Category Archives: Reviews

Duca di Salaparuta, Terre Siciliane IGT (Sicily, Italy) Nerello Mascalese “Lavico” 2018

($17, Disaronno International):  Consumers unfamiliar with Nerello Mascalese, the signature grape of Sicily’s Mount Etna, should grab this bottle.  Lava-like mineral notes complement the sour cherry like ones in this mid-weight red.  A long an explosive finish reminds you this is a wine to sip and savor.  It displays a Burgundian sensibility.  That is, it’s deceptively light in weight, yet provides a powerful presence. Its refined and sleek structure allows you to enjoy it now.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2022

Mandrarossa, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Nero d’Avola 2021

($12, Palm Bay International):  Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most main red grape, is worth getting to know because it can deliver an appealing combination of fruitiness mixed with non-fruit elements.  Take this one, for example.  Its initial delivery is heavy on the fresh, black cherry-like notes.  Time in the glass reveals an alluring smokey earthy quality.  This mid-weight wine has fine tannins that provide structure, but don’t intrude on current enjoyment.  Its freshness and vivacity remind you that Sicily is not necessarily too hot for fine wine.  This bargain-priced red is perfect for wintertime fare.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2022

Domaine Louis Latour, Beaune Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Les Perrières 2020

($100, Louis Latour, USA):  The 7.5- acre Les Perrières vineyard lies high up on the slope in a cooler locale, which may help explain this wine’s bright energy in a hot year like 2020.  Though tightly wound, as expected from a young top premier cru, its stature shows with gorgeous mineral-scented aromatics and impressive length.  Engaging red fruit flavors intermingled with clear stony notes — the site was an ancient quarry — are clearly heard.  Pure and precise, it’s a winner.
95 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2022

Domaine Louis Latour, Aloxe-Corton Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Les Chaillots 2020

($117, Louis Latour, USA):  Wines from Aloxe-Corton, even its premier crus, are overshadowed by grand cru Corton and overlooked by consumers.  Do. Not. Overlook. This.  Wine.  Its fleshy body atop a firm frame of iron-tinged flavors identify it clearly as Aloxe-Corton.  Impeccably balanced and fresh, it is well-proportioned, not over extracted or overdone. It’s a mini-Corton that has the advantage that it will be approachable far sooner than its grand cru big brother.  It’s charming now, so drink it in the next year or so, after which I suspect it will close down, to re-emerge in a decade as a grand wine.
95 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2022

Vini Franchetti Tenuta di Trinoro, Toscano Rosso IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Le Cupole” 2020

($35):  Cupole is the second wine of Tenuta di Tinoro, a “Super Tuscan” that commands a three-digit price tag — and the first digit is not a one.  Like the first wine, Cupole is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot that varies year to year to years depending on how the individual varieties fare during the growing season.  The 2020 Cupole, a bold wine, has surprisingly suave tannins and a silky texture for its size.  A lovely subtle bitterness in the finish adds to its appeal.  Many will not be deterred by a hint of heat in the finish — from its 14.5 percent stated alcohol speaking.  In truth, the alcohol reflects the ripeness and robust nature of this beautifully textured wine. It would be a good choice this winter with a hearty slab of beef.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 22, 2022

Batasiolo, Gavi del Comune di Gavi DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Granée” 2021

($23, Palm Bay International):  Gavi is one of the unsung stars of Italian white wines.  This one, from Batasiolo, a top Barolo producer, is made entirely from Cortese grape grown in the village of Gavi, from which the DOCG takes its name. Fiorenzo Dogliani, whose family owns the Batasiolo estate, explains that Gavi lies only 30 miles north of Genoa and the Mediterranean Sea.  That may explain the saline-like acidity that enhances and amplifies this wine’s depth.  Its length and minerality is dazzling.  An appealing concentration balances its enormous energy.   Ready now, it’s a fine choice for anything from the sea.
92 Michael Apstein Nov 22, 2022

Brigaldara, Valpolicella Superiore DOC (Veneto, Italy) Case Vecie 2020

($35, Vinifera):  Brigaldara, a family-owned estate since the early 20th century, is one of the leading lights in Valpolicella.  The make a stunning array of wines linked by a gracefulness that belies their power.  Take this Valpolicella Superiore.  It shows a mixture of red and black fruit flavors, but with a healthy dose of savory, non-fruity ones — spices and herbs — that add tremendous intrigue.  This mid-weight wine has more power that its sleek and elegant body suggests.  Cranberry-like acidity keeps it lively and fresh.  A silky texture makes it a good choice now as temperatures drop.
91 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2022

