Monday, December 11, 2017

Diversity and Value are Yours in Chilean Carmenere

Alright, folks, it’s Carménère time!

As many wine nerds know, this native Bordeaux grape has found a thriving home in the warm, high elevation vineyards of Chile. Brought over from France in the 1800s, its true identity lay undiscovered until relatively recently — most people thought it was Merlot.

Nope! Carménère endures, and we have Chilean growers to thank for that. The country accounts for the lion’s share (>95%) of Carménère wine made anywhere in the world.

Within Chile, the grape has been challenging Merlot for the #2 spot (after Cabernet Sauvignon). With so many different valleys, terroirs, winemakers, growing and winemaking philosophies, Chilean Carménère is a diverse and dynamic category. I love the dark fruit, the herbaceous and spicy qualities, along with the tannic grip and moderating acidity I find in a lot of these wines, but the nuances are significant. While many are made to be consumed young, the more structured Carménères are clearly built to last.

And, when you consider the value of these wines, there’s a lot to get excited about. Year after year, I find more of these wines on offer in the U.S., and the quality and value seems to be consistent, with a few notable standouts.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 Concha y Toro Carménère Casillero del Diablo Reserva -
Chile, Central Valley
Bright purple color. Juicy red currants and cherries, along with cola, sweet roses, rhubarb, black pepper, grilled bell pepper. Palate is medium-bodied, light tannins, tangy acidity. Strawberries, black cherries, showing notes of coffee, clove, charcoal, cracked pepper, violets. Fresh and lively style but still a range of quite complex flavors. (87 points)

2014 Errazuriz Carménère Max Reserva
 - Chile, Aconcagua Valley
Rich purple color. Dark and spicy aromas with black tea, clove, roasted poblanos, coffee, on top of black cherries and currants. Full-bodied, fleshy tannin, medium acidity, tangy black cherries and currants. Complex notes of tar, graphite, iron, dark chocolate, cedar, coffee. Delicious now but this has time in the cellar. Aged 12 months in about 28% new French oak, includes 5% Syrah. (89 points)

2013 Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Carménère Los Vascos Grande Réserve - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Light purple. Aromas of black cherries, cranberry sauce, mixed with bell pepper, spicy green herbs, menthol, leather. Full-bodied with fresh acid, medium tannins, a spicy, tangy but structured wine. Lots of spicy tobacco, charred herbs, menthol, coffee and cedar to accent the black cherries and tart currants. Stays vibrant but nice structure here, spicy, herbal, delicious. All Carmenere aged 12 months in French oak. (89 points)

2013 Montes Carménère Alpha - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Bold purple color. Tart black currants, smoky black cherries, the fruit is dark and tangy but loaded with charcoal smoke, grilled herbs, roasted red peppers, bacon fat, vanilla coffee. Solid grip on the palate but the acidity is refreshing, and the black currant and cherry fruit is rich but tangy. Lots of charcoal, magic markers, campfire smoke, roasted bell peppers, mocha, black pepper glaze. A loamy, earthy, mineral element lingers on the finish. This has a bunch of years in the cellar, but it’s seriously good stuff. Includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Concha y Toro Carménère Gran Reserva Serie Riberas - Chile, Rapel Valley, Cachapoal Valley, Peumo
Deep purple color. Aromas of charcoal smoke and grilled herbs on top of dense black cherries and blackberries, along with some graphite, roasted coffee and cedar. Full-bodied, nice grip, medium acidity, juicy but sturdy. Roasted fig and black currants mix nicely with coffee grounds, charred herbs, roasted chestnut, violets, dark chocolate. Highly delicious but quite complex. Includes 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 13 months in cask. (88 points)

2015 Concha y Toro Carménère Marqués de Casa Concha - Chile, Rapel Valley, Cachapoal Valley, Peumo
Deep purple color. Love the rich blackberry and sweet plum aromas with coffee, mocha, violets, eucalyptus and sweet pipe tobacco. Full-bodied, medium tannins and acidity, balance is on point, which is something because this is a suave and rich wine. Blackberries and black currants, lit up by complex elements of coffee, roasted chestnut, dark chocolate, graphite and loamy earth. A richer, flavorful style (less on the herbs and spice), but so good. 2-4 years in the cellar is fine but this is delicious now. Includes 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 16 months in French oak. (90 points)

2015 Apaltagua Carménère Envero Gran Reserva - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Rich purple color. Smoky and earthy aromas with clove, coffee, cedar, bell pepper, and blackberry and juicy plums. Medium/full-bodied with fleshy tannins and fresh acidity. Blackberries, dark plums, suave fruit but also lots of earth, charcoal, graphite, charred earth, cedar, and savory spices. Richly flavorful, impressive complexity, but also quite fresh and accessible. (88 points)

2013 Viña Santa Rita Carménère Medalla Real Gran Reserva
- Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
Rich purple color. Nose shows juicy blackberries, plum cake, blueberry, along with smoky herbs, espresso, violets. Full-bodied with chewy texture, medium tannins and moderating acidity. Black currants and cherries loaded with flavors of pencil lead, fallen leaves, chicory coffee, cedar planks. Impressive structure but balanced and accessible already. (89 points)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Zachy’s Makes an Extravagant Splash in DC Wine Scene

New York-based wine importer, auction house and wine behemoth, Zachy’s, opened up shop here in Washington, DC, earlier this year, and I’m happy to have them as part of this dynamic wine scene.

