APRIL-MAY 2020 REVIEWS

 

RED WINES

OREGON - RED

2018 Cameron Winery, Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon (S)
23.99/259.0
9

The 2018 Cameron Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir, sourced from the White Oak Vineyard, puts the spotlight on this AVA thanks to its intense, spicy, and structured fruit. An opaque ruby color in the bowl, the Cameron Pinot possesses deep aromas of black cherries, wood spice, raspberry, lavender, cinnamon, and loamy earth. Packed with focused black cherry and raspberry fruit, the wine resonates on the palate with fine silky tannins, freshening acidity, and smoke. Lovely bitter cherry notes linger as the wine segues effortlessly from its chewy black-fruited palate to its long mouthwatering finish. Add some dusty soil notes, juicy acidity, and fine tannins and you have a young, wonderfully balanced Pinot with all the components present for a long, positive evolution in your cool cellar. Enjoy now and over the coming seven years. Don't miss the best Cameron Ribbon Ridge to date!

2017 Beckham Estate Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon (O) 23.99/259.09

Andrew and Annedria Beckham arrived in the Chehalem Mountains in 2005 with the dream of purchasing land to build a studio for Andrew’s art. Inspired by the passion of their neighbors and fascinated by the potential beneath the surface of their high-elevation site, they planted their vineyard. The result can be enjoyed in this lovely 2017 Pinot Noir. Casting a limpid garnet hut, the Beckham’s 2017 Estate Pinot opens with zesty aromas of cranberries, rhubarb, and herbs. Fresh and invigorating on the palate, the Beckham’s Pinot alternates impressions of wild cherry, red currant, and pomegranate fruit with top notes of wintergreen, tarragon, and spicy cinnamon from whole clusters. Beckham’s Pinot finishes with fine, gripping tannins and a sense of energy, vigor, and tension rare for such an affordable Pinot. Serve now and over the next five years to pair with braised rabbit, coq au vin, roast chicken, pan-seared pork chops, and earthy mushroom preparations.

2015 Hanson Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon (S) 18.99/205.09

Jason and Clark Hanson espouse a non-interventionist approach to winemaking. Emphasizing freshness, acidity, and transparency, Hanson’s 2015 Pinot casts a rusty garnet robe followed by spicy Willamette Valley Pinot aromas of sour cherries, cigar tobacco, dill, and nutmeg. Bright yet earthy on the palate, Hanson’s Pinot delivers tangy notes of cranberries, black raspberries, Bing cherries, sassafras, vanilla, black tea, and herb-tinged tannins. Full of personality, the wine adds a piquant, peppery finish that takes us back to the delicious Oregon Pinots of the 1980s. Enjoyable by itself, Hanson’s Pinot is ideally paired with roast chicken, alder plank salmon, duck confit, vegetable gratins, and earthy braised lentils. Enjoy now and over the coming three years.

FRANCE - RED

2018 Domaine Filliatreau, Saumur-Champigny, La Grande Vignolle, Loire Valley, France (B) 18.99/205.09

Filliatreau’s La Grande Vignolle is one of the most renowned vineyards in the esteemed Saumur-Champigny appellation. Employing biodynamic methods, the father and son team of Paul and Fredrik Filliatreau have captured the essence of Cabernet Franc as expressed in this special terroir. Opaque black plum in the glass, the 2018 Filliatreau casts deep, soulful aromas of black currants, black raspberries, bay leaf, dried herbs, button mushrooms, and perfumed clay-limestone soil. Youthfully coiled yet full on the attack, the wine conveys the chalkiness of the highly calcareous site with fine, lip-dusting tannins, a tangy kernel of cassis fruit, and wave upon wave of gorgeously perfumed Saumur-Champigny soil. Long, tangy, dusty, and earthy on the finish, the wine is stunningly delicious and can be enjoyed now with a vigorous decant. It will reveal its deepest charms over the next three to twelve years in your cool cellar. Pair with fresh chèvres, braised pork dishes, grilled burgers, and vegetarian dishes employing potatoes, mushrooms, and grilled eggplant.

