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SANTO WINES

“Volcanic Terroir” Assyrtiko 2019

(Santorini, Greece) $25

Assyrtiko, the white wine that brought world attention to the stunningly beautiful volcanic island of Santorini, is made in several styles today. But my favorite has always been the original style—fresh, pure, bone-dry, and made without the merest trace of oak. Santo Wine’s Assyrtiko—from 60- to 80-year-old vines —is exactly that, a wine that captures the lemons-and-salt-air crispness that Assyrtiko is known for. Sparks of minerals and acidity light up the wine, making it extra delicious with seafood. (14% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Astor Wines

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bottle of French white wine

PAUL JABOULET AINÉ

“Mule Blanche” Crozes-Hermitage

(Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône Valley, France) $36

If I ever imagined that Marsanne—the workhorse white grape of the northern Rhône —lacked elegance, La Mule Blanche (“The White Mule”) set me straight. The wine—from vines 60 years old—has the ethereal airy softness of whipped cream. And the flavors—white peaches, poached pears, lemon cream pie, and crème brulee—are so refined and luscious that they reverberate in your mind for days after you’ve tasted the wine. Founded in 1834, Paul Jaboulet Ainé owns many of the most prized vineyard sites in the Northern Rhône. The estate was bought in 2006 by the Frey family (owners of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux) who slowly converted the vineyards to biodynamic farming and who poured new passion (and considerable investment) into the vineyards and winemaking. Under the winemaking of Caroline Frey, the Jaboulet wines (Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St. Joseph, and Cornas) are again among the greatest in the Rhône. (13% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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LAPOSTOLLE

“Cuvee Alexandre” Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

(Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile) $25

This is the best $25-and-under cabernet we’ve tasted this year, and it’s a beauty—delicious and complex with terrific dark fruit, grenadine, espresso, and cigar box flavors, plus silky, polished tannin. Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle (of France’s Grand Marnier family) and her husband Cyril de Bournet founded Lapostolle winery in 1994 and, with the help of French enologist Michel Rolland, set about making sophisticated wines at a time when most Chilean wine was straightforward and simply serviceable. Their vineyards are in the highly regarded Apalta Valley of Colchagua on decomposing granite slopes. (14.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino

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SYLVAIN PATAILLE

Marsannay Rouge 2018

(Marsannay, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy) $36

Really good red Burgundy for under $40 a bottle? Next to impossible to find. That’s what we thought until we came upon this Marsannay from one of Burgundy’s star young consulting winemakers, Sylvain Pataille. The seductive earthy/woodsy aroma reminds me of the first scent you get when you walk into a fine antique store. Then a wave of flavors follows—mushrooms, cranberries, tea, and cherries. The texture is silk. This is one of my favorite red Burgundies to drink— just cool to the touch— on a hot summer night. (13.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Wine House

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ARGIOLAS

“Is Argiolas” Vermentino di Sardegna 2019

(Sardinia, Italy) $20

On these hot summer days, you could open a bottle of this delicious white and have summertime in your glass. Vermentino is one of the best dry white wines of Italy—a wine with tons of personality and the fresh aromas and flavors of white peaches, dried herbs and sea spray. Some 70% of all the vermentino grown in Italy grows on the island of Sardinia, 120 miles (200 km) off the Tuscan coast and the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Vermentinos from the south of the island, like this one from Argiolas, are the richest and creamiest. In fact, if you love the roundness of chardonnay and want a little change of pace, this is the perfect wine. Argiolas, one of the island’s top wineries, is family-owned and specializes in wines made from native varieties. (14% abv)

Available at Vivino

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woman drinking a glass of alma negra m blend wine from Argentina

ALMA NEGRA

“M Blend” 2018

(Mendoza, Argentina) $22

Alma Negra is owned by Ernesto Catena, son of Nicolas Catena who is thought of as the father of the modern Argentine wine industry. Creative and highly spiritual, Ernesto Catena never reveals the grapes in the logically named Misterio (mystery). No matter, the wine is sensational. Neon purple in color, it’s so packed with dense fruit flavors it’s like a blackberry pie masquerading as wine. Plus loads of black licorice, black pepper and minerally notes. The texture is velvet and the wine is just plain fun to drink.   Catena has been making his misterio (mystery) wine for many years. Once, after much journalistic pressing, he hinted that the mystery might involve malbec, bonarda, syrah cabernet franc, and/or cabernet sauvignon. Hmmm. (13.5% abv)

 

93 points KM

Available at Vivino

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woman drinking a glass of venturini baldini lambrusco wine

VENTURINI BALDINI

Montelocco Lambrusco Rosso

(Emilia Romagna, Italy) $15

Frothy Lambrusco is just about as fun as wine gets, and this one—vivid red in color– from Venturini Baldini is simply irresistible. The flavors of black cherries, violets, and black pepper zoom out of the glass with a freshness and vividness that’s so appealing, you won’t want to put the glass down. Lambrusco (the word means “wild vine”) is a sparkling wine made from various types of lambrusco grapes grown in the province of Emilia Romagna where they know a thing or two about flavor (Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar all come from here, not to mention this is where spaghetti Bolognese was first created.) Lambrusco is traditionally drunk well chilled with an assortment of salami and cured meats. (11% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Saratoga Wine Exchange

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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 kaleidoscope 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