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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

May 21, 2024 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Viña Cobos, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon “Felino” 2020 ($20, Paul Hobbs Selections):  This is a top-notch, remarkably delicious Cabernet Sauvignon in the hands of the legendary winemaker Paul Hobbs, a pioneer who began exploring vineyard sites in Mendoza 30 years ago.  The Viña Cobos Felino 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon opens with aromas of currant, blackberry, spiced black plum, violet, and a touch of herbs that lead to a richly textured, full-bodied wine that is wonderfully balanced by refined tannin and bright acidity.      
92 Miranda Franco May 21, 2024

White:

Domaine Bousquet, Tupungato, Uco Valley (Mendoza, Argentina) Chardonnay "Unoaked" Organic Grapes 2023 ($13):  Fresh and bright, this fruit driven Chardonnay seems to be made for poolside sipping.  Many no-oak examples tend toward the tropical, or the more austere in the case of Chablis, but this budget friendly wine stays in the wet stone and citrus zone, and while it’s simple, it is satisfying.  Bousquet continues to deliver value for your dollar.         
90 Rich Cook May 21, 2024


AUSTRALIA

Margaret River:

Red:

Xanadu, Margaret River (Australia) Shiraz “Circa 77” 2021 ($14, RWG Wines USA):  Xanadu's 2021 Circa 77 Shiraz is a linear, leaner red with lots of good acidity and very spicy red fruit flavors – cranberries included.  Would it be considered typecasting if I suggested this tangy red for grilled foods?           
90 Roger Morris May 21, 2024


AUSTRIA

White:

Weingut Norbert Bauer, Niederösterreich (Austria) Grüner Veltliner “Schplïnk!” 2023 ($41):  Wine is full of surprises.  At what turned out to be a very good, unassuming-looking Cambodian restaurant in Brooklyn, Lulu Mae, I saw a Grüner Veltliner by the glass for all of $12 on their short but enticing wine list.  When I asked to see the bottle, the waiter informed me it was from a box, but quickly added, “It’s very good.”  She was correct.  The Bauer family has run the winery for 11 generations, according to their website and recently received Austrian certification for sustainability that also means it must be organic.  With good depth, this energetic Grüner Veltliner cut through the mild — and not so mild — spice, making it ideally suitable to the splendid array of Cambodian dishes on the table.  The $41 price is for a 3-liter box, so that works out to just over $10 if calculated in relation to standard 750ml bottles.         
89 Michael Apstein May 21, 2024


ENGLAND

Sparkling:

Coates & Seely, England (United Kingdom) Brut Reserve NV ($38, Touton):  Christian Seely’s side project when he is not running AXA’s vast network of global wines, this British sparkling wine house certainly drinks above its rather modest price.  Made of Chardonnay (40%), Pinot Noir (50%) and Pinot Meunier, the bubbly is rich, though not heavy, slightly yeasty (always welcoming on my palate) and lightly gamey with the satisfying finish of reserve wines.      
92 Roger Morris May 21, 2024


FRANCE

Jura:

White:

Domaine de Montbourgeau, L'Etoile (Jura, France) “Les 5 Etoiles” 2021 ($38, Rosenthal Wine Merchant):  Domaine de Montbourgeau's 2021 Les 5 Etoiles from L'Etoile, in the Jura, is a fantastic transition wine, as summer creeps ever closer.  Aged under flor, the nose of this wine is immediately reminiscent of sherry, with notes of almonds, lemon, and sea spray.  On the palate, the nutty, citrusy notes of the nose carry through, joined by a complex mineral note — no doubt aided by the fossil-rich soils of Montbourgeau's vineyards.  The wine's lively acidity is matched by interesting textural properties.           
93 John McDermott May 21, 2024

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Provence:

Rosé:

Rumor, Côtes de Provence (France) Rosé 2022 ($30):  This Côtes de Provence Rosé is a  medium-bodied, but lightly flavored pink wine that is quite silky in body and texture with most of its strawberry fruitiness coming at the finish and with a pleasant, light tartness.  A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Rolle grapes.       
90 Roger Morris May 21, 2024


ITALY

Tuscany:

Red:

Ornellaia, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia” 2022 ($42, Vintus):  Ornellaia's 2022 Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia is a mixture of red and black fruits with mainly juicy cherry flavors that are slightly tangy and tart with dusty tannins and long on the palate.  The blend is an almost even mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.      
90 Roger Morris May 21, 2024


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Dough, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2023 ($19):  The “Dough” label is a collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, and this is the first of the wines to carry a foreign appellation.  The thing that attracts me here is a distinct jalapeno pepper on the nose and in the mouth, which while unusual for the appellation adds a little more bite and cleansing character to the usual Marlborough vibe.  Here is to branching out.     
91 Rich Cook May 21, 2024


