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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 23, 2016 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

South Australia:

White:

Grosset, Clare Valley (South Australia) Riesling Polish Hill Vineyard 2014 ($40): Arguably the best house for Riesling in all of Australia (which is saying something, for those who aren’t experienced in this category) Grosset makes renditions that are a bit sharp when young (fine by me) but age very slowly and gracefully and invariably result in superb wines.  With steely fruit recalling green apples with a sharp citrus edge and a slate tinged finish, this really calls for a full decade of ageing if you can summon the patience for that, but even a couple of years will enable this to settle down a bit and soften into something truly beautiful.  Even now, it is a striking, exciting wine for those who enjoy immaculately dry Rieslings with high acid and great linear energy.
94 Michael Franz Aug 23, 2016

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FRANCE

Champagne:

Sparkling:

Palmer & Co., Champagne (France) Brut Reserve NV ($49): You will search a long time before you find a more exceptional non-vintage brut Champagne at this price. The Palmer brut reserve utilizes up to 35 percent reserve wines in the cuvee, with about 50 percent sourced from grand cru or premier cru vineyards. The combination of richness and complexity with freshness is stunning. Aged four years on the lees, the result is a Champagne that delivers notes of vanilla and brioche along with aromas of ripe pear and crunchy apple. The balance and length are exquisite.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Languedoc:

Red:

Mas de Daumas Gassac, Languedoc (France) 2014 ($43): Long one of the established stars within the Languedoc, which is known much more for quantity production than quality, Mas de Daumas Gassac remains at the top of its game with this release from 2014.  From the outset, the wines were based on Cabernet and Merlot (with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and drips of a few other varieties) rather than the typical varieties of southern France, and planted on rough terrain that had previously been thought unsuitable by those geared toward high yields.  Long regarded locally with suspicion (or outright hostility) but globally with admiration, the estate’s 2014 shows excellent strength but also impressive balance and integration of fruit, tannin, wood and acidity -- even at this young age.  These wines always improve markedly if permitted five to ten years, and that’s a word to the wise that applies to this vintage as well.
93 Michael Franz Aug 23, 2016

Loire Valley:

White:

Jo Landron, Muscadet Serve-et-Maine Sur Lie (Loire Valley, France) “La Louvetrie” 2014 ($13, Martin Scott): Muscadet remains one of the great bargains for white wines because it still has a down-market image despite the work and talents of producers, such as Jo Landron who, along with this wife, owns the Domaine de la Louvetrie.  To be fair, over the years there’s been a lot of innocuous Muscadet on the market, which accounts for its lowly image.  But that has changed, in part because of Landron’s efforts.  Still, the price has not caught up with the quality.  This Muscadet, from Serve-et-Maine, considered by many to be the best sub-region, is a great introduction to the appellation for those who are leery of it.  It’s also a great wine for those who already know the charms of Muscadet.  The sur lie designation means the wine aged on its lees, a technique that adds body and texture to this clean, cutting wine with a scintillating bite.  The zesty lemon-like finish makes it perfect for steamy August days or as an accompaniment to oysters at any time of the year.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Vigneau-Chevreau, Vouvray (Loire Valley, France) “Cuvée Silex” 2014 ($21, Michael Corso Selection): I love Vouvray.  My frustration with the wines is that it’s often difficult to tell the level of sweetness before pulling the cork.  Thankfully, this one, labeled Sec, accurately describes the wine.  It captures the tension -- the steely dryness combined with a delicate fruitiness -- that makes Vouvray so invigorating.  Its energy is both amplified and offset by a lacey fruity flowery aspect that the Chenin Blanc grape conveys.  A perfect summertime wine, it’s a great choice for roast pork this fall or the you-know-what at Thanksgiving.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

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GERMANY

Pfalz:

Rosé:

Reichsrat von Buhl, Pfalz (Germany) Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken 2015 ($18, Rudi Wiest): This dry rosé made from Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder in German) provides absolutely scintillating refreshment!  It is a juicy and bright rosé that offers a great deal of tasting pleasure.  The aromas are forward and enticing, with ripe cherry, strawberry and cranberry notes backed by hints of flowers, orange peel and spice.  Lively and fresh on the palate, its zesty cherry and strawberry flavors are supported by the orange zest and spice tones.  It’s a marvelous wine to enjoy on its own, but has enough body to serve with salmon or warm weather fare off the grill.
90 Wayne Belding Aug 23, 2016

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GREECE

Red:

Kir Yianni, Naoussa (Macedonia, Greece) Xynomavro Ramnista 2012 ($25, Diamond Wine Importers): The Kir Yianni Estate offers some of the best examples of this classic Naoussa red from the native Xynomavro grape.  The Xynomavro shows its best in the Macedonian vineyards of Naoussa and Kir Yianni is a consistently excellent producer.  Their 2012 Ramnista Xynomavro shows a delicious combination of fruit, floral and spice elements.  It has a forward bouquet of pure cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruits enhanced by hints of lilac, vanilla, cocoa and spices.  Silky and complex on the palate, its layers of red and black fruits are underlain by woodsy, vanilla, herb and spice tones.  The 2012 Ramnista has a rich texture and will cellar well for another 6+ years.
92 Wayne Belding Aug 23, 2016

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ITALY

Abruzzo:

White:

Cerulli Spinozzi, Pecorino Colli Aprutini IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) “Cortalto” 2014 ($15): Cortalto’s a wine to buy by the case.  The pleasing bite of Pecorino, the grape, could remind consumers of the cheese.  Cerulli Spinozzi, one of the top producers in Abruzzo, manages to combine the attractive bite with good concentration and uplifting acidity in this fresh and lively wine.  A zesty finishes amplifies the enjoyment.  It’s a great choice for linguine and clam sauce or even a rotisserie chicken.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Alto Adige:

White:

Kettmeir, Alto Adige - Suditrol DOC (Italy) Müller Thurgau 2014 ($22, Santa Margherita USA): My first experience with a dry expression of the variety, and it makes me wonder why all of the others that I've tried have shown off-dry or sweeter.  Aromas of ripe melon, white flowers, peach and stone minerality lead to a palate that's bone dry, brightly citric and refreshingly zesty on the end.  This really needs some food to show itself off to the full -- fried calamari would work.
91 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Lazio:

White:

Fontana Candida, Frascati Superiore DOCG Riserva (Lazio, Italy) "Luna Mater" 2012 ($23, Banfi Vintners): Fontana Candida’s Luna Mater will transform your image of Frascati, typically a light refreshing, but otherwise undistinguished, white wine.  Well, Luna Mater is certainly distinguished.  It’s not just more concentrated than the usual Frascati -- though it is.  What is astounding is its character: complex, deep and long, words not usually associated with Frascati.  Its seductive creamy texture, the slightly bitter almond note in the finish, and racy acidity adds to its allure.  It has enough stuffing and verve to pair with full-flavored seafood dishes or veal scaloppine.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Sicily:

Red:

Stemmari, Sicilia DOC (Italy) Nero d'Avola 2014 ($10, Prestige Wine Imports): Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s “red grape,” has the ability to deliver both fruity and savory notes simultaneously even when young, as it does in this wine.  Stemmari’s delivers savory nuances of herbs and olives, which make a lovely counterpoint to the bright red fruit elements.  What makes it especially attractive is the price.  Balanced, with mild tannins, it would be a perfect choice for current drinking with pasta or seafood with a robust putanesca sauce.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

White:

Vento di Mare, Terre Siciliane IGT (Sicily, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($12, Middleton Family Wines): Vento di Mare produces two Pinot Grigios in Sicily -- this one made from organically grown grapes, and one made from conventionally grown grapes.  They’re very different wines.  This one, from organically grown grapes, is slightly less floral, less fruity, leaner and more angular.  It’s more vivacious, even a bit steely, and elegant.  A superb value, it is pleasing as an aperitivo wine, and even more so with grilled fish.  Those who prefer a softer, more flowery style of Pinot Grigio should reach for the conventional bottling at the same price.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Vento di Mare, Terre Siciliane IGT (Sicily, Italy) Grillo 2014 ($12, Middleton Family Wines): As with their Pinot Grigio, Vento di Mare produces two wines, one from organic and one from conventional grapes, from Grillo, an indigenous Sicilian grape.  This Grillo, from organic grapes, is slightly richer with a better texture and complexity compared to the one made from conventionally grown grapes.  It has a slightly bitter, almost iodine-tinged nuance in the finish that allows it to cut through even the most robust seafood preparation.  If opting for a glass of something before dinner, open the Vento di Mare Pinot Grigio.  These offerings from Vento di Mare represent excellent value.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Tuscany:

Red:

Castello di Meleto, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) 2013 ($22, Vias Imports): A blend of mostly (95%) Sangiovese and Malvasia Nero, this Chianti Classico delivers a harmonious contrast of herbal earthy flavors intermingled with pure fruity ones.  Hallmark Tuscan acidity and firm tannins provide structure without being aggressive or intrusion.  This is a classy Chianti Classico that is an easy choice for current drinking with a robust pasta dish or a simply grilled steak.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Poliziano, Morellino di Scansano (Tuscany, Italy) 2014 ($15):  Morellino is just another name for sangiovese, used exclusively in the Scansano district of Tuscany's Maremma region. This is a very good everyday Tuscan red, with a medium-weight palate and good balance. Serve it with olives, hard cheeses, pizza or tomato-based sauces.
86 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Poliziano, Rosso di Montepulciano (Tuscany, Italy) 2014 ($15):  Count on Poliziano to deliver exceptional value on a wine at the entry level. This is one of the Montepulciano region's top five producers and it has stuffed this $15 Tuscan red with plenty of character. Notes of black cherry, with a floral note, and firm acidity that will round out in another year or so make this wine a virtual steal. The blend, for those who care about such, is 80 percent sangiovese with the rest merlot.
88 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

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SPAIN

Castilla y León:

Red:

Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero (Castilla y León, Spain) 2002 ($350): Arguably the single most famous and sought-after wine of Spain, and indisputably the house that defines historical greatness in Ribera del Duero (since 1864), Vega Sicilia’s wines are very expensive and hard to acquire.  With that said, however, it is worth remembering that you will live to have birthdays and anniversaries with zeros in the second digit and -- hopefully -- rather large numbers up front.  This is a wine for just such an occasion.  It still shows beautiful, very solid color at 14 years of age, and one’s experience of the wine only gets better from there.  Extremely expressive aromatically, it shows topnotes of spicy oak, but with savory notes and suggestions of both red and black fruit showing nearly as prominently.  Medium-bodied, with much deeper and longer flavors than would be guessed based on the wine’s weight, this shows flavors of great intricacy, with less oak showing on the palate than the nose.  The tannins are exceptionally fine-grained, but sufficiently abundant to offer firm structure and assure at least another decade of positive development.  Based roughly 80% on Tempranillo (known as Tinto Fino locally) with the balance made up of Bordeaux varieties, this is already a wine of great beauty, but one that will still unfold additional layers in years to come.
98 Michael Franz Aug 23, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 ($27): I don't see a lot of Cabernet of this quality at this price, particularly in a wine that should be pretty easy to find.  It's a perfect bottle to put next to a classic Napa offering to illustrate the difference that the west side of the mountains makes, showing more red fruit and tea than its neighbors to the east, while still offering classic Cabernet elements.  It's a drinker!  Contains 8% Petite Sirah and 1% Merlot.
Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Rector Creek Vineyard 'Block 5' 2013 ($80):  The massive Paraduxx 'Block 5' blend from the winery's Rector Creek Vineyard makes a powerful statement, with the emphasis on the word power. Dark and brooding, it shows layers of black fruits, a note of dried herbs and a touch of anise on the finish, with ample ripe tannin and a lingering finish that doesn't want to stop. The blend is an eclectic mix of cabernet franc, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon and it works.
95 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2013 ($54): It's the flagship, a benchmark for the variety domestically, and it dares pretentious self-defined Merlot haters to try and not love it.  Bold and structured, you get all you could ask for -- black cherry, pie spice, sweet oak, graphite and a hint of citrus zest take a long ride on fine grained tannins.  Duckhorn has made a lot of great Merlot, and this may be my favorite to date.
94 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Rector Creek Vineyard Block 4 2013 ($80): Another unique blend for Paraduxx, this time dominated by Petit Verdot.  It's a prince of darkness, holding its full force under wraps initially, but revealing jammy red and black berry fruit and spice aromas with a bit of air time.  Dark and rich on the palate, it adds notes of leaf and chocolate and finishes with toasty oak coming forward.  Decant and serve with moderate to strong cheeses.
93 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Rector Creek Vineyard Block 5 2013 ($80): Rector Creek put out so much beautiful fruit to choose from in 2013 that Duckhorn made several different bottlings from it, including this unique blend of Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's boldly red fruit focused, with pie spice and moderate oak toast adding interest.  Good grip keeps it all together through the long finish.  I'd age this a bit for full integration of the oak notes.
93 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Migration, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch 2013 ($68):  Fans of earthy pinot noir will no doubt love this vintage of Migration's Dutton Ranch. It shows notes of damp earth, cola and spice to complement a palate of raspberry and strawberry fruit, with a bit of woodsmoke on the finish.
90 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Duckhorn Vineyards, Rutherford (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($95): This is an impressive effort from Duckhorn. It was a good vintage overall in the Napa Valley, and Rutherford is one of the sweetest of Napa's sweet spots. The nose shows hints of violets, spice and cassis. On the palate the wine is richly layered, showing complex notes of blackberry and black and red currant, with a touch of vanilla lurking in the background. The balance is exquisite. This is a wine for now, to be certain, but it will benefit from additional age and could be easily cellared for 20 years or more.
95 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($48):  This is your basic Patz & Hall pinot, meaning it retails for less than $50 a bottle. That said, its stands up well against the more expensive vineyard-designate pinots offered by Patz & Hall. This vintage delivers notes of red cherry and cola, a whiff of lavender on the nose, and a hint of wood spice on the finish.
92 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Sparkling:

Schramsberg, North Coast (California) Brut Rosé 2013 ($44): I love that Schramsberg makes a lot of this bubbly.  For many domestic sparkling wine producers, the Rosé is fairly limited production and much more difficult to locate.  I often see this bottle next to the rest of the Schramsberg lineup on shelves, and that's a good thing as their offerings are some of the best available.  This vintage of the Rosé is crisp and light, with strawberry and cherry fruit, lemon zest and stone minerality, all presented in classic brut style -- not so dry as to scour, but just dry enough to refresh the palate.  Once again, well done.
92 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

White:

Patz & Hall, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard 2014 ($65): Another "wow" Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay from James Hall.  A complex mix of flowers, apple, tropical fruit and stone minerality, with touches of sweet orange zest, leaf and anise reveal themselves in layered fashion on the nose and in the mouth, with great acidity extending the integrated finish.  California Chardonnay just doesn't get much better than this.
95 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County) Sauvignon Blanc Taylor's Vineyard 'Musque Clone' 2014 ($28): Dry Creek Vineyard's commitment to sauvignon blanc, a favorite grape variety of the founder, David Stare, is a wonder to behold. From its grassy Fume Blanc to the elegant Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc to this dynamic single-vineyard "musque clone" sauvignon, DCV delivers. The Musque Clone sauvignon from Dry Creek Valley's Taylor's Vineyard is one of the finest, if not the finest, sauvignons produced in America. Made without the use of oak, fermented in stainless steel tanks, it stands on its own as a dramatic example of the heights this sometimes maligned grape variety can reach. Notes of white peach and citrus are its signature, but the balance, complexity and length are astonishing for a domestic sauvignon. Outside of France's Loire Valley or the Graves district of Bordeaux, this is one of the finest sauvignons I've ever tasted.
97 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

Presqu’ile, Santa Maria Valley (California) Chardonnay 2014 ($35): The trend continues.  High acid, low alcohol Chardonnay is back, and here's another fine example of why.  Lemon crème, apple, pear and spice show crisply in aroma and flavor, finishing long, bright and food friendly.  I'm thinking grilled halibut or sole will make a great match.
91 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Matanzas Creek, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2014 ($28):  Matanzas has always been identified with three grape varieties: merlot, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. That's no accident. They've long been among California's best at all three and this latest Sonoma County chardonnay makes the point. It allows the fruit to shine without undue influence from an oak barrel. With bright aromas of pear and apple and a touch of lemon, complemented by notes of nutmeg and vanilla, it is downright delicious and at $28 modestly priced given the winery's stature.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 23, 2016

New York:

Rosé:

Paumanok, North Fork of Long Island (New York) Dry Rosé 2015 ($18): As regular WineReviewOnline readers know well, I am not swept away by the tsunami of enthusiasm for rosé, often preferring to chill a light red wine, which makes my reaction to this one all the more startling.  Made from Cabernet Franc, this rosé is dry and crisp with lots of character.  In short, real wine, not your usual vapid rosé. It will be hard to find west of Manhattan, but it’s worth seeking out.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

White:

Paumanok, North Fork of Long Island (New York) Chenin Blanc 2014 ($28): Chenin Blanc is a tough grape to transform into a balanced wine in North America because a little extra ripeness from the warmth of the growing season translates into an overly fruity and flabby wine.  But when a winery hits it just right, as the team at Paumanok does on a regular basis, Chenin Blanc is an ideal summertime choice.  Paumanok’s 2014 is crisp and refreshing with an engaging hint of fruitiness offset nicely by racy acidity.  Finishing dry, it can be enjoyed by itself on these hot and humid days because it is not overly aggressive, but is also a perfect choice for light dishes or for spicy food.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Oregon:

Red:

Lemelson Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir "Thea’s Selection" 2013 ($30): Thea’s Selection is a blend of wines from Lemelson’s five organic vineyards.  It has long been a great value among Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.  The 2013 harvest yielded a pure, ripe fruit character and a silky texture in the wine.  The bouquet reveals blackberry, red and black cherry fruits underlain by violet, vanilla, cracked pepper and baking spice nuances.  On the palate, the wine shows layers of juicy strawberry, ripe cherry and blackberry fruits interwoven with nuances of vanilla, flowers and baking spice.  The elegant, juicy fruit and spice tones linger at the finish.  It’s delicious now and will cellar well for another 3 to 5 years.
90 Wayne Belding Aug 23, 2016

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