a blind tasting of many
these four wines were
the clear-cut winners!
Ready for the season,
the sampler contains three
bottles of each wine:
Joseph Drouhin, Morgon
(19.99) Full-bodied, and earthy,
with sappy strawberry and raspberry
Lapierre, Raisins Gaulois, Vin de
France (15.99) Snappy,
crisp raspberry and orange fruit,
with hints of black pepper and earth.
Domaine Rochette Morgon, Les Micouds
(18.99) Clay earth tones mingle
with strawberry fruit, dried herbs,
and black pepper.
Joseph Drouhin, Fleurie (23.99)
Dusty earth, cinnamon, cranberry,
and pepper combine with riveting
Broadley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Broadley Vineyards has
a stellar track record of crafting exemplary Pinot Noirs.
Broadley’s vibrant, chewy 2016 Willamette Valley cuvee
– crafted from a blend of grapes bought from the valley’s
top vineyards – opens with a brilliant crimson-ruby
robe and dusty aromas of pomegranate seeds, cranberries,
and red raspberries. Bright and classically styled on the
palate, soft tannins frame the wine’s kernel of fleshy
cherry and crunchy cranberry fruit alongside suggestions
of violets, vanilla bean husk, and rose petals. The wine
finishes fresh and ample with reprises of red fruits accented
by a pleasant bitterness that makes the wine especially
food friendly. Broadley’s 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot
is ready for your table now and over the coming three years
with burgers, roast chicken, turkey, duck, and vegetarian
Domaine de la Pepiere, Vin de Pays du Val de Loire, Cuvee
Loire Valley, France (O) 13.50/145.80
Muscadet maestros Marc
Olliver and Remi Branger produce their delicious Cuvee Granit
rouge from a blend of primarily Cabernet Franc with small
dollops of Cot (Malbec), Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
added for complexity. The cool Atlantic climate in the Loire
Valley’s Nantais sector imbues the wine with superb
transparency, bright red fruits, and a saline minerality,
while the warm 2015 vintage graces the wine with a deliciously
generous fruit expression. Pepiere’s Cuvee Granit
casts a rusty ruby hue followed by floral aromas of cherry
blossoms and violet petals. Fresh and vibrant on the palate,
the wine is layered with deep expressions of currant and
black cherry fruit framed by mouthwatering tannins. Pepiere’s
Cuvee Granit finishes with echoes of red berry fruit infused
with stemmy herbs, spicy cinnamon, and smoky granitic minerals.
Terrific for those who love lighter, food-friendly red wines,
the wine is ready to serve now and over the next three years
with pork terrines, roast duck or chicken, grilled steaks,
and hearty potato preparations.
Oinos, Corbieres, Les Carderes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
The rugged landscape of
Corbieres, just north of Narbonne, produces some of the
Languedoc’s wildest and most characterful wines. Oinos’
Les Carderes is a textbook introduction to Corbieres’
charms and “sauvagerie.” Based on a delicious
cuvee of Syrah (50%), Grenache (25%), and Carignan from
the warm and generous 2015 vintage, Oinos’ Les Carderes
presents a translucent black plum robe and textbook Corbieres
aromas of blackberries, black peppercorns, oil-cured olives,
menthol, and herbal garrigue. Impressively deft on the palate,
the wine’s fleshy core of black fruits yields to complex
overtones of tar, limestone, lavender, meat, and leather.
Soft, food-friendly tannins segue the wine to its long,
peppery finish, which readies your palate for another forkful
of ratatouille, garlicky tapenade, grilled lamb rib chops,
or roast pork shoulder. Enjoy this deliciously rustic and
savory Corbieres now and over the coming three years. This
is most the delicious, complete and ready-to-drink Carderes
Arnoux & Fils, Vacqueyras, Jean-Marie Arnoux, S.Rhone
Valley, France 18.99/205.09
family traces its winegrowing tradition back to 1717. Today,
brothers Jean-Marie and Regis Arnoux direct this benchmark
domaine. Arnoux’s Vacqueyras Cuvee Jean-Marie Arnoux
– a blend of Grenache (65%), Syrah (30%), and Mourvedre
raised in neutral oak – casts an opaque black plum
robe followed by savory aromas of black cherries, salted
plums, mushrooms and leather. Vibrant on the palate, the
wine weaves earthy notes of game, tar, garrigue, and a pleasant
dose of good ol’ French funk into its bright, chewy
kernel of black fruits. Showing impeccable balance and old-school
restraint, Arnoux’s Vacqueyras finishes with fine
tannins and vivifying acidity, which freshen the palate
and urge you to take another bite of roast lamb, grilled
eggplant, ratatouille, or an earthy mushroom preparation.