2017 J.-L. Chave Selection, Cotes-du-Rhone, Mon Coeur, Rhone Valley, France (O) 19.99/215.89

Rhone Valley fans owe it to themselves to experience this wine! World famous for their benchmark white and red Hermitages, J. L. Chave Selection refers to the esteemed Chave domaine’s negociant arm, which works with growers who share the family’s dedication to organic farming and expression of terroir. Sourced primarily from superb sites in the prestigious Cotes-du-Rhone villages of Rasteau, Vinsobres, and Cairanne, Mon Coeur’s blend of Syrah and Grenache casts an opaque black plum hue in the glass, followed by classic Southern Rhone aromas of black cherries, black plums, violets, tar, and herbal garrigue. Broad and intense on the attack, the wine stains the palate with bright black raspberry, plum, and currant fruit. Notes of pepper, herbs, and olives are backed by firm tannins and overtones of black licorice, spicy cinnamon, and white peppercorns. Enjoy now for its youthful vigor with full-bodied Southern French cuisine and lay down a half case or more to allow the wine to mellow and flesh out over the coming decade.
- Josh Raynolds, Vinous: 90 points
- Wine Spectator, “100 Top Values of 2019”: 90 points

2017 Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage, Les Pierrelles, Northern Rhone Valley, France (O) 21.99/237.49

The Domaine Belle has a long and storied history in the great Northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph. The Les Pierrelles vineyard is in the southern sector of Crozes-Hermitage, where vines cling to terraces featuring stony, sandy red clay strewn with rounded pebbles (pierrelles). Belle’s Les Pierrelles opens with a classic Northern Rhone Syrah black-plum robe followed by classic aromas of black currants, violets, leather, smoke, and toffee. On the palate, the wine shows deep plum and cassis fruit accented by salty minerals, smoke, olives, black pepper, lavender, and bay leaf. The wine finishes bright, juicy with lifting acidity and just enough chewy tannins to rein in its exuberant fruit expression. This is terrific Crozes-Hermitages that will satisfy ardent Northern Rhone geeks yet is affordable enough – and approachable enough – to be enjoyed as your attention-grabbing red for barbecues, as well as a noble foil for roast leg of lamb. It will also thrill with hearty bean stews, mushroom-rich vegetarian preparations, and antipasti focused on the finest salumi. Enjoy now and over the coming seven years.

2018 Domaine de la Guicharde, Cotes du Rhone, Southern Rhone Valley, France (B) 11.99/129.49

Domaine de la Guicharde’s biodynamic Cotes du Rhone rouge is pure, classic, and truly one of the great values in authentic Cotes du Rhone. A classic blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah, co-fermented on indigenous yeasts, the wine casts a translucent purple-ruby robe and soars with sunny Southern French aromas of Provençal cherries, herbal garrigue, cinnamon stick, and black licorice. On the palate, notes of juniper-scented garrigue, sweet tobacco, star anise, and menthol join the vibrant core of cherry and cassis-inflected Grenache fruit. Chewy old-school tannins appear on the back-palate to frame the wine’s kernel of fruit and segue it to a long garrigue-driven finish. We suggest picking up a case to enjoy now and over the next decade with grilled eggplant, lamb and beef stews, burgers, and anything scented with rosemary, garlic or anchovies.

2017 Domaine Berthet-Rayne, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone Valley, France (CO) 31.99/345.49

This is the most honest, delicious, and affordable Chateauneuf-du-Pape on the market! Employing organic viticulture, manual harvesting, superbly situated old vines, and traditional methods in the cellar, the Domaine Berthet-Rayne is fashioning a portfolio of elegant and restrained wines from the Southern Rhone’s finest terroirs. A classic ruby color, Berthet-Rayne’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape explodes with textbook Chateauneuf aromas of wild cherries, leather, stones, vine smoke, and black pepper. Sleek, suave and elegant on the attack, the wine blossoms on the palate to reveal dusty, old-school Chateauneuf tannins framing layers of Bing cherries, tobacco, cinnamon, cloves, and anise. Based on a classic blend of Grenache (60%), Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah, the wine finishes fresh, vibrant, chewy, and appetizingly tannic – reminding us that the balanced, age-worthy, and characterful Chateauneufs of yesteryear can still be found today. Enjoy this complete and classical CdP now and over the coming ten years with roast lamb, grilled burgers, and ratatouille.

