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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

November 30, 2021 Issue

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ARGENTINA

Mendoza:

White:

Famiglia Bianchi, Mendoza (Argentina) Chardonnay 2020 ($19, Quintessential Wines):  A soft aromatic profile and palate entry set up a bright finish in an intriguing way, touching on apple, melon, pear and easy oak spice along the path.  The finish brings it all together and keep you coming back to the glass.  This is a solid bargain!        
90 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Pascual Toso, Mendoza (Argentina) Chardonnay Estate 2019 ($14, Quintessential Wines):  Bright oak toast aromas cover things a bit on the nose at present, but the palate is quite attractive, with lemon, pear and faint herbs carried by laser like acidity through a long fruit driven finish.  Quite a bargain here!       
90 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021


CHILE

Red:

Viña Tarapaca, Valle del Maipo (Chile) Carmenère Gran Reserva 2017 ($17):  Although Chilean Carmenère didn’t follow the wildly successful path of Argentinian Malbec, Tarapaca continues to fine tune its efforts.  One of the oldest Chilean wineries, Tarapaca enjoys a solid reputation for red wines from the Maipo Valley.  With short term bottle age, this Carmenère has settled down beautifully to offer rich fruit in a silky round mouth-filling package.  The ripe blackcurrant fruit mingles with the characteristic “Maipo mint” component that combines leafy and juniper berry notes.  With some spice and plenty of dark fruit flavors, there’s a lot going on here in this full-bodied, slightly tannic wine.  It finishes long on a light herbaceous note.     
92 Norm Roby Nov 30, 2021


FRANCE

Bordeaux:

Red:

Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc (Bordeaux, France) 2018 ($55):  Château Cantemerle lies just south of the Margaux appellation, near the Gironde estuary.  It is classified as a Fifth Growth in the 1855 classification of Bordeaux and has a wine growing history of at least 650 years.  Cantemerle today regularly offers superb value reds that reflect the character of the Haut-Médoc vineyards.  The 2018 vintage was a ripe, high-quality harvest and the best wines show a fine balance of rich fruit, refreshing acidity and supple tannins.  The 2018 Cantemerle offers up blackcurrant and blackberry fruit aromas enhanced by elements of cocoa, cedar, herbs and toasty oak.  The flavors are very Margaux-like with their elegance and supple texture. The black fruits are interwoven with the herb, smoke, cocoa and spice tones.  The 2018 Cantemerle is a finely balanced red Bordeaux that will provide delicious drinking for the next decade and beyond.       
93 Wayne Belding Nov 30, 2021

White:

Château Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan Blanc (Bordeaux, France) 2018 ($47):  The 2018 Latour-Martillac Blanc is emblematic of the richness and complexity that can be found in 2018 Pessac-Léognan whites.  Latour-Martillac whites benefit from some of the oldest vines in Bordeaux, with some plots planted in 1884.  The nose reflects the fine 2018 harvest and is full and forward with tantalizing aromas of grapefruit, peaches, pineapple and rich lemon backed by hints of cream and herbs.  Richly textured but still lively on the palate, it offers layers of ripe peach, pineapple and grapefruit plus lemon, herbs, vanilla and spices.  Blended from Sauvignon Blanc (54%) and Sémillon (46%), it is a fine white Bordeaux that will last well for another five years.           
93 Wayne Belding Nov 30, 2021


GERMANY

Rheingau:

White:

Weingut Künstler, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Erste Lage Hochheimer Kirchenstück "Im Stein" 2019 ($42):  Savoring the pure and vibrant style of great Riesling is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures for wine lovers.  The Künstler Estate has hit the mark once more with their excellent 2019 Hochheimer Kirchenstück Im Stein Erste Lage Riesling.  It shows lovely aromas of peach, apricot and lemon fruits interwoven hints of honey, gingery spice and fruit blossoms.  Quite dry, pure and clean on the palate, its cascade of lemon, apple, peach and ripe tropical fruit flavors are balanced by its vibrant, mouth-watering acidity.  The 2019 German wines show concentrated fruit and rich textures.  This is a fine example of the harvest.           
94 Wayne Belding Nov 30, 2021


ITALY

Sicily:

White:

Principi di Butera, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Grillo “Diamanti” 2019 ($17, Zonin USA):  Grillo is a cross of Cattarato and Zibbibo (Muscat) and that Muscat character is present on the nose here along with ripe mango and cantaloupe.  The palate is crisp and dry on entry, with a creamy mid palate texture and a crisp finish that has a zesty push.  Beautifully refreshing.       
90 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

