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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

February 13, 2018 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

Red:

Pulenta Estate, Luján de Cuyo (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec "I" 2014 ($22, Paul Hobbs Selections):  Appealingly soft and round, this Malbec offers bright expressions of red berries on the palate, with hints of spice contributed by time spent in French oak.  A delicious choice to serve with beef, lamb, ribs or roast chicken, as well as lasagna or other hearty pastas, this is a wine definitely worth seeking out. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 13, 2018

Sparkling:

Domaine Bousquet, Mendoza (Argentina) Brut NV ($13):  This is easily one of the best charmat method sparklers that I've tasted to date.  Crowd pleasing fresh citrus and apple aromas and flavors are bright and lively, and a fine, persistent mousse will make you think you've got something far more expensive in your glass.  A zesty finish keeps things flowing.  My daughter is getting married this year, and this certainly fits the bill (and the bill) for the festivities. 
91 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

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CHILE

Red:

Maquis, Colchagua Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($20, Global Vineyard):  This impressive Cabernet Sauvignon combines elegance with voluptuous texture and beautifully concentrated flavors.  Along with notes of red fruit it delivers hints of spice and dark chocolate.  Maquis is notable also for its considerable length and a long aftertaste. 
94 Marguerite Thomas Feb 13, 2018

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FRANCE

White:

Les Rocailles, Savoie (France) Apremont Vielles Vignes 2016 ($20, Hand Picked Selections):  Made with the local Jacquère grape, this is a stony, mineral-rich wine, filled with a cornucopia of fruit flavors -- melons, limes, green apples, and more -- all crisp, fresh and lively.  Fruit, however, is not its only appeal.  There are hints of straw and herbs, contributing true complexity and nuanced subtlety.  The wine also is marked by plenty of vivacious acidity, suggesting that it will age successfully for five or more years.  It’s fascinating and delicious.
92 Paul Lukacs Feb 13, 2018

Roussillon:

Red:

Joel Gott, Côtes Castalanes (Roussillon, France) Grenache "Shatter" 2014 ($20):  An unusual and very delicious wine, Shatter is medium-bodied yet full and lush on the palate thanks to its fruit density.   It has soft tannins and is refined and well structured.  The Grenache vines grow in Maury, a village in Southwestern France better known for its dessert wines.  Maury’s black, nutrient-poor soil, along with strong winds and scorching heat, stress the vines and cause “shatter” in the grape clusters (shatter naturally thins the vines, leaving smaller clusters of intensely concentrated grapes). Shatter is a collaboration between Joel Gott and Trinchero Family Wines.
93 Marguerite Thomas Feb 13, 2018

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ITALY

Piedmont:

Red:

Luca Bosio, Barbera d'Asti DOGC (Piemonte, Italy) 2016 ($15, Quintessential):   Barbera can be quite tart and acidic when young and very difficult to handle as an inexpensive quaffing wine.  The 2016 Barbera d'Asti from Luca Bosio -- made in a fresh, fruity style -- is the exception to the rule.  The acidity is a bit soft, making this Barbera more accessible at this stage.  It's fleshy, round, with smooth, supple tannins, an inviting floral note on the nose and juicy black fruits on the palate.  Fire up the barbecue and serve this wine with smoky, savory meats from the grill. 
87 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

BelColle, Barolo DOCG (Piemonte, Italy) 'Monvigliero' 2013 ($75, Quintessential):   The Monvigliero Barolo from BelColle in this vintage delivers a rare combination of richness and power coupled with mouth-puckering tannins. Those drying tannins are grape tannins (as opposed to dreaded wood tannins) and will resolve over time. The evolution of this wine promises to be exciting for at least the next 10 to 15 years. The richness somewhat mitigates the impact of the tannins at this stage, making it perfectly acceptable to serve now (think roasts and stews) but the far better option is to lay it down for another five years. 
94 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Massolino, Langhe DOC (Piedmont, Italy) Nebbiolo 2014 ($32, Vineyard Brands):  This gold star Nebbiolo first seduces with delicate color and lightly floral aromas.  Among its flavor components are delectable suggestions of red plums and orange peel.  For all its refinement, the very core of the wine is intense, its staying power long, and its personality exhilarating. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 13, 2018

Tuscany:

Red:

Cortonesi, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) 'Poggiarelli' 2013 ($95):  Cortonesi's Brunello 'Pogiarelli' shows classic aromas of dried cherry, leather, spice and herbs, with firm tannins that are only now beginning to mellow at five years of age.  A truly hedonistic feast of the senses.  Complex aromatics transfer to the palate, where the wine exhibits impressive length and a lingering finish that will keep everyone coming back for more.  Drinking well now, but will show remarkable improvement as it evolves over the next three to five years. 
95 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Cortonesi, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) 'La Manella' 2013 ($72, Quintessential):  Cortonesi's La Manella Brunello from the 2013 is still a baby, showing powerful tannins that mask to some extent an impressive flavor profile of black cherries and dried herbs.    Even at five years of age it easy needs another two to three years to show what's behind the wall of tannin. This is a collector's wine that will hold together a good 15 to 20 years. If you must serve it now, think veal osso bucco or strong cheeses. 
93 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Luce Della Vite, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) "Lucente" 2015 ($30, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Here is a super-Tuscan at a nice price that over-delivers quality.  Though it's the "second wine" of the house, there's nothing secondary about it when it comes to adding to your table.  The blend of Merlot and Sangiovese is initially brightly herbal on the nose, giving way to cherry preserves and spice with a little glass time.  It's rich, dry and structured on the palate, focusing dark berry flavors against oak spice and bakers chocolate.  Decant a couple of hours before serving with grilled steak and risotto. 
90 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

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NEW ZEALAND

Red:

Seaside Cellars, New Zealand (New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2014 ($14, Tri-Vin Imports):  Sourced from coastal vineyards in multiple regions, this wine offers excellent value.  At a time when most under $20 Pinot Noirs taste excessively sappy and sweet, it manages to be bone dry, with earthy undertones tempering its ripe fruit.  You’d expect Pinot of this quality to cost at least twice what it does.  
90 Paul Lukacs Feb 13, 2018

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PORTUGAL

Alentejo:

Red:

Esporao, Alentejo (Portugal) Reserva 2014 ($28, Aidil Wines & Liquors):  A bold, ripe blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon that will please palates that appreciate weight and depth.  Blackberry pie, soft oak spice and crushed rock minerality are delivered over moderate tannins and bright acidity, finishing long and dark.  Go for something on the meaty or even gamey side of the menu. 
91 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

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SOUTH AFRICA

Red:

Noble Hill, Simonsberg-Paarl (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($20, Invoer):  From grapes grown on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains, this very elegant Cabernet Sauvignon expresses flavors of red fruits with a pleasant hint of mint in the background.  Noble Hill is a family operated winery, and all the grapes are estate grown.  Includes 7% Cabernet Franc. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 13, 2018

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SPAIN

Aragon:

Red:

Anciano, Calatayud (Aragon, Spain) Garnacha "35 Year Old Vines" 2015 ($18, Well-Oiled Wine Co.):  An increasingly popular grape variety with American consumers, Grenache (or Garnacha in Spanish) offers a supple texture but rich flavor.  It often yields wines that taste one-dimensional, but this rendition bucks that trend.  Perhaps because of vine age, it offers echoes of coffee and chocolate alongside its dark cherry fruit, resulting in a sophisticated wine with genuine complexity. 
92 Paul Lukacs Feb 13, 2018

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Cycles Gladiator, Central Coast (California) Petite Sirah 2015 ($12):   Winemaker Adam LaZarre has had some very good success with this grape variety in the past. The 2015 is typical of the LaZarre style, which maximizes extraction for color and body without taking it over the top into full-blown tannin hell, which Petite Sirah is famous for. The Cycles Gladiator from 2015 shows juicy, ripe black fruits, fall spices and an impressive finish, especially for this grape variety. 
88 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Cycles Gladiator, Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($12):   Cycles Gladiator started at Monterey's Hahn winery during the reign of winemaker Adam LaZarre. The brand moved on and so has LaZarre, though they are still together under the Wine Hooligans umbrella.  LaZarre is at his very best when the task is getting the very best into a modestly priced bottle of wine.  The 2016 Cycles Gladiator shows good flavor intensity and body, with notes of dark cherry and earth.  It's a perfect budget wine for the backyard barbecue this summer.  
86 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Qupe, Edna Valley (California) Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard 2014 ($35):  A little patience is required with this new release, but it'll be well worth the wait, as is often the case with a Bob Lindquist creation.  I loved the 2013, and this vintage shows equal promise, with racy acidity pushing bright cherry, white pepper and dried herbs that, though muted at present, lay poised to spring to life with additional bottle aging or a long decant. 
92 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Writer's Block, Lake County (California) Malbec 2015 ($17):  From the Jed Steele line, this juicy, fruit-forward expression of Malbec is long on blackberry, black cherry and spice, with mouth filling texture and a long bright finish that pleases.  I used this in a braised beef short ribs Instant Pot recipe that rocked the meat and made for a perfect pairing.  Add a nice price for the wine and you've got a rapid-fire gourmet meal at a bargain.
90 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Writer's Block, Lake County (California) Cabernet Franc 2015 ($17):  If you've ever been faced with the dilemma of deciding whether a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon is the right thing to serve with your meal, here's a wine that cuts right down the middle, with vibrant red and black fruit, faint herbs, lively spice and food friendly acidity that will please people from both ends of the preference spectrum -- at a price likely lower that the extremes can offer at this quality level. 
90 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Linne Calodo, Paso Robles, Willow Creek District (Central Coast, California) "In My Dreams" 2014 ($75):  An unconventional, limited edition blend of Tempranillo, Grenache, Mourvedre and Tannat, this wine tastes seamless and satisfying.  It offers primarily red plum, cherry and berry fruit flavors, with echoes of dark chocolate in the finish.  Powerful but not overbearing, it’s a wine to bring out for a special red meat meal. 
92 Paul Lukacs Feb 13, 2018

