All posts by admin

Rocca delle Macìe, Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione (Tuscany, Italy) “Sergio Zingarelli” 2016

($100, Palm Bay International):  As with their superb Chianti Classico Riserva, “Sergioveto,” Rocca delle Macìe has tweaked the style of their Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Sergio Zingarelli.”  They reduced the oak aging and eliminated the Colorino, so the 2016 is made entirely from Sangiovese.  As much as I liked their Sergioveto, their Gran Selezione “Sergio Zingarelli” sings even more.  Overall, the major difference is in its texture.  The Gran Selezione is glossier, more polished and more refined than their superb Sergioveto.  Cashmere versus lambswool.  The Gran Selezione comes across as slightly riper and lusher as well, but retains the same alluring hint of bitterness in the finish.  There’s plenty of structure, but without a trace of astringency.
96 Michael Apstein Jun 9, 2020

Ron Rubin Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2017

($25):  Consumers should be pleased with this well-priced Pinot Noir because it has more complexity than you’d expect at the price.  It’s ripe and supple, but unlike many Pinot Noir at this price, it has some earthy, savory nuances.  It’s not just sweet cherry juice.  It’s a great introduction to the charms of Pinot Noir without breaking the bank.
88 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Zinfandel 2017

($35):  Full disclosure, Zinfandel is one of my least favorite wines.  Petit Sirah runs a close second because both usually are impossibly overdone wines.  So, I shuddered when I read the blend:  Zinfandel (76%), Petit Sirah (22%) and Carignane.  But that’s why you taste.  Dry Creek Vineyard has a stunning track record with their Zinfandels, especially their Old Vine bottling, which they define as coming from vines of more than 50 years of age.  Their website proclaims that many of the vines are over a century old and some have been around for 130 years.  Old vines typically provide smaller yields of higher quality fruit, imparting complexity to the wine.  That’s the case with this Old Vine Zinfandel.  Briary and spicy, it handles the 14.9% stated alcohol effortlessly.  Balanced and neither over the top nor hot, it’s classic full-bodied Zinfandel, but with elegance.
92 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Domaine Saint Gayan, Côtes du Rhône (Rhône Valley, France) “Trescartes” 2016

($15, Europvin USA):  Domaine Saint Gayan, known for their Gigondas, also makes a notable Côtes du Rhône from grapes grown in the neighboring villages of Seguret and Sablet, two of the named villages of the more prestigious Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation, according to their website.  In keeping with the source of the grapes, the wine is a cut above the usual Côtes du Rhône, exhibiting more character than many.  Though from the usual Mediterranean blend of Grenache (75%), Syrah (20%) and Mourvèdre, it is not a usual wine.  Fresh and juicy, it has a spice that gives it a charming edginess.  It’s another great choice for the grilling season.
90 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Jean-Luc Colombo, Côtes du Rhône (Rhône Valley, France) “Les Abeilles” 2017

($13, Taub Family Selections):  Jean-Luc Colombo is a star producer in the Northern Rhône appellation of Cornas.  Many credit him as a locomotive for that appellation, pulling it onto the world’s stage.  It turns out that he also makes a stylish, bargain-priced Côtes du Rhône.  His “Les Abeilles” (the bees) is both fruity and spicy with good power without being overdone.  A blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (30%) and Mourvèdre, it is far more polished than you’d expect for a wine from this appellation.  It’s a super value.  Buy it by the case for this summer’s casual drinking with hamburgers from the grill.
91 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2018

($25):  Although Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the French and Italian words for the same grape, the name chosen by New World producers usually defines the style of the wine.  Naumes’ rendition, with its subtle hint of pear-like flavors, delivers the fleshy Pinot Gris version.  This is definitely not the innocuous style of Pinot Grigio.  Bright and racy acidity balances its weight.   Some barrel fermentation adds texture without being intrusive or obnoxious.  It’s a great choice for hearty seafood.
92 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2019

($20):  The inclusion of Sauvignon Gris, a faintly colored mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Musqué, which some believe is a biotype of Sauvignon Blanc, helps explain this wine’s appealing fleshy texture.  (Sauvignon Musqué and Sauvignon Blanc have identical DNA and therefore are the same grape, according to Jancis Robinson et al’s Wine Grapes.)  Whatever the composition, Dry Creek’s is a softer and gentler expression of Sauvignon Blanc.  Its graceful, lengthy finish and modest bite adds to its appeal.  It’s a delightful wine to sip before dinner and then carry to the table.
89 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

($58):  Jordan made the difficult decision several years ago to abandon their longstanding and original concept of an estate wine, that is, one made entirely from their own grapes.  They made the honest assessment that their grapes were not always the best ones that were available.  It must have been a scary decision.  In retrospect, it was a brilliant move.  They now use their best grapes plus ones from a dozen or more growers to fashion their Cabernet.  The 2016, a classic Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (11%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Malbec, maintains their classic refined style.  Jordan has always focused on an understated elegance and their 2016 fits that mold perfectly.  With a glossy texture, it delivers layers of fruit, spice and savory elements.  As it sits in the glass for a half an hour, it expands.  Thankfully, it is not in the bigger is better style.  An engaging hint of bitterness in the finish reminds us that they have avoided the temptation to pick super-ripe grapes and make an over-the-top jammy Cabernet.
94 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Dog Point, Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2019

($21, Vintus):  New Zealand is known around the world as a top producer of distinctive Sauvignon Blanc.  And Dog Point has rapidly become one of the best producers of Sauvignon Blanc in that country.  Their 2019 is stunningly good.  It’s vibrant without being over the top.  Its bite is electric, but not outrageous.  It combines a wonderful texture with an alluring grapefruit-like subtle bitter fruitiness.  Take-out Chinese or sushi, let me introduce you to 2019 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s also an ideal choice if you’re grilling fish yourself.
93 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Rocca delle Macìe, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) Pian della Casina “Sergioveto” 2016

($53, Palm Bay International):  Rocca delle Macìe changed the blend, vineyard site, and appellation for this wine starting with the 2015 vintage.  The wine was originally created in 1985 as a Super Tuscan by Italo Zingarelli, the company’s founder, and named for his son, Sergio, the current head of the company.  With the 2015 vintage, they eliminated the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and now use only Sangiovese from a single site, their Pian della Casina vineyard.  It’s now a Chianti Classico Riserva, not a “Super Tuscan,” but it is definitely still super.  The 2016 version is sensational.  Gently explosive, is combines both savory and dark cherry-like flavors into a seamless package.  It has wonderful density without being heavy.  Lovely discreet bitterness in the exceptionally long and uplifting finish adds appeal.  The bright Tuscan acidity amplifies its charms. Remarkably enjoyable now, its impeccable balance suggests you will be rewarded with cellaring the stellar wine.
95 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Chardonnay 2019