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Tuscany:

Red:

Caparzo, Rosso di Montalcino DOC (Tuscany, Italy) 2019 ($18, Vineyard Brands):  It’s hard to believe that this consistently reliable, affordable, toothsome Italian red wine has been has been around since 1970 (the winery itself dates back to the 1960s).  Ruby red, lightly tannic, with raspberry, cherry and other red fruit flavors, this Rosso is nicely balanced and laid back.  Enjoyable with a variety of foods, from burgers to tomato based pasta dishes.      
91 Marguerite Thomas Nov 30, 2021


MEXICO

White:

Santo Tomas, Valle de Santo Tomas (Baja California, Mexico) Viognier 2018 ($12, Tozi Imports):  Beginning as a mission making sacramental wine, Santo Tomas eventually evolved into Baja’s first commercial winery opening in 1888.  Its winemaking premise is located south of the Guadalupe Valley.  Today it has grown to become one of the largest Mexican wineries with an annual production of over 100,000 cases.  While still producing old standbys like Chenin Blanc, Barbera, and Cabernet, it has upped its game by focusing on Rhone varieties and unusual blends.  This 100% Viognier is stainless steel fermented and sees no oak.  The result is a wine displaying fresh cut melon and peach aromas.  Round but balanced, it is lively on the palate and comes to a clean, cleansing finish with a juicy melon aftertaste.      
89 Norm Roby Nov 30, 2021


MOLDOVA

Sparkling:

Cricova Winery, Codru PGI (Moldova) Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut NV ($15, Salveto Imports):  Moldova, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Moldova holds a rich tradition in winemaking dating back thousands of years.  Moldova also boasts the world’s largest underground wine cellar; however, Moldovan wines were hidden from the rest of the world when Moldova was part of the Soviet Union.  Russian bans on importing Moldovan wine in 2006 and 2013 also significantly impacted a country heavily reliant on agriculture.  However, now this Old World wine country is remerging and is ready for the spotlight.  To celebrate, let's dive into Cricova Blanc de Noir Extra Brut.  Cricova is the first Moldovan company that manufactures sparkling wine by méthode champenoise, which requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  This refreshing sparkling wine is robust with subtle flavors of red berries and ripe pears over spicy gingerbread.  Stylish, pure, and linear, this has a lovely, long aftertaste.          
90 Miranda Franco Nov 30, 2021


PORTUGAL

Red:

Esporão, Vinho Regional Alentejano (Portugal) "Monte Velha" Tinto 2019 ($11, Now Wine Imports):  This is a dry red from the Alentejano – a warm and dry region that encompasses most of southern Portugal.  It is an amazingly good value red that will drink well for the next few years.  Made mostly from local grape varieties (Aragonez 40%, Trincadeira 35%, Touriga Nacional 20% and Syrah (5%), it shows a luscious, ripe and juicy style.  Layers of blackberry and red cherry fruit interplay with floral, herbal, and baking spice hints.  On the palate, it retains a wonderful, fresh-fruit purity and displays a lovely balance of fruit, floral and spice characteristics.  Those who love the richness of New World wines will appreciate the combination of ripeness and refreshment displayed in the Esporão Monte Velha Tinto.            
89 Wayne Belding Nov 30, 2021

White:

Mar Azul, Vinho Verde DOC (Portugal) 2020 ($17, Wine Insiders):  Vinho Verde is starting to get some traction domestically, and that is good news for folks who like refreshment and value.  This example is nice and dry, and it's all about fresh citrus zest from start to finish, with stony minerality upping the fresh factor nicely.  Keep some handy to remind yourself of summer during the cold season.      
90 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021


SPAIN

Red:

Bodegas Los Bermejos, Lanzarote DO (Canary Islands, Spain) Listán Negro 2018 ($25, David Bowler Wine):  Flavors of juicy black and red cherries mingle with notes of vanilla and a touch of smoke.   It is medium bodied with crisp acidity to balance the luscious fruit and finishes with ripe tannins.  The red grape variety Listán Negro is indigenous to the Canary Islands.  It is sometime confused with Listán Prieto from Castilla-La Mancha. That is the grape the Spanish monks  brought to the New World to plant in the missions they established in Mexico, Texas and California where it was called the Mission grape.     
91 Rebecca Murphy Nov 30, 2021

White:

Bodegas Los Bermejos, Lanzarote DO (Canary Islands, Spain) Malvasía Volcánica 2020 ($23, David Bowler Wine):  This charming wine was my introduction to the dramatic island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.  It has a bright, light yellow color and fresh melon aromas with hints of ripe peaches and saline notes.  The floral, melon, citrus fruit is dry, round and intense in the mouth.  It is great as an aperitif or with sauteed sole.  Malvasía Volcánico is also called Malvasía de Lanzarote.  Malvasía grapes arrived in the Canary Islands in the 1500s, but it took 300 years for it to make it to Lanzarote. So, it has been growing on Lanzarote for another 300 plus years.  It is now considered a unique variety because of its evolution in this unique environment by the International Organization of Vine and Wine.         
93 Rebecca Murphy Nov 30, 2021

El Grifo, Lanzarote DO (Canary Islands, Spain) Vijariego Blanco Seco 2019 ($15):  El Grifo, founded in 1775, is the oldest winery on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.  The grape variety Vijariego (pronounced, "vee hah RAY go") is also called Diego.  According to Wine Grapes by Robinson, et al, was reported originally in Andalucía and was introduced to the Canary Islands in the late 1400s-early 1500s.  It is not as aromatic as other varieties in the Canary Islands like Malvasia Volcanico, but it creates wines with complexity and the ability to age.  Pale yellow color and light lemony aromas leading to forward, layered flavors of salty Meyer lemon and green apple, fresh and very lean perfect with  a fresh goat cheese or grilled shrimp.      
90 Rebecca Murphy Nov 30, 2021

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Galicia:

White:

Bodegas Avancia, Valdeorras (Galicia, Spain) Godello 2019 ($32, Jorge Ordoñez Selection):  If you have not yet sampled Godello, the Bodegas Avancia Godello will be a great introduction to this fine white wine grape.  Drawn from century-old vines on the steep, slate slopes above the River Sil in northwestern Spain, the wine will please your senses with luscious aromas and flavors.  Scents of lemon, lime, peach and tropical fruits are enhanced by floral and herb elements.  On the palate, the juicy citrus and tropical fruits are interwoven with subtle oak, herb and floral nuances.  The wine has a rich texture, reflecting the low yields and ancient vines of the region.  Serve it with your favorite roast chicken recipe or flavorful seafood dishes.         
93 Wayne Belding Nov 30, 2021

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Rioja:

Red:

Bodegas Altanza, Rioja DOC Crianza (Spain) 2017 ($18):  A relative newcomer in Rioja producing its first wines in 1998, Altanza now relies on its 220 hectare estate vineyards.  The roster has expanded to several Rioja wines, and the Crianza remains its most popular.  Following sustainable farming, the winery ferments in stainless steel using native yeasts.  The 2017 was aged 12 months in French oak of varied ages.  Deep dark garnet, it offers aromas of ripe black cherry, licorice, tobacco leaf and oak spice.  It is surprisingly dense and layered with ripe black fruit and a hint of oak taking it to a long finish.  The fine grained tannins remain in the background of this sleek, vibrant Rioja.      
92 Norm Roby Nov 30, 2021

Carlos Serres, Rioja DOC Reserva (Spain) 2015 ($21, Winesellers Ltd.):  Carlos Serres, owned by the Vivanco family, is a century-old winery that preserves its founder's historical and traditional heritage.  This Tempranillo, with a splash of Graciano, instantly reveals complex aromas of rose petals, red plums, baking spices, and cedar.  It glides across the palate with black cherry, plum, ripe raspberry, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, and balsamic notes.  It’s an easy-to-drink snapshot of Rioja with a sleek and polished palate and fine-grained tannins.     
90 Miranda Franco Nov 30, 2021


UNITED STATES

California:

Red:

Steele, Lake County (California) Merlot 2017 ($20):  This Merlot is dark purple-black in color, faintly smoky in aroma, soft on the palate with a twang of acidity on the tongue and back of the palate.  There are black and blueberry flavors, as well as roasted nuts with hints of freshly ground black pepper adding specific spice.       
91 Marguerite Thomas Nov 30, 2021

