Diving Back Into Samples

By Robert Whitley

September 3, 2019 6 min read

You may have noticed that our "Wine Talk" tasting notes have been on hiatus for the past several weeks, while your humble correspondent recovered from knee-replacement surgery. While I stepped to the tasting sidelines, the stack of samples grew and grew and grew.

Now on the mend and off the pain meds, I've taken a deep dive into my growing pile of samples and dedicated this week's "Wine Talk" to the noble quest of catching up. As most longtime readers know, I only recommend wines that I personally find appealing, and I don't discriminate by price.

I can be at home with this week's value rose wine from Spain or the blockbuster merlot blend from California. The numerical ratings I assign reflect my personal enthusiasm for each recommendation. I trust you will find similar pleasure in each and every one.

Best Value

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Marques de Caceres 2018 Excellens Rose, Rioja, Spain ($15) — One of the little-known pleasures of Spain's Rioja region is dry rose. Caceres' Excellens delivers freshness and juicy aromas of citrus and ripe strawberry, with a crisp, clean finish. Rating: 90.

Cleto Chiarli Brut de Noir Rose, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($16) — The cuvee is primarily Lambrusco grasparossa with a touch of pinot nero, and the result is a bright, refreshing sparkling rose from Central Italy's most famous region for gastronomy. It shows lovely notes of strawberry and cherry and has a clean and dry finish that begs you to take another sip. Rating: 89.

Tasting Notes

Matanzas Creek 2015 Journey, Sonoma County ($100) — Matanzas Creek has a long and storied history with merlot, good times and bad. In the beginning, Matanzas (along with Duckhorn and a couple of other notables) had the novel idea (at the time) to present merlot as a stand-alone wine. It had previously been used almost exclusively as a blending component of most cabernet-centric California wines. The Matanzas merlot of the 1980s was well-received and helped put the Sonoma Valley winery on the map. As if to confirm its faith in the merlot grape, nearly 30 years ago, the winery planted the Petrus clone of merlot and created its flagship red blend, Journey. Petrus, of course, is the infamous chateau in the Pomerol district of Bordeaux and 100 percent merlot. The 2015 Journey is an extension of the original concept: a rich, lush merlot-based red (approximately 70 percent merlot, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon) that is beautifully perfumed, with complex notes of red and black fruits, impressive depth and a structure that suggests it will age well over 15 to 20 years. Rating: 97.

Chappellet 2016 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley ($85) — This wine reminds me of the great Cheval Blanc from the Saint-Emilion district of Bordeaux. It offers notes of cassis and red currant, flavors I typically associate with fine Bordeaux, and a classic structure that exhibits firmness despite its richness and depth. Though it shows well now, it would benefit from additional cellar age. In the very small world of California cabernet franc (I should note it is 76 percent cab franc, with cab sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot rounding out the blend), this is among the top two or three produced. Rating: 95.

Schramsberg 2016 Brut Rose, North Coast ($47) — Winemaker Hugh Davies has carried on the tradition started by his late parents when they introduced America to exceptionally fine sparkling wine from California. Just as important, Davies and his team have carried on the same elegant style that put this small Calistoga winery on the map. The 2016 brut rose is a work of beauty, showing finesse and depth while remaining light and effortless. Aromas of fresh strawberry and citrus dance on the palate, with a subtle note of peach and spice, brioche and a racy acidity that lifts the fruit and delivers a soaring finish. Rating: 95.

Tenuta Perano 2015 Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($28) — The Perano riserva from this vintage offers ripe aromas of black cherry and plum, with a core of sweet fruit and spice that carries through on the long, lingering finish. Rating: 92.

J. Lohr 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Hilltop,' Paso Robles ($25) — If you're shopping for a top-notch cabernet sauvignon but you cringe at the high-priced offerings from Napa and Sonoma, there's always J. Lohr! The 2016 Hilltop cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles is typically rich and juicy, shows ripe blackberry and blue-fruit notes, and finishes with a top note of wood spice. It's very, very difficult to beat this wine for the price. Rating: 90.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]

Photo credit: Donations_are_appreciated at Pixabay

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