($17, HB Wine Merchants):  With rare exception, consumers don’t usually think of Italy for distinctive Chardonnay.  More wines like this one could change that perception.  Racy and refined, it’s paradoxically mouth-filling yet not heavy. It’s cutting and spicy profile is refreshing.  Undoubtedly, the decision to ferment and age the wine entirely in stainless steel allows its citrus-tinged fruitiness to shine.  It’s a steal, so buy it by the case for this summer’s drinking.
92 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Domaine de Cabrials, Pays d’Oc IGP (Occitanie, France) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

($12, HB Wine Merchants):  Unbelievable value!  That’s the best way to describe this Cabernet.  It displays a wonderful — and rare at this price — balance of dark fruit and savory olive-like flavors.  Wonderfully textured, it’s not flabby or soft.  It’s structured, but not aggressive.  By not overdoing it, they have resisted the temptation to try to make something grand or “important.”   What they have made is classic and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has a surprisingly long finish, complete with a hint of bitterness, for such a short price.  Buy it by the case and enjoy it this summer while grilling burgers, steaks, or leg of lamb.
91 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Langlois-Chateau, Sancerre (Loire Valley, France) 2019

($25, Vintus):  Langlois-Chateau, though best known for their sparkling wines, also makes noteworthy still wines, such as this Sancerre.  The appealing bite of Sauvignon Blanc is apparent, but it speaks of minerals and chalk rather than overt fruitiness.  Fresh, bright and clean, it’s a refreshing and graceful expression of that grape.
90 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Langlois-Chateau, Crémant de Loire (Loire Valley, France) Brut NV

($23, Vintus):  Edouard Langlois and Jeanne Chateau founded their eponymous company in 1912 and has been a leading producer of Crémant de Loire ever since.  This, their standard NV Brut, is a blend of Chenin Blanc (at least 60%), and roughly equal parts of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Just as Champagne producers use black grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) in their blend, Loire producers use one of their indigenous red grapes in their sparkling wines.  It’s taut and focused, with bright and refreshing acidity without harshness.   A great aperitif, it will also cut through things like grilled swordfish so don’t be afraid to take it to the table.
90 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Focusing on Terroir, Following Burgundy’s Lead

If terroir—that French concept that where the grapes grow determines the character of the wine—is so important, why haven’t American consumers embraced it?  Maybe wine appellations, which should define terroir, are just not all that important.  That could be, but I doubt it. Wine appellations should help the consumer know what to expect: Is the wine sweet or is it dry?  Full-bodied or more delicate?  I think Americans haven’t embraced terroir because our focus has always been—and still is—on the importance of grape varieties, brands and winemakers.  But that may be changing as evidenced by a recent release of a trio Pinot Noirs by Siduri Wines, one of the properties owned by Jackson Family Wines.

Wine appellations should allow a consumer to predict, more or less, what’s in the bottle.  Wines from particular areas should have unique characteristics that reflect the locale.  European laws governing the various appellations mandate what grapes are allowed within the defined geographic area, further narrowing the range from a particular appellation.  Consumers, especially those just learning about wine, can confuse the appellation of Pouilly Fumé with that of Pouilly Fuissé, but quickly discern the difference between the herbal bite of the former with the gentler minerality and fruitiness of the latter.  Certainly, there will be differences among the styles of Pouilly-Fuissé depending on the producer, just as different chefs prepare different tomato sauces.  But overall Pouilly-Fuissé should be identifiably different from Pouilly-Fumé just as a plain tomato sauce is different from a tomato-based meat sauce.

Some U.S. producers have focused on terroir with single-vineyard bottlings.  Merry Edwards, Siduri Wines, and Dutton-Goldfield with their single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Nickel and Nickel with their single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons are superb examples of terroir in California.  These producers have shown the importance of site and that where grapes grow make a difference.  Edwards’ Meredith Estate Pinot Noir is consistently different from her Klopp Ranch bottling despite both vineyards being in the Russian River Valley.  Similarly, Nickel and Nickel’s Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sullenger Vineyard in Oakville differs from their State Ranch bottling in neighboring Yountville.  Site matters.

By and large, the U.S. wine industry has focused on individual producers, less so on differences between regions.  But despite our focus on American wine brands and their winemakers, terroir does exist on these shores. It’s not some French philosophic fantasy.  It exists outside of France, but is difficult to isolate unless—and this is critical—a single producer bottles wines from different American Viticultural Area (AVAs), our equivalence of European appellations.  Consumers can taste Domaine Drouhin Oregon’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and compare it to Merry Edwards’ Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, but are the differences due to terroir or to winemaking style?  One just doesn’t know.

That’s where Burgundy has led the way.

UNESCO has inscribed Burgundy’s vineyards—its terroir—on their list of World Heritage Sites, recognizing its importance as ground zero for terroir.  Two reasons explain Burgundy’s unique status.  Firstly, for 800 years, monks who planted the vineyards, with little else on which to focus (among worldly matters, at least), were able to study which sites did best year after year, decade after decade, and century after century.  Equally critical, in my opinion, has been the unique marketing system of the wines—based on the centrality of négociants.

The fragmented ownership of vineyards in Burgundy with most farmers owning portions of vineyards scattered over several villages, meant it was impractical for individual growers to make, bottle and market their wines themselves.  The négociant, or wine merchant, system evolved in the 19th century from this patchwork of vineyards and growers.  Growers from throughout Burgundy would sell their grapes or newly pressed juice to larger merchant houses, such as Albert Bichot, Bouchard Père et Fils, Maison Joseph Drouhin, Maison Joseph Faiveley, Maison Louis Jadot, and Maison Louis Latour to name just a few.  In turn, these houses would make, bottle and market the wines under their name.  Although the system started for economic reasons, the unanticipated consequence was the introduction of the concept of terroir to the general consumer.

Customers could—thanks to the efforts of the négociants—taste wines from the various villages and vineyards made using the same winemaking techniques.  The differences between wines from the villages (soon-to-be appellations beginning in the 1930s) of Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny could be appreciated because winemaking practices were the same.  The only differences among the wines was where the grapes were grown. Unexpectedly, the uniqueness of terroir became easy for the entire world to see, understand and appreciate.  The négociants made the transparency of site apparent to everyday consumers.

