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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

January 21, 2020 Issue

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GREECE

White:

Domaine Ktima Gerovassiliou, Epanomi IGT (Macedonia, Greece) Malagouzia Single Vineyard 2019 ($27):  Vangelis Gerovassiliou, the man credited with rescuing this grape from extinction, makes a superb example of it at his estate near Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and the country’s most important port.  The captivating combination of subtle tropical fruits and bracing acidity is, of course, present.  But there is an added gracefulness and a palate-caressing texture that adds to its appeal.  This is a sophisticated wine whose price belies its qualities.  It shines next to simply grilled fish accented by lemon-infused olive oil.  
93 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

Domaine Ktima Gerovassiliou, Epanomi IGT (Macedonia, Greece) White Wine 2019 ($20):  Gerovassiliou, who is credited with saving the Malagouzia grape from extinction, blends it with Assyrtiko to create this charming wine.  It is more floral than his monovarietal Malagouzia, which is surprising since one might assume that the Assyrtiko would add more structure and minerality.  But perhaps it’s because the Assyrtiko in this case comes from Macedonia, in the north of Greece, rather than its ancestral home on Santorini.  Outside of Santorini, Assyrtiko expresses far less saline minerality.  Perhaps it’s just a different expression of the Malagouzia.  Whatever the reason, it’s a winsome wine whose tropical notes are beautifully balanced and offset by energetic acidity.  In 2019, this is (paradoxically) even more floral and forward than his straight Malagousia.  Think of it as a friendly, early-drinking Assyrtiko.    
90 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020


HUNGARY

White:

Count Károlyi, Pannon (Hungary) Grüner Veltliner 2018 ($13, Quintessential Wines):  Although Grüner Veltliner is best known in Austria, this wine is from fruit grown across the border in Hungary.  The Pannon region encompasses the well-known (for Hungarian wine) Szekszárd and Villány subregions.  It is fertile agricultural land that covers a wide area on the west side of the Danube River.  The Count Károlyi Grüner Veltliner is juicy, fresh and dry.  It begins with delicate floral aromas plus lemon, lime and green apple fruits backed by subtle green herb and white pepper.  The flavors are brisk and refreshing, with a pleasing combination of fruit and herbal tones.  Because of its success in Austria, Grüner Veltliner is now being grown in many other parts of the wine world.  The Count Károlyi Grüner is a good choice to pair with vegetable dishes.  Its herbal nuances give it an advantage over many other whites.  It can pair equally well with lighter fresh seafood recipes.   
88 Wayne Belding Jan 21, 2020


ITALY

Alto Adige:

White:

Kellerei Bozen, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Weissburgunder 2018 ($19, Matchvino):  Italy’s Alto Adige is one of the best sites in the world for high quality Pinot Bianco.  Also known as Pinot Blanc and Weissburgunder, Pinot Bianco is often a pleasurable, easy-to-drink white wine.  It is a special treat, however, when it achieves this degree of depth and complexity.  The Kellerei Bozen Weissburgunder is a marvelous, multilayered, exotic, elegant and dry rendition of the grape.  The bouquet is rich with Meyer lemon, apple, pear, peach and guava fruit scents interwoven with floral and spice tones.  The layers of luscious peach, citrus and tropical fruit flavors unfold across the palate followed by subtleties of spice and a minerally-clean, dry finish.  If you want to experience Pinot Blanc at its exotic and enchanting best, give this one a try.    
92 Wayne Belding Jan 21, 2020

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Sicily:

Red:

Palmento Costanzo, Etna Rosso DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Mofete” 2016 ($35):  A blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio, this is was very skillfully grown and made.  It is deliciously ripe and sweet but definitely not over the line into “candied” territory, as salty minerality provides a counterpoint to the wine’s juiciness.  Although it is elegantly light in overall profile, it still shows real depth of flavor, as the softness of the tannins allows the fruit to show itself fully and linger through the finish.  Not the most complex wine you’ll find from Etna, but as straightforwardly enjoyable wine as you’re likely to find from anywhere.  This producer also makes a “Nero di Sei” bottling with the same blend, and the 2015 is excellent, but it will likely to be harder to find, as only 20% as much is made as this “Mofete.”   
93 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

