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

MARCH 2021 REVIEWS

 


THIS MONTH'S SAMPLER

OREGON PINOT NOIR SAMPLER ... 260.00 reg. 293.99

These four outstanding Oregon Pinots were selected as "top picks" from among the many we tasted. Each wine impressed us with its immediate appeal and value. The case sampler contains three bottles of each selection:

2017 Love & Squalor, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir ... 23.99 / 246.14

2018 J.K. Carriere, Provocateur, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir ... 22.99 / 235.88

2017 Lingua Franca, "Pied de Colline," Eola-Amity Hills, Pinot Noir ... 23.99 / 246.14

2017 Belle-Pente, Yamhill-Carlton, Pinot Noir ... 26.99 / 276.92


RED WINES

AUSTRIA – RED

2019 Judith Beck, "Beck Ink," Burgenland, Austria (CB) 13.99 / 151.09

Judith Beck, a staunch advocate for biodynamic winegrowing, crafts her Beck Ink cuvée from a blend of Zweigelt (80%) and St. Laurent. Casting a vivid youthful violet robe and an explosive nose of tart cherry fruit, peppery game, and spicy cinnamon, the 2019 Beck Ink is a gorgeously pure, expressive, and unusually affordable Austrian red. Fresh, high-toned, and bursting with energy on the palate, the Beck Ink layers the palate with peppery black cherry and black raspberry fruit followed by suave tannins and savory impressions of salumi, salted umeboshi plums, and Szechuan peppercorns. The wine is a perfect choice for a robust winter warmer and versatile enough to take a chill and enjoy as a warm weather picnic red. The Beck Ink’s kernel of spicy, gamy, black-fruited goodness ensures that the wine drinks well by itself as well as a match for pretty much any fare except seafood. Pair now and over the coming two years with barbecued ribs, pulled pork, hanger steaks, bean and meat stews, picnic sandwiches and antipasti, and grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms.

ITALY – RED

2018 Caprili, Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 19.99 / 215.89

Caprili, Portland’s favorite Brunello estate, is the torchbearer for all that is good, authentic, and old school about Montalcino and its wines. In late-ripening vintage like 2018, Caprili’s Rosso di Montalcino – which hails from younger, well-situated vines inside the Brunello zone – conveys the character of a fine Brunello but without the fierce tannins and requisite ageing requirements. Caprili’s exceptionally classical 2018 Rosso opens with a translucent red plum color and a dazzling bouquet of leather, sweet tobacco, button mushrooms, and fruitwood smoke. Tangy black cherry, sweet plum and pomegranate fruit coat the palate before revealing soft, fine tannins and classic Brunello notes of earth, licorice, saddle leather, and calcareous earth. Savory tannins and food-friendly acidity carry the wine to its long finish, completed by reprises of dusty black cherries, plums, game, leather, and minerally earth. Caprili’s 2018 Rosso is a genuine expression of authentic, food-friendly Sangiovese Grosso (a.k.a. Brunello), and we can’t think of a better, more affordable complement to classic Tuscan fare. The wine will also complement roast beef, grilled lamb, eggplant, stews, and rustic vegetarian casseroles. Drink now or over the coming seven years.

2015 Cantina Marilina, Nero d’Avola, Sikelè, Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy (CO) 18.99 / 205.09

Sicily is one of Italy’s most dynamic, diverse, and fascinating wine zones, and the nation’s hotbed for natural, minimal intervention winemaking. Everything that makes Sicily and Nero d’Avola so compelling can be found in this bottle. Cantina Marilina’s Sikelè rosso explodes with inviting, southern Italian aromas of sun-warmed plums, black cherries, and sweet licorice. Full-bodied, dry, and packed with Sicilian charm, the Sikelè shows its natural purity with fascinating expressions of licorice, leather, earth, tobacco, capsicum, and a dose of the good ol’ funk. Plentiful fine tannins sneak in mid-palate and segue the wine to its long, earthy finish. Enjoy this “natural wine” now and over the coming two years with grilled meats, mushrooms, and seasonal vegetables, shish kebabs, pizza margherita, or pasta tossed with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, and olive oil.

