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JANUARY 2021 REVIEWS


RED WINES

OREGON – RED

2017 Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon (S) 39.99 / 431.89

From the balanced, harmonious 2017 Oregon vintage, Véronique Drouhin has crafted another beautifully elegant and layered Oregon Pinot that manifests DDO’s elegance and style. This lovely, approachable, and gorgeous vintage from DDO is a sure hit now and over the coming decade with richer fare such as roast duck and chicken, morels in a cream sauce, or grilled New York strip steaks.
     
Véronique Drouhin's tasting notes: “Our 2017 Dundee Hills offers a fragrant nose of bright black cherries, berry bramble, orange peel, golden brown spices and a touch of sweet oak. Layered behind are notes of red berries and rhubarb. Flavors of red plum, boysenberry and cassis mingle with a savory trio of white pepper, forest floor and sassafras. Elusive and elegant, this wine is wonderful now but I think will be in a perfect place with 5-12 years of cellaring.”

* James Suckling: "This is so delicious with very vibrant red cherries and a wealth of fresh red flowers and a reticent, spicy edge. The palate has a succulent, pure and very neatly defined feel with a long, chiseled core of fresh red cherries. So pure. Drink now." 94 points
* Wine Advocate: 93 points
* Vinous: 93 points

2019 Evesham Wood, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon (S) 19.99 / 215.89

Much to the delight of Oregon Pinot fans who relish the elegance and delicacy of the Willamette Valley’s cooler vintages, 2019 is shaping up to be a home run. A perennial favorite for authenticity, deliciousness, and value, Evesham Wood’s 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot is absolutely thrilling! Fresh and bristling with energy, the wine opens with cool-vintage aromas of crunchy cranberries, red raspberries, menthol, and cinnamon. On the palate, the wine unfurls pure, vibrant notes of red currants, red raspberries, brown spices, and loamy soil. The finish is taut, coiled, and driven by notes of freshly crushed red berries and subtle, perfectly integrated barrel tones lifted by electric acidity and lip-dusting tannins. Enjoy with classic Northwest fare, especially broiled salmon, rotisserie chicken, potatoes au gratin, and dishes spotlighting wild mushrooms. This is one heck of a prelude to what will surely be a superior Willamette Valley vintage: buy this beauty by the case before the press joins the parade!

FRANCE – RED

2018 Domaine Delarche, Bourgogne Rouge, La Garenne, Burgundy, France (S)
22.99 / 248.29

This is superb Burgundy that overdelivers authentic Burgundian soil notes and high-altitude freshness for a most modest tariff. The Domaine Delarche is renowned for its classic and affordable expressions of white and red Burgundies in and around their tiny hamlet of Pernand-Vergelesses. The same care and attention to detail the domaine affords its grands crus Corton-Charlemagne and red Cortons are extended to this superb Bourgogne rouge from high-altitude vines in the Hautes Côtes near Pernand. Sporting a deep, violet-tinged ruby robe, Delarche’s La Garenne leverages its high-altitude situation to bring coolness, harmony, and balance to the wine. Opening with vibrant aromas of black raspberries, licorice, and clay, the La Garenne expresses the depth of its 50-year-old vines on the palate with deep expressions of juicy raspberry, pomegranate, and currant fruit lifted by zesty acidity and subtle tannins. Notes of red cherries, red currants, and cinnamon segue the wine to a long, harmonious finish. Pair now and over the coming five years with grilled pork sausages, herb roasted chicken, bœuf bourguignon, and hearty lentil and mushroom stews.