Tornatore, Etna Rosso DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Pietrarizzo” 2017 ($50):  I tasted this immediately after Pietradolce’s excellent 2017 Etna Rosso (92 points, $25), and though I’d certainly have preferred two bottles of that to one of these for $50, I worry that tasting order worked to its disadvantage.  This is significantly lighter but still alluringly sweet, with admirably pure fruit, no overt wood, ultra-fine tannins, and excellent proportionality.  The finish is delicate but very persistent, with every flavor note tailing off symmetrically.  Impressive Nerello Mascalese on a small scale for a warm vintage.  
93 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

Alessandro di Camporeale, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Nero d’Avola Vigna di Mandranova “Donnatà” 2017 ($20):  This superb rendition of Nero d’Avola is sourced from a climate in the Mandranova area that is cooler than vineyards closer to Catania or most other sites in Sicily, and the variety looks quite different as a result, with absolutely no over-ripe or “chunky” character, even from a conspicuously hot growing season in 2017.  It is fully ripe, yet shows excellent freshness, with notes of both red and black berries and a suggestion of clack cherries as well.  A very restrained hint of wood lends additional complexity while keeping the gorgeous fruit in the forefront.  The balance and proportionality of fruit, acidity, tannin and wood is impeccable, and the overall profile of the wine is almost perfectly harmonious.  For the record, I tasted this from magnum, though I doubt that would have made much difference by comparison to a 750 ml bottle less than two years after the vintage.  I had not even finished writing my raw tasting note at the winery before looking for a source that could sell this (and the 2016 “Kaid” Syrah) to me in the USA, to no avail, though I hope a strong importer will take note of this exceptional producer.  
93 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

White:

Planeta, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Carricante “Eruzione 1614” 2017 ($38):  This wine is way less expensive in Europe than in the USA, but don’t let that spoil the fun, as it is still worth every penny and more for $40.  There’s 10% Riesling blended in with the Carricante, and ingeniously so, as the lightly floral topnotes enhance aromatic complexity and work wonderfully with the fruit scents and flavors recalling green apples, citrus fruit and mandarin oranges.  The balance of fruit and acidity is either perfect…or so close to perfect that I couldn’t fault it in either direction.  Well represented in the USA even if not so well priced, you should be able to find it, and should definitely give it a try.   
93 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

Alessandro di Camporeale, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Grillo Vigna di Mandranova 2018 ($20):  Due to the very wet conditions of the growing season during 2018 (at least in the western sections of Sicily), this wine is unusually lean and zesty in this vintage, so don’t assume that other vintages will show the same character.  In most years, it would be bigger, juicier and more tropical in fruit profile, and more akin to the big renditions of Grillo that are more widely available in the USA from Sicily’s various coastal regions.  By contrast, this 2018 is openly fruity but downright prickly with acidity, as it was vinified reductively in stainless steel with 6 months of lees contact.  It shows some citrus rind bitterness in the finish, but that’s beautifully offset by the fresh fruit notes, and the overall effect is both complex and harmonious.  This is an example of a very skilled viticultural and winemaking team making lemonade from a lemon, which is also to say that this is a world class winery deserving of a much higher profile than it enjoys currently in the USA.  
92 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

Centopassi, Sicilia Superiore DOC (Sicily, Italy) Grillo – Catarratto “Giato” 2018 ($15):  Get this:  The winery is part of an association of nine properties scattered across Sicily and the south of the “boot” that are owned by the state… after being seized from the Mafia.  They cultivate about 1,400 hectares based on clay and sand, so this was a sizeable seizure from whence olive oil and pasta are also produced.  Everything looks new, and I expect the solid wines to become even better with time.  This blend of 60% Grillo and 40% Catarratto is a little shy aromatically, but quite bright with excellent acidity and some interesting mineral tones in the finish.  More refreshing than complex, this is likely reflective of the wet 2018 vintage in western Sicily, so perhaps not representative of most vintages, but still well done, and very good for the money. 
90 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

