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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 25, 2015 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Red:

Alamos, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec "Seleccion" 2013 ($20, Alamos USA): The high altitude vineyards of Uco Valley (yes, that sounds strange to me, too) have a propensity for pungently peppery Malbec, and it shows in this spicy, dry bottling that's meant to pair with parilla - the Argentine tabletop mixed beef grill.  Give it a good decant to allow the pepper to soften a bit, and the berry and meaty character to come out.
89 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

White:

Finca el Origen, Cafayate (Salta, Argentina) Torrontes Reserva 2014 ($11): Just as Malbec is Argentina’s signature red grape and wine, Torrontés, is becoming that country’s signature white.  Very floral, with even a glimmer of honeysuckle, Finca el Origen’s represents one end of the Torrontés style spectrum.  Analogous to many Muscat, it’s a bit deceptive because, while the aromas suggest that sweetness will follow, it doesn’t.  Though this one is not an electrifying as many, its roundness makes it a good choice for sitting around the pool or to accompany highly seasoned or spicy fare.
87 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

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CHILE

White:

Lafken, Casablanca DO (Chile) Riesling Lo Ovalle 2014 ($18, Copa Fina): This is the first Riesling from Chile that I've been able to sample, and it does nothing but reinforce my enthusiasm for Southern Hemisphere examples of the variety.  Aromatically it presents white flowers, nectarine and wet stone, all of which are delivered in the mouth with the addition of lemon zest and a touch of sea spray.  It's dry and cleansing, with the lemon zest and stone lingering long.  I'm curious to seek out other bottlings after this fine example.
90 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

Red:

Louis Jadot, Beaune Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Toussaints 2012 ($45, Kobrand): Wines from premier cru vineyards in from Beaune, especially from top producers, such as Louis Jadot, while not cheap, remain a relative bargain for Burgundy. This Toussaints, from one of their domaines (Domaine Gagey), delivers more weight and power than you’d expect from Beaune and reflects the character of the 2012 vintage. Its appealing floral quality might indicate a forward and accessible wine, but it’s really tightly packed at this stage. It’s a terrific young wine with the requisite balance and energizing acidity to develop nicely. Polished tannins envelope this young, but complete, wine. Jadot’s wines are built for the long haul, so find a place in the cellar for this one.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Louis Jadot, Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy, France) 2012 ($69, Kobrand): Wines from Chambolle-Musigny, one of the top villages in the Côte de Nuits, are some of the most sought after in Burgundy, which explains why even a village wine, such as this one, commands a healthy price.  Jadot’s 2012 is a great example and demonstrates why wines from that village are so popular.  Very plush and concentrated, it delivers a minerality for which the Côte de Nuits is known.  But its wonderfully silky texture imparts a near weightlessness and sets it apart.  This is a great introduction for consumers who want to see for themselves about the seductiveness of Chambolle-Musigny.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Rhône:

White:

Famille Perrin, Côtes du Rhône (Rhône Valley, France) Reserve Blanc 2014 ($12, Vineyard Brands): Southern Rhône Valley whites tend to relegate the taste of fruit to a secondary role, emphasizing instead flavors resembling smoked nuts, dried herbs, and a dusty earthiness.  They often seem dull because unintegrated.  But when well-crafted, like this one, they offer all sorts of intellectually intriguing pleasures.  As that phrase suggests, this is not a wine to quaff without thinking about it.  Instead, it demands concentration, and perhaps even conversation.  For a mere $11 a bottle, that’s very impressive.
90 Paul Lukacs Aug 25, 2015

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ITALY

Red:

Piccini, Vino Rosso d'Italia (Italy) Memoro NV ($12):  This savory red draws its inspiration from four distinct regions in Italy -- Sicily (Nero d'Avola), Puglia (Primitivo), Abruzzo (Montepulciano) and the Veneto (Merlot). An eclectic blend to be sure, but inviting and delicious at the same time. Notes of licorice, blackberry and spice come with a ripe, juicy mouthfeel and soft tannins. This is a non-vintage effort, but its tasty and priced well.
88 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Abruzzo:

