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ADELSHEIM

“Breaking Ground” Pinot Noir 2015

(Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR) $45

David Adelsheim, a pioneer of the modern Oregon wine industry, has said that when it comes to fine wine, being true to a place—revealing a place—is more important than deliciousness per se. For my part, I know this: When the two come together, the result is deeply satisfying. Breaking Ground is a perfect example. A blend of wines from small vineyard blocks representing the three main types of Willamette Valley soils, it’s a precise and savory wine evocative of dark spices, rocks, red fruits and forest. The Adelsheim style has always been about restraint and true to form, this wine isn’t wearing any jewelry. What it does have is structure and it’s just waiting for roast chicken, grilled salmon or a huge platter of sautéed wild mushrooms. (13.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CARBONE

Chardonnay 2018

(Coombsville, Napa Valley, CA) $49

You may not have heard about Carbone Chardonnay yet (this is the first commercial vintage), but you have probably heard of the man who makes it—Andy Erickson. At some point during the last 2 decades, Andy has made many of Napa Valley’s top cabernets—Screaming Eagle, Ovid, Dalla Valle, Staglin, and more. Carbone (car-BONE-ay) is a tiny winery he owns with his wife, the viticulturist Annie Favia. The 30-year-old vines rest in the coolish pockets of Coombsville, the area in southeastern Napa Valley that is an ancient caldera. This is an absolutely delicious chardonnay with exuberant notes of yellow plums, spices, and minerals. Vibrant acidity (no malolactic fermentation here) races through the wine like a subliminal electric current. The balance and length are fantastic. If you love chardonnay, this is a must. (14.2% abv)

93 points KM

Available at ACME Fine Wines

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STOLLER Chardonnay 2018

STOLLER

Chardonnay 2018

(Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR) $28

Say “Willamette Valley” to a knowledgeable wine drinker and most people (me included) think “pinot noir.” But over the last five years, the quality of Willamette Valley chardonnay has soared to new heights. The top wines are, without question, among the best chardonnays in the United States. Most are (deservedly) expensive, but this gem, the “regular” chardonnay from Stoller, is a steal. A bullet train of deliciousness, it exudes crème fraîche, ripe peach, and orange zest flavors, plus it’s spring-loaded with a freshness so crisp it’s like mountain air. (12.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CLIFF LEDE

Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

(Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, CA) $65

The other day I was asked to recommend “a big powerful Napa Valley cabernet.” Then the person added: “One that’s great and under $100.” Hmmm. My mind wasn’t exactly flooded with possibilities. But this excellent Cliff Lede hits the mark exactly. It starts out with juicy cassis and then moves into those fantastic chaparral aromas/flavors reminiscent of dry California mountain forests. And despite the 15% abv (the 2015 vintage was hot), this big cabernet has good freshness and vivacity. Best of all, it drinks like it costs a whole lot more. (15% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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BIG TABLE FARM

Pinot Noir 2017

(Willamette Valley, OR) $45

One of the most exciting (and rare) things a wine can do is trigger every single known taste receptor on your palate: crisp, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). That’s exactly what happens when you drink Big Table Farm’s pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Vivid flavors of ripe cherries and pomegranates whirl around, spliced by surges of crispness and a mouthwatering saltiness. Then come flavors of rich earthiness and noble botanical herbs. But best of all, the texture is so hedonistically sappy, the wine appears to melt in your mouth. Big Table Farm, a husband-and-wife team, also make a few single vineyard pinots, including the celestial “Pelos Sandberg Vineyard” from the Eola-Amity Hills ($62). But penny for penny, this delicious wine―their “regular” Willamette Valley pinot—can’t be beat. (13.5% abv)

 

96 points KM

Available at Vivino

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MASSICAN

Sauvignon Blanc 2018

(California) $31

One day in Friuli, in northern Italy, I was invited to a garden party and arrived to find everyone clustered around something at the far end of the lawn. I made my way over and discovered that the object of attention was an old Italian woman who was taking fresh picked sage leaves, dipping them in chestnut flour batter, then frying them crisp like potato chips and serving them with cold glasses of an Italian sauvignon blanc. It was a died-and-went-to-heaven pairing. I was reminded of that wine by this Massican Sauvignon Blanc (“inspired by the sauvignons of northern Italy” says the label). It’s tight, sleek, minerally and exudes that resiny sage character that’s so fresh and bold. Inspired indeed. (13.5% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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DETERT

Cabernet Franc 2016

(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $95

Every cabernet sauvignon winemaker I know in Napa Valley is on the hunt for great cabernet franc (cabernet sauvignon’s genetic father). Indeed, cab franc now commands the highest average price per ton of any grape in the Napa Valley, which probably means it’s also the most expensive grape in the whole country. If you’ve never drunk a great franc, you must try this (only 250 cases were made, but you can still get your hands on some of the recently released 2016s). Beautifully intense and rich (but not fat), it flows with uber smooth layers of lavender, dried sage, pipe tobacco, black olives, dark chocolate, and fresh cherries. Wonderful sparks of minerality keep the wine alive on the palate. The Detert Family has a long history in California, and the Detert Vineyard was once part of To Kalon, perhaps the most famous vineyard in Napa Valley’s history.  (14.7% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Le Dû's Wines

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BISOL

"Crede" Brut Non-Vintage Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

(Veneto, Italy) $21

What is it about really good Prosecco Superiore that makes you feel as though you could drink it all day long? Maybe the lovely freshness. Maybe the purity and delicacy of the fruit. Maybe the long supple finish or the frothy playful bubbles. All of these—plus a gingery/peachy/vanillay crispness—combine in Bisol’s terrific wine called “Crede,” local dialect for the clay soils that cover the foliated hills (once an ancient seabed) of Valdobbiadene. The Bisol family has been making wine since 1542. (11.5% abv)

Available at Vivino.com

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DÖNNHOFF

Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2018

(Nahe, Germany) $30

Dönnhoff is, without question, the greatest estate in the Nahe. A visit with Helmut and Cornelius Dönnhoff a few years ago left me convinced that their wines are masterpieces of laser-like precision and quivering energy. The minerality in the wines comes across with near atomic density. This kabinett, from the Leistenberg vineyard in the town of Oberhausen, is one of their simplest, least expensive wines, and yet it moves on the palate in long wavelengths of deliciousness. If you like taut, fresh wines that are light in body but massive in flavor, this is for you. (9% abv)

92 points KM

Available at K&L Wine Merchants

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Schloss Gobelsburg

“Ried Renner” Grüner Veltliner Erste Lage 2017

(Kamptal, Austria) $50

Schloss Gobelsburg is one of my favorite wineries and this, one of their exquisite grüner veltliners, is from the top single vineyard (or “Ried”) named Renner.  It’s an Erste Lage—the German term for premier cru. The wine is so fresh, pure, and vivid it’s like gulping ice cold mountain air. It also fairly vibrates with minerality, and howls with white peppery sassiness. Schloss Gobelsburg is a palatial castle on the Danube River that until the 1990s was a Cistercian monastery and winery. As in Burgundy, France, the monks of Austria knew where and how to create great wine. Taste this and you’ll see. (13% abv)

93 points KM

Available at MacArthur Beverages