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Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($27)
 The 2016 Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon is a remarkable value among quality California Cabernets.  The fruit for this wine is sourced from Dry Creek Valley vineyards and the warmth of the site is reflected in the ripeness of the wine.  The nose offers a lovely floral note plus ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruits backed by hints of red cherry, cocoa, vanilla and herbs.  It is round and smooth on the palate, with considerable depth for such an affordable bottling.  The layers of black fruits are enhanced by the toasty oak nuances and the delicate herbal tones.  It is fully enjoyable now for its lush fruit character and it will cellar well for another five years or more. 
91 Wayne Belding


Posted by Michael Franz on November 29, 2019 at 11:46 AM

Michael Franz's 2019 Wine of the Year: Vietti Barolo Ravera 2015

Writing this on the day after Thanksgiving, I'm deeply thankful for all of the wonderful wines I was fortunate to taste during 2019.  There were so many of them out of the 9,000+ I tasted that selecting "the best of the best" is more an act of impulse and emotion than direct comparison, as the top wines were tasted at different times in varied settings on four different continents.  Nevertheless, the wine that still holds the strongest grip on me was one I tasted all the way back in January in the gorgeous town of Alba, just below the Alps in northwestern Italy. 

I hasten to emphasize that the beauty of the place had nothing to do with the evaluation experience, as I tasted this "blind" among many, many other newly-released, Nebbiolo-based wines over the course of four days.  Working on 100+ of these per day is a little less fun and a lot more like "work" than you might guess...until a truly great wine in the long sequence just kicks down the door and announces itself with exhilarating clarity, which is how Vietti's 2015 Ravera presented itself to me.

If you've read some of my Barolo reviews from the past 10 years of blind tastings in Alba, you'll know that I’m not overawed by the region’s big names, nor afraid at all to give very high scores to up-and-coming producers regardless of how obscure they may yet be.  But with that noted, it is also true that sometimes famous houses prove entirely deserving of their fame, as in the case of Vietti's phenomenally great Barolo from the Cru of Ravera in the commune of Novello. 

In terms of texture, it is simply the best 2015 Barolo I’ve tasted, with an uncanny combination of silkiness and proportionality that effectively disguises the fact that it is actually a big, concentrated, powerful wine.  Wine descriptors are all just analogies, so bear with me while I note that it is essentially impossible for a human being to come off as “charming” and “formidable” simultaneously, whereas this wine proves that the combination is no impossibility in the rare realm of truly great Barolo. 

Ultra-complex and yet amazingly pure and natural-seeming, this will be expensive, but well worth taking a hammer to your piggy bank.  $195 is a lot to ask from a piggy bank, but not too much to ask for this amazing wine, which I may have under-scored at 99 Points.  Do what you must:  Raid the kids' College Fund, sell your watch, hock your wedding ring...do whatever is necessary to get ahold of one of these.  Then wait about 8 - 10 years, and get ready to hear the Heavenly Choir chime in when this hits your palate....

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers
Michael Apstein

The obvious choice for gifts for your wine loving friends this holiday season is a bottle-or two-of wine. Sadly, too many are intimidated to give wine to a so-called wine expert. We've all heard the excuses: I don't know anything about wine; I don't want to embarrass myself by giving an ordinary wine; I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a prestigious one. Well, I have lots of non-wine suggestions that would make perfect gifts that I'll get to in a minute. But first, let me remind you: You can safely give a bottle of wine. Just give something that you've enjoyed and, if possible, is a little off the beaten track. If you've liked it, then it's a safe bet that your wine-loving friend will at least find it interesting. After all, you're friends for a reason. But if that argument doesn't convince you, here are other options.
Windblown Vineyard Benefits
Wayne Belding

Vineyard soils are held in great esteem throughout the wine world. Growers tout the exemplary nature of the earth underpinning their vines - whether the basis be granite, limestone, basalt or other rock types. Loess soils, while they are not as often noted, are found throughout the agricultural world, comprising nearly ten percent of the earth's soil surface. They are prized for their fertility and for the abundant crops they support. These widely distributed soils are of interest to winelovers because they underlie several famous winegrowing regions. We find references to loess and wine most commonly in Austria, Germany, Hungary and the western United States. On close inspection, we find that loess is more widely distributed in vineyards than we might have thought.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Red Curry Chicken and Rice

We might have titled this modest essay Ode to Red Curry Paste, for in our view this condiment is one of the tastiest assets available to contemporary cooks. Whether you purchase a little jar of this versatile concoction or make your own curry paste, you'll be happy to have it in your kitchen. At the moment we've been favoring a small (4 ounce) jar of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste, which is widely available in grocery stores across the country. This is not a convoluted product; the ingredients listed on the label are simply, 'spices (including red chili), chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, salt, shallot, coriander root & kaffir lime peel.' While it may sound simple, this mixture delivers a wealth of complex flavors. More at home with whites and rosés than with reds, this satisfying dish benefits from a hint of sweetness to play off of its heat. The spicier you make it, the sweeter the wine should be. Our version was only slightly hot, so the wines we liked most were drier than we might have expected. If you make the dish, choose the wine you serve based on how much heat you want.
On My Table
The Many Faces of California Pinot Noir
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

It's easy for a wine drinker to say, 'I like Pinot Noir,' but the more that you drink Pinot Noir, the more you realize how simplistic that statement is. What set me thinking about diversity in Pinot Noir was a tasting of 11 Pinots that had so very much in common, and yet were each distinctive. The wines were all from the same winery, Dutton Goldfield, all from the 2017 vintage, all produced by the same winemaker (Dan Goldfield), mainly from Sonoma County, all produced with a five- to seven-day cold soak before fermentation, and mainly sharing a similar oak aging regiment (16 or 17 months in French oak, 50 to 55 percent new). The overall quality was excellent. And yet the wines were different enough that I could devote a playful hour to deciding which of the wines I preferred and why.