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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

November 12, 2019 Issue

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CHILE

Red:

San Pedro, Central Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon "9 Lives" Resserve 2018 ($9):  Long a leader in value, Chile strikes again with San Pedro’s 9 Lives Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a richly layered, supple red that shows notes of blackberry and cassis, a touch of spice and smooth tannins.  Remarkable that it sells for less than 10 bucks!  
88 Robert Whitley Nov 12, 2019


FRANCE

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Jean Diot, Champagne (France) Extra Brut NV ($50):  This bone-dry Champagne from Jean Diot delivers exceptional complexity, showing notes of freshly baked brioche, crunchy green apple and spice.  The structure is a remarkable combination of firm acidity and creamy texture, with excellent persistence of flavor through a long, lip-smacking finish.   
94 Robert Whitley Nov 12, 2019


ITALY

Campania:

White:

Terre Stregate, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) “Svelato" 2017 ($18, Artisanal Cellars):  The Falanghina grape is most known in southern Italy’s Campania region. It is a white that combines luscious fruit aromas and flavors with a rich texture.  The 2017 vintage from Terre Stregate in Sannio is a great success and shows the attractive style of the grape. Sannio is a relatively new DOC in the hills north of Naples.  The Falanghina grapes are grown here in the volcanic soils that surround Mt. Vesuvius and yield wines of considerable depth.  The 2017 Terre Stregate “Svelato” Falanghina shows scents of wildflowers, citrus peel, peach, honey, and subtle herbs.  On the palate, pure lemon and peach fruit flavors are backed by floral, honey, herbal and creamy hints.  The multilayered, full and exotic flavors are underscored by a bracing, crisp acidity.  It’s a delicious white with a rich texture that will be a fine companion for richer seafood and fowl recipes.   
92 Wayne Belding Nov 12, 2019

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Piedmont:

Red:

BelColle, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Simposio” 2015 ($60, Quintessential Wines): Loaded with structure but with plenty of curb appeal, here is an approachable Nebbiolo that delivers spot on regional character, focusing on cherry fruit and faint, complementary herbs and oak spice.  Lavender lingers alongside the fruit in the long finish.   It's just entering its pleasure window, and poised to hang around for 10 to15 years easily.   
94 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

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Sardinia:

White:

Vinacola Cherchi, Vermentino di Sardegna DOC (Sardinia, Italy) “Tuvaoes” 2017 ($32, Romano Brands):  Vermentino is a grape that needs to see the sea, according to winemakers.  The leading areas are Sardinia, the coast of Tuscany, and Liguria. This mid-weight one from Sardinia has a substantial mineral component buttressed by vibrant and lengthy acidity that amplifies its charms.  Its weight and an attractive crisp saline-like subtle bitterness in the finish make it a worthy accompaniment to hearty fish dishes, such as grilled blue fish or a tomato-based fish soup.  
91 Michael Apstein Nov 12, 2019

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Tuscany:

Red:

Tenuta Il Palagio, Chianti DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) “When We Dance” 2018 ($17, Taub Family Selections):  You may want to dance when you taste Il Palagio, Chianti DOCG “When we Dance” 2018.  It is such a charming, carefree blend of unoaked Sangiovese spiked with a touch of Canaiolo and Colorino.  The cherry, strawberry and plum fruit displaying earthy, wood spice notes is juicy and energized by snappy acidity and supported with grainy tannins.. The wine is aged in stainless steel for six months and three months in bottle, ready now.  It’s smooth and easy drinking, perfect for a pizza.   Certified organic by Bioagricert.  
89 Rebecca Murphy Nov 12, 2019

Tenuta Il Palagio, Rosso Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Sister Moon” 2015 ($50, Taub Family Selections):  This is the flagship wine from ll Palagio, a Tuscan estate owned by Sting, yes that Sting, and his wife Trudie Styler.  It is a Super Tuscan blend with 45 percent Sangiovese, 45 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in barriques for 24 months.  Flavors of black fruits are intertwined with floral notes and woody spices in this full bodied, statuesque wine that is well-structured with a fine balance of delectable fruit, lively acidity and burnished tannins.  It is youthful and promises better things to come.   Certified organic by Bioagricert.   
93 Rebecca Murphy Nov 12, 2019

