
97 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

Bella Luna Estate Winery, San Luis Obispo Coast (California) Chardonnay Oliver’s Vineyard 2023 ($45):  Theoretically there is a balance point between opulence and restraint for every California Chardonnay, and that point can only be hit by picking the fruit at just the right time and getting it into and out of a barrel at — again — just the right time.  This seems exceedingly well timed, showing lovely fruit that adds a tropical (pineapple) note to the usual ripe apple and peach notes, with just enough spice to lend interest without intruding on the pure fruit at the wine’s core.  Terrific work here.           
95 Michael Franz Jul 16, 2024

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New York:

White:

Ravines Wine Cellars, Finger Lakes (New York) Dry Riesling Estate Grown 2020 ($26):  Winemaker Morten Hallgren and his wife, Lisa, founded Ravines in 2001.  Born in Denmark, Morten was raised on his family’s wine estate in France’s Côtes de Provence and later attended enology school in Montpellier.  Early in his career, he worked at Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux.  In 1998, he became the Chief Winemaker for Dr. Konstantin Frank Cellars in the Finger Lakes, where he discovered the immense potential of the region’s terroir and wines.  Their 2020 Estate Dry Riesling is a crisp, balanced, mouthwatering Riesling, featuring bright aromas and flavors of white flowers, lemon/lime zest, white peach, fennel, and a hint of wet stone.  While already delightful, this wine likely has another decade ahead of it.          
92 Miranda Franco Jul 16, 2024

Paumanok Vineyards, North Folk of Long Island (New York) Chenin Blanc 2023 ($30):  Paumanok Vineyards in Long Island, a family-owned and operated winery now managed by the second generation, produces a fresh and aromatic Chenin Blanc, perfect for hot summer days.  Bursting with tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, and melon aromas and flavors, it offers balanced citrus and tropical notes with lively acidity.  This food-friendly and refreshing white wine is ideal for a BYOB sushi restaurant or for enjoying at home with grilled shellfish.       
90 Miranda Franco Jul 16, 2024

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Virginia:

Rosé:

Stinson Vineyards, Monticello (Virginia) Rosé of Tannat 2023 ($25):  The world of Tannat possibilities is opening wide.  There are some great examples – both red and pink – coming out of Uruguay that are turning traditional wisdom about the variety on its head.  This Rosé of Tannat follows suit as a light-on-its-feet refresher, with watermelon, cherry and spice notes that will keep you coming back until the bottle is empty.  From Virginia – who knew?      
91 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2024

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Washington:

Rosé:

Julia’s Dazzle, Columbia Valley (Washington) Pinot Gris Rosé 2023 ($20):  Presented in an unusual Champagne-like bottle, Julia’s Dazzle Rosé was developed by Allen Shoup as part of the Long Shadows portfolio.  It is named after his granddaughter Julia, and was made by Gilles Nicault who came to the Washington state winery by way of Provence.  This Rosé is full of surprises starting with its onion skin color and its pretty aroma of berries with a rose petal note.  In the mouth, it is soft with refined and lively berry flavors.  Creamy in texture, it has just enough acidity to make you beg for a second glass.           
92 Norm Roby Jul 16, 2024

White:

Fidélitas, Red Mountain (Columbia Valley, Washington) Sauvignon Blanc 2022 ($35):  Fidélitas sources this Sauvignon Blanc from neighboring Klipsun, Artz, and Quintessence Vineyards.  The wine is big, bold and refreshing.  A touch of oak rounds out notes recalling fresh pear, honeysuckle, grapefruit, grass, and red apple.  Winemaker Charlie Hoppes, started his winemaking journey with white wine, and it’s no surprise his white wines are this good 32 years later.      
92 Vince Simmon Jul 16, 2024

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