John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Sep 29th, 2018

Three-Star Values
By John Szabo, MS, with notes from Michael Godel

John Szabo, MSThis week we feature top, three-star values from the September 29th VINTAGES release, which covers a broad swath of the wine world from Argentina to Washington State. These are the wines that line up intrinsic wine quality and regional typicity with the best price within the expected range; Muscadet and basic Chianti, for example, are priced within entirely different structures than, say, Napa Valley cabernet or Burgundy. As such, value can be found at every price point, save for the truly luxury brands for which you pay more for the name than what’s inside the bottle. Here, prices range from $15 to $89, so we hope there’s something for everyone. Sparkling wine lovers should check out the VQA’s upcoming “Sparkling Wine Tasting Deconstructed”. Details below.

Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Sep 29th

Three-Star Value Whites:

Carabella Dijon 76 Clone Chardonnay 2015 Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($27.95)
John Szabo – From the volcanic soils near the top of Chehalem Mountain, ex-geologist Mike Carabella’s Dijon 76 chardonnay is crafted at the leaner and sharper end of the varietal spectrum, with appealing white-fleshed fruit flavours – green apple and pear – and minimal oak influence. The acids are still firm and tight despite the warm growing season – altitude mitigates the heat – and length is very good to excellent. I’d tuck this in the cellar for another year or two; it should integrate further and develop additional complexity. Best 2018-2025. 

Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Blanc 2016, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Always generous and expressive, there are few VINTAGES released wines that deliver such fruit with a fine streak of reality. Every occasion and night of the week are the right ones for this fine blend, ready for all and all for you. Doesn’t matter how warm it gets, this wine stays well ahead of the dangers and the curves.

2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling 2016, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.95)
John Szabo – Still closed and tight, this is a more or less dry, high acid, rather tart example of local riesling from the cool Vinemount Ridge sub-region, on top of the Niagara Escarpment. It will need some time in bottle to flesh out, another 1-2 years at least. I like the transparency and stony character. Classic Niagara Benchland riesling. Best 2020-2026.

Carabella Dijon 76 Clone Chardonnay 2015 Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Blanc 2016 2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling 2016

Borthwick Vineyard Paddy Borthwick Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – From the cool 2017 vintage and the estate’s free-draining, stony-alluvial soils, this comes across as a more subdued and understated style than the standard from the South Island (Marlborough), and all the more interesting for it. It’s discreet, firm, minerally sauvignon, lively and sharply delineated, with solid intensity and good length. Ready to enjoy.
Michael Godel – Borthwick’s sauvignon blanc comes from the great appellative star of Waiwarapa and true to form offers a balanced attack of fruit and acidity. That fruit is orchard to tropical but neither wins and so it’s simply, properly fruity. It’s air of intensity goes far but pauses to smell the flowers. Love the niceties and the generosity, but also the humanity.

Château La Varière Chenin Blanc 2016, Loire, France ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Le Savetier is from Brissac in Anjou and in terms of style it’s a step or two elevated above off-dry from many layered chenin blanc picks of Botrytis-affected grapes. It’s a singular if idiosyncratic sort of white wine, highly tropical, intensely honeyed and partnered by beautifully curated acidity. It’s like a cross between late harvest riesling and sticky dessert wine. It’s time in the dinner sun comes after the big reds.

Man Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2017, Coastal Region, South Africa ($14.95)
John Szabo – Marie, Anette and Nicky lent their first initial to create MAN Vintners, run by their husbands José Conde and Tyrrel and Philip Myburgh since 2001. The plan was to make “quality wine that offered excellent value” from the Agter-Paarl Region, not a magical but certainly universally successful approach. The 2017 chenin representative: clean, open, pineapple-tinged in the South African style, delivering considerable flavour intensity and depth in the category, free from oak. A fine little value to be sure.

Borthwick Vineyard Paddy Borthwick Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Château La Varière Chenin Blanc 2016 Man Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2017

Three-Star Value Reds:

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($49.95)
John Szabo – Catena Alta is an assemblage of historic rows within the Catena family Estate vineyards, originally planted in 1902 by Nicola Catena. Each lot is given individual attention, including lees stirring to keep wines protected from oxygen and on the reductive side, as this excellent 2015 shows, lessening the need for S02. It’s still smoky and peppery, and tightly wound, several years away from prime enjoyment, but shows significant depth and complexity and thus a very promising future. The palate is generous, full, intensely flavoured, with excellent length and depth. Quality wine, best 2020-2027.

Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Old Vines Pinot Noir 2015, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($44.95)
Michael Godel – Mature Lowrey vines are now classified as New World old vines, at ages upwards of 20-25 years and getting close to the heritage example set by South African standards. The vintage is notably lithe and elegant for this Thomas Bachelder archetype and it is that lifted loveliness that dreams this into the ethereal.

La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain ($47.95)
Michael Godel – If you have never tasted an example of the Ardanza Reserva you have not fully lived, and though there have been great vintages before, there has not (recently) been one quite as classy and complete as this. The lift and perfect balance between moorish architecture and volatility is at once dramatic and then, simply stunning. This is the deal and the Rioja Alta real.
John Szabo – Classic old school Rioja here from arch-traditional La Rioja Alta, complete with sandalwood and toasted coconut, melted butter and more, alongside tart red fruit. The palate is fullish, dense, rich, intensely flavoured, with intensely oaky finish in the regional style. Distinctive, textbook Rioja, entering into a nice drinking window now, but there’s definitely no rush. Best 2018-2028.

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2015 Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Old Vines Pinot Noir 2015 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2008

L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee 2014, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington ($89.00)
John Szabo – From one of Washington State’s oldest and most celebrated wineries, L’Ecole’s Perigee is the also estate’s flagship cabernet and one of the state’s classier, more accomplished wines. The oldest blocks in the Seven Hills Vineyard and its deep wind-blown loess soils are called into action, accounting for the wine’s elegance and generosity, as well as the balanced and structured palate, nicely composed and complex. This should hit full stride in another 2-4 years – it has all of the elements of top notch wine for the future. Best 2020-2030.

Clos Bagatelle Au Fil De Soi Saint Chinian 2015, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($22.95)
Michael Godel – Dabs of pretty smells float from this Saint Chinian of perfume urged and ushered along by notable oak. The fruit is up to it and does well to remind how lithe and pure it was, is and will continue to be. This is ripe, modern and on the high-wire line of the food-matching and preserving ability. Terrific fall wine for whiter meats braised in wine.
Sara d’Amato – A serious blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre with terroir-driven aromas of lavender, wild herbs, black pepper and dusty earth. Both rich and snappy, this dynamic red is ready to please without further time in bottle.

Trapiche Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
John Szabo – Malbec gets most of the airtime, but Argentina is quietly making some excellent cabernet sauvignon (and franc). Giant Trapiche delivers a fine value here in a more ‘boutique’ style, very ripe but still peppery in a pleasant way, honest and authentic. The palate is juicy and lively, with great acids and fine tannins. It’s drinking well now, but will also reward a few years, 2-3 at least, in the cellar no doubt. Best 2018-2024.

L'Ecole No. 41 Perigee 2014 Clos Bagatelle Au Fil De Soi Saint Chinian 2015 Trapiche Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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