They’ve been hosting tastings, seminars, auctions, and other wine events for a few months now, trying to attract savvy DC-area wine-lovers, of which there are many. I’ve been to a few events and have been impressed with the wines, the staff (some friends of mine), and service. For more info on Zachy’s DC branch and their wine sales, events, and storage facility,
click here.

This fall, I attended a large tasting organized by Zachy’s at DC’s Longview Gallery. It was a massive event with hundreds of wines, and unfortunately I didn’t have the time or palate ability to taste and take notes on all of them. 

But here is a good spread of some epic wines...

2016 Peter Lauer Ayler Riesling Senior Faß 6 (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer)

Complex, deep aromatics. Crazy mineral depth, pristine fruit and floral tones. Wow, this is gorgeous young but will be phenomenal in a decade. (93 points)

2016 Peter Lauer Riesling Barrel X (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer)
Incredible how complex this wine is already. Acidity is precise, texture is intriguing, pure fruit and tons of mineral depth. Wow, this will be something special in a decade but really exciting now. (91 points)

2015 Lioco Chardonnay Estero (USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley)
Another data point in support of my argument that Lioco Chardonnays are most excellent. This is pretty, vibrant, complex, fascinating stuff. Balanced between lighter body and intense acidity with complex fruit flavors, mineral and oceanic notes, some honey and nougat. Love it. (92 points)

2015 Lioco Pinot Noir Laguna (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
Tart red fruits, bright acidity, nice grip to the dusty tannins, lots of pomegranate, crunchy cherries, some complex spice tones. This has interesting development in the years ahead but so beautiful already. (93 points)

2016 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay (South Africa, Cape South Coast, Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley)
Buttery nose but also bright and chalky with lots of green and yellow apples. Zesty and chalky but lots of depth and richness as well, along with plenty of rich apple and apricot fruit. I’d love to cellar this for a few years. (92 points)

2016 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir (South Africa, Cape South Coast, Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley)
Lots of spice and rhubarb on the nose, with tart red fruits and pepper. Crisp, bright, but solid tannins. Bright but ripe red and black cherries, some cola, rhubarb, grilled rosemary – very pretty stuff that will improve for 5+ easily. (93 points)

2014 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
Cool, crisp but lots of bright red fruits and spices. Precise acidity, very bright and spicy but also some textural richness. (93 points)

2013 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
Wow, so much more herbs and spices and savory elements here. Also lots of structured tannins, fresh acidity, and aging potential. Beautiful, balanced, wow. (94 points)

2012 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline Ann (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
Aromatic bliss of roses and red cherries. Airy and elegant but well-built, crisp on the palate with lots of bright red fruits and spicy herbs. Lovely stuff. (93 points)

2013 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)
I love the depth of herbal, spice, floral and red fruit elements in this wine. Balanced, plenty of ripeness but so fresh and lively and, despite complexity and age-worthiness, easy to drink. (93 points) 

N.V. Buena Vista Champagne La Victoire (France, Champagne)
Crisp, fresh, bright style with lots of tart green apples and pears, some almonds. Leaner style but well done. (88 points)

2013 Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon Carneros (USA, California, Napa, Carneros)
For a rich and fruit jam-packed Cab this stays lively and goes down easy with some fun non-fruit complexity. (89 points)

2008 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja)
So fresh and herbal with love red fruits and lots of complex pepper and spice. (93 points)

2007 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 (Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja)
Spicy, tangy, structured well but also accessible – my notes say “wow” like three times. I’d love to bury a few bottles of this for a decade. (94 points)

2013 Zena Crown Pinot Noir The Sum (USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola - Amity Hills)
I’ve taken detailed notes on this wine in the past, and I stick by them – this wine is excellent. Love the briskness and depth, complex floral notes. Will only get better. (93 points)

2013 Zena Crown Pinot Noir Slope (USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola - Amity Hills)
Crisp but not lean, full of gorgeous flavors. Wow, I’d love to see what this does in five to eight years. (94 points)

2013 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor (Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
Wow, tobacco city! This has a lot freshness in it for such a young Melchor, but delicious stuff. (92 points)

2014 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor (Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto)
Wow, a powerful young wine but so elegant and velvety even at this early stage. The violets, graphite, earth, savory spices – gorgeous. (94 points)

2015 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis (Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Roero)
Peachy and floral with zesty citrus fruit, fun but not simple. (88 points)

2009 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani di Neive (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco)
Fresh and lively despite youth, so much earthy, savory complexity already but structure for the long haul. Beautiful stuff. (93 points)

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto Vigna Le Rocche (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo)
SRP: $425
So floral and complex and earthy on the nose with tart, deep fruit and loads of spice. Deep tannins, brisk acidity, structure for aging is amazing. Still so pure and delicious at this young age. My wine of the night. (97 points)

2015 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT)
Earthy, dusty, rich texture, bold fruit, depth of non-fruit element. I’d love to let this sit for five to eight years. (89 points)

2014 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia Sassicaia (Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Sassicaia)
Love the vibrancy and relatively early-drinking appeal of this vintage at this point in its life. I’ve tasted and taken detailed notes on this before, and this bottle was also delicious, and went down so easily. (93 points)

