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June 23, 2015 Issue

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Primosic, Collio Rosso (Friuli, Italy) “Metamorfosis” 2009 ($30): Collio is justly famous for outstanding white wines, but it also produces some excellent reds that are quite complex aromatically with moderate weight and structure.  This is a fine example now approaching its peak of development.  Based on 70% Merlot with the remainder comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it shows a pleasantly herbal bouquet followed by medium-bodied flavors of dark berries with good depth and excellent balance between fruit, acidity and tannin.
91 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015


Primosic, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio “Murno” 2013 ($20): This standout rendition of Pinot Grigio was sourced from a single vineyard planted in the 1970s… long before Grigio became a consumer fad and was planted in all sorts of places that were best suited to cranking out large quantities of innocuous wines.  Aromas of subtle smoke and musk get this off to a great start, and medium body provides satisfying substance on the palate. Layered in character thanks to tinges of minerality and a fruit note reminiscent of apricot skin that lingers through the finish, this is excellent now but also capable of holding or even improving for another couple of years.
92 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Ca’Ronesca, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Marnà” 2010 ($25): This is a wonderfully complex and expressive wine.  The aromas are quite alluring, but the real fireworks start once the flavors kick in, starting with opulent tropical fruit and mandarin orange notes.  A subtle undertone of stony minerality rises to the fore in the finish as the fruit flavors tail off, and the string of sensations is energized throughout by a strong streak of citrus acidity.  If my score is off, it is off on the low side, and this impressive wine offers yet another object lesson in the capacity of Collio whites to improve with extended ageing.
92 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Tercic, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Planta” 2011 ($22): An outstanding wine from a difficult vintage, this shows an uncanny combination of creaminess and cut, with rich fruit recalling lemon curd that actually sharpens rather than dulls as the flavors tail off in the finish.  Complex in structure as well as flavor, this is a wine that would prove enduringly interesting to drink.
91 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Livon, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Solarco” 2013 ($22): The front label indicates that this is a blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, and I have no reason to doubt that, though I would have guessed that there was some Sauvignon in the mix on account of an herbal aromatic topnote.  Whatever the case, the bouquet (which also has a subtle floral character) is quite appealing, and the flavors are energized by bright acidity from the Ribolla Gialla component, which also provides freshness and persistence to the finish.
90 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

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Starborough, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($15): Starborough's 2014 vintage is classic Marlborough Sauvignon that exhibits pungent aromas of green citrus, cut grass and tart green apple. It is well-balanced, with crisp acidity and finishes with exceptional freshness.
90 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

