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MERRY EDWARDS

“Meredith Estate” Pinot Noir 2016

(Russian River Valley, California) $80

Merry Edwards, one of the pioneering women of the modern California wine industry, has made California pinot noir for more than four decades. At this point, she is so highly attuned to pinot’s wondrous but irascible spirit, that she draws out a stunning range of nuances. Tasting her Meredith Estate, I felt like I was hearing pinot noir’s “music” in a whole new vivid way. Every note was pure, vibrating, and full of energy. The wine starts out with sexy earthy aromas then moves to something foresty, spicy, and primordial. At the same time, the flavors burst open in waves of blue and red fruits. The beauty and length of this wine are astonishing and deeply satisfying. If you love pinot noir, this is a wine you must give yourself. (14.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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LOUIS M. MARTINI

“Monte Rosso Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Sonoma Valley, California) $85

What a fantastic wine. First of all, it tastes like it costs twice as much as it does. But second, there’s a beauty and majesty here that’s impossible to ignore. The flavors come in hedonistic waves—dark cherries, minerals, rich cocoa, bay, and something fresh and vivid like the heady smell of a mountain forest. Best of all, I love how the wine’s rich flavors are encased by a soaring structure of fine tannin. Over the last several decades (since 1938), Martini has made several wines, including cabernet, from the vineyard. The oldest vines for this wine are now 50 years old. (15.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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TURNBULL WINE CELLARS

"Josephine" Sauvignon Blanc 2018

(Oakville, California) $47

Turnbull’s “Josephine” is one of a new exciting class of “Super Sauvignons” from the Napa Valley (see my blog in today’s WineSpeed), and the wine is absolutely delicious. With its lightning fast freshness, “Josephine” is pure and minerally. There’s not a whit of green here. But rather, a wonderfully rich citrus/melon flavor that bursts open like a peacock flashing its tail. Turnbull’s “Josephine” includes some of the beautifully aromatic clone known as sauvignon musqué blended in for complexity and nuance. Springtime in a glass. A must-have now. (13.1% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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PEWSEY VALE

“The Contours” Riesling 2012

(Eden Valley, South Australia) $31

It’s a testament to this extraordinary bone-dry riesling that it’s aged five years before release from the winery. And extraordinary is the right word. Crystalline flavors so precise they take your breath away. Waves of lime, brioche, and exotic spices like cardamom, plus a wet rocky minerality. Australia is well known for dry rieslings of ravishing freshness—especially the Eden and Clare Valleys. Pewsey Vale’s “The Contours” has off-the-charts freshness, as well as layers and layers of complexity. If you’ve never had great New World dry riesling, this is your moment and the wine is a superb deal given the quality. (12.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CHÂTEAU DE BRÉZÉ

Crémant de Loire Rosé of Cabernet Franc

(Loire Valley, France) $23

There were several rosés we considered for the “Wine to Know” of this Special Rosé Edition. But dollar for dollar, no rosé offered more sheer deliciousness, freshness, and vivacity than Château de Brézé (pronounced “brez-AY”). A Loire crémant (meaning it was made traditionally like Champagne, but not made in the Champagne region), Château de Brézé has an airy richness. Its flavors are savory, spicy, and botanical all at the same time. Curiously for a sparkling wine that’s so elegant, it’s made 100% from cabernet franc. Château de Brézé was lauded for its wines as far back as the 15th century. The vineyard’s limestone soils yield chalky, crisp wines that have often been compared to Champagne. (12.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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BETHEL HEIGHTS

“Casteel” Pinot Noir 2016

(Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $65

In 1978, twin brothers Ted Casteel and Terry Casteel and their wives Pat Dudley and Marilyn Webb all left academia and bought 75 acres in the Eola-Amity Hills of the Willamette Valley with the (then crazily idealistic) plan of planting a vineyard and teaching themselves to make wine. This wine—their 35th vintage of pinot noir—is a glorious example of the sheer elegance and complexity that Willamette Valley pinot can achieve. Gently rich and deliciously savory, the Bethel Heights pinot noirs are never rap music, but rather exquisitely slow waltzes. (13.9% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CROSSBARN

Chardonnay 2017

(Sonoma Coast, California) $24

“Restraint” has never been California chardonnay’s middle name. At least historically. But lately, and ever so slightly, the pendulum seems to be swinging back, away from the sweet-oak-and-butter bombshells that have dominated for way too long. When a wine tastes like a cross between St. Joseph Aspirin for Children and a Butterfingers bar, you know a change is desperately needed. CrossBarn’s 2017 chardonnay (only 8% was barrel fermented) is a great change agent. The round, mouthfilling flavors of poached pears, quince, brioche, and lime zest are comfortable and familiar, but along with them come sparks of freshness and minerality. Plus, the finish is clean, precise, long, and (happily) not evocative of Cool Whip. CrossBarn: time to crossover. (14.1% abv)

91 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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PENFOLDS

“Bin 28 Kalimna” Shiraz 2016 

(South Australia, Australia) $27

In 1951, Australia’s most famous shiraz—Penfolds Grange—was born. (The current release costs $850). Then in 1959, just eight years after Grange was created, Penfolds released this wine—Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz. It was as humble as Grange was exalted. And it’s still a humble wine—one that’s absolutely packed with deliciousness. I love the sleekness and precision of Bin 28 (no fat furriness here), and the way the wine dances on the palate with a peppery spiciness. Refreshingly, no new oak is used. The Bin 28 is aged in older hogshead barrels (larger than standard barriques).  This is a roast chicken kind of wine, and will give the same kind of glad-to-be-home pleasure. (14.5% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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KEN WRIGHT CELLARS

“Savoya” Pinot Noir 2016

(Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $57

Ken Wright, one of the shining stars among Willamette Valley wine producers, makes some thirteen pinot noirs. This either qualifies him as A) crazy or B) just about as driven by terroir as the monks of Burgundy. Having recently tasted a slew of his wines, I believe it’s the latter. One of my favorites is his “Savoya”—a mind-blowing pinot with rich bolts of fresh black cherry, spice, a cascade of minerals, and just the right touch of something dark and primordial. But above all, what I love about this pinot is its precision and its length. The flavors are as crystal clear as a church bell in the mountains. The finish never quite seems to. Great pinot noir is always insidiously good at making you desire it. “Savoya” leaves you helpless. (13.6% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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MWC

Pinot Noir 2016

(Victoria, Australia) $16

Yeah, I know. You might be thinking, she meant $61. But, this pinot noir is $16 and it’s a major steal. There’s lots of nice earthiness here plus notes of plums and tea. Beautifully drinkable on, say, any old Wednesday night. I’ve poured this wine blind, and pinot lovers guess New Zealand, Sonoma, or maybe even a humble Burgundy. No one guesses Australia, yet Oz makes some terrific pinots (especially in cool Victoria). MWC pinot won’t rock your world, but like me, you might be thrilled to drink good pinot noir at a third the price of what you’d expect. Bring on the roast chicken. (14% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com