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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

July 29, 2014 Issue

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

White:

Patrick Piuze, Chablis (Burgundy, France) “Terroir de Fyé” 2012 ($26, David Bowler Imports): Chablis wines from Patrick Piuze have gained a great deal of praise and recognition in recent vintages.  Those who enjoy classically-style Chablis should seek out the 2012 Terroir de Fyé.  The village of Fyé is nestled in a valley behind the Grand Cru of Blanchot and the Premier Cru of Montée de Tonnerre.  The 2012 from Piuze shows apple, peach and lemon scents along with floral nuances and hints of nuts and oyster shells.  The flavors are crisp, pure and clean with the citrus and apple fruits underlain by the classic nutty character and minerally-clean finish of Chablis.
90 Wayne Belding Jul 29, 2014

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Lazzarito” 2010 ($180): This is among the three or four best Barolo wines from 2010 that I’ve tasted, and its superb quality was instantly obvious.  With that said, however, there’s nothing obvious about the wine, which is the key to understanding the distinctiveness of its character.  It is nowhere as pushy or made-up as the most aggressive wines from Serralunga in 2010, yet its complex, highly alluring aromas and layered, deeply satisfying flavors could hardly be more apparent.  The fruit is exceedingly open and pure, yet the overall impression is at least as savory as it is fruity, and they wine is flawlessly proportionate in its structural components and perfectly balanced in the prominence of its different scents and flavors.  In sum:  A wine of breathtaking beauty.
99 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Gagliasso Mario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata” 2010 ($75): This producer’s 2008 “Torriglione” was among the most wildly earthy and exciting Barolo wines of that vintage, yet I was forced to give it a relatively modest score of 93 on account of it being somewhat “iffy” due to a whiff of volatile acidity and some indications of premature development.  By contrast, this 2010 from the great La Morra cru of Rocche dell Annunziata has all the complexity and excitement value of that 2008--but without the warning signs.  Frankly, given the fact that the producer isn’t world-famous, I’ve got my doubts that other reviewers will give this wine the score that it truly merits.  The color is extraordinary and the bouquet is huge and extremely engaging, with an earthiness that never quite turns “dirty” or “animal” in character.  The flavors are comparably compelling, with virtually perfect balance between fruity elements and leathery, savory ones.  The tannins are evident but not obtrusive, and the wine is sexy even in its structural impression, with a very persistent finish.  My raw note from when I tasted this blind in Italy is full of enthusiastic expletives, and I’m dying to taste it again….
98 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sarmassa” 2010 ($105): This is a stunningly impressive wine.  On one hand, it is sweet and open and generously flavored, yet it is also massively structured, with a boatload of tannin and lots of fresh acidity.  Uncanny it its ability to seem at once elegant and intense, this poised-but-powerful wine is an obvious star in a historically great vintage, and its greatness is made obvious by its exceedingly persistent and proportional finish.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Mauro Veglio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata” 2010 ($100): Mauro Veglio generally believes that Rocche dell Annunziata is his best site, and it turned out a killer wine in 2010.  It shows terrific pigment concentration and is quite generously ripe.  Although it is a wine of great power and persistence, it also shows extraordinary class and complexity.  With lots of little nuances and plenty of fine-grained tannin, there’s a lot going on here, but everything is driven by deliciously sweet, dark-toned fruit that just won’t quit.  This is always a pretty expensive wine, but also one of the safest purchases you could make because of its type:  A rare wine that will be balanced and delicious regardless of when you drink it over the course of two decades.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi Boschis” 2010 ($85): This wine is an object lesson in the greatness of the 2010 vintage.  The growing season seems to have been particularly outstanding in the villages of Serralunga and Barolo, and this wickedly good bottling from the cru of Cannubi Boschis shows fabulously expressive aromas with suggestions of leather, spices, incense and wild mushrooms.  The flavors are equally engaging, with fruity and savory notes that are perfectly symmetrical.  In structural terms, there’s no astringency, no heat and no harshness…just an incredibly smooth ride, though the wine certainly does not lack grip.  Brilliant.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Ascheri, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Ascheri” 2010 ($85): This wine wasn’t among the darkest or most concentrated of the many terrific Barolo bottlings that I tasted from the 2010 vintage in May of 2014, but it was definitely among the most intricate and interesting.  The aromas are particularly wonderful, showing floral, spicy, leathery, musky scents that are so alluring that they provide a very satisfying experience before one even tastes the wine.  However, tasting only confirms the excellence presaged by the aromas, as this is packed with a mélange of compelling flavors.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Germano Angelo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rue’” 2010 ($70): I loved the 2008s made by this producer, and this wine offers further proof that the wines remain absurdly under-appreciated.  Traditional in style, with virtually no suggestion of flavoring from oak, this is marvelously complex despite the absence of any overlay of wood-based notes.  Succulent, sweet and savory, it is intricate and layered and very deeply flavored.  The wines are very difficult to find in the USA (virtually impossible outside of California), but the family has a small wine shop in the village of Barolo.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Brunate” 2010 ($85): This exemplary producer turned out a fabulous Brunate from the 2010 vintage in Barolo.  