Brigaldara, Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOCG (Veneto, Italy) “Cantina di Brigaldara” 2012

($210, Vinifera):  This decade-old Amarone has developed beautifully and demonstrates the rewards of aging.  I suspect Brigaldara’s 2016 Case Vecie Amarone will develop along these lines, which is why I suggest cellaring it.  This 2012 Amarone leads with dazzling aromatics.  Then, additional complexity — mature flavors along with fresh and dried dark fruit ones — emerges.  The wine retains a brightness and elegance that is amazing.  For its considerable size, it has grace and poise.  It would be a wonderful wintertime treat this year.
96 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2022

Brigaldara, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG (Veneto, Italy) 2017

($75, Vinifera):  Weighing in at 16.5 percent stated alcohol, this broad-shouldered wine is remarkably elegant.  Indeed, it’s the elegance you notice, not the power, although that’s hard to ignore.  As much as I liked Brigladara’s Valpolicella Classico Casa Vecie, their Amarone just conveys more complexity — a mix of fresh and dried fruit — and power without sacrificing gracefulness.  Hints of bitterness in the finish make it even more delightful.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2022

Brigaldara, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG (Veneto, Italy) Cavolo 2017

($70, Vinifera):  Brigaldara’a Cavolo Amarone display darker fruit flavors and more weight than their straight Amarone, yet maintains their signature elegance and balance.  The 16.0 percent stated alcohol is integrated effortlessly into the flavors and weight.  There’s no heat or raisiny flavors here, just purity.  Incredibly bright and long, it finishes with a distinct and alluring tarry minerality and engaging bitterness.  I tasted this wine during the heat of summer, and, despite its size, it still showed beautifully.  I can only imagine how much more delightful it will be with consumed with hearty wintertime fare.  Amarone fans will love it.  Those unfamiliar with the joys of Amarone should start here.
95 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2022

Brigaldara, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG (Veneto, Italy) Case Vecie 2016

($120, Vinifera):  Despite an extra year of bottle age, Brigaldara’s 2016 Amarone “Case Vecie” is far more youthful than any of their 2017s, showing a more tannic structure.  Layers of dark dried and fresh fruit notes along with haunting minerality and their hallmark elegance are all still apparent.  As with their other wines, a subtle bitterness in the finish distinguishes them from many other Amarone wines that finish sweet.  This one needs time in the cellar — a decade or so — but its balance suggests a great future.
96 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2022

Duca di Salaparuta, Sicilia DOC (Sicily, Italy) Nero d’Avola “Passo delle Mule” 2019

($20, Disaronno International):  Duca di Salaparuta, one of the oldest wineries in Sicily, introduced many Americans to the value-packed joy of Sicilian wines decades ago with Corvo, which was made with purchased grapes grown all over the island.  Well, Duca di Salaparuta has evolved and now makes a bevy of distinctive estate wines.  The Passo delle Mule comes exclusively from Nero d’Avola grapes grown on their Sour Marchese Estate just inland from the southern coast.  I love wines made from Nero d’Avola because, when done well, they offer complexity — fruit and earthy flavors — even when young.  This one checks all the boxes:  Good weight, yet not heavy.  Dark fruit flavors intermingled seamlessly with savory/earthy ones.  Bright acidity that keeps it lively throughout the meal.  And well-priced.  It is perfect for current consumption and will serve you well with robust fare of fall and into the winter.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 25, 2022

Caprio Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) Cabernet Sauvignon “Red Label” 2019

($48):  Caprio Cellars focuses on the grapes typically found in red Bordeaux.  The extra reliance on Cabernet Sauvignon, 78 versus 62 percent, and no Malbec makes it a fascinating comparison to their “Eleanor.”  Here, delightful savory, black olive-like, rather than berry notes dominate.  There’s more of a tannic grip, but the tannins are not green nor intrusive.  Indeed, the suave texture is another appealing aspect of this Cabernet.  Like their Eleanor, Caprio’s Cabernet has impeccable balance with freshness and verve that keeps the palate interested throughout a meal.  There’s no palate fatigue from heaviness here.  It’s a fine choice for beef this autumn, but like Eleanor, it should develop beautifully over the next decade or more.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Caprio Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) “Eleanor” 2019