Rosé:

Illuminati, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) “Campirosa” 2014 ($13, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Though its enticing cherry-red hue says rosé, this is not your standard innocuous one, but rather a rosé masquerading as a light red wine--and a delightful one at that.  Fresh and bright, with hints of wild strawberries, the barest hint of a tannic structure and whiff of bitterness in the finish remind you it was made from a light pressing of the Montepulciano grape.  Lively, vigorous and very fresh, it would be a great choice for sushi because, almost paradoxically, it can stand up to tuna without overwhelming more delicate fish.  And look at the price!
90 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Alto Adige:

Red:

Girlan, Alto Adige/ Südtirol (Italy) Lagrein 2012 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): The name of the DOC -- either Alto Adige or Südtirol -- reflects the dual identity of this part of northern Italy, which abuts Austria.  But this is a singularly appealing wine.  Lagrein, not a well-known grape, should have more widespread popularity because it can produce a reasonably robust wine devoid of searing tannins and balanced by uplifting acidity.  Girlan’s 2012 is a fine example.  Thick and juicy, with more black fruit than red, smooth tannins and invigorating acidity makes it easy -- and a joy -- to drink now with hearty pasta dishes or even a steak.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

White:

Girlan, Alto Adige/ Südtirol (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2014 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): This clean and fresh Pinot Blanc conveys a lovely delicacy, but has sufficient weight -- and a subtle creaminess -- to complement a light pasta course.  Its floral and lacey character also makes it a perfect choice as either a stand-alone aperitif.
89 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Liguria:

White:

Lunae, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2014 ($40, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Forty dollars for a Vermentino, a wine more often found in the under $20 category, is an extraordinary price.  But this one, Lunae’s Black Label and the winery’s flagship, is an extraordinary wine.  After tasting the 2014, I can understand why Gambero Rosso, the prestigious Italian wine guide, has awarded the wine Tre Bicchieri (their highest accolade) for six consecutive years.  The 2014 delivers alluring bright spice -- an almost white pepper quality -- and saltiness.  Unencumbered by oak aging, its clean and crisp nature imparts a palate tingling vivacity that carries through to an exceptional finish.  Each sip brings additional nuances, making it a delight to sip throughout a meal.  Savor this Vermentino with simply grilled fish to allow the wine to shine.  It will.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Tuscany:

Red:

Piccini, Chianti DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) 2014 ($11):  Piccini's straight-up Chianti DOCG is a good effort with an entry level wine. It shows good weight and depth, with notes of black cherry and spice. The tannins are modest, making for easy drinking in the near term. A simple, straightforward Chianti for daily consumption with pastas, savory appetizers and grilled sausages.
87 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

White:

Mazzoni, Bianco di Toscana (Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino / Chardonnay 2014 ($19, Terlato Wines International): A pretty Italian white wine, with nutty flavors from the Vermentino and richer, more fruit forward ones from the Chardonnay.  White blends like this often disappoint, as the different grapes clash rather than harmonize.  This one proved a pleasant surprise.
90 Paul Lukacs Aug 25, 2015

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

HandCraft, California (United States) Malbec 2013 ($12): This is a menthol minty fresh Malbec from one of Delicato's labels, and it succeeds in being a lively, easy to drink red that won't tire you out on a warmer day. Serve this at about 60 degrees and you'll see the bottle go empty in a hurry.
88 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Middle Sister, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Mischief Maker" NV ($12): If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to transition your friends who are into sweet red wines into something that will give them more pleasure with food.  This wine makes for a good stepping stone - it presents sweet on the nose, with a little raisiny character, but it's dry enough and showing enough Cabernet Sauvignon character that it might flip the switch.  It makes a nice, inexpensive summer grilling partner.
86 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Atalon, Napa Valley (California) “Pauline’s Cuvée” 2012 ($30): A blend of primarily Merlot and Cabernet Franc, so modeled on wines from Bordeaux’s right bank, this wine tastes soft and rich, with red and black fruit flavors, a whiff of vanilla from oak aging, and echoes of sweet spices in the finish.  It is very much a wine for folks who like a hint of something sweet in their wines.
90 Paul Lukacs Aug 25, 2015

