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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

March 19, 2019 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

Clare Valley:

Red:

Wakefield / Taylors, Clare Valley (Australia) Shiraz "St. Andrews" 2016 ($80):  Another classy presentation of this bottling, with the regional character to let you know where it’s from, and the elegance to make you think it should sit alongside the best Syrahs in the world.  It should, and it does.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019


CHILE

Red:

Killari, Valle Central (Chile) Carmenere 2018 ($10):  This variety can be quite green in presentation, and this wine has that quality, but it’s quite attractive here, setting the roasted bell pepper aromas and flavors against black fruit, black pepper and a touch of tar.  This is a wine for Kansas City Barbeque, and at a nice price to boot.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
91 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019


FRANCE

Loire Valley:

White:

Pascal Jolivet, Pouilly-Fumé (Loire Valley, France) 2016 ($23):   Although made entirely from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, as required by regulations, Jolivet’s v never screams that grape.  Sure, you sense a bite, characteristic of the varietal, but the overall impression is one of a minty minerality with an enlivening citrus finish.  Clean and refreshing, it has substantial depth, which makes it perfect for steamed clams or hearty seafood. 
90 Michael Apstein Mar 19, 2019


GERMANY

Mosel:

White:

Friedrich Willhelm Gymnasium, Mosel (Germany) Riesling “Fritz Willi” Frizzante NV ($19, Schmitt Söhne):   A totally fun and festive wine to enjoy in front of the fire (in winter) or on the deck (in summer) Fritz Willi is a gently fizzy, somewhat sweet (medium dry) all-season charmer from Germany.  It’s low in alcohol (12%) and high in suggestions of apple and other fruity Riesling flavors.  In case you wonder about the word “gymnasium” in the estate’s name, wonder no more:  The cellars, where the wine is fermented, lie under the city of Trier, where a Jesuit secondary school was founded in 1593, and for centuries wine production helped support the school.  
90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 19, 2019


ITALY

Sicily:

White:

Tenuta Tascante, Etna Bianco DOC (Sicily, Italy) "Buonora" 2017 ($21):  The Mount Etna volcano blows its top from time to time, yet the intrepid vintners of the area somehow manage to produce wine every vintage.  The reds and whites from Etna’s volcanic soils are distinctive and quality has risen considerably over the past 25 years.  Tenuta Tascante was founded by the Tasca d’Almerita family in 2007.  The historic Tasca d’Almerita, located in the center of Sicily, goes back eight generations over about 200 years.  They are known as excellent stewards of the land and fine winemakers, too.  That is reflected in the Tascante Etna Bianco, which is 100 percent Carricante.  This is a mineral-driven wine that shows notes of lime with a stony minerality.  Beautifully done.  
90 Robert Whitley Mar 19, 2019

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Tuscany:

Red:

Fontodi, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) Filetta di Lamole 2016 ($44):   Although this release is only the third vintage of this wine, Giovanni Manetti, owner/winemaker at Fontodi told me they have been working on the project for 15 years.  The Filetta vineyard, owned by Manetti’s cousin, is only a few miles from Fontodi’s home base near Panzano, but the wine is very different from their usual Chianti Classico because of the extreme elevation of the vineyard.  Sitting at about 2,000 feet above sea level, the site is too high to support even olive trees.  But Sangiovese does ripen there and produces a wine, which Manetti described to me as a “ballerina” compared to Fontodi’s more muscular regular Chianti Classico.  That description fits the 2016 Filetta di Lamole beautifully.  Not as ripe or rich as Fontodi’s usual Chianti Classico, the Filetta di Lamole is leaner, more elegant and sleeker.  Tasting the two side-by-side showcases terroir in the Chianti Classico region.  Here are two wines, both made entirely from Sangiovese and both made using basically the same winemaking techniques, that are enormously different.  The beauty is that you can’t go wrong with either. 
95 Michael Apstein Mar 19, 2019


