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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

May 24, 2022 Issue

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AUSTRALIA

Eden Valley:

Red:

Henschke, Eden Valley (Australia) Shiraz Mount Edelstone Vineyard 2016 ($202, Winebow):  The aromas and flavors of rich black cherry, plum, fruit mingling notes of black pepper and sandalwood are intense and concentrated, wrapped in a linear structure of vivid acidity and dusty tannins.  It is drinking well now, and the beautiful balance of ripe fruit and elegant structure will ensure a long life.  It is from a vineyard of Syrah grapes that was planted in 1912 in Eden Valley in South Australia.  Like the Hill of Grace Vineyard also owned by the Henschke family, the vines were planted on their own roots, rather than grafted onto native American rootstock to protect the vines from a phylloxera, a root louse that can destroy the vines.      
97 Rebecca Murphy May 24, 2022

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New South Wales:

Red:

Tyrrell’s, Hunter Valley (New South Wales, Australia) Shiraz “Vat 9, Winemaker’s Selection” 2014 ($49, Broadbent Selections):  Edward Tyrrell from England established his family’s winery in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales in Australia in 1858.  Today the winery is in the hands of Bruce Tyrrell and his three children.  They consider the 2014 one of the best vintages for this wine, and it is certainly showing well today.  It has a smooth as silk texture with juicy, ripe blackberry, strawberry, plum fruit spiced with black pepper balanced with lively acidity and burnished tannins.  Serve it with roast chicken or a mushroom ragout.    
93 Rebecca Murphy May 24, 2022

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South Australia:

Red:

Penfolds, South Australia (Australia) Shiraz 2018 ($123, Treasury Wine Estates):  Penfolds has a stated winemaking philosophy of multi-vineyard, multi-regional sourcing.  The grapes for this wine come from different areas of South Australia including Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, and Coonawarra.  It is a powerful yet elegant wine with rich flavors of blackberry, plum, raspberry, and black currant layered with black pepper and dried woody herbs.  The flavors are balanced with bright acidity and smooth as silk tannins.  Looking at my notes when I tasted the wine, I saw WOW.  There’s a reason some folks call this wine “baby Grange,” Australia's most collectible wine from Penfold’s.       
95 Rebecca Murphy May 24, 2022


CHILE

Red:

Maquis, Valle de Colchagua (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon “Gran Reserva” 2018 ($20):  This is one of Maquis’ entry level wines, and it does a good job of communicating regional character in an inviting way.  Typical aromas and flavors of earthy minerality, bell pepper, blackberry and black pepper are nicely integrated on a plush midpalate that finishes long and peppery.  It will make a great grilled beef partner.  Contains 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Carmenere and 1% Petit Verdot.    
90 Rich Cook May 24, 2022


FRANCE

Loire Valley:

Red:

Jean-Max Roger, Sancerre Rouge (Loire Valley, France) Vieilles Vignes 2017 ($39):  Sancerre reds are relatively rare, as they only account for 15% of production in the appellation, but there are fine examples that reward a search, like this old-vine rendition.  The fruit was sourced from a variety of old-vine vineyards in Sancerre, and the quality and richness of flavor really showed.  I found notes of red and black fruit supported by an undertone of iron and flint minerality.  All the elements work well together in this 100% Pinot Noir wine.      
90 Vince Simmon May 24, 2022

White:

Hervé Villemade, Cheverny Blanc (Loire Valley, France) 2019 ($16, Louis/Dressner Selections):  The appellation of Cheverny lies in the Upper Loire, just west of Sancerre, and is becoming known for its high-quality white wines.  This wine is no exception.  I found that this 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay blend shows mineral-infused richness that balances against fresh fruit and saline notes.  Furthermore, the wine effectively balances crisp acidity with its fresh fruit notes and a bit of weigh from a 14.2% alcohol.  Overall, this is a great year-around white wine.  If you enjoy a crisp Sancerre, this is likely in your wheelhouse, and at a more affordable price.      
90 Vince Simmon May 24, 2022