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Seven Oaks" 2019 ($17):  Chocolate covered black cherry is the calling card at the rim of this glass, and the palate delivers on the promise with accents of charred oak, orange zest and brown spice.  Not your everyday Cabernet Sauvignon descriptors, but they make for a serious crowd pleaser nonetheless.  When you look at the blend, you will understand:  Contains 9% Petite Sirah, 4% Petit Verdot,  3% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Syrah.        
90 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Emeritus, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2019 ($35):  Bright strawberry and cherry fruit greet you at the rim, and they hit the palatial stage as vibrant flavors alongside moderate oak toast and dry earth minerality.  Lively acidity gives the fruit a push in the finish, where a little peppery note adds depth.  This will go well with the seafood side of the menu.      
92 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Cattleya, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Syrah “The Initiation” 2019 ($70):  This Syrah rides the line between the cool climate, lower alcohol style that I prefer, and the bold, meaty, tarry wines that carry more ripeness, and thus more heat.  This manages to get to the best of both worlds, with no single characteristic screaming for attention.  Focused acidity makes this possible, and it carries black and blue berry fruit, pencil shavings and intriguing spice notes through a long, fully integrated finish.  If you’ve written off California Syrah in your mind, this bottle will re-open you.    
93 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Double L Vineyard 2018 ($65):  Here is a beautifully balanced Pinot Noir that shows its provenance with some damp earth minerality, which sits in tension against black cherry, cedar spice and soft oak toast.  There’s some weight here, but the acidity balances things well, and the finish lingers long with full integration showing already.  You may have heard that 2018 Pinots from the Central Coast are looking good, and this is just another piece of evidence.       
93 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir "Twelve Clone" 2019 ($35):  There’s some nice oak influence in this wine — it’s  not at all overdone, riding seamlessly alongside black cherry, rhubarb and brown spice flavors.  The finish brings in some rich savory notes, and they linger with the black cherry with good tension.  This is the kind of wine that brings more to bear as it opens in the glass, so plan time to enjoy.     
92 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

Kosta Browne, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Gap's Crown Vineyard 2019 ($175):  This Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir shows just how well this finicky grape does in California.  It also shines a light on the Gap's Crown, one of the most iconic vineyards of the Sonoma Coast, consistently producing Pinot Noirs of distinction.  The 2019 Kosta Browne is a lovely combination of abundant fruit concentration and refreshing tension.  It bursts with flavors of blueberry, brambly berries, baking spice, and a subtle hint of honeycomb.  The palate has delicate tannins and immensely gratifying acidity.  This wine promises a long life ahead and is a testament to the incredible talent of the Kosta Browne team.     
95 Miranda Franco Nov 30, 2021

Smith-Madrone, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($62):  “Classic Napa Cabernet” is a phrase that often gets kicked around when describing what is consistently delivered by the brothers Smith across their 50 years on Spring Mountain.  The 2018 certainly fits the description once again, with mountainside tannins propping up a dry wine that shows blackberry, currants, dried herbs, a bit of bell pepper and the structure to go long.    
95 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

White:

Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County, California) Riesling Double L Vineyard 2020 ($24):  Central Coast Riesling was a thing back when I first started getting into wine, and a few producers continue to bring us this domestically under-appreciated grape from the locale.  Morgan is always a favorite, with this fruit sourced from a site better known for its Pinot Noir.  The aromatic invitation includes white flowers, apple, nectarine and citrus zest, and the ensuing palate party delivers those elements over shimmering acidity that shows off the just off-dry style beautifully.  Don’t miss this if you really want to see the diversity possible in the region.       
93 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

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Oregon:

Red:

Argyle, Eola - Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Pinot Noir "Nuthouse" 2019 ($55): Argyle's Nuthouse Pinot Noir shows the elegant side of Pinot’s wide-ranging spectrum of possibility, with richly textured delivery of cherry, soft cinnamon and cardamom spice.  It’s quite plush midpalate, but it remains light on its feet and keeps the fruit and spice lingering long.  This could go well with both red or white meats.  I would try it with a poached salmon.       
93 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

White:

Argyle, Eola - Amity Hills (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Chardonnay "Nuthouse" 2019 ($45):   More Chardonnay like this, please!  The pretty nose shows golden apple, pear, honey and soft spice tones, and they translate well onto a very dry palate that maintains richness and depth, finishing long with a bright acidic pop.  Side note – the Nuthouse designation refers to the original winery’s previous use as a hazelnut processing plant.  The building is now known as the Tasting House.  I’m thinking I’m nuts if I don’t visit soon.     
93 Rich Cook Nov 30, 2021

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Washington:

Red:

Gravel Bar Winery, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Alluvial" Red Wine Blend 2015 ($21):   Rich and pulsing with red fruit flavors, this bold red wine from the Pacific Northwest is a blend of Shiraz (31%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Merlot (21%) and other Bordeaux varieties.  Sitting in the southeastern corner of the state, Columbia Valley is one of the country’s largest wine regions, with 11 million acres (4.5 million hectares), of which 40,000 acres (16,000ha) are under vine.  The family-owned Bronco Wine Company was founded in 1973 and is now the fourth largest wine producer in the United States.         
90 Marguerite Thomas Nov 30, 2021

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