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Whitehaven, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($20):  An annual celebration of Sauvignon Blanc is contained under this screw cap closure, with classic Marlborough aromas and flavors presented clearly, with a bright finish that brings you back each year.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019


UNITED STATES

American:

Rosé:

Grape Creek, American (United States) “Cabernet Blanc” 2017 ($20):  Cabernet can be pretty in pink, though it’s quite rare in my experience.  The sweet character makes the difference here, delivering a tangy sweet cherry fruit vibe that finishes cleanly with mouth-watering acidity.  It works!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

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California:

Red:

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($40):  Bold Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, as you might expect, but one with nuance and structure for aging.  Blackberry, cassis, fall spice, gentle oak toast, supple tannins and a blown-out finish that integrates everything even at this young age.  I’d cellar this a while.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) "Ancestor" Estate Reserve 2016 ($60):  A stellar vintage for this bottling -- and that’s saying something about this Bordeaux styled blend that’s always a treat.  This vintage is Cabernet Sauvignon forward, with great acidity that tempers the palate weight and keeps the blackberry, currants and fall spice vibrant from start to finish.  This Ancestor is forming a pedigreed line of its own.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Carol Shelton Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard 2016 ($28):  A favorite winemaker of mine, and a favorite wine of mine from here extensive portfolio.  Carol likes the light bright side of this grape, featuring red fruit and spice with pretty accents of blueberry and white pepper.  I like it as a solo glass, or with tapas.  Great stuff!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Macchia, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Linsteadt Vineyard “Adventurous” 2017 ($28):  Perhaps better known as a source for Barbera, this vineyard does everything well, including Zinfandel.  This iteration is all about the pepper, with what a friend of mine would call “peppercorn medley” sassiness.  It’s balanced by juicy red and black berry fruit, and finishes bright and dry.  Yum!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Prospect Cellars, Amador County (California) "Gold Digger" Red Wine 2016 ($25):  Blended wines bring life to lots of wine that maybe don’t make the cut to be labeled as their own variety, but in the hand of a talented winemaker can become a true delight.  So it goes here, with Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese brought into proportion to make a zippy red with mixed berry, pepper and herb aromas and flavors that ride bright acidity and finish long and in satisfying fashion.  Here’s to the blenders!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Prospect Cellars, Amador County (California) Petite Sirah “Pick and Shovel” 2016 ($32):  The judges loved the Petite Sirah flights, including this tasty wine from a winery that is new to me.  A generously fleshy expression, with approachable structure, forward berry pie aromas and flavors and a long finish where the pepper comes forward to balance the sweet fruit.  Nicely done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Ranchero Cellars, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Carignane Forchini Vineyard "The Tethered Beast" 2016 ($56):  The proprietary name couldn’t have been more appropriately chosen here.  This is a monster, restrained yet untamed, showing focused clove and anise notes over rich black fruit, carried on great structure with weight that is so well managed you don’t realize what a beast you’re dealing with.  Kudos to winemaker Amy Butler for helping to keep this variety in the public eye!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Orsi Family Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Nebbiolo 2015 ($26):  A new producer to me, and one whom I look forward to diving into the rest of the lineup.  This Nebbiolo could easily be mistaken for a young Barbaresco, with its tight tannic structure, dry earth and brown spice with cherry blueberry and strawberry fruit just waiting to pounce after a few more years in the bottle.  Very nicely realized!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Baileyana, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($30):  Always a great bottle of Pinot Noir, with a great mix of red and black cherry fruit, damp earth, soft spice and great acidity to carry it all.  This is a go-to wine when you want a medium bodied red wine with spice and depth.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Niner Wine Estates, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($35):  Another deftly handled wine from winemaker Molly Bohlman, where the rhubarb driven profile is joined by easy fall spice, black cherry, sassafras and light stemmy character that together make a great food friendly wine that leans toward the pork tenderloin side of the menu.  This can handle a nice herb and spice crust on the meat.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

