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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

September 20, 2016 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Red:

Locations, Mendoza (Argentina) “AR” Red Wine NV ($18): Dave Phinney's Locations project is off to a rousing start with this delicious blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's a lively glass that's red fruit focused, with red currant, plum, black cherry and fall spice, with supple tannins, good grip and fine integration of flavors through the long finish.  A great value that's worth locating.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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AUSTRALIA

Eden Valley:

White:

Dandelion Vineyards, Eden Valley (Australia) Riesling “Wonderland of the Eden Valley” 2016 ($55, Vine Street Imports): I've been a fan of this bottling for a few years now, and it continues to be an absolute stunner.  There's so much acidity in this wine that it will live for decades, continuing to add depth across the years.  Delicate stonefruit, floral and wet stone aromas lead to a laser like palate that seems bone dry despite its 1.4% residual sugar.  I'm tucking some of this away to enjoy on my 50th wedding anniversary -- in 2034.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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CHINA

White:

Chateau Fenhe, China () Vidal Ice Wine 2013 ($99): It's not every day that I get to review a wine from China -- in fact, it hasn't been any day until today, and I'm happy to start the trend with a huge score.  Certainly on a par with the great icewines of the world, it shows great purity and concentration, with aromas of spiced apricot, jasmine and cinnamon.  The palate delivers on that promise, with a creamy texture, racy acidity and a wildly long finish.  This could be the start of something big.  The next question is which of our somms will be the first to get this on their wine list.  Pass the foie gras, please.  Sold in a 375ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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FRANCE

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Moet & Chandon, Champagne (France) Brut Imperial NV ($41): Faced with a growing challenge from boutique “grower” Champagne producers, Moet has clearly upped its game. The latest release of Brut Imperial delivers crunch apple and citrus fruit notes, with a creamy texture and an inviting touch of brioche. This superb Champagne was a Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

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ITALY

Red:

TreRose, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Italy) Santa Caterina 2012 ($35, Palm Bay International): Vino Nobile when it’s good is the ultimate red wine for food, particularly roasted and grilled meats. TreRose has delivered this beauty from the 2012 vintage. Dry almost to the point of being austere, it is still somewhat closed, but underneath the outer veneer there is an inviting savory note with black cherry fruit purity, fresh acidity and exceptional length. It needs food, but it also needs time. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Tuscany:

Red:

Castello Banfi, Brunello di Montacino (Tuscany, Italy) 2011 ($80): Take some time and unwind.  No, not you -- this wine.  You'll definitely want to tuck this one away in the deep recesses of your cellar.  It's just beginning to show itself from under its massive structure.  High toned cherry fruit, underbrush and brown spice will gain significant elegance with time. If you must go early with this, decant it overnight.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Brancaia, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Il Blu” 2010 ($85): A gorgeous super Tuscan from a great vintage!  This wine has a ton working in its favor -- pure black and red fruit aromas and flavors, joined by pencil lead, sage and leather.  Perfectly dry and long lingering, it's begging for food -- osso bucco would be a great match.  Contains 50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Veneto:

Red:

Bolla, Veronese IGT (Veneto, Italy) Torr’Alta 2012 ($19, Banfi Vintners): In the category of red wines selling for less than $20 the Bolla Torr’Alta stands tall. Although it utilizes a couple of international grape varieties (merlot and cabernet sauvignon) it relies most heavily on the indigenous corvina and rondinella grapes that are the money grapes planted all around Verona, a small city in northern Italy. Notes of black cherry and spice dominate, but it’s the fresh acidity that makes the fruit pop. Try this wine with grilled meats or savory tomato-based dishes.  Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Bolla, Veronese IGT (Veneto, Italy) “Creso” 2011 ($25, Banfi Vintners): A unique blend of Corvina and Cabernet Sauvignon that shows deep ripe mixed berry fruit aromas accompanied by notes of leaf and fall spice.  The palate is rich and concentrated, delivering on the promise of the nose and finishing long with a supple grip.  Pair it with something on the gamey side, or try it with bold cheeses.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Sparkling:

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) NV ($17): On end caps of grocery stores across the country you'll find this deliciously refreshing glass of northern Italy at a great price.  It's a rare thing to find a wine of this quality produced in this kind of quantity, and have it be a trendy wine all at once.  Enjoy the crisp, just off dry flavors of pear, stone and soft citrus with all kinds of appetizers, or as a solo celebration glass.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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SPAIN

