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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 3, 2021 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

White:

Ricardo Santos, Mendoza (Argentina) Semillon Finca de Roberto Azaretto 2020 ($16, Global Vineyard Importers):  This delicious, versatile, highly distinctive wines is among the most under-appreciated bargains available in the USA.  Let’s address those three virtues in order: first, this shows delicious notes of tropical fruits, dried apricots, and fresh figs, along with nice spicy undertone and fine balancing acidity.  Its versatility stems principally from its full body and broad texture, which enables it to pair beautifully with more robust dishes that are all-too-frequently paired with nothing but Chardonnay (e.g., swordfish, salmon, scallops, boudin blanc and the like).  Before departing from the versatility virtue, please note that this is a fine sipping wine too, as it has enough acidity to stay fresh despite having real richness and breadth on the palate.  As for distinctiveness, well, there are very few wines aside from the very best bottlings of Pinot Bianco from southern Austria and northern Italy that provide this sort of richness and fruit-forward flavor profile without prominent wood influence.  This is one of only four Semillons in the world that compete at this ratio of quality to price, and if you buy a bottle of this and write to me, I’ll reply with the names of the other three so that you can try them, too.         
92 Michael Franz Aug 3, 2021


CHILE

Red:

Emiliana, Valle de Colchagua (Chile) “Coyam” 2018 ($39):  This robust blend of mostly Syrah (42%) and Carmenere (39%) works beautifully.  For those who are interested in things like this, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Malbec, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Mourvèdre fill out the blend.  There’s red and black fruit flavors, spice, and herbal notes, all wrapped in silky tannins.  An organic wine, it displays solid substance without being heavy or overdone.  I wish I could say the same for the bottle.  The back-label states “Because we care,” and lists a variety of well-deserved certifications: organic wine, environmental care, social responsibility — you get the idea.  Then why the environmentally harmful heavy bottle?  Nice wine, bad bottle.         
90 Michael Apstein Aug 3, 2021

Viña Tarapaca, Valle del Maipo (Chile) Gran Reserva, Organic Wine 2018 ($18, Vinecrest Co):  Made with organically grown grapes, this is a hearty and well-balanced blend of Cabernet Franc (31%), Syrah (26%) and Carmenere (22%), with the balance filled out by equal amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s a powerhouse, to be sure, but thankfully it is not over the top.  A healthy dose of earthy savory notes balances its bold black fruitiness.  The lasting impression is not one of overt fruitiness, but rather earthy spice. It’s another good choice for hearty fare from the grill this summer.  Sadly, this broad-shouldered wine is another example of good wine, bad — unnecessarily heavy — bottle.       
91 Michael Apstein Aug 3, 2021


FRANCE

Provence:

Rosé:

Chateau Montaud, Côtes de Provence (Provence, France) Rosé 2020 ($15, Monsieur Touton Selection):  This is a powerfully aromatic rosé that offers a galaxy of flavors including strawberries and cherries.  Fruity without being sweet, the wine has a refreshing, acid driven finish.  About 80 percent of the wines included in the Côtes de Provence appellation (the largest appellation in Provence) are rosé.  In addition to Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cincsault, Côtes de Provence wines may also include Tibouren, a Provençale grape variety.       
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 3, 2021


ITALY

Calabria:

Rosé:

Ippolito 1845, Ciró DOC (Calabria, Italy) Gagglioppo “Mabilia” Rosé 2020 ($18, Cantiniere Imports):  Calabria, located in the eternally sun drenched toe of the “boot” of southern Italy, is one of the country’s most ancient winemaking regions.  Ippolito, founded in 1845, is the oldest winery in Calabria.  Ciró is a tiny Calabrian commune with some 3000-plus inhabitants.  Gaglioppo, from which this rosé is made, is an ancient Calabrian grape that appears to be a relative of Sangiovese, and Mabilia, in whose honor this wine is named, was an 11th century Norman princess who lived in Calabria.  Steeped in a long stretch of history though this charming wine is, its flavors and texture today are bright and modern.  Among Mabilia’s many attributes are its inviting aromas and tangy flavors including cherry and melon, plus a refreshing dose of saline minerality.         
94 Marguerite Thomas Aug 3, 2021