Today, though the distinction between négociant and grower has blurred, the concept of terroir remains clear.  Négociants have purchased more and more vineyards.  Growers, seizing on their rock star-like reputations, are becoming “micro-négociants” by buying grapes from other farmers and expanding their range.  With the growth of more micro-négociant model, the practice of a single producer bottling wines from a plethora of individual appellations has expanded and is stronger than ever.   A mini-version of this fragmentation exists in Piedmont, but with the exception of the Produttori del Barbaresco, a co-operative that bottles up to nine site-specific wines, and Sordo in Barolo, which bottles eight single-vineyard wines, most producers bottle no more than two or three separate wines.  Burgundy is the only place in the world where a single producer bottles 50+ individual appellation wines made from the same grape.

Unsurprisingly, Oregon, with its focus on Pinot Noir, a variety that has the potential to express terroir beautifully, has taken a lead in focusing on AVA.  The Drouhin family led the way when they established Domaine Drouhin Oregon in 1987.  Now they produce two distinctive and different Pinot Noirs from two AVAs there, Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills.  Jadot followed suit in 2013 when they established their Oregon outpost, Résonance, in the Yamhill Carlton AVA and within a few years expanded by making Pinot Noir from another AVA, the Dundee Hills.  As with Drouhin’s Oregon bottlings, Jadot’s reflect the different growing areas.  Árdíri, based in Oregon, and Siduri based in California, have taken it a step further by crossing state lines.  Árdíri makes a Pinot Noir from Chehalem Mountains AVA in Oregon and from the Carneros AVA in California. Siduri has expanded the idea by producing multi-vineyard blends of Pinot Noir from three of America’s best AVAs for Pinot Noir: Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara County in California.  Paradoxically, by being less focused on specific vineyards, these wines allow consumers to see—taste, really—the broad differences among these three prime areas or appellations.

Siduri, named for the Babylonian goddess of wine, has always specialized in Pinot Noir, especially single vineyard bottlings.  According to their website they make single vineyard wines from a total of 20 vineyards throughout California and Oregon.  These multi-vineyard single AVA additions to their portfolio are a boon for consumers because each of the wines is easy to recommend and is reasonably priced—at least for Pinot Noir.  Plus, if you taste the three side-by-side, you can easily discern the differences among the AVAs.  Everything except the where the grapes are grown is the same: same vintage, same grape, same winemaking team.  So, the only difference is the origin of the grapes.

Siduri’s Willamette Valley bottling ($35) comes from grapes grown in three AVAs within that valley: Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains, and Eola-Amity. Racy and juicy, it delivers far more that bright fruitiness.  Indeed, savory notes are clear and balance the red raspberry-like quality.  A welcome hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal and shows the understated charm that Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley delivers.

Compared to the Willamette Valley bottling, their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40), which comes from several vineyards throughout the valley, is broader and riper, with dark fruit flavors.  There’s no bitterness in the finish in this plush, suavely textured wine.  The slight increase in stated-alcohol (14.5 vs 14.3%) is noticeable in the hint of heat in the finish.  Overall, the greater power reflects the warmer Russian River Valley sites compared to those in the Willamette.

The grapes for the Santa Barbara bottling ($30) come primarily from the Sta. Rita Valley, whose east-west orientation is rare in California, where most of the valleys run north-south.  Sta. Rita’s orientation allows cool Pacific Ocean influences to reduce temperatures, especially close to the coast, making it an ideal locale for growing Pinot Noir, a grape that prefers lower temperatures to higher ones.  Siduri’s Sta. Rita bottling is a fine contrast to their other two, falling somewhere in the middle. Slightly riper and more full-bodied that their Willamette offering, it is more restrained compared to the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, reflecting the cooler environment.

Finally, consumers can learn for themselves the wonderful differences between Pinot Noir from the Willamette, the Russian River Valley, and Sta. Rita Hills without wondering whether they are tasting terroir or the producer’s signature.  Thanks to Siduri for reminding us that France does not have a monopoly on terroir. It’s alive and well in the USA.

*         *         *


Email me your thoughts about terroir at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

May 13, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) “GSM” 2017

($40):  GSM stands for the classic Mediterranean blend:  Grenache (50%); Syrah (33%) and Mourvèdre.  Naumes has fashioned an exquisitely balanced mid-weight wine from these grapes, each of which adds something.  Grenache makes its presence known with lively spice, while Syrah adds power and Mourvèdre savory nuances.  It’s a ripe wine, yet graceful and harmonious.  A subtle hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  It’s a great choice to accompany meat on the grill this summer.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Barbera 2017

($35):  Plantings of Barbera in Oregon, let alone in the Rogue Valley, must be miniscule.  The 2018 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report doesn’t even mention the grape in their detailed statistics.  Judging from this wine, more wineries will be planting it.  Immediately appealing, this wine combines alluring spice with bright red fruit flavors.  Fresh, juicy acidity keeps this mid-weight wine lively while a supple texture makes it easy to enjoy now.  It’s a charming wine delivering the liveliness of Barbera without a trace of astringency.  Bring on the pasta with a hearty, tomato-based sauce.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Inama, Soave Classico DOC (Veneto, Italy) Vigneto du Lot 2017

($27, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Inama, one of Soave’s top producers, make a great Soave from a blend of vineyards in that appellation.  He also makes two stunning single-vineyard ones — this one, and one from Vigneto di Carbonare.  Inama’s Vigneto du Lot has power and finesse balanced by piercing acidity.  For all its power, there’s not a trace of heaviness.  A lovely lava-like sensation comes through.  This redefines Soave.
93 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2019

($17, HB Wine Merchants):  There’s Pinot Grigio, and then there’s Pinot Grigio.  One taste of Peter Zemmer’s explains why the category is so popular.  Delicate hints of white flowers greet you when you pull the cork.  A refined and restrained fruitiness follows.  It startles you with its elegance, not its power.  Bracing acidity in the finish amplifies its charms.  Fine as a stand-alone aperitif, it would do well with delicate seafood, such as sautéed sea bass.
92 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio Giatl Riserva 2017

($38, HB Wine Merchants):  Peter Zemmer’s single-vineyard Giatl is a very different style of Pinot Grigio from his regular (I hate that word to describe that wine, which is anything but regular) bottling.  The Giatl has power and a Burgundian-like weight and to it.  A hint of lanolin-like texture makes it all the more appealing.  This is weighty serious stuff.  Those looking for a glass of “Pinot Grigio” should look elsewhere.  Those who want to see what the grape can achieve should pull the cork.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Domaine de Cabrials, Pays d’Oc IGP (Occitanie, France) Pinot Noir 2018

