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CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA

Chianti Classico Riserva 2017

(Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy) $25

Volpaia is a walled village built in the eleventh century on the top of a hill near the commune of Radda. In 1172, the village’s vineyards began to be planted. Over centuries, most of the village (with its formerly stunning churches and towers) and vineyards were abandoned or fell into disrepair. But beginning in 1966, the Stianti Mascheroni family began buying parts of the village and vineyards and painstakingly restoring them. Today Volpaia (the name means “foxes’ lair”) is a thriving rural village and wine estate, and nearly every inhabitant works directly or indirectly with the winery. The wine (not surprisingly) tastes of tradition, with its lovely aromas and flavors reminiscent of violets, ripe cherries, dried leaves, spices, truffles, and a walking-in-the-forest scent that’s totally seductive. A wine like this makes you crave great pasta. (14% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Gino Vino

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THREE STICKS

“Price Family Estates” Pinot Noir 2018

(Sonoma Coast, CA) $55

In our office tastings, just about everyone is a pushover for Pinot Noir that tastes like it costs more than it does. Which describes this gem from Three Sticks. The flavors are pure and beautiful: grenadine, cool cherries, and cranberries, with spices drifting in softly at the end. Like all the best Pinots, the wine has richness without weight; and a sense of the ethereal about it. But best of all is the texture: as silky as a nightgown.  Three Sticks makes several different excellent Pinot Noirs; this one, the least expensive, is a charmer. (14.1% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino

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VASSE FELIX

Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

(Margaret River, Australia) $45

I am shocked that this Cabernet costs $45. It’s a phenomenal wine—very savory, with beautiful bolts of pure cassis and notes of espresso laced with crema. The tannin is commanding yet fine, almost velvety. Super alive in the glass, it’s sleekly long, and just plain delicious. I suppose I should not be shocked because Cabernets from the Margaret River are the best values going among the world’s top-notch Cabernets, and they are all about finesse, not muscle. If you’ve never had a Margaret River Cabernet from far Western Australia (one of the remotest wine regions on earth), Vasse Felix is definitely the wine to know, for this winery planted the region’s first commercial Cabernet vineyard in 1975.  (14.5 % abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino

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SELBACH OSTER

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Feinherb “Ur” Alte Reben

(Mosel, Germany) $35

Ethereal and sumptuous. It’s nearly impossible to convey the deliciousness of small production Selbach Oster’s Riesling from the famous Sonnenuhr (sundial) vineyard in the village of Zelting. The wine has long lines of peachy freshness, a crystalline minerality, and beautiful citrusy acidity that fairly hums through the wine. This is classic, artisanal Mosel Riesling at its best with just a pinch of sweetness that ties the flavors together into one exquisite bundle. This rare wine comes from vines more than 100 years old and is made in old Mosel fuders (barrels). A cool fall night, a pork roast, some acorn squash and this wine, and I’m mindlessly happy. (12.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vine Republic

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JOLIE-LAIDE

Syrah 2018

(North Coast, CA) $39

Here’s one of California’s top Syrahs, with aromas and flavors that whirl out of the glass with explosive power—cedar, vanilla, white pepper, licorice, eucalyptus, blackberries, sea salt, charcuterie, and cherries. Just thinking about this wine puts me right in the mood for something like lamb chops or roast duck with black cherry sauce. It’s also extremely lively with an underlying hum of acidity that gives wine lift and freshness. Jolie-Laide is a two-person operation founded by Scott Schultz and Jenny Schultz. Scott previously worked as the cellar master of Realm Winery, followed by Arnot-Roberts, and Pax Mahle. The name Jolie-Laide translates loosely to Pretty-Ugly, a French term of endearment to describe something that is unconventionally beautiful. (12.5% abv)

 

95 points KM

Available at Flatiron Wines and Spirits

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JULIA’S DAZZLE

Rosé 2020

(Columbia Valley, Washington State) $19

Maybe summer is a mindset. Maybe summer should always be available (in a wine glass)— and here it is. A super refreshing, lively rosé with a ton of personality and one of the best rosés we’ve tasted all year (we stumbled upon it just this month, but that’s a different story).  You can expect a clean slash of freshness— lime zest, white pepper and peaches. Dry, tight, and alive, a wine that should be chilled down and gulped down. It is after all the waning time for that. Julia’s Dazzle is made from Pinot Gris grapes (which naturally are a little bit pink-skinned) by Long Shadows, one of the top wineries in Washington State. Julia herself, is the 20-year-old granddaughter of the founder, the legendary visionary of Washington State—Allen Shoup. (14.1% abv)

 

