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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

March 24, 2020 Issue

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

White:

Maison Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) “Couvent des Jacobins” 2016 ($18, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Jadot is justly proud of their “simple” Bourgogne Blanc.  The grapes — all Chardonnay — come from throughout Burgundy, allowing them to alter the blend as the vintage demands.  With a slightly warmer vintage, they can include grapes from cooler continue to keep the wine fresh.  This flexibility explains the extraordinary consistency of this Bourgogne Blanc.  The 2016 combines a hint a creaminess with a pleasant citrus tang.  Not a powerful New World-style Chardonnay, this Bourgogne Blanc is a good introduction to the charms of white Burgundy.  Ready to drink now, it’s another wine to stock up on for a potential quarantine.   
89 Michael Apstein Mar 24, 2020

Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis (Burgundy, France) “Vieilles Vignes de Sainte Claire” 2017 ($35):  What a great village Chablis!  It demonstrates the importance of the producer and old vines.  With this wine, Jean-Marc Brocard, one of the region’s top growers, delivers more character and clarity than many producers’ premier cru.  Flinty and precise, it cuts a gorgeous profile. It’s a classic Chablis whose charms seem endless.  Its invigorating citrus-like minerality keeps it fresh and demands another sip.    
92 Michael Apstein Mar 24, 2020

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Loire Valley:

White:

Joseph Mellot, Sancerre (Loire Valley, France) “La Chatellenie” 2018 ($29):  To my mind, authentic Sancerre delivers more than simply Sauvignon Blanc bite and grassy fruitiness.  And this one does just that.  Though not as mineral-y as some — I suspect because of the ripeness of the vintage — a lovely chalk-y mineral component still peeks through and is especially apparent in the finish. Its sturdiness makes it a fine choice for a roast chicken.   
89 Michael Apstein Mar 24, 2020

J. de Villebois, Touraine AOP (Loire Valley, France) Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($16, Vineyard Brands):  The Loire Valley is home to a vast number of wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, the best known of which are those from Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé appellations.  But other appellations, such as the wider one, Tourraine, should not be forgotten, especially as prices of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé rise.  This one has a subtle herbal or grassy bite.  Its gentle profile makes it work as a stand-alone aperitif, but it has enough bite to cut through spicy shrimp scampi.   
88 Michael Apstein Mar 24, 2020


ITALY

Friuli:

White:

Jermann, Friuli (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($23, Jermann Wines USA):  After reviewing this vintage of Jermann Pinot Grigio last fall (Oct 22, 2019) I wanted to taste it again to see if had changed much over the past few months.  I’m happy to report that while it was delicious then, it has evolved into an even more beguiling and enchanting wine now.  A little more maturity has toned down the fruit a tad and elevated the minerality into perfect balance, while the acidity is spot-on without intruding.  There’s only one thing wrong with this wine:  I drank my last bottle of it.  
95 Marguerite Thomas Mar 24, 2020

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Sardinia:

Red:

Sella & Mosca, Cannonau de Sardegna (Sardinia, Italy) Riserva 2017 ($16, Taub Family Selections):  This is a red wine made from 100% Cannonau grapes, which is what the Sardinians call Grenache.  In order to be labeled Riserva, a Cannonau di Sardegna must have a minimum strength of 13% alcohol by volume, and it must have been aged for at least two years before commercial release.  Sella & Mosca’s offering has a nice, medium-light body, with fairly rich, earthy flavors and easygoing tannins.    
90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 24, 2020

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Veneto:

Sparkling:

Villa Sandi, Prosecco Treviso DOC (Veneto, Italy) “Il Fresco” NV ($16, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Prosecco Treviso is a cut above wines labeled simply Prosecco, according to Stefano Gava, Villa Sandi’s chief winemaker, because the grapes come from a more limited area.  This wine reflects that.  Fresh and light, it’s a very friendly bubbly, with a subtle creaminess and less aggressive fizziness.  Well-priced, it’s an ideal wine for those of you who are laying in supplies for a quarantine.    
88 Michael Apstein Mar 24, 2020


