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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

September 21, 2021 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

Adelaide Hills:

White:

Dandelion Vineyards, Adelaide Hills (Australia) Sauvignon Blanc “Wishing Clock of the Adelaide Hills” 2021 ($28):  2021 vintage – Fresh wine!  You’ll be wishing you had more of it when you reach the bottom of this crisp refresher.  Floral, peach and lemon aromas get a hint of grass and stone, and those hints join the fruit on the palate, finishing altogether zesty and mouth watering.  Beautiful.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021


CANADA

Red:

Spearhead Winery, Okanagan Valley (British Columbia, Canada) Pinot Noir “Cuvée” 2019 ($42):  This is the winemaker’s best cuvée selected from barrels, and the final blend is a mix of Dijon clones plus the Mt. Eden and Pommard Pinot Noir clones.  The wine was fermented in the traditional approach as were the 3 vineyard Pinots, but with the difference that this was aged in more (40%) new French oak.  It is full of ripe black cherry, rose petal and spice along with a hint of toasty oak.  This is a very integrated and velvety smooth Pinot Noir with some refined tannins.  But as was true of all these Pinots, there’s an underlying layer of vibrancy which is associated with the wine’s natural acidity and low pH.  430 cases made.        
94 Norm Roby Sep 21, 2021

Spearhead Winery, Okanagan Valley (British Columbia, Canada) Pinot Noir "Saddle Block" 2019 ($36):  Made from a mix of clones grown in the winery’s estate vineyard, which is noted for its glacial loan and sandy-clay soils.  Similar winemaking regime to the “Coyote” bottling, with aging for 13 months in French oak, 25% new.  At first, it comes across as delicate with light plum and cherry fruit notes, along with a subtle floral fragrance.  With vibrant acidity and light tannins, it is a pretty youngster that should age well.  More finesse than power which makes it charming.  450 cases made.          
93 Norm Roby Sep 21, 2021

Spearhead Winery, Okanagan Valley (British Columbia, Canada) Pinot Noir "Golden Retreat" 2019 ($36): From a hilltop vineyard in Summerland overlooking the Okanagan planted to a mix of clones, this wine was similarly processed with the same time in French oak as the other Spearhead Pinots.  Initially, it impresses with its smooth, silky, velvety texture.  With airing, it also shows dark plum, earthy and some mineral touches.  Again, medium bodied with vibrant flavors and fine balance.  Subtle tannins suggest it could be an ager.  440 cases made.      
93 Norm Roby Sep 21, 2021

Spearhead Winery, Okanagan Valley (British Columbia, Canada) Pinot Noir "Coyote" 2019 ($36):  This is sourced from a vineyard in West Kelowna with highly volcanic soil and situated at 1,300 ft elevation.  It is planted entirely to the Dijon #115 clone, which is said to be one of the few clones that can stand alone.  A few winemakers in Santa Barbara believe in it.  At Spearhead, the winemaking is Burgundian with de-stemming, cold soaking and fermenting with native yeasts.  This one was aged 13 months in French oak, 25% of it new.  It comes across with light cherry and forest floor earthiness, and is medium-bodied.  Very lively on the palate.  It has a long finish that accentuates its cherry, herbal side and also shows definite tannins.  350 cases made.       
90 Norm Roby Sep 21, 2021


FRANCE

Red:

Calandrelle, Pays D’Herault IGP (France) Carignan Vielles Vignes 2020 ($18, Wine Insiders):  Carignan might not be high on your go to list, but you’d be remiss not to give this a spin.  A very attractive nose of ripe strawberry and raspberry translates well on the palate, with freshening acidity and easy oak influence keeping the snazzy fruit in front.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.         
93 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Rosé:

Bruno Lafon, Sud de France (France) Grenache Rosé 2020 ($18, Hemispheres Global Wines):  I like this Grenache Rosé for its silky texture, its mix of dry tart strawberry, white pepper and bay leaf, and a crisp integrated finish.  It’s what French Rosé is all about!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
92 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

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Loire Valley:

Red:

Domaine de la Chanteleusrie, Bourgueil (Loire Valley, France) Cabernet Franc "Cuvée Alouettes" 2019 ($18, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants):  According to importer Kemit Lynch the grapes for Cuvée Alouettes come from a sandy soil that influences Cabernet Franc grapes in a soft and supple stylistic direction.  Fermentation and aging in stainless steel ensures focus on the fruit for a wine that is ready for drinking and enjoying.  He also recommends giving the wine a bit of chill, á la Beaujolais.  I tried it at room temperature before I saw his advice and found it quite enjoyable.  It has a rich, dark ruby color with a dark pink rim and aromas of blackberries, dark cherries and a hint of black currants and a savory, earthy note.  It is light bodied, smooth with flavors of savory black fruits finishing with chalky tannins.  I also tasted the wine chilled and found the flavors brightened and quite refreshing.   It will be a great companion with a burger or pizza.          
90 Rebecca Murphy Sep 21, 2021

White:

Francis Blanchet, Pouilly-Fumé (Loire Valley, France) Vieilles Vignes 2019 ($22, Dionysos Imports):  Pouilly-Fumé is often overlooked for its larger and trendier counterpart, Sancerre.  However, many excellent Fumés deserve the mass following of its neighbor across the river.  One such Fumé worthy of discovery is the Francis Blanchet 2019 Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fumé.  The palate is crisp and textured, carrying flavors of quince, dried apricot, and lemon zest with a delicate smoky (fumé) character.  The wine has a vivacious structure and building minerality against a vibrant backbone of acidity.          
91 Miranda Franco Sep 21, 2021

Domaine de la Chaise, Touraine (Loire Valley, France) Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($20, Gabriella Imports):  Sauvignon Blanc rules in Touraine’s wine district, accounting for more than half of the region’s total production.  With its chalky soils and proximity to the beautiful Loire River, this is a unique viticultural region.  Family owned Domaine de la Chaise, which includes some 140 acres of vines, has been producing wine here for six generations.  This Sauvignon Blanc, which has been aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks, is enticingly aromatic and richly flavored -- think citrus, notably lemonade without the overt sweetness.  Subtle notes of minerality add to the overall taste profile.  A terrific partner for almost all seafood.            
92 Marguerite Thomas Sep 21, 2021


GERMANY

Pfalz:

White:

Villa Wolf, Pfalz (Germany) Riesling 2020 ($15, Loosen Brothers USA):  This off-dry Pfalz Riesling offers ample notes of white peaches, apricots, and nectarines with a crisp lime zest that cuts through the slightly sweet taste.  It has bright acidity providing an exquisitely refreshing experience.  A natural pair with lobster or crab.  It doesn’t matter that summer is coming to an end.  This will serve you well all year round.          
89 Miranda Franco Sep 21, 2021


ITALY

Alto Adige:

White:

Elena Walch, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Sauvignon Vigna Castel Ringberg 2018 ($30):  From Elena Walch’s Castel Ringberg Vineyard, the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is a radiant and tremendously appealing white wine.  It is both fresh and complex, offering a diversity of aromas and flavors ranging from citrus to tropical fruits, and including the hints of minerality that characterize the best wines from this northern mountainous region.  The enchanting white wine is notably crisp and complex, which suggests that it will age well for at least another five to ten years.  Enjoyable with a variety of foods, from fritto misto, to creamy pasta dishes, to seafood, poultry and pork.         
94 Marguerite Thomas Sep 21, 2021

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Trentino:

White:

Bottega Vinaia, Trentino DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2020 ($18, Palm Bay International):  There is no domestic Pinot Grigio that’s really comparable to this one sourced from Trentino or other parts of northern Italy.  There is a freshness and lithe spirit about the Italian renditions that can’t be found in warmer climes.  This is a fine example, showing peach, pear and lemon zest in both aroma and flavor profiles, and the bright acidity keeps the flavors pulsing.  Color me Italian!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
93 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021


PORTUGAL

Douro:

Red:

Favz, Douro DOC (Portugal) Red Wine 2019 ($20, Hemispheres Global Wines):  There has been a big push of late to get the dry red wines of Portugal into the hands of US consumers, and I would be surprised if it doesn’t take a solid foothold thanks to wines like this one.  A blend of traditional port varieties, it’s loaded with black cherry fruit, moderate tannins and a bright finish that keeps the cheery cherry vibe flowing.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021