2019 Mastroberardino, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso, Campania, Italy 19.99 / 215.89

The great Mastroberardino estate works primarily with Campania’s native varieties, of which the ancient Piedirosso is employed exclusively for their reference-standard Lacryma Christi Rosso. On Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic, mineral-rich, soils, the Piedirosso reaches its apogee as a solo variety and as a blending partner to Aglianico. A translucent crimson-garnet hue in the glass, Mastroberardino’s Lacryma Christi Rosso conveys its noble volcanic origins with deep, spicy aromas of tar, smoke, licorice, game, peppery salumi, and ferrous earth. Plump and silky on the fore-palate, the Lacryma tenses mid-palate to reveal supple tannins framing a kernel of red plum, cherry, and boysenberry fruit. The volcanic soil signature returns for a well-deserved encore as the wine finishes long, smoky, and utterly compelling. A perfect wine for winter and early spring weather, enjoy this unique and soil-driven rosso now and over the coming four years with wood-fired pizzas, hearty pastas, burgers, salumi, grilled red meats, and vegetarian fare featuring mushrooms.

2019 La Miraja, Grignolino d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 18.99 / 205.09

The singular wines of La Miraja have heretofore been impossible to find in the United States. The estate is nestled within the original castle of Castagnole Monferrato, constructed in the 11th century. It is here that Eugenio Gatti devotes his life’s work to producing 840 transcendent cases of wine each year. Grignolino is one of the true wonders of the wine world. Like Poulsard, it’s too pale to be a proper “red” wine, and too dark to be a classical rosé. The truth is that Grignolino gives an utterly unique and compelling wine that easily serves both purposes. La Miraja’s Grignolino reflects a pale, transparent amber-rimmed garnet robe and gorgeous aromas of rose petals, geranium, tart pie cherries, and pomegranate seeds. Fresh and invigorating on the palate, the wine frames its pure red-fruited kernel with plentiful fine tannins and spine-tingling acidity. Floral notes of rose petals and rosehips join a subtle note of morel mushroom and an undercurrent of dusty limestone minerality on the long, thrilling finish. We are enthusiastic fans of the noble Grignolino, and we encourage you to pair this reference-setting, artisanal rendition now and over the coming five years with vegetable, seafood and mushroom risottos, roast chicken and duck, savory vegetable medleys, broiled salmon, and pan-seared pork chops.

2017 F.lli Cigliuti, Barbera d’Alba, Vigna Serraboella, Piedmont, Italy 23.99 / 259.09

According to Vinous’s Antonio Galloni, “Cigliuti remains one of Barbaresco's under-the-radar jewels. Over the last few years, the wines have become especially notable.” From vines in the grand cru Serraboella vineyard in Barbaresco’s prestigious Neive zone, Cigliuti once again has blown us away with a Barbera of exceptional depth and dimension. This brooding, classic Barbera reflects a black plum color in the glass followed by savory aromas of salted plums, Bing cherries, cinnamon stick, and menthol. Plump and lush on the attack, the wine sparkles with traditional Barbera acidity and impressive expressions of black cherry skin, leather, mushrooms, camphor, and clay soil. Plentiful fine tannins sneak in on the back-palate and lead the wine to a long, savory finish that begs for classic Piemontese cuisine. Pair it now and over the coming five to seven years with grilled hanger steak, salumi, pastas with a rich ragù or Bolognese sauce, fritto misto, carne cruda, rich bean stews, and eggplant lasagna. Exceptional Barbera!