2015 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT)
Bright and spicy but dry and structured, really pretty red fruits and lots of floral/herbal/spice complexity. So good for the money. (89 points)

2015 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT)
Wow, this was fantastic. Super earthy and spicy aromatics with rich cherry, cedar, tobacco. So silky and velvety texture but serious grip and freshness for the cellar. Deep, rich, vibrant, complex – a really good one to forget about for five to eight to ten years. (94 points)

2014 Le Marquis de Calon Ségur (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
Super fun but also impressive structure and depth for a wine of this price point. Black cherries, earth, tar, floral – could improve for at least a handful of years easily. (89 points)

2014 Château Calon-Ségur (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
Still very young with strong grip, medium acid, tart currants, laced with sage, earth pepper. Impressive depth and concentration for the cellar. (94 points)

2008 Château Calon-Ségur (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe)
Great depth of spicy and herbal aromas (sage, bay leaf, pepper) on top of plums and red currant. Still grippy with plums, currants, herbs, leather. Long way to go still but showing nicely, although I’d decant this bad boy if drinking now. (93 points)

2009 Château Sociando-Mallet (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc)
Wow this is really showing well. Dark and rich but suave with pretty currant fruit and evolving tobacco/earth notes. (92 points)

2014 Château Malescot St. Exupéry (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux)
Nice grip, solid currant fruits, mixed with olive and graphite. Good now but lots of time ahead. (90 points)

2014 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac)
So smooth despite density and structure. Lovely tart currant fruit and lots of earth. Obviously needs time but impressive. (91 points)

N.V. Allart & Fils Champagne (France, Champagne)
Lean, apples, tart, simple but fun. (87 points)

N.V. J-M Seleque Champagne Brut Solessence (France, Champagne)
Good amount of depth and precision on this wine, loaded with pears and biscuits. (88 points) 

N.V. Marguet Père et Fils Champagne Grand Cru Shaman (France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru)
Crisp, lemon curd, dusty minerals and chalk, fresh biscuits. Solid. (89 points)

N.V. Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée Brut (France, Champagne)
Classic, zesty, toasty, always reliable and solid stuff. (89 points)

N.V. Tattinger Cuvee Prestige Rose Champagne (France, Champagne)
Fleshy, tangy, brisk strawberries and raspberries, easy and fun, lacking a bit of oomph but delicious. (88 points)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Awesome Arizona Wines from Aridus

Scott and Joan Dahmner founded Aridus (a derivation of the Latin word for dry or arid) in 2012 in Wilcox, Arizona. Aridus sources grapes from about 40 acres of estate vineyards above Willcox, Arizona (which sits at an impressive 5,200 feet in elevation). They also crush grapes from other vineyards in Arizona, and some grapes from New Mexico and California.

Built in a re-purposed apple warehouse, the Aridus winery produces a dizzying array of wines, everything form a New Mexico Pet-Nat Malvasia Bianca to Cochise County, Arizona Syrah and Malbec.

2017 marked the fifth vintage for this winery, and the first for their estate vineyard white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia Bianca). This ambitious effort represents, for me, the evolving face of Arizona wine, which I find to be a dynamic wine scene full of exciting producers and diverse, delicious wines.

Why Arizona? “Hot days, cool nights, minerality in the soil,” Proprietor Scott Dahmer explains. “I believe Arizona is the next up and coming grape growing region which will produce unique, world-class delicious wines.” (For more details on my recent Arizona wine country jaunts, and why I tend to agree with Scott’s strong statement, check out
this article I wrote earlier this year.)

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2016 ARIDUS Malvasia Bianca - New Mexico, Mimbres Valley
SRP: $37
Light yellow color. Wow, these aromatics pop! Limes, apricot, white peach, guava, all sorts of flowers and candied fruits. I like the plump texture on the palate, but the bright acidity is really refreshing – apricots, white peach, yellow raisins, matched with lots of white and yellow fruit blossoms. An impressive interpretation of this grape from a vineyard in New Mexico. Eight months in stainless steel, 13.7% alcohol. (88 points)

2016 ARIDUS Rosé - Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $30
Light strawberry color. Aromas of peaches, roses, cut flowers, lively and fresh. Juicy and creamy texture on the palate, plump abut dry, bright acidity. Flavors of ripe apples, white peaches, strawberries, laced with spiced apple, clove and honeyed tea. Rich but zesty, a really interesting buttery characteristic to this rose, a richer style but delicious and quite balanced. A blend of Mourvedre and Grenache. (87 points)

2015 ARIDUS Malbec - Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $37
Light purple color. Aromas of spiced cranberry sauce, tart plums, violets, sweet cola and molasses. Juicy texture, light tannins, medium acidity, but this is a jammy, rich Malbec with elements of espresso grounds, vanilla bean, fruitcake, some earthy charcoal elements. Tasty stuff. Aged 19 months in a mix of new French and new/used American oak. (87 points)