Always masculine and rather brooding in its youth, the 2010 nevertheless already shows hints of the leather and cocoa powder notes it tends to display in its maturity, along with a suggestion of truffles and spices.  Built for the long haul, this would best be stored for at least five years, but it will likely develop in a positive direction for a full two decades.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sarmassa” 2010 ($100): An exceedingly intricate wine, this shows wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors of spices, woodsmoke and saddle leather, with terrific balance between these savory accents and a core of ripe fruit.  Even the fruit element in the wine is complex, in the sense that it shows pure facets as well as a very slight stewed character.  Beautiful.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2010 ($90): This is the best young wine I’ve ever tasted from Cascina Adelaide, and I’ve tasted quite a few of them.  The signature note of oak is definitely present in the wine’s bouquet and there’s a hint of wood tannins in the finish, but the wonderful fruit of the vintage refuses to be pushed from center stage.  Sweet but also pure and poised, this is a very striking wine, with leather and toast working beautifully as accent notes.  At once supple and taut, this may tighten up for a few years, but it was showing a lot of immediate appeal in May of 2014, though capacity for a decade of further development is undoubtedly present also.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Marchesi Di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2010 ($105): Packed with power and braced with plenty of wood, this is an impressive and assertive wine, yet also one that shows real finesse.  Dark and dense, it still seems more generous than brooding or backward, and the sweet purity of the fruit is what leaves that lasting impression.  Showing both dark and red fruit tones, this is complex and interesting, but that doesn’t change the fact that it also shows kick-down-the-door intensity of flavor.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Palladino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Parafada” 2010 ($75): I have never visited this producer nor met anyone associated with the company, and consequently have no particular opinion of anything associated with it.  I note that merely to emphasize how deeply impressed I was with all three of the 2010 Barolo bottlings that I tasted blind in May of 2014.  The straight, non-cru-designated Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba bottling is terrific; the single-site “Ornato” is even better, and this wine from Parafada is downright sensational.  Very dark and impressive in appearance, it shows very deep aromas and wonderfully assertive fruit that pushes any wood influence very far offstage.  There’s just a faint whiff of heat in the finish, but I couldn’t bring myself to fault the wine on this count after multiple tastes.  In style, this is a bit of an outlier for the vintage, being more ripe and powerful and intense than most of the top wines of the year, but it is eye-poppingly impressive.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Marcenasco” 2010 ($65): This is the best rendition of the “Marcenasco” bottling from Pietro Ratti that I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve been following this house’s wines closely for years.  This features an arresting and distinctive menthol scent in the bouquet, but the freshness and energy of the fruit notes keep this in balance as an accent rather than a distraction.  The wine shows very good richness and depth of flavor, yet fine-grained tannins keep it from seeming heavy or overly aggressive.  This combination of power and elegance is very interesting, and the wine continues to show new facets and layers as it opens with aeration.  For reasons unknown to me, Ratti’s top wine from the La Morra cru of Rocche dell’ Annunziata wasn’t shown in the Nebbiolo Prima tastings, and one can only wonder how spectacular that wine must be in light of the strikingly success of this entry-level “Marcenasco.”
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Sylla Sebaste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bussia” 2010 ($70): I have no track record with this producer, whose wines don’t seem very widely available from what I can gather, but the manifest fact is that this is a terrific wine.  Absolutely gorgeous in aromatic terms, it shows some toast and vanilla notes that suggest the presence of new wood in the winemaking regimen.  However, the integration of these elements with the sweet fruit is so good that only a dogmatic traditionalist could fault the wine.  I’m officially intrigued, and will be learning more about this winery in short order.
94 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Sordo Giovanni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Gabutti” 2010 ($70): This is the best wine that I can ever recall tasting from this producer, showing wonderful scents of woodsmoke and spices and compelling savory flavors that provide interesting accents to the core of sweet fruit.  Despite being very flavorful and alluring on account of its sweet-seeming fruit, this is really only medium-bodied, enhancing its impression of elegance.
93 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Brunate” 2010 ($160): Everybody loves Vietti’s wines, so I don’t pride myself in coming up with anything newsworthy by identifying this wine’s greatness, but let me say this:  Brunate 2010 from Vietti is one of the most charming, almost “hypnotic” wines that I’ve ever tasted.  Both of those terms show up in my raw note from a blind tasting experience in May 2014, along with “charismatic,” and this was probably the most extraordinarily beautiful of all the 2010 Barolo wines that I tasted over the course of five days.  The remarkable thing is that the wine is very deep and long in flavor, yet never seems to assert itself.  Moreover, it is simultaneously layered and seamless, which is an uncanny effect in combination, since those two characteristics almost always cut in opposite directions.  Oak is notable but perfectly balanced, and the wine’s weight and fruit are likewise perfect foils for its acidity and tannin.  This is a marvel of intricacy, but also a whole that is greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.  Simply perfect.
100 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Sicily:

Red:

Valle dell’ Acate, Vittoria Frappato (Sicily, Italy) Frappato “Il Frappato” 2012 ($19, Polaner Selections): This is a juicy and bright red from the southern coast of Sicily.  Frappato is the native grape of the area and yields delicious and easy drinking reds like this one.  The bouquet is redolent of sweet cherries and strawberries with hints of rose, anise and black pepper.  Lively and bright on the palate, the juicy red fruits are followed by subtle floral, licorice, and savory spice tones.  Give it a light chill and enjoy it with your favorite grilled foods or just sip and savor its balance and zesty style.
90 Wayne Belding Jul 29, 2014

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SPAIN

Jerez - Xeres - Sherry:

White:

Dios Baco, Jerez Xeres Sherry (Spain) Elite Amontillado NV ($25): Sherry is an acquired taste for most Americans, though converts are easy when the quality is superb. The Elite Amontillado is a beautiful example of the Amontillado style, with rich, layered notes of butterscotch, hazelnut and spice and a clean, dry finish.
91 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2014

Penedes:

Sparkling:

Pata Negra, D.O. Cava, Penedes (Spain) Rose Brut NV ($15): The Pata Negra rose brut delivers a good deal of satisfaction at a very attractive price. The blend of 80 percent Trepat and 20 percent Pinot Noir is lively and refreshing, with mouth-watering strawberry and cherry flavors. Buy it by the case!
87 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2014