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Meredith Estate 2012 ($57): At this stage -- and I qualify it because this wine, like Merry Edwards’ other Pinot Noir, is still evolving even though bottled -- combines attributes of her Klopp Ranch and Flax Vineyard bottlings.  Engaging aromatics grab your attention immediately, while a seamless combination of bright fruit flavors and savory nuances hold it.  Juicy and ripe, but like her other Pinot Noir, it is balanced and not overdone.  It definitely reflects its Californian origin but combines it with an uncanny grace.  Very polished, but like the Flax Vineyard, I’d find room in the cellar for this one and bring it up in a few years.
96 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch 2012 ($60): The 2012 Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir really sings.  The first whiff announces an exciting savory and earthy component that ultimately balances the ripe, but not jammy, California fruit component.  It’s more concentrated than her Russian River Valley bottling, but the increased power is not at the expense of elegance.  It has more of everything without being clumsy or heavy.   Indeed, its balance is extraordinary.  Silky tannins and a sour cherry-like acidity that amplifies the finish make it a joy to drink now, though I suspect that a few years of additional bottle age will reveal additional complexity.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Flax Vineyard 2012 ($54): One of the things I admire about Merry Edwards’s Pinot Noir is that the single vineyard bottlings are different one from the other.  The 2012 Flax Vineyard is more muted and more fruit focused at this stage compared to the Klopp Ranch with less savory character.  The tannins are a touch more prominent, but not astringent or out of place given the overall weight of the wine.   If you give it time -- a half hour or so -- you’ll appreciate that there’s a lot going on in the glass.  An attractive subtle bitterness in the finish is refreshing because it reminds you that this is not a jammy overwrought wine, but rather a seriously complex one.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($45): Merry Edwards consistently makes a stunning array of Pinot Noirs.  Four recent releases from the 2012 vintage continue her streak.  This one, a blend from grapes grown in several vineyards in the Russian River Valley, delivers a wonderful tension between ripe fruit flavors and smoky savory nuances.  Nicely balanced, its texture seemingly caresses the palate.  It clearly conveys the ripe quality of California Pinot Noir but does so with a Burgundian signature of flavor without weight.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($28): This refined Pinot Noir focuses on ripe, but not jammy, fruit flavors complemented by subtle spice and enough savory nuances to keep it interesting.  The mild tannins appear even milder because they are so polished, giving a pleasing overall texture.  It would be a good choice for grilled tuna this summer.
89 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Decoy, Sonoma Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($25): You'd be hard pressed to find a Pinot Noir that offers more at this price point.  Winemaker Dana Epperson shows a flair for balance on a budget, showing strawberry, cherry, sage and a touch of damp earth in both aroma and flavor, all remaining well integrated through the long finish.  If you've got a lot of people to feed for the holidays, this is an excellent find, one that you'll be able to locate easily.
91 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Rosé:

Bonny Doon, Central Coast (California) “Vin Gris de Cigare” 2014 ($18): Is there a better rosé in the US than this one, which year after year is a dead-ringer for a top-notch wine from Provence?  Made from a mélange of Rhône grape varieties, it offers fresh, crisp red fruit flavors, an evocative finish, and plenty of acidity for structure and balance.  Lots of American wineries, particularly those who make Pinot Noirs, have jumped on the rosé bandwagon lately.  To my palate, their wines tend to be one-dimensional and boring.  This one, which takes its inspiration from the widely acknowledged home of the world’s best rosés, is just the opposite.
91 Paul Lukacs Aug 25, 2015

Sparkling:

Schramsberg, North Coast (California) Blanc de Blancs 2012 ($38): Schramsberg's 2012 Blanc de Blancs is a 100-percent Chardonnay beauty. The nose shows notes of brioche and green apple. On the palate this excellent sparkler delivers crunchy apple and bright lemon notes, with firm acid backbone framed by hints of fruit, spice and nuts. Fresh and lively now, it will also hold for a number of years in a temperature-controlled cellar. At the price it would seem to be entering Champagne territory, but won't suffer by comparison. Well made and destined to be long-lived.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Idaho:

Red:

Sawtooth, Snake River Valley (Idaho) Syrah 2012 ($16): Sawtooth is quietly but firmly putting Idaho on the map with wines like this wallet-friendly Syrah.  It's got a depth and elegance rarely seen at this price, showing rich blueberry, blackberry, leaf and tar notes with a plush feel and supple tannins that are more than approachable and lengthen the finish.  Particularly worthy of seeking out for your fly-fishing, wine-loving friends.
92 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Oregon:

Red:

Sokol Blosser, Dundee Hills (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2012 ($38): Sokol Blosser's Dundee Hills effort from the 2012 vintage will appeal to those who favor earthy Pinots. This one shows notes of forest floor and mushroom, with deep black and red fruit notes typical of raspberry, blackberry and blueberry. With good acid and tannin to balance the sweetness of the fruit, this is an exceptional food wine that will play well with game dishes or most anything sauced with wild mushrooms. 
88 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Chehalem, Ribbon Ridge (Oregon) Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve 2012 ($80): Chehalem's 2012 Reserve exhibits a nuanced nose of violets, crushed red berry fruit and spice. On the palate it is supple and lush without being fat or heavy. With complex aromas of red and black fruits and fresh acidity to balance the sweetness of the fruit, this is a compelling Pinot that will no doubt improve with age though drinking well at the moment.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Adelsheim, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Elizabeth's Reserve 2012 ($60): Adelsheim's 2012 Elizabeth's Reserve is silky smooth and velvety on the palate, shows layers of dark berry fruits, a touch of wood spice and an intriguing floral note. The length on the palate and the finish is extraordinary. Well balanced and beautifully structured, this is an impeccably made example of Willamette Valley Pinot at its finest.
95 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Lange Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Reserve 2012 ($35): The 2012 Lange Reserve is a beautifully balanced example of Oregon Pinot, with lush, forward raspberry and blueberry fruit, hints of spice and an ever-so-slight note of earthy forest floor. It is well crafted and honest, a Pinot that delivers flavor complexity and structure at a pleasing price.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

St. Innocent Winery, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Freedom Hill Vineyard 2012 ($42): Rich and layered, with impressive dimension, the St. Innocent Pinot from Freedom Hill Vineyard is a crowd-pleaser, with ripe dark-fruit character, supple tannins and a long, lingering finish. Notes of spice and earth, with a hint of mushroom, suggest you should pair this wine with savory roasts, game or hearty winter stews.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

REX HILL , Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2012 ($35): Deep, dark and rich, the 2012 REX HILL delivers ripe flavors of blackberry, black raspberry and blueberry. Though muscular and powerful, it's well balanced and appealing, showing a long, persistent finish. Serve with grilled or roasted meats, particularly duck.
90 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

White:

Elk Cove, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2014 ($19): Elk Cove's 2014 Pinot Gris is typical of the genre in Oregon, showing a floral nose, inviting aromas of melon and pear, and a crisp, mouth-watering palate. Perfect as a sipper or with light appetizers or soft cheeses.
89 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Washington:

Red:

Buried Cane, Columbia Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($16): A surprisingly complex hence compelling Cabernet given its low price tag, this wine displays a classic varietal profile -- dark berry fruit, firm tannins, and just a hint of something herbal in the bouquet.  It offers outstanding value.
91 Paul Lukacs Aug 25, 2015

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