($60): Dennis P. Murphy, the owner of Caprio, named this seamless Bordeaux blend — his flagship wine — for his grandmother, Eleanor Caprio.  This suavely textured Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine, with Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc lending supporting roles, is fresh and lively.  Cassis-like notes and hints of red fruits appear, but nothing intrudes.  It is a masterful and refined blend that handles the 14.5 percent stated alcohol beautifully.  A delightful hint of smokiness (thankfully not the wildfire induced type) adds intrigue and complexity.  Enjoyable now because the tannins are fine and unintrusive, its balance and refinement suggest this refined wine should develop nicely for a decade or more.  I think his grandmother would be proud and flattered.
94 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Quivira Vineyards, Sonoma County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2021

($19):  Quivira makes at least four Sauvignon Blancs in various styles.  This one shows a straightforward, electricity-filled style that will awaken any palate.  There is no hiding the vibrancy and piercing nature behind a patina or oak, or an attempt at mellowing it with Semillon.  This is an in-your-face, in a nice way, youthful and penetrating Sauvignon Blanc.  Its citrus-driven directness makes it an ideal choice for spicy food or to add a jolt to a sautéed swordfish steak.
89 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Quivira Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree Vineyard 2021

($30):  Quivira’s Sauvignon Blanc from their Fig Tree Vineyard shows that site and blend combines to make a far more complex wine.  The vineyard sits at the confluence of the Wine Creek — I wonder who gave it that name — and Dry Creek, which, according to their website, imparts freshness because of the rocky alluvial soil.  The Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc also benefits from the inclusion of wine from the Musqué clone of that variety, which balances and moderates the potential brashness of Sauvignon Blanc.  It likely is responsible for the alluring and creamy subtlety in this wine.  A long a bright citrus finish amplifies the wine’s finesse and charm.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Bodegas Montecillo, Rioja Reserva (Spain) 2014

($18, Osborne):  Bodegas Montecillo, one of Rioja’s most prominent producers, consistently offers great value.  Take this Reserva for example.  A blend of Tempranillo (90 percent), Garnacha (8 percent) and Mazuelo, it spends two years aging in oak barrels followed by another 18 months in the bottle before release, which explains why the 2014 is the current release.  The aging also explains the wine’s suave texture, which perfectly complements a combination of bright red and dark fruit character.  This fresh and lively Rioja has just the right amount of savory spiciness from the oak that balances its fruitiness.  It would be a good choice for grilled meats.  And check out the price!
91 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Bodegas Montecillo, Rioja Gran Reserva (Spain) 2011

($22, Osborne):  Where else but Spain, and particularly Rioja, can you find the glories of a wine with a decade of age that you can afford to buy and enjoy on a regular basis?  Properly aged wine has an alluring ying/yang of fruit and non-fruit character enrobed by a silky suaveness that is captivating.  Normally, a decade of aging results in a serious outlay of money if you can even find the wine at retail.  All of which makes the Gran Reservas of Rioja, which must be aged for at least five years in a combination of oak barrels and bottle before release, all that more appealing.  Bodegas Montecillo’s Gran Reserva is, well, just better than their Reserva.  It is even more suave with a plush velvety texture.  Long and refined, you feel the effect of oak aging without tasting the oak at all.  This refined wine displays a real presence.  And you will be able to afford it.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Cantine Garrone, Vino Rosso (Piedmont, Italy) “Munaloss” 2020

($17):  Garrone, a small, even tiny, co-operative at the foot of the Alps in the northernmost part of Piedmont, is unusual.  The Garrone family works about 7.5 acres of vines themselves and has recruited 50 other growers whose holdings total about 25 acres.  A blend of Nebbiolo (50%), Croatina (30%) and Barbera, the “Munaloss” bottling delivers bright red fruit flavors, a touch of savoriness and great energy.  With few tannins, it takes a chill nicely.  All in all, it has a charming rusticity that makes it ideal for pizza or spicy pasta with a sausage sauce.
87 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Cantine Garrone, Valli Ossolane Nebbiolo Superiore DOC (Piedmont, Italy) “Prünent” 2019

