As the wine world changes with each new vintage, we continue to discover great new wineries, as well as long-time players radically upping their game. Here are 12 that caught our attention in our tastings this year.
AUSTRALIA: VICTORIA/MACEDON RANGES
Vine Street Imports, Mount Laurel, NJ
Joshua Cooper grew up at his family’s biodynamically-farmed vineyard, Cobaw Ridge, in the Macedon Ranges. In 2012, he started to make his own wines, purchasing grapes from neighbors who shared his farming philosophy. His latest releases show the range of his talent with pinot noir and, especially, chardonnay: His 2017 Old Port Righ comes from 36-year-old vines growing in Cambrian soils with patches of granite at an altitude close to 2,000 feet. With Cooper’s light touch in the winery, it was our top-scoring chardonnay from Australia this year. —J.G.
Winemonger Imports, San Anselmo, CA
Michael Linke came to wine after a visit to Australia, where he found rieslings strikingly different from those he knew in his native Germany. His studies took him through the cellars of Dr. Deinhard and Bürklin-Wolf in the Pfalz and Domäne Wachau in Austria, as well as Pyramid Valley Vineyards in New Zealand, where Austrian Franz Hofbauer was also working. By 2014, both of them were back in Austria, launching Grabenwerkstatt. Their werkstatt, or workshop, is in the Spitzer Graben, a high-walled valley at the Wachau’s western end where they tend five acres of vines under biodynamics. Their first wines to hit US shores this year—a grüner veltliner from Ried Brandstatt and a riesling from Ried Trenning—were among the most exciting we tasted from Austria, capturing the region’s cool climate in their nervy energy. —T.Q.T.
Terlato Wines Int’l, Lake Bluff, IL
This year, one of the Burgundies that completely turned our heads came from a Chambolle premier cru I did not know, Les Feusselottes, just up the hill from Les Charmes. It presented a Chambolle with silken power that built in intensity over the course of several days. And it turned out to be a one-off. In 2017, Aurélien Verdet, a third-generation vigneron with a domaine of his own, had the opportunity to buy enough fruit from a grower to fill two barrels. The sensation of energy in that wine focused my attention on his other 2017s, like the equally energized Vosne- Romanée Les Beaux Monts, from his own organically farmed plot in the premier cru. And his other domaine wines, from Marsannay to Nuits St-Georges, also had that brisk raciness, piquing our interest in this talented young grower. —J.G.
Domaine des Bosquets
Eric Solomon Selections/European Cellars, Charlotte, NC
This Gigondas domaine traces its roots back to 1376. Its modern history dates to 1961, when Julien Brechet’s grandfather Gabriel Meffre purchased and revived the vineyards; Meffre’s friend Jacques Reynaud of Château Rayas gave him budwood to propagate for his new plantings. Brechet inherited these vines when he took over in 2010. In an effort to better understand the multiplicity of terroirs within his 64 acres, Brechet converted the vineyards to organics and biodynamics, and began vinifying parcels individually. His basic Gigondas—fermented with ambient yeasts and 30 percent whole clusters—is juicy, salty, spicy and energetic, setting the baseline for his portfolio; his-parcel wines are particularly compelling, whether in the rose-petal delicacy of Le Lieu Dit or the dark mourvèdre-charged growl of Plateau. —T.Q.T.
ITALY: CHIANTI CLASSICO
Soilair Selection, NY
Angela Fronti’s family has been in vineyard management for decades, but it wasn’t until she went to oenology school that the family began developing their own label: Istine, 64 organically-farmed acres at high elevations in Radda and Gaiole. Fronti takes a traditional approach in the cellar, fermenting with ambient yeasts and aging the wines in large oak barrels. Since 2012, she has bottled several single-vineyard wines, all pure sangiovese, that show a clarity and vibrance that will only become more pronounced as the vines mature. —S.J.
MHW, Manhasset, NY
Since the Vaira family took control of production at this small Serralunga winery in 2009, wine quality has soared. The rise parallels that of the Vaira family’s own wines under the G.D. Vajra label, which is among the W&S Top 100 this year. It also coincides with the involvement of Giuseppe Vaira, eldest son of Aldo and Milena, who converted Baudana’s 6.4 acres of vines to organics, eliminated the barriques and added a Commune di Serralunga d’Alba Barolo to improve the selection for the wines from the Cerretta and Baudana MGAs. The wines, all aged in large Slavonian casks, have the depth, balance and finesse to elevate Luigi Baudana into the upper echelons of Barolo producers. —S.J.
