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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

April 20, 2021 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

McLaren Vale:

Red:

Dandelion Vineyards, McLaren Vale (Australia) Shiraz “Lioness of McLaren Vale” 2019 ($30):  Dandelion Vineyards is a dependable label that always succeeds at showing a sense of place, and the Lioness roars it out appropriately with black and blue fruit and signature McLaren Vale eucalyptus note that are well folded into the mix.  Great extraction!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021


FRANCE

Beaujolais:

Red:

Maison Louis Jadot, Beaujolais-Villages (Burgundy, France) 2018 ($17, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Made from 100% Gamay grapes, this light bodied classic Beaujolais red wine has mouth-filling ripe cherry and berry flavors.  Gamay typically produces fresh, uncomplicated fruit driven aromas and flavors.  The Louis Jadot company has been producing red and white Burgundy wines since 1859.  With approximately 140 acres of vines in some of Burgundy’s most prestigious sites, Jadot is now one of the largest estates of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, and also sells a large amount of wine made from purchased grapes.         
91 Marguerite Thomas Apr 20, 2021

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Champagne:

Sparkling:

Agrapart & Fils, Champagne (France) “7 Crus” Blanc De Blancs NV ($49, Roanoke Valley Wine Company):  Agrapart’s non-vintage Blanc De Blancs 7 Crus is named for the seven villages from which is it sourced, including four with Grand Cru pedigree and two at the Premier Cru level.  This blend of 90 percent Chardonnay with a dollop of Pinot Noir offers great depth and structured minerality that gives the wine terrific length.  Aromas of white flowers, fresh brioche, citrus peel and peach emanate from the glass.  Flavors of lemon, limestone, and zesty grapefruit emerge on the palate.  It is delicious out of the gate but will easily age for another ten to fifteen years.        
92 Miranda Franco Apr 20, 2021

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Languedoc:

White:

Chanmé Méchant, Pays d’Oc IGP (Languedoc, France) Grenache Blanc 2019 ($20, Penrose Hill):  Imagine a sugarless honeydew melon and you’ll have a great idea what this bottle has to offer.  It’s quite delicate on the nose, with soft melon and floral aromas.  The palate entry is equally soft, but the flavor comes on brightly, with little or no new oak interference that allows the fruit to speak clearly.  Importer Penrose Hill is gaining a reputation as a solid outfit.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.      
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

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Loire Valley:

White:

Couly-Dutheil, Chinon Blanc (Loire Valley, France) “Les Chanteaux” 2018 ($30, Elite Wine Imports):  Elegant, rich and seductive, this 100 percent Chenin Blanc offers fresh orange peel, fresh pear and melon on the nose.  On the palate, ginger root and honey give way to bright acidity.  This wine is quite a stunner.  It is aromatic with beautiful texture in tandem with uplifting minerality and a fresh finish which lingers endlessly.  It is a brilliant and unique expression of Chenin Blanc.     
93 Miranda Franco Apr 20, 2021


GERMANY

Mosel:

White:

Shades of Blue, Mosel (Germany) Riesling NV ($12, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  This budget bottling gets to the heart of why people adore Riesling.  A little citrus, a little stone fruit, a little petrol, a little sweetness and a lot of acidity that are just a pleasure to drink.  I could say more, but let’s go Hemingway this time.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
92 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021


ITALY

Alto Adige:

White:

Cantina Andrian, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Bianco “finado” 2019 ($20, Banville Wine Merchants):  Still very tart and tight at this juncture, this wine is quite bright and refreshing, but also displays impressive weight on the palate when permitted to breathe and warm in a glass.  Indeed, it seemed significantly richer and more complex when tasted on the night after I first opened it (after spending 20+ hours uncorked in a refrigerator).  That suggests that this is a great candidate for cellaring for a few years, as it lost none of its freshness as it benefitted in all other respects.  The fruit aromas and flavors suggest golden apples, but the acidity recalls either green apples or citrus fruits — or both.  Nice mineral underpinnings lend intricacy to the mid-palate and come to the fore in the finish.  This may very well merit a higher score when reconsidered in a few years.     
91 Michael Franz Apr 20, 2021

