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Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige Terlano (Italy) Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” Riserva 2017 ($45, Banville Wine Merchants)
 Over and above being a standard-bearer for Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige, this is one of the world’s truly great white wines.  Invariably delicious when first released but equally delicious in different ways over as many as two decades of development, Vorberg Riserva is uncanny for a white that isn’t bolstered by fancy oak like the aristocrats of the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy.  I buy this almost every year and do my level best to keep my mitts off of it to allow the bottles to show their stuff over time, but my best is usually not good enough — I drink far too many of them before they’ve shows all the facets they could reveal over an extended period.  This 2017 vintage may not quite be up to 2014 or 2016, which were fantastic (and remain so, of course), but I may be underestimating it a bit at present.  Seriously rich and with a fruit profile that seems a bit riper than usual, this shows quite impressive palate weight but remains fresh thanks to more-than-adequate acidity.  It benefits greatly from undertones of saline minerality on the mid-palate that become overtones in the finish.  The minerality offers a wonderful counterweight to the ripe fruit flavors that recall baked apple pie filling, replete with the spicy edge and all.  Notably better when re-tasted on the second night after opening, this may prove to be yet another ageless wonder from this great house.              
94 Michael Franz


Posted by Michael Franz on April 21, 2021 at 5:05 PM

La Mancha Mind-Changer: Pago de la Jaraba

Among the many wonderful things about wine is that so-called “established facts” are only established until somebody comes along with enough energy and ambition to dis-establish them.  Regarding the large region of La Mancha, the “established fact” is that if you want fine Spanish wine, look elsewhere.  According to the 2nd Edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Traditionally the grapes were picked late in the season and fermented rapidly without temperature control in earthenware tinajas.  As a result, Manchegan wine was coarse and alcoholic.  Much was distilled or sold in bulk, and most wines were brown and oxidized by the time they reached consumers.”


Major changes were afoot prior to the turn of the millennium, but a lot of La Mancha’s grapes still get distilled to make brandy, and the region’s less-than-flattering reputation stalks the wines to this day.  That’s not all bad, however, as the very best producers are now making excellent wines that are priced far below what their quality could command from more fashionable regions.  Among these “very best producers,” Pago de la Jaraba is my favorite on account of a line of wines that offers something for almost everyone’s taste and budget—with remarkable value at every level.

The estate produces a very good Pago de la Jaraba Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($22, 91 Points) that is medium-bodied and admirably complex in flavor despite not being influenced by oak.  With fruit flavors spanning the Sauvignon spectrum ranging from melon to citrus, along with good palate weight but still a lot of refreshment value.  An exceptionally versatile white, this will pair beautifully with almost anything you’ll place on your summer dining table, and it also performs very well as a stand-alone sipper.

The current release reds are all reviewed below, beginning with one of the most interesting wines you could find from anywhere in the world for twelve bucks and running down to a truly great wine for less than $30.  Imported by Aurelio Cabestrero through his company, “Grapes of Spain,” these are reasonably available in many US states, and they will banish once and for all any lingering notions that La Mancha can’t make terrific wines:

Viña Jaraba (La Mancha, Spain) Consecha 2019 ($12):  Like most of the wines from this impressive estate, this is predominantly comprised of Tempranillo (80%) with 10% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Red berry fruit aromas and flavors are quite exuberant but not grapey or obvious at all, with no evidence of overt oak but some clear benefit from oxygen interchange gained from 4 months in oak barrels.  In terms of weight and food pairing suitability, this is comparable to relatively inexpensive Pinot from California or Toscana Rosso IGT wines, but much, much better than most of the wines in either of those categories at this asking price of $12.  It is much more savory and interesting than its CA Pinot competitors, and seems much less manipulated than the Tuscan competition priced in the low teens.  Test this for yourself against almost anything in either category and you’ll see what I mean.  89

Viña Jaraba (La Mancha, Spain) Crianza 2014 ($14):  This is among the most complex wines I’ve tasted in this below-$15 price range I have tasted for quite some time, and though I really admire the 2019 Consecha release from this producer, you’d be well advised to pay $2 more for this.  (However, any particular retailer is likely to have only one or the other in inventory, so if you see either of them, just grab, pay and run…gratefully.)  This shows just enough oak influence to provide some spice notes and firm up the finish with a little grip, yet the wine is definitely not overtly oaky (as the legal term “Crianza” might make you fear, based on the style of many inexpensive Rioja wines).  The eight-month span in oak barrels actually seems to have had more influence due to oxygen interchange than outright wood flavoring, which suits me just fine.  Though there’s less annoying oak in this than comparably priced Rioja, that’s partly because the wine has more body and fruit, thanks to a warmer climate and 10% each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Excellent period, and amazing for the price.  91

Viña Jaraba (La Mancha, Spain) Reserva 2016 ($16):  Of all the wines in the current set of releases from this excellent, high-value producer, this one shows the character of its growing season most clearly.  Elegant and complex and refined like so many 2016 wines (not only from Spain, but also Italy and France among others), this shows terrific class and complexity for a $16 wine.  It is no richer than the 2017 Crianza from this house, so don’t buy it for “punch.”  However, it shows an extremely high ratio of aroma and flavor to its weight, which is precisely the characteristic that makes for magic in wines from, say, Barbaresco or Burgundy.  The key difference here is that this costs less than 1/3 of what you’d pay for a wine of comparable quality from either of those regions.  Enough said.  When I first opened the five current releases from Jaraba, this was actually my favorite, though the Pago de la Jaraba surpassed it when fully aerated.  I note this only to let you know that this is ready to enjoy now, and wow…is it ever enjoyable.  93