2014 ARIDUS Petite Sirah - Arizona, Cochise County
SRP: $40
Dark purple color. Aromas of tart black currant, juicy black cherries, and deep earthy notes (charcoal, scorched earth, loam, black pepper). The palate bold and grippy as expected, but the chocking thing about this wine to me is the freshness, really impressive. The fruit is dark and concentrated but also tangy, and mixed well with flavors of mesquite, sweet cocoa, black pepper and mocha, finishes with notes of stony minerals. Wow, I am really surprised by how good this wine is. Hats off. 14.2 % alcohol, all Petite Sirah, aged 16 months in 40% new French oak. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

This week I have another catch-all report, sourced from various samples received from wine regions around the world. The stars of the show for me are the Don Melchor, which is true to form and so suave, and a killer Merlot from McLaren Vale’s Hickinbotham. Oh, and Spanish producer Arinzano makes another appearance. We also have some more budget-friendly wines from France, Spain and Italy.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Achával-Ferrer Malbec - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $23
Deep ruby color. Aromas of sweet plum, black cherry, roses and violets, mocha and sage. Full-bodied on the palate with medium-light tannins and fresh acidity, this wine goes down easily. Red plums and black cherry fruit, juicy and delicious, with some tangy cranberry spiced jelly, roses, coffee and mocha notes. Accessible texture and flavors but well-built and shows impressive balance. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Chardonnay Blass Reserve Release - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Bright yellow color. Aromas and yellow apples, apricot, honey and butter notes, some almond and vanilla. Medium-bodied (13% alcohol) with juicy, creamy texture and medium acidity. Rich apple fruit, but there’s a shot of lively citrus, too, and notes of honey and clove. Tasty, balanced, good value here. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Red Blend Blass Reserve Release - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of cola, cocoa, vanilla, on top of sweet plums, blackberry jam. On the palate, this has a plump mouthfeel, medium-body, light tannins. Black cherry and plums mix with smoky charcoal, cocoa, black pepper glaze. Rich fruit but the acidity helps it stay fresh. No grape variety info available. (87 points)

2016 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Blass Reserve Release - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $15
Vibrant purple color. Aromas of sweet red and black currant jam, charcoal, eucalyptus, sweet coffee, mocha. On the palate soft tannins, moderate acidity, rich and fruity but fresh. Full of black cherries, raspberry jam, cola, mocha. Accessible and fun but maintains some depth and complexity for the price point. (87 points)

2014 Hickinbotham Merlot The Revivalist - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $75
Crimson color. Unbelievable nose of gushing red and black currants and plums, such depth and purity of fruit with notes of sweet roses, menthol, eucalyptus, cola, cigar box. Full but suave on the palate with surprisingly crisp acidity that keeps the wine fresh, with waves of red cherries and gushing blackberries. Complex notes of cola, violets, charcoal, sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus. Gorgeous, velvety, fresh, vibrant now but this will be even better with 5-7 years. All Merlot aged 15 months in French oak. (94 points)

2014 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor - Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
SRP: $125
Bold purple color. Gorgeous aromatic complexity with tart black currants, black cherries, loamy soil, a host of sweet and spicy herbs (lavender, rosemary, black pepper, elements of graphite and smashed rocks. Bold presence on the palate with grippy tannins, lively acidity, such balance and depth in this wine. Crisp black cherry, juicy plums, blackberry, the fruit is bold but vibrant. Earthy, charcoal, black tea, mocha. Beautiful stuff but will be even better in 10 years. Wow, what a gorgeous wine. The 2013 is showing well young while this vintage sleeps. Tar, mocha, cedar and vanilla woven in well. Includes a combined 10% Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and the wine is aged 50% new French oak. (94 points)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Yellow color. Aromas of floral perfume along with almonds, apricots, lemon curd and limestone dust. Crisp and zippy, so focused, with a brisk and mineral-heavy presence. Lemon, orange, grapefruit mixed with toasted nuts, chalky minerals, saline. Good depth but a racier, fresher style. About 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, 6 g/l dosage. (90 points)

N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne La Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Aromas of buttered biscuits, salted almond, chalk dust, on top of baked yellow apple and quince paste. Nervy acidity frames the palate nicely, with flavors of apple, lemon curd and apricot blend with notes of buttercream, fresh biscuits, bread crumbs. Elements of white flowers, chalk dust and minerals add complexity. Creamy but so zesty, with impressive depth for a Champagne at this price. 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, aged four years, contains about 30% reserve wine. (89 points)

2007 Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Millésimé - France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Light gold color. Zesty aromas of lemon, apple, apricot, chalk dust and sea spray, mixed with biscuits, salted almonds, some honeycomb. Lovely creaminess, brisk acidity, precision is impressive. Lemon curd, green and yellow apple, apricot pits, with elements of yellow flowers, cut stems, chalk dust, saline, toasted baguette and flaky biscuits. Delicious now but will evolve nicely over the next few years. 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourced from all Grand Cru vineyards and aged seven years on the lees before disgorgement. (91 points)

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
SRP: $23
Dark plummy color. Smoky and full of charred herbs and earth, along with sweet plums and black cherries. Medium-bodied with some medium/soft tannins. Juicy black cherries and plums mixed with peppercorns, charcoal smoke, some eucalyptus. Tasty, lighter style for near-term consumption. (87 points)

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
SRP: $14
Bold purple color. Nose of tart black cherries, red currants, smoky herbs, spicy pepper and violets. Full-bodied with some surprising grip to the tannins, medium-low acidity. Tangy black currants and red cherries with notes of charred herbs, cedar, mint, pine resin. Super fun stuff that has some interesting complexity for a wine at this price point. (88 points)