Tenuta Il Palagio, Rosso Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Casino Delle Vie” 2018 ($32, Taub Family Selections):  Another Super Tuscan-styled wine from Sting and Trudie with 80 percent Sangiovese, nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon, nine percent Merlot and two percent Cabernet Franc.  It spends in 24 months barriques and another six months in bottle.  No, Casino Delle Vie is not a Sting song that you missed.  It’s named for a nineteenth-century farmhouse on the estate.   The Cabernet and Merlot lend a touch of cassis to the black cherry aromas.  In the mouth the ripe black cherry fruit mingles with tobacco, cedar flavors and gets a buzz from zesty acidity and is supported by sturdy, ripe tannins.  Serve it with a pork roast or Veal Milanese.  Certified organic by Bioagricert.    
90 Rebecca Murphy Nov 12, 2019

White:

Fattoria di Magliano, Maremma Toscana (Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino “Pagliatura" 2018 ($19, Opici Wines):  Vermentino is an aromatic and full-bodied white grown mostly northern Italy and Sardinia.  Fattoria di Magliano is an excellent producer in Tuscany and has found a particularly good source of Vermentino grapes in the Maremma subregion.  Their 2018 Pagliatura Vermentino is drawn from a higher altitude site that yields grapes of great intensity.  It is a luscious sensory experience for those new to this aromatic Italian variety.  Its rich aromas of peach, ripe apple and tropical fruits are enhanced by linden flower, herb and citrus peel hints.  The flavors are exotic and appealing with the luscious peach and mango fruits backed by delicate floral, mint and citrus peel tones.   
91 Wayne Belding Nov 12, 2019

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Veneto:

White:

Giusti, Pinot Grigio dell Venezie DOC (Veneto, Italy) “Longheri” 2017 ($18, Romano Brands):  A sea of mediocre -- at best -- Pinot Grigio on retailers’ shelves creates an enormous hurdle for the consumer.  The grape and wine have become a brand by itself.  You see it at events or at bars when people order “a glass of Pinot Grigio” without reference to the producer.  Drink a top-quality Pinot Grigio, like this one, and you’ll understand why the category became so popular.  Delicate floral aromas draw you in.  The wine is light, but penetrating.  An uplifting citrus zing in the finish cleanses the palate and makes you want another sip.  It’s an excellent choice as a stand-alone aperitif-type drink, but a wonderful choice for grilled swordfish. 
91 Michael Apstein Nov 12, 2019


SPAIN

Rioja:

Red:

Bodegas Olarra, Rioja Reserva (Spain) "Cerro Añón" 2012 ($17, Tri-Vin Imports):  If you enjoy wines with the softness and round style that barrel and bottle maturation provides, you should definitely consider Rioja.  Oak aging is traditional here, and the Tempranillo grape marries well with the vanilla and spice tones imparted by the barrels.  Bodegas Olarra’s 2012 Cerro Añón Rioja Reserva shows the beauty of the oak and wine marriage.  Cherry and raspberry fruit aromas are enhanced by elements of dried leaves, lilac, cinnamon, vanilla and allspice.  The rich fruit is beautifully expressed on the palate, with layers of blackberry, raspberry and black cherry underlain by the leafy earth, vanilla and spice tones.  Given the extended barrel and bottle age, it’s a superb value.    
90 Wayne Belding Nov 12, 2019


