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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 14, 2018 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Rosé:

Domaine Bousquet, Tupungato Valley (Mendoza, Argentina) Rosé 2018 ($13):  My first review of a wine from the 2018 vintage, and it’s a worthy summer cooler.  A blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon raised organically presents crisp, dry and refreshing, with strawberry, cherry, citrus zest and bay leaf singing a light but zippy quartet.  This will be poolside pleasure as long as the water is warm enough for you. 
88 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

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FRANCE

Burgundy:

Red:

Maison Roche de Bellene, Coteaux Bourguignons (Burgundy, France) "Bellenos" Cuvée Rouge 2016 ($15, Loosen Bros. USA):  Created in 2011 and replacing the very down-market sounding appellation, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, Coteaux Bourguignons encompasses all vineyards from around Chablis in the north to Beaujolais in the south.  For reds, the allowable grapes include Pinot Noir, Gamay, and César, a lesser-known grape grown around the Chablis area.  Nicolas Potel, an experienced and well-respected winemaker, is in charge at Maison Roche de Bellene.  Fruity -- Gamay speaking here -- yet nicely structured, this marvelously priced wine delivers more than the price suggests.  Mild tannins mean it takes a chill effortlessly, a definite plus here on the East Coast.  This mid-weight red would also enhance a take-out roast chicken. 
90 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

Loire Valley:

Red:

Domaine du Petit Clocher, Anjou (Loire Valley, France) 2016 ($13, Misa Imports Inc): Sooner or later, consumers will discover the joys of red wine from Anjou.  And of course, then the price will go up.  But for now, stock up on this mid-weight red.  Pleasantly austere, this Cabernet Franc-based wine focuses on herbal notes as opposed to just ripe fruity one.  It’s not for sipping before dinner, but it’s definitely for drinking when you take the meat off the grill.  Refined and polished tannins mean it’s great this summer, but it will easily retain its charm over the next few years.  A lovely juicy finish makes you return for another sip.  A superb value! 
93 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

Rosé:

Aimé Boucher, Rosé d’Anjou (Loire Valley, France) 2017 ($13, Vintners Alliance):  Rosé d’Anjou always has a hint -- sometimes more -- of sweetness since regulations require a minimum of 7 grams of residual sugar per liter.  In my mind, the residual sugar in this rosé does what it does in German Kabinett wines: it amplifies the fruitiness without imparting a cloying sweetness because of the wine’s inherent vibrant and balancing acidity.  This ying and yang make it a fine choice to accompany spicy Asian cuisine because the delicate sweetness acts as a counter-point to the heat in the food. 
88 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

White:

Claude Branger, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (Loire Valley, France) “Le Fils des Gras Moutons” 2016 ($13, Vintage ’59 Imports):  Claude Branger along with his wife, Thérèse, and son, Sébastien, run this family property, also known as Domaine Haut Févrie.  They are an exceptional team, insisting on hand harvesting, which is unusual in Muscadet, and committed to converting fully to organic production.  They make a range of Muscadet, from this one blended from a variety of vineyards, to more substantial ones from individual plots.  This is an excellent and well-priced introduction to their style. It delivers unusual -- for Muscadet -- concentration and a flinty quality without sacrificing the vibrant and lively signature of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie.  It’s another fine choice for August’s heat and humidity. 
91 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

Provence:

Rosé:

Commanderie de la Bargemone, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence (France) Rosé 2017 ($15, Hand Picked Selections):  Like so many French wines that come from ancient estates, drinking Commanderie de la Bargemone is a little bit like drinking history itself.  Founded by Templar Knights in the 13th century, the property is located in the southeast section of the country, west of Aix en Provence (for which the appellation is named).  82.5% of the region’s wines are rosé.  Made from Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cinsault, plus small amounts of Rolle, Carignan and Counoise, this wine is distinctly dry and deliciously refreshing, with subtle floral nuances and suggestions of red berry fruit.
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

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GREECE

White:

Domaine Spiropoulos, Mantinia (Peloponnese Peninsula, Greece) Moschofilero 2015 ($15, Athenee Importers and Distributors):  The Moschofilero grape has a pinkish purplish skin, which explains why this wine has a delicate pink hue, not enough color for a rosé, but enough to make you wonder.  One sip, however, tells you this wine has more character than most rosés.  Delightfully cutting and crisp, it has a delicate spiciness that makes it perfect with full-flavored seafood, fried clams, or even a lobster roll.  A saline-tinged finish is mouth-watering and screams for another sip.  And look at the price!  If you’ve needed motivation to learn a little Greek, here you go. 
91 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

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ITALY

Campania:

White:

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2017 ($14, Terlato Wines International):  Floral and fruity with mouth-cleansing zestiness, this Falanghina is ideal for summer sipping -- and drinking.   Enhanced by a hint of an almost white pepper-like spice, it is a tremendous value to cut through August’s humidity and accompany light pasta dishes or simply grilled fish. 
91 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

Marche:

White:

Garofoli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore “Macrina” 2015 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  A very crisp, refreshing and bright mix of apple and peach fruit, with balanced acidity and a solid core of stony minerality that keeps things together through the mouthwatering finish.  It’s too bad more of this doesn’t make it across the ocean -- it’s a unique product that’s bound to win some fans here. 
90 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

Piedmont:

White:

Luca Bosio, Langhe (Piedmont, Italy) Arneis 2016 ($20, Quintessential):  This wine, which comes from the Langhe, in the far northwest region of Italy, first shows off delicate floral aromas followed by flavors of stone fruits and a hint of lemon zest.  Medium-to-full bodied, with an energetic flash of acidity, this Arneis is easy to sip on its own or with light seafood food or chicken dishes. 
90 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

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NEW ZEALAND

Red:

Mt. Beautiful, North Canterbury (New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2016 ($29, Broadbent Selections):  Truly beautiful.  It delivers the classic balance of earth and fruit that makes Pinot Noir a unique grape.  Plenty of leafy savory notes balance dark fruit flavors in this refined wine.  Fine tannins make it a joy to drink now.  And look at the price -- for distinctive Pinot Noir, it’s a bargain. 
93 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

White:

Kim Crawford, Marlborough (Napa Valley, California) Sauvignon Blanc "Signature Reserve" 2017 ($25, Constellation Imports):  A selection of two vineyards, Springfields and Steam Wharf, shows a step toward elegance over the unabashedly forward regular bottling of this Kiwi icon.  Rich yet subtle grapefruit gets some lemon, lime and moderate gooseberry and grass tones alongside, and finishes with a very long yet subtle mixed citrus and herb impression.  This will run the gamut of food possibilities -- I’m going for my mixed pepper salad with red onions, carrots, black olives and bacon, and whatever else might be fresh and appropriate. 
93 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

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SPAIN

Rueda:

White:

Marqués de Cáceres, Rueda (Spain) Verdejo 2017 ($13, Vineyard Brands):  With hints of citrus and yellow plum, this lively Spanish beauty has a medium body, and nicely balanced acidity on the finish.  A convenient screw cap closure and reasonable price make this is a great wine to enjoy poolside, on the deck, or at the beach as summer winds down. 
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

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UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Kendall-Jackson, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Jackson Estate Outland Ridge 2015 ($42):  Mendocino County’s cool Anderson Valley, which runs east-west toward the Pacific Ocean, now rivals the Russian River Valley in the California pinot noir arena.  The 2015 Outland Ridge pinot from Jackson Estate is another beauty from Anderson Valley, showing excellent concentration and beautiful aromas of cherry and spice, good balance and structure and a lingering finish.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard "South Crest" 2014 ($55):  A big and gutsy Pinot Noir, this Carmel Road offering displays some earthiness and a generous amount of sweet, ripe fruit.  Not surprisingly for a wine this big it also has a relatively high amount of alcohol (14.5%).  Best to serve it with hefty dishes that likewise are big and bold -- lavishly seasoned and meaty lasagna, for example. 
89 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

Duckhorn, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($78):  Duckhorn's “regular” Napa Valley bottling shouts house style and appellation identity, with blackberry, cassis, fall spice, moderate oak toast and a long, bright finish that defines all-purpose Cabernet.  No surprise here other than this isn’t even the top variety of the house.  Another winner!  Contains 10% Merlot, 5.5% Petite Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and .5% Malbec. 
93 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Seven Oaks" 2016 ($17):  Easily THE go to Cabernet Sauvignon under twenty dollars in America.  Year after year, J. Lohr's Seven Oaks never fails to impress with mouth filling Paso Robles character.  This Cabernet works as a solo glass or a grilling accompaniment.    A no-hesitation recommendation. 
90 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

Bridlewood Estate Winery, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($16):  Darkly fruited and full-bodied, this Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon benefits no doubt from a generous dose (10 percent) of petit verdot in the blend.  Showing notes of blackberry and cassis, with a splash of oak spice, this is a generous wine that will stand up to grilled steaks and chops. 
89 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Migration, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($40):  The appeal of Migration Pinot to many connoisseurs is its vibrancy and tension, achieved primarily by sourcing grapes from cool coastal vineyards.  This vintage is the first in a shift toward even cooler vineyard sites located in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  I wouldn’t call the change dramatic because there remains a heavy reliance on grapes from the Russian River Valley AVA, but the transition confirms Migration’s commitment to a style that emphasizes firm acid structure that delivers bright fruit and freshness.  The 2016 shows an inviting floral note along with pure red-fruit aromas and a dollop of spice.
92 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Rodney Strong, Sonoma County (California) Malbec Reserve 2014 ($40):  I think of Malbec as having a soft texture, pliant tannins, and sweet fruit flavors.  Well, this wine doesn’t offer any of that.  It’s instead firm and well-structured, with tight (though not overly astringent) tannin, and tastes genuinely dry and satisfying.  It also offers a cornucopia of flavor, much of it fruit-driven, but some more closely resembling leather, tobacco, and savory spice.  It has the stuffing to reward cellaring but, especially if decanted, is sumptuous right now.  In short, Rodney Strong’s Reserve Malbec is chock full of surprises, all of them delectable. 
93 Paul Lukacs Aug 14, 2018