2018 Domaine la Bonnelière, Saumur Champigny, Tradition, Loire Valley, France (S)
13.99 / 151.09

Saumur-Champigny’s rouges range from the seriously expensive vins de garde that take years to mature, to the immediately delicious cuvées that deliver a mouthful of soul-satisfying Cabernet Franc laced with Saumur’s inimitable yellow limestone (tuffeau) soil signature. This beauty from Domaine la Bonnelière lands firmly in the second camp. The domaine’s Tradition bottling offers a pure, high-toned bouquet of violets, perfumed tuffeau soil, tobacco, herbs, and capsicum followed by a silky, generous palate of tangy black cherry and cassis fruit. Driven by notes of tobacco and soil, the wine is ready to please with all the character and perfumed terroir of the Loire Valley’s Saumur sector. Here’s a sensational value in Touraine Cabernet Franc that will drink impeccably well all year long. Pair in cold weather with roast chicken or hearty mushroom dishes, or give it a light chill in the summer and serve with grilled zucchini, barbecue chicken, ribs, and fresh chèvres.
* Wine Spectator: 90 points
* Médaille d'Or, 2019 Concours des Vignerons Independents

2018 Pascal Aufranc, Chénas, En Rémont Vignes de 1939, Beaujolais, France (S)
18.99 / 205.09

From 78-year-old vines in Beaujolais’ smallest and rarest cru, Pascal Aufranc’s 2018 single-vineyard En Rémont Chénas opens with a saturated black-ruby color and gorgeous aromas of freshly crushed black raspberries, black currants, game, pepper, salty granitic minerals, and spicy cinnamon. Aufranc’s Chénas follows with palate-staining blackberry and elderberry fruit complemented by fine, food-friendly tannins, dusty granitic minerals, and floral notes of iris and violet. The wine’s old-vine concentration is spotlighted on its long, persistent finish, which adds notes of bitter cherry skin, licorice, mustard seed, white pepper, and fruitwood smoke. Delicious now with a vigorous decant, Aufranc’s Chénas also has the poise and concentration to improve over the next seven years in your cool cellar. Perfect with the full spectrum of poultry and small birds, it will also serve a lovely foil for braised rabbit, coq au vin, hearty stews, and dishes featuring chanterelle mushrooms. Sensational Chénas!
Josh Raynolds, Vinous: 92 points

2017 Élian Da Ros, Le Vignoble d’Élian, Côtes du Marmandais, SW France (B)
23.99 / 259.09

Élian Da Ros, maestro of the unheralded Côtes du Marmandais southeast of Bordeaux, is fashioning some of France’s most respected and sought-after wines. His wines are the reference standard for their appellation and represent some of the greatest values in all of France (or the world, for that matter). Working biodynamically, Da Ros combines the traditional Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Franc (50%) and Merlot (30%) with the Rhône’s noble Syrah to create this delicious, refined, and complex red. An opaque amber-rimmed, black-plum color, Da Ros’s 2017 Vignoble d’Élian bursts with smoky aromas of black plums, cassis, tobacco, sarsaparilla, and dark chocolate. The wine follows with a deep, chewy kernel of black fruits, game, tobacco, tar, and menthol accented by soft tannins and delicious barrel tones of toffee and smoke. With its silky texture and plush mouthfeel, do Ros’s Vignoble d’Élian would not be out of place in a lineup of top-notch wines from St. Émilion and Pomerol. Generous now and with plenty in reserve, the wine finishes Right-Bank-style with gamy black fruits accented by reprises of cocoa, limestone minerals, and vanilla bean husk. Buy this wine by the case and enjoy it now and over the coming decade with standing rib roast, roast lamb, gratin dauphinois, and rich eggplant recipes. Please do not delay, as all previous vintages have sold out in short order.

