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Nicolas Feuillatte, Champagne (France) "Reserve Exclusive" Brut NV ($38)
 In the world of non-vintage brut Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive is a tough act to follow when it comes to price.  This excellent cuvee delivers aromas of crunchy apple and citrus, shows a delicious note of toasty brioche, and exhibits impressive length on the palate.  And Nicolas Feuillatte beats just about all the other serious Champagne houses on price.  
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WRO WINE BLOG

Posted by Michael Apstein on October 7, 2020 at 6:25 PM

A Rogue in Oregon

One definition of rogue is “something out of the ordinary.”  It is fitting, then, that the Naumes Family Winery is located in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, because they certainly do something out of the ordinary.  Ordinary, in terms of Oregon wine, is pretty clear: superb Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and notable Pinot Gris.  While Naumes produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, they also produce out of the ordinary wines, both in varietal composition—Barbera, Grenache, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Tempranillo—and most importantly, in quality.

The Rogue Valley, located in southern Oregon, bordering California, is named for the river that runs through it.  (French fur traders supposedly named it La Rivière aux Coquin [rogue] because they regarded the native tribes located there as coquins.)  Although the Willamette Valley is currently Oregon’s best-known wine producing region, the Rogue Valley was home to Oregon’s first official winery, Valley View Winery, established in 1873 by Peter Britt, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

The east-west orientation of the river and the surrounding valleys could explain the diversity of plantings because cooling Pacific breezes in the western-most part of the appellation allow varieties that prefer cooler climates, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to thrive.  The warmer and drier environment in the eastern areas are well-suited for varieties that need warmer conditions to achieve full ripeness.  But that broad generalization doesn’t explain the plethora of varieties of grapes Naumes Family Winery grows and wines it produces.   The varying elevations of the valleys’ hillsides also give growers flexibility for adopting plantings to local climatic conditions.

Corey Schultz, Naumes’ Winery Director, explains that it not as simple as the east-west orientation suggests.  They’ve been able to plant new varieties, Malbec, Barbera, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Viognier, Tempranillo, in addition to their existing ones, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache and Pinot Gris, all within a 15-mile radius because of the variation of elevations, temperatures, and wind flow patterns, according to Schultz.  As an example, he told me that one day in August the temperature on the valley floor hit 106ºF while at the same time it was 64ºF in the vineyards on the slopes.

Naumes Family Winery Syrah 2017 ($35):  This big, bold Syrah has beautiful balance and bright acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.  It conveys a splendid combination of savory, almost bacon fat-like nuances, spicy black pepper notes, and dark fruitiness. Though youthful and forceful, it is not overdone or boisterous.  Instead, there’s an appealing elegance to accompany all that muscle.  93

Naumes Family Winery Malbec 2017 ($35):  Full disclosure: Malbec is not my favorite wine because too often it is just a big monotonic red wine.  So, I was shocked when I tasted this one.  There’s lots going on—fruit, to be sure, but smoke-y and earth-y nuances peek out as well.  Uplifting acidity keeps you coming back for more. Glossy tannins are especially appealing and allow you to enjoy it now.  93

Naumes Family Winery Tempranillo 2017 ($30):  As much as I liked their 2016 Tempranillo, their 2017 struck me as even better.  Its firmness and minerality presents a great contrast to the fleshy and fruitier Malbec.  It’s structured without being aggressive or hard.  Its stature is apparent in the long and attractive hint of bitterness in the finish.  With air, its focus on minerality rather than fruitiness becomes more apparent. You could sip the Malbec by itself.   This serious Tempranillo needs a grilled steak.  94

Naumes Family Winery, “Tanto Manta” 2017 ($40):  This fifty-fifty blend of Tempranillo and Grenache marries the two beautifully.  The Tempranillo provides structure and minerals while the Grenache contributes a floral fruitiness.  More approachable than the straight Tempranillo at this stage, it would be a good choice with a hearty pasta dish tonight.  92

