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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

February 2, 2016 Issue

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FRANCE

Bordeaux:

Red:

Château Durfort-Vivens, Margaux (Bordeaux, France) “Vivens” 2009 ($38): I highly recommend the second wines of the top estates in Bordeaux, especially as the prices of the grand vins make them unattainable for most of us.  Vivens from Château Durfort-Vivens is an especially attractive one. Château Durfort-Vivens, classified as a 2nd growth in the Médoc classification of 1855, is regaining its former stature under the guidance of Gonzague Lurton, part of the family whose name implies excellence in Bordeaux.  The 2009 Vivens delivers the ripeness of that vintage without being overdone or flamboyant.  Enrobed in the plush tannins that are the signature of Margaux, it is “forward” and easy to enjoy now, yet has adequate structure so it doesn’t come across as a “fruit bomb.”  It finishes with a hint of earthiness that adds complexity.
92 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Burgundy:

Red:

Maison Joseph Faiveley, Bourgogne Rouge (France) 2013 ($23, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): The transformation of Maison Joseph Faiveley under the leadership of Erwan Faiveley and his team has been extraordinary, catapulting the house into the top tier of Burgundy’s top producers.  And the quality of the wines shows at all levels, from their top Grand Crus to this “simple” Bourgogne Rouge, which shows the charm and allure of red Burgundy.  Not in the bolder style of California Pinot Noir, Faiveley’s Bourgogne Rouge shows the multifaceted character of that grape, delivering bright fruit and savory earthiness simultaneously. It’s almost impossible to find Pinot Noir-based wine of this quality at this price.  Uncork it with a roast chicken. 
88 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Domaine Faiveley, Mercurey Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos des Myglands 2012 ($45, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): Domaine Faiveley, though based in Nuits-St. Georges in the heart of the Côte d’Or, has always had a strong presence in Mercurey in the Côte Chalonnaise.  Indeed, they own the entire Clos des Myglands, a Premier Cru vineyard, making it a monopole, a rarity in Burgundy where vineyard ownership is usually divided among many growers. For me the Clos des Myglands always delivers more than its appellation suggests, I suspect because Faiveley views it as a signature wine for them.  The 2012 is no exception.  It combines the bright red cherry-like fruitiness and the classic stony firmness of the Côte Chalonnaise.  Quite intense, yet not heavy, it has a purity and refinement.  This is another great introduction to the charms of red Burgundy that you can savor and enjoy this winter.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

White:

Billaud-Simon, Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2014 ($23, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): As expected, Billaud-Simon’s 2014 Chablis has more flint and less fruit than its 2014 Petit Chablis (also reviewed this week).  My advice is to buy a bottle of each and taste them side-by-side.  Re-corked and stored in a cold refrigerator, they will remain fresh for a few days -- longer than you might think -- so you can repeat the experiment nightly, at least for a while.
89 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Domaine Christian Moreau Père & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Vaudésir 2013 ($94, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): Christian Moreau is one of the very top producers in Chablis.  This producer rarely stubbles, even in a vintage, such as 2013, a “difficult” one caught between two superb ones -- 2012 and 2014.  A vintage like 2013 fraught with uneven ripening and rot tests a producer’s ability to work in the vineyard and sort the grapes at harvest.  Moreau passed with flying colors with this Vaudésir, a vineyard that vies with Le Clos for the top billing of the Chablis Grand Cru.  Moreau has combined richness and smokiness with a verve and elegance befitting a Grand Cru.  Intense and long, without being over sized, it transmits the uniqueness of great Chablis.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Billaud-Simon, Petit Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2014 ($20, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): Maison Joseph Faiveley, under the able leadership of Erwan Faiveley, has been transforming itself from a small domaine within large négociant business to a large domaine with a far smaller négociant component.  As part of that transformation, Faiveley has been purchasing smaller domaines, such as Billaud-Simon, one of my favorite Chablis producers.  I suspect under the Faiveley leadership, the Billaud-Simon wines will get even better.  For those unfamiliar with Billaud-Simon or Chablis in general, this 2014 Petit Chablis is an excellent place to start.  Petit Chablis, still made entirely from Chardonnay, refers to vineyards that have little or none of the classic Chablis Kimmeridgian limestone in the soil.  As such, they are typically slightly fruitier than straight village Chablis.  In this one a bright crispness and a hint of flintiness balances the delicate fruitiness.  It’s a wine to drink now, with simply broiled fish, while it is vibrant and fresh.
88 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Besserat de Bellefon, Champagne (France) “Cuvée de Moines” Blanc de Blancs Brut NV ($62): There are only a hand full of Champagne houses that produce a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, that revered category of Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay.  I, for one, am glad that Besserat de Bellefon makes one -- it is stunning.  Creamy and elegant with a hint of toastiness and straight spine of vibrancy makes this wine a great choice for celebrating.  Or, indeed, drinking with broiled swordfish.
94 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

