Category Archives: Reviews

Starved Dog Lane, Adelaide Hills (South Australia, Australia) Shiraz/Viognier 2003

($15, Pacific Wine Partners): The Aussies, following what the French often do in Côte Rôtie, have blended a little white wine, Viognier, with Shiraz. The delicate floral elements, undoubtedly from the Viognier, tame the Shiraz without stripping it of spice. The cooler Adelaide Hills climate imparts a refreshing lift. Its a hard combo to beat, especially at the price. 90 Michael Apstein Feb 28, 2006

Craggy Range Winery, Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) Gimblett Gravels Vineyard “Le Sol” 2002

($60, Kobrand): Craggy Range Winery, an outstanding producer specializing in wines from single vineyards, has entered the upscale Syrah sweepstakes with their Le Sol offering. Their philosophy is that unique wines arise from unique growing conditions; hence their single vineyard focus. Usually I shudder at 15+ percent alcohol wines, but this bold, succulent Syrah carries it well. The super rich, plumy fruit and prominent extract make it a good choice for a roasted rack of lamb this winter. I am leery of how high alcohol wines develop, but this is so yummy now, I wouldn’t worry because few will have the willpower not to drink it now. 92 Michael Apstein Feb 28, 2006

Bodegas Vinedos de Murcia, Jumilla (Spain) Shiraz/Cabernet/Monastrell “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” 2003

($10, Click Imports): At least some Spaniards have learned quickly how to market Old World wines to us geographically-challenged New World wines drinkers. They put the seemingly incomprehensible, but of course, essential, geographic material on the back label. The consumer is captured by the far more memorable name, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, followed by the varietal blend, on the front label. This intriguing, big, but not overdone, wine has lots going on in it. Monastrell, the Spanish name for Mourvedre, adds an attractive gamey character. Not just a fruit bomb, the wine delivers exotics earthy flavors. A great value! 93 Michael Apstein Feb 21, 2006

Montes, Apalta Valley (Colchagua, Chile) Syrah “Folly” 2003

($70, TGIC Importers): Made entirely from Syrah grown on the upper slopes of Montes’Apalta Valley Vineyard, this is an unabashedly big and extracted wine with flavors that emerge over time in the glass. Oak notes are apparent, but not overwhelming, and the ripe supple tannins provide structure that keeps you coming back for more. The extraordinary length is an indication that this wine will develop beautifully over the next year. 93 Michael Apstein Jan 17, 2006

Yarden, Galilee (Israel) Chardonnay Odem Vineyard 2002

 ($20): The wines that the Golan Heights Winery produces under their Yarden label just get better and better. This 2002 Chardonnay, from an organic vineyard, is certainly a member of the buttery school of Chardonnay. Rich and intense, it has enough balancing acidity because of the elevation of the vineyards in Galilee to hold it all together. It’s an excellent wine that happens to be kosher. Now that’s something to rejoice about! 88 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2006

Fonseca, Douro Valley (Portugal) Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000

($22, Kobrand): Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000 ($22, Kobrand): Late Bottled Vintage Port or LBV, is a reasonable alternative to vintage Port. Bottled after five or six years of barrel aginginstead of two for vintage Portit needs no further aging upon release nor decanting since its sediment remains behind in the barrel. Fonseca, one of the consistently great Port houses, has crafted a brilliant LBV in 2000. Spice, an exotic complexity, and wonderful balance complement its power. 90 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2006

Delamotte, Champagne (France) Blanc de Blancs Brut 1997

($74, Wilson Daniels, Ltd.): I suppose it is no surprise that Delamotte, a house located in Mesnil (perhaps the single best village in the Cotes des Blanc, the area of Champagne where Chardonnay reigns supreme) should make a stellar Blanc de Blancs. It doesn’t hurt that it is adjacent to Salon–both are owned by Laurent-Perrier–and uses Salon’s grapes when that house opts not to produce a vintage Champagne. Delamotte’s creamy and elegant 1997 has a suaveness, imparted only by Chardonnay, that seems to go on forever. 94 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2006