Southern Rhones enthusiasts who prefer elegance over jammy
fruit should buy this sensational Vacqueyras by the case!
Eighteen cases available.
Joseph Drouhin, Chorey-les-Beaune, Burgundy, France (B)
a premier cru and situated on the wrong side of the tracks,
is often overlooked by even the most astute Burgundy lovers.
Every year, the great Maison Joseph Drouhin produces a superb,
affordable, soil-driven Chorey from the domaine’s
own biodynamically farmed vineyards. Showing a gorgeous,
deep ruby color, Drouhin’s 2015 Chorey casts fresh,
vibrant aromas of violets, black raspberries, and aniseed.
On the palate, Drouhin’s Chorey conveys a fleshy,
fruit-saturated texture and palate-staining intensity. Complex
suggestions of licorice, smoke, and kirsch segue to a long
and delicate finish lifted by savory, food-friendly tannins
and buoying acidity. Enjoy this special Cote d’Or
value now and over the coming decade with roast chicken,
grilled salmon, seared duck breast, and rich mushroom ragoûts.
Casale del Giglio, Cesanese, Lazio IGT, Italy 13.50/145.80
Casale del Giglio’s
Cesanese is magnificent from the moment it’s poured.
An opaque black plum color in the glass leads to deep aromas
of black cherry skin, green peppercorns and licorice. On
the palate, the wine alternates waves of sweet cherry and
plum fruit with savory notes of pepper, herbs, and violet
petals. Rich, ample, and bristling with energy, the Cesanese
finishes long and complete with beautiful tension among
its sweet kernel of black fruits, its appetizing bitter
edge, and its herbal complexity. This is one of the most
exciting wines we’ve tried from the hills south of
Rome and a perfect introduction to the joys of Cesanese.
Pair this beauty now and over the coming five years with
cacio e pepe, pizza, peppery salumi, roast duck, hearty
beef stews, BBQ pork ribs, and pastas topped with wild mushrooms.
- Ian d’Agata, Vinous: 90 points
Fattoria di Felsina, Chianti Classico Riserva, Castelnuovo
Tuscany, Italy 30.99/334.69
The great Felsina estate
makes what many Tuscan wine aficionados assert is the reference
point Chianti Classico. 2013 is shaping up to be a classic,
age-worthy Chianti vintage, and this benchmark Chianti Classico
Riserva delivers impressive depth of fruit, classic Sangiovese
structure, and incomparable elegance. A classic rosewood-rimmed
ruby color, Felsina’s 2013 Riserva explodes with textbook
Chianti expressions of black cherries, saddle leather, sage,
and dusty earth. Composed entirely of Sangiovese, Felsina’s
Riserva presents cool, spicy, dusty cherry fruit accented
by hints of tobacco, wintergreen, and button mushrooms.
Pliant Sangiovese tannins and juicy acidity lead the wine
to its long, elegant finish, which features complex notes
of game, cedar, pencil lead, and vanilla bean. Pair this
beauty now and over the short term with rich eggplant dishes
and grilled beef, but the patient among you are advised
to hold onto a cache for enjoyment when the wine reaches
its maturity in seven to twelve years.
