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Our Critics' Picks for February 2018
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Wine & Spirits Wine of the Month

Selections from Our Critics • February 2018


A “smiley” is local parlance for a sheep’s head, which some consider a leftover after butchering an animal, and others consider a delicacy. The first release of this wine was made up of leftovers from the 2011 and ‘12 vintages. Then Ryan Mostert began to play with his varied lots of bush-vine chenin, leaving some on the skins, aging some under a blanket of yeast, and intentionally oxidizing some barrels by leaving them out in the sun. He blended this third release from lots aging in neutral barrels, stainless steel and glass demijohns. Whatever cloudiness you might find in the color is contrasted by the clarity of the flavor, as savory as veal stock, as bright as freshpicked fruit (maybe mango, maybe peach). There’s beautiful sunny coolness to this wine, along with a zesty shiso-like bite of acidity. It’s awesome deliciousness from the natural-wine camp.

PaCa Imports, Newport, RI —Joshua Greene

Fred Frank let botrytis affect nearly half of the fruit in this wildly savory riesling. It is demonstrative, with powerful scents of saffron and apricot giving the impression of sweetness—until you taste it. The wine isn’t bone dry, but it feels it, with tremendous acidity to support all the exotic flavor. Texturally lean, this is a pure riesling experience and a wild ride for lobster thermidor. (405 cases)

Konstantin D. Frank & Sons, Hammondsport, NY —Patrick J. Comiskey

This comes off the gray-slate sections of Clemens Busch’s Marienburg vineyards, the vines 22 to 30 years old. Grown under biodynamic principles and, like all of his wines, vinified without any inputs, this is a vivid, dynamic riesling. The fruit feels almost crunchy in its freshness, with grapefruit acidity invigorating the yellow-plum flavors; they flow briskly over mineral notes as cool and smooth as river stones.

Louis/Dressner Selections, NY —Tara Q. Thomas

Here is a gewurztraminer that feels like a pinnacle for the variety: complex, full of grain and spice and floral scents. And yet it’s so ample, so generous, you’ll almost miss its complexity—the sunny litchi, apple and orange peel fruit character. The sensuous texture is a reminder of how great—and harmonious—gewurz can be. John House draws this fruit from Gerber Vineyard, a 40-plus-year-old low-yielding, serpentine-rich site in the Illinois Valley. It’s a wine of exquisite poise.

—Patrick J. Comiskey

Dragonstone, or drachenstein in German, is the name of the vineyard, a steep slope of quartzite soils where the Rhine meets the Nahe. The 2016 tastes like summer, from dried grass and herbs to peaches and lemon-tree leaves, presenting it all with the warmth of the sun and the clarity of a bright blue sky. There’s nothing pushed about it: It just feels comfortable, balanced between richness and acidity, sweetness and mineral savor, holding those aspects with confidence and consistency.

Schatzi Wines, NY —Tara Q. Thomas

A lithe and refreshing syrah, this grows at the Presqu’ile Vineyard on sandy soils close to the coast, where the Murphys planted 6.5 acres of syrah in 2009. The cool site is already producing wines with precise structures, this one focused on crushed green peppercorns (accented by 30 percent whole bunches included in the fermentation). The flavors fatten toward meaty black olives and crunchy pork belly while sleek acidity cinches that richness and amplifies the spice through a long finish. The wine continues to brighten over the course of several days, its beauty clarified with air. Suited to a few years of cellaring, this will match roast lamb with tapenade.

—Joshua Greene

Jorge Serodio Borges and Sandra Tavares da Silva make two old-vine field blends from their vineyards in the Pinhão Valley’s Vale Mendiz, the epicenter of the Douro region. Pintas Character comes from a 1970 planting, a field blend of 30 varieties, the parcel adjacent to the 1930 planting of more than 35 varieties that produces Pintas. Both wines ferment in stone lagares; Pintas ages for 22 months in oak, 70 percent new, while Character ages 18 months in oak, 50 percent new. In 2015, Character jumps out of the starting gate with the most beautiful scent of the Douro, this wine charged with a wild-strawberry perfume, scents of savory herbs and a brisk delicacy that makes all of its power feel nonchalant. Complex and accessible as a young wine, this will age with grace.

The Winebow Group, NY —Joshua Greene

Grown in the hills north of Douro, this wine would likely be considerably more expensive if it were from a fancier neighborhood. As it stands, it’s pretty chic—silky in its texture, sunny in its flavors. Its red fruit tastes of crushed strawberries while a cool, earthy tone of rocks and minerals infuses that fruit, lending it depth and persistence. Grab a case to drink this winter; the wine should really begin to open by spring.

Grape2Glass, Newark, NJ —Joshua Greene

Enno Lippold’s pre-phylloxera vines in the Urziger Würzgarten turned out an exotically spiced Auslese in 2012. Scents of ginger root, cardamom and smoke play up the savory side of the wine, highlighting the mineral notes and nutty edge of maturity on the sweet apricot fruit. Rich yet restrained, this is long and intriguing, a wine to enjoy over a cheese course.

Banville Wine Merchants, NY —Tara Q. Thomas

Upcoming Wine Events from The W&S Calendar

February 26/Oregon
Walla Walla Wine

March 2–3/California
World of Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara

March 5–6/NYC

February 2018 Issue Available Now

Red, White & Green
With all the noise about sustainability these days, Tyler Colman looks at some of the measures that matter.

Mosel Mountain Rescue
David Schildknecht follows the Betterung, a group of vintners bent on reclaiming abandoned vineyards on some of the Mosel's most terrifyingly steep slopes.

New Wave Cabernet
Joshua Greene heads to Australia's Indian Ocean coast to consider what makes Margaret River cabernet sauvignon unlike anything else in the world.