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J. Lohr, Monterey (California) Valdiguie 'Wildflower' 2014 ($10): J. Lohr's 2014 Valdiguie is a serious candidate for best summer picnic wine, but not for the reason you might expect. Often likened to Beaujolais, Valdiguie can be light and sometimes astringent. J. Lohr's latest is anything but, showing intense fruit aromas of raspberry, cherry and pomegranate, with firm tannins. It is meant to be served slightly chilled and will pair nicely with duck, chicken and an array of spicy tapas.
88 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Calera, Mt. Harlan (California) Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard 2012 ($85): Josh Jensen's team at Calera often produces wines that take some bottle age to really show their stuff.  Don't get me wrong -- it's always worth the wait.  I bring this up because this offering, Calera's flagship bottling, is incredibly attractive as a pop and pour.  It shows a deep nose of cherry, strawberry, mild dry earth, rhubarb and fall spice, all of which make the trip to the palate where bright acidity keeps the fleshy feel lively and full, leading to a long, complex finish.  Of course, there is typical Calera age-worthy structure here, so don't hesitate to put some down in your cellar -- you can pop a few while you're waiting for the Reed Vineyard bottling to hit its sweet spot.
95 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) 'The Discussion' 2010 ($135): Duckhorn's proprietary Bordeaux-style blend, The Discussion, hits one of the highest notes from the very good 2010 vintage. This is a wine of great dimension, with dense layers of complex dark fruit and mineral aromas, and impressive weight without being ponderous. Nuances of lead pencil, mocha and anise provide intriguing back notes. The tannins are supple and beautifully integrated, delivering a suave texture that is inviting for near-term consumption, although this is wine that was certainly built for the ages. Or at minimum, for the next 20 to 25 years.
97 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($95): Duckhorn's Napa Valley Cab from the much-maligned 2011 vintage exceeds expectations and then some, offering up an inviting nose of blackberry, cassis and cedar. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, ripe and dense, with layers of flavor and silky tannins. The wine finishes with exceptional persistence.
93 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Flora Springs, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2013 ($30): It's not often you see the words Napa Valley and value in the same sentence, but when you do there's a good chance it has something to do with Merlot, which doesn't command nearly the level of respect (nor should it) that Napa Valley Cabernet does. That said, there are any number of producers that make solid Merlot vintage after vintage, and Flora Springs is one of them. The 2013 is ripe and lush, a crowd-pleaser that shows attractive aromas of red currant, blueberry and cedar, with a dash of spice on the finish. Made to enjoy now, but certainly able to improve over the next five to eight years in the cellar.
91 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Tobin James, Paso Robles (California) Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard 2012 ($38): The Dusi Vineyard has been the source of great wines from famed producer Ridge Vineyards for many years, and Tobin James wisely gets into the act with this 2011 bottling, which shows high toned mixed berry aromas,  cinnamon, white pepper and some light heat.  Dry and balanced on the palate, it delivers elegant red fruit with classic old vine style and intensity.  Bright pepper comes forward in the finish, but doesn't overtake the fruit.  Very nice!
92 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Tobin James, Paso Robles (California) Zinfandel “Ballistic” 2012 ($18): This wine has a substantial fan base, and with good reason.  It's priced right, and this vintage is reined in nicely, delivering bright blackberry and bramble bush aromas that are jazzed up by proper pepper and spice notes.  The palate doesn't disappoint, with fine translation of the nose into full flavors.  It's unashamedly oaky, and shows a touch of heat, but it's appealing all the same.  A blend of fruit from 27 different Paso Robles vineyards. 90 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Talbott, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County) Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 'Logan' 2013 ($25): When it comes to bang for the buck, Talbott's 'Logan' series is a reliable bet. The Logan Pinot, an estate wine from Talbott's famed Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, from 2013 is another outstanding California Pinot in the $25 and under range, recent phenomenon. It shows dark berry fruits, with a hint of cola and a dollop of minerality. The tannins are a bit rustic on the finish, but they will come around in due course.
89 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Three Sticks, Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard 2013 ($60): This new release, made by Van Staaveren and with Cabral participating in blending, has subtle caramel oak framing the deliciously bright, lively red cherry fruit.  With hints of raspberry, beetroot and vanillin, it’s super-pure and bracing, with a long, succulent finish.
91 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015

Kutch Wines, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch 2013 ($59): Weighing in at just 12.9% alcohol, this wine has earthy forest floor, black olive and vanillin notes on the nose.  Ultra-smooth tannins, plump black cherry, plum and pomegranate fruit, and hints of Christmas spice and tobacco make this a distinctive California Pinot, finishing with racy acidity.
95 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015

Fulcrum Wines / On Point, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($36): The inviting floral and cherry pie nose leads to a palate of vivid black cherry and raspberry fruit that’s very bright, juicy and mouthwatering, with finishing notes of Asian spice and licorice.  It’s a pretty side of Pinot Noir.
93 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015

Heintz Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir "Valentina" 2013 ($48): A lively wine with fresh strawberry, red cherry and cranberry fruit.  Lightly oaked and medium-bodied, it’s seamless and refined.  If you’re looking for bombast, you won’t find it in this polished, elegant wine.
91 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015

Roadhouse Winery, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Green Label 2012 ($59): Grapes from the Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast give this wine its layered black cherry, dark plum and Asian spice notes.  The finish is long and juicy.
90 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015


Geyser Peak Winery, California (United States) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($14): Despite being labeled as Pinot Grigio, this wine has the richness and mouthfeel of an Alsatian Pinot Gris -- a wonderful surprise, as Pinot Grigio can be lean and insipid.  Lo and behold, winemaker Ondine Chattan’s notes show that she blended in 15% Gewurztraminer, which contributes subtle spice and floral aromas and juicy flavors of peach, cantaloupe, guava, Granny Smith apple and  pear.   It’s delicious, inexpensive, dry and remarkably low in alcohol (12.5%). Great summer quaffer
91 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015

