Wine Reviews: American Wines from Coast to Coast

With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to share some American wines I think would fit well with any seasonal fare you and your friends and family may be serving. These represent a drop in the bucket of the diversity in regions, of course, but I’d be stoked to share these wines with my family and friends this week.

I haven’t (yet) made a wine trip to Long Island’s North Fork – but that’s long overdue. I’m a long-time East Coast wine fan, and it’s been awesome to see the growth in regions like Virginia, Maryland, and others since I started paying attention about 15 years ago. Recently, I received a six-pack of wines from Long Island’s North Fork that made me think: I’ve gotta get out there already!

And speaking of Virginia: Early Mountain. I love this place and their wines – just such reliably exciting, delicious, honest Virginia expressions. Their Petit Manseng rocks, and is worth checking out if you don’t have much experience with this grape and worth checking out even more if you do. Their reds offer a lot of juicy, spicy, Virginia goodness as well. And the value in here is really something. Very much worth a visit if you’re ever passing through the region.

Troon shouldn’t be a new name to long-time readers, as I’ve been stoked on this Oregon producer’s wines for years. This biodynamic outfit from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley is always experimenting with exciting blends and styles. But two of their classic reds in this report make for great cold weather sipping.

And, of course, California is represented here. FEL delivers again with two delightful Savoy Vineyard wines from Anderson Valley that are a great choice for Pinot and Chard-lovers.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2020 FEL Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $52
Medium yellow color. A deep but lively aromatic blend of yellow apples, tart lemons, with nougat and almond, cinnamon crumb cake, and notes of ginger and chalk dust, too. The palate shows crisp acidity and a creamy mouthfeel, with flavors of lemon bars and yellow apples and pears. The complexities in here are exceptional: almond cake, honey, yellow flowers, cinnamon, shaved ginger, with an underlying mineral essence. Gorgeous depth and texture, this should age wonderfully. 13.8% alcohol, this wine is aged 16 months on the lees in 35% new oak. (93 points IJB)

2020 FEL Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $75
Vibrant cherry color. The nose is lovely, with these waves of tangy raspberries, strawberries, with rose petals, clay pot, tobacco, earthy-savory tones, too – there’s a lot to unpack in here. Warm and smooth on the palate with structured tannins and vibrant acidity. Red cherries, tangy strawberries, juicy raspberries, the fruit is laced with tones of floral perfume, pepper, clove, clay and potting soil elements. Suave, silky, crisp, this is ready to drink but will open up nicely over the coming years. 13.9% alcohol, aged 16 months in 24% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

N.V. Sparkling Pointe Brut Nature USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $42
Light gold color. I like the chalky, salty, flinty aromas (really catches the oceanic vibes of Long Island) with some honey and yellow flowers, and lemon and green apple fruit. Juicy yellow apple and lime fruit on the palate, supported with brisk acidity and some nuanced baguette tones. Chalky, spritely and dry, with fresh cut floral stems, dandelion and some spiced white tea. Fun, fresh, delicious blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier from this prolific sparkling wine producer. (88 points IJB)

2020 Peconic Bay Vineyards Riesling USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $28
Bright yellow color. Lovely aromatic display here, with an infusion of juicy peaches and limes, chalk dust and saline, sugar cane, and fresh new tennis balls (in a good way!). Racy acidity frames the palate nicely, balanced sugar throughout, with big chunks of fresh pineapples, drizzled with lime. The chalk dust, crushed sea shells and minerals linger long on the finish. Racy, refreshing and tasty. (90 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: American Wines from Coast to Coast2021 Lieb Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Bridge Lane USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $16
Medium straw color. Bright and floral on the nose, with tangy limes and juicy white peaches, topped in white flowers, mint and celery seed tones. Zippy, crisp and floral on the nose, with some pleasant creaminess and flavors of white peaches, pineapple and limes. Flinty, chalky tones, with a creamy but vibrant finish. Fun, fresh, a lot of personality for the price here. Really solid value. (87 points IJB)

2021 Macari Vineyards Horses USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $29
Bright fizzy raspberry color. Spritely and tangy on the palate, with crunchy red apples, wild raspberries, with notes of white pepper, rose hips and bay leaf. Dusty texture, very zesty, this has a crunchy feel with tangy red apples and cranberry fruit. Fun and fresh with some cool spicy, herbal tones. A fun accompaniment to a wide variety of foods for sure. A crown cap Cabernet Franc sparkler, destemmed, it spends two days on the skins and is disgorged after five months. (88 points IJB)

2019 Pellegrini Vineyards Chardonnay Stainless Steel USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $23
Pale lemon color. A tangy and brisk style on the nose with lemons and green apples, lemon verbena, seashells, some dandelion and daisy tones. Floral and tangy on the palate with citrus and green apple fruits on a crunchy, vibrant frame. Flinty, oceanic goodness abounds in this seafood-friendly style Chardonnay. (88 points IJB)

2019 Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard Pink Satin USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $34
Pale salmon color. Nose pops with white cherries and strawberries, along with notes of honeysuckle, mint and orange blossom. Crisp acidity, moderate but balanced sugar adds some creaminess and sweetness, but it stays refreshing. Notes of tangy strawberries and juicy cherries, with some nice tea, white pepper and floral perfume tones. A nice salty kick on the finish as well. Melot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv. (86 points IJB)

2020 Troon Vineyard Syrah USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $40
Dark purple color. The nose kicks off with a great burst of smoky, beefy, peppery goodness, with roasted red pepper and mesquite, grille steak, over tangy blueberries and black cherry fruit. The palate shows nice grip with smooth tannic edges and delightfully fresh acidity and tangy plums, blueberries and black cherry fruit. The complex notes of roasted red pepper, soy, glazed mushrooms, gravelly earth and clove. Age-worthy but fresh, this has a lot of deliciousness and savory goodness packed in here, especially for the price. (92 points IJB)

2020 Troon Vineyard Tannat USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $50
Deep purple color. The nose of tart black currants and blackberries is great, laced with complexities of smashed rocks, anise, tar, pencil shavings, dried violet petals. The palate is grippy but suave with tangy acidity and a nice core of tar blueberries and currants. Elements of smoky earth, charcoal, anise, coffee grounds and violets add complexity. The notes of savory broth and mushroom need years to unravel, and this will age gloriously for quite some time. Deep, tangy, balanced, spicy – a ton to love. (92 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: American Wines from Coast to Coast2020 Early Mountain Vineyards Petit Manseng USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Madison County
SRP: $30
Rich gold color. The nose bursts with personality, showing deep apricot, orange marmalade, candied lemon peel, with notes of honey, graham cracker, white flowers, mint leaves and some salty tones. The palate shows classic Petit Manseng vibes with racy acidity, lip-smacking goodness, and rich, waxy texture, and the balance is just lovely. Nuanced throughout, with a complex mix of honey, hay, almond, yellow flowers. Exciting, delicious stuff that I’d love to taste in three to five years. Includes 4% Pinot Gris and 3% Chardonnay. (90 points IJB)

2021 Early Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Shenandoah Valley USA, Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. Loving the spicy aromatic kick here, with rose hips, black and white pepper, forest floor, along with a display of fresh raspberries, red apple and black cherry fruit. The palate is so fresh but deeply textured, with dusty tannins and a bright core of black cherries and wild raspberries. Lovely earthy tones, red clay, and notes of sage, white pepper, some black olive. Delightfully fresh appeal but a lot of complexity and depth as well. This should age nicely for a few years. If you haven’t tried Shenandoah Cab Franc, this is a great intro and value. (91 points IJB)

2021 Early Mountain Vineyards Foothills USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Madison County
SRP: $27
Deep ruby color. Inviting and juicy on the nose, with raspberries, red plums, topped in hefty amounts of roses, pepper, violets, leather and clove. The palate is silky and zippy with tangy red and black cherry fruit, juicy strawberries, the fruit is just delish. Notes of sage, rose petals, mint, spiced tea, it adds a lovely autumnal complexity. So darn fun. A fascinating blend of 28% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 8% Tanat, 8% Petit Manseng and 5% Cabernet Franc. (90 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Fresh Fall Values

With Halloween behind us, I’ve started seeing holiday decorations and displays going up in stores these past few days. But we still have plenty of fall left, and November is one of my favorite months. I’m looking forward to spending time in the mountains, cold nights, gathering with friends and family. But before we transition into the holiday season and crack open the Champagne and burly red wines, I have some offerings on the lighter side of the spectrum. And holiday travel, cooking, etc., can get expensive, so the selections this week all highlight value.