ITALY - RED

2014 Savignola Paolina, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 11.99/129.49

Matt Kramer, maestro of all things Italian, once wrote, “If Mozart made Chianti, it would be Paolina.” With each new vintage Savignola Paolina’s impressive Tuscan portfolio of gains refinement, elegance and complexity. From the charming 2014 Tuscan vintage, the estate’s flagship Chianti Classico – a blend of Sangiovese (85%), Colorino, and Malvasia Nera – casts a lovely rusty cherry color from the bowl, followed by classic Chianti aromas of wild cherries, sandalwood, leather, vanilla, and game. On the palate, Paolina’s Classico presents vintage 2014’s up-front approachability with fine tannins framing a delicate kernel of red cherry and red currant fruit. Hints of leather, tar, button mushrooms, and sweet tobacco emerge mid-palate and segue the wine to its long, generous finish that begs to be paired with food. Delicious now, the wine has the poise and stuffing to ensure a long and promising evolution in your cool cellar. Enjoy now or over the next decade with hearty pasta dishes, grilled Porterhouse steaks, pizza, roast pork, rich bean stews, eggplant preparations, and zucchini frittatas.

2014 Faraone, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Le Vigne de Faraone, Abruzzi, Italy (O)
15.99/172.69

Year ’round, few red wines offer such deep, soulful satisfaction for such a modest pittance as the rustic and charming Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Faraone’s lovely 2014 release effortlessly captures the robustness of the Montepulciano grape tamed by twenty-four months’ ageing in large neutral oak botti. Casting a translucent black plum robe, the 2014 Montepulciano is redolent of plum skin, spicy black cherries, bay leaf, and peppery salumi. Fleshy, round, and vibrant on the palate, the wine bursts with tobacco-scented cherry fruit backed by suggestions of licorice, macerated cherries, mint, and dusty earth. The finish brims with sun-warmed central Italian charm, luscious and long, with persistent waves of plum and cherry fruit complicated by notes of leather, herbs, camphor, and tobacco. You’ll want to buy this for both immediate enjoyment and up to three years aging. Pair with rustic pasta dishes, grilled meats, smoked baby back ribs, and grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms.

2016 D’Angelo, Aglianico, Sacra Vite, Basilicata IGT, Italy 12.50/135.00

In southern Italy’s mountainous Basilicata province, the rustic but noble Aglianico marries deep volcanic soils to produce some of Basilicata’s most revered wines. D’Angelo’s Sacra Vite Aglianico is crafted for easy approachability and affordability. Opaque crimson-tinged plum in the glass, the wine casts aromas of salted plums, wild cherries, violets, Szechuan peppercorns, and volcanic earth. Juicy, spicy, and appealingly rustic on the palate, d’Angelo’s Sacra Vite alternates waves of dense plum and cherry fruit, grilled herbs, sarsaparilla, and spicy volcanic minerals. Chewy, delicious, and begging for food, the wine finishes with further waves of piquant earth, crunchy fruits, licorice, mesquite smoke, and fine, mouth-dusting tannins. This is superb, authentic, and food friendly Aglianico that’s well priced for what it delivers: buy it by the case to serve with hard cheeses, hearty pasta dishes, roast lamb, grilled beef, and rustic eggplant casseroles.