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ITALY

Tuscany:

Red:

Tenute Silvio Nardi, Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) Vigneto Manachiara 2010 ($97, Kobrand Wine And Spirits): Tenute Silvio Nardi, now run by his daughter, Emilia Nardi, remains of the Brunello’s top producers.  They have vineyards in both the northwest and southeast portions of the Montalcino zone, which produces grapes of different styles because of the difference in soil and climate in each of the areas.  Their regular Brunello is made from a blend of grapes from those areas and is a consistently fine, easy-to-recommend Brunello.  (The 2010 at about $50, which I rate at 92 points, is a bargain.)  Their Brunello from Vigneto Manachiara, a 17-acre vineyard with 40 to 50 year-old vines in the southwest part of Montalcino, is in a different league.  The elegance and breed of their regular Brunello is apparent in the Manachiara.  However, the single vineyard bottling has enormous complexity -- so much is going on in the glass you barely notice the substantial tannic structure -- and an incredible balance. Emilia Nardi says that her father purchased land in Montalcino when no one else was interested in the area.  She continues, understatedly, “We have been there since the 1950s and we think we know how to make Brunello.”  No kidding!  The 2010 Vigneto Manachiara is one of the great wines of the extraordinary 2010 vintage.  Put it in your cellar for a decade.
96 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

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PORTUGAL

Douro:

Red:

Dow's, Porto (Douro, Portugal) 10 Year Tawny Port NV ($31, Premium Port Wines): Tawny Ports mature in wood casks, losing their youthful purple color, and developing the rich, tawny, nut brown hue referred to in the name.  Dow’s Ports have been made since 1798 and their 10-year Tawny Port continues a centuries-old tradition of quality.  Dow’s house style is drier than most Port producers.   With less sugar to cover any deficiencies, making drier Ports is a challenging task.  Dow has succeeded brilliantly with the 10 Year Tawny Port. It has lush, spicy/plummy fruit with hints of almond, raisins, caramel, and toffee. Fine Tawny Port is an oft-overlooked beverage.  The French drink lots of Tawnies as aperitifs -- with the tangy caramel livening the palate for the meal to come.  A glass of this fine Port makes an excellent dessert all by itself, or a perfect companion for nuts, Bosc pears, and blue cheeses (Stilton is the classic match).  Tawny Ports also endure well after opening.  Since they have been exposed to air for a decade, they can last nicely for weeks or months.
93 Wayne Belding Feb 2, 2016

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SOUTH AFRICA

White:

MAN Vintners, Coastal Region (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2015 ($9, Vineyard Brands): Every year for the past decade, I have eagerly awaited the new release of the MAN Chenin Blanc.  This is consistently one of the best white wine buys in the market.  It again affirms that South Africa is a fantastic source of affordable and delicious Chenin Blanc.  It is sourced from dry-farmed bush vines in the Agter-Paarl area, grown mostly on shale-based soils north of Paarl Mountain. The 2015 MAN “Free-Run Steen” bottling is fresh and fragrant, with scents of pear, green apple, and lemon fruits enhanced by light floral and spice hints.  The flavors are pure, clean and lively, with green apple, grapefruit and green pear fruits underlain by the subtle floral and spice tones.  Stock up now for the warm weather ahead -- it’s a perfect springtime sipper.
90 Wayne Belding Feb 2, 2016

