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THE GRAPEVINE

Wine & Roses Charity Wine Tasting June 1, 2014

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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

April 15, 2014 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Red:

Salentein, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Spirit Vineyard Numina, Gran Corte 2011 ($41): Complex red and fruits dominate this exotic red Bordeaux-style blend. The tannins are silky smooth, and there is tremendous persistence of flavor through the finish.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Salentein, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec Reserve 2012 ($19): It was wines like this that put Argentine Malbec on the map. This reserve from Salentein, which boasts some of the highest vineyards in the world, delivers the intensity and layered complexity that seriously good Malbec can and should. On the palate it is juicy and mouthwatering, with aromas of ripe blackberries. The oak treatment is modest, allowing the beauty of the fruit to shine.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

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AUSTRALIA

South Australia:

Red:

Dandelion Vineyards, Eden Valley (South Australia) Shiraz “Red Queen of the Eden Valley” 2012 ($85): This is an expensive wine with a rather weighty name as well, so you might wonder whether it can live up to its advance billing.  In terms of sheer assertiveness of flavor, one could hardly ask for more, as the slightly stewed flavor notes show both red and black fruit tones.  Interestingly -- and admirably -- the wood is not remotely obtrusive, which shows very good judgment in letting the fruit shine from center stage.  Tannins are sufficiently prominent to lend needed structure to the ripe fruit, but there’s nothing astringent or overly gripping about their impact on the wine’s finish.  Pair with meat dishes treated with a spicy rub.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

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FRANCE

Bordeaux:

Red:

Château Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc (Bordeaux, France) 2011 ($33): Château Poujeaux continues its recent string of fine efforts.  Although the 2011 harvest lacks the enthusiastic ratings of the previous two vintages, fine wines can be found at less exalted prices.  Rich with blackberry, black plum and blueberry fruits balanced by vanilla and baking spices, the 2011 Poujeaux is defined by its beautiful purity and complex layering of flavors.  You can enjoy it now or cellar it for another decade.
91 Wayne Belding Apr 15, 2014

White:

Château La Louvière, Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux, France) 2011 ($49): The 2011 Château La Louvière Blanc is a lovely example of oak-aged white Bordeaux.  Rich aromas of grapefruit, apricot and lemon curd are underlain by waxy, floral, vanilla and baking spice tones.  Beautifully pure and layered on the palate, it balances the exotic fruit and citrus peel intensity with a lusciously creamy texture and a crisp minerality.  This is a characterful white that can be enjoyed over the next 7 to 8 years.
90 Wayne Belding Apr 15, 2014

Languedoc:

Rosé:

Domaine de Nizas, Languedoc (France) Rosé 2013 ($16, Goelet Wine Estates): This excellent effort from Domaine de Nizas shows exceptionally fine balance based on interplay between faintly floral aromatics, fresh red fruit tones recalling cherries and wild strawberries, lip-smacking acidity, and a pleasant hint of citrus-rind bitterness that helps focus the finish.  Fruity but not sweet, this will be delicious on its own but also very versatile at the table.  Crafted from 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre.  Exemplary rosé.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

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GERMANY

Mosel:

White:

The Seeker, Mosel (Germany) Riesling 2012 ($15): On the nose this wine seduces with intense notes of floral and spice. On the palate it shows hints of guava and stone fruits, with a delicious thread of brioche that will evolve even more clearly as the wine gains some bottle age. For the money, an amazing mouthful of wine. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Pio Cesare, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Nebbiolo Ornato 2009 ($99, Maisons Marques and Domaines): Pio Cesare’s 2009 Ornato is a lusciously appealing and complex Barolo.  While it shows the ripeness of the 2009 harvest and the sleek spiciness of French oak, the greatness of the Nebbiolo grape takes center stage.  Layers of juicy black plum and cherry fruits are underlain by hints of dried rose, leather, sandalwood, anise, tar, smoke and spice.  The beautiful, long finish reveals nuances at every turn.  Delicious now for its ripe style, it can cellar well for another 20+ years.
95 Wayne Belding Apr 15, 2014

Fontanafredda, Serralunga d'Alba Barolo DOCG (Italy) 2009 ($45): This vintage from Fontanafredda shows a tarry nose, with notes of dried cherry and herbs. On the palate it exhibits outstanding richness for young Barolo, backed by firm tannins and bright acidity. With exceptional persistence of flavor through a long and satisfying finish, this is a Barolo that can be enjoyed young, but it will no doubt continue to evolve and improve over the next several years. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Tuscany:

Red:

Rocca delle Macie, Toscana IGT (Italy) Sangiovese Syrah 'Sasyr' 2011 ($17): This interesting and unusual blend from Rocca delle Macie demonstrates a surprising synergy between Sangiovese, the indigenous red grape of the region, and Syrah, the international grape variety that has only been planted in recent years. The Syrah delivers structure in the form of firm tannins, and a delicious blackberry note that complements the earthy, dried cherry aroma of the native Sangiovese. Purists may well cringe, but this is a serious red from Tuscany that is well worth a look, and the price is sensational given the quality. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Veneto:

Sparkling:

