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AZIENDA AGRICOLA SOFIA

“Piano dei Daini” Etna Rosso 2018

(Etna, Sicily, Italy) $55

Etna Rossos, made on the ancient lava flows of the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, are made from red Nerello Mascalese grapes—Italy’s “Nebbiolos of the south.” The wines have a dark, savory, Italian edge of delicious bitterness that frames a core of spicy cherry fruit. This Sophia “Piano dei Daini” is also laced with notes of wild mushrooms and something like sarsaparilla. (Where oh where is a rich meat-sauced pasta dish when I need it?)  Sophia is a small family winery with vineyards 2100 feet above sea level. (12.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino

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DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF

“La Roche” Beaujolais Villages 2020

(Beaujolais, France) $19

Let us say right off the bat that we don’t drink Beaujolais one week a year in November. (That’s the Thursday devoted to popsicle-like Beaujolais Nouveau). We love real Beaujolais, true Beaujolais, year-round. You can “fall into” a nice glass of Beaujolais as effortlessly as you can a glass of rosé. Like this Beaujolais from Domaine du Clos du Fief—a favorite from our tastings. It’s soft and delicious with vivid raspberry, violet, and cherry flavors; plus, a lively minerality. Beaujolais Villages can come from any one of 38 villages in the Beaujolais area south of Burgundy. This one is stellar and a steal to boot. (13% abv)

 

92 points KM

Available at Martin Wine and Spirits

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Premiere Napa Valley Wine Week

Among the Napa Valley’s best kept secrets are the wines known as “Premiere Napa Valley.” These rare wines, hand numbered and signed by the winemakers, are made each year in very small lots, generally about 20 cases. The retailers who offer the wines for sale, do so starting this week— Premiere Napa Valley Wine Week. From now until next spring, you’ll be able to buy these wines, all of which are labeled with the word “Premiere.” But don’t delay. Because of the special nature of the wines and the fact that they are made in tiny quantities, the wines sell out fast. Wouldn’t one of these one-of-a-kind wines be great on your Thanksgiving or holiday table? Go to the Premiere Napa Valley online marketplace for a list of the retailers where you can buy them.

Available at Premiere Napa Valley

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DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS

“Pétalos” 2018

(Bierzo, Spain) $27

From the famous Palacios family of Spain comes Pétalos (“petal” in Spanish)—a wine of sheer deliciousness that’s so satisfying and easy to drink, it would make a great house wine over the next few months. Pétalos is made from the grape variety Mencia, one of the unsung historic indigenous red grapes of Spain. Mencia makes wildly spicy, peppery, minerally, dramatic reds that, to me, often seem poised somewhere between Pinot Noir and Syrah. Like all of the top Mencias, Pétalos is rich with fruit but well balanced. I can’t think of a fall dish that it wouldn’t go with.  The grapes for Pétalos are from old, biodynamically-farmed vineyards on the steep, slatey slopes of Bierzo, a remote mountainous region in northwest Spain. (14% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino

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A. RAFANELLI

Zinfandel 2018

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA) $50

The Rafanelli family makes Zinfandels that are as precise and vivid as a single note of music reverberating in a concert hall. The wines’ purity is remarkable. Black cherries, raspberries, and boysenberries–deep, generous, and totally alive with flavor. Plus a sensual softness that you could lose yourself in. This is the beauty (not the beast) side of Zinfandel, and part of the reason is that the Rafanellis (who have made Zinfandel since the early 1900s over four generations) work with low-yielding Zinfandel vineyards that have been in existence for close to a century. Roast a chicken, open a bottle of this, and your autumn evening has just gotten really nice. (14.8% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Bottle Shop

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INAMA

“Carbonare” Soave Classico 2019

(Soave, Veneto, Italy) $28

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the heydays of one of the worst popular wine ever sold in the United States—Bolla Soave.  It was so insipidly bad that the reputation of an entire region (Soave) was compromised for decades. But quietly and slowly, true Soave—especially Soave Classico—is coming back thanks to producers like Inama, Pieropan, and Anselmi.  Inama’s “Carbonare” is a beautiful, fresh, minerally wine with a certain fullness and richness but without any slather of oakiness. (The word soave means “smooth”.) Inama “Carbonare” is pure and complex, and a steal to boot. Drinking it with mushroom risotto the other night was heaven. (13% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino

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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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woman drinking rose

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