2017 Domaine la Fourmone, Vacqueyras, Le Poete, S. Rhone Valley, France (S)
17.99/194.29

The Domaine la Fourmone draws its roots from word “Fromentum,” Latin for wheat, as depicted in the emblem on the wine’s label. Earning consistent accolades from critics in France, Britain and America, the Domaine la Fourmone’s 2017 Vacqueyras – a blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah – reflects a translucent ruby robe followed by textbook Vacqueyras scents of black raspberries, licorice, bay leaf, bitter orange peel, and hickory smoke. Warm and generous on the palate, the wine reveals chewy cherry, currant, and plum fruit accented by garrigue, peony, and cured meat. Packed with Southern French charm and warmth, Fourmone’s impeccably balanced Le Poete cuvee finishes bright and spicy with added suggestions of orange zest, licorice, menthol, and sweet cherries. A terrific value in classic, old-school Vacqueyras, it will make a lovely foil for herbed leg of lamb, burgers, grilled eggplant, mushroom ragouts, and hearty stews. Enjoy now and over the coming seven years.

ITALY – RED

2019 Fratelli Alessandria, Verduno, Pelaverga Speziale, Piedmont, Italy 23.99 / 259.09

Verduno has become one of Barolo’s most coveted sectors, and Fratelli Alessandria domaine farms among the region’s greatest crus. Thankfully, the domaine staunchly champions the rare, native Pelaverga grape on these hallowed sites. Alessandria’s 2019 Pelaverga radiates a vivid magenta hue segueing to delicious aromas of black cherries, wild strawberries, white peppercorns, and rose petals. Brisk and vibrant on the palate, Alessandria’s Pelaverga presents pie cherry and tart plum fruit accented by complex notes of licorice, tobacco, and savory herbs. Freshening acidity and fine tannins buoy the wine’s cool kernel of crunchy red fruits and segues it to a zesty, appetizing finish. Perfect as a wintertime light red or hearty rosé, Alessandria’s Pelaverga is ready to grace your table tonight and over the coming two years with antipasti, salumi, vegetarian pasta preparations, wood-fired pizzas, marinated flank steak, and lighter eggplant dishes. Staff pick for the Italian rosso of the newsletter!

2018 Tenuta la Favola, Nero d’Avola, Sicilia DOC, Sicily, Italy (CO) 12.99 / 140.29

Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most important and widely planted red varietal. The husband-and-wife team of Corrado and Valeria Gurrieri organically farm the Tenuta la Favola’s forty-seven acres in the shadow of Mt. Etna near Sicily’s southernmost point. The duo’s superb 2018 Nero d’Avola glows a translucent plum color in the glass followed by aromas of black raspberries, damson plums, licorice, and tarry earth. On the palate, the Nero d’Avola layers palate-saturating plum and cherry fruit, fine, lip-smacking tannins, and delicious expressions of blueberries, almond, and piquant earth. Long, chewy, and lingering, the wine reprises its suave black-fruited core alongside notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and violets. We suggest pairing this now and over the coming three years with pizza margherita, hearty salumi, grilled beef or lamb, and pasta tossed with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, and olive oil. Don’t miss this southern Italian wine of remarkable suppleness, balance, elegance, and drinkability.

2015 Falchini, Paretaio, Rosso Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy 20.99 / 226.69

Complete, elegant, and satisfying, Falchini's 2015 Paretaio gets our vote as the greatest Super Tuscan value on the market. The renowned Falchini estate crafts its superb, barrique-aged Super Tuscan red from a blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Merlot grown in the esteemed Paretaio vineyard just north of the hilltop village of San Gimignano. Falchini’s 2015 Paretaio casts a translucent mahogany-tinged ruby color from the glass alongside deep aromas of black cherries, wintergreen, leather, tobacco, and shiitake mushrooms. Chewy vanilla and tobacco-tinged Sangiovese fruit stains the palate accented by delicious barrel tones of toffee and vanilla, backed by noble Sangiovese tannins. Sangiovese’s distinctive leather and savory mushroom notes reappear on the Paretaio’s back-palate and segue the wine to its long, savory finish featuring complex suggestions of black cherries, cured meat, tobacco, and vanilla. Pair now and over the coming decade with pizza, meaty pasta dishes, rich Tuscan bean stews, and grilled porterhouse steaks.