2018 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Rosso, Piedmont, Italy (S) 13.50/145.80

G.D. Vajra’s Langhe Rosso – the venerable winery’s creative and affordable regional blend – has become a client favorite over the past decade. Vajra’s Langhe Rosso blend is primarily Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera, with deft touches of Albarossa, Freisa, and Pinot Noir to add verve and complexity. Sporting a translucent cherry skin robe in the glass, the 2018 Langhe Rosso casts vibrant aromas of plums, black currants, black tea, tobacco, and tar. Brisk and bristling with energy, the wine conveys a core of chewy cherry, black raspberry, and red currant before transitioning to a long finish marked by notes of menthol, tobacco, sassafras, and leafy underbrush. The combination of dazzling aromas, fresh, transparent red and black fruits, food-friendly tannins, authentic Piemontese character, and everyday affordability makes Vajra’s Langhe Rosso a lovely choice at the table. Serve now and over the next five years with pasta tossed with a butter and sage sauce, grilled burgers, salumi, beef, lamb, sausages, pizza – anything that calls for a robust, versatile red.

SPAIN - RED

2015 Vina Olabarri, Rioja Reserva, Spain 18.99/205.09

A perennial newsletter favorite, the great Olabarri estate is back with a masterpiece of a traditional Rioja Reserva. Opaque black cherry in the glass, Viña Olabarri’s 2015 Reserva unfurls with a classic Rioja nose of black plums, spicy cherries, cigar tobacco, vanilla, and salty minerals. Lush on the palate, this traditional Tempranillo (90%) and Graciano blend offers lip-smacking wild cherry and tart plum fruit complemented by hints of tobacco, button mushrooms, limestone soil, and classic Rioja barrel notes. Firm, food-friendly tannins emerge on the back palate to segue Olabarri’s Reserva to its impressively complex finish, featuring suggestions of cinnamon, sarsaparilla, and sandalwood. After two years in barrel and another year in bottle, this beauty is ready for your table served with meat tapas, grilled lamb, roast beef, burgers, vegetarian lasagna, and patatas bravas. While this Reserva is superb now, it has the structure and stuffing to age effortlessly for another decade or more. Superb!


WHITE WINES

OREGON - WHITE

2019 Cameron Winery, Pinot Blanc, Giovanni, Dundee Hills, Oregon (S) 15.99/172.69

Leveraging over thirty years of experience, the irrepressible John Paul conquered the vagaries and challenges of the 2019 vintage to produce this superb Giovanni Pinot Blanc. Cameron’s 2019 Giovanni – a blend of primarily Pinot Blanc with dollops of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, all from the “grand cru” Abbey Ridge Vineyard – opens with spellbinding Oregon Pinot Blanc aromas of Williams pears, green pineapple, ginger, and marjoram. Full, rich, yet invigorating on the palate, Cameron’s Giovanni dazzles with fleshy pear and Golden Delicious apple fruit buoyed by tangy acidity and savory herbal notes. The wine finishes clean, fresh, persistent, and 100% delicious. This well balanced and all-around satisfying Pinot Blanc will delight over the coming two years served as a complement to grilled halibut, cedar plank salmon, zucchini frittatas, omelets, brook trout, and grilled vegetables.

FRANCE - WHITE

2018 Francis Blanchet, Pouilly-Fume, Cuvee Silice, Loire Valley, France 19.99/215.89

For many aficionados, silex- or flint-rich soils are the ultimate terroir for the Sauvignon Blanc grape. This lovely Pouilly-Fume effortlessly expresses Pouilly’s richness and flinty intensity. Francis Blanchet’s Cuvee Silice hails from the domaine’s parcels with the highest proportion of flint, which imbues the wine with its ineffable smoky (fume) expression. A limpid lemon-gold in the glass, Blanchet’s Cuvee Silice bursts from the glass with gorgeous aromas of pineapple, pink grapefruit, jasmine, and gunflint. Showing richness and impressive ripeness on the palate, the wine conveys tropical suggestions of papaya and pineapple alongside top notes of mint, freshly grated ginger, and dusty minerals. Long and impressively energetic, the wine finishes with complex touches of green apple skin, white pepper, bay leaf, quinine, and final lashing of silex terroir. Enjoy now and over the coming three years with trout amandine, perch in a beurre blanc sauce, pan-roasted monkfish, clams or mussels, fresh chevres, and asparagus in a hollandaise sauce.