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Tuscany:

Red:

Castellare di Castellina, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) Il Poggiale 2016 ($35, Winebow):  Castellare di Castellina, one of Chianti’s traditional and best producers, hits the bullseye again with this Riserva.  The grapes come from a single vineyard that they think produces superior fruit.  After tasting it, I certainly agree there’s something special going on.  A blend of Sangiovese (90%), and equal parts of Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo, delivers a glorious combination of fruit flavors without being fruity.  Though still youthful and tight, it’s balanced and the not-just-fruit character is center stage.  Not a bombastic wine, this Riserva should turn out beautifully in another five years.  If you’re tempted by it now — and you will be — open it several hours in advance and decant it.  
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

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Veneto:

Sparkling:

Gregoletto, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) Sui Lieviti NV ($20, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant):  This is not your usual Prosecco, that affordable and cheerful sparkling wine from the Veneto in northeastern Italy.  It comes from a producer whose family has a long history in the area and a great appreciation of the Prosecco tondo grape, known these days as Glera.  They make it into still, semi -sparkling, sparkling wines and grappa.  All their grapes are hand harvested and fermented by indigenous yeasts.  Sui Lieviti, also called sur lie in French, indicates contact with spent yeasts, called lees, after fermentation, in this case two to three months.  Lees contact can protect the wine from oxidation and add stability and complexity to the flavors and mouthfeel.  According to the importer’s tech sheet, the wine is bottled by hand with a small amount of “natural liqueur made from their own grapes,” which sounds like grape juice to me.  The sugar in the liqueur encourages the second fermentation in the bottle, resulting in bubbles and some sediment.  For most sparkling wines, before the wine is released the crown cap is removed along with dead yeasts and sediment, additional wine and sugar is added to replace removed liquid and the bottle is closed with a cork.  Since the Gregolettos do not remove the sediment, the bottle is sold with a crown cap.  Note that the appellation is Prosecco DOC. The grapes are grown in the DOCG area, but the wine cannot be labeled as such because it is bottled with a crown cap, a no-no in the regional regulations.  I found this wine at one of my favorite wine shops and knew little about it.  Fortunately, it had been sitting upright in the fridge for a couple of weeks before we opened it, because it is recommended to let the wine sit upright at least a few hours before serving to allow the natural sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle.  Certainly, the sediment is safe to consume, and the longer it is in the bottle the more complex the flavors and richer the mouthfeel. It was indeed clear and bright in my glass and I enjoyed the gentleness of its semi-sparkling bubbles.   Aromas of citrus, green apple and white peach merged with a chalky mineral note.  In the mouth the flavors were bright and refreshing, Meyer lemon, pear fruit with floral notes and a creamy mouthfeel.  Fairly low alcohol at 11.5 percent, crisp acidity and tender bubbles create an elegant balance.  
89 Rebecca Murphy Jan 21, 2020

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Venezia Giulia:

White:

I Clivi, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC (Venezia Giulia, Italy ) Bianco 2016 ($35):  Ferdinando e Mario Zanusso of I Clivi (which means the slopes) make superb wines.  Their Clivi Galea is a single vineyard with 70-yesr old vines (according to their website) located on the southern tip of the appellation, near the Slovenian border. This 100% Friulano has a great lanolin-like texture and wonderful energy.  Suave and deep, it shows the grandeur this grape can achieve in the right hands.  I’m certain that part of its depth comes from 24 months of aging on fine lees in stainless steel tanks. It’s a great choice for grilled swordfish. Though a white wine, it actually also goes well with a creamy understated Bolognese sauce because of its texture and acidity.   
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Trinity Hill, Gimblett Gravels (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) Chardonnay 2017 ($40):  Chardonnay probably isn’t the first grape you associate with New Zealand (me neither), but here is a bottle that might move it up your list a few spots.  Great acidity and a low 13% alcohol number carry lively lemon and yellow grapefruit flavors that get a touch of subtle nutty character as an enhancer, all finishing together with great push and an invitation to another sip.   
92 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020