2016 Hilberg-Pasquero, Vino Rosso, 29.5 Per Alessandra, Piedmont, Italy (B)
15.99 / 172.69

Michelangelo Pasquero and Annette Hilberg have established their domaine in Piedmont’s Roero district based on biodynamic principles, where tasks are performed based on the phases of the moon, eschewing pesticides and herbicides in the vineyard, fermenting with natural yeasts, and adding no sulfites during the winemaking. The duo’s 100% Barbera 29.5 Vino Rosso – named for the duration of the lunar cycle – opens with an opaque violet ruby color segueing to high-toned aromas of blackberries, violets, leather, cinnamon, and dark tobacco. Showing the Piedmont’s sensational 2016 elegance, the wine’s gentle tannins buttress a gorgeously pure kernel of tart blackberry and black currant fruit complemented by complex hints of tar, leather, tobacco, licorice, and lavender. Delicious now with carne cruda, grilled hanger steak, oven-roasted root vegetables, egg-rich pastas, grilled pork, and myriad risottos, Hilberg-Pasquero’s 29.5 Rosso will also cellar well for two to five years.


WHITE WINES

FRANCE - WHITE

2019 Domaine Chiroulet, Terres Blanches, Côtes de Gascogne IGP, Gascony, France (S)
11.99 / 129.49

This is Côtes de Gascogne blanc just as we like it: fresh, focused, tense, mineral, and priced for everyday enjoyment. To the southeast of Bordeaux, in the heart of France’s Armagnac zone, Gascony’s white wines offer incomparable value for crispness, drinkability, and pleasure. Situated on Gascony’s highest slope, the Domaine Chiroulet sports special calcareous and white clay soils known as the Terres Blanches. These soils impart freshness and nerve to Chiroulet’s wines that's rare for the region. Brilliant lemon-gold in the glass with beautiful green glints, the Terres Blanches – a blend of Gros Manseng (55%), Sauvignon Blanc (35%), and Ugni Blanc – whets the palate with a delicious bouquet of flinty minerals, white grapefruit, green pineapple, spearmint, and freshly cut grass. In the mouth, the wine shows impressive clarity and focus with lime juice, grapefruit, passionfruit, and guava expressions infused with Thai basil and flinty minerals. Herbal overtones of lemony sorrel and chervil mark the unusually long, clean, distinctive finish. Chill the wine well to enjoy over the coming year as a refreshing apéritif and with shellfish, light freshwater fish dishes, lightly dressed salads, and vegetable frittatas.

2019 Joseph Drouhin, Mâcon-Villages, Burgundy, France (S) 16.99 / 183.49

Nobody elevates the humble Mâcon-Villages appellation to greater heights than the great Maison Joseph Drouhin. Drouhin has a special knack for infusing the Mâcon’s delicious clay and limestone minerality into a buttery kernel of lemony Chardonnay fruit and offering it at an everyday price tag. Absolutely gorgeous from the moment it’s poured, Drouhin’s 2019 Mâcon-Villages presents a lovely pale gold color in the glass followed by classic white Burgundy aromas of meadow flowers, hazelnuts, buttery lemon curd, and soft limestone minerality. The wine’s minerality carries through to the palate, where it joins with notes of sweet butter, crunchy pear fruit, and fresh lemon zest. Crisp yet fleshy, the wine returns focus to its smoky, limestone soil signature alongside expressions of lemony crème brûlée, Comice pears, and hazelnut skins. Always authentic – and always a terrific value – Drouhin’s Mâcon-Villages will prove a wonderful complement now and over the coming three years for sautéed squashes, roast chicken, pork, halibut, snapper, and trout amandine.

