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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

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AALTO

2018

(Ribera del Duero, Spain) $53

Is double velvet a possibility? Because velvet alone doesn’t quite describe the texture of Aalto, a wine that swallows you in its suppleness and waves of thick black fruit flavor. What’s especially profound about this wine is its tannin. You know it must be there because the wine is monolithic. But there’s not a whit of dryness. Just the opposite. Aalto has an elegance and grenadine juiciness that’s irresistible. And the wine, like all great wines, is irrepressibly long. When Aalto was founded in 1999 by Mariano Garcia Fernández and partners, the stunning news reverberated around Spain, for Garcia Fernández had been the head winemaker and technical director of Spain’s famous winery Vega Sicilia for 30 years before going out on his own. (15% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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QUERCIABELLA

"Querciabella" Chianti Classico 2016

(Chianti, Tuscany, Italy) $32

If you weren’t already eating, a good Chianti Classico should make you hungry. One sip of Querciabella and I’m there, craving some rich meat-sauced pasta dish or even just a few hunks of dry, crumbly, well-aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Querciabella’s delicious savoriness, its underlying fresh acidity, its juicy red-berry notes, refined subtle tannin, and the classic impression of saltiness all put one in the mood for FOOD. This is not the kind of shy Chianti Classico that takes a minute or two to reveal itself. With the very first sip, Querciabella Chianti Classico erupts on the palate with beautifully integrated flavors of dried cherries, pie berries, dried leaves, earth, and vanilla beans. Querciabella means “beautiful oak,” and the estate, founded in 1974, was one of the first in Italy to farm its vineyards organically and biodynamically. (13.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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SCRIBE

Estate Chardonnay 2018

(Sonoma, CA) $45

Lots of wineries talk about making fresh-tasting chardonnay that speaks of its place. But very few actually do it. Scribe walks the talk with this fantastic, minerally, sleek, vivacious chardonnay made in a “riesling state of mind.” The wine is stylistically unique, and every chardonnay lover should try it. Loads of wineries will tell you that a wine like this isn’t possible in California. They’ll say that chardonnay has to be super ripe to have flavor and that oak makes the flavor more complex. Frankly, that’s bs. Good for Scribe for proving them wrong. (12.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Scribe Winery

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GRACI

Etna Rosso 2017

(Etna, Sicily) $29

From nerello mascalese grapes grown on the northern slopes of the active volcano Mt. Etna (which has been steadily erupting since last week, belching smoke, ash, and fountains of red-hot lava!), comes this beautiful red from Graci, a small estate founded in 2004. You have to be a bit braced for wines from nerello mascalese. For all their pale colors and their lovely cranberry, sour cherry, and earth flavors, they slam down on the palate with steel doors of tannin. The answer is so very Italian: EAT!!! Nerello mascalese shows what it was made for when there’s some spaghetti al siciliana on the table. With fond memories of his grandfather’s humble Sicilian wines in his head, Alberto Graci gave up his career as an investment banker in Milan and embarked on a different kind of risky speculation: he bought land at 1800 feet (600 meters) on the slopes of the active volcano Mt. Etna, and started making stellar wines. (14% abv)

94 points KM

Available at K&L Wine Merchants