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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 11, 2020 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Alta” 2017 ($50, Quintessential Wines):   Pascual Toso's "Alta" is a plush, approachable Malbec with supple structure and just enough grip up in the finish to extend the pleasure for a good while.  Blackberry and black cherry get the warm spice treatment, with no jagged edges and a kiss of sweet tobacco leaf that adds depth.  A perfect parilla partner.    
92 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020


AUSTRIA

White:

Loimer, Kamptal DAC (Niederösterreich, Austria) Riesling “Langenlois” 2017 ($21, Winebow):  The 2017 vintage was very warm, yet Fred Loimer was able to produce this luscious Riesling with an alcohol level of only 12 percent.  He has 161 acres of vines in six vineyard sites throughout the region, where he farms biodynamically.  He believes that this is the best way to express a wine’s origin.  While he farms and harvests manually, he keeps up with the technology of modern agriculture.  As he states on his website, “we try to be independent and undogmatic.”  He was one of the founding members of respekt-BIODYN with members from Austria, Germany, Italy and Hungary, that offers a biodynamic certification purely tailored to viticulture.  This Riesling was fermented and aged three months in stainless steel before bottling.   With three years of age in the bottle, it is still quite fresh and lively with floral, peach, pear aromas with a touch of lychee.  In the mouth, textured flavors of peach, apricot, pear, and almond are simultaneously dense and svelte.  Crisp and lively acidity provide a long, mouthwatering finish.  It will add to your appreciation of a summer evening or complement grilled shrimp with a lemon butter sauce.    
92 Rebecca Murphy Aug 11, 2020


FRANCE

Alsace:

White:

Gustave Lorentz, Alsace AOC (France) Riesling Grand Cru Kanzlerberg 2017 ($70, Quintessential Wines):  I haven’t tasted this wine for at least five vintages, which makes me very sad about the releases that I missed.  It offers wonderfully complex aromas, with subtle floral topnotes and lovely lemon crème scents, followed by richer fruit flavors recalling tangerine above all, and then excellent minerality riding right alongside the fruit in the finish.  The acidity is abundant but perfectly integrated with the fruit, and in overall terms, every aromatic and flavor note seems perfectly proportioned in this impressively harmonious wine.  Truly, a thing of beauty.     
94 Michael Franz Aug 11, 2020

Gustave Lorentz, Alsace AOC (France) Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim 2016 ($65, Quintessential Wines):  I opened this wine and tasted it alongside this house’s 2017 Grand Cru Kanzlerberg (as well as three other Lorentz Rieslings) for a long and very pleasant evening, and then again over several subsequent days while they were refrigerated but unsealed.  Although I did not admire the overtly sweet Burg” 2017 bottling, all of the others were exceptionally fine in their individuated ways.  The Battle of the Grands Crus ended up in a dead heat, though the wines are utterly different.  This release from the beautiful and formidable Altenberg de Bergheim vineyard is very rich and quite dramatic, with lots of palate weight as well as very expressive aromatics with a pleasant undertone of botrytis that fits nicely with the ripe profile of the fruit.  This is certainly the fleshpot of the two, with the 2017 Kanzlerberg showing a much more cool, reserved, mineral character.  The fact that this house could turn out two beauties with such different profiles is impressive.      
94 Michael Franz Aug 11, 2020

Gustave Lorentz, Alsace AOC (France) Riesling Reserve 2019 ($25, Quintessential Wines):  This is very complex and classy for a straight Alsace AOC Riesling, showing good density but excellent freshness and balance.  The fruit is showy and ripe, but the acidity provides very good linear energy.  This combination makes for an exceptionally versatile wine that’s easily up to the challenge of roasted chicken or pork, but fresh enough to enjoy with delicate fin fish dishes.    
92 Michael Franz Aug 11, 2020

Gustave Lorentz, Alsace AOC (France) Riesling “Evidence” Vieilles Vignes 2018 ($25, Quintessential Wines):  This organic, old vines “Evidence” bottling is leaner and racier than the standard-issue “Réserve” bottling from this house, with a touch more aromatic complexity.  I tasted the two side by side over the course of several hours, but couldn’t ultimately give one or the other a higher score, as the greater richness of the “Réserve” is so well balanced that it provides every bit as much pleasure if not quite the same level of “fine-ness.”  If the two gave me a bit of trouble as a critic, they’ll give you two excellent options as a consumer.  Very impressive.     
92 Michael Franz Aug 11, 2020