BoaVentura, Livermore Valley (California) "DePorted" Port Style Dessert Wine 2013 ($39):  A very solid port in an LBV style, with bright berry pie aromas and flavors that are balanced by well selected fortificant that keeps things at a good weight and allow the fruit and the barrel influence a wide berth.  It’s very long and ready for your favorite Stilton or Gorgonzola.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Macchia, Lodi (California) Zinfandel “Mischievous” 2017 ($22):  From the reined in side of the Macchia stable.  It’s great to have a spectrum of Zins to choose from at a winery that has fully embraced the variety.  A civilized presentation of brambly fruit and pepper, with and appropriately mischievous spice note in the finish.  This has grilled angus burgers written all over it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Stokes Ghost, Monterey (California) Petite Sirah 2016 ($34):  Big peppery Petite Sirah for positioning with peppered pork tenderloin or Santa Maria Style tri tip. Or you could just enjoy the blackberry, raspberry, crushed rock and full throttle tannins with your favorite stinky cheese -- you make the call!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Brecon Estate, Monterey (California) Petite Sirah 2016 ($56):  A pulsing, sweet, fruit-driven Petite with powerful pepper and spice that tames the ripe character and makes for a very sexy presentation.  Go for a spice laden beef prep as a pairing.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Bargetto, Monterey County (California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($20):  A great value in a big red Pinot Noir where red fruit rules the day, joined by notes of vanilla, dry earth minerality and a touch of root beer.  The finish brings the earthiness into clear focus, and the finish is well knit together.  White or red meat, or in between, this is a budget friendly winner.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) “Paradiso” 2015 ($90):  Another spectacular wine from this venerable producer.  One of the best Paradiso’s I’ve tasted, with all of the age worthy structure that makes it a cellar trophy bottle.  It’s wound up rather tightly at present, but it’s already showing itself as a nuanced blend of fruit, dusty earth minerality and elegant dried herbs.  Brooks painter and the gang continue to roll out the good stuff!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
96 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard 2017 ($30):  Winemaker Chris Eberle follows up a gorgeous 2016 vintage with this 2017, showing all the best attributes of Syrah even in its youth.  Blackberry, blueberry, a little menthol, a little tar and some orange zested pepper beg another sip.  Pairing?  Wild boar -- what else?  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Niner Wine Estates, Paso Robles (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 2016 ($45):  I just tasted this wine and gave it a high score, and in a blind tasting at MIWC the judges agree.  It shows classic varietal aromas and flavors with a Paso Robles twist, but more depth than a lot of other examples from the locale.  The nose is forward black cherry and currants, delivered on the palate with mild dried herbs and well folded oak spice, riding a moderate grip through a long finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Fortino, Santa Clara Valley (California) Charbono 2016 ($44):  This under-heralded appellation cries out for attention in this superb bottle of Charbono.  Likely from a very old planting, and made for many vintages by this producer, it’s got me wondering why I don’t see more of it under varietal labels.  Rich black and blue fruit comingle with lively spice, riding a plush midpalate through a bright finish.  Think bold and meaty when pairing this unique wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
96 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Santa Barbara Winery, Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Sangiovese Stolpman Vineyard 2015 ($28):  I see this vineyard designation on a fair amount of Italian varietal wines from the Santa Barbara, and for good reason.  Sangiovese finds a great home there, and in this bottle bright cherry and candied raspberry fruit carry balanced spice and herb notes through a long finish whose grip gives great push to the flavors.  I’d look for medium strength cheeses to showcase this one.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Rosé:

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) Rosé 2018 ($26):  I’ll admit it -- this glass is TOTALLY AWESOME after six hours of tasting red wine.  But, I’m a professional, so I won’t let that color my remarks.  It’s a beautiful, crisp, dry rosé that hits all my markers -- strawberry, white pepper, racy acidity, mild leafy herbs and a long, lip smacking citrus driven finish that doesn’t wipe off the other flavor elements.  The best Rosé I’ve tasted in months.  And I practice a lot.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Emerald Creek Winery, South Coast (California) Merlot Rosé “Excalibur” 2018 ($25):  Here is a medium sweet rosé that gets everything right -- and the Merlot character comes through in impressive fashion.  Cherry, a touch of pepper and a sweet orange finish make this a perfect summer refresher when you want a little sweetness.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Sparkling:

Barefoot Bubbly, California (United States) Extra Dry NV ($10):  A wine that virtually defines the category and one that is in corner markets in as many states as allow such frivolity.  I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the fact that winemaker Jennifer Wall and her team can make this quality in the quantity that they do is nothing short of a miracle.  Consistently, crisp sweet fun in a glass -- exactly as intended.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

White:

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay "October Night" 2017 ($25):  This hugely popular bottling is so for a reason, and that reason includes a viscous feel, apple pear and honey flavors and aromas, a crisp acid kiss at the end where generous oak spice come forward.  A great cocktail all by itself.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Aromatherapy, Clarksburg (California) Chenin Blanc 2018 ($19):  A deep honeyed nose leads to a viscous palate of stone fruit with honey accents and a long, crisp finish that gets the acidity right.  A fine summer quaffer!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Pomar Junction, El Pomar District, Paso Robles (California) “Cotes de Pomar Blanc” 2017 ($20):  Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier blend beautifully here, with a crisp stone fruit mix joined by soft spice and moderate viscosity, allowing for a clean finish that leaves the fruit and spice lingering pleasantly.   I’m thinking Halibut filet.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Hagafen, Lake County (California) Riesling Clearwater Ranch 2018 ($24):  Still the domestic Riesling naysayers won’t come around -- but they might be coaxed by this floral off dry example.  Zippy acidity carries apricot and spice on the palate, and the finish burst is full of everything promised.  Beautifully nuanced wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Proprietary White Wine 2017 ($32):  Nothing Paraduxx does surprises anymore.  The winery that pioneered various blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel is up to its old tricks with an eclectic white blend that is sure to please.  The 2017 Proprietary White highlights the floral magic of Viognier with the subtle lushness of Marsanne and Roussanne and the bright lemon, apple and pear notes of Chardonnay.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks (as opposed to oak barrels) the result is a complex white that is fresh, crisp and refreshing on the palate, but with enough richness to handle strong flavors and cream sauces.   
92 Robert Whitley Mar 19, 2019

V. Sattui Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay “Collina d’Oro” 2017 ($40):  Brilliant Chardonnay from winemaker Brooks Painter and the gang, who reached over the mountains to source this fruit.  Crisp and creamy, with lemon crème, pear, apple, soft spice and ringing acidity giving great push to the finish.  If there’s a do no wrong producer out there, this is it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery , Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2017 ($15):  An easy drinking Chardonnay at a great price that delivers Sonoma in a glass. Sunny apple and peach, with soft spice and a long finish.  Easy to find to boot.  I like it!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

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Nevada:

Red:

Great Basin Winery, Nevada (United States) Red Blend 2016 ($22):  A well-knit blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Cabernet Franc that shows a taut structure, tart cherry fruit and generous oak toast that tips it into the smoky side.  This would be great with a blackened sea bass or a peppered steak.  Nevada!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
93 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

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Oregon:

Red:

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Umpqua Valley (Oregon) "Estate Cuvee" 2016 ($32):  Solid Syrah from south central Oregon, where the variety is getting a toehold.  Correct black and blue berry fruit, easy oak spice, supple tannins and a fully integrated finish that adds a note of dusty chocolate make for a fine glass.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

White:

Trella Vineyards, Umpqua Valley (Oregon) Gruner Veltliner 2016 ($29):  Another player heard from in the Umpqua Valley Grüner Veltliner arena, and it’s another good one.  I’m going to start calling this region Austria West for all the good Grüner Veltliner coming out of there.  Crisp clean, refreshing and flavorful.  More, please, Austria West!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

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