($41):  One advantage of a co-operative, like Cantine Garrone, is that they have access to old vines.  Many of the members of the co-op have small plots that have been in their families for generations.  These old-vine plots are too small to commercialize individually, so the farmers send their grapes to the co-op.  The average age of Cantine Garrone’s vines is 60 years, with some more than 100 years old, according to their spokesperson.  This wine is made entirely from Nebbiolo (or Prünent as the locals call it because they believe it is a unique “clone” — really a biotype — of Nebbiolo).  In any case, the wine is delish.  Hints of black tea emanate from the glass.  Typical for Nebbiolo, it is deceptively light in weight, but packs enormous intensity and presence.  Suave tannins allow you to appreciate the leather-like nuances that buttress its red fruit character.  It is a Nebbiolo that you can enjoy now, this fall, with robust fare.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) 2020

($17, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Michele Chiarlo, an excellent Piedmont producer known for their Barolo, also makes wine from Barbera, this one and upper level one, labeled La Court, from the Nizza DOCG, which sells for about twice the price (and, I might add, is worth it).  With less spice and less acidity than typical for Barbera, Le Orme is a good introduction to the charms of that wine.  A touch of sweet fruit in the finish adds balance.  Overall, consider it a Barbera on training wheels.  Those unfamiliar with Barbera should try this one with a pasta and meat sauce or pizza.
89 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2022

Fattoria Selvapiana, Chianti Rùfina Riserva DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) Vigneto Bucerchiale 2015

($48, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Chianti Rùfina, along with Chianti Classico, is the best subzone of the greater Chianti denomination.  Selvapiana is one of Rùfina’s top producers and Vigneto Bucerchiale is their top wine.  So, this wine is a “no-brainer,” especially since it has seven years under its belt and has just hit its drinkable window.  It delivers power, but not excessively, along with an alluring herbal or earthy component, and great vibrancy.  Long and layered, it shows how substantial and elegant wines from Rùfina can be.  (The 2018 Bucerchiale is, perhaps, fractionally better, but needs bottle age.)
94 Michael Apstein Oct 11, 2022

Cantina di Tortona, Colli Tortonesi Bianco DOC (Piedmont, Italy) Timorasso “Piccolo Derthona” 2020

($24, Matchvino):  Though I reviewed this wine in July 2021, I just enjoyed it again with dinner and felt consumers should know about it.  The low-yielding Timorasso grape was popular in the Colli Tortonesi DOC in the pre-phylloxera era but was replaced by the more productive Cortese when growers replanted.  As recently as 2000 there were only 15 acres planted.  By 2012, acreage had doubled and probably has doubled again since then, but still, with less than 100 acres of the grape, it is easy to understand why consumers might not know of it.  That is a shame because it combines vibrancy with a creamy richness and spice.  It has maintained its edgy allure since I had it last July without showing any fatigue.  Indeed, a touch more complexity seems to have appeared. It is a wine worth searching for and a bargain to boot.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 11, 2022

Rocca delle Macìe, Maremma Toscana DOC (Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino “Campo Maccione” 2021

($16, Taub Family Selections):  To capture the crisp clean character of this wine, Rocca delle Macìe harvests the grapes early in the morning, when it is cool.  Then, they are kept on dry ice until they reach the winery where a cold fermentation occurs in stainless tanks.  Excellent depth balances its cutting edginess.  A saline-tinged minerality in the finish just adds to its enjoyment.  A terrific value!
92 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2022

Sylvain Langoureau, St. Aubin Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) En Remilly 2020

($53, Jeanne-Marie de Champs Selection):  Sylvain Langoureau is one of those excellent producers who has not yet achieved cult status, which is good news for savvy consumers because his wines remain undervalued.  Combine his talents with a fantastic vintage for whites and voilà, you have a stunning white wine.  Displaying the barest hints of butterscotch, the riveting acidity of the vintage imbues it with tremendous energy.  Befitting a young wine, it opens while it sits in the glass, so don’t rush it.  Delectable now, its balance and my experience with Langoureau’s wines suggests it has a long life in front of it.  I hate to say it, but given the prices of white Burgundy these days, this one is a bargain.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2022

