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Lange Estate Winery And Vineyards, Dundee Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Lange Estate Vineyard 2018 ($70)
 I visited this vineyard years ago, and can still picture it in my mind, but that recollection can now be eclipsed by the vivid current experience of this wine’s beauty, as well as the sneaky power enveloped in its soft structure.  Deeply pigmented and quite rich and soft in feel, yet not at all chunky or obvious, it reminds me of a well-drawn, two-dimensional “optical illusion” cube that appears entirely different in three dimensions depending on how you choose to look at it.  (I drew thousands of these things while bored out of my gourd in high school classes, and know whereof I speak.)   It really is a light-bodied wine if you choose to regard it that way, but also punches way above its weight in terms of depth and length if you elect to pull those attributes into your sensory foreground.  This is the magic of terrific renditions of Pinot, of course: they can be lacy and ethereal, or coiled and formidable, but not that many renditions capture both of these characteristics.  This one does.  Absolutely delicious now, but surely more intricate if less fruity a decade from now.  Take your pick.           
95 Michael Franz


Posted by Michael Apstein on January 6, 2021 at 6:46 PM

Changes and Consistency at Merry Edwards

Changes abound at Merry Edwards Winery, one of California’s leading Pinot Noir producers.  In 2019, Louis Roederer, the Champagne house, purchased the winery, adding it to their already impressive group of California properties.  With the 2018 vintage, Heidi von der Mehden took over from Merry Edwards herself as winemaker after working with her since 2015.  What hasn’t changed is the stunning quality of the wines.

Though responsible for the entire lineup of 2018s, Von der Mehden’s talents were clearly apparent earlier with the Bucher Pinot Noir.  She has been responsible for that wine since it was first added to the Merry Edward’s Pinot Noir portfolio with the 2016 vintage.  Though I didn’t taste that initial bottling, I reviewed the 2017 Bucher (93 pts) last year: “The 2017, a large-framed Pinot Noir, combines ripe black fruit notes with fabulous acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.  Not overdone, it carries the 14.5 percent stated-alcohol seamlessly.  Underneath the fruit lies an intriguing and balancing mineral-like tarriness.  A delightful hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces that this wine, as juicy as it is, is not solely about fruit.  Refined tannins made it hard to resist now.”

The 2018 Pinot Noirs are equally impressive.

The 2018 Sonoma Coast bottling displays bright and lively red fruit character with savory nuances and a welcome hint of bitterness in the finish.  It’s a “high-toned,” leaner style of Pinot Noir that superbly reflects the cool coastal influences (91; $54).  It makes a wonderful contrast with the riper and deeper 2018 Russian River Valley bottling, whose fruit comes from a variety of vineyards in that warmer AVA.  A weightier wine with black, rather than red, fruit, the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is juicy and well within bounds despite a 14.5 percent-stated alcohol.  It also has that alluring bitterness in the finish (92; $60).

The three single vineyard bottlings continue to show the importance of site: Same vintage, same grape, same winemaker, but three different wines, all of which are superb.

The floral 2018 Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir displays a gorgeous layered complexity, with minerality and dark fruitiness intertwined.  It conveys far more mineral-like nuances than the Russian River Valley, reflecting the focus of a single vineyard.  Heft and intensity without being over the top, coupled with suave tannins and an engaging bitterness in the finish, make it hard to resist now (94; $73).

The dark and brooding 2018 Olivet Lane is amazingly refined, especially considering its concentration.  Less floral and fragrant than the Klopp Ranch, it expands and explodes as it sits in the glass.  Initially, black fruit flavors predominate, but with air and time, savory notes appear and take over.  Merry Edwards’ signature suaveness amplifies its appeal.  Though plush and powerful, it is not heavy nor overdone (96; $72).

Unlike its two stablemates, the youthful 2018 Meredith Estate displays toasty oak flavors and little else initially.  But, befitting a youthful, tightly wound wine, its considerable charms emerge with time in a glass.  Denser and more concentrated than the other two, it remains balanced and within bounds.  Under the new team, Merry Edwards continues to avoid the overdone, “Pinot Syrah” style.  Similar to their other 2018s, its grandeur is apparent in an intriguing dark cherry-like hint of bitterness in the exceptionally long finish.  The 2018 Meredith Estate needs a few years to come together, as I’m sure it will, judging from previous vintages (96; $80).