Zonin, Brut Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) Cuvee 1821 NV ($15): Zonin's Cuvee 1821 is a significant step up from the everyday, garden variety Prosecco. Drier than most, this delicate brut shows aromas of pippin apple and a seductive floral note. It is well-balanced and long in the mouth, with a lifted, refreshing finish. 94 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Tenuta Ca' Bolani, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) NV ($19, Zonin USA): This is a very classy Prosecco.  I often refer to Prosecco as the "beer of bubbly" (in a good way) as it is often bright and refreshing as an ice cold beer on a hot day, and even will finish with a beery aftertaste.  This wine steps above the fray and presents more like a dry, mineral driven Champagne, featuring bright lemon and lime zest, wet stone and white flower aromas, with a crisp scouring palate of citrus zest and granite mineral notes. A great aperitif, or a nice shellfish pairing.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Golden Star Vineyards, Antelope Valley of the California High Desert (California) Syrah Chavez Vineyard 2012 ($25): The latest in our continuing series "another County heard from," this is serious Syrah from a place where not much grows out of the ground other than creosote and cactus.  It shows great varietal character, delivering blackberry, blueberry, tar, orange zest and fall spice aromas, and a palate that's full and plush, with nicely integrated oak and a long finish.  I fully expect to see more vineyards in this appellation as a result of this wine.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Joel Gott, California (United States) Grenache Alakai 2012 ($18): Soft, supple and round, this inviting Grenache exhibits fresh red-fruit aromas and a note of spice. Perfect for the summer barbecue with smoked meats and zesty sauces. 92 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Sterling, Carneros (Napa Valley) Pinot Noir 2011 ($25): Showing the bright red-fruit aromas that are typical of the Carneros district, this relatively inexpensive Pinot Noir from Sterling turns the conventional wisdom on the 2011 vintage on its head. The troubled vintage was hit and miss for many, but for Sterling this is a huge hit at a great price. The wine is delicately structured, but well balanced and flavorful. At the price one of the best Pinot values I've tasted in some time. 90 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Hess Select, Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($20): This delicious, high-value-per-dollar wine shows an open, expressively fruity nose with dark cherry fruit notes in the lead, but also a savory character that rides right behind the fruit notes.  Pure and fresh but not obvious or simple, the wine’s oak influence is quite minimal, but there’s a definite spice note in the background that lends added interest.  Admirable for its lack of overt sweetness, but still very generous in terms of fruit, this shows essentially perfect balance between fruit and freshening acidity, with very delicate but nevertheless spine-lending tannins.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

Uptick Vineyards, Chalk Hill (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($46): Rich and dense, this Sonoma County Cab from the Chalk Hill district delivers layers of black fruit aroma and spice, with a hint of mocha on the finish, and firm tannins. 92 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Andrew Lane, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($29): Delicious, ripe black-fruit aromas, with good balance and well-judged oak, this Napa Valley Cab from Andrew Lane is a steal at less than $30 a bottle.  Platinum winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Napa Cellars, Napa Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($26): Here is a nice value in a Napa Valley Pinot Noir.  It needs some air time in the glass, but it opens beautifully to a mix of ripe cherry fruit, rhubarb, strawberry, dry earth and a very mild menthol note.  A sweet oak note comes forward in the mouthwatering finish.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

S & G Estate, Paso Robles (California) "Aleksander", Reserve 2010 ($95): This red Bordeaux-style blend leans heavily on the Merlot grape, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the blend. The Merlot flexes its muscles in a way that might surprise some, showing richness and power without losing its sense of balance. Layered plum and blackberry fruits dominate, with hints of spice and mocha rounding out the package. The tannins are ripe and nicely integrated, contributing to a supple, generous mouthfeel that is certainly among the most attractive aspects of this wine.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

S & G Estate, Paso Robles (California) "Aleksander" 2010 ($75): This wine is a testament to what can be done with Merlot in Paso Robles.  It's incredibly full bodied, with a deep black and red berry mix accompanied by notes of damp earth, dried herb, dill, and baking spice.  Big and chewy in the mouth, it stays well integrated through the long finish, bring a nice citrus note forward that waters your mouth and invites another sip.  Contains 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Eagles Landing, Paso Robles (California) Syrah 2012 ($44): Big shouldered and rich, this wine is typical of the powerful, fruit-forward Syrah that Paso Robles is famous for. It is a serious mouthfeel of wine, high octane, and sure to please those who enjoy the robust style of Paso Syrah. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles (California) Barbera 2011 ($28): Barbera has never quite caught on in California for reasons that are not quite clear. Perhaps a skeptical public would be more attracted to the wines made from this grape variety indigenous to the Piedmont region of northern Italy if more had the stuffing exhibited by this beauty from Eberle. It has a rich mouthfeel, and handles a fair amount of oak with aplomb. The wine shows blue-fruit aromas, hints of dried herbs, good balance and a spicy finish. A beautiful match with roast chicken.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Ranchero Cellars, Paso Robles / Monterey County (California) "Revolver" 2012 ($40): Owner/winemaker Amy Butler is making some really great wine, and this bottling is a standout in her current lineup of stars.  It's a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Carignan that delivers true Rhone character, with blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, dry earth, subtle dried herbs and a touch of leather on the nose, all of which translate directly to flavors on the palate.  It's got structured acidity, firm grip and a long finish, and it will gain in complexity over the next 5 to 6 years.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Masterpiece Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Grown 2012 ($16): An estate grown, Russian River Pinot Noir for sixteen dollars?  Indeed, and a very fine one at that.  Nice tart cherry fruit, nicely integrated oak spice, mild dry earth, rhubarb and strawberry are delivered with racy, food-friendly acidity and a very long finish make this a wine to seek out.  It's elegant inside and out, featuring a label of The Woods of Giverny by Monet, so it makes an excellent gift, and at this price I'd get a case or two to make lots of people happy.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Andrew Lane, Rutherford (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($45): This Cabernet from Rutherford shows a striking minerality that is both unique and attractive. On the palate the wine is dense and powerful, firmly structured, and rich, with dark-fruited aromas that linger with persistence through the finish. 91 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Côte Del Sol Estate Vineyards 2011 ($32): This wine shows restrained ripeness in the form of an herbal aromatic edge and a medium-bodied profile, yet there’s nothing green or vegetal about the wine, which could actually pass for Bordeaux if tasted blind.  Dark berry fruit is accented with notes of dried herbs and fresh dill, with nicely polished tannins and subtle wood.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
91 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

