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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

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DOMAINE CHIGNARD

“Les Moriers” Fleurie Beaujolais 2016  

(Beaujolais, France) $26

Recently my old friend Kevin Zraly and I debated whether great cru Beaujolais could be the wine of the future. (He thinks so). I’m less convinced … unless most cru Beaujolais becomes as extraordinary as this dynamite Chignard Fleurie—a wild phantasmagorical swirling energy field of fruit and minerals. Outrageously floridly juicy and yet savory and complex at the same time, this is a serious wine (at the terrific price of $26). And like all of the top cru Beaujolais, it’s born in rocky granitic soils. Some wines completely upend your assumptions. This wine changed mine. (Ok Kevin, score one; but we’re not done yet). (12.5% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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MASSICAN

“Annia” White Blend 2017

(Napa Valley, California) $34

If ivory were a flavor, Massican’s “Annia” would possess it, for the wine’s purity, smoothness, and creamy density are startling and delicious. I found myself tasting it over and over again, for there’s nothing else quite like it in California. Languorous on the one hand, but also spring-loaded with freshness on the other, “Annia” is a textural paradox. Inspired by the superb whites of northeast Italy, it’s a blend of mostly Napa-grown ribolla gialla, tocai friulano (from 73-year old-vines!), and just a tiny bit of chardonnay. Owner/winemaker Dan Petroski says his goal is to make Massican “the best white wine winery in the U.S.” He’s definitely on target. (12.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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PENFOLDS

“St. Henri” Shiraz 2015 

(South Australia, Australia) $100

Penfold’s “Grange” is one of Australia’s most legendary, globally sought-after wines; “St. Henri” is its younger (way less expensive) brother. Talk about a vivid, energetic, spring-loaded shiraz! Drinking it is like having a boysenberry IV drip straight into your veins. But despite its explosive flavors, “St. Henri” is also lovely, taut, and utterly precise. It tastes as though every delicious molecule is lined up on the same spicy, savory, minerally trajectory. And unlike most shiraz, no new oak is used. I recently put “St. Henri” into a blind tasting of renowned wines from around the world. It was the least expensive—and the ultimate favorite. “St. Henri” is too pricey to be an any-old-night wine. But some special evening soon, you deserve to try this. (14.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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DOMAINE DE LA CÔTE

“Bloom’s Field” Pinot Noir 2014

(Sta. Rita Hills, California) $70

This extraordinary wine reveals what can happen when a small group of friends maniacally obsessed with pinot noir make wine together. One of them—Raj Parr—was once one of the most famous sommeliers in America. Their pursuit led them to a rolling patch of land in the Sta. Rita Hills (among the best places to make pinot outside of Burgundy). The wine itself has an ethereal lightness of being. Its aromas and flavors are a gentle whirlwind of earth and minerality; savoriness and spice. Best of all, every molecule counts; there’s fantastic richness here without concentration. I can’t wait to try the just-released 2016. (12.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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HEWITSON

“Miss Harry” Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre Red Blend 2015

(Barossa Valley, South Australia) $20

Whoever Miss Harry was, she knew her wines. This “GSM” is one of the best $20 wines I’ve tasted in years. It’s from estate fruit, and the mourvèdre was grown from cuttings of some of the oldest continuously producing mourvèdre on the planet (planted in 1853). The wine’s expressive flavors had me imagining that every cherry in the world had suddenly begun singing at the top of its lungs. This wine and a roast of pork or some lamb shanks would make for a terrific winter weekend night. (Miss Harry, by the way, is the nickname winemaker Dean Hewitson bestowed on his “charming” daughter Harriet). (14% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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COGNO

"Mandorlo" Dolcetto d’Alba 2016

(Piedmont, Italy) $22

“Good” often means “just ok.” But a wine that is truly good is something else. It is genuine, satisfying, companionable, modest, and delicious without trying to be anything more. In this sense, a good wine is like a good café—authentic, unassuming. Good wines—woven as they are into the fabric of our daily lives—sustain us. Cogno’s dolcetto is just this sort of wine. Savory, spicy, fresh, and alive, it’s the kind of tasty red wine you’re happy to abandon yourself to on any given night. I adore Cogno’s famous rare (expensive) Barolos, but for sheer pleasure, this simple dolcetto is unbeatable. (14% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Vivino.com