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Piedmont:

Red:

Elvio Cogno, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” 2017 ($110, Wilson Daniels):  I’ve been studying Barolo and Barbaresco more intently than any other wine regions in the world over the past decade, traveling there more than a dozen times, and the growing site or “cru” of Ravera in the commune of Novello has risen more in reputation than any other over that span.  Several prominent vintners (e.g., Vajra) have purchased vineyard plots, and other premier estates (e.g., Vietti) bought in quite a bit earlier, but this is “home field” for Cogno — if you’ll accept the sporting term in this usage.  Although the 2017 vintage from every site and every estate has a tough act to follow after 2016, this is a stunningly beautiful Barolo and an amazing take on Ravera.  It shows a level of intricacy in a reserved and delicate style that I’d call “Burgundian”—except that it is arguably even more intricate and delicate than top Grand Cru Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits.  Think this is hyperbole?  Take your pick, try them side-by-side, and you’ll experience my vindication by this wine.  Subtly floral, reserved in its fruitiness, ultra-soft in tannic feel, and almost ethereal in overall impression, this is by far the best Barolo I’ve tasted from the 2017 vintage to this point, though buyers who buy for weight and power rather than subtlety and beauty should look elsewhere (leaving more for me).  I haven’t been able to taste this against the 2016 from the same cru, but this is probably the lighter of the two despite being from a hotter year, thanks to a good decision to get the fruit off the vine early, while it could still make a gorgeous wine.  Which this emphatically is.        
99 Michael Franz Aug 3, 2021

Elvio Cogno, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Cascina Nuova” 2017 ($65, Wilson Daniels):   Over and above being an excellent wine in its own right, this release also demonstrates how the most skillful vintners in Barolo and Barbaresco have risen to the challenge of hot growing seasons in less than a decade (measured against the spotty performance in these appellations in 2009 and 2011).  This lovely wine shows its impressive delicacy even to the eye, with modest pigment concentration, and follows suit with delicate floral aromas recalling violets and pressed roses.  On the palate, the flavors feature perfectly ripened flavors of red cherries and mixed berries, along with retro-nasal undertones of freshly tanned leather and fresh carpaccio.  The texture and finish are equally impressive, showing a character that’s rounded and soft rather than grainy or astringent.  The flavors tail off symmetrically with a lovely streak of primary fruit sweetness that is the hallmark of skillfully crafted Nebbiolo, buffering the tannins without seeming over-ripe or “sugary” rather than naturally fruity.  This is, in short, a beautiful wine regardless of the growing season that gave rise to it, but a remarkable testament to the skill of Valter Fissore and the team at this great estate.  
94 Michael Franz Aug 3, 2021

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Sardinia:

Red:

Surrau, Cannonau di Sardegna DOC (Sardinia, Italy) “Naracu” 2019 ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Cannonau is the Sardinian name for Grenache or Garnacha.  Cannonau di Sargegna means what it says; the grapes can come from anywhere in Sardinia.  The grapes for this one come from the Demuro family’s 20-year-old vines.  The emphasis is on the fruit with fermentation in and aging in stainless steel.  After six months aging, the wine is bottled and aged an additional three months.  It is a fresh, juicy medium-bodied wine with savory, blackberry, strawberry flavors, with notes of dried woody herbs.  Tannins are ripe and integrated for a long, smooth finish.  Chill it a bit, especially on a warm summer day and savor it with a grilled pork tenderloin.     
91 Rebecca Murphy Aug 3, 2021

Surrau, Rosso Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (Sardinia, Italy) 2019 ($27, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  This Rosso Isola dei Nuraghi was the the Demuro family’s first wine.  The 2019 vintage is a blend of 60 percent Carignano, 30 pecent  Cannonau and 10 percent Muristellu.  It was aged for nine months in a mixture of large Slavonian Oak casks, stainless steel tanks and cement vats.  It has a dark ruby color and floral, blackberry, cherry, plum fruit with a citrus high note.   Juicy blackberry, cherry black plum fruit flavors laced with dried spices are intense with bright, lively acidity and chewy tannins.  Serve it with mixed charcuterie or grilled sausages.         
92 Rebecca Murphy Aug 3, 2021