Autréau de Champillon, Champagne (France) Premier Cru Extra-Brut NV

($46, Baron Francois): Though Chardonnay comprises only about 20% of this blend — the reminder is equal parts of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier — the finesse imparted by that grape comes through.  It is a masterful blend because the red grapes don’t dominate, they just add a touch of power.  It delivers a pleasantly piercing touch of green apple-like notes along with a saline minerally component.  It is marvelous as a stand-alone aperitif but those red grapes provide extra oomph.  A cutting edginess from the Extra Brut designation — only 3 grams of dosage — reinforces the idea that it can hold up to say, chicken in a mushroom cream sauce.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Domaine de L’Églantière, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Fourchaume 2021

($27):  Domaine de L’Églantière is one of two estates owned by Jean Durup Père et Fils, one of the top producers in Chablis.  (Château de Maligny is the other.)  You often will see both the name of the estate and Durup’s name on the label.  This Fourchaume has the depth you would expect from that vineyard balanced by an underlying stoniness characteristic of Chablis.  A delicate lacy floral aspect appears as it sits in the glass.  Enlivening acidity in the finish keeps it fresh and amplifies its charms.  It is another example of why Chablis is often the place to look for bargain-priced top wines.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Château de Fleys, Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2020

($22):  Its softer style makes this a wonderful introduction to Chablis for those who have yet to discover the magnificent wines of this appellation.  Fruitier and less mineraly than many Chablis, it will appeal to those who may be turned off by the prominent stony edginess many Chablis.  Here, the voice of the Chardonnay can be heard along with the typical flinty aspect of Chablis.
88 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Pernot Belicard, Bourgogne Côte-d’Or (Burgundy, France) 2020

($34, Jeanne-Marie de Champs Selection):  The Pernot name is synonymous with great white Burgundy largely due to Domaine Paul Pernot in Puligny-Montrachet.  But this being Burgundy, there are many estates with similar, or at least, overlapping names due to marriage and the French laws of inheritance.  So, in the case of Pernot Belicard, the Pernot is Philippe, grandson of famous Paul.  The Belicard is his wife, who brought vineyards with her when they married.  It is abundantly clear from tasting Pernot Belicard’s wines over the years that the acorn did not fall far from the tree.  In a word, the wines are stunning.  The bad news is the limited availability, which is why — if you ever see them — just buy as much as your budget allows.  This one, their largest production, comes from eight plots comprising just over 6-acres spread over the villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault.  Obviously given the labeling, the vineyards lie outside of those with more revered appellations.  They opt to use the relatively new moniker, Bourgogne Côte d’Or, to remind consumers that all the grapes came from there.  Uplifting acidity ties the finesse-filled creaminess and its minerally edginess together.  It has remarked depth and length for a regional wine.  There is a case in my cellar, which probably says more than the 92 points I’ve given it.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Domaine Louis Latour, Beaune Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Aux Cras 2020

($50, Louis Latour, USA):  Though at least 85 percent of wine from Beaune is red, a small amount of white come from that appellation.  Latour’s white Aux Cras is one of the best.  And because white Beaune lacks the cachet of the big three, Meursault, Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet, the wines are less expensive.  Combine those two facts with the additional fact that the 2020 vintage was superb for whites and you have an easy-to-recommend white Burgundy.  The 2020 Domaine Latour Beaune Aux Cras displays a graceful mineral aspect and riveting citrus vibrancy.  Long and refined, it is satisfying even at this youthful stage, but has the requisite balance and verve to go the distance.  I hate to call a $50 a bottle a bargain, but in the current context of Burgundy, it is.
93 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Domaine Trapet, Alsace (France) Riesling “R.Q.W.R.” 2018

($27):  My first introduction to Trapet, years ago, was with their stunning Burgundies.  Then I discovered they also make wines in Alsace.  Unsurprisingly, given their finesse-filled Burgundies, their wines from Alsace, made from organic and biodynamically farmed grapes, show grace and elegant as well.  The back label announces that it is Riesling from Riquewihr, which explains the mysterious R.Q.W.R. on the front label.  It delivers a seamless balance of stones, floral elements, and fruit.  Not piercingly dry, its roundness balances the mineral bitterness.  It would be an excellent choice for sushi or spicy Asian fare.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 27, 2022