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Whitehaven, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20, E&J Gallo):  Love this wine!  It’s so well dialed in stylistically, with mixed citrus, lively zest and complementary notes of grass, stone and gooseberry that integrate perfectly on the palate and finish crisply in mouth-watering fashion. Nothing more to ask for here!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
93 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Duck Hunter, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20, Stratus Wine & Spirits):  A mineral-focused expression of Sauvignon with zesty citrus notes making for an uber lively glass.  A great shellfish or salad pairing, or you could go unconventional – I love this style with a lobster bisque.  Experiment!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
91 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

McBride Sisters Collection, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($17):  This is a well-mannered Sauvignon Blanc – one that gives what you want from a New Zealand example without going overboard in any one zone.  Mixed citrus, gooseberry, a little grass and integrated minerality present well together throughout, finishing calmly and invitingly.  Load up for summer!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020


UNITED STATES

White:

Barefoot, California (United States) Moscato NV ($7):  The Moscato craze is waning, but there’s still solid product out there for those seeking a sweet tart treat.  This bottling is consistent -- always fresh and fun, with no cloying notes left behind.  Serve with fresh fruit or pound cake and relax!  Oh, and shed your shoes.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
90 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

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California:

Red:

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($35):  A wow Cabernet!  This winery just went through a major remodeling, and I highly recommend a visit when you’re in Napa Valley.  This wine is sourced west of the Mayacamas mountains, and it’s a stunner of a value.  Classic Alexander Valley aromas and flavors shine through a generous structure, and the finish goes on and on.  As the oak continues to integrate this will just get better and better – an extreme pleasure!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Reserve” 2017 ($27):  The dark fruit tone side of Alexander Valley’s spectrum gets its due here, with more blackberry and currant fruit than is typical of the region, but it works just fine here, with rich oak toast, easy spice and supple tannic grip that really sells the flavor mix.  Terrific now, and worthy of additional bottle aging.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Macchia, California (United States) Petite Sirah “Dubious” 2018 ($26):  Perhaps named for unspecified vineyard sources, I can tell you that there’s nothing dubious about the resulting wine.  It’s a medium extraction style that showcases cheery black cherry and pepper, with bold acidity and nice oak spice enhancing the fruit and pepper mix.  A great food friendly Petite Sirah, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Bota Box, California (United States) “Nighthawk Black" Rich Red Wine Blend 2018 ($23):  A well realized blend that comes in a convenient 3-liter box format.  Juicy black fruit, supple tannins, bright fall spice and a little oak char make for a delightful quaffer that’ll last you a while or fill out the party perfectly.  Remember that’s less than six bucks a bottle, and no glass to deal with.  We’re going to see more and more better wine in alternate formats – give this a go and let your snob defenses melt away.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Clarksburg (California) Cabernet Franc Salman Vineyard 2018 ($25):  A fine expression of Cabernet Franc that embraces the variety’s peppery side, playing it perfectly off the ripe red fruit and easy oak toast.  There’s plenty of acidity to carry it all, freshening the finish and extending it into the distance.  This could go with white or red meat and elevate the meal nicely.  The quality at Runquist just keeps on coming!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
93 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Wente Vineyards, Livermore Valley (Alameda County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Wetmore Vineyard Estate Grown 2017 ($35):  The Livermore Valley east of the San Francisco Bay area seldom gets the attention it deserves, which serves to keep a lid on prices.  That makes it an exceptional resource for wine lovers more interested in value than cachet.   Wente's Wetmore Vineyard Cabernet from the 2017 vintage is a value gem, delivering layers of ripe black fruit aroma with supple tannins, a touch of wood spice and impressive length.   
92 Robert Whitley Mar 24, 2020