SPAIN

Rioja:

Red:

Viña Bujanda, Rioja Crianza DOC (Spain) 2015 ($14, Winebow):  You can’t beat this wine for quality at the price.  It is from the Martínez Bujanda family, whose ancestor, Joaquín Martínez Bujanda, decided in 1889 to make wines from grapes he grew himself.  Four generations later, siblings Carlos and Pilar Martinez Bujanda continue to build upon their great grandfather’s legacy.  Bujanda’s nearly 394 acres of Tempranillo and Viura vineyards are located in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.  The sites offer different soil composition and sun exposure to provide different flavor profiles for complexity in the wines.  Made from the Tempranillo grape, the wine is rich and robust, with flavors of black berries and plums with a dash of tobacco and cloves.  It is smooth and limber in the mouth with vibrant acidity and fluid tannins.   
90 Rebecca Murphy Jan 21, 2020


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Westwood, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Wendling Vineyard 2016 ($72):  A solid Anderson Valley expression of Pinot Noir with age-worthy structure, though it’s a delight already.  Black cherry, forest floor and brown spice aromas lead to a deep palate that translates the fruit and spice in linear fashion, finishing long with good integration that will continue to gain complexity with some cellaring.    
93 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Steele, Lake County (California) Cabernet Franc 2017 ($20):  It’s pretty tough to beat Steele when it comes to quality for your dollar, as demonstrated yet again by this tasty Cabernet Franc.  Strawberry, blueberry, soft herbs and easy oak spice aromas and flavors ride a supple tannin structure through an extended finish where everything is ripe and ready to go.  A perfect grilled rib-eye partner.  
90 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Mettler Family Vineyards, Lodi (California) Petite Sirah Estate Grown 2017 ($25):  Always my favorite from the Mettler line, and again in 2017 it shows proper character and weight, yet is quite approachable in its infancy – no colicky baby here – just everything that Petite Sirah lovers pine for.  Black and blue berries, fall spice and tamed tar notes park on the palate and outlast the meter.  No citation necessary.  Drink up or hold up to ten years at least.   
92 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Mettler Family Vineyards, Lodi (California) Old Vine Zinfandel "Epicenter” 2017 ($25):  The Mettler gang reins in the Epicenter a bit this vintage, and I like the result.  A brambly, forward nose leads to a rich palate that uses moderate oak toast to enhance the mix of berries and pepper, and the finish has an easy grip that gives the fruit a nice push.  Well done!   
91 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Pym-Rae, Napa Valley (California) Tesseron Estate 2016 ($350):  The Tesseron family of Château Pontet-Canet in the Paulliac region of Bordeaux went looking for a small vineyard property in the Napa Valley.  The did find a small vineyard of 18.5 acres, but it was part of a 640-acre property, which was owned by the late Robin Williams.  They were looking for a high-altitude vineyard and this just happened to be on Mount Veeder at 1800 feet.  They were looking for mature, deep-rooted vines and grape varieties that were familiar to them.  This vineyard, planted in 1990, had Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  The property was bigger than they wanted, but it had everything they were looking for, so they have said, “this is the land that chose us.”   Having found the perfect property, they immediately started working on conversion to biodynamic practices, the same way they farm their vineyards in Paulillac.  They tore out the irrigation system, so that “they wouldn’t be tempted.”  They introduced horses pulling carts to work in the vines, because the soil was compacted due to previous use of tractors.  When they added cows, they found that the footprints of the cows in the soil also serve as water collectors.  It took them at least three years, but they are now certified biodynamic by Demeter.  Family members including father, Albert Tesseron, along with his son, Noé, and daughter, Justine, are each in different US markets this week introducing the inaugural vintage of Pym-Rae 2016.  This week I met Noé, who explained that Pym and Rea are the middle names of Robin Williams’ two children.  They gave the wine this name in honor of Williams and his family.  At first glance and sniff, there is no mistaking Pym-Rae for a Bordeaux.  Its color is a deep ruby red, almost purple, and the nose has lovely rich, ripe black plum, black cherry, cassis aromas.  The flavors are rich and redolent of ripe, dark fruits, with notes of spice, tobacco and toast, yet the overall impression is of freshness and lift, perhaps a bit of Bordeaux peaking through.  Tannins are deftly managed; integrated and balanced with the fruit, alcohol and acidity.  It will be a joy to watch it mature.  This may be the family’s first wine in Napa, but it shows their respect for terroir and their wisdom to let it shine. 
95 Rebecca Murphy Jan 21, 2020