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Minus Tide, Mendocino (California) Carignan Feliz Creek Vineyard 2017 ($29): Heads up Ms. Butler and Ms. Shelton – there’s a worthy new player in the Carignan arena, and with a unique angle to boot.  Winemakers Brad Jonas and Kyle Jeffrey bring us a Beaujolais styled expression of fruit from Wendy Fetzer’s dry farmed head trained vines in Hopland that was originally planted in 1908.  Carbonic maceration on native yeast and ten months in neutral oak results in a dry, bright wine that sings with ripe strawberry, cherry, bay leaf, pepper and gentle oak spice, finishing tart and fresh.  There’s real versatility in the variety, and this is a welcome take.  
93 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Chappellet, Napa County / Sonoma County (California) “Mountain Cuvée” 2017 ($36):  Chappellet “Mountain Cuvée” is a wine that successfully delivers the house style at a wallet friendly price for near-term enjoyment.  That said, there’s plenty of stuffing here, with blackberry, cassis, pencil shavings and fall spice aromas that translate well and finish long.  It's a brand that you simply can’t go wrong with.  Contains 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc.   
92 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) “X2” Red Wine 2015 ($110):  Essentially Paraduxx's "X2" is a Cabernet Sauvignon, raised to the second power if you will, by the inclusion of 8% Zinfandel, which pops up the acidity, rounds off the tannic structure a touch, and brightens the bold, concentrated character you expect from the best Duckhorn wines. Blackberry, black cherry, fall spice and vanilla are knit together well, and modestly charred oak enhances the finish.  Enjoy now with a long decant, or age up to 12 years – longer if you dare! 
95 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Ladera, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2015 ($60):  Ladera continues to impress me.  Here's a properly priced Napa Valley offering with correct aromas and flavors, a bright structure, classy oak influence and a long, red fruit focused finish.   It is just starting its drinking life, and poised to go 10 to 15 years easily.  The elegant side of Napa Valley Cabernet that’s perfect for a seared New York Strip.  Contains 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec.  
94 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) “Proprietary Red Wine” 2016 ($50):  A delicious grilled beef partner, to be prized for its juicy berry fruit and mild cocoa aromas and flavors, with a dash of pepper forward in the finish.  This year the predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel blend gets a little more Petit Verdot in the mix, adding some structure and helping to extend the push of flavor at the end.  Nicely done!   
92 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) "Cuvee Pom" 2014 ($50):  A pungently aromatic, densely textured and richly flavored blend of 82% Merlot and 12% Malbec, this vintage of J. Lohr's Pommerol-inspired Cuvée Pom should please everyone who likes a big, intense red wine.  The color of a midnight sky, with hints of dark berry, deep red plum and savory spice flavors, this is exactly the wine you want to go with that beautiful steak or serving of rich short ribs.     
93 Marguerite Thomas Nov 12, 2019

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Seven Oaks” 2017 ($17):  If the folks at J. Lohr weren’t so classy, the front label on this wine might say “quality wine for all the people.”  Instead, in typical understated fashion, they just let the wine and its high quality to price ratio speak for itself.  Once again, it’s a solid, fruit forward, friendly Cabernet Sauvignon that’s ready to drink for all its black fruit and chocolate deliciousness.  Vintage after vintage, a wine not to be denied.  
91 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Merlot “Los Osos” 2017 ($14):  The name Los Osos refers to a soil type found in different places throughout California, and it seems to suit Merlot well in the center of the state as evidence by this value for your dollar bottling.  Bright mixed berry fruit is served up in dry style with rich oak spice and a satisfying finish.  No doubt this will be on by the glass lists everywhere.  Drink up!  Contains 16% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.    
89 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Thale’s Vineyard 2016 ($58):  A nuanced wine that is brilliantly light in color and elegant in aroma and flavor presentation, featuring lively cherry fruit and layered spice that ride a firm structure through a long finish.  This is worthy of cellaring ten years, or decanting a half day before serving – beautiful Pinot Noir!   
95 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Ladera, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Pillow Road Vineyard 2016 ($60):  A rich, black cherry driven Russian River Pinot Noir with pulsing fall spice that plays off the fruit beautifully, finishing long with a bright acidic pop that keeps you coming back.  This wine would be erfect for your best holiday tables.   
93 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($34):  Solid Pinot once again from this producer, one that showcases ripe strawberry and cherry fruit, soft oak toast and dry earth minerality in both aroma and flavor profiles, with an attractive viscosity midpalate which gives way to a bright acid kiss in the finish that gives the red fruit a nice push.  Thanksgiving dinner would be a perfect fit.  
92 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

Sparkling:

La Crema, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Brut Rosé NV ($45):  Although not known for bubbly, La Crema certain has all of the ingredients.  This Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist delivers a very nice brut rosé that is delicate, very dry and shows notes of strawberry and apple with a fine mousse and exquisite balance.  Composition: 73% Pinot Noir 27% Chardonnay.    
90 Robert Whitley Nov 12, 2019

White:

Qupé, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Chardonnay Bien Nacido – Block Eleven 2016 ($30):  A lovely, acid driven Chardonnay that shows lively citrus and apple aromas and flavors, gentle oak influence and a crisp finish that keeps all the elements in play.  Styled for the table – serve it with a creamy salmon or halibut preparation.  
92 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2019

