90 Clos du Val 2006 Ariadne, Napa Valley ($21)
Barrel-fermented Semillon and stainless-fermented Sauvignon Blanc; rich notes of honey and vanilla. [TWISTY]
90 Calera 2006 Viognier, Mt. Harlan ($28)
Creamy and smooth with a nervy edge of acidity; complex aromatics and silky texture.
91 Ferrari-Carano 2006 Chardonnay, Fiorella Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($36)
Pure, racy and showing subtle notes of sweet oak; a Russian River classic with poise and style.
90 Tablas Creek 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, Paso Robles ($40)
Roussanne-driven Rhône-style white; silky smooth with bright white flowers and melon flavors.
90 Gallo of Sonoma 2003 Estate Chardonnay, Northern Sonoma ($50)
Rich and clean with dense, textured fruit and good firm acidity; complex with creamy, sweet new oak.
88 Summers Winery 2006 Charbono, Villa Andriana Estate, Calistoga ($28)
A mellow, ripe and spicy red with lovely plum; a great grill wine from one of the few producers of Charbono in California.
90 Bennett Lane 2004 Maximus, Napa Valley ($35)
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 20% Syrah; bright and rich with lovely sweet oak and ripe plum and blackberry fruit.
91 Frank Family Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($45)
Fleshy and ripe with sweet plum, blackberry and rich texture; dense, long and intense.
90 J Vineyards & Winery 2005 Pinot Noir, Nicole’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($50)
J’s top-tier Pinot shows lively black cherry fruit and spice; classy and clean with great follow-through.
91 Whitcraft Winery 2006 Pinot Noir, Morningwood, Morning Dew Ranch, Anderson Valley ($65)
Dense and nervy with lovely rich texture and edgy, astringent cherry fruit; quite delicious. (California only.)
92 Craggy Range Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Te Muna Road, Martinborough, New Zealand ($24)
Silky and lush with tangy acidity and engaging green peach and lime and lovely depth; long, layered and symphonic. [TWISTY]
89 Giovanni Almondo 2006 Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie, Italy ($27)
Very clean with citrus and tangy acidity; long, pure and juicy with a linear, focused finish.
90 Goose Bay 2006 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($27)
Bright and snappy with lots of new sweet oak and creamy texture; a very stylish kosher wine.
ROYAL WINE CORP.
90 Marc Kreydenweiss 2006 Gewürztraminer Kritt, Alsace, France ($37)
Rose petal and spice, soft, rich and silky with lovely, generous flavors of ripe fruit.
91 Domaines Matrot 2006 Meursault Les Chevalières, France ($39)
Subtle, elegant and rich with firm acidity and notes of ripe fruit, toasted oak and minerals; lush and classic.
91 Bodegas Ateca 2006 Atteca Grenache, Old Vines, Calatayud, Spain ($17)
Ripe blackberry fruit; bright and juicy with vanilla and tangy acidity; intense and gorgeous.
FINE ESTATES FROM SPAIN
92 Dominio del Plata 2006 BenMarco Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($20)
From a vineyard planted in 1928, a nicely-textured Malbec with bright plum, strawberry and blackberry fruit; lifted flavors of sweet oak.
90 Two Paddocks 2005 Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand ($45)
Spicy, crisp and bright with notes of smoke, cherry and cola; juicy and racy with herbal nuances. [TWISTY]
PACIFIC VINE INTERNATIONAL
91 San Polo 2003 Brunello di Montalcino, Italy ($46)
Elegant structure and lush texture; rich berry and plum; long and balanced.
90 M. Chapoutier 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernadine ($55)
Notes of tobacco, spice and bright raspberry fruit; supple with fresh flavors and excellent structure.
TERLATO WINES INTERNATIONAL
88 Columbia Crest 2007 Vineyard 10, Washington ($8)
Brisk, charming and delicious Syrah rosé with lovely spice, berry fruit and racy acidity.
STE. MICHELLE WINE ESTATES
90 Marqués de Cáceres 2007 Rioja, Spain ($9)
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha; clean, lovely flavors, tangy fruit and ken acid structure. [TWISTY]
88 Bieler Père et Fils 2007 Rosé “Sabine,” Coteaux d’Aix en Provence ($10)
Smooth, juicy and brisk with tangy acidity and vibrant strawberry fruit; charming.
CHARLES BIELER / MICHAEL SKURNIK WINES????
89 Fra Guerau 2006 Monstant Rosé, Monstant, Spain ($12)
Bright and juicy with raspberry fruit and clean, balanced flavors; fresh, lively and delicious
50% Merlot, 25% Garnacha, 25% Syrah
89 Vina Robles 2007 Roséum, Huerhuero Vineyard, Paso Robles ($13.0)
Racy Rhône-style rosé with strawberry and plum fruit; vibrant and with enough serious flavor to last a whole poolside afternoon. [TWISTY]
90 Presidio Winery 2007 Syrah Rosé, Presidio Vineyard, Santa Barbara ($20)
A dose of acidity, a bit of sweetness; a totally delicious wine, bursting with summer fruit.
VALUE AND BY-THE-GLASS RECOMMENDATIONS
89 Fat Cat 2006 Pinot Noir, California ($10)
Bright and juicy with fresh cherry, lively acidity and sweet oak.
BRONCO WINE CO.
88 Now & Zen 2006 Alsace, France ($10)
Multi-variety white blend with clean, fresh aromatic notes and floral flavors; nicely structured and tasting of apples, melons and spice.