White:

Surrau, Vermentino di Gallura DOCG (Sardinia, Italy) “Limizzani” 2020 ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  The Vermentino grape is an Italian native.  It is a very important grape on the Italian island of Sardinia, because it is the grape variety of the only DOCG on the island.  Northeastern Gallura is evidently ground zero.  Vigne Surrau was created in the Surrau Valley by the Demuro family in 2001.  They farm 60 hectares (148 acres) of vines.  The grapes for this wine come from all their vineyards.  The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel.  It is a bright, crisp and charming wine with lively citrus, peach, melon fruit mingling with floral saline notes.  It is great as an aperitif or with a summer salad.  In addition to dry wines, the appellation Vermentino di Gallura DOCG allows a sparkling wine, a late harvest wine and a passito wine.  All must have a minimum of 95 percent Vermentino.   
89 Rebecca Murphy Aug 3, 2021

Surrau, Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG (Sardinia, Italy) 2019 ($27, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Its color is pale yellow, and aromas are of white peach with notes of honeysuckle.  Flavors of Rainier cherries and juicy peaches with a touch of sea salt feel smooth and creamy in the mouth brightened by zesty acidity.  The finish has a subtle touch of bitterness, which makes this wine a great companion for baked halibut or a Niçoise salad.  The grapes are the best of the best from the winery’s vineyards.   In the winery the wine sees a bit of skin contact and is fermented and aged in stainless steel in contact with fine lees.  The addition of “Superiore” to Vermentino di Gallura DOCG indicates that the maximum yield per hectare is one ton lower and residual sugar can be one gram per liter more.  The goal is more concentration and richness.          
91 Rebecca Murphy Aug 3, 2021

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Sicily:

White:

Planeta, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Carricante “Eruzione 1614” 2018 ($43, Taub Family Selections):  Carricante is native to Sicily and is thought to have been cultivated there for over a thousand years.  It’s a normally big part of the Etna Bianco DOC blends, but here it’s wisely separated out as a standalone bottling under the wider Sicilia DOC.  It’s quite similar to Riesling in profile, with high natural acidity and apple and citrus aromas and flavors.  This bottling is 90% Carricante, with a dose of Riesling making up the remainder of the blend.  Grown at a high altitude in volcanic soils, its freshness is undeniable, and it delivers spot-on varietal fruit character wrapped around a stony mineral core.  If you are a fan of aged Riesling you may want to add this to your cellar.  Near term, it’s a fine friend to seafood or as a solo sipper that will keep the heat at bay.         
93 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

Principe di Butera, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Insolia “Carizza” 2019 ($17, Zonin USA):  Insolia is thought to be the oldest grape variety in Sicily, and it’s the principal variety in Marsala wine where its nutty character is prized.  In this wine, that nut-like character is evident, but the much fresher style brings out the melon and tropical elements that generally fall out as the grapes get riper.  On the palate it plays something like a Roussanne with more vibrant acidity and less viscosity, making it a fine choice for sipping poolside or with seafood dishes.        
90 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

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Tuscany:

Red:

Ornellaia, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia” 2019 ($34):  This famed estate’s entry level wine always offers good value while providing a glimpse into the house style, which I would summarize as concentrated and intense.  The 2019 offers these elements as usual, featuring bright red berry fruit, sage, and floral aromas that translate well on the palate, with pulsing acidity and fine-grained tannins giving structure and length.  It will serve well alongside a carbonara pasta dish or an herb encrusted salmon.      
90 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

White:

Frescobaldi, Pomino Bianco DOC (Tuscany, Italy) Chardonnay “Castello Pomino” 2019 ($18, Shaw-Ross):  I reviewed the 2016 iteration of this delightful Chardonnay back in 2018, and a quick look at my notes shows this 2019 version to be remarkably consistent with the house intentions.  Peach and pear aromas and flavors dominate, with soft oak spice and toast adding interest.  Italian love of acidity is showcased here, and that’s always a good thing.  An important note – don’t over chill this wine.  Many (if not all) Italian whites are built carefully for an environment in which ice is hard to come by, and you won’t want to mask any of the nuance here.  I’m thinking more Chardonnay plantings in Tuscany are likely coming.    
91 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