FRANCE – RED

2019 Arnaud Lambert, Saumur, Clos Mazurique, Loire Valley, France (CO) 17.99 / 194.29

Insanely complex and satisfying for its paltry tariff, the Clos Mazurique delivers a riveting mouthful of Cabernet Franc goodness. Only fifty centimeters of sandy silt topsoil separates the surface of Saumur’s Clos Mazurique from its bedrock of pure, perfumed yellow tuffeau limestone. Sourced from these special soils, Arnaud Lambert’s 2019 Clos Mazurique casts a youthful purple claret color in the glass followed by aromas of black currants and Bing cherries infused with cedary pencil lead, rose petals, and tuffeau limestone dust. Full and vigorous on the palate, the Clos Mazurique explodes with a core of currant and black cherry fruit lifted and complemented by complex overtones of orange zest, white pepper, tobacco, and calcareous minerals. Brimming with energy and Cabernet Franc nobility, the wine finishes with reprises of black fruits mingling with floral notes of violets, lavender, and rose petals. Ready to serve today, the wine also has the poise and reserve to reward five to seven years’ ageing in your cool cellar. Pair with roast chicken or hearty mushroom dishes or serve it at cellar temperature in the summer with grilled zucchini, BBQ chicken, ribs, and fresh chèvres. This is undoubtably Lambert’s finest Mazurique yet!

2016 Ch. de Grandchamp, Montagne Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France (O) 18.99 / 205.09

There is very strong movement in Bordeaux to return to its traditional, pre-Parker roots: this beauty from Château de Grandchamp is firmly rooted in the pre-Parker aesthetic. Vigneron Gonzague Maurice organically farms Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon in densely planted vineyards rooted in clay-limestone soils with small traces of iron. The Merlot’s beautiful, supple plum fruit expression is in full bloom in this superb, traditional, and authentic Montagne Saint-Émilion. Casting a translucent black cherry robe, the Château de Grandchamp – a blend of Merlot (90% ) and Cabernet Franc – opens with textbook Right Bank aromas of damson plums, crushed herbs, baker’s chocolate, and clay-limestone terroir. Supple on the attack, the wine swiftly tenses to reveal a spine of traditional Bordeaux tannins in concert with the impeccable balance and structure of the great 2016 Bordeaux vintage. On the palate, the wine’s tannic backbone and lifting acidity frame and brighten the core of plum and currant fruit. Hints of leather, cocoa, and underbrush appear on the wine’s long finish and marry seamlessly with its chewy kernel of red and black fruits. This is lovely Right Bank Bordeaux and a steal for its sub-$20 price tag. Enjoy now or over the coming decade with rib roasts of beef, roast lamb, grilled eggplant, and dishes featuring a rich mushroom duxelle.

2011 Cantina Sociale Cooperativa di Copertino, Copertino Riserva, Puglia, Italy 10.99 / 118.69 reg. 13.99

Folks, this is a ridiculously great wine, and it has been a bestseller over the past five years. The Cantina Sociale’s 2011 Copertino, the winery’s newest release, is fashioned from a core of Negroamaro (95%) seasoned by a dollop of Malvasia Nera. An orange-rimmed dark garnet color, the Copertino Riserva’s long ageing results in a kaleidoscope of aromas from leather to red currants, dried cherries, cinnamon, cola, mushrooms, and cured meat. Supple on the palate, the wine delivers gorgeously funky, leathery dried cherry fruit followed by brisk acidity, fine lip-dusting tannins, and notes of smoke, limestone dust and herbs. Long, lingering and with impressive staying power, the wine finishes with earthy mushroom notes alongside reprises of saddle leather, tobacco, game, and peppery salumi. You’ll want to buy this delightful wine by the case to serve with everything that calls for a lusty, earthy, soul-satisfying rosso: pizza, pasta in a sun-dried tomato, pine nut and olive oil sauce, grilled sausages, or marinated flank steak come immediately to mind. A great value!