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige Terlano (Italy) Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” Riserva 2017 ($45, Banville Wine Merchants):  Over and above being a standard-bearer for Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige, this is one of the world’s truly great white wines.  Invariably delicious when first released but equally delicious in different ways over as many as two decades of development, Vorberg Riserva is uncanny for a white that isn’t bolstered by fancy oak like the aristocrats of the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy.  I buy this almost every year and do my level best to keep my mitts off of it to allow the bottles to show their stuff over time, but my best is usually not good enough — I drink far too many of them before they’ve shows all the facets they could reveal over an extended period.  This 2017 vintage may not quite be up to 2014 or 2016, which were fantastic (and remain so, of course), but I may be underestimating it a bit at present.  Seriously rich and with a fruit profile that seems a bit riper than usual, this shows quite impressive palate weight but remains fresh thanks to more-than-adequate acidity.  It benefits greatly from undertones of saline minerality on the mid-palate that become overtones in the finish.  The minerality offers a wonderful counterweight to the ripe fruit flavors that recall baked apple pie filling, replete with the spicy edge and all.  Notably better when re-tasted on the second night after opening, this may prove to be yet another ageless wonder from this great house.              
94 Michael Franz Apr 20, 2021

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Tuscany:

Rosé:

Belguardo, Maremma Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) Rosé 2019 ($15, Taub Family Selections):  Tuscany’s Maremma Toscana was promoted to DOC status in 2011.  Twines from the appellation — which embraces a variety of different wine styles — must include a minimum of 60% Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese, and/or Syrah.  Belguardo’s blend, which consists of equal parts Syrah and Sangiovese, is a lively, elegant and tangy wine that is packed with flavor.  This is a wine that is balanced to showcase a variety of foods, from delicate seafood to vegetarian dishes.        
93 Marguerite Thomas Apr 20, 2021

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Veneto:

White:

The Seeker, Delle Venezie DOC (Veneto, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2019 ($11, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  This wine is about as down-the-middle as one can get when looking for what constitutes varietal character.  It’s all here: peach, citrus, melon, a dash of dry herbs and a zesty, crisp finish that keeps pumping flavor.  For eleven bucks?  Mission accomplished.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021


NEW ZEALAND

White:

Oyster Bay, Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) Pinot Gris 2019 ($18):  Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir, with grapes ranging in color from pinkish-gray to orangey pink.  Oyster Bays’ enticingly fragrant Pinot Gris offers overtones of citrus, apple and pear.  In general, New Zealand Pinot Gris tends to be somewhat richer and more deeply flavored than Italy’s Pinot Grigio while still keeping the grape's traditionally delicate appeal.  Oyster Bay’s version has a sublimely refreshing character, with no oaky distraction or alcoholic overload.        
92 Marguerite Thomas Apr 20, 2021


SPAIN

Red:

Locations, Spain (Spain) “E 7” NV ($20):  This wine fittingly seems built for paella – popping acidity and full-throttle red fruit will more than handle the spice load from a day at the pan.  (Don’t drink too much of it while stirring – you’ll want some to accompany the finished product.)   Of course, the reasonable price will allow for both.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Sonoma Reserve" 2018 ($27):  This wine is rather tightly wound at present, but it promises to unravel itself with distinction after a little cellar time or a long decanting.  Classic Alexander Valley blackberry and red currants are joined by bright oak spice, and a firm grip carries things through in a way that tells me that soft elegance is in the future.  Bargain pricing included!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Jeff Runquist Wines, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Vineyard 2019 ($30):  Jeff Runquist has a way with Barbera – particularly when it comes from this famed site in the foothills.  This vintage is but another piece of evidence to back my claim, showing lively fruit, orange zest, and the classic acid profile that that variety is known for.  At this ripeness level, that’s no easy achievement.  Not a trace of heat is detectable, and the flavor keeps coming at you.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Carnivor, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($15):  Here is a tasty Cabernet that will please a crowd and could serve as a “no offense taken” introduction to the variety.  While that might seem like faint praise, make no mistake that wines like this are important to bringing people into a wider appreciation at the beginning of one’s wine journey.  Easy to find, easy to like makes average Joe a happy man, and that’s good for all of us.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
90 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Brecon Estate, Central Coast (California) Zinfandel Sauret Clone 2018 ($49):  Speaking of stylistic diversity, Zinfandel can proudly take a seat right next to Pinot Noir at the table.  This example is in-your-face “razzleberry,” with focused zesty acidity keeping things bright and not at all ponderous.  A grilling aficionado’s dream, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Oak Farm Vineyards, Lodi (San Joaquin County, California) Barbera Estate Grown 2018 ($35):  Winemaker Sierra Zeiter brings us a delicious expression of Barbera – one that has some backbone for aging as well as delivering immediate enjoyment.  Rich cerry fruit and bright oak spice dovetail through supple tannins along the palate, and the finish pops with integrated flavors.  It’s yet another clear argument for more of this variety in California.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
95 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

