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Lafond Winery & Vineyards, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Chardonnay "SRH" 2017 ($24)
 Big props to Lafond for consistently great wines like this crisp Chardonnay.  Judiciously oaked so as to accent the lemon and pear with easy toast and spice without overwhelming the fruit.  A bright acid kiss on the end freshens the palate and sets you up for the next bite of fresh baked halibut.  Oops -- dreaming out loud again.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.   
94 Rich Cook


Posted by Robert Whitley on February 17, 2019 at 11:05 AM

Winery to Watch: TerraPura

In 2016, Chile's Matetic Wine Group purchased an obscure but modern winery in the Colchagua Valley, one of the country's most renowned wine regions.  Matetic, true believers in organic and biodynamic farming, did two things to move the needle for the TerraPura winery: hired a new winemaker, Felipe Vial, and enlisted the services of Napa Valley winemaker Bob Pepi as winemaking consultant.

Pepi brought a trove of experience in South America to the task, having served Argentina's Valentin Bianchi as a consultant for more than a decade.  The TerraPura project is aimed at value consumers.  The wines are "line" priced at $11.99 each, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pepi and taste four of the 2018 releases: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Carmenere, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

What struck me most was the clean, fresh delivery and fruit purity.  None of the wines were barrel-fermented, though nuances of wood spice emerged because of the use of barrel staves during the winemaking process.

Pepi, who has his own label, Eponymous, that sources grapes from a number of top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, favorably compares the terroir of Chile to California.

"I consider Argentina somewhere between Bordeaux and California, but with a little more fruit than Bordeaux," Pepi said. "Chile is more like California with its diversity of soils and climate, and the wines have plenty of fruit."

The Sauvignon Blanc, from the Valle de Curico, was bright and fresh with notes of grapefruit.

The Pinot Noir, from the cooler Valle Itata, offered notes of cherry and spice and impressive persistence on the finish.  Pepi is especially proud of the Pinot.

"I'm pretty excited about this," he said. "I don't think you can touch it for the price."  Indeed, tasty Pinot Noir for $12 is a rare and beautiful thing.

The Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, both from the warmer Colchagua Valley, are fresh and pure, with the Carmenere delivering slightly more weight and richness than the Cabernet, though each is distinctive in its own way.

Chile has long been known for tasty wines at value prices, and TerraPura does nothing to change that equation.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @WineGuru.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Wait! Isn't ALL Wine Natural?
Sandra Taylor

There's no official or legal definition of natural wine; neither has any legislation been passed to date by any regional, national, or international regulatory body or authority, and there are no organizations that can certify that a wine is natural. However, there are many unofficial definitions or codes of practice published by the different associations of natural wine producers in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. What we call natural wines are wines made with the least possible use of chemicals, additives, and overly technological procedures. Nothing is added or subtracted in the cellar--no additives, no chemicals, no sulfur, no oak character from barrels, no filtering, no cultured yeasts. The grapes are normally grown organically or biodynamically and are picked by hand and fermented with natural yeast.
The 2014 Vintage in Barolo
Ed McCarthy

Barolo wines from the 2014 vintage are now available for sale in wine shops. Some consumers might have heard that Barolos from this vintage suffered from the inconsistent weather in Piedmont's Langhe district. It is true that the weather for much of the growing period was not good, but a mild, pleasant autumn saved the vintage from becoming a disaster--at least not for those wine growers who had the foresight and courage to wait the bad weather out. For these growers, the harvest was quite late…as late as October 24 through 26. But Nebbiolo, the grape variety used exclusively for both Barolo and Barbaresco, is a very late ripener--perfect for late harvests.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Sheet-Pan Pork and Green Beans

There's a reason why sheet-pan cuisine is all the rage. From prep time to cleanup, this one-pan style of cooking tends to be quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Why make dinner in two or three pots when you can spread everything out on a rimmed sheet-pan? All the ingredients--protein, vegetables and/or starch--cook together on the sheet (plus a single pan for cooking means only one pan to wash). This dish accommodates red, white (and pink) wines very nicely. Look especially for wines that have plenty of flavor but are not sharp or assertive on the palate. The dish works best with wines that have soft textures and full but not overly bold flavors.
On My Table
Big Can Be Beautiful
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Wine drinkers seem to have very specific style preferences for Chardonnay wines. My husband likes them sleek, crisp and unoaked, a la Chablis. I like them rich but not very rich, and not too oaky -- and I like them expressive. Many fine Burgundy-like Chardonnays from California need age before I find them sufficiently expressive for my enjoyment. When I tasted this fine Sea Smoke Chardonnay, my first impression was that it is just too big. As soon as the second taste, however, I became seduced by the wine's complexity and expressiveness. It's a huge mouthful of Chardonnay but it's delicious and very well-balanced.