Vinho Verde brings to mind hot summer days with a plate of oysters (and that is certainly a great idea). But I’ve got some complex Vinho Verdes this week that offer more complexity and even some aging potential. No joke, I’d consider cellaring these two for a year or two and see what happens, as they have the depth and complexity to benefit from it.

If you’re looking to restock on some bright white wines and save some money, I’ve got two wines from Val de Vid, from Rueda in Spain. I also have two German samples I received from Wines of Germany. It was while living in Germany my senior year of high school that I had my first vineyard and wine appreciation experience, and I always keep some German wines on hand for holiday gatherings. And we round things out with a bright red blend from Portugal.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Whites

Wine Reviews: Fresh Fall Values2020 Richard Bocking Pinot Blanc Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Spritely on the nose with chalk dust and floral perfume, basil and honeysuckle, over top of limes, green apple and kiwi. The palate is flinty and dry with vibrant acidity and a zesty, crystalline feel. The green apple and kiwi fruit is crunchy and precise with classic Mosel minerals and flinty undertones. Lots of floral and herbal complexity, too, this has a mountain stream quality to it, which is a ton of fun. (90 points IJB)

2021 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Vinho Verde Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $18
Light yellow color. Popping aromas of white peaches drizzled with lime, topped with daisies and dandelions, some honey and sliced celery as well. The palate shows zesty acidity and pleasant depth of texture, the balance between taut energy and some creaminess is pleasant. Peaches, lemons and limes, with salty, chalky, mineral tones, along with floral perfume and cut flower stems. Fresh, lively and fun, but the balance and complexity are legit. 100% Loureiro from estate-grown fruit. (89 points IJB)

2021 Herdade do Esporão Vinho Verde Bico Amarelo Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $12
Juicy yellow color. Aromas of pineapple and lemon, along with some fresh mountain stream vibes, with yellow flowers, honeysuckle and some sliced cucumber. Delightful textural weight is balances by brisk acidity, and I love the flavors of tart lemon, kiwi and pineapple. Lots of flowers, but they’re nuanced and woven in well, never overpowering things. Pithy, spritely and complex, this is one of the more interesting Vinho Verde’s you may find. 40% Loureiro, 30% Alvarinho and 30% Avesso. (90 points IJB)

2021 Val de Vid Rueda Spain, Castilla y León, Rueda
SRP: $13
Medium yellow color. A meadow of wildflower goodness on the nose, with peaches and kiwi and clean laundry. Punchy and crisp on the palate with brisk acidity and flavors of papaya, peaches and lemon juice. Some waxy elements mix with tones of white pepper, oregano, basil, and the wine shows some salty, briny vibes as well. Lovely wine for salads and seafoods. 85% Verdejo from 25-year-old vines and 15% Viura from 50-year-old vines. (88 points IJB)

2021 Val de Vid Verdejo Rueda Spain, Castilla y León, Rueda
SRP: $14
Medium yellow color. Super bright on the nose, with a floral potpourri of white and yellow flowers and some basil, fresh cucumbers and honeysuckle, over top of peaches and papaya. Bright and zesty on the palate but nice texture, balanced well with roundness and freshness. Papaya, peach and orange peel fruit blends well with honey, basil, sliced green onion, chalk dust. Floral, fun, bright and versatile. All Verdejo from 25-30 year-old vines. (88 points IJB)

Reds

2019 Ritual Pinot Noir Chile, Casablanca Valley
SRP: $21
Deep ruby color. Bright and juicy on the nose with a nice mix of red apple peel, black cherry and wild raspberry, topped in notes of black pepper, rose hips and rhubarb. The palate shows fine-grained tannins and crisp acidity, over a bed of tangy cherry, red currant and pomegranate fruit. Notes of black pepper, charcoal, rose petals and rhubarb add complexity. Fresh and fun, spicy and floral, showing good complexity. Look, it’s rare I find a $20 Pinot I’d purchase and share with guests, but this is it. Aged 11 months in French oak. (89 points IJB)

2019 August Kesseler Pinot Noir The Daily August Germany, Rheingau
SRP: $25
Medium ruby color. The nose is spicy and floral with rose hips, white pepper and tobacco, mixing well with tangy red apple and juicy raspberry fruit, some earthy, savory undertones. Fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins on the palate, a mix of deeper black cherry fruit with tart red apples, and there’s a lot of peppery, tobacco and sage vibes that make this fun and interesting. Fun and fresh, but nice depth of mouthfeel and complexity. I would love to mix this wine in blind at a pinot tasting and see what folks guess. (I bet it gets some love, too). (90 points IJB)

2019 Quinta do Vesuvio Douro Comboio do Vesuvio Unoaked Portugal, Douro
SRP: $22
Bright purple color. Nice tart dark fruit on the nose (black cherries and dark plums), along with a pleasant mix of smoky, gravelly earth, with violets and magic marker tones. Medium-bodied on the palate, dusty tannins with rounded edges, medium acidity. Tangy dark plums and black cherries, the fruit is accented with rocky earth, graphite, violets, some tar and pine tones. Everything’s woven together well, with a nice floral and spicy finish. A fresher take, and a great intro to Douro red blends at a solid price. (89 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: California Selections

I love California wine, and this week I have a handful of wines from producers that consistently deliver for me. It’s autumn, the nights have been cool and I’ve been cooking a lot at home. And it is prime time for deep Napa Cabs, refreshing Sonoma Pinot Noirs and creamy Chards. I’m planning on hosting a lot of friends and family over the coming holidays, and I chose some wines I would love to serve at such occasions. There are complex and age-worthy Cabs from some great producers: Smith-Madrone, Sullivan Rutherford Estate, Frank Family. And Gary Farrell and Ram’s Gate deliver Sonoma goodness in droves.

If you’re stocking up for the coming holiday season, here are some of my favorites from recent California samples. These wines were tasted sighted.