($12, HB Wine Merchants):  European regulations for naming wines are Byzantine.  The top tier is labeled Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) formerly known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC).   (A quirk in regulations allow the French to continue to use the older AOC nomenclature.)   A step below is Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP).  IGP wines typically are labeled by grape name whereas AOC (AOP) wines are typically labeled by where the grapes are grown and usually prohibit the use of grape names, though that prohibition is not rigorously enforced at the lower prestige appellations, such as Bourgogne Rouge.  Regulations are more relaxed for IGP wines, allowing for greater yields and a great choice of grapes.  Hence, you see this Pinot Noir coming from outside of Burgundy.  Rather than shunning this less prestigious IGP category, consumers should embrace it because they can offer exceptional value, as this wine and others from Domaines de Cabrials demonstrate.  This uncomplicated wine delivers ripe black fruit flavors with a hint of savory nuances.  Suave tannins and the right amount of acidity make it ready to drink now.  Is it one of the most compelling Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted?  No.  Is it one of the best $12 Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted?  Yes.
88 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Domaine de Cabrials, Pays d’Oc IGP (Occitanie, France) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

($12, HB Wine Merchants):  Unbelievable value!  That’s the best way to describe this Cabernet.  It displays a wonderful — and rare at this price — balance of dark fruit and savory olive-like flavors.  Wonderfully textured, it’s not flabby or soft.  It’s structured, but not aggressive.  By not overdoing it, they have resisted the temptation to try to make something grand or “important.”   What they have made is classic and delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has a surprisingly long finish, complete with a hint of bitterness, for such a short price.  Buy it by the case and enjoy it this summer while grilling burgers, steaks, or leg of lamb.
91 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Siduri Wines, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2018

($35):  Siduri, named for the Babylonian goddess of wine, specializes in Pinot Noir, especially single vineyard bottlings.  According to their website they make only single vineyard wines from a total of 20 vineyards throughout California and Oregon.  Fortunately, they have expanded their production and now produce blended wines from three appellations: Willamette Valley in Oregon, plus two from California, specifically, Santa Barbara County, and the Russian River Valley.  These additions to their portfolio are a boon for consumers because each of the wines is easy to recommend and reasonably priced — at least for Pinot Noir.  Plus, if you taste the three side-by-side, it allows you to taste and discern the differences among the AVAs.  Everything except where the grapes are grown is the same: same vintage, same grape, same winemaking team.  So, the only difference is the origin of the grapes.  The verdict, as you will see, is that terroir is alive and well in the USA.  Siduri’s Willamette Valley bottling comes from grapes grown in three AVAs within the valley:  Yamhill-Carlton, Chehalem Mountains, and Eola-Amity.   Racy and juicy, it delivers far more that bright fruitiness.  Indeed, savory notes are clear and balance the red raspberry-like quality.   A welcome hint of bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  Less ripe than Siduri’s Russian River Valley or Santa Barbara bottlings, this one shows the understated charm that Oregon’s Willamette Valley delivers.
93 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Siduri Wines, Santa Barbara County (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir 2018

($30):  The grapes for this multi-vineyard bottling come primarily from the Sta. Rita Valley, whose east-west orientation is rare in California where most of the valleys run north-south.  Sta. Rita’s orientation allows cool Pacific Ocean influences to reduce temperatures, especially close to the coast, making it an ideal locale for growing Pinot Noir, a grape that prefers lower temperatures to higher ones.  Siduri’s Sta. Rita bottling is a fine contrast to their other two, falling somewhere in the middle.  Slightly riper and more full-bodied that their Willamette offering, it is more restrained compared to the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, reflecting its cooler environment.  This is a great trio.  Thanks to Siduri for reminding us that France does not have a monopoly on terroir.
90 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Siduri Wines, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2018

($40):  Siduri, known for their single-vineyard bottlings of Pinot Noir has expanded their portfolio to include ones from a variety of vineyards.   In this case, the grapes come from throughout the Russian River Valley.  Compared to its Willamette Valley bottling, their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is broader and riper, with dark fruit flavors.  There’s no bitterness in the finish in this plush suavely textured wine.  The slight increase in stated-alcohol (14.5 vs 14.3%) is noticeable by a hint of heat in the finish.  Overall, the greater power and ripeness reflects the warmer Russian River Valley sites compared to the Willamette.
88 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Talenti, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) 2015

($50):  Talenti must have harvested the Sangiovese at precisely the right time in 2015, judging from the balance in this wine.  The 2015 growing season in Montalcino was, similar to the remainder of Tuscany, hot and produced rich, ripe wines, sometimes even over-ripe and jam-y ones.  Talenti’s 2015 is ripe, but not overdone, with suave tannins.   Despite its power, it’s a graceful and refined wine that finishes with a delightful touch of bitterness.   Its plush texture provides immediate pleasure, but its balance suggests wonderful evolution with a decade of bottle age.
95 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Qupé, Santa Barbara County (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay Y Block 2018

($22):   Qupé, established in 1982, has always focused on wines made from varieties usually associated with France’s Rhône Valley — Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne.  So where did this fabulous Chardonnay come from.  The Chardonnay came from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, primarily from the Y Block, which was planted exclusively for Qupé in 2005, according to their website.   In keeping with their focus, there’s Viognier (2%) and Marsanne (1%) in the blend.  Balanced and restrained, it’s a great value, delivering far more than its $22 price tag suggests.  Subtle fruitiness, a subtle roundness provided by judicious oak aging, come together seamlessly.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Mettler Family Vineyards, Lodi (California) Albarino 2019

($20):   American consumers have embraced Albariño, the most important white grape in Spain’s Galicia region, because of the energetic and spicy wines made from it.  And now, with roughly 450 acres of it, almost a one-third of which was planted in the last three years, the grape — and wine — is making inroads into California vineyards.  Mettler’s is a lovely example of what California can do with Albariño.  Though a softer and riper style that the ones coming from Rias Baixas, its traditional home in Galicia, Mettler’s delivers subtle spice atop floral elements and a welcome slight bitterness in the finish. It’s a good choice for full-flavored seafood.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2018

($27):  It’s rare to see a Pinot Noir of this stature for less than $30 a bottle.  The grapes for this fruit-forward Pinot Noir come entirely from Laetitia’s vineyards, which means they control all of the farming, and, importantly, the timing of the harvest.  It conveys bright and ripe red fruit-like flavors without being over the top or jammy.  A whiff of vanilla from oak aging doesn’t dominate or overwhelm the wine’s fruitiness.   Tannins are fine, making this suavely texture Pinot Noir ideal for current consumption.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Mionetto, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG (Veneto, Italy) Dry NV