UNDERDOG WINE MERCHANTS
89 Támas Estates 2006 Pinot Grigio, Arroyo Seco, Monterey ($10)
Fresh and juicy with racy citrus and pure acidity; zesty, balanced, aromatic and charming. [TWISTY]
88 Moon Mountain Vineyard 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma ($11)
Juicy with bright citrus and green peach and hints of tobacco; clean, long and balanced.
DIAGEO CHATEAUX & ESTATES
88 Angove’s 2006 Viognier, Nine Vines, South Australia ($12)
Smooth and silky with juicy fruit and nice aromatics; lush and balanced. [TWISTY]
TRICHERO FAMILY ESTATES
90 Taltarni 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Victoria, Australia ($13.0)
Bright, racy and forward with juicy citrus fruit and snappy acidity; pure and nervy. [TWISTY]
CLOS DU VAL WINE CO.
88 Peachy Canyon 2006 Zinfandel, Incredible Red, Paso Robles ($12)
Spicy and fresh with uncorrupted fruit; smooth and supple with lovely balance and length.
88 Sartori di Verona 2004 Valpolicella Vignetti di Montegradella, Italy ($13)
Summery plum and berry fruit; long and bright with mouthfilling flavors.
89 Summerland Winery 2006 Grenache, Paso Robles ($14)
Juicy and vivid with blueberry, blackberry and smooth texture; nicely balanced.
89 Melipal 2006 Ikella Estate Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($14)
Although from younger vines, this Malbec has lots of character; notes of coconut and medium depth.
90 Ocean Vodka ($37)
A clean, rich organic vodka from Hawaii; very smooth, ripe flavors of vanilla and creamy texture.
92 Snow Queen Vodka ($28)
From Kazakhstan; distilled five times from wheat; smooth, creamy and luscious with vanilla and attractive texture; rich and dry; really lovely.
95 U’luvka Vodka ($59)
Very sleek and silky with honey, spice and dry flavors; mellow and creamy with a lingering finish; from Poland.
91 Jinro Ilpum Super Premium Soju ($15)
Light amber Korean soju; toasty, rich and smooth with caramel and honey flavors; intriguing and quite lovely.
92 Beija Virgin Cane Rum ($30)
From Brazil; silky and spiced with notes of cucumber and watercress; complex, smooth and long with lively aromatics.
96 Clase Azul Ultra Tequila ($1700)
Roasted, aromatic nose; toasted oak, vanilla, caramel and agave on a lush texture; complex, elegant, dramatic and in short supply.
93 Wild Turkey American Spirit Bourbon ($90)
100 proof; fragrant and smooth with sweet notes of cherry, oak and spice; toasted, lush and showing vanilla and lovely dried fruits.
92 Bushmills 1608 Irish Whiskey ($100)
Smooth and spicy with caramel, toast and dried fruit; rich and mellow, clean grains; long and lovely.
92 Castellare Grappa ($75)
Smooth, ripe and elegant; rich and intense with intense earthiness and a touch of finesse.
91 Bauchant Orange Liqueur ($26)
Candied orange and zesty nose; creamy texture and smooth orange flavor with some heat and toasty cognac notes; from France.
PALM BAY IMPORTS
FEATURETTE- The New Face of Gaja
Sitting across the table from me on my recent visit to the Gaja winery in Barbaresco was a fresh face. Unlike my last visit three years ago, when I found myself facing Angelo Gaja, the brilliant winemaker and marketer who has made this family winery into one of the world’s elite producers, this time I was in the presence of Gaia Gaja, Angelo’s charming daughter.
Representing the fifth generation of Gajas in the wine business, Gaia is no newcomer; she has been familiarizing herself with winery operations since she was ten. She is a charming and articulate spokesperson for this remarkable winery.
Gaia gave me a preview of six upcoming releases, only one of which—the 2005 Barbaresco—is a DOC wine. The rest are simply labeled “Langhe” because of Angelo’s propensity to add a dollop of Barbera to his Nebbiolo for richness and complexity. This appellation demotion hasn’t seemed to hurt sales.
Here’s what I tasted:
92 2005 Barbaresco
Fresh and floral with elegant, delicate yet powerful style; smooth texture, lovely, pure plum fruit and racy acidity; lovely, silky with notes of vanilla, caramelized orange and spice. 100% Nebbiolo.
94 2005 Costa Russi
Rich, deep black fruit (currants, berries, grapes) smooth, velvety texture; bright blackberry, tamarind, long flavors, rich and charming with great depth. 95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera.
93 2005 Sorì Tildìn
Ripe and dense with concentrated black fruit and aromatic herbs; tannic, rich and showing firm oak, grainy texture and deep flavors. 95% Nebbiolo, 5%Barbera.
95 2005 Sorì San Lorenzo
Fragrant violets and honey on the nose; tight, closed now but very promising, with velvety texture and grainy notes; give this baby some time. 95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera.
92 2004 Conteisa
Grapes are from the famed Cerequio vineyard in Barolo; licorice, spice and black-cherry fruit with sweet cassis notes; lush, long with notes of tar; dense, rich and powerful. 92% Nebbiolo, 8% Barbera.
93 2004 Sperss
Smooth and aromatic with sweet plum and black cherry fruit; velvety, lush and mellow with soft tannins and rich texture. 94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera.
Gaja is imported by Terlato Wines International.