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Veneto:

Sparkling:

Caposaldo, Prosecco Rosé DOC (Veneto, Italy) Brut 2020 ($14, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  It may sound like a brilliant marketing ploy, but Prosecco Rosé is a new recognized category with its own DOC.  As with all Prosecco — and wine in general, for that matter — there will be an enormous range of quality and style.  The regulations for this DOC require the wine to be vintage-dated and to contain Pinot Noir, two requirements that likely will push the price.  Which makes this bottling all the more attractive. This crowd-pleasing, pale pink bubbly leads with delightful floral aromatics and finishes with a pleasing freshness.  Though labeled Brut, it had a roundness to it.  This light and lively Prosecco is ideal for summer entertaining.         
89 Michael Apstein Aug 3, 2021

White:

Suavia, Soave Classico DOC (Veneto, Italy) Garganega 2019 ($16, Winebow):  Suavia is a classic producer of Soave and is owned and produced by three sisters.  Their Soave Classico, composed of 100 percent Garganega grapes, is harvested from the heart of the Soave appellation.  It is brightly aromatic, offering aromas of apple, pear, and almond.  The palate is precise with fresh lemon, salinity, and a tremendous pith-like texture perfect for summer sipping.  It finishes clean, bright, and super fresh --- leaving you wanting for more.          
90 Miranda Franco Aug 3, 2021


SPAIN

Castilla y León:

White:

Bodegas Madai, Bierzo (Castilla y León, Spain) Godello "Origen" 2019 ($26, SAWM Imports):  Curious about Godello?  This intriguing rendition of the grape from a small producer in northwest Spain's Bierzo region presents a wonderful opportunity to explore the variety.  The 2019 Madai Godello is fresh, mineral-rich, and well worth seeking out.   Bright acidity bolsters the structure of this Godello, which is reminiscent of white Burgundy.  The palate has a lovely combination of apple, peach, sea salt, chalk, and almond notes that deliver a refreshing experience.      
92 Miranda Franco Aug 3, 2021


UNITED STATES

Red:

Saviah Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Cabernet Franc 2016 ($35):  Founded in 2000, Saviah Cellars offers an extremely wide range of limited production wines including the only Barbera from Walla Walla, an attractive Nebbiolo, and this extremely well-made Cabernet Franc.  It was sourced from three vineyards: Watermill Vineyard which is located in The Rocks District, Dugger Creek Vineyard and the Summit View Vineyard.  It is a textbook example of the varietal with aromas of ripe berry, spice, tobacco and anise.  Medium bodied, it has similar flavors with highlights of dried herbs and raspberry fruit.  It has a slightly fleshy palate feel and no rough edges as it finishes long with light tannin.       
92 Norm Roby Aug 3, 2021

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California:

Red:

Dutton-Goldfield, Fort-Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir McDougall Vineyard 2018 ($68):  There is significant structure to this wine, and it serves the overall package well.  It leans into its pomegranate and black cherry fruit, with soft notes of damp earth minerality, vanilla and brown spice serving to set off the fruit with a burst.  The midpalate is plush, but vibrant acidity keeps pushing the flavor through a long, fruit forward finish.  I like this all by itself for its depth, complexity, and lithe feel.    
94 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch / Emerald Ridge Vineyard 2018 ($68):  Dutton-Goldfield’s 2018 Emerald Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir is a taut, bright, acid-driven wine with a fair amount of oak spice and toast, but it’s pretty sexy wood that lays up next to hibiscus, blueberry, tart black cherry and fall spice notes.  With its tea-like tannin profile, I would pair this with something with a fair amount of fat content for full enjoyment.  Additionally, I recommend a few years bottle age or a long decanting.        
91 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