2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Aromas of white flowers, sea breeze, clean laundry, on top of green apples and peaches. Pleasantly waxy texture but bright acidity, nice balance, and I get papaya and green apples drizzled with lime. Notes of chalk dust, dandelion, cut flower stems. Delicious, crisp, a reliable buy each vintage. Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu. (87 points)

2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
SRP: $15
Bright purple color. Smells of old black cherries, plums, gushing fruit, mixed with sweet violets, roses, sweet coffee and rich earth. Plump and juicy on the palate but some medium tannins and fresh acidity keeps it together well. Smoky charcoal and grilled herbs accent the chewy plums and black cherry fruit. I get notes of violets, loamy soil, clove. Lots going on here for the price. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (88 points)

2015 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem - France, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour
SRP: $30
Deep purple color. Deep, complex, savory aromas, with black cherries and dark plums, laced with smoky herbs, leather, mushroom and fallen leaves. Full-bodied with serious grip on the tannins but the acidity frames it well, and the black cherry and dark plum fruit is rich but tangy. Tons of earthy-mineral, clove, spice, leather, black olive, charcoal – complex and savory and delicious, this has a lot to show in the cellar. Consistently one of the best $30 red blends I find coming out of Southern France, and this vintage is no different. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (92 points)

2016 Kellerei Bozen Kerner - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. Aromas of peaches, apricot, lychee, orange blossom and honeysuckle. Plump but crisp on the palate with a medium+ body (14% alcohol), fresh lemon, apricot and lychee fruit. Notes of white tea, chalk, salt mineral notes. Not a lot of depth but quite nice. (87 points)

2014 Cantina Andriano Lagrein Tor di Lupo Riserva - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
SRP: $50
Deep purple color. Aromatic waves of tart black currants, blackberry, dark and spicy with notes of smashed rocks, anise, spiced black tea. Lively acidity and tight tannic grip frame the palate nicely for the tart black currant and roasted fig fruit. Notes of charcoal, black tea, rocks, minerals, anise. This is spicy, complex but pretty stuff. I’d love to cellar this for five years, but it’d also be a great addition to any dinner table now. (91 points)

2016 Tasca D'Almerita Sicilia Tascante Buonora - Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. So pretty on the nose with lots of peach and pineapple, lemon, along with wildflowers, onion grass, and salty sea breeze. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture supported by bright acidity, with generous helpings of sliced pineapple and green melon drizzled with lime. Notes of seashells and chalk dust and lemon verbena, lovely mineral depth. Plenty of fruit and non-fruit complexity to make it delicious and accessible but serious and worthy of some dynamic food pairings. Made from 100% Carricante. (90 points)

2014 Tasca D'Almerita Sicilia Tascante Ghiaia Nera - Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $20
Gorgeous cherry color. Wow, beautiful depth of fruit (red cherry, cranberry, wild raspberry), along with rose petals, chewing tobacco, mint, white pepper. Medium-bodied with nice grip to the tannins, fresh acidity, and lots of tart black and red fruits. Complex elements of leather, spiced coffee, rose petals, chewing tobacco and clove. (88 points)

2014 Tasca D'Almerita Nerello Mascalese il Tascante - Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
SRP: $50
Red cherry color. Bright red cherries, tart red cranberries, lots of clove and earthy spice and leather, with some rose petals and cola. Bright and zippy but some serious grip to the tannins, on a medium-bodied frame. Bright and tart red cherries and cola with spicy herbs and clove and pepper. Really tasty stuff with fun appeal, but impressive complexity, too. Delicious now but this will improve for quite some time. (91 points)

2016 Bodegas As Laxas Rías Baixas Laxas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $16
Medium gold color. Nose shows peaches and lemons with sea salt and cut flower stems. Creamy but super zesty with flavors of peach, apricot and papaya, topped with flavors of floral perfume, nettle and honeysuckle. Fun, lively stuff. (86 points)

2016 Santiago Ruiz Albariño Rías Baixas - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $19
Pale lemon color. Aromas of peaches, orange blossom, sea salt, cucumber and rainwater. Zesty on the palate with pleasant creaminess, and delicious flavors of sea salt, white flowers, chalk, sliced cucumber, on top of lemons, white peaches and nectarines. Lovely stuff, goes down easy, but quite complex as well. (89 points)

2010 Arinzano Arinzano La Casona - Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
SRP: $40
Rich ruby color. Beautiful aromas of bright red and black cherries, crunchy plums, laced with cocoa, cedar, forest floor, clay pots, chewing tobacco. Full and tannic on the palate but lively acidity lends balance to this young wine. Sweet cherries, dark plums, currants, the fruit is loaded with cocoa, chewing tobacco, eucalyptus, charcoal, and a long, lingering, mineral-laden finish. Still very young with a long life ahead but can show well now with a good decant. 75/25 Tempranillo/Merlot. (92 points)

2012 Arinzano Hacienda de Arinzano - Spain, Navarra, Arinzano
SRP: $20
Bold purple color. Nose is packed with currants and plums, complex elements of incense, charcoal, clay pots, cigar smoke, violets. Grippy tannins, serious structure, but acidity stays fresh, balance is on point. Plums and currants, bold fruit but mixed with complex elements of earth, eucalyptus, pepper, fallen leaves, spicy tobacco. Concentrated but lively with a long life ahead. Tempranillo with 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stellar for the price. (92 points)