SPAIN

Jerez - Xeres - Sherry:

White:

Gonzalez Byass, Jerez (Spain) Fino Sherry "Tio Pepe En Rama" NV ($21):  Tio Pepe En Rama was bottled straight from the barrel, unfiltered and unfined on April 6, 2021.  It is meant to be served chilled in a white wine glass to enjoy the fresh, tangy flavors of apple, lemon zest, hazel nuts.  Serve it with roasted almonds as an aperitif or enjoy it with fresh oysters or grilled tuna.  According to a Spanish to English dictionary, "en rama" translates as raw.  In the case of a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry, it means that the fortified wine that has spent as much as five years aging under a yeast layer called flor has had minimal filtration before bottling.  Traditionally, Sherries are fined, filtered, cold stabilized for bottling.  En Rama wines are fresh, less nutty, a bit like tasting the wine straight from the barrel.  They have a limited life span, so don’t hang onto this for too long.  En Rama Sherry is a relative new concept; indeed, the first En Rama Manzanilla was released in 1999, and Tio Pepe was the first En Rama Fino released by Gonzales Byass in 2009.     
93 Rebecca Murphy Sep 21, 2021

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Rioja:

Red:

Viña Real, Rioja DOC Reserva (Spain) 2014 ($30, Arano LLC):  This Rioja blend starring Tempranillo with a supporting cast of Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano is a real crowd pleaser bursting with beautifully ripe fruit, licorice, spices, and toasted notes.  It is both opulent and graceful with a velvety texture, sanded-down tannins, and vibrant acidity.  This is a beautiful blend that will continue to evolve nicely for a few more years.  It's well worth seeking out.        
92 Miranda Franco Sep 21, 2021


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Apothic, California (United States) Red "Winemaker’s Blend" 2019 ($14):  This off dry red has, and will continue, to win people into the world of wine.  Balance is key when you leave a little sugar behind during fermentation, and that balance is found here between the oak, fruit and acidity.  Considering the quantity of this that’s made, this is nothing short of a wine miracle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
91 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Edna Valley Vineyard, Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2019 ($17):   This flashy Pinot Noir will please fans of lots of oak influence, which is not to say it’s a one note tune.  Ripe cherry fruit is up to the task of balancing while keeping the spice out front.  It will make fine grilling partner.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.        
92 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

de Négoce, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Franc “OG N.52” 2018 ($19):  Cabernet Franc fans rejoice!  This wine is such an overt steal, you won’t believe it.  It’s got the cherry, it’s got the complementary green (balanced perfectly) and it’s got the acidity and grip to push all the flavor out into the distance.  It is perfectly extracted, and has a long life ahead.  You won’t regret buying a case of this.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.       
96 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Oak Farm Vineyards, Lodi (California) Petit Verdot Estate Grown 2018 ($35): Winemaker Sierra Zeiter gets at Petit Verdot’s savory side here, with peppery meaty tones joining the typical bold black and blue fruit profile.  A soft midpalate and a supple grip in the finish give the flavors good push.  I would go with the cheese course as a pairing.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

de Négoce, Napa Valley (California) Meritage "OG Lot 151” 2018 ($18):  Here is yet another very serious wine at a very unserious price from this line.  It has the Napa Valley signature profile for a Bordeaux styled blend that pays tribute without sacrificing identity.  In other words, the fruit is fully ripe, and it’s got the structure to keep it from flying apart.  Yum!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard 2019 ($34):  Gary Eberle and Howie Steinbeck were on to something many years ago when they decided to get together on this particular wine, and the fruits of their labors continue to bear out in this bottling, which is year after year one of the finest Syrahs in California.  Winemaker Chris Eberle has brought a certain elegance to the wine the last few vintages, and I’m all in favor.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
95 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Raeburn Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2020 ($25):  The Russian River flows through the heart of northern California’s Sonoma County on the way to its final destination in the Pacific Ocean.  It is one of the state’s foggiest and coolest viticultural regions, giving the grapes a chance to ripen over a longer period than in neighboring regions.  The resulting graceful wine evokes bright berry flavors as it nestles against the tongue like silk.       
92 Marguerite Thomas Sep 21, 2021