Cru, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County) Pinot Noir Appellation Series 2012 ($29): Cru's "Appellation Series" Pinot from Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands is a superb example of the power and complexity this terroir delivers on a consistent basis. Packed with ripe red and black fruits, this wines is mouth-filling and juicy, with overtones of forest floor and cola. It finishes with length and a hint of a bite that will mellow with a bit more bottle age. In the realm of delicious California Pinot Noir, at less than $30 a bottle it represents outstanding value. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Imagery Estate Winery, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Franc 2011 ($39): An excellent Cabernet Franc that is true to its grape variety in all of the best ways, this shows very appealing dried herb aromatic notes but no hint of anything vegetal or under-ripe.  The fruit shows a delectable hint of sweetness that again suggests fully ripe fruit, yet there’s nothing overtly sugary or confected in the flavor profile, but rather a slightly savory aspect that makes the wine enduringly interesting.  Medium-bodied, with notable but unobtrusive wood and very good tannin balance, this will become even more complex with time in bottle, but is already a very promising partner for all sorts of moderately robust meat dishes.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

Sparkling:

Korbel Champagne Cellars, California (United States) Brut, Organically Grown Grapes NV ($13): Korbel is on to something with this wine.  I visited the winery a few years ago and they were working with Sangiovese in some of the sparklers that were sold only at the tasting room.  This bubbly is a blend of French Colombard, Sangiovese and Chardonnay, and it succeeds, delivering solid Brut character with notes of brioche, apple, lemon and a faint hint of strawberry, with zesty acidity and a very long cleansing finish that leaves a lingering toastiness.  Discounters will have this for less than ten bucks.  A very solid value.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Gloria Ferrer, Carneros (California) Blanc de Blancs, Late Disgorged 2010 ($40): To Gloria Ferrer's arsenal that includes the complex, sometimes profound Carneros Cuvee and the consistently underrated Royal Cuvee add the Blanc de Blancs (it is 100 percent Chardonnay) Late Disgorged, a stunning and elegant addition to the lineup of exquisite sparkling wines from this Sonoma County producer. This beautiful wine exhibits a floral note on the nose, aromas of citrus and apple, firm structure and a hint of brioche. Thoroughly enjoyable. 96 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

New York:

White:

Dr. Konstantin Frank, Finger Lakes (New York) Grüner Veltliner 2012 ($15): This totally convincing Grüner Veltliner from the Finger Lakes has it all:  Lovely, lifted aromatics, followed by delicious pear and white melon fruit with zesty citrus edging, and a pleasantly peppery bite in the finish.  Light to medium in body, but with lots of flavor, this could serve many purposes at the table, but would also make an excellent aperitif.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
92 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

Virginia:

Red:

Barrel Oak Winery, Virginia (United States) Petit Verdot Reserve 2010 ($35): Virginia reds have been coming on strong in recent vintages, as this 100 percent Petit Verdot from Barrel Oak Winery demonstrates. The fruit is pure and sweet, with supple tannins and a seductive, lingering finish.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Washington:

White:

Eroica, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling "Gold" 2012 ($28): This wine won a Platinum Medal at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition, though one might wonder whether it snuck past the judges by flattering them with its considerable sweetness at the end of a long day of tasting.  Well, as a side-note, I should indicate that I showed it a week previously to a group of very experienced tasters (blind, wrapped in foil) side-by-side against the terrific Fritz Haag Mosel Valley Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2012 -- and it came out on top.  The aromas are downright explosive in their expressiveness, with wonderful floral scents as well as fruit aromas, and the flavors and finish are remarkably focused and fresh despite all of that flattering sweetness.  Very, very long on the finish, this is a remarkable achievement from Chateau Ste. Michelle’s joint venture with Ernst Loosen from the Mosel.  Yikes!  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
96 Michael Franz Apr 15, 2014

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