2017 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
SRP: $15
Pale lemon color. Nose shows explosive grapefruit, lime, bell pepper and honeysuckle. Zesty acidity on the palate with all the classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc elements firing: grapefruit, lime, white peach, jalapeno and bell pepper. I get some clove and white pepper elements as well. A reliably fun example of this style. (86 points)

2016 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir - New Zealand, South Island
SRP: $19
Medium ruby color. Aromas of spicy red cherries and wild raspberries, along with rhubarb, tobacco and white pepper. Light tannins on the palate, bright acidity, this is a fresh, zesty, food-friendly style with lots of fresh cherries, raspberries, red apple peel. Notes of spicy green herbs, white pepper and tobacco leaf. Reliable, easy-drinking, tasty stuff. (87 points)

<85 points

2016 Abbazia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift) Müller-Thurgau - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Valle Isarco/Eisacktaler
SRP: $20
Pale lemon color. Aromas of lemons, limes, peaches, flower stems and quinine. Salty and brisk on the palate with tart lemon and under-ripe apricot fruit. Tart, light, underwhelming and watery with a short finish. Pass.

N.V. Delia Tempranillo - Spain
SRP: $7
Medium ruby color. Aromas of spicy red cherries, raspberry leaf, tobacco and dandelion greens. Light/medium-bodied with bright acid and lean tannins. Sour cherries and raspberries blend with tobacco and some coffee. Good for the price but simple and slightly out of whack.

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

New Releases from California & Washington

Thanksgiving is over — whew! So, now we can talk about something besides wine and Thanksgiving dinner pairings, right? OK, good.

It’s been a busy fall samples season, and I’m still digging out, but I’ve been receiving a ton of California wines (which make up the bulk of this report) and want to highlight some good stuff.

This week includes some wines from Lake County institution Jeb Steele, who always manages to release impressive varietal wines, from various California appellations, for seriously good prices. I also have some delicious Zinfandels from Quivira, Ironstone, and Grgich Hills, sparklers from Mumm, and a few other wines from across the state. Lastly, I received three wines from Washington State producer Mercer, which I had not tried before, but found them very tasty.

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2016 Steele Wines Pinot Blanc - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Pale straw color. Nose shows lemon, peaches, yellow flowers, green onion and dandelion notes. On the palate, crisp acidity but a medium+ bodied feel with some waxy texture. Flavors of kumquat, apricot, lemon, notes of almonds and sea salt. Bold presence but stays a bit fresh. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in old oak barrels. (87 points)

2016 Steele Wines Viognier - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $19
Pale yellow color. Nose shows peaches, guava nectar, lemon, yellow flowers and honey, and interesting combo of richness and liveliness for a Viognier. Plump texture on the palate but there is a surprising amount of acidity as well, and plenty of textural depth. Apricot, peach, kumquat fruit, mixed with honey and yellow flowers. Tasty, lively, juicy, tropically delicious stuff. Stainless steel fermented, aged in old oak for four months, this is a seriously food-friendly California Viognier. (88 points)

2016 Ron Rubin Pinot Gris - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Peachy and bright on the nose, with daisies and honeysuckle, green apples, lemon zest. Fresh acidity, voluptuous mouthfeel, laced with orange, peach kiwi, lots of bright fruit backed up with some honey, dandelion, sea salt notes. Tasty stuff. (87 points)

2015 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc Dry Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $31
Pale lemon color. Aromas of spices and herbs (oregano, lemongrass, white pepper) on top of guava and white peach. Plump texture, bright acidity, sets things nicely for the apricot, white peach and lemon fruit. Notes of honeysuckle, dandelion, baby’s breath, along with white pepper, oregano, sea salt, hints of cream and vanilla. Always a reliably delicious and intriguing Sauvignon Blanc, and 2015 is no exception. This spends six months on the lees in old oak. (90 points)

2016 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Bursting aromatics of guava, peaches, lemon curd, lemongrass and parsley. Punchy but zesty fruit (lemon, kumquat, guava) on a medium-bodied frame with fresh acidity. Notes of sea salt, nettle, white pepper, parsley, and chalky minerals add complexity. Impressive stuff, especially for the price. (90 points)

2016 Fields Family Wines Vermentino Delu Vineyard
- California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $21

Medium yellow color. Super peachy aromatics with lemon zest, orange peel, white and yellow flowers, cut stems, baby’s breath. Wow, this is so pretty and balanced, medium-bodied at 12% alcohol with zesty acidity. Lemon, lime, peaches, apricot, the fruit plays so well off of oyster shell, saline, chalk dusty, cut flower stems, a lot of depth and minerality in this wine. Wow, what an incredible California interpretation of this grape. Aged on the lees five months in old French oak. (92 points)

2016 Trefethen Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $38
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, yellow apples, lots of daisies and dandelions on top of nougat, roasted nuts and honey. Very exciting acidity on the palate with a medium-bodied frame, plenty of texture and fruit (yellow plums, lemon curd, bruised apples), but lots of freshness, too. Nougat, honeycomb and honeyed white tea notes add complexity. Rich in flavor but vibrant. Less than 10% maloactic fermentation, this spends nine months in about 20% new French oak. (89 points)

