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karen macneil drinks domaine de nizas rose

DOMAINE DE NIZAS

“Le Clos” Rosé 2020

(Languedoc Roussillon, France) $17

You’d think there would be hundreds of great rosés out on the market right now. Instead, what’s out there are hundreds of dead ordinary rosés (leaden, watery, insipid). So it was fantastic to come across Domaine de Niza’s “Le Clos” Rosé—a whirlwind of freshness; a kaledioscope of strawberries, watermelon, lime, cherry, and vanilla bean flavors with chalky minerality and just a touch of creaminess. We were transported to the south of France on the first sip. Domaine de Nizas is made by Francois Lurton (of the famous Lurton family of Bordeaux), and the limestone and volcanic vineyards (planted with syrah, grenache and mourvèdre) are located near the medieval village of Pézenas in the Languedoc. The wine is made in amphorae as well as stainless steel and concrete, which perhaps adds to its complexity. Everyone needs a good, snappy, delicious rosé like this waiting in the fridge. And at $17, who can refuse?  (13.5% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Mr. D Wine Merchant

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DR. LOOSEN

Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2019

(Mosel, Germany ) $30

If you whipped together peaches, cream, and mountain air, you’d perhaps arrive at the beauty and freshness of this mesmerizing riesling from Dr. Loosen. So light in body it barely brushes against your palate, the wine is nonetheless packed with fruit, spice, and mineral flavors. No surprise since it’s from a renowned producer working with one of the most famous vineyards on the Mosel—the Würzgarten (spice garden) vineyard in the town of Ürzig. Insanely steep, the vineyard is planted in volcanic red slate soils. Kabinetts such as this are very low in alcohol, just off dry, and were once drunk in Germany in the afternoon, the way the English drink tea. Your next Sunday afternoon, give it a try. (9% abv)

 

92 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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KUMEU RIVER

Estate Chardonnay 2018

(Kumeu, New Zealand) $35

Kumeu River makes two of the most impressive chardonnays in New Zealand—the Kumeu River estate chardonnay and the vineyard-designated Maté’s Vineyard. Both are distinctive, artisanal, and an expression of New Zealand chardonnay through the looking glass of Burgundy. In particular I love the estate wine for its scrumptious earthy/vanilla richness and saline minerality that’s reminiscent of Grand Cru Chablis.  The sense of purity in the wine is evident in every sip. The Maté’s Vineyard is the slightly more powerful and more expensive of the two chardonnays. Kumeu River is owned by the Brajkovich family, who arrived in New Zealand from Croatia in 1937. Winemaker Michael Brajkovich is New Zealand’s first Master of Wine. (13% abv)

 

95 points KM

Available at Canal's Discount Liquors of Mt. Ephraim

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DOMAINE DE L’HORTUS BERGERIE

“Classique” 2019

(Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc-Roussillon, France) $17

The family-owned Domaine de l’Hortus Bergerie lies in a coolish valley between two facing limestone cliffs, the Pic Saint Loup and the Montagne de l’Hortus. Archeological evidence reveals that during the Upper Pleistocene era, the sheltered valley with its many natural caves was an important site where Neanderthal hunter-gathers lived. The valley is just a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea, yet cold winds blowing down from the north create a perfect diurnal fluctuation of cold nights and warm days for the syrah, grenache and mourvèdre vines here. And the wine shows it. Rich with dried cherry, black licorice, and wild resinous herb flavors, it is at the same time, a wine of great energy, freshness, and sleekness. Speaking from experience, it’s the kind of southern French red you could drink all night.  And a stunning find at $17 a bottle! 14.5% abv

92 points KM

Available at Acker Wines

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Bottle of COS Frappato wine from Sicily, Italy

COS

Frappato 2019

(Sicily, Italy) $38

Like diving into a pool of fresh strawberries and cherries, COS’ Frappato shows just how refreshing and berried the variety can be. The beautiful purity and vitality of this wine is simply off-the-charts. Some warm evening, chill this down a bit and watch how a light red can light up an evening. No tannin to worry about—just delicious fruit. COS began in 1980 as a summer project for three teenage Sicilian boys and has since become one of the top artisanal producers in Sicily. They were among the first Sicilian vintners to use amphorae to ferment and age some of their wines, and they farm organically and biodynamically. The COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria is also sensational—an explosion of cherries, raspberries and white pepper. (11.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Eataly Vino LA

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Karen MacNeil tasting Bairrada Nossa Calcário 2018

FILIPA PATO AND WILLIAM WOUTERS

"Nossa Calcário" Baga 2018

(Bairrada, Portugal) $37

If you’ve never had a wine made with the red grape variety baga, and never experienced a wine from the Portuguese region Bairrada, this wine is the perfect must-try. To begin with, it’s hard to imagine a more passionate winemaker than Fílipa Páto, who learned viticulture and winemaking from her grandmother and father. With her chef/sommelier husband William Wouters, she is determined to prove baga’s and Bairrada’s potential to the world. Their beautifully structured wine Nossa Calcário, from biodynamically farmed 80 to 130 year-old vines growing in limestone-laced soils, goes a long way to doing that. Its big thrust of flavor—spices, leather, tobacco, fennel, cocoa and vanilla—is interwoven with a wonderful sense of freshness and aliveness. A naturalist, Fílipa uses the aloe plants surrounding her vineyards to make an infusion which she sprays on the vines as a sun protectant. This wine and some grilled lamb, and your weekend is set.  (12.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Spectrum Wine