Rosé:

Copain, Mendocino County (California) Rosé of Pinot Noir 'Tous Ensemble' 2017 ($25):  California vintners, after decades of fear and loathing, are finally getting dialed in to the beauty of dry rosé.  And this one is a beauty, showing floral notes, a touch of citrus, savory herbs and lifted strawberry.  Crisp, with lip-smacking acidity, it’s built to pair with grilled chicken and sausages, salmon or simply on its own. 
90 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

LaZarre, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir Vin Gris 2017 ($20):  This is my favorite rosé of the season to date.  Made in a strict Provençal regimen, this hits all my pink wine targets and then some.  There’s a creamy and crisp vibe here that’s very difficult to achieve in rosé that I really like here.  Strawberry, flowers, delicate herbs and tamed zesty character are perfectly melded together and linger and blossom in the finish.  It goes a step beyond fun and refreshment and into the reflection zone.  Bravo! 
92 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

Sparkling:

J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cuvee XB, Extra Brut NV ($45):  J has joined the parade of sparkling wine producers going to a low-or-no dosage style to capture the market for extremely dry bubbly.  To achieve balance grapes are typically harvested slightly riper, thus avoiding the unpleasant specter of unbearable acidity.  The new cuvee from J is beautifully crafted, showing notes of brioche, lemon oil and crunchy green apple, with a persistent mousse and a long, savory finish.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

White:

Chateau Souverain, California (United States) Chardonnay 2016 ($14):  In its modest price range, Chateau Souverain is an industry leader.  This vintage of their Chardonnay is beautifully balanced, showing notes of pear and lemon, with a slightly oily texture and outstanding palate weight.  The finish is long and spicy.
89 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Talbott, Monterey County (California) Chardonnay “Kali Hart”, Estate Grown 2015 ($20):  A wine that is difficult not to enjoy, Kali Hart Chardonnay tastes of lush sweet fruit.  It’s not especially complex or nuanced, but rather seems exuberant and playful -- full of energy and fun.  That’s precisely what makes it an excellent choice for outdoor entertaining this time of year. 
90 Paul Lukacs Aug 14, 2018

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Olivet Lane Vineyard 2015 ($66):  Merry Edwards’ wines can be difficult to find, and there’s a reason for that.  Made in small quantities (727 cases of this chardonnay were produced) they are quickly swept up by connoisseurs as soon as they hit the market.  And there’s a reason for that.  They are some of the most meticulously made and delicious wines made in America.  The Olivet Lane chardonnay has that rare characteristic that eludes most chardonnay producers, combining richness with structure and acidity that lift the fruit and keep the wine fresh on the palate rather than heavy and ponderous.  The 2015 is another beauty from Merry, showing a rich, oily texture and impressive depth, with complex aromas of lemon crème, pear and golden delicious apple and subtle notes of oak spice. 
96 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Migration, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Running Creek Vineyard 2016 ($56):  Exquisite California Chardonnay is hardly a rarity, but it’s anything but common.  The 2016 Migration effort from Running Creek Vineyard fits the description, showing notes of lemon oil, ripe pear, baking spice and absolutely exquisite balance.  A stunning wine that is beautiful now and likely for a number of years to come.
96 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Balletto, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Teresa’s Unoaked 2017 ($20):  As a general rule, domestic chardonnay made without oak fermentation or aging tends to be bland.  There are exceptions, and the Teresa’s Unoaked from Balletto is an excellent example of one of those exceptions.  Crisp and clean, with refreshing acidity, this vintage shows notes of green apple pear on the palate.  The finish is long and inviting. 
90 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

Oregon:

Sparkling:

Argyle, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Vintage Brut 2014 ($28):  A stylized bubbly from parts north -- a blend of soft strawberry, lemon, pear, wet stone and apple with a faint nut accent.  A fine mousse, bracing acidity and a long scouring finish make for a great aperitif or a pairing for fish or fowl.  Contains 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. 
91 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

Virginia:

Rosé:

Stinson Vineyards, Virginia (United States) Rosé of Mourvedre 2016 ($30):  From a family-run winery set in the hills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains comes this pale salmon-pink colored rosé.  Showing delicate nectarine flavors and a pleasantly long, crisp finish, this wine is bound to convert skeptics who aren’t yet aware that Virginia has come into its own as a topnotch wine region.
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

Washington:

Red:

Shooting Star, Washington (United States) Blaufrankisch "Blue Franc" 2015 ($14):  Another vintage, and another full-throated recommendation of this unique wine.  I hope the Steele gang has this source locked down well into the future.  As fall approaches and you start thinking Beaujolais, grab this when you want something similar but with a spicy kick.  Oh -- and you’ll want to buy now so you’ll be able to make that choice, as this is likely to sell out quickly.
91 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

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