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Beaujolais:

Red:

Chateau des Capitans, Juliénas AOP (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2018 ($22, Quintessential Wines):  This “Cru” of Juliénas, a sub appellation of Beaujolais, acquits itself very well in this rendition, showing unusual structure and midpalate weight for a Gamay while delivering the expected sunny flavor profile.   It would be a fine accompaniment for beef, chicken or fish, and good at room temperature as well as with a little chill.   
91 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

Domaine de la Vigne Romaine, Moulin-a-Vent AOC (Beaujolais, France) 2018 ($29, Quintessential Wines):  If you’ve ever wondered if cru Beaujolais was worth the additional cost, the answer is yes.  This stunning vintage from Domaine de la Vigne Romaine is opulent by Beaujolais standards, delivers a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers and freshly crushed berries and impressive depth and weight on the palate.  Beautifully balanced and ready to drink now.      
95 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

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Languedoc-Roussillon:

Red:

Château L’Hospitalet, La Clape AOC (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) “Grand Vin” 2018 ($35, Gerard Bertrand):  While the grape varieties for this wine are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, the Grenache fruit is what got my attention.  It is up front and juicy, luscious, and delectable, with strawberry, black cherry fruit and a touch of Syrah’s black pepper.  Mourvedre contributes cassis, black fruit and rich mouthfeel.  Heady aromatics are contributed by garrigue, the local herbal mélange of woody plants including lavender, thyme and rosemary.  Serve it with a grilled steak.  By way of background, La Clape is a unique AOC within of the much larger Languedoc AOC in the south of France.  Located about four miles from the Mediterranean Sea south of the city of Narbonne, several hundred years ago it was a Roman island.  The estate of Château L’Hospitalet, includes a winery, hotel, two restaurants and the headquarters of Gérard Bertrand, wine producer and négociant.  In total, Bertrand owns and manages 2100 acres of biodynamically farmed vineyards across 15 family-owned estates in the South of France.  He considers the region an ideal place to farm organically and biodynamically because of the proximity of the sea and the area winds that the help dry the vines after spring rains preventing diseases.    
96 Rebecca Murphy Aug 11, 2020


ITALY

Marche:

Rosé:

Garofoli, Marche IGT (Italy) “Kòmaros” Rosato 2019 ($13, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  If you haven’t had the pleasure of a rosé wine made from the Montepulciano grape, here is your opportunity.  It is lean and crisp with delectable citrus aromas and flavors of Meyer lemon and grapefruit mingling with red cherry, apple, pear and a touch of melon.  It is quite enjoyable on its own and it a great partner for a summertime meal of a Panzanella salad or ripe melon and prosciutto.  The grapes are grown in the same vineyards as the winery’s Grosso Agontano Cònero DOCG wine, but the vines are managed specifically for the Rosato.  They are harvested earlier to maximize acidity and fruit and carefully handled in the winery to preserve the wine’s delightful fruit flavors and freshness.   
89 Rebecca Murphy Aug 11, 2020

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Trentino:

Sparkling:

Rotari, Trento DOC (Trentino, Italy) “Platinum Label” Brut 2014 ($17, Prestige Wine Imports):  It’s not easy to fine solid vintage dated bubbly at a wallet friendly price.  Mission accomplished here with this polished TrentoDOC that delivers pear, apple and a mild toasty character on the nose, following through in crisp dry style on the palate and finishing with emphasis on the apple.  It’s not trying to be Champagne – it’s perfectly of its place, and pleasant pricing should have you curious about the region.  There’s some special wine coming out of the area, and this is a fine introduction if you’re unfamiliar.    
90 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020


PORTUGAL

White:

Filipa Pato & William Wouters, Barrida DOC (Portugal) Bical “Nossa Calcario” 2018 ($32, Williams Corner Wine):  One of the great virtues of Portuguese winemakers is their embrace of indigenous grapes.  Filipa Pato perfectly demonstrates this loyalty to the native grape movement.  She is a fifth-generation winemaker.  Using biodynamic farming practices and minimal-intervention winemaking, Filipa and her husband, William Wouters, aim to create "terroir wines by uniting knowledge, art and nature to produce without makeup, wine with its own character.”  Their 2018 Nossa Calcario is a single-vineyard, 100% varietal Bical that’s aged for eight months in oak.  The wine is beautifully structured and exhibits the richness, complexity, and well-balanced acidity of a high-quality white Burgundy.  The palate has an impressive briny minerality carving through ripe pear and peach with hazelnut overtones.  The finish is long and layered.  There is plenty of structure to keep this wine going for another five years or more, but waiting is not needed as it is delicious right now.     
95 Miranda Franco Aug 11, 2020