Rioja:

Red:

Tremo, Rioja DOC (Spain) Tempranillo 2015 ($20, Wine Insiders): Destined for wine lists everywhere!  A great value in a bold bright Rioja, expressing cherry, vanilla, wildflowers and cinnamon spice.  It's quite firm on the palate, with solid grip that extends the finish.  Already well integrated, it's got some aging potential, and at this price you can fill a corner of your cellar.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($75): This vintage of Archimedes exhibits the telltale richness and power of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon without losing the suppleness and sensual mouth-feel that is typical for the region. Showing layers of red and black currant and blackberry fruit, it has heft and complexity with freshness, making for an elegant Cabernet to drink now but with the potential to age gracefully over the next 20 years.  Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc Estate 2014 ($28): This underrated grape variety suffers from the mistaken notion that it makes green and weedy wines. That might be true in the Loire Valley, but California Cabernet Franc generally benefits from the California sunshine and ripens beautifully. This Alexander Valley Vineyards Cab Franc is lush and inviting, with pretty red fruits and spice and exceptional length on the palate. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

En Garde, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Malbec 2013 ($38): In a blind duel of Malbecs from all over the world, En Garde comes out on top with this savory wine.  Black fruit, oak spice, meat and subtle soy sauce are balanced beautifully, staying integrated all the way through the long finish.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Joel Gott, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "815" 2014 ($18): Thanks to a fair amount of charred oak, this is a wine for fans of a smoky style.  The fruit is up to the task, and delivers a blackberry and leaf profile under the wood smoke.  Try this with a charcuterie platter.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 91 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Brassfield Estate Winery, High Valley (California) Volcano Ridge Vineyard Eruption, Estate Grown 2013 ($24): Brassfield’s Eruption is a veritable spice bomb, showing loads of wood spice along with decadent red and black fruits and supple tannins. The blend is syrah, grenache, mourvedre and petite sirah. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Talbott, Monterey County (California) Pinot Noir Diamond T Vineyard 2014 ($52): Talbott hits it out of the park again with this stunning Pinot Noir.  Bright cherry, strawberry, mild rhubarb, dry earth and spice aromas all come through as flavors on the palate, with vibrant acidity serving to integrate the flavors beautifully, and carrying everything through a long mouthwatering finish.  Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect placement.  Spectacular!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 98 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection, Monterey County (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($18): Always presenting great value, the Diamond Collection line often garners big scores at low prices.  This 2014 Pinot delivers tart cherry, fall spice and lively acidity that keeps you coming back to the glass.  You can bet you'll see this on some smart by the glass lists in your favorite restaurants.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