2019 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $65
Vibrant purple color. The fruit on the nose shows these tart but deep vibes (black cherries, blueberries, currants), mixed with these scents of iron, graphite, sage, tobacco and pepper. Give it air, and there’s a ton to coax out. On the palate, this is full but fresh with nice grip and crisp acidity. The black currant and cherry fruit is juicy and tangy, and the mouthfeel is smooth and effortless. The fruit is woven in well with flavors of tobacco, roasted red pepper, sage and clove. Nuanced, gorgeous complexity, this is a stellar 2019 Cab that deserves time in the cellar and some great company. Includes 12% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot, aged 18 months in 55% new French oak. (95 points IJB)

2019 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Vibrant purple color. Warm and inviting on the nose with fallen leaves, clove, potpourri and tobacco over top deep black cherries and dark plums, with herbal tea and toffee tones. Juicy and fresh on the palate, with chewy tannins and a ripe but nuanced feel. Tangy black cherry and red and black currant fruit, with complexities of eucalyptus, mint, pepper and earth. The savory tones and fruit nuances need time to come out, but this is such a delightful Cab. Aged 20 months in 33% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Sullivan Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vigne USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $110
Deep purple color. Gorgeous concentration on the nose, with plums, currants, blueberries, laced with graphite, stony, dusty tones, some leather, sage and deep earthy tones. The tannic grip is fantastic and the acidity is in line and balanced, with a core of deep but tangy fruit (black cherries, currants). I get notes of leather, graphite, along with potting soil, tar and some smoked meat tones as well. A stony, rocky, mineral-laden essence pervades this wine, and the savory complexity needs time to show it’s full stuff, but this is a beautiful 19 Cabernet that will do wonders in the cellar. Includes 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. (95 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: California Selections2019 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay El Diablo Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $70
Rich yellow color. Beautiful aromatic depth, with yellow apples, limes and pears, tossed with honey, ginger, graham cracker, and notes of meringue, chalk dust and white tea – just lovely. The palate shows crisp acidity and a gorgeous, creamy texture, and the balance between all these elements is pristine. Yellow apples, lemon curd and green pear fruit blend well with these chalky, flinty, mineral vibes. The creamy, honeyed, almond and cheese rid notes are balanced well, and notes of flowers and mountain stream linger long on the finish. A beautifully textured and delicious Chardonnay that should age wonderfully. Aged in 28% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2020 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $35
Deep yellow color. Beautiful nose of yellow apples, lemons, pineapple, with white flowers, sea salt, chalk dust and crème brulee tones. The palate shows racy acidity which keeps things in balance and contrasts nicely off the rich yellow apple, lemon curd and zesty lime fruit. Chalky, flinty undertones, with nuanced walnut and graham cracker. This is a fresh, delightful Russian River Chardonnay that would please so many a palate. Great value, too. Aged nine months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

2020 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Lively cherry color. The aromas pop with crisp cherry and raspberry, strawberry, red apple peel, so vibrant and mixed with tones of tobacco, rhubarb, mint, some clay and cola. The palate shows crisp acidity and a plush feel, smooth tannins. The fruit tastes crisp, cool and delightful (black cherries, raspberries, juicy strawberries). Pretty elements of rhubarb, white pepper, bay leaf, mixing with nuanced cola and toffee with floral, spicy tones on the finish. Crisp, fresh, balanced Pinot. (92 points IJB)

2021 Head High Zinfandel USA, California, Sonoma Valley
SRP; $28
Deep ruby color. Bright yet deep fruits (black cherries, raspberries) mixed with scents of violets, cola, light roast coffee and some roasted chestnut. Ripe but tangy on the palate, supple tannins, zippy acidity, with a juicy, jammy appeal to the fruit, with raspberries, plums and black cherries. The complexities of earth, pepper, anise and light roast coffee make this delicious, and there’s some gravelly, mineral tones on the finish. Juicy, warm stuff for cold autumn nights. Aged nine months in French oak. (90 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Autumnal Selections

Autumn is in full swing, and I am loving it. I’ve been enjoying cool morning birdwatching walks, seeing the leaves start to change and evenings spent cooking up soups, stews and braised meat dishes after a long summer.

I’m looking forward to hosting friends and family over the coming weeks, and, of course, planning some wines to share.

I’m always stocking up on whites, pinks and bubbles around this time of year, and I’ve got a few selections that would be versatile options for the upcoming season. For sparklers, I have an interesting new project to share: Vara from sparkling wine guru Laurent Gruet. This Brut blends Washington state Chardonnay with some Cava grapes from Spain – and the result is pretty darn cool.

Italian reds will definitely be a big feature of my fall and winter meal planning, and I’ll share some really nice ones this week. Founded in 1857, Bertani knows what they’re doing with Amarone, and their 2011 Amarone Classico is a stunner. And I have some value-driven reds that would be great for big gatherings.

I also have two awesome wines from Shaw-Ross Imports, a delightful aged Gavi from La Scolca and a beautiful Chilean red from Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi’s Seña.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Rosé, white and sparkling

2021 Vinhos Sogrape Mateus Rosé Portugal
SRP: $13

Deep copper color. Aromas of white cherries, raspberries, red apple peel, along with white flowers, honeysuckle, some chalk dust and mint. Bright and spritely on the palate with raspberries and tart white cherry fruit. There’s a pleasant creaminess and waxiness to the texture with tones of white pepper, honeysuckle, along with some talc and mineral tones. Ripe, pleasant, crisp, food-friendly and fun. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Vara Silverhead Brut USA, American
SRP: $25

Palest copper color. Gorgeous aromas of dough, hay, chalk dust and limestone, with white cherry and raspberry fruit, with floral perfume tones as well. Crisp, nervy and focused on the palate, this has a salty, briny appeal but also nice depth, with juicy white cherry and red apple fruit. Flavors of biscuits, almond and hay mix with saline and mineral-infused goodness. Has a brisk, clear feel but a lot of cool, complex elements. An interesting mix of 72% Chardonnay from the Ancient Lakes AVA in Washington, with 25% Xarel-lo/Macabeo from the Penedés in Spain, and a 3% shot of Syrah from Washington as well. An 8 g/l dosage, aged 18 months, disgorged May 2022. (91 points IJB)

2008 La Scolca Gavi D’Antan Italy, Piedmont, Gavi
SRP: $100

Deep lemon color. The aromas have such a dynamic and shifting display, with spiced tea, honey, and bread crumbs over lemon and orange peels and these chalky, saline-infused elements. The palate shows deep texture, a honeyed feel but so taut and nervy as well, with orange peel and lemon curd. There’s this stony, mineral, salty essence throughout that is great, and complex elements of white tea, mint and umami come out with time. Fascinating and delicious, worth seeking out if you’re into unique, aged whites. Their flagship white from Rovereto in Gavi, it’s a Cortese that’s aged for 10 years before release. (94 points IJB)

N.V. Luretta Principessa Emilia IGT Italy, Emilia-Romagna, Emilia IGT
SRP: $25

Pale lemon color. A refreshing aromatic display of lemons, orange peel and yellow apples, with tones of crushed chalk, talc, fresh biscuits, with white tea and honeysuckle. Delightfully creamy and plush texture combines with racy acidity, which supports the creamy yellow apples and lemon pie flavors. Balanced sugar, notes of saline, enjoyable bread dough and biscuit flavors, topped in some crushed chalk and notes of verbena. This is a fun, fresh, classic method Chardonnay that would be a great idea on for a holiday party or a by-the-glass list at a restaurant that doesn’t shy away from spice. (88 points IJB)

Reds

2019 Seña Chile, Aconcagua Valley
SRP: $125

Wine Reviews: Autumnal SelectionsDeep purple color. Beautiful, deep aromas of plums, black currants and tart wild blueberries, supported by a complex host of mint, anise, coffee, loamy soil, tobacco and campfire – a ton going on here. Grippy tannins, refined edges, and vibrant acidity makes for a tangy, dark and balanced wine. The plum, currant and black cherry fruit is tangy and pure, laced with mesquite, black pepper, loamy earth and graphite, roasted red pepper. The complexity of flavors is matched with seamless integration, and this wine, while expressive now, deserves a few years and a really good decant to show its stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon with 21% Malbec, 15% Carmenere, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2014 Azienda Agricola Spadafora Nero d’Avola Schietto Italy, Sicily, Terre Siciliane
SRP: $45

Medium purple color. The nose is delightfully spicy, like grilled meats topped in black pepper, anise, tar, menthol, over a deep core of saucy plum and black fruit, showing nuanced of age but liveliness for the cellar. On the palate, the tannins are refined and dusty, backed up by tart currant and mulled black cherry fruit. I get a lot of pepper, clove, campfire, anise and clay/earthy tones, along with floral potpourri. Complex, delicious, lovely mouthfeel, this is a Nero d’Avola that offers a lot to ponder and enjoy, and I’d be interested to see what this does with another few years in the cellar, too. (92 points IJB)