Simi Winery , Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay 2020

($20):  Simi, founded in 1876, is one of California’s oldest wineries.  Still located in Sonoma, where Giuseppe and Pietro Simi first made their wines, Simi makes a range of Chardonnay.  This one, a blend from various sites within Sonoma County, delivers great value for the price.  Thankfully, not overdone, its light to mid-weight style allows you to enjoy it as a aperitivo-like drink before dinner or with simply prepared seafood.
89 Michael Apstein Sep 13, 2022

Pasqua, Prosecco Rosé DOC (Veneto, Italy) Extra Dry 2020

($18, Pasqua USA): Though Prosecco Rosé might be a brilliant marketing tool, combining too hot categories of wine, in reality it is an official Italian DOC.  To qualify, the wines must be vintage dated and contain Pinot Noir, both of which will push up the price.  Extra Dry terminology for sparkling wine is a misnomer in this instance since these wines will invariably have residual sugar and sweetness, not necessarily a bad thing because it can balance the acidity imparted by the bubbles.  Pasqua’s is a friendly rendition.  The touch of sweetness makes it a perfect choice as a welcoming aperitivo as well as a good match for spicy Asian fare.
88 Michael Apstein Sep 13, 2022

Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis (Burgundy, France) “Sainte Claire 2019

($25):  Simple advice: Buy whatever wines from Jean-Marc Brocard your budget allows.  A leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture, Jean-Marc Brocard makes fabulous Chablis, from the “simple” village ones to the Grand Crus.  His Sainte Claire bottling is a step up from his generic village Chablis and always over delivers for the price.  The 2020 fits that mold.  This is classic vibrant and minerally Chablis, with unusual depth and persistence for a village wine. I bought a case for my cellar.  I suggest you do the same.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 13, 2022

Hillick & Hobbs, Seneca Lake (Finger Lakes, New York) Dry Riesling Estate Vineyard 2019

($35):  Paul Hobbs, who has made wines around the world, has chosen the Finger Lakes for his Riesling.  He and his younger brother, David, purchased a 78-acre piece of land on Lake Seneca in 2013.  Developed from scratch, they have now planted 21 acres of it will Riesling.  The 2019 was their first commercial vintage.  It is slightly less explosively delightful than the glorious 2020, which may be a result of an extra year in the bottle, vintage variation, or just a learning curve.  Nonetheless, it is a fabulous bone-dry Riesling that excites the palate.  A delicate hint of white flowers belies its edgy minerality that appears on the palate.  Like the 2020, it is long and refined.  Riesling fans will love this duo of 2019 and 2020.  Non-Riesling fans will be converted by them.
94 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Hillick & Hobbs, Seneca Lake (Finger Lakes, New York) Dry Riesling Estate Vineyard 2020

($35):  As one of California’s leading winemakers, Paul Hobbs needs no introduction.  The Finger Lakes should be thrilled to have him making wine there because his wines, at least based on these first two vintages, will bring widespread acclaim to the area.  Hillick and Hobbs, named after his parents, Joan Hillick and Edward Hobbs, is Hobbs’ first East Coast venture.  Both the 2019 and 2020 vintages of this Riesling are sensational.  The electrifyingly dry 2020 delivers a saline minerality.  It has good weight, yet it is not heavy.  Deep and long, it finishes with a delectable hint of bitterness.  It is an exhilarating wine.
96 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Villa Cerna, Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany, Italy) 2018

($25, Volio Imports): What a difference a few hills and a little elevation makes.  Year in and year out, Cecchi’s Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Reserva is one of my favorites.  The 2018 is no exception.  A blend of Sangiovese (95%) and Colorino, there are no international influences of Cabernet, Merlot, or oak-aging.  It displays the refinement and elegance of Sangiovese — deep cherry-like notes — sprinkled with herbal nuances.  A wine to savor, nuances appear with each sip.  A subtle hint of bitterness in the persistent finish confirms it grandeur.  A bargain to boot!
95 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Villa Rosa, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (Tuscany, Italy) 2018