- Antonio Galloni, Vinous: 93 points
Cascina Tiole di Massimo Grasso, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Folks, this is terrific,
old-school Barolo! From the hallowed Perno sector of Barolo’s
Monforte d’Alba zone, Massimo Grasso crafts this lovely
traditionally-styled Barolo. Tiole’s 2012 Barolo conveys
Monforte’s legendary balance of bold fruit, firm structure,
poise, and potential for long ageing. A beautiful brick-garnet
color in the bowl, Tiole’s Barolo – aged exclusively
in large, neutral Slavonian oak “botti” –
casts gorgeous aromas of pie cherries, red currants, cinnamon,
dried rose petals, and leafy underbrush. Further notes of
cinnamon, licorice, tobacco, tar, and dusty earth emerge
on the wine’s long and complex finish. The wine shows
well enough today to serve with rich Piemontese cuisine
like tajarìn, risotto and osso buco, but also shows
the reserve to ensure at least a decade’s ageing in
your cool cellar. At this price, it’s the Barolo buy
of the year (or longer) and a sure bet to tickle the fancy
of even the most ardent old school Nebbiolo stalwarts.
Akutain, Rioja, Cosecha, Rioja, Spain 14.99/161.89
In Rioja, the term “cosecha”
designates a wine from a single vintage that is not subject
to the region’s unusually long ageing requirements.
Akutain’s cosecha is just what the doctor ordered:
a fresh, young Rioja with no oak, that’s bursting
with fruit and ready for everyday enjoyment. An opaque plum-garnet
in the glass, the wine opens with a delicious bouquet of
black cherries, plums, and loamy earth. Brisk and snappy
on the palate, the wine unfurls with layers of chewy cherry
and cassis fruit followed by delicious suggestions of sassafras,
cinnamon, and bay leaf. Buoying Tempranillo acidity lifts
the wine as it finishes, and begs you to pair it now and
over the coming two years with meat, mushroom, and vegetable
tapas, baby back ribs, hearty stews, and burgers or marinated
Portobello mushrooms hot off the grill.
Weingut Stift Gottweig, Gruner Veltliner, Messwein, Niederosterreich
Founded in 1083, the Stift
Gottweig is a Benedictine monastery perched 450 meters above
sea level on the southern banks of the Danube. The uber-talented
Fritz Miesbauer recently assumed direction of the monastery’s
wine interests and, as expected, has raised the winery’s
quality to new heights. This is the estate’s Messwein
– or altar wine – produced only with the blessing
of the bishop and crafted to be pure, light, and drinkable.
Stift Gottweig’s 2016 Messwein bursts out of the glass
with brisk, high-toned Gruner aromas of lime zest, white
pepper, and salty minerals. On the palate, the Messwein’s
crisp, tactile, mineral expression of green melon, grapefruit,
and ginger gives way to a long, classic Gruner finish featuring
notes of lentils, barley, crisp snap peas, and white pepper.
Folks, this Gruner is so clean, pure, refreshing…
and such a steal for its quality. Pair it now and over the
coming two years with veal and pork dishes, lentil soups,
light freshwater fish preparations, shellfish, and all green
vegetables – even artichokes and asparagus.
Pierre Henri Gadais Muscadet, Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Saint-Fiacre
Loire Valley, France 9.50/102.60
Few wines in today’s
market combine soil specificity, refreshment, food friendliness,
and value like great Muscadet. Pierre Henri Gadais’
Saint-Fiacre cuvee, grown on soils marked by fossilized
mollusk shells, is Muscadet in its purest, most crystalline
expression. Pale green-gold in the glass, Gadais’
Muscadet shines with notes of lemon drops and pear skin
infused with bay leaf, fleur de sel, and oyster shell minerals.
Clean, zesty, and bone dry on the palate, the wine conveys
impressions of lemon zest, quinine, ginger, cardamom, and
chalky minerals. Lovely as an aperitif, Muscadet always
shines brightest when paired with briny oysters on the half-shell,
pan-roasted mussels, fried razor clams, Dover sole, and
sauteed green vegetables. This is the value play white wine
of the newsletter and will delight now and over the next
five years, or longer.
Eugene Carrel et Fils, Vin de Savoie-Jongieux, Savoie, France
Longtime readers know that
we’re huge fans of the low alcohol, refreshing, and
glacially pure Jacquere wines of the Savoie. Jongieux is
widely considered to be one of the finest viticultural zones
in this high-altitude, steeply sloped subalpine region.
