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THIS ISSUE’S REVIEWS

April 12, 2016 Issue


ARGENTINA

Red:

Trivento, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec Reserve 2014 ($11, Excelsior Wines and Spirits): Yet another example of why Malbec continues to be popular. There’s a lot to like for your eleven bucks, with blackberry, raspberry, cedar spice toasty oak and a savory note on the nose and in the mouth, with enough grip to stand up to myriad food pairings – anything from mixed tapas to a full parilla grill, you can’t go wrong.
89 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

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AUSTRALIA

Red:

Robert Oatley, Margaret River (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Series 2014 ($20, Pacific Highway Wine and Spirits): A fresh, lively Cabernet that’s proud of its terroir, showing plush black fruit, dried herbs, mild earth and soft brown spice. Firm grip suggests a big roast or lamb chops as a food pairing.  It should be fairly easy to find, and it’s priced well below its quality level. Well done!
91 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

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FRANCE

Alsace:

Sparkling:

Lucien Albrecht, Alsace (France) Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV ($21): A stunning expression of the sunny slopes in Alsace.  This sparkling rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir using whole clusters in the methode traditionale.  While aromas of strawberry rhubarb pie with a toasty butter crust greet the nose, the palate adds more tart characteristics of fresh raspberry and lemon zest.
92 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Bordeaux:

Rosé:

Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux (France) Rosé 2015 ($12): This Bordeaux showstopper is a blend of traditional varieties including 53% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. A rich hue of blush, this lovely wine offers notes of red currant, raspberry and ruby red grapefruit with a touch of faint sage at the end.  Supple fruit on the palate is followed with bright kiss of fleshy lemon and a lingering finish.  This vibrantly fruity rosé would pair well with lighter fare such as grilled salmon with pearl tomato, feta and pearl couscous salad.
93 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Provence:

Rosé:

Bieler Père et Fils, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence (France) Rosé “Sabine 2015 ($13): Everything about this quintessential Provencal Rosé says “springtime!”  A happy blend of rich wild strawberry, cherry, and pomegranate dance in the glass with savory sun-dried herbs.  This crisp, refreshing blend of 40% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cinsault and 3% Rolle offers a supple roundness of texture on the finish.  A definite palate pleaser for the months to come.
96 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Rhône:

Rosé:

E. Guigal, Côtes du Rhône (France) Rosé 2014 ($12): Just beyond Provence, the Rhône Valley puts out some pretty powerful competition in the rosé category and famed winery E. Guigal consistently reveals a refreshing expression of the region.  The 2014 Rosé is delicious and delicate, with a mélange of fresh summer strawberries, raspberries and cherry that elegantly funnels into a lingering mineral-driven finish.  A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, this pretty pale pink number is a perfect partner for outdoor picnics.
95 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

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GERMANY

Pfalz:

White:

August Kesseler, Pfalz (Germany) Riesling Kabinett 2014 ($18, Vineyard Brands): Low in alcohol (just 10%), this peachy Riesling offers medium-sweet flavors with sufficient acidity for balance and structure. Coming from a relatively warm growing region (warm, that is, for Germany), it has a soft, almost lush texture, yet still provides plenty of refreshing flavor, with nothing remotely cloying about it. 90Paul Lukacs Apr 12, 2016

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GREECE

White:

Domaine Sigalas, Santorini (Cyclades, Greece) Assyrtiko 2015($25, Diamond Wine Imports): Every year, springtime is heralded by the release of a new vintage of Domaine Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko. This is a consistently superb white that ages beautifully but provides a delicious tasting experience even in its youth. The 2015 vintage continues an admirable tradition. The Assyrtiko grapes grown in the volcanic soils and spare conditions of the island yield wines of considerable power and depth. The 2015 Sigalas bottling offers an exotic nose of peach, guava, Rainier cherry, honey, lemon zest and subtle herbs — all underscored by an equally complex palate. The succulent, pure peach, citrus and tropical fruit flavors are backed by hints of honey, coriander, and herbs. The robust and exotic aromas and flavors and enhanced by a rich and creamy texture that allows the finish to linger long and well. Delicious now, experience shows that you can enjoy it for another 5+ years. 95 Wayne BeldingApr 12, 2016

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ISRAEL

Galilee:

Rosé:

Galil Mountain, Upper Galilee (Israel) Rosé 2014 ($14): This is historic region offers some beautiful rare finds and this unique blend is no exception.  Showing refreshing acidity and notes of red fruit and rose petals on the palate, this wine is sourced from vineyards in Israel’s Upper Galilee.  Hand-harvested Sangiovese is processed as a “white wine” and later blended with Pinot Noir and Grenache produced in the saignée method.  An exceptional conversation starter for any summer get together.
93 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

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ITALY

Rosé:

Tasca d’Almerita, Sicily (Italy) Nerello Mascalese “Le Rose di Regaleali Terre Siciliane” 2015 ($13, Winebow): Cool, moist and juicy, with chaste fruit flavors and a sprightly splash of acidity on the finish, this pretty pink wine is versatile and adaptable to a variety of occasions. Reasonably priced and easy on the palate, sip this rosato solo or pour it at a party, serve it at a picnic or cook-out, toast the recent graduate or raise a glass of it to your mom. Le Rose di Regaliali is definitely a multi-purpose, multi-occasion wine. 90Marguerite Thomas Apr 12, 2016

Abruzzo:

Rosé:

Villa Gemma Masciarelli, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (Italy) Rosé 2014($14): This complex and cherry pink rosé is a heftier style than your average rosé, but a welcome addition to the mix.  Made from 100 percent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes and presents with an intense cherry pink color and a fragrant floral bouquet etched with rich pomegranate and fresh thyme.  A sublime accompaniment to a pizza al fresco.
95 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Friuli:

Red:

Le Monde, Friuli Grave (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2014 ($17, The Sorting Table): Le Monde is a producer worth seeking out. While situated within the Friuli Grave DOC, their local conditions set them apart from most and yield distinctive wines. In an area mostly known for gravel, Le Monde’s vineyard have a greater proportion of calcareous clay, which seems to endow their 2014 Cabernet Franc bottling with added depth and richness. The wine offers a deliciously ripe and round style. The bouquet shows black cherry, red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with hints of green herbs, graphite and black pepper. The red and black cherry fruit flavors are underscored by savory herbal tones and black pepper spice. The herbal style of the Cabernet Franc is beautifully expressed and balanced nicely by the rich fruit. It’s a delicious Bordeaux-style red that will age gracefully for another 5 years and more. 92 Wayne Belding Apr 12, 2016

Piedmont:

Red:

Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Nebbiolo Cannubi 2011($73, Empson USA): Although this vintage has been in the market for several months, it is still available from several sources and only getting better as it ages. The Cannubi vineyard is one of the best sites in all of Barolo and Einaudi’s 2011 is a benchmark for the appellation. The ripeness of the 2011 harvest adds flesh to an already fine wine. The bouquet is forward and complex, with sweet cherry and raspberry fruits enhanced by the classic “forest floor” style of Barolo — tones of dried leaves, flowers, smoke, cocoa, herbs, anise, and baking spices. The flavors are multilayered and rich with the ripe red fruits interwoven with leafy, herbal elements as well as the smoke, vanilla and spice components. Although approachable and thoroughly enjoyable now for its generous fruit, the 2011 Einaudi Cannubi Barolo will develop and improve for another 20+ years in the cellar. 95 Wayne Belding Apr 12, 2016

Sicily:

Red:

Palari, Faro (Sicily, Italy) A Francisa “Santa Ne” 2008 ($160, Cru Artisan Wines / Banfi): There are so many things that set this wine above the crowded field. One is its unique personality, including flavors and aromas that seem vaguely familiar yet are hard to pin down. That furtive essence engaging my taste buds, that je-ne-sais-quoi tickling my olfactory nerve — it all seems vaguely herbal and slightly mineral-rich in a damp-earthy way, with a whisper of exotic fruit somewhere in there. And then, just when you might think it’s all over, the wine’s tender yet precise texture grips your senses in the gustatory equivalent of a hug. The word yummy seems too sophomoric for such a sophisticated wine, but on the other hand it may be just the right descriptor for this striking yet unintimidating wine. 96 Marguerite Thomas Apr 12, 2016