Destinata by Tooth & Nail, Santa Barbara County (California) Syrah 2020 ($29):  When opening a Syrah in a clear bottle, you instinctively brace for something unusual.  Destinata is the latest addition to the Tooth & Nail family, and it represents wines made for present enjoyment without fanfare.  “Inspired by the experience of Beaujolais Nouveau” this cool climate Syrah was made with native yeasts and bottled unfined and unfiltered.  But other than being fresh and fruity, it is more interesting than typical nouveau wine.  Its color, first of all, is dark and intense.  The lush, black fruited aroma is backed by hints of black pepper and the flavors display solid Syrah character throughout.  Smooth and vibrant with good acid balance, it is harmonious from start to finish.  The winemaker’s motto is: “Pour now.  Live for today.”  So, yes, it can be served chilled.       
91 Norm Roby Aug 3, 2021

Dutton-Goldfield, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Deviate” 2018 ($72):   Dutton-Goldfield's “Deviate” Pinot Noir is long on bright fruit, pushing from cherry into raspberry, with lively fall spice and bright acidity.  The oak is beginning to fold in, and it adds a moderately toasty dimension along with a note of toffee in the finish, which remains zesty and bright and shows good push and intensity.  It’s age-worthy – I would start into this in about five years if you can wait that long.       
93 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

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Oregon:

Red:

Mt. Hood Winery, Columbia Gorge (Oregon) Pinot Noir Estate Bottled 2019 ($38):  Grown on the estate and made by veteran consulting winemaker, Rich Cushman, this Oregon Pinot has its own subtle but distinct personality.  It is not, in other words, a Willamette Valley wanna-be.  On the nose it shows plum and pomegranate aromas with secondary notes of earth and dried mushroom.  On the plate it comes alive with ripe plum presented in a plush, slightly velvety package.  The pleasing youthful finish again emphasizes earthy notes along with refined tannins.  Youthfully closed-in, it should be decanted now.  And it will be interesting to taste after a few years of bottle age.        
92 Norm Roby Aug 3, 2021

Argyle, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir Reserve 2018 ($40):  Argyle's 2018 Reserve Pinot Noir shows its provenance clearly, with mild cherry, cardamom, rich earth tones, and medium extraction that lets all the subtleties play out.  Tightly wound oak spice accents the fruit and bright acidity makes the complex profile pop.  This wine could use some additional bottle age or a long decanting before serving with roast fowl.           
92 Rich Cook Aug 3, 2021

White:

Mt. Hood Winery, Columbia Gorge (Oregon) Pinot Gris Estate Bottled 2020 ($24):  Surrounded by orchards and farms, Mt. Hood Winery is owned by the 6th generation of the Bickford family.  This Pinot Gris is from the family’s 22 acre vineyard, and it well represents the Columbia Gorge AVA which is now home to 30 or more small wineries.  A medium weight, well-balanced Pinot Gris, the 2020 offers distinctive aromas of spicy pear and crisp apple fruit.  It has a pleasing smooth mouthfeel and bright flavors with a hint of minerals in the finish.  Well-balanced and ready to drink now.  Enjoying a large, loyal wine club, Mt. Hood also makes a surprisingly attractive 2020 White Pinot Noir.  Winery visitors can enjoy a dramatic view of Mount Hood.        
90 Norm Roby Aug 3, 2021

Left Coast Cellars, Willamette Valley (Oregon) White Pinot Noir Estate 2019 ($24):  White Pinot Noir is not as rare as you might believe.  In Oregon, many producers are making excellent examples of white Pinot Noir.  White Pinot Noir is made using Pinot Noir grapes; however, whereas regular Pinot Noir is macerated and fermented using the entire grape, the white variety is made from the grape’s juice after it has been pressed off from the skins, which hold all of the pigments.  The Left Coast Cellars expression of white Pinot Noir is beguiling, delicate, and dense with flavor.  It’s loaded with flavors of baked apple, citrus, and ripe pear.  There is also the slight presence of spice and minerality.  It ends with a crisp, dry, and uplifting finish.         
91 Miranda Franco Aug 3, 2021

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