Eugene Carrel’s gorgeous 2016 Jongieux opens with
a brilliant pale lemon-gold color and refreshing scents
of lemon zest, green pears, chamomile, and limestone minerals.
Clean, fresh, and bristling with crisp, juicy citrus fruit,
Carrel’s Jongieux offers thrillingly pure suggestions
of lemon juice, tart plums, malt, and sweet meadow flowers.
The wine finishes with reprises of citrus and tart orchard
fruit while leaving that special tactile dusting of saline
minerals on the lips and inner cheeks. This is sensational
Jongieux – our vote for Carrel’s finest yet
– delightfully low alcohol and versatile enough for
brunches, light midweek dinners, and after work refreshment.
Enjoy now and over the next year with poached fish preparations,
green vegetables, and any time the call is for a refreshing,
mineral-driven white wine.
Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Villages, Burgundy, France 12.50/135.00
Leave it to Drouhin to
elevate the humble Macon-Villages to new heights by capturing
the Macon’s delicious clay and limestone minerality
and buttressing it with a core of lemony Chardonnay fruit.
A lovely green-tinged gold color in the glass, Drouhin’s
2016 Macon-Villages opens with lilting, classic white Burgundy
aromas of meadow flowers, roasted hazelnuts, lemon, and
soft limestone minerality. Crisper and fresher than usual
in 2016, Drouhin’s Macon shows the precision and elegance
of the vintage with persistent minerality, notes of sweet
butter, yellow apple, lemon zest, and apple blossoms. Crisp,
focused, and again emphasizing its persistent soil expression,
Drouhin’s 2016 Macon finishes with reprises of freshly-squeezed
lemon, hazelnuts, and a final wave of limestone minerals.
It will also make a wonderful complement now and over the
coming three years for roast chicken, pork, halibut, and
Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Villages, Burgundy,
France (B) 26.99/291.49
Dominique Lafon is an undisputed
Burgundy superstar. His topnotch portfolio of Meursault
premiers crus and Le Montrachet are among the most eagerly
sought and cellared white Burgundies worldwide. Les Heritiers
du Comte Lafon is Dominique’s estate in the Macon.
Here he fashions the most coveted Macons with the same attention
and care he gives to his prestigious Meursaults. In the
glass, Lafon’s 2016 Macon-Villages gleams with a Meursault-like
golden hue followed by smoky, soil-driven aromas of lemon
juice, yellow plums, and brown spices. Fresh and invigorating
on the palate, the verve and acidity of the classic 2016
vintage propels the wine’s golden core of tart apple
and Mirabelle plum fruit. Aged primarily in old “foudres,”
Lafon’s Macon-Villages shows impeccable balance and
finishes with floral limestone minerality propelling reprises
of apple blossoms and crunchy orchard fruits. This is a
Macon to buy by the case to enjoy now (with some aeration)
and to cellar one to five years while the wine gains richness
and texture. Pair with broiled salmon, mushrooms in a cream
sauce, roast pork tenderloin, or rich sausages. Sensational!
Champalou, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France (S) 19.99/215.89
From 35-year-old vines
on Vouvray’s inimitable clay, limestone, and siliceous
tuffeau soils, Didier and Catherine Champalou fashion some
of the region’s most floral, expressive, and soil-driven
wines. Champalou’s 2016 Vouvray opens with a pale
lemon-gold color and textbook Vouvray aromas of honeysuckle
blossoms, tufaceous minerals, crisp melon, and lemon zest.
Brisk on the attack, the wine shows textured yellow melon
fruit before tightening up and revealing the riveting, nervy,
acidic spine that elevates the vintage to classic status.
The wine finishes long and clean, with electrifying acidity
propelling laser-like Chenin fruit, floral overtones, and
a persistent smoky mineral undercurrent. Enjoy Champalou’s
Vouvray now and over the coming ten years with poached,
delicately sauced fish dishes, sauteed squashes, fresh chevres,
shellfish, or light chicken preparations.