Domaine Aux Moines, Savennières Roche aux Moines (Loire Valley, France) 2019 ($48):  Savennières Roche aux Moines is one of two crus of the greater Savennières appellation (the other is Coulée de Serrant). Though the tiny area (80 acres) has been known for distinctive wines since the 12th century, it received its own appellation, carved out of the broader Savennières, in 2011.  It takes its name from the monks who planted the vines — Monks’ Rock. The appellation regulations, get this, prohibit the use of chemical herbicides during farming.  Indeed, most producers here, such as Domaine aux Moines, are organic and that domaine is working towards biodynamic certification.  Wines from Savennières Roche aux Moines, like all the wines from Savennières, must be made from Chenin Blanc and can be either dry or sweet.  This one is cutting, clean and precise, combining the barest hint of fruitiness with striking minerality.  With good weight and density, it shows the heights Chenin Blanc can achieve in the right hands when planted in a uniquely favorable spot.  It has a real presence and great length.  It would be an ideal choice for thick slab of grilled swordfish.      
95 Michael Apstein May 24, 2022


ITALY

Tuscany:

Red:

Poliziano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany, Italy) 2018 ($26, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  If wine regions could have personality profiles, the red wines of Tuscany would be the most interesting.  Chianti Classico was for years oblivious to its declining reputation – the son who became a cardinal in the church and lost touch – before in recent years showing that it really is something special.  Bolgheri and its Super Tuscans were the rebels, not rag-tag rebels, but rebels within the aristocracy and now ones proudly keeping the iconic position they have won.  Brunello is the scrappy entrepreneur from the poor background – who had heard of Montacino a half-century ago?  And Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the psychologically wounded second son.  How could it possibly be eclipsed by lowly Montepulciano!  It is still trying to get over its slide from grace.  Poliziano is a bright spot, but I wonder if there is more to be gotten from the terroir through winemaking than it and the region have shown?  Nevertheless, this is a delicious, well-constructed table wine, but more like a Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet than a Sangiovese – leaner than richer with a combo of dark and red berry flavors, some savory notes and good chewy tannins and bright acidity.  It will age well and long, but, I'd guess, not really become that much more complex.      
91 Roger Morris May 24, 2022


PORTUGAL

Red:

Monte Bluna, Arruda (Lisboa, Portugal) Reserve 2018 ($26, Wines of Portugal):  Tinta Miúda, known as the rare Graciano grape in Spain, is not often found in Portugal but persists in Lisboa.  Here it is paired with Aragonêz (Tempranillo) to offer a delightfully rich and deeply satisfying wine full of vivid fruit appeal, spice, and well-integrated tannins.  Flavors of spiced strawberry, plum, and raspberry unfold in sophisticated balance and are complemented by vanilla, wood smoke, incense, and espresso seasoning.  This will continue to evolve but is ready for immediate enjoyment.      
92 Miranda Franco May 24, 2022


SOUTH AFRICA

White:

De Wetshof Estate, Robertson Valley (South Africa) Chardonnay “Limestone Hill” 2021 ($18, Broadbent Selections):  South African Chardonnay should be in your regular rotation as a new generation of winemakers and growers are taking it to a new level.  This South African 2021 un-oaked Chardonnay impresses with refreshing grapefruit, grilled nuts, wet stone, and slight ginger notes.  The palate unfolds with richness and mouthwatering acidity that crescendos with subtle spice, crushed minerals, and an explosion of citrus.        
91 Miranda Franco May 24, 2022


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Scribe Winery, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas West 2018 ($85):  This wine comes from 8 acres of west-facing slopes in the Atlas Peak AVA.  Atlas Peak's elevation provides cooler temperatures, helping to maintain acidity, and the west face provides longer sun exposures, lending full ripeness and complexity of flavors.  It shows rich black cherry and dark fruit notes balanced against accents of clove, vanilla, and toasted coconut from new oak aging.  The depth and complexity of this wine suggest that it will improve with bottle aging.    
89 Vince Simmon May 24, 2022

