Wine Reviews

1020110200USMaking strides for admittance to the Big Boy’s Club is Fetzer, with reserve wines like this. A plush, complex, elegant beauty, with classic Bien Nacido notes of sun-dried tomatoes, hard spices and black-cherry fruit, with the required French oak influences. It’s a young wine that needs a year or so to open up.Bien Nacido Vyd Reserve8728CaliforniaSanta Barbara CountyCentral CoastFetzer 1998 Bien Nacido Vyd Reserve Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County)Pinot NoirFetzer
1020210201FranceFeatures very bright, almost candied, aromas of cherries and strawberries that are followed up on the palate by a creamy texture and more red fruit. There’s a slight hint of green herbs, but it’s well under control.Premier Cru Brut Rosé8735ChampagneChampagneNicolas Feuillatte NV Premier Cru Brut Rosé (Champagne)Champagne BlendNicolas Feuillatte
1020310202FranceFragrant; dusty plum and rose aromas are followed on the palate by very fruity flavors of cherries and apple skins. The fine bead and rich mousse result in a creamy mouthfeel. It’s all a bit obvious and simple, but undeniably good.Brut Rosé8783ChampagneChampagneJoe Czerwinski@JoeCzRuinart NV Brut Rosé (Champagne)Champagne BlendRuinart
1020410203FranceThe extremely pale copper color is reminiscent of a blanc de noirs. Aromas and flavors are yeasty and full of baking spices like clove and cinnamon, along with red apples. The only quibble is that it seems a bit sweeter and heavier than the best rosés.Brut Rosé8655ChampagneChampagneJoe Czerwinski@JoeCzLouis Roederer 1994 Brut Rosé (Champagne)Champagne BlendLouis Roederer
1020510204SpainThere’s plenty of enjoyment in this modestly priced wine, which has dusty, earthy aromas and just the slightest hint of citrus and melon. It’s very dry and faintly fruity. Has a bit of a scouring quality from high acidity, and it’s rough, but it’s exceptionally clean and brisk.Brut869CataloniaPenedèsCristalino NV Brut (Penedès)Champagne BlendCristalino
1020610205SpainBone-dry and austere, this is a wine for people who feel that fruit and sugar have no place in a sparkling wine. The aromas are of sun-baked earth and dust, with a trace of vanilla and white chocolate. All you really experience on the palate is acidity, alcohol and weight, although if you try hard you can imagine a squeeze of lime. It’s very clean.Brut Nature Reserva de la Fami8617CataloniaPenedèsJuvé y Camps NV Brut Nature Reserva de la Fami (Penedès)Champagne BlendJuvé y Camps
1020710206USDon’t look for Napa-esque depth or richness in South Coast Cabs. The frame is leaner, the flavors more austere. This wine seems thin and sharp, but there’s something about it—a sense of terroir, personality, call it what you will—that’s likable, even complex. It’s a bit aggressive right now, but should soften nicely with 2 or 3 years in the cellar.8618CaliforniaSanta Ynez ValleyCentral CoastButtonwood Farm 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Ynez Valley)Cabernet SauvignonButtonwood Farm
1020810207USThe lightest of the Thornton lineup marches to the beat of a different drummer. Dominated by Muscat Canelli, the aromas suggest ripe pears, buttered cinnamon toast and candied orange peel, but it’s not really sweet. In fact, it’s just barely off-dry, with wonderfully rich flavors. It finishes a little sugary, which makes it cloying, but this is a minor criticism. All in all, it’s good, unconventional stuff.Cuvée de Frontigan8611CaliforniaCaliforniaCalifornia OtherThornton NV Cuvée de Frontigan White (California)White BlendThornton
1020910208USSupple and easy to drink, this cherry-fruited wine easily carries its veneer of toasty, caramelly oak. This would be a great restaurant Pinot; versatile with food and in absolutely no need of cellaring.Reserve8615CaliforniaSonoma CountySonomaJoe Czerwinski@JoeCzBarefoot Cellars 1998 Reserve Pinot Noir (Sonoma County)Pinot NoirBarefoot Cellars
1021010209USOne of the first 1999 Cabs on the market, this wine smells and tastes like the grapes were crushed yesterday. This is what middleweight Cabernet Sauvignon sans oak tastes like: all fresh blackberries and cherries, with undercurrants of espresso and sweet spice. A remarkably tasty wine that should be easy to find: There were 65,000 cases produced.866CaliforniaCaliforniaCalifornia OtherBel Arbor 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)Cabernet SauvignonBel Arbor
