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PARADIGM

Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $84

Paradigm has always been a paradigm of sorts—a classic wine that reflects its place, a wine that’s more modest than showy, a wine that evokes deliciousness and drinkability. It’s one of those satisfying wines that, put in the center of a dinner party table, gets emptied first. Paradigm Winery is owned and run by Ren and Marilyn Harris, both with deep roots in California. Marilyn’s grandparents arrived in Napa Valley in 1890; Ren’s family came to California in 1769. Thanks to a former career in vineyard real estate, Ren knew the Napa Valley inside out. By the time he and Marilyn bought an abandoned prune orchard with the dream of turning it into a vineyard (in 1975), they had settled on Oakville as the most desirable area. This, 18 years before Oakville became an AVA. From the first vintage in 1991, Paradigm’s winemaker has been Heidi Barrett (whose clients now include other esteemed properties as well). 14.6% abv

Available at Paradigm Winery

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PEGASO

"Zeta" 2016

(Sierra de Gredos, Castilla y Leon, Spain) $21

When garnacha (grenache) is good, it is very very good. In fact, it whirls with fantastic cherry flavors, from grenadine to kirsch to the best cherry preserves you ever had in your life. Few wines are this effusively fruity and yet taste sophisticated, spicy, and minerally at the same time. There’s no tannin to contend with here, just pure rich deliciousness (for $4 a glass!). The Sierra de Gredos are mountains of slate and granite in the center of Spain. Viticulture here is ancient, and many of the vines are both old and head pruned (without trellising). (14.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Gary’s Wine and Marketplace

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DOMAINE WEINBACH

“Cuvée Ste. Catherine” Pinot Gris 2017

(Alsace, France) $66

If you don’t believe pinot gris can have complexity and mind-bending concentration, you must try this.  Domaine Weinbach, built in the early seventeenth century as a Capucin monastery, has been owned and run by the Faller family since 1898, and specifically by the women of the family since the 1980s when Colette and her daughter Catherine were among the first women ever to lead and manage a winery in France. Since 2016, Catherine has been joined by her sons, Eddy and Théo. The beautiful monastery estate sits at the foot of the hill Schlossberg (“Castle Hill”), and the surrounding vineyards are known as the Clos des Capucins. Domaine Weinbach’s wines are among the most elegant and expressive in all of Alsace. They have a purity to them that can seem absolutely regal. The pinot gris Cuvée Ste. Catherine is a stunning example. Rich, creamy, minerally, smoky, and nutty, it is dense in flavor yet soars with freshness. Pinot grigio it is not. (14.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at The Wine House

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RUSACK VINEYARDS

"Estate" Sauvignon Blanc 2018

(Ballard Canyon, CA) $26

Back in New York City in the old days, I lived in what was called the “Dance Belt” of the Upper West Side. It was full of ballet dancers, modern dancers, Broadway dancers. Walking down the street, you knew who was a dancer and who was everybody else, for the dancers had a tautness to their bodies. A dancer’s every step would crackle with energy. Dancers were spring-loaded; poised to leap. Good sauvignon blanc is that way. You can’t help but love the vitality of the best ones. (At least I can’t). It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day today. And this simple, minerally, botanical Rusack is a terrific affordable sauvignon to celebrate with—now and throughout the spring and summer. (13.8% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Rusack Vineyards

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BODEGAS VALDESPINO

“Inocente” Single Vineyard Fino

(Jerez, Spain) $26

Of all Jerez’s finos, Inocente (ee-no-CENT-ay) is the most elegant and refined.  The wine’s mossy, almondy, oceanic aroma draws you in; then the flavors emerge—waves of sea spray, minerals, crisp apples, and a powerful vivid nuttiness. The finish is unreal–cooling and ultra long. While most other finos are fermented in tank, Inocente—like the great finos of the past—is fermented in barrel with indigenous yeast. At bottling, the wine is around 10 years old—doubling or tripling the aging in solera of most other finos. Valdespino’s origins are thought to date to 1264, when the conquering knight Alonso Valdespino was rewarded with thirty hectares of land, including almost half of Macharnudo, one of Jerez’s greatest vineyard terroirs. Valdespino also makes one of the most phenomenally delicious, rich palo cortados in Jerez—a wine called Viejo C.P. with an average age in solera of 25 years. (15% abv)