Robert Foley Vineyards, California (United States) "The Griffin" 2017 ($42):  Robert Foley is one of the renowned and iconic winemakers of Northern California.  He cut his teeth at Pride Mountain Vineyards before moving to his own label and consulting for other wineries.  His 2017 "Griffin" is made up of Petite Sirah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Charbono and Syrah.  It delivers rich and luscious flavors of raspberry, red currant, red plum, and wild herbs.  It is nicely framed by fine-grained tannins and great freshness, making you yearn for another sip.      
93 Miranda Franco May 24, 2022

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) "Pure Paso" 2019 ($27):  J. Lohr's "Pure Paso" is a consistent crowd pleaser, and it delivers the “yum factor” in a big way.  The Petite Sirah serves to add just enough structure to cut the very plush Cabernet vibe into a purely pleasant to drink all-purpose red wine.  It is perfectly named in that it showcases what made Paso Robles famous; moreover, it is perfectly priced, and it’s made in a quantity that ensures that plenty of folks will get to enjoy it.  Bravo!  Contains 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Petite Sirah and 1% Malbec.      
92 Rich Cook May 24, 2022

Emeritus, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir "Pinot Hill" 2019 ($65):  Typical of this site and the clonal blending expertise of winemaker David Lattin, this Pinot Noir blend shows its cool climate roots with taut acidity, bright tart strawberry and pomegranate, easy fall spice, sea spray, a little stemmy peppery note and a long finish.  Give this some bottle age for full enjoyment.  Contains clones 115, 37, 667, Elite 4, Cruz and Hyde.        
93 Rich Cook May 24, 2022

Smith-Madrone Vineyards, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($60):  Dark, concentrated, multi-layered and age worthy, this Napa Cabernet is a great expression of the  estate vineyard which was established 50 years ago.  Aged 21 months in French oak (50% new), it  displays dry-farmed, mountain-grown concentration.  Ripe black fruit mingle with graphite and cedar aromatics with the oak always in the background.  Mouth-coating with soft tannins, it delivers blackberry and spice flavors with some herbal notes.  Around a core of ripe fruit, this Cabernet is polished, focused, wonderfully balanced and solidly structured.  Deserves at least 5 years of cellaring.   
95 Norm Roby May 24, 2022

White:

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Chardonnay "Arroyo Vista" 2020 ($25):  This is almost always my favorite wine out of the J. Lohr Chardonnay line, and it hits that mark again with the 2020 vintage.  I’m always impressed that it outshines what you might expect when looking at the technical specifications.  It shows great acidity, apple, pear, soft honeyed notes and well folded oak spice.  I like this Chardonnay best as a solo glass.         
92 Rich Cook May 24, 2022

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Oregon:

Red:

Vino Vasai, Chehalem Mountains (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Estate Reserve 2017 ($58):  It is either an extra year of bottle age, a different growing season, or more likely, a combination of both, that makes Vino Vasai’s 2017 such an exciting wine.  Lighter than the 2018 vintage release, and more red-fruited than black, it’s energetic and elegant.  It has the same mineral component and balancing firmness as Vino Vasai’s 2018.  At a modest 13.3 percent stated alcohol, this long and graceful Pinot Noir delivers that grape’s quintessential quality, flavor without weight.  Drink this one now — grilled salmon pops to mind — while waiting for the 2018 to come together.    
95 Michael Apstein May 24, 2022