SOUTH AFRICA

Sparkling:

Simonsig, Western Cape (South Africa) "Kaapse Vonkel" Brut 2018 ($20, Quintessential Wines):   Kaapse Vonkel translates literally as “Cape sparkle” and Simonsig was the first producer of MCC (Methode Cap Classique, or Champagne method) sparkling wine in South Africa back in 1971.  This vintage shows the tart side of bubbly, with a delightful brioche and citrus aromatic profile followed up by green apple, lemon and white peach flavors.  It offers a cleansing aperitif style of sparkling wine that would also play well with oysters.    
90 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

Graham Beck, Western Cape (South Africa) NV ($19):  This non-vintage bubbly from South Africa comes in at an attractive price, and you will love what’s in the bottle, too.  The cuvee relies heavily on Pinot Noir, hence the strong note of raspberry and cherry.  A jolt (34 percent) of Chardonnay brings structure and notes of citrus.  On the palate this sparkling is supple and inviting, shows exceptional fruit purity and delivers great persistence through the finish.    
88 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020


SPAIN

Galicia:

White:

Bodegas Avancia, Valdeorras (Galicia, Spain) Godello Cuvée de O 2018 ($20, Fine Estates from Spain):  Look no further if you wish to experience a shining example of vibrant, refreshing, ready-to-drink Godello.  For those new to northwestern Spain's Godello grape, it lives somewhere between Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling in character.  Michael Franz first drew my attention to this beautiful variety in a tasting class years ago, and I wondered where it had been all my life.  This 100% Godello is rich and round, with lemon peel and blossom accents dancing around the bouquet.  The flavors display notes of grapefruit, fresh peach, lemon cream, honeysuckle with a slightly herbal edge.  It offers bright acidity and a lingering mineral finish driven by the region's slate hillsides.  At $20, this is an excellent value as it tastes like it costs a lot more.    
93 Miranda Franco Aug 11, 2020


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Duckhorn Vineyards, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($100):  Deeply colored and richly flavored, Duckhorn’s Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is an example of what many Napa Valley producers struggle to emulate but seldom get just right.   Not simply big and generous on the palate, it is also multi faceted, broad, firm and muscular.  Rustic rather than elegant, it’s a wine that swaggers a little, showing off inviting aromas and flavors that include dark berries, dustiness and a touch of spice.  In a year or two this wine may be a bit softer, but it is certainly delicious right now so if — like me — you don’t want to defer the pleasure, I say pop the cork and enjoy it tonight.  With dense fruit aromas and flavors, bold but not overly aggressive tannins and a generous finish, enjoy this wine with a grilled steak or lamb chops, or with a bold, summery vegetable-centric dish such as ratatouille.   
93 Marguerite Thomas Aug 11, 2020

Majuscule, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Franc 2018 ($80):  Forget whatever you know about Cabernet Franc before you take your first sip of Majuscule.  Light?  No.  Green?  No.  Boring?  Hell no.  This beauty from the Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder sub-appellation is richly layered, with impressive depth and remarkable complexity.  The 2018 shows notes of blueberry and blackberry, with supple tannins and a generous hit of wood spice.  Hefty price tag, hefty wine.     
96 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Eponymous, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($65):  This is winemaker Bob Pepi’s label and that fact alone merits respect.  One of the finest winemakers in the Napa Valley, Pepi all too often flies under the radar as a consulting winemaker for various other brands.  This vintage of Eponymous soars with richly layered dark fruits, a hint of graphite, and impressive depth with big, bold tannins that will ensure longevity.   
96 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Rector Creek Vineyard "Block 4" Red Wine 2017 ($85):  This vintage of Block 4 leans into the Petit Verdot side of the blend, showing the weight and power that it brings when used in large doses.  The Zinfandel speaks more in the finish, where notes of red fruit, pepper and spice come out from under the black and purple tones.  In short, it's a mouth filling wine that leaves you with good questions about how a wine can be layered in such a way.  Nice!   
94 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