2020 Caldora Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
SRP: $15

Bright purple color. Aromas of juicy cherries, raspberry and strawberry jam, along with rose petals, white pepper, a friendly, inviting aromatic display. Ripe tannins and medium acidity make for a vibrant but chewy feel with black cherries and raspberry jam fruit. Juicy and fun but shows some nice complexity in terms of pepper, violets, clove, tar and some dried rose petals. A lively, crowd-pleasing Montepulicano at a very reasonable price. Aged nine months in oak. (87 points IJB)

2020 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Le Orme Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d’Asti
SRP: $18

Vibrant ruby color. Lovely fruit on the nose (juicy blackberries, spiced cranberry relish) with secondary notes of pepper, savory broth, bright red flowers, some earthy tones. Vibrant acidity, a juicy feel with smooth tannins, it makes for a balanced and lively wine. Tangy black cherries and bright red plum fruit mix with tobacco, clay, fallen leaves, adding lots of complexity and depth. Crowd-pleasing but offers nerds a lot to love, too, this is a great bottle to add to the holiday gathering table. Really solid value. (90 points IJB)

2018 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
SRP: $40

Bright purple color. The nose shows juicy black cherries, red currants, laced with charcoal, tar, tobacco, balanced with this brighter floral and spicy herbal tones. Structured well, delightfully chewy tannins and moderate-plus acidity makes for a juicy but fresh wine with raspberries, black cherries and currant fruit. Complex notes of tobacco, sage, black olive, violets and black pepper add complexity, but they need air and some time to show their stuff. Drink now or hold for a while, but this is a solid Chianti Classico. (91 points IJB)

2011 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
SRP: $130

Deep purple color. An amazing aromatic display of tart currants, roasted figs, sweet black cherries, with a host of complex herbal tea, violets, toffee, chewing tobacco, and these rocky/earthy tones. Lots to ponder and sniff with air. Full and deep on the palate, solid grip, while the moderate acidity keeps it focused. Pure, deep fruit (plums, currants, roasted figs and boysenberry) mix with delicious flavors of clove, violet, tobacco, soy and mushroom tones, and there’s a stony, gravelly, mineral vibe underneath that is delightful. 80% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, aged six years and oak and a year in bottle, this will age gracefully for many years, or enjoy over a few cold nights. (95 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: 2020 California Selections

2020 was a challenging year everywhere. In California, growers and vintners had to deal with a lot of their own: the novel coronavirus’ impacts, heat waves, wildfires in parts of the state. And while conditions were varied across the vast growing regions, a lot of the yields were lower. From what I’m hearing and tasting so far, the fruit quality seems to be really high and the resulting wines are very pretty and expressive.

Sonoma’s Merry Edwards likely needs no introduction here – I’ve focused on their wines before and will continue to do so because, well, they’re great. I’ve been a huge fan of their Pinots for about 15 years now, and the 2020s are stunners, and a great follow-up to the epic 2019s.

Another reliable Pinot producer, Siduri, brings some value-driven Pinot to the table. I had always been a fan of their single vineyard bottlings, but these appellation-level wines (from Anderson Valley, Santa Barbara and Willamette in Oregon) offer a nice snapshot of the region at an enticing price.

And to round things out, I also have an exceptional Chardonnay from Sonoma’s Chalk Hill.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2020 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $48
Deep yellow color. Lush and inviting on the nose, with pineapple, apricot, key lime pie, and with this richness I also get brighter elements of dandelion, honeysuckle, talc, sliced ramp leaves and cucumber tones, and the whole aromatic package is just great. Gorgeous texture on the palate, honeyed and plush but focused and bright at the same time. Pineapple, yellow apple, apricot, drizzled with lime, the fruit is matched with a mix of chalk dust and saline, and these honey, graham cracker and almond nuanced. Floral tones in here, too, with orange blossom and dandelion, and it finishes with oceanic, salty goodness. Merry Edwards Sauv Blanc does it again. This is still exciting, praise-worthy, and you get a lot of great Sauvignon goodness for the price. Aged sur lie six months in 18% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: 2020 California Selections2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $65
Medium ruby color. Really inviting and exciting aromas of juicy strawberries and chilled black cherries, laced with rhubarb, rose petals, warm black tea, roasted red pepper, and subtle coffee and cocoa tones. Juicy but super fresh on the palate, nice tannic grip, things are balanced really well, and I get delicious black cherries, raspberries and strawberry fruit. The complexities of tobacco, rhubarb, oregano and pepper add a lot to contemplate, with subtle cola and toffee tones woven in. Beautiful, fresh, delicious Sonoma Pinot. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. (93 points IJB)

2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $60
Deep ruby color. Vibrant aromas of pomegranate, strawberry rhubarb pie, bright cherries, with complexities of pepper, rose petals, savory spice and earthy tones. The palate is tangy and brisk with dusty tannins and a lively, balanced appeal. Fresh raspberries and strawberries mix with black cherries, and the fruit is tossed with pepper, clove, earth, and sauteed mushroom elements. Nuanced cola and light roast coffee round out the finish. Vibrant, exciting stuff. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2020 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Meredith Estate USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $90
Dark ruby color. The nose shows a deep core of plums ad black cherries, mixed well with tones of coffee, pepper, violet petals, clay soil, some rhubarb and white pepper – a lot going on. Lively acidity kicks off the palate, structured tannins but they have a suave appeal, supporting juicy black cherries and bright strawberries. The texture and balances are just delightful. Notes of pepper, roses, rhubarb and tobacco add complexity, while these underlying mineral, clay and dusty earth tones add a lovely touch. A pretty, seamless Pinot that will age wonderfully. Give it air or four or five years. Aged 10 months in 54% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $30
Medium ruby color. The nose has a nice spicy-floral kick, with white pepper, rhubarb, cola and leather over top of raspberries and strawberries. Juicy and fresh on the palate with smooth, light tannins and vibrant acidity, making for a balances, refreshing wine. Tangy raspberry and spiced cranberry relish flavors play well with tones of white pepper, rhubarb and tomato leaf. Nuanced cola and light roast coffee tones. Accessible but complex, solid value. (89 points IJB)

2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Anderson Valley USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP:  $40
Bright ruby color. The raspberry and juicy strawberry aromas of delightful, backed up with anise, black pepper, clay and tilled soil, some rose potpourri. Dusty tannins frame the palate nicely, medium acidity keeps it vibrant, and I get flavors of red plums, wild raspberries and saucy cherries. Notes of spiced black tea, white pepper, violets, clay. Fun and fresh, but sports solid complexity and depth. (90 points IJB)

2020 Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $35
Bright red cherry colored. Similarly bright and cherry-driven on the palate, with raspberries and tangy red cherries and cranberries, along with rhubarb, white pepper, some sage – nice herbal, spicy vibes. Smooth tannins and fresh acidity on the palate, a tart and juicy appeal with flavors of cranberry relish and juicy black cherries. Spicy, floral, fun, I get elements of earth, sage, leather and pepper, some rhubarb and dried rose petals. Really fun Willamette juice that drinks well, offers complexity, crowd-friendly appeal and bang for the buck. (90 points IJB)

2020 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Founder’s Block USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $100
Rich yellow color. Wow, there’s a lot of depth and complexity on the nose. Apricot, almond, honey, pear butter, with cinnamon crumb cake, but also these floral and flinty nuances to parse through. Rich and creamy on the palate, but the medium acidity keeps it focused. Creamy pear, lemon curd and apple butter fruit, gorgeous concentration but this isn’t dense – it has a focused appeal throughout. Notes of seashells, chalk dust and saline mix with almond, butterscotch, hay and honey. Lingering minerals on the finish. This is rich but beautiful and I imagine it will age very well. The first vintage from when this block was replanted in 2014, this is made with native years and spends 13 months in new and used French oak. (94 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Two Hands Shiraz

Syrah is my favorite grape, and I love all of its great iterations.