Naumes Family Winery, Pinot Noir, 2017 ($40):  Captivating herbal notes are immediately apparent in the nose and later on the palate. A blend of several clones of Pinot Noir, this is a delicate and airy example of the varietal, displaying a wondrous mixture of savory and fruity flavors. Its focus is on elegance, not power or concentration. A perfect choice for grilled salmon.  92

Naumes Family Winery Pinot Noir “Clone 667” 2017 ($40):  I won’t get into the scientific definition of a clone as it relates to grape varieties.  Suffice it to say that in this case it’s a Pinot Noir with unique qualities.  The wine certainly is very different from their blended Pinot Noir, showing more fruit, more concentration and fewer earthy flavors.  In short, those who prefer more muscular Pinot Noir will embrace it.  90

Naumes Family Winery Pinot Noir “Pommard Clone” 2017 ($40):  If the Pinot Noir Clone 667 was the weight-lifter, this one is the ballerina.  Light in color and on the palate, it dances on the palate. It’s a captivating lighter style of Pinot Noir.  If you prefer the Clone 667, you won’t be enthralled by this one and vice-versa.  I’m enthralled by both because it shows that clones matter.  90

Naumes Family Winery Viognier 2018 ($30):  The Viognier grape is tough to translate properly into a wine.  Ripeness is necessary to release its inherent floral character, but over-ripeness results in a heavy wine.  Naumes strikes the balance. Lovely floral apricot aromas predict the stone fruit flavors that follow.  In a less well-crafted version, those stone fruit flavors would be heavy.  In this one, they’re bright, despite the 14.5% stated alcohol.  92



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This Issue's Reviews
 
Soaring Sicily, Vol. One: The Whites
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There's a saying that, 'if you hang around long enough, you'll see almost everything,' and that's coming true regarding wine from Sicily. When I started writing about wine for The Washington Post in 1994, most remarks about Sicilian wine were not even up to the level of jokes, seeming more often like slurs. As a case in point, I can still recall a conversation from the early 2000s in the Chianti district when a producer accused one of his neighbors of adulterating his wines by adding cheap, high alcohol juice from Sicily. He exclaimed, 'I've seen the tanker trucks roll in during the night…it is a scandal…you write for the newspaper that took down Nixon…you need to write about this!' Of course, I wasn't going to do any such thing without proof, but today I can say this: That slightly unhinged guy should now be complaining if his neighbor is adding Sicilian juice to his Chianti Classicos because he'd probably be enhancing their quality.
Embracing the Vintage: Musings on Producing, Keeping and Drinking Vintage Wine
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Have you heard this one? 'I told my wife that a husband is like fine wine--he gets better with age. The next day she locked me in the wine cellar.' Okay, maybe not that funny…but it did make me think about those people who stash a case (or several cases) of specific vintages of premium wine in their cellar, opening a bottle every now and then to see how the wine is evolving. The expectation, of course, is that since fine wines generally improve with age these wines may taste just fine now but will get even better as time goes by. Some people lay wines down with resale in mind, but that is a different issue altogether as we are talking here about people who are squirreling away wine for their own future enjoyment. And there was a time when wine-loving parents would put away a case of wine for their newborn child to enjoy in 18 or 20 years. I don't know if people are still doing that, but one of the drawbacks to this type of gambling on the future is that sometimes that particular vintage does not turn out as well as expected (I mean the wine, not the child).
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Mujadarra is an ancient Arab/Mediterranean dish most often associated with Lebanon. It is a deliciously rustic, meatless creation that turns simple lentils & rice into a uniquely tasty feast. Spice is the signatory soul of Mujaddar…not tongue-burning peppery spice, but the warm, intensely flavorful spiciness of cinnamon, cumin, coriander and the like. Mujaddara's crowning glory is its tasty topping of fried onion rings. I have a slight preference for white wine with this dish, but some tasters found soft, flavorful reds equally appealing. Big, tannic red wine did not fare as well here, nor did white wine with too much oak. Gentle fruity whites with a good crisp finish are ideal with the dish.
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