Vino Vasai, Chehalem Mountains (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir Estate Reserve 2018 ($58):  I was surprised and did a double take as I pulled the cork. There, in bold letters, was Potter’s Vineyard.  I figured somebody screwed up somewhere.  No, it turns out that Vino Vasai, Italian for potter’s wine, explains why the cork proclaims that name.  Weighing in at a stated 13.9 percent alcohol, it’s a bold style of Pinot Noir, but thankfully it is balanced and not overblown.  Indeed, lovely firmness — the Chehalem Mountains AVA speaking — and a delightful hint of bitterness in the finish reinforce the wine’s stature.  This youthful, black fruited Pinot Noir, a barrel selection, has plenty of savory influences and will benefit from a few years of bottle aging to allow the fruit and earthier components to merge. They make fewer than 150 cases a year, so it may be tough to find.  Mind you, it’s worth the search.     
93 Michael Apstein May 24, 2022

Lenné Estate, Yamhill-Carlton District (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir "Sad Jack 777" 2019 ($55):  In my opinion, Sad Jack is the wrong name for this bottling because drinking it makes me extremely happy.  Intriguing aromatics draw you in immediately and accurately predict joy. The seamless mixture of fruit, spice, and savory influences in this mid-weight red is beguiling.  Add to that, its suave texture and — wow!  It's explosive yet not heavy.  Rather, it dances on the palate. Long and energetic it delivers what I think is the quintessential character of Pinot Noir-based wines, namely, flavor without weight.  It's a selection of their best barrels from their 777 block.  Someone chose well.  Oh, it is named Sad Jack in honor of their two late dogs, Sadie and Jackson.      
96 Michael Apstein May 24, 2022

Lenné Estate, Yamhill-Carlton District (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir "South Slope Select" 2019 ($55):  I was unfamiliar with Lenné’s wines before tasting this Pinot Noir and their Sad Jack bottling.  I am now adding Lenné to my list of favorite Oregon producers.  While both wines are extraordinary in their own right, comparing them shows the amazing spectrum of Pinot Noir.  Though displaying the same silky texture, the South Slope Select is a denser version of Sad Jack, with more black fruit flavors.  Like Sad Jack, it has plenty of complexity with savory and mineral-y notes adding to the chorus of fruity ones.  It’s just a touch weightier and less explosive at this stage.  It still conveys the “flavor without weight” character of great Pinot Noir.  Hints of tar-like nuances and a subtle bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  The scientist in me asks why these wines are different?  After all, they’re made by the same person, made from the same grape grown in vineyards on the same 21-acre estate. Is it the difference in clones of Pinot Noir?  The Pinot Noir clone for Sad Jack was 777, while for South Slope Select, it was a blend of the Pommard clone and clone 115.  Are the different characteristics of the wines due to subtle differences in terroir within the 21-acres?  Who knows?  Enough analysis.  My advice, buy both, invite friends over, and be swept away by the range they display.    
95 Michael Apstein May 24, 2022

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Washington:

Red:

Chasing Rain, Red Mountain (Washington) Red Blend 2019 ($25):  Though this is marketed as a generic red blend, it’s made up of Bordeaux varieties, and the blend delivers in a real-to-drink style that will serve a lot of culinary situations well with its bold blackberry, black cherry and fall spice character that rides a supple structure through a long finish where a nice orange zest note comes forward.  Serve with anything meaty!  Contains 44% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc.      
91 Rich Cook May 24, 2022

Barrage Cellars, Yakima Valley (Washington) Cabernet Franc “Cease and Desist” 2016 ($37):  Owner, winemaker Kevin Cornell combined fruit from two established vineyards in Yakima, Red Willow and Boushey, to create this remarkable Cabernet Franc.  Making wines since 2006, Barrage sells most of its tiny output through its successful tasting room in the Woodinville Wine Warehouse District.  Cabernet Franc is usually blended to tone down its potentially leafy character, but here we have one that is 100% Cab Franc and is impeccable. Both its aromas and flavors deliver black fruit, with anise, a touch of dill and an earthy side.  On the palate it is big and plush with just a hint of spiced herbs to add a layered complexity to the black cherry, cranberry fruit.  With light, refined tannins, it is seamless and ready now, but will likely continue to please over the next several years.    
94 Norm Roby May 24, 2022

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