Thankfully, it appears that there’s no change in style despite new ownership and a new winemaker at Merry Edwards.  Their Pinot Noirs remain bold, yet balanced, expressions of that grape, not Burgundy wannabes. 

Read more:  Michael Apstein
Connect with him on Twitter:   @MichaelApstein

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
In Vino Veritas - A Useful Allegory in the Age of the Big Lie
Rich Cook

In wine, there is truth. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that truth is a pretty hot commodity right now. After a few years of the 'Alternative Facts Era' (which is hopefully taking its final breaths on the same day that this column is published) I couldn't be hungrier for an unobstructed view of truth bolstered by actual factual evidence and the perspectives of experts whose hard-earned expertise has been severely undervalued of late. I believe that wine and the truths that lie within might just be instructive for a time such as this. One of the reasons that we treasure wine is that its inherent truths are self-evident. When we open a bottle, pour it in a glass and raise the rim to our nose, the wine begins to reveal itself, and for better or for worse, the truth begins to come out. Often our first impression of the wine is less-than-favorable, particularly when it comes to newly released wines that are structured to age into the future before their full truth can be exposed. With a little time, and awareness that certain factors can mask the underlying truth, what may have presented poorly initially can, ultimately, present beautifully. If you are paying attention, that wine will show you what it is.
What I've Been Drinking Lately: January 2021
John Anderson

For most of us, the grand wines and grander Champagnes in our cellars met their Waterloo over the holidays. Drunk with pleasure but harder than ever to replace, what with world-wide demand and tariffs. I've been told by countless friends in the trade that they sell perhaps 80% of all their stock of sparkling wines between mid-November and New Year's Day. And virtually all their big-ticket items. I believe it. The holidays over, bonuses eaten up and the Tax Man Cometh, what's a wine-loving feller or lady gonna do? Well, one of the abiding themes of this column will be this: A smart consumer can still, even in this day of Trump tariffs (and let us hope for a better day soon on that front), find really good, interesting French, Italian and German wines for under $25-$30 a bottle, for sure; and perhaps as low as $10-$12 a bottle-if you work at it, read-up and listen to good advice. And that is what I am here for, Dear Reader.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mushrooms Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon is a wonderful dish to eat in any season although most people seem to find it an especially gratifying winter dish to be savored…like, say, right now. I've recently been enjoying a riff on the traditional BB by substituting mushrooms for the beef. I know, I know, this seems like gourmet sacrilege but trust me, it's a delicious, nutritious, simple-to-make variation on the beloved classic. While I sometimes include bacon and even beef stock in this recipe (just to 'beef things up,' so to speak), in this particular instance I wanted to keep the basic flavors simple and uncluttered. I did include a few button mushrooms but mostly I used sliced shitakes, whose firm texture is almost beefy. These mushrooms can be simmered for a long time without disintegrating or getting mushy as they absorb the flavors of wine and seasonings. For a little extra 'oomph' you could certainly add a mirepoix (diced carrots, onions and celery), or Holy Trinity (similar to Mirepoix but with bell pepper instead of carrots), or soffrito (a more freewheeling blend of all the above ingredients plus, perhaps, garlic, parsley and or cilantro).
On My Table
The Evolution of Chianti Classico Grand Selezione
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

When the Chianti Classico Consorzio introduced the designation Chianti Classico Gran Selezione in 2013, the move was seen as an effort to create a higher quality tier among the wines of the region. Previously, the wines fell into either the basic Chianti Classico category or that of Chianti Classico Riserva, differentiated by slightly more than two years of additional aging. The Gran Selezione wines are required to come from a single vineyard or estate owned by the producer and aged a minimum of 30 months - six months more than Riserva - before release. The new category was controversial. Reactions involved confusion at best, and some critics expressed disapproval for what seemed to be an all too obvious marketing scheme. But as the term began appearing on wine labels, usually on a producer's finest and most expensive Chianti Classico, it gained traction as a quality indication.