2015 Domaine Riberach, IGP Cotes Catalanes, Synthèse Blanc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (O) 19.99/215.89

This is a fantastic introduction to the natural wines of the Cotes Catalanes IGP. Domaine Riberach is owned and operated by the multicultural team of Jean Michel Mailloles, Patrick Rodrigues, Moritz Herzog, Luc Richard, and Guilhem Soulignac. The team’s Synthèse Blanc is a classic regional blend of Maccabeu, Grenache Gris and Blanc, and Carignan Gris and Blanc. Reflecting a medium lemon-gold in the glass, Riberach’s Synthèse Blanc casts aromas of pineapple, papaya, and yellow melon accented by hints of orange blossoms, fennel, and smoky minerals. Juxtaposing richness and waxiness on the palate, the wine frames its resinous core of yellow orchard fruits with riveting acidity and high-pitched overtones imparted by wild yeast fermentation. The highly distinctive Synthèse Blanc finishes long, resinous, and waxy, with reprises of green tropical fruits, fresh lemony acidity, and final flashes of salty schistose minerals. Pair now and over the coming year with Thai or Vietnamese cuisines, grilled whole fish, dishes featuring fresh artichoke hearts, chicken tagines, and aged hard cheeses.

ITALY - WHITE

2018 Iacopo Paolucci, Trebbiano Spoletino, Il San Ponziano, Umbria, Italy (S)
19.99/215.89

San Ponziano is the patron saint of Umbria’s beautiful city of Spoleto, situated on a foothill of the Apennines. Focusing exclusively on indigenous Umbrian varieties, Paolucci combines organic winegrowing with gentle winemaking to craft this superb Trebbiano Spoletino. A brilliant lemon-gold in the bowl, Paolucci’s Il San Ponziano casts crisp aromas of fresh apricots, tangerine skin, iodine, and sage. Bright and bracing, the wine gains texture on the palate while expressing nuances of Asian pear, lime juice, and pine tips. A persistent mineral undercurrent runs through the wine and segues it to a long, juicy, and lingering finish. Truly delicious, versatile, and filled with character, Paolucci’s Il San Ponziano will work fantastically as a starter white or, ideally, as a partner to prosciutto di Parma, pork pâtes and terrines, braised lentils, vegetable-based risottos, and linguine with a white clam sauce. Enjoy now and over the coming three years.

2018 Iacopo Paolucci, Grechetto di Todi, Umbria, Italy (S) 19.99 / 215.89

Grechetto, Umbria’s signature white varietal, is rightfully gaining serious attention as one of Italy’s premier white wines. The grape finds a singular expression on Perugia’s high-altitude tufaceous soils around the city of Todi. The grape is widely believed to be of Greek origin – hence the name – and represents one of Italy’s most distinctive and underrated white wines. Paolucci’s 2018 Grechetto begins with a deep lemon-gold color and complex aromas of Bartlett pear, Golden Delicious apple, and hawthorn blossom. Crisp, intense, and focused on the palate, the wine complements its juicy core of yellow orchard fruit with crisp acidity and notes of thyme, fennel, herbs, and bitter almonds. Paolucci’s Grechetto di Todi finishes long and juicy with further notes of pear, honeydew melon, menthol, and anise. We suggest pairing this superb Grechetto now and over the coming two years with pan-fried trout, sauteed zucchini, seafood pastas, young chèvres, and grilled halibut.

2017 Fantinel, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Sant’Helena, Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy 19.99/215.89

On the rolling limestone and clay hills of the Collio DOC, located in far northeastern Italy near its border with Slovenia, grows some of the world’s finest and most distinctive Pinot Grigio. Fantinel’s superb 2017 Pinot Grigio opens with a pale straw-gold hue followed by mineral-driven aromas of quince, clover honey, and green apple. Fresh and vibrant on the palate, the wine’s mineral core marries brisk acidity to propel its delicious citrus, apple, pear, and papaya fruit. Long and super-refreshing, hints of honeydew melon and pine emerge alongside reprises of flinty, smoky minerals and crunchy green apple fruit. Fans of the brisk, vivacious, dry expressions of Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris will love this wine both as an aperitif and as a complement to grilled spring vegetables, trout amandine, pan-roasted mussels, prawns, fresh chèvres, antipasti, and light poultry preparations. Enjoy now and over the coming two years to capture the wine’s bristling acidity and deep mineral core.