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2011 ($80): 2011's cool weather brought a different profile to this bottling, usually one of Goldeneye's bolder offerings, and I like it.  It's more elegant than in previous years, displaying a big sarsaparilla nose, with plum, cherry, rhubarb, baker's chocolate, leafy notes, cardamom, cinnamon, and a little minty character from the wild pennyroyal that grows in the vineyard.  Palate entry is soft, but it delivers a bracing acid kick on the back.  It needs some air time, but really develops complexity in the glass.  The finish is long and well integrated.  Very pleasing now, and will develop even more complexity with some bottle aging.
95 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2011 ($115): Goldeneye's flagship wine is a blend of several clones from three different vineyard sites.  The aroma profile includes cherry, tea, plum, hibiscus, orange blossom, sandalwood and some stony minerality, all of which gain intensity with some time in the glass.  It's rich and soft on the palate, with well-integrated flavors and a long finish that emphasizes cherry and a light touch of fennel. The structure begs for food -- roasted pork or fowl will be elevated nicely by this wine.
93 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2011 ($80): This is serious, full throttle Pinot Noir from Goldeneye's first vineyard in Anderson Valley.  Deep black cherry fruit, damp earth, and clay with rich oak spice, hints of leaf and Asian spice flood the nose and the palate.  It's very plush, but structured well enough that further aging will be of benefit.  Another 2011 Pinot Noir that succeeds on every level.
93 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Louis M. Martini, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($34): Older Martini Cabernets are legendary for their ability to age, a moot point perhaps in an era of premature consumption, but a telling sign of quality nevertheless. The 2011 Martini Napa Valley Cab is remarkable on a couple of levels. First, it's a beautifully layered, complex, structured Cab from an extremely challenging vintage. Second, it retails for half the price of Napa Valley Cabs of comparable quality. If you tend to buy your big reds by the case, the 2011 Martini Napa Cab is certainly one to consider.
91 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2014

White:

MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Gris 2013 ($20): Pinot Gris in the New World is a different beast than Pinot Gris made in Alsace, where it is a star. Oregon has had some success with this wine and California is coming on. MacMurray's is consistently among the finest of those and this vintage is an exceptional example. It delivers juicy aromas of white peach and pear, with a hint of spice. It as complex as New World Pinot Gris goes, though hardly with the power and depth of those made in Alsace. Still, a good drink at a fair price.
92 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2014

Trione, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay River Road Ranch 2011 ($32): Trione's Russian River Valley Chardonnay from the troubled 2011 vintage serves as a reminder that even under difficult conditions, attention to detail in the vineyard, careful selection during harvest, and skill on the winemaking team can overcome a mountain of sins. This vintage of Trione Chardonnay is rich and ripe but with excellent structure and mouth-watering acidity. Nicely done!
90 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2014

Migration, Santa Maria Valley (California) Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard 2012 ($55): Duckhorn's Migration project features fruit from cool climate properties that they don't own, yet find to be of worthy quality.  This is a delicious wine, full of complexity.  Stony minerality, fresh cut peach, lemon zest, mild tropical notes, light apple and soft jasmine aromas lead to a well balanced palate that shows a controlled oak profile and vibrant acidity that carries through a zesty finish.  Fine on its own, and also worthy of a great meal of well seasoned broiled fish.
93 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Migration, Sonoma Coast (California) Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard 2012 ($55): A beautifully dry Chardonnay showing an artistic use of oak that serves to tame a strong mineral driven backbone.  Soft lemon crème and apple fruit are complimentary to the stone, vanilla and mild herb.  The feel is silky up front, and the acid clears the viscosity while leaving a complex flavor mix.  It's not too early to think about a nice Chardonnay for your Thanksgiving table -- this is up to the mix of tastes that you'll have on the table, and at the table!
92 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Michigan:

Sparkling:

Domaine Leelanau by L. Mawby, Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan) “Leland” Brut Rosé NV ($27): If you need a reason to explore beyond the wines of the west coast of the US, here it is!  The Domaine Leelanau Leland Brut Rosé is a splendid bubbly made by the L. Mawby winery of Michigan.  Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Vignoles, it is drawn from vineyards in Leland, a town on the Lake Michigan shore.  Its beautiful color portends the good things to come.  The bouquet is fresh and lively, with raspberry, strawberry and cherry fruits enhanced by yeast, cream, and floral elements.  On the palate, it is alive with layers of juicy fruit flavors interwoven with subtleties of fresh-bread yeastiness, cream, flowers and spices.  This is a delicious sparkling wine that compares well with comparably priced bottles from anywhere in the world.  It is worth a special effort to seek it out.
92 Wayne Belding Jul 29, 2014

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