Quinta da Fonte Souto
Premium Port Wines, San Francisco, CA
In the Port trade for close to a century and a half, the Symington family has assembled 2,530 acres of vines in the Douro to feed a portfolio that includes Graham’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio and a range of table wines, the latter a partnership with Bruno Prats. In 2017, they ventured into a different mountainous region, this one in the north of the Alentejo, in the foothills of the São Mamede range. They are farming 106 acres of vines at altitudes rising from 1,600 to 1,800 feet, and their first releases from 2017, made by José Daniel Soares, are not only beautiful, but affordable as well. Look for the blend of alicante bouschet, trincadeira, alfrocheiro, cabernet sauvignon and syrah: It’s floral and rich, with mineral depths lasting alongside the just-ripe fruit. At $25, it’s a promise of great things to come. —J.G.
SOUTH AFRICA: GREYTON
Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, VA
In 2000, Samantha O’Keefe left Los Angeles and settled at a 750-acre ranch in Greyton, in the Overberg district of South Africa’s Cape. She planted vineyards on slopes tucked up against the Riviersonderend Mountains and has earned recognition for Greyton as a wine district. The snow-covered peaks help temper the climate, bringing in peppery syrah that O’Keefe presents in fresh and inviting wines. We tasted her latest releases a month before a wildfire destroyed her winery, home, 2019 vintage and portions of the vineyard. O’Keefe is determined to rebuild, and the wine community has stepped up to help. Taste her 2016 Syrah or her 2018 Age of Grace Viognier and you, too, may be inspired to help. —J.G.
De Maison Selections, Chapel Hill, NC
In 1988, when Javier Alén planted 40 acres of local varieties in the hills of Ribeiro, the region’s vineyards had yet to fully recover from phylloxera’s devastation of 100 years earlier. Today, Ribeiro is increasingly the province of Spanish legends: Luis “Anxo” Rodríguez Vásquez, whose wines have earned Top 100 awards for their long-lived mineral freshness and complexity, and now Dani Landi and Fernando García. Best known for resuscitating ancient garnacha vines for their Comando G wines, Landi and García began collaborating with Alén in 2013, shifting the farming practice to organic and channeling the energy of Ribeiro’s coastal hills into astonishing wines. If you’ve spent any time in Galicia, they may provoke an emotional response. If not, you owe it to yourself to find a bottle of the 2017 Ribeiro white or the 2015 Tinto Atlántico, two of the most beautiful Spanish wines we tasted this year. —J.G.
US: CALIFORNIA/NAPA VALLEY
Heitz is one of the quiet giants of Napa Valley, long run by a family that didn’t chase trends. In the spring of 2018, they sold their 1,100-acre estate to Gaylon Lawrence, Jr., a businessman from Arkansas. Lawrence hired CEO Carlton McCoy, MS, from Aspen’s Inn at Little Nell, and, together, they are making their own quiet waves in Napa Valley, having recently purchased Burgess Cellars. The new team has been buying land and splitting up the original 425 acres of vines into new brands, like Ink Grade, building a portfolio under their négociant and brokerage, DeMeine Estates. The most exciting news we received from them this year was a bottle of Quartz Creek Vineyard Chardonnay. Focused by an early harvest and limited new oak, it feels light and airy, with flavors of nectarine and bright lemon. It’s a breath of fresh air, and a lovely direction for Napa Valley chardonnay. —J.G.
US: CALIFORNIA/SONOMA COUNTY
Desire Lines Wine Co.
Cody and Emily Rasmussen fell in love with wine just out of college. The couple moved to California and Cody landed a winemaking gig at Bedrock Wine Company in 2013, where he now serves as assistant winemaker. For their own winery, Desire Lines (the name refers to a well-worn path in nature, human or animal), the Rasmussens assembled an enviable collection of fruit sources, from Cole Ranch for riesling to Griffin’s Lair, Shake Ridge and Eaglepoint Ranches for syrah. Their 2018 Fred’s Home Block, from vines planted in the 1880s, is an exuberant, luminous mourvedre. —P.J.C.
Founded by Kathryn and Chris Hermann in Oregon in 2015, 00 Wines has taken on an international scope. The duo, inspired by the wines of Roulot and Coche-Dury, focus on chardonnay, and employ long macerations to build richly textured whites. In Oregon, their search for fruit sources took them to pedigreed vineyards like Seven Springs, Shea, Hyland and The Eyrie; meanwhile, their search for a winemaking consultant led them to Burgundian Pierre Millemann, and to contracts in grand cru Burgundy sites like Corton-Charlemagne and Clos de la Roche, as well as a project in Champagne. Millemann makes the French wines; Wynne Peterson-Nedry makes the Oregon wines, and his chardonnays are particularly savory, flinty and well built. —P.J.C.
This story appears in the print issue of Winter 2020.
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