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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

July 17, 2018 Issue

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FRANCE

Beaujolais:

Red:

Jean-Paul Brun / Domaine des Terres Dorees, Beaujolais (Burgundy, France) “L’Ancien” 2016 ($19, Louis/Dressner Selections):  Forget all your preconceptions about Beaujolais being light, quaffable, and frequently forgettable.  This wine is instead dark, medium-bodied, and full of earthy character.  Its secret?  One can’t know for certain, but the vineyard is extremely rocky, so the vines have to struggle to get nutrients, their roots extending far beneath the surface.  Whether that “terroir” provides the wine with its distinctive character may be a matter for debate, but there can be no doubting the appeal of that character.  And at less than $20 a bottle, the wine is a great value. 
92 Paul Lukacs Jul 17, 2018

Domaine Labruyère, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) "Le Clos" 2016 ($36, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  I hear it already, “How can you give Beaujolais 95 points?”  First, this is not Beaujolais really; it’s from Moulin-à-Vent, arguable the best of the 10 cru of Beaujolais, which taken together, are in a class by themselves.  Secondly, it’s an outstanding wine, showing the complexity that the Gamay grape planted on granite soil can achieve.  It helps that the winemaker, Nadine Gublin, is a star who also is responsible for the wines at the Domaine Jacques Prieur, a leading Burgundy house.  As is becoming the practice in Moulin-à-Vent and other cru of Beaujolais, producers are bottling individual vineyard wines separately, such as this one, just as is done in the rest of Burgundy.  Le Clos, a single small (2.4-acre) plot with vines that average 50 years of age, is a monopole, that is, owned exclusively by Domaine Labruyère.  The focus of Le Clos is on the mineral aspect that the granite soil imparts, rather than the fruitiness of Gamay.  The hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces that focus.  It’s a long, refined and graceful wine that makes you stop and say, “Wow, that’s not Beaujolais.”  The tannins are fine, which allows for enjoyment now, but it has the presence and balance to evolve beautifully over the next decade.  I’ll stick by my 95-point assessment. 
95 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Domaine Labruyère, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) “Coeur de Terroirs” 2016 ($27, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  Domaine Labruyère, a serious producer based in Moulin-à-Vent, has a variety of bottlings from that Beaujolais cru.  This one, a blend of grapes from older vines and aged in older oak barrels, reminds us of just how good and exciting wines from Moulin-à-Vent can be.  Structured without being austere or hard, it delivers a gorgeous array of dark fruit and gaminess.  For those who think Beaujolais is a frivolous wine, open a bottle of this one with whatever meat you’re grilling this summer and smile at its seriousness. 
91 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Burgundy:

Red:

Domaine Jacques Prieur, Clos Vougeot (Burgundy, France) 2016 ($305, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  Given the horrendous weather during the 2016 growing season in Burgundy, it’s amazing that growers made any wine at all.  Sadly, some did not since entire vineyards were wiped out by hail.  Many producers had written off vintage, prematurely, as it turned out.  One thing is clear, the horrible weather resulted in very low yields, which, of course, translates into high prices.  The other thing about the 2016 vintage that is clear is that it lacks the consistency of 2015.  What’s also clear is that many superb wines, such as Prieur’s Clos Vougeot, were made.  Clos Vougeot, one of Burgundy’s grandest Grand Cru vineyards, can also be a great source of disappointing wines.  Some parts of this large vineyard likely do not deserve Grand Cru status.  There are many producers of Clos Vougeot, some of whom figure that the name alone will sell the wine and therefore cut corners.  But Clos Vougeot can also be one of the grandest Burgundies.  Prieur’s fits that latter category.  Explosive, it weaves minerality and alluring floral elements into a near magical combination that lingers on the palate, seemingly forever.  Waves of flavor dance on the palate.  It delivers what I consider to be the quintessential nature of Burgundy -- flavor without weight. The tannins are fine and barely noticeable they are so well integrated, but they lend perfect support.  The price is another reason to play the lottery. 
96 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Domaine Parent, Pommard (Burgundy, France) Les Chaponnières 2016 ($144, A Jeanne-Marie des Champs Selection):  As enthusiastic as I am about Parent’s village wine, La Croix Blanche, Parent’s Les Chaponnières shows the glory of a premier cru.  Although it’s a touch more powerful, it’s really the wine’s elegance and complexity that puts it into a different category.  There’s more going on here without being overt.  Iron-tinged notes and other mineral like nuances become apparent as the wine sits in the glass and opens.  It delivers a beguiling array of black fruit and earth flavors, punctuated with an attractive bitter note in the finish. The Parent sisters clearly made great wines in a difficult year. 
95 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Domaine Parent, Pommard (Burgundy, France) La Croix Blanche 2016 ($89, A Jeanne-Marie des Champs Selection):  To me the talents of a producer shine when they make great wine from less than great sites.  Domaine Parent does that consistently, though they also make great wine from great sites, as their 2016 Les Chaponnières shows.  Take this Pommard, for example, a village wine, not a premier cru.  Most producers blend grapes from many vineyards to produce their village wines.  Anne Parent, with runs the domaine with her sister, Catherine, opt to bottle this one separately because she thinks, though not a premier cru, it produces grapes a cut above the usual village vineyard.  Indeed, Parent’s La Croix Blanche usually offers more interest and complexity than many producers’ premier crus.  The 2016, a full-bodied wine -- it is Pommard, has amazing refinement.  Fine tannins lend a luxurious feel to it.  Though robust, it’s not heavy.  Indeed, it has an invigorating lift in the finish.  This is a premier cru masquerading as a village wine. 
93 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

White:

Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2016 ($24, Albert Bichot USA):  Long-Depaquit’s excellent 2016 village Chablis shows the classic style of the region and the vibrant character of the Chardonnay grape crafted in a Chablisienne style.  The nose offers ripe lemon and green apple fruits with the characteristic oyster-shell minerality of the village.  The bright and vivid fruit is enhanced by nuances of fresh flowers, marjoram and almonds.  The flavors are pure and refreshing with the juicy apple and citrus fruits backed by nutty and herbal elements and a surprisingly rich texture.  The finish is long and, again, refreshing.  It’s a perfect match for fresh fish or shellfish. 
90 Wayne Belding Jul 17, 2018

Château de Chamirey, Mercurey Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2016 ($35, AP Wine Imports):  A sophisticated white Burgundy, with subtle slate and mineral notes undergirding its more overt fruit flavors.  Full of charm and character, and a great match for seafood, this wine should age effortlessly for a good five to seven years before beginning to acquire the nutty nuance of age.  
92 Paul Lukacs Jul 17, 2018

Rhône:

Red:

Pierre Gonon, Saint-Joseph (Rhône Valley, France) 2015 ($135, Kermit Lynch):  I drank this wine last month with dinner at the delightful bistro, Le Villaret, in Paris, and it knocked my proverbial socks off.  Multi-layered, with intriguing echoes of bacon, black pepper, and barnyard-rich earth intermingled with deep, dark but definitely fresh fruit flavors, it was as compelling a bottle of wine as any I have enjoyed this year.  I since have learned that Pierre Gonon’s wines have something of a cult following in the northern Rhône.  Monsieur Ganon passed the operation of his winery to his sons back in 1989, and if this bottle is any indication, they produce wines of impeccable pedigree.  Very little gets imported into the US, and prices quickly become inflated.  The price indicated here is an average of what’s being asked by the few retailers with stock in the USA, and $135 for Saint-Joseph borders on the absurd, but the wine itself is simply superb.
98 Paul Lukacs Jul 17, 2018

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SOUTH AFRICA

Rosé:

DeMorgenzon, Western Cape (South Africa) Rosé 2017 ($13, Cape Classics):  I haven’t had opportunity to taste this wine since I tasted the 2011 on property in 2012, and once again it’s a fine bottling, though the US market label doesn’t match the class of the original -- thanks TTB.  This vintage shows tart strawberry, bay leaf and white pepper aromas and flavors, delivered on a palate that’s crisp and dry.  The finish gathers all the elements well, with a slight herbal push that makes it a fine green salad accompaniment. 
90 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

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SWITZERLAND

Red:

Frederic Dumoulin, Valais (Switzerland) Cabernet Franc “L’Orpailleur” 2016 ($20):  Given the pace of climate change in this part of Europe, it may not be long until Cabernet Sauvignon can be ripened fully in the Valais, but for now, you’ll need Cab Franc to hold you over.  And this one will do very nicely indeed, as it shows all the best characteristics of the variety, with a lightly herbal aromatic profile, medium-bodied fruit with mostly blackberry and black cherry notes, and a long finish that is lengthened by very fine-grained tannins and very subtle wood.  This will quite probably improve in bottle for another couple of years… maybe more… but good luck keeping your mitts off of it if you try a bottle anytime soon.
91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

Maison Gilliard, Valais (Switzerland) Cornalin “Les Perlines” 2016 ($28):  Some of my colleagues on WRO who know that I’m not much of a fan of Beaujolais will wonder why I love this wine (and many renditions of Cornalin, more broadly), as the body is light-ish and the fruit quite exuberant.  But if they taste it, you’ll hear the concurring opinions come rolling in.  The berry fruit is just gorgeous, and I worry that the blueberries that are emblazoned on the label may have seeded my sensory experience… but that does indeed seem to be the predominant fruit flavor.  There’s also a red fruit note, and maybe a black one too, but the fruit is so pure and palpable that I can’t claim in all honesty to be able to sort all of them out.  There is enough tannic grip to give this a good shot at the table with poultry and light meats, but the tannin is so ripe and fine in grain that this won’t put anybody off if just poured straight-up at a summer party.  An absolutely winning, utterly delicious wine.  You probably heard it here first, but rather than taking any credit, here’s a tip of the cap to all vintners who are still growing this instead of pulling it out to plant Pinot, which can surely command higher prices and also be exported much more easily. 
91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

Jean-René Germanier, Vetroz Grand Cru (Valais, Switzerland) Pinot Noir “Balavaud” 2016 ($25):  If I’m off on the score of this wine, I’m off on the low side.  It is actually a light-bodied wine…which is entirely appropriate for Pinot, yet it is very expressive in aroma and flavor.  Scents and flavors of red cherries and plums are vivid without being too overt or grapey, and the light body is not overwhelmed with wood, which is almost imperceptible.  The tannins are very fine, and the fact is that all of the flavor and structural elements are all perfectly proportioned, and the wine just sings in perfect harmony.  This will seem light to those steeped in California Pinot, but it will seem like a genuine threat to winemakers in Burgundy.  No kidding…this is completely convincing stuff. 
92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

Propriété de L’Ètat de Fribourg, Vully (Switzerland) Pinot Noir Vignoble de L’Ètat 2016 ($22):  Vully was not an appellation even mentioned when I first traveled to Switzerland for wine, but now… perhaps largely due to climate change and the success of pinot here… it belongs on everyone’s map.  The fruit is delicate but penetrating in flavor, which is the key characteristic of all great Pinot.  I’m not ready to claim “greatness” for this wine, but the fact that it can get that one key thing right suggests that greatness can truly be achieved with sufficient vine age and winemaking talent.  What is in the bottle now is already wonderfully impressive, with little evidence of assistance from fancy oak -- or oak at all for that matter -- yet the stable color and depth of color suggests that some must have been involved.  The acidity and tannin are matched to the fruit in a way that is, well, perfect, and the symmetries and proportionality of this wine is really quite impressive.  I’m honestly not sure whether this is a co-op or some other sort of enterprise in light of its state-affiliated name, but who cares.  The wine is completely delicious. 
92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