Peju, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Franc “Petit Trois” 2013 ($75):  Winemaker Sara Fowler generally makes firmly structured wines meant for aging, and this late release is no exception.  You’ll find it was worth the wait.   This is just starting to show itself, and it will make you wonder why you don’t look for more Cabernet Franc as another foil in your arsenal.  Rich red fruit, deep fall spice and mild notes of bay leaf and sage mingle together mid palate and continue the conversation well into a lingering finish.  There is lots of refined energy here.  Decant well near term, or age up to fifteen years.   
94 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Silver Ghost, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($35):  Silver Ghost's 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is at a nice price for a Napa Valley Cab that takes aim at its much pricier competition with ripe blackberry and black currant fruit, lively oak spice and approachable structure.   Give it a good decanting and enjoy with medium to strong cheeses or bold main courses.  
90 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Steele, Red Hills, Lake County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($28):   This Cabernet Sauvignon is another great value from Steele, one with spot-on varietal character and signature Red Hills minerality that is allowed to shine.  Straight up delicious!  
91 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

La Crema, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir "40th Anniversary" 2018 ($100):  Rod Berglund created La Crema Viñera in 1979 with a group of friends who invested in his endeavor.  His vision was to make single vineyard, cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  His mentors included Joseph Swan and André André Tchelistcheff.  His wines were well received and inspired others, but marketing conditions were not in his favor.  In 1984, the winery was sold. Berglund married Swan’s daughter, Lynn, in 1986, and helped Swan with his last harvest in 1987.  Joseph Swan died in early 1989 and Lynn and Rod Burglund continue to operate the winery.  Jess Jackson took up Berglund’s mission in 1993, shortening the name to La Crema and focusing on cool spots in the Russian River Valley. The winery is now located in the beautiful Saralee’s Vineyard in Russian River and La Crema winemaker Craig McAllister invited founder Rod Berglund to join him in creating this wine to celebrate 40 years.   The grapes come from several estate vineyards including Bellflower, Piner, Saralee’s, Seascape and Ross.  It is a tantalizing wine with ruby red color and pretty cherry, raspberry aromas with a hint of floral notes and dried roses.  In the mouth its svelte structure supports layered flavors of black cherry, blood orange, rose and a touch of fresh herbs.  The acidity is mouthwatering, and the tannins are fine grained, encouraging flavors to linger while you experience the harmony of the elements coming together.    
91 Rebecca Murphy Jan 21, 2020

Alara Cellars, San Benito County (California) Grenache 2017 ($39):  Be sure to give this wine ample time in the decanter, and be sure you’re a fan of the lively white pepper character that is a hallmark of the variety.  It’s here in spades on the nose and in the mouth, with dry strawberry and tart cherry fruit balancing it nicely.  The finish brings a sweet oak note forward that tempers the pepper character and keeps you coming back.  A natural for roast fowl – you can go big on the spice.   
90 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Westwood, Sonoma Valley (California) “Legend” 2016 ($60):  Master blender Philippe Melka shows his artistry in this mix of Cabernet Sauvignon with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, allowing each variety’s personality to shine through with power and grace.  Well-knit dark fruit, savory notes and oak spice aromas entice at the rim, and they follow through on the palate with sturdy structure extending the finish without losing track of any of the elements.  If you like the Paraduxx portfolio, you’ll love this wine.  
95 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Westwood, Sonoma Valley (California) Pinot Noir Annadel Gap Vineyard 2016 ($48):   Westwood's Annadel Gap Vineyard Pinot Noir is a bold, earth driven style that focuses on black cherry, blackberry and cardamom spice, with damp earth minerality and generous oak toast that enhances the fruit.  Mouth filling texture and a long finish round things out.  Consider serving this by drawing on the red meat side of the menu. 
92 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Rosé:

Pedroncelli, Sonoma County (California) Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($17):  This is a deliciously dry and flavorful rosé, replete with cherry and strawberry flavors and a zesty finish.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is clean and enjoyable.  This iconic California estate was founded in 1927 by Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli, who planted mostly Zinfandel vines (one century-old Zin vineyard still remains on the property).  Today’s Pedroncelli selections range from Chardonnay though Petite Sirah and include just about every grape variety in between that you can think of.  
90 Marguerite Thomas Jan 21, 2020

Sparkling:

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Brut Rosé NV ($45):  Plenty of very advanced wine tasters look down their noses at California bubbly as a category, dismissing it as too overtly fruity to compete with excellent sparklers from less warm and sunny areas -- like Champagne, of course.  Well, I showed this “blind” to a class about 10 days ago, and in the vote, it mopped the floor with a quite expensive vintage Rosé Champagne (namely, Moët & Chandon Champagne Rosé Extra Brut “Grand Vintage” 2009, a $90 bottle).  True, the Moët was a little more complex aromatically, but in all other respects, the J was incomparably better:  More interesting texture, better freshness, deeper and more persistent flavors and more energetic effervescence.  Indisputably delicious, all this sparkler needs to be regarded as a world class wine is to wrap it in aluminum foil to protect tasters from their own preconceptions. 
93 Michael Franz Jan 21, 2020

White:

Chappellet, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard “Grower Collection” 2017 ($49):  With its upfront fruit flavors seasoned by a little spice and a touch of oak this is an unusually pleasing Chardonnay.  It has enough moxie to provide partnership for a variety of foods well beyond the usual light-seafood-or-chicken-breast category too often suggested for Chardonnay.  Try it with veal piccata or schnitzel, for example, or with seafood gumbo.  And I can tell you from recent experience that the single glassful leftover from a dinner party the day before was a lovely accompaniment to a simple cheese omelet.  
92 Marguerite Thomas Jan 21, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Rued Vineyard 2017 ($55):  Warren Dutton, the renowned Sonoma County grape-growing farmer who tragically died in 2001, planted this Chardonnay in this vineyard in the late 1960s.  Steve Dutton, his son, is now responsible for the farming, while Dan Goldfield takes care of the winemaking.  Dutton-Goldfield makes two easy-to-recommend Chardonnays, this one and one from the Dutton Ranch Walker Hill Vineyard.  They are wonderfully different despite similar winemaking and demonstrate that the concept of terroir is alive and well in California.  This one delivers a subtle richness accented by lively citrus-infused flavors.  Lively and seamless, it weighs in at a modest -- these days -- 13.8 percent stated alcohol.    
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch, Walker Hill Vineyard 2017 ($50):  The contrasting Chardonnay under the Dutton-Goldfield label displays the same balance and suaveness as its brother from the Rued Vineyard. Instead of citrus notes, subtle toasty and nutty ones caress the palate. Still, great enlivening acidity keeps it fresh throughout the meal.  Like the Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, this one has enormous energy.  Neither of these wines tire during dinner.  Is one “better” than the other?   I think not, which is why I score them the same.  They are variations on the same theme.  And a lovely theme at that.   
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

