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Knudsen

Pinot Noir 2015

(Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $55

We had an employee once who, after tasting a really good pinot noir would always pronounce it “pretty.” What’s a pretty pinot noir? I would always ask. And she would say, Pretty is, well, …pretty. I think this is that wine. It has beguiling aromas of roses and tea and a delicate earthy flavor. Its richness is beautifully faded…like an exquisite old tapestry. Pinots such as this evoke a certain similarity with  Burgundies. (Interestingly, Knudsen’s Reserve pinot doesn’t have quite the same elegance). If you love classic pinot noir, this is for you. (14.1% abv)

91 points KM

Available at Knudsen Winery

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Cocchi Barolo Chinato

Cocchi Barolo Chinato

(Piedmont, Italy) $46

I am addicted to drinking Italian bitters after dinner. The savory/bitter/sweet/spicy tanginess and the kinetic freshness are sensational. Bitters are like drinking the entire botanical universe in one delicious sip. The bitter known as Barolo Chinato (pronounced key NAT oh) from Giulio Cocchi is made with lightly fortified Barolo wine that’s been infused with quinine bark, wormwood, rhubarb, ginger root, cardamom, and gentian plus a slew of secret spices. The recipe has remained the same since the wine was invented in 1891. While I usually drink it as a digestivo (after dinner), it’s equally good with a splash of soda and citrus as an aperitivo. (Who said you can’t bookend a meal with the same liquid inspiration?)

93 points KM

Available at K&L Wines

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Cloudy Bay

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016

(Marlborough, New Zealand) $32

Cloudy Bay—the original stunner from New Zealand—hasn’t lost her charm. When the wine debuted in 1985, it took London and New York by storm. (It was as if a new planet had been discovered in the solar system of taste). Today Cloudy Bay remains deliciously complex—a concatenation of flavors (minerals, lime zest, white pepper, papaya) and a kind of botanical hit at the end (like great gin). But it’s the choreography of the wine, the way it splashes onto on the palate, that makes Cloudy Bay especially compelling. (13.3 abv)

92 points KM

Available at Zachys

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Freemark Abbey

Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

(Napa Valley, CA) $170

Warren Winiarski, the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars once said to me, “Age gives a wine a sense of beauty and satisfaction that it could never have had when it was young. Because so much of life is incomplete, an old wine is remarkable and moving.” And so it was that I was swept away last night by a wine from my cellar—the 1999 Freemark Abbey “Sycamore Vineyard” Cabernet. In texture, great cabernets move closer to pinot noir as they age—a texture that can be so hedonistic there’s nothing to do but surrender to it. Now, after 18 years of aging, this majestic Freemark Abbey is mind blowingly elegant…and yet still potent with flavor. California at its best.  (13.7% abv)

98 points KM

Available at ShopWine Direct

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Rutherford Hill 2014

Rutherford Hill

"Rutherford" Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Rutherford, Napa Valley, California) $68

The phrase “iron fist in a velvet glove” was coined long ago as a metaphor for cabernet sauvignons that are counterintuitively (and fascinatingly) both soft and structured, plush and powerful. Like this Rutherford Hill—a wine with a soaring arc of delicious flavor and a finish that fades more slowly than an old French film. Founded in 1972, Rutherford Hill was among the wineries that initiated Napa Valley’s Second Golden Age. Winemaker Marisa Taylor was once the assistant winemaker at Williams Selyem and she has a knack for bringing out an almost pinot noir-like silkiness in cabernet sauvignon. (14.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Rutherford Hill

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PENFOLDS

“Max” Shiraz Cabernet 2015

(South Australia, Australia) $20

I admire Max Schubert (after whom this wine was named). Schubert apparently didn’t flinch when a critic described his first commercial vintage of Grange as “a concoction of wild fruits and sundry berries with crushed ants predominating.” (Grange, of course, has gone on to be one of Australia’s most famous wines). Six decades later, this homage to Schubert is an every night, straightforward, delicious red—maybe the kind of wine Schubert drank a lot of in Oz in the 1950s. At $20, it’s not like its big brother Grange ($850), but of a Wednesday evening with a roast chicken, it’s just right. (14.5% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Applejack Wine & Spirits

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DOMAINE DES BAUMARD

DOMAINE DES BAUMARD

“Clos Du Papillon” Savennières 2013

(Savennières, Loire Valley, France) $40

In wine, what we don’t know is often the most fascinating part of drinking. Take minerality. Scientists adamantly refute the notion that vines take up minerals from the earth in the easy way we might imagine. Nonetheless, minerality exists. You can taste it even if you can’t know it. This dry chenin blanc from the village of Savennières is an example. Close your eyes and you’re drinking crushed crystals. Drink it bracing cold, and its raciness is fantastic. It’s not knowingness masquerading as deliciousness. (13% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Pogo's Wine & Spirits

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Fox Run Dry Riesling

FOX RUN VINEYARDS

Dry Riesling 2015

(Finger Lakes, New York) $18

A recent trip to the Finger Lakes of New York left me stunned. I knew the area made cold climate rieslings that were good. But I didn’t realize how good. These are rieslings howling with freshness and spring loaded with energy. Pure, precise, and minerally, they are as lithe and taut as a ballerina. Fox Run, in particular, makes some of the most exquisite ones. Utter beauty…for under $20. (11.6% abv)

Available at Fox Run Vineyards

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Savage Grace Reisling Underwood Mountain 2016 July, 28 2017

Savage Grace

“Underwood Mountain” Riesling 2016

(Columbia Gorge, Washington) $22

The idea of a riesling born in a gorge that’s been carved out by glaciers is appealing in summer—especially if that riesling is vivid and minerally with a fresh slap of acidity. I like rieslings that come onto the palate fast and focused. Chilled cold, there’s nothing better to drink on a late weekend afternoon when you’re spending a few hours in the kitchen, cooking. You can’t do that with a 15% alcohol wine (this one’s just 11.7%).

89 points KM

Available at Savage Grace

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Chappellet Signature Chegnin Blanc 2016 July, 21 2017

Chappellet

Signature Chenin Blanc 2016

(Napa Valley, California) $32

Among the white wines you should not miss this summer is this delicious legend. It’s snappy and creamy, limey and minerally, all in the same fantastic sip. And why a legend?  Well, Molly Chappellet herself is one of the legendary Napa Valley pioneers. But also, in 1967, during Napa’s “second Golden Age,” when she and her late husband Donn began their winery on Pritchard Hill, they found chenin blanc vines already growing. The family has continued to make the variety for nearly 50 years, despite bankers and brokers who, early on, kept insisting that that other grape which started with “ch” would be a much better idea. Um, not exactly. (14.1% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Chappellet