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GREYWACKE

Pinot Noir 2017

(Marlborough, New Zealand) $40

GREYWACKE Pinot Noir 2017 (Marlborough, New Zealand)

In 2009 Kevin Judd, the original winemaker for Cloudy Bay, started his own winery—Greywacke (GRAY-wacky). The man has a golden touch. His sauvignon blanc is certainly one of the top three in New Zealand. But I couldn’t resist writing about this wine, his stellar pinot noir from Marlborough. It’s the kind of delicious, sensual pinot that’s impossible to put down. The vivid flavors—cherry, pomegranate, and blueberry—are woven through the wine’s silky, plush body. The finish weaves in touches of dark chocolate and exotic spices. The wine’s refinement, purity, and arc of flavor are simply beautiful. When it comes to pinot noir, it’s next to impossible to find this level of quality at so incredible a price. (13.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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LAPORTE La Comtesse Sancerre

LAPORTE

“La Comtesse” Sancerre 2018

(Sancerre, Loire Valley, France) $38

The vineyard for Laporte’s special cuvee called La Comtesse is a south-facing slope of Kimmeridgian marl in the village of Chavignol (famous for its goat cheeses as well as its wines). From this privileged plot, Laporte makes a Sancerre of stupendous intensity. Smelling the wine is reminiscent of that moment right before a huge ocean wave hits you and you’re engulfed by the aroma of the salty blue sea. The flavors—so lit and beautiful—are all about crushed chalk and tangy citrus, and the finish ends in a crescendo of minerals. Most Sancerre’s are not quite as full bodied or extroverted as this. Sancerre is a fantastic wine for spring. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a great one, you must try this. (14.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at No Limit Fine Wines

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“Vigneto Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva 2016

SELVAPIANA

“Vigneto Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva 2016

(Tuscany, Italy) $29

Selvapiana makes a terrific basic Chianti, but the estate’s flagship wine from its top vineyard (Bucerchiale) is a  wine you definitely should not miss. A really good sangiovese has the inexplicable ability to seem both taut and muscular, lean and rich, at the same time. That’s certainly true here; this wine is 100% sangiovese. But what makes Selvapiania’s “Bucerchiale” extra fascinating is its hint of delicious saltiness and noble bitterness. The merest hint of salty and bitter flavors amplify the flavors around them, so when you have this wine with a great pasta, it’s heavenly. Plus there are also waves of rose, red fruit, and mineraly/chalky notes. Selvapiana has been making wine for almost 200 years in Chianti Rufina (Rufina is the smallest subzone in the Chianti area).

94 points KM

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CARBONE

Chardonnay 2019

(Coombsville, Napa Valley, CA) $48

Ironically, a man known for making some of Napa Valley’s best red wines—Andy Erickson, who at various times has made Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Staglin, Ovid, and others—also makes one of the valley’s most exquisite chardonnays. It’s called Carbone, the surname of the Italian immigrant brothers who founded the tiny property that Erickson now farms with his wife Annie Favia, a viticulturist. The chardonnay is explosively delicious with rushes of guava, yellow plum, and vanilla bean flavors, pinpoints of minerals, a vibrating core of crisp acidity and a texture that’s both creamy and silky. And yet for all this exuberance, the wine is both graceful and elegant. (It would be a stupendous treat during the holidays.) For its part, Coombsville, in the cool southeastern corner of Napa Valley, is an ancient crescent-shaped caldera that was formed 5 to 8 million years ago, the result of volcanic explosions.

97 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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NEIL ELLIS Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

NEIL ELLIS

Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

(Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, South Africa) $48

Neil Ellis founded his winery in 1984 and is considered one of the pioneers of high-quality wines in South Africa. Today he and his three children make the wines. This small-production cabernet, from mountain slopes bordering the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, exemplifies the qualities that make South African cabernet so compelling (and reminiscent of fine Bordeaux). The wine is sleek yet muscular with fine tannins that give it magnificent structure. The powerful aromas and flavors of pipe tobacco, black licorice, graphite, and cedar are woven through with subtle hints of cabernet’s “sauvignon” side—a pine-foresty green quality. Although it’s delicious when young, this is a cabernet to age. (14.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at WineWorks

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TORNATORE

Etna Bianco 2019

(Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy) $20

If you could be on a rocky island in the Mediterranean, breathing in the warm sun and smelling the salty ocean air mixed with the wild fragrance of resiny herbs—if you could actually be there—then you would not need this wine. But for $20? Just surrender yourself. Tornatore is made from indigenous carricante grapes grown at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mt. Etna, Sicily’s still-active volcano. The wine’s freshness, savoriness, and stony minerality are fantastic. (12.5 Abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vivino.com