Brown Estate, Napa Valley (California) “Chaos Theory” 2018 ($40):  A growing effort is underway to amplify the number of women and minorities in the wine industry.  A straightforward way to push for inclusivity is to support minority and women-owned wine businesses like Brown Estate (Napa's first black-owned estate winery).  It's an easy task given the caliber of their wines.  Their Chaos Theory, a blend of 50% Petite Sirah, 40% Merlot, and 10% Zinfandel sourced from four different vineyards, reveals a multi-layered ensemble of red and black cherries, black plums, baking chocolate, and vanilla.  It is medium-bodied, and, after about 30 minutes of aeration, it becomes incredibly focused with silky tannins, balanced acidity, and a long and savory finish.  Enjoy now and over the following decade.    
92 Miranda Franco Aug 11, 2020

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2017 ($45):  Chappellet's 2017 is another solid Merlot from this venerable producer, one that focuses on the balance of rich oak spice with dark cherry and berry fruit.  Supple tannins hold everything together through an extended finish, and as the oak integrates further the fruit will take the lead in an elegant dark side expression.  Highly stylized and nicely realized.  Contains 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.    
92 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

Rutherford Hill, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2015 ($28):  With its deep color and explosive aromas, this is the sort of wine you may fall in love with even before your first sip.  Happily, in the mouth the experience is equally impressive, with dark, dense, fully ripe berries plus a touch of woody spice leading the flavor parade.  The wine is generously bodied, nicely balanced, well structured and long on the palate.     
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 11, 2020

Turnbull, Oakville, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2017 ($85):  The Oakville district of the Napa Valley is undoubtedly one of the finest stretches of terroir in the world for Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2017 Turnbull Reserve is yet another example from this hallowed ground.  This vintage is rich and powerful, shows notes of ripe blackberry, boysenberry and cassis with a touch of pencil lead and wood spice.     
95 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Olivet Lane 2018 ($72):  This is perhaps the top vineyard in the galaxy of splendid Merry Edwards vineyard-designates. The 2018 Olivet Lane shows fresh raspberry and a hint of forest floor on the nose, with excellent depth on the palate.  The tannins are supple and smooth this vintage and the persistence of flavor through the finish impressive finish.    
95 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

La Crema, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($25):  This winery has long been known for value and this vintage of its Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a great example.  Modestly priced but ambitiously crafted, it delivers layered aromas of cherry and pomegranate, a subtle note of oak spice and beautifully integrated tannins.   
91 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Rosé:

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Rosé 2019 ($28):  Bursting with notes of strawberry and cherry, this is a crowd-pleasing dry Rosé that just goes on and on.  MacRostie is famous for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but now it seems Rosé is getting in on that class act.   
94 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Pellegrini, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Rosé 2019 ($30):  This limited production Rosé from the Russian River Valley could easily pass for one of the dry Rosé beauties from the south of France.  Crisp and refreshing, with mouth watering acidity and complex aromas of strawberry, pomegranate and stone fruits, it’s sunshine in a glass and lip-smacking good.  It’s a blend of 90 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Carignane.    
92 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($30):   Here’s a look at the serious side of Rosé from a serious producer of Pinot Noir.  It gets at Pinot’s soul by blending clones to get the floral, berry and cherry character while preserving the citric character we desire in a summer pink.  I’m picturing this with a baked, herb encrusted roll of chevre out by the pool.   
92 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

White:

Acumen, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc “Mountainside” 2019 ($30):  This is a Sauvignon Blanc with some richness and weight thanks to some neutral barrel time, which here serves to round off the acidity a bit and allow the tropical side of the aroma and flavor spectrum to be expressed.  Pear, pineapple, soft grapefruit and faint lemongrass mix well together and finish with full integration.  Try it where you might want a lighter side Chardonnay for a change of pace.   
90 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2020

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2018 ($36):  This Duckhorn Chardonnay is a Goldilocks wine:  not too big, not too light, not too sweet, not too acidic — it’s just right!   Complex yet approachable, with juicy pear, hints of floral, a suggestion of minerality and a touch of oak spice, this is a wine to savor on its own or with food.      
94 Marguerite Thomas Aug 11, 2020

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Washington:

Red:

Canvasback, Red Mountain (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon "Grand Passage" 2017 ($84):  If you’re wondering why so many wine enthusiasts are excited about the wines of Washington, look no further than this beauty from Washington’s Red Mountain district.  Bold and muscular, with impressive extract that would be the envy of top wineries in the Napa Valley, the 2017 Canvasback is a towering example of Washington Cabernet at its very best.  This one shows aromas of blackberry and cassis, fine tannins and a long finish that delivers plenty of oak spice.   
95 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2020

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