1021110210USIt’s hard to keep the Chardonnay from getting ripe in California, and so this bubbly has strong, fruity notes from the citrus and peach-accented aromas through the peachy finish. Of course there’s toast, and the rough scour of acidity. It’s quite clean and refreshing, but definitely a warm-climate sparkling wine.Blanc de Blancs8622CaliforniaNapa ValleyNapaMumm Cuvée Napa NV Blanc de Blancs (Napa Valley)Champagne BlendMumm Cuvée Napa
1021210211USA clean, lively wine with lemon-and-lime flavors and a hint of cocoa and vanilla, it’s rich and dry, with a nice scour of acidity. Turns rich and toasty on the pretty finish. It’s rough, but very well made.Brut8611CaliforniaCaliforniaCalifornia OtherThornton NV Brut (California)Champagne BlendThornton
1021310212PortugalSome slightly sappy elements mingle with cinnamon and blackberries in the aromas of this complex red. Anise and cherry flavors appear on the palate, along with mild bitter chocolate on the finish. Lots of interesting things here in this medium-weight, food-friendly wine.Tinto8614DouroJoe Czerwinski@JoeCzCalços do Tanha 1996 Tinto Red (Douro)Portuguese RedCalços do Tanha
1021410213USA nicely crafted wine with all the attributes of fine Cabernet: plush black-currant and berry fruit, a dose of vanilla-scented oak, and sage notes. Drinks dry and smooth, with a few tannins to shed. Finishes rough, but pretty good, especially at this giveaway price.Family Selection8613CaliforniaSanta Barbara CountyCentral CoastM. Trinchero 1997 Family Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Barbara County)Cabernet SauvignonM. Trinchero
1021510214ItalyHere’s a vigorous bubbly that impresses for the strength of its acidity and its fine cleanliness. The aroma is shy, even austere, just faintly suggesting diluted lime in water, and the flavors, also austere, are of lime. The wine asserts itself through power. It finishes rough and scoury, yet there’s something easy to like about it.Brut8611Northeastern ItalyTrentoRotari NV Brut (Trento)Champagne BlendRotari
1021610215USFrom one of California’s coolest growing regions, the grapes nonetheless achieved the ripeness of white peaches, lending those notes to the aromas and flavors. It’s very clean and refreshing. There’s a nice toastiness that carries through to the finish, which is slightly sweet and bitter. To be released Spring 2001.Blanc de Blancs8630CaliforniaAnderson ValleyHandley 1995 Blanc de Blancs (Anderson Valley)Champagne BlendHandley
1021710216USFull-throttle lime, peach and strawberry aromas come through on the nose, with a trace of toast. It drinks as fruity as it smells. There’s some pretty toast and good acidity, and it finishes fruity and a little sweet.Brut8617CaliforniaSonoma CountySonomaGloria Ferrer NV Brut (Sonoma County)Champagne BlendGloria Ferrer
1021810217PortugalA fairly full, rich and creamy version of Vinho Verde, with floral and anise aromas. Big and yet refreshing, sparked by some lively spritz. The finish echoes the anise and blends in some bright lime notes as well.Couto de Frades8510Vinho VerdeJoe Czerwinski@JoeCzQuintas de Melgaço 1998 Couto de Frades Alvarinho (Vinho Verde)AlvarinhoQuintas de Melgaço
1021910218SpainA pleasant, softly fruity bubbly with a tad more sweetness than you’d think from “Extra Dry.” It has some pretty flavors of apple juice with a dash of lime. Crisp acidity and fine, distinct bubbles keep things lively and fresh with this very clean crowd-pleaser of a wine.Cordon Negro Extra Dry858CataloniaPenedèsFreixenet NV Cordon Negro Extra Dry (Penedès)Champagne BlendFreixenet
1022010219USThis light Pinot offers an elegant nose with tart cherry and leathery, earthy accents. It opens to a like palate, but the wine has an essentially lean, even sharp character, with rather high acidity for the thin fruit. Solid winemaking keeps the Pinot Noir character correct here, but the vintage's fruit essentially lacks the desired depth or ripeness.8520CaliforniaSanta Maria ValleyCentral CoastBrophy Clark 1998 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley)Pinot NoirBrophy Clark