WHITE WINES

AUSTRIA – WHITE

2018 Domäne Wachau, Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel, Terrassen, Wachau, Austria 18.99 / 205.09

The Domäne Wachau (formerly known as the Freie Weingärtner) is among the world’s elite wine cooperatives, and their portfolio includes many of the Wachau’s finest crus. Selected from the best terraced hillside fruit grown by its collective of member-growers, the Domäne’s 2019 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen distances itself from other affordable bottlings of Grüner Veltliner due to the pedigree of its fruit and the deft skills of the winemakers. Reflecting a medium lemon-gold color, Domäne Wachau’s Federspiel Terrassen expresses all the notes and nuances that make Grüner the most vegetable-friendly wine in the world. Notes of artichoke, green bean, Castelvetrano olives, and crushed stones mingle with juicy impressions of lime, honeydew melon, and papaya. White pepper, watercress, herbs, and sweet snap peas emerge on the palate and segue the wine to a long, refreshing finish. The Wachau is considered by most to be Austria’s premier winegrowing region and Domäne Wachau’s Federspiel Terrassen brilliantly attests this assertion. Enjoy now and over the coming three years with dishes featuring lentils, fresh and sautéed green vegetables, mild Asian cuisines, and light poultry.

HUNGARY – WHITE

2018 Bodrog Bormuhely, Dry Tokaj, Tokaji, Hungary (O) 17.99 / 194.29

The noble sweet wines of Tokaji have a long and storied history serving as a diplomatic tool to court foreign powers and inspiring countless artists and philosophers. In 2007 the Bodrog Wine Workshop was formed with the intention of crafting pure, modern, yet classically inspired dry wines. Today Bodrog works organically to craft an impressive portfolio from a bevy of Tokaji’s finest vineyard sites. The 2018 Dry Tokaj – a blend of Furmint (70%) and Ha´rslevelu? - radiates a pale straw-gold in the glass followed by aromas of smoky minerals, linden, bee pollen, elderflowers, lemon pith, orange blossom, and green almonds. Bone-dry on the palate, expressions of fresh lemon juice, lime zest, and white peony tea join with a persistent mineral undercurrent and a tactile presence unlike any wine in the world. The wine is a must-try selection and the perfect antidote for the jaded wine palate. Enjoy Bodrog Bormuhely’s Dry Tokaj now and over the coming five years as an attention-grabbing apéritif, or, ideally, paired at the table with mild pork sausages, broiled salmon, chicken goulash, pan-fried trout, hearty potato recipes, and savory bean stews.

FRANCE – WHITE

2019 Berthenet, Bourgogne Aligoté, Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, France (S) 15.99 / 172.69

François Berthenet and his father, Jean-Pierre, run the Berthenet domaine in the hallowed Côte Chalonnaise’s exclusively white wine appellation of Montagny. The Berthenets trace their winegrowing history in Montagny back more than four centuries and are experts at the appellation’s varied terroirs. Lean, chiseled, and highly transparent, Aligoté was previously too acidic for enjoyment as a table wine. Now with modern viticulture and climate change, Aligoté is gaining attention as a highly terroir-expressive grape in Burgundy with champions as famous as Jean-François Coche-Dury, Jean-Marc Roulot and Sylvain Pataille. From 70-year-old vines, Berthenet’s 2019 Aligoté shines with a brilliant lemon-gold hue and bright aromas of perfumed soil, lemon zest, and grapefruit pith. Brisk and bracing in the mouth, the wine opens with juicy lemon and riveting acidity before gaining texture on the palate. Clean, precise, and conveying Montagny’s impeccable pedigree, Berthenet’s Aligoté finishes with racy acidity and further suggestions of lime blossoms, honeysuckle, orange peel, flint, and smoke. This beautifully pure and expressive Aligoté will prove a perfect apéritif, but ideally will be paired now and over the coming three years with halibut, black cod, rockfish, and morels in a cream sauce. Try it in a classic Kir cocktail!