La Pelle Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 ($175):  Dark purple, almost black in color, this Cabernet is vibrant, intense, tightly wound, and made to reward cellaring.  Concentrated and solidly structured, It gradually unfolds in a glass to display classic Cabernet aromas of cassis, black olive, graphite, mocha and spice.  Full bodied and powerful with layers of flavors, it has smooth, fine -grained tannins along with persistent ripe black cherry fruit.  It was aged 21 months in 80% new oak, yet the toasty oak notes remain in the background.  Sourced from three small vineyards, this Reserve is built along classic Napa lines and intended for the long haul.  Founded in 2016, La Pelle is a newcomer to the Napa scene, led by winemaker Maayan Koschitzky and vineyard manager Miguel Luna, both highly regarded within the industry.  In addition to the Reserve, they team up to make several other Napa Cabernets each vintage.  All are impressive, with the Reserve a definite powerhouse.  I applaud the way it is not a cookie-cutter, Parker wannabe made in the cellar.  It definitely needs to be decanted and should easily develop for a decade, maybe two.  Yes, it is high priced.  Is La Pelle the next cult wine?  That’s up to you.         
98 Norm Roby Apr 20, 2021

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) Malbec 2018 ($46):  This bottling gets at Malbec’s chocolaty side in its aroma profile with rich dark chocolate over a core of black and red fruit.  The fruit takes the lead on the palate, but the chocolate remains as a delightful accent.  When you want something serious with the grilled fare you’re rustling up for dinner, you can’t go wrong here.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition, and also a Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
95 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) Grenache 2018 ($37):  This Grenache has a little Syrah in the mix, and it’s just enough to turn the wine a bit to the darker side of the Grenache flavor spectrum.  Black cherry and ripe strawberry are accented by bright oak spice, and the acidity balances the ripeness nicely.  V. Sattui strikes again!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Sculpterra Winery, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel Reserve 2019 ($60):  Here is a big, Claret-styled Zinfandel with structure, weight grip and well tamed ripeness that will make you think you’re drinking something more “noble” from the wine world.  Of course, Zin fans like me will tell you that it’s just another possible expression of one of the most versatile grapes out there.  There is not a trace of heat shows here, even with 15.7% alcohol.  Balanced and beautiful!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($40):  This Pinot Noir is another solid value for J Vineyards & Winery, leading with rich black cherry fruit that’s closely tailed by lively oak toast that provides layers of interest.  It’s got the acid backbone to carry the ripeness, and it follows well the bold style side of the variety developed over the last ten years or so.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($23):  There’s a touch of smoky character to this Cabernet that many will find attractive.  It’s present on the nose and in the mouth, and it gives the fruit a little push by contrasting it clearly but not obtrusively.  Keep this in mind when pairing, and you’ve got a nicely priced way to get a little something different on your table.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
91 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Hart Family Winery, Temecula Valley (Riverside County, California) Mission “Angelica” Ancient Vines NV ($75):  Jim Hart started this solera of Mission a few years back, and it’s starting to take on the depth of flavor and finesse that only the solera process can deliver.  Jim will tell you that he doesn’t have much to do with the process beyond getting the juice into the barrel and letting time and stillness do its thing.  Rich vanilla, caramel and mixed red fruit and a silky texture deliver plenty of pleasure, and the fun is just beginning.  If you are a fan of dessert, this can be dessert, or like me, give it a go with the cheese course.  You won’t be disappointed.  Sold in a 375 ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
95 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

White:

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Riesling “Late Harvest, Cluster Selectf 2019 ($79): I get to taste this wine often in its early development phase, and it always impresses with intense aromas and flavors that are pure Riesling in its sweetest nectar-like expression.  Finish?  It doesn’t really, it just keeps going with spice and stone fruit, and a saffron note is developing with a little more time in the bottle.  There is no better dessert wine for this price anywhere.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.      
96 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

ZD Wines, California (United States) Chardonnay 2019 ($42):  This wine became so popular that a few years ago it switched from a Napa Valley appellation to the California macro AVA, but that doesn’t mean that there’s been a drop in quality.  Careful sourcing allows for more production, and the rich, deep style has been maintained to the delight of the fan base, and apparently to the delight of our competition judges.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.        . 93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

V. Sattui Winery, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay Carsi Vineyard 2019 ($42):  What a pleasure it must be for true fans of Chardonnay to walk into the V. Sattui tasting room and find four different wines from the same vintage that are made to the same high quality standards across a range of styles.  This Carsi Vineyard wine has a bold oak profile, with lots of toast but not too much spice, making for a baked expression of apple and dried tropical fruits that linger nicely with the oak toast.  I would lean toward fish as a pairing with this.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Curran, Santa Barbara County (California) Grenache Blanc 2019 ($30):  Working closely with several vineyards in Santa Barbara, winemaker Kris Curran has been a champion of Grenache Blanc for close to a decade.  She was the force behind the string of Pinot Noirs from Sea Smoke before venturing off on her own.  What I like about Grenache Blanc is its combination of liveliness and savoury texture.  Curran’s 2019 is a perfect example.  It opens with fresh cut green apple and mango primary aromas along with a background notes of ginger and lemon.  But on the plate, it is rich, smooth and with its youthful fruit flavors, is a sheer delight.  Refreshing and delicious, it is a super picnic or sipping wine but has the stuffing to serve with Chinese fare.            
92 Norm Roby Apr 20, 2021

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Colorado:

White:

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, Colorado (United States) Viognier 2019 ($22):  Here’s a different take on Viognier, likely due to its sourcing in Colorado, which may not be on your wine radar.  Time to change that!  This wine is delicately floral on the nose, and while it doesn’t bring the stone fruit and honeyed character of its California counterparts, it does deliver rich Meyer lemon flavors on a viscous texture.  It finishes clean and bright, and begs another sip.  Who knew?  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.      
92 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

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Oregon:

Red:

Chehalem, Chehalem Mountains (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Corral Creek Vineyard Estate Grown 2019 ($50):  Intense strawberry, raspberry aromas mingle with vanilla and baking spices like cinnamon and allspice in this delicious Pinot.  It is sleek and supple in the mouth and lush with strawberry, raspberry fruit and vanilla and subtle toasty oak flavors lifted by bright, crisp acidity and supported by burnished tannins.  The image on the label is of the vineyard rows in the Corral Creek Vineyard where the grapes for this wine were grown.  The intense strawberry aromas and flavors are a signature of the Pinot Noir fruit from this vineyard.  Winemaker Katie Santora’s notes suggest giving the wine time to open.  I tasted it immediately after opening, then tasted again the following day.  My description is from the second tasting.       
94 Rebecca Murphy Apr 20, 2021

J. Christopher, Chehalem Mountains (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Medici Vineyard “Basalte” 2016 ($30):  This incredibly food-friendly Oregon Pinot Noir is sourced from rocky volcanic basalt soil.  It opens with a perfumy mix of raspberry, boysenberry, slate, rose petals and lavender.  On the palate, it is medium-to-full bodied with notes of plum, boysenberry, warm spice and black tea/pepper.  Its tannins are fine-grained, and the finish is long and aromatic.  You can pair this with just about anything.  Enjoy now, but save a few as this wine will age gracefully.         
92 Miranda Franco Apr 20, 2021

Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills (Oregon) Pinot Noir Reserve 2015 ($50):   In the US, there are no rules that define reserve wines, so it is encouraging when a winery explains their definition of reserve.  At Stoller, reserve wines come the best barrels of wines made from the oldest vines of Pinot Noir clones, planted between 1995 and 2001.  The 2015 vintage was consistently warm until a late August cold front slowed the ripening process that allowed more time for flavors to develop.  It was aged in 30 percent new oak and 70 percent neutral oak and bottled in December 2016.  With four years and three and a half months in the bottle it is still quite youthful with black cherry, raspberry fruit while developing notes of sandalwood and mocha.  It is smooth and round in the mouth with fruit, acidity, and fine grained tannins melding into a seamless whole.  It is drinking beautifully now, but there’s still plenty of life for a few more years, if carefully stored.         
94 Rebecca Murphy Apr 20, 2021

Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2019 ($35):  The wine presents crystal bright ruby color and deep, black cherry, blackberry, raspberry aromas with hints of dried rose petals, and sweet pipe tobacco.  In the mouth, the wine is sleek and polished with focused black cherry, raspberry fruit sustained by citrusy acidity and burnished tannins.  It is quite youthful and promises evolution of depth and complexity.  Grapes are from their 250 acre estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills where they tend 15 different clones of Pinot Noir.  The diversity of grapes grown at altitudes ranging from 210 to 650 feet provide winemaker Kate Payne-Brown a palette of colors and flavors to create the best wine of the vintage.      
93 Rebecca Murphy Apr 20, 2021

2-Hawk Vineyard, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Malbec "Darrow Series" 2017 ($49):  With so many solid, pleasant drinking Malbecs available for under $25, anything above that price point has to be exceptional to get my attention.  Well, here’s one major exception from 2-Hawk,  a small winery in Southern Oregon.  “Darrow” refers to the dominant soil profile in the home vineyard.  As winemaker Kiley Evans notes, “Malbec is one of the real stars in the Rogue Valley because it shows a consistent ability to ripen while at the same time being sensitive to vintage variation.”  2017 was an unusually cool vintage with the last Malbec picked in early November.  And the wine, blended with 21% Cabernet and aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak, is a show stopper.  Dark in color, it displays layers of blueberry, licorice, and leathery aromas mingled with hints of thyme and cassis.  The whole package is more elegant and refined than blockbuster, powerhouse.  It finishes with persistent fruit flavors joined by light toasty oak spice and refined tannins.  341 cases made.   
95 Norm Roby Apr 20, 2021

Stoller Family Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2019 ($21):  Bright dark ruby color black cherry, raspberry fruit, lemon zest and dusty mineral notes, high toned black cherry, raspberry fruit tightly entwined with crisp acidity and polished tannins.  The idea behind this wine is to show off and celebrate the quality and diversity of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.  The fruit is sourced from premier sites identified by the winemaking team and includes many different Pinot Noir clones.  It spends almost a year in oak 15 percent new and the remainder neutral.  The result is an approachable wine at an affordable price to be enjoyed young.      
90 Rebecca Murphy Apr 20, 2021

White:

Chehalem, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Chardonnay "Inox" 2020 ($19):  Pale yellow color and delightfully heady, orange blossom aromas announce succulent flavors of apple, peach, ripe melon laced with floral notes sustained by vivacious acidity.   Inox refers to the stainless steel tanks used to ferment and store the wine before bottling.  No oak is used in making the wine.  As winemaker Katie Santora says, “this wine is first and foremost made in the vineyard,” it is the first wine of a vintage to be released so “it provides a snapshot of the vintage.”  Chehalem has been making this wine for many years beginning at a time when the Chardonnay popular style was big and buttery.  They were taking a chance, but with fruit like this, why not let it shine?  Santora says that she often has visitors reluctant to taste this wine because they say they don’t like Chardonnay.  After tasting the Inox they are amazed that it is indeed Chardonnay and they like it.       
92 Rebecca Murphy Apr 20, 2021

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Virginia:

White:

The Williamsburg Winery, Virginia (United States) Petit Manseng 2019 ($22):  Petit Manseng is a very interesting variety that you may not have had a chance to taste, and here’s a solid example worth seeking out.  Floral and hard candy aromas lead to a palate that delivers the candy vibe with just a bit of residual sugar and leaves you with a zesty scour and a floral impression.  I can see this flying out of the tasting room.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
92 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

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Wisconsin:

White:

Elmaro, Wisconsin (United States) La Crescent NV ($19):  Winemakers can appreciate well made products from anywhere made of just about anything.  Here is a Wisconsin La Crescent that brings crisp acidity, bright citrus flavors and a cleansing finish that has great finish push.  Pool side in Wisconsin?  Yes!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
92 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

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