Ancient Peaks, Santa Margarita Ranch, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) "Oyster Ridge" 2014 ($60):  Winemaker Mike Sinor nails this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Malbec to the small wall of hedonistic wines that go beyond mere pleasure and deliver a layered experience that keeps your nose in the glass.  Blackberry, cassis, cedar spice and a faint menthol note predominate, and lead you to a full throttle palate where supple tannins help translate aromas into flavors that hang in your mouth in full integrated fashion.  There's plenty more in the aroma/flavor profile, but I'll let you call those out for yourself.  I'd go for prime rib or medium plus strength cheeses here.  Well done! 
95 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Smith-Madrone, Spring Mountain District (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($52):  Yet another in a long line of classic Napa Valley elegance bottlings from Smith-Madrone.  Certainly a benchmark of Spring Mountain District, and so delicious now that you'll likely miss the greatness that comes with long-term aging.  Blackberry, cassis and dried herbs are specific and well integrated already, and will gain in complexity with a long rest in your cellar.  I'm sure this is a virtual repeat of my reviews of previous vintages, but truth is truth -- what's a guy to do? 
95 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Migration, Sta. Rita Hills (California) Pinot Noir Drum Canyon Vineyard 2015 ($68):  Drum Canyon is a Dierberg family vineyard, and its cool climate and quality farming show in this bottling.  Classic Santa Rita Hills earthiness coupled with intense black cherry, rhubarb and spice flood the mouth and finish long, with great balance of all the elements.  Mouthwatering acidity completes this food friendly package -- I would go with roast chicken or a spiced halibut fillet as a pairing. 93 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

White:

Cuvaison, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay Adda 2015 ($50):   Chardonnay has been Cuvaison's strength over the past three decades, and this single-block 'Adda' Chardonnay from the winery's estate in Carneros lays down a marker that bodes well for the future, too.  Beautifully balanced and admirably restrained, the Adda nevertheless shows ample richness and depth without the heaviness that often comes with those two characteristics.  Notes of pear, lemon creme and spice dazzle without sacrificing the elegance innate in this bottling. 
94 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Tangent, Edna Valley (Central Coast, California) Albarino 2016 ($17):   The Tangent Albarino was chosen Best Albarino at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition in San Diego a few weeks ago, testimony to winemaker Christian Roguenant's deft touch with this tricky Spanish grape variety.  This vintage shows luscious citrus fruits on the palate with fresh acidity and a clean, balanced finish. 
90 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) Proprietary White Wine 2016 ($32):  Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne marry well in crisp style, as you'd expect from the label that continually brings out the best in non-traditional blends of all colors.  Peach, white flower and spice aromas lead to a fresh palate of stonefruit, citrus and mild nut flavors that linger brightly.  Springtime in a glass, and just in time! 
91 Rich Cook Feb 13, 2018

Dutton Goldfield, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch - Walker Hill Vineyard 2015 ($50):   This dazzling Chardonnay from Dutton Goldfield is the epitome of complexity and elegance, a fine example of the heights to which California Chardonnay can soar when in the right hands.  The vintage delivered exceptional concentration and richness, with complex aromas of mandarin orange, lemon oil, tropical fruit and spice.  Despite its decadent richness, it maintains its balance and finishes with impressive length and a clean finish. 
96 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Dutton Goldfield, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch 2016 ($38):   The beat goes on for winemaker Dan Goldfield, whose Chardonnays consistently rank among the finest in California.  The Dutton Ranch is another beauty from the master, showing exquisite balance, a ripe core of ripe pear and golden delicious apple, with a touch of baking spice as background and a gentle note of lemon oil. 
94 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

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