V. Sattui, Mt. Veeder (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($85): My first crack at Brooks Painter's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon lineup is, no surprise, a stellar wine.  It's classic Napa Valley, with Blackberry, black cherry, dried herbs, fall spice, great structure, supple grip and a long finish.  Decant it near term, or put it in your trophy cellar.  Year after year, V. Sattui is one of the most dependable producers in the USA.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 97 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve 2012 ($165): This vintage of Beringer Private Reserve is a muscular brut of a cabernet that will no doubt be going strong and getting better 25 years from now. With massive layers of rich black fruits and robust tannins, it’s big but beautifully balance, never losing the elegance for which this wine is historically famous. Buy a case and hide it somewhere for at least another ten years! Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Eagle Eye Winery, Napa Valley (California) AlphaWolf Vineyard Meritage, Estate Reserve 2013 ($39): A bold, aggressive style that doesn't shy away from barrel influence, which proves a wise choice with the ripe fruit.  Blackberry, cassis, leaf, chocolate and oak spice really need a marbled slab of beef to show their full expression.  I'm guessing you can make that work.  Contains 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 93 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (California) Gesture GSM, Limited Release 2014 ($30): Heavy on the grenache at 87 percent, Lohr’s GSM showcases the intense red-fruit character of this important Rhone grape variety. Plump and juicy, with smooth tannins, it’s a wine to drink now. Try it with duck confit! A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (California) “Cuvée PAU” 2012 ($50): Left Bank Bordeaux style with Paso Robles flair is what you get in this beauty blended by Steve Peck.  It's quite firm at present, so give it a good decant in the near term to enjoy the full force of ripe mixed berry, tea, vanilla, fennel and clove spice.  Better yet, get a case and revel in its development over the next decade.  I tasted this wine in July and scored it 94, and I'm giving it a solid bump up here in September.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Chronic Cellars, Paso Robles (California) Ricardo Grande 2014 ($35): Chronic’s Ricardo Grande blend is a delicious combo of syrah, mourvedre and grenache. Ripe, plump and juicy, it’s easy to drink now, with soft, smooth tannins and a long, tantalizing finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Block 2014 ($60): Perhaps the finest pinot ever from the MacMurray estate, the 2014 Winemaker’s Block is a stunning wine that combines richness and depth with exquisite structure and freshness. Showing layers of earthy red-fruit aroma and a hint of wood spice, this vintage is remarkably approachable now but has the firmness to hold its edge for up to 10 years if properly cellared.   Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma County (California) Cinq Cepages 2012 ($80): One of California’s most famous red Meritage wines, Cinq Cepages never disappoints. Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren has had this blend dialed in for years. The 2012 vintage delivers exceptional purity of fruit, with payers of ripe cassis and blackberry, a hint of woodsmoke and an array of fall spices. This elegant red is predominantly cabernet sauvignon (84 percent) with a bit of merlot, cabernet franc and barely a trace of petite verdot and malbec. A sensational vintage for this accomplished winery. Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Windrun, Sta. Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($33): This effort from Windrun exhibits the trademark ripeness of the Sta. Rita Hills, a cool coastal region in Santa Barbara County that is ideal for pinot noir and allows for long hang-time and flavor development on the vine. The concession to the cool climate is the bit of bite on the finish. Those are firm grape tannins that will soften over time. Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Rosé:

Matchbook, Dunnigan Hills (Central Valley, California) Rosé of Tempranillo 2015 ($12): Dry rosé is so back domestically that everyone is getting into the game.  This Rioja inspired California pink shows bright strawberry and cherry fruit, with lively spice notes, all topped off with a fresh lemon zest finish.  It should go be easy to find, and I hope they made a lot of it -- you will too.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Sparkling:

Gloria Ferrer, Carneros (California) Brut Rosé 2012 ($50): Gloria Ferrer has a way with sparkling wine, and this is yet another example.  A fairly recent addition to the lineup, it's quickly become one of their top performers, delivering bright strawberry, lemon zest, stone and spice, with crisp acidity driving all the flavors into a long lasting, beautifully integrated finish. Cheers!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

White:

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Chardonnay 2015 ($25): Navarro’s 2015 chardonnay exhibits all the virtues of cool-climate chardonnay, notably exquisite balance. This vintage offers that rare combination of richness with structure, showing notes of lemon oil and spice, with fruit notes or pear and apple. At the price this one’s a steal. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Rodney Strong, Chalk Hill (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Estate 2014 ($22): Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Chardonnay is one of the most consistently brilliant California chardonnays in its price category. It shows notes of lemon oil and pear, with hints of wood spice and beautiful length and balance. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

William Hill, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2013 ($27): William Hill’s 2013 chardonnay demonstrates the richness the Napa Valley can deliver. All too often, though, those rich chardonnays are flabby and dull. Not so the William Hills, with lifted notes of lemon crème and wood spice and excellent structure and balance.  A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Monte De Oro, Temecula Valley (California) Muscat Canelli Galway Vineyard 2015 ($23): Temecula made some noise at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge with several top awards, including this fresh Muscat.  It straddles the line between sweet and spicy nicely, with grilled peach, tangerine, apricot and soft cinnamon spice aromas and flavors. This can work alongside fresh fruit -- not an easy pairing to come by.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Van Roekel Estate, Temecula Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc Estate Grown 2015 ($22): Sometimes wine is made in what I call the "liar" style -- where the nose advertises something different than what the palate delivers.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, as in the case of this wine.  The nose is all sweet white flowers, mild grass and lemon zest, leading you to expect some sweetness on the palate.  Instead, you get a bone dry, mineral driven mouthful that cleanses and refreshes, leaving a mixed citrus impression lingering.  There are some very nice whites coming from Temecula!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 91 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

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