In a world of increasing uncertainty and change, I find Two Hands wines to be refreshingly reliable. I first tried Two Hands in 2007 or so, and I was a newb and venturing into more “serious” bottles while trying to spend my money wisely. That’s when I tasted some of Two Hands’ Australian Shiraz, and I was hooked. A few years later, I shared a 2002 Ares Shiraz with friends, and the experience was exquisite. It was such a memorable, singular bottle and time that I became a life-long fan.

That said, it had actually been a while since I opened a Two Hands wines, so I was excited to attend a virtual tasting with co-founder Michael Twelftree. When he and his co-founder decided in 1999 to pursue making great Aussie Shiraz and marketing it to the world, I wonder if they imagined it would turn out so well. As a lover and student of wine, I respect this winery’s approach, from the consistency and quality of the wine (of course – that’s first), to the diverse range they produce, to the whimsical yet meaningful names, the label design and marketing. It seems like a team that take their work very seriously, but not themselves too seriously.

Coming from a background in construction, Michael fell in love with wine at an in-store tasting (just like me) and said, “this magical world of wine unfolded before me.” He continued: “We are always trying to think of everything we do through the consumer’s perspective.” Its a stated goal that rings true to me, as a consumer of these wines.

A long-time player in the U.S. market, he also acknowledged it can be difficult to convey regional differences in South Australia, from the purple-fruited but coastal-influenced McLaren Vale wines to the deeper, more concentrated juice from Barossa. But the more time you spend with these wines, especially when tasting them together, those regional nuances and signatures start to become evident. While I drink far more Syrah from France and the U.S., I love that Two Hands consistently provides Shiraz (and other wines), that speak so eloquently of their place.

While the winery has expanded to acquire new sites in recent years, I found the same quality and vibrancy in this recent tasting that I remember from years and years ago. The alcohol is kept in check, which makes these wines lively and refreshing, and the oak is also used sparingly and efficiently. If you’ve never tried Two Hands, or if you’re of the opinion Australian wines just aren’t for you anymore, I’d urge you to reconsider. As long as this crew continues doing what they’re doing, there will always be a welcome spot on this Cornas-lover’s table for Two Hands wines.

These wines (all 100% Shiraz) were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2020 Two Hands Shiraz Angels’ Share – Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $44
Concentrated purple color with a gorgeous nose of plum cake, blueberries, blackberries, doused in anise, black pepper, scorched earth, mint and cocoa – and the mix is really pleasurable. Full but smooth on the palate with chewy tannins, lively acidity, well-balanced. The fruit is ripe but nuanced and complex, with blackberries, blueberries, plum compote, mixed with interesting notes of black pepper glaze, anise, soy, sauteed mushrooms and earth. The depth is really nice but I really enjoy the refreshing and accessible feel as well. Aged 14 months in 12% new French oak, 14.2% alcohol. (90 points IJB)

2020 Two Hands Shiraz Gnarly Dudes – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
SRP: $49
Deep purple. Tart but deep fruit on the nose (currants and blueberries), along with complexities of violet petals, clove and black pepper. The palate is structured well with smooth-edged tannins and a tart, crunchy appeal to set the stage for the juicy blueberry and dark plum fruit. Tar, violets, pepper, roasted herbs, smoked meats, but really fresh and lively throughout. Juicy but lip-smacking, this is a delightful Shiraz that should hold up nicely as well. Aged 12 months in 13% new French oak, 14% alcohol. (91 points IJB)

2018 Two Hands Shiraz Bella’s Garden – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
SRP: $79
Vibrant purple color. Deep and smoky on the nose, with a mix of tart blueberries and black currants, laced with potting soil, scorched earth, eucalyptus and mint, rocky-graphite tones. The palate shows smooth but structured tannins, balanced acidity, and plenty of tart plum, blueberry fruit and black currants, everything lines up really well together. Complexities of tar, chewing tobacco, beef brisket, pepper, paprika – there’s so much nuanced savory goodness in here. Finishes with spiced black tea and violets. Really beautiful stuff that is drinking great right now. Aged 17 months in 13% new French oak, 13.8% alcohol. (93 points IJB)

2018 Two Hands Shiraz Lily’s Garden – Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $79
Gorgeous purple color. The layers of fruit on the nose are so enticing, with juicy black cherries, dark plums and wild blueberries, along with complex spiced tea, tar, violets, rose petals and earthy-clay tones. The palate is so lively and crisp, which keeps this wine racing forward, and it’s balanced with deep but tart fruit (black cherries, currants, dark plums), and a bed of smooth tannins. The spiced tea, rose petals, tar, black pepper and bacon tones are vibrant and nuanced. The elegance here is really something, and while this is already strutting its stuff, I’d love to see this in four years or so. Aged 17 months in 13% new French oak, 13.8% alcohol. (94 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Two Hands Shiraz2020 Two Hands Shiraz ‘Yacca Block’ Mengler’s Hill – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
SRP: $110
Deep purple color. Gorgeous nose of deep blueberry and tangy black cherry, laced with complex notes of mesquite, clay soil, black pepper, violet potpourri, clove and cinnamon, and just an airy and inviting appeal despite the depth and concentration. Full-bodied, nice concentration, vibrant acidity, the balance is delightful, long-aging but a lot to show. Tart blueberries and juicy blackberry fruit, so deep but fresh, and a lot else to unpack: black pepper, tar, violets, smoky earth and eucalyptus tones. This will age wonderfully, but a vibrant, beautiful Shiraz. From a higher elevation site in Eden Valley, this is aged 12 months in 20% new French oak (95 points IJB)

2020 Two Hands Shiraz ‘Coach House Block’ Seppeltsfield Road, Greenock – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
SRP: $110
Concentrated purple color. The nose on this is really rocking and spicy, with these beefy, smoked sausage, black pepper, anise and paprika tones over top waves of tangy blueberries and black cherries. The palate has great grip and structure but the acidity sings, and the balance is on-point. A tart core of blueberries and blackberries, gorgeous fruit, mixed with complexities of leather, tar, anise, menthol and graphite. Hints of cocoa and smoked meat round out the finish. Concentrated but beautiful Barossa goodness, give this air and or five to eight years, but it’s a special one. Aged 12 months in 20% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: California Specialties

California has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been following harvest reports and wineries as they prepare the 2022 vintage. And with the long-term drought, the recent heat wave, and now there’s a threat of flooding from hurricane leftovers? Sheesh! I hope you any California readers have been staying cool and well over this stretch.

So, this week, I have some really special wines from California to share – some chosen selections from producers I’ve grown to respect and appreciate.

Singer Wines at Baker Lane Estate really comes out swinging with two exceptional Rhone wines. Made by legend Stephen Singer, the wines from this west-facing site in the Sebastopol Hills speak with a crystal-clear voice to their place and grapes. If you’re looking for highly delicious yet nuanced Syrah and Viognier, these small-production wines are definitely worth your time and money.

Eden Rift makes some focused and singular Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and it was a privilege to taste their 2019s. From the limestone-rich soils of the Cienega Valley, these are wines you taste and can just tell they come from a very special place. Especially considering the prices, the wines consistently overperform, and the 2019s are singing.

Sonoma is well represented here, including by Sonoma-Cutrer’s new Grand Brut Rosé, which certainly overdelivers for the price. LaPelle performs with a striking Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, and DuMOL’s Pinot offering is also delightful. Lastly, I also have a Paso Robles Cab that’s a whole lot of fun — Tooth and Nail’s wines are reliably delicious and this Cab is like a chunky slab of rock-and-roll in the glass, for a solid price.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Grand Brut Rosé Winemaker’s Release USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $55
Deep copper color. A gorgeous aromatic display that combines raspberries, white cherries and tart yellow apples with richer tones of honey and biscuits and bracing elements of chalk and talc. On the palate, this is crisp and nervy, pure and racy, with a core of red apple, raspberry and white cherry fruit. The balance is delightful, and it has this deep but crunchy feel, with tones of biscuits, honey and hay tossed with seashells, minerals, flowers, combining for this ocean meets spring meadow appeal. Complex and nervy, this should age wonderfully and is one of the best California sparkling wines I’ve tasted in a while. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. (93 points IJB)

2021 Singer Wine Viognier Baker Lane Estate USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $75
Medium yellow color. Classic deep Viognier aromas, but it has a lot of unique twists and turns that are a delight to follow: banana, kiwi, white peach, with honeycomb and raw almond, notes of chalk dust and sea salt. On the palate – wow! – the acidity is racy and fresh (thankfully) which balances well with the deep, waxy texture and juicy papaya and pineapple fruit (a drizzle of lime in there, too). The floral tones are perfumed but nuanced, and tones of chalk dust and saline are welcomed. Creamy but fresh, a delightful Sonoma Viognier worth seeking out. From a cool, west-facing site that really shines through, this is 13.8% alcohol and aged five months in neutral oak. (93 points IJB)

2019 Singer Wine Syrah Baker Lane Estate USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $95
Deep purple color. The nose is delightfully spicy, with these paprika, red pepper flakes and black pepper dusted over a host of fresh blueberries and tart red plums – and it works so, so well. The tangy acidity sets the stage, dusty but structured tannins offer structure and grip, while the balance and freshness are on point. Tangy blackberries and red/black currant fruit mixes with lots of violets, clove, black pepper, with loamy earth and a hint of barbecue sauce and grilled meat. Spicy, fresh, floral, delicious, this will do wonders in the cellar, too. 15% whole cluster fermentation, includes 2% Viognier, aged 26 months in 450-liter puncheons, 13.8% alcohol. (94 points IJB)

2020 DuMOL Pinot Noir Wester Reach Russian River Valley USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $80
Medium ruby color. So alive on the nose including red cherries, plums and raspberries, with a complex web of spice and floral elements (rose hips, rhubarb, cola, white pepper, tobacco, sage). The palate shows crisp acidity and smooth, structured tannins with a juicy, fresh appeal. The raspberry, red apple and cherry fruit is crunchy and zesty, and it mixes well with complexities of earth, rhubarb, tomato leaf, with nuanced cola, roasted chestnut and birch elements. Vibrant, forward but earthy and dusty. This should do nicely with three or four years in the cellar but it’s expressive already. A blend from vineyards including Flax Estate, DuMol Estate, Occidental Road and others, aged 12 months in 25% new French oak. (92 points IJB)

2019 Eden Rift Chardonnay Estate USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley
SRP: $42
Rich gold color. The aromas are so bright and spritely, with chalk dust, yellow flowers, meadow breeze, with lemons, limes and pineapple. Pure and crisp on the palate, a zippy yet creamy mouthfeel, delightful balance. The yellow apple, lime and papaya fruit blends well with flinty minerals, clover, honey, accents of almond and candle wax. Deep texture but stays racy and feels effortless throughout. So much Chardonnay goodness for the price. (93 points IJB)

2019 Eden Rift Pinot Noir Estate USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley
SRP: $48
Bright ruby color. On the nose, this is airy and floral, and I get tart cranberry relish, pomegranate fruit and red cherries. Full of seasonings and spices (white pepper, clove, rhubarb, celery seed), and the combination is invigorating. On the palate, this is smooth and silky but structured, with lip-smacking acidity and a bright, balanced feel. Tangy raspberries and red apple peel, such pretty texture and mouthfeel, with elements of clay, rhubarb, dusty earth, rose petals and white pepper. This will age marvelously. (93 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: California Specialties2019 Eden Rift Pinot Noir Palmtag Block USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley
SRP: $78
Gorgeous ruby color. So breezy and floral on the nose, yet such depth, too: rose hips, rhubarb, white pepper, oregano and basil over top of crunchy cranberry and wild raspberry fruit. Crisp acidity and fine-grained tannins make for a pure and balanced wine, and the red fruit is vibrant and alive (cranberry, red apple, raspberry). Complex notes of rhubarb, rose petals, paprika and white pepper add a lot to ponder, and the mouthfeel is fantastic. Their first single-block Pinot, from between the flatter vineyards and the terraces. A real beauty that has a lot more to show in the cellar. (95 points IJB)

2020 Tooth & Nail Wines Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $26
Vibrant purple color. Juicy but pretty on the nose with cherries and plum sauce, along with savory and spicy elements of clove, anise, creosote and pepper – has a real grill-out vibe that is a ton of fun. Suave on the palate with enough acidity to keep it lively and a chewy but nuanced feel. Blackberry, raspberry and fig fruit meld well with tones of tar, roasted red pepper and graphite. Ripe and fun but quite complex and balanced as well. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak, this bottle has an augmented reality character-driven label as well. (90 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Locals’ Summer Selections

Happy Labor Day weekend! I, for one, am excited to see September again. We finally got a break from the heat and humidity here in the Mid-Atlantic region, and I’m sure the autumnal decorations and pumpkin spice will be arriving en masse soon.

Growing up two blocks from the beach on the Jersey Shore, we called September “locals’ summer,” and it was my favorite time. The tourists tended to clear out from our beach town while the air and water temperatures stayed delightful all through September. And we still have about three weeks of summer left (meteorologically speaking), so there’s plenty of time to hit the ocean, the lake, the river, or gather up family and friends for a grill-out.

As such, here’s a handful of wines that I’d welcome to any locals’ summer gathering.

I’ve got another Alentejo white this week because, well, they are delightful and fit the bill. And a Godello from Pagos del Galir in Spain will certainly keep the summer vibes going.

Rosé needs a place at the table (or beach), so I’ve got an exceptional offering from Sonoma’s Ram’s Gate and delicious pinks from Languedoc and Provence. I also have some crushable bubbles with an impressive Cava from Poema, and some value-driven Northern Italian wines with Corvezzo’s offerings.

As the evenings get cooler, I’m looking forward to some juicy, spicy red wines, and Chile is a great place to go. I’ve enjoyed the serious depth and value found from the Primus label, imported by Gonzalez Byass. Sourcing organically grown Cabernet and Carmenere from Apalta and Maipo, these wines provide grill-friendly appeal, plenty of stony, earthy complexity, all with very moderate price tags.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Whites and bubbles

2020 Quinta da Fonte Souto Portalegre Branco – Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo, Portalegre
SRP: $26
Deep yellow color. The nose is packed with goodness. I get richer tones of honey, almond and baked bread, pineapples, with brighter and fresher notes of lemon, sea salt, and white flowers. The palate shows a creamy texture, supporter by lively acidity, and the lemon, papaya and pineapple fruit is ripe but tangy. The notes of chalk, honey, hay, nougat, crushed oyster shells and white flowers add a lot to love and contemplate. This is versatile, delicious and beautiful, and I think it should age nicely for a while as well. Arinto with 25% Verdelho, and 60% of the wine was fermented in oak on the lees. (92 points IJB)

2020 Virgen del Galir Godello Pagos del Galir – Spain, Galicia, Valdeorras
SRP: $21
Medium yellow color. Beautiful fruit salad aromas of yellow apple, kiwi and white peach, along with fresh basil, chalk dust and mountain streams. The palate has delightful zestiness and a crisp texture but plenty of depth, with yellow apples, lemons and limes, white peach fruit. Accents of white flowers, basil, honey and sliced cucumber add a pleasant, fresh touch. Focused, fresh, complex, this Godello delivers. Aged six months in stainless steel and barrels. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Poema Cava Brut – Spain, Cava
SRP: $15
Rich yellow color. Lovely nose, a mix of spritely and deeper tones, with limestone and river rocks, hay, yellow flowers, over orange peels, lemon and papaya. Crisp and clear on the palate, the acidity is really bright and the palate has this pleasantly creamy texture with fine bubbles. Pears, lemon and papaya fruit mix with clean, stony, mineral-laden goodness. There’s a ton of complexity packed in here for the price. Xarel·lo, Macabeu, and Parellada, aged 12 months on the lees. (89 points IJB)

2020 Azienda Agricola Corvezzo Pinot Grigio Organic & Vegan – Italy, Delle Venezie
SRP: $13
Medium yellow color. Super floral on the nose with all sorts of yellow and white flowers, mixed with nettle and cucumber slices, over zesty lemon and green apple fruit. Racy acidity on the palate with a creamy feel and flavors of white peaches and kiwi. Notes of rosewater, celery seed and white pepper add some complexity. Bright, spritely, floral and fresh. (85 points IJB)

2020 Azienda Agricola Corvezzo Prosecco – Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Treviso
SRP: $13
Pale lemon color. Aromas of lemons and green apples, with floral perfume, sea salt, crushed sweet tarts and some white pepper. Fun and fresh, light and crisp with moderate sugar and bright acidity, along with lemon and melon fruit. Floral, fresh, accessible and pleasant. (86 points IJB)

2020 Azienda Agricola Corvezzo Prosecco RoséItaly, Veneto/Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Prosecco
SRP: $13
Pale salmon color. The nose shows chalky, crushed sweet tart vibes and honeysuckle with raspberries and lemons. Light-bodied, zesty acidity and juicy bubbles with raspberry and white cherry fruit. Notes of honeysuckle, rose petals, floral perfume and sweet tarts. Fun and fresh, light and balanced Prosecco. (87 points IJB)

Rosé

2021 Les Sarrins Côtes de Provence Rosé – France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $25
Pale copper color. This smells floral and bright, with white peaches and lemons, honeysuckle and lilies, with some sliced cucumber and celery seed notes. The palate is light, crisp and refreshing, with lemon, cantaloupe and white peach fruit. I get a lot of cool spicy and floral elements, like dandelion, white pepper, honeysuckle and mint, which adds a nice interesting kick. Fun, crowd-pleasing stuff that shows solid value but also a lot of depth and complexity. Made from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Vermentino. (90 points IJB)

2021 Ram’s Gate Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $38
Light watermelon color. The nose has exquisite tones of chalk dust, saline, flowers for days, rose hips, white pepper, all over top a bowl of fresh white cherries and strawberries. Pure and racy on the palate, this has pleasant creaminess and live-wire acidity, and the balance is lovely. White cherries, raspberries and red apple fruit, tingly, crunchy and alive, backed up with complexities of chalk, mountain stream, limestone. A focused, zesty, crystal clear rose – no rush on emptying these soon, either, as I’d love to try one next summer to see how it has developed. Pinot Noir with 25% Grenache, aged six months in neutral oak barrels. (92 points IJB)

2021 Hampton Water Rosé – France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc
SRP: $25
Pale copper color. The nose is spritely and alive, sporting wild raspberry and red apple peel, along with floral perfume and chalky, salty vibes. Crisp as expected but it also has nice textural depth, with flavors of tangy white cherries and juicy raspberries. Notes of daisies, honeysuckle, dandelion and some slight green herb tones add complexity. Bright but shows some honeyed elements as well, this is beach and seafood friendly stuff. A collaboration between winemaker Gérard Bertrand, Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi. (88 points IJB)

Reds

2018 Primus Cabernet Sauvignon – Chile, Maipo Valley
SRP: $21
Vibrant purple color. A deep core of tart black currant and black cherry fruit, tossed with tobacco leaf, violet petals, roasted red pepper and tomato leaf – smelling it just makes me want to grill steak and veg. A tart mix of plum and currant fruit on the palate is buttressed by moderately grippy tannins and vibrant acidity. The tones of smoky earth, tar, violets, soy and tobacco add a lot to ponder and enjoy. A lot of freshness and complexity in here. Aged 12 months in French oak, 18% new. (89 points IJB)

2018 Primus Carménère – Chile, Colchagua Valley, Apalta
SRP: $21
Bright purple color. Lovely nose of raspberries and black cherries, topped in a cool mix of spicy bell pepper, black pepper, sage, with nuances of vanilla and cola. Juicy texture, nice grip on the palate but everything stays smooth, with delightful freshness as well. The cranberry relish and black currant fruit is deep and tangy, laced with black pepper, anise, smoky tones and tobacco. Really love this grape and this iteration of it. Aged 12 months in 18% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2018 Primus The Blend – Chile, Colchagua Valley, Apalta
SRP: $21
Light purple color. Ooh, the nose gushes with sweet cherries, dark plums, and complexities of black pepper, clove, rose potpourri, violet and clay. The palate is super suave with smooth but structured tannins and lively acidity. Fresh plums and cherries, backed up with cocoa, coffee, gravelly earth, and a mix of deep floral and spice tones to unpack. A delightfully balanced and pretty Chilean red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Carmenere, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in 2/3 French oak for 12 months. (90 points IJB)

2020 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja OrganicSpain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $17
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of cherries and plum compote, and a fun and spicy mix of tobacco, spiced tea, paprika, tomato leaf and rose hips. Chewy tannins on the palate, moderate acidity, and juicy plum and currant fruit makes for a nicely-balanced, medium-bodied wine. Savory tones of beef, bay leaf and pepper mix with roses and violet petals, some chewing tobacco and mint. A great intro Rioja at a solid price. Aged six months in oak. (89 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Alentejo White Wines

On something like a weekly basis, I find myself daydreaming: Wow, I wish I were back in Portugal right now.

It’s one of my favorite places in the world to visit. I love the epic coastline and surf culture, the food, the welcoming people, the history and architecture… and, of course, the wine. And, as long-time readers may recall, I’m a big fan of the diverse, inexpensive, exciting wines from the Alentejo region. Known mostly for their red wines, the white wines (branco) have kept me coming back for years.

The diversity of microclimates, soils and winemaking methods in Alentejo give the adventurous consumer something of a kid-in-the-candy-store feeling – there’s just so much high-quality stuff out there. The wines in this report do a good job introducing what’s available.

Indigenous grapes abound here, and the exact blends of each specific wine can get dizzying, with grapes like Arinto, Antao Vaz, Verdelho, Siria (which I didn’t even know was a grape until recently) and others. But this also provides growers and winemakers with the freedom to craft blends that harness the best attributes of their individual parts. If you haven’t yet delved into the white wines of this historic region before, perhaps some of these wines (and their very attractive price points) will provide some inspiration.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind (except for the rosé).

2021 Herdade do Esporão “Monte Velho” Branco Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $12
The aromas blend honey, raw almond and white tea with these chalky, salty vibes, over top of lemons and ruby red grapefruit. Lovely waxy texture (that Antao Vaz creaminess is always great), but the acidity is zesty and lively as well, and the balance is really nice. Creamy yellow apples, lemons and white peach, the fruit is laced with complex notes of honey, chalk dust, salt brine, with some graham cracker and bread crumbs, backed up with some minerals and stony elements. This wine makes me want to sit on a Portuguese beach all day. Antao Vaz, Roupeiro and Perrum and others. Esporao rocks, and this is one of the best white wine values out there, in my opinion. (90 points IJB)

2018 Adega de Portalegre “Conventual” Reserva Branco Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo, Portalegre
SRP: $25
Aromas of white peaches, honeydew and pineapple pop from the glass, backed up by sea spray, crushed seashells and honeysuckle. Light- to medium-bodied (12%) with a brisk and zippy appeal and solid complexity. Yellow apples and kiwi fruit meld very well with white flowers, honey, perfume, flinty-chalky notes. There’s a lot going here, and what a great seafood bistro sort of wine. A great intro to the wines of Portalegre (the northernmost subregion of Alentejo), this is a blend of Arinto, Fernao Pires, Siria and Bical. (90 points IJB)

2020 Adega Cooperativa de Redondo “Porta da Ravessa Special Edition” Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $15
Aromas of honey, graham cracker and salted almond over top a tropical mélange of papaya, lime juice and tropical flowers. The palate shows a pleasant juiciness, lip-smacking acidity, lovely depth and creaminess. The yellow pear, apple and papaya fruit is rich but lively, and topped in complex notes of oyster shell, whipped butted, saline and white flowers. The depth and complexity at this price point is really something. This exceptional value would be ideal with a classic arroz do mar. A blend of Verdelho, Arinto and Antao Vaz. (91 points IJB)

2021 Torre de Palma Arinto-Alvarinho Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $40
Peachy keen on the nose with limes and papaya as well, along with a plethora of orange blossom, dandelion and honeysuckle. The palate is really lively and bright, like a streak of racy minerals and perfume, with a fruit bowl of papaya, lime, lemons and kiwi. Spritely and vibrant, but shows depth of texture and flavor for sure, the tones of white pepper, floral perfume, chalk dust and breezy meadow add a lot of complexity. Wow, this has a ton going on, the tropical/floral goodness of Alvarinho and that bright zippiness from Arinto, and I love it. (91 points IJB)

2021 Herdade do Esporão Colheita Branco Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo
SRP: $18
Aromas of honeydew melon, lemons and orange peel, on top of white and yellow flowers, creamy honey, with sea salt and waxy tones. The creamy depth is really nice, balanced wonderfully with lively acidity, honeyed but zippy. Lemon and green apple fruit make for a crunchy feel, backed up with honeyed white tea, sea salt, flowers galore, the brisk-nervy atmosphere blends really well with the textured, expressive vibes. Another great value. Antao Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho, Vermentino and other grapes, fermented in concrete and aged four months on the lees. (90 points IJB)

2020 João Portugal Ramos “Marquês de Borba” Colheita Branco Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo
SRP: $14
A bright aromatic display of lemon zest, green and yellow apples, over some honeysuckle, floral perfume and mint. The palate is medium-bodied with a zesty, tart appeal and flavors of grapefruit and lime. Zippy and chalky with elements of hay, seashells, minerals and sliced cucumber. A seafood and salad-friendly wine for sure, with an oceanic, easygoing appeal. Arinto with some Antao Vaz and Viognier. (88 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Alentejo White Wines2020 Herdade do Rocim “Mariana” Branco Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $16
The nose pops with peaches, orange slices, cantaloupe, along with a fascinating mix of cut flower stems, dandelion, celery, daisies and honeycomb. The palate has a delightfully waxy texture, but it stays light on its feet with a level of precision that’s impressive. White peaches, cantaloupe and lemon mix well with tones of honey, freshly baked bread, some floral perfume, and some saline and talc elements. Long finish. I visited this winery year ago and fell in love with their wines (especially those aged in amphorae) and have a been a fan ever since. Wines like this are why. (90 points IJB)

2021 Herdade do Esporão Monte Velho Rosé Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $12
Medium copper color. The spiciness on the nose is really attractive, with these tobacco, mint, white pepper and celery seed notes to accent the tart white cherry and spiced cranberry relish scents. The palate sports nice richness, spritely acidity, along with juicy white peach and tart cranberry fruit. The notes of daisies, rose hips, celery seed and mint add a refreshing, floral, spicy complexity to this delicious pink. Solid value, per usual, from this line of wines. Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Tinta Caiada and Arinto. (89 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Rosato from Italy

Don’t worry – there’s still plenty of time left in summer, at least technically. It seems like summer lasts forever these days anyway, but luckily, so does pink wine season.

This week I have a handful of rosato wines from Italy that I found interesting and exciting. From Veneto to Puglia, these wines are made from traditional regional grapes like Montepulciano and Susumaniello, and their colors span the gamut from pale copper to raspberry juice.

Considering the recent high inflation levels, I find it refreshing to see well-crafted, delicious pink wine at these price points. These wines are all exclusively imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, which allows distributors to get these wines direct from the wineries and keeps the prices very reasonable. Whoever they have selecting Italian rosato wines clearly knows what they’re doing, as I found this to be an impressive and diverse portfolio. If you’re looking to replenish some of your rosé stash, check your local market for some of these wines.

This week’s selections were received as samples and tasted single blind.

2021 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Rondinella Rosato “Scaia”  Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $15
Medium copper color. The aromas boast a lovely mix of sea salt, white pepper and crushed rocks along with raspberries and white cherries, some honeysuckle and mint. The palate has a plush texture with crisp acidity, along with raspberry, cherry and crunchy McIntosh apple fruit. The wildflower, breezy open meadow and honeysuckle tones are lively and fresh, and there’s a nice mineral and green herbal undertone. A bright, zippy, floral style with a lot of value. Made from all Rondinella in the Mezzane di Sotto commune of Valpolicella. (89 points IJB)

2021 Garofoli Montepulciano Rosato “Komaros”  Italy, Marche, Marche IGT
SRP: $14
Light strawberry color. The nose pops with a pleasant mix of raspberries, limes and peaches, topped in white and yellow flowers and cool notes of mint and verbena. Punchy texture, lively acidity, this has a pleasant briny element to accent the ripe watermelon, kiwi and white peach fruit. Notes of chalk dust, celery seed and mint add a spicy kick to this fresh, juicy rosato. All Montepulciano from clay soil vineyards in Cònero. (90 points IJB)

2021 Masseria Li Veli Negroamaro Rosato “Torrerose”Italy, Puglia, Salento IGT
SRP: $15
Pale copper color. A great combination of juicy strawberries, red apples, along with floral perfume, chalk dust, and a mix of spicy, herbal and floral elements that blend well together. Medium-bodied with pleasant creaminess that accents the bright acidity well, and the watermelon, strawberry and white cherry fruit is highly delicious. The complex mix of non-fruit elements is exciting: white pepper, mint, cucumber slices, crushed sea shells. This has finesse and gluggability in equal parts. Negroamaro from clay and limestone soils in the Brindisi province. (90 points IJB)

2021 Masseria Li Veli Susumaniello Rosato “Askos” Italy, Puglia, Salento IGT
SRP: $23
Medium copper color. An explosion of peaches and cantaloupe on the nose, drizzled with lime, along with and interesting mix of honeysuckle, cucumber slices, whipped cream and honey. The palate shows creamy texture and lively acidity, with a range of juicy fruit (lime, strawberry, cantaloupe and white peach). Some flinty, chalky, green herbal tones mix well with creamier, honeyed elements. Juicy but fresh, balanced and fun. Susumaniello grapes from clay and limestone soils in Brindisi. (89 points IJB)

2021 Fattoria La Valentina Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Italy, Abruzzi, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
SRP: $14
A deep strawberry color. The nose shows a delightful mix of pomegranate, watermelon and cherry fruit, along with daisies, white pepper and honey, a ripe but nuanced appeal. The palate is packed with juicy deliciousness and creamy texture (flavors of white peach, cherry, strawberry and pomegranate) but also balanced with crisp acidity. Notes of yellow and white flowers, clove, some spicy tones, herbal tea and honey. Delicious and ripe but nuanced and complex. A lot going on here, and tons of value. Cerasuolo grapes from clay soils in the Pescara province. (91 points IJB)