Palari, Faro (Sicily, Italy) 2009 ($100, Cru Artisan Wines / Banfi):This wine’s brick-red color and seductive floral and spicy aromas alert you from the get-go that this is going to be an unusual wine, and with the first sip you will be smitten. How could you not love this unusual very dry, very rich wine with its soft tannins and persistent finish? Located in an ancient wine producing area high above the Straights of Messina the 80-plus year old vines are hand harvested. The tiny Faro (“lighthouse”) denomination almost disappeared until Palari’s owner restored his grandfather’s estate in 1990. Made from a blend of native grapes dominated by Nerello Mascalese, plus small amounts of Nerello Cappuccio, Cor’e, Palumba, Jacche, Nocera, and Acitana. 95 Marguerite Thomas Apr 12, 2016

Alessandro di Compreale, Sicily (Italy) Syrah 2012 ($35, Panebianco): When it comes to Sicily, Syrah isn’t my favorite red grape variety — give me Nero d’Avola, Nerello or one of the other fine and distinctive Sicilian varieties any time. But with that said, from its attractive beet-red color all the way through its powerful yet also elegant dark mocha and dried berry flavors to its long lip-smacking aftertaste this is a very successful and satisfying wine. One of its charms is something it doesn’t have: An overly aggressive oak presence, which is a character flaw that brings too many Sicilian Syrahs down to a mundane level as far as I’m concerned. Nor am I alone in this sentiment: “Sicily is becoming the Napa of Italy,” seems a popular refrain these days, and I don’t think anyone means it as a compliment. Yes, I know, many wine drinkers love big oaky red wines, but luckily for those of us who prefer more authentic textures and flavors this is not one of them. 92 Marguerite Thomas Apr 12, 2016

Trentino:

Sparkling:

Ferrari, Trentino (Italy) Brut Rosé NV ($30): The only thing more fun than pink wine is pink with with bubbles. Especially this elegant Brut Rosé from Ferrari.  Established over a century ago in Italy’s mountainous northern region of Trentino, Ferrari was recently named Wine Enthusiast’s “2015 Best European Winery.”  This wine is produced in the traditional method and undergoes more than two years of bottle aging on the lees.  Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this wine is crisp and bright with notes of wild strawberry and raspberry cream and elegantly balances acidity and sweetness with a refreshing finish.
93 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Veneto:

Rosé:

Bertani, Veneto (Italy) Bertarose Rosé 2014 ($20): It’s been referred to as the “Rosé of Kings.”  Perhaps because this particular bottling from Veneto is from one of the northern Italy’s most iconic and historic producers in the past 150 years, and bares the royal seal of the Savoia family.  Aromas of cherry and rose petal erupt from the glass with a faint whiff of spice.  The texture and feel is bone dry, racy, and with a little more spice coming through along with a toasted nut character.
94 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

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PORTUGAL

Rosé:

Vinha da Defesa, Alentejo (Portugal) Rosé 2014 ($10): For those who love a darker shade of pink, this opulent Portuguese blend of Aragonês (Tempranillo) and Syrah comes from the Alentejo region and offers a deeply structured alternative to the light and delicate vin gris styles of Southern France.  Macerated cherries dominate the nose and palate framed by fresh spring herbs of mint and basil.
94 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

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SPAIN

Rosé:

Hacienda de Arínzano, D.O. Pago di Arínzano (Spain) Rosé 2015($19): The deeply blush-colored wine is from the first winery in Northeast Spain to receive the prestigious Pago designation due to its unique landscape and climate.  This rosé is made from 100% Tempranillo and offers intense aromas of strawberry, pink grapefruit and white pepper laced with a hint of rose petal.  An excellent wine for a juicy grilled burger.
93 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Sparkling:

Anna de Codorníu, Catalonia (Spain) Cava Brut Rosé NV ($14):The only thing more fun than pink wine is pink with with bubbles. Especially this elegant Brut Rosé from Codorníu.  Notes of crushed red berries intermingle with underlying minerality and a delicate mid-palate with crisp, fresh powdery berry flavors on to the finish.  An excellent aperitif for the patio.
92 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Castilla y León:

White:

Finca Montepedroso, Rueda (Castilla y León, Spain) Verdejo 2014 ($15, Winebow): Fresh and bright, with the variety’s characteristically crisp flavors and a smooth, supple texture, this Verdejo offers delicious warm-weather drinking. Perhaps because the grapes come from Rueda’s highest elevation vineyards, it has plenty of acidity and shows no sign of fatigue. Still, this is a wine to drink in its youth, meaning this spring and summer.