($48, Volio Imports):  Gran Selezione is a new category of Chianti Classico that sits above Reserva, at the pinnacle of the Chianti Classico quality pyramid.  Without getting into the weeds regarding the regulations for Gran Selezione, suffice it to say it should be the producer’s best Chianti Classico.  Polished and refined, this Gran Selezione maintains alluring fruity and savory complexity that defines Chianti Classico.  Unsurprisingly, it grows in the glass with savory herbal elements displacing the elegant cherry-like notes.  Initially reticent, its evolution is a delight to watch, so don’t rush this one.  A subtle bitterness in the long finish adds intrigue and reminds you that this has another dimension.
94 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Villa Rosa, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) “Ribaldoni” 2018

($15, Volio Imports):  The 2018 Ribaldoni Chianti Classico comes from Villa Rosa’s youngest vines.  Lighter than the similarly priced Primocolle from Villa Cerna, it displays the same seamless balance of bright juicy fruit, spice, and good depth.  Not overdone, it is lively and direct, with just the right tannic structure, exactly what you would expect from Chianti Classico.  It’s perfect for roast chicken, pizza, or a simple sausage pasta.
89 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Villa Cerna, Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) “Primocolle 2019

($15, Volio Imports):  The Cecchi family, one of the top producers in Tuscany, have two separate and distinct estates in Chianti Classico, Villa Cerna and Villa Rosa.  Unsurprisingly, the wines from the two estates are very different because of the diversity of soil, climate, exposure — in sum, the terroir — even over a short distance.  Primocolle, from Cecchi’s Villa Cerna estate, comes from vineyards at lower elevations on the estate.  It is a lovely, classically proportioned Chianti Classico filled with bright notes of sour cherry-like flavors, supported by mild tannins and enlivening acidity. This mid-weight well-priced wine is perfectly suited for current consumption with a hearty lasagna.
89 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Domaine Bart, Marsannay (Burgundy, France) 2020

($35, Jeanne-Marie de Champs Selection):  I taste at Domaine Bart every year because they are one of the top producers in Marsannay, the northern-most village of the Côte de Nuits.  Wines from Marsannay remain under consumers’ radar, in part, because the village has no vineyards designated as premier cru, yet.  That will change.  For now, and even when that occurs, remember it is still producer, producer, producer.  And Bart is certainly among those at the top.  Bart produces a fabulous array of wines from individual vineyards within that village.  This one, however, is a blend of various plots within the village.  Though it reflects the warmth of the 2020 vintage, somehow Bart captured the necessary acidity to keep the boisterous fruitiness in check.  With time in the glass, a glorious and intriguing savory spiciness emerges.  Tannins are finely honed so drinking this one now is not a problem if you embrace the fruity aspect of red Burgundy.  I would advise waiting a year or so to allow the savory elements to emerge. It is very hard to find red Burgundy of this caliber at this price.  It will disappear from retailers’ shelves quickly.
90 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2022

Landmark Vineyards, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay “Overlook” 2020

($21):  Landmark  Vineyards, founded in 1974, is another “old timer” in Sonoma County winemaking.  Focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they make consistently good examples of both.  Take this Chardonnay for example.  Not overblown, it still has plenty of richness.  Good acidity gives it life and balances the moderate oaky richness.  It’s a good price for what it delivers.
89 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2022

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2021

($20):   Dry Creek Vineyard, founded by David Stare in 1972, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  Not a “cult” producer, Dry Creek has turned out incredibly consistently good and well-priced wines over those five decades.  Their 2021 Sauvignon Blanc is just another example.  Clean and crisp, this refreshing white has great energy and zing without any of the off notes that can show up in this varietal.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2022

Famille Bouey, Bordeaux (France) “Maison Blanche” 2020

($17, Quintessential Wines):  This is a perfect example of why place matters.  Here is the same blend of Merlot (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vintage made by the same producer as Bouey’s Oh La Vache.  The only difference is the location of the grapes.  In this case, they came just from the smaller Bordeaux appellation compared to the broader IGP Atlantique.  Tasted side-by-side, this Bordeaux, though still fruity, is less juicy, showing more earthy notes with a touch more structure.  There is also more going on in the finish.  I would be less likely to chill this one, but I would still serve it with the burgers or steaks coming off the grill.
88 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2022