A.A. Badenhorst, Swartland (South Africa) Chenin Blanc “Secateurs" 2015 ($14, Broadbent Selections): This is a delicious white that provides an engaging tasting experience.  The 2015 Badenhorst “Secateurs” Chenin Blanc is consistently among the South Africa's top Chenin Blanc bottlings.  The relatively dry climate and spare growing conditions in Swartland yield wines of considerable power and depth.  The Badenhorst Chenin Blanc has an exotic nose of apple, pineapple, honey, lemon zest and allspice is underscored by an equally complex palate.  The succulent, pure apple, citrus and tropical fruit flavors are backed by hints of citrus peel and subtle herbs.  The exotic aromas and flavors and enhanced by a rich texture and a subtly herbal and spicy finish that lingers well.
92 Wayne Belding Feb 2, 2016

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SPAIN

Castilla y León:

Red:

Rolland & Galarreta, Toro (Castilla y León, Spain) Crianza 2011 ($24): This masterful blend of Merlot and Tempranillo should walk off the shelves.  It’s a big muscular and meaty combination but with glossy tannins usually associated with far more expensive wines.  Powerful and simultaneously elegant, it marries dark fruit and savory elements.  Nicely balanced, it’s a “big” wine without the tannic trappings that often accompany that style.  It would be a great choice for current drinking with hearty wintery fare.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Rueda:

White:

Rolland & Galarreta, Rueda (Spain) Verdejo 2014 ($22): Michel Rolland, owner of Château Bon Pasteur in Pomerol and consulting wine maker to scores of properties around the world, has had an enormous impact changing the style of wine.  His stylistic imprint is most apparent in the reds, making them riper and bolder.  Judging from this wine, he -- the master of Merlot -- is truly multitalented.  Not tasting riper or bolder, this white from Rueda is instead flowery and fresh with a seductive texture.  A bright finish keeps you coming back for more.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Patz & Hall, Carneros (California) Pinot Noir Hyde Vineyard 2013 ($70): The famed Hyde Vineyard and winemaker James Hall have developed a beautiful relationship over the years, with Hall more than willing to let the site speak for itself with his minimalist approach.  It's classic Carneros all the way in this bottle, with sour cherry, roses, fall spice with an emphasis on clove, lively Asian spice and strawberry aromas and flavors.  It's gorgeous now, and has the backbone for extended aging.  Yet another winner from Patz & Hall.
95 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Patz & Hall, Carneros (California) Pinot Noir Burnside Vineyard 2013 ($75): Burnside Vineyard is on the cooler side of the Carneros appellation, and again, Patz & Hall chooses to let the vineyard do the talking.  The glass greets your nose with truffle and brine, with tart red fruit and spice just underneath.  The palate shows cranberry, herbs and spice, with notes of pine needles and lavender joining in.  This will benefit from some additional bottle aging -- it will let all the elegance that is there shine beautifully.  Patz & Hall just keeps turning out riveting Pinot Noir.
94 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Mount Veeder Winery, Mount Veeder (Napa Valley, California) Reserve 2012 ($90): The vineyards’ high elevation (1,500-1,600 feet) is one of the factors responsible for the high quality of the wines (vines stressed by altitude and lean, demanding soils tend to yield superior fruit).  Idyllic growing conditions in 2012 -- a dry winter, rainy spring and warm, dry summer and fall -- also played a role.  And then there was the expert winemaking, including keeping the wine in small oak barrels for 20 months.  All of these factors contributed to make this a stunningly delicious wine, where hints of minty eucalyptus and sage add savory complexity to the rich base of berries and chocolaty mocha.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
95 Marguerite Thomas Feb 2, 2016