SPAIN

White:

Envínate, Canary Islands (Spain) “Palo Blanco” 2021 ($50, José Pastor Selections):  From the first whiff, Envínate's 2021 Palo Blanco is an exceedingly intriguing wine.  A medley of funky, salty, citrusy notes wafts from the glass as the wine is poured.  Upon first sip, the taster is greeted with a torrent of fresh acidity, brought about by the altitude of the grape growing and prevention of malolactic fermentation.  Behind that refreshing citrus acidity is a collection of spice, fruit, and earth.  This wine is deeply complex and kept me coming back for more, as I tried in vain to nail down various and layered flavors found within.      
92 John McDermott May 21, 2024

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Castilla y León:

Red:

Bodega Elías Mora, Toro (Castilla y León, Spain) Crianza 2020 ($40, Grapes of Spain / Aurelio Cabestrero):  Wine lovers who don’t know the history and caliber of the Toro appellation (located to the northwest of Madrid) may well bridle at a price of $40 for a wine designated as “Crianza,” so a bit of background is in order.  “Crianza” is a word made famous in Rioja, where it really only serves to indicate a wine that was oak aged, often in rather raw wood that imparts more flavor to the finished wine than the liquid in the bottle.  This, in turn, was (and is still) often explained by the fact that high-yielding clones of Tempranillo were developed to enable big wineries to crank out inexpensive wines juked up with all that oak and sell them in supermarkets all over the world — as well as in beach towns to foreign tourists all the way back in the Franco era during the 1960s and ’70s.  Toro was never in that game, commercially speaking, and was never invaded by those high-yielding clones (though a few producers have used them), so the very appearance of the word “Crianza” on the label of this wine from this excellent producer is really only intended to distinguish the pecking order of the wines within the lineup of releases.  My opinion is that the presence of the word does more harm than good, but then, nobody asked me.  Regarding the wine, my opinion is that it is packed with ripe, delicious fruit flavor that easily outruns the considerable oak that is also evident, but utilized in this to guarantee longevity and add complexity.  Quite nicely proportioned on a big frame, this a powerful and intense without being heavy, with purity of fruit (a hallmark of this house) that keeps the oak at bay.  Already delicious, but better in five years, and likely much better in ten.        
94 Michael Franz May 21, 2024

Bodega Elías Mora, Toro (Castilla y León, Spain) Tinto 2022 ($28, Grapes of Spain / Aurelio Cabestrero):  This isn’t priced along the lines of everyone’s idea of an “entry-level” wine, but neither does it taste remotely like a basic offering.  The bouquet is complex and alluring at a very high level of expressiveness right after the cork is pulled, showing gorgeous fruit notes that are mostly red in “tone” but also with some black fruit shading, along with light toasty accents and a lovely spiciness.  All these notes are echoed on the palate, with medium body but a very high ratio of flavor to weight.  It is true — but nevertheless difficult to believe — that this was exposed to 100% new American oak, even if only for 6 months, as the wood notes lend complexity without remotely taking over the wine.  Immensely enjoyable now, with wonderful purity of fruit, this is still a serious wine with a serious future, during which it will improve for at least five years and maybe longer.           
92 Michael Franz May 21, 2024

White:

Bodegas Emilio Moro, Bierzo (Castilla y León, Spain) Godello “Polvorete” 2021 ($20, Touton):  Godello smells and tastes like a theoretical mash-up of Riesling, Albariño and Chardonnay.  The 2021 Polvorete Godello is supremely fresh, light, and easy to drink.  It offers a bouquet recalling nectarines, honeysuckle, and thyme.  Fresh peach and pineapple flavors are joined by vivid acidity that evaporates into a bright finish with enough complexity to keep it interesting, leaving a lingering impression of fresh fruit and a delicate mineral edge.            
90 Miranda Franco May 21, 2024

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Rias Baixas:

White:

Paco & Lola, Rías Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño Dreyfus, Ashby & Co 2015 ($55):  Don’t let the nine years this wine has been in bottle worry you.  Sure, Albariño wines from Spain’s beautiful seaside region of Rias Baíxas, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, are usually consumed young with fresh seafood, especially oysters.  The age in this instance is nicely revealed by the forward tropical fruit aromas.  But the concentrated, citrusy flavors accompanied by crisp acidity and a silky mouthfeel provide a complete story that this vinous elder knows how to age.          
96 Rebecca Murphy May 21, 2024