2019 Domaine du Pas Saint Martin, Saumur Blanc, La Pierre Frite, Loire Valley, France (CO) 18.99 /205.09

The Domaine du Pas Saint Martin La Pierre Frite is splendid, expressive Saumur blanc. Fashioned from Chenin Blanc grown organically on silica-rich limestone soils, the wine is given extended ageing on its lees to enrich its palate texture and express the Saumur’s special soils. Pale straw-gold in color, the wine shows the impressive persistence and drive of the 2019 vintage with aromas of Bartlett pear, yellow plum, beeswax, blond tobacco, powdered limestone, and white pepper. On the palate, brisk acidity lifts the wine’s core of melon and orchard fruit and amplifies its inimitable smoky tuffeau and limestone soil signature. Further notes of honeysuckle blossoms and Pippin apple flesh complete the wine on the long minerally finish.The wine is ready to drink now and over the next three years. Serve with everything from bivalves to cephalopods, as well as trout, halibut, sautéed squashes, and light poultry recipes.

2019 Ch. de la Jousselinière, Gros Plant du Pays Nantais Sur Lie, "Perle Bleue," Loire Valley, France (O) 12.99 / 140.29

Is there a better white wine value on the marketplace than this beauty from Jousselinière? The Pays Nantais are the environs around the western Loire Valley city of Nantes, home to Muscadet and its lesser-known cousin, Gros Plant. The neutral Gros Plant variety allows the briny air of the Atlantic Loire to fuse effortlessly with the region’s amazingly diverse soils. Pale straw-gold in the glass, Jousselinière’s 2019 Gros Plant offers aromas of barley, ginger, lemongrass, and sea breeze. Zippy and focused, the wine refreshes and enlivens the palate with citrus, Bartlett pear, and green plum fruit expressions lifted by brisk acidity, hints of iodine, and persistent minerality. The combination makes for easy, economical, and completely satisfying drinking over the coming three years with clams, mussels, oysters, crab, halibut, green squashes, as well as lightly dressed salads and braised leafy greens like chard, collards, and kale.

2018 Justin Girardin, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy, France (S) 18.99 / 205.09

Justin Girardin represents the thirteenth generation of the great Girardin family in Burgundy. Girardin’s Bourgogne Chardonnay hails from vines planted in the Côte de Beaune’s southerly Santenay appellation. Complex and soil-driven, the 2018 Girardin Bourgogne bursts out the glass with pungent, soil-expressive aromas, gravelly limestone, iodine, raw hazelnuts, and high-toned wild yeast notes. Impressively fresh and intense on the palate, the Chardonnay fruit gives impressions of lemon, yellow melon, and Mirabelle plums, but the overall message arising from the wine is Santenay’s pungent terroir. The wine finishes long and balanced with hints of beeswax, pear skin, Jonagold apple flesh, sweet almonds, and a final lashing of Santenay soil. Justin Girardin has crafted a most affordable and authentic Bourgogne blanc that drinks well now but will reward five to seven years’ patience in your cool cellar. Pair with broiled salmon, rabbit in a mustard sauce, herb-roasted chicken, trout amandine, sautéed squashes, and light pork preparations.

2018 Joseph Drouhin, Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France (S) 31.99 / 345.49

In Burgundy’s Mâconnais’ sector, Pouilly-Fuissé is universally considered its finest appellation. Pouilly-Fuissé’s steep hillside vineyards and relatively high altitude impart both freshness and richness to its classically soil-inflected Burgundian Chardonnays. Maison Drouhin’s 2018 Pouilly-Fuissé reflects a lovely pale, green-glinted lemon-gold color followed by aromas of smoky limestone, honeysuckle, crisp apple flesh, and sweet vanilla bean. On the palate, buoying acidity, and flinty limestone minerality elevate suggestions of crushed almonds, white flowers, lemon zest, and sweet butter. Subtle barrel tones of vanilla join reprises of lemony fruit on the wine’s long, persistent finish. Complex, balanced, and precise, Drouhin’s superb, authentic Pouilly-Fuissé can be enjoyed now and over the coming five years with broiled salmon, roast pork shoulder, herb roasted chicken, boudin blanc, and mushroom-focused vegetarian fare. Very limited: only ten cases available.