2015 La Follette Chardonnay - California, North Coast
SRP: $24
Bright gold color. Juicy yellow apples and baked pears, apricot jam, honeybutter, some floral perfume and roasted nuts. Medium+ bodied, moderate acidity that keeps this wine really fresh, along with green and yellow apples and pears. Notes of honey, salted almonds, cut flower stems. Rich flavor and wide appeal but some impressive freshness, too. (87 points)

2015 La Follette Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Rich aromatic display of apricot jam, lemon curd, buttercream, toasted almonds, and some dusty/chalky elements. Bold textural presence on the palate, moderating acidity keeps if lively, and lots of fruit (apricot, lemon pie, banana), mixed with chalky-floral notes and nougat, vanilla elements. Highly delicious but balanced. (90 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Sauvignon Blanc - Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $15
Pale straw color. Nose of cut green peppers, lemon, kiwi, oregano, honeysuckle. Crisp acidity frames the palate nicely, medium-bodied, with lemon-lime, apricot, kiwi and sliced apples. Notes of white pepper and honeysuckle. Light, zesty, fun stuff. (86 points)

Sparkling wines

N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Smells like honey, floral perfume, baked apple, white peaches, some bread crumbs. Zesty on the palate but lots of fruit and texture (apples, peaches, apricots). Notes of honeysuckle, biscuits, chalk and lemon verbena add complexity. Consistent, reliable, a very good California sparkling wine for the price. 18 months on the lees. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier. (88 points)

N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Rosé - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $24
Light strawberry color. Bright aromas of red apple peel, strawberry, some toasted baguette, dandelion, rose hips. On the palate, crisp acidity but some creamy texture and fruit-forward appeal, with red apple, wild raspberry, dandelion, honeysuckle, rose petals and freshly cut stems, juicy and fruity but lots of freshness too. High quality stuff for the price. 80/20 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (88 points)

Red wines

2015 Quivira Zinfandel - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $25
Deep ruby color. Smells of tart raspberries, sweet plums, spicy herbs, cola, red and black licorice candies. Plump texture on the palate with medium acidity and some light grip from the tannins. Black cherries, raspberries, plum cake, mixed with root beer, sweet herbs, and a dusty/earthy note. Delicious yet vibrant. Co-fermented with a bit of Petite Sirah. (88 points)

2015 Quivira Zinfandel Anderson Ranch - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $42
Bright purple color. Nose of blackberry jam, raspberries, loaded with complex earthy, spicy, tar, peppery notes, and some vanilla and coffee. Bold presence on the palate with serious structure from the tannins, surprisingly vibrant acidity, makes for great balance. Black cherry, raspberry, wild cherry, with tobacco smoke, charcoal, savory herbs, roses, some earthy-mineral tones. Flavorful, pretty, but can age nicely. (91 points)

2015 Ironstone Vineyards Zinfandel Old Vine Reserve Rous - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $30
Rich purple color. Aromas of smooth black cherries, boysenberry, roasted fig, the fruit is suave, mixed with charcoal, sweet black licorice, coffee — wow. Smooth texture on the palate but solid tannic structure, moderating acidity, the balance is lovely. Tart black cherries, sweet blueberries, boysenberry jam, delicious fruit mixed with black licorice candy, coffee grounds, vanilla, and a cool earthy/graphite/mineral component. Delicious but quite complex, a Zinfandel that begs for food and conversation. From a Mokelumne River AVA vineyard first planted in 1909, this spends 10 months in French oak. (91 points)

2013 Grgich Hills Zinfandel - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $36
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart black cherry, raspberry, red plums, along with leather and roses and eucalyptus – beautiful stuff to sniff. Fresh acidity and dusty tannins work so well on this wine, tinged with black and red berry fruit. Complex elements of coffee, tobacco, leather, roasted chestnut and vanilla. This really opens up with time and shows more pepper and floral elements. I’d love to age this for 3-6 years. (92 points)

2016 Ron Rubin Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley SRP: $25
Light ruby color. Smells of sweet and tart red cherries and strawberries, along with spicy clove, cola, rhubarb. Medium-bodied, medium acidity, light tannins, a fresher, brighter take with strawberries and red cherries, backed up by cola, coffee, rhubarb and cinnamon notes. Fun, bright, food-friendly stuff but shows a solid amount of complexity for an early-drinking wine at this price point. (88 points)

2015 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc - California, North Coast, Lake County

SRP: $19
Light purple color. Tart blackberry, juicy black cherries on the nose, with enticing black pepper, soy, sweet eucalyptus and pine. Such lively, mouth-tingling acidity with moderate tannins for structure, and a frame of tart black cherries. Laced with white pepper, red pepper flakes, incense sticks, eucalyptus and cedar. A Loire throwback with juicy but tangy California fruit – this can improve for a few years easily. Sourced from the Stymie Bench Vineyard from within the Kelsey Bench Ava, this wine is aged 14 months in 30% new American oak. (90 points)