98 points KM

Available at The Rare Wine Company

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VIETTI

“Tre Vigne” Barbera d’Asti 2017

(Piedmont, Italy) $17

There’s a perfect time for this wine—and it’s the minute the pasta hits the boiling water. For barbera was made for food. I guess you could say this about most Italian wines, but there’s something about barbera’s chemistry—the combination of refreshing acidity and just the right amount of firm tannin—that sets it up as a great foil for lots of dishes, especially rustic pastas. Indeed, in the Piedmont region of Italy, barbera is what lots of winemakers regularly drink with dinner. For decades, Vietti has been known for their terrific, super affordable barberas, wines with spice, tar, rock, espresso and black fruit notes. Put this to the pasta test. (14.5% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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LUCIEN ALBRECHT

Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Balthazar” 2018

(Alsace, France) $17

I happen to know you need a good white “house wine” right now. Don’t argue. You really do need one. It can sit in the fridge; chilled and waiting for nothing at all, except for you to join your latest zoom happy hour. And wouldn’t it be great if it cost about $3 a glass? Here you go. A delightful wine with mouthfuls of citrus and pear flavors. So fresh you can drink it with anything (or nothing) and be happy. Alsace excels with eminently drinkable and delicious whites like this. Cuvée Balthazar is named for the Albrecht patriarch who first settled in the Orschwihr vineyards of Alsace in 1698. (12.7% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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SCRIBE

“Baker Lane Vineyard” Syrah 2017

(Sonoma Coast, CA) $62

Many of the greatest syrahs in the world now cost well over $100 a bottle. This one from the small Sonoma winery Scribe joins them in every way–except price. Tasting this wine, I could not write fast enough as the flavors exploded in every direction—black raspberries, black pepper, orange peel, tea, meat juices, a whole kitchen cabinet full of exotic spices, and something deliciously umami. But perhaps the most compelling aspect of the wine is its aliveness. That lit-from-within quality. That energy, the kind that’s in the air before a thunderstorm. Maybe, it’s the wine’s surprisingly low alcohol that kept its vitality in place. Or maybe the Baker Lane Vineyard is a superlative terroir. It’s hard to know. But I do know one thing: this is one of a handful of the very best syrahs in California. It’s a little less than $13 a glass. Is it time you tried it? (12.5% abv)

98 points KM

Available at Solano Cellars

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ROGER GOULART

Gran Reserva Brut Cava 2011

(Penedès, Spain) $20

Cavas (Spanish sparkling wines made by the Champagne method of second fermentation in bottles) are not all alike. Not even close. There are the huge commercial producers whose sparklers are a bit bland and rubbery. Then, from small estates, there are top quality cavas that are fresh and lively and have a deep yeastiness from long aging on the lees. Roger Goulart’s Gran Reserva is one of those. The wine spent 36 months on the lees (and yet it costs a mere $20!). Lovely, floral, and citrusy, it’s also wonderfully creamy. While this is delicious on its own, I’ll look the other way if you make a mimosa or a kir with it. (12% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Stirling Fine Wine

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DOMAINE DUPEUBLE PÈRE et FILS

Beaujolais 2018

(Beaujolais, France) $15

Wonder what lots of cabernet winemakers drink when they aren’t drinking cabernet (or beer)? They drink great gamay like this minerally rich Beaujolais from Dupeuble. The sheer deliciousness of this wine is exciting. It’s important to know that Dupeuble does not make a candylike, confected, tutti-frutti, commercial style of Beaujolais. Instead, the family’s gamays are serious wines made the old-fashioned way. If you’ve never had exquisite gamay and think of it only as a grape that makes simple quaffs, you must try this beauty. And at $15, there’s no reason not to! (13.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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ROBERT WEIL

“Kiedricher” Trocken Riesling 2018

(Rheingau, Germany) $38

At its best, German riesling doesn’t just have minerality; it has minerality that screams with excitement. Not to mention acidity so kinetic, you fear the glass might shatter. This bone dry (trocken) riesling from Robert Weil is a great example. The freshness and citrusy crispness are off-the-charts. If ever there was a terrific wine for drinking right this minute, this is it. Kiedrich is one of the top wine towns in the Rheingau, and Weil (pronounce “vile”) is a man passionate about riesling. (12.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at K&L Wine Merchants

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SANDHI

“Sanford & Benedict” Pinot Noir 2015

(Sta. Rita Hills, CA) $54

Sandhi is a Sanskrit word meaning “alliance” or “collaboration.” I’m sure the owners/winemakers meant an alliance with Nature, but the gods must have gotten in on the act too, for it’s hard to imagine a more luscious, mesmerizing, achingly supple, mindblowingly delicious pinot noir. OMG, indeed. Then again, everything about this wine was poised for greatness. It’s from a very famous vineyard; it’s from the oldest pinot noir vines in Santa Barbara County (planted in 1971); and it’s made by two of the most talented pinot noir fanatics in California—Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr. (13.5% abv)

97 points KM

Available at Wine.com