($35, Mionetto USA):  Cartizze is the top category of Prosecco, and the only “Cru” entitled to its own appellation.  It sits atop the Prosecco quality pyramid because it is the best place within the Valdobbiadene zone to grow the Glera grape, the one used for Prosecco.  With most Prosecco costing less than 50 percent less than Cartizze, it can be difficult for consumers to step up to this category.  I suggest you do, start with Mionetto’s.  It conveys a lively and delicate peachy character that floats across the palate.  Light, airy and refined, it is remarkably flavor filled with refreshing, but not aggressive, acidity.  Sip a glass while sautéing fish fillets and then drink it with dinner.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Abrigo Giovanni, Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba Superiore DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Garabei” 2017

($17, Elevation Wine):  There’s Dolcetto and then there’s Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, one of the few Dolcetto areas to be awarded DOCG status, Italy’s highest category of wine.  Dolcetto from around Alba, especially Diano d’Alba, typically have more elegance than run-of-the-mill Dolcetto.  Abrigo Giovanni’s is an excellent example of that elegance.  It has a bit of everything and not too much of anything.  Both mineral-y and marked by a black cherry-like fruitiness, this mid-weight wine has a lovely texture that makes it a delight to drink now.  An alluring hint of bitter cherry in the finish makes it a better choice for a hearty pasta dish than as a before dinner drink.  The price means you should buy it by the case!
93 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Couly-Dutheil, Chinon (Loire Valley, France) “Les Chanteaux” 2018

($30, Cynthia Hurley French Wines):  White wine from Chinon is unusual since 95 percent of the appellation’s output is red.  Couly-Dutheil, one of Chinon’s top domaines, consistently produces a fabulous example of white Chinon along with their stellar range of red Chinon wines.  Made exclusively from Chenin Blanc, white Chinon combines the fruitiness of the grape with a distinct mineral component that growers there attribute to the chalky soil.  Couly-Dutheil’s 2018 Les Chanteaux is stunning, delivering subtle peach-like nuances with bracing acidity that amplifies the wine’s charms.  Refreshing and uplifting by itself, it’s also a great foil for roast pork or a spice-coated roast chicken.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Los Vascos, Casablanca Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2019

($10, Taub Family Selections):  It’s not really a 94-point wine, but I have to get your attention.  This wine shows the deficiency of using points to rate a wine. It’s spectacular in the context of a $10  bottle Sauvignon Blanc.  If there’s a more enjoyable one out there at the price, please let me know.  On its own merits, it deserves 89 points.  But given its value, it’s worth a lot more.  Consumers should not be surprised that when one of the greatest winemaking companies of the world — Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) — undertakes a project, the wines will sing.  And this one does. Graceful and refined, the attractive bite of Sauvignon Blanc is still present.  Absent is the lapel-shaking electricity or the herbaceous intrusion found in many other Sauvignon Blanc.  It finishes with a palate-cleansing lime-like accent.  Graceful — it’s exactly what you’d expect from Lafite.  Ten dollars a bottle — that’s a surprise.
94 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Grenache 2016

($35):  The Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association’s website tells us that the Rogue Valley, Oregon’s southernmost winegrowing area, has 4,000 acres of vines.  The most important red wines in the warm area are made from Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Malbec.  You’ll note that Grenache is absent from that list.  Judging from this wine, it should be near the head of the list.  Lively and fruity, but not sweet, this mid-weight wine delivers notes of bright wild strawberries.  The flavors dance on the palate.  There’s real refinement here.  Drink it now with a spicy tomato-based sauce on pasta.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Naumes Family Vineyards, Rogue Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2016

($40):  The history of the Naumes Family Vineyards seems to confirm the mantra that good wine starts in the vineyard. They’ve been making wine only for a handful of years, but have been farming fruit for 100 years, according to their website.  They must know how to grow grapes.  At the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from their winemaker because to make a Pinot Noir like this from a vineyard that was planted only in 2013 takes real talent.  Far too many New World Pinot Noir examples are solely fruity, lacking complexity.  Not this one.  They’ve managed to combine a delicate cherry-like fruitiness with a subtle, but clear, savory element that gives the wine the all-too-elusive “flavor without weight” character that I prize in Pinot Noir-based wines.  Its character is all the more impressive because the Rogue Valley is the warmest part of Oregon and Pinot Noir usually thrives in cooler climates.  Fine tannins and freshness make it perfect for current consumption.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

($40):  The world needs more renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon like this one —  specifically, well-priced and well proportioned.  It delivers ripe, but not over-ripe fruit flavors, and a wisp of vanilla-kissed oak.  But savory and “not just fruit” accents peek through, creating balance and saving it from being fruit-heavy.  Suave tannins mean you can open tonight to drink with the steak that’s coming off the grill.
91 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Bodegas Pinea del Duero, Ribera del Duero DO (Castilla y León, Spain) “17” 2017

($65, WineSmith Company):  Bodegas Pinea, a new entry in Ribera del Duero, is off to an excellent start.  Founded just this decade, their first release of their flagship wine, Pinea, was in 2017, which gave rise to the name of this wine, 17, their second label.  Brimming with spice and dark fruit flavors, it’s a terrific second wine.  Made entirely from Tempranillo, it’s certainly big, but not boisterous or overdone.  Its depth nicely balances its 14.8 percent stated alcohol, keeping it in check.  To be sure, it’s a winter kind of wine, perfect for hearty roast or a leg of lamb.  This is not a before-dinner sipper.  For all its power, it is not heavy or over-the-top.  An uplifting raciness keeps it going throughout a meal.  An attractive hint of tar-like bitterness in the finish balances its fruitiness.  I just wish they’d ditch the overly heavy bottle.  The wine speaks for itself.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Cantina Fratelli Pardi, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (Umbria, Italy) “Sacrantino” 2014

($35, Provicenter USA):  The Sagrantino grape has abundant fierce tannins, which explains the character of the wines from Montefalco Sagrantino (formerly called Sagrantino di Montefalco).  Wines from this DOCG require exclusive use of that grape and benefit from years, even decades, of bottle age to soften them.  The Pardi family has been growing grapes in the region since the early 20th century, but their modern history dates to 2003 with a new winery.  True to form, their Sacrantino has power and youthful exuberance with plenty of tannins, but remarkable freshness and life.  Yes, it would benefit from further aging, but I could envision drinking it on a winter’s night with a hearty stew.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Viticoltore Vini Franchetti, Etna Rosso DOC (Sicily, Italy) “Passorosso” 2017