2015 Steele Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
SRP: $28
Light purple color. Nose of sweet plums and jammy blackberries and cherries, along with cocoa, violet petals, fall leaves, vanilla, lovely. Medium+ bodied with fleshy tannins and moderating acidity, juicy but bright with plums and blackberry fruit. Smooth and pretty with lots of spicy chewing tobacco, pepper, graphite and fallen leaves, mixing well with vanilla and cocoa. Delicious, and really good for the price. Aged 18 months in 30% new French and American oak. (89 points)

2013 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Deep purple color. Dense aromas of crushed blackberries, blueberries and black currant jam, with waves of sweet mocha, coconut, eucalyptus and rich earth. Rich on the palate with suave tannins, medium-low acidity, and plenty of dark, rich fruit. Plenty of coconut, mocha, sweet herbs, eucalyptus, coffee – plenty of complex, earthy notes as well. Delicious now but can improve for years. All Cabernet aged 24 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Knoll - California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $60
Rich purple color. Dark and suave on the nose with black currants, blackberries, lots of earthy, charcoal, smoky elements and sweet cola. Rich texture, dark plum and currant fruit, structured tannins, but some vibrant acidity. Lots of complex vanilla, earth, charcoal, sweet pipe tobacco, library books, leather – a lot of interesting elements that will evolve well over time. Includes 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot and 4% Malbec, this wine is aged 18 months in about half new oak (mix of French, American, Hungarian). (91 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Sharp Sisters - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $25
Rich, saucy aromas of plum cake and black cherry mixed with cocoa, pepper, save, violets. Plush fruit on the palate (black cherry, tart plums) on a frame of fleshy tannins and medium acidity, balanced quite nicely. Notes of savory spice and beef, the fruit is hedonistic but the vibrancy and food-friendly nature of the wine is really attractive. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Carignan, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (90 points)

2015 Mercer Estates Malbec - Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $25
Deep purple. Nose of tart black currants and plums, sweet coffee, violets, magic markers, anise cookie. Full but plush with some structured tannins and bright acidity. Crunchy blackberry, blueberry and dark plums laced with anise, cedar, coffee, mocha. Suave, silky, delicious now but this could age. Includes 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Checking in on 2015 Virginia Cabernet Francs

Cabernet Franc has been Virginia’s unofficial signature red grape for some time now, although I’d argue other Bordeaux varieties like Merlot and, more frequently, Petit Verdot shine just as bright.

According to the
2015 crush report, almost 400 acres of Cabernet Franc were planted in Virginia, which puts it behind only Chardonnay in terms of total acreage.

This grape does very well in Virginia’s humid climate and clay-heavy soils. Many wineries produce varietal Cabernet Franc, and even more use it as a blending grape, so if you haven’t tried one yet, there are plenty out there.

I recently tasted through five different Virginia Cabernet Francs, all from the 2015 vintage, and found a whole lot to like. My notes below…

2015 Blenheim Vineyards Cabernet Franc - Virginia
SRP: $22
Light ruby color. Aromas of sweet raspberries and juicy cherries, roses, cola, red apple peel, hint of clove. Medium-bodied with bright acidity and light tannins, fresh and appealing with red currants, raspberries. I get lots of black tea, clove, cola and rose petals. Vibrant, tangy, crisp, drinking very well now but will improve for a few years. Includes 5% Merlot, aged 9 months in almost all old oak. (89 points)

2015 Slater Run Vineyards - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
SRP: $25
Pale ruby color. Aromas of tart red cherries, sweet raspberries, roses, oregano, a lighter, fresher aromatic display. On the palate, soft tannins, fresh acidity, on a medium-bodied frame with an easy-drinking appeal. Notes of cola, sweet coffee, chocolate, mixed with leaves and roasted bell pepper. A lighter, early-drinking style with fresh appeal. All estate Cabernet Franc aged 12 months in three-year-old French oak. 12.5% alcohol. (84 points)

2015 Tarara Winery Cabernet Franc - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
SRP: $25
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tangy currants, black cherries, campfire smoke, roasted coffee, cola. Medium-bodied with a fresh and juicy appeal, medium acidity, medium-soft tannins. Plummy with black cherries, mixed with an interesting combination of black tea, roasted chestnut and earthy spice notes. Solid example of the quality of Cabernet Franc coming out of Loudon County. Planted in 1988 – with some silt, loam, limestone soils. All estate Cabernet Franc aged 14 months in 1/3 new French oak. (87 points)

2015 Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc Private Reserve - Virginia, Central Virginia, Orange County
Medium ruby color. On the nose, tart black cherries, pomegranate, with cracked pepper, coffee, violets, rhubarb. Bright acidity frames the wine with some light tannins, suave black cherries and tart black currant – mixed with loamy soil, and black pepper. Fun stuff to drink over the next few years, maybe more. 100% Cabernet Franc, 13.8% alcohol. (87 points)

2015 Williamsburg Winery Cabernet Franc Trianon - Virginia
SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. Bright raspberries and red currants, rose petals, rhubarb, cracked pepper and broth notes. Medium-bodied, dusty tannins, vibrant acidity – tart red cherries, raspberries, black cherries, notes of chewing tobacco and menthol and black pepper – toasty oak and roasted coffee but its integrated so well – smoothed out nicely with an hour of air – delicious. Curious how this will age over the next 2-5 years. Mostly estate-grown Cabernet Franc with 7% Petit Verdot. Aged in a mix of new and used French and American oak. 12.5% alcohol. (88 points)