Castro Martin Family Estate, Rías Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño “Sobre Lias, En Rama” 2021 ($24, Frederick Wildman & Sons):  Albarino is the perfect warm weather wine, like this one from the Castro Martin Family Estate with its focused, concentrated flavors of Meyer lemon and white grapefruit charged by mouthwatering acidity.  Domingo Martin-Morales found and acquired a property where he built a winery 1981.  He was apparently a forward-looking man, because he installed the first stainless steel tanks in the region, before the appellation was established.  He was also an innovative man, building a three-story winery that allowed the winemaking process, including the delivery of grapes, crushing, fermentation, bottling and aging to flow with the help of gravity.         
93 Rebecca Murphy May 21, 2024

Valtea, Rías Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño 2022 ($16, Spanish Acquisition):  This Albariño from the family of owners, Carla González Chao and Lázaro Moreno Carrera, has a light yellow color with bright citrus and peach aromas and flavors.  In the mouth there is crisp acidity backing lingering flavors.  The intense flavors are courtesy of grapes that were grown on 25-plus year-old vines which provide more access to nutrients and minerals in the soil.  The grapes were fermented at low temperature in stainless steel to capture the pure fruit flavors and then spent six months on the lees, in order to create the silky texture in the mouth.  This wine is an excellent value, especially at this price.      
92 Rebecca Murphy May 21, 2024


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Franc 2021 ($125):  Just cracking the limit for variety specific labeling with 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Merlot in the mix, this producer wisely lets the Cabernet Franc name take top billing anyway as it reflects the core personality of the wine.  The combination of Cabernet Franc’s red fruit tones with Atlas Peak’s signature minerality makes for a delightful combination, with rich oak spice adding depth without smothering the primary characteristics.  As this ages and the structure mellows it will become a serious beauty, and a cellar trophy you would be wise to add to your collection.        
96 Rich Cook May 21, 2024

Lifevine, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “Zero Sugar” 2023 ($22):  I would imagine that the challenge of making “zero sugar” wine is to keep it in the “dry” zone and out of the “drying” zone -- a touch of residual sugar can keep that drying astringency at bay.  This offering succeeds fairly well, with correct Cabernet character on the nose and in the mouth and reasonable fruit push in the finish where a firm grip lands without astringency.  This needs food to show its best -- a well marbled steak will do the trick.          
88 Rich Cook May 21, 2024

Jolie-Laide, Central Coast (California) Syrah “Les Saisons dans les Abysses” 2020 ($50):  Jolie-Laide operates out of Sebastopol, sourcing grapes from vineyards across California, from Mendocino to Santa Cruz and beyond.  The 2020 Syrah for this bottling comes from the Brosseau and Coast View vineyards, nestled in the Gabilan Mountains at 2,200-2,400 feet.  It presents a beautiful array of aromas and flavors, featuring blackberries, pomegranate, violets, lavender, black pepper, bay leaf, roasted meat, and tapenade notes.  It has a deep concentration yet remains vibrant with a kiss of bright acidity that culminates with a mineral-laden finish.        
93 Miranda Franco May 21, 2024

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Franc 2021 ($120):  As usual, the Chappellet Cabernet Franc is a dark side expression of the variety, and it is prized by its fans for precisely that reason.  Full throttle red and black berry fruit rides alongside bold oak spice on a supple structure that already shows fine tuned integration.  Things will continue to fold together over time, but you will have a hard time letting it age if you get a taste any time soon.  As always, exceptional wine!  Also contains 7% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot.    
95 Rich Cook May 21, 2024

Ehlers Estate, St. Helena - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Franc 2021 ($79):  It struck me that the red wines I tasted from Ehlers’ 2021vintage were all somewhat aggressive, and that it might be a tannin overload or tannins that aren’t easily integrating even after time outside the bottle.  This Cabernet Franc, however, is the most appealing – smooth textures with mellow notes of blackberries and chocolate, although the tannins still leap out somewhat.     
91 Roger Morris May 21, 2024

White:

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay “Russian River Selection” 2022 ($40):  This offering will please a crowd of Chardonnay fans, with some oak, but not too much, enhancing apple and lemon creme aromas and flavors with a touch of caramelized pineapple.  Lively acidity keeps everything bright and extends the finish, where citrus zest cleans everything up and invites you back again and again.  Solid Chardonnay!     
92 Rich Cook May 21, 2024

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Oregon:

Rosé:

Troon Vineyard, Applegate Valley (Oregon) “Druid’s Pink” 2023 ($25):  The inaugural Rosé under the “Druid’s” moniker, this 2023 was made entirely from the winery’s recently planted biodynamically farmed estate vines.   Each variety is separately harvested and vinified, and the final blend is 62% Mourvèdre, 18% Grenache, 8% Cinsault, 7% Carignan, and 5% Counoise.  Bottled unfined and unfiltered, this Rosé is a low 12.2% alcohol and a sheer delight to taste.  It captures honeydew melon and strawberry aromas, and is lively on the palate with pleasing berry flavors and a touch of spice.  The winemaker seemingly had Provence in mind, and came up with a real beauty.  A refreshing wine to enjoy all summer.  Or anytime.           
92 Norm Roby May 21, 2024

White:

Iterum, Chehalem Mountains (Oregon) Chardonnay Old Friend Arlyn Vineyard 2021 ($90):  This wine represents the last vintage from this dry farmed, biodynamic vineyard which was removed and replanted in 2022.  Winemaker Joe Dobbs categorizes it as an early ripening site planted on thin soil, and apparently lets the site dictate the style.  While the color is similar to his other Chardonnays, it comes across as stony and flinty in character.  Some lemon and green apple notes vie for attention, but stone fruit suggestions dominate both the aroma and flavor.  Fairly rich and viscous on the palate, it appeals with its rich texture, vibrancy and subtle, long finish.  It was barrel fermented in 38% new wood and barrel aged for 11 months, then aged for 6 months in stainless prior to bottling.  To preserve the bright acidity, Dobbes blocked malolactic fermentation.  The chalky aftertaste just stays with you.  One to enjoy now but can also reward cellaring. 123 cases were made.      
95 Norm Roby May 21, 2024

Iterum, Eola-Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Chardonnay Orchard House Vineyard 2021 ($75):  Sourced from the Dobbes family home estate vineyard planted in 2016, this is one extraordinary Chardonnay.   Initially, you think it might be French.  That’s surprising for such a relatively young vineyard but this is an unusual and distinct wine.  Light yellow with green tint, it opens up to offer layer after layer of rich, concentrated aromas and flavors.  Beginning with a note recalling effusive fresh cut apple, it picks up subtle lemon curd, and a hint of ginger with a little oak vanilla.  Medium full on the palate with similar flavors, it is smooth, concentrated and nicely textured.  The non-stop flavors continue and lead to a lovely, long-lasting lemon and oak spice aftertaste.  The vineyard is organically farmed and the wine was barrel fermented with the native yeasts and aged for 11 months in 37% new French and 12% new Acacia barrels.  A small percentage went through malolactic fermentation which accounts for its vibrancy and balance.  One of the finest Oregon Chardonnays in my experience.  220 cases made.              
96 Norm Roby May 21, 2024

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Virginia:

Red:

Cave Ridge Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley (Virginia) “Fossil Hill Reserve” Red Wine 2019 ($65):  This mid-weight Cabernet Franc-dominant blend displays fabulous herbal/leafy character intertwined with dried and fresh red fruit notes.  It packs plenty of punch without being heavy.  Supple tannins lend support and balance, while allowing for pleasant current drinking.  In a word, yum!  For those interested in the blend: Cabernet Franc 60% balanced by equal amounts of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.         
93 Michael Apstein May 21, 2024

Breaux Vineyards, Virginia (United States) Nebbiolo Reserve "The Fog" 2019 ($72):  The wine is appropriately named The Fog since nebbia, from which Nebbiolo takes its name, is Italian for fog.  This fabulous expression of Nebbiolo speaks for itself so the heavy bottle with the cumbersome wax/rubber overlay to the cork is unnecessary.  The wine’s pale color is deceptive given the flavor that emerges — it is truly Nebbiolo.  The engaging combination of floral and tarry elements is apparent as soon as you pour it and then explode on the palate with the first sip.  There is a captivating mix of fresh and dried fruit, and leafy notes, giving it a wonderful “not just fruit” quality.  Not an opulent wine, it impresses with its paradox of austerity and substance.  The tannins you would expect from Nebbiolo are there, especially in the finish, but they are firm, not hard nor astringent.  Do not be put off by the 16.2 % stated alcohol.  The wine is harmonious, not heavy nor alcoholic.           
94 Michael Apstein May 21, 2024

Rosé:

Gabriele Rausse, Virginia (United States) “Vin Gris de Pinot Noir” 2021 ($25):  Summer is here and Gabriele Rausse has your rosé needs covered with this house's lightly colored Vin Gris de Pinot Noir.  This delicious wine is juicy with melon and stone fruits.   A zip of acidity makes every sip refreshing, doubly so when served ice cold on a warm day.  Gabriele Rausse has been making wine in Virginia for over 40 years.  Always focused on quality, his winemaking approach is centered on proper vineyard management with a light hand in the winery.  Having enjoyed several vintages of Gabriele Rausse’s Vin Gris de Pinot Noir, I am happy to report that this wine is a winner year after year.       
90 Vince Simmon May 21, 2024