2018 Domaine Nebout, L’Incompris du Tressallier, Vin de France (Loire Valley), France (CO)
17.99 194.29

Nearly wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic in the mid-19th century, the historically important Tressallier grape is a rare specialty of central France’s Saint-Pourçain zone just south of the Loire Valley. Today a mere ninety acres of Tressallier survive, but dedicated vignerons such as Julien Nebout are nurturing the grape on Saint-Pourçain’s special mineral-rich, alluvial soils. A gleaming lemon-gold in the glass, Nebout’s Tressallier casts aromas of Meyer lemon zest, tart apples, and crushed limestone. The wine greets the palate with green pear, and Mirabelle plum fruit, but quickly focuses the spotlight on its shimmering mineral soil undercurrent. Juicy impressions of key limes, quince, and ginger layer the palate before yielding to brisk acidity, herbal impressions of juniper, and another lashing of chalky minerals. Fans of Loire Valley rarities need to get their hands on a bottle of this truly fascinating wine. Pair now and over the coming three years with herbed roast chicken, broiled white-fleshed fish recipes, fresh chèvres, and lightly-dressed green salads.

2018 Isabelle et Pierre Clément, Domaine de Châtenoy, Menetou-Salon, Loire Valley,
France
(S) 15.99 / 172.69

Isabelle and Pierre Clément represent the fourteenth generation of growers of the Domaine de Châtenoy in the eastern Loire region of Menetou-Salon. Just across the river from Sancerre and boasting the same Kimmeridgean limestone soils as its more famous neighbor, Menetou-Salon offers one of the Loire’s, and, thus, the world’s greatest expressions of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The 2018 Menetou opens with a green-tinged straw-gold color followed by a bouquet filled with notes of ripe Comice pears, key lime, tangerines, chamomile, and preserved ginger. On the palate, notes of peaches, pineapple, and passionfruit emerge alongside Menetou’s firm underpinning of limestone and flinty terroir. The impeccable balance of ripeness and chalky soil follows through on the wine’s long, juicy, tropical-fruit finish. Enjoy this terrific Loire Sauvignon Blanc value now and over the coming three years with vegetarian pastas, freshwater fish preparations, pan-seared pork chops, braised lentils, and fresh chèvres.

2018 Paul Pernot et Fils, Bourgogne, Cote d’Or Chardonnay, Burgundy, France (S)
32.99 / 356.29

Paul Pernot is a legend in his home village of Puligny-Montrachet. Pernot’s always-delicious Bourgogne Chardonnay is fashioned from declassified Puligny-Montrachet vines situated on Puligny’s border with Meursault. The wine opens with a brilliant lemon-gold color followed by rich, buttery, Meursault-like aromas of lemon curd, pear, and hazelnuts. The Bourgogne’s palate is at once creamy, textured, and precise, conveying premier cru intensity and soil transparency rarely found in such an affordably priced Cote-de-Beaune blanc. Long, sappy, and packed with limestone-infused impressions of fresh lemon juice, yellow plum, and buttery pastry crust, Pernot’s Bourgogne blanc finishes elegant, rich, and impeccably well balanced. This wine is always very limited, so be sure to call or email early to secure your case of this beauty. The wine already drinks well young but has the reserve and balance to ensure midterm keeping. Enjoy now and over the coming decade with roast pork, veal, poultry, white-fleshed fish dishes, and young chevres.

ITALY – WHITE

2019 Paitin, Roero Arneis, Elisa, Piedmont, Italy 17.99 / 194.29

Arneis is among the short list of our very favorite Italian white wines. Deeper and richer in texture than most Arneis, Paitin’s 2019 Elisa shows a deep lemon-gold robe followed by an especially complex floral-citrus-herbal bouquet that focuses on notes of preserved lemon, yellow plum, almond, spearmint, chamomile, and Barbaresco’s distinctive limestone-rich soil. The wine layers the palate with impressions of mint, quince, ripe pear, and yellow apple. Smoky limestone minerality and riveting acidity sneak in on the wine’s long, brisk finish to buoy the Elisa’s rich expressions of citrus, orchard, and tropical fruits. Enjoy this unique, “grand cru” expression of Arneis slightly chilled now and over the coming year with white pizzas, pastas tossed with olive oil and white sauces, golden trout, and sautéed seasonal squashes.
[Review revised 1/10]