($39):  Andrea Franchetti is either brilliant or crazy.  He built a wine estate, Tinoro, from scratch in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia and makes wine there, not from Sangiovese, but from solely Bordeaux varieties.  He has another estate in Tuscany, Sancaba, dedicated to plant, of all things, Pinot Noir.  The third estate, Passopisciaro, is on Mount Etna where he makes this fabulous wine from Sicily’s native Nerello Mascalese grape.  Since the 2013 vintage, the label no longer carries the Passopisciaro estate name — just the name of the wine, Passorosso, like a rock star with only one name.  Though he started the Etna project about 20 years ago, the vines for this wine are 70 to 100 years old, according to their website, which helps explain the wine’s enormous finesse and complexity.  It is fresh and lively, despite the heat of the 2017 growing season, with lava-influenced nuances intertwined with cherry-like fruitiness.  Tannins are firm, but fine and not hard or intrusive.  It is a captivating wine that delivers more with each sip.  Lovely to drink now, I predict it will evolve beautifully with cellaring because of its balance.  I guess you could call it a rock star.
95 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Stephanie’s Cuvée” 2017

($30):   With raspberry-like nuances, this fruit-forward Pinot Noir has moderate weight and suave tannins.  Lively acidity keeps it fresh.  The 14.3 percent stated alcohol, noticeable by a slightly hot finish, adds a pleasing roundness to the wine.  Thankfully, not being a bombastic wine, it would go nicely with grilled salmon.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018

($25):  Here is a polished Cabernet Sauvignon that displays black fruit enrobed in suave tannins.  Despite plenty of dark fruit flavors, it’s not overweight as evidenced by its modest — by today’s standards — 13.9 percent stated alcohol.  Its creamy texture and kiss of vanilla-like notes allows for immediate enjoyment.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Inama, Soave Classico DOC (Veneto, Italy) Vigneti di Foscarino Vecchie Vigne 2017

($23, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  One of the reasons I love Soave is that — when made by top producers such as Inama — the wines over-deliver.  The region is still trying to recover from its reputation of dilute innocuous wines.  As a result, the prices remain depressed despite the leap in quality.  Take this one for example.  Inama is a consistently great producer.   Foscarino vineyard is one of Soave’s top sites, and it comes from old vines.  No wonder the wine is stunning.   And for $23, even more stunning.   It has good weight with a lava-like minerality and refreshing acidity.  It’s a perfect choice for grilled swordfish.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Mionetto, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (Veneto, Italy) Extra Dry NV

($19, Mionetto USA):  There’s Prosecco, and then there’s Valdobbiadene Prosecco.  The difference is location, location, location: where the grapes grow.  Tasting the wonderful range of Mionetto’s Prosecco is extremely instructive.  Their DOC Prosecco Treviso, reviewed here previously, is very good and very well-priced.  It’s easy to recommend and I have.  But one taste of their Valdobbiadene Prosecco transports you to a different level.  Same wine-making team, same basic method of production.  The only difference is the source of the grapes.  The hilly Valdobbiadene area has long been known as a superior source of grapes for Prosecco, which is why wines from that area receive DOCG designation, Italy’s highest ranking, as opposed to DOC like the rest of Prosecco.  This Prosecco delivers similarly floral, almost peach-like nuances, but is just more elegant and graceful than Mionetto’s DOC Prosecco.  It is worth the premium?  That’s for you and your banker to decide, but I think so.
92 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Bodegas Caro, Mendoza (Argentina) “CARO” 2016

($60, Taub Family Selections):  It should come as no surprise that a collaboration, now about two decades old, between two of the greatest names in wine should produce a fabulous wine. Bodegas Caro is a joint effort of Domaines Barons de (Lafite) Rothschild and Nicolas Catena, one of Argentina’s leading wine producers.  Comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (83%) and Malbec, CARO is the winery’s flagship.  As a curiosity, Malbec, Argentina’s signature red grape, had been planted at Lafite in the past, but did not thrive and was replaced with Merlot, according to Cyril Ray’s, Lafite: The Story of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild  [Christie’s Wine Publications].   It’s a stunning wine, powerful yet graceful.  The initial impact is plummy fruit-driven flavors, perhaps the Malbec speaking.  Fortunately, within 30 minutes, the palate is flooded as all the notes pitch in making a glorious fruity/savory mix, which continues to change and evolve as it sits in the glass.  A delightfully bitter finish reminds you this is not a fruit-bomb, but serious stuff.  Its modest 13.5 percent stated alcohol is also a powerful argument that you don’t need super ripe grapes to produced grand wine.  Beautifully textured — after all, Lafite is involved — making it easy to enjoy now.  However, the way it blossomed in the glass suggests to me that you will be amply rewarded by cellaring for a few years.
95 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Case for Quarantine 2.0

Times like this remind us of the things that are really important in life.  In the big picture, wine, though it plays a significant part in my life, is not among them.  Compared to the death and disease around us and the prospect of a looming economic recession, and maybe a depression, writing about wine seems trivial.  Just a month ago, I was in Florence at the Antiprime di Toscana, the annual tasting of the new vintage of Tuscan wines, including Chianti Classico.  Based on those tastings, I had planned an update about Gran Selezione, the new category of Chianti Classico that sits at the top of the region’s quality pyramid.  There’s no doubt Gran Selezione is an exciting new classification within Chianti Classico.  Yes, there are problems with the classification, but what classification is problem-free?  At this point in time, however, Gran Selezione and its problems seems trivial at best.  So, that column will wait.

Although wine may pale in comparison in importance to the darkness around us and what’s likely to come, it still does provide enormous joy and relief, especially during the shelter-at-home period.  So, this column will be a continuation of previous advice, stimulated in large measure by the people—ok, a person—who wrote to me, suggesting I continue recommending wines for quarantine.

I started my last column on this subject by saying that—though I am an MD—I’ll  leave the medical advice concerning the need to quarantine to your personal physician and public health experts.  I’ve changed my mind.  Everyone should shelter-in-place, adhere to social distancing, wear a mask or face covering when outside, and wash hands every time you touch something outside of your house.

A word about drinking alone.  Your liver is really remarkable.  It makes a bunch of proteins important for health, it gets rid of cholesterol and removes toxic material, and it can regenerate itself.  But it doesn’t have eyes.  It doesn’t know whether you’re drinking alone or with friends.  It certainly can tell how much you drink, just not with whom.  So, if you’re sheltering-in-place by yourself, don’t feel guilty about drinking wine with your meal.  Importantly, don’t feel the need to finish the bottle because you don’t want to waste it.  As always, think of moderate consumption.  And remember that most wines are still fine after being opened for a day or two.  It is critical to keep them in the refrigerator, even the reds, after you’ve opened them because the lower the temperature, the slower the wine deteriorates.  Recorking is a good idea to keep the smells of your refrigerator out of the wine and to prevent spillage.  You could say that screwcap closures were seemingly made for quarantine.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s my advice for another case for the next two weeks of sheltering in place.  Of course, as I’ve said before, depending on how many other adults are with you in quarantine, you may need more than a case.