Château de Mur, Vully (Switzerland) Pinot Noir 2016 ($17):  This lithe Pinot Noir gets points for delicacy… and should arguably get even more of them than I’ve given, but will prove a bit too faint for some tasters and many foods for me to go any higher.  With that stated, it is a very pretty wine, with red cherry fruit and a little whiff of wild strawberry and almost no overt oak.  By way of context, this is actually meatier than almost any Bourgogne rouge (even from a ripe year like 2015), but is still a lot lighter than Pinot from Oregon or New Zealand, much less California.  All in all, a recommended wine, even if some of the verbiage here might seem like damning with faint praise. 
89 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

White:

Domaine Ruchonnet, Lavaux (Vaud, Switzerland) Domaine Ruchonnet “Courtisan” 2017 ($17):  Sourced from super steep vineyards in St.-Saphorin, perched above Lake Geneva, this is strikingly delicious, and for more than one reason.  It shows an uncanny lightness and richness at once, with bright citrus notes running in tandem with ripe apricot notes.  There’s no unresolved carbon dioxide here to accentuate the freshness of the wine…all of its brightness and energy is derived from perfectly ripened fruit.  But fruit is hardly the sole story line here -- there’s also an intense mineral streak that asserts itself in the mid-palate and runs right through the long, symmetrical finish.  Summer in a glass…  yum! 
91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

Clos Grandinaz, Sion (Valais, Switzerland) Chasselas 2017 ($17):  This isn’t everyone’s idea of what Swiss Chasselas should be, as it is a much richer, riper rendition than one might expect after all of the wonderfully fresh, fluffy, screw-capped examples to be relished in French-speaking Switzerland.  It is certainly a more serious take on the variety, with fruit recalling very ripe pears -- almost poached ones -- and yet the wine is certainly not sweet, nor confining due to its ripeness.  However, one would still be well advised to pair this with food such as freshwater fish or chicken or cheeses, as it is really too ripe and weighty for shellfish, and is a little short on acidity for great performance as an aperitif.  But get this with the right food, and stand back. 
90 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2018

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 ($40):  This a commanding and very classy Cabernet is well endowed with red and black fruits including cassis and blackberries, the flavors reinforced by hints of chocolate and a little oak spice.  Lushly textured, with supple tannins and a generous finish, this Cabernet Sauvignon seems born to be enjoyed with a good steak or even a great burger. 
93 Marguerite Thomas Jul 17, 2018

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($28):  Rodney Strong’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has long been one of the winery’s unsung gems. Though the price has inched upward in recent years, it remains an excellent value. The 2014 vintage exhibits exceptional balance, showing complex aromas of red and black fruits, oak spice and moderate tannins that allow for enjoyable near-term consumption. 
90 Robert Whitley Jul 17, 2018

Fetzer, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon Anniversary Reserve 2016 ($13):  Fetzer, once the pride of Mendocino County, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Fetzer wines have been solid down through the decades and they’ve always delivered the goods at a modest price. This Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2016 vintage exhibits freshness, with inviting red-fruit aromas, moderate tannins and a subtle leafy note. 
86 Robert Whitley Jul 17, 2018

Thorn Hill Vineyards, Lake County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Volcanic Rock Reserve” 2014 ($40):  There’s a big smoked meat nose thanks to heavy oak char -- quite unusual for this variety -- but the fruit comes steamrolling through in the finish.  Blackberry and rich oak spice aromas and flavors ride supple tannins and a moderate grip through an extended finish.  This is a stylized, age worthy wine that’s goes outside the box in a good way. 
93 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

Thorn Hill Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Petite Sirah Port "Fire" 2008 ($35):  This tasty dessert wine comes off like a very fruit forward tawny, with cherry cola, oak char and fall spice well balanced and soft.  The subtle finish has staying power and will come alive with a smear of Stilton on your favorite delivery system.  Sold in a 375ml bottle. 
90 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

Rosé:

Calera, Central Coast (California) Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2017 ($22):  This wine comes from the Flint Vineyard in San Benito County, and it’s a very interesting take on pink.  The nose is all about ripe nectarine, with touches of white pepper and bay leaf adding interest.  The palate is quite dry -- almost drying -- but it’s built for food, and delivers the promise of the nose in lively fashion, finishing on the leafy side.  Try this with green salads or a baked roll of peppered chevre. 
91 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

White:

Shooting Star, Lake County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($15):  A very sweet floral nose greets you at the rim, but fear not -- the palate is crisp and dry, with bright lemon, lime and melon flavors that fill the mouth and linger in the long finish.  This Sauvignon Blanc would be a fine summer sipper or salad accompaniment. 
90 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

Thorn Hill Vineyards, Lake County (California) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($23):  An interesting project, with tasting rooms in Lake County, Napa Valley and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The owners live in Pennsylvania, and no doubt accumulate some frequent flyer miles keeping things together.  With a couple years on, this wine shows remarkable freshness.  Pineapple, white flowers and herb aromas translate well on the palate and the bottle age takes the edge just off the acidity, which makes for a well-rounded mid palate and a classy finish.  Insert argument for structuring Pinot Grigio to age here! 
90 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

Calera, Mt. Harlan (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay 2016 ($50):  Calera is the Spanish word for “lime kiln” -- a reference to the limestone dominated soils of the AVA founded by Josh Jensen.  While world renowned for Pinot Noir, the 2,000 foot plus elevation vineyards produce great Chardonnay as well, and this vintage balances oak influence with bright apple, pear and mild butterscotch delivered in dry style with lasting oak spice.  I’d pair this with a bold fish dish. 
92 Rich Cook Jul 17, 2018

Rutherford Ranch, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($16):  This Napa Valley sauvignon blanc shows a tinge of tangerine, a note often found in the sauvignons from the Loire Valley.  With mouth-watering acidity and a strong citrus flavor profile, it’s an excellent summer sipper for the warm month ahead. 
87 Robert Whitley Jul 17, 2018

Texas:

Rosé:

William Chris Vineyards, Texas High Plains (Texas) Rosé of Grenache 2017 ($25):  There’s so much going on with this dainty-pink wine.  Everything from dew-kissed summer strawberries and fresh parsley, to hot limestone and warm daisy fields reach out and pull you into the glass.  Its dry fruit finish begs for another sip. 
96 Jessica Dupuy Jul 17, 2018

Grower Project, Texas High Plains (Texas) Letkeman Family Vineyard Rosato 2017 ($20):  An elegant wine made from 100% Sangiovese.  Aromas of strawberry-rhubarb pie and fresh white daisies in a mason jar transition to a vibrant palate led by lemon pith, subtle cherry, and a touch of salinity.  This is a beautifully structured wine for this new collaborative wine project that is dedicated to revealing the terroir of single vineyard site selections throughout Texas. 
95 Jessica Dupuy Jul 17, 2018

Lost Draw Cellars, Texas High Plains (Texas) Rosé 2017 ($17):  A lovely little blend of Cinsault and Grenache with notes of macerated strawberry and lemon curd, the palate offers a nice, broad structure, and a refreshing mineral-driven finish.  A perfect wine for salmon grilled with lavender.  
92 Jessica Dupuy Jul 17, 2018

William Chris Vineyards, Texas Hill Country (Texas) Rosé of Malbec Hye Estate Vineyard 2017 ($28):  Offering lush aromas of pomegranate and fleshy ruby red grapefruit, this wine offers a rounded body and delicious high toned citrus notes on the palate that make it a perfect pairing for a thick, juicy cheeseburger. 
97 Jessica Dupuy Jul 17, 2018

Yes We Can, Texas Hill Country (Texas) Sway Rosé 2017 ($16):  The second release from this canned wine project, its flirtatious pink hue bespeaks luscious aromas of ripe summer berries, ambrosia salad, and juicy melon.  Notes of dried sage and lemon pith accent the fruity palate leading to a dry, minerally finish.  Sold in a four-pack of 187ml cans for $16. 
95 Jessica Dupuy Jul 17, 2018

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