Bollinger, Champagne (France) Brut “Grande Année” 1997

($110, Paterno): Bollinger’s vintage Champagne, Grande Année, is rapidly reaching tête du cuvée prices, but at least the quality is there. No longer the bargain of past years (but what is?) Bollinger continues to make stunning vintage Champagne. More forward than their superb 1996, the 1997 Grand Année has that signature brioche toastiness, penetrating flavors without being aggressive, and luxurious length. 94 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2006

Rancho Zabaco, California (United States) Zinfandel “Dancing Bull” 2003

($12): Even allowing for the fact that the Gallo empire can draw upon vast vineyard resources strewn across California, it still amazes me that they can pull together a Zin this fine for twelve bucks. This wine is actually more interesting and useful than many counterparts now selling for upwards of $20 in the current Zin-crazed era, and though its balanced, integrated profile won’t jerk you to attention like many other bottlings, it will win your admiration with its impressive combination of bold flavor and seamless integration. The lead note of fresh berries is augmented by a nice spicy edge and just a little whiff of wood. 88 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2005

Ktima Kir Yianni, Amyndeo (Greece) “Akakies” 2004

($14, Sotiris Bafitis Selections): Rosé season is about spent in my neck of the woods, but this wine is certainly not spent, and it is worth a search for those living in warm climates. Admirably dry and restrained, it features very tasty fruit with red cherries and a bright, almost citrus edge. Faintly spicy, this Xinomavro-based wine is very refreshing and food-friendly, and shows no signs of cracking up or losing its freshness. 87 Michael Apstein Nov 22, 2005

Archery Summit, Oregon (United States) Pinot Noir Arcus Estate 2002

($75): Archery Summit, Oregon (United States) Pinot Noir Arcus Estate 2002 ($75): Arcus Estate, a 40 acre vsite, is Archery Summit’s largest vineyard. The Willamette appellation was introduced in 2003, which explains why it’s labeled simply, “Oregon.” (The 2004 vintage will carry the Dundee Hills appellation.) This is great Pinot Noir because it delivers more than just fruit flavors. Floral, violet-like aromas are followed by gamy and earthy overtones and an incredible finish. It’s a classy wine. 95 Michael Apstein Oct 25, 2005

Duval-Leroy, Champagne (France) Brut 1996

($50, Partner’s Wine Marketing): Most vintage Champagnes from this monumental year have disappeared from retailers’ shelves, but happily Duval-Leroy just released theirs. Disgorged in October 2004 after 7 years on the lees, it has gorgeous toasty/yeasty qualities, the creamy elegance of Chardonnay and a seemingly endless finish. With some non-vintage offerings now going for more than $50 a bottle, this Champagne will not last long. Stock up for the holidays early. This Champagne is not to be missed. 95 Michael Apstein Oct 25, 2005

Laurent-Perrier, Champagne (France) Brut “Grand Siècle La Cuvée” NV

($85, Laurent-Perrier USA): Do not let the lack of a vintage date deter you from enjoying this fabulous tête de cuvée Champagne. Laurent-Perrier’s tradition is to blend their best wines exclusively from grand cru villages from the last three vintages to fashion this luxurious bottling. The deliciously creamy elegance of Chardonnay–50% of the blend–marries perfectly with the power of Pinot Noir to make an elegant, classy Champagne. 96 Michael Apstein Oct 25, 2005

Sauvion et Fils, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie (Loire Valley, France) Château du Cléray 2003

($10, W.J. Deutsch & Sons): I’m not a fan of most 2003 white wines from Europe because the scorching summer robbed them of acidity. But it’s hard to kill the acid in the Melon de Bourgogne, the grape from which Muscadet is made. Muscadet, which can often be a little lean, benefited from the extreme heat and the little extra ripeness in 2003. That ripeness and its citric acidity makes this one a great accompaniment to simple seafood, like steamed clams. 89 Michael Apstein Oct 11, 2005