Patz & Hall, Carneros (Napa Valley, California) Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard 2013 ($55): You'll be hard pressed to guess that this crisp Chardonnay underwent 100% malolactic fermentation with all of the lively acidity that it's packing.  Thankfully, you can skip the wine snob exercise and get right into this delicious wine, which brings lemon, leaf, clove, and a hint of nut on the nose and leads to a palate that hits my Chardonnay button -- crisp and rich all at once, and giving a buttery impression without getting that tiresome, fat mouth feel.  A little toffee in the midpalate gives way to a refreshing mineral driven finish.  One of my favorite Chardonnay producers strikes again!
95 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Matanzas Creek Winery, Knights Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc Helena Bench 2013 ($40): It's not every day that you're going to be in the mood to drop forty bucks on a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc -- or any white wine for that matter -- but if you're an appreciator of the complexities that a seriously well made white has to offer, you'll want to treat yourself to a bottle of this beautiful wine.  Stone fruit, mint, white flowers, granite minerality and a touch of leaf are present in both aroma and flavor, with a ripe quality to the fruit element that doesn't overwhelm the proceedings.  It finishes very crisp and mouth watering.  Be careful, though -- on your way to the bottom of the bottle you'll wish you had the kind of life where you could sip this serious wine poolside while your people take care of your business for you.  Well done!
94 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Talbott, Monterey (California) Chardonnay Estate 'Kali Hart' 2014 ($20): Talbott's Kali Hart Chardonnay from this vintage is a beauty for the price, showing impressive richness with juicy acidity and aromas of lemon custard, baking spice and tropical fruit. It's a crowd-pleaser that won't bust the budget.
89 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Tobin James, Monterey County (California) Chardonnay “Radiance” 2013 ($16): Paso Robles Zinfandel specialist Tobin James scores on the white side with this no oak Chardonnay.  It's vibrantly fresh, bursting with tropical fruit aromas and flavors that hold on through the long, rich finish.  It may not be complex, but it's a brilliant quaff at a great price.
90 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

Cliff Lede, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($25): Crafted in the style of a Bordeaux blanc, Cliff Lede's 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is a wonderful example of how well that model plays in the Napa Valley, where Sauvignon Blanc is increasingly rare because it doesn't command nearly the same price as Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. This vintage offers delicate aromas of white peach and vanilla spice, is well-balanced, fresh and finishes long.
91 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

J. Lohr, Napa Valley (California) Sauvignon Blanc Carol's Vineyard 2014 ($24): J. Lohr's occasionally ventures outside Paso Robles and the Central Coast in search of good vineyards and he has one in Carol's Vineyard in the Napa Valley, the source for one of Jerry's finest white wines, the Carol's Vineyard Sauvignon  Blanc. The 2014 shows complex aromas of peach and citrus, with hints of spice and a touch of oak vanillin.
90 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2015

Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains (California) Chardonnay Monte Bello Estate Vineyard 2013 ($50): It’s not widely known that red-wine royalty Ridge also makes outstanding Chardonnays.  This one, from the same vineyard that produces the famous Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, has a caramel oak aroma and slate-like minerality running through the rich, ripe apple, poached pear and citrus fruit.  It’s a substantial wine in the mouth, and the label alcohol reads a relatively high 14.7%, yet the wine is impeccably balanced and lively, thanks to crisp acidity. Not many California Chardonnays turn my head, but this one does, achieving opulent and freshness at the same time.
96 Linda Murphy Jun 23, 2015



Cadaretta, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Windthrow” 2012 ($50): Cadaretta really hits their stride in their blending of varieties.  I'm a huge fan of their “SBS” (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) bottling, and this SGM (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) blend is a worthy stable mate.  It shows real elegance and depth, with no one element shouting for attention.  Blackberry, tar, vanilla, leaf, brown spice and a touch of pie crust are all presented in a dry, food friendly package.  Beef, birds, lamb -- lots of pairing possibilities here.  Contains 56% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 19% Mourvedre.
93 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2015

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