Viña Jaraba (La Mancha, Spain) “Selección Especial 2018 ($20):  Among the current releases from this exemplary producer, this stands with the top-of-the-line 2018 Pago de la Jaraba as wines made for the cellar rather than current consumption, though the remarkably reasonable price of $20 for this could lead you to believe otherwise.  It shows notably more weight than the 2016 Reserva and though the wood is still reserved, this is the more taut and uncoiled of the two.  It incorporates 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, like the 2016 Reserva, but they are more evident in this wine, whereas the silky, subtle 2016 Reserva could easily pass for a 100% Tempranillo wine.  Our back-of-the-house WRO software won’t allow me to give this a score of 92+ to account for the wine’s ability to develop positively from time in bottle, but that potential is evident, so add a plus yourself and keep an eye peeled for this great value when scrutinizing for retail availability.  92

Pago de la Jaraba (La Mancha, Spain) 2018 ($29):  I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you thought I’d lost my mind for according 95 points for a $29 dollar wine.  In fact, that isn’t where I started, initially scoring this at 93 when lining it up against the other current releases from this house, but it was quite significantly better when I checked the bottle (which was left uncorked on my tasting bench) again the next day, and on the day after that it was better still.  Trust me—that is a rare occurrence.  Once its charms had fully unfolded, the wine displayed perfectly integrated oak that offered spicy, toast accents to a core of fruit that was pure and fresh but also alluringly savory notes.  The proportionality of the wine’s structural components is essentially perfect:  Acid, fruit, tannin and wood are all evident but so well swirled together by the time the wine is fully aerated that none of them stick out, even in the finish, which is impressively long and symmetrical.  Seriously impressive juice at a seriously attractive price.  95

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Oregon Exemplars: Stoller Wine Group
Rebecca Murphy

Stoller Wine Group, based Dayton, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, includes Stoller Family Estate, Chehalem Winery, Chemistry, History, and Canned Wines. The company's creator and driving force is Bill Stoller, who did not begin his business career in wine. He was co-founder of Express Employment Professionals in 1983, and in 2001 founder of Xenium, a human resources outsource company. His initial foray into wine began as one of several investors in Ridgecrest Vineyards. Planted by the Peterson-Nedry family, it was the first vineyard on a small ridge in the Chehalem Mountains. In 1993 Stoller became a partner in Peterson-Nedry's Chehalem Winery. That same year he bought a property that had been in his family for 50 years. He began planting grapes in 1995, and the rest is history…in progress.
Vintage Madeira
Ed McCarthy

Why am I writing about a wine that is quite rare nowadays, and no longer the great value that it was a few decades ago? I am addressing this wine because, if you are a wine lover and have not experienced Vintage Madeira, you will want to try it. Vintage Madeira is one of the greatest wines in the world, and still a value, considering its excellence and incredible longevity. Madeira wines are made in only one small place, the sub-tropical, mountainous island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean, south of Portugal and west of northern Africa. Although separated by water, Madeira is part of the national territory of the nation-state of Portugal. A surprising fact about Madeira wine is that it was the favorite wine of the American colonists-dating back to the 1600s-and was still popular well into the 19th century.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mermaid's Imperial Delight

When leafing through an old microwave cookbook published by Matsushida in1983, I came across a shrimp-based recipe titled 'Mermaid's Imperial Delight.' It was this name rather than the recipe itself that inspired me to tweak my own version of 'Mermaid,' substituting poblano pepper for the original green bell pepper, leaving out the mayonnaise that was in the original recipe, and adding a touch of garlic to the mix. According to the 1983 version of the recipe it was supposed to be cooked in a microwave oven, but I opted for the stovetop instead. The result was delicious. Shrimp continues to be the number one seafood consumed in the US, in fact its consumption actually increased from 4.5 pounds to 4.6 pounds annually per person according to figures from the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). There are many reasons to love shrimp, including its mild, un-fishy flavor and satisfying texture. Shrimp's versatility is impressive. It is tasty in oh-so-many dishes from shrimp cocktail, to fried shrimp, to shrimp fajitas to…well, Mermaid's Imperial Delight.
On My Table
Cabernet Sauvignon in Montalcino
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Count Francesco Marone Cinzano is a gregarious winery owner in Tuscany who, like so many winemakers these days, is frustrated that he cannot travel to the U.S. to present his wines to wine writers and the trade - no more than we can travel to see him at his stunning estate in the Montalcino district. When he hosted a Zoom tasting of his wines recently, dozens of us showed up to taste his 2016 Brunello di Montalcino, 2013 single-vineyard Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and 2015 Cabernet. The Brunello wines are unquestionably stunning, especially the 2013 Poggio al Vento Riserva. But Col d'Orcia's Olmaia Cabernet Sant'Antimo DOC captured my imagination. The late Filippo Di Belardino, my friend and everyone's friend, spent his career importing Italian wines and speaking to others about them with the comic timing of a late evening talk show host. Discussing the misguided trend in the 1980s to include Cabernet Sauvignon in some Sangiovese-based Tuscan wines, Phil would say, 'Using Cabernet in a Chianti Classico wine is like inviting your mother-in-law to live in your home: you think you've added just a minor amount of Cabernet, but before you know it, she has taken over the entire house!' The great super-Tuscan blends notwithstanding, Cabernet is a difficult fit in central Tuscany.