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Virginia:

Red:

Linden Vineyards, Virginia (United States) “Hardscrabble” Red Wine 2016 ($50):  The 2016 release of this wine is scheduled for January of 2020, with the 2015 still available in both 750 ml and half bottles.  The 2016 is terrific, showing impressive pigment concentration in the glass…and things only get better from there.  Quite expressive aromatically, it shows topnotes of spices and light toast and a subtle whiff of woodsmoke, and those notes carry through in the flavors, which are driven by a delicious core of dark-toned fruit.  Stylistically, this isn’t overly “polished,” which is very much to my liking, and the overall impression is slightly rustic and natural rather than “juicy” or overt.  The tannins and oak lend just the right amount of grip in relation to the wine’s level of fruitiness, making it possible to enjoy this on its own despite its considerable flavor impact.  Blended from 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, it is very impressive.  
93 Michael Franz Nov 12, 2019

White:

Linden Vineyards, Virginia (United States) Sauvignon Blanc “Avenius” 2017 ($36):  This is among the most serious and complex renditions of Sauvignon Blanc made in the USA, and one that I’d show “blind” with confidence against any Sauvignon grown anywhere, for that matter.  Don’t be scared off by the 2017 vintage, thinking that this might be losing its edge, as the exact opposite is true, and this won’t likely hit its peak for another year or two.  Intensely acidic but not remotely sour, it is vital that this not be served too cold, as it could then seem to tart for some tasters (though not Yours Truly), and would only show citrus flavors rather than the mélange of fruit notes it displays when less chilled.  These include white melon notes along with somewhat more prominent suggestions of lemon and lime, and there’s even a hint of tangerine when this gets close to room temperature.  A mineral undertone lends added complexity, and the overall character of the wine makes me crave of a giant platter of freshly shucked oysters.  Sourced from a cool vineyard owned by Shari Avenius that has been growing wicked good Sauvignon for years, this is a wine of the loftiest seriousness and intensity.     
93 Michael Franz Nov 12, 2019

Linden Vineyards, Virginia (United States) Chardonnay “Hardscrabble” 2015 ($42):  This excellent wine isn’t quite as strikingly distinctive as Linden’s “Avenius” Sauvignon Blanc, but it is still terrific and not quite as challenging, as it sits closer to the high-end global norm stylistically.  Sourced from Linden’s home vineyard, the fruit begins fermentation in tank before being racked into French oak after a week, with 20% of the barrels being new.  Bâtonnage is minimal, with freshness being sought more than creaminess, though the finished wine shows good concentration.  Subtle scents of nuts and spices prove quite alluring, followed by ripe but focused flavors and very energetic supporting acidity.  I tasted this recently from a 375 ml bottle, which is presumably a bit more evolved than the same wine in a 750, and yet it remains not only very fresh but sure to develop in a positive direction for another couple of years.   
92 Michael Franz Nov 12, 2019

Linden Vineyards, Virginia (United States) Chardonnay “Village” 2017 ($32):  In Burgundian terms, the word “Village” generally denotes a wine cobbled together from multiple sites rather than a single vineyard of Premier or Grand Cru stature, so the use of the term on the label of this wine gives it a sense of modesty that could be misleading in relation to its high quality.  It is indeed a blend of 80% from the estate Hardscrabble Vineyard plus 15% from Boisseau and 5% from Avenius, but it sure doesn’t taste like a wine thrown together from “table scraps.”  It is fresh (no malolactic fermentation) and notably “primary” (fruit flavors at the fore, with no new wood utilized) but also interestingly complex, thanks to a very good growing season and the variegated aromas and flavors contributed by the three sites.  The balance of fruit and acidity is just right, making for a very versatile wine that could be sipped solo with great pleasure or paired with a wide range of dishes.  
91 Michael Franz Nov 12, 2019

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Washington:

Red:

Canvasback, Red Mountain (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($42):  Washington’s Red Mountain district has become a vital source for top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon of this ilk.  The 2016 Canvasback Cabernet delivers a powerful statement, showing impressive depth and complexity, beautifully integrated tannins and a beautiful finish.  Still quite young, this vintage would benefit from additional cellar age.   
94 Robert Whitley Nov 12, 2019

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