About UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us
Chappellet, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Bateman Vineyard, Two Blocks “Grower Collection" 2017 ($60)
 Bateman Vineyard is located in a cool section of the Russian River Valley.  This Pinot Noir offers succulent red fruit flavors further enhanced by delicate notes of spice and chocolate.  The wine’s excellent structure and a generous finish are further plusses.  There is nothing heavy or overdone here, which makes this Grower Collection wine a particularly excellent partner for any number of different dishes, from steak to salmon.    
94 Marguerite Thomas


Posted by Michael Franz on August 2, 2020 at 10:19 AM

Welcoming Miranda Franco to Wine Review Online

Please join me in welcoming Miranda Franco, who joins WRO this week as a regular wine reviewer.  Miranda has many personal strengths, including a sharp mind and an energetic character, but most important from the perspective of our readers, she has a boundless love of wine and one of the most perceptive palates I’ve encountered in recent years.

I’ve known Miranda for five or six years now, tasting regularly with her in classes I conduct at Capital Wine School in D.C.  We work through a dozen wines per evening during those classes, usually tasting “blind,” and I always ask everyone to register an evaluation of each wine before I say anything myself.  It turns out that Miranda and I agree much more often than we disagree about the merits of particular wines, but that’s less important than the fact that she invariably assesses their attributes clearly and accurately.  Also quite telling is the fact that she’s a fearless blind taster…and one who is frighteningly good at guessing grape varieties and regions of origin, based solely on her sensory powers and capabilities for recall.

Having “courage of one’s convictions” is a necessary attribute for a critic in any field, whether we’re talking about movies or art or wine.  But, of course, blowhards have more than enough of this attribute, even as they lack modesty and a drive to accumulate knowledge.  By contrast, Miranda is quite modest—but also utterly resolute in building her knowledge and inventory of tasting experiences. 

Her drive to learn has been manifested since 2014 in the education and certification programs of the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust, the Society of Wine Educators and the Napa Wine Academy.  As for accumulating tasting experiences, she has traveled to many of the classic regions in the USA and Europe, and just as impressively, her searches for new frontiers in wine have taken her to Mexico, Croatia, Hungary, Argentina, Morocco, Chile and the Azores. 

Miranda holds an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and, by day, is Senior Policy Advisor in the Washington, D.C. law office of Holland & Knight.  She also participates in a range of charitable and professional organizations, and serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for the D.C. foster care system.

We are delighted that Miranda is joining Wine Review Online, and are certain that you’ll enjoy the wines she steers you toward from our “Reviews” page each week.  Her first three reviews appear below, to assure that you get a sense of what her bright future holds in store for all of us.  Wineries, importing companies or readers can contact Miranda at: 

*          *          *

Gai’a Estate, Santorini (Cyclades, Greece) Assyrtiko “Thalassitis” 2018 ($35):  Gai’a (pronounced Yay-ya) Estate’s 2018 Assyrtiko Santorini “Thalassitis” has sea salt and lemon zest aromas that immediately transport you to the beaches of Santorini.  The wine is seriously thirst-quenching, with the perfect amount of juiciness and crisp acidity that are needed to foil these hot summer days.  It has the distinct minerality you’d expect from a volcanic island with a briny edge.  The delicate lemon, lime, and honeysuckle flavors give it a bright and lingering finish.     

R. Lopez de Heredia, Rioja DOC Gran Reserva (La Rioja) “Viña Tondonia” Rosé 2009 ($125):  This is not your typical rosé.  For starters, it is over ten years old, which is worth emphasizing and spends four years in an oak barrel.  Notably, it is not released every year.  This unique wine made me fall in love (and become slightly obsessed) with the wines of Lopez de Heredia.  I had the pleasure of trying this wine in a different vintage a few years ago, and continue to seek it out in any vintage I can find. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to get your hands on, but it’s entirely worth the effort.  It is distinctive with the strong character of an aged wine, offering flavors of orange peel, tarragon, dried cherry, and almond.  It’s unusually complex for any wine, let alone a rosé, compelling you to pour another glass.  Blended from Garnacha 60%, Tempranillo 30% and Viura 10%, it still holds a good amount of acidity, showing some promise to age for a few more years -- if you can hold on to it for that long.  96

Rasa Vineyards, Columbia Valley (Washington) Petit Verdot Dionysus Vineyard “Living in the Limelight” 2016 ($60):  Rasa Vineyards has an outstanding selection of terroir-driven wines.  The “Living in the Limelight” Petit Verdot may not be one of their flagship wines, but it should not be ignored.  “Living in the Limelight” is an ode to the often-overlooked Petite Verdot grape.  This wine demonstrates that Petit Verdot is not merely a minor blending grape.  This blend of 95% Petit Verdot, 2.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc gushes with blackcurrant, black plum, and blackberry with a dash of black pepper and clove.  Smooth, and complete.  Enjoy it now or in years to come.  93

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Gérard Bertrand: Languedoc Visionary
Rebecca Murphy

Gérard Bertrand has a vision for the South of France including Languedoc and Roussillon: to be the first organic wine region in the world. The former rugby star is certainly doing his share to make it happen. I recently learned more about him, and his passion and his wines, in a recent webinar, including his efforts in converting more than 2000 acres of vineyards to biodynamic practices. He noted that the South of France is an ideal place to farm organically and biodynamically because of the proximity to the sea. There is ample rain in spring, which is very welcome since they do not have irrigation. Summers are usually dry. When it does rain, the wind in the area dries the vines, which prevents diseases making it easier to use biodynamic practices.
The "Other" Bordeaux Classification of 1855: Sauternes
Michael Franz

Many wine lovers are well acquainted with the world's most famous wine classification: Le classement de 1855, which set a pecking order for red Bordeaux that has proved remarkably accurate over the ensuing century and a half. Prepared for the Paris Universal Exposition of that same year, it has since become a fixture in the world of wine and remains the single most important influence on public perceptions of the relative stature of Bordeaux reds. Yet even sophisticated wine enthusiasts are often unaware that this historic classification also identifies top producers of the marvelous sweet white wines of Sauternes.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Pork Chops Dijonnaise

Classic Sauce Dijonnaise, an ages-old French favorite, is simple to make and easy to love. Paired with pork as it is here, it plays the leading role in a versatile dish that is also unusually wine friendly. 'Dijonnaise' refers to the Burgundian town of Dijon and hence to the mustard that was produced here since the Middle Ages. The mustard is reportedly no longer made in Dijon but in a neighboring town, and most of the mustard seeds themselves come from Canada. I am a little saddened to think that this beloved condiment is no longer produced in Dijon, but after a lifetime of enjoying it, I'll admit I don't find that the delicious mustard tastes any different today.
On My Table
Finding Atypical Freshness and Vibrancy in Sicily
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

One lesson that many of us have learned from our protracted confinement and conscribed isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic is the wisdom of surrendering control and accepting whatever comes our way. When my school, International Wine Center, conducted a seminar on Sicilian wines for its advanced students, I took that as an opportunity to explore for myself what's happening with Sicily's wines these days. Although I consider myself an Italian wine specialist, I have always favored the wines of the North and, apart from Etna, have failed to do justice to Sicily and its wines. My lesson-humbly learned - is a reminder not to paint the wines of Sicily with broad brush strokes of over-ripeness and heaviness. I knew that the wines of Etna were an exception and I realized that other exceptions existed, but now I know where to find them.