Duckhorn, Napa Valley (California) Merlot Rector Creek Vineyard 2012 ($95): Collector alert!  If you want a great Merlot to cellar long term, this is a top candidate.  Everything about this wine is wow.  No bombast or braggadocio in this bottle, just elegant, deep cherry fruit, violets, mild fall spice, sweet oak and an incredibly long finish that blooms long after the wine has left your mouth.  Simply spectacular Merlot.  Contains 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.
96 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Duckhorn, Napa Valley (California) "The Discussion", Estate Grown 2011 ($135): The much maligned 2011 vintage has turned out some great wine, particularly among the long time players in the state.  Duckhorn's nod to Bordeaux is distinctively Napa Valley, with deep black cherry, blackberry, currants, cedar spice, bay leaf and dried herbs.  With some airing, pleasant tobacco notes come forward, and everything sings on a palate that has a supple grip and a long, dark, complex finish.  It seems that producers like Duckhorn take pride in working with what nature brings, even when it's not expected.  You'll be discussing this wine for the entire evening.  Contains 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.
95 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley (California) "Magnificat" Meritage, Red wine 2012 ($50): A complex wine laden with dark, juicy fruits (notably plums), plus palate pleasing tugs of minerality and even a little tar, “Magnificat” is beautifully soft on the mid-palate and finishes on a satisfying fruity note.  A tribute to J.S. Bach’s eponymous masterpiece, this Bordeaux-style red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc) is indeed rich and harmonious as well as expertly balanced and stylishly constructed.
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 2, 2016

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) “X2” Estate Red Wine 2012 ($95): The X2 is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Zinfandel added, and it's a bold, peppery expression of Cabernet that's only enhanced by the Zinfandel.  Blackberry, black cherry, black pepper and pie spice are evident in this dry yet fruit forward package that's anything but subtle.  Try this with a white pepper encrusted roast -- duck or beef will work well.
92 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Presqu'ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($42): An interesting Pinot Noir from a relatively new producer.  At first whiff it presents dusty minerality and talc notes over soft cherry and faint spice.  With a good swirl it releases bold damp earth and rich brown spice.  It all comes together in the mouth, with racy acidity and a moderate grip bringing all the aromas together as flavors, with a long, mouthwatering finish.  I'm excited to see what South African born winemaker Dieter Cronje is up to in other bottlings.
91 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

White:

Patz & Hall, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard 2013 ($60): Patz & Hall 2013 Hyde Vineyard -- Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, you can't go wrong.  Pick up one of each to take to that all-important dinner with the boss and get that raise you've been after.  The Chardonnay is packed with all the flavor, lively acidity and staying power that you could ask for, featuring apple, lemon oil, mild smokiness, and honey aromas that translate well to flavors, adding notes of ginger and nut for good measure.  The finish lingers, but leaves you clean and ready for the next bite or sip.  Awesome Chardonnay!
95 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2014 ($18): If you decant this Chardonnay or at least give your glass a good swirl to help the calm the oak presence clam down a little you’ll be rewarded by the wine’s engaging aromas and opulent flavors.  Highlighted by notes of pear and apple lightly accented by vanilla, it is creamy and full-bodied without being at all heavy.  This is a Chardonnay that is radiantly elegant yet also serviceable and food friendly.
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 2, 2016

Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($18): I am not always a fan of California Sauvignon Blanc, which all too often seems to lack coherent acid balance and structural definition, but to my palate this one from Franciscan Estate definitely gets it right.  It has fresh lime and pink grapefruity flavors, and wonderfully refreshing acidity that invigorates the taste buds without numbing gums and tongue in the process.
90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 2, 2016

Patz & Hall, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch 2013 ($65): I always look forward to a new release of Patz & Hall Chardonnay, and this bottling is another success.  It's a single clone offering -- Dijon 76 -- and it features aromas of honey dew melon, pear, peach and a touch of marzipan.  Crisp and clean on the palate, it shows lemon and peach in addition to what was promised by the nose. It's long and extremely food friendly.  Something from the sea in a lemon sauce with spice sounds like an intriguing pairing.
94 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Presqu'ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Chardonnay 2013 ($35): I like Chardonnay that offers crisp and creamy in one package, and that's what we've got here -- apple, lemon, nut, a rich feel and a nice acid pop on the end that keeps things lively and bright.  Low alcohol helps here as well. There's nothing ponderous or overt to wear you out.  A fine solo quaff, or pair it with a roast chicken with herbs and spices -- tarragon will make for a good foil for the flavors of the wine.
90 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

Washington:

Red:

Canvasback, Red Mountain (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($40): Duckhorn's second vintage of Canvasback is a little tighter than the 2012, and can stand further bottle aging.  Give it a good decant in the near term to enjoy its mix of blackberry, currants, anise, dried herbs and cinnamon clove spice, with moderate oak toast adding interest.  Or stash some in the cellar for a few years, where it will likely soften its grip and let its charms come forward.
90 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2016

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