Macchia, Lodi (California) Petite Sirah “Rebellious” 2018 ($26):   With “Rebellious”, the other side of the spectrum gets a nod in the Macchia Petite Sirah lineup.  This is the beast, by contrast to the “Dubious” bottling, with full throttle extraction restrained by a great picking decision, keeping the heat away and letting the plush black and blue fruit sing.  Not at all porty, but I’d go directly to the cheese plate anyway – medium to strong, please.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Macchia, Lodi (California) Zinfandel West Side Vineyard “Sumptuous” 2018 ($26):  The balance achieved in this wine is remarkable considering its listed 16.6% alcohol content.  Just a trace of heat shows under a peppery mélange of briary fruit, and it serves more to cream up the texture than distract by fire.  Long, lusty and delicious!    A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
93 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) “Entanglement” GSM Red Wine 2017 ($42):  Here’s a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend) that is looking at a long life.  Pure, distinct cherry, blackberry and blueberry fruit are joined by brown spice and a dash of char that plays well against the other flavors.  There’s so much structure that I’d age it five years for openers to really get all that it’ll have to offer.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($52):  Brooks Painter’s team has a way with Cabernet Sauvignon, and this Napa Valley blend shows it in spades.  A lighter side expression, it’s focused on red fruit, gentle oak and lively spice throughout, and finishes with a lively pop.  You can go in early here, or age a while – it all works.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
94 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Syrah "G17" 2018 ($25):  The G17 refers to a highway in Monterey County that connects many of the top vineyards, but the most important reference on the label is Morgan, the longtime Monterey producer known essentially for stylish reds and whites that are crowd-pleasers but don't cost a fortune.  This modestly priced Syrah is another beauty from Morgan, showing notes of blueberry and blackberry with smooth tannins and a spice note on the finish.     
90 Robert Whitley Mar 24, 2020

Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($23):  This sits at the foundation level of the winery’s Cabernet pyramid, and a worthy wine to build an empire on.  Bold blackberry and currants get a spicy kick from the barrel, and supple tannins keep the fruit lively from beginning to end.  It’s widely available, and that’s good news for all of us – go get it!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.    
92 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Rosé:

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($22):  Such a flavorful Rosé!  Strawberry, watermelon and faint herbs get a boost from a citrus zest finish that’ll get you salivating and to the end of the bottle in no time.  A perennial winner, and one that you’ll want to act on quickly – I promise a sellout in short order.  It will be hard to find someone who can’t appreciate this!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

White:

De Tierra Vineyards, Monterey (California) Late Harvest Riesling “EKEM” 2009 ($37):  The proprietary name whimsically tips its hat to the famed Chateau d’Yquem dessert wine from Sauternes, and the Riesling wine tips its hat to the great Trockenbeerenauslese wines of Germany.  Dried stone fruit, baked apple, honey and marzipan are bold on the nose and full flavored in the mouth, finishing with cleansing acidity that keeps the flavors amazingly fresh for a wine of this age.  Dessert that needs no accompaniment!  Sold in a 375ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Carol Shelton Wines, Paso Robles (California) “Coquille Blanc” 2018 ($25):  I love Carol Shelton’s wines across the board, and this might be my favorite of hers.  Perhaps that will seem odd when you consider her status as a Zinfandel master, but I say, not odd at all, because she makes everything with extreme care.  This blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne shows that effectively, with deep flavors of stone fruit, quince and spice, all delivered with elegance and style.  I could drink this all day.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Decoy, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2018 ($20):  For a Sonoma, California Chardonnay, this bottle from Decoy is an excellent value.  With well balanced acidity mingling with rich fruit flavors and a measure of spicy oak, this white wine is hard to pass up.  It was fermented in both stainless steel and barrels, and then aged in oak, including 25% new barrels.   
90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 24, 2020

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Oregon:

Red:

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Umpqua Valley (Oregon) Malbec “Estate Selection” 2018 ($32):  Great Malbec from a stellar Oregon producer perhaps more known for whites than reds – so far, anyway.  This will add some weight to the red side, with a savory mix of cherry, black and blue berries and fall spice, moderate tannins and a bursting finish that shows tension and verve.  Expertly executed and a true pleasure to drink.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Umpqua Valley (Oregon) Syrah “Winemaker’s Reserve” Estate Grown 2018 ($42):  Another impressive red from Stephen Reustle’s crew.  The black and blue fruit you expect from Syrah get a good dose of oak spice here, and I’d look for it to fold in nicely with some bottle aging.  It’s in a brooding state now, but it will come out the better for it soon.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
94 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

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