90 points KM

Available at Vivino

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DOMAINE SYLVAIN MOREY

Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 2017

(Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy, France) $75

Every now and then, every wine drinker deserves a good red Burgundy for the sublime beauty and silkiness that such wines possess. The small village of Chassagne-Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune is best known for its Chardonnays, but Pinot Noir makes up about a third of the vineyards here and it can be stellar, as it is in the hands of Sylvain Morey. The domaine is fairly new, created when Sylvain and his sister split up their father’s domaine—Jean-Marc Morey—which exists no more.  Sylvain Morey has a way with Chassagne-Montrachet rouge. The wine unfurls itself in velvety folds of ripe raspberries and spices before drenching sheets of pomegranates, tart cherries, and salty minerals hit the palate. The creamy mid-palate is as hedonic as a soft runny cheese.  This is rich village-level red Burgundy, but tastes more like Premier Cru.  (13% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Grappa Fine Wines & Spirits

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HALCÓN

“Alturas” Syrah 2019

(Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County, California) $35

The two biggest leaps in the quality of California wine over the last decade have been with Syrah and Pinot Noir. Both varieties have gotten stunningly good. Syrah’s advantage is that it generally costs less than Pinot Noir and lots less than Cabernet. So here’s a great Syrah for you—it’s peppery, full of red fruit, and has that savory umami deliciousness that you find in, say, meat juices from a steak that’s just come off the grill. For Rhône wine fans, it’s interesting to note that most of the vines are the “Chave selection” and the wine is co-fermented with a bit of Viognier. The Halcón vineyard sits at 2500 feet overlooking the Anderson Valley of Mendocino and the Pacific Ocean beyond.  It’s owned by Paul and Jackie Gordon who split their time between high tech and real estate to care for the vineyard and make the wines. (13.7% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino

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MASSICAN

“Annia” White Blend 2020

(Napa Valley, California) $30

A few years ago, I wrote about a former vintage of “Annia” that if ivory were a flavor, “Annia” would possess it. I also feel that way about this 2020 vintage, for the wine’s purity, smoothness, and creamy density are startling and delicious. The rich (but not oaky) flavors are reminiscent of white peaches, golden apples, lemons, and sea salt. As one of our tasting team said, “this wine is where a summer meadow meets the sea.” Spring-loaded with freshness, “Annia” was inspired by the superb whites of northeast Italy. It’s a blend of Napa-grown Friulano and Ribolla Gialla with just a little Chardonnay blended in. Owner/winemaker Dan Petroski, a white wine specialist, has a knack for making impeccable, complex white wines. (12.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Massican

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NYETIMBER

Blanc de Blancs Brut 2013

(Sussex, England) $75

Nyetimber makes so many superb English sparklers that choosing just one to write about isn’t easy. Still, for the sheer thrill of its flavors, the Blanc de Blancs is astounding. The first sip is as pure, starched, and chalky as it gets. Minerals dart around in the wine like a thousand points of light. There are waves of crème brûleé, brioche, crème fraiche, sea salt and French vanilla custard. And in the center of it all, that addictive aroma of just kneaded bread dough ready to go into the oven.  Founded in 1086, the Nyetimber estate was mentioned in the Domesday Book, William the Conqueror’s great land survey of England and Wales. (12% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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SANTO WINES

“Volcanic Terroir” Assyrtiko 2019

(Santorini, Greece) $25

Assyrtiko, the white wine that brought world attention to the stunningly beautiful volcanic island of Santorini, is made in several styles today. But my favorite has always been the original style—fresh, pure, bone-dry, and made without the merest trace of oak. Santo Wine’s Assyrtiko—from 60- to 80-year-old vines —is exactly that, a wine that captures the lemons-and-salt-air crispness that Assyrtiko is known for. Sparks of minerals and acidity light up the wine, making it extra delicious with seafood. (14% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Astor Wines

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PAUL JABOULET AINÉ

“Mule Blanche” Crozes-Hermitage

(Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône Valley, France) $36

If I ever imagined that Marsanne—the workhorse white grape of the northern Rhône —lacked elegance, La Mule Blanche (“The White Mule”) set me straight. The wine—from vines 60 years old—has the ethereal airy softness of whipped cream. And the flavors—white peaches, poached pears, lemon cream pie, and crème brulee—are so refined and luscious that they reverberate in your mind for days after you’ve tasted the wine. Founded in 1834, Paul Jaboulet Ainé owns many of the most prized vineyard sites in the Northern Rhône. The estate was bought in 2006 by the Frey family (owners of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux) who slowly converted the vineyards to biodynamic farming and who poured new passion (and considerable investment) into the vineyards and winemaking. Under the winemaking of Caroline Frey, the Jaboulet wines (Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St. Joseph, and Cornas) are again among the greatest in the Rhône. (13% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Wine.com