Sparkling:

Veritas, Monticello (Virginia) Chardonnay “Scintilla” NV ($45):  This wine was so good, I had to double check what I was drinking.   Done in a traditional method, Veritas’ Scintilla is a world-class sparkling wine with bright acidity and a chalk, brioche, and crisp tree fruit flavor profile.  The key to Veritas’ quality starts in the vineyard, where grapes are harvested early to preserve acidity and continues through the winemaking process.  The wine is then aged for 30 months on the lees to give it that traditional sparkling wine flavor profile.  Veritas started making wine in 2001 as a family dream come true and their success has allowed them to expand their vineyards and winemaking.  Scintilla now holds the top spot for Virginia sparkling in my book.  What a great wine.         
93 Vince Simmon May 21, 2024

White:

Veritas, Monticello (Virginia) Viognier 2022 ($27):  I have been consistently impressed with Virginia winemakers that continue to raise the bar with quality wine.  Originally founded in 1999, Veritas was the dream of Andrew and Patricia Hodson.  Their daughter Emily moved to Virginia to help them set up the winery but quickly found her own passion and today is the head winemaker at Veritas.  Her Virginia Viognier immediately impressed me.  The wine is lightly creamy with a balanced fruit and floral presentation which includes melon, lychee, honeysuckle, yogurt, and yellow apple.  I quickly turned my family on to Virginia Viognier and this is a wine that both newer drinkers and oenophiles will enjoy.          
91 Vince Simmon May 21, 2024

Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia (United States) "Paxxito" 2019 ($40):  Barboursville, the first established modern winery in Virginia, remains a — perhaps THE — leading producer in that state.  This wine shows why!  It is a glorious, sweet wine, integrating apricot skin flavors with depth, a rich honey-like body, and most importantly, riveting acidity that holds it all together.  A sweet wine must be judged by its verve.  Lacking that energetic quality, it is just syrupy.  Barboursville hits the bull’s eye on that account.  There is sweetness to it, to be sure, but the counterbalancing savory quality is what’s really enthralling.  It would be a fabulous choice for a cheese course at the end of a meal or as dessert.  I would avoid serving it with “normal” dessert because the sweetness of each would detract from both.  For some technical information for those interested, it is a blend of Moscato Ottonel and Vidal that have been dried on racks for months to concentrate the sugar and acidity (a process called appassimento in Italian that results in passito wines), and then fermented and aged in older barrels.  Sold in a 375ml bottle.       
95 Michael Apstein May 21, 2024

Paradise Springs, Virginia (United States) Petit Manseng 2022 ($37):  Petit Manseng is not a well-known grape.  Although frequently used for making sweet wines in the southwest of France, it is capable, as this wine shows brilliantly, of making stellar dry wines.  Jancis Robinson, the noted British wine authority, notes its high acidity makes it well-suited for the heat of Virginia, where it has been planted since 2010.  Despite 14.4% stated alcohol, this Petit Manseng is not opulent or overdone.  Rather, it displays just the right amount of stone fruit character supported by bright invigorating acidity that keeps it fresh and wonderfully lively.  It has excellent weight and power without a trace of heaviness.  Long and bright, a delicate and appealing hint of bitterness in the finish just adds to its appeal.  It would be a fine choice for drinking this summer with grilled swordfish or other full-flavored seafood.        
94 Michael Apstein May 21, 2024

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Washington:

Red:

Argonne Cellars, Red Mountain (Washington) Petit Verdot Stanton Vineyard 2020 ($39):  There is no mistaking this as anything but Petit Verdot, and it is a fine example.  It is more taut than the California examples that I typically get to sample, and that works in its favor, with nice wood and spice tones serving to tone down the violets that are the hallmark of the variety.  Supple grip keeps the flavors coming through a long finish that should continue to open with further bottle aging.  Well done!     
93 Rich Cook May 21, 2024


WINES FROM THE CELLAR

Red:

Ceretto, Barbaresco DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 1991 ($150):  Nebbiolo is one of those grapes that can age for decades and keep getting better.  Ceretto's 1991 Barbaresco is a great example of this.  With over three decades of age, this wine is still lively and delicious.  A beautiful tawny orange hue shows in the glass, followed by scents of violets, licorice, and red fruits.  Skewing more tertiary on the palate, delicious flavors of cherries, mushrooms, tobacco, and leather all come through, followed by still zippy acidity.  Complex and full of life, this wine is drinking quite well at the moment, but should be enjoyed sooner rather than later.        
93 John McDermott May 21, 2024

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