2018 Vadiaperti, Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy (O) 19.99 / 215.89

Undoubtedly, the noblest of all southern Italian white grape varieties is the great Fiano. When grown at high altitudes in the volcanic tufo soils of central Campania, the Fiano reaches its apogee and performs at the level of Italy’s greatest white wines. Fiano’s most ardent champion is Vadiaperti’s Raffaele Troisi, whose father bottled the first all-Fiano wine in 1984. In vintage 2018, Vadiaperti’s organic Fiano gleams with a green-glinted lemon-gold hue, segueing to gorgeous aromas of linden leaf, yellow apple skin, and tart papaya infused with wildflower and piquant volcanic mineral notes. On the palate, the wine expresses a kernel of fresh, juicy lemon, pear, and Mirabelle plum fruits, countered by complex suggestions of white pepper, fresh mint, and dried herbs. Long, zesty, and persistent, Vadiaperti’s Fiano finishes clean and refreshing with reprises of citrus and orchard fruits infused with spicy volcanic minerals. Try this reference-setting Fiano cool, but not too cold, now and over the next three years with grilled prawns in a garlic and olive oil sauce, charred octopus, grilled sardines or branzino, and linguini dressed with a white clam sauce.
Ian d’Agata, Vinous: 91 points

2019 Iacopo Paolucci, Trebbiano Spoletino Il San Ponziano, Umbria, Italy (S)
19.99 / 215.89

Focusing exclusively on indigenous Umbrian varieties, Iacopo Paolucci combines organic winegrowing with gentle winemaking to craft this superb Trebbiano Spoletino. A deep straw gold in the bowl, Paolucci’s Il San Ponziano casts crisp, high-altitude aromas of fresh apricots, persimmon, hops, and iodine. Bright and bracing on the fore-palate, the Trebbiano’s rich texture on the palate reflects the four days spent on the skins, expressing nuances of lime zest, tangerine, Asian pear, and fresh rosemary. A persistent marine mineral undercurrent runs through the wine and segues it to a juicy and lingering finish. Truly delicious, versatile, and filled with character (like their superb Grechetto de Todi) Paolucci’s Il San Ponziano will work fantastically as an attention-grabbing starter white or, ideally, as a partner to prosciutto di Parma, pork pates and terrines, braised lentils, vegetable-based risottos, and linguine with a white clam sauce. Enjoy now and over the coming two years. Fantastic wine!

PORTUGAL – WHITE

2019 Anselmo Mendes, Alvarinho Contacto, Vinho Verde, Portugal 18.99 / 205.09

Anselmo Mendes is one of Portugal’s most highly sought-after winemaking consultants and is the benchmark producer in Portugal’s Vinho Verde zone. His Alvarinho is undoubtedly among Iberia’s greatest and most distinctive white wines, and the 2019 Contacto is his finest yet. To coax greater depth, character, and intensity from the usually delicate Vinho Verde, Mendes’s 2019 Alvarinho Contacto is given extended skin contact. Dazzlingly aromatic, the wine greets the palate with a riveting kernel of peach, yellow plum, and tangerine fruit accented by overtones of wintergreen, ginger, and tarragon. Electric acidity and a granitic mineral undercurrent drive the brilliant citrus and orchard-fruited core, segueing it to a crystalline, saline finish. Notes of blood orange, white grapefruit, and fresh lemon linger long after the wine leaves the palate. This is phenomenal Alvarinho, a world-class white wine, and a steal at its tariff. Pair it now and over the coming two years with seafood and vegetable paellas, vegetable and seafood tapas, sushi and sashimi, and seafood pastas.
* Mark Squires, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 91 points

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B = biodynamic methods; CO = certified organic; O = organic; S = sustainably farmed
 

© Liner & Elsen, all rights reserved. Availability and prices may have changed since the newsletter date.