SPAIN – WHITE

2019 Manuel Guerra Justo, Monterrei Treixadura y Godello, "Vía Arxéntea," Galicia, Spain 17.99 / 194.29

The Monterrei D.O. lies in in the southeastern corner of Galicia on Spain’s border with Portugal. Monterrei's inland location provides warm and dry summers, which result in fuller-bodied wines compared to those from other sectors of Galicia. Manuel Guerra Justo’s Vía Arxéntea, equal parts Treixadura and Godello, conveys the magic that these two indigenous varieties can perform in the hands of a meticulous, artisanal winemaker. A brilliant green-tinged gold in the glass, the Vía Arxéntea bursts with delicious aromas of jasmine blossoms, green pineapple, passion fruit, pear skin, and flinty minerals. Vibrant and energetic on the palate, the wine reveals a kaleidoscope of flavors ranging from grapefruit, Seville orange, quince, and bergamot to fresh ginger, tarragon, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. Impressive mid-palate texture, crisp minerality, wild yeast top notes, and a wonderful interplay among citrus and tropical fruits make this one of the many terrific wines we’ve tasted from Monterrei. Enjoy now or over the next two years with squid a la plancha, seafood and vegetable paellas, salt cod fritters, and pastas tossed with olive oil and sautéed green vegetables

2019 Zarate, Albariño, Rías Baixas Val do Salnés, Galicia, Spain (S) 21.99 / 237.45

Seventh-generation vigneron Eulogio Pomares helms the Zárate estate in the esteemed Val do Salnés sector of Rías Biaxas. Employing wild-yeast fermentations in old chestnut casks, near-biodynamic viticulture, minimal intervention in the cellar, and long aging on the lees, Zárate’s Albariño offers a character and vibrancy far beyond most examples of the genre. The wine pours a brilliant lime-glinted gold and offers gorgeous aromas of yellow melon, nectarine, and orange alongside suggestions of honeysuckle blossoms, oolong tea, and jasmine. Nuances of green pineapple, Meyer lemon, and passion fruit join iodine saline notes on the Albariño’s bold and gripping palate. Riveting acidity, intense fruit expression, saline minerals, and green herbs grace the wine’s long, lingering finish. The Zárate estate strongly advocates for Albariño’s ageing capabilities, but this wine is so delicious that you’ll be hard pressed to keep your hands off your stash. Buy enough to enjoy now, and then lay a few bottles down to allow the wine to mature gracefully for up to seven years. Pair with sauteed and grilled prawns, seafood tapas, vegetable tortillas, fish steaks like swordfish or mahi mahi, sashimi, and mild cheeses.

ITALY – WHITE

2018 La Valle del Sole, Offida Pecorino, Marche, Italy (CO) 16.99 / 183.49

Offida, a village in the province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region of central Italy is renowned both for its Pecorino grape and for its red wines fashioned from the Montepulciano grape. The harmony of Valle del Sole’s wines is due to the extreme day-to-night temperature variations arising from the sea breezes from the Adriatic and winds coming from Sibillini Mountains. Benefitting from its superb locale, Valle del Sole’s impeccably balanced Offida Pecorino reflects a medium straw-gold hue followed by refreshing aromas of pear, yellow apple flesh, shaved fennel, and fresh sage. Ample yet brisk on the palate, the wine buoys its kernel of green and yellow orchard fruits with zesty acidity and a persistent undercurrent of saline minerals. Waves of lemon, yellow apple, fresh apricot, and yellow plum fruit, salty calcareous minerals, rubbed sage, and fresh peat linger on wine’s long finish. Enjoy this brilliant Pecorino now and over the coming two years with pasta sauced with white seafood pasta dishes, spaghetti alla carbonara, broiled swordfish, fluke crudo, seafood stews, sautéed zucchini and anything topped liberally with good Pecorino Romano cheese.


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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.