Ghost Pines, San Joaquin & Sonoma Counties (California) Zinfandel 2018 ($20):  This strikes me as a mix of Lodi and Dry Creek styles, and I know that Zinfandel lovers will know what that means.  It leans a little Lodi, with plush berry fruit and soft spice, but the Dry Creek pepper character adds nuance.  A satisfying, well chosen blend.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.       
92 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

de Négoce, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “OG Lot 157” 2019 ($29):  High toned cherry fruit aroma is the calling card here, with a pleasant kirsch vibe keeping it right up front.  On the palate is where the complexity show itself, with vanilla, brown spice and rich oak toast joining the cherry fruit.  There’s solid structure  – feel confident about aging this a while for full enjoyment.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
94 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

de Négoce, Sonoma Mountain (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “OG Lot 189” 2019 ($25):  Another ridiculous value from de Négoce – one that is alive with acidity and ripeness that just sing in the glass and in the mouth.  Vanilla and a touch of mint play a countermelody to the powerful blackberry and currant, and a little heat in the finish doesn’t distract.  Nicely realized!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
95 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

White:

Baron Herzog, California (United States) Chenin Blanc 2020 ($10):  My wife used to complain about how she would love Chenin Blanc if it wasn’t for the wooly aromas and the bitter finish.  Well, I will be serving this wine to her “blind" to see what she says, because it has no sign of either characteristic.  It’s just fresh, light and fun.  Mission accomplished!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.        
92 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2018 ($22):  Long time stalwart winery Rodney Strong has produced this bottle for years now, and its fans are legion for good reason.  It’s the whole apple pie in a glass, with the fruit spice and crust all working well together and finishing dry with a bright acidic pop.  Good stuff.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
93 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Dry Chenin Blanc 2020 ($15):  Dry Creek Vineyard is one of California’s most notable wine producers in a number of ways.  Longevity is one thing: the estate that Dave Stare founded in 1972 on the site of a former prune orchard remains one of California’s most consistently dependable estates.  Vision and imagination are also qualities that separate leaders from followers and Dry Creek Vineyard was the first wineries in the region to, for example, establish a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard.  Planting Chenin Blanc vines was perhaps an even gutsier move as this grape is not nearly as well known in the US as it is in France, where it is one of the viticultural stars of the Loire Valley.  Dry Creek’s interpretation of Chenin Blanc yields a stellar wine, with alluring aromas and impeccably dry yet fruity flavors (the 2020 vintage brims with hints of pear and peach).  Is there a category of wines one might label as “loveable?”  If so, Dry Creek’s food friendly and affordable Chenin Blanc definitely belongs there.      
93 Marguerite Thomas Sep 21, 2021

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Oregon:

Rosé:

Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills (Oregon) "Stoller Swing" Rosé Spritz NV ($10):  From the folks at Stoller Family Estate Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley comes this fun, wine-based, low alcohol beverage, ready for a picnic, barbeque, or tailgate party.   Pretty in pink, slightly fizzy, the Pinot Noir rosé wine is spiked with a touch of vermouth and botanicals.  Just chill, pop the crown cap, and enjoy.    
89 Rebecca Murphy Sep 21, 2021

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Virginia:

Red:

Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia (United States) “Octagon” 2017 ($55):  Though the blend changes from year to year, this bottling always represents its region with class and style.  This vintage is Merlot forward, with an elegant balance already showing itself.  Blackberry, mild cassis, dried herbs and some rich earth notes remain distinctive from start to finish, and the structure bodes well for a long life.  Built not as a showpiece, but rather as a complement to your finest dinner table occasions.  Bravo!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.        
96 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

White:

Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia (United States) “Nascent" Tribute to Virginia 2018 ($50):  This blend of Viognier, Vermentino and Falanghina is labeled “Tribute to Virginia” and if it’s a sign of where Virginia’s white wines are headed, it’s time to give the region another look.  Crisp, bright and dry, it has a richness on the mid palate and in the finish that keeps the citrus and stone fruit flavors intact well down the road.  One of the best whites I’ve tasted this year – from anywhere.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.         
96 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

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