1022110220USThis has to be one of the last 1996's released, and it shows its age in the bricky-orange color around the rim and the bouquet, which is beginning to be dominated by dried-fruit and cigar-box notes. It's losing fruit in the mouth, too, with the flavors, such as they are, tending toward earth, tea and tomato juice. Yet it's got some interesting complexities, and fans of mature Pinots will find lots to dwell on.Reserve8525CaliforniaNapa ValleyNapaNewlan 1996 Reserve Pinot Noir (Napa Valley)Pinot NoirNewlan
1022210221FranceThere’s a distinct and unmistakable scent of rotten eggs in this wine, which usually indicates excessive amounts of sulfur were used during bottling. Apart from that we have a rough and tumble, rustic style with big fruit and a yeasty, chewy finish.Chardonnay Premier Cru Brut8539ChampagneChampagnePaul Gregutt@paulgwine Montaudon NV Chardonnay Premier Cru Brut (Champagne)Champagne BlendMontaudon
1022310222SpainThis just off-dry bubbly marches to the beat of a different drummer. The underlying aromas are of lime, but there’s something strong and earthy that suggests dust, warm tree bark, or acrid honey. That penetrating flavor follows through in the mouth, where it turns a little sweet. But crisp acidity and good bubbles keep things balanced and cheerful.Semi-Seco Reserva8513CataloniaPenedèsParxet NV Semi-Seco Reserva (Penedès)Champagne BlendParxet
1022410223SpainStarts out with some earthy, toasty and minerally aromas, with a streak of minty anise. This is a very full-bodied wine, loaded with earthy, mushroomy flavors, like biting into a heaping handful of mulch. It's also very dry, clean and organized enough to call a good value.Blanc de Blancs Brut856CataloniaPenedèsPaul Cheneau NV Blanc de Blancs Brut Chardonnay (Penedès)ChardonnayPaul Cheneau
1022510224USGraceful, and elegant, this offers achingly pure, tart cherry fruit, accented with notes of compost, butter and nutmeg. It's a fine example of a brilliant wine from a so-called “lesser” vintage.Freedom Hill Vineyard9145OregonWillamette ValleyWillamette ValleyPaul Gregutt@paulgwine Elizabeth Chambers 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley)Pinot NoirElizabeth Chambers
1022610225PortugalTime in oak has given this wine great depth and richness. Its tannins are finely integrated into the spice and black fruit flavors. Solid and concentrated, it is going to develop into a serious pour. Drink from 2017.Reserva9130DouroRoger Voss@vossrogerEvel 2011 Reserva Red (Douro)Portuguese RedEvel
1022710226PortugalOne of the star grapes of the Alentejo, this is a ripe, full-bodied and deliciously juicy wine. Almost black in color, it is packed with tannins, spice, intense acidity and a fine structure. It could do with some aging, so drink from 2016.9115AlentejanoRoger Voss@vossrogerHerdade de São Miguel 2013 Alicante Bouschet (Alentejano)Alicante BouschetHerdade de São Miguel
1022810227ItalyBlueberry, blackberry, black cherry and ground black pepper aromas lead the nose and carry through to the full-bodied palate together with notes of clove, tobacco and mint. It's balanced with firm, velvety tannins and bright acidity. Drink 2016–2019.Perbruno9155TuscanyToscanaKerin O’Keefe@kerinokeefeI Giusti e Zanza 2013 Perbruno Syrah (Toscana)SyrahI Giusti e Zanza
1022910228USFloral in jasmine and orange blossom, this is a sultry, full-bodied after-dinner sipper, lilting in honey goodness yet light in stone fruit and layered acidity. It is enjoyable on its own but would be fabulous alongside a peach pie or apricot tart.Eisrébe9150CaliforniaNapa ValleyNapaVirginie Boone@vbooneJoseph Phelps 2014 Eisrébe Scheurebe (Napa Valley)ScheurebeJoseph Phelps
1023010229USThis 100% varietal wine comes from The Rocks region of the valley. It offers brooding aromas of herbs, dried cherry, licorice and green tea, while the flavors are restrained with cranberry-like tartness and grainy tannins.9144OregonWalla Walla Valley (OR)Oregon OtherSean P. Sullivan@wawinereportLaelaps 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley (OR))Cabernet SauvignonLaelaps

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