Hofgut Falkenstein, Riesling Spatlese Feinherb, Niedermenniger
Herrenberg, Mosel, Germany 19.99/215.89
Father and son team of
Erich and Johannes Weber are throwbacks to Mosel wines of
a century ago. They farm very old vines along the Saar River
with soils consisting primarily of red and blue slate. Falkenstein’s
2015 Niedermenniger Herrenberg Spatlese – denoted
“feinherb” for its tendency towards dryness
– is crafted from low-yielding ungrafted vines and
raised exclusively in very old neutral fuder (the region’s
traditional large, oval oak barrels). A pale green-glinted
lemon-gold color, Falkenstein’s Spatlese explodes
with dusty, high-toned, soil-driven aromas of honeysuckle
blossoms, lime zest, petrol, and perfumed slate. Brisk and
intense on the palate, the wine juxtaposes tart white currant
and peach fruit with suggestions of sweet green melon, lemongrass,
and petrol. Finishing essentially dry, this is superb, impeccably
balanced Saar Riesling. Serve it at your holiday table with
turkey and trimmings, or pair with pork braises, light fish
dishes, oysters on the half-shell, and mild, semi-firm cow’s
milk cheeses. Drink now and over the next ten years.
Tenuta Olim Bauda, Gavi del Comune di Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Olim Bauda’s 2016
Gavi, based on the Cortese grape, opens with a brilliant,
green-glinted lemon-gold color and fresh aromas of grapefruit,
green pineapple, and chalky minerals. On the palate, Olim
Bauda’s Gavi unfurls with juicy white grapefruit,
lemon, and yellow plum notes followed by suggestions of
juniper, tarragon, and menthol. A sweet floral note segues
the wine to its crisp and lip-smackingly delicious finish,
which echoes further hints of juicy citrus, lemon balm,
and bitter medicinal herbs. Drink this fantastic, affordable,
and delicious Gavi young to capture the wine’s freshness,
crispness, and zip. Enjoy with golden trout, snapper, soups,
vegetable frittatas, sauteed zucchini, clams, and halibut.
Gorka Izagirre, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Basque Country, Spain
Situated on the Bay of
Biscay around Bilbao, Gorka Izagirre blends equal parts
of indigenous Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Zarratia to
craft this shimmering Txakolina. A lovely lemon-gold color
in the bowl, Gorka Izagirre’s Txakoli opens with aromas
of lemon zest, pineapple, honeysuckle blossoms, and quinine.
Taut, linear, and bristling with salty minerality, Gorka
Izagirre’s Txakoli enlivens the palate with suggestions
of green apple skin, juicy Meyer lemon, olive brine, and
sappy herbs. The wine finishes fresh, gripping, and mineral-driven
with layers of citrus fruit, Pippin apples, quinine, saline
minerals, and hints of freshly grated ginger. An exceptionally
mineral and crisp Txakoli – and an excellent value
for its denominación – this is a superb choice
for oyster season or for partnering with acidic vegetables,
grilled asparagus, fresh and steamed shellfish, light squid
tapas, ceviches, and delicate poached white fleshed fish
dishes. So refreshing!
Albert Mann, Cremant D’Alsace, Extra Brut, Wettolsheim,
Alsace, France 23.99/259.09
Lean, with notes of Honeycrisp
apples, salty limestone, smoke, lime, and strawberry. A
fabulous blend of Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir.
Val de Mer, Cremant de Bourgogne, Brut, Non Dose, France
Undoubtedly the finest
sub-$20 sparkler in ages! The Val de Mer presents salty,
chalky minerals inside a wrapper of buttery lemon curd.
Fresh, with plentiful pinpoint bubbles, a creamy mouthfeel
and notes of brioche.
Domaine de Vieux Pressoir, Saumur, Fines Bulles, France
We challenge you to find
a better sparkling wine at this price! A brilliant blend
of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay that exhibits notes of cream,
honey, roasted apple, and light toast.
Aubry, Brut, Premier Cru, Jouy-les-Reims, Champagne, France
A superlative blend of
Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Arbanne. The
Aubry is zesty and crisp with notes of lemon curd, green
apples, lime. A silky and polished palate. Wow!