90 Paul Lukacs Apr 12, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($18): Here’s a solid food friendly Pinot Noir at a pleasing price.  Medium extraction and well-managed French oak give us a mouthful of cherry, strawberry, cranberry and spice, with crisp acidity that adds a citric note to the long finish.  Salmon or swordfish – get a nice cut with what you saved on the wine.
88 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

Pedroncelli Winery, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard “Wisdom” 2012($36): With experience comes wisdom, and Pedroncelli will celebrate 90 years of experience next year, likely with a few bottles of this wine.  Fine age-worthy structure, popping acidity, classic Sonoma Cabernet aroma and flavor profile, supple tannins and a lingering well integrated finish show the insight gained over many years.  And you get to enjoy the benefits.  Contains 10% Malbec.
92 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

Niner Wine Estates, Edna Valley (California) Pinot Noir Jespersen Ranch 2013 ($35): There’s a lot going on in this cool climate Pinot Noir.  It opens with leaf and brown spice aromas that morph into deep spiced cherry, raspberry and a mix of damp and dry earth and a note of lemon zest with a slow draft on the glass.  On the palate it’s quite complex, delivering the promise of the nose over lively acidity and finishing long with a citrus note coming forward. A beautiful food wine.
93 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

River Myst Haven, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($52): A new player to me, and one worth keeping an eye on. This Pinot Noir bottling is a lovely low alcohol mix of earthy minerality, cherry and oak spice aromas and flavors that are are joined by touches of pepper and herbs.  The acidity is very lively and props up the flavors in a lingering finish.  It needs a bit of bottle age to show its full potential, but will come around with elegance and style.
90 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

Freemark Abbey, Rutherford (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($70):Reflecting the general trend with California Cabernets, Freemark Abbey’s wines have become bigger and bolder, showing more extract, sweetness, and overall power than they did when the winery first became famous a generation ago. And for those enamored of this muscular, jammy style, the 2012 from Rutherford offers extremely satisfying drinking. It’s forceful but not overbearing, and has sufficient tannin to reward cellaring for a good five to ten years. Should you choose to drink it young, definitely decant it and let it sit for a good hour or so before serving it. 92 Paul Lukacs Apr 12, 2016

Presqu’ile, San Luis Obispo County (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Steiner Creek Vineyard 2013 ($48): A very interesting wine.  Don’t be put off by an initial nose that shows cracked tomato leaf and dusty aromas.  Give it some swirling in the glass to release the dark cherry fruit and brown spice that soften the earthy elements and make for a Pinot Noir that certainly isn’t for everyone, but will please fans of a funky, dusty style.  This would pair beautifully with herb encrusted pork or beef dishes.
91 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

Tuscandidio Winery, South Coast (California) Barbera Estate Grown 2013 ($2,290): I’m surprised that Barbera hasn’t caught on more quickly in California.  Almost all of the examples I taste are well made and quite food friendly thanks to the grape’s natural acidity.  Winemaker Jim Tondelli has a winner in this bottle, with a mix of lively black cherry, leaf and spice that ride the acid wave through a long fresh finish.  This is thoroughly enjoyable now and will have no problem aging another five years.
90 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

White:

Niner Wine Estates, Edna Valley (California) Chardonnay Jespersen Ranch 2013 ($25): Not many Chardonnays can handle an oak load like this one has and still provide full rich fruit, vibrant acidity and great complexity from start to finish like this one does.  It hits my markers for crisp and creamy, with rich lemon, apple, spice and stony mineral aromas and flavors.  I tasted this alongside a garlic soup with poached egg and croutons with smoked paprika and it really came to life.  Try THAT with any old Chardonnay.
91 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

J. Lohr, Monterey County (California) Riesling “Bay Mist” 2014($10): I always like this bottling from J. Lohr.  It’s fresh and clean, never too sweet for its acidity, and always flavorful, with this vintage showing sweet apple, pear and stonefruit over granite minerality. The finish is crisp and bright – try it with simple fresh roasted cauliflower. That’s what the Monterey Wine Competition judges recommend.
88 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

Presqu’ile, San Luis Obispo County (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay Presqu’ile Vineyard 2013 ($45): Hooray for age-worthy Chardonnay — something that only a few California producers are shooting at these days.  This wine shows a depth and richness that will only improve as the acidity softens with time, allowing the lemon, quince, mellow oak spice and mild herbs to really sing.  Winemaker Dieter Cronje let his Burgundian side show here.  Well done!
92 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2016

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