Steele, Lake County (California) Viognier 2018 ($20):  You’ve got to love a Viognier that avoids opposite ends of the ripeness scale and lands perfectly in the center, where bright fruit gets tempered with racy acidity and lets all the floral, stone fruit and citrus goodness speak clearly, without over-manipulation and undue oak influence.  I could drink this all day.  
92 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Cuvaison, Los Carneros (California) Sauvignon Blanc Methode Beton, Small Lot, Estate Grown 2018 ($40):  There is a notation on the label indicating the 2018 vintage of methode beton Sauvignon Blanc from Cuvaison has moved up from the winery’s “micro” program to its “small lot” program.  The reason is obvious.  By fermenting its Sauvignon Blanc in concrete eggs (as opposed to stainless steel tanks or oak barrels) and aging for nearly a year on the lees, Cuvaison has created a California Sauvignon Blanc like no other.  It shows a floral nose with complex notes of gooseberry, citrus and melon on the palate.  Superbly balanced and remarkably long on the finish, the Cuvaison has moved to the top tier of California Sauvignon alongside the likes of Duckhorn and Spottswoode.   The price, a suggested $40 per bottle, reflects that.  But it’s worth every penny.     
97 Robert Whitley Jan 21, 2020

Talbott, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Estate Grown 2016 ($45):  Generous both aromatically and on the palate, this enduring California Chardonnay always pleases, never disappoints.  Texturally generous, with forthright fruit flavors accented by discreet oak and refreshing acidity, this Chardonnay ends with a generous finish.  Sleepy Hollow, which was planted in 1972 is a relatively old vineyard (for California) and comparatively large, with 505-plus acres.     
91 Marguerite Thomas Jan 21, 2020

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Colorado:

White:

Two Rivers Winery, Mesa County, Colorado (United States) Riesling 2019 ($15):  Colorado presents daunting viticultural challenges.  The dry climate requires irrigation.  Winters can be brutally cold and hailstorms are common in the summers.  Two Rivers Winery is located just west of Grand Junction, near the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers.  The area has a long history of fruit production, but wine grapes are a relatively new addition to the agricultural mix.  The four thousand plus foot elevation and dry climate gives the cool nights that grapevines need for flavor development.  The 2019 Two Rivers Riesling shows the potential of this vineyard area.  This is a lovely and complex off-dry Riesling.  The bouquet is forward and enticing with a floral component and an array of pear, apple and tropical fruit aromas.  It is clean and fresh on the palate, with layers of fruit and a fine balance of sweetness and juicy acidity.  
89 Wayne Belding Jan 21, 2020

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New York:

White:

Hermann J. Wiemer, Seneca Lake (New York) Riesling Magdalena Vineyard 2018 ($35):  The vineyards of New York’s Finger Lakes are proving to be a great source of high quality Rieslings.  The 2018 Hermann J. Wiemer Magdalena Vineyard Riesling is a world-class Riesling.  It makes a striking impression with its fruit intensity and shows the beautiful complexity and racy appeal of the world’s best Rieslings.  The Magdalena Vineyard lies on the west shore of Seneca Lake and benefits from the moderating influence of the deep lake.  The aromas of the 2018 bottling are full and forward, with lovely scents of peach, apricot, grapefruit and Meyer lemon fruits enhanced by nuances of wildflowers and honey.  The flavors are pure, layered and complex with the citrus, peach and tropical fruits followed by honey and spice tones.  With its ripe style, intensity of fruit and electric acidity, it is reminiscent of a dry Riesling from Germany’s Pfalz.  It is an outstanding example of Finger Lakes quality and well worth seeking out.  
94 Wayne Belding Jan 21, 2020

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Oregon:

Red:

Archery Summit, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2017 ($45):  A delicious blend of fruit from premium sites in Willamette’s sub AVA’s Dundee Hills, Yamhill Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills, one that is long on rich black cherry, raspberry and a mix of dry and damp earth characteristics.  Brown spice adds depth, and bright acidity carries everything through and extended finish.  I would pair it with an herb encrusted pork tenderloin roast or duck confit.  Lovely wine!  
94 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

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