One thing I’ve learned since my last column of this subject is the diversity of wine that people drink during these times.  W. Blake Gray, who writes for Wine-Searcher among other publications, reported that he and his wife were drinking Cain Five, a hearty Bordeaux-style blend, with dim sum.  According to Blake’s report, it was a success.  The broad message is to think outside of the box.  Don’t be constrained by any preconceived ideas of what wines go with what food.

That said, I restate the obvious: Champagne or other sparkling wine is perfect both because the “pop” of the cork brightens any day and the wine itself goes well with a broad selection of food, from take-out Asian to pan-seared steaks.

And don’t forget the Champagne stopper, which allows you to enjoy a glass, re-stopper the bottle to conserve the bubbles, and have another glass the following night.  Charles Heidsieck’s NV Brut Réserve ($69) is both powerful and elegant.  Ok, it may not be what you want with a recession/depression in the future, so turn to Prosecco.  Though Prosecco lacks the glorious rich complexity and depth of Champagne, it is refreshing and has the ability to elevate one’s mood.  Mionetto makes of bevy of fine Prosecco bottlings that are widely available.  Their DOC Treviso Brut ($13) is friendly, well suited for an aperitif or with food, while their Extra-Dry ($15), made from organic grapes, is broader and, paradoxically, has a more edgy backbone.  Let me remind readers of Paul Chollet’s beautifully balanced rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut “Oeil de Perdrix” ($16), one of the best French non-Champagne sparkling wine bargains.

I touted Riesling last month because of its ability to pair with a plethora of foods.  That’s why I would definitely put a bottle or two in this case.  Try Penner-Ash’s 2017 Hyland Vineyard Riesling ($31) from McMinnville, Oregon.  Riveting acidity balances its hint of sweetness.  Out of your budgetary range?  Turn to Hugel, one of Alsace’s venerable houses and grab a bottle of their 2017 Classic Riesling ($20), which is energetic and delicately fruity.

Almost all (95 percent) of Chinon is red, but there is some white, made from Chenin Blanc, which is, rather like Riesling, a versatile wine.  And like Riesling, Chenin Blanc is available in a range of sweetness levels.  Every year, Couly-Dutheil’s white Chinon is always among the best.  Couly-Dutheil gets the balance right with their 2017 Chinon “Les Chanteaux” ($24), marrying the fruitiness of the grape, a hint of sweetness, with uplifting vibrancy.  Speaking of Chenin Blanc, if you have access to Long Island wines, look for Paumanok’s 2018 racy Chenin Blanc ($26) and those who do not, pick up Dry Creek Vineyard’s harmonious 2018 Dry Chenin Blanc ($16) from Clarksburg, California.  These three Chenin Blanc will do double duty as a sipper while you’re making dinner or waiting for the Chinese take-out to arrive.

I’m a big fan of Soave because the good producers, such as Inama, consistently over-deliver for the price.  Mineral-y, bright and long, Inama’s single-vineyard 2017 Soave Classico, “Vigneti di Foscarino” Vecchie Vigne ($23) is a perfect example.  It has remarkable weight.

It’s hard not to include a Chardonnay and a rosé in the quarantine case.  A 2019 Chardonnay from Los Vacos ($10), a Domaines Barons de (Lafite) Rothschild property in Chile, fits the bill nicely.  Spicy and understated, it is nicely balanced and…has a screwcap.  At ten bucks you can’t beat it.

Regular readers know that I’m not swept away by rosé, but Minuty’s 2019 “Prestige” Côtes de Provence Rosé ($27) makes even the most skeptical sit up and take notice.  Very pale pink, you’d be forgiven to think it would turn out to be bland.  Not at all.  Lively wild strawberry-like flavors leap from the glass.  This dry and invigorating rosé can hold up to some serious sushi.

You could fill your entire quarantine case with Chianti Classico from the 2015 and 2016 vintages, two spectacular vintages that are currently widely available.  The 2015s are slightly riper compared to the sleeker and racier 2016s.  Here are a half dozen from each vintage that I can recommend enthusiastically:

2016 Chianti Classico: Castello della Paneretta ($20), Casaloste ($20), San Fabiano Calcinaia ($21), Pincipe Corsini “Le Corti” ($24), Isole e Olena ($26), and Querciabella ($32).

2015s: Chianti Classico: Badia a Coltibuono ($20), Castellare di Castellina ($22), Tenuta di Nozzole ($22), Castello di Volpaia ($23), Isole e Olena ($26), and Fèlsina ($27).

Watch your distance and wash your hands—that’s my version of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

*         *         *

E-mail me your choices for your case for quarantine at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

April 8, 2020

Case for Quarantine 2.0

Times like this remind us of the things that are really important in life.  In the big picture, wine, though it plays a significant part in my life, is not among them.  Compared to the death and disease around us and the prospect of a looming economic recession, and maybe a depression, writing about wine seems trivial.  Just a month ago, I was in Florence at the Antiprime di Toscana, the annual tasting of the new vintage of Tuscan wines, including Chianti Classico.  Based on those tastings, I had planned an update about Gran Selezione, the new category of Chianti Classico that sits at the top of the region’s quality pyramid.  There’s no doubt Gran Selezione is an exciting new classification within Chianti Classico.  Yes, there are problems with the classification, but what classification is problem-free?  At this point in time, however, Gran Selezione and its problems seems trivial at best.  So, that column will wait.

Although wine may pale in comparison in importance to the darkness around us and what’s likely to come, it still does provide enormous joy and relief, especially during the shelter-at-home period.  So, this column will be a continuation of previous advice, stimulated in large measure by the people—ok, a person—who wrote to me, suggesting I continue recommending wines for quarantine.

I started my last column on this subject by saying that—though I am an MD—I’ll  leave the medical advice concerning the need to quarantine to your personal physician and public health experts.  I’ve changed my mind.  Everyone should shelter-in-place, adhere to social distancing, wear a mask or face covering when outside, and wash hands every time you touch something outside of your house.

A word about drinking alone.  Your liver is really remarkable.  It makes a bunch of proteins important for health, it gets rid of cholesterol and removes toxic material, and it can regenerate itself.  But it doesn’t have eyes.  It doesn’t know whether you’re drinking alone or with friends.  It certainly can tell how much you drink, just not with whom.  So, if you’re sheltering-in-place by yourself, don’t feel guilty about drinking wine with your meal.  Importantly, don’t feel the need to finish the bottle because you don’t want to waste it.  As always, think of moderate consumption.  And remember that most wines are still fine after being opened for a day or two.  It is critical to keep them in the refrigerator, even the reds, after you’ve opened them because the lower the temperature, the slower the wine deteriorates.  Recorking is a good idea to keep the smells of your refrigerator out of the wine and to prevent spillage.  You could say that screwcap closures were seemingly made for quarantine.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s my advice for another case for the next two weeks of sheltering in place.  Of course, as I’ve said before, depending on how many other adults are with you in quarantine, you may need more than a case.

One thing I’ve learned since my last column of this subject is the diversity of wine that people drink during these times.  W. Blake Gray, who writes for Wine-Searcher among other publications, reported that he and his wife were drinking Cain Five, a hearty Bordeaux-style blend, with dim sum.  According to Blake’s report, it was a success.  The broad message is to think outside of the box.  Don’t be constrained by any preconceived ideas of what wines go with what food.

That said, I restate the obvious: Champagne or other sparkling wine is perfect both because the “pop” of the cork brightens any day and the wine itself goes well with a broad selection of food, from take-out Asian to pan-seared steaks.

And don’t forget the Champagne stopper, which allows you to enjoy a glass, re-stopper the bottle to conserve the bubbles, and have another glass the following night.  Charles Heidsieck’s NV Brut Réserve ($69) is both powerful and elegant.  Ok, it may not be what you want with a recession/depression in the future, so turn to Prosecco.  Though Prosecco lacks the glorious rich complexity and depth of Champagne, it is refreshing and has the ability to elevate one’s mood.  Mionetto makes of bevy of fine Prosecco bottlings that are widely available.  Their DOC Treviso Brut ($13) is friendly, well suited for an aperitif or with food, while their Extra-Dry ($15), made from organic grapes, is broader and, paradoxically, has a more edgy backbone.  Let me remind readers of Paul Chollet’s beautifully balanced rosé, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut “Oeil de Perdrix” ($16), one of the best French non-Champagne sparkling wine bargains.

I touted Riesling last month because of its ability to pair with a plethora of foods.  That’s why I would definitely put a bottle or two in this case.  Try Penner-Ash’s 2017 Hyland Vineyard Riesling ($31) from McMinnville, Oregon.  Riveting acidity balances its hint of sweetness.  Out of your budgetary range?  Turn to Hugel, one of Alsace’s venerable houses and grab a bottle of their 2017 Classic Riesling ($20), which is energetic and delicately fruity.

Almost all (95 percent) of Chinon is red, but there is some white, made from Chenin Blanc, which is, rather like Riesling, a versatile wine.  And like Riesling, Chenin Blanc is available in a range of sweetness levels.  Every year, Couly-Dutheil’s white Chinon is always among the best.  Couly-Dutheil gets the balance right with their 2017 Chinon “Les Chanteaux” ($24), marrying the fruitiness of the grape, a hint of sweetness, with uplifting vibrancy.  Speaking of Chenin Blanc, if you have access to Long Island wines, look for Paumanok’s 2018 racy Chenin Blanc ($26) and those who do not, pick up Dry Creek Vineyard’s harmonious 2018 Dry Chenin Blanc ($16) from Clarksburg, California.  These three Chenin Blanc will do double duty as a sipper while you’re making dinner or waiting for the Chinese take-out to arrive.

I’m a big fan of Soave because the good producers, such as Inama, consistently over-deliver for the price.  Mineral-y, bright and long, Inama’s single-vineyard 2017 Soave Classico, “Vigneti di Foscarino” Vecchie Vigne ($23) is a perfect example.  It has remarkable weight.

It’s hard not to include a Chardonnay and a rosé in the quarantine case.  A 2019 Chardonnay from Los Vacos ($10), a Domaines Barons de (Lafite) Rothschild property in Chile, fits the bill nicely.  Spicy and understated, it is nicely balanced and…has a screwcap.  At ten bucks you can’t beat it.

Regular readers know that I’m not swept away by rosé, but Minuty’s 2019 “Prestige” Côtes de Provence Rosé ($27) makes even the most skeptical sit up and take notice.  Very pale pink, you’d be forgiven to think it would turn out to be bland.  Not at all.  Lively wild strawberry-like flavors leap from the glass.  This dry and invigorating rosé can hold up to some serious sushi.

You could fill your entire quarantine case with Chianti Classico from the 2015 and 2016 vintages, two spectacular vintages that are currently widely available.  The 2015s are slightly riper compared to the sleeker and racier 2016s.  Here are a half dozen from each vintage that I can recommend enthusiastically:

2016 Chianti Classico: Castello della Paneretta ($20), Casaloste ($20), San Fabiano Calcinaia ($21), Pincipe Corsini “Le Corti” ($24), Isole e Olena ($26), and Querciabella ($32).

2015s: Chianti Classico: Badia a Coltibuono ($20), Castellare di Castellina ($22), Tenuta di Nozzole ($22), Castello di Volpaia ($23), Isole e Olena ($26), and Fèlsina ($27).

Watch your distance and wash your hands—that’s my version of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

*         *         *

E-mail me your choices for your case for quarantine at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

April 8, 2020

Tua Rita, Toscana Rosso IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Rosso dei Notri” 2017

($22, Winebow):  Tua Rita, best known for their show-stopping monovarietal Merlot called Redigaffi that routinely sells at release for $300+, makes two other wines consumers should embrace. This one, a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, should be in everyone’s cellar.  It won’t stay there long because it’s delicious to drink now.  It delivers a beautiful balance of fruity and savory flavors.  Suave and fresh, it finishes with a lovely hint of bitterness, which makes it a perfect choice for a rich tomato-based sauce for pasta.  It’s a great bargain.  Stock up for your next two weeks of quarantine.
91 Michael Apstein Apr 7, 2020

Tua Rita, Toscana Rosso IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Perlato del Bosco” 2016

($30, Winebow):  Perlato del Bosco shows the broad talents at Tue Rita.  They make the Redigaffi Super Tuscan (and Super Priced) Merlot as well as the bargain-priced and delicious Rossi dei Notri.  Here’s Perlato del Bosco, a marvelous wine made entirely from Sangiovese and displaying a completely different profile.  It is a cut above their excellent Rossi dei Notri, but a similar bargain for what it delivers.  It has the lovely firmness and black cherry-like nuances characteristic of Sangiovese, yet paradoxically, it is suave.  Elegant, fresh and long, it has a subtle alluring bitterness in the finish.  It’s a glorious current choice for grilled steak or lamb chops.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 7, 2020