PORTUGAL - WHITE

2018 Quinta de Porrais, Douro Branco, Portugal 10.50/113.40

The terraced shale vineyards of the Douro are a sight to behold. Here the vines cling to precipitously steep hillsides and absorb the plenitude of minerals in the vineyards’ shallow soils. Grown at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, Quinta de Porrais’s Branco – a blend of 65 to 80-year-old Códiga do Lorinho (55%) and Rabigato – is the white wine deal of the year. Bristling with mineral energy, the blend expresses the signature of the shale soils on which each indigenous variety grows. Pale lemon-gold in the glass, the wine casts smoky, mineral-infused aromas of green pineapple, honeydew melon, acacia, orange, and gardenia blossoms. Brisk and invigorating on the palate, the wine’s acid backbone propels a tart core of green plum, papaya, and melon fruit. Floral notes reappear to segue the Branco to its long, clean finish featuring waves of smoky shale and schistose minerals. Serve this stunning value as an everyday sipper or to accompany green salads, prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe, sauteed zucchini, oysters on the half-shell, sashimi, steamed clams, and seafood tapas.

SPAIN - WHITE

2018 Can Sumoi, Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain (CO) 16.99/183.49

This is a superb Xarel-lo, the noble variety of Cava, and a world-class introduction to this unique grape. Can Sumoi is the still wine collaboration between the great Pepe Raventós of Raventós i Blanc and his childhood friend, Francesc Escala. The ancient Can Sumoi estate sits at nearly two thousand feet above sea level in the Penedès’s Massís del Montmel range. The estate’s 2018 Xarel-lo opens with a limpid straw gold color and high-toned aromas of Anjou pear, lime zest, linden blossom, and dusty limestone. On the palate, Can Sumoi’s Xarel-lo is incisive, mineral-driven, and marked by nuances of freshly shaved fennel, quince, bay leaf, malted barley, and champagne-like yeastiness. Rivetingly acidic, the wine finishes taut and tensile with superb cut and a shimmering mineral undercurrent propelling reprises of pear, citrus blossoms, and juicy fennel. Pair this superb Xarel-lo now and over the coming four years with seafood and vegetable tapas, paellas, escargots, grilled albacore tuna, and sharp cheeses.


ROSE WINES

OREGON - ROSE

2019 Timothy Malone Wines, Nebbiolo Rosato, Columbia Gorge, Oregon/Washington (S) 15.99/172.69

The experience Timothy Malone gained working with Oregon winemakers John Paul, Tyson Crowley, and Jay Somers can be found in this uniquely delicious 2019 Nebbiolo Rosato. A true “œil de perdrix” (a rose wine produced in Switzerland, with a history dating back to the Middle Ages in the Champagne region), Malone’s Rosato reflects a pale copper-tinged gold color followed by salty, mineral-driven aromas of golden raspberries, white currants, and yellow rose petals. Brisk and tense on the attack, the wine presents sour cherry and cranberry fruit lifted by an electric current of acidity and a spine of saline minerals. Fresh and invigorating, this is a truly inspired Northwest rose that fuses the fresh acidity of the Nebbiolo with the mineral-rich soils of the Columbia Gorge. It finishes clean, zippy, and ready to be enjoyed by itself or as a compliment to sauteed spring vegetables, broiled salmon and steelhead, roast chicken, sushi and sashimi, and grilled ahi tuna. A perfect choice for the coming warmer evenings.

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Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants
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B = biodynamic methods; CO = certified organic; O = organic; S = sustainably farmed
 


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