Lucien Albrecht, Alsace (France) Riesling Grand Cru Pfingstberg 2001

($35, Pasternak): Albrecht’s regular Riesling is always quite good and well priced at about $15. This one, from the Grand Cru vineyard, Pfingstberg, is glorious. With lots of intensity and minerality, it delivers everything you’d expect from a grand cru vineyard. I recorked the unfinished bottle, stored it in the fridge overnight, and found it equally enjoyable the second day. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 11, 2005


Budini, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2003

($11, Vine Connections): Here’s what I refer to as a “pizza wine,” an inexpensive, flavor-packed bottle that can hold up to pepperoni. It is a fresh, ripe Malbec that, thankfully, is neither overoaked nor over extracted. Budini is the name of an Argentine cat that can appear larger than it is by puffing its fur when threatened. Like the cat, the wine is deceptive; it has amazing quality for the price. 86 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2005

Luca, Altos de Mendoza (Argentina) Syrah 2003

($30, Vine Connections): Laura Catena, daughter of Nicolas, who runs one of Argentina’s best wineries, aims to make small quantities of very high quality wines from particular sites. Although she started in 1997, her first commercial wine was from 1999 because rain effectively washed out the 1998 vintage for her. The excellent quality she has achieved in such a short time suggests that this is a label to watch. She blended a little Bonarda and Malbec into this Syrah and achieved a lush, intense wine with hints of smoked bacon fat and a vibrant finish. 91 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2005

Casa da Vila Verde, Vinho Verde (Portugal) 2003

($10, Signature): Casa de Vila Verde has overcome the problem that plagues all too many bottlings of Vinho Verde-cutting acidity without the ripe fruit flavors to balance it. The scorching heat of 2003 ripened grapes nicely in this northwestern part of Portugal, which explains the better fruit flavors-green apples-to complement that refreshing zing. An excellent choice for spicy cuisine. 87 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2005

Nicolas Potel, Bourgogne (Burgundy, France) Maison Dieu 2002

($19, Frederick Wildman): Potel owns just one small, four-acre, vineyard called Maison Dieu between the towns of Beaune and Pommard, on the “wrong side of the tracks.” The wine doesn’t even qualify for a town name, but must be sold under Burgundy’s least prestigious appellation, Bourgogne. Despite its lack of pedigree, it’s a lovely wine, silky and rich, without heaviness. It surprises with layers of flavors expected only in wines from grander locales. (Starting with the 2003 vintage, Potel will label this wine as Cuvée Gerard Potel to honor his father.) A great buy. 88 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2005

Maison Drouhin, Côte de Beaune (Burgundy, France) 2002

($25, Dreyfus Ashby): The Côte de Beaune appellation, less well known in the US than Côte de Beaune Villages, ranks between Beaune and the Beaune 1er Cru in stature, acording to Véronique Drouhin. Primarily made from wines from the young vines of Drouhin’s flagship property, Beaune Clos des Mouches, it has forward, pure ripe fruit flavors, little tannin, and good acid. It is a fine example of Beaune–as good as many producers’ Beaune 1er Cru–and represents an excellent value. 88 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2005

Bouchard Père & Fils, Beaune 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Beaune du Châteaux 2002

($40, Clicquot, Inc.): This wine, which has been sold widely in France, made its first US appearance in 2002. A blend made exclusively from up to 16 of Bouchard’s 1er Cru vineyards in Beaune which are not bottled separately, such as Beaune Marconnets or Beaune Grèves, it’s a great buy. The grapes from the small plots Bouchard owns are harvested and vinified separately and then blended to create Beaune du Châteaux. A pure fruit nose, gives way to up front fresh red fruit flavors, great delicacy and length. 91 Michael Apstein Jul 22, 2005