Famille Bouey, Bordeaux (France) “Les Parcelles No 8” 2020

($20, Quintessential Wines): This third offering from Famille Bouey shows what happens when you substitute Cabernet Franc for Cabernet Sauvignon.  The blend is still Merlot-heavy (80%), but Cabernet Franc replaces its brother.  I assume the name, Les Parcelles No 8, refers to particular plots where Cabernet Franc and Merlot do especially well.  There’s a real step-up in complexity with less emphasis on ripe fruitiness and more on earthy, non-fruit flavors.  The texture, like Bouey’s other wines, is refined, but the balance between fruity notes, savory ones, and acidity here is even better.  And the finish even longer.  A touch more structure tells me this would be a good choice for grilled lamb chops.  It also shows that you needn’t spend a fortune for good Bordeaux and helps explain why wines from that appellation are so popular.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2022

Famille Bouey, IGP Atlantique (France) “Oh La Vache” 2020

($13, Quintessential Wines):  The geographic designation, “IGP Atlantique” means the grapes were grown in the vast area anywhere in the southwest of France from Bordeaux to Cognac.  The Merlot (85%) in this blend brings a bright, juicy aspect, while the Cabernet Sauvignon provides just the right amount of structure.  A sour cherry-like and uplifting acidity prevents it from being heavy or flabby.  Light in tannins, it takes a chill nicely and is the better for it.  It is an excellent choice for those who like a red as an aperitif or the next time you are hosting a large group with food from the grill.
87 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2022

Iris Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2020

($16):  The range of Iris Vineyards’ wines I’ve tasted recently have been so noteworthy for quality and price, I would be tempted to buy future offerings without having tasted them beforehand.  Take this 2020 Pinot Gris.  It is simply marvelous, with subtle hint of pears and stone fruit-like flavors perfectly balanced by zesty energy.  It has depth without a trace of heaviness, which gives it a wonderful presence.  It opens in the glass revealing new nuances with each sip.  Bright acidity in the finish amplifies its charms.  And it is a fantastic buy.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2022

Youngberg Hill Vineyards, McMinnville (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Chardonnay “Bailey Family” 2018

($85):  The first sip of this tightly-wound Chardonnay is unimpressive.  But don’t be put off by that, because it blossoms to reveal its grandeur.  Despite techniques that should result in fatness, such as barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation, and barrel aging, this Chardonnay is sleek and racy.  Its splendor is not so much richness, but elegance and captivating complexity.  There is some fruitiness, of course, but that’s not the focus here.  Citrus notes, a touch of stoniness, and a marvelous hint of bitterness in the finish complete the picture.  Not a boisterous wine, its brilliance lies in its refinement and subtlety.  This is not a wine to sip as an aperitif.  This is one to savor and watch it enthrall you over a long meal.  Mind you, it is not a powerhouse, but it makes a powerful impression.
96 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2022

Iris Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2020

($24): I tasted and was enthralled by this Pinot Noir before I knew its price.  After I saw the price, my enthusiasm exploded.  It is rare to find a Pinot Noir with this kind of charm and subtlety for less than 25 bucks.  It has the alluring, and sometimes hard to find, combination of delicate red fruit flavors and mushroomy savory ones.  Mid-weight, even bordering on delicate, it has the Burgundian sensibility of what I call “flavor without weight.”  Polished and refined tannins give support without being intrusive.  An ideal choice with grilled salmon, bluefish, or chicken in a mushroom sauce.  I can’t resist — you would be wise to keep an eye out for this one.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2022

Iris Vineyards, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Areté” 2018

($35):  The wine is great, really superb.  The heavy bottle stinks.  Iris trumpets sustainable farming practices on their website, but resorts to environmentally unhealthy heavy bottles.  I’ll get off my soap box now because I review wines, not environmental practices, and this one is worth raving about.  And even at $35 a bottle, it is a bargain to boot.  Weighing in at 14.5 percent stated alcohol, it’s bolder and weighty than Iris’ regular Pinot Noir, but it is graceful, not heavy.  Bolder, yes, but the seemingly weightless character of Pinot Noir remains apparent.  The fruit signature here is more black than red, but the wine displays the same alluring and seamless dark fruit/savory balance found in their regular bottling.  Its silky texture makes it a delight to drink — really savor — over the course of a meal.  Another one to keep your eye out for.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2022