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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

June 28, 2016 Issue

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AUSTRIA

Rosé:

Biokult, Neusiedlersee (Austria) Pinot Noir Rosé Secco 2015 ($17, Natural Merchants): Here is a new wine worth seeking out -- and it may take some real seeking out.  I'd liken it to a barely off dry Pinot Noir rosé, with strawberry, cherry and citrus flavors, but with a light frizzante character that really makes it fresh and fun.  The finish is quite long and invites another sip.  Pair this with sailing or beaching, and just about anything you'd eat in those situations.  Bravo!
91 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Biokult, Niederosterreich (Austria) Zweigelt Rosé 2015 ($14, Natural Merchants): Okay -- if you haven't stopped reading after trying to pronounce the appellation of this Austrian rosé, you're in for a treat.  Zweigelt is a cross of Blaufrankisch (a.k.a. Lemberger) and St. Laurent.  Still reading?  I get strawberry, cranberry, watermelon and a dash of white pepper, with vibrant acidity, refreshing style and a bright lime zest finish.  A fine summer sipper for those warm afternoons.  Demeter certified biodynamic.
89 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

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CHILE

White:

Casillero del Diablo, Chile (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 ($11, Excelsior Wines and Spirits): Spot-on Sauvignon Blanc from this Concha Y Toro budget label.  Chilean examples of the variety are quite varied, with varying degrees of success. This is a real winner at this price point, delivering crisp citrus and gooseberry fruit with notes of stone and grass, finishing long and crisp.  It's a fine easy on the wallet refresher in a fun easy opening package to boot.
90 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

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FRANCE

Bordeaux:

Red:

Les Cadrans by Lassegue, Saint-Emilion (Bordeaux, France) 2012 ($35):  Les Cadrans, the second label of Chateau Lassegue, must qualify as the steal of the vintage, or close. Showing richly layered blackberry and cassis fruit, with a hint of woodsmoke and long, firm tannins, it's a superb candidate for the cellar. It needs another three to five years to approach its peak, which it should easily hold for another dozen years or so.
91 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Mariame” 2012 ($70, Quintessential Wines): This designated cru wine from Serralunga standout Paolo Manzone is the one to buy from the 2012 vintage if you can afford the somewhat higher purchase price, as it shows greater overall complexity and dimension.  On one hand, it is even silkier in texture and more elegant in character than the village wine from Serralunga, yet the fruit shows darker tones and more grip and firmness in the finish, suggesting a longer period of positive development ahead of it.  Billowing, sexy aromas and impressively dark color draw immediate attention, and things only get better from there, with gorgeous notes of cola and dried black cherries accented with savory hints but virtually no overt oak at all.  Both Manzone wines are stunning from 2012, and both should be bought without a moment’s hesitation, but this is the one that should make you take a hammer to your piggy bank.
96 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Guido Porro, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “V. S. Caterina” 2012 ($47): I do not recall having been struck by a wine from Guido Porro previously, but this one sure proved striking.  The bright cherry topnotes are unusual but very appealing, and the flavors likewise prove clean and delicious, with super-fine tannins and not the slightest sense of any extraneous, un-integrated wood.  The texture of the wine comes off ultimately as soft and sexy, in counterpoint to the bright, fresh initial notes, making for a wonderfully interesting overall impression.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Michele Reverdito, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Badarina” 2012 ($65): Barolo wines from Serralunga were particularly successful as a group in 2012, and this is a particularly impressive case in point.  Already very showy but not seeming over-developed for its age, it is highly expressive in every important respect.  The sheer density and weight is impressive for starters, and the flavors prove as intense and lasting as the wine’s physical properties suggest they will be.  Beautifully balanced between fruitiness and savory character, this is a complete wine that will provide great near-term enjoyment and continue to impress for a decade.  Based on this eye-popping performance, this is surely a producer to watch in coming years.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Palladino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Ornato” 2012 ($75): The most famous wine from the Ornato cru in Serralunga is made by Pio Cesare, but in 2012 I found this rendering from Palladino to be superior, and indeed one of the strongest efforts in a year when Serralunga really excelled overall.  As complete as it is convincing, it shows wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors that interweave notes of dried fruits, subtle floral impressions, and nascent meaty accents.  The balance of fruit, tannin, wood and acidity is so precise that the wine seems impeccably refined even though it is highly expressive and even striking.  Impressive in every respect.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Armando Parusso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2012 ($40): This is a rather wild but nevertheless thoroughly exciting wine on the basis of its exceptional expressiveness and power.  The aromas show balsamic notes as well as floral tones and a mushroomy character that also shows on the palate.  Already rather developed for a Barolo from the 2012 vintage, this doesn’t seem likely to end up as one of the more long-lived examples from the year, but it is already so developed and delicious that there’s really no reason not to consume it with pleasure over the next five years.  A remarkable wine for a straight Barolo bottling with no cru designation.
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Giacomo Anselma, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Collaretto” 2012 ($50): This terrific wine from Giacomo Anselma is very impressive aromatically, with notes of ripe fruit beautifully intertwined with impressions of cured meat, wild mushrooms and exotic spices.  This strong expressiveness is followed by deep flavors and a soft, sexy texture.  The only element that brought me up short from awarding an even higher score is just a whiff of alcoholic heat, but that doesn’t detract from the wine’s vast appeal, which will surely last for another 5 to 7 years at a minimum.
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga 2012 ($55, Quintessential Wines): My blind-tasting scores for the wines of Paolo Manzone were already rising for the past couple of years, prior to my first meeting with him in May of 2016, and it is perhaps also worth noting that this wine was also tasted and scored prior to my first encounter with this infectiously enthusiastic man.  This is a terrifically impressive “village” wine with no cru designation, showing the overall attention to quality at this estate.  Soft and sexy and very deep in flavor and texture, this shows wonderful integration of its fruity and savory and woody elements.  Terrific!
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Broccardo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “I Tre Pais” 2012 ($45): A clear over-achiever at this level in the Barolo hierarchy (meaning, wines blended from fruit drawn from multiple villages within the appellation), this shows excellent quality with lovely aromas that blend delicate floral notes with more earthy accents.  The flavors and texture are appealing soft, and the wine has a restrained, refined character in overall terms.  Not a wine that kicks down the door, but rather one with a much more seductive approach.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Dario Stroppiana, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Leonardo” 2012 ($45): Dario Stroppiana has been making some terrific wines during the past few vintages, and they remain relatively little-known among consumers (at least in the USA), which means that there’s also an opportunity to buy them for less than they are worth relative to their peers--at least for now.  Conspicuously dark in color (especially for a blended wine, as opposed to a single-cru bottling), this follows through with impressive concentration and very good depth to the dark-toned fruit.  Definitely styled on the masculine side of the continuum, this may shut down at some point, but it was definitely open and showy in May of 2016.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Castiglione” 2012 ($50): The class of this wine was immediately apparent in the glass, and learning several hours that it was made by Vietti only confirmed an impression made by the wine’s classy, harmonious performance when tasted blind.  Although it wasn’t particularly “flashy,” it still stepped out of the pack on account of its sheer intricacy and proportionality, which isn’t to say that it isn’t deep in flavor and strong in overall intensity -- which indeed it is.  Always among the best buys from Barolo’s top producers, this is a wine to buy yet again in 2012.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Tuscany:

Red:

Piccini, Chianti Classico DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) Riserva 2011 ($21):  Piccini's Chianti Classico Riserva gets kudos for its fruit purity, a big dollop of black cherry that lingers on the palate. This is a beautifully made wine that balances acidity and fruit and tannin to end up with a lovely food wine that will pair nicely with tomato sauces, grilled sausages and savory cheeses.
89 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

Piccini, Toscana IGT (Italy) Poggio Alto 2014 ($21): Here's a delicious 'Super Tuscan' that won't bust your wine budget. It's a common enough Tuscan red blend of Sangiovese, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but made using a technique called Governo All'Uso Toscano, which is similar to a ripasso from the Veneto in that dried grapes are added back to the wine to create a second fermentation. It's beautifully made, unusually smooth and a novelty most of your friends won't have in their cellar.
91 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

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SPAIN

Rioja:

Red:

Ramon Bilbao, Rioja (Spain) 'Mirto' 2010 ($70):  Some might call Ramon Bilbao's 2010 Mirto a "modern" Rioja, richly layered, lush and generously oaked. I see it another way, given that Haro, the home of Ramon Bilbao, was once long ago strongly influenced by the winemakers of Bordeaux, France. The use of French oak is not traditional for Rioja, so its use in the production of Mirto is something of a novelty, and it works. The French oak delivers a gentle wood spice that is an exquisitely complement to the ripe black-fruit aromas. This is a wine for the ages. At six-years-old, it remains fresh and nervy, brimming with primary fruit. One of the finest Rioja wines I have experienced in quite some time.
97 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Nielson, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($20): A new project by Byron Vineyards, here is a find in the locatable, budget-friendly California Pinot Noir category.  It's in the food friendly, moderately extracted style, and features tart red fruit, oak spice and tea aromas and flavors.  It finishes lively and clean, leaving a pleasant toasty note lingering with the red fruit.  This is a fish or fowl pairing wine where the recipe uses a lighter touch with the spice and sauce.
89 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Byron, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot Noir Sierra Madre Vineyard 2013 ($45): I'm loving the trend toward lower alcohol levels in California Pinot Noir, especially in wines like this one that manage a plush texture and rich flavors with lively acidity and freshness all together in one glass.  Black cherry, leaf, fall spice and a faint citric note are bright in aroma and flavor, and the finish is very long with a focus on the oak spice.  It can be done.
92 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

MacRostie, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain 2013 ($54):  MacRostie's Wildcat Mountain Pinot from this vintage is a firmly structured beauty that exhibits notes of violets and spice on the nose, with layers of blueberry and strawberry fruit, and fresh acidity that lifts the flavors. It finishes with a touch of leafy earthiness. A stunning wine that will only get better.
95 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

Wild Ridge, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($50): This Sonoma Coast Pinot shows exceptional promise, offering a floral nose with earthy overtones, hints of spice, and layered red and blue fruits. With fresh acidity and smooth, integrated tannins, it's easy to drink now but will hold in a temperature-controlled cellar for another 7 to 10 years.
94 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County (California) Zinfandel “Heritage Vines” 2014 ($21): A fine, easy to find dinner Zinfandel -- not too much of anything, and everything well integrated. Brambly berry fruit, pepper, fall spice and complementary oak char make for a great grilling accompaniment.
89 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

White:

Sonoma-Loeb, Carneros (California) Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard 2014 ($27): A real bargain for a wine sourced so well.  My crisp and creamy bell is ringing loudly here after the lemon, lime, apple pear and guava aromas encouraged a taste.  Full translation of the nose rides a silky wave through a long, blossoming finish that pops with citrus and spice.  Excellently made.
92 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18): When you're one of California's flagship Sauvignon Blancs, you just keep cranking out the same recipe that made you successful, right?  Not at Dry Creek, where experimentation continues to yield great wine.  This vintage utilizes 13% Sauvignon Musque and 4% Sauvignon Gris, and small amounts of fermentation in acacia, chestnut and French oak barrels blended back with the stainless steel majority.  It's bright, fresh, deep and complex all at once, with lemon, melon, herb, peach, stone, and spice notes, and it finishes with real intensity of flavor. Nothing falls out of the mix, either.  Beautiful!
94 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Chenin Blanc 2014 ($32):  Chenin Blanc is the Rodney Dangerfield of domestic white wines. While Chenin produces brilliant wines in France's Loire Valley, it has been used more or less as a blending grape for forgettable white wines, most of them made in a sweet or off-dry style, here in the U.S. The handful of producers who make a stand-alone Chenin do a reasonably decent job, but only a few domestic Chenins truly soar. Chappellet's dry Chenin is one of those. The 2014 is a gorgeous wine that shows exceptional balance and fruit purity, with nuances of stone fruits and citrus.
93 Robert Whitley Jun 28, 2016

Chappellet, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2014 ($35): Impeccably balanced Chardonnay.  Subtle aromas of white flowers, pear, apple, lemon and pie spice lead to a palate that is creamy and rich, but pops with lively acidity that brings the nose elements into harmony on the palate, lingering long with full integration.  A great soloist, or a fine pairing for fresh halibut filet.
93 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Route Stock, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc "California 29" 2015 ($17): This cleverly labeled project uses the Highway route number that runs through the appellation, which wouldn't be worth a mention unless the wine is good.  It is, featuring crisp lemon, honeydew melon, mild grass and stony minerality in a refreshingly crisp and cleansing style.  Enjoy it at the end of whatever highway you happen to get off of at the end of the day.
89 Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

Patz & Hall, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch 2014 ($44): This is quite tropical in nature for a James Hall wine, but of course it works splendidly.  Bright white flowers, and mixed tropical fruit are joined by notes of apple, mild nut and granite in this popping fresh drinker made from heirloom